Crossing the Border

It’s amazing to watch the effects of the contagion of cooperation that seems to be springing up. When I first was employed by the Ohio Meadville District (as Young Adult Coordinator) from 2006-2009 I saw faint symptoms–a combined leadership school, a monthly phone call between young adult staff and cooperation on a few brochures. But so many of our events were still constrained by our boundaries, artificially imposed as they are.

YRUU LogoOnce the idea of cooperation and crossing boundaries takes hold, though, it seems to just keep spreading! I just finished leading a youth and advisor training in Canton New York–way, way far north. It would not have been possible, financially, without participation from two Canadian congregations. It’s not the only place where youth and adults are crossing that border. Last summer, Ariel Hunt-Brondwin, Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development for the Canadian Unitarian Council, was a key part of making the Goldmine Youth Leadership School happen for the western part of CERG. Canadian youth participated and even served as staff on both Goldmines. Since then youth from St. Lawrence crossed in to Canada for a youth con in Toronto, Canadians came to the Peer Chaplain training and will be at the Buffalo Con next weekend.

It’s both a renewing of the historic connections across the St. Lawrence Seaway and a new willingness to cross borders of all kinds. We have had St. Lawrence youth at Ohio Meadville cons and Ohio Meadville youth at St. Lawrence Youth Adult Committee meetings. Young Adults are making the same invitations. It just makes sense–Cleveland is closer to Buffalo than Albany, Ottawa is practically next door to Canton.

Regionalization in some ways makes everything seem further away as the “center” of our region is further away than the center of our districts. But I’m seeing, at the same time, a willingness to turn and look across the borders behind us. And so paradoxically, we’re actually able to make more happen. We’d never have been able to have that training in Canton without the Canadians. And more, their presence was deeply enriching in sharing new suggestions and insights and building more relationships. And many of those residents of NY and Canada realized they were going to see each other again–next weekend, driving the other way around the lake.

If you want to consider going north–there are two great events coming up. The first is a Senior High Our Whole Lives weekend in Ottawa February 21-23rd. Second, there’s a Spirituality Development Con outside of Toronto February 28-March 2nd. “This training is for youth, youth advisors, Religious Educators, seminarians and ordained clergy, and adult allies who are interested in learning more about how to better integrate worship and spirituality into their own lives and into the youth ministry in their community.”

If you’d like to cross borders to the south, think about attending the multigenerational Spring Seminar at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office April 4-6. (

Evin Ziemer
OMD Program Coordinator, SLD Youth Coordinator

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Creating Change Together Through Love

Standing on the Side of Love LogoDo you know the history of the Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) Campaign?

The Standing on the Side of Love campaign was inspired by the 2008 shooting (read the UUWorld Article) at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, which was targeted because they are welcoming to LGBTQ people and have a liberal stance on many issues. The Knoxville community responded with an outpouring of love that inspired the leadership at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to launch the Standing on the Side of Love campaign (see the UUWorld Article) in 2009, with the goal of harnessing love’s power to challenging exclusion, oppression, and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, race, religion, or any other identity.

SSL Tshirts from Equality March October 2009Since then we have seen the “yellow shirts” as we have been called show up at protests and rallies for Immigration Reform, Marriage Equality and more. The events in Phoenix in 2010 are just one example of what we have accomplished. And while this campaign was started by the UUs, it is truly an interfaith movement, as many others have joined us on our journey. We have accomplished much in the 3 1/2 years since and the program is going strong. Truly an example of “better together” in it’s most positive form.

SSL 30 Days LogoIn 2010, SSL began the tradition of re-imagining Valentine’s Day as a social justice holiday. Starting in 2012,  this event has evolved into the “Thirty Days of Love“–a month-long spiritual journey and commitment to sustained action and service. The month starts on the Sunday before Martin Luther King day and ends on Valentine’s Day. There are resources on their website for congregations and individuals for this month and a daily blog posting. If you are interested in social justice you should check it out. There are even calendars for families that can be downloaded and followed.

We are Better Together when working for justice and equality.

Beth Casebolt
OMD District Administrator & CERG Communications Consultant

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Deeply Woven Roots

RedwoodsRecently I spent the Christmas holiday in Northern California, our home for many years, for some time with my friends, the beach and the redwoods.  When I see those majestic trees, so much diminishes in their presence.  They have withstood the pressures of the ages, survived the drought and the ravages of the sea.  Yet they stand as the tallest and oldest trees in the world.

They have one weakness- very shallow roots.  Standing alone, the roots can not support the weight or the height of the tree.  One storm would knock it to the ground.  These trees survive because their shallow, tangled roots weave into the tree near it, another shoot from the mother tree, that forms a circle of interconnected trees that together can sustain any force of nature- earthquakes, tornadoes, fire, storms- none of it can destroy them. These “Kings of the Forest” are respected world wide for their strength and beauty.

Redwood RootsAnd I think of how Unitarian Universalism used to be the “Great American Religion,” now no one knows who we are.  It brings me profound sadness when I see how we destroy ourselves- through conflicts that we avoid until they blow up and cause great pain.  Through a lack of stewardship to fund our mission.  By allowing our own lives to be so full with busyness that we neglect our spiritual lives.  We have the power to change this.

John Muir says, “Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. Through all the eventful centuries since Christ’s time, and long before that, God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand storms; but he cannot save them from sawmills and fools; this is left to the American people. “

Take care of our faith.  Remember that we are connected and can help or destroy each other.  Stand tall and link arms with your neighbor.  We are better together.

Rev. Christina Neilson
Congregational Life Consultant SLD

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January – A Good Time for “The Conversation”

It’s January, the month of New Year resolutions and new beginnings.  It’s also the month of leaving, with the highest death rate in the US (followed by February, December and March).  On December 30 I turned the radio on and caught Diane Rehm interviewing Katy Butler, author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Death.  Katy wrote the book in response to the deaths, and the decisions made preceding the deaths of first her father then her mother.  Memories of my mother’s death just 2 years ago at age 90 quickly resurfaced.  I began to consider the kind of conversation I should be having with my husband’s 89 year old mother.

According to Butler, “I think we need to start these conversations years earlier than we are, and we need to regard them as emotional and spiritual conversations, not conversations just about, I don’t want to be plugged into machines, or I don’t want a pacemaker.”  Legal documents – living wills and durable power of attorney – important and helpful as they are, can never anticipate every situation nor provide specific direction to family members in times of conflicting priorities.  So many times I have seen and been part of a cycle of interaction focused on “What’s the matter?”   For someone in declining health there is so much to pay attention to that we often skip the conversation about “What matters?”  “What matters” is about the soul, not about flatness of an EEG line. 

As UUs we talk about the inherent worth and dignity of each person, and so I was drawn to the way The Conversation Project  seems to support each of us, young and old, those near death’s door as well as those seemingly far away, in providing a structure for having conversations about our values and priorities.  Check it out, share it, and initiate “The Conversation” with your family and friends.

                                Karen LoBracco

                                Lifespan Faith Development Consultant, St. Lawrence and Ohio Meadville Districts

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