Message from Jon – November 2021

Rev. Jon M. Luopa

Dear Members and Friends:

Last December we prerecorded the Christmas Eve service for you because we were not yet back to meeting in the building. This year we will have one in-person Christmas Eve service at 9 p.m. which can also be viewed livestream.  Much has happened in between these two Christmas Eve services.

With the spread of the vaccines and the assurance of public health officials and the UUA, we started to gather in person for Sunday services late last spring. In September when we started having two services, we shifted all of the children and youth programs to take place during that 11:15 a.m. hour for safety reasons. We have experienced steady, though diminished from previous years, attendance at both Sunday services. We have welcomed an unusual number of visitors, too. The livestream audience has also remained steady at the same time as we welcome viewers from across the world! And we are delighted to report that more families with children have returned, more than expected. Yeah!

Yet challenges persist, of course, as we create a new normal. We are still short of volunteers in many areas, especially for the second Sunday service. If you would like to help us by being an usher, greeter, vaccine checker, or coffee crew member, please contact the church office.  We are also seeing a few programs postponed due to lack of attendance. Clearly, not everyone is ready to jump back into the mix.

We still have the challenge of not singing in Sunday services. While necessary, it is becoming annoying, isn’t it? We are hoping that the restrictions here will ease soon. Music is such an important component of the worship experience. It is hard to be a spectator on Sunday morning. Your patience and (mostly) willing cooperation is much appreciated.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is the fact that we have become a hybrid congregation. And there is no turning back! We now have both an in-person community and a virtual community in our congregation. The pandemic has forced folks to choose which way they most appreciate being part of UUC. What this will mean in terms of meaningful engagement with the congregation, how one grows spiritually, and how we encourage financial support for our programs, is as yet unknown. And no other church or consultant has answers to these questions.

What might this mean for us? Well, for me, first of all, I remain grateful for the many members and staff who have been courageous, creative and consistent in helping us negotiate these new dynamics. I am also grateful for the loyalty evident in those persons who are able to return in person and for those who wisely remained as our livestream congregation. Challenges have arrived, yes, but churches have long experience in knowing how to be hospitable and adaptable in changing times. We are not without some wisdom in our experience as we face new opportunities.

Part of the ancient wisdom in this Christmas season is the invitation to rediscover the reassurance of a hopeful expectation. Current constraints do lift even as others may arrive. Yet each week I look forward to seeing those of you who are able to return to in-person activities. And for those of you who cannot and should not return, I hold you in my heart and in my loving intention.

There are many blessings, still. May they find you!

Jon's signature

Rev. Jon M. Luopa

P.S. Rev. Beth has been with us long enough to have earned a sabbatical. She will take that time away this coming winter/spring, from February 1 through May 31, 2022.  She and I are working out details to cover her responsibilities during her absence. Within the next couple weeks she will share with us some of her plans for her time away. Watch for it!