A Time to Simplify

By Megan Foley, Evin Carvill Ziemer

A minister speaks during online worship on a home laptop.

January 2022 is a time to simplify. Your regional staff have been saying “now is the time for easy programs” for months now. This month we mean it more than ever.

We don’t know how this omicron surge will impact every congregation, of course, but the very high case numbers mean we’re all likely to have some impact. Even though healthy vaccinated people are likely to have mild illness, having many people sick at the same time is still hard.

In the next few weeks at least, it’s likely that more parents than ever will have quarantining or sick kids home and some school districts will call off school because of lack of staffing. It’s likely that lay leaders’ colleagues will be sick or have children home and they’ll be asked to pitch in to help cover at work. It’s even more likely that key leaders including volunteers, musicians, ministers, and religious educators may need to suddenly call in sick whether it’s COVID or just COVID possible symptoms.

If you have staff who are parenting children still at home, please know that parents do not have the emotional energy left to juggle kids at home while working. Be prepared to let them just take time off to care for their families.

If you have staff with chronic illness of any kind, know that this wave of omicron is very worrying because of the increased risk of breakthrough infection.

Any extra care or extra grace you can give your staff now is sorely needed and will help your congregation’s long term well-being.

Because really all of us just need some extra care. Even though this isn’t March 2020 and all predictions are that this wave will pass within weeks, most of us are already completely exhausted.

Please consider how to make your January simpler than it is. Way simpler. So simple if staff are sick or quarantining you won’t need to make multiple stressful last minute “pivots”. You do not need to rush back into multiplatform worship planning, if that’s what you were doing in 2021. You can do what’s simplest. There are a number of online worship resources below. You can also call up neighboring congregations and make a plan to join their livestream if your worship leaders cannot lead. You can always host a simple online coffee hour with breakout room conversation afterwards for connections.

And if your congregation is lucky and the impacts above don’t come to pass for you, the worst that will happen is you’ll have a relaxing month. And everyone needs that. Winter is a wonderful time to follow your creaturely instinct to cozy up and rest. Spring will come soon enough.

So. Many. Worship Services. for you to use.

  • SIDE WITH LOVE SUNDAY is February 13! All Unitarian Universalist congregations are invited to participate in this annual tradition! This year, Side With Love will offer a free-use worship service featuring stirring music, deep-hearted reflection, and moving testimonies from a range of UU leaders. The service will be available for use as a whole, or as individual videos for your selected use. A detailed order of service including worship leaders and elements will be available here on Monday, January 30; all videos will be available for access/download by end of day on Friday, February 5. Stay tuned for more information about this service! And the rest of the 30 Days of Love program is awesome too. (Sign up for alerts.)
  • Did you attend the UUA’s Compass event last month? Or did you think it sounded interesting but you couldn’t fit it in? You can still register and registrants have access to the Sunday morning worship service which includes speakers Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, Woullard Lett, Lillian Drab-Braddick, Aisha Hauser, Rev. Bill Sinkford, Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, Karishma Gottfried, Rev. Lauren Smith, Rev. Summer Albayati (she/her), Rev. Sana Saeed. Just click play and your Sunday work is done!
  • The UUA offered a couple of complete worship services last year as well. If you didn’t use them, now may be the time:
  • The Central East Region staff is gathering up some worship services to offer our congregations. The Worship Service Resources Video Playlist on our YouTube channel has several recorded sermons as well as a few readings, children's stories and more. We are adding more to this over the next couple of months so keep checking back. Sermons come with a list of recommended hymns and readings in the description. We do ask that you give appropriate credit to the presenter and that you properly compensate and/or credit musicians, etc whose work are used in the service following the guidelines on the UUA's WorshipWeb pages.
  • First Unitarian Baltimore had an asynchronous version of their annual Channing Commemoration Service and is offering it to fellow congregations for free use. (Please let them know if you’re using it by emailing Rev. David Carl Olson at minister@firstunitarian.net.) The whole service, available to use in whole or in parts, is available on YouTube.

And, of course, don’t forget your neighbors! Almost all of our congregations have Sunday worship that is available to attend online. Why not “take a trip” and have your congregation attend one of those every once in a while or for a few weeks in a row? It’s a fantastic opportunity to see what others do and get some variety. Find other congregations here.

About the Authors

Megan Foley

Rev. Megan Foley serves as Regional Lead for the Central East Region staff. Before joining regional staff she served for six years as the minister of the Sugarloaf Congregation of Unitarian Universalists in Germantown, Maryland....

Evin Carvill Ziemer

Evin serves the Central East Region in the areas of Youth Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, and Intercultural Competency work and as Primary Contact for congregations in upstate and central New York. Evin holds a Masters of Divinity from Earlham School of Religion and Bachelor of Arts from Carleton...

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