Sandusky UUs Explore New Ways to be in Community

UU Firelands LogoThe Rev. Mary Grigolia has worked with the UU Fellowship of the Firelands in Sandusky, OH for four years, leading services once a month, facilitating a workshop/discussion after service and coffee hour/lunch.  But last March she encouraged them to take a different path, totally dropping Sunday services in favor of what they love and do well: social action, programs bringing on a progressive voice to a very conservative area, social gatherings, and occasionally road-tripping to other UU congregations.


Some background:

  1. SOCIAL MEDIA – the year before they hired their minister, they hired a dynamic young adult (Lauren Berlekamp) who put together a really fun Facebook presence. This helped to attract young adults and middle-aged adults to their social justice programs and concerts, but not to Sunday mornings.
  1. RENTED SPACE – was secured perhaps 8 years ago in the basement of a UCC church in Sandusky. It was really, really depressing. It was amazing any new-comers came back. And few did.
  1. NOT A CRITICAL MASS – the core group worked very hard to keep Sunday morning services alive. It defaulted to a handful of people, led by a woman in her 40s with two elementary/middle school-aged boys. Tragically, she died 18 months ago. And the stalwart few went into self-blame and paralysis.
  1. MEDITATION GROUP – Meanwhile, for the last 5-6 years, two of the core members have facilitated a weekly meditation group, eclectic, drawing from Fellowship members and beyond. So there is still an on-going gathering.
  1. COMMUNITY THEATER – And they are also almost all involved in the production of a vital community theater that also keep feeding their need for community and expression.
  1. BLESSING – And so as numbers dipped beneath 10 on a Sunday morning and the energy was going elsewhere (not Sunday morning), Rev. Grigolia encouraged them to reinvent themselves, committing to a series of programs (talks, concerts) for the larger community, social action programs, and social events. That is what they’ve been doing. They had a successful Jim Scott concert, celebrating the vision of Pete Seeger. And they continue to employ a young-ish adult (Rose Hollo) who maintains and energizes their Facebook and sends out beautiful, engaging Constant Contact campaigns.

They were surprised and so grateful that they could continue to be a Fellowship and to serve their community and each other without holding Sunday services.

They didn’t want to let me go, but (and) Rev. Grigolia assured them that she would be very glad to respond to whatever pastoral needs they have on a case-by-case basis, to perform weddings and officiate at memorial services. She gave and give them my blessing.

You can check out their website and Facebook page to learn more about their alternative programming.

Share on Facebook

Innovative Ministries and Programs Highlighted in Dawning Future Conference

Gabrielle Rockenfield GA ChaliceHaving a keynote speaker share an idea increases its influence and impact.   Having a dozen speakers has a multiplying effect. Video-recording those speakers and sharing the presentations widely can have an exponential effect. That’s what happened at the Dawning Future Conference hosted by the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock and the Central East Region and you can help the impact be exponential.

The morning was filled with short TED-talk style presentations. The afternoon featured workshops with each of the presenters so that participants could go more deeply into the topic.

Tom SchadeThe program was moderated by the Rev. Tom Schade, author of The Lively Tradition, a blog about the intersection of UU Theology and the current historical moment. He started out the morning with his talk The Gravity of the Situation: What Holds UUism Down and Prevents Us from Rising (YouTube 15:18)

Themed Ministry presentation by Washington Ethical SocietyThe Opening Worship (YouTube 33:26) and the talk Connection, Depth, Efficiency: Being a Themed Congregation (YouTube 14:08) was presented by the staff of the Washington Ethical Society: Rev. Amanda Poppei (minister), Robyn Kravitz (Coming of Age and Teen Coordinator) , Melissa Sinclair (Director of Lifelong Learning) and Bailey Whiteman (Chorus Director). They shared the story of how they moved from Theme-based worship to using themes throughout the life of the church. (They shared more of their model in their afternoon workshop: Part 1 (55:28) & Part 2 (40:11).)

Rev. Meg Riley, the minister of our largest congregation – the Church of the Larger Fellowship – shared how her ministry is reaching places that no other UU church can, in her talk Authentic Connections in a Virtual World (YouTube: 20:04)

Bill ClontzNationally-known stewardship consultant Bill Clontz used humor and wisdom in his talk Let’s Talk about UUs, Money, Power and Secrecy: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (YouTube 15:33). Bill helps to bring the FUN back to FUNdraising. (He shared more of his wisdom in Part 1 (41:38) and Part 2 (48:10) in his afternoon workshop.)

