An Update on Masking in Worship (February 24, 2023)
As of March 1, 2023, masks are encouraged and appreciated, but not required, during Sunday morning worship.
In recent months, UUCC resumed Sunday morning coffee hour in Sanctuary B, at which food and drinks are served and congregants have connected and socialized unmasked. Since March 2022, small groups have been encouraged to seek consent from all those present to make a collective decision around masking in the moment.
In light of these practices, as well as Howard County’s low COVID-19 community transmission rates, the Regathering Task Force has elected to lift UUCC’s mask requirement for worship services starting March 1, 2023.
A note on small group gatherings & other events at UUCC
Over the past year, UUCC congregants have embraced and modeled the practice of consent regarding mask-wearing.
We have observed UUCC congregants check in with each other directly, asking each other’s preferences around masking when sitting down for meetings, chatting at coffee hour, and walking into the UUCC office.
We celebrate this ongoing cultivation of consent culture and encourage its continuation. Consent isn’t just about physical touch, but about collective agreement in how we interact and engage with each other, including respecting each other’s preferences around COVID-19 precautions.
In November 2022, we received 80 responses to our congregation-wide survey about masking in worship. Of the responses we received, 58% indicated they would continue to wear a mask in worship, even if no longer required to do so.
The Board of Directors of the Owen Brown Interfaith Center has repealed all previous mask requirements for the building, leaving masking decisions to the individual congregations and organizations that meet at the interfaith center.
The Regathering Task Force recognizes the ongoing public health concerns of COVID-19. Members of the Task Force will continue to monitor the status of the virus (and other public health concerns) and advise the congregation accordingly, through the lenses of safety and pre-emptive radical hospitality and inclusion.
Announcing Changes & Clarifications to UUCC’s COVID Safety Protocols (March 22, 2022)
Last month, UUCC returned to worship in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center following this winter’s Omicron wave. We have loved reconnecting with one another, meeting new friends, and being reminded of the joy and meaning this community brings to our lives.
In our ongoing commitment to move toward pre-emptive radical hospitality and inclusion and to honor the interdependent web of which we are a part, we are slightly modifying our COVID-19 safety protocols:
—Instead of pre-registering to attend service on Sunday mornings, we will only ask you to sign-in at the welcome table when you arrive starting on Sunday, March 27.
—The Chalice Choir will resume performing live on Sunday mornings in the coming weeks. They will remain masked while singing, and we can’t wait for them to share their talents with us!
—We will continue to require mandatory masking during worship services, at children’s religious education classes on Sunday mornings, and in public spaces indoors at OBIC.
—Small groups may choose to remove their masks in private spaces in OBIC, with the consent of all those present.
- A private space is one in which attendance is established and consent is possible. An example of a private space is a meeting in room 150: after the 15 people I’m expecting have arrived, we can then have a conversation about our masking practice.
- An example of a public space is the common area outside the UUCC office; too many people pass through the common area, and it is not possible to have a conversation about consent in that setting.
—Food and drinks will be permitted at UUCC events at OBIC, within OBIC’s current guidance about food. Any event where food and drinks will be consumed will be clearly announced as such, so that you will 1) know what to expect, and 2) be able to make decisions that work for you and your family.
—Small groups will be permitted to reserve downstairs classroom space (with the exception of Cradlerock Children’s Center classrooms).
We are hopeful that these changes and clarifications will create new opportunities for reconnection and relationships in our community.
Guidance from the CDC will continue to evolve. For example, in recent weeks the CDC has begun to emphasize the effectiveness of vaccines and the decoupling of case counts from severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even as scientists keep careful watch for new variants of concern.
UUCC’s staff and Regathering Team will continue to monitor UUCC’s practices and public health experts’ guidance and will be prepared to escalate precautions as necessary.
The pandemic may never be truly “over,” and together, we are learning to live conscientiously and hopefully within this reality as a community.
Regathering Status Update (February 6, 2022)
On Saturday, February 5, Howard County marked seven consecutive days of test positivity rates below 10% (7-day average). Following the plan set forth by UUCC staff and the Regathering Task Force, UUCC is ready to return safely to worship in-person at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center.
UUCC friends, members, and guests are invited to join us for worship in Sanctuary C starting this Sunday, February 13.
We will continue to follow CDC guidelines for Covid safety and the policies developed by UUCC’s Regathering Task Force. Here’s what you can expect:
- All in-person service attendees will be required to register online ahead of the service and check in with a greeter upon arrival.
