The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark in Newark, Delaware, led by members Karen Barker and Catriona Binder-Macleod, recently applied for and received a $500 grant from the Fund for UU Social Responsibility to collaborate with the Delaware League of Women Voters in working with youth to Get Out the Vote in 2018. They will be educating and empowering not only their own yoUth groUp to help the public get information they need and register to vote, but also students from Newark High School, Newark Charter School and the University of Delaware.
The youth participating in the program will be trained to register voters and will be spreading the word about VOTE411, the League of Women Voters’ fantastic new website (http://www.vote411.org). In October the congregation will also be working with youth on getting out the vote.
Grants like this are available to any congregation. The Fund for UU Social Responsibility is awarding grants of up to $500 are available for congregational 2018 Get Out The Vote projects! Unitarian Universalist congregations frequently support the democratic process in a nonpartisan manner by participating in voter registration drives, providing nonpartisan educational materials or forums for voters, or by volunteering to help registered voters get to the polls on election day. The deadline is rolling and you can apply between March 15 and November 1, 2018. Grants will be available until the fund is depleted. Applications and more information are available online. You can also contact them at [email protected] or (617) 971-9600.
Congratulations to Karen and Catriona and the UU Fellowship of Newark for successfully completing their grant request and for this great project.
Is your congregation ready to take your welcome to the next level?
Our movement has come a long way with regards to LGBTQ inclusion, but there’s a long way left to go. A recent survey of trans UUs found that only 28% feel that their current or most recent congregation is completely inclusive of them as trans people. The average UU congregation was recognized as a Welcoming Congregation in 2004, almost 15 years ago, and has not done any deep, intentional work since to challenge assumptions and unintentionally unwelcoming aspects of congregational life when it comes to the full diversity of LGBTQ communities.
My dear friend Rev. Mykal Slack and I, both of us trans faith leaders, have personal, painful experiences of this. I was raised within Unitarian Universalism, and yet I have never found a congregation where it felt like I could get my spiritual needs met. Mykal found Unitarian Universalism later in life and has similarly struggled to feel like there is a place within this religion for all of who he is.
So we are issuing an invitation to congregations that are serious about changing this narrative: we’ve released an online course that we hope congregations will engage with as whole communities: “Transgender Inclusion in Congregations.” This is not limited to “trans 101”—rather, it’s a comprehensive, six-session online course for individuals, groups, and congregational teams that are committed to transformation.
Each of the course’s six sessions includes a 45- to 60-minute pre-recorded lecture by me and Mykal, reflection questions, and resources that take the conversation deeper. In addition, we will be holding regular live video chats for all current or past course participants.
The course is offered on a sliding scale to both individuals and whole congregations. There are lots of ways that congregations can engage in it holistically and we encourage you to get in touch with us if you have any questions or want to strategize. Once a congregation purchases the course, all of its members get access to it for as long as we run it (which will likely be several years), so the course can be taken by multiple groups over time.
I hope you’ll join me and Mykal in working to transform the experience of trans people within Unitarian Universalism. In the process, I guarantee that all of us will be transformed. Find out more and sign up here.
We are living in a time of great change, where the forces of greed, selfishness, and fear have been unleashed and the future is unclear. We religious liberals can play an important role in influencing the conversation in a way that can shape the future with the counterforces of generosity, mutuality, and love. Unitarian Universalists have many partners in shaping our future, and we can learn a lot from one another to amplify our shared values and voices.
During my recent sabbatical (thanks to the generosity of our UUA and your Annual Program Fund gifts) I spent time doing a deep dive into Permaculture, which Mike Feingold described as “revolution disguised as gardening.” As part of that study I completed a two-week Permaculture Design Course with Peter Bane, Rhonda Baird and Keith Johnson at Blue Sky Farm. I’ll share more in future blogs but for now I want to talk about ethics.
We currently live in an a society based on ethics that condone exploitation of people and extraction from nature. Most aboriginal cultures and other traditional societies have ethics that are based on values that are in alignment with our notion of Beloved Community. Permaculture has adapted them into three (plus one) central ethical principles:
1. Earth Care
This principle aligns with the UU seventh principle: Reverence for the interdependent web of all existence. In practice this means:
Being good stewards of the earth, from micro-organisms in the soil to the biodiversity of species, each one having intrinsic value.
Increasing biodiversity is an imperative
Humans, as part of the community of beings, should limit our impacts by doing no further harm, conserving and restoring what is left, and consuming without waste.
2. People Care
This principle aligns with the UU first principle: Respect for the inherent worth and dignity of all people. In practice this means:
Our institutions should be human-centered, encouraging material and non-material well-being for all.
Power should be decentralized and localized (such as in our congregational polity).
Individuals in communities should be encouraged to take personal responsibility, initiative and practice self-reliance.
3. Fair Share
This is the principle that is the key to the future, and is where the revolution shows up.
We need to live in the spirit of mutuality, generosity and trust in one another and in nature’s abundance.
We need to articulate and address the limits to growth, consumption and population.
This will require a commitment to living simply and scaling back to sustainable economic principles based on the notion of the common good.
Transition-Aware (the plus one)
In the past, many permaculture practitioners did so outside of the mainstream culture. But this way of being in the world offers hope and a workable model for how humans can address climate change. But even if we have a workable solution, we can’t implement it until we know how to foster a paradigm shift among fellow humans.
One critique I have of Permaculture is that—although it’s based on principles that align with traditional societies—almost all of the leaders, authors and teachers have been white men born before 1955. There is a recognition among the rising leaders (as well as many of the elders themselves) that this grounding in “The Patrix” (White Male Supremacy culture) is something they need to address.
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
CER Congregational Life Staff
Do you have new board members joining your leadership team this year? Do you have returning board members?
Board leadership in a UU congregation calls on a unique set of skills and attitudes. Not every person elected (no matter how enthusiastic they are!) comes to the work with a full sense of what is means to serve and the skills needed to serve well. Do all your board members have the skills they need to be a strong board member and not become frustrated? Not sure? We have resources to help!
Every year our staff offer Board Basics trainings in clusters around the region. These trainings are designed for both the newbie who has never served on a congregational board and your returning board members. Topics we cover include what makes congregational boards different from other kinds of non-profits or corporate boards, a governance overview, the role of the board member, how to manage dissent, and attributes of good board members. One other perk of the in person trainings is that you get an opportunity to learn with your fellow board members and to network with those from neighboring congregations. You can find the currently scheduled trainings on our calendar.
If you were unable to attend a training in your area, never fear, we do have other options for you.
The UUA LeaderLab has a 12 part training for board members that your board can do as a team or new members can do on their own. Each section contains a video or reading to illustrate the topic. There are many ways you could cover this as part of your normal board operations. You could assign a section for each meeting, then spend time talking about what you learned as a board during your meetings. If that sounds like it would add to a packed agenda, remember that some of the skills learned, such as consent agendas, are things that could shorten your agenda, allowing the room for this team learning process.
Last year we offered an online version of this training for those who were not able to attend one of our in person trainings. The videos from this three-part presentation are available on the CER YouTube Channel and embedded below.
Your regional staff wants your congregation’s board members to have the best experience they can while serving on your board. So we encourage you to explore one or more of these training methods to get your board up to date with today’s practices and procedures. Please reach out to your primary contact if you need help!