Social Justice Learning at Home and Away

There are many opportunities for all of us to learn more about various social justice issues in our homes, congregations or at trainings and events around the region. Here is a sampler of what is available. If you know of others, please recommend them in the comments!

Learning and Participating at Home
For those who want to learn more or participate in something from home:

Participate in this year’s Common Read. The 2018-19 Common Read is Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Environment, edited by Manish Mishra-Marzetti and Jennifer Nordstrom (Skinner House Books, 2018). At a time when racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice are seen as issues competing for time, attention, and resources, Justice on Earth explores the ways in which the three are intertwined. People and communities on the margins are invariably those most affected by climate disaster and environmental toxins. The book asks us to recognize that our faith calls us to long-haul work for justice for our human kin, for the Earth and for all life. It invites us to look at our current challenges through a variety of different perspectives, offers tools to equip us for sustained engagement, and proposes multiple pathways for follow-up action. Justice on Earth is available at inSpirit: UU Book and Gift Shop. The UUA has created a discussion guide that offers Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups, and individuals a single 90-minute session and a more in-depth, three-session series. Optional slides (PowerPoint) allow groups to project the discussion and reflection questions rather than write and display them on newsprint or a chalkboard. If your congregation does the common read as a group, please share your congregation’s participation in this year’s Common Read map.

Looking for a personal or congregational outreach program? The Church of the Larger Fellowship will be sending almost 900 holiday cards to CLF members experiencing incarceration. Could you help?  Invite your social action committee or youth to write messages of hope. If you’re interested, it’s important to read a detailed list of Do’s and Don’ts at this link. CLF staff and volunteers will address all envelopes, bringing a bit of cheer to our incarcerated UU members, many of whom are lonely and without support. Questions? Reach out to Beth Murray at [email protected].

If you want a longer investment, Church of the Larger Fellowship has a Prison Ministry program. You can become a penpal, join with others as part of a community working to support prisoners or become an Ambassador. Learn more about this program at https://worthynow.org/

Trainings and Events around the Region or Beyond
For those who want an interactive experience these events may fill your desire to have learning with others:

Join the Pittsburgh Cluster for their Annual Assembly with a focus on social justice non November 10, 2018. Keynote speaker is Rev. Kathleen McTigue of the UU College of Social Justice speaking on The Faithful Resistance: Prophetic Witness in Dangerous Times. This event will include panel discussions and interactive sessions with local social justice leaders from PIIN, ACLU and other organizations to help us join the Faithful Resistance.

UU Justice Ohio General Assembly on November 17, 2018 is focused on A New Way: Building a Moral Democracy. Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign speaking on A Prophetic Voice for the Poor: Building a Movement to End Poverty. The day will include workshops on Health Care, Sanctuary, Poverty, Congregational Justice Ministries, The Promise and the Practice program, and Prison Ministry.

Note that other Legislative advocacy groups offer trainings and events throughout the year, however this is the only one we currently know about.

Youth in particular are invited to join us in Mt. Kisco, NY for UU College of Social Justice’s Activate Training. Activate Your Community: Love Resists! will offer youth, youth advisors, and chaperones an opportunity to deepen their understanding of opportunities for youth engagement in social justice activism, guided by Unitarian Universalist values and practices. Over the course of a long weekend gathering, participants will build community, explore their identities, and discern how they can show up in the world, beginning in their own communities, as agents of spiritually-grounded social change. The training takes place December 7-9, 2018

Your Central East Regional Staff are hosting a training on January 26, 2019 at UU Congregation of Fairfax in Oakton, VA, on Struggling with White Supremacy Culture: Identifying Your Congregation’s Next Steps. Registration and details on this event will be available soon.

Want something more immersive for your congregation or yourself? Now is the time for congregations to schedule immersion learning journeys with the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice for Spring and Summer 2019. Learn more about the journeys available to youth, young adults and adults of all ages or contact [email protected] to ask about setting dates for your congregation.

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Ohio Issue 1 – Electoral Justice Issue

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President

Ohio Issue 1, if passed, will dismantle much of the mass incarceration system in Ohio by reducing felony drug possession convictions to misdemeanors retroactively.  This aligns with our UU commitments to resist white supremacy, embody solidarity with those harmed by the prison system and prioritize resources for people healing from substance use.  Learn more about the issue from our partner, Ohio Organizing Collaborative.

Want to help? You can even if you aren’t in Ohio or unable to attend the get out the vote efforts.

Help with phone banks and get out the votes: Sign up here

Those in Ohio or nearby have an opportunity to be the boots on the ground November 3rd and 4th.

Unitarian Universalists, including UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, and UU Justice Ohio (UUJO) will join faith and grassroots partners to canvass and give people rides to the polls for early voting on Saturday & Sunday on Nov. 3rd & 4th in Cleveland, Ward 9.

Khnemu Foundation Lighthouse Center, known as The Lighthouse (956 E 105th St, Cleveland, OH 44108), and a part of the Organizing Ohio Collaborative will serve as the organizing hub. Training will be provided at the Center and volunteers will be asked to sign up for shifts. The polls are open between 8 am & 4 pm on Saturday and from 1-5 pm on Sunday.

During the weekend, we will have opportunities to come together for fellowship, networking, and worship. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray will be preaching at the Sunday worship on November 4th at West Shore UU Church  in Rocky River Ohio before heading out with fellow UUs to bring ‘Souls to the Polls’ in Ward 9.

Sign up here if you would like to participate in the Nov. 3-4 weekend and we will send your more detailed information.

