Last weekend I served as parliamentarian for my first zoom conference.
They've been planning this conference for months.
How do we do it as legally as possible? The first business action was to approve a bylaw amendment allowing virtual meetings.
How do we vote? Some votes could be done with yes/no buttons. Some votes had to be anonymous, so we needed to use polls. But then we had to move visitors and other non-voting people into a separate "room" while the voting took place.
How do people indicate they want to speak? How can we "pre-filter" the questions people have? (Sometimes they have questions that someone else can answer without interrupting the entire meeting.) How do we let people know they are approaching their time limit on speaking? How do we make sure that everyone can see the people who need to be seen during the meeting: the president, the timekeeper, and the person actually speaking? Who controls the mute button? Can people turn off their videos?
This is a meeting that happens twice a year. Typically everything is routine. There is one person in charge of the hotel and conference room logistics, and everything is taken care of.
The virtual meeting took a lot of planning, with a lot of people participating. Instead of one person handling hotel logistics, we had five people handling zoom logistics. And we needed every one of them. There were planning meetings every other week for months. There were two trial meetings to test the processes.
It wasn't a perfect meeting, but it went pretty well.
You may not know that just as much work has gone into making in-person worship work at St. Stephen's. An advisory committee has been working for months troubleshooting potential issues. A team put together the usher procedures. A team worked on the altar guild procedures. A group worked on procedures for keeping track of who attended just in case contact tracing is needed.
It takes plenty of people to make it work each week. The sanctuary needs to be deep-cleaned each week. Hand sanitizers need to be filled. Computer presentations need to be created and updated. Ushers need to be available to direct people through the check-in process and to their seats. Our pastor, our cantor, our sound system and our AV people all need to be in place and ready to go.
It was a delight to see 30 people in church on the first Sunday we were able to worship again in person. Another 53 people joined us via the online option.
It wasn't a perfect event, but it went pretty well.
And it showed us that we can pull together and meet the challenges that come before us.
St. Stephen's never stopped worshiping as a church. We just had to temporarily switch our method of worshiping. Now we can work to meet the challenge of making both in-person and online worship available on a regular basis. We have been introduced to a new way to reach out to people, a new way to keep connected with those in our church family who can't attend in person but can still be part of our worshiping community.
St. Stephen's never stopped its outreach to the community through the food pantry. We just had to change how we do it to make it safe for our volunteers and clients. We have been introduced to our neighbors who have brought gifts of food, hygiene products, baby food, and face masks. Now we can work to meet the challenge of keeping those relationships alive and making the pantry a safe place to visit as the weather gets colder.
We've seen changes as businesses have re-opened: temperature checks at the dentist, limited capacity at stores, eating outside at restaurants, curbside pickup.
We see only the outside results where everything is working smoothly. We don't see the tremendous amount of teamwork that has gone behind the scenes to make everything work.
Thanks to all those behind the scenes.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other." (1 Thessalonians 5:11-13)
- Ann Iona Warner