Dear UU Essex Community,
With the news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak around the world and cases in the U.S., it’s natural for fears and questions to arise. With that in mind, I am writing to you about how to care for yourselves, and how we will continue to operate as a community. My thanks to our board, plus Kimberly Tomkins, Max Schank, Pat Murphy, and our staff who helped me think through this situation. Please read the following.
And if this is just feeling too much, or making you anxious, you are not alone. Reach out to me or Kim Tomkins. We’re happy to meet with you.
My hope is that we will see this as a chance to deepen our spiritual community as we care for ourselves and each other. We don’t need to be terrified. But caution, and seeing these practices as way of deepening our love for the Common Community, will help us find the patience we need. This challenge reminds us of important things to do year round to protect ourselves and each other.
UU Essex Procedures for Virus Outbreak
Maintaining Health Phase
Right now we are in a "maintaining health" phase. During this time we ask that you take precautions to keep yourself and any family members safe. This includes the following advice, drawn from guidelines from the CDC:
Stay home if sick: All community members, including staff, should stay home (or seek medical attention) if they are sick or they have any flu or cold-like symptoms untilAT LEAST 24 hours after fever and symptoms are gone. Temperature should be measured without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This includes attendance at all worship services and church activities.
Avoid exposure: Avoid close contact with those who are sick. With members experiencing flu-like symptoms, our ministers, and all members are encouraged to do pastoral care, visits, and meetings by phone or internet, and not risk exposure.
Practice hygiene precautions, and help your children to practice them:
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing (disposing of them frequently), or sneeze into your sleeve elbow.
Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer. We will be adding hand sanitizer in more locations in our church building for your use. And note that Rev. Eva is allergic to regular hand sanitizer. So if you see her wearing a mask, please know that she is only keeping herself safe from it. (See words to Hand washing Song below.)
Avoid touching your face: eyes, nose, or mouth.
Avoid sharing utensils, cups, towels, and other items, and wash these items thoroughly.
Bring your own pen to avoid using the public one.
In addition, get lots of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids and eat healthy foods, and maintain the physical and spiritual practices that keep you feeling healthy.
Our Custodian, Clint Rumble, is doing all that he can to help keep the church building sanitized. But feel free to help with that effort, in wiping down door handles, tables, and other commonly touched surfaces with a disinfectant.
If you are a community member in need of support in this time, please contact Rev. Eva, Kimberly Tompkins or your Chalice Neighborhood head, and let us know how you think we can be of support to you. If you become quarantined with the virus, UU Essex members may be able to help shop or bring other resources to you. Remember when stocking up on food to also stock upon medicines and fill all your refills. It is our hope to support our members as much as we can through this time.
If a widespread outbreak occurs in the U.S., particularly in our area, we will follow state and federal recommendations about shutting down programs at our campus, following the example of local schools and businesses. During this time, we will try to provide services and programs electronically as much as possible, sending worship services, religious education, and other programming to your homes when possible, and doing board and committee work by Zoom or other electronic methods. In other words, although we may have to cancel “church” the way we all know and love it—my hope is to find ways to come together and experience some of the elements of our church experiences, using the internet or telephone. But at this time, this is a “just in case” scenario.
If we experience any losses, we will even try to find ways to mourn together electronically. We will attempt to communicate this transition with all our members through our website, Facebook page/groups, email Update, and voicemail message, similar to our procedures for closing church during bad snow storms. This will continue as long as federal or state guidelines to avoid public places are in place. Families experiencing illness, hardship, and death are still encouraged to reach out to our ministers, as well as to other community and government resources.
Rebuilding Community Phase
When all restrictions are lifted, we will resume our regular church activities and work to rebuild our community.
For more information, here are links to Mass Department of Public Health https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
and CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Here is the Hand Washing Song we learned in church last week:
(to the tune of Come, Come, Whoever You Are):
Wash, wash, whoever you are
Worshipper, wanderer, lover of cleaning,
Rinsing the germs off is vital to do
Wash, yet again wash.
So lather up, and then scrub and sing away!