We are guided in our discussion on in-person gatherings by the UUA and these principles.
Our abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable, inside and outside our congregation.
Accessibility and inclusion for all of our members and friends to participate in our congregation, regardless of health status, health vulnerability, or ability.
Recognition that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves. Our congregational decisions can impact other congregations and the wider community.
Ethical treatment and expectations for our leaders and staff, minimizing the risks to their own health and well-being.
Our affirmation that good science, coupled with our UU values, must be the basis upon which we make decisions about in-person gathering.
Commitment to our mission, community, and theology more than ever, mindful of the spiritual demands of this transition.
Our deep hope that we as a country, and as a world, will not return to “normal” when the pandemic is over. We seek to live into “a new normal” of more justice, more love, more equity, more sustainability, and more peace.
Please read the full guidance, here:
Pandemic Response Team Update
Fifteen Oregon counties are moving back to the extreme-risk restriction tier on Friday due to a rapid acceleration of COVID-19 cases throughout the state. Although Benton County is not one them (we’re still high-risk), Linn and Lane counties are. And, the rate of infection and hospitalizations is higher in Oregon right now than in most other parts of the country. It is a stark reminder that we must still be as careful as possible, even as more and more people are vaccinated.
The Pandemic Response Task Force met on April 28 to assess where we are. Task Force members include Board President Steve Strauss, Past President Scott Bruslind, Mary Anne Sellers of the Care and Support Team, Board Member Kedo Baye (MPH), member and RE parent Molly Curry (MPH), Church Operations Manager Jamie Petts (MPH), minister Jill McAllister. (Building Security person Steve Ferrell was unable to attend.)
Taking into account current CDC requirements, current infection and hospitalization rates in Oregon, and insight from several UU regions across the country, their recommendations are as follows:
-Maintain current pandemic precautions, including keeping the building closed.
-Continue to allow outdoor gatherings such as the Saturday Parking Lot Coffee Hour, and begin to allow scheduled use of outdoor spaces at the Fellowship for small groups (up to 8) as long as distance and masking requirements are followed. Establish protocols for contact tracing for these gatherings.
– Develop a phased approach to all other activities, and be willing to go back (from less restricted to more restricted) if necessary.
We’ll continue to monitor the situation as things change, hopefully as things improve. The next meeting of the task force will be May 26.
March 28, 2021
Earlier this week, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President, sent a letter to UU leaders and congregations. It was a timely letter, as the UUFC Pandemic Preparedness Team also met this week to begin to plan our next steps.
“Although there is good news on the horizon, we are not yet able to gather in person. We are in a critical phase of the pandemic where we need to reduce the spread of the virus to combat new variants while vaccine distribution continues. Navigating this “in-between time” will be even more challenging than dealing with the early days of the pandemic. Those who are vaccinated may wish to start gathering in person sooner. Each person and family will have different levels of risk and risk tolerance. As leaders, we have to navigate complex decisions taking into account care for the whole of our communities—within and beyond our congregations. Our priority continues to be abiding care for the most vulnerable, within and beyond our congregations.
At the UUA, we do not expect to be able to issue an “all-clear” on our guidance for gathering. There are too many factors that will vary across congregations. However, we will be a partner to you in understanding the factors to consider, the core values to guide decision making, how to plan for multi-platform ministry, sharing best practices from other congregations and working with our public health advisors on sound recommendations.
And the good news is that we have time. Time to plan in a measured way. We are not in an immediate crisis as we were last year. Now is the time to start planning for how to guide your community as the pandemic subsides. I know—from my own experience at the UUA—that there are hundreds of questions to consider. But again, we have time.”
UUFC Gathering in a time of COVID
The arrival and distribution of multiple high tech, highly effective COVID 19 vaccines comes as welcome news! It is a glimmer of hope in the midst of a worrisome, lonely, ongoing pandemic. A logical question on the minds of many is: When can friends and groups gather without fear of contagion of this threatening virus? Like most of life’s big questions there is no easy answer. But the answer will be based mostly on herd immunity. Herd immunity is the idea that if enough people are immune to an infection such as COVID 19, then the virus cannot be transmitted to enough unprotected people to be maintained in the population. If herd immunity is reached, the disease would eventually die out because it can’t find new susceptible hosts.
Experts tell us that herd immunity against COVID-19 will be achieved when the total number of Americans recovering from the infection plus those immunized reaches at least 200,000,000 people. A lofty goal might get us there later this summer. However, even with a successful vaccination program, infectious disease experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, note that low tech tools will remain an essential component of the toolbox against the spread of COVID-19, especially with the uncertainty of the variants. This includes common public health guidance practices, such as wearing masks, social distancing, minimizing large gatherings, following state and local guidance around testing and travel, and of course, hand hygiene. The vaccine will be added to the toolbox, but will not replace it for some time. Until we reach herd immunity and the curve begins to flatten, socializing as we have in the past is unrealistic and ill advised. Even as we hope and dream, it seems best to assume large gatherings are not likely to be safe until the end of 2021 or perhaps early 2022. Smaller gatherings with continued social distancing and masks may become possible earlier in 2021.
The UUFC Pandemic Response Team has been meeting to discuss what would be needed for that auspicious day when we can safely gather together, and in the meantime, what kinds of safer outdoor gatherings might be possible this summer, while the weather is nice. As Unitarian Universalists, we value science. So, let us face the truth of what science is saying and build up our resilience using the online technologies and techniques that we’ve been creating and exploring. Let us continue to faithfully hold one another in care, even as we struggle to maintain the best practices to keep us all safer. We want all of us to reach that day when we can indeed gather to worship and celebrate and engage in the responsible search for truth and meaning in-person. Until then, gratitude for vaccines, gratitude for zoom, gratitude for discovering new ways of connecting in community.
