The May column is the last one written solely by the outgoing board president. Instead of looking back, I want to look ahead as we peer into a future far more uncertain than any of us probably anticipated just two months ago.
For the UUCBV, I do not think there will be any going back on the exponential progress we have made with the digital side of our congregational life. Use of visual as well as audio resources in worship, and opening our services up to less active, former, and potential new members, as well as the general public, is facilitated by on-line services. Our professional staff – Rev. Donna, Joe Daigle, Vicki Carter, as well as Nancy Deer in the (virtual) office - have made great strides in pulling this off. Special kudos to our newest staff member, John Faber, for providing technological expertise.
Beyond worship, I hope we can institute new ways of fulfilling our mission as we navigate a changed environment. For example, we have on-line message boards in place. Adult religious education is an area that might be developed using new communications technology. Documents are being made available to members through our revamped website. And once we start to meet again in person, live-streaming of our services, on-line recordings, and other resources will make our message available and accessible to a wider audience.
Undoubtably, when we get to the other side of this epidemic our church will be changed. But what about the society in which the church operates? As UU’s we are keenly aware of social and environmental problems that must be ameliorated. COVID-19 has brought many of these to the fore and has stressed the urgency in dealing so many underlying crises:
Immigration. Documented and undocumented workers make up a disproportionate portion of those on the front lines of our food and healthcare systems. We begin to see how imperative their contributions are to our lives and economy.
Mass Incarceration. Whether it is due to unreasonable sentencing guidelines and parole policies or inability to make cash bail for a minor offence while awaiting trial, our often overcrowded prisons and jails are Petri dishes for contagious disease on top of the destruction they already cause to lives and families.
Racism. Need I say more as a disproportionate percentage of Americans of color lose their lives to this disease.
Inequality. This is especially salient when it comes to health care. The failure of Texas to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act not only threatens the uninsured but has led to hospital closures and higher insurance rates those with insurance.
Automation. Information technology is making mechanization of many tasks across a broad range of industries cheaper and better. A fast food burger can now be made on an assembly line entirely by a machine and packaged without being touched by human hands. These machines do not catch or transmit viruses, biological at least. Some economists think automation will accelerate in the wake of the recovery, leading to major displacement of workers.
Given the focus on these and other festering problems triggered by the current crisis, I hope we will witness a broader general awareness. As the virus shows clearly with public health, these problems cannot be solved by non-profits alone. This year, a special focus of our denomination is UU The Vote. UU’s support democratic processes even to the point of including this as one of our Seven Principles. With voter suppression and other headwinds threatening our November 2020 elections, now more than ever is our voice needed. https://www.uua.org/justice/vote2020
To end on a hopeful note, Americans might be starting to trust scientists and other experts once again, looking for more substantiated information to guide their behaviors and beliefs. This could bode well for action on climate change and other issues. Still, it our responsibility as UU’s to nurture these changes.