UUs Participate in March for Our Lives

Fifty people left UU Fellowship of Harford County early on Saturday, March 24 for the rally in Washington, D.C. The experience seems to have resonated with the students who attended as well as the adults.

“Today (March 24) was very inspirational to me, and to others all across the world. This is something only we can solve, and today was a great stride towards success. Old sins cast long shadows but not in our case. We can use our past to brighten our future, only if we stand together and act as a whole body who wants to make a change.” So said 14 year old Aaron Knight, an 8th grade student at the Tome School in North East, after participating.

Mary Jane Price organized the trip. When asked what her motivation was for going, she responded, “TIME Magazine has called 1968 “the year that shaped a generation”. I believe that 2018 may well be the year that shapes this generation. As someone who lived through the Viet Nam war protests, the Kent State killings, the assassinations of RFK and MLK – I will never forget those times, and they forever changed me. Now I have the honor, and obligation, to help our young people navigate our current political and social climate – and discover what is within themselves, and what they are capable of. My respect for the ways in which they are stepping forward is boundless.”

Valerie Greene, a dental hygienist in Bel Air, had difficulty reflecting on the day without tears coming to her eyes. She was so impressed that kids who had gone through this unbelievable trauma were so courageous and articulate expressing their goals for removing assault weapons, also known as weapons of war, from being sold to individuals. She went on to say that one time a man tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe on a plane and even though he was unsuccessful, 17 years later we are still removing our shoes in order to board a plane. However, assault weapons have killed hundreds and nothing has happened yet.

Liam Gallihue, a 15 year old from Havre de Grace has a plan as to how a change will happen. Although he isn’t old enough to vote, he plans to encourage his friends to talk to their parents about voting for representatives who do support the goals of: banning assault weapons, stopping the sale of high capacity magazines and closing loopholes in background checks. His mother, Suzi Gallihue,  went on to say that, “If 800,000 people can stand in silence (during Emma Gonzalez’s speech), the world can be changed!”

“Witnessing first-hand the determination, courage and conviction of so many young people gives me hope for our nation’s future. I believe this march will be noted in history books as a turning point for changes in gun laws — on par with historical marches to end the Viet Nam War, racial segregation, and suppression of women’s rights,” was Belcamp resident and former school administrator Olivia Spencer’s reaction to her experience on the 24th.

Lisa Nickerson, from Havre de Grace, attended with her college professor son Evan, and she was equally moved. “To see ‘our’ children in such pain broke my heart. Saturday’s rally gave me hope that adults who have turned a blind eye to the NRA’s corporate greed are now awake. And, that our youth will hold us all account.”

“From my perspective, the courage, strength, passion, and eloquence exhibited by these students is awe inspiring. Where most kids are afraid to get up in front of a classroom, these kids are standing up in front of the world” was the reflective take-away of Maureen North, former teacher and administrator from Bel Air.

Other UU Churches around the region also participated in DC or at local marches.

First UU Columbus sent a bus filled with 20 youth, 3 young adults and 13 adults to Washington DC for the March 24 March for Our Lives led by Rev. Eric Meter and Sylvia Howe. They enjoyed the hospitality of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, VA. The youth raised funds for over half the cost of the trip through donations from the congregation.  They held a bake sale and sign-making party for the entire church to participate.

First UU Columbus also had a great delegation of folks meet up with many other UUs from Central Ohio to attend the local march in Columbus, OH.  The Washington DC youth rode overnight back from the march and reported that they learned a lot about gun safety and gun violence. They shared their reflections about their experiences on Sunday, April 8th, at First UU Columbus as the congregation marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The photos below are from the Columbus Trip.

