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Explaining to Children About The Need for Virtual Church

Helen Rose smiles, carrying the post of a rainbow flag over her shoulder.

Here is a sample script to explain to the children why you are doing church online instead of in person. Listen and watch Helen Rose deliver this message.

 

Hey friends!
I’m Helen. I’m the Director of Religious Exploration at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee. My pronouns are she/her/hers, and I have some news to share with you about what’s going on at church right now.

So first, we’re going to light our chalice, just like we do in RE class. I’m going to put the words on the screen, and you can say them with me if you want to.

“Love is the spirit of this congregation
And service is its ministry
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace
To seek the truth in love
And to help one another.”

Ok, now let’s all take a big breath together. Can you do that?
(Big breath.)

That was really good. Let’s practice again. This time, we’re going to breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, and breathe out for four counts. If that’s too long for you, you can go at your own pace.
(Few rounds of square breathing.)

Good job. That always helps me feel grounded when there’s a lot going on.
Some of you have probably heard that there’s a lot going on right now.

There’s an illness going around called COVID-19, or Coronavirus. It can make people sick and it’s contagious, which means it spreads quickly.

Because this illness is going around and can spread so quickly, we've made the decision to close church for a while, so there will be no church or RE in person for now. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one, and I'd like to tell you why.

Even though this is different and maybe even a little bit scary, it is a really amazing opportunity to practice our UU values.
We’re going to talk specifically about our first and seventh principles:

“We respect the inherent worth and dignity of all beings/Each person is important.”

“Respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part/We care for Earth’s lifeboat.”

When we say each person is important, we also mean that everyone deserves to be safe and have what they need. Everyone deserves to have that, no matter who they are, where they’re from, what they believe, or where they are on their journey.

This illness can affect anyone, but it’s most likely to seriously impact people who are older or already have medical conditions. So even though some of us who are younger and healthier aren’t likely to get seriously sick, our friends who are more likely to get seriously sick deserve to be as safe as possible.

That means that all of us, even those of us who are less likely to get sick, need to be very careful about washing our hands and spending as much time as we can away from public and crowds. And I know that’s hard and not really fun. It isn’t necessarily because we’re worried about getting sick ourselves, but because we want to decrease the chances of carrying the illness to someone who could get very sick.

Those people deserve to be safe and well, and it’s up to us to remember that each person is important, and honoring that right now means that we have to change the way we do some things.

And that brings us to our seventh principle.
Because we live in an interdependent web of existence, (interdependent means we all depend on each other) it is up to all of us to do what we can to make sure our vulnerable friends are safe. We all have to do our part to hold the web together, and each and every part matters. We all depend on one another every day, and this situation is a big reminder of that.

And I know that isn’t necessarily fair. All of the adults in your life – your parents and caregivers, your teachers, your RE guides, your church staff, and beyond – recognize that asking you all to change your routines and sit in the uncertainty of this is not fair and not fun for you. It’s ok to feel like that, or to feel worried or even angry. We understand, and we’re going to love and support you as we all do our parts to help our communities.

Remember what Mr. Rogers said about when he saw scary things happening when he was younger:
“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

We all have a chance to be the helpers now, and your grownups are going to keep helping you, too.

We’re going to do RE online at UUCT until church is open again. This will include as much of our regular routine as possible – we’ll do our chalice lighting, chime, and do a joys and concerns check in, because I want to hear your joys and concerns. We’ll be doing this and an online story time this Sunday afternoon, and I’ll be sending your parents and caregivers a newsletter with some at-home RE activities for you all to try together.

This is how we’re going to start, and I’m going to send some more updates soon. In the meantime, your parents and caregivers all have my cell phone number and email address. They are welcome to email or text me at any time, and with their permission, kids and youth can email me as long as a parent or caregiver is copied on the email.
So let’s try some big breaths again. I’m going to count while you breathe.
(Few rounds of square breathing.)

You did great, and I’m so proud of you. I can’t wait to see all of your little faces on my computer screen on Sunday afternoon for RE, and I’m looking forward to when we can all be together in person again.

We’re going to do our chalice extinguishing now. The words are on your screen. They come from one of my favorite spiritual practices, Kundalini yoga, and were originally written by an Irish musician named Mike Heron.

“May the longtime sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on”

Blessed be, amen, shalom, and may it be so. I’ll talk to you all soon.

 

About the Authors

HP Rivers

HP Rivers (they/them/theirs) was raised on love and coffee by Westside UU Church in Knoxville, TN. They are a Master of Divinity student at Starr King School for the Ministry and serve as Director of Religious Exploration at the UU Church of Tallahassee....

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.