Former Sanctuary Guest No Longer Permitted on UUS:E Property

Dear UUS:E Members and Friends:

This is a difficult, though necessary message.

Those of you who were involved in UUSE’s congregational life in the two years prior to the pandemic will remember the challenges we encountered in hosting a sanctuary guest, known to us as Rocky, from October of 2018 to October of 2019. Rocky’s time with us created a painful conflict among members of the congregation. A report on the sanctuary conflict was released to the congregation in June of 2021. If you would like to read the report, please feel free to contact Rev. Josh at [email protected].

This past May, Rocky was arrested in New York City on multiple charges related to a sexual assault on an adult. He ultimately pled guilty to a felony sexual assault and was incarcerated for over six months on Rikers Island. During his incarceration he periodically called the UUS:E office. During his final month in prison he called the office frequently. Given Rocky’s behavior during his time at UUS:E; given that he pled guilty to felony sexual assault; given that he doesn’t appear to show understanding of why his actions were wrong; and given that he appears to take no responsibility for his role in the conflict that swirled around him during and after his stay at UUS:E, the UUS:E Policy Board, with six voting members present at a special meeting on March 6th, voted unanimously to bar him from access to UUS:E property and events. Please note that as we present this situation to the congregation, we have endeavored to be as accurate as possible and to avoid speculation about any events. We request that the congregation do likewise.

Here is the Policy Board’s motion from March 6th:

Our former sanctuary guest, known to us as Rocky, is not permitted on UUS:E property, or at any UUS:E-sponsored event, including online events. We will attempt to notify Rocky of this decision, ideally in writing. We will also notify the congregation. If Rocky does come onto UUS:E’s property or attempts to attend a UUS:E-sponsored event, we will ask him to leave. If he refuses to leave, we will ask him to leave a second time. If he refuses to leave again, we will contact police for assistance.

The Policy Board also agreed that we would notify our regular renters of this decision.

It appears that Rocky was released from prison on Friday, March 3rd. We had asked him to call the UUS:E office on Tuesday, March 7th at 3:00 PM to communicate the Policy Board’s decision to him. He did not call. We will do everything in our power to communicate our decision to him as soon as we have contact information for him.

In the meantime, while we believe it is highly unlikely Rocky will come to Manchester, we really have no idea what his intentions are. In the event that he calls the UUS:E office and asks for contact information for UUS:E members or friends, we will not share information with him. In the event that he contacts UUS:E members and friends, we respectfully ask that no contact information for any other UUS:E members or friends be shared with him, and that you report any contact to Rev. Josh or the UUS:E office. 

Please know that the Manchester Police Department has been made aware of this situation and we are currently seeking their advice on how to best handle it should it arise. Also, the Policy Board is currently developing a more elaborate set of protocols to respond to Rocky should he choose to visit UUS:E. These protocols are based on the “disruptive person” section of our Safe Congregation policy and our emergency response protocol for “unarmed, disturbed person.” These protocols will be distributed to UUS:E leaders, and anyone else who requests them, once they are completed. 

If you have any concerns about this situation or the content of this message, please do not hesitate to contact one of us for further discussion.

With love and care,

Rev. Josh Pawelek, Minister               Peggy Webbe, President         Anne Carr, Vice President


Coffeehouse Returns!

Musicians, Poets, Raconteurs, and Bagpipers! The UUS:E Coffeehouse and Open Mic returns Saturday, January 7. Signups start at 6:00 with 12 timeslots, 3 songs/10 minutes each. Family friendly performances start at 7:00. Bring your own food, snacks, beverages and friends. We’ll supply the coffee. Voluntary donations support UUS:E. This event will not be live streamed.

For So the Children Come

I hope my surprise departure from the service to volunteer in the children’s ministry program wasn’t too alarming to you. Gina was worried you would be alarmed. I promise you: this was not her idea. Desiree and I cooked it up—a bit of worship theater. I hope and trust the message is clear. We always need adults to volunteer in our children’s ministry on Sunday mornings and at other times. Children’s ministry has always had, and I suspect will always have, the largest need for volunteers of any ministry we offer at UUS:E. Mindful that these needs are great, Gina and the Religious Education Committee have done a lot in recent years to actually scale back the number of volunteers we need, and to reduce the amount of time volunteers have to put in. Even so, this ministry has always had, and I suspect will always have, the largest need for volunteers of any ministry we offer. And that’s a good thing, because volunteering to work with our children and youth is the most reliable way for us to build relationships and community across the generations here at 153 West Vernon St.

For the record, most of you will remember that at the end of September we began messaging the congregation that we needed more volunteers for the children’s ministry. We emphasized something that Desiree said earlier: we’re trying to design programming for the kids that directly utilizes your gifts. This is a shift in our children’s ministry culture. Instead of asking who knows how to make stained glass? Or who knows how to set up an obstacle course? Or who would like to teach a song? Or who can lead a nature hike around the grounds? Or who is willing to be the lead teacher for the elementary-aged kids? Instead of that approach, we’re asking each of you to identify a skill, a gift, an area of expertise, a passion you can bring to the children’s ministry. You identify the gift. Gina and her team will turn it into a spiritual lesson for the children.

If you know how to set up a bike rodeo, let us know. We’ll turn that knowledge into a spiritual lesson for the kids. If you are passionate about gardening, we’ll turn that passion into a spiritual lesson for the kids. If you can lead yoga or tai chi or modern dance, we’ll turn your ability into a spiritual lesson for the kids. We’ll match your gift to the ministry theme for the month. Painting, water-coloring, cooking, exercising, gardening, story-telling, worship-leading, crafting of any sort, teaching a foreign language, playing games (especially obscure games), reading poetry, writing poetry, writing prose, listening to music, sharing your musical prowess, or lack thereof, demonstrating your musical instrument, designing service projects, designing social justice projects, and anything to do with animals. All you engineers—surely you have some knowledge or skill to bring to the children. All you social workers and therapists—surely you have some knowledge or skill to bring to the children. All you nurses and medical staff—surely you have some knowledge or skill to being to the children. Small business owners? Lawyers? IT specialists? Surely you have something we can adapt for our children’s ministry.

Incidentally: while I don’t typically leave in the middle of the service to volunteer for the children’s ministry, from what I’ve been able to glean from conversations with colleagues, I spend far more time working with our kids than most clergy. I understand it as part of my ministry. I am not just the minister for adults. I am the minister to the children and youth. I’ve led children’s worship once already this year. I’ve led a session for the Affirmation class. I think I’m scheduled to do a “Breakfast with TED” session in February. I love it. The reason I am able to dedicate this time is because of our shared worship ministry. On the Sundays when lay-people are leading worship, you quite often will hear, “Our minister, the Rev. Josh Pawelek, is working with the kids this morning.”

On the subject of volunteers, there’s good news. Gina reports that some of you have responded to the message, have offered your gifts to the children’s ministry, and we’ve already been able to work you in for a Sunday program. Anne Carr offered baking. She baked brownies with the kids for the holiday fair. This activity served as an opportunity to explore important concepts with the kids, such as institutional stewardship, the various ways we support the congregation, the importance of community, understanding that children can contribute and make a difference, and the fun of working together on a project.

Ben Elzerman shared his music. He demonstrated the bagpipes and led the kids in a percussion circle. They used this activity to explore November’s ministry theme of change. One instrument makes a pleasant sound by itself, but what happens when we add additional instruments and sounds to the mix? They talked about creating change in community.

Louisa Graver has offered to lead a workshop on making a peace quilt with the junior youth group. That’s going to happen in January. Sandy Karosi, Shirley Schiumo and Priscilla Meehan, who is a newcomer to UUS:E, have all volunteered to work in the nursery with our staff-person Molly Vigeant. This is a different structure than we’ve used in the past. We used to ask volunteers to teach a class three or four Sundays a month throughout the congregational year. Now we’re asking you to name what you can bring one time. Our culture is slowly starting to shift. That’s good news. Keep it up! Keep the ideas coming! Keep the gifts and knowledge and skills and passions flowing!

Having said all this, I want to remind us I’m talking about far more than volunteering with the children’s ministry. Yes, we absolutely want you to volunteer, because we want the ministry to be successful. But larger than that, deeper than that, more essential than that, we have been, and we continue, to build a vibrant, thriving, liberating, multigenerational spiritual community. We were very clear about that as a congregation when we hired Gina Campellone as our Director of Religious Education. We didn’t just want a successful children’s ministry hidden away in its own silo. We wanted children to be present in many aspects of congregational life. I went back to a sermon I preached on building multigenerational community in the fall of 2013. Some of you will remember that at that time, some in the Unitarian Universalist Association were talking about the “death of Sunday School.” Congregations in many denominations were facing challenges in sustaining children’s ministries. In increasing numbers, adults with young children generally no longer saw church as a significant part of their children’s lives. And one of our regional staff members, Wren Bellevance-Grace, use to talk about the demise of Sunday morning as sacred time. Sports leagues, karate schools, dance studios and on and on were scheduling children’s programming on Sunday mornings, and families were often forced to choose. Wren used to say, “the battle for Sunday morning is over, and we’ve lost.” Remember that?

We heard that message. We took it seriously. But we didn’t give up on our children’s ministry. Our guiding vision was this: children and youth don’t want to come to church just to take religious education classes. Even if they can’t fully articulate it, they want to come to church because they feel part of a multigenerational community that cares about them and their families. Here’s what I said a decade ago:

Let’s ask how we can connect across generations, and then do it. And this is my hope: After a few years of experimenting and creating, making mistakes and coming to some dead ends, learning together and building relationships, we will transform our congregation. At that point we won’t ask, “How can our children be more integrated into the life of our congregation?” We’ll say, “Wow, the children are really integrated into the life of our congregation!” And not only the children, but elders and young adults too! Our children will be more fully integrated into the lives of our elders. And our elders will be more fully integrated into the lives of our youth. And our youth will have input into more of our Sunday services. And we’ll know what music they’re listening to. And all of our adults will be discerning their passions and figuring out how to share them with people of all ages. And they’ll also be volunteering in the nursery. And if the youth group is walking against hunger, the elders will go with them. And if the social justice committee is organizing an action against mass incarceration, the children will go with them. And if the elders are organizing a game night, the youth and young adults will join them. And if the religious education director needs volunteers to help teach a 5th and 6th grade class, twelve people will raise their hand and beg to be given this opportunity. We will have a beautiful, blessed mixing, week in and week out, holding us, teaching us, challenging us, inspiring us. That’s what a vibrant, liberating, loving multigenerational community looks like to me. We will figure it out. And we will thrive.

Friends, I am convinced this is a major piece of our journey as a congregation in the coming years. It must be. Too many forces in society drive the generations apart, preventing each from receiving the gifts the others offer. Too many forces direct people away from living fully in neighborhoods, from knowing and caring about their actual neighbors. Too many forces drive wedges into what I call sacred family time, including family meal time, family leisure time, family prayer time, family reading time, family art time and, with the death of Sunday morning, family worship time. Too many forces deprive us of the benefits of multigenerational community: the wonder, awe and innocence of children; the questioning, testing, sometimes rebellious spirit of youth; the idealism, creativity and energy of young adults; the experience, skills and leadership of middle-aged adults; the wisdom, memory and depth of elders. The church can and must be that force in society that says no to all that drives us apart. The church can and must be that force in society that says yes to vibrant, liberating, loving, multi-generational community; yes to responsible, accepting, courageous, justice-seeking multigenerational community; yes to being together across generations, caring for one another, listening deeply to each other, honoring each other, playing together, working together, singing together, dancing together, breaking bread together, baking bread together, [breaking and baking gluten-free bread together,] making art together, struggling for a more just and fair world together, struggling for the world together across the generations. In my experience, outside of families that manage to keep some semblance of togetherness—not all do—there is no other institution in society that has more capacity to bring generations together than the church. We may very well be the last refuge of multigenerational community. If that’s true, then I, for one, feel a deep moral obligation to build and sustain vibrant, multigenerational community here at UUS:E. I hope and trust you do too.

We’re not there yet, but we’ve made considerable progress. We are much further along in our evolution than we were when I first preached those words.

I’ll leave you with this idea: The presence of children—high school, middle school, elementary, kindergarten, toddlers, infants—is the most reliable indicator that a congregation has a bright future; that our liberal religious values will endure, will be passed on to the next generation. The presence of children is the most reliable indicator that there will be people ready to receive, carry on, and adapt the spiritual legacy of those who are here now; just as those who are here now receive, carry on, and adapt the spiritual legacies of those who founded this congregation in 1969; just as we all receive, carry on and adapt the spiritual legacies of those who established the Unitarian and Universalist denominations in the United States more than two centuries ago; just as those founders received, carried on and adapted the legacies of religious free-thinkers, rationalists, heretics, protestors, prophets and lovers of humanity and the Earth extending back through the tens of thousands of years of human religious and spiritual history.

When you volunteer for the children’s ministry; or even when you just hear the children engaged in activities outdoors when the windows are open during worship in warm months; or when you join us for one of our all-congregation activities; or when the children and adults are worshipping together and the children come just as they are, they make a little noise, they squirm, they move around—they produce that blessed holy hubbub—remember all the liberal religious and spiritual legacies that have made this place possible. Remember that our children will, in their time, become the holders, the carriers, the adapters, the speakers, the singers, the teachers of these great legacies. Remember that, and love them fiercely.

 Amen and blessed be.

Financial Challenges at UUS:E

November   14, 2022

Dear UUS:E Members and Friends:

We are writing to share information and concerns regarding financial challenges currently facing UUS:E.

Over the last decade, we have planned for yearly budget shortfalls and drawn down reserves to cover gaps. In typical years, our actual shortfalls have always been significantly smaller than budgeted. However, this year, for the first time in over a decade, we anticipate our budget shortfall will be larger than anticipated. There are multiple reasons for this situation. Furthermore, in addition to a larger than anticipated deficit in the current year, we are now learning that we have a significant shortfall in reserves for future building maintenance and repair costs.

The UUS:E Policy Board and Finance Committee are currently studying this situation in detail, and our plan is to candidly share reliable information with members and friends once the study is completed. We will hold an informational session for the congregation on Sunday, January 8th after the 11:00 AM service. Please mark your calendars! That meeting will focus on UUS:E’s financial status and may also include a “special ask” related either to closing this year’s deficit or to the need for increasing our capital reserves for building and grounds repair and maintenance.

It is important that everyone knows about the financial shortfall as part of the pledging process and making judgments about spending at UUS:E.

We thank you for being part of our welcoming, liberal religious community.  It is through our members and friends that we are able to strive for a just and caring world.

With love,

Peggy J Webbe, President            Glenn Campellone, Acting Treasurer                   Rev. Josh Pawelek, Minister


What Every UU Needs to Know about Changes to the 7 Principles

Maybe you have little interest in by-laws.

Or maybe you are a governance geek.

Either way, changes are coming to Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s by-laws. Article II articulates the covenant at the heart of our Unitarian Universalist faith. It currently includes:

  • Unitarian Universalism’s seven Principles.
  • The six Sources of our living UU tradition.
  • The Purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
  • Statements regarding inclusionand of freedom of belief.

Before a final revised draft of this Article is presented to the UUA Board in January, the Article II Study Commission is inviting all to participate in a feedback process. Now is the time to pay attention, to listen, to learn, to check in with yourself and the values you hold dearest, to engage in conversation with others about what’s at the heart of this faith, to offer your feedback, and to participate as you are able in this collective discernment and decision-making process.

To that end, the Commission invites YOU to:

  1. Read the new version of Article II — observing how it makes you feel, what it makes you think, and what responses or suggestions you have for the Commission
  2. Participate in Zoom feedback sessions hosted by the Commission to be held
  • Saturday, 11/05 at 3 p.m. Eastern (register)
  • Sunday, 11/06 at 2 p.m. Eastern (register)
  • Tuesday, 11/08 at 10 p.m. Eastern (register)
  • Wednesday, 11/09 at 8 p.m. Eastern (register)
  • Thursday, 11/10 at 7 p.m. Eastern (register)
  • Saturday, 11/12 at 3 p.m. Eastern (register)
  • Sunday, 11/13 at 2 p.m. Eastern (register)
  • Monday, 11/14 at 9 p.m Eastern (register)

Share your feedback with the Commission through this online Google form.

The UUA by-laws mandate that Article II be reviewed and possibly revised every so many years. To that end, the Board of Trustees appointed the most recent Article II Study Commission and charged it:

…to review Article II of the UUA Bylaws, and propose any revisions that will enable our UUA, our member congregations, and our covenanted communities to be a relevant and powerful force for spiritual and moral growth, healing, and justice. Proposed changes should articulate core UU theological values…

…the Commission is free to revise, replace, or restructure [the sections] as needed to meet the objectives stated above. There is nothing sacred about the number of principles or sources, nor their specific wordings, nor in the way that Article II is laid out. [source]

Assuming approval by the UUA Board of Trustees in January, the new Article II will be the subject of mini-Assemblies before an initial vote at General Assembly 2023. If it passes that delegate vote by a majority, it will require a 2/3 majority vote at General Assembly 2024 to become the new Article II of the Bylaws.

Whether by-laws bore you or enliven you, please share this information with people in your congregation, join conversations about the proposed changes, and take an active part in this historic process.

Aesthetics Chair Opening

After more than a decade of decorating UUS:E’s sanctuary, Cyndi Krupa is stepping down from her role as Aesthetics Chair. Similarly, her partner in this work, Kristen Dockendorff is also stepping down. When you encounter either Cyndi or Kristen, please give them a big, warm UUS:E ‘thank you’ for their years of service.

