This month the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, NJ (UUCM) is following the Souls Matters’ theme of Possibility. This seems appropriate for where we are now, when all is changing again. One minute everything is opening up, then the next more necessary restrictions.
Last month I spoke about adapting to both virtual and in-person gatherings. Now the COVID-19 Delta variant is postponing that option. My congregation is considering the possibility of pushing back Welcome Fest and the reopening of the sanctuary from the second week of September to sometime in November. This has me wondering when my CUUPs chapter UUCM Sacred Wheel will meet in person again.
Some people fear gathering in person even though fully vaccinated. Safety is always my first thought.
Rituals and meetings have been working well for almost two years virtually. However, there are advantages and disadvantages with the Zoom platform.
Some of the advantages include people joining outside our area and those who have no transportation, or who are disabled are able to attend. With the internet at our fingertips, we can easily pull up a related song to use. We can place an extra emphasis on the elements. In the end, producing a full -if non-tactile- experience.
There are disadvantages though with not meeting in person. For starters, some people feel a stronger connection in person than they do sitting behind the screen. There is no incense to cleanse the space and bring you into the mindset. Additionally, candles seem to take on the energy of the room, which can be very cool and interesting but not fully captured on screen. Oh and let us not forget when Zoom freezes because someone’s bandwidth is low and that person is leading the ritual or calling a quarter.
So now that we have to rethink when a safe reopening can be, we must continue as we have, meeting online. What possibilities are there for a richer virtual ritual? Maybe assigning elements to the group members beforehand in which they fully represent that element either on screen sharing an image or with tools. Video meditations are also another possibility.
All this is well and good, but I am looking forward to meeting in person. I learned last week that there is a possibility to hold rituals privately outside at UUCM. However, with one dedicated member temporarily an hour away, another a few states away and another who has other obligations until October this just does not seem feasible right now. I am itching to do this in the spring for Beltaine, maybe even Ostara if the weather is warm enough.
So many possibilities where we can go from here. Countless ways to enhance our rituals even when we can meet in person. This is one great thing about being Pagan, no matter what path we can adapt easily to the situation in front of us.
Things keep changing, some for the good, some for the bad. How we handle the change is what matters the most. Our rituals can be whatever we want them to be, we can go all out or keep them short and simple. It is the intent that is important.
It is quite possible that by the end of September things start looking up again. We do not know what the future holds. No one warned us in 2019 that the world would shut down from a terrible pandemic. All we can do is take one day at a time. Having the internet is one asset our ancestors did not have, we should embrace it, I am sure they would if they had this technology.
The possibilities are endless. This is the new norm, so let’s roll with it and expand our horizons.