Linda Hancock, Reopening Team Lead
Hi, I’m Linda Hancock, head of the Reopening Team. The Reopening Team was started about 13 months ago. The Board formed the team and tasked us with formulating a strategy for reopening (the church) when the time was right. And the team was composed of two staff, two board and two congregants, so that we would have a balanced perspective from all the different groups. The two staff members are Dez King and myself. The two Board members are Ellen (Fannin) and a minister. Then for a few months when we didn’t have a minister, Dan Stasiak stepped in as a congregant rep for a couple of months. Our congregant representatives are Hope (Ruppanner) and Neil (Feiereisel). Between the six of us, we represented the entire spectrum of points of view on the pandemic. And so it was sometimes challenging to reach consensus, but we did, I’m happy to say.
Everybody’s point of view was represented in the process and I’m really happy about that. So, we did countless hours of research, reading, scientific articles and information. We tracked the government guidelines, the CDC, the state of Texas, the city of Austin, and also OSHA. And then we formulated a matrix, which was an internal document that we used to help us gradually phase in, that kind of tracked with the city of Austin stages. And that helped us to make decisions in a more systematic way and not let our emotions cloud our judgment. And believe me, there were a lot of emotions, but I have confidence to say that we made our decisions, not out of fear, but out of love and care for our community. And that was very evident from the beginning to the end that that was our mindset. We also compared notes with all of our sister unity churches in central Texas, as well as all of our ecumenical partners to see what they were doing and that was a factor in our decision-making as well. So I’m happy to say, now that we are reopening, our team is no longer needed. Yay. And so we have retired our team effective today, and while we were happy to serve, we are so glad to be done.
Ellen Fannin, Team Member
One of the things that we did at the beginning, there were volumes of articles and all kinds of information that we had to cover, but I especially want to say a huge thank you to Linda for the multiple hours that she put in and was such a wonderful leader for us. And we are thrilled to be able, although we never closed the church reopening is kind of a misnomer, but we are able to have everyone come back in person very soon.
Hope Ruppaner, Team Member
I also want to thank Linda for her leadership and guidance. I realized a lot about myself being on this team that I pretty much swayed with whatever direction the wind was going. And so it was good to have a leader who really kept us focused cause it was sometimes challenging not to let the emotions get the best of me at least. I wanted to be open, but as a nurse, I also wanted us to be as safe as we could be. And so we really kind of stayed focused on the literature and the CDC and the guidelines. A lot of prayer went into the matrix and in our discussions. And so I’m just very thankful this part of the journey is over and that our doors are back open to what they are today.
Neil Feiereisel, Team Member
And, you know, as I think about this, I’m most proud that our Church found a way to always move forward. There were so many different opinions on just how safe should we be? We’re a critical business. And UCOH really offers some of the most essential service of any of any organization. And so we wanted to meet the needs of our congregation. We wanted to be able to do things that people felt comfortable or safe with and provide alternatives. And so there was always this sort of back and forth, and we were trying to find ways to make things work. So we always found a way to allow some groups to meet, to meet outside, or meet inside physically distance with masks. You know, of course there was all discussions about how safe should we be? What is being too safe or too reckless? And so there was always this balance that we were striking, but as Linda said, we all discussed this, found a way to move forward, and UCOH really did continue to lean into it in a very safe way. We always found a way to make it work. And we just loved that the congregation was supportive the whole time and we were able to keep things open. And now, it’s just really delightful to see things on a roll at this point. It’s really nice to be here today.
Linda Hancock, Reopening Team Lead
I’d like to add a huge shout out to Dez King, who’s part of this team but didn’t want to be on the video. Dez is our facility staff person and Dez is the one who did all the measuring for the safe spacing on the campus. All the chalking on the Pavilion and on the sidewalks and the tape in the foyer and the circle dots on the pews and the tape on the carpet, all that work was done by Dez. And I also want to give a huge, thanks to Jennifer Chavez at the front desk who created all the signage and posted all the signage and bought the sanitizer and refilled all the sanitizer bottles and did all the extra things that we needed to do to be compliant with the government guidelines. And of course, Shawnda and Tammy and our Communications Team, the Volunteers, and all the messages on the website, everyone on staff played a huge role in helping us to implement our plans. And we are truly grateful to everyone for their help.