Last Sunday when I was not worshipping with this Fellowship in Mount Pleasant, I was leading worship in Andover, Massachusetts. This came up suddenly during the week, when my friend who serves as minister there had an unexpected family crisis. I agreed to take her place on Sunday morning. There could be a Sunday when the same thing happens here—I could be unavailable for some unforeseen reason, and another minister could lead worship. This has me thinking about the connections among our UU congregations and the unique circumstances of this pandemic.
Every UU congregation that I know of is having services by internet only, and I don’t know of any that plan to re-open soon. Now that we are this far into the pandemic and the new way of doing things, a lot of people are used to the technology—which means that joining a service in Massachusetts is as easy (technically) as joining one in Mount Pleasant.
In a discussion with other ministers this week, some said that they are partnering with other congregations. “We join you for worship in your Zoom space this week, you join us for worship in our Zoom space next week.” Some ministers said that they have separate breakout groups during coffee hour to maintain connection within the home congregation, but others said that mixing up congregations for coffee hour results in delightful new connections. Also, some small congregations choose to join a large congregation for Sunday worship. “Let’s all go to Zoom worship in Ann Arbor this week and then reflect together on what we experienced there.” This is another model of connecting across congregational lines in virtual space.
Geographically, Midland is our closest UU neighbor. Twenty-five miles away, they have a larger congregation and building than ours but are still considered a fellowship. They also have a new minister who started around the same time I started here. Eric Severson serves the UU Fellowship of Midland. Ten days from now, he is getting ordained as a UU minister and installed as their settled minister in a Saturday afternoon service on Zoom. Eric has told me that all of the UU Fellowship of Central Michigan would be welcome at this ceremony.
What would it look like for us to collaborate with UU congregations across the state or across the country? What would we lose and what would we gain? What is common to Unitarian Universalists everywhere, and what is unique to this fellowship?
One thing that’s true about this pandemic is that we are learning and adapting to new ways of being. If we are healthy and resilient, we can lean into the newness and see what it has to offer us. From what I’ve seen, the people of Andover, Massachusetts are a lot like us. And I think we have a lot of room at our Zoom worship circle to welcome new people also.
May we all see that we are connected to our neighbors who live next door and down the street. May we have a healthy sense of pride and identity in our cities and our communities.
May we all see that we are not different from the families in Texas, in Toronto, in Capetown. Unitarian Universalists gather in all of these places; all of these places are home to other beautiful people of faith and no faith.
May we be grounded where we are, and may our reach be extended. May the connections of Facebook, of Zoom, of phone and text and video across the miles, be as real and as heartfelt as the connections at our dinner tables and within the reach of our embracing arms.
Mother Father God, open our eyes and hearts to the reality that we are all one in spirit, one in love, one in sacred humanity on this blessed Earth.
May it be so.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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