March 17, 2020 UPDATE
Dear All – Please read this update, released this afternoon, from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA):
We can all help slow the spread of COVID-19 by taking protective social distancing actions. Use your voice to encourage people to take responsible steps to stay home as much as possible to stem the spread of COVID-19 among your neighbors. Together we can help save lives.
March 13, 2020 UPDATE
Dear All – thank-you for your responses to the need to suspend Sunday services at the Fellowship, and to move away from in-person gatherings for awhile. We are asking that all meetings and events at the Fellowship be postponed or suspended, at least through the end of this month. This is certainly new territory for almost everyone, and we are doing it with millions of other people – which is amazing in-and-of itself.
The staff and leadership are now working to set up as many ways as possible to help keep us connected, and be able to support each other. This may include a weekly check-in time via ZOOM, an on-line version of Theology on Tap, phone circles for regular checking in, and many other possibilities. We’ll have more information on that in the coming days.
Today Israel and I will video-record a Sunday service, which will be available on-line on Sunday morning. Israel and Rachel are preparing RE materials to send out to all those registered in RE classes.
The weekly announcements which get posted this evening (FRIDAY) will have more information about how to stay connected and how to get help if you need it. Until then, I share these good words from the Rev. Monica Jacobson Tennessen:
“So what does social distancing mean, besides all these suspensions and closures? It’s a time to slow down, to skip non-essential trips and errands, to call your relatives or watch a movie or read a book. It’s a time to take care of yourself, cooking good food and getting plenty of sleep. It’s a time to reconnect with nature – the outdoors is quite well ventilated, making it one of the safer places to go to get out of the house, to take a walk with a small group, to start planning your garden.
This time is one we can make sacred: let each thing we do now be an expression of care. We care for ourselves, for our most vulnerable neighbors, for healthcare providers, by flattening the curve and slowing down virus transmission. The time we might have spent at those postponed activities we can now spend listening deeply to our loved ones, making art, marveling at nature. We can let ourselves be surprised at the new ways we find, and the old ways we rediscover, to connect. Write letters and cards. Start a blog. Video chat, or just make a good old-fashioned long phone call.”
Relax. Smile. Be thankful. Let’s take this one day at a time.
With love –
March 11, 2020 UPDATE
Dear All — Like most of you, we have been watching the changes associated with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus very carefully. Today, many things have shifted at once, and the Board leadership and staff agree that it is time for us to take more steps at the Fellowship.
The most important news is this: We will suspend Sunday services, for an indefinite length of time, beginning this Sunday, March 15. Sunday morning RE sessions will also be suspended. We know from many sources that less exposure to the virus means less cases of the virus and therefore fewer deaths. We understand from the experience of other countries and from local epidemiologists that the spread of the virus becomes exponential, and from one day to the next, emergency systems and medical response resources can be overwhelmed. Cancelling large gatherings is a prudent and ethical choice to help avoid that situation here.
We know that the virus is spreading in Oregon, now including Linn and Benton counties. Even though the number of cases is smaller here than in other places, they will increase quickly unless we make important changes. Social distancing is one of the best ways to limit exposure and thereby limit the spread of the virus. So we are now joining in to help implement social distancing.
Today OSU announced making social distancing a priority, with a plan to limit gatherings and move as much as possible to on-line teaching. The UUA has suggested limiting gatherings to 25 people or less.
Our job now now will be to figure out as many ways to stay connected, safely, as possible, and to make sure those who are most vulnerable are connected and supported as well. We will offer some portion of Sunday services on-line. We’ll set up a few opportunities to check-in electronically each week. We might want to create “phone circles” so that people get and give regular check-in calls. We’ll think of good activities to do together outside. And there may be lots of other things to try. Your creative ideas are welcome.
When I was a child growing up in a Christian church I remember hearing many times that the church is the people, not the building. Likewise, our Fellowship connections do not depend solely on being together in the building, and can be maintained, perhaps even strengthened in some ways, by working together to help each other in this time of great challenge. I have no doubt that we are equal to the challenge.
Other decisions remain to made, especially about other kinds of gatherings (such as small groups and meetings) and rental uses of the building. Staff members are already able and willing to work from home as needed and desired. Office hours will certainly shift. We’ll keep you updated day by day as more becomes clear.
Please remember that our fundamental commitments to one another and to the larger life that we share are not changing. In many ways we are being called to focus on those commitments more than ever. We are choosing to be faithful to our ideals, more than we are afraid of the changes that are occurring.
With gratitude for you all,
COVID-19 (coronavirus) Information from Benton County Health Department
The Benton County Health Department, in close coordination with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Public Health Division and a wide range of local health and medical organizations, has been closely monitoring the emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) since late December. Last week Benton County activated a Joint Information System / Joint Information Center to coordinate and manage public information and messaging, and activated the Public Health Department Operation Center to proactively respond to the growing local and international concern. To assist in sharing accurate and timely information, the Benton County COVID-19 Response Team launched a new web resource linking local information to State and Federal resources at: https://co.benton.or.us/coronavirus.
Additionally, the telephone information line 211 is activated for general coronavirus questions. You can dial “211” on your telephone or go to the website 211.org.
If you suspect you may be sick:
– Do not go to work or school.
– Call ahead before visiting a healthcare professional. Your healthcare professional will work with Oregon Health Authority and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
Oregon Health Authority officials continue to recommend people in Oregon take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of many respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza:
– Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
– Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
– Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
– Clean and disinfect surfaces that are often touched.
– If you or a loved one suffer from a chronic condition such as diabetes consider restricting your out of home activities since you are more susceptible to illness.
– Stay current on your vaccinations, including flu vaccine.
– Eat well, get sufficient rest and sleep, and exercise will all help your body stay resilient.
Other resources for keeping up to date:
Two articles in the Atlantic, from medical reporter Jacob Hamblin
Plus: Center for Disease Control (CDC) website
Questions about new coronavirus, COVID-19
Many of us are wondering about the new virus, and what might happen here in Oregon and at the Fellowship. There are lots of good resources to keep up to date on the epidemiology and public health perspectives, if you are interested. A few of those resources are listed below.
At the Fellowship, the staff has begun to talk about preventative measures and possible responses if we have an outbreak here. We’ve been gathering questions and concerns, and consulting with Fellowship members who have public health and medical expertise. We’re putting together a short-term task force, this week, to outline possible responses. Recommendations from that group will go to the Board for decisions as needed. If you have experience and expertise in this field, and are willing to be part of this discussion, please let Jill McAllister know.
If we decide to increase our cleaning and dis-infecting around the Fellowship, we’ll need volunteers for that. If you’d be willing to be part of a team of cleaners, working a day or two a week, please let Jill know.
The basic precautions around spreading germs apply:
~If you’re sick, please don’t come to the Fellowship, or go out in public, if you can avoid it.
~Wash your hands really well, as often as you can, and especially before sharing in the coffee hour.
~Cough and sneeze into your arm or elbow, not into your hands.
Here are a few resources for keeping up to date:
Center for Disease Control (CDC) website:
Senator Jeff Merkeley’s website: merkley.senate.gov.
Article in the Atlantic: