Holiday Greetings from the CER Staff

From all of us at the Central East Region, we wish you Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year.

Please remember that the UUA offices are closed from December 22nd through January 1st to allow our staff time to spend with their families during the holidays. We’ll be back January 2nd.

In honor of the holidays we bring you this reading from WorshipWeb

We are in the midst of the season of celebration.
Of the birth of new hope,
Of the festival of lights,
Of the triumph of freedom.

The darkness of the year is lifting and the time of light grows longer. We have gathered with an anticipation of hope for peace on earth and in our homes.

We have gathered in this season of celebrations seeking comfort to soften the pain and the losses our lives have suffered in the fast retreating year.

We have gathered to worship joyfully within this season of celebrations with the tenderness and love of family and friends around us.

Let us be embraced by the strength and power of this sacred space that we each bring as we create this beloved community.

Let joy and sorrow join in the fullness of our living.

Let the power and strength we embody join us together as we move through the seasons of celebration into a new year with a new vision of hope for peace on earth.

Let us be silent together.


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Want to Grow? Time to Adapt!

Youngstown Board MeetingIs your congregation looking to be relevant in a culture where most mainstream white religions are in decline? Many UU congregations are growing, even areas that have declined economically. What is their “secret sauce?”

It’s as simple as congregational health, a sense of purpose, open communication, and covenantal community.

And it’s as complicated as congregational health, a sense of purpose, open communication, and covenantal community. These are not things learned in a single workshop or by reading a single book. They are processes—ways of being in the world. These are not skills that a single leader can gain and take to their congregation. They are group skills that are best learned by a critical mass of the congregation (20% or so) learning together.

The UUA has made it easy and affordable for your congregational leaders to learn together, taking core leadership courses as a group, and then using what you learned by applying it to case studies and other activities.

  • Faithful Leadership is a great beginning course, covering how our history, theology and polity inform our faith communities.
  • Centered Leadership focuses on healthy relationships and communications, developing a shared sense of purpose, and how to lead through a change.
  • Strategic Leadership is for boards, strategic planning committees, bylaws task forces, etc. helping you lead strategically through governing documents and processes.
  • Adaptive Leadership helps leaders develop a more nuanced view of the congregation as a system during uncertain times.

The courses each have 8 sessions. They open every 2 weeks, and each participant will get an email when each new module is open. The cost is only $30 per course per semester per participant.  There is a combination of YouTube video presentations by UUA Congregational Life staff and guests, as well as readings and links to more resources.

The first module opens January 26, 2018, so you have plenty of time to enroll!

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Living Into Spaces of Not-Knowing

Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer

Is there uncertainty in your or your congregation? Maybe you’re in search for a new minister or wondering if you’re doing the “right” justice work or don’t know what to do with your building. Perfect. Perfect timing. This is the season of Advent. The time of waiting and emptying and not knowing.

The spiritual lesson of Advent is that the holy to be born in our lives and hearts we must make room. When we are too full of our own certainty and knowledge, there isn’t room for the surprise of the holy.

So, I invite you, in whatever ways you face confusion and uncertainty, to embrace this not-knowing as a time of spiritual growth. This is a good time in the history of the world to strengthen our spiritual muscles for living with uncertainty. Instead of trying to know, try a season of living into the not-knowing.

Times of not knowing invite us to be playful. When everything is possible and little is known for sure, play is one of the only things that makes sense. And, yes, you can and should play in your congregation. Play might look like goofy suggestions for the conundrums facing you. It might look like setting aside the pressure to solve a conflict and finding ways to connect with each other that are enjoyable. Play lets us drop our need to be right or perfect, makes room for things we might call mistakes, and lets us learn far better than anger and blame do.

Advent invites us to live into these spaces of not-knowing. Instead of rushing to find answers, we might look around and see what we think we know, might not be true. Because if we can live into these spaces of not-knowing with awareness, openness, and hope we make space for the unexpected.

Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer, CER Congregational Life Staff

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African American Women of the Civil War Era – Untold Stories

FREED Performers, Left to right: Sandra D. Wilson (Dr. Rebecca Lee David Crumpler), Marie Davenport (Elleanor Eldridge) , Ruby M. Thomas (Preacher Amanda Berry Smith), Patricia A. Tyson (Hallie Quinn Brown), Judy Williams (Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield)

On October 21, 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax (UUCF) was honored to host five visitors from the 1800’s, mostly the Civil War era, through the inspiring performances of the Female Re-enactors of Distinction (FREED).

The FREED performance was sponsored by the UUCF Racial Justice Steering Committee (RJSC) in support of its Second Principle Project. The project is designed to help UUCF live our commitment to the Unitarian Universalist Second Principle by affirming and promoting justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Through this project, the RJSC is dedicated to helping the congregation understand the root causes and effects of racism and developing partnerships with other institutions working to dismantle racism, particularly institutions led by people of color. Education is one of the ways the RJSC addresses these goals.

FREED was founded in 2005 in association with D.C.’s African American Civil War Museum and focuses on resurrecting real life stories of African American women of the mid-19th century whose stories are not found in traditional textbooks. Through these re-enactments, the women of FREED help to fill in the gap of so many important missing pieces of our nation’s history. Their mission is to educate the public and promote the accomplishments of African American Civil War Soldiers and the women who supported the fight for freedom. Most history books depict slaves working in plantation fields but fail to include the achievements of so many other African Americans, like the exceptional women portrayed by FREED.

The accomplishments of the African American women portrayed in their re-enactments are impressive, not only for the era in which they lived, but even by today’s standards. As writers, political activists, doctors, and nurses, they helped bring victory to the North and advance the cause of civil rights in the decades beyond.

After the performance, everyone joined together in a potluck dinner shared with the performers, while having the opportunity to talk with them in greater depth about the characters they portray and their reasons for being involved in these re-enactments. The event provided an opportunity for everyone to connect with one another and to learn and grow through reflection. It was an informative and educational event that taught us more about our history which has been ignored. As a woman in the audience said, “It makes you wonder how many more important figures in our past, such as these women, have been ignored in our history books.” Another attendee commented that it motivated her to start researching to learn more about the accomplishments of her African American ancestors and their contributions to the history of America. Anyone wanting more information about this event or the performers may contact Kaye Cook, [email protected].

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