September is here. We are on the cusp of fall. It’s been a year and a half since a pandemic forced us out of our beloved building. In that time, we learned how to do “Zoom worship” – eventually getting pretty good at it – and tried new ways to keep our community connected.
But if you’re anything like me, there have been times when it may have felt as if we had become a band of internet nomads, searching for home. Well, it’s high time for our homecoming! Although it won’t look exactly like we had hoped it would a few months ago, when we had dreams of returning as a community to our building this fall – we will be together again, in person, at HUUC starting Sunday morning, September 12. Just outdoors, not in the sanctuary. (For more details, see articles elsewhere in this Heirloom).
Our return to in-person community is being predicated on several safety measures as we continue to combat the spread of COVID-19. We urge you to get fully vaccinated, unless there are medical reasons the vaccine is contraindicated for you. We urge you, whether vaccinated or not, to wear a mask when in public (including at church); masks are now required in the HUUC building. And if you are meeting with others in the building, please follow the Board’s guidelines around meeting size, social distancing, and room selection and remediation. The Board has approved the purchase of four HEPA room air filters, two of which are in the sanctuary and two of which are for the rest of the building. They must be left running 24/7 in order to be effective.
In recent weeks, our congregation has seen a few new COVID cases, even in those who are fully vaccinated (so-called “breakthrough” infections). Thankfully, with the vaccine working hard in their bloodstreams, those who have been infected have not become seriously ill. We are grateful, as well, that throughout the course of this pandemic – even before vaccines were available – no one in our Heritage family became sick enough with COVID to be hospitalized. Many of us, however, have lost friends and loved ones to this terrible disease, and I know the past year and a half have been very difficult, emotionally and spiritually, for all of us.
It is in such times of fear and sadness that a community such as Heritage becomes even more important. I recently read a survey that indicated 61% of Americans report having felt lonely in the past year. Many of you have shared, with me, your deep sadness at being cut off from your Heritage community during the pandemic. Try as we might, there’s really no substitute for being with each other.
That is why I am so excited that we will be gathering together again – as safely as possible, outdoors – at church on September 12. If it feels comfortable to you, I hope this will be the time that you consider returning to community. Maybe even get a hug or two (ask first, please). See the smiles in one another’s eyes, if not their mouth (those darn masks!). Sing together. Participate in our Water Ceremony by pouring water to mix with others’. Say our covenant – out loud – with the entire congregation. The thought of it gives me goosebumps.
Moundview Park in Newtown has been a lovely, temporary worship location that some of us have been willing to try out occasionally this summer. But to quote Dorothy, “there’s no place like home!” Come join us on Homecoming Sunday, September 12, at HUUC. I can’t wait to see you!