Let’s Take AIM at Accessibility

 

 

 

It’s been more than a decade since UUS:E last had a fully functioning Accessibility Committee. In those intervening years the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has learned much about how to address ableism in our congregations, and how to expand our accessibility to people with a wide variety of disabilities. Given that UUS:E is now in the midst of planning for re-opening following the coronavirus pandemic, this may be a perfect time for us to consider how we enhance our accessibility to people with disabilities. Interested? Read on….

In partnership with the UUA, EqUUal Access, a UU disability rights and inclusion organization, has developed the Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry or AIM. AIM is a certification program. Its purpose is to guide congregations to better welcome, embrace, integrate, and support people with disabilities and their families in our communities. AIM attempts to meet each congregation where it is and move it forward at a reasonable pace based on its resources, needs, and abilities, regardless of membership size or type of building.

The UUS:E Policy Board is empowering a team to study the AIM program and make recommendations as to how UUS:E can pursue certification. If you would like to be part of this study team, please contact Policy Board Member at Large, Peg Darrah ([email protected] or 603-540-6495).

Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Looking Back on the Pandemic*

By Maude McGovern, April 2021

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.  Almost exactly a year later, I sat in my car on Pratt and Whitney’s unused airstrip at Rentschler Field as someone pumped a syringe full of Pfizer vaccine into my arm.  We always knew that the pandemic would end sometime.  Now for me, that feels more like a reality every day.  

Some reflections on the strangest year of my life.  (Not the worst or the most dramatic, just the strangest.)  First off, what I experienced could be labeled “Pandemic Lite.”  Being healthy, retired, married, and comfortably well-off, I was about as well equipped as one could be for what we’ve gone through.  It helped living in a place where, after initial confusion and hesitancy, masks became de rigueur.  That lessened the chances of infection as well as my anxiety.  Thank you, Governor Lamont!

At first, there were so many fears from major to trivial.  Who of the people I know would get sick?  Who would lose a job?  Who might not make it through the year?  Was I going up the grocery store aisle in the right direction?  

I planned what to do if my husband or I got sick, fretting over details such as which bedroom would best serve as the invalid’s room.  I borrowed a sewing machine, brushed up on my long-dormant sewing skills, read everything I could find on the best fabric and design for masks, and set to work.  (Sewing is like riding a bike—it comes back to you.)  I will never cease to be amazed that in the 21st century in the richest country on earth, medical staff at Hartford Hospital were grateful to get homemade masks from people like me.  I was glad to help and even gladder to return the sewing machine.

And like others, I settled into a new normal.  I learned to appreciate Zoom, especially on cold winter nights when I could simply plop myself down in my nice warm office and watch a presentation.  (Can you imagine how hard the pandemic would have been in the pre-Internet era?  Or before we had cell phones to… well, do just about everything from texting friends to calling the restaurant to say we were sitting outside waiting for our take-out order to sharing Facebook posts about sourdough bread?)  After decades of talking about seriously doing some genealogy research, I’m finally doing it.  I met a lot of neighbors especially on long summer evenings as we all strolled around.

I’ve been especially fortunate to live close to my family—we walked together a lot, shared several precious summer afternoons on the beach at Gay City State Park, swam at Globe Hollow pool.  I invited some family and friends in tiny groups to Dinners on the Deck in the summer.  When the winter holidays arrived, we met briefly in my roomy carport to swap Thanksgiving side dishes and later to exchange Christmas gifts.  I can now add “carport event planner” to my resume. 

For thirty years, I had short hair, which was easier to keep looking “corporate” during my years in the finance industry.  Growing it out was always a shaggy proposition, so I kept it short.  Until now.  Last spring during lockdown almost everyone’s hair was looking a bit unkempt—I fit right in.  Salons and barbershops opened safely, but by then I was on a roll.  I passed shaggy, bought some hair pins and elastics, and am now firmly into “long” territory.  The summer heat’s coming.  I will…?

More than a year into the pandemic, my luck has held.  I’ve heard of a couple of acquaintances who had mild cases.  No one I know has suffered economically.  Of course, everyone has struggled with social distancing, remote schooling, the whole freakish scariness of it all.  I’m very grateful for so much starting with the amazing power of scientists to create effective vaccines so quickly.  And I’m very aware of the huge losses of so many people and that there is much in our society that should be, must be changed.

In an essay last year, I likened the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown to a swiftly dropping curtain.  The ending is different.  The curtain is jerking up a little at a time, slowly, erratically.  Recently I’ve been hearing vaccinated people talk about getting together with friends.  Inside.  Without masks.  Some are starting to make travel plans.  Yet after a year-plus of being so careful, for some of us things like that feel strange, wrong—even if we know they aren’t.  We’ll get used to the new (old) ways, of course.  And the curtain will go up all the way eventually.  As for what’s behind it, what changes we’ll see…?  Well, we’ll see.  

*****

For a welcome and instructions on submitting original writing to Reflecting Pool, click here.

* This essay was recently highlighted in the April 15th issue of the One Manchester CT newsletter.

Revised Policy for Holding Outdoor Gatherings

Policy Board

April 8, 2021

Outdoor meetings on the UUS:E’s grounds can be allowed with the following provisions:

  1. Such gatherings will be limited to UUS:E activities. No outside groups will be authorized to use the grounds for their meetings.
  2. The maximum number of attendees for any meeting will be 75 people, including staff.
  3. Arrangements for using the grounds must be approved and scheduled with the minister or the office administrator to avoid duplicate meetings, and to allow staff to know that any group meeting outside the building is authorized.
  4. While at the gathering, everyone will wear a face mask at all times.
  5. Social distancing of 6 feet between people will always be observed, with the following exception: Anyone who is fully vaccinated can sit closer with one or more others who live together in one household.
  6. If seating is provided, chairs must be set up 6 feet apart in rows 6 feet apart.  (Chalk can be used to mark these locations.)  Family members who live together in one household can move their chairs closer together as a group.
  7. In advance, attendees for an outdoor gathering should be urged to use their bathrooms before leaving home.  If an emergency occurs at the gathering, a staff member should be contacted.  The staff person will then open the building and escort the person to the designated bathroom.
  8. Evening meetings must end before dark.  Leaders might define this as ending by sundown allowing about 30 minutes to safely store the chairs, clean the area and leave the property well before dusk turns to dark.
  9. Leaders of these meetings might consider asking those planning to attend to register with them in the event more than 75 people show up.  

* This policy update was originally drafted by UUS:E’s Emergency Preparedness Team, beginning at its April 1st meeting. The Team discussed the current changes in state and federal guidelines for gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Team also considered the current risks from in-person meetings. Team members include Cressy Goodwin, facilitator, Christina Bailey, Bill Graver, Sue McMillen, Gina Campellone, Jane Osborn, Annie Gentile, and Rev. Josh Pawelek.

 

 

Break Forth Into Joy — UUS:E Virtual Easter Service, April 4, 2021

Let’s Talk About What We’ve Learned

An invitation to Dialogue from the Rev. and the DRE

UUS:E’s meeting house remains closed to in-person activity, but we are slowly beginning to imagine how to reopen later this year. While the Unitarian Universalist Association continues to advise congregations to carry on with virtual activities until the coronavirus is fully under control, they are also sharing various models for how to reopen. Our UUS:E Emergency Preparedness Team is reviewing these models and will be making recommendations to the Policy Board in the coming weeks.

As part of the reopening process, we–Gina and Rev. Josh–feel it is critical that we as a congregation learn as many lessons as possible from our pandemic experience. Who are we becoming given what we’ve been through? To explore this question,  we have scheduled four meetings over the course of April and early May. Each of these meetings will take place on line, though two of them will also happen simultaneously outdoors at UUS:E if the weather is nice.  Join us for as many of these meetings as you would like:

Tuesday, April 13 at 1:00 PM. Outdoors at UUS:E. Watch the eblasts for login information.

Wednesday, April 21st at 10:00 AM. Online only. Watch the eblasts for login information.

Friday, April 30th, 9:00 AM. Outdoors at UUS:E. Bring your own coffee. Watch the eblasts for login information.

Monday, May 3rd, 7:00 PM. Online only. Watch the eblasts for login information.

We will be inviting people to respond to the questions listed below from the nationally-known congregational consultant, Susan Beaumont. Note: these may not be the only questions we discuss. You may have other questions. If so, we are happy to include your questions in the conversation. The important thing is that UUS:E members and friends have an opportunity to discern together what we’ve learned from more than a year of pandemic. Here are Beaumont’s questions:

  • What were we on the verge of discovering or accomplishing before the onset of the pandemic?
  • What was possible before that may not be possible for some time—if ever?
  • What seemed important before that feels superfluous now?
  • What was undervalued before that may hold greater value now?
  • What mattered about geography before that no longer matters?
  • What new abundance are we experiencing now?
  • Where are we experiencing scarcity now that was not evident before?
  • What is our greatest asset now?
  • What relationships will we need to build on or strengthen in the months ahead?
  • What unique role might our congregation play in local, national, and even global recovery?
  • What long term changes in the bigger picture would we like to be part of bringing to fruition?

 

With love,

Gina and Josh

On Doing the Right Thing — UUS:E Virtual Worship, March 21, 2021

Friends: You can view our March 21st, 2021 virtual service, “On Doing the Right Thing,” featuring Malcolm Barlow, on our YouTube channel.

 

 

 

Template for Letter to the Governor

Governor Ned Lamont

State of Connecticut

 

My name is [Your Name] and I am a constituent of [City/Town]. I am reaching out to encourage you to lead progressively and aggressively in the State of Connecticut by declaring racism a public health crisis by executive order.

Systemic and structural racism play a large role in determining the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and affects people’s access to quality housing, education, food, transportation, political power, and other social determinants of health. Racism also has negative mental and physical health consequences such as, depression, anxiety, hypertension, preterm birth, shortened life span and poor quality of life. Understanding and addressing racism from this public health perspective is crucial to eliminating racial and ethnic inequities, and to improving opportunity and well-being across communities.

[Add personal story]

Racism has been declared a public health crisis in 6 states, 182 municipalities, entities, and organizations, including 20 municipalities in Connecticut. Governor Lamont while legislators and community members work together to create transformative legislation to advance racial justice in our state, we need your leadership. Our state, particularly communities of color need to receive this declaration from your hand.

Governor Lamont, I ask that you declare racism a public health crisis in the state of Connecticut by executive order.

 

We Have No Secret Knowledge, UUS:E Virtual Worship, March 7, 2021

Beloved Community in Our Lives — UUS:E Virtual Worship, February 21, 2021

You can view our February 21st Sunday service on the UUS:E YouTube Channel.

 

Health Care Public Option Teach-In with State Comptroller Kevin Lembo

Register for this event here!

Register for this event here!