Kedo Baye, MPH
Jamie Petts, MPH
May 14, 2020
UUFC Pandemic Response and Update, As Things Continue To Change
Hi all – Like many of you, we’re watching and listening closely as things related to the pandemic and stay-at-home guidelines continue to change. Now that Benton County has received state approval to start a Phase One re-opening, there are more questions. “What will the next few months look like for the Fellowship?” and “When can we go back?” are questions we are considering seriously too! Here is an update for Fellowship life:
- We’re still following guidelines from the Governor’s office, and also from the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
- We’re learning more about the effects of being inside as compared to being outside, on rates of infection. Being inside with other people without good air flow or ventilation is proving to be one of the high risk factors. That means Fellowship spaces continue to be very risky for meetings. (https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them)
- Meetings outside still require distancing of at least 6 feet between people and wearing masks. Masks are one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of the virus and should be worn in all public places.
- High risk individuals (people over 60 and those with underlying conditions), whether staff or volunteers, should continue to stay home even if they feel well.
- For Fellowship life, we plan to continue to close the building to all gatherings at least through June. We plan to continue to offer Sunday services and weekly gatherings (coffee hour, meditation, etc.) via Zoom through August at the very least.
- We’re exploring options for small groups to meet outside this summer, and will be in touch if we determine that there are safe ways to do so.
Like many of you, we look forward to the end of this crisis. But our work is just beginning. The UUA sent out updated recommendations (today, May 14) that congregations continue to keep physical buildings closed. Over the past several weeks, the UUA has consulted with multiple public health officials in order to update the guidance they provided on March 12 recommending congregations stop gathering in person. Based on advice from experts, the UUA continues to recommend that congregations not gather in person and also that congregations begin planning for virtual operations for the next year (through May 2021). They remind us why we must hold the line:
“In making our recommendations, we are guided by science and our deepest held values. This pandemic teaches us that our actions directly impact the health and well-being of our neighbors and so it is imperative that we make choices that keep our congregations and larger community safer. As COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people with disabilities, Black people, Indigenous communities, Latinx people, the elderly, and essential workers, a majority of whom are women and women of color, religious communities have a moral responsibility to do all we can to reduce risks for those already at such high risk.” Rev. Susan Frederick Gray
While there is much public conversation about “reopening,” the reality is that public health officials consistently predict a long trajectory for this pandemic. Many of our congregational members, leaders, and staff members are in high-risk categories. Our care for the well-being and safety of our members and staff must be a priority in this pandemic. This pandemic teaches us that our actions directly impact the health and well-being of our neighbors – of the whole community.
Additionally, religious gatherings are considered highly contagious events. Singing together, the familiarity of people across households, the multigenerational community of children, youth, adults, and seniors—the things that make our congregations so special—also create more risk for spreading the virus.
At the Fellowship, we’ll continue to reach out in the most safe, effective, and generous ways possible in the weeks and months to come. Please consider that the most effective outreach mission we can have is to stay home as much as possible, and if we must go out, to wear a mask and keep social distancing. As we watch other countries around the world re-open, see spikes in cases, and close back down, we know that we have a long road ahead of us. But together, rooted in community care and in science, we can and will weather the storm until we can be back in physical community again.
Sending love to you all,
Jill and UUFC staff
There are opportunities each week for worship, spiritual practice, and connecting with others. We have made phone calls to more than 400 households and plan to do so again, in addition to on-going regular calls to those who have requested them. We plan to offer virtual Religious Exploration opportunities beginning in June. If you have ideas for offerings, please let Rev. Israel know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Book study groups and chalice circles continue. The Shawl Ministry is still knitting/ crocheting (together by zoom) and delivering shawls. Lots of people are walking together with appropriate distance. There are “shared” meals and happy hours via Zoom and lots of checking in with others. The Care and Support Team continues to provide pastoral care – please call and ask if you need it! Emergency aid has been made available to all who have requested it.
Ministry and RE activities
Service viewed (150+), All Ages craft & podcast
Morning daily practice & midday meditation
Morning daily practice & midday meditation
Morning daily practice & midday meditation, virtual coffee hour, RE podcast, Mindfulness meditation
Morning daily practice & midday meditation
Morning daily practice & midday meditation, Kirtan
Sunday Service posted via UU-Announce
Worship with us Online
We are blessed to be able to provide a recorded service each Sunday, sent out via UU-Announce. We invite you to light your own chalice and follow along with the Order of Service that is emailed with the service link so that we can still connect with each other as we engage in worship from our screens.
If you missed previous services, they are available here: https://uucorvallis.org/worship/.
How Can I Contribute or Pay my Pledge?
We are already taking steps to reduce costs at the Fellowship to weather this storm. With that in mind, we ask that you continue your pledge to support the Fellowship. Thank You!!
Mail – UUFC, 2945 NW Circle Blvd., Corvallis, OR 97330
Online – At https://uucorvallis.org/annual-pledge-drive/
Recent UUFC Building & Grounds Activity
Although our church doors may be closed, and all in-building activities suspended, many good things are still occurring! The entire building has been deep cleaned thanks to our custodian, Felisa Torres! Our Building and Grounds volunteers continue to beautify our landscape, water our indoor plants, and generally keep things growing and looking nice.
A local farm is using our parking lot weekly so that vulnerable populations can pick up fresh produce without having to enter a grocery store.
Staying safe as Oregon Reopens
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: