Way Forward Team Announcement

Statement to the Congregation

April 20, 2021

The Way Forward Team is continuing to meet to discuss a timeline for safely re-opening our spaces and gathering in person. We are considering all of the factors for how and when to reopen, both in the context of all of our many programs, and also in the context of building use. Our most salient value in this process is the safety of our staff, our lay leaders, and every one of you. Further, we are committed to being a just and equitable community that operates in a way that is accessible to all, safe, and welcoming.

These are our guidelines as of May 1st and thru Labor Day for spring/summer programs at FUSIT:

  • In-person, outdoor, masked and socially distanced gatherings below the number of people allowed by NYS law begin May 1st. These can continue as weather permits and active cases in Tompkins County remain below 100. These gatherings are at your own risk.
  • If the percent of positive cases rises above .5% (average cases/average tests) or the number of active cases in Tompkins County exceeds 100, we will return to all virtual programming for at least one week until the above criteria are met.
  • These guidelines will not apply after Labor Day. (Stay tuned for further updates).

How did we make this decision?

As a Unitarian Universalist congregation, we believe in Radical Inclusion and we see this as an opportunity to live into that vision. One area that we believe needs to be explicitly mentioned: our children are not currently eligible for vaccinations. It is easy and natural to feel optimism at the number of people who are being vaccinated, and we are so grateful to those who are availing themselves of this opportunity! However, we would hesitate to say “everyone is getting vaccinated” when the truth is that our children and youth —a critical part of this congregation—are not. We cannot meet our vision of being radically inclusive if re-opening means doing so without our children and families, and it would make a strong statement that we don’t value the children in our congregation.

We are all excited to be back in person, we all miss being together in community, singing together, welcoming one another during services, singing the children out to their classrooms, chatting over homemade bread during coffee hour.  While coming back in-person will feel good for those who are able and want to do it as soon as possible, we must take into consideration who will be left out. We need to center our perspective on who is being excluded when we are making decisions. If we want to be a community and a people who are centered around justice and radical inclusion, this is how we live out those values. 

We also need to be aware of that fact that even individuals who are fully vaccinated are not 100% safe from, or immune to, COVID-19 and its variants.  These vaccines lower the chances of infection and lower the chances of serious illness and hospitalization if someone is infected.  They do not guarantee immunity, and more importantly, they do not guarantee that someone who is vaccinated will not transmit it to someone who is not.  Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are rare, but current data shows that around 6,000 cases have been reported so far, as well as approximately 100 deaths.

In re-opening, we will be looking at science and there are numerous factors to take into consideration including how to be in intergenerational community with one another, the possibility of hybrid/multi-platform worship and programming, congregational life (including food, singing, and other vital pieces of our life together).

SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

What about summer services?

There is a group being formed to coordinate summer services. This may include outdoor services and/or virtual services. UUA guidelines continue to indicate that singing should not be allowed in any format.

Will there continue to be virtual worship?

Yes, though we are still working out a timeline and process for creating multi-platform/hybrid worship. This may not be in place for summer services. 

Can my small group meet?

If it’s after May 1, 2021, and you are all outside, masked, and socially distanced, you can meet with your small group as a FUSIT sanctioned gathering, at your own risk. 

Can we have meetings, worship, classes, rentals, or other events in the building?

No. 

If there is inclement weather, can we move indoors? 

No. If the weather is bad, please reschedule your gathering to be on zoom, or reschedule to another date. 

At what point can we relax some of those restrictions?  When can we allow closer proximity?  When can we gather and sing?  When can we gather without masks?

We hope someday soon, but not yet.

What happens in the fall?

If we have learned anything in the past year it is to take this whole process one step at a time. We will reassess when the fall gets closer and be in communication with you about how our congregational life will look then.

Great! We are going back to normal! Right?!

Not quite. As much as we yearn to be together as we once were, our reality is different now. We also need to acknowledge that we live in a part of the country where some months get very cold, and our population changes based on school schedules. These variable factors, and others, require that our plans remain flexible.

Will I need to show proof of vaccination?

No. When we gather, we are always with people who, for a variety of reasons and circumstances, may not be vaccinated.