Cyndi writes:

I have had the total pleasure of being the Aesthetics Chair for many years but now find I need to move on.  This position for me has been a joyful one with fringe benefits. In the beginning it was as simple as being part of a group that agreed to bring flowers in once every 6 weeks, but I was totally inspired in a different direction with the opening of our new Meeting Room.

While the music played during that first service I glanced out the window to see a Red Tailed Hawk flying effortlessly through the trees outside.  It felt like we now had our own special version of “stained glass windows,” only ours were alive, moving and changing with the seasons, and I wanted to see more of nature in the room as well.  But that was my vision and now it’s time for someone new.

The “fringe benefits” I spoke of earlier included meeting many more people in our congregation which helped me feel even more connected as a member.  It also introduced me to the wonderful artistic community we have within UUS:E!  These talented artists can be called on to enhance any service and would gladly have their art work hanging on our walls.  Then there’s our annual holiday Deck the Halls in our Meeting Room, which has taken on a party vibe and we’ve had fun!!!  The actual time allotment has not been huge, especially when you invite people to help you.

UUS:E is looking for a new Aesthetics Chair! Are you interested in volunteering? Or perhaps being part of an Aesthetics Team? Let us know. Contact Rev. Josh at [email protected] or (860) 652-8961. And please know that Cyndi has graciously offered to coach anyone who is willing to take on the position; and Kristen has offered her ongoing services as an artist available for special aesthetics projects.

“Homecoming” — UUS:E Virtual Worship, September 11, 2022

Unitarian Universalist Society: East Meetinghouse

Gathering Music (begins at 10:50 AM) (Dorothy Bognar, piano)

Welcome (Gina Campellone, UUS:E Director of Religious Education)

Announcements (Rev. Josh Pawelek, UUS:E Minister)

Centering (Gina Campellone)

Prelude (Mary Bopp, piano)

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

“We Are One”
by Hope Johnson
spoken by Elliot Vadas

Opening Hymn

“Meditation on Breathing”
by Sarah Dan Jones
#1009 in Singing the Journey

When I breathe in, I breathe in peace
When I breathe out, I breathe out love.

Blessing of the Backpacks (Gina Campellone)

Musical Meditation


Joys and Concerns

Musical Meditation (Mary Bopp)

For the month of September, our Community Outreach offering will be shared by two organizations:

Power Up brings much-needed visibility to the ongoing realities of racism in Manchester and surrounding communities.
Some UUS:E members and friends have participated in Power Up’s pantry, after-school programs, rallies, protests, and other actions.

KIDSAFE CT is dedicated to the early intervention, prevention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect in the towns east of the Connecticut River in Hartford and Tolland Counties. Their mission is to “partner with the community to educate and empower families and promote the well-being of young people.” Their work has continued during the pandemic, though their staff is working from home.

Offertory (Dorothy Bognar, piano)


“We Belong”
written by Laura Purdie Salas; illustrations by Carlos Velez Aguilera
spoken by Gina Campellone


“Love is the Spirit of This Church”
words by James Vila Blake, music by Mary Bopp

Love is the spirit of this church and service its law,
This is our great covenant: To dwell together in peace.
Love is the spirit of this church and service its law.
To seek the truth in love, and to help one another.

Reflection:  “We Belong” (Rev. Josh Pawelek)

Closing Hymn

“Spirit of Life”
by Carolyn McDade
#123 in Singing the Living Tradition

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Extinguishing the Chalice

Closing Circle

May faith in the spirit of life
And hope for the community of earth
And love of the light in each other
Be ours now, and in all the days to come.


Coffee Hour / Chat



“The Spiritual Art of Imperfection” — UUS:E Virtual Worship, August 7, 2022

Gathering Music (begins at 9:50)  —  Jenn Richard

Welcome & Announcements



“Japanese Bowl”
Words and music by Peter Mayer
Performed by Jenn Richard

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

by Lynn Unger

Opening Hymn

“Morning Has Broken”
#38 in Singing the Living Tradition
Words by Eleanor Farjeon; trad. Gaelic melody
Arr. by David Evans
Led by Jenn Richard

Morning has broken like the first morning,
blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven,
like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where God’s feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning
born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God’s recreation of the new day!

Silent Meditation

Welcoming Visitors and Sharing Joys & Concerns

Musical Interlude


“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”
Words and music by John Fogerty
Performed by Jenn Richard


“The Teaching Bean”
by Elizabeth Tarbox

Homily:  “The Spiritual Art of Imperfection” – Beth Hudson Hankins

Closing Hymn 

“The Lone Wild Bird”
#15 in Singing the Living Tradition
Words by H. R. MacFayden
Music from William Walker’s Southern Harmony 1835

The lone, wild bird in lofty flight
is still with thee, nor leaves thy sight.
And I am thine! I rest in thee.
Great spirit come and rest in me.

The ends of earth are in thy hand,
the sea’s dark deep and far-off land.
And I am thine! I rest in thee.
Great spirit come and rest in me.

Closing Words & Extinguish the Chalice

Closing Circle

May faith in the spirit of life
And hope for the community of Earth
And love of the light in each other
Be ours now, and in all the days to come. 



Final Report and Analysis of the April 2022 Covid-19 Questionnaire

UUS:E Emergency Preparedness Team, May 24, 2022

Table of Contents


Section 1 – The 7 situations ranked for levels of comfort:                    

  • Mandatory mask wearing
  • Social distancing
  • Limiting attendance
  • Food and drinks being allowed
  • Leaving windows open
  • The Omicron subvariant BA.2 continuing as cause of surge
  • Overall comfort with restrictions at the time of the survey

Section II – Reporting on several questionnaire Narrative categories:

  • Expectations on different rates of removing restrictions
  • Reporting on 4 categories spontaneously listed:
    1. Having Zoom meetings
    2. The presence of the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron
    3. Concern for the vulnerable – the unvaccinated and immunocompromised.
    4. Offering suggestions for considerations
  • Reporting on 3 categories that won’t affect future decisions:
  1. No comments offered
  2. Miscellaneous comments
  3. Expressions of appreciation


In late February, 2022, the CDC changed the recommendations for groups and agencies to implement mitigation steps.  The new process is now to recommend actions taken by individuals based on hospital admissions and deaths in the counties in which they live.  The primary reason for this change was impatience by the public to follow mandated mask wearing and vaccination recommendations imposed for participation in organizations and agency gatherings.

This new streamlined approach allows people to view Covid-19 as being endemic.  It will never completely go away.  However, scientists expect that these guidelines will result in higher morbidity and mortality than with other endemic diseases like the seasonal flu.  The assessment of risk is now up to the individual.

The UUS:E Policy Board has defined the need to set individual restrictions based on the scientific analysis of the rise and fall of the surges and on the perception of acceptable safety by the congregation.  In this confusing interaction between science, politics and culture, what are the differing perceptions of acceptable safety levels within our church family?  This questionnaire was developed to provide some answers.  The following summarizes the findings:

Report of Findings and Analysis of the April 2022 Questionnaire

The questionnaire is in two parts.  Seven situations were cited and the responders were asked to indicate the degree of comfort they felt with each.  Then, a second section asked for narrative comments.

Section I – Rating of comfort level for different situations:  On the following pages, each situation in Section I of the questionnaire asked the respondent to rank their perception to different actions on a scale of 1 to 5.  For the following analyses, the two levels of scoring at either side were consolidated in the resulting graphs to visually discern the three sides of the issue.  All original data from the responses are displayed.



 1) – Mandatory Mask Wearing 

“If wearing masks was optional, how comfortable would you be attending these events?”

Discussion: Of all the respondents, (46%) indicated they would be most or more comfortable if they or others were allowed to enter the building unmasked than those (31%) who would be less or least comfortable.  Part of this finding includes many who might prefer not to wear masks.  Another part is those who could feel uncomfortable breathing air that might contain aerosoled varioles exhaled by unmasked others, putting them at risk for infection, even if they were wearing a mask

Analysis: In the future, these respondents would tend to accept changes to lessen restrictions on mandatory face masks more than we have done before.  But the percentage of those who would be less comfortable have to be considered by not moving this way rapidly.  More education is needed on the need for better ventilation as a pre-requisite to lessen mask wearing to make such a move safer.

This analysis will be used as we develop future changes to our policies.


2) – Social Distancing

 “If social distancing was not required for events, RE, or Sunday services,
would you feel okay with that?”


 Discussion: More respondents (49%) of the respondents would feel greater comfort than the 32% who would feel lesser comfort if they were allowed to sit closer together during Sunday services and other gatherings.  It is now recognized that Covid-19 infections are spread by aerosoled varioles suspended in the air.  Anyone who is infectious can reduce the release of their virus particles into the air by wearing a properly fitted mask.  The ambient air near the infectious person not wearing a mask will have a higher concentration of varioles as they disperse throughout the room. making social distancing important to control the spread.

