In Response to Covid-19


Dear Friends and Members of the Unitarian Society,

My mantra these past few days has been “Flatten the curve!”

That is to say: According to health professionals, we have a collective responsibility to act now to slow things down and keep the COVID-19 outbreak from overwhelming our health care system. We may not be able to eliminate the virus, but we want to keep people from getting sick all at once. How do we do this? “Social distancing” is the most effective way to protect each other during this pandemic. To slow the outbreak of COVID-19 here in Santa Barbara, we need to avoid meeting in large groups, as much as possible…as soon as possible.

And so we will do our part. We will be holding online-only Sunday morning services and moving all our small groups and other meetings into an online format. On Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m., please join us for our Livestream.

Our Sunday services are available to watch on Facebook, and you don’t need to join Facebook to see them. Below, you’ll find a video by our Director of Congregational Life, Maureen Claffey, explaining exactly how to find and watch the live service video. You can also watch any past video service whenever it’s convenient for you, using a computer, tablet, or phone. Here is a direct link to the Unitarian Society Facebook video page:

We will be inviting you to connect with the Unitarian Society and each other in some new ways: Some planned events may be reimagined as online gatherings, some will be postponed, and some suspended until the outbreak subsides. Although staff may be in the building, the Front Office will be closed to walk-in visitors. If you are the leader of a small group or event, please reach out! We would love to help you figure out how to proceed. While we stay apart we want to stay connected!

Luckily, we have tech tools to help us along the way. You will be hearing more about these online connection tools soon, including “drop-in” online office hours, pastoral care, meditation and reflection opportunities, and more!

The decision to suspend our in-person Sunday Worship was not made lightly, but we made this call because we love and care about each and every one of you. Now is our opportunity to make a difference in the outcome of this epidemic and possibly save lives in the process. As of today, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has recommended to all our congregations that services be moved online, and the California Department of Public Health has advised that gatherings of people in a high-risk category should be limited to 10 or fewer people.

While you may or may not be concerned about your own health, I encourage you to embrace these “social distancing” measures to protect the health of others. Continue to wash hands often and well, keep a distance from people in public spaces, avoid large gatherings, and stay at home if you feel sick. We will be coordinating pastoral care and support as the need arises within our community.

Our USSB staff and lay leaders will be working harder than ever to adapt and respond to this evolving situation, and you will hear from us throughout this crisis. We are not closed, or gone – we are right here, working alongside you, ready to connect in new ways. It won’t be perfect of course, and we will learn a lot as we go, but we know that we can work through this together.

With Care and Gratitude,

Rev. Julia, Keith Strohmaier (Board President), and the USSB Staff Team

Join Rev. Julia online for our live Facebook streaming at 10:00 a.m. Sunday.

Our Response to Covid-19

We know how important the Unitarian Society is to so many of us, and we need each other now more than ever. With 400+ members, friends, and kids, keeping connected during this time of global uncertainty and physical distance is challenging, but important. Together, as ministers, staff, lay leaders and volunteers, we will work to keep us connected – to each other, to our wider community, and to the resources that will keep us healthy while we are apart.

We are following the prudent advice to prevent community transmission through physical distancing – especially given how many in our congregation are in high-risk categories. This is not about theoretical risk: These are our friends, and family, our trusted and beloved community. This means online-only Sunday services and a re-imagining of how we do things as a congregation!

Because we love each other and want to keep each other safe and well, we will be moving all of our gatherings online at least through the month of March (including Sunday worship) and probably for a bit longer, acknowledging that we really don’t know what’s going to happen next and we need to be responsive to shifting realities.

For many of us, the struggle to learn and adapt to new technologies is real. But we encourage you to lean in, try new things, and be patient with any bumps along the way. As Rev. Sunshine Wolfe wrote, this particular moment calls us to “stay away and stay connected.” Real and meaningful connection can happen online – through our livestream Sunday morning services to smaller gatherings online. And of course, it’s not all online. One-on-one phone calls and providing real-world help as needed in our community is also important!

While we are grieving that we will not be together in our sanctuary for a while, we are also so grateful that we can continue to be together in community in other ways. We will take this as an opportunity to learn and grow, strengthen our care for one another, and live out our mission: Remaining a connected and loving community of seekers, striving to live with integrity, nurture wonder, and inspire action!


Join our live stream on Facebook from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. If you can’t watch live, videos will be archived here and available to watch whenever it’s convenient for you.

Santa Barbara Coronavirus Support Guide: Resources and Ways to Help

Using Zoom to Stay Connected

Many of our groups are now meeting using the Zoom application, which you can use on a computer, laptop, tablet, or phone.

Zoom Tutorial: How to Join a Zoom Meeting

If You Have Never Used Zoom Before…

If you have never used Zoom before, you are in for a treat.  This is a widely used and very user-friendly video conferencing tool.  It is easiest to use from a computer, but you can also use it from a smart phone, iPad, or tablet as well. You can call in to the video conference from any phone if you do not have access to a computer. 

There are some great video tutorials on the Zoom help center, which can be found here, including a short video tutorial on joining Zoom, which can be found here.

Before your first Zoom meeting:

  1. Prepare your audio: Though not necessary, ideally you would use a headset (with microphone and earphones) if possible – this is the easiest way to omit background noise and hear all the audio.
  2. Think through video: Ideally you will have a camera so that others can see you.  Virtually all laptops, iPads, and tablets have a built in camera but most desktops don’t.  Most phones also have a camera.  If you are planning to use your phone you might want to purchase a stand for your phone, or you can work out how to prop it up in the right place for your call.
  3. Download Zoom: before your first meeting. Before the meeting you will get a zoom link for your group’s online meeting, usually sent in an invitation by email by the group’s leader.  That invitation will have a link to click on to join. If you have not downloaded the Zoom program to your computer or phone, please click on the join link before the meeting to download.

Note: Please do some downloading and experimenting before your first Zoom meeting.  If you are having difficulty, please email me (Erin Wilson or Eden Kennedy and we will do our best to help!

To Join a Zoom Meeting:

You will get an invitation from your group leader (meeting host) with the zoom link for your group’s Zoom meeting.  That invitation will have a link to click on to join.

    1. Plug in your headset (if you are using one) and position your camera so that the group can see you clearly.
    2. Click the join link in the meeting invitation
    3. A dialogue box will appear asking if you would like to “Open Zoom meetings?” – click “Open Zoom Meetings”
    4. Zoom will now open on your computer or device. You may see a message that says “Please wait for the host to start this meeting”. As soon as the meeting begins, Zoom will open. You may now participate in this meeting.

Note: Be sure your microphone is on mute unless it is your turn to speak. Click the Mute button to mute your microphone and the Stop Video button to stop your video.

To Listen by Phone:

  1. Locate the meeting invitation, phone numbers associated, and the meeting ID prior to calling.
  2. The email invitation will have a phone number to call under the “Dial by your location” section. Dial into any of the phone numbers provided, any one will work.
  3. An automated message will answer. When prompted enter the meeting ID.
  4. Press “6” on your phone to mute your microphone. You may press “6” again to unmute.

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