In Gratitude

With Thanksgiving past and the holiday season approaching, this marks the beginning of the season of thankfulness and gratitude. And so we want to take this opportunity to say Thank You.

thank you wordle

Thank you to the congregations who pay their fair share to their district and/or APF and those who stretch to pay as much as they can. Your funds make our work possible and allow us to provide resources, trainings and support to all our congregations in the region.

Thank you to all our Chalice Lighters who make a commitment to help those beyond their own congregation with growth and outreach projects, or to recover from devastating situations. Your generosity has an impact on the lives of our congregations and members that you cannot imagine.

Finally, we could not do it without our volunteers. Those who volunteer in our congregations to make them representatives of our values in your communities. The members of the district boards, our team and committee chairs and members, those who plan events, congregational volunteers who help us with on the ground planning and logistics for events and more. And our regional transitions team whose tireless work has made the move to regionalization possible. We would not be able to do anything without our volunteers. To you we say Thank You over and over again.

So to all of you who make these many things possible, we say Thank You.
Your Regional Staff

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Sue Tabone, Cristina Sanchis, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Rev. David Pyle, Andrea Lerner, Rev. Hope Johnson, Patricia Infante, Rev. Megan Foley, Jillian Conway, Beth Casebolt, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, and Shannon Harper

Giving Tuesday is November 29th – and the UUA will have a special matching campaign going on. Please check out uua.org tomorrow for details.

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WV Congregations Lead Demonstrations for SSL

The New River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in Beckley, WV has coordinated two interfaith demonstrations. The theme was Standing On the Side of Love. They joined the UU Congregation of Charleston for a third demonstration on the same topic.

The Lewisburg Interfaith Fellowship, Quakers and Unitarian Universalists from the area participated in a demonstration in Lewisburg on October 29 at the Green Space. A second demonstration was held in Beckley in Word Park on November 10. A third demonstration took place in Charleston at Haddad Riverfront Park, Nov. 15 and was part of the 2nd Annual WV Welcomes Refugees event. Members of the UU Congregation, Charleston, WV also participated.

Issues that were upheld included Standing on the Side of Love, Ban Walls of Hate, Black Lives Matter, Gun Control Now, Words Matter, Let Go of Fear, Live in Love, LGBTQ Lives Matter, and Practice Love.

The events received local news coverage from both television and newspaper reporters.

Lewisburg Photos:

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Beckley Photos:

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Charleston Photos:

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Congregations Respond to Election Results

Fairfax County Courthouse
Fairfax County Courthouse

The 2016 election results were astonishing no matter on which side of the divide you fall. Shocked and often dismayed, clergy from congregations all over the Washington DC area opened their doors on Wednesday for vigils, quiet space, community time, grieving, wondering, and recommitment to Unitarian Universalist values of inclusion and love. For a span of twelve hours, at least ten local congregations offered space for people to gather.

The Fairfax, Virginia interfaith community had already planned a Post Election Vigil for Healing for Wednesday night, arranged and sponsored by the UU Congregation of Fairfax.  The vigil was held on the steps of the Historic Old Fairfax County Courthouse, a site held by both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War.

Rev. David Miller, Senior Minister at the UU congregation of Fairfax, shared these words: “We don’t live in the halls of Congress. We live in communities that are totally dependent on all of us trusting each other, doing our part and understanding the humanity of all.

We have been called together tonight at this Civil War site, to remember what happens when ideology runs rampant and we lose our ability to see the humanity in the eyes of the other. There is so much pain on all sides of this election. I can only think, how will the movement start to overcome our differences? Where will the first step be taken to move beyond the battles of the last century? When will we see that we are different and yet so totally dependent on each other?”

See local news coverage, including comments from local UU ministers Rev. David Miller, Rev. Julie Price, and Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael.

If your congregation held a vigil, demonstration or more, please tell us about it below!

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After the Election, From Your Staff

Dear Congregations and Clergy of the Central East Region,

CER VerticalLast night’s election results are in, and we know that we are not alone in experiencing a wide range of emotions.  We know that many of you are rising to this new day with more questions than answers.  We do not yet know what this means for ourselves, for our congregations, for those we love, or for the vision of Beloved Community that our faith calls us to.