- Attendance in the sanctuary will be limited to 75 people (including children). Seating will be physically distanced, but you are welcome to move your chairs to create a household seating cluster.
- Masks are always required inside the building, which means no eating or drinking while indoors. We encourage you to follow current CDC recommendations for masking, which involve wearing “the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.”
- During the service, the congregation will be invited to sing with their masks on. Service presenters who are speaking from the lectern may choose to remove their masks only while they are speaking.
- If you have any of the following symptoms, please stay home, even if you have already registered to attend an in-person service:
- Fevers, chills, or sweats
- Loss of taste or smell
- Stuffy nose or sore throat
- Symptoms concerning for flu-like infection, sinus infection, or ear infection
- Cough, chest pain, or shortness of breath
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- We encourage all eligible congregants to get your vaccinations and boosters if you haven’t already. This is one simple step we can take to care for each other during this time. Find your vaccine today
Our services will remain multiplatform to accommodate the needs and safety concerns of UUCC families. Sunday morning worship services will continue to be accessible via Zoom to everyone, and service presenters may choose to participate virtually as well.
Children’s religious education classes on Sunday mornings will resume at a later date (stay tuned for announcements from Robin Slaw, our Director of Religious Education!). As always, children are invited to participate in worship services alongside adult congregants. We understand that sometimes little feet and hands need to move around — and that’s okay! Children of all ages are welcome in our worship services, and we delight in the beauty of their insights and energy.
And finally, the collection basket for financial contributions to support the work of UUCC in our community will be made available for those who choose to give in-person. Virtual giving will remain an option on the UUCC website and by texting the word CHALICE to 73256.
We look forward to seeing you back in worship on Sunday, February 13, on Zoom or in-person. Don’t forget to register if you’d like to join us in Sanctuary C!
Regathering Status Update (January 27, 2022)
In early January, UUCC’s staff returned from the holiday break (during which services were virtual-only) and made the decision to pause in-person attendance for Sunday services through the end of January due to safety concerns presented by the Omicron variant. This decision was announced to the congregation on January 4.
As we near the end of January, we are looking ahead to when we can safely regather in Sanctuary C on Sunday mornings and invite UUCC groups back inside the Owen Brown Interfaith Center.
The staff and Regathering Task Force have been in communication and have developed a plan to guide our return to in-person worship. (You can view this plan here.) Together, we are watching local metrics and are considering the specific needs of our community.
While we remain virtual for the time being, we also remain hopeful and anticipate a return to in-person worship before the end of February. As soon as we have a date for a return to in-person worship, we will announce it via email, on the website, and through other congregational communication mechanisms.
Thank you for all you do to care for each other and keep our community safe. We can’t wait to see you back in Sanctuary C!
Regathering Status Update (January 4, 2022)
Due to growing safety concerns presented by the Omicron variant, and in order to limit the spread of Covid in our building and community, we have decided to pause in-person attendance for Sunday services through the end of January.
All in-person religious education will also go on hiatus for the month, including the grade 8/9 Our Whole Lives (OWL) class. Please be on the lookout later this week for individual emails from Director of Religious Education, Robin Slaw.
All virtual religious education classes will continue as scheduled.
If you are the leader of a small group that has been meeting in person at OBIC, a staff member will be in touch about modifying your arrangements.
And please note that the office will be closed to congregants in January, and staff members will be working mostly from home. We will continue to monitor health trends, and will be in contact regarding plans for February.
In the meantime, while we will miss being together in our OBIC space, we look forward to gathering all together on Zoom this month. This Sunday in worship, we will explore how to live with intention for ourselves and for UUCC in 2022. We hope to see you there!
Reservations for both in-person and virtual events should be made through UUCC’s website: https://uucolumbia.net/calendar/scheduling. If you are considering a larger event, please fill out the reservation form as well and the staff will be in touch to discuss your needs.
About the Task Force
UUCC convened a Regathering Task Force in March 2021 to serve as an advisory body for planning to gradually resume in-person congregational activities.
The work of the task force began with a congregational survey that collected 136 responses and led to many individual conversations. This process led to a Regathering Plan and FAQs that were presented to the Board of Trustees for consideration at their July 2021 meeting.
Regathering Task Force Members
Jodi Brown, Liam Estell, Jen Hayashi, Heidi Schweingruber, Lindsay Thompson, Cindi Wood, Valerie Hsu, Executive Director (Executive Team), and Paige Getty, Minister (Executive Team).
Need to reach us?
If you would like to share something with the group, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.