Resources for Understanding the History of Anti-Racism in the UUA

Some of you have asked questions about the history of anti-racism in the UUA. There are three videos we highly recommend to help you understand the history and some of the context in which our current conversations are taking place.
For its spring 2017 Minns Lecture Series, the Minns Lectures Committee hosted a group of leading and insurgent Unitarian Universalist historians, ethicists, and activists who presented their research on the historical and future trajectories of Black Lives Matter and Unitarian Universalism. Who were the African American leaders in Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist congregations? Why don’t Unitarian Universalists today know about our black antecedents? What is the relationship between this “black hole” in white consciousness about African Americans and the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement?

Curated by the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, the series consisted of two lectures:

Friday, March 31 – The Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, Affiliated Member, Meadville-Lombard Theological School, with respondent Rev. Mary Margaret Earl, Executive Director and Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (UUUM)

Saturday, April 1 – The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President, Professor of Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Heritage, Starr King School for the Ministry with respondent DiDi Delgado, writer, activist, organizer, and freelance journalist.

The struggle for black empowerment and racial justice within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) came to a head in 1967-1970. The video, Wilderness Journey tells the story of what happened through the voices of those involved at the time. It is highly recommended viewing for those interested in understanding the history of the time. One of the speakers at General Assembly, Dr. Sanyki, was a participant in those events and referred to them in his speech to the delegates during plenary. We cannot embed the video in this blog, you will need to visit the link to watch it.
If you are interested in seeing the speech by Dr. Sanyik at GA, we have included it below:

You are also invited to attend the new monthly #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachin Curiosity Circles Webinar led by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke at 6 pm ET on Wednesday, July 6 and on the first Wednesday night of each month. This is an opportunity for our Central East congregational leaders to learn together so you can find their own theological center and voice in this important time. Wherever you stand or however you feel, we will meet and walk with you.
If you need additional resources in this time, please reach out to your primary contact.
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UU Charleston Improving through Faithify Campaign

UU Congregation of Charleston, WV

Unitarian Universalist presence in the state of West Virginia is deeply needed and wanted in today’s climate.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, WV is West Virginia’s largest UU congregation, and the only one in the state which is minister-led. All UU congregations in West Virginia are dedicated to serve as beacons of hope, love and progressive religion in the state. Because of our size and location in the nation’s capital, our congregation feels a sense of responsibility in being a part of this state-wide UU effort to share the good news of our faith in our state.

Our congregation is known throughout the area as leaders in environmental and social justice issues. We are known as a place of sanctuary for many peoples: Pagans, atheists, theists, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, younger folks, older folks, activists and those in recovery. Most recently, those who felt fear and despair following our presidential election came surging in through our doors.

And now, we need help. Our parking lot is in need of repairs, our doors and entry ramp are falling apart, and many who want to come can’t get in.

Let me tell you a bit more about us. We are a caring congregation, who is deeply committed to our community. This is clearly seen in our efforts to be a part of assistance following the water crises our state has experienced in recent years. We raised tens of thousands of dollars for groups working to protect people and water after the Charleston chemical spill in 2014 contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 people. In the Summer of 2016, we again raised thousands, using this to help those ravaged by the June floods. By staying in relationship with community leaders and a variety of partners, we were able to identify gaps between immediate flood relief and long term recovery.

UUC Parking Lot

One example of this was our collaboration with Kanawha County School’s homeless coordinator and area principals and teachers, to identify needs of families displaced by the flood. Many were in transitional housing, living in tents or campers, staying with family, or back in their own housing with only the most urgent repairs being attended to. Many children and families were sleeping on floors with nowhere to store their belongings. With the help of many of you, we were able to provide beds and dressers, making their difficult living situation livable.

Our congregation, which has helped so many, needs help now. Help us continue to grow as a beacon of hope and love in our state. Help us be able to open our doors to all who wish to enter.

We are raising these funds through a Faithify campaign, which has more information on our repair projects, as well as a donation link.

Thank you for considering helping us to bring more love and justice to our community.

Sincerely,

Paul Dalzell
Operations and Outreach Coordinator
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, WV

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The Flowers of Turbulence

Rev. Megan Foley

I have not enjoyed spring this year in Washington D.C., where I live.

I usually love the mild days of April, May and June in the Mid-Atlantic, where we have long stretches of blue sky days in the 70s.  Rather than seeing how much heat or cold I’ll need to accommodate on any given day, I can leave my windows open and my socks off, eat meals outside, and rely on things being consistently peaceful and pleasant.

This year, it’s been either cold and rainy or hot and rainy. May had no days with highs in the 70s, but plenty in the 50s and some in the 90s. It’s been less physically uncomfortable than it’s been just unreliable and largely gloomy. No peace, no thoughtless pleasure this year, just the same old weather variation I manage all year long.

Unitarian Universalism has been like this for me this spring, too. Many days, it’s been gloomy to be a UU. We’ve been angry at each other, rude to each other, and unsure of what will be next for us. We’ve suffered losses and grief in the extreme at the headquarters level. For some of us, we’re awakened to a painful reality that others of us have been living with for far too long. Every day this spring brought something new and challenging in our faith.

At the same time, I experienced pockets of love and support this spring that have surprised and sustained me. Colleagues who reminded me of the importance of my work. The joy of regular churchy things like ordinations and worship. The gratification of the White Supremacy Teach In both in a congregation and among UUA staff. The dawning hope that change might be possible when I honestly had not thought it was.

It has not been a spring to relax with open windows and thoughtless inattention. But the flowers of spring bloomed just the same; the days have stretched longer behind the clouds; the world is still warming, in fits and starts. Summer comes no matter the rockiness of the approach.

Perhaps the task at hand isn’t so much to long for days of pleasure and peace when those are clearly not to be found. Maybe our work is to look for the flowers that are determined to bloom for us in the weather that we have.

Rev. Megan Foley
CER Regional Lead

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What on Earth is Juneteenth?

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

From its Galveston, Texas roots, the observance of Juneteenth as the African American Emancipation Day began in 1865 and has triggered a series of far-reaching events that continue to reverberate over the decades—through the present, to the future. The commemoration of Juneteenth has spread across the United States and beyond. It has also taken root in some of our Unitarian Universalist congregations.

The JOYS of Congregational Sharing in the Central East Region:

2003. I heard the word “Juneteenth” when First Unitarian Brooklyn commemorated Juneteenth with a service filled with music of the African American tradition. A block party, co-hosted by First Presbyterian, Brooklyn and First U. This wonderful inter-faith collaboration continues now and includes Brown Memorial. Topics include a wide range of social action issues from Selma to Stonewall to Ferguson; Racism/Anti-Racism; the Sanctuary Movement; Black Lives Matter; Immigration; Environmental Justice, and more.

Inspired by First U I decided to commemorate Juneteenth from the first year I arrived at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Central Nassau (UUCCN), Garden City as Minister. We began with a worship service that included a commemoration of Juneteenth. Then we included a Southern luncheon. We now have an annual Juneteenth celebration on the Saturday before Father’s Day replete with a Southern feast and a wonderful program. Each year more and from UU congregations, Interfaith groups, as well as local neighbors attend Juneteenth. This year’s program features Reggie Harris. Among other presenters have been original Tuskegee Airmen.

I suggested that Community Church UU, consider celebrating Juneteenth too! Former DRE Janice Marie Johnson started celebrating Juneteenth and honoring the ancestors from the African Diaspora about twelve years ago. Guest musicians, storytellers and singers offer education, entertainment and Southern-themed supper. Current DRE Esther Rosado continues this tradition each year and Senior Minister Bruce Southworth always attends.

Let’s recap the UU “folk process.”

First Unitarian Brooklyn has honored Juneteenth over a 19 year span, including now under the leadership of Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau for 14 years. Community Church of NY for 12 years. And Rev. Jude Geiger who was introduced to Juneteenth while he served at First U Brooklyn now honors Juneteenth each year at the UU Fellowship of Huntington where he serves as Minister.

But, it doesn’t end here. UUCCN started a sister project with “H2 Empower” years ago when one of UUFH’s members, Helen Boxwill visited Hosannah, a small village and realized that the children needed books. As part of UUCCN’s Juneteenth Celebrations, Helen has come and set up shop with beautiful hand-crafted items to help the village in far-away Ethiopia. The library now has four walls, a roof, books, computers and teachers! UUCCN is proud to have had a small part of that.

And so, the beat goes on. Are we better together? You bet we are!

Friends, it really does take a Village…. And there’s always room for the Village to grow not only at Juneteenth, but always!

Yours, Hope

Rev. Dr. HOPE Johnson
Unitarian Universalist Association
Congregational Life
Central East Region

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Resources for Those Attending General Assembly

Attending General Assembly is a whirlwind of activity. Attending for your first time can be overwhelming! Your Central East Region team wants you to feel prepared. Here are some resources we think you might find helpful. Several are good for off site attendees as well as on site attendees.

The Central East Region is hosting a GA Orientation webinar on Tuesday, June 13 at 7:30 pm ET. Led by Jeff Donahue, Commissioned Lay Ministry candidate in Denominational Affairs and former president of the St. Lawrence District and Chair of the CER Transitions Team. This orientation is recommended for everyone attending GA but especially first timers and especially delegates. The UUA Board of Trustees is offering GA Orientation webinars with Moderator Jim Key for all delegates, whether onsite or off-site. There are five opportunities to join the webinar and each is limited to 500 participants. For dates and connection information visit the UUA website.

The UUA has provided a series of resources to help individuals prepare for General Assembly this year. You can find the full list of resources at the UUA website. There are readings, videos and actions individuals can do to prepare themselves fully for the GA experience in New Orleans and complete several actions and you can even earn a ribbon. Those attending off site can also participate and let the UUA know what they’ve done via email.

New to GA? Not sure what to expect? There are two resources we recommend. The GA Forums has a number of discussion boards you can ask questions on. There is a topic specific for questions from first-timers, those who are participating off-site, delegates and GA business, information about the elections and more. You must have an account on the UUA website and be logged in to participate.

In addition, Peter Bowden at UU Planet, has compiled an unofficial guide to surviving General Assembly that was created by the UU Growth Lab on Facebook and has been updated each year. This year’s version contains specific information about New Orleans. You can find it on his website. One of the suggestions is to look at the program schedule ahead of time and make some preliminary choices about what you want to do. You’ll make changes on the fly once you are there but it helps to have a starting point. One event you will want to add to your schedule is the CER Ingathering on Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 6:15. This Ingathering will be a good time to see your Regional Staff in person, connect with other attendees from your region, and get some grounding as GA begins.

​Delegates – Please be aware that we will be using electronic voting for the election at General Assembly. Please see the UUA website Elections Page for details. There are 3 ways a delegate can vote in the election this year:

  1. In person at a voting kiosk at GA from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM CDT on Saturday, June 24.
  2. Online using a computer or mobile device beginning June 1 and up until 5:00 PM CDT on Saturday, June 24. Delegates may use this method even if they attend GA.
  3. Absentee, by requesting and returning a paper ballot by mail. Requests must be postmarked no later than June 1, and ballots returned by June 14.

If your congregation does not have enough delegates attending GA in New Orleans, you can opt to send off site delegates. Off site delegates have access to livestreamed video of all the activity in the plenary hall, plus any business workshops (the budget hearing for example) as well as a selection of some workshops. They are able to speak on the floor during meetings and to vote in real time, including the election. Learn more about off-site delegates and general off site participation.

There are several events at General Assembly that require pre-registration so you need to sign up now! Those include participating in the GA choir, special Hands-on Service Projects and the Pre-GA Racial Justice Training Workshop.

And last but not least, General Assembly has its own app. The 2017 update will be live by June 1. You can download the app to your phone now. It’s available from iTunes, Google Play and as a mobile enhanced web app for others. I highly recommend you use the app at GA to track your calendar, look at workshop options in advance and find maps. You can also provide feedback and connect with others attending GA.

Those attending GA will receive an email from us highlighting CER events during General Assembly in June.

We’ll see you in New Orleans!

Beth Casebolt, CER Communications Consultant and Operations Manager

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Are you familiar with Chalice Lighters?

This program has been in place for decades in most areas of the United States as a way to fund growth in Unitarian Universalist congregations –

  • establishing new congregations,
  • improving or expanding the existing structures,
  • funding new or expanded staff positions, and
  • resourcing programming innovations.
  • Clusters of congregations may also apply for funding for collaborative projects.

Want to know more?  Read our FAQ.

We are moving toward a Central East Region Chalice Lighter program beginning in the fall of 2017 replacing four individual District-based programs, and this is where you come in.  In order for our program to thrive, we need three things:

  1. Each congregation should appoint one or more Chalice Lighter Ambassadors, volunteers who recruit subscribers and make sure the word gets out about the program.
  2. Congregations should schedule a Chalice Lighter Sunday during the program year where you highlight the wonderful achievements of this program and have a membership drive.
  3. Become a Chalice Lighter Subscriber! Every person who wants to see Unitarian Universalism grow and thrive should consider donating at whatever dollar level might be appropriate.  The suggested donation is $20 per call, yet no gift is too small or too large.

Individual Chalice Lighter Subscribers pledge to contribute three times a year when the calls are issued – and those faithful contributions add up to significant funding.  In the Central East Region alone, contributions have totaled almost TWO MILLION DOLLARS over the past 15 years!

SUBSCRIBE TODAY – There is no payment due at this time, you will be contacted for a payment with the next call.

Andrea Lerner, Program Manager for Chalice Lighters.

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Update on the Annual Program Fund

We are thankful for your support of all of the congregations in our Association through your contributions to the UUA Annual Program Fund and your Central East Region. Just think about all of the lives reached by Unitarian Universalism nationally, and the important, painful and necessary conversations that find a home in Unitarian Universalism, where we transform ourselves in hopes of transforming the world.

As we continue along the path of regionalization, we are further streamlining our system of Associational stewardship in the coming fiscal year. We want to communicate clearly what this means and how it will affect the way your congregation contributes to both the Central East Region and the UUA.

What will remain the same for Fiscal Year 2018 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018):

  • Your financial support of our Association through our UUA Annual Program Fund (APF) and through your Regional dues will remain vitally important. The vast majority of the budget for Central East Region programming and staff operations comes from your APF and  Regional dues contributions. Your support provides services not only to your own congregation, but also to other congregations who count on your full participation.

What will be different for Fiscal Year 2018:

  • This week you will receive your annual pledge form from us, and it will look a little bit different.
    • There will be a message from our three Interim Co-Presidents.
    • The forms will list the amount requested for your Region, as well as for the UUA, and then a total combined amount. There will be a space for you to enter the single total amount that you pledge.
    • We will ask you to make your FY2018 contributions by sending single checks made payable to UUA-CER rather than by separate checks made out to UUA and to your Region.
  • The amount of combined dues you owe will be based on the district your congregation historically belonged to and your contribution to the UUA.
  • Please note that for the remainder of the current Fiscal Year 2017, you will continue to receive Regional dues invoices from the Central East Region as well as invoices from our UUA for any remainder of your FY2017 Annual Program Fund pledge.

We would be happy to help with any questions you have about Associational stewardship. You may reach out to Andrea Lerner (484-201-4384, [email protected]) with questions about the nature of the program or Cristina Sanchis (302-377-8971, [email protected]) with specific financial questions.  Norrie Gall, UUA Congregational Giving Manager (617-948-6514, [email protected]) is also a resource as we transition to her office for invoicing and record keeping.

Friends, we are congregations in covenant. When each congregation becomes part of the Association, they pledge their support to the UUA. Your gifts to your Region and the Annual Program Fund are the fulfillment of a promise already made. Your contributions are used to provide programming and services to your own congregation, as well as to those throughout our Association, which we are faithfully providing. Thank you so much for your faithful giving, on behalf of all Unitarian Universalists.

In Stewardship,
Rev. Megan Foley, Regional Lead, Central East Region
Andrea Lerner, Associational Giving Program Manager, Central East Region
Cristina Sanchis, Financial Manager, Central East Region

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From Your Regional Lead: Prepping for General Assembly

One of the things I’ve been doing to prepare for General Assembly this year is to work through these excellent preparatory materials provided by the Planning team. As the GA webpage puts it, “General Assembly in New Orleans will awaken and deepen the commitment of Unitarian Universalists to the power and possibility of working in solidarity with those on the margins. [Here] are resources to help you prepare to enter fully into that experience.” Now that the UU conversation about white supremacy has intensified, preparing for GA in this way seems even more important. I’m doing as suggested, exploring the resources in each of the five sections (Encountering New Orleans; Understanding Intersections of Race, Class and Economics; Enhancing Capacity to Build Relationships; Centering the Experiences of People of Color; and Examining Whiteness) to get a broad overview.

I’m personally invested in centering the experiences of people of color. As a leader in Unitarian Universalism, I’ve had no shortage of opportunity to immerse myself in white culture and a white orientation to the world. I get really animated when I can participate in opportunities where the experiences of people of color are centered, instead. I learn more from those times than I would from reading ten books!

What is your next step in “awakening…the power and possibility of working in solidarity with those on the margins”? You aren’t going to dismantle white supremacy in yourself or in the world all at one time. Where’s the right place for you to start? What can you learn about this week that will make a difference? Seeing the world with new eyes can be enormously rewarding. Your efforts will benefit us all. Plus, if you bring your completed resource list to the UUA Expressway at GA, you can get a ribbon to commemorate your learning!

Megan Foley
CER Regional Lead

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Is Your Congregation Participating in the #WhiteSupremacyTeachIn?

More than half of all Unitarian Universalist congregations are joining the #WhiteSupremacyTeachIn. Is your congregation one of them? If not, are you wondering what exactly this is?

Here is an overview from the Black Lives UU webpage for the Teach In:

On Sunday, April 30 or Sunday, May 7, or whatever date works for your congregation, a large, growing group of Unitarian Universalists will shift their regularly scheduled Sunday morning worship to participate in a teach-in on racism and white supremacy. On these two Sundays, you and your UU community will be participating with thousands of UUs around the country in this large-scale historic action.

This call to action and worship comes from a growing network of UUs–religious professionals and and lay leaders from both within and outside congregations–led by UUs of color and white UUs working together.

Over the past few weeks, many have been responding to calls by UUs of color to look critically *within* our faith communities–including hiring practices, power brokers, and cultural habits–for the ways racism, sexism, and white supremacy live.

Why change your worship plan? Many of us work in congregations, and know that such shifts require work and can challenge our comfort levels. That’s precisely why we feel it’s important. We believe that hundreds of UU churches signaling to their own members and to the larger community that “our faith takes racism seriously, especially within our own walls” will push our faith toward the beloved community we all seek.

Whether your UU community has dozens of members and children of color, or just about everyone is white, the commitment to combat white supremacy must be strong and urgent. Battling racism in its many forms is not easy. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it takes a commitment to disrupt business as usual.

It’s not too late to join in. Need help? the Black Lives UU website has a list of resources and has had webinars to assist folks with the planning – you can listen to the ones that have past. Worship resources are now available thanks to Kenny Wiley at http://tinyurl.com/luumzou.

If your congregation is not participating, a map of those who are is on the Black Lives UU website. If your congregation is participating, please make sure you add your name to the list.

The UUA endorses the Teach In and other efforts to move us closer to truly inclusive community.  If you have questions, please get in touch with your CER Primary Contact.

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First Universalist Lyons Experiencing Revival

The First Universalist Church (UU) of Lyons, OH is experiencing a revival in northwest Ohio.  This small village (pop. 562) is just west of Greater Toledo, and the suburbs are steadily stretching out closer and closer to Lyons. The congregation’s new “G.O.D.” (Growth, Outreach, and Deeds) team has been a big part of the congregation’s recent revival, forming partnerships with local service organizations and engaged in intentional efforts of community outreach and service.  The congregation has made quite a few changes to its Sunday service, with updates to worship and music.  This revival also has a lot to do with the dedication of the congregation’s minister Rev. Larry Hutchison.  The congregation could only afford to bring him on as a part-time minister, yet he does so much more on a volunteer basis.  Things have been looking up for this very small but now growing congregation.

Then, all of a sudden, the congregation’s focus was jerked back to financial struggles and the basic operation of the church.  A recent wind storm hit the aging and worn sanctuary roof with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. This was followed by heavy rains that led to a large ominous dripping wet spot with ceiling tiles stained and loosened. To keep the 149 year old church home from sustaining any more damage the members have had to scramble to raise the money to get the work underway as quickly as possible.  The most economical bid for the replacement of the main part of the roof, just over the sanctuary, is $13,500.00.  The insurance company has pledged $6000.00 to cover only what was damaged by wind, not the entire section of aging and compromised roofing.

The congregation now has a Faithify campaign to raise $5000.00, which leaves $2500.00 for them to cover with an unplanned and hurried capital campaign and from their modest financial safety net.  Failure, however, is not an option.  Failing to secure a roof on our beautiful yet fragile church home could result in not only ending this amazing revival but the closure of the church.  After surviving the Great Depression, World Wars, a lightning strike, and a beam falling through the sanctuary ceiling, it would unthinkable that a worn roof would be the end.

Little Free Library
Poetry, Music and Tacos
Dresses for Malawi
Guest Speakers
Christmas Parade Lit Float
Adopt a Highway Program

In the last year alone, the congregation…:

  • Started a “little free library” in our modest village that no longer has a public library.
  • Have marked out an area for our new community garden.
  • Sponsored 3 “Christmas families,” with a house full of gifts and household necessities, when they would only have taken on one in prior years.
  • Partnered with Sunnyside Peace and Justice Center in Adrian, Michigan to host a night of “Poetry, Tacos, and Music”.
  • Sent durable church-made dresses to Malawi so that girls there can meet the sole requirement for enrolling in school, having a dress.
  • Brought in quite a few guest speakers to bring insights about topics as diverse as solidarity with standing rock, NAACP, living as a Muslim-American, and overcoming addiction, to name a few.
  • Handed out treats at the village’s Trick-or-treat night, which facilitated a lot of community questions about Unitarian Universalism, including one child, to the dismay of his parents, asking, “What kind of church passes out candy at Halloween?”
  • Passed out free food and refreshments during the 120 mile yard sale on route 120.
  • Entered a lit float into the village Christmas parade.
  • Hosted movie nights. Some had a deep or intense message, others were just fun and for all ages.
  • Continued an adopt-a-highway portion of route 120.
  • Lots more…
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