We write to you in the anxious and ambiguous times of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). As is always true, our goal as a congregational community is to care for our members, and for the most vulnerable in our community and beyond. This includes spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
We are closely following the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control, the Wisconsin Department of Health, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. We are committed to do what is necessary to slow the transmission of this disease in order to lessen the strain on our medical system, which will help sick people get the medical care they need.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared a public health emergency today. To balance what is in the best interest of public health with the spiritual and emotional care of our congregation, this Sunday, March 15, 2020, will be our last in-person worship service until the Wisconsin public health emergency is over. We will be implementing risk-reduction strategies to reduce possible transmission through touch, objects, food, and beverage.
Our religious education program will shift to an activity led by our RE staff so our RE volunteers may choose the best options for themselves and their families. Youth Group will shift times and locations, using a new online format to check in from home with one another at 1 pm, more information to come. As we journey forward into this ambiguous time we will be working on offering religious education resources, opportunities, and connections in new ways and formats.
Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, all our church meetings, events, services, and classes will move online, over the phone, or be postponed, and the church building will be closed. Staff will telecommute and continue to be available via email and phone. We are grateful for your patience and grace with us while we figure out how to move the work of our church online, because we are building this ship as we sail it. If you have special skills that can help us do this work, please contact Shari Wright, Office Coordinator.
When considering if you will attend service in person this Sunday, remember that this virus is most dangerous for elders and people with compromised lungs and immune systems. If you have any concerns for your safety or the safety of your loved ones, please stay home and join us online for the live-streamed service (instructions are below). Please stay home if you are not feeling 100% well, or if you think you have been exposed to the virus.
If you choose to join us in person, please follow public health recommendations to wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand-sanitizer, and avoid touching your face. Also, please bring your pledge cards, as we have a special celebration and commitment service planned, including inspiring music, messaging, and joy. In difficult times, we must remember to practice connection, joy, and celebration of things we love in life. First Church will be a practicing community this Sunday, and into the coming months.
You can find information about preventing COVID-19 coronavirus here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html You can also keep up to date with local recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Health here: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/disease/coronavirus.htm
Remember, you can access our worship service by watching the live stream on our YouTube Channel. The “live” video will begin Sunday at 9:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. You don’t need a YouTube account, just click at https://www.youtube.com/c/FirstUnitarianSocietyofMilwaukee to see the live stream. You can also view the sermon and Worship Associate story on our FB Page here: https://www.facebook.com/uumilwaukee/ or our YouTube Channel video library here: https://www.youtube.com/c/FirstUnitarianSocietyofMilwaukee or listening to the podcast https://uumilwaukee.org/sunday-sermons-podcast/ the next week.
Our work as a spiritual community is to stay grounded and non-anxious in troubling times. Dear ones, lean into your spiritual practice. Pay close attention to your heart and emotions, and breathe. If you are feeling anxious, please contact our Pastoral Care Associate Coordinator Jane Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-967-1471, and she will connect you with one of our PCAs for a listening presence via telephone. If you’d like to talk to Rev. Dena or Rev. Jennifer, please call our Pastoral Care Emergency line at 414-216-3113, as this is the quickest way to reach us, even if you are not in an emergency. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact Rev. Dena immediately on our Pastoral Emergency Line: 414-216-3113.
If you are among the folks most vulnerable to this virus and need practical help, such as grocery shopping and delivery, or a ride to the doctor, please contact Jane Dorweiler, our Pastoral Care Provider Coordinator at email@example.com or 414-839-3053.
If you have concerns about personal financial resources for your medical supplies, medical care or missing work, we have some resources in the Ministers Discretionary Fund. Please contact Reverend Jennifer for support.
We need each other. Our work and our calling as a religious community is to care for one another, and the most vulnerable. The Reverends Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs say there are no other people’s children. There are no other people’s grandparents, either. We are committed to care for one another as a community and don’t want anyone to feel lonely or without support, even as we do our best as a community to slow the spread of this disease.
Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, Senior Minister
Rev. Dena McPhetres, Association Minister
Mark Bishop, Congregation President
Kimberlee Tomczak-Carlson, Director of Religious Education
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee