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 the region and the Annual Program Fund 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 committee chairs and members, those who plan events, congregational volunteers who help us with on the ground planning and logistics for events and more. 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, Beth Casebolt, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, and Shannon Harper

Giving Tuesday is November 28th – and the UUA has a special matching gift campaign going on. Please check out uua.org for details.

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Preparing Your Faith Community for the Unexpected

Recent tragic events are causing many congregations to pay closer attention to the safety of their people and the security of their spaces. We all like to think of our congregation as a safe space that offers sanctuary from the world beyond but churches everywhere have become increasingly vulnerable to unexpected intrusions. The chance of an incident occurring remains exceptionally low but we know that when it does happen it is devastating for victims, their families and their communities. The threat of everything from a tornado, flood or fire to a stranger who enters our space with malicious intent is remote but real and all faith communities are encouraged to engage in an open and transparent process to create internal policies, action plans and training for staff and volunteers before the unthinkable happens.

The following resources have helped our congregations develop plans and procedures for addressing threats and violent incidents:

  • Your local police department. Often, they can do a walk-through of your building and give you guidance.
  • Church Mutual Insurance Company’s ALICE Training Institute Online Tutorial. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. These tactics are broader than a “lockdown only” approach, and have proven effective for minimizing harm.
  • The Justice Technology Information Center’s Safeguarding Houses of Worship App and resources to use “in collaborating with community leaders and first responders.”
  • The Anti-Defamation League’s Protecting Your Jewish Institution is a comprehensive security guide covering not only active shooter situations, but also violent protests, threats, and surveillance by hostile groups.

As CER’s program manager for Safe Congregations, I’m interested in hearing from congregations that have developed strong policies and procedures. I’d like to share what you’ve done with other congregations. And if you’re from a congregation that’s just getting started with this work, I encourage you to begin by viewing this webinar, “Safe from Harm.”

For more resources on how to keep your congregation safe from all types of harm, check out our UUA.org Safe Congregations resources or to reach out to your primary contact. This website is in the process of revision and update, so if you can’t find what you need, just write to the UUA Safe Congregations team and we’ll get you connected.

Patricia Infante
CER Congregational Life Staff, Program Manager for Safe Congregations

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Responding to Violence in Our World

A few weeks ago I took my seat on a Jet Blue flight that would take me from San Diego to JFK in about 5 short hours. I had just left the wonderful Mosaic Makers Conference where we figured out ways to center the experience of the global majority in Unitarian Universalism—and beyond—in a world that is becoming increasingly multicultural. We made some meaningful strides in spite of the difficulties that abound.

Little did I know that my world—our world—was about to change again. While on-line in flight, I received the news of the most recent terrorist attack in New York City, the vibrant city that I live in. A truck speeding down an innocuous bike path deliberately killed eight persons, and injured numerous others—in the name of religion.

My heart, like yours, broke for the innocent persons killed and injured, for their families, on Halloween no less! A fun day. A day when typically, life is celebrated by all ages.

My heart, like yours, breaks as I ask myself, “what can we in Congregational Life do?”

We can pause. We can express our gratitude for the positive efforts being made. We can each do something. And we can celebrate the fact that none of us is alone—we’re a team. From there, we can work with our congregations by supporting their efforts to balance the disparities that abound. We don’t have to do it all but, if we want to be part of the change that we’d like to see, we do have to keep challenging each other, not by being hard on ourselves, but by being real. I shared some of these reflections last Sunday before we paused in silence to acknowledge the tragedy.

After service, I took the train and headed to represent the UUA and the Central East Region at Rev. Audette Fulbright’s Service of Installation. I sat across from a lovely couple. Happy. Carefree. Then, all of a sudden, there was a shift in mood. A shift in tone. Tears. The news: 26 persons were killed and about 24 were injured in another church shooting, this time in Sutherland, a tiny rural town in Texas. I made it to All Souls. Just as the service began I formally shared the horrific news, paused for another moment of silence, before extending warm greetings. My heart like all the hearts gathered, broke. My heart, like yours, breaks.

And yet, I know how important it is for us to allow our grief-filled hearts to invite faith, hope and love to seep in–drop by precious drop. Allow our hearts to guide us in coming together, once again, as often as we must, to claim that we will not let fear dictate the kind of people we are and will be, in spite of the anger, the tears and the fears. Allow us to be the people who know how to respond—yes, once again—by uniting our actions, our hearts and our minds in love. Allow us to remember as we work with the larger world, our congregations, and each other, that we are part of a team, doing the work that we have each been called to do.

Yours, HOPE

Rev. Hope Johnson, CER Congregational Life Staff

If you need assistance with talking about these issues with your congregation, please refer to the UUA’s pages on Trauma Response:

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UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change

Members of the UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change

Have you heard of the UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change?

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Commission on Institutional Change is charged with long-term cultural and institutional change that redeems the essential promise and ideals of Unitarian Universalism. Appointed by the UUA Board of Trustees in 2017 for a period of two years, the Commission will analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA.

The members of the Commission are

  • Rev. Leslie Takahashi, chair: Lead Minister at the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, CA, and Affiliated Faculty with Meadville Lombard Theological School
  • Caitlin Breedlove: Vice President for Movement Leadership at Auburn Seminary; former Campaign Director of the UUA Standing on the Side of Love Campaign, former Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground
  • Mary Byron: Member of the UUA Audit Committee; former executive with Goldman Sachs
  • DeReau Farrar: Director of Music at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR, member of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network
  • Rev. Natalie Fenimore: Minister for Lifespan Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY; former president of the Liberal Religious Educators Association
  • Dr. Elias Ortega-Aponte: Associate Professor of Sociology and Religious Ethics at Drew University, and member of the UUA Religious Educator Credentialing Committee

Additionally, Rev. Sofia Betancourt, former UUA Interim Co-President for Institutional Change, will help support the Commission as it gets started during the first few months.

Watch their introductory video:

Their Principles and Goals are:

The Commission on Institutional Change held its first in-person meeting on August 21 and 22, 2017. After two days of deliberation and consideration of the charge presented it by the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Commission completed a statement of its work, its guiding principles and its approach to its work. Over the two years the Commission will report back to the Board and General Assembly its learning, recommendations, and guidance for ongoing work. The Commission will:

  • Ground its work in theological reflection and seek the articulation of a liberating Unitarian Universalism which is anti-oppressive, multicultural and accountable to the richness of our diverse heritage.
  • Oversee an audit of racism within the Unitarian Universalist Association practices and policies to set priorities and make recommendations for anti-oppressive strategies (including hiring and personnel practices and governance structures) and that will advance our progress towards building the Beloved Community and hold the Association accountable.
  • Collect stories of those who have been the target of harm or aggression because of racism within existing UUA culture and to identify the aspects of that culture which must be dismantled to transform us into a faith for our times.
  • Examine and document critical events and practices at all levels of the Association, congregations and related ministries which spotlight areas for redress and restorative justice and illuminate the expectations placed on religious professionals of color in the transformation of our faith.
  • Identify promising practices for recruitment, retention and formation of religious leadership which spans the spectrum of race, class and age and which reflects an ecclesiology of an inclusive faith.

The Commission has a webpage on the UUA website that details their charge, goals, bios of their members and how they plan to work together. They have also created a blog where you can follow their work.

The Commission will report back their findings at future General Assemblies. To contact the Commission, email [email protected].

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