On April 20, the Lincoln Lancaster County Department of Health announced that the COVID-19 Risk Dial has been moved from mid yellow to low yellow. This is the first time the Dial has ever been in low yellow, and it is the lowest risk level achieved since the dial was launched nearly a year ago.
This means that our congregations stepwise plan for reentry, which we published early this month, will move forward. At a meeting of the Reentry task force on Wednesday night, we agreed that we are now at Step C on our plan.
Here’s what that means: we are going to start piloting in person services in May. On May 9, we will hold our first in person worship service since March 2020. It will be a different kind of worship service: we will limit in person attendance to 25% capacity, and have everyone masked and six feet from each other. Children are welcome, and we will have childcare for those under 5, but no separate Religious Education classes, and we will livestream the service on our Youtube channel for those unable to with us in person. In order to attend in person, we will ask you to register ahead of time, through our congregational database, Realm. More information on how to do that will be available soon.
On May 16, we will be fully online again in order to ensure as much participation in our annual meeting as possible, and then on Sunday May 23 we will have another service in person at 25% capacity.
During the month of May, small groups can start to meet in person in gallery with advance notice, while maintaining 6ft distance & masks.
As we were making this decision, at the end of April, I thought of May 14, 2020. That day, while I was in the middle of a D.Min class, the Unitarian Universalist Association released guidance asking us to prepare to keep our buildings closed through May 2021. At the time, it felt like an unimaginably long time- longer than the guidance from any other denomination, and a hard turn from expectations of returning in the fall. I remember recording an update that afternoon, unsure of how we would be able to maintain online presence for another twelve months.
That guidance turned out to be more prescient than anyone imagined. The pandemic continues to evolve, and the situation may worsen again. Each of us will choose, in the coming weeks and months, what our own risk tolerance is, and when the right time to return to in person event is. For now though, I look forward to seeing your (masked) faces in just a few short weeks.
Rev. Oscar Sinclair serves as the Settled Minister for The Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska.