Coronavirus Response – Updated 6-23-2020

Monday, June 22, 2020

Dear Westminster members and friends,

I am writing to you as I am about to become president of our congregation. I will do my very best to fulfill this role, always taking into account Westminster’s mission of Welcome, Connect and Serve.

First, I want to thank all the members of the Board of Trustees for their hard work and thoughtful governance, I feel blessed to be part of such a wonderful team. Next, I want to acknowledge Amy Abel, for her dedication, proactive thinking, caring and compassion with which she has led the board and WUC through an unexpectedly challenging year.

As one of her last acts as current president, Amy along with the board, created the Bridge Team, a group charged with helping us to safely begin the process of opening up the church to “in-person” gatherings. All recommendations coming from the Bridge team are put forward to the Board of Trustees for approval. This team is made up of the minister, two board members, a YRE representative, and two medical professionals.

As I am one of the members of this team, I can report that we have looked at numerous scientific and medical studies, as well as guidelines that have been put out nationally, state-wide, and by the UUA.

The initial recommendations of the Bridge Team, approved by the Board of Trustees, are listed at the end of this letter, and will also be accessible through a link from the Westminster website. The Bridge Team will be revisiting these guidelines when Rhode Island moves into Phase 3 or by the end of August, whichever comes first.

I want to express that through the difficulty, uncertainty, fear, and sadness that Covid-19 has brought, I have known that Westminster has been here for me and want to share my gratitude for my Westminster family. Keeping in mind everyone’s health and safety, Westminster was one of the first congregations to begin our church services on Zoom. We have been able to hold committee meetings, social groups, connection groups, and YRE, continuing these groups online.

While meeting online is not as full an experience as in person, I am pleased that we do have the unique opportunity to meet with others we would not otherwise have a chance to interact with. Our YRE K-2 class has been having joint classes with children from a UU church in Virginia, and we have had people from around the world join at our Sunday worship.

Some of us may find these next steps to be slower and more guarded than we would like, but please know that the guidance was not made lightly, and was formed with the wellbeing of our whole congregation in mind. And I would hope that in living through this, we may use our imaginations to see where we may Welcome, Connect and Serve in new ways, reaching out to others remotely and keeping us all together in hope and love.

Warmest regards, Nancy Reed

 

Steps to begin re-opening:

1)   Based on the particular vulnerabilities of our congregation and our UU values, we recommend following the current UUA recommendations and planning to continue virtual worship and YRE through May 2021.

2)   We do feel that continuing to meet online is the safest method for continuing the work of the church, but if in-person gatherings are necessary, we have the following recommendations.

  •  Recommendation for Individuals or Families Conducting Yard Work: 

An individual or family unit may visit the church to perform yard work using their own tools.

 

  • Recommendation for Small Group Outdoor Gatherings: 

Small groups may gather outdoors at Westminster following these guidelines:

  •     No more than 10 people in a group
  •     6-feet social distancing
  •     No entering the building
  •     Bring your own chair and food
  •     No sharing of food or other items, no central table
  •     Take trash and leftovers home
  •     Masks recommended
  •     Do not attend if you have a fever or are feeling ill
  •     Start gathering with a covenant about following recommendations

 

  • Recommendation for Indoor use of church:

At this time, individuals and groups are NOT to go indoors with the exception of the Minister, staff, worship leaders, and the Sharing Locker team. The following guidelines must be followed:

  •     Do not enter buildings if you have a fever or are feeling ill
  •     Wear a mask if more than one person in space (e.g., hallway, room)
  •     Maintain 6-foot social distancing
  •     Limit the number of individuals in the building at any one time to 10
  •     Sign-in log of people entering church; if a person who has been on church grounds, does become sick with Covid-19, there should be a contact      person to inform for contact tracing.

***

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – Letter from your Minister and President

Dear Westminster,

You may have seen our governor’s recommendation that churches can reopen May 30th, with 25% capacity. At the same time we’ve received guidance from the UUA that we begin planning for virtual operations for the next year (through May 2021).

There’s a lot to consider. While the governor must make decisions based on acceptable risk and pressure from constituents, we must make decisions based on values, principles and the safety of our congregation.

The Board of Trustees is creating a task force called the Bridge Team to consider the issues and to find the safest and wisest path forward for us. We want to ensure that whatever plan we come up with prioritizes the safety of the congregation, as well as any people or groups who enter our buildings. We want to make sure we protect the most vulnerable.

Addressing these questions will take some time.

In the meantime, the Board has voted to continue online worship online during the summer. Other questions around re-opening will be addressed by the Bridge Team who will make recommendations to the Board.

Whatever the specifics of our path forward, whenever and however we gather, we have confidence we will continue to “be the church” in ways that live our mission, and express our values from the heart.

