May Music Sunday: Accepting Our Gifts
May 16 2021, at 10:00 a.m. Online Only
One of the best things about belonging to a religious community like ours is the way in which people offer their particular gifts and talents to the benefit of the whole. Today we celebrate the gift of music and the spirit of camaraderie it engenders among musicians and audience alike. There’s something special about being part of a musical ensemble, and something equally special about experiencing a piece of music in a roomful (or even a Zoomful) of others. This Music Sunday, several of our own will come together to share their gifts in the form of a musical offering comprising selections presented by Martha Dunegan, Kay Hotchkiss, Dave Lantz, Jesse Parker, Teresa Wilmot, and Kathy Young. It’s sure to be a wonderful day of music and camaraderie for all!
We will Share the Plate with Crusader Community Health Crusader Community Health serves the Rock River Valley area with quality primary health care for all people in need. Click Here to Donate
Happy Birthday to: Colleen Smitherman (05/12), Janet Wasson (05/12), Molly Soper (05/12), Stephanie Burt (05/12), Sandra Locke (05/13), Allison Cummings (05/13), Brandon Vinje (05/15), Hannah Kaytonah (05/16), Sara Dady (05/16), & Mary Kate Herriges (05/16)!
This week, I want to take space to let you know some things going on with our national association, the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Though you hear occasional updates from me, or from our Denominational Affairs Coordinator Teresa Wilmot, you may not know much about our national association. But they are very busy!
Throughout the pandemic, the support we’ve gotten from the UUA has been tremendous. They worked hard to provide advice, resources, support, and information to congregations. They host regular calls where staff with similar portfolios and locations can seek common wisdom, they’ve offered online workshops and seminars and technical support. Some of that technical support helped us secure our PPP loan, which was so very helpful.
We are served mostly by our regional staff. Our region, MidAmerica, has assigned one of its regional consultants, the Rev. Sharon Dittmar, as the primary contact for mid-size congregations like ours. Sharon is wonderful – she served a church a lot like ours in Cincinnati for a long time, and she knows what it is like. She’s been super helpful. They also meet with Office staff, DRE’s, and others. She guided us through hiring Joyce Palmer to make sure we did all the steps in the right order.
General Assembly, the annual meeting of Unitarian Universalist, was supposed to be in Milwaukee this summer. It will be a fully virtual event instead, which is best but too bad. I hope you will register at uua.org/ga. Go to workshops, worship services, and other events online. If you want to be a delegate, let me know.
One important thing that’s happening in the UUA is that a commission is working on rewriting Article Two – or, as you know it, the seven principles. We are required to rewrite them regularly, so they don’t become a static creed. We don’t do static creeds. There’s also an effort to add an “Eighth Principal.” This principle instructs us to create a multiracial beloved community by dismantling systems of oppression. One of the eight principle authors is on the “Article Two Study Commission” and some version of it will be included, I’m sure. Nonetheless, congregations are expressing their support for the general concept, which I suspect we will do at our annual meeting as well.
Of course, this commitment to become the “multiracial beloved community” as well as our broader efforts to integrate anti-racist theology into our practice and policies has met with resistance from a small but vocal minority of Unitarian Universalists – and if you go to GA, you might hear some things about this. But don’t worry – our progress as a faith towards this goal will not be derailed.
I’m very grateful for the support of the UUA in doing ministry with you, and for our congregation. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Please join us on Wednesday, May 19th as we promote “Transgender Inclusion in Congregations”, a 6-session course, offered to individuals, groups, and congregational teams who want to take their knowledge and skills to the next level in terms of trans identity and how to create congregations that are fully inclusive and affirming of the full breadth of gender diversity.
We will watch a short video and then Zr. Alex Kapitan will join us for a short Q&A. 7 pm Zoom ID 337 267 3668
Becoming an Anti-Racist Parent
Mark your calendars! We hope you will join our Senior Minister, Matthew Johnson, and our Director of Religious Education, Lindsay Dunn, for our Becoming an Anti-Racist Parent discussion group. We welcome parents and caregivers of children ages 0-18 to join us for some discussion, resources, and time to share with peers. Sessions will be held on the church playground from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm on:
Wednesday, June 2
Wednesday, June 9
Wednesday, June 16
Wednesday, June 30
Opportunity & invitation to help with community gardens
1. build friendships with folks who are different from us
2. grow real food
3. learn & teach gardening
4. enjoy time outside with others while accomplishing worthwhile goals
5. dirty hands, face & clothes – be in touch with the earth
6. identify bugs & perhaps overcome fear of them
– Spectrum School garden on church property
– Beautiful Beginnings @ Fairgrounds (Rockford Housing Authority family site) – Beautiful Beginnings K-8 21st Century One Room Schoolhouse @ Rockford Community Church, Auburn & Meridian
Beautiful Beginnings is a free private school which serves high-risk children who have been removed from or have abandoned public school. It pushes innovation envelopes by bringing learner-centered best practices and community support to children the system has failed. These include GED prep, apprenticeships, entrepreneur opportunities, and project-oriented, multi-age instruction. Community participation and wellness are critical to this mission, and I believe growing food and flowers will change children’s lives.
