Are You Prepared for Winter’s Wrath?

In most of our region, frigid temperatures and snow are on the way – ok, yes, we’ve already experienced that this year. This year, plan ahead so that you are ready to respond to severe winter weather:

  • Prevent frozen pipes by identifying pipes most likely exposed to freezing temperatures
  • If heavy snow is expected, have a plan to remove snow and prevent roof damage or collapse
  • Prepare for weather emergencies by having an emergency kit ready to go

Winter weather can be damaging and dangerous. View the Severe Winter Weather Checklist from Church Mutual’s partner IBHS for more information, or visit their website Ask Risk Control Central to contact one of their professional risk consultants.

Also visit the Church Mutual website Risk Control Weather Preparedness section to learn more about apps you can use, find a video and presentations to share and adapt a three step action plan for dealing with any type of weather disaster, be it summer or winter, expected or unexpected.

Winter weather also brings with it cold and flu season. Church mutual provides information about how to protect your members from major outbreaks and also advice on prevention and running flu shot clinics.

Church Mutual is the insurance provider for the UUA and many of our congregations. Their preparedness videos and resources are available to anyone, regardless of status with the company. They have resources on a variety of topics from background checks to financial controls to building safety and more. Their trending topics section includes information and resources about Data Encryption, Faith and the Law, Armed Intruders, Cyber Bullying, Senior Bullying, Religion and Politics, Marriage Equality, School Bullying, Overtime Regulations and Transgender Law.

This site can be a great resource for all our congregations looking to make their spaces safer and to protect their members in every way possible.

As always please reach out to your primary contact if you have questions about safety policies or just want another set of eyes to look at what your congregation has in place.

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Holiday Greetings from the CER Staff

Central East Region Staff photo
Your Central East Regional staff in Boston this December. Sitting L-R – Rev. Megan Foley, Rev. Renee Ruchtozke, Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Cristina Sanchis, Andrea Lerner. Standing L-R – Amy Kent, Beth Casebolt, Patricia Infante, Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, Paula Cole Jones, Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson and Shannon Harper.

From all of us at the Central East Region, we wish you Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year and extend a deep appreciation for our congregational leaders who do so much for our faith.

As our gift to you we leave you with this piece from Worship Web:
Meditation on Winter Celebrations by Elizabeth M Strong
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.

Please remember that the UUA offices are closed from 2 pm on December 21st through January 1st to allow our staff time to spend with their families during the holidays. We’ll be back January 2nd.

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Opportunities to Be a Part of Summer Institute

This is a guest blog post by Gina Phillips

I’d like to take a moment to tell you a little about what it’s like to receive a campership for helping make SI happen. Actually, scratch that. I’d really just like to tell you what it’s like to be a part of the work that makes SI happen. The campership, while nice, is just a bonus.

The first time I received a campership, it was for babysitting infants and preschoolers in the afternoon. Since then, I have served on the planning council, lead an afternoon workshop, and been a touchgroup leader in the youth program.

Here is what I have learned about serving at SI: it enhances my enjoyment of SI a hundredfold. There is no better way to connect to the community than to work for and with it! I have met so many wonderful people of all ages through the work I have done and many have become dear friends. By doing a variety of jobs, I have had the chance to meet the littlest campers, youth, and adults. And I have learned that they are all completely delightful! There are so many opportunities for service both during and before SI, offering a wide variety of types of work and time commitments.

There is truly no better feeling than being at the closing ceremony at the end of a wonderful week and knowing that you helped make it happen. I had this feeling after being the chair of the Summer Institute Planning Council for a year, which may seem obvious, but I also had this feeling after playing with the babies during the week, and after hanging out with the youth for a week. I have seen firsthand how all our contributions, big and small, connect us to each other and our beloved community. If you have not yet had a chance to help make the SI magic through your service, I highly encourage you to give it a try.


It takes many hands to create the magic of CERSI and your hands can play a part.  That driver who takes you around in the golf cart?  Campership.  The person who teaches you a new art?  Campership.  The nurse who patches up your kid?  Campership.  Tie dye, bookstore, choir, religious education, vespers child care.  All those activities are made possible by fellow CERSIers who applied for camperships.

Each of these positions comes with a financial thank you.  The value of the campership is tied to the actual costs and to the amount of work involved with doing the job.  While the exact amounts cannot be determined until we get this year’s costs from Oberlin, last year the values ranged from $115 (level 4) to $460 (level 1).

List of available camperships

Campership application

Applications may be submitted any time before Friday, February 1, 2019.

Questions:  [email protected]

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O Holy Darkness

Creative Darkness, closest friend, you whisper in the night;
you calm our fears as unknown paths surprise us with new sight.
We marvel at your bounty, your gifts so full and free,
unfolding as you waken us to new reality.

Excerpted lyrics to O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb, by Jann Aldredge-Clanton. Find out more on WorshipWeb.

Rev. Megan Foley
Rev. Megan Foley

From Rev. Megan Foley, Regional Lead

I get supremely edgy this time of year.

