Most of us would likely agree that UUFR has weathered the pandemic remarkably well. Membership is increasing, participation and viewership at Sunday services is strong, our fiscal position is strong, our involvement in the Raleigh community is vibrant, and our facilities are in their best shape in years.
On the other hand, the course of the Covid-19 remains unpredictable at best (even since I typed the first draft of this post, we have once again suspended in-person Sunday service). Guessing when it will end and when we can get back to a routine lifestyle is an exercise in futility. I am convinced that someday soon, though, we will return to “normal”. Of course, that normal might not be very much like the pre-pandemic normal, but I’m guessing – I hope – the world will find a way of living that’s more predictable from day to day, more understandable, more comfortable. A new normal.
UUFR has done a pretty good job of dancing to the difficult pandemic tune, changing our steps as the cosmic fiddler changes from waltzes to folkdances to hip hop and back, often too quickly for comfort. When the world finally settles into our new normal, we’ll need to learn some new dance steps to go with new rhythm. I hope we can learn the next dance without forgetting the steps we’ve picked up lately.
For instance, consider the after-service “coffee hour”. Pre-pandemic, this was a time to gather in a large group, catch up with an old friend or make a new one. Coffee hour is a vital part of the Fellowship, the only time outside of Sunday service each week when all of us could be in one room, undirected by any agenda or program or leader. A cacophony of individual and small-group encounters. Virtual coffee hour during the shutdown months was a different kettle of fish. It quickly evolved to a collection of small-group discussion. Participants could select which virtual room to join, with rooms designated by topic areas. This was still a place to catch up with folk you hadn’t seen in a while, but a quieter, more controllable space. A space that some of us introverts enjoyed more than the original. So, here’s the challenge of the new dance: can we provide the best of both coffee hour experiences in the new normal? Can we provide the loud, vibrant, elbow-bumping, joybul big space that many enjoy AND the quieter, more thoughtful, small group space that others crave? Yes, I am sure we can. But it’s going to take some thought and conversation and planning. This is just one example of the new dances we’re going to need. Here are a few other issues with similar challenges that come to mind:
- We’ve picked up new members and friends from far outside Raleigh – places like Fayetteville and Greensboro. As in-person activities become safer and more comfortable, how will we continue to welcome and engage members and friends who are not nearby?
- How can we engage better with young adults and families, especially as the rest of the world opens up and other activities beckon them?
- Student life has changed radically – can we provide an effective ministry for students at the many colleges in our area?
What do you think? Are there parts of UUFR that worked very well for you during the pandemic that you want to make sure we keep? Aspects that didn’t work that you think we should abandon? What dance steps do you think we should start practicing? Your Board of Directors is always eager to hear from you on this or other issues of Fellowship life. If you have thoughts to share, please contact one of us or use the link below.
Jim VanKirk Past President, UUFR Board of Directors
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