UUA Announces Promise and Practice of Our Faith Campaign

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President

The following letter was set to all congregations announcing the new Promise and Practice of our Faith campaign this month.

In October 2016, your UUA Board issued a charge to all Unitarian Universalists, calling us to invest collectively and signifcantly in the leadership and organizing of Black Unitarian Universalists.

We have an extraordinary opportunity to live the most deeply universalist aspect of our theology and to begin to overcome the limitations of our history. Our commitment to raise and invest $5.3 million for Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) recognizes that centering black leadership is crucial to building multiracial, multicultural communities and to supporting justice work that is free from white supremacy and paternalism.

Our UUA believes so deeply in this commitment to support BLUU’s ministry that it has put forth $1 million from our endowment. In June, a family joined the UUA in its fnancial commitment, making a remarkable $1 million gift to encourage and match contributions from our congregations. This family has been committed to racial justice throughout their decades as Unitarian Universalists, and is investing these funds because they agree that it is time to align our finances with our theology. They made this donation a matching opportunity because they want you to join with them and with us as we boldly build the future of our faith.

To be sure, these are challenging times. We are witnessing a demonstrable increase in hate crimes, a resurgence of the KKK, and daily political and spiritual assaults on our collective humanity. At the same time, we are opening our eyes to white supremacy as it exists in the very fabric of our story as a society and a nation. There is much that we must hold simultaneously. In this time, our commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of all people and our collective interdependence call for us to live, invest in, and understand our faith in new ways.

Now is the time to invest in Black Leadership and organizing within Unitarian Universalism, for this is the very leadership that can help move our faith forward in the promise and practice of beloved community – a community which practices radical inclusion within, and bold justice leadership for all beyond.

Today, I call each of you to be part of this bold commitment to fulfill the promise to support the ministry, leadership and organizing of Black Lives within Unitarian Universalism.

I invite you to share in the dream and vision of what our faith will look like when we fulfill this radical commitment, when we uphold and center the history, the voices, and the leadership of Black Unitarian Universalists.

In order for our work to be truly transformational, I ask every Unitarian Universalist congregation to join in this real and lasting investment in the future of our faith. Indeed,, this is the challenge issued by the family who has pledged so generously. In order to receive the matching funds, we must raise $11 million in our congregations over the next two years.. This challenge calls us to our covenantal promise to one another, and it calls us to be bold as we return wealth historically built on the exploitation and divestment from black communities and make good on promises that were unfulfilled.

To meet this challenge, the donor family has asked congregations to pledge at least $10 per member to this campaign. (Or however you count the souls you serve.) All gifts are needed, and every gift is appreciated. If your congregation is able to reach the threshold of $10 per membe,, BLUU will receive a dollar for dollar match for your contribution.

We know that you are engaged in the often-exhausting work of guiding your congregation through the troubling daily onslaught of news. Embracing this campaign and engaging in the practice and promise of our faith is one powerful way in which we as Unitarian Universalists can lead in our communities and become the change we want to see in our world.. We hope that your congregation will join us and the donor family, and consider gifts that feel inspirational and transformational.

We are all being called to make a commitment that will create enduring impact. For, as a faith community, the investment in Black Lives is an investment in the promise and practice of Beloved Community within Unitarian Universalism. This is about who we are. It is about who we are called to be. And it is about our collective commitment to nurture a radically inclusive, justice centered, multiracial and multigenerational religious faith for this time.

Please visit our webpage www.uua.org/bluu-campaign, where you can find additional materials and resources for your congregation to use during this campaign and thereafter.

Yours in gratitude and spirit,
Susan Frederick-Gray

Congregations are asked to join in the Promise and the Practice of Our Faith by engaging in the following opportunities:

  • Schedule at least one Sunday on November 12, 2017 or February 4, 2018 (or any Sunday that is convenient for your congregation) to engage around the theme The Promise and the Practice of Our Faith.
  • Make a financial commitment in our support to BLUU that is transformational and inspirational which helps fulfill our $1 million match opportunity (double the impact of your contribution by meeting the threshold of $10 per certified member, or however you count the souls you serve).
  • Make a long-term commitment to dismantling white supremacy, racism and oppression from within our denomination and beyond, and uplifting the Black Lives, Voices, and Leadership of Unitarian Universalism.

