Just Mercy February 7, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. (Online Only at facebook.com/uurockford)
Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson
“Just Mercy” is the title of Bryan Stevenson’s book on his experiences as a death-penalty lawyer, working to stop executions and death-in-prison sentences. It’s also the name of the movie based on the book. And it is a theological call – to lead with mercy so that we might have justice. We’ll explore what mercy, redemption, and justice might mean for us today.
Happy Birthday to: Martha Zinn (02/02), Andy Larson (02/03), Ruth Little (02/04), Don Freund (02/05), Susan Barnes (02/06), Autumn Powell (02/06), Colleen McDonald (02/09), Winniy Chin (02/09), Pete Giolitto (02/09), &Todd Elliott (02/09)!
From Rockford Register Star:
Sara Dorner named Rockford United Labor’s first woman president in the 66-year history
Local AFSCME representative Sara Dorner named first women president of Rockford United Labor
We will share the plate with Equal Justice Initiative
The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. Click Here for more information. Click here to donate.
Feb 2, 2021
The ancient Celts, like many other people around the world, observed eight major holidays, timed to the rotation of the earth around the sun, and the tilting of the axis. They marked the equinoxes, solstices, and the four days halfway between each of those (the quarter-turnings) as times to observe, reflect, celebrate, and gather.
The holiday that falls half-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox is known as Imbolc. This day, February 2nd marks halfway through winter – a day worth noting. It is a time to gather with friends (not this year, unless virtually). It is time to notice that the days really are getting longer. It is time to clean and prepare. The Celts referred to it as the “quickening of the year” – that the new year is ready to be born again (and will, come March 20th or so).
We mark it as Groundhog Day – a whimsical celebration of how much winter we might have before us. Yet the movie, filmed in nearby Woodstock, has a deeper message: that we learn to be human when we learn to care for others.
A while back, I saw someone ask “In the movie Groundhog Day, how did he get it to stop? Have we tried that to stop COVID?” Of course, the answer is this: “He learned to care for other people, not as a means to an end, but for themselves.” And that’s how we get out of this. By caring for each other.
So that’s my invitation to you this Imbolc. Care for each other so that we can move past endless winter, and that the year ahead may quicken, and be born. So that a new future – more just, more compassionate, more merciful – may come into being.
An In-Person and Online Future
The staff and board have created a draft plan of how we welcome in-person participation in church programs, including worship. This plan is for your feedback, questions, concerns, and suggestions. This is a community process, and we want everyone to have lots of time to consider these matters. We are planning for a future where we have both online and in-person programs, including worship. We are planning for a future when we can hug – if both people want. Where we can see each other’s faces, hear each other’s voices, and be in each other’s presence – and where robust online options, safety measures, and other steps keep everyone connected and safe.
Our general principles remain:
Inclusivity and justice: We will not exclude people and will take special care that equity and anti-oppression are centered in our decision making.
Safety: We will do our utmost to keep our people and the community safe. We will not contribute to community spread.
Community matters: We value our community and being together. As soon as it is safe to gather in an inclusive way, we will.
Pro-science: We support vaccination for those who are able to a scientific, reasonable, and loving decisions. You protect yourself and others. We believe that vaccines are effective and trust the scientists who have worked on them.
Here is our plan:
We are in Phase 4. Matthew will be 10 days past his second dose on Feb 22nd, and at that point in person, pastoral care with other vaccinated people will begin in earnest. Beginning in March, small groups can choose to meet in person or stay online. We will always continue to have some online-only small groups. However, worship will remain an online-only experience through Phase 4.
When three criteria are met, we will plan to begin hybrid worship – online and in-person – for six weeks following the ascertainment that the criteria are met. Those criteria are:
Illinois has entered or is clearly on track to enter, Phase 5 of the recovery plan.
On CovidActNow, Winnebago County’s Infection Rate and Test Positivity is “green.”
The vaccine is widely available to adults. Widely available means free to patients, at multiple accessible locations in the County, with a same-day appointment.
Once these criteria are met, we will select a Sunday, at least six weeks out from that date, to welcome in-person worshipers. The first Sunday may be an outside service, before moving inside the next week.