Analysis: If a future decision is considered to reduce social distancing, the level of mask wearing needs to be examined.  And, again, the percentage of those who would be less comfortable have to be considered by not moving this way too rapidly.

This analysis will be used as we develop future changes to our policies.


 3) – Limiting Attendance

“If limits on Sunday services (currently 60) were lifted, would that be of concern to you.”

 (NOTE: Responses indicating greater risk are displayed in the above graph by its equivalent, lesser comfort)

 Discussion:  Fewer people (32%) would have greater comfort with an increase in the attendance at Sunday services and other gatherings than the 49% than would be uncomfortable.

Analysis: If a decision is made to increase the attendance limit, it should be more limited than we are used to making in the past.  But the change should not be seen as precipitous as those with lesser comfort would resist.  The consideration of improved ventilation with the HVS system would be an important factor to consider with such a decision.

This analysis will be used as we develop future changes to our policies.


4) – Food and Drinks Being Allowed

 “Would you be comfortable if food and drink were allowed at events, RE or Sunday services?”

 Discussion: More respondents (55%) feel greater comfort with having coffee and snacks or meals in the building than the 28% who would feel uncomfortable.  The immediate cause for this may be the familiarity people have eating in restaurants.  The frequent cause for limiting this variable is that masks cannot be kept on when drinking and eating.  But as restaurants are learning, adequate ventilation and social distancing between patrons can compensate for not wearing masks.

Analysis: Drinking and eating might be considered possible as long as there is adequate ventilation – including improving the HVAC system, and meeting out of doors – and keeping small groups standing or diners sitting less crowded closely together.

This analysis will be used as we develop future changes to our policies


5) – Leaving Windows Open 

“If windows were not open during events RE or Sunday services, would that be of concern to you?”

(NOTE: Responses indicating greater risk are displayed in the above graph by its equivalent, lesser comfort)

 Discussion:  Fewer respondents (34%) reported feeling greater comfort than the 46% that would feel lesser comfort if the windows were closed during meetings.  It has been reported that cold air in winter, and humid air in summer makes the rooms uncomfortable.

Analysis: These findings lend urgency to modifying the HVAC system to provide adequate outside air in rooms allowing the windows to remain closed.

 This analysis will be used as we develop future changes to our policies


6) – The Omicron Subvariant BA.2 Continuing as Cause of Surge

“To what extent will the new variant BA.2 impact your thinking on safety on attendance at events, RE or Sunday services?”

 (NOTE: Responses indicating greater risk are displayed in the above graph by its equivalent, lesser comfort)

 Discussion: More respondents (46%) reported they are not impacted in making decisions about safety considering the BA.2 subvariant before attending gatherings at the church.  This contrasts with the 35% who said they were influenced.  This balance shows that many respondents are aware of the greater risks presented by this subvariant being more infectious while not resulting in more serious disease.

Analysis: This balanced awareness and concern over the characteristics of different mutations of Covid-19 does not significantly impact the perception of acceptable levels of safety of the various mitigation measures we are considering in the future.


7) – Overall Comfort with Restrictions at the Time of The Survey

 “Presently, with precautions in place, how comfortable are you attending events, Religious Education (RE) or Sunday services?”


 Discussion: The vast majority of the respondents (74%) expressed their greater confidence in attending events at the church with the precautions that are in place.  This contrasts with 12% who are less than comfortable.  One explanation for this may be the people who are vulnerable – unvaccinated, or unable to gain immunity if vaccinated, because of their immunological condition, and other risk factors.  There is certainly a psychological consideration where many may have lingering concerns or fears about the coronavirus pandemic and its possible impact on one’s health.

Analysis: The response to this variable is reassuring that the general sense of acceptable safety has and continues to be met.  It also stresses the importance of virtual alternatives, e.g. Zoom meetings, to continue to meet the needs of those who feel uncomfortable with attending in-person gatherings.


Section II – Categorization of 147 narrative responses.  For each of the questionnaire forms returned, the respondent was asked to make comments.  Entries were made (or not made) of thoughts as they came to mind.  A review of all comments found that all entries fit into one of nine categories.  A tenth category was defined as “no comments.”  It is noted that some of the narratives offered several thoughts that fit more than one category and these were all assigned.  Therefore, the total number of entries in all categories are greater than the 147 responses listed.