Learn more at the UUA website.

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Pumpkins Offer Opportunity for Community and Learning

Rev. Hope Johnson at the Central Nassau, Garden City, NY Pumpkin Patch Photo by Patsy Kaplan

UUCCN, the UU Congregation of Central Nassau,Garden City NY initiated the Pumpkin Patch—outreach to our local community, the larger Long Island community, and the Navajo community in New Mexico. I’m often described as the “Pumpkin Minister” and that’s fine with me! Patsy Kaplan, VP brought this project to us thirteen years ago. It’s become our biggest fundraiser and the entire congregation “owns” the Patch!

We’ve learned about the narrative arc from pumpkins grown on Navajo land, to immigrant rights, to fair wages for all, and more. Our focus is on partnership and we now see our neighbors, near and far, through new multicultural eyes. We offer “storytelling,” face-painting, pink pumpkins to support breast cancer research, and more to our young-at-heart visitors of all ages. With time, our neighbors learn about UUCCN and Unitarian Universalism. Musicians, including UU Master Drummer Matt Meyer, perform in the Patch each year. We also offer homemade apple pies, flowers (Mums), and craft items. With a focus on sustainability, the fresh pumpkins are delivered “priced-to-size,” on consignment!!! Leftover or gently bruised pumpkins are turned into soup, bread, pies and such delights. At the end of the month, remaining pumpkins are donated to a local hunger relief organization.

We’ve learned through our regional work that we really are “Better Together!” So, this year there’s a new “Pumpkin Minister” in town—the Rev. Jude Geiger, Minister of the UU Fellowship of Huntington, NY. Here’s their story: “While challenged with organizing a fundraiser that draws from the community, not from our members, we kept running into the hard reality that our building is too off the beaten path to get drive by traffic. We wanted to have a Pumpkin Patch fundraiser, but needed a location with lots of drive by traffic. With the encouragement of Patsy Kaplan, UUCCN’s Pumpkin Patch Coordinator, we found an off-site location. We are renting the lawn of the local American Legion Hall. Although people may stop in thinking it’s a fundraiser for the Hall, they soon learn about us, and that their purchase helps us, the American Legion and the Navajo Nation in NM where the pumpkins are grown. We love the charity helping charity aspect of this, and our customers do as well. Actually, The Garden City Congregation also benefits because the company gives them money based on what we make because Patsy is mentoring us. It’s a charity win-win.” We’ve also mentored UU congregations in Stony Brook, NY; Meridian, CT and beyond…. Ah, the fields of orange beckon…. come visit, Garden City or Huntington, and En-JOY!!!

Rev. Hope Johnson
CER Congregational Life Staff and Minister, UU Congregation of Central Nassau, Garden City, NY

Family Fun at the Pumpkin Patch. Photo by Patsy Kaplan
Sales Volunteers by Fernando Rivera

 

Huntington, NY Church Volunteers unload the truck for their Pumpkin Patch
Huntington, NY Pumpkin Patch set up.
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Navigators USA Founded in UU Congregation

Here is an  example of how our congregations are providing support and filling a need for both UUs and the greater community.

Navigators USA, a secular, all-gender scouting movement, founded at the Unitarian Church of All Souls, New York, is seeing explosive growth. We’ve been growing since 2012 at an average rate of 2 new Chapters a month until last November when the rate moved up to 5 new Chapters a month. Then in July, after the President’s speech at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree, we have received over 20 new applications in August!

We believe that boys and girls need to get out into nature now more than ever and all scouting organizations need support and participation. That said, we’ve been hearing from parents across the country that policies may change but the culture in many local Troops remain challenging for some demographics.

Navigators USA is a bottom up movement similar to the UUA, as a membership service association. Our members are moving us toward a more family focused model with entire family participation in meetings and activities. Building community and social capital along with youth leadership is our mission.

Our growth comes without marketing, completely from Facebook and Google. People are searching for what we have to offer, including UU’s. Of the 189 Chapters started, 38 are sponsored by UU congregations. In many cases we help grow their congregations and strengthened their RE programs.

Robin Bossert
Founder Executive Director
Navigators USA

www.navigatorsusa.org

https://www.facebook.com/navigatorsusa/

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Does Your Congregation Provide Trauma Support to Members?

