Fellowship sanctuary

March 9, 2022

Dearest Fellowship Community,

This Sunday we are lifting our mask requirement. Our Covid-Safer Guidance Team, which is comprised of committed Fellowship members who are healthcare professionals, have agreed that it is appropriate for us to lift this requirement in alignment with the current CDC guidance.

We recognize that some of us may still need to wear a mask, and others might simply want to. If you are not feeling well, are unvaccinated, or have recently been in high-risk situations (like travel), we encourage you to wear a mask. We also know that some of you might still feel more comfortable and safe attending online, and we welcome your participation in our Zoom services and other virtual offerings.

Our elementary religious education students and volunteers will continue to wear masks in the building. Since we currently have students ranging from ages 4 to 10 in class together, we need to honor that our youngest kids have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Our nursery volunteers will also continue to wear masks.

Two big aspects of Fellowship life include singing and coffee. We will continue inviting the gathered community to sing as we have been since September. We hope to be able to offer coffee service and food after services and events soon but need some time to work out the logistics and recruit volunteers to make it happen. We appreciate your patience and welcome you to bring your own travel mug of your favorite beverage with you!

We also honor that, after years of being asked to wear a mask, this guidance might feel strange or even difficult. We have strived to follow the science all along, and the updated CDC guidance and input from our Covid team encourages us that this is a scientifically-sound decision. Of course, we all know that the situation in our community might change and we might need to return to a more cautious strategy. Thank you for your flexibility and grace as we all navigate the ever-changing landscape of this pandemic.

See you soon…  – Rev. Christina

February 18, 2022

We look forward to resuming in-person services with you this Sunday, February 20! Services will return to 9am and 10:45am, with 9am in-person only, and 10:45 in-person and on Zoom. Find the Zoom login information, as always, on the Upcoming Services page of our website.

Religious education for children will gather on Zoom at 9am, and in-person only at 10:45. Families who are registered for R.E. will receive information from Kim Hartman, our director of religious education.

We will continue to require that masks be worn properly by everyone older than nursery-age (4+) while inside the building, and we will not be providing food or drink at this time. While any mask is acceptable, we encourage the use of high-filtration masks like N95, KN95, or Vogmasks. We have a limited supply of N95 masks available at the Fellowship if you would like one, or you can purchase them at local stores.

We hope the Covid case numbers in our community continue to decline and that vaccinations for the youngest among us will be available soon. We will revisit our safety policies on an ongoing basis and will be in communication with you when anything changes.

February 2, 2022

Dear Ones,

Since we returned to online-only operations at the Fellowship over the past month, I know you are eager to know when we might be able to gather safely again in-person.

Our goal is to return to in-person/multiplatform Sunday services when the Covid numbers in our community return to similar levels as December 24, 2021—which was the last time we gathered in-person. We are following CovidActNow.org, looking at the Appleton Metro Area for their 7-day averages for both Covid caseload and hospitalizations. Therefore, we hope to return to in-person/hybrid Sunday services when the 7-day average on that site is around 175 cases and 59 hospitalizations. As of yesterday (February 1), our community had 287 cases and 65 hospitalizations.

Based on the current trajectory, which is rapidly dropping, our hope is that we will be able to re-gather for in-person/ multiplatform worship on Sunday, February 20. We will continue to communicate changes in service plans or other decisions as we know more.

In the meantime, we will begin reopening for some in-person programs. Due to the need to physically distance and having limited space to make that possible, we will prioritize youth religious education programs and others that cannot meet successfully without in-person gatherings. Please contact Cyndi Polakowski or Marie Luna if you would like to check space availability for in-person gatherings. Staff will return to more regular in-office work hours by mid-February. We are all available by email or phone — please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

For the time being, we will continue to require masks worn over the nose and mouth when visiting the Fellowship building. We recommend N95, KN95, or Vogmasks as preferable to fabric masks. We will have a limited supply of K95 masks available. As another resource, the Boys and Girls Club has K95 masks available to anyone in our community!

Thank you for your ongoing patience and support as we navigate the complexity of this pandemic. We understand the frustration with the changes, and it is our sincere hope to offer as much stability as possible while still making choices that keep our Fellowship and wider community as safe as possible.

