Last week, my family and I finally took down our holiday decorations. We kept them up for the bright cheer they brought and because we still hadn’t felt like the New Year had come. I joked that 2021 started off like the 13th month of 2020.
And yet, we really are in a time of transition. The New Year is still just beginning and a new administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris has been sworn into office. I am grateful they have made addressing the COVID-19 pandemic their highest priority. With greater transparency and a coordinated national effort, many are encouraged that the pandemic will begin to subside this year. I am hopeful for the day when it will be safe to gather with our loved ones and communities.
At the same time, we are all acutely aware that the pandemic continues to be widespread and dangerous. Dr. Anthony Fauci reminds us that “the virus determines the timeline,” and we must be patient. He cautions that no vaccine is 100% effective and equitable vaccine distribution will present a major challenge. Alongside our hopes, we must remain vigilant with safety protocols and our commitment as a faith community to support public health and keep each other safe.
The UUA continues to carefully monitor developments with testing and vaccinations. Last May, we recommended congregations plan for virtual operations until at least May 2021. By now, we recognize this timeline will likely be longer. As the Biden administration develops a coordinated federal response, we expect it will be March before we have a reasonable sense of the vaccine horizon and timeline for when we might reach herd immunity. In the meantime, our current UUA Guidance on Gathering offer recommendations for specific metrics to monitor in your own community as you consider decisions about gathering when the pandemic subsides.
I also recognize this is a time when many congregations begin planning budgets and programs for the next congregational year. The UUA is also in this planning mode. As we consider the future, in the midst of so much uncertainty, we remain committed to continuing the learnings, innovations and new ways of doing things created during this last year. For example, even when we can gather in person, we plan to continue strong virtual participation channels for General Assembly and offer online programs and opportunities for leaders across congregations to gather and grow skills together. These new event formats reduce our carbon footprint and increase accessibility.
I have witnessed a remarkable blossoming in many of our UU communities during this pandemic. There is an increased focus on community care and interdependence in how we approach ministry within and across congregations. Because of how quickly we moved online, there is unprecedented access to our ministry. Leaders are asking innovative questions about membership and ongoing virtual community now that participation is not bound to buildings or physical location.
Through it all, I am inspired by the way our communities and leaders are leaning into mission and relationship. Even as the pace of change and loss has been so difficult, our mission, our values and our care for each other steady us. The tangible connections and interdependence we share as covenanted UU communities and congregations is an ongoing source of strength. May we continue to lean into mission and lean on one another when we are in need.
I wish you all peace and blessings in this New Year.
Looking for inspiration and courage? Join Side with Love’s Thirty Days of Love. Next week’s focus is Educating for Liberation with offerings for all ages. We also invite you to join or share the Sunday, February 14th Side With Love Sunday service.
In early March, the UUA will release a digital worship service focused on congregational stewardship and generosity led by me and worship leaders across the Association. Congregations can use this service, or elements of it, for their own worship and stewardship services. There will be more details to come in February.