Here, Together: June 2020

June. Nearly three months, now, since North America’s first widespread encounters with
the virus that’s turned our world upside down and inside out.

I usually anchor these monthly reflections by returning to the diverse ways in which we —
the circle of folks who are connected in some way to the UU Fellowship of Plattsburgh —
find ourselves “here, together.” But these last months have chipped some of the edges off
this comforting idea, the way shorelines and even rock are eroded by regular exposure to
water and wind.

For me, at least, each week of this pandemic has made it increasingly clear that “we” are, in fact, subsets of individuals
and communities living through these times in radically different ways.

Some of us live in networks where multiple people we know and love have been infected by the virus. Some know no
one. Some are losing decades-old businesses, livelihoods, careers they’ve spent years preparing for. Others have lost
precious time with family members, who now can only be contacted through a screen. For yet others, the losses are
more abstract. And even though every loss is real and matters deeply, the vast differences between our divergent
experiences of the world and its possibilities often separates us.

At the same time, it’s also true that all of us need to grapple with what the future will look like. Or: what the future could
look like. And so, the impetus behind my creation of What Matters Now, a group experience that invites us — present
amid all our differences — to find some small, yet significant ways to co-envision the future together.

Fifteen people signed up to be the first participants of What Matters Now, which lasts five weeks and launched in May.
Another eight contacted us after the registration deadline, so I’ll plan for a second session either this summer or in the
fall. We meet weekly, online, signing in from two countries and three distinct regions of North America. Although our
differences can present challenges, the experience so far has confirmed that, just like coming together in person,
gathering online can create powerful experiences of the immediacy and authenticity we seek in our faith communities.

Good thing. In mid-May, UUA president Susan Frederick-Gray issued an updated recommendation concerning the
activities of our congregations. First, she recommends we continue holding all gatherings online, as we have been
doing here at the UUFP. More significantly, however, she urges us to plan for virtual operations through to May 2021.

Our UU congregations are independent, and as such, it will fall to your new board to consider the best plan for our
local circumstances. Still, I deeply appreciate the way the UUA frames this decision as one with profoundly moral
implications. “Our actions directly impact the health and well-being of our neighbors,” Rev. Frederick-Gray reminds us.
Indeed, in this concrete sense, we are ultimately, always, connected: morally linked and so “here, together” with our
neighbors.

Beginning on June 22, I will be away from the fellowship for study leave and vacation time, returning on July 21. I’ll be
on a reduced schedule for much of the rest of the summer, but expect to be present for a good half of your summer
services. Watch your emails for announcements about emergency contacts.

In the meantime, I’ll be wishing you a summer grounded in things that matter: the blessings of health, solidarity,
connections and community, wherever and however you may find them.

In love and service,
Rev. Nicoline