With 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 to the congregations who pay their fair share to 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. Megan Foley, Cristina Sanchis, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Andrea Lerner, Rev. Hope Johnson, Patricia Infante, Rev. Megan Foley, Beth Casebolt, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Paula Cole Jones, Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, Amy Kent and Shannon Harper

If you are feeling grateful and want to share your bounty with others, Giving Tuesday, November 27th, is a wonderful opportunity. Giving Tuesday kicks off the holiday season, when charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world come together in common purpose: to celebrate their cause and to give. Donations to the UUA on Giving Tuesday will be doubled. Learn more at their website. Faithify.org, our UU Crowdfunding platform has a number of worthy projects that you may also consider.

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A New Day Rises for Your Congregation’s Racial Justice Efforts on January 26th in Fairfax, Virginia

New Day Rising Conference MemeThis past summer, I was pondering. Many of my congregational interactions went something like this: “We want to play a role in furthering racial justice work in our congregation, and figure out ways we might be contributing to white supremacy culture. We just can’t decide what to do!”

I knew we had multiple resources and success stories at our UU fingertips. But I’ve always said that lots of resources aren’t helpful if you don’t know which one to pick. How could the Central East region help congregations decide what their next step should be in furthering their racial justice work and commitments?

At the same time, the UU Congregation of Fairfax extended a generous offer to host a racial justice oriented learning opportunity. And now – long story short – an event has been born: The New Day Rising Conference, to help your congregation assess and respond to the struggle against white supremacy culture. This conference has everything you need to assess your congregation’s needs and decide on next steps, easily accessible in one place.

We’ll have worship from The Sanctuaries DC – an intentionally multicultural artistic community using art to create social change. We’ll have morning workshops run by UUA staff – Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson, Paula Cole Jones, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, Shannon Harper, Rev. Ian Evison and myself. We’ll have dedicated time for identity-based caucusing, a chance to gather in identity-based groups for conversation, reflection and relationship building. In the afternoon, we’ll hear from multiple UU congregations about their stories of struggle and success in a series of 7 minute TED-style type talks about what worked for them and their people (and what didn’t!), with opportunities to connect and ask questions. Through it all, we’ll host a resource fair and bookstore – a room full of resources and materials to browse, and the opportunity to order helpful books right from the Conference.

Gather folks from your congregation and come on down to the New Day Rising Conference in Fairfax, Virginia on January 26th. You’ll come away inspired, resourced, and ready to take your next congregational steps down the road towards liberation and freedom, fulfilling the promise that Unitarian Universalism makes to our people and the world. We can’t wait to see you and learn together!

Click here for The New Day Rising Conference registration page. Sliding scale fee from $20-$40 includes lunch. Partial financial waivers down to $10 are available – see registration page. Child care is available. Hotel rooms at reduced rates are available by contacting Amy Kent at [email protected].

Rev. Megan Foley
Regional Lead, Central East Region

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Religious Educators are “Changing the Narrative”

I have just returned from the annual Fall Conference of the Liberal Religious Educators Association in Houston TX. The theme was “Changing the Narrative” and issues of white supremacy culture within our denomination and the urgency of empowering and sustaining leaders of color were central. What a remarkable conversation we had over the course of 5 days! Denominational leaders including Julica Hermann de la Fuente, Christina Rivera, Greg Boyd, Rev Dr Natalie Fenimore, Aisha Houser and many others led discussions, workshops and informal conversations that were at once humbling, riveting and inspiring. Brave learning and growing “caucus” spaces were carved out for both white participants and participants of color. As has been the case so often in our Unitarian Universalist history, religious educators, both non-ordained and ordained are leading us into new ways of thinking and being with one another.

As you may recall, it was mostly religious educators who spoke up eighteen months ago, changing the narrative of who we are as Unitarian Universalists, what we “look” like, and how we bring forward voices and leaders from the margins in ways that honor and respect their unique contributions to our wholeness as a people of faith. The actions of a few courageous religious educators would ultimately contribute to big changes in our association around hiring and other institutional practices at our UUA headquarters and deep, rich conversations in congregations about what it means to be complicit in a system that continues to harm and erase people within our beloved community.

The good news is – they are still at it! Religious educators from across the continent participated in workshops on restorative circles, creating space for families of color, the theology of love and shared ministry as faith formation, just to name a few. Innovations are underway to bring JUUbilee training to children and youth, to offer congregations more study materials to continue the conversations begun with the Teach-In on White Supremacy, as well as new engaging resources from BLUU via a monthly “BLUU Box.” These are just a few of the many ways you can be a part of changing the narrative within your own congregation

We have work to do as a religious people, things to learn, deep conversations to share, and curiosity to be satisfied – in other words, faith development work. If you are lucky enough to have a professional religious educator, please look to them for a pathway into and through this brave work. You can begin by asking them what gems they carried home from the conference and what they are really excited about! Your religious educator has access to many tools and resources, whether they attended the latest LREDA Fall Conference or not. If they weren’t able to be in Houston this year, make it a priority to send them to Baltimore in November 2019 (yes, Baltimore! Hurrah, the LREDA Fall Conference is coming back to the Central East Region!). Religious educators, ministers, lay leaders – all are invited into the bold work of writing the next chapter of Unitarian Universalism!

Patricia Hall Infante, Congregational Life Staff holding the Faith Development portfolio and Credentialed Religious Educator

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Ysaye Barnwell 2019 Summer Institute Theme Speaker

Dr. Ysaye Barnwell
Dr. Ysaye Barnwell

The planning committee for the Central East Region Summer Institute (formerly the OMD Summer Institute) is very pleased to announce that Dr. Ysaye Barnwell will be the theme speaker for Summer Institute 2019, July 7-13 at Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH.

The topic of her theme speaker will be Building a Vocal Community, which is an award winning workshop she has presented around the world. There is an awesome power in the human voice and when uncommon voices are blended for the common good, they become a ‘vocal community’ at its best. Masterfully led by Dr. Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, singers and non-singers alike will share the common experience of learning in the oral tradition and singing rhythms, chants, traditional songs from Africa and the Diaspora, and a variety of songs from African American culture including spirituals, ring shouts, hymns, gospels, and songs from the Civil Rights Movement. The historical, social and political context will provided as an introduction to the songs. Through out this experience, the group will explore from an African American world view, the values imbedded in the music, the role of cultural and spiritual traditions and rituals, ways in which leadership emerges and can be shared by and among community members, the nature of cultural responses to and influences on political and social struggle, and finally the significance of a shared communal experience in ones’ personal life. All that is required is a willingness to sing.

Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell a native New Yorker now living in Washington, DC is the only child and perfect blend of her mother, a registered nurse and her father, a classical violinist. Dr. Barnwell studied violin for 15 years beginning at age 2 ½, and majored in music through high school. With this background, she went on to earn the Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Speech Pathology (SUNY, Geneseo, 1967, 1968), Doctor of Philosophy in Speech Pathology (University of Pittsburgh, 1975), and the Master of Science in Public Health (Howard University, 1981). In 1998, Dr. Barnwell was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by her alma mater, SUNY Geneseo. She recently received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL (2009) and the Virginia Theological Seminary (2011); and in 2012, all members of Sweet Honey In the Rock, were awarded the Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Chicago Theological Seminary (2012).

Dr. Barnwell appears as a vocalist and/or instrumentalist on more than thirty recordings with Sweet Honey In The Rock as well as other artists. She has, for the past thirty years spent much of her time off stage working as a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. Her workshop “Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African American Tradition” has during the past twenty-eight years, been conducted on three continents, making her work in the field a significant source of inspiration for both singers and non-singers, a model of pedagogy for educators, and cultural activists and historians. Dr. Barnwell has been a commissioned composer on numerous choral, film, video, dance and theatrical projects including Sesame Street, Dance Alloy of Pittsburgh, David Rousseve’s Reality Dance Company, The New Spirituals Project, GALA Festival Choruses, MUSE: Cincinnati’s Women’s Chorus, The Steel Festival: Art of an Industry (Bethlehem, PA), The King’s Singers in England.

Four axioms have proven significant in Barnwell’s life. To whom much is given, much is required. As one door closes, another door opens. Everything matters. Say Yes!

You can learn more about Summer Institute at their website. You can learn more about Dr. Ysaye Barnwell at her website.

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