You can blame the upbringing in sunny and warm California and Asia if you like, or the subsequent long gray winters in New England or Ireland…but I do not like a lot of dark or cold. I work from home on many days, a home surrounded by hills, tall trees and apartment buildings, and I swear, these days I have to turn the lights on at 3 pm. Three o’clock in the afternoon. I may as well get out a paper bag to breathe into.

Our faith tradition, like many others, has a lot to say about the dark, so literally upon us this time of year, and it also has a lot to say about metaphorical dark times. There’s something scary about darkness for us diurnal humans, so reliant on sunshine and warmth for food and comfort, so reliant on our ability to see – when we can – to keep ourselves oriented and safe. Or, at least, it’s scary for me.

Poems like the ones above reorient me this time of year. Darkness is where Creation happens, and Lord knows we need some Creation in our world right now. Our known paths are heavily trod these days and don’t seem to be heading in the right direction at all.

What if we gave ourselves over, if only for a few minutes each day, for a few weeks of the year, to the idea that if we closed our eyes and unclenched our hands and jaws, a previously unseen and unknown path might open up for the people of this world? Instead of fighting the darkness, what if we considered it our closest friend, as the poem suggests? What can be done in the dim light of a wintery three o’clock afternoon that could never be done in the bright sunshine of another time of year? What can be known if we set our knowing aside and let the dark do its timeless work, just for a few months?

Bounty? Gifts, full and free? Even in winter? Forget the ads: this is what we really need for Christmas, now and always.

It’s the work of the faithful to orient ourselves so that we can receive gifts like these. It’s the work of the faithful to take the cues of the season and let a greater Creation, a greater Wholeness, restake its claim on our world.

What works of faith will you be offering this winter? What new reality will be waking in you, in your community, in all of us, come Spring?

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What are we building? And how are we building it?

This blog is by guest Tyler Coles.

Young Adult Community social event, November 2018
Young Adult Community social event, November 2018

Like many who grew up in the rolling hills of the Appalachian Mountains, I always found autumn a welcome relief following the tedious days of summer. The cool temperatures and falling leaves form a picturesque memory in my mind as my friends and I would take part in one of our favorites activities – building forts. As we would wander through the woods just beyond our neighborhood, we would assemble crude structures with whatever materials we would come across. Sometimes the work of creation would be easy. Yet, more often, our work required copious amounts of time and energy as we gathered materials that would aid in our fort’s longevity and stability.

In the dense forests of poplar, oak and elm, the options for building materials were endless. In this abundance we would be meticulous in what we would include as each piece had to connect in the most perfect of ways. Since those early years I can see the forces of both playfulness and meticulousness working themselves out as we constructed. Holding in tandem these often opposing forces I have started to ask myself, “What am I building? And how am I building it?” I have found these questions useful as they guide me to be both intentional and abundantly creative.

Since joining the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax (Oakton, VA) as the Young Adult Community Leader, I have used these questions to envision and call into being what could lie ahead for us. The task of co-creating an innovative young adult (18-35+) community beyond the walls of the Church starts small and intentionally, much like selecting the perfect branch from which to form a childhood fort. Like those forts, this space invites us to live out our values in relationship to ourselves, each other and the greater world in playful and joyful ways.

So how are we going about the doing of this work? Like all things, it starts with taking the time to meet people towards getting to know them. Through conversations over coffee or during brunch I listen for the most pressing matters that they carrying at the time. In these conversations I have learned that there is a deep desire to be in relationship with others, to explore and develop spiritual practice, and to actively make justice and peace in the community. I have inquired how and in what spaces they would like to do these things. The resounding response – it must be flexible and light as schedules are already jammed packed!

Currently we are tinkering with a combination of small circles, large group gathers, and opportunities to “skill-up” around things any young person in the 21st century needs to know (like applying for Health Care or paying taxes). The frequency and location of these gatherings are being left to the discernment of those who will take part in them. Some might be bi-weekly or monthly, others could be one-offs or occur about every six weeks. There is opportunity and interest in gathering in a number of spaces like people’s living rooms, coffee shops, open fields, and community centers. Whatever the case may be, it is in my role to offer up time, support, imagination, and access to financial resources that have been gifted to our collective through a generous bequeath.

Yet it is important to note that in talking with other spirit-based community organizers, while money most certainly makes things easier. It is in the desire, creativity, and dedication to seeing a covenant-community conjured into reality that makes all of this just that, a reality. This work will be messy, even complicated at times, stirring within us moments of anxiety. Yet in forming connection, generating meaning, and doing the work of right relationship we can move through those moments in boldly compassionate ways.

It is my hope that we might craft a new way of doing the old work of church (i.e. community) in the here and now. If you are, or know, a young adult in northern Virginia who might be interested, please feel free to reach out to me! Come, let us dream and build together a fort that will hold all of us in this moment.

In Faith & Resistance,
Tyler Coles


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