Kairos February 23, 2021

Kairos                                                      02/23/2021

Have Mercy On My Soul
February 28, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. (Online Only at ReStream)

Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson
Centuries ago, a group of mostly self-educated people in New England came to a startling realization.  They read their Bible and found no evidence of eternal punishment for sins.  They considered what it meant to believe in a loving God and rejected the idea of perpetual torment.  They invented – not for the first or last time – the idea of Universal salvation.  As we close our month on “mercy”, we’ll reflect that Universalism – the idea that “God’s infinite mercy is for all people” – means for us, today. 
Happy Birthday to: Chizuko Duncanson (02/25), Larry Heibner (02/26), Peter Anderson (02/27), Andrea Schultz (02/28), Sue Cooling (03/01), Krysta Wasilewski (03/01), Daniel Fellars (03/01), Lynn Salley (03/02)!
We will Share the Plate with Winnebago County Citizens of Choice
Founded in 1988, WCCC is a group of passionate men and women advocating for women’s reproductive rights.
Click here to donate.
Matthew’s Memo
Feb 23, 2021

There are at least three major subjects I didn’t learn about in seminary, but really wish I had.  One is geriatric medicine.  I have learned on the job what various diagnoses might mean and what many people in the church experience in their bodies in their later years.  But I never learned about it in school. 
A second is staff supervision.  I did get to take workshops on it, later – but almost all my knowledge has been learned on the job.  I’m especially grateful to lay leaders who taught me what they knew from their experience as supervisors in other contexts.  It’s a big part of the job. 
And the third is technology.  I spend much more of my time dealing with technology than I would like.  And yet, using it well is essential to doing ministry well.  Of course, if I had taken a technology class in seminary in 1999-2003, it would all be out of date now! 
The last year of the pandemic has been hard in many ways, and getting the tech to work correctly, for as many people as possible, has been hard too.  Because we were already streaming to Facebook, we kept doing that.  But over the year, we’ve upgraded technology and software a few times.  A software update sometimes requires a hardware update and vice versa.  Because I’m the most technologically adept member of the staff, this has fallen to me.  But I shouldn’t oversell my technical skills.  They’re just enough to be dangerous. 
I thought we had everything set last week – some new software, some new hardware, better microphone placement, and so forth.  We tested it and it worked.  But then Sunday morning it wasn’t behaving.  Autumn texted me, and I made the short drive over to fix it.  Which we did, at 9:59 – though I couldn’t tell you what went wrong, or even how we fixed it! 
Here are some tech pointers for you that might help out.
            On Facebook, be sure to like the page.  You can set notifications to get notified when we go live.  And when you’re watching, you can turn on or off captions.  Also, make sure to turn your volume on the video.  Where your settings are for these functions depends on the device you are using, I’m afraid —  you’ll have to figure it out. 
            You can also watch it on YouTube.  Some folks don’t like to use Facebook, and so YouTube is there for you.  Just search for the church – if you put “Unitarian Rockford” in the search bar you’ll find us.  Subscribe! 
            Do join folks for coffee hour on Zoom each week.  Chris Ainsworth hosts these most weeks.  It’s a chance to chat with folks and say hello.  This is on zoom, and the link is in the Friday Update each week. 
            Also on Zoom is the Wonderful Wednesday program each week.  We have programs scheduled for this Wednesday, March 10th and 24th, April 14th and 21st, and May 5th.   Look for details in this newsletter. 
And let us know how we can improve your tech experience as best we are able. 
After all, we are all learning together.
In faith,

Wonderful Wednesday, February 24th at 7 pm
Join us as Dr. Tasha Davis, Executive Director of Rockford Promise, informs us about what’s new, scholarships, their mission, and how to get involved.
Zoom ID 337-267-3668
Solidarity Circles and Prison Ministry
Are you interested in learning how to help your community and individuals affected by incarceration? Would you like to help those recently released from prison or jail? The Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois is holding an online training on March 7th to help us get thinking about forming a Solidarity Circle. From UUPMI’s website: “A Solidarity Circle is a group of individuals who come together to journey with someone who has been released from prison or jail. The group consists of a Circle Leader and several Circle Members (ideally 6-8) who meet regularly to listen and to assist the Circle Leader in finding ways to meet both immediate and long term needs, and to achieve independence.”

