Better Together Has Moved!

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You can find this week’s post and all our archives at

And check out our news blog at the same location while you are at it!

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Innovative Ways to Collect Donations

The First UU Church of Niagara in Niagara Falls, New York made local news with their holiday food drive. The small but active congregation used the controversy about divisive border walls to create a different narrative. They took up a collection of canned and other non-perishables and created a wall of food for those in need in the local community. President Betsy Diachun shared about how they partner with local missions to get the food to those who need it most.

They were featured on a local TV station, WGRZ, Channel 2:

This is not the first time First UU of Niagara has built a structure out of donations. Last year they created a tree out of packages of toilet paper that they then donated to local charities.

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Has Your Congregation Certified Yet?

It’s certification time for the UUA and your congregation needs to act before February 1 at 8 pm ET.

Every year the UUA asks each congregation to give us some basic information and statistics. Some of this is information we ask you to check and update that is reflected in our directory online – your address, website, contact information – so folks can find you. We also ask about statistical information such as members, re enrollment, average attendance numbers and so forth. We ask that you vote in the congregational poll which is part of our social justice process. And very importantly, we ask about your congregation’s budget and expenses. This is particularly important since this is the information we now use to calculate congregational fair share amounts.

The president, minister and administrator of the congregation (or at least the person who is on record as being in that role with the UUA) should have received an email with a direct link to your congregation’s account (no login required!) back in December. If you did not get that email please go to the UUA Portal ( login using your congregation’s id number and password or contact Data Services at the UUA for assistance. If you did get that email please find it and make sure you complete the information and submit it by the deadline. A worksheet of all the data being asked for is available after you login so you can download it, gather the data and then go back to enter it all.

Not sure if your congregation has completed this process yet? You can check the certified and not certified lists on the UUA website:

Confused? Have questions? Not sure what is your next step? Reach out and we’ll do our best to get you connected with the folks at the UUA who can help. Start with your primary contact, or reach out to our Operations Manager, Beth Casebolt at [email protected].

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Join us for Youth Ministry Revival!

This week’s blog is by Shannon Harper, CER Youth and Young Adult Ministries Specialist.

Answering the Call of Love Youth Ministry Revival 19, March 1-3, 2019Do you have youth in your congregation who are yearning for connection with other UU youth? Who are interested in exploring spiritual practices that help us survive and thrive in the world? Who would like to learn more about justice issues from activists and organizers in the field?

We’re excited to announce registration for Youth Ministry Revival 2019: Answering the Call of Love in Bethesda, MD March 1-3 is now open!

Youth Ministry Revivals, or YMRs, are national, weekend-long conferences open to Sr High youth in grades 9-12 as well as young adults and adults who support youth ministry in congregations. We had our first YMR in 2016 in Portland, OR and the second in 2017 in Chicago, IL. For more information about YMRs see the UUA webpage.

Who Should Attend YMR2019?

YMRs are open to any UU Youth in the US and Canada. We encourage congregations to send teams of youth and adults; people who will be interested and supported in bringing back their ideas and learnings to your congregation. Adult sponsors (25 and over) are expected to participate in the conference, so it’s important to choose adults who are truly interested in supporting youth and willing to join in. Registration is also open to YAs (graduated from High School and between the ages of 18 and 25), especially those with leadership experience and willing to help out as staff (see sleeping arrangements below). We are happy to accommodate different physical and social needs, just let us know what they are.

What Are the Sleeping Arrangements?

Regardless of whether your congregation sends a group or just one, all youth must have an adult (over 25) sponsor who sleeps in the same place as the youth. Our expectation is that most attendees will sleep at the church. However we understand that this is might not be ideal for certain people. We have blocked a number of discounted rooms at the Bethesda Marriott for $89 a night, available until Feb 2. To make a reservation visit their website. Remember that youth must sleep in the same place with their adult sponsor, so if your sponsor is staying at the hotel, the youth must stay there as well. YAs under the age of 25 must make their own arrangements to sleep offsite. For questions about accommodations please contact Amy Kent at [email protected] .

Is there an Approval Process to Attend?

In accordance with Central East’s safety policy everyone attending YMR2019 must be approved by a staff member or designated leader in their congregation (ideally their Religious Educator or Minister). For people who reside outside of CER the registration form will have a way to indicate who we should contact for a reference. That person will be sent an automated email with instructions for approving the registrant. If you have any questions about the registration or approval process please contact Evin Carvill-Ziemer at [email protected] .

Program Details to Come!

The Central East Region is excited to host YMR2019! We’re planning with Youth and YA leaders, community partners, local musicians, UUA and congregation staff to bring you a dynamic and inspiring event.  Some of the things attendees can expect to experience: dynamic, interactive worship; creative expression through visual arts, spoken word music and song; workshops with community organizers and activists; community circles for building deeper connections and relationships; identity circles for sharing and exploration; spiritual practices to take back with you. As we confirm our schedule and guests we’ll update our website so please keep checking back. For questions about the program or schedule please contact Shannon Harper at [email protected].

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CERSI Highlight – A Young Adult’s Reflection on the Youth Program

Today’s blog is written by guest writer, Becky Mitchell

Youth at Summer Institute

I remember being nervous in the days leading up to my first Summer Institute as a Youth. I had missed the previous SI, which would have been my last in the Children’s Program. It felt like a major leap going from a small class of pre-teens to being in a large group of teenagers, ranging in age from 12 or 13 all the way up to 18. My brother had already successfully bridged in and seemed to be having fun, but I remained anxious nonetheless.

I’ll never forget the moment that I walked into the Youth Dorm common area after unloading my belongings and seeing a group of Youths chatting and smiling. They were a year or two older than I was. I recognized them, but I did not know any of them. I was plotting a path back to the safety and security of my dorm room that did not involve walking past the group when one of them said, “Hey, are you Becky? You should come hang out with us.”

Little did I know that in that moment, I had just met my life long best friends. We had every meal together that week (mostly consisting of ice cream). We sat by each other during the youth theme speaker. We held hands during Youth Vespers every evening while singing and really starting to understand the Seven Principles for the first time. We spent the afternoon playing volleyball and cooling off in the pool. We stayed up a little too late every night munching on candy, teaching each other card games, and discussing what little we knew about politics and Social Justice at the time. After the week ended and we said our tearful goodbyes, the countdown to the next time we would see each other began immediately. 358 days to go.

That first year in the youth program will always go down in my book as the best SI I ever had. I walked into the week expecting to feel awkward and embarrassed the whole time, but I walked out of the week with an invaluable support system. Although we are all very different people, we are all bonded through our common Unitarian Universalist beliefs. In the years to come, having that group has kept me sane. It was and continues to be comforting knowing that I have an entire community to look to for advice and help when I need it.

Why do I keep coming back? My last year in the Youth Program was 2011, but I feel my supportive community grow every year. As a new Young Adult, my community expanded to include people that were 15 years my senior. Now as an “Old” Young Adult, my supportive community has grown to include people of all ages. I can’t wait to see who becomes part of my supportive community this year.

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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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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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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., our UU Crowdfunding platform has a number of worthy projects that you may also consider.

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