Dear friends at Prairie,
I am so impressed with all you and your congregation have been doing to rise to the challenge of these unprecedented times. It’s been wonderful to see AJ’s meditations showing up in my Facebook feed!
You’ve heard the expression “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” meaning we have to preserve our energy for the long haul? Well, last week I heard someone say, “It’s actually not a marathon. It’s an Ironman triathlon. And we’re not even through the swimming portion yet.” Ack!
As I look at the data and the forecasts for when and how we might be able to safely return to full in-person gathering, I know, deep in my gut, that the person who likened this to an Ironman was probably correct. And that means that sustaining our connections, our creativity, our flexibility, and our capacity to live with uncertainty will be especially important as congregational leaders—because we are in this for the long haul.
Last Thursday, our UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray shared guidance with our congregations, encouraging everyone to plan for virtual operations through May 2021. (If you didn’t receive her email, check your congregation’s record on my.uua.org to make sure we have your correct contact information.) It seems that we may need to keep meeting virtually that long, or even longer, to protect life. And I know it is hard to take in, and plan for.
I was the principal author of the COVID-19 guidance, and I am also your primary contact on UUA Pacific Western Regional staff. I am happy to answer any questions you have as you plan and discern what is safe for you and your people. And I have some questions for you that I’d like to know about so I can help connect you with what you need:
- What technical needs do you foresee in your congregation? Would you appreciate connecting with and getting advice from other congregations about how to make online gathering work? Have you seen our UUA guidance on streaming worship, gathering online, and more? Do you need some creative ideas for how to train folks in the platforms you’re using for online gathering? Talk to me—I’d love to help you our connect you with people who can help.
- What emotional and spiritual needs are you feeling as leaders? Would you appreciate a mutual support group for congregational presidents who are leading during COVID-19? Would you appreciate a similar group for religious professionals? Would you appreciate some tools and techniques you could use together as leaders to help manage the congregation’s anxiety in this anxious time? Let’s talk!
- Do you have leadership transitions coming up? Summertime is a frequent time for board, staff, and/or ministerial turnover. Please share with me the names, emails, and phone numbers of new leaders on your board and your staff/ministry team.
I also want to invite your congregation to worship with UUs all across the country on Sunday, June 28th, when our General Assembly Worship is livestreaming. You can take the Sunday off of creating your own worship, if you’d like!
I also hope you’ll join me at the UUA Virtual General Assembly 2020, too. I just learned there’s a virtual choir, led by our region’s own Benjie Messer (music director at UU Congregation of Phoenix.) If you register for GA soon you’ll get an invitation to join. I’m quite excited to join the virtual choir.
With all the uncertainty that surrounds us, one thing is certain. We are more grounded in our life-affirming values than ever. A crisis like this makes clear how deeply important our UU communities are, and how essential our message is for the world. From promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person to affirming the interdependent web of all existence, our seven Principles are a solid foundation for the love we embody in our actions, individually and collectively. I see that love in all the ways we are struggling and striving in this extraordinary time. Your leadership blesses the world. And I, and the whole UUA staff, am grateful for it.
With faith, with hope, and with love,
|Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh :: she/her/hers
Congregational Life Staff
Based in San Diego, CA
|Unitarian Universalist Association
Pacific Western Region
P.O. Box 567, Brighton, CO 80601