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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Be That Spark

Recently we highlighted the Central East Region (CER) Chalice Lighter Program, sharing the HOW of applying for growth focused grants, and now we want to focus on WHY you as an individual should support this grant program.

Think for a minute, and recall a time when you helped a new dream into reality. What an amazing feeling of joy, love, even power – To know that the part you played made a difference! Maybe you rang doorbells for a candidate for public office, sharing your passion for positive change with your neighbors. Maybe you donated time and energy to a building program for low income housing. Maybe you were part of a circle of people that formed a new congregation, built that sanctuary or RE wing, called your first settled minister.  Congregations don’t get there on their own, of course.  A much larger community helps them on their way through sharing space, loan programs, producing curricula and hymnals, and support for ministerial formation, to name just a few of the myriad ways our Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations works to grow our faith.  Together, we all are the UUA, congregations and individuals, dreaming of a better society.  It’s work that we must do over and over, together.  As the poet Adrienne Rich says, we “cast (our) lot with those, who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

In our busy lives, we have only so much time and energy for large projects.  Most of us do, however, find time to contribute every day in small loving ways to build for the future.  We conserve energy, recycle, follow the news, support organizations whose actions move our values out into the world.  The Central East Region Chalice Lighter Program is one way we can do this! Individuals and couples as Chalice Lighter subscribers contribute three times a year to fund UU dreams.  We issue the “calls”  in September, January and May, though some prefer to donate a larger amount once per year. Every gift is appreciated, and together those gifts have amounted to $180,000 in grants in the past year alone!  We want to build on this success, and we are inviting you to be part of the spark that lights the way to a brighter future.

The CER Chalice Lighter Program was formed from the separate Chalice Lighter Programs of four Districts of the UUA – Ohio-Meadville, St. Lawrence, Metro New York and Joseph Priestley.  Representatives of these four geographic areas meetthree times a year to consider growth-minded project applications from congregations or clusters of congregations seeking to share our faith more effectively.  The program partners with congregations to expand/improve buildings, plant new congregations, create new or expanded staff positions, and realize innovative initiatives that attract/retain members and promote justice, compassion and spirituality.

We’ve recently partnered with congregations funding accessibility projects like ramps and elevators, restoring a steeple, increasing religious education and membership staff from half to full time, and in our long history in the districts, provided new start congregations five $20.000 grants over time at different stages of their growth for a total of $100,000. We are touched by the thank you notes from the congregations, including this one that said, “Hot Dog!!!  Thank you so much!  This will really enhance our ability to grow and serve our NE Ohio community.”

Some readers here are already part of the Chalice Lighter subscriber community, mainly those who participated in the district programs, and we know we have not yet realized our potential to fund congregational dreams.  In October, you will receive a personal invitation to subscribe to CER Chalice Lighters, via email with the subject line “Be That Spark.”  Be watching for it!

Of course, there’s no need to wait – we invite you to subscribe here!  Need more information? Check the FAQ page on the CER website.

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UU Fellowship of Newark Receives Get Out The Vote Grant

Catriona, Dounya, one of the involved youth, and Karen working on their Instagram outreach.

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.
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Opportunities for Community at Summer Institute

Summer Institute is a great vacation option for families, youth and adults of all ages! It is an all-inclusive vacation that includes meals, accommodations and enough programing that you have plenty to choose from. Sometimes people are nervous to go the first time. Well this is the story of our first time.

Our family of three is just two parents and a daughter. We started going to SI when our daughter was 3. We had been members at our local UU church for about 5 years and families raved about SI and I really wanted to give it a try. My husband was not too keen on staying in a dorm room on a campus with 500 or so UU’s he didn’t know.  I kept telling him – its an adventure! But I was also terrified – would anyone even talk to us? Don’t they all know each other?

When we arrived we checked into registration. People seemed friendly and there were First Timer tours of the campus and people there to greet us. When we got to our assigned dorm there were more UU’s who had taken work shifts to help move people in. This was a huge help since, we had never been there before- I packed everything we might need. There was hardly room for our daughter in the car.