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke shared her big hairy audacious goal for offering wide, deep and affordable training for church planters as well as leaders of existing congregations in her talk Lay Seminary in Your Pocket (YouTube 12:48) where she describes the online UU Leadership Institute.

Kenny WileyThe conference then moved toward justice concerns with a two part talk Hope, Anger and Empty Chairs: A Black Lives Matter Conversation. The conversation started with the Rev. Barbara Gadon, the Lead Minister of Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood, MO, whose congregation has been on the front lines of the protests over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. (YouTube 13:06). She was followed by Kenny Wiley, #BlackLivesMatter activist and UU World Editor. (YouTube 13:43).

The morning talks were capped off by the Rev. Sue Phillips sharing the power of Faithify in her talk Cool Things Crowdfunding Can Teach Us About Church (YouTube 22:10), followed by a Q&A Session (YouTube 4:31)

The Central East Staff and the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock hopes you find ways to share these presentations and use them to inspire your own creativity!

You can watch the entire playlist on YouTube below.

Share on Facebook

UU Congregation of Buffalo Celebrates Ministerial Installation

Charge to the Minister Joan Montagnes and Karen Matteson on the right photo by Sam Trumbore
Charge to the Minister Joan Montagnes and Karen Matteson on the right photo by Sam Trumbore

Congratulations to the UU Congregation of Buffalo, who installed the Rev. Joan Montagnes on Sunday, November 15, 2015!

The Service was the culmination of a four-year search for a minister who now serves the congregation that has been part of the greater Buffalo community since 1831. Rev. Montagnes is the congregation’s first female settled minister in 184 years. She was unanimously approved by the congregation in June.

Rev. Montagnes, a native of Toronto, has been a Unitarian Universalist minister for 22 years. She has served congregations in Edmonton, Alberta; Beaconsfield, Quebec; Toronto; Wenatchee, Wash.; Moscow, Idaho; and as associate minister at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, Wash. She was Consultant with the Unitarian Universalist Association for the Western Region in Redmond, Wash., before accepting the position in Buffalo. Her divinity degree is from the Meadville Lombard Theological School of Chicago (1994). She also has a Master of Science degree from the University of Alberta in Edmonton (1990).

The ceremony included opening remarks from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Unitarian Universalist Association members, including those from UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, Rev. Lori Staubitz and Rev. Renee Ruchotzke. It was covered by the local news.

More than three dozen area clergy members from all faiths participated in a ceremonial procession that was part of the Installation Service.

Sarah Lammert Sermon - Photo by Sam Trumbore
Sarah Lammert Sermon – Photo by Sam Trumbore

Rev. Sarah Lammert, the Unitarian Universalist Association Director of Ministries and Faith Development, delivered the Sermon, Hunger and Passion Call Us on Our Way.

The current church, designed by noted architect Edward Austin Kent, and built in 1906, was listed this year on the State Register of Historic Places and on the National Registry of Historic Places. It has gained iconic status in the Elmwood Village because of its old-style English perennial gardens and its American-Gothic architecture. Its Sanctuary has been called “one of the best Arts and Crafts spaces in Buffalo.”

The church has been a community-centered Elmwood-Village institution for decades. Kurt Vonnegut’s “Requiem” had its musical debut at UUCB and was performed by the UUCB Choir. The church also gained historical notoriety when it became a physical and symbolic sanctuary to many pacifists during the Vietnam War.

President Millard Fillmore was a member of the congregation during his life in Buffalo and the congregation welcome Abraham Lincoln as a guest of Fillmore during Lincoln’s procession route before his first inauguration as U.S. President in 1861.

UUCB has formally established itself as a “Welcoming Community” and was one of the first Buffalo churches to marry same-sex couples after the New York State Legislature’s approval of the 2011 Marriage-Equality Act.

The church continues its active social-justice base and community activism by sharing its Sunday collections with a wide variety of Buffalo service institutions and by opening its doors to a diverse range of speakers, meetings, and concert venues. In addition, as part of The Family Promise program, the church offers refuge to many homeless families throughout the year.

Share on Facebook