Lughnasadh is around the corner, a little more than a week away. My CUUPs group UUCM Sacred Wheel is preparing for our first ever ritual to celebrate this sabbat. As a leader, this has me pondering how to transition from virtual to physical meetings without losing our distant community.
As many Pagan groups have done in the past year, we also embraced the virtual world using Zoom for all our meetings and rituals. Now though, the weather is nice enough to hold ritual space outdoors. This, however, is a dilemma, as we do not have private outdoor space to do this. We also have to consider those who have been joining us virtually throughout the pandemic who live further out then our area or are homebound. One question we have been thinking about is if we find an outdoor space will we have Wi-Fi, in order to include them.
To have the capability of both in-person and virtual is an asset, not just for us but also for those wanting a place to meet with like-minded individuals. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, NJ, where I attend, is setting this dual access up for the coming congregational year, by keeping the virtual platforms while also bringing back in-person worship, religious education, and team and group meetings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much for us. We learned that we can still go on social distancing, that we can still meet and “gather” as a community. People who would have never stepped foot in our sanctuary have attended our worship services, group meetings and CUUPs events. Some of those people are now coming in-person.
While Pagans, in general, are all about nature, I believe we adapted well to the virtual world. Now if there is inclement weather for Yule, Imbolc or Ostara, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can celebrate virtually as well as indoors.
I really like having the capability for all to attend. I for one really enjoyed meeting with my sister CUUPs chapters in Frederick, Maryland and Southern Arizona CUUPs. They are both very warm, embracing and friendly, even remembering me when I have returned. This was also a great way to learn from one another. We can easily see what the other chapters are doing and how they are handling the pandemic.
My suggestion for those chapters that may have completely shut down during the pandemic or are deciding they had enough of the virtual world think more about it. If you had a bad experience with conducting your meetings and rituals online, visit another chapter’s event. Many are open to outsiders just check the official CUUPs Facebook group for the next one. See what they did differently and what worked for them. Many are doing both, if it is working for them find out how.
Not only is it a great learning experience, to see what other chapters are up to but it is also building community. Our chapters are interconnecting now, more than ever. Unless I was unaware of it, this level of inter-chapter communication was not happening before the pandemic. Sure, we all had the Facebook group but this is more than social media, we are face to face – if not body-to-body- in real time.
I know some people find Zoom and other related platforms scary but since the pandemic, the security has improved dramatically. Ask other chapters what issues they had or are having with the platform they use. Find out what safety measures they have put in place. Do not eliminate a great opportunity out of fear.
In the words of R.E.M. “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” This is the new norm and I feel fine about this change. I am confident that my chapter can do this. We all can. We got through the worst part of this pandemic and it has taught us a lot. There is so much more that we can do now than we have done in the past. Embrace this new outlet to our outer communities.