The Prison Ministry Group of our congregation met in February and was also pleased to converse with Rev. Copeland, Lead Pastor at Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Rockford, during the Wonderful Wednesday event. We are exploring how the larger Rockford faith community may come together to support groups like Solidarity Circles, so please join us if you are interested in learning more! We have people who are just learning about prison ministry, people who are interested in legal training, people who want to be pen pals with incarcerated UUs, and people who are involved in a variety of Rockford organizations. We are a newly-formed group, and our initial focus is on education, relationship-building, and sharing what resources we know about.

Prison Ministry Group Monthly Meetings 
First Sunday of the Month, 12:30
Next Meeting: March 7th, 12:30
Zoom ID: 337 267 3668 (Church’s Thomas Kerr account)

Want to sign up for Solidarity Circle training or read more? Click here:

Simple Church Trouble

If you are experiencing an issue with your Simple Church app on your Android device, and when you inquire about a congregant but SC kicks you back to the directory, I know your pain. And, this isn’t happening on the search for everybody in the directory. Be advised: I have contacted Simple Church and they admit it is a glitch, and they are working on it now. Apparently, this is not happening on I Phones, nor if you use Simple Church on your computer.  I will let you know when I know that the problem has been rectified.

Submitted by Carolyn A.
Book Discussion Group

In the post-George Floyd climate, many excellent, well-written books have been
published on anti-racism. In an effort to taste this smorgasbord, the church is offering a book discussion group once a month on Wednesdays starting March 31 st from 10:30
to 11:30 am.

Our first book is So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. This book,
published in 2018, was on the New York Times bestseller list. The author, Ijeoma Oluo is an American of Nigerian descent. The title of each of the 17 chapters is a question, which Oluo answers. She speaks in first person throughout, explaining the problem through an individual’s experience during the 238 pages. I found it easy to follow and a fairly fast read.

The book is widely available. Mine is a Kindle version from Amazon for $10.99, but
their paperback version is even cheaper now. Matthew might be willing to loan his

If you’re interested in this discussion group, either in this book or, perhaps, in future
books, please email me at teresa.wilmot@gmail.com. I’ll keep an email list for communications.

As Ijeoma writes in her introduction, “These last few years, the rise of voices of color,
coupled with the widespread dissemination of video proof of brutality and injustice
against people of color, has brought the urgency of racism in America to the forefront of all our consciousness. Race is not something people can choose to ignore anymore.”

Submitted by Teresa Wilmot
 Literature Link for Feb 21 on Prison Ministry
• “Stuck In The school-to-prison Pipeline”
3-minute video of young men telling their story.  Helpful links at bottom of the page.

• “My World” – Poem and Interview on School to Prison Pipeline. The young author performs her poem, followed by a short interview

• “Poem for the Day: Mr. Mail Manby Adolfo Davis who is in prison. “The last letter I got was one I sent myself,“


• The Earliest Memoir by a Black Inmate Reveals the Long Legacy of Mass IncarcerationThe story of “Rob Reed” is finally published, 150 years after his release. An expert in prison literature, Smith felt sure that the book was written by someone with firsthand knowledge of 19th-century correctional facilities. And if Haunted Convict was a genuine account, it would be groundbreaking: the earliest-known narrative penned by an African-American prisoner. [public library]
• The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins [publiclibrary], a collection of short stories which takes us inside the worlds of prison and prisoners. The Graybar Hotel is “well-written and worth reading for Dawkins’s craft and insight, but it’s also an occasion to consider an industry that has little to do with rehabilitation, and that makes it nearly impossible for its participants to recuperate their lives” (Chicago Tribune). For a review and to hear an audio excerpt, go to this link.
In faith,
Dale Dunnigan
Housing:  A Major Problem for Ex-Offenders
Saturday I attended an Issues Briefing webinar by the League of Women Voters in Illinois that included a session on “Housing as a Determinant of Economic Success.”  One aspect of that problem is individuals returning from incarceration.
Every year about 700,000 individuals return from state prisons and about 9 million return from county jails.  Finding safe housing is one of the biggest problems facing these people.  One survey found that 79% of respondents recently freed were either ineligible for or denied housing.  This leads to homeless rates of 30 to 50% among these individuals. 
Landlords of low-rent apartments use felony convictions and even arrests as a reason to exclude applicants or to evict families.  Public housing rules eliminate persons returning from incarceration, and allowing a felon to share an apartment can lead to eviction from public housing.  Homelessness alone is often a cause of arrest by police.
This lack of a basic human need, shelter, is a major factor in recidivism. 
Submitted by Teresa Wilmot
Beloved Conversations- A testimonial and personal invitation to take advantage of this opportunity

