I, perhaps like many of you, was hoping for a simple story in 2021: everyone is vaccinated and the Covid pandemic ends.
The news, however, has been bewildering. Across the Europe Union and Switzerland, about 70% of adults are now vaccinated against Covid, an amazing achievement for a virus first seen just over 18 months ago – yet in many places, cases are rising again. We read about variants. The rules to keep us safe change and change again. Here in Belgium, for example, while hospitalizations go up, the national rules for restaurants, schools and bringing guests into our own homes are easing – but in Brussels, some stricter rules remain. This moment of uncertainty could be a gripping narrative if it were part of a novel or a science program.
Despite this ongoing uncertainty, I hope that we can return from the summer with renewed energy to keep alive our hopes and our ideals. In the US, UU congregations call this period “ingathering”, a return from summer breaks. Many EUU fellowships are returning to regular meetings, and our fellowships face dilemmas on whether to continue meeting online only, or gather in-person, or find a hybrid way that combines both. UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray has issued a message and guidance for UUA congregations on Ingathering in Complicated Times. She calls for inclusion and consent, following science and the recommendations of health authorities, and flexibility.
As EUU and our Fellowships face these questions, each working with different national health rules, we’ll see a variety of approaches. Many EUU activities, such as at-large meetings and our book club will continue to meet online. In 2021, as in 2020, EUU won’t have an in-person retreat.
We hope you can join in, for, in the words of Amy Williams Clark, “We gather in this time of uncertainty, full of unknowns… For this moment, this radical moment, we find a certainty within the knowable bonds of love and community.” The EUU agenda will lead you to many upcoming meetings. And if you aren’t doing so already, please also give a thought to helping out in your fellowship and in EUU, as we continue to need volunteer enthusiasm to keep it all going.
At the end of August, many of us attended the online memorial service for Ray Burlingame-Goff, who gave so much to EUU and who had to step down just after being elected president. The service reminded me of Ray’s deep caring and of his quiet, unflagging optimism. While our Covid story hasn’t ended yet, I hope that we can all be inspired by Ray and look forward with optimism in the face of uncertainties.