CER Minister Founds Interfaith Program to Feed Hungry Children

Rev. Karen Rasmussen
Rev. Karen Rasmussen

If you’ve looked on Faithify lately you’ll have seen a project called No Child Goes Hungry. This project was posted by Rev. Karen Rasmussen, minister of the UU Congregation of Columbia, MD. This project addresses her personal interest in making certain no child goes to bed hungry. We asked her about her project and her program and wondered how other congregations might get involved.

Why did you choose child hunger to focus on?

It’s crazy isn’t it, that any child goes hungry.  It makes me the kind of frothing at the mouth kind of crazy that any kid doesn’t have enough to eat. In our schools, congregations and on our very own streets, kids go hungry every day. I’ve been a hunger activist for about seven years and I figured I could either let the issue overwhelm me or I could work to fix it-one kid and one meal at a time.

How does No Child Go Hungry work?

Once a donation is made to No Child Goes Hungry, I give a congregation or a small groups a grant or “seed money.”  I offer to consult with the leadership of that group on how to feed kids in the community and the  congregations in turn decides where in their community the money can best be used . The people of the congregation, both clergy and lay leaders, work with a local school or organization to directly feed kids. I talk with the on how they spent the grant and keep the accounting that way.

I mean, who better than the congregation on the ground in the community to work with a local school to make sure kids have enough food on the weekends?

For me, listening to the nine congregations who already have grants plan and organize to feed kids in their own communities is both exciting and inspiring.

What does it mean to be a partner with No Child Goes Hungry?

To partner with NCGH means your congregation or organization has a grant and you are working on ways to feed kids right in your own communities. I’m looking to branch out and offer seed money to scout troops, parent teacher organizations and small businesses so they can organize food raising for local shelters and schools. Many PTA’s in schools already have a pantry to get some food home for kids on the weekends. I also help congregations reach out to their local elementary schools for help with the national Blessings in the Backpack program. One of the first questions I ask a congregation is “which is the closest elementary school to you and do you know if they help feed kids on the weekends and holiday?”  That gets the ball rolling for our partnership.

What is the project on Faithify raising money for?

To supply more congregations and small groups with seed money for provide meals for kids. The nine congregations already with grants are of three different denominations and in six different states plus the District of Columbia. 100% of the donations go directly to feeding kids and I have a waiting list of at least 14 more congregations ready to organize, plan and provide meals.

I serve as a change maker, a connector and a consultant to make sure no child ever goes to bed hungry.

To learn more about this project visit the No Child Goes Hungry website or watch the video below.

Interested in posting a project on Faithify? Visit their website or Faithify University for assistance.

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Marietta Ohio Congregation Installs Solar Panels

solar-panel-installationThe First UU Society of Marietta, Ohio (FUUSM) has gone solar! Solar panels were installed at the First Unitarian-Universalist Society of Marietta (FUUSM) during the week of October 17.  This installation establishes FUUSM as the first religious organization in Washington County to have solar panels as a major source of electrical power in its main worship building, located at the corner of Third and Putnam streets in Marietta. The 1.2-kilowatt solar panels will be placed on part of the new roof, which was installed in May of this year. The solar panel installation will be done by Pickering Associates of Parkersburg , W.V. The cost of acquisition and installation of the solar panels will be covered by a private company, Golden Rule Associates, LLC, owned by FUUSM member, Dave Ballantyne. The reason for this arrangement is that only individuals or organizations subject to federal income tax liability can claim the 30 percent federal income tax credit available for solar-panel acquisition and installation, not nonprofit or religious organizations.

The solar panels will generate approximately 66 percent of the annual electrical usage of the church building. Initially, FUUSM will save about 10 percent on its electricity bill annually because of the solar panels. Members and friends of FUUSM may purchase additional solar panels for placement on the roof of the church building, and they may also buy portions of Golden Rule Associates’ ownership of the original solar panels. Golden Rule Associates will donate the solar panels to FUUSM after such time as the original investment has been repaid, or 25 years, according to a formal agreement between Golden Rule Associates and FUUSM. Then, when FUUSM fully owns the panels, the electric-bill savings will be the full 66 percent.

George Banziger, president of the FUUSM Board of Trustees, noted that the installation of solar panels is a momentous event for FUUSM and helps to fulfill its commitment as an official “Green Sanctuary” congregation, a designation it received in 2014 from the Unitarian Universalist Association, its national denominational organization, after a rigorous application process.

“We are very grateful to Golden Rule Associates for its support of our solar panel project. This will allow us to live out one of the principles of our FUUSM affirmation: To ‘cherish the universe and its resources, and recognize the unity of all life,’” Banziger said.

“I am pleased to support FUUSM’s commitment to its Green Sanctuary status with this initiative, which I hope will be exemplary to others for increasing use of renewable energy and decreasing use of fossil fuels. The solar panel project represents our serious spiritual engagement in environmental sustainability,” Ballantyne said.

The Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker said those at the church feel that what they are doing with the solar panels truly represents what they believe in. “We really feel like we are putting our faith into action,” she said, adding that they are committed to clean air, clean water and environmental issues. “In a way, it demonstrates our commitment and is an example to others.”

Marietta is on the border with West Virginia and is deep in heart of coal country, however the congregation has not experienced any pushback from other groups in the area.

FUUSM’s building was built in 1857. However the location of the  modern solar panels are not visible to those who are in and around the historic building. You can learn more about FUUSM at their website www.fuusm.org

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Unitarian Universalist Minister named Berks County, PA Poet Laurate

Rev. Sandra Fees
Rev. Sandra Fees

Rev. Sandra Fees, Minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County in Reading, Pennsylvania was selected to be the 2016 Poet Laurate for Berks County PA.  “Poetry and literary arts inform my work as a minister. I often use quotations from poets as a springboard for sermons and include poems in services,” said Rev. Fees, speaking of the integration of her artistic practice into congregational life.  “Another way this has come into church life is through a monthly spiritual writing group I facilitated a year and a half ago. We wrote to the monthly themes using prompts that I developed.”

When asked about the congregation’s reaction to the award, Rev. Fees replied “The congregation is not only supportive but also enthusiastic. They are proud of me and proud to have a minister receiving this honor. I was truly touched to have about 15 members come to the ceremony.”  Rev. Fees shared that poetry was her first calling, having written since childhood.  However, it was in college that she began to take herself as a serous writer.  “Poetry makes me a better minister, and ministry makes me a better poet”.  Through UU Ministry Coaching with Rev. Mark Hoelter, Rev. Fees has sought to integrate the callings of poetry and ministry more fully.  “My hope and vision is that being Berks County’s Poet Laureate will help me bring these two passions into a more open and robust conversation.”

By Subtraction
Rev. Sandra Fees

Three animals in one year
come in snow to die. Here. Why?

Sirens invade the housing project
across the bridge.

The sky turns pale pink,
the way it does when it snows. Light pollution.

A lone rabbit, more scared than me,
loses the familiar earth-scent

can’t get comfortable
in winter’s skin.

Mother’s final message replays:
I just called to see if you’re all snowed in,

her voice tripping a little over the words snowed in
as if telling a half-joke.

Before that, I thought I knew what I wanted to say.
Now it’s her voice I hear.

Some people believe when a person dies
they take part of you with them. But it isn’t true.

They leave part behind
and what they leave isn’t yours to keep.

By subtraction, you’ll leave still more,
each moment another shade of white.

Congratulations to Rev. Fees on this great honor and to her congregation for their support.

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New UU Video!

Have you seen the new UUA video: We Are Unitarian Universalists?

The graphic artist who created the video, Elliott Cennamo, is a UU and is from Columbus, OH. He created the Unitarian Univeralist Covenant: What Do We Promise One Another video 3 years ago.

The new video can be found on YouTube and on the front page of the UUA website.

Find this and other UU videos on the UUA’s YouTube channel.

Feel free to share and to use this video on your website and social media. You can download a copy at the UUA website.

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The Pumpkin Patch Returns to Long Island

Pumpkin PatchAs I left the Nassau Boulevard Station of the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) on the first Sunday of October, I was in a hurry to meet my dear friend Matt Meyer, Master UU Drummer who was leading the service. I stood at the traffic light at the corner of Nassau & Stewart waiting for the light to change and I witnessed a field of orange. Fairly-traded pumpkins trucked in all the way in from our partners in Framington, New Mexico. Yet, I as I drew closer to the Patch I noted that there was diversity in our pumpkins. Orange. White. Green. Bumpy. Multicolored. Different shapes and sizes—the splendid Gourd Family!

I’m proud to say that this is our 12th year! Yes, it represents our biggest fundraiser. Though it raises funds for UUCCN, the bulk of the money goes back to the Navajos who tend the soil and raise the pumpkins in New Mexico. The Patch provides community service for Garden City and environs. We offer concerts in the Patch, face painting, storytelling, apple pies, pumpkin pies, as well as meaningful opportunities for service…. It is truly a magical event! If you wish to set up a program just let us know and we’ll work something out.

fullsizerenderThe entire congregation is involved. There are jobs for everyone from the littlest ones to those who are older! UU congregations come from near and far to join in the fun. Many visitors sign up to work on the Patch and end up coming to events and services. They unload the trucks. Have programs including “Pizza and Pumpkins,” and get service points to boot! The nearby college Adelphi works with us and we in turn provide them with space for their events.

We’re especially proud to be in authentic relationship with our partners who are headquartered in Farmington, NM. They’ve visited us. We’ve visited them. We support each other. This was a particularly bad year “weather-wise” in New Mexico. Mother Nature gave them two “wake up” calls! Our partners reached out to us. We’ve responded and will continue doing so in ways that will be helpful. That is what congregations do as we live our UU values.

Matt Meyer and Hope JohnsonThe Pumpkin Patch provides an interesting entry point to being in collaboration with our neighboring and local UU congregations. We’ve celebrated Indigenous People’s Day as an alternative to Columbus Day. The Patch is an entry point to engaging in intercultural competency and cross-cultural engagement. Contact CER for the many resources it provides in this area. We’ve hosted concerts in the Patch led by UU Master Drummer Matt Meyer who this year’s Patch on Opening Sunday. Sarah Dan Jones, Musician and Songwriter will join us mid-month to lead worship and to jam in the Patch. Both are serious about culturally appropriate presentations. On the Sunday service on the last Sunday of the month all are invited to come whimsically attired in preparation for Halloween 2016. We’re open daily from 11am to 7pm. Please come by. Visit. Hang out!

Yours, HOPE

Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson
Minister, UUCCN, Garden City, NY
UUA Congregational Consultant, Central East Region

making pumpkin piesmaking apple pies

Pumpkin Patch with Church signPumpkin Patch



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