With love…
Rev. Christina Leone-Tracy
Senior Minister, on behalf of the Executive Team
Including Ali Peters, Assistant Minister, and Phyllis Schmitt, Director of Finance and Operations

January 5, 2022

Dear Ones, I have some hard news to share:

Due to the massive spike in Covid cases in our community stemming from the highly contagious Omicron variant we need to suspend in-person gatherings at the Fellowship for at least one month. We will re-assess at the beginning of February and communicate with you at that time.

Starting this Sunday, January 9th, Sunday services will be live-broadcast at 10:00 am CT on Zoom only. The information to log on to the service will, as always, be listed at fvuuf.org/upcoming-services. Registered religious education families will receive separate information from our director of religious education Kim Hartman about online RE meeting times; if you are not registered for RE, please do so HERE. Committee meetings, small group gatherings, adult faith formation, and other connections will return to Zoom-only for the time being. Our director of congregational life, Marie Luna, will be in touch with group leaders. Our building will be closed to walk-ins, but staff will be available for masked and distanced individual or small group meetings by appointment.

Several months ago I assembled a wonderful team of dedicated Fellowship members who are also healthcare professionals in our community. The team consists of a psychologist, hospital system vice-president, adult doctor, pediatric hospitalist, and a nurse. I am so grateful for their thoughtful and nonreactive approach to guiding our Fellowship leaders. They have advised me that, for the moment, it is not wise to gather in groups for risk of increasing the spread of Covid-19.

I am writing this message from home as I isolate with my two-year-old son who is sick and tested positive for Covid a couple of days ago. He is unable to be vaccinated, and it is for vulnerable populations like our young children, our elders and immune-compromised neighbors, for whom we make these cautious decisions. We also hope to reduce the burden on our painfully stressed medical system and not add to the caseload in our community. The current models predict for this wave to be very severe, but quick—almost doubling from our current numbers (which are already in the Severe/ highest-risk category according to CovidActNow.org) by the end of January and returning to current levels by the end of February. We hope that this return to Zoom-only operations will be over soon.

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need to be flexible in our plans, hold our expectations lightly, and be kind to each other. Please be gentle with your Fellowship staff; the decision-fatigue, rewriting of plans, and constant pivoting has been hard on us as it has been on the rest of the world! Thank you for your commitment to the Fellowship, to our UU values, and to each other. Our community thrives because of you.

Please know that I join you in sadness and frustration. I love you.

-Rev. Christina Leone-Tracy
Senior Minister

Whenever you are in the building:

Appropriately worn and properly fitting masks are required for all persons over 3 years of age who are visiting the Fellowship building, regardless of vaccination status. If you have a major and documented medical issue with mask compliance, please contact Rev. Christina Leone-Tracy in advance of coming to the building. We will have a limited supply of masks available in child and adult sizes.

Individual food and drink are not allowed indoors (with the exception of a personal water bottle for small group meetings), but is allowed outdoors. We encourage people who are eating or drinking outdoors to socially distance.

Worship Service Safety When We Are Open:

  • Solo and small group singers will distance and wear high-quality masks, provided by the Fellowship if needed.
  • The sanctuary, hallways and lobbies, Legacy Room, and Fellowship Hall will need to be entirely emptied for 30 minutes between services to allow for the air-exchange system to fully clean the air.
  • If you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19, the Fellowship recommends following the CDC guidance regarding quarantine or isolation: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html.
  • The Fellowship is not able to provide notification for possible exposures to Covid-19 in our building, except with limited exceptions and in our Religious Education program. If you were at our building and test positive within 3 days, please let our office know. Confidentiality will be upheld.

Religious Education (RE) is happening!

  • Nursery care for children 6 months through 3 years is available at both services in our building.
  • RE for children 4K through 6th grade is offered on Zoom at 9am and in-person at 10:45am in our Fellowship Hall. No in-person RE is available at 9am.
  • 7th grade and older will meet for Crossing Paths on the first and third Sundays in-person in our building, or they can join the class by Zoom (both options are at 10:45am). At 9am, or at 10:45am on 2nd and 4th Sundays, these youth are invited to attend the service with their families.

If you are not participating in our RE program, please consider attending the 9 am service to relieve overcrowding at the later service with in-person RE. If necessary, we will implement advance registration to attend services.