At one time in our country people joined a religious community because it was expected that they do so. At the heart of what they sought within the community lay a societal norm and a sense of “Being Human Religiously” to quote James Luther Adams. They came seeking social and spiritual connection and grounding, for themselves and for their children. And Church was the primary place that you could find these social and spiritual connections.

That has changed. Now our culture offers a plethora of opportunities for both social and spiritual connections, and for a sense of grounding and foundation from which life can be lived. In essence, the traditional church found that it had competition, and it has struggled to let go of the assumptions of the role and place church should play in a society.

I believe there is a different trend that draws people into religious community today. People may stay in a congregation because of the community, the connection, and the sense of grounding, but that is not what draws them to a religious community anymore.

When I was in Parish Ministry, it was part of my practice to offer to meet with visitors, one on one. Not all would take me up on it, but many did, and what I learned was that almost every person who came into our doors fell into one of two patterns. Either they had attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation somewhere before and had just moved to our town, or they had recently experienced a trauma in their life.

Trauma is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, so let me tell you what I mean. Trauma is experiences of our physical, mental, and spiritual being that disrupt our sense of safety, integrity, or identity. Trauma is an experience where a person’s core assumptions about themselves, their family, their community, and even their country are challenged in such a way that they can no longer hold.

Human beings experience trauma, and some people experience more of it than others. One way to understand privilege in our society is that those individuals with privilege experience trauma less, because society is less likely to challenge their core assumptions. Other people experience trauma on a daily basis, because society challenges or negates core aspects of their identity, body, relationships, and ideals every day. Each of us deals with trauma differently, but we all experience it.
What I learned listening to those who were visiting our church was that most had recently had an experience in their life that challenged their core assumptions about themselves, their family, their community, or their country. Often several experiences… and seeking to recover from this trauma what convinced them to get out of bed that Sunday morning and first come to a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

How does it change the way we seek to bring people into our religious communities if we realize that many are not just seeking a spiritual, religious, or secular community, but that they have come because they are hurting? Because something has challenged a core sense of themselves? That they are coming because of a deep need created by a trauma to their sense of identity, safety, body, relationships and ideals? Especially when you consider that those already within the religious community will also experience their own trauma?

When I offer workshops on new member integration programs, I offer that a congregation should let go of the desire to tell people about the church, and foster a desire to help visitors tell their own stories of their lives. That a congregation should develop a practice of deep listening to visitors, to hear their stories, and to help people express who they are and what they need from a religious community. I share that we do not build a sense of connection with visitors through programs, but through relationships with people. And often, that begins with a relationship with just one person. It begins with the visitor making a friend who will listen to the pain that brought them to church that morning.

While I do believe that membership programs that realize that many who are exploring a congregation are integrating some trauma in their lives are more successful at gaining new members, that is not my point. My point is that this is a ministry to individuals and to the world that we need to be doing. We have the gift that people come to our doors when they are hurting because something somewhere makes them believe that we can help. And we… we need to be worthy of that belief.

Rev. David Pyle
CER Congregational Life Staff

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CER Hiring Event Coordinator

The Central East Region is hiring an Event Coordinator to join our team. This position will be replacing Sue Tabone who will be retiring this year.

We’re looking for someone who has:

  • Respect for, interest in and experience with religious congregations.
  • Ability to work as part of a team and willingness to participate in the practice of covenant.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including proofreading.
  • Ability to manage multiple projects and work assignments in an unsupervised setting; ability to meet deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and customer service skills in person, by e-mail, and by phone.
  • Proficiency in web-based content management including basic HTML, Google applications, Zoom, and social media. Familiarity with Wufoo and Trusted Employee a plus.
  • Proficiency in the Microsoft Office Suite, especially Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Word.
  • Demonstrated success coordinating events.
  • Demonstrated success in office administration.
  • Experience in negotiating with hotels, conference centers, retreat centers, and other venues.
  • Worked or lived experience with communities of color or indigenous peoples is of particular value.
  • Willingness to work in an organization in which the dismantling of white supremacy is a high priority.

Read the full job description and details PDF.

We encourage anyone who is interested to apply for this position.

Learn about all the positions available with the UUA at the UUA Job Openings and Careers Page.

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