After everything from the car was in the room- I went to park the car. Part of the joy of SI is not driving anywhere all week. When I returned my husband was trying to open the windows to put in a fan. He knows his wife is not a happy camper if she is hot. He tried so hard, he put his hand through the glass. Immediately, as he screamed out, our room was filled with helping UU’s. One family took our three-year-old to their room to play. Not fewer than four women took my husband into the bathroom to clean and dress his wound. Which was a lot more attention he would have gotten at home, by the way. Another camper who heard the noise from outside came up and got on their walkie talkie to summon campus maintenance to repair the window and clean up the mess. I thought we have only been here less than an hour and we are going to be asked to leave. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Those people who took my daughter became great friends, my husband’s hand healed and we found out the campus painters had accidentally painted that window shut. They quickly fixed it and I had a nice breeze while we slept. We met a lot of people that year and were excited to come back.

Amy KentThe next year as we left registration we ran into another family of three – 2 moms and their daughter. Our now 4-year-old daughter grabbed the little girls hand and said “welcome to SI, do you want to be my friend?” The look of relief on the first timer family is what we must have looked like when the UU’s stormed our room. We smiled at them and introduced ourselves.

You might not know many people at Summer Institute before you come to SI but believe me – everyone is glad you are here!! For more information about Summer Institute can be found at OMDSI.ORG.

Amy Kent, CER Event Coordinator

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Living Our Values – Congregations Collaborate to Support LGBTQ Youth

Our five congregations in Westchester participated in the Prideworks for Youth Conference on March 14, 2018. Prideworks is an annual county-wide conference for about 500 LGBTQ youth and allies, and UU’s have been an important part of the conference in its almost two decades of existence, when it was called “Healing the Hurt.”

UU Youth, DRE’s and ministers have offered workshops, served on the board and planning committee, and volunteered in many ways. After the example of one of our youth groups, collections are held annually in all five congregations, ranging from a plate share to a youth group bake sale. Today, these congregations are the largest financial supporter of Prideworks.

Several years ago, the youth were greeted outside the conference by demonstrators who were holding the most hateful signs. Our UU’s in attendance vowed to be a more welcoming presence, and have ever since welcomed school buses with a Standing on the Side banner and cheering UU’s.

This year there was a total of 20 volunteers from all five congregations, workshops were offered by Rev. Michael Tino of Mount Kisco and Anthony Arrien of White Plains. Three congregations have members of the Planning Committee and DRE Tracy Breneman, serving Hastings on Hudson and Mount Kisco, is a member of the board and one of those primarily responsible for the success of this major initiative.

Most importantly, LGBTQ+ youth feel affirmed, connected and celebrated. Our UU values in action!

See the photos from the day below:

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The Learning Lab of Life

Innovation! Adaptation!! Experimentation!!! We live in a time of incredible change and shifting paradigms. Technology continues to zoom along at a pace that is breathtaking and society seems to be chomping at the bit for the next big thing. At the same time, some of the things we thought we could count on to stay the same have fallen away or been eroded all across our society and our planet. Human rights, glacial ice, democratic principles and civility are under attack and there are moments when I wonder if the universe is testing humanity to find out if we are really up to the task of living meaningful lives.

Then I remember, nothing in this life is settled or guaranteed. We all exist in a constant state of adaptation and experimentation with the inner and the outer world. Who am I today? Who and what matter to me today? What will I do for the first or last time today and how will I be changed by it? Imagine a congregation of 50, 100, or 500 people who are changing every minute, every second – how are we adapting to this unyielding state of flux? By their very nature, congregations are organic, evolving systems and yet even as the people within change and adapt to new ideas, new understandings of self and our companions on the journey, we expect the institution to remain static and to continue to be the same place we have always known. If we are changing, shouldn’t our congregations do the same?

Some congregations adapt quickly and confidently to new ideas – always seeking the latest “best practice.” For those not leading, it can seem dizzying and arbitrary. Some congregations move more slowly, changing only when a crisis is upon them and there is no other choice. Again, for those not in leadership, that may feel frustrating and lead to a sense of “stuckness.” So who wins the race – the tortoise or the hare? Guess what, it isn’t a race and what works in one place may be a complete failure in another.

