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Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson

Report from the CRT Cabin Meetings

BOT May 19, 2020

Board of Trustees May 19th, 2020 Meeting

Views expressed in recent UUCT ‘Cabin Meetings’

The church’s leadership wants to maintain the safety of our members to the highest degree possible during the novel coronavirus pandemic, an ad-hoc group, the Covid Response Team (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Rex Graham, Frank Valdes, Rev. Bethany, Mary Wiese, and Brad Weeks), organized small-group meetings to gauge the congregation’s views on our online services and other opportunities to connect. Beyond prioritizing safety and following CDC guidelines, the participants of the cabin meetings expressed a range of views on current online UUCT operations at UUCT and how we go on from here.

This is the condensed summary of responses to seven questions posed at the cabin meetings on Zoom by a team of facilitators over the past two weeks.

  • What is fulfilling about your connection with UUCT right now?
    • We generally like the virtual services, social hours, Vespers, meetings, discussion groups, and small group get-togethers. Having the option to watch the Sunday service later, is a plus.
    • Making new connections online via circles of care and other gatherings is a plus. (The cacophony and usual chaos of physical gatherings doesn’t always “work” for some.) Even the e-blast and newsletter are contributing to the feeling of connection. Feelings of fulfillment even include the virtual participation in GA.
    • For folks with physical-mobility, health, vehicle-transportation or hearing issues, the Zoom meetings are much better than in-church services. These members hope the virtual offerings continue after the pandemic goes away.
    • Some are meeting in small groups at parks, or for social justice activities in the church parking lot. (There was a July 12 “drive-by shower” for music director Brian Moon and his wife’s soon-to-be-delivered baby.)
  • What is missing in your connection to UUCT right now? 
    • Holland is regarded as “sacred space.” The “liturgical dance,” communal singing, and certain hymns that meant so much is missing. Some recall the sanctuary’s very smells, sounds, light, and other sensory feelings. Not meeting there hurts many respondents.
    • We miss physically seeing and engaging each other and Rev. Bethany. The old, taken-for-granted Sunday routine of greetings, singing, share-the-plate, etc., doesn’t seem so passé now. Those things lost are missed: the hugs and kisses, and random conversations. All the communal feelings we got from coffee, snacks and lunches is missing. And there are fewer opportunities to “give,” be it monetarily, or of our time and talents.
    • Members who used to attend in person, but not on Zoom now, also have left a human vacuum. The virtual choir activities are less fulfilling than the real thing. And the emphasis on the natural world that was celebrated in CUUPS services don’t work as well virtually.
    • We miss the overall energy of services, the joy of working together on projects, the good vibes of the office, attending meetings in person, and greeting new visitors. The diversity of lay involvement in the services is missed, too, including justice leaders and community speakers.
    • The Baja 4 services, while filling a void, are significantly less meaningful to many. The Baja 4 services even increase the sense of loss for some. The Baja 4 focus on “reinventing” is getting old. Some wish for services with more diversity of voices or participation, and universal themes we-can-use-now, such as strength, resilience, faith, and hope.
    • We need a more interactive website, especially for non-Facebook folks. The website could do more to further congregational and Baja 4 connections. Facebook and YouTube channels are valued because of the videos they offer, but most people credited the Zoom meetings with furthering and creating meaningful inter-personal connections. Social media didn’t get much credit for this.
  • One of many steps contemplated toward reconnecting in-person would be small-group gatherings (under 10 people). What conditions would need to be met for you to participate? What specific steps would you recommend.
    • The COVID curve needs to flatten and come down significantly. Several people expressed reservations about any meeting inside a building on campus. Meetings outside could be a first step for many (with masks, distancing, sanitizers, etc.), but not for high-risk members. Some note that the scientific understanding of novel coronavirus transmission is evolving, and since asymptomatic carriers are relatively common, we need to assume anyone in a group could be infected.
    • There is a range of comfort with risk-taking to meet – especially in confined indoor spaces. Some would meet in small groups only after Arizona cases fall and an effective vaccine is available. For the most-concerned group, they are not interested in any in-person gatherings. They will continue to shelter in place and rely on Zoom.
    • For those willing to meet in small groups outdoors, there is agreement that everybody must wear masks, practice distancing, using sanitizers, and use other precautions such as abstaining from food and drinks, and no singing. In some cases, the temperature of each participant could be taken to gain admission. But some members noted that temperature-taking may not weed out asymptomatic carriers.
    • Such groups could initially be small, 10 or fewer participants, the makeup of the groups should be relatively fixed. (Some have started having small dinner parties of 2-4 people, each sitting at his/her own table.) The idea of a “covenant” is important for any in-person gathering such that all participants must be up-front about their relevant health symptoms, activities, and possible exposures. Some are already participating on outdoor exercise classes sponsored by the YMCA – with recommended precautions. Some said Circles of Care could incorporate such precautions and meet at parks. At any rate, one member said we all need to go outside and move.
    • If outdoor small-group meetings are held, some ask that those meetings be recorded/streamed. Some like the idea of meeting on the church patio with chairs in a circle.
    • Some look for reliable and trusted recommendations that we can follow, such as the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  • Another step could be limited-seating outdoor meetings or services on the patio with recommended precautions such as masks, distancing, hand sanitizers and no touching. What conditions would need to be met for you to participate?
    • Many people addressed this point and question in the previous question. Again, the rate of infections needs to fall greatly, and a widely available effective vaccine would be optimal. Maybe a fraction of the congregation could gather for in-person services on a given Sunday — and different groups could meet the following weeks on a repeating schedule.
    • This brings up the issue of how we weigh personal wishes vs. the safety of the congregation and the larger community.
    • The notion of “outdoor space” could be expanded to parks and even private homes with backyard accommodations. Logistical questions include: “What about bathrooms?” and “Would we have access to sound systems so everybody can hear?”
    • To meet outdoors, the weather conditions also would need to be mild. The consensus is to wait on indoor gatherings.
  • What is your biggest fear about the near future of UUCT?
    • That my aging friends will die. That the church will suffer financially. That donations, pledges and Share-the-Plate offerings will go down. And that a waning of commitment and support will continue over time.
    • That we will lose members and not gain new ones.
    • That it will be a very long time before we can be physically in worship together again.
    • Some fear the new electronic innovations that we’ve started would go away when the pandemic ends.
    • That the threat of the virus will be with us for a long time.
    • That there will be a long-lasting traumatic response that results in less inclusiveness, fewer connections, and less responsiveness to others.
    • That we will come together too soon, and participants will get sick.
    • Worried about what will happen to children/pets if the parent/guardian dies.
    • That we can mitigate, not eliminate the virus.
    • That no matter how careful we are, we still feel fearful of contracting Covid-19.
  • What are your greatest hopes about the near future of UUCT?
    • UUCT will continue to find innovative ways to remain connected during the pandemic, and that pledge income continues to be adequate.
    • We will thrive after this is over with deeper relationships and more technological options with which to meet. That we find more opportunities to reach out to new members.
    • That there will be a set of guidelines that we can follow as we come back together, that keep us safe and connected.
  • What would make UUCT more wonderful?
    • More Rev. Bethany in worship, speaking to us as a congregation. But also Sunday services that include UUCT members, such as a regular weekly slide show each Sunday to highlight all the things UUCT and other Baja 4 members are doing to live our UU values - even now.
    • Having the 4 congregations and ministers collaborate in different ways, such as in small groups like movie discussions.
    • We will optimistically hang on, keep zooming, stay connected, enhance our friendliness, add a fall intern, enhance our connectivity and accessibility, and evolve a renewed appreciation and purpose for the church and each member.
    • Even more online options would be added, such as a “Beloved Conversations” program and even a "game night" -- especially for home-bound members.
    • An explicit policy described on all our communication channels that UUCT is intentionally dedicated to becoming more anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and multicultural.

 

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