During the period of MUUF closing, see Reflections here. See below for Reflections starting with March 10.
March 12, 2020
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
– Rev. Lynn Ungar 3/11/20, Unitarian Universalist Minister
No Time for a Casual Faith Rev Fred L Hammond ©
The events of 2020 have been moving so fast it is making my head spin. Every day there is some outrageous development in Tallahassee, Washington, DC and then the Coronavirus begins showing up in the Northwest, then in southwest, then Florida—Manatee County. We wanted to stay calm, downplay the potential impact and as long as we did not know anyone with the virus then we had an invisible bubble around us. Then Italy happened. Two weeks ago, they had 15 cases as of this writing the country is on lockdown with over 18,000 cases and a tripling of deaths. Two weeks ago, Florida had 8 cases, and as of this writing 50+ cases. We are still not testing with the aggressiveness that other countries are testing, so we have no accurate measure of how many people are infected unaware of the risk they pose to others with suppressed immune systems. As tests come online, we can expect an exponential growth in numbers. This is not an indication of the spread, only finally recording what has happened in the past few weeks.
Our board decided to suspend services and meetings as an extreme act of trying to curtail opportunities to spread the disease within our membership. What is being termed as social distancing seems to be the only way to remove the oxygen from this fire that is Coronavirus. It does however turn upside down everything we have grown accustomed to in our routines. We enjoyed gathering on Sundays to sing, to pray and meditate, to hear the choir singing, to hear inspiring sermons. We enjoyed each other’s conversations. We celebrated being fully present with one another.
All that has been suspended because of a virus that potentially could endanger our members lives. It begs the question; how do we do this faith now? Across this country, Unitarian Universalist congregations are suspending their services this weekend. This is no time for business as usual. We cannot. Our in-person gatherings at this time are not safe because this virus is so contagious and virulent for our health compromised members. We may feel fine but still have the virus and transmit to an immune suppressed member.
So, for now, we are staying apart. It feels unnatural. It feels surreal like some science fiction movie. The CDC is calling for social distancing. We are urged to not attend large group functions and maintain 6-foot distancing. The precise language the government is really advocating for is NOT SOCIAL Distancing but PHYSICAL Distancing. We are a social species. It is how we evolved into being human. We need to be social, even the most introverted among us still needs human interaction. With no real fore knowledge of this pandemic, I have been preaching from the pulpit the need for us to reach out to one another, to call, to email, to write letters/cards to our members. It is time we live THAT faith in supporting one another. This is no time for a casual faith, we need to practice the best of our faith now. We need to stay in touch with one another in supportive ways.
So, when our leaders in the fellowship make their weekly phone call and/or email check in, respond. Have that phone conversation. Share what you are thinking about. Share what you are feeling. Let our leaders know what you want shared with others. Live the faith that is supportive and receives support from one another. We will be a stronger faith community because of this weekly contact with one another. And please contact one another to check in. Don’t just rely on the board members to be your only connection. Call on others. Support one another. Lean on one another during this time, even if from a physical distance. We still need to be social with one another to get through this crazy and surreal time. May we live our best supportive faith with one another. May it be so. Blessed Be.
Meditation by Lee Allison Paczulla
Blessed are the elderly, and the immunosuppressed
Blessed are the fearful, the anxious and irritable
Blessed are the ones who use humor to get by
The ones who could use a vacation anyway
The ones who fear for their life
Blessed are the ones who are sick of it;
All the flawed logic, the security theater
Blessed are the ones who cry out
“this is why we need a safety net! A kinder society! A new world!”
Blessed are the health care workers,
the administrators catching heat for every decision,
the messengers with no power over the message
Blessed are the sad, and the lonely
Blessed are the healthy and the sick, the well and the unwell
Blessed are all of us just trying to do our best
Blessed are those who stay kind and clear,
who keep our eyes open to each other
Blessed is our neighbor
Blessed are we all
Blessed are we all
Blessed are we all
Special Message from Rev. Fred L Hammond
Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Board of Directors has decided to take a dramatic response to the very fast-moving Coronavirus pandemic landscape by suspending all programs at MUUF until further notice. The board will be re-evaluating this suspension on April 7 th . Until then, all programs, all worship services, all gatherings occurring at the building have been suspended. All in the hope that our doing this will help protect our members, friends, and neighbors from being exposed to this virus.
Karen will continue to be in the office generally Monday through Friday until 1 PM. I will remain available for conversations and pastoral care through a variety of venues, including phone calls, FB messenger, FB Live, Zoom and emails.
The CDC has recommended that people over the age of 60 restrain from attending events where social distance between people is difficult to maintain. This includes attending concerts, sporting events, and yes, church services. We are a congregation where 91% of us are over the age of 70 and many of us have additional health challenges which places our health at greater risk of the challenges of flu and Coronavirus.
This decision did not come lightly. Our board and staff have been closely watching and listening to reports from the CDC and WHO about this new virus strain. We watched how Italy in two-weeks’ time went from 15 cases to over 10K. We watched as one person resulted in a city being placed in containment in New York within a week’s time. And since our nation has been slow to act, this scenario could happen here. Unless we act with courage and do the thing that may seem extreme today, we will be repeating the scenario. Here is what we know to protect ourselves:
1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds minimum. Wash your hands after every use of tissues, after touching your face, after using the restrooms, before meal prep and before eating a snack or meal.
2. Cough and sneeze into the elbow not into your hands.
3. Stay home if feeling ill. Can’t stress this enough.
4. Greet others using non-physical contact—hands together as in prayer and a slight bow, hand across heart. – Fist bumps, elbow taps are not safer—remember why you are being asked to wash your hands frequently and where you are coughing and sneezing.
5. Maintain 6 feet social distance from others. This is perhaps the most important. And why avoiding crowds is vital in slowing the spread of the virus.
We grieve our inability to come together at this time. We know this decision will be hard to accept by some folks. It was hard for the board to make this decision. We need to find a way to stay connected during this difficult and scary time. We have a plan to help us stay connected
during this current pandemic.
You will receive an email, and/or phone call every week from one of our board members and leaders of the congregation. This will be a check-in conversation requesting how you are doing, what are your concerns, what are your needs, what would you like others to know. Each leader of the group will give me a weekly summary. This way we can all stay in touch and support one another during this time. We chose this method because many of us do not have access to Facebook or computer programs that would allow for live streaming of Sunday messages. So please, when we email or call, please let us know how you are doing, what supports do you need, what is happening in your life that you might like to share.
Our weekly two-minute update will include a reflection by me, one that hopefully will feed your spirit. This will be a venue for us to share what is happening with one another.
Blessings, Rev. Fred