Assuming this date is in the summer, we will have outdoor-only children’s programs through at least Sept 5th. If the weather cooperates, children’s programs will be outside as long as possible. It is important to note that we cannot begin hybrid worship until we have enough RE volunteers to staff the program, including when Lauren and Lindsay are off. These volunteers cannot be anyone – they need to be able and willing to be out in the woods, on the grounds, being active with children during Summer Sundays. Vaccines are required for any volunteer who works with children, for so long as children cannot be vaccinated. If you know you will be vaccinated by mid-summer and are ready and able to be a regular RE volunteer, please contact Lindsay.
Only people who have been vaccinated should volunteer as greeters, ushers, and hospitality hosts. Contact Chris if you are interested in these roles when we return.
We pledge that we will be transparent, responsive, and deliberate about how we go about this. Below is our beginning list of questions and answers. If you have a question, please ask – it will help us think through all the aspects of this process. You can email or call Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org 815-398-6322.
FAQ What about masks?
People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or because they are children for whom the vaccine is not yet approved, should wear masks for the foreseeable future. Other people – members and staff – are more than welcome, though not required, to wear masks, whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. People with any COVID or flu-like symptoms should worship online, and not in person.
We will require proof of vaccination?
We will only require proof of vaccination for RE volunteers. Hospitality volunteers should be vaccinated, but that, and our encouragement for everyone who is able to be vaccinated, is on the honor system. We did not feel it was appropriate for the church to ask or keep track of this information. However, if we find that we have a large number of unvaccinated people whose choice to not get a vaccine puts those who cannot get one for medical reasons at risk, we will reevaluate this. The Board and staff agree that you can be trusted to get your vaccine – please do so.
Why don’t we worship outside all summer?
Outside worship, though lovely on a mildly warm day, is not accessible. It is hard to make audio work well outside, and it can be too hot for many people.
What happens if new variants or slow vaccine uptake change things?
In all cases, we’ll follow the most conservative advice of the WCHD. That includes how we might respond to a new strain, to rising case numbers, or other measures.
What happens if we have an outbreak in the church?
If an outbreak occurs among our people (5 or more cases that may be linked), we will pivot immediately to online-only worship while we assess what happened and what steps we should take.
What happens if we can’t get enough RE volunteers?
If we cannot secure sufficient RE volunteers, we will have on-line worship only that week. Under no circumstances will we have in-person worship without an RE option.
What about singing?
When and how we begin to sing at worship is an open question. We await the science on this. It may be that we can begin to sing when we return, or it may be that we wait for a herd immunity threshold.
What if lots of non-vaccinated people are coming and putting folks at risk?
If we become concerned that a large number of unvaccinated persons is putting the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons at risk, we may require vaccination (or proof of ineligibility) to attend. The Board will make this decision. Please, plan to get vaccinated if you can.
I know this is driven by metrics, not dates, but what’s your best guess for when we will start in-person worship again?
It is possible – but by no means for sure – that we will have an outdoor informal worship on July 4th and begin in-person worship on July 11th. That’s a reasonable guess, but it could be a few weeks later. We doubt it will be sooner.
What about Staff who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons?
Staff who are counter-indicated for a vaccine because of a history of medication-related anaphylaxis or another similar reason will be offered a reasonable accommodation when possible, and in accord with our staff policies. That might mean limiting their exposure to crowds through shifts in duties (but not a reduction in hours), providing social distance space around their work area, or other measures. Staff who are not medically counter-indicated may receive some accommodations, but there are no guarantees. They have chosen to take that risk.
The board approved Woodsong Nature School hiring member Allyson Rosemore as the substitute teacher. We heard a presentation on Widening the Circle of Concern. We reviewed the plan for in-person participation later this year.
Prison Ministry February 7th, 12:30 pm
The newly-formed Prison Ministry and Incarceration Justice Group will meet regularly on the first Sunday of each month at 12:30. Our first meeting will be on February 7th. Please join us if you would like to learn more about the pen pal program, local and statewide projects some of our members are working on, and solidarity circles. You are especially welcome to attend if you have interest but no training or experience. We are all learning from each other. Join with the Zoom link below. We look forward to seeing you!
