The Church is its People

By Beth Casebolt

A family dances together in the aisle of the main hall, during worship

Sunday morning worship at General Assembly 2019. You can watch recordings of worship services at General Assembly going back several years on the UUA website.

What a week we have had. Seven days ago we were looking at when we might consider switching to virtual services and wondering if a week or two might serve. By Thursday we were rapidly moving to most churches canceling services and moving to virtual alternatives. Last night we were advised by the CDC to suspend meetings of groups of 50 or more for the next eight weeks. The rapid changes in direction have been unnerving and anxiety inducing for all of us.

And yet, we've persevered. Congregational staff and volunteers quickly learned how to live-stream and modify worship services so that they could be shared through Facebook, YouTube or Zoom and other conferencing platforms, and Sunday services and gatherings happened. It wasn't perfect, but it happened and we connected and that is the important piece. Congregations who couldn't get the tech and resources together to live-stream were invited by congregations across the country to join their live-streamed services. I saw the emails and Facebook posts with these open invitations. For that we thank your generosity and kindness to your neighboring congregations.

Now we need to look at how we do this for the long haul. How do we as a community support each other when we can't be together? On one hand we can use technology and replace our in-person meetings with virtual meetings. While they don't replace the hug and warmth of being in the same room with everyone, they do allow us to communicate and be with others in an environment where we can't accidently be exposed to Coronavirus. On the other hand, we can revert to old technology. Making phone calls to keep in touch with others helps us all stay in touch. Sending letters via US Mail gives us a chance to share our thoughts and feelings with each other (or art work for example).

Our congregations are not the buildings, locations or even the regular meetings. When I was a young girl growing up in the Presbyterian church we used to sing a song - The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is its people. I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together. All of God's children, all around the world, yes we're the church together. And this song is not wrong. We are the church together. It is the people who are important. Keep the people centered and we will get through this. We will grow and learn from this experience which may lead to discoveries that inform how we do church and are in community going forward.

UUA staff and others have crowd-sourced resources for online religious education, worship services, and group gatherings and are rapidly adding them to our various webpages at the UUA website. Please check LeaderLab for help and the page on Pandemics. These areas are being updated daily with new resources. If you cannot find something, please reach out to your primary contact to assist you. We are here to help.

About the Author

Beth Casebolt

Beth Casebolt is the Operations Manager and Communications Consultant for the Central East Region. Prior to regionalization she served as the District Administrator for the Ohio-Meadville District, a position she started in November 2007. She is very interested in universal design, websites & more.

For more information contact .