Beautiful Beginnings develops skills and self-reliance to successfully return to school or to enter into meaningful work. The children we serve often have no place to go other than the streets, gangs, or juvenile homes. Continuing to provide them opportunities to develop life skills, education, and hope has been imperative throughout this pandemic. We are a school and community center that gives young adults and adolescents a place to be, a place to hope and to believe in themselves when no one else does.
Lunch with Matthew
Each Wednesday, next one on May 12, you are invited to join Matthew and other church members at noon, at the church, to chat, catch up, and reconnect. We’ll talk about whatever is on our minds. Bring your own lunch if you like — and bring a lawn or folding chair, because we’ll be outside for this. (Vaccination encouraged but not required). If the weather is bad, we’ll skip that week, so check in with the church’s Facebook page if you’re unsure.
Around 12:45, those who are interested are invited to join Matthew on a walk through our neighborhood, as part of the “Faith Leaders ‘Walk the Neighborhood'” challenge. We’ll see what’s going on in our neighborhood — to celebrate and connect folks.
Do You Have Church Keys?
We want to make sure our records are correct and do a bit of “spring cleaning” on our security system. Please email Autumn at firstname.lastname@example.org with which keys you have, if you have a front door key we will need the number stamped on it and your security code. If you have lost any keys, it is ok! Just please let us know. If you do not need your church keys anymore you can drop them off in an envelope with your name written on it in our mailbox located outside the office doors.
Join us for a discussion about Intended: A Marriage in Black and White featuring author Sharon Nesbit-Davis on Saturday, May 15th at 11 am outdoors on church grounds. If the weather does not cooperate we will meet in Deale Hall. Social distancing and masks required. Intended is a memoir that explores race and relationships throughout the author’s life including her lived experience as a white woman marrying a black man. You won’t want to put this powerful and thought-provoking book down!
Sharon is a resident of Rockford and has been involved in the community in a variety of ways, including serving as the executive director of the Rockford Area Arts Council.
We hope you can join us for this meaningful event. To RSVP contact Office Manager Autumn Powell at email@example.com
Copies are also available at Womanspace and through Amazon.
Eliminate Racism 815
Friday, May 14, 2021 6:pm
“They Came to Stay: A World of Their Own” 116 min.
In the 1700s, a small number of Jews came to America, struggling to hold fast to being part of the emerging nation. They were tolerated & shunned.
We will meet on Zoom until it is safe to meet face to face.
Book for May 25: Critical Race Theory-An Introduction by Delgado & Stefancic
CRT provides a radical and challenging perspective that reveals how racism shapes the everyday reality of the world from law courts, and prisons, to the economy, schools, media and health care.
Presented by the NAACP Criminal Justice Committee; hear DIRECTLY from the crafters of this landmark Illinois legislation and get some of your questions answered.
What and when can we expect this bill to have an impact? What about the gaping holes like Qualified Immunity?
Literature Link for May 9, 2021 about acceptance and “good enough.”
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach. “Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance.” https://www.amazon.com/Radical-Acceptance-Embracing-Heart-Buddha/dp/0553380990
• Too Perfect by Trudy Ludwig [public library] [ages 6-10]
Maisie thinks Kayla is perfect. She’s pretty and thin, has cool clothes, gets good grades, and she’s a star on the soccer field. But is Kayla happy? The more Maisie gets to know Kayla, the more she begins to question whether being perfect is really so wonderful. In Too Perfect, acclaimed speaker and child advocate Trudy Ludwig explores the relentless and destructive drive for perfection, and the freedom that comes from accepting one’s self. “Honey, I love you for who you are…not for who you think I want you to be.” For thoughtful reviews/comments, go to this link. https://www.amazon.com/Too-Perfect-Trudy-Ludwig/dp/1582462585
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 as a scientific, reasonable, and loving decision. 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 the Bridge phase between Phase 4 and 5, or has entered Phase 5.
2. On CovidActNow, Winnebago County’s Infection Rate and Test Positivity is “green.” (meaning below .90 and 3%, respectively). These numbers may fluctuate, especially if the number of people getting tested drops. We’ll look at the longer trend.
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. We’ll know we are at this point when the “Appointments Available” is green all the time on the Walgreens site, and/or the WCHD allows same or next-day appointments at the mass sites.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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. At the moment, we are leaning towards having instrumental, vaccinated soloist, and/or pre-recorded music only until we get to 70% vaccination.
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. A fourth surge would delay our opening. We’re preparing for everything from June 6th to July 18th as first days for indoor worship.
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.
*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.