Meeting Challenges During a Pandemic

By Meck Groot

As we go about our work at this time, the NER staff team keeps learning about the faithful ways UU congregations are meeting the challenges of being and doing church during a pandemic. Hilary Allen shared a sampling in her post “Risking in the Time of Change” and we have shared examples on the NER Facebook page, some of which show up here again:

five points cluster logo

The Five Points Cluster — a collaboration among our congregations in Brockton, Canton, Foxborough, North Easton, Sharon, and Stoughton — recently shared an email with NER staff that included the following message:

"...huge congratulations to everyone who has participated in the Five Points Cluster COVID mask-making effort over the last several months. I have just completed a count (estimated) of the total number of masks you have made in this effort, and I am seeing near 4000(!) masks for adults and children. The masks you have made were supplied to Brockton ER when they did not have access to PPE's, to Brockton community through Brockton Mutual Aid and Brockton Interfaith Committee, Brockton schools, day care, churches, senior centers. Masks were distributed to Pembroke Psychiatric Hospital, nursing homes in Taunton, Roxbury, Dorchester. Children's masks were given to the Nathan Hale School to help them open when they fell short of funding by more than $4000.00. I just received 50 children's masks which I will be donating to Cross Street Family Shelter in Somerville. The needs have been great and your efforts have been great, as well."

craig's doors

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst has opened its space to Craig’s Doors, a local shelter struggling to find enough space for physical distancing of its guests. The church is accommodating sixteen unhoused people from November to April. Susan Rice, congregational president, told a WWLP reporter, “Our congregation has been incredibly supportive of our partnership with Craig’s Doors. In a time when so many of us feel somewhat helpless about the global and national course of events, working together to provide a shelter for 16 people has given our faith community an opportunity to open our hearts and live our mission.” For more information watch this video and/or read this article.

First Universalist in Yarmouth ME transformed their annual in-person leadership retreat to a Dream Big! virtual retreat for anyone who wanted to come. Participants reflected on and celebrated some of the ways they have been taking faithful risks as a congregation in the past few years including turning their parsonage into four housing units for asylum seekers. During the Zoom retreat, participants shared their hopes for possible ways they might continue the practice of faithful risking in the future.

afire logo

Four congregations including two in New England are collaborating on an online RE program serving children and youth ages 2-18. BuxMont UU Fellowship of Warrington, PA; the Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven, MA; the UU Fellowship of Corvallis, OR; and the First Parish Church of Kingston, MA together make up AFIRE: the Alliance For Inspiring RE. AFIRE offerings include the POP curriculum supporting parents and caregivers of preschoolers, a podcast with crafts for early elementary schoolers, an adaptation of the Harry & UU curriculum for older elementary schoolers, the Soul Matters Crossing Paths program for middle school youth, two Coming of Age programs for 7-8th grade and 9-12th grade cohorts, and a youth group facilitated by Rev. Aisha Ansano. Like many things in this year, the actual programs have turned out differently than envisioned in the planning period. Still, working together means that more options are available, including the current collaboration on a Yule Pageant with virtual family choir, and the possibility of shared Youth Sunday and Coming of Age services this spring.

First Parish in Taunton, MA witnessed the struggles local families had when these could not get the necessary masks during the covid pandemic. The congregation began collecting masks to give away. When they ran out of resources within the congregation to buy and make all the masks themselves, they reached out and UU congregations around the country answered. In this way, the Taunton congregation was able to give away over a thousand masks to children picking up school lunches, residents in nursing homes, unhoused people in the community, members of households with a covid-positive family member, and many others.

A right-wing group let the Follen Community Church in Lexington, MA know they would be coming to their church during Sunday worship to protest Unitarian Universalist values. Though the congregation was not meeting in person for services, Rev. Feingold Thoryn invited the congregation, “to show up, be present, and peacefully claim our land, our name, our image, and our values.” Planning a physically distant response involved spreadsheets, spacing diagrams, sign up sheets, logistics documents and a non-violent protest training the day before. Those who gathered outside the building that Sunday held their space, worshiped together, and stood for justice. [more]

We know there are stories we haven’t heard yet. If you have a story to share about how your congregation is addressing the challenges of this time, please share them with us at newengland@uua.org.


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About the Author

Meck Groot

Meck Groot has worked for many years at the intersection of faith and social change. As Justice Ministries Lead for the region, she inspires and supports congregational leaders for vital, faith-centered justice ministry within and beyond the congregation through spiritual leadership practice....

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