Pastoral Update, March 12, 2020
A Message from Rev. Lyn Cox for the UU Church of Silver Spring
My heart is with you during this ever-shifting time. With regard to the COVID-19 virus, we are seeing more confirmed cases in Maryland, and we are seeing in other communities how choices made early on can save lives later. I have been deeply in conversation with the Board and with my religious professional colleagues this week. Board President Tamara Bowman and I have decided that worship will move on-line at least for this week and next week, and potentially for longer. The situation is rapidly unfolding, and we will keep you posted through email and website announcements like this one.
We are making this move after considering Governor Hogan’s speech last night, advice from the UUA to cancel gatherings larger than 25 people, and articles from reliable sources about the medical and mathematical data showing the importance of practices like social distancing. As Unitarian Universalists, we heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and those sources are telling us to pause our in-person worship services. We’re still working out the details for this Sunday, so stay tuned to find links, times, and instructions for participating in a short on-line service this Sunday morning. We’ll also follow up with further instructions about our new charitable giving app, GivePlus Mobile, so you can keep up with your pledge payments to UUCSS and donate to our community partner of the month, Mamatoto Village.
As a faith community, we care for one another, and we are especially attentive to the needs of the most vulnerable. That is why we as a congregation need to show leadership in preventive measures such as social distancing. This virus is contagious before it is symptomatic, and it is particularly dangerous for our beloveds who are older and/or have underlying health conditions. Even if you, personally, feel that your risk is low, we can lower the risk to our loved ones by being compassionate and cautious.
The good news is that the relationships that have already been built in the congregation are still there. We’re moving into a period of creativity in terms of how we maintain and strengthen those relationships. Our senior staff team is in the midst of brainstorming ideas about how we can create on-line opportunities for connection over the next few weeks. We’re thinking about story time, live streamed house concerts, small group ministry-style discussions over Zoom, and other ideas. (Here’s an online tutorial for Zoom.) I am in touch with local UU religious professional colleagues about ways our Montgomery and Prince George’s County congregations can collaborate. We may have regional online prayer circles, social justice conference calls, and other ways of strengthening our local ties and overcoming isolation while spending more time at home.
Now more than ever, members need each other. Consider reaching out to at least three other members in the next week to see how they are doing. You can try calling them on the phone, emailing, or sending a postcard to reach someone who may be feeling isolated during this extended flu season. Interactive online games, video conferencing, conference calls, and chatting over the back fence are all possibilities. Find new ways to stay connected while maintaining six feet of physical distance with friends and neighbors. We’re still practicing common-sense prevention such as hand washing, coughing into our elbows, and avoiding touching our faces. Let the Lay Ministers and me know if you are available for more intentional and organized outreach to older and more vulnerable members.
You are also welcome to email the Lay Ministers at email@example.com if you are seeking connection with other members or for peer support with something going on in your life. If this public health situation has led to a financial emergency, please email me at InterimMinister@uucss.org and we’ll see if we can figure out a way to relieve some of the burden with the Minister’s Discretionary Fund.
We can and should stay connected through other means. As far as I can tell today, face to face individual contact is within the range of acceptable risk (assuming neither person has been exposed to illness or is showing symptoms). Consider keeping six feet of distance between yourself and your friends if you are meeting face to face. Stewardship Visits could be fine, if all parties are healthy and agreeable. Stewardship Visits by phone or Zoom are good alternatives if the time isn’t right for a face to face visit. You are welcome to submit your pledge online. For group experiences such as book groups, Inreach, adult education classes, and committee meetings, I am asking you to move to a format such as video chat or conference call, or to postpone until mid-April. The Dolan Lounge will not be available for meetings from March 15 through March 31. Please see Tamara Bowman for help accessing the congregation’s Zoom account.
My prayer with you and for you all week has been for courage. Let us reach out to one another virtually, across the interdependent web, and give one another courage to face new situations with compassion and creativity. Keep in touch and stay safe.