The UUs for Social Justice in Washington DC also participate and took photos. Executive Director Pablo DeJesús said:

“March For Our Lives was an inspiring rally here in D.C., especially for the beauty of all ages living our UU values together, with the youth leading the way, and the diversity of those voices. Glimmers of a beloved community indeed! I heard talk about transforming the rally event into a movement against ALL gun violence, about making the rally moment into an inflection point in the debate. I heard youth talking about the power of their future votes, and a readiness to hold elected leaders accountable at the ballot. I heard a desire to change American culture from favoring gun safety locks over safe schools and safe communities. Fundamentally, I heard our youth in a collective declaration ‘we are our changemakers’ echoing the refrains of ‘we are the ones we have been waiting for’ and ‘el pueblo unido, jamás serávencido.’  As we UUs discern how to help the youth transform the Good Trouble (Rep.J.Lewis D-GA.5th) activism of these rallies into concrete advocacy, I urge us to embrace our denominational history on the gun issue, build upon that intellectual and moral foundation, and support sustained federal advocacy to help bring about the vision of this new generation of changemakers.”

These photos were taken by UUSJ during their participation in the March:

Below – UUs gather at All Souls Unitarian in Washington DC to make signs. Pictured is Community Minister Rev. Karen Scrivo, UUSJ Board Member for Goodloe MD, who is busy coordinating her people by cell.


Below – March participants move along the street towards one of the entry points.


Below  – Signs from the March. Two of the UUs in this photos are key UUSJ volunteers.


Below: UUSJ Executive Director Pablo DeJesús is interviewed by the news (in the black hat and jacket), also pictured is Key UUSJ volunteer, Lavona Grow, to his right and UUC Arlington SJ/Youth staff, Elisabeth Geschiere, in the sunglasses



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Now is the Time

“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season.  (W.E.B. DuBois)

For me, now is the accepted time and the appropriate season to retire from my work with the Central East Region as a congregational life consultant as of April 15, 2018.  This was decision was not made lightly.  There are a number of personal,  health and deep family issues that have combined to make this the right decision for me and my family at this time.

Don’t give up hope.
You’re not alone.
Don’t you give up.
Keep moving on.  (Melanie DeMore)

There have been amazing changes in the Central East Region since I first came in 2007 as the District Executive for Ohio-Meadville District (OMD).   There is more support for our congregations and resources to draw upon than we dared dream about 10 years ago.  The Central East Regional staff, along with other Congregational Life staff,  provides and will continue to offer outstanding service to our congregations and our movement.  The Central East Region will continue to keep moving on in partnership with each other and with the talented UUA professionals who serve our congregations and UU movement.

Lift up your eyes
Don’t you despair.
Look up ahead.
The path is there.  (Melanie DeMore)

I will certainly miss working with you all –  the congregations and the church leaders I have come to admire and love.  I count many of you now as friends.  While I will be retiring from the UUA,  I will continue to serve our UU movement as the part-time Executive Director of UU Justice Ohio.  This is another decision that was not made lightly.  But this new ministry path will fit within the limits of my family’s needs and concerns.

It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year.
It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. (W.E.B. DuBois)

I am excited to walk this new path of life as well as move into a new part-time justice ministry in Ohio.   I believe strongly that the times we now live in call us to lift up our voices and values in the public sphere.

If we truly want to build the Beloved Community we dream about,  we must dare to experiment, to risk, to organize and even engage in new strategies of nonviolent confrontation to speak a very necessary truth to today’s chaotic power.

I hope to try and respond to this call as best I can with my (post-retirement) work in UUJO.

Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.” (W.E.B. DuBois)

I have been proud to serve the Ohio-Meadville District and Central East Region.
I feel I have been part of an great effort to plant seeds of an increasingly powerful, effective and healthy Unitarian Universalism in our region.

You gotta put one foot in front of the other
And lead with love.  (Melanie DeMore)

Not only do we lead with love,  but we leave with love – And I leave carrying love for all of you and our UU movement deep in my heart.

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Columbus, OH

The Central East Region is pleased to announce that the Rev. Sunshine J. Wolfe will join our staff team as Congregational Life Staff starting August 6, 2018. We’ll be making adjustments to who is managing which programs and some primary contacts may be shifted as Sunshine joins our staff so stay tuned!

