Whoa! These are some CRAZY times we find ourselves in! COVID-19 is a game changer. It’s like playing a game with a child where the rules keep changing and you try to follow the new rules only to find that the rules have already changed again. Except, this is not child’s play. It’s deadly serious.
I believe our AUUF community was ahead of the “shut down” curve and I hope that we have practiced community care fast enough to ensure that we averted spreading the virus among ourselves. I know other UU congregations did not dodge the COVID-19 bullet and are scrambling to figure out the new rules for their circumstances. Kudos to Rev. Chris and the leadership at AUUF (only a small pat on my own back, as I was taking a wait-and-see approach until the 11th hour) for kicking into high gear and launching our live-streaming Sunday Service and Second Hour in less than 48 (or was it 24) hours! Way to go! As uncertain as these times are, I feel oddly hopeful. I don’t know about you, but I have had the sense for several years now that everything, and I mean everything, is just moving too damn fast! As with personal illness, a global pandemic is one way that Mother Nature tells us, forces us, to slow down. The adjustments will be difficult. The stay-at-home “togetherness” might begin to feel oppressive, especially for extroverts and people with young children. Staying at home might also be hard for people who struggle with depression. For these and many other reasons, we will need opportunities to connect remotely.
This is where I feel hopeful. I’ve been brainstorming ideas for connection in digital formats and will share my ideas below. First, let me say that I welcome any ideas you might have, especially ideas for helping those among us who either lack the technology or the tech knowledge to connect in digital spaces. How can we get everyone who wants to stay connected the tools they need to do so? Let the brainstorming begin! New rules, new ideas, new ways of being together!
During my brainstorming, I’ve been reminded of the years that Greg had the pirate radio station (Pea Ridge radio) here in Waverly. It was fun that Ivan and Leo got involved by DJing their favorite music and sending “shout outs” to others in the community over the airwaves! We also had radio theater recordings (Tales from the Crypt?) that we would sometimes broadcast over the course of several nights or bedtime stories read on the air to share that special time with other children in our listening area. I can envision AUUF youth “tuning in” to a YouTube channel or similar platform and watching/listening to shared video/audio and then live-streaming their own thoughts or responses. How about a virtual Story for All Ages but on Wednesday evenings vs. Sunday mornings? It could even be a longer book with different readers each night for all those who dislike the 5-minute Story for All Ages rule. How about all our AUUF musicians posting to a YouTube channel and having a Tiny Concert series? Or being in the Sanctuary alone, performing for our live stream cameras? What about an AUUF Trivia Night on a platform like Zoom that allows small breakout groups? Or small group ministry/Adult RE with the same breakout group idea? Make no mistake. I am not a digital native. This is uncharted territory for me. Still, I’m excited about the possibilities. I hope you can be too.
As we struggle to figure out today’s rules of the game, let’s take this rest that Mother Nature is demanding. Slow down. Be still. Reflect, seriously, on all that we are grateful for. We’ve been through so much these last couple of years- joyful and sorrowful times- and we’ve cared for one another throughout. This could be many weeks of separation. Let’s continue to care for one another. As we continue to brainstorm, together, new ways of staying connected, remember that any one of us in our AUUF community is just an old-fashioned phone call away.
Yours in ingenuity and hope, Amy Phillips