As of right now, I am declaring with my ministerial authority the end of COVID Phase 1 and the beginning of COVID Phase 2: Doing “Church” in the COVID era. What that means is we have spent a good deal of time responding to how we do this thing we do over the past 2 years. So much pivoting, so many adjustments, so much trial and a good deal of well-intentioned error. As we plan for the beginning of our third year in the COVID era, starting Jul. 1, we are adjusting our programs, staff hours and general offerings. This is due in part to budget challenges we and so many other congregations face.
One of the significant changes is our evolution from the term Religious Exploration to a model of Family Ministry: What are the needs of the spirit and how do we approach life’s search for meaning and explore matters of the soul for all of us, including families? Certainly some of this requires understanding how the gifts and talents of our staff and willing volunteers are best used, which includes an assessment of what we have been doing in the past, or the “normal” pre-COVID UUCF versus what COVID Phase 2 will require.
To that end, the theme for the coming congregational year will be Welcome Forward!! Sure, there is a hope that those who were less engaged in congregational life during COVID Phase 1 might come back in COVID Phase 2; yet we are not going back to the way it was, for it will never be possible to replicate that way of congregational life in the current circumstances. We will be moving forward and so we say Welcome Forward!
Among the needs revealed over the last 2 years is that parents and children must have their educational and spiritual needs met. This calls for better coordination of Sunday morning schedules. This will also be aligned with budget-driven adjustments to UUCF’s programs and services, which will be discussed at the Board of Director’s Town Hall on Sun., May 22, at 12 p.m. and the UUCF Annual Meeting on Sun., Jun. 5, at 11:30 a.m.
Here are other ways UUCF’s leaders are visioning to engage the congregation in Welcome Forward:
- Increased opportunities for connection.
- Incorporating more youth and families into the worship experience.
- Increased opportunities for sharing joy.
- An ever-deepening commitment to UUCF’s mission through our social justice work.
- Staff and lay leadership assessing and planning for what is emerging for religious communities like ours with regard to financial sustainability and strategic direction.
As we prepare to bring this congregational year to a close and start the next, it is clear we are traveling through a time of transformation. There are a great many challenges and opportunities ahead for a nimble and loving community like UUCF. We cannot predict the future, but we can prepare ourselves and this beloved institution for what may come. There is so much more that will enter into our conversations, but for now, we will continue to support each other and those who may need this religious community as we all continue to Welcome Forward!!