I am really glad I signed up for Virtual Beloved Conversations this past fall because the curriculum helped me become more aware of my own identity as a person and a UU. The meaning-making sessions which included wonderful worship and music and reflection were uplifting. And above all my regular meetings with my pod provided me with invaluable support!

Matthew’s memo in last weeks’ Kairos, dated 2/9/2021, has more details on this program, ways it will allow us to move forward as a congregation in our social justice work, and ways to sign up. I hope you will join me on this journey by taking this step of looking within by signing up for the Virtual Beloved Conversations being offered this spring. This step, as you know, is necessary for us to look at how to do this work of looking at racism/oppression and ways of dismantling it in our own congregation. And we are hopeful that many of us can participate in that process together!

Submitted with Love by Shiraz Tata (815-519-2949)
Eliminate Racism 815

Book Discussion:  Prejudential – Black America and the Presidents
By Margaret Kimberly
Event by
 Eliminate Racism 815
Online: us02web.zoom.us
Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 6 PM CST – 7:45 PM CST
Price: Free · Duration: 1 hr 45 min

Book Discussion:  My Grandmother’s Hands – Radicalized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
By Resmaa Menakem
Event by 
Eliminate Racism 815
Online: us02web.zoom.us
Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 6 PM CDT – 7:45 PM CDT
Price: Free · Duration: 1 hr 45 min

Film Discussion:  “PS, I Can’t Breathe:  Black Lives Matter”
Event by
 Eliminate Racism 815
Online: us02web.zoom.us
Friday, March 12, 2021 at 6 PM CST – 9 PM CST
Price: Free · Duration: 3 hr

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 as 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.


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:

1. Illinois has entered or is clearly on track to enter, Phase 5 of the recovery plan.

2. On CovidActNow, Winnebago County’s Infection Rate and Test Positivity is “green.”

3. 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 volunteers who work 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 minister@uurockford.org or 815-398-6322. 



What about masks?

We will require all people to wear masks until Winnebago County reaches a “herd immunity” threshold of at least 70% of the total population vaccinated.  (Staff may remove their masks when working in their own office, and Matthew and Tim will remove their masks when speaking or singing, with adequate distance.) 

After we reach the 70% vaccination threshold, people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or because they are children for whom the vaccine is not yet approved, should continue to wear masks.  Other people 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 may adjust these requirements based on CDC and IDPH guidance.


Will we 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, it can be too hot for many people, and, if we are on the lawn, folks with mobility challenges cannot access it.


What happens if new variants or slow vaccine uptake changes 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?

The key measure is when vaccine supply outstrips vaccine demand. Folks have been guessing that this happens in May, which means 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 or earlier, since some are now estimating that supply could outstrip demand as earlier, as production increases.  


What about Staff who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons?

Staff who are contraindicated 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 though shifts in duties (but not a reduction in hours), providing social distance space around their work area, or other measures.  We will not generally disclose which staff are contraindicated for vaccination, and we strongly encourage congregation members not to pry into the medical status of employees.  Staff who are not medically contraindicated may receive some accommodations, but there are no guarantees.  They have chosen to take that risk.  

How do I submit a question?

Email Matthew at minister@uurockford.org or call at 815-398-6322. 

Use this simple application to sign up to receive a Covid-19 vaccination through Winnebago County Public Health Department. 
*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
admit you. 

Coffee Hour on Sunday. 337-267-3668. 11:10 am. Chris will
be host.

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 Meetings
are 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 at
 office@uurockford.org and 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.
The Unitarian Universalist Church, Rockford, IL  |   4848 Turner St., Rockford, IL 61107   |   815-398-6322    |   uurockford.org  |
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