Earlier this year, the UUC Board discussed how and when we might return to in-person worship services. As part of that discussion, they considered the whether or not to return to services the way they were (with adaptions and limitations for safety in our post-pandemic world) or to create a new means of doing worship that would allow for both in-person and on-line participation (what is called a “hybrid” or “dual platform” model.) Many congregations, Unitarian Universalist and other denominations, found themselves asking the same question. During the pandemic, we were all forced to move from in-person to on-line worship service. UUC, like many congregations, started streaming their services on Zoom. It was not ideal. It was not what we were used to. It required us to change the way we do things and the way we experience worship. But, it did allow us to continue worshipping together, albeit physically apart, safely during the pandemic. And while it had drawbacks, and it did not work spiritually for some people, we made a few surprising discoveries. First, some things were possible in an on-line video/audio format that weren’t possible in-person. Second, congregations could collaborate and worship together more easily on-line. Third, and most important, we discovered some people who previously could not attend worship services in-person were now able to attend the on-line worship services and participate more fully in our UUC community. People with mobility issues, transportation challenges, compromised immunity, potentially contagious conditions, allergies and chemical sensitivities, social anxiety– and many other reasons– could finally attend worship at UUC because it was on-line. So, when it came time to decide how we would worship post-pandemic, the Board recognized this as a social justice, accessibility issue– and they voted unanimously to move towards offering hybrid services.
Why Don’t We Worship In Person NOW?
First, we have not reached herd immunity in the wider community. Second, not everyone who wants to be vaccinated in our UUC community has been able to get vaccinated. Third, until the infection rates for Covid go down, it isn’t fully safe to do so (and with new versions of the virus showing increased transmission rates, safety is still our guiding principle.) And fourth, because we aren’t prepared to go to a hybrid model of service yet. And coming back to in-person services without the on-line component will leave some members of our community unable to join us. Yes, they were unable to join us in the past. But now we know they could join us if we made accommodations. To not make those accommodations sends a very unwelcoming, unloving message to those people. If we want to do the right thing, it will take some time to get ready.
But I’m Vaccinated and I Miss Everyone…
I know. I miss live worship, too. I miss the live music, the singing, the feel of people in the sanctuary. I miss social hour. But, I want us to be safe and I want all of us to be able to participate. So in the mean-time, what can we do?
GET TOGETHER – You want to worship with other friends on Sunday mornings? Do it. Some congregations have started doing worship brunch parties on Sunday mornings. They gather at someone’s house, watch the service, and eat a nice meal together. A mini social hour of sorts.
VOLUNTEER – In-person worship requires volunteer support. Hybrid services do, too. Right now, we are short on volunteers. We can’t move to a hybrid model without more help. Greeters, Worship Associates, AV Techs — All are needed.
DONATE – Our Audio Visual set up is in need of an upgrade. It was never designed to do worship well in our space, and it isn’t set up to do in-person and on-line together in an easy, effective way. Getting the system we need is going to cost money. Just like UUC donated to upgrade the kitchen, and donated to fix the room, we are going to need to raise funds to make this hybrid model work well for all of us.
We knew this wasn’t going to be easy or quick. The question is, are we willing to make the changes to that when we say all are welcome we mean ALL truly are welcome? I hope so. But ultimately, it’s your decision.