UUS Safer Gathering Plan

Our Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith centers covenants. One of the covenants that we make with one another is to try to keep each other safe and growing in body, mind, and spirit. This often-implicit covenant becomes explicit when a congregation’s leaders create safety policies and procedures. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve learned that congregations have a significant role to play in how COVID-19 spreads. We can take actions that help slow the spread and protect members and friends of UUS and the wider community. We’re committed to doing that as a faith community.

As UU faith communities, we’re also committed to justice. As UUs, we affirm our interdependence, we commit to encouraging each other’s spiritual growth, and we declare that we will work for a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. One of the ways that we live out these commitments in congregations is by working to ensure accessibility. We have worked to include members who can’t meet in person due to health concerns. This commitment is directly related to our faith’s commitment to justice, equity, and compassion. At the same time, we recognize the importance of contact with other humans, including in-person, safe contact, for emotional and mental wellbeing. We are committed to maintaining and enhancing options for multiplatform gatherings.

The pandemic has also taught us in new ways that congregations aren’t limited by buildings. While we love our sacred spaces and this congregation is deeply connected with UUS’s buildings and grounds, UUS is not our building and grounds. Rather, UUS is a group of people who are committed to being a congregation and are bound in covenant with one another.

As we move into this next phase of the pandemic, where COVID-19 moves to being more endemic to our area (likely with occasional spikes due to variants), we are mindful of these lessons, values, and commitments. This COVID Safer Gathering Plan is divided into sections based on type of congregational activity. While we do not anticipate moving back to all-online formats barring a public health emergency, we do anticipate moving into and out of different types of activities based on availability of material resources and staffing (both volunteer and paid). Staff will make these determinations in consultation with health experts.

General Guidelines

1. Get vaccinated. The best way to prevent the spread of COVID and reduce risk for severe illness and death is by being vaccinated. We strongly encourage you to be vaccinated (including boosters) if you are able.

2. Please stay home if you’re having symptoms of Covid or if you know you’ve had an exposure to Covid in the last week.

3. Help with contact tracing. If you test positive for COVID and have been to UUS up to 2 days before you began having symptoms, please email the office (admin@uusic.org).  That way we can determine if there is any need to notify persons who had contact with you and how to go about contacting them. For more information about quarantine and isolation, please consult https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html.

4. If you have COVID, stay away from UUS in person activities for 10 days. The CDC states you can end isolation after 5 full days if you are fever free for 24 hrs without the use of Ibuprofen or Tylenol.  Day 0 is the first day you started experiencing symptoms. UUS recommends waiting 10 full days because you may still be able to pass COVID to a person who is immunocompromised or at risk for severe disease.

5. Wearing masks reduces risks. KN95 masks or N95 masks provide the best protection. Masks are available in UUS’s entryway if you need one. If you are recovering from COVID, please wear a mask in public for 10 days after the first day you experienced symptoms. Please consider wearing a mask for up to 20 days when indoors and in close contact with people who are immunocompromised or at risk for severe illness from COVID. Since we often do not know everyone’s health risks, we strongly encourage wearing your mask for 20 days.

6. Follow inclusion, covenant, consent, and care principles. This means we work to include everyone; that we communicate and act covenantally and are mindful of our covenant of right relations; that before removing masks, eating together, etc, we are sure that everyone in a group has freely consented to the practice; and that we exercise care for each other’s wellbeing.

7. Maintain good hand hygiene. There are sinks and hand sanitizer stations located throughout the building. If you are meeting outside, bins with hygiene supplies are available in the entryway and near the back doors.

8. For large events, use Traffic Light Gathering nametags/seating. Areas in the sanctuary are labeled red, yellow, and green to accommodate physical distance needs. We have name tags with red, yellow, and green dots to indicate social distance needs at our welcome table in the atrium. Please ask permission before touching or hugging another person.

9. Proof of vaccination status may be required for some levels of participation at UUS to minimize risk.  


Services are geared for all ages. We are not currently offering regular Sunday religious education classes, although we often have special activities and programming for children and youth.

Rev. Diana Smith leads a Sunday Service in August 2021 to test out our multi-platform capabilities.
Rev. Diana Smith leads a Sunday Service in August 2021 to test out our multi-platform capabilities.

UUS’s worship services are offered simultaneously in-person and online via streaming to YouTube Live on Sunday mornings.

Joining In Person

Masks are required for all congregants over the age of 2 until we are able to develop safety plans for worship services that meet our volunteers’ and paid staff’s health and safety needs. When masks are no longer required, they will be strongly recommended. If there is a higher risk surge after we have moved to masks being strongly recommended, we may return to masks being mandatory. If it emerges that rapid testing is not feasible as the choir and ensembles grow, masks will remain required in worship services. Worship leaders, both staff and volunteers, must be vaccinated.

