Our COVID Year
When we began our church year in the fall of 2020, we had already adjusted to online worship. Religious Exploration staff experimented with programmatic offerings, and overall, it was a relatively quiet year.
Our youth program continued to meet online. Both the Middle School and High School groups met regularly with their volunteer facilitators. Our youth coordinator, Lena McCain performed an outstanding feat, keeping these two groups engaged and bonded, through book clubs, care packages, and meaningful dialogue during online meetings. In an extraordinary circumstance, our youth program maintained participation. We recently gathered a small number of youth families to perform our Bridging ritual for High School Seniors. This year, we bridged two youth who added their names to our wooden bridge that hangs in our youth room. Aaron Bassnett and Jake Curnett are leaders in our local youth community, and we welcomed them into young adulthood with open arms and an invitation to remain connected to our larger UU community.
Our elementary and early childhood offerings were limited. At the beginning of the year, we offered RE space, led by Matt Davis, on Sunday afternoons over lunch. The lunch meeting was sparsely attended, due in part to youth and families feeling zoomed out in the context of virtual school. Those who did attend appreciated the connections. Matt Davis has provided immense support to our online worship presence this year, and has continued to be supportive of RE adjacent offerings, including our virtual Friday Night Storytime initiative.
We met in the late fall with a small committee to launch a Virtual Storytime for all ages. This programmatic offer began in January and ran through April. Every Friday night at 7pm we met online for a story and some fun. We had outstanding volunteer participation, and several families attended regularly. This offering served to build connections and relationships between generations. It was a model that was highly successful, given the regular participation of both volunteers and family units. We may keep this going in the next church year as part of our multi-platform approach to church community moving forward. Many thanks to those who served on the initial committee to kick off this offering, and all those who volunteered to read. One of my most favorite moments during this year was the moment that our kid participants declared that they wanted a turn to read a story to the adults. We experienced reciprocity in giving and receiving that only manifests when real relationship is present. It was a beautiful thing to witness.
In worship, I spent significant time each week planning and crafting our Time for all ages. We hosted a virtual Christmas pageant online! In the process, I’ve learned a little bit about video production and editing, opening a whole new skill set out of necessity.
This virtual year allowed me to gain new technological skills in hosting meetings and webinars that I offered to our larger community. I worked as a tech support for a Racial Justice speaker series during the fall on Sunday evenings. We provided our zoom virtual capabilities to the JUUst Living community by hosting their online Drag Show. We also hosted a collaborative Front Range Christmas Eve Service, a project that included most of our front range UU communities. I also held caucus space for White identified religious professionals engaged in the work of Racial Justice along the front range as part of my participation in the UURJ (UU’s for Racial Justice workgroup of Ministers, Musicians, Religious Educators, and Administrators.)
We now hold complexities around moving toward reopening, balancing our values with our desire to be together again. We will find our way back into our building together, but it will be the work of building a new normal. What that means for Religious Education is still unfolding. I have ideas. There is an undercurrent of new energy around collaboration amongst local congregations, which is exciting as we build our way forward together. Isolation, either congregationally or individually, is not ideal. This pandemic certainly laid bare the ways that we need one another. I am excited for the possibilities of re-emerging into our in-person work carrying the lessons of this last year. May we always treasure the time we have together in fellowship in new ways in our new normal.