Guidance for Gathering in Covenantal Community
The UUA reminds us to use our principles as Unitarian Universalists when we gather with others during the pandemic (from UUA-CDC Guidelines in Covenantal Community, June 1, 2021): “As congregations, our decisions about masking or un-masking need to be about community. We are in covenant with one another to act not just as a collection of individuals, but as a body that works for the good of all. Because our Unitarian Universalist faith is grounded in values that call us to care about one another, we must continue to make our decisions by centering the needs of the most vulnerable among us….
- We are all-ages communities, and not all ages have been able to get vaccinated yet.
- We are all abilities communities, and some of us have immune systems that do not mount a strong protective response after the COVID vaccination and can suffer severe consequences upon infection….”
The UUA recommends using the Guidance for Gathering in Covenantal Community graphic (shown further below) to practice covenantal consent: that is, taking time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions that might put members of the community at risk, either physically or mentally.
Covenantal Consent is the continued practice of Inclusion, Covenant, Consent and Care for each other before making decisions.
Inclusion: Plan all open events so that those who cannot be adequately protected by vaccination can participate.
Care: Don’t make sudden changes to meet in person or to stop requiring masks indoors. Allow people time to consider how they will feel without masks in their small group or at an outdoor congregational event, then work out a way to listen to each other before deciding on any changes. This is a compassionate way for us to respect and respond to the trauma of the last 2 years and its varied impacts.
Consent: Adopt an individual practice of consent among friends within the congregation, even when you are meeting outside of congregational events. Ask one another what is comfortable and safe. Respect what the others might need at this point in time even if you don’t have the same needs. We know that—before hugging someone—we should ask first, then wait for a yes or no. Similarly, we should ask and wait for an answer before meeting without masks. (“Mask or Ask”). Asking for consent builds trust, inclusion, and muscle-memory.
Covenant: Respect the wide range of ways people may be reacting to the CDC guidance around masks, including members of your church community. Our covenants call us to work through these differences.
Our UU congregations are life-affirming and life-saving communities because—at our best—we care for one another in these ways.