A Message from Rev. Lyn Cox for the UU Church of Silver Spring
March 4, 2020
As a community, you know the power of being together and of supporting one another. When world events are concerning or even frightening, it is to our spiritual traditions we go for solace and to make meaning. This is the case for the outbreak of COVID-19, a new version of a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. This disease is most dangerous for elders and for those with compromised lungs or immune systems. The transmission patterns of COVID-19 in other countries suggest that we should begin preparing for a few different scenarios. The current situation summary from the CDC is here. It seems that now is a good time for planning and caution, but not panic.
At UUCSS, our response to this outbreak will be coordinated by Board President Tamara Bowman and myself. We are consulting with the Safety Team, led by Stephanie McConachie, as well as with Sunday Support, Property Committee, and staff leaders for Religious Education and Music. We will be guided by the CDC, the Maryland Department of Health, and UUCSS policies and procedures as we continue to strategize. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and so we will all need to be attentive, flexible, and kind as we hold one another’s spirits in strength and love during this season of uncertainty.
When we sing the hymn, “Gathered Here,” we are reminded that we are “one strong body.” As a congregation, it is up to each one of us to create and maintain a climate that supports the wellbeing of everyone in the congregation. Scientific American posted a helpful article about why preparing for an outbreak and practicing healthy habits to prevent disease transmission are some of the most pro-social, altruistic things you can do. With that in mind, in this current phase of preparing and preventing, here are a few things we can do to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and to protect one another to the fullest extent possible:
- Stay home if you are sick. Do not go to work, school, or church if you are sick or if a family member is sick. Even if you feel that you can rally and try to be productive, consider our neighbors with vulnerable immune systems who may be less able to cope with the illness that you may be carrying. If your committee would like to try meeting on-line using our Zoom web conferencing software, please contact Tamara Bowman for login information. The practice of staying home while sick also applies to staff. I am personally re-committing to the practice of keeping my germs to myself. Staff will be working at home more often. All of us will need to be flexible about how certain things get done or which things we let go of in order to keep everyone safe.
- Please reach out to InterimMinister@uucss.org or LayMinisters@uucss.org if you are sick, in quarantine, or are otherwise struggling. Even if we are avoiding face-to-face meetings, we can stave off loneliness by other means. Connect by phone and email if you are feeling isolated.
- Practice common sense precautions. Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Keep separate towels for every member of your household. Cough into your elbow. Clean frequently-used surfaces like telephones and doorknobs. Try a wave, a reverent bow, or an elbow-bump greeting instead of shaking hands or hugging. The good news is that COVID-19 is vulnerable to old-fashioned soap and water. All of the usual precautions we use during flu season are valid for this situation; please see the CDC’s list of healthy habits.
- If you have traveled recently to a country or state that has a high level of outbreak, even if you do not have symptoms, please consider self-quarantining until the danger of infection has passed. We know that people without symptoms can pass the virus to others. As of yesterday, the CDC reported 60 cases in the U.S. across 12 states.
- Let me know if medical bills, missing work due to taking sick days, or other care and prevention practices are causing a financial emergency. We may be able to arrange for a one-time grant from the Minister’s Discretionary Fund to cover something like a medical co-pay, a utility bill, or a portion of a month’s rent. Email me at InterimMinister@uucss.org to inquire about a grant. If you are not having a financial emergency and are inspired to make a donation to the MDF, please send a check to UUCSS, attention Collectors, with “Minister’s Discretionary Fund” in the memo line.
- Start making plans with your household about what you will do if you need to care for someone at home, stay at home to avoid infection, or otherwise change your routines. The CDC has a helpful tip sheet about making preparations.
- Concentrate your information gathering on reliable, data-backed sources that offer strategies and are not overwhelmingly driven by advertisers who profit from your anxiety. This podcast and article from the New York Times provide potential starting places. I found this article from Foreign Policy magazine helpful. There are updates from Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Howard County, and the State of Maryland.
Tamara Bowman and I will be monitoring the situation closely. We are researching the many legal and technical problems that we need to solve in order to broadcast entire worship services live over the Internet, or even lead worship from our homes through the Internet. We’re also thinking about other modifications we can make to reduce the risk of spreading germs while we’re at church.
These are interesting times. Have courage. Take care of yourself and each other. Reach out if you need support. You are not alone.