I’ve rarely had to think about whether or not I was going to church on Sunday. From the time I first started coming to UUCE as a 21-year-old newlywed eager to find friends in a new community there has always been a compelling reason to show up. Through years of playing various roles in the church that required my presence before, during and after the Sunday service, church attendance was a habit that was not hard to form. But the Covid Pandemic broke that habit.
As a member of the Worship Team I have naturally thought alot about making the Sunday program the reason people want to attend church. Struggling to adapt our services for online presentation was an amazing learning experience. We have carried over everything we learned in order to provide “hybrid” services today. We all tapped into a larger network to see how other congregations were coping and creating. We found an abundance of clever new ways to come together to share our talents and find comfort and joy.
During the past year UUCE began adjusting to Sundays without a minister in the pulpit. The skills we had to develop in order to survive the pandemic have served us well. I’m very proud of the lay-lead services our Team has produced. Since September, Sundays include both in-person and on-line community worship. Visitors keep coming. Finding us online rewards them not just with an address and a website, but faces and conversation and worship and fellowship. Many visitors persisted over a year until they could finally see their community in person.
If you’re ill, Covid/vulnerable, or just don’t want to put your pants on that Sunday, you can still come to Church. If you’re a little frail or confined to home or even in hospital, you can listen and watch and feel a part of the community. If your work keeps you busy on Sundays you may still tune in to church from your desk or car in between tasks or clients. If you’d rather take a dormant role and not show your face, you can choose to do so. The ratio of people attending online to people sitting in the pews has fluctuated but attendance is growing steadily. There have always been folks gathering in cyberspace while others sat in the prairie cathedral pews.
Just remember: it’s important both to see and to be seen; to hear and to be heard. Your presence is of the greatest value. Treat yourself, and treat others. When you smile at someone you haven’t seen for months, you may not immediately recognize them because of the mask they’re wearing. But we have a tolerance now that makes us bold. Shy people can laugh and say, “Do I know you??” If you see a friendly face, but you’re not sure if you’ve met them yet, you can still feel safe enough to greet them warmly. See you next Sunday!
Elizabeth Olson for the Worship Team