Congregations struggle in myriad ways and I often get asked the question, “what’s the best practice for this problem I’m facing?” Certainly there are “common” practices often shared by staff or between leaders but the “best” practice for your congregation is the one that is manageable and sustainable for you at this time in your history. If someone tries to tell you there is a “right” way to do church, push back. Experiment with new ways of worshipping, new models for engaging with families, new styles of music, or new ways of gathering in community. Nothing will last forever so why not become a laboratory for exploration and adaption? Despite Yoda’s best advice, it is okay to try. The anxiety of making the budget or fixing the roof won’t disappear but maybe we will feel better about the work when we unleash our creative spirit in the pursuit of joy and spiritual growth.

All of us are living in a lab – we are part of the grand experiment called life. We can’t know what lies before us and how each of our days will unfold but if we make space for community, joy and creativity, we have all we need to make it to tomorrow

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The Commission on Appraisal Needs Your Ideas!

The Commission on Appraisal is particularly happy to invite your participation in a brief survey to help prepare to select our next topic of study. The Commission serves similarly to a “think tank” on larger issues facing Unitarian Universalism. Our recent study was on class in the UUA.

They are attempting to cast a wide net and so are asking congregations, individual congregants, and professional staff to share your thoughts.

Below you will find the proposals that you will be asked about in the survey. There is also an opportunity for you to suggest a topic for the Commission to study. We would like a response by March 31st but we will leave the survey open until after GA.

To learn more about the Commission on Appraisal, an independently elected body of our Association, go to www.uua.org and search for the Commission on Appraisal or use this CoA.

Commission on Appraisal—Requests Your Help to Discern Our Next Topic

For each of the listed topics we ask the following.

  1. To what extent do you support this topic?
  2. How appropriate is the topic’s breadth?
  3. How likely is this topic to engage the interest of our members?
  4. How important is this topic to the future of the UUA?

Our Fifth Principle, Democracy

One possible topic concerns the fifth principle.  How do we implement and support democratic process in our congregations, the UUA and the larger world? How do we make it more relational and less adversarial, particularly regarding parliamentary procedures used in crafting policies and by-laws; and how do we encourage members to be more engaged in democratic processes in the larger world?

Support for Religious Professional of Color

A second proposed topic is how the leadership and staff of the UUA and its regions provide human resources, advocacy, and career support for ministers and other religious professionals of color. What kinds of support are needed to ensure sustainable, gratifying, and productive careers for this traditionally marginalized group within our tradition? How does the UUA and its regions ensure that religious professionals of color have resources for navigating conflict, find trustworthy mentors, and master the politics of survival within the UUA? What are the barriers to providing support, how can we eliminate them, and what systems are needed in their place?

Managing Balance Between Tradition and New

A third proposal is to explore the balance between tradition or continuity and change as we strive to remain relevant as a faith to younger people. What is the essence of Unitarian Universalism that we would want to preserve, and how would we bridge the generations in adapting to a new era characterized by social media, digital communities, and less one-on-one interaction that millennials, and other young people, are often attracted to and use as a substitute for traditional forms of community?

Our Unitarian Universalists Faith’s Existence and Longevity

A final possible topic is an umbrella topic emphasizing our very existence and longevity through the three lenses mentioned above (Our Fifth Principle; Democracy, Support for Religious Professionals of Color, and The Balance Between Sameness and Change), specifically by examining:

Advocacy for career sustainability, mentoring, and advancement by the leadership and staff of the UUA & its regions for our support of People of Color serving in various forms of ministry, to include: parish, religious education, administration, music, and community ministry; increased financial support for entrepreneurial and youth ministry; and strengthening the democratic processes and values within the UUA, its congregations, and in the world.

The image of growing a garden comes to mind where the support of ministry and youth is planting the seed, strengthening democracy is watering; and balancing continuity and change is pruning and weeding that which chokes life from host plants.

