Annie Gentile’s Story


I think when you work somewhere a long time, a lot of what you do is on auto-pilot.

While I don’t want to sugarcoat the situation, I find it has taught all of us to learn new things and be more adaptable–from learning how to use Zoom technology to hold services and participate in meetings remotely, or setting up a “donate” button option on our website so that people can make donations to the church from home. This new method of payment then required setting up a separate “deposit” report.

The coronavirus fell in the middle of the banking transition from United Bank to People’s Bank, but we got things done on our end. It fell in the middle of our ongoing annual appeal, but we are adapting to the challenge.

There are so many people here at UUS:E who have helped us adapt to our changing world—Josh, Jane, Gina, Mary, Heather, Randy, and Carol Marion to name just a few. I’m grateful to all of you!

Annie Gentile

Gina Campellone’s Story


I know that I, personally, am feeling absolutely inundated by information coming from virtually every organization and institution imaginable. Everytime I open my email box I can count on finding new messages from the school district, the town, the neighborhood wellness group, my bank, my doctor’s office, the grocery store, area restaurants, and every online company with whom I’ve ever done business. It’s well intentioned, but it’s A LOT. As Director of Religious Education my main goal is to minister to children and families, to help provide them with the support they need in order to thrive spiritually, What that support looks like now is very different than pre- global pandemic. Normally my role is bringing children and families together to learn about our seven principles, explore the sources of our faith, and to establish and strengthen UU identity formation. This is accomplished in community, and relies heavily on content. That is, we use carefully selected curricula, including stories, lessons, games, crafts, and other activities. Most of the time this works.

But this is not “most of the time”. This is, in fact, a very strange, unprecedented time, and I believe the best way for me to support the children and families of our congregation at this time is to not overwhelm them with more “content”. What people need most now is connection, opportunities to be seen and heard, reminders that they are not alone. For this reason, while I am reaching out to families regularly, I am intentionally not overwhelming them with resources or suggesting they attempt to re-create a Religious Education program at home. Right now the value of connection far outweighs that of following a formal curriculum.

My outreach thus far has included:

  • handwritten notes to each child, sent via USPS, with puzzles, UU stickers, and a message of hope

  • a Weekly Wednesday email with a few carefully chosen links to activities and resources

  •  Weekly Saturday email with a suggested song, chalice lighting, or story to use if a family wishes to create their own in house worship service

  • a Wednesday afternoon Zoom Chats for kids in grades 5 & under

  • a Wednesday afternoon Zoom chat for kids in grades 6-8

  • an occasional “challenge activity”, such as go on a scavenger hunt around your house and count all of the UU items or symbols you can find

  • a “Time With Gina” segment during Sunday’s virtual worship services, in which I share a story and offer a reflection

  • and of course ongoing one on one conversations between myself and parents via email or phone, as needed

I’m also spending lots of time in virtual meetings with colleagues, LREDA, and UUA leadership as we all brainstorm ideas, share our knowledge and experiences, and help determine best practice, which these days seems to change almost as quickly as it is established!

Gina Campellone

Mary Bopp’s Story


In February the theme for our services was resilience and by the middle of March we were all put to the test! I know that my life has been topsy-turvy.

I am so grateful to the UUS:E community and my fellow staff members. We are truly fortunate to have each other. It’s counterintuitive but it almost seems like this time of isolation has made me feel closer than ever to this congregation. Maybe the enforced distance has made me value it more and realize what I was taking for granted.

It’s been a steep learning curve for me. If you had said “zoom” to me a couple of weeks ago I would have said “what?”. Now in both my work and personal life I’m “zooming” all the time! It was so difficult and sad for me to tell my Holiday Choir “No more rehearsals-no Easter music service”. Nevertheless I’m working to make sure that our musical community at UUS:E stays strong and continues to inspire us by:

  • Creating a weekly virtual concert series called “Musical Oasis” featuring my own improvisations and favorite musical guests familiar to us at UUS:E.

  • Including homemade video recordings from our familiar UUS:E musicians and friends in the virtual Sunday service.

  • Working with Dan Thompson to create virtual musical ensembles. (thanks, Dan!). This is a work in progress but I’m hoping to see some instrumental and vocal ensembles. Maybe even a virtual choir on Easter!

Moving forward, I’m continuing to explore other possibilities. As this situation continues, I see more and more ideas to stay connected.

I am truly fortunate to be part of UUS:E. Thanks to you all.

Mary Bopp, Music Director