by Lyn Shepard
My input on this issue does not touch the planning or financing of retreats. I’m only qualified to discuss the ZOOM experience I’ve shared with what John Hertz refers to as “a changing cast” of talking heads at the 9:30-10:30 EUU “drop-in” event on ZOOM. I’ve found it inspiring – an exchange between knowledgeable EUU members on everything from the latest recipe for baking home-made bread to meeting the needs of at-large members wherever they reside.
Indeed, the EUU may rightfully view the ZOOM boom as an unexpected “saving grace” of Covid-19. It has opened all our eyes to an effective technical means of reaching out to those living in areas remote from a major European metropolis. Six days a week for the last few months the Hertz kitchen has hosted virtual “drop-ins” while European society struggles to cope with house arrest.
My own notes show our viewers during this period have included visits from Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and even an EUU member at-large who tuned in from Gainesville, Florida. Most of those who dropped in have attended past retreats. The majority intended to attend the Prague retreat before Covid-19 forced its cancellation. Some (myself included) had to decline reluctantly for a variety of reasons. It’s my guess that an overwhelming majority of the drop-ins share my highly favorable impression of (1) ZOOM technology’s suitability for our participants, (2) the level of participation during the test phase, and (3) the role ZOOM can play in broadening the EUU’s outreach as an integrated part of future retreat planning.
In my case, I needed a chance to reorient myself to EUU progress during recent years, and Zoom’s format met this need perfectly. I could listen and learn from highly articulate fellowship members. I felt renewed by this approach, for it welcomed contributions at each participant’s own pace. It also seems like a promising way to orient EUU newcomers to our “group think” dynamics – sharing our values at their best.
I think retreat planners should study the possibility of streaming plenary sessions and making the ZOOM approach a “drop in” option for workshops. As always, workshops would compete among themselves – not only for retreat participants but for ZOOM drop-ins as well. I lack the technical background to imagine the potential array of workshops open for ZOOM links, but I hope program planners could at least imagine an A, B, and perhaps even a C approach for workshops set sharing the same time-frame. Alternatively, retreat planners could decide in advance which of the workshops meeting simultaneously should be granted ZOOM outreach.
One ZOOM drop-in meeting discussed the future role of ZOOM in EUU. It considered various ideas that might appeal to at-large members particularly. One suggestion proposed a late afternoon ZOOM get-together – possibly alternating the current mid-morning drop-in with the PM version. One potential advantage of the PM option that we might look into is a closer tie with American UUs. The afternoon ZOOM (say, 3:30 pm in Central Europe would be 9:30 am on the East Coast of the US. Is this a goal worth exploring? I think it’s at least worth discussion at the EUU leadership level.
(Lyn is a long-time EUU member and friend who was been able to reconnect with us through ZOOM)