June 6, 2020
Peace be with you!
Dear UCC Ashland Friends and Family,
We thank everyone connected to UCC Ashland and our wider community for taking difficult actions these past few months to stay-at-home whenever possible to help flatten the curve of new coronavirus infections in our state and in our community. During this time, your church leaders have been learning as much as they can about this public health crisis, its impact on church life now and into the future, and what adaptations we can make to keep together following Jesus on this way of radical love in ways true to our values.
A Pandemic Response Team has worked with staff and Council to craft a plan for how church will phase forward in the months ahead. That plan is attached, and we ask you to read it from beginning to end. (I especially want to highlight the links and resources at the end, which help explain why certain church activities are so much more risky than, say, visiting your favorite gift shop downtown to buy a present.)
On May 15, Jackson County entered Phase 1 of Oregon’s next steps following the Stay-at-Home order, and yesterday, Jackson County was approved to enter Phase 2. Because infection rates may improve for awhile, but could also get worse, you will see that the attached plan includes guidance for all three stages. And though the county has already entered Phase 2, we will be holding at Phase 1 at church until our facility is prepared for the increased indoor use of Phase 2. (This includes interior signage, social distancing markers, and updated group usage agreements.)
I hope the many details included in this plan will help answer questions you may have. And I hope where questions remain or you need clarification, you won’t hesitate to reach out to a member of the Response team, which includes: Me, Denise Krause, Clark Custodio, Laura Hagie, and Linda Anderson.
There are two more really important things I want to share:
1) Council voted in May to keep our Sunday morning worship online only through the end of August at least so that we have time to see how this virus plays out in our community. This is an expression of the accessibility we feel is a priority if we are going to apply our core value of Radical Welcome to the immune compromised and eldest among us. (The “Unraveled” worship series we will be using is timely.)
2) In order to meet the relationship and intimacy needs that online church can leave wanting, we will be piloting “Connect & Care” groups of 4-6 people this summer. These small groups will be a place of spiritual nurture, facilitated by a UCCer, enabling 4-6 people to connect around some theme of shared interest and care for one another. It’s a lot easier to gather 4-6 people in appropriately distanced ways — especially outdoors.
The full list of Connect & Care groups and details about start dates will be coming in the near future, and I am still enlisting volunteer facilitators, but so far we have:
- Sandy Theis gathering around Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Somewhat Lonely World, a book by Viveck Murthy, former US Surgeon General on loneliness from the medical perspective;
- Laurie True gathering a group that will correspond with incarcerated folks or write letters for immigrant justice;
- Jeanne Hoadley gathering around a Pema Chodron book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change;
- Christina Kukuk gathering a group for those recovering or reconstructing from the negative impacts of white evangelicalism, using Rachel Held Evans work like Searching for Sunday;
- Michael Niemann gathering around “Reparations: The Next Step in Anti-Racism?” using resources and reflections for concrete anti-racism;
- Susan Alloway gathering around Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Learning to Walk in the Dark;
As Rev. Marilyn Kendrix preached last Sunday, the living God, the Creator/Creative force of the Universe, does not live only in shrines made by human hands. We can find new ways to make shelter, to create sanctuary, when our physical spaces are limited to us because we are called together by “Immanuel,” God-With-Us. Even and especially through times like these.
In Peace and with Agape Love,
~Rev. Christina Kukuk