“I know this rose will open.
I know my fear will burn away.
I know my soul will unfurl its wings.
I know this rose will open.”
~ by Mary Grigolia in Singing the Living Tradition #396 

When are we going to be back in person again? It’s the question on our minds and hearts. We want to be together, worship together, see each other. We’ve done an amazing job of staying in community virtually. And it is a complex time with challenges, many emotions, and signs for hope.  

I look forward to being with you all again and I know it will happen. The rose that is our building will open. I hope our fears will burn away and that our souls will soar.  

On May 16, I offered a Q&A session after the Sunday service to let you know what we are doing and thinking as we move forward. There have been a few updates, so I’ll summarize where we are now.  

Know that we will continue to be asked to live with uncertainty and ambiguity.  

While I can’t be certain yet of a date to reopen for worship, I am certain that we will figure it out, and that love, and care will guide us as we do.  

Here’s what we’re working on:  

  1. Technology. We are committed to continuing to live stream our services and other major events like Celebrations of Life so that everyone can participate. We need to test the technology of both in-person and live streaming.  
  2. HVAC repair, replacement and upgrade. I mentioned at the May 1 congregational meeting that we have major work needed on our heating and air systems to improve air flow and quality. This work has been approved and is in process. We expect this work to be done over the Summer. We don’t yet know what the impact of the work will be on the Sanctuary and if we can use the space while the work is in progress.  
  3. Another consideration is how we welcome families with younger children who are not yet eligible for vaccines? Do we provide childcare and if so, how do we staff that safely? 
  4. There are several logistical questions– 
    • Will we require vaccines for anyone on site? I cannot imagine turning people away who don’t have a vaccine. Not everyone is eligible yet and some just can’t.  
    • Will we continue to require masks? We will continue to welcome masks for sure and continue requiring them now pending more information.  
    • How do we communicate about safety so that everyone can make the best decision for themselves and their families? 
    • Do we remain at one service, or do we go to two? The speakers I’ve invited are expecting one.  
    • If we do one service, how many people can we invite into the sanctuary and how do we accommodate everyone if there are more than seats? With distancing of 6 feet, the sanctuary seats 26 people. 
    • Greeters and ushers will have their own health concerns and will need training before we return. 

A few other things to consider: 

I have scheduled the Summer Sunday speakers through Labor Day and many of them will join us virtually. So, even if we gather in person in the sanctuary, we will have speakers who join us virtually.  

OUUC is also an employer, and so we are making sure that staff are as safe as possible and that we have the protocols and equipment in place for employee safety. I am also mindful that Summer is a time when staff take time away in normal times. This year we all need some time for rest and rejuvenation after a long year and we will want to reconnect with friends and family in person again just like all of you.  

What you can expect next: 

  • Take the survey! In the next few weeks, we’ll ask you to give us your thoughts are returning, about masks and distancing, and about how we can bets provide you what you need to make the best decisions for you and your family. We look forward to hearing from you.  
  • We will try streaming from the sanctuary with just worship leaders so we can try things out before we invite people to attend. 
  • Attend an event! There are some in-person events in the works. Diana Finch is working on an ice cream social for June 6 that is a thank you from the Board for all the good work on the new vision, mission and ends. Gail Wrede has a workgroup gathered to plan a picnic on August 22. Stay tuned to the weekly update for more info.  
  • Some small groups beginning to meet at OUUC in the classroom space, which has good air quality. This is more possible as the weather improves, and we can open windows or meet outside. We have processes and protocols in place for this so we can do so safely.  

What you can do: 

  • Meet with others in person outside for a walk or other connection that you enjoy. Not being together for worship doesn’t mean you can’t connect with others at OUUC in smaller ways.  
  • If you are part of any OUUC small group—a social group, covenant group, committee or team—discuss how you want to meet over the Summer. How can you best include everyone? Do you continue online? Meet in person outside? Meet in person elsewhere?  
  • Acknowledge that this is a process, which some describe as a dial rather than an off/on switch. For some it will be too fast, and for others not fast enough.  
  • Know that there will be emotions to process, our own and others. Let’s be present with our own emotions and offer a compassion with each other.  
  • Be patient and be kind.  

There are many people involved in helping to do this work: The Tech Team, the Health & Safety Task Force, the Buildings & Grounds Committee, the Board, and the OUUC staff. It takes many hands. Thank you all!  

Blessings on your week.
Rev. Mary