As you move into caring for yourself and each other, we wanted you to know that we of the Central East Regional staff awoke November 9th resolved to continue to follow the call to love, to fight bigotry and hatred wherever we find it, and to reach out to our fellow human siblings to seek connection and understanding even when that work is hard to do.

None of us can do this work alone, and we Regional staff are here to help you connect with others who make you strong.  We are here to provide you with the resources you need to do the holy work of loving other human beings, not because it is easy, but because it is the only path to justice and to peace.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your Primary Contact for support, for resources, to help coordinate your great idea, or for a listening ear as you work out how your congregation will respond. We are here to support your efforts to change the world, and we all have a lot of work ahead of us. We are in this together.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Rev. Megan Foley, Regional Lead
Beth Casebolt
Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer
Jillian Conway
Shannon Harper
Pat Infante
Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson
Andrea Lerner
Rev. David Pyle
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Cristina Sanchis
Sue Tabone
Rev. Joan Van Becelaere

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Facing Religion in the Future

“I heard people call it a “wake-up call” and say that they were “inspired and energized.”  — Rev. Joe Cleveland,  UU Congregation of Saratoga Springs, NY.

The congregations of the Hudson-Mohawk Cluster held their first cluster leadership conference on October 22, 2016, at the First UU Society of Albany.   While the cluster has held an annual cluster Joint Worship service each spring for over seven years, this was the first time the congregations had come together to explore new knowledge, skills and strategies for strengthening their congregations.

More than 45 leaders and members of six different congregations met in Albany to discuss “Religion in the Future” and participate in workshops focused on social media, multigenerational social justice work, and new member engagement.   The six included the five congregations of the Hudson-Mohawk Cluster (First Albany, Schenectady, Glen’s Falls, Saratoga Springs and Kingston) and one neighboring congregation, Bennington VT, from the New England Region.

Opening worship was presented by clergy and members of the Schenectady and Saratoga Springs congregations, and included a dramatic reading of the Sufi story “The Little Mountain Stream” with slide illustrations.

The keynote on Religion in the Future, with the Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, UUA congregational life consultant, outlined eight major areas of social change that all American faith traditions face today:

  1. Increasing numbers of religiously unaffiliated adults
  2. Increasing numbers of people with negative feelings about “religion” and growing positive feelings about “spirituality” (spiritual but not religious).
  3. Declining participation on Sunday mornings
  4. Increasing diversity and pluralism and individualism
  5. Changing patterns in marriage and family life
  6. Declining religious socialization of children in the home
  7. Aging Baby Boomers and the rise of “active retirement.”
  8. The increasing influence of social media, online connections and the internet

The second half of the keynote explored several different ways congregations from several faith traditions are learning to proactively engage with these social changes.

Several people wanted to take the presentation back to their congregations, since they felt this was such timely and vital perspective on the changes in society and congregations.”—Rev. Margret O’Neall, UU Society of Schenectady.

Participants then gathered in affinity groups, based on role in their congregations or areas of interest, to discuss the keynote over lunch.  Following lunch, people had their choice of three workshops.

“It was a great reminder that none of us are alone in dealing with issues of membership, social media use, governance issues or increasing our cultural competence. We do that work better together.”  — Rev. Sam Trumbore, Fist UU Society of Albany

The workshops included:

  • “Strategic Uses of Social Media,” with Josh Shea, member of First UU Albany. With so many social platforms available, how do we know their best uses?  Learn more about how they work, and to determine which platform would be right for your group or congregation.
  • “More than Numbers: Making and Deepening Connections for Vitality,” with Kristin Cleveland, membership coordinator with the UU Society of Schenectady. How do we know which things we are doing help people feel welcome and connected, and which might turn newcomers away or make it difficult for them to find connections?  We’ll share ideas that better engage people in the activities and mission of the congregation and lead to dynamic and sustained connections.
  • “Helping Children and Youth Learn Through Service and Social Justice,” with Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer, UUA congregational life consultant. Maybe just tagging along is not enough. How can we help our children and youth use their experiences to become people who can connect across difference and understand the complexity of our world?  This takes a little extra attention – and attention to our own development too.

There are already plans to host another cluster leadership event next fall.

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