Re-Gathering at UBC, by Rev. Natalie Webb

 

Hello, Beloveds!

I’m writing with exciting news: UBC will begin gathering in person for worship on June 20th! After much research, prayer, and consideration, our Covid Response Team feels confident that we can meet in person safely with clear precautions in place. 

We’ve all been through so much since March 2020, when UBC first pivoted to online worship. By the time we re-gather in the Sanctuary on June 20th, we’ll have been online (or outdoors) for 66 Sundays — something we couldn’t have imagined a year and a half ago. While we’ve waded through the collective trauma of the pandemic together in some ways, our experiences — isolation, loss of loved ones, sickness, managing work and children and schooling — have been (and will continue to be) very different. Let’s keep in mind the varying ways we have been impacted, and the varying ways we are responding, as we re-gather with an abundance of patience and understanding. 

Some of you are beyond ready to move forward in person. I understand, and am bursting with joy at the thought of seeing your faces on Sunday mornings! Others may feel hesitant about re-gathering. As a mother of two unvaccinated kiddos, I understand the hesitancy, as well. Whatever you’re feeling, know that you are not alone and that we are going to do our best to make UBC as welcoming, accessible, and safe as possible. 

Online Worship will continue to be available! If you are more comfortable worshipping from home due to distance, caution, comfort, or any other reason, you are more than welcome to do so. *When you are feeling sick or feverish, or if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you please stay home and worship online. 

     Live Stream Worship will continue on Sundays at 11 am at youtube.com/ubcaustin

     Sunday School classes will also continue to meet online on Zoom for now. More info on times and links will be found in your weekly UBC emails. 

In-Person Worship will be rooted in our Christian commitment to care for “the least of these.” We will be guided by the ministry of Jesus, which prioritized children, the sick, and the vulnerable. In order to do this, we will begin with the following precautions:

     Masks will be required for everyone over 2 years of age (unless a medical condition makes masking unsafe). We’ll have extra masks available for anyone who needs one.

     Six feet of distance is strongly encouraged between family groups or pods.

     Fully vaccinated worship leaders will be able to remove their masks while leading.

     Children are always welcome to worship in the sanctuary with their family group! We expect and welcome the inevitable noises and holy disruptions our littlest congregants will bring, and we give thanks for the sign of new life that even cries and tantrums represent. The UBC Parents will be meeting on June 9th to discuss childcare options and any further precautions needed to protect our UBC kids. More information will be available soon!

     Singing – We will ease back into singing together slowly as we continue to monitor available data. We’ll begin with pre-recorded music leadership that the congregation will be asked to enjoy quietly (we can always sing in our hearts!). If all goes well and the situation continues to improve in Austin, we will consider moving toward one to two vaccinated live singers and masked congregational singing later in the summer and fall. 

     Only two entrances will be made available for entry and exit: the 22nd Street door (with elevator access) and the Guadalupe Street entrance.

     Sign-in will be required upon entrance in case there is ever a need for contact tracing. Your information will not be shared for any other purposes. 

     Giving and Communion – Alternative ways to make contributions and to participate in communion (without the passing of plates or the sharing of bread/juice) will be made available. 

     Closer conversation and vaccinated hugs are encouraged OUTDOORS after the service. This is going to be the most difficult one for me, so I’m counting on you to help each other remember to keep our distance inside for now. I hope you’ll chat for a bit outside the Guadalupe Street entrance before you go!

Wow! This is another big transition in the life of our church, isn’t it? I am so incredibly grateful for your patience and your deep care for each other as we shift into a new way of being church once again. I imagine that re-gathering will feel strange at first, and we are bound to have our fair share of hiccups and missteps, but one thing I know is true: God is with us now, God was with us before, and God will continue to be with us as we move forward. I am so looking forward to seeing you soon!!

With love and joy,

Rev. Natalie Webb

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