If you are interested in learning more about what is happening in Ohio, check out the UU Justice Ohio (UUJO) website for other events and trainings happening in Ohio. If you are not in Ohio but want to volunteer to help with other election trainings and events around the country, check the UUA webpage on Election Reform.

 

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UU Amherst Dedicates Free Food Pantry

Two years ago, UU Church of Amherst, NY member Maria Ceraulo read a story online about a “Little Free Food Pantry” and thought, “Huh, we should do this,” and began floating the idea to her congregation. The congregation applied for and received a very generous grant from the Network of Religious Communities of Greater Buffalo. They also found a partner to help operate the pantry, Congregation Havurah, who shares space with the UU congregation.

On Sunday, September 30, the pantry was opened. Members of all ages came early to stock the panty and ready it for the blessing after the service. The congregations primary contact, the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke co-led the service with the congregation’s settled minister, the Rev. Michelle Buhite.  After the service the congregation gathered underneath the portico where the new pantry is accessible to all. Maria and other leaders instrumental in the project participated in the grand opening, and Rev. Michelle gave the blessing. The grand opening and dedication was covered by local media, including on the local news channel. https://www.wgrz.com/article/news/local/new-food-pantry-opens-in-williamsville/71-599502862

Food Pantry Dedication by Rev. Michelle Buhite.

Today we begin a new thing.
Today we lift up a new way to embody our mission
to foster more compassion and justice in the world,
by committing ourselves to feed the hungry in our community.

May those who have, share from their abundance.
May those who need, find nourishment for body and soul.
And may we recognize that we are all givers and receivers –
all in need of the grace of human kindness
and a word of hope and encouragement.

May it be so.

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We Need Churches

Paula Cole Jones

The communities where we live and work and go to school are constantly changing.  The nation and the wider world is constantly changing.  There is so much that we do not control.  We face everyday challenges as we go through the various phases of our own lives and the lives of family and friends.  And in these challenges there are many opportunities for us to stretch and grow.

I grew up in the UU church, All Souls in Washington, DC.  It helped to shape me.  In my younger years I was skeptical about organized religion.  It was my belief that we don’t need to go to church to be good people, and there was no guarantee that people would be better because of church.

Somewhere along the way, my attitude changed.  My appreciation for what the church had given to me deepened and I wanted to give back.  The more I got involved, the relevancy of the church in people’s lives and in the wider society became more apparent.  I started to see churches as critical centers of community life that  tend to important individual, family and community needs.  The church is where we mark certain cultural and life transitions: child dedications, graduations, marriage, anniversaries, and celebrations, caring and memorials when life comes to an end.  It is where we bring our joys and sorrows and know that we are not alone.

In addition to my own lived experience, I had an interesting window that helped to shift my understanding.  Most Sundays I attended services with my mother.  We processed sermons together and attended meetings.  She was usually the first person I called to bat around some new ideas or to make sense of confusing feelings.  At the same time, my daughter was being raised as UU.  I was seeing church through three generations at one time.

When my mother retired from teaching, the church community became more central to her life.   There she could find people she loved, inspiring messages from the pulpit, music to soothe the soul.  She could count on our church for continued intellectual engagement, and being active in a caring community contributed to a healthy emotional life.

At one point, I became evangelical in my belief that everyone needs to belong to a church.  I wanted to shout from the rooftop, everyone needs to belong to a church, no matter what church it is!  There are things that are essential to our lives and churches are perfectly suited to be centers that contribute to quality of life for each of us.

Recently, someone shared that they joined a UU church, after the last election.  They found us on the internet and knew they had found their people on the first visit.  There are many others who are in need of sanctuary, community or safe harbor in a troubled world.  The program year is well underway and the next election is approaching  Let’s keep building healthy ministries and be ready to welcome newcomers.

Paula Cole Jones
Interim CER Congregational Life Staff

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Summer Institute Has a New Name!

THE RESULTS ARE IN! Summer Institute finally has a new name, chosen by an overwhelming majority vote of members of the SI community, and that new name is…  Central East Region Summer Institute! Our new name is practical and descriptive, it echoes our old name (switching OMD to CER), and, as a huge bonus, we now have an easy-to-pronounce acronym—let’s give a big welcome to our new nickname, “CERSI”! A new logo and website are coming soon…

40THANNIVERSARY OF SUMMER INSTITUTE! Next summer will mark the fortieth time that UUs from the region gather together for the magical week-long multi-generational conference that we will now call CERSI. All year the Planning Committee will be working on ways to make next summer’s gathering extra-special—if you have ideas to offer, please send them to [email protected].

YSAYE BARNWELL TO BE THEME SPEAKER! The 40th anniversary of SI is already ramping up the awesomeness with the announcement of Ysaye Barnwell as the 2019 Theme Speaker. A former member of the vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Barnwell is an energetic and beloved workshop leader in the UU community. She has a deep knowledge of the African-American vocal tradition, and of music’s power to connect, motivate, inspire, and teach. Come and share in the experience of building beloved community through a collective voicing of our shared joys, concerns, and humanity. 

CERSI WORKSHOP PROPOSALS BEING ACCEPTED NOW! One big way that you can help make CERSI 2019 awesome is to help us offer strong programming that will appeal to a range of people. Morning seminars for adults meet with the same group every day for 75 minutes, with content building from day to day. Early (inter-generational) and late (sometimes  age-specific) afternoon workshops tend to be more open-ended, with folks coming and going during the 90 minutes of activity. All of them can be learning-based or activity-based, and topics might be spiritual, practical, physical, intellectual, gustatory, artsy, musical, or more! If you have an idea for an interesting morning seminar or afternoon workshop, please submit a proposal by October 30, 2018.  The links can be found at http://omdsi.org/news/already-thinking-about-si-2019/

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