8)  – Opinions on need for faster or slower movement to return to normal

Description: Of the 147 returns, 51 (35%) offered comments in the narrative portion about the pace of reopening in the face of ever-fluctuating risk in the number of Covid-19 that rise and fall.

Analysis: In the future, these respondents would likely accept changes that would be slightly less restrictive than we have made before.  But that edge is narrow, and dramatic moves to remove or impose restrictions would not be possible.  Those on either side can easily see that not everyone feels the same way that they do.

 This analysis will help us pace the development of future changes to our policies. 


Three separate considerations were analyzed.

These three categories are separately discussed:

A. Zoom Meetings: 14 (10%) of the 147 respondents mentioned Zoom meetings in their narrative comments. All were appreciative of having this resource.

B. Reference to BA.2: 10 (7%) of the people completing the narrative made reference to the then current Omicron subvariant causing the upsurge in cases.

C. Protect the Vulnerable: 7 (5%) of the respondents referred to those who are not or cannot be vaccinated. Some of these may be among the vulnerable people.

D. Suggestions Made: For the 21 (14%) who offered suggestions for future activity, a listing follows on the next page:


  • It is important to encourage attendance to maintain a sense of community.
  • A slow, measured reopening should happen based on the Covid status.
  • If we raise the limit of attendees to over 60, we must require masks.
  • We must maintain any two strategies: Limited attendance/social distancing OR masks and windows open for services.
  • (3 people commented) Hold outdoor services (perhaps using a tent).
  • (2 people commented) Modify the HVAC system to improve ventilation.
  • What if we required everyone to be boosted?
  • (3 people commented) We should use the new CDC guidelines as the primary tool for church safety.
  • We should require no hugs and no handshakes.
  • Individually packaged snacks outdoors (as is done for RE) is okay.
  • (2 people commented) Food and drink or other activities outside are good.
  • How about requiring vaccinations for those over 12?
  • If BA.2 continues to surge just a bit, we should not change the protocols.
  • “If people don’t feel well, they should stay home” should be stressed.
  • Consider installing UV lights in the air ducts.

Analysis: Many of these suggestions support work behind the scenes to increase safety in the future.  Many ideas are either too complicated or expensive to carry out at this time.  And they might not achieve any improvement in safety.  But each was reviewed and appreciated because they demonstrate that all respondents were thinking and willing to share in the maintenance of a safe environment in our church.

Some of this analysis will be used to suggest future changes to our building infrastructure and our policies.  Others will trigger explanations on the scientifically approved mitigation techniques to make the environment safe.  See upcoming articles in the weekly postings of the Frequently Asked Questions in the E-Blast, posters and by other means.


 Findings not influencing future decisions are analyzed:

These three categories are discussed separately:

A. No Comment: The narrative section of the survey was designed so that the space to make comments had to have an entry to be returned. A blank space held the survey form open.  Many wrote in “no comment” or “N/A”.  A few entered just a period “.” 19% of the 147 returned forms contained no comments.

B. Miscellaneous Comments: Of the survey forms returned, 12% stated comments that did not fall into the 10 categories defining the above discussions. Most of these were just verbal restatements of the preferences stated in Section 1, above.  One example, the words that stated: “I feel most comfortable when everyone is wearing a mask.”

C. Appreciation and Thanks: of the 147 people filling out the narratives, 10% took the time to express their gratitude to the members of the task force, for conceiving, conducting and reporting on this survey, and for all their work over two years to keep the UUS:E safe.

In exchange, the members of the Policy Board, the Emergency Preparedness Task Force and the church staff return their appreciation for the help and cooperation everyone provided as we work toward improving safety.



Opinions on the Pace of Loosening our Covid Protocols

UUS:E Emergency Preparedness Team, Covid-19 Questionnaire Results – Part 1

147 questionnaires were returned offering different opinions of the work undertaken over the past 2 years to make people safe.  The results are still being tallied, but one conclusion based on the written responses has been identified and is ready to share – guidance on the pace we need to follow as we remove restrictions or have to tighten them if there is another surge in the future.

Of the 147 returns, 51 (35%) offered comments in the written portion about the pace of reopening in the face of ever-fluctuating risk in the number of Covid-19 cases that rise and fall.

Analysis: In the future, these respondents would likely accept changes that would be slightly less restrictive than we have made before.  But that edge is narrow, and dramatic moves to remove or impose restrictions are not indicated.  Those on either side can easily see that not everyone feels the same way that they do.

This analysis will be used as we develop future changes to our policies and protocols. 

(There are more analyses yet to be reported.  Stand by!)