In-person participants should arrive at UUS between 9:40 – 9:58 am so you can be seated before the service starts. We will have materials for children and youth available for use during services. Greeters request that in-person attendees sign in for contact tracing purposes.

We are using a traffic light gathering system to let people communicate the distance they need to safely join services in person:

  • Red – need distance
  • Yellow – use caution, need some space, ask
  • Green – don’t need space

The Sanctuary will be divided into sections matching the traffic light system. The RE Commons and Fellowship Hall will also be red seating areas but with more room for people who want to move around during services. There will be stickers for you to use to display your preferred designation when not seated.

We will have fellowship time after the service. Refreshments will be available when we have the volunteer capacity to run the hospitality program on a regular basis. When indoors, attendees must wear their masks except when actively eating or drinking.

Joining Virtually

Our services are livestreamed over YouTube. Visit our channel Sunday morning or visit the Next Sunday Service section on the UUS homepage for a direct link to the week’s service. The stream will begin a few minutes before 10 am.

Online participants are invited to join in the live chat during the service. You need to be signed in to a YouTube accoont, and on the actual YouTube site to chat (watching the service through an embedded video link shared in our weekly service emails or on the homepage will not not have a chat option- click “Watch on YouTube” in the bottom left corner of the video to be taken to the actual site and get access to the chat. Find an instructional guide on how to sign in and chat over YouTube here (PDF, created by Anne Schons)

Unfortunately YouTube does not allow for participants to see each other or the full list of viewer names as was possible in Zoom, which we previously used for virtual services. A benefit of YouTube is that you can pause the service and not miss anything if you need to step away (If your video was paused and you want to resync with the livestream, refresh the page or click the  place where it says “Live” in the viewer.)

Virtual participants are invited to join a Zoom social hour after the service each week (Link to Join, Meeting ID: 875 0144 7050, Passcode: 072870)

Religious Education for Children and Youth

Religious education programming for children and youth is being offered both indoors and outdoors at UUS.

Through the end of the 2021-22 church year, masks are recommended for outdoor programming. Masks will be required for indoor programming, unless a person is eating or drinking. Group leaders may make determinations about whether eating and drinking is allowed in the classrooms based on the health needs of the group and following inclusion, covenant, consent, and care principles. Group leaders must keep attendance records.

Beginning in summer 2022, masks may become optional/recommended for indoor religious education once we are able to develop safety plans for services that meet the health and safety needs of our children, volunteers, and paid staff. These measures may include using a supplemental HEPA 2 air filtration unit in some classrooms.

Religious education staff and volunteers who work with children and youth must be vaccinated.

Nursery and Childcare

Through summer 2022, the nursery will be available for individual use but will not be staffed by UUS. The nursery will resume regular operations in the 2022-23 church year. Masks are required in the nursery for everyone over the age of 2. Nursery and childcare staff and volunteers must be vaccinated.

Group meetings and events

Groups are able to meet both indoors and outdoors at UUS. A supplemental HEPA2 air filtration unit is available for use in UUS’s meeting rooms. Group leaders should keep attendance records. For large and open events, leaders should attempt to keep attendance records when it is feasible.

As of April 2022, UUS’s conference room is available for multiplatform meetings provided a participant brings a laptop to connect to the monitor, camera, and microphone. UUS is working on adding multiplatform capabilities to one or more religious education classrooms. Groups may also meet entirely on Zoom. To hold a meeting entirely on Zoom or to use Zoom for a multiplatform meeting, members should contact the office (admin@uusic.org or 319-337-3443). Groups should use inclusion, covenant, consent, and care principles to decide which platform to use.

Masks: Masks are optional for outdoor and indoor small group meetings. Groups should use inclusion, covenant, consent, and care principles to decide whether they will meet with or without masks. For indoor large events, masks are required for those over the age of 2 unless someone is eating or drinking. When masks move to being strongly recommended in worship, we will move to making them recommended for large indoor events. Masks may still be required for certain events based on the needs of presenters, facilitators, conveners, and the like. If there is a higher risk surge after we have moved to masks being strongly recommended, we may return to masks being mandatory. For outdoor large events, masks are recommended when people will be in close proximity to others for more than 15 minutes.

Food: Food and beverages may be consumed at small group meetings and in religious education programming. Groups should use inclusion, covenant, consent, and care principles to decide whether to have food. Eating outdoors tends to reduce risk, as does not sharing food and ensuring that communal food is eaten from individual dishes. Food and beverages may be consumed at large outdoor and indoor events. For indoor events, attendees must wear their masks except when actively eating or drinking.

If groups are having challenges with their covenantal consent conversations, we encourage them to reach out to the Right Relations Committee (right.relations@uusic.org) for support with navigating UUS’s covenant of right relations. Here are some resources on consent from the UUA: Mask & Covenantal Consent and Touch Consent and Masking Comics.

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