Update from the Transition Task Force

The Transition Task Force instituted by the Policy Board (charge here: uufp.org/wp-content/uploads/Members-area/PolicyBoardMinutes/TransitionsTeamWhitePaperCharge_2021_04.pdf) has now met three times.  On May 14th and May 20th, we oriented ourselves to our task and how we would work together.  We watched the short video "Policymaking and Leadership During COVID-19" at uua.org/safe/pandemics/gathering-guidance and read through the "Key Principles for Planning" at uua.org/pressroom/press-releases/planning-multiplatform.  Summarized notes from these two meetings are appended below.  The task force also met on June 4th to recommend some updates to the Limited Building Use Policy (which remains in effect until it is updated or revoked); on June 9th we'll discuss options for moving forward with on-line, in-person and multi-platform children's RE programming, and on June 10th we'll consider indicators for resuming in-person programming given the data-driven frameworks established by congregations such as UUC in Reston and UUC of Huntsville.

Rev. Andrew for the Transition Task Force.

As we contemplate resuming in-person programming at the UUFP:

  • We are concerned about people we haven’t seen much over the last year.  One priority should be reaching out to them and making sure they feel welcome back, too.  People less comfortable with the technology, or who don’t have access to it, haven’t used Zoom, while others don’t understand the technology but want to learn.  We also need to welcome new people as well as people from outside our area just as much.
  • Resuming in-person programming now should be easier than it was even not too long ago, but it has been complicated by the CDC announcement re: masks, the resulting sense of urgency and the pressure from society at large going maskless.  We can’t police vaccinations and masks, so how do we make people feel safe and comfortable?  Can vaccinated people still spread the virus?  What about families with younger children?  Do we do everything we can to protect other people, or is it primarily their job to protect themselves?
  • We need to make decisions based on science, but we can’t make immediate changes following CDC or other official declarations.  We should be prepared for changing information and, given burn-out on committees, etc., making it as easy as possible for everyone
  • We are excited at the prospect of seeing people, but there is comfort in isolation versus wanting to get out.  We like the ease of Zoom meetings and don’t miss having to get ready to go to in-person meetings.  Some people crave connection and some people want to stay virtual (at least in some regards), so every relationship will need to be renegotiated.
  • We need soul-care during/following this trauma, including times for contemplation, healing and togetherness and addressing people’s concerns, fear and uncertainty as we are able.  We need to be exceptionally good at listening.  We also need to be transparent in our work, with a unified message on all communications platforms.  We are uncertain about the future, and we’ve never done this before, but we know that we need to find our way forward together.  We hope we take this time to set a new course, not just go back to how we did things before.

We acknowledge our trauma and fatigue.

What aspects of our virtual year worked well and might be continued?  (a question from the charge to the Transition Task Force)

  • Virtual meetings have worked well for many committees and programs.  There is less driving to and from meetings, particularly at night, and meetings have been more focused and efficient.  With flexibility in ways and places to connect (e.g. by telephone from the car), it has been easier to schedule meetings, too, finding the best time to meet that doesn’t depend on the weather, dinner or other factors.  There is also more flexibility on being present, e.g. muting ourselves if we need to cough or turning off video if we need to get up to answer the door.
  • On-line tools make document sharing easier, and we have moved toward being paperless.
  • There has been creativity and more diverse representation in music and videos in services.  We have been hearing other musicians and singers as well as our own, and we have also had a wider variety of preachers and speakers in services and forum.  We have used break-out rooms for some interactions, giving everyone a chance to talk in smaller groups and making it easier for introverts.
  • We have also enjoyed an on-line Festival of the Season as well as puzzles and other on-line activities.  Past members and others who have moved out of the area have been able to participate in services and other on-line programming.

In our work together:

  • We must be flexible as we continue to face unknowns.  We should set some goals and priorities, e.g. questions to answer first, but we need to allow for unexpected issues versus set plans.  We should give things trial runs, allowing for practice and experiments, and we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
  • We need to be realistic about our expectations, and going slow is okay.  We need to keep our options open for everybody, e.g. outdoor versus inside activities, closed groups versus open programs.  However, children under twelve can’t be vaccinated yet, and those who are vaccinated can still be carriers.
  • Following the science is imperative.  Businesses and government may respond in other ways, but we’re not either.  There are CDC graphics for simplified guidance.
  • We need consistent communication within the task force, and communication with the wider congregation is essential to building trust.  We need clear messaging and a regular system of exchanging information with stakeholder groups, assessing e.g. the interest level of in-person versus Zoom programming to balance in-person and on-line engagement.
  • We can break into smaller groups by task, identifying sets of expertise and the types of information we need and then pulling in experts as we need them.
  • We need to assess our resources, e.g. finding out people’s interests and what tasks they’re willing to do, looking into UUA, cluster and regional resources.  We’re not the only ones doing this!

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