New CDC Guidelines in Covenantal Community

In May 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control released new interim guidance that surprised many congregational leaders and members. The guidance tells individuals that once they reach the two-week point after completing the COVID-19 vaccine, they do not need to wear masks in indoor places.

But the CDC’s guidance is about individuals. As congregations, our decisions about masking or un-masking need to be about community. We are in covenant with one another to act not just as a collection of individuals, but as a body that works for the good of all.

Because our Unitarian Universalist faith is grounded in values that call us to care about one another, we must continue to make our decisions by centering the needs of the most vulnerable among us:

The UUA strongly recommends that congregations maintain a culture of indoor masking when they regather in person. This is because of who we are, as congregations, at our best:

The UUA encourages congregations to maintain a culture of masking while indoors regardless of vaccination status.

  • We are all-ages communities, and not all ages have been able to get vaccinated yet.
  • We are all-abilities communities, and some of us have immune systems that do not mount a strong protective response after the COVID vaccination and can suffer severe consequences upon infection.
  • We are all-inclusive communities, and we want to express our UU values by being able to include all, regardless of vaccination status.

Therefore for the near term, as part of our covenantal commitment to care for all, we encourage congregations to maintain a culture of masking while indoors regardless of vaccination status.

It is also helpful to refer back to Susan Frederick-Gray’s Key Principles for Planning when interpreting the CDC guidelines for covenantal faith communities.

  • As a faith community, we root our decisions in the values of inclusion and consent.
  • Follow the science.
  • Go slow and be flexible.
  • Be humane and realistic with expectations of ourselves and others.

Guidance for Gathering in Covenantal Community

Use the Guidance for Gathering in Covenantal Community (PDF) to practice covenantal consent—taking time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions that might put members of the community at risk, either physically or mentally.

Visual chart showing Guidance for Gathering post COVID

Guidance for Gathering in Covenantal Community (Accessible Version)

Congregational Activity

Guidance

Small Groups Outside

Religious education, childcare, youth group, OWL, Coming of Age, Committee/team meetings, bell choir, small group ministry, playground meetup, games, hiking, bonfire

Take prevention measures to protect self and others OR 
Take time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions, even if everyone is vaccinated. (Safest)

Large Groups Outside

Worship, rites of passage, lawn concert, poetry/play readings, coffee hour, “bring your own food” picnic, camping trips, vigils, protests, community gardening

Take prevention measures to protect self and others OR 
Take time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions, even if everyone is vaccinated. (Safest)

Small Groups Inside

Religious education, childcare, youth group, OWL, Coming of Age, committee/team meetings, bell choir, small group ministry

Take prevention measures to protect self and others OR 
Take time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions, even if everyone is vaccinated. (Less safe)

Large Groups Inside

Worship, rites of passage, poetry/play readings, concerts, art shows

Take prevention measures to protect self and others. (Less safe)

Small Groups Inside
(with food/ drink/ singing/ deep breathing)

Retirees’ lunch, lunch bunch, choir, yoga, strenuous activity

Take prevention measures to protect self and others OR 
Take time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions, even if everyone is vaccinated. (Least safe)

Large Groups Inside
(with food/ drink/ singing/ deep breathing)

Coffee hour, “bring your own food” meals, catered dinners/receptions, sing-a-longs, strenuous activity

Take prevention measures to protect self and others. (Least safe)

About the Author

UUA Congregational Life Staff Group

The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the...

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Covenantal Consent

The continued practice of inclusion, covenant, consent, and care for each other before making decisions.

More About Covenantal Consent

Comic showing why to wear masks in church

Masks in Church?

Person #1: We're both vaccinated, why are we still wearing masks in church?

Person #2: Kids under 12 aren't. Have you ever tried getting kids to do something adults won't? (masked family with children in the background)

Person #2: Plus some folks' bodies don't produce a lot of antibodies, or can't get vaccinated. And they might not want to stand out. And it's not welcoming to ask visitors if they're vaccinated!