Not What We Hoped For
How our world has changed in the last three months! And sadly, mostly not for the better.
In June, as the COVID infection rate and hospitalizations dropped, as case numbers dropped into the single digits, we thought we were done with this virus. I was confident vaccination had defeated it and we were on the road back to the “new normal.” Philomena and I socialized with friends without masks. We started eating out again. We even considered going to a movie.
Philomena and I booked a “bucket list” trip for her to see Zion, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks in July. We got lifetime membership cards in the national parks too! We were ready to resume our lives and see the places we’d waited a lifetime to experience.
I’m glad we were able to take that trip in July. When we got back, the infection rate and new case load in August got worse and worse every week. When I started reading about breakthrough infections of vaccinated people and the more contagious nature of the Delta COVID-19 variant, I knew we wouldn’t be able to have the resumption of services in September we had hoped for. If we can have in-person services, it will be fully masked, in socially distanced pods, without singing, food or drink. Socializing will best happen outside rather than in Channing Hall.
There will be no celebratory sheet cake, coffee and tea.
Most of us are disappointed. Some of us are angry that we must deal with yet another round of this viral scourge. Blame is being assigned and fingers are being pointed. Many of us are concerned about getting this more prolific strain that has a viral load many times the original.
There are still so many mysteries and questions about the virus. Will there be more effective treatments that prevent our immune system overreaction that damages internal organs and causes blood clots? How well will our vaccination work and for how long? Will a booster make a difference? And what will the diversion of vaccines to boosters do to lessen the possibility of vaccination of those around the world in poorer countries that need protection too. Places where the next dangerous variant maybe mutating – right now.
No matter what happens with the pandemic, Albany UU will do everything we can to continue as much of our programming as possible. We will have multiplatform Sunday services – in person, on Zoom and Facebook. We will continue to have Religious Education. Meaning Matters will continue (sign up now!).
Wellspring will continue. Green Sanctuary will continue. Inclusivity will continue. The gardens around our building will be tended. We will have our RE Picnic. We will continue to do the interim work with our consultant to transition our RE program from Leah Purcell’s leadership to a new vision that is germinating right now among us, a new vision that was developing before her departure. We will continue growing into our new covenant. We will grow into learning how to transform conflict in a way that facilitates congregational growth and development.
We are not and will not be in a holding pattern. Virus or no virus we have work to do. Social problems need to be addressed. Personal growth and transformation will be supported. Inspiration will continue to be offered on Sunday morning.
If anything, this pandemic is renewing and deepening our commitment to religious community. We need each other more than ever as our social life has been limited. The relationships we cultivate here can be deeper because we are less distracted. Zoom isn’t as good as being in person … but being in a video box is better than not having any contact at all. Circle dinners will continue in person or virtually. Outdoor gatherings continue to be much safer than indoor gatherings. Consider UU Weekend – they go to great lengths to make sure people are safe. (Let’s hope for warm weather)
The future is always uncertain. It is possible that between those that get the more contagious Delta variant and those that are vaccinated, we might be approaching some sort of herd immunity. A milder future variant might overtake Delta and follow the path of the flu just requiring a yearly immunization. We might even find an effective treatment that saves lives. Who knows?
What we do know is humanity, the Spirit of Life itself, is tremendously imaginative and creative. We will continue to innovate around how to live fully with the pandemic in a way that reduces harm and increases our ability to live meaningful lives.
May we not be forced back into lockdown.
May we keep on moving forward, never turning back, until this virus is defeated.