Dear Members of the UUCJ Community,
In 2007 Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt wrote, “Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after a pandemic will seem inadequate. This is the dilemma we face, but it should not stop us from doing what we can to prepare. We need to reach out to everyone with words that inform, but not inflame. We need to encourage everyone to prepare, but not panic.”
Your ministers, your staff, and your Board are all working together to stay informed and to keep you informed. We are consulting frequently about how to prepare in the face of the ever-changing challenges of COVID19. We are assisted and supported in our efforts by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) as well as the UU Minister’s Association and LREDA (the professional association of liberal religious educators). We also consult with congregation members who have medical/public health expertise and experience.
This morning Evin Carvill Ziemer, a member of the UUA Congregational Life staff, sent the following: “This is what's on my heart this morning: Nearly every religious congregation is wondering when to move services online and stop gathering in person. You may not know when it was "time" until it is too late. But waiting until you have a local case could be catastrophic. New Rochelle, NY now has a one-mile containment zone. Only a week ago, the 2nd case of COVID-19 in NYC was identified. It was a lawyer who had attended a funeral and a bat mitzvah at his synagogue more than a week previously. Now there at least 108 cases in this cluster including the rabbi and hundreds are in quarantine. Because of the way this illness spreads, by the time this man's case was identified, the people he spread it to had already spread it to many more making it impossible for the health officials to identify everyone exposed and guaranteeing an outbreak. It wasn't just one weekend of services with the illness spreading in the congregation, but two. This could be your congregation. Much of your congregation in quarantine, your elders and those most vulnerable to this illness exposed, your clergy ill, and your whole town impacted. Remember--there were no known cases in the area at the time. Having services seemed safe. We are all at risk. Some at really great physical risk. There are many in our congregations at risk as our congregations skew older than the population in general. And we all can be carriers and infect people at risk. When the epidemiologists tell us we will all know someone who dies from this, I believe them. Each of us, individually and together, has the power to heal or harm.”
Rev. Marti and I read this missive and made a difficult decision. Neither of us will be travelling to Jacksonville in the next month. We are both in high risk categories for travel. We will be creating online worship services and other programs through at least April 5th. We will be sending out information about how to participate in these remote programs as we put them together. We firmly believe that this is the best way for us to stay safe and stay connected.
Although we do not have all the details worked out about online Sunday worship, we do already have several opportunities put together for UUCJ members to connect and converse. Rev. Marti will be holding remote pastoral care office hours Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. Please contact her for an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org or text her at 770-265-2193. And Rev. Roberta will be offering two opportunities to participate in the Soul Matters small group experience by Zoom. They will take place on Thursday April 2 @ 7 pm or Friday April 3 @ 10 am. Email Rev. Roberta at email@example.com for the Zoom link. We anticipate setting up some open conversation times via Zoom, just to talk about how we can be a healing presence for each other and for our community.
In the meantime, please continue to inform yourselves about this very dynamic situation. The most authoritative place to get reasonable information about COVID19 is the CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) We urge you to consult this site rather than relying on second hand information being passed around on social media. The UUA has created a page of resources for individuals and congregations to consult as well. (https://www.uua.org/safe/pandemics)
We also encourage you to take care of yourselves and to act in ways that show care for the larger community.
- Please stay home of you are sick or if somebody close to you is sick.
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow rather than your hands.
- Wash immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and keyboards.
Let’s all stay in touch and work together to be prepared, to support each other, and to be good citizens.
Yours in faith,
Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, Transition Minister
Rev. Marti Keller, Bridge Minister