We thank you for your patience as we address these challenging questions.

Please be well,

Rev. Ellen – Minister

Amy Abel – President

***

Friday March 27, 2020

Due to the ongoing threat of the Coronavirus, Westminster Unitarian Church will be closed for all in person services, meetings and large activities until the Board of Trustees votes on a safe date to reopen onsite events.

In the meantime, please check our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/westminsterunitarian) and events (https://www.westminsteruu.org/events/) for different ways to connect!

If you’d like to find out more about committee meetings, congregational events, and specific opportunities for congregational responses to the current health crisis (e.g. how to help make masks for medical professionals and first responders), you can subscribe to our “e-blast”: email [email protected] to sign up. This will also give you access to our “theme materials of the month” (April is Liberation).

And, of course, you are always invited to join us for Worship, which will be online, at 10am on Sundays.

 

Monday March 17, 2020

In lieu of regular church, as promised, our amazing tech team has been working on getting things set up for connections online.

Initially we’re going to create a few Zoom rooms (online meeting spaces) to connect. And we’ll experiment this week:

Tue: 7-7:45pm Tuesday Chat (Tonight!)

Wed: 12-12:45pm Links over Lunch

Thu: 4-4:45pm Coffee and Conversation

Fri: 7:15-7:45am Morning Meditation

We are also working on moving Connection Groups online, starting on Wednesday.

Here are a few videos on Zoom, to help you get connected for these meetings: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206618765-Zoom-Video-Tutorials

 

***

 

Friday March 13, 2020

Dear Westminsterites,

After careful thought, discussion and consultation with healthcare professionals, we have decided not to hold any events at the church for the next two weeks.

As you know, the CDC is recommending “social distancing” as a key way to slow the spread of this virus. And slowing the spread of this virus is the most important thing we can do to minimize the risk of over-stressed health systems and unnecessary death. As a congregational community whose spirit is love, we have an opportunity to do our part for the public good, even though it does temporarily mean the loss of opportunities to connect in person.

Although the service originally scheduled for Sunday March 15th will not be happening, we will offer a brief service of meditation and music in its place. Please join us at https://tinyurl.com/WUCworship.

We are also looking into creative ways to connect via phone or online 1:1 or for Connection Groups or other small group or committee meetings. Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, we offer to you these words from Rev. Sunshine Wolff:

“Stay Away and Connect”

We are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. This is not the first crisis we as a nation or world have met and it will not be the last. Yet we have survived and will continue to survive together. You may be feeling a lot of intense emotions right now. This is normal and understandable. You are not alone. Those feelings can be overwhelming and we may even want to shut down or deny that anything is wrong. All of this is normal. Please kind and patient with yourself and others.

There is good news. The steps we can take to protect one another are simple. When thinking about these steps, ask yourself, “what is possible for me right now? What can I do at this moment that is simple and possible?” Do what you can and add on more as you are able.

In this challenging time, I encourage you to stay away AND stay connected.

1) Stay away from the germ AND stay connected to yourself- Wash your hands with care – in body and spirit.
When washing your hands recite a poem, dance a dance, do a breathing meditation, or put all of your focus on how your skin and hands feel as you wash them. Make this a time when you ground yourself and find connection in yourself.

2) Stay away from people AND stay connected in creative and fun ways.
At this time, canceling events and gatherings of around 50 or more helps reduce the chance of spread. That does not mean we cannot connect. Social distancing protects all of us – especially those high at risk. We also need one another. Call a friend, play Words with Friends, chat with someone online, chat with a neighbor from one another’s doors or porches. Have your friends set a time when you will all go out and howl at the moon. Find creative ways to connect while keeping social distance – make a game of it. Get the holiday lights out and make different affirming messages each day with them. Tell jokes. Sing songs. According to your own ability, find the creative connection unique to you. Distance and connect! Distance AND. Connect!

3) Stay away from information overwhelm AND stay connected to a few reliable resources.
In this day and age- there are tons of places to get information. News outlets make money on crisis and it is not in their best interest to limit that information. Pick two or three places that you will routinely check for information that has reliable and factual information on the virus. For example, you could choose the World Health Organization, your friend Cam who reads everything and distills on their FB page, and your local health department. You do NOT need all of the information (unless you do- some among us manage crisis by having all of the information, that is ok). If you are feeling overwhelmed by the information – you can choose your sources. It is better to pick what is manageable than it is to ignore this all completely.
This is a time of challenge and together we can help make it manageable for ourselves and our world.

Stay away AND connect. Stay away from what is potentially harmful and embrace creatively how we can connect in spite of it all. You are not alone (but if you are, reach out).

Sincerely,

Westminster’s Board and Minister