Your Idea for a Topic

To provide your thoughts to the Commission on Appraisal, please fill out this survey.

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Congregation in “Rust Belt” Increases Pledges 30%

You don’t have to be in a growing area to see growth and vitality in your congregation. What you do need is energy, focus and a strong sense of purpose. Recently, Andy Crabb, the President of the First Unitarian Church of Youngstown, OH, posted how his congregation had a significant increase in pledges this past Fall.  -Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Primary Contact

UU Youngstown Congregation

The First Unitarian of Youngstown, Ohio just had our pledge drive in the fall and got an almost 30% increase in pledges.

We are going to present a balanced budget at our congregational meeting later this month.  The keys for us were to have an integrated pledge program and to be as transparent as possible about what we were spending money on and why we wanted more.  That doesn’t mean we buried people in financial details, but rather that we explained key points:

  • that we wanted to increase our UUA contribution to be closer to fair share,
  • that we wanted to have more hours for our office administrator to do the routine communication tasks that everyone asks of her,
  • that we wanted to continue to support involvement in community activities,
  • that we want to give raises to our staff (including our new, freshly ordained minister) so they see that we have a viable career path for them,
  • that we need to operate the building, and
  • that we have had shortfalls for the past several years that required late year special appeals and we don’t want to have to do that anymore.

Anyone who wants financial details can have them, but most people don’t need or want them, at least at first, so we didn’t bury them with numbers.

One of our stewardship co-chairs is a new member and she observed that we never talked about money when she first came to us.  We’ve changed that.  We now bring it up regularly as a fact of life.  Again, transparency is the key.  No one is trying to get away with anything or trick anyone or be cute about pledging.  We all want to see UUYO do well and we are being clear and open about what it takes to make all of the things that we came to UUYO to do, happen.

Key elements of our Stewardship Campaign:

  • We had a plan and a financial goal before the campaign started.
  • We made a brochure that focused on what we do and why, then stated the costs and the income needs.  We spent a little bit ($200 or so) to print up a very nice, quality color 11×17 single fold brochure with lots of relevant pictures and mission stories that really impress.
  • During the stewardship drive, we had a special dinner for our biggest givers to thank them and encourage increased giving, especially to help bridge the gap until newer members can reach higher giving levels.
  • We personally contacted and where possible met with all other members to review our plans and clearly state our financial plan and goals.
  • We promoted automatic giving as a prominent part of our pledge campaign with great success (we use Vanco).

Stewardship is integrated into the life of the congregation by:

  • Having an active membership program for new members that gets them involved right away and that presents the same information as we give our members about money.
  • Having active worship associates and hospitality teams with broad participation to keep all members involved and feeling connected to and invested in our vitality as a group and promoting this in the pledge campaign.
  • Making as many opportunities as possible for members to do things and feel connected to and valued by the church because that is how people come to where they want to give to and support the church.
  • Looking for where we had entrenched individuals and/or groups always doing “everything” and bring new people in to help.
  • Separating “governance” activities from “mission” activities.  Both are necessary, but most people came to us for “mission” activities, so we focus on making sure there are plenty of them and keep “governance” to just where it is really needed.
  • Creating opportunities to learn leadership skills.  These are valuable in all aspects of our lives and provide great opportunities for personal growth and enrichment of our lives.

In closing – it seems to me that whether we do year-round-pledging or all at once pledging, closely tying the pledge campaign with the members and the activities of the church is critical for the success of the pledge drive.  If the pledge drive doesn’t clearly tie to the mission and activities of the church, it will be less effective because the connection with the members and what brought them to UUYO is what really made the pledge campaign a success for us.

-Andy Crabb, President, First Unitarian Church of Youngstown, OH. (UUYO)

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African American Women of the Civil War Era – Untold Stories

FREED Performers, Left to right: Sandra D. Wilson (Dr. Rebecca Lee David Crumpler), Marie Davenport (Elleanor Eldridge) , Ruby M. Thomas (Preacher Amanda Berry