Rev. Sunshine Wolfe

The Rev. Sunshine J. Wolfe is an Accredited Interim Minister in Training currently serving their third interim congregation- May Memorial UU Society of Syracuse, NY.  Ghe hails originally from Indiana where ghe learned to sing, dance, and cause trouble- the social justice kind.  Ghe is currently a member of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional Unitarian UniversalistS Together) and DRUUM (Diverse Revolutionary Multicultural Ministries.

Sunshine is committed to helping congregations become the healthiest versions of themselves so that they can do their important work in the world.  Ghe has served many congregations throughout the country first as Spiritual Development Director at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.  Ghe served as intern minister at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Cleveland, OH and then completed a Chaplaincy Residency at Indiana University Health Hospitals.  Ghe has also served as Interim Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Montgomery, AL and First Unitarian Church of Alton, IL in the St. Louis metropolitan area.  During gher service in Alton, Sunshine was active with the resistance movements in Ferguson, MO.  Before seminary, Sunshine worked for five years as a Case Manager with homeless adults searching for employment in Tucson, AZ.  Sunshine has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, and a Master of Divinity degree from Starr King School for the Ministry.

Sunshine enjoys silliness, board games, music of all kinds, and thunderstorms.  Ghe particularly likes to go hiking, color mandalas, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where a small handful have gone before.  In other words, ghe’s a science fiction geek with a specialty in Star Trek.

Sunshine identifies as genderqueer and transgender and uses any third gender pronoun including they/their, ghe/gher, and zi/hir.

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Living Our Values – Congregations Collaborate to Support LGBTQ Youth

Our five congregations in Westchester participated in the Prideworks for Youth Conference on March 14, 2018. Prideworks is an annual county-wide conference for about 500 LGBTQ youth and allies, and UU’s have been an important part of the conference in its almost two decades of existence, when it was called “Healing the Hurt.”

UU Youth, DRE’s and ministers have offered workshops, served on the board and planning committee, and volunteered in many ways. After the example of one of our youth groups, collections are held annually in all five congregations, ranging from a plate share to a youth group bake sale. Today, these congregations are the largest financial supporter of Prideworks.

Several years ago, the youth were greeted outside the conference by demonstrators who were holding the most hateful signs. Our UU’s in attendance vowed to be a more welcoming presence, and have ever since welcomed school buses with a Standing on the Side banner and cheering UU’s.

This year there was a total of 20 volunteers from all five congregations, workshops were offered by Rev. Michael Tino of Mount Kisco and Anthony Arrien of White Plains. Three congregations have members of the Planning Committee and DRE Tracy Breneman, serving Hastings on Hudson and Mount Kisco, is a member of the board and one of those primarily responsible for the success of this major initiative.

Most importantly, LGBTQ+ youth feel affirmed, connected and celebrated. Our UU values in action!

See the photos from the day below:

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the Interdependent Web of Musical Culture

As Unitarian Universalists have been growing into deeper understanding of White Supremacy Culture, being interculturally respectful and competent, and learning how to avoid the pitfalls of cultural misappropriation, we are learning to learn and share the stories and contexts behind the songs we sing as part of our worship.

This is a work in progress. The hymnal Singing the Living Tradition had a companion book Between the Lines with some information about each hymn, but both volumes were before we had any sort of intercultural lens. We don’t have any “official” resources to help us in this important work.

There is no right way or answer, but an invitation to be in the struggle and the conversation of how to faithfully include music of other cultures in UU worship. One model is engaging with each hymn and its history as a spiritual practice.  The Rev. Kimberley Debus has—with vulnerability—spent a over a year engaging with a hymn each day on her blog Far Fringe.  I have referred to this blog as I ruminate about hymn choices and how to present them in their original context. I found it to be a fruitful spiritual practice.

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CER Congregational Life Staff

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The Learning Lab of Life

Innovation! Adaptation!! Experimentation!!! We live in a time of incredible change and shifting paradigms. Technology continues to zoom along at a pace that is breathtaking and society seems to be chomping at the bit for the next big thing. At the same time, some of the things we thought we could count on to stay the same have fallen away or been eroded all across our society and our planet. Human rights, glacial ice, democratic principles and civility are under attack and there are moments when I wonder if the universe is testing humanity to find out if we are really up to the task of living meaningful lives.

Then I remember, nothing in this life is settled or guaranteed. We all exist in a constant state of adaptation and experimentation with the inner and the outer world. Who am I today? Who and what matter to me today? What will I do for the first or last time today and how will I be changed by it? Imagine a congregation of 50, 100, or 500 people who are changing every minute, every second – how are we adapting to this unyielding state of flux? By their very nature, congregations are organic, evolving systems and yet even as the people within change and adapt to new ideas, new understandings of self and our companions on the journey, we expect the institution to remain static and to continue to be the same place we have always known. If we are changing, shouldn’t our congregations do the same?

Some congregations adapt quickly and confidently to new ideas – always seeking the latest “best practice.” For those not leading, it can seem dizzying and arbitrary. Some congregations move more slowly, changing only when a crisis is upon them and there is no other choice. Again, for those not in leadership, that may feel frustrating and lead to a sense of “stuckness.” So who wins the race – the tortoise or the hare? Guess what, it isn’t a race and what works in one place may be a complete failure in another.

Congregations struggle in myriad ways and I often get asked the question, “what’s the best practice for this problem I’m facing?” Certainly there are “common” practices often shared by staff or between leaders but the “best” practice for your congregation is the one that is manageable and sustainable for you at this time in your history. If someone tries to tell you there is a “right” way to do church, push back. Experiment with new ways of worshipping, new models for engaging with families, new styles of music, or new ways of gathering in community. Nothing will last forever so why not become a laboratory for exploration and adaption? Despite Yoda’s best advice, it is okay to try. The anxiety of making the budget or fixing the roof won’t disappear but maybe we will feel better about the work when we unleash our creative spirit in the pursuit of joy and spiritual growth.

All of us are living in a lab – we are part of the grand experiment called life. We can’t know what lies before us and how each of our days will unfold but if we make space for community, joy and creativity, we have all we need to make it to tomorrow

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News from the CER Staff – More Changes!

One of the joys of serving Unitarian Universalism as a member of the Central East Regional Staff has been the commitment of the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the members of our congregations to my also serving as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserves. Combining these two ministries has made me better in both of my roles, and I have been grateful for the support I have received from our Regional Lead, Rev. Megan Foley, from my colleagues on the Central East Regional Staff, from the members of the Association’s Leadership Council, and from Unitarian Universalist ministers and leaders in the congregations of the Central East Region.

Some of you may have noticed a position vacancy announcement for a 1-year Interim position on the staff of the Central East Region. The reason for this opening position is that I have been designated for deployment to the Middle East as a part of Operation Spartan Shield, to serve as a Chaplain in Medical Command. It is my intention to go on unpaid leave from the Unitarian Universalist Association beginning sometime in July (depending on training requirements) and to be away from the UUA for approximately one year. Through the summer I will be focused on completing some necessary training requirements, as well as being available for my soldiers and their families. I will be traveling to the Middle East in the fall and will be there for approximately 9 months. I expect to return to serving as a member of the UUA Staff during the summer of 2019.

Though I did not volunteer for this assignment, I will admit to being willing to go. Though I have deployed several times as a soldier, I have never deployed as a Chaplain, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do that before the end of my military career. Though I cannot share much about the mission, I will say that it is in-tune with my personal faith and with my Unitarian Universalist Values. I will be with a team of Medical Command soldiers who were specifically selected for this mission, many of whom already know me as “their” Chaplain.

I want to thank the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Association, who have been very supportive through this time and who have expressed a commitment to my having a job when I return home… a blessing that not all of my soldiers or fellow chaplains have. I also want to thank all of the friends and colleagues who have offered to be supportive to my family during the time that I am away. It is good to be a member of this faith community, and I know that I am not taking on this mission alone.

And, I want to thank all of those who are considering applying for the Interim position on the Central East Regional Staff. Knowing that the congregations I serve will be well cared for by the whole Central East Regional Team will allow me to focus on making sure I am part of our saving lives overseas, as well as making sure I come home. If you are interested in the Interim position, please look at this PDF.

And, until I go on leave in July, I am still serving as a member of the Central East Regional Staff, and the work I have already committed to doing with congregations will be accomplished before I leave. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you all before I go, and again when I return.

Chaplain (CPT) David Pyle
Brigade Chaplain
8th Medical Brigade, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support)
Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, NY

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The Commission on Appraisal Needs Your Ideas!

The Commission on Appraisal is particularly happy to invite your participation in a brief survey to help prepare to select our next topic of study. The Commission serves similarly to a “think tank” on larger issues facing Unitarian Universalism. Our recent study was on class in the UUA.

They are attempting to cast a wide net and so are asking congregations, individual congregants, and professional staff to share your thoughts.

Below you will find the proposals that you will be asked about in the survey. There is also an opportunity for you to suggest a topic for the Commission to study. We would like a response by March 31st but we will leave the survey open until after GA.

To learn more about the Commission on Appraisal, an independently elected body of our Association, go to www.uua.org and search for the Commission on Appraisal or use this CoA.

Commission on Appraisal—Requests Your Help to Discern Our Next Topic

For each of the listed topics we ask the following.

  1. To what extent do you support this topic?
  2. How appropriate is the topic’s breadth?
  3. How likely is this topic to engage the interest of our members?
  4. How important is this topic to the future of the UUA?

Our Fifth Principle, Democracy

One possible topic concerns the fifth principle.  How do we implement and support democratic process in our congregations, the UUA and the larger world? How do we make it more relational and less adversarial, particularly regarding parliamentary procedures used in crafting policies and by-laws; and how do we encourage members to be more engaged in democratic processes in the larger world?

Support for Religious Professional of Color

A second proposed topic is how the leadership and staff of the UUA and its regions provide human resources, advocacy, and career support for ministers and other religious professionals of color. What kinds of support are needed to ensure sustainable, gratifying, and productive careers for this traditionally marginalized group within our tradition? How does the UUA and its regions ensure that religious professionals of color have resources for navigating conflict, find trustworthy mentors, and master the politics of survival within the UUA? What are the barriers to providing support, how can we eliminate them, and what systems are needed in their place?

Managing Balance Between Tradition and New

A third proposal is to explore the balance between tradition or continuity and change as we strive to remain relevant as a faith to younger people. What is the essence of Unitarian Universalism that we would want to preserve, and how would we bridge the generations in adapting to a new era characterized by social media, digital communities, and less one-on-one interaction that millennials, and other young people, are often attracted to and use as a substitute for traditional forms of community?

Our Unitarian Universalists Faith’s Existence and Longevity

A final possible topic is an umbrella topic emphasizing our very existence and longevity through the three lenses mentioned above (Our Fifth Principle; Democracy, Support for Religious Professionals of Color, and The Balance Between Sameness and Change), specifically by examining:

Advocacy for career sustainability, mentoring, and advancement by the leadership and staff of the UUA & its regions for our support of People of Color serving in various forms of ministry, to include: parish, religious education, administration, music, and community ministry; increased financial support for entrepreneurial and youth ministry; and strengthening the democratic processes and values within the UUA, its congregations, and in the world.

The image of growing a garden comes to mind where the support of ministry and youth is planting the seed, strengthening democracy is watering; and balancing continuity and change is pruning and weeding that which chokes life from host plants.

Your Idea for a Topic

To provide your thoughts to the Commission on Appraisal, please fill out this survey.

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It’s Time to Think About General Assembly 2018

UUA GA 2018 logoGrounded in a deep belief that we are all prophets, Unitarian Universalists ask, “How can we faithfully meet the demands of our time?” The call to witness and act for justice in our society and in the world is clear. So, too, is the call to examine our structures and practices, dismantling and transforming those which fail to recognize the full humanity of all people and to honor the interdependent web of life. Join us in Kansas City as we dive deeply into questions of mission for our Unitarian Universalist Association, for our congregations and communities, and for each of us as individuals. Together, we’ll ask:

  • Who and how are we called to be at this time, individually and collectively?
  • How are we called to act and to live?
  • How does our Unitarian Universalist  legacy strengthen us in living out our mission? In what ways does our legacy present challenges and impediments to answering our call?

The call of our faith has a place for each of us. Join us in Kansas City to build courageous, collective leadership with tools, skills and connections.

For General Assembly March 1 is an important date – registration and housing reservations open on that date. Financial aid can only be requested from March 1-31. So now is the time to start thinking about if you want to attend. Housing does tend to fill quickly so do check that out if you want to stay in the hotels near the convention center. Registration rates go up on May 1, so do pay attention to that date as well.

There are a few different things for GA this year and some familiar things to learn about.

  • Financial Aid for General Assembly – Financial aid for General Assembly is available in the form of working volunteer positions as well as registration scholarships and travel grants. GA Volunteers exchange a set number of hours of work at GA for a full-time GA registration. There are several different funding sources available via the General Assembly Unified Scholarship Application, including additional funding committed by the UUA Administration to the 2018 budget to facilitate the participation of People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Persons at GA. Anyone with a relationship to a Unitarian Universalist congregation or UU organization (covenanted community) is encouraged to apply. Financial Aid applications are accepted March 1 through March 31.
  • Registration opens March 1.
  • Housing Reservations open March 1 at 10 am.
  • NEW – Host a Networking Session! – You are invited to submit a proposal to host a networking session at General Assembly. Time has been set aside at GA on Friday evening for networking among affinity groups within Unitarian Universalism, for people to connect around identity, role, interest or any other dimension. Proposals are due Thursday, March 15.
  • NEW – Present a Poster at GA! – You are invited to apply to present a poster at GA on an inspiring story, best practice or a resource of interest to other GA attendees. Sessions will be selected based on how they address equity, inclusion and the GA theme. If chosen, you will need to be present for one 75 minute session where attendees can drop by to discuss with you the topic of your poster. Poster session will be scheduled daily in the GA Exhibit Hall. Proposals are due Thursday, March 15.
  • The Ware Lecture, Banner Parade and Service the Living Tradition will all take place during General Assembly. You can see the programming highlights and schedule of events on the UUA website.
  • Not sure if you want to be a delegate? Read the Delegate FAQ to find out what is required of delegates. Remember, that congregations select their delegates and every congregation has their own process for selecting them.

Can’t travel to Kansas City? No problem, you can be an off-site participant. Much of what happens in the plenary hall is live streamed via YouTube. Off site participants are also given access to additional materials. Congregational delegates can attend from home as well as off-site delegates. Learn about participating from off site and what the requirements for that are at the GA website.

Learn more about General Assembly on the UUA website and we hope we’ll see you there!

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Be a Learning Congregation!

It’s no secret to UU’s that I work with that my call to ministry is  lay leadership development. I take shared ministry seriously, and I want our lay leaders to be every bit as equipped to lead as our religious professionals.

When I first came on regional staff 7-1/2 years ago we had a tradition of week-long leadership schools. I remembered EAGLES (The Eastern Great Lakes Leadership School) from when I was a new lay leader, but I had neither the money nor the vacation time to attend. The region had moved into a new model, UULTI (The UU Leadership Team Institute), with the understanding that a team of four or five leaders attending together would have more impact on their home congregation. It had a wonderful curriculum that was transformative for attendees, but it was expensive and participants needed to take a week out of their lives to attend. We did see the positive impact on congregations who regularly sent teams.

We also offered a different model of leadership development, using the Healthy Congregations® curriculum. This was less expensive (which enabled larger congregational teams to attend) and was offered locally over a series of 6 weekends. We saw a remarkable positive impact on congregations that had most of their leaders attend these trainings.

So I imagined, if we could have ALL of or congregational leaders have this training, if we could stop fighting with one another and start fighting for justice, if we could spread our liberal religious values, what impact might we have on the world?

Imagine if these values were shared valued throughout our communities:

  • No one of us has all of the answers. The world around us is always changing and we always have something new to learn.
  • All relationships should be consensual (never coerced)
  • Our communities should be places where all souls can flourish
  • We are called to build the Beloved Community and we have faith that we have the resources to do so
  • We need to work at being our best selves
  • We need to be able to make mistakes with humility and forgiveness
  • Our Covenants (or other social contracts) help us to be accountable to all of the above values

This is the “creation story” of the UU Leadership Institute. Offering the same kind of leadership training online, with interactive materials that congregational Leadership Development Teams can use in person, could make a version of this transformative training available on-demand and at an affordable cost.

The equivalent of the week-long leadership school is offered in a 2-part course called Centered Leadership Part 1 and Part 2. We also offer the advanced leadership courses Strategic Leadership and Adaptive Leadership.

We also offer several elective courses and unique premium courses each semester and several on-demand courses anytime on UU History, Identity and on special areas of interest for various ministries in the congregation. You can enroll in Spring courses until the end of March.

Please check them out! We would love to have you be part of our learning community!

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Dean UU Leadership Institute and CER Congregational Life staff.

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Making Holidays Relevant Today

Barbara Ford – Prayer

Rev. Hope Johnson. Photo by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Rev. Hope Johnson. Photo by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

n these times of limitless grief
We have but two choices

Our hearts can break
They can break wide open

The broken heart can fall
Clutching and desperate
Into a deep chasm of loneliness

The heart broken open
Joins with the pain
Of a million other hearts
And knows
That it is never alone.

May we choose
The communion of broken hearts
Over isolation

And with that choosing

May we act together in love
Toward the healing
Of the Heart of the World.

February. Black History Month. I celebrate Black History every day of my life so I find it odd to devote one month in the year to celebrating Blackness.

I am keenly aware that many Unitarian Universalist congregations struggle with what to do all month. This month. With the escalation of obvious racial injustices, coupled with our Unitarian Universalist commitment to dismantling systems of white supremacy, it is important to honor and to commemorate the painful legacy of the Black experience in this country. And yet, it is important to keep the hope for a more just future alive, not only by praying, but also by doing.

Valentine’s Day is one of February’s special days. A day when Love is celebrated, commemorated, longed for, or…. Though it only lasts for 24 hours it permeates the entire month of February offering each of us another opportunity to share the love that we have within our hearts—even, or especially—when they are, or have been broken. Valentines Day, like Black History Month, should be celebrated every day of the year.

And there is Washington’s Birthday, commonly called Presidents Day that began as the celebration of President George Washington’s Birthday as a Federal Holiday in 1885. With time it came to celebrate all U.S. Presidents. Then over the years it has somehow become one of the biggest sale weekends in this country. I do wonder what is really being celebrated this Presidents Day, but that is another blog-post….

I encourage congregations to embrace the joy—and the challenge of finding meaningful ways to make holidays relevant to today. This might well be a good time to involve all ages in a shared project—finding new stories that bring our UU values to life; perhaps creating a timeline, or a service project. Consciously taking a difficult decision to live our values. There are many resources available through uua.org. And, there’s still time to work on something special this February. And, remember that there are eleven other months ahead….

Rev. Hope Johnson


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