Our 7 Principles and 5 Sources are contained in Article II of the Bylaws of the UUA. We are tasked with periodic review of these foundational writings, since our faith is not set in stone, but rather evolves as our environment changes. The campaign to add an Eighth Principle to our current seven in 2017, adding anti-racism and multiculturalism to our focus, triggered an official study commission. Our last review was in 2009 and ended without any changes.
This current commission is charged with more than just adding an eighth principle. They are charged with reviewing the entire document, but definitely with adding language about anti-racism. I’m not aware of a “deadline” for this study, but it will be a subject at the virtual 2021 General Assembly in June.
I invite you to spend some time viewing a video about this study commission. A few notes may clarify your understanding. Elandria Williams, who gives the “charge” to the commission on the video, died in October of 2020. They were a co-moderator of the UUA and a force in our movement. Both Elandra and Rob Spirko, a member of the commission, were members of the Tennessee Valley UU Church. August 4, 2020, was the tenth anniversary of the shooting deaths of two members of that congregation.
This 19-minute video includes a presentation of the current Principles and Sources, Elandria’s charge to the commission, and introductions by the 6 members of the commission. It’s well worth your time to explore these foundations of our faith. The video, entitled Introduction to the Article II Study Commission, is embedded under the header picture and can be enlarged to fill the screen.
*ZOOM Church Calendar*
Most “all church” events will be 337-267-3668. This is the Personal Meeting
ID for “Thomas Kerr,” our online identity (and the minister from 1870-1900,
who used all the new technology of his time to reach those he
served). Generally, there will be a waiting room and the host will need to
– Coffee Hour on Sunday. 337-267-3668. 11:10 am. Chris will
– Touchstones: contact your touchstones group facilitator for the time
and meeting ID, if you don’t already have it.
– Caring Team Meeting – The first Tuesday of each month at 6 pm. ID 337-267-3668
-Membership Team Meetingsare on the 1st Thursday of the month at 7 pm. Meeting ID: 980 2780 4780
Want to have a group – a book group, a parent group, a “circle supper”, or
whatever you like? You can create a free Zoom account (40-minute limit,
though often waived by zoom at minute 35). Or, you can use “Thomas Kerr’s”
– just email Autumn email@example.com she can give you the login
and password. Please make sure to tell Autumn if you are having a meeting so we can put it on the calendar.
Literature Link after the Jan 31 sermon about perseverance, lobs and rubies.
• We ask the leaf, “Are you complete in yourself?” And the leaf answers, “No, my life is in the branches.” We ask the branch, and the branch answers, “No my life is in the root.” We ask the root, and it answers, “No my life is in the trunk and the branches and the leaves. Keep the branches stripped of leaves, and I shall die.” So it is with the great tree of being. Nothing is completely and merely individual.
—Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick; First Parish of Norwell Unitarian Universalistshttps://static1.squarespace.com/static/597f797ce58c6268ebdad71c/t/5e53ea4faf3a3e1585e4a983/1582557776279/02022020We%27re+All+In.pdf
• from Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings is a brief essay about democracy. “The ancient Chinese philosopher and statesman Confucius (551–479 BCE) recognized the indelible link between personal and political morality, recognized that interpersonal kindness is the foundation of social justice, recognized that democracy — a form of government only just invented on the other side of the globe in ancient Greece, not to take root in his own culture for epochs — begins in the heart.” https://www.brainpickings.org/2021/01/27/confucius-good-government/
• The Surprising Power of Reading Fiction: 9 Ways it Makes Us Happier and More Creative. From Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer. This is a powerful article about why taking a break by reading fiction reenergizes and broadens us. https://buffer.com/resources/reading-fiction/
• One recent morning after a long shift in the E.R., Dr. Mitchell took a walk in her neighborhood and noticed a daffodil blooming, a reminder of spring’s renewal. It contrasted with so much in the landscape around her that had changed — neighbors closeted behind closed doors… Here is her poem, “The Apocalypse” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/us/coronavirus-doctor-poetry-boston.html
Eliminate Racism 815, Learning About Racism for a Change 2021
In partnership with Rockford Public Library
Book Discussion 6:00-7:45pm, last Thursday of the month
January 28, 2021: Caste: The Origins of our Discontent, by Isabel Wilkerson
A portrait of a deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.