Love and Mercy February 14, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. (Online Only at Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson For human relationships to thrive – friendships, family, colleagues, and lovers – they must have mercy in them. When we care about each other enough to take care of each other’s wounds and to notice and respond to our hurts and hopes then our love can blossom and sustain us through our lives. We’ll discuss how to cultivate a quality of mercy in our relationships (all sorts).
Happy Birthday to: Colleen McDonald (02/09), Winniy Chin (02/09), Pete Giolitto (02/09), Todd Elliott (02/09), Dave Schubert (02/10), Jim Dehler (02/11), Jesse Hodierne (02/14), Ann Haub (02/16), & Jeff Earhart (02/16)!
We will share the plate with Side with Love Side with Love is an interfaith public advocacy campaign promoting respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Side with Love confronts issues of exclusion, oppression, and violence based on identity. With the goal of creating a beloved community, the campaign pursues social change through advocacy, public witness, and speaking out in solidarity with those whose lives are publicly demeaned.
Our core issues of focus include, but are not limited to LGBTQ equity, immigrant justice, racial justice, and intersectional movement building. Click here to donate.
Feb 8, 2021
Some years ago, folks at my alma mater, Meadville Lombard Theological School, designed a curriculum for congregations to do the internal and external work of anti-racism, anti-oppression, and inclusion. This program, which they called “Beloved Conversations,” was a way for Unitarian Universalists to develop the skills and capacity to look at how race, racism, identity, power, and relationship related to our spiritual and congregational lives.
The program was very well received by many congregations, though there were limitations and challenges, of course. We were excited to do this program as a congregation. The program worked with an opening retreat, and then 8 small group sessions. We had our opening retreat in February 2020, and the first of our small group sessions on March 11th, 2020.
The newsprint from that small group session is still hanging in the library, almost a year later. Of all the things we had to stop doing, this one was one of the hardest.
The team at Meadville Lombard redesigned the program over the next few months. They addressed some of the long-standing issues and figured out a way to offer the experience as a virtual experience. They divided the work into 3 phases: “within”, “among”, and “beyond.”
14 of our folks did the “within” sessions last fall. They have told me that it was great. The online format worked better than they feared, and they were able to connect with the other folks in their “learning pods” – some of whom were from this church, and some of whom were Unitarian Universalists from elsewhere.
We will probably do the “among” phase of this work in the fall. That will be a mostly in-person opportunity to look at our congregation, and how we can even better embody the anti-racist inclusive Beloved Community we seek to be. The “within” experience is, with very limited exceptions, a prerequisite for participation in the “among” work. You need to do your own work before we do our collective work. So, please, participate in the “within” program.
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.
Prison Ministry March 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. 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!
The title, above, is not from a UUA publication, but rather from the Union of Concerned Scientists. In the organization’s 2020 list of accomplishments, this was the one listed first. “Outwardly, UCS was unwavering in support of racial justice, but behind the scenes, we were grappling to address racist structures and practices in our workplace after several former and current UCS staff members bravely and publicly called out longstanding concerns. . . . Reckoning with racism is a messy, painful process. Knowing it is the right thing to do helps lessen the pain.”
Another organization that I support is working to “address issues of racial justice and equity:” the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust has established the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The winter issue of Preservation includes an article describing the restoration of the 130-year-old Hutchinson house on Edisto Island, South Carolina. After the Civil War, 20 freedmen pooled their money to buy 452 acres on the island. Jim Hutchinson, one of those freedmen, built a two-story house for his family. Now the family has partnered with the Trust to restore this home on the National Register of Historic Places. The Trust preserves sites such as the Hutchinson house and slave and freedman cemeteries.
I’m encouraged by the actions of organizations not associated with social action, who are stepping up to dismantle white supremacy in their midst.
Submitted by Teresa Wilmot
Literature Link after the Feb. 7 sermon about Just Mercy
• Three Sovereigns for Sarah [movie]
“Nineteen people were hanged and one man pressed to death, while hundreds went to jail during the “witch hysteria” of 1692. THREE SOVEREIGNS FOR SARAH offers an accurate portrayal of the Salem witch trials, with real characters and original transcripts woven into the dialogue. The film is a powerful, moving story about three loving sisters accused of witchcraft.” This movie gets the history accurate. Everything in the movie was based on true events and there were no “Added parts” to make the film more entertaining. I showed this film when teaching American Lit. [on Amazon Prime or in public library]
*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.
The Unitarian Universalist Church, Rockford, IL | 4848 Turner St., Rockford, IL 61107 | 815-398-6322 | uurockford.org |