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June 19, 2020 | Letter from the President

Dear Friends,

Thomas Friedman of the NY Times wrote on June 16th:

"No doubt, this virus is inscrutable. It pops up, it disappears, it reappears, some people are symptomatic, some asymptomatic, some seem to have natural immunities to it that we don’t understand, and once it infects people it hits in radically different ways: It comes in the equivalents of decaf, regular and double macchiato - and you never know if you’re going to get the mild or the extra-strength version.

But there is so much that we do know now that could make this post-lockdown phase so much less dangerous and so much more economically viable than it is. 

We know that countries where everyone wears a mask outside the home sharply reduce the spread and that people who practice strict social distancing infect fewer people and are infected less often. And we know that people who avoid “superspreading” events - large, prolonged social gatherings, religious services and crammed nightclubs and workplaces, where one highly contagious person can quickly spew the virus to many others - are less likely to get infected.

Top government expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has pointed out that taking just these relatively easy steps, plus testing, tracing chains of transmission and quarantining the infected, would tamp down what appears to be a brewing, post-lockdown resurgence and limit the number of people needing hospitalization as we await a vaccine.”

Well said, Mr Friedman, and relevant to issues here at UUCO. Discussion has been brewing about whether we could at least begin meeting face-to-face in small groups, as a way to reconnect and do committee work. Our COVID-19 church advisory team has taken up the question and the answer is “Yes, But…” 

Here’s the gist of our advice: committees and other church teams can meet safely offsite (the building remains closed) if the majority (ideally, all) of these conditions are met: the group is small (say, less than ten people); the meeting is held outdoors; people wear masks; social distancing is practiced (keep at least six feet apart); hand washing or sanitizing is practiced after handling shared materials. A couple of moral and ethical practices should also be followed for “live” small-group meetings. Some individuals may be uncomfortable to attend live meetings because they're at risk due to age or medical conditions. The inclusive and ethical practice would be to provide an alternative means by which folks can participate remotely. This can be as simple as providing someone’s personal cell phone number as a call-in number for the event, with that person assigned to manage her/his/their onsite speaker phone during the meeting. (Most cell phones have this capability.) It’s also a good idea for the convenor of the meeting to record the names of all live attendees, in case contact tracing becomes necessary. These measures are ways for us to honor our covenant to care for each other, respect each other and love each other. 

I’m not here to enforce “rules.” I just want to make you aware of sound practices to facilitate the safe reconnection we all crave.

In other news, I’m pleased to report that we’ve secured a contractor for Project Welcome, which will improve building access and honor our commitment to inclusivity. We received two bids for the work, and selected the better one. City permits may take about a month and the construction another month, so by the end of the summer we should have a vertical lift and an accessible restroom downstairs. Karen, Abby and I are managing the project, and I’m grateful to have such dedicated and knowledgeable partners.

The Board of Trustees gets to celebrate the New Year twice a year - next week we will have our last meeting of the church fiscal year, and welcome the new one- sort of a New Year’s eve party with a purpose. Heather Root has been affirmed by the congregation and will be joining the Board. Welcome, Heather! Each year at this time the Board selects its officers, welcomes new members, honors those who are leaving the Board (none this year), and begins a discussion of strategic issues to address during the new fiscal year. Among those issues are a few particularly important ones: revising the bylaws to reflect our current church community, and developing a plan of action to increase membership. We’ll be asking for help from you!

Well, that’s it for now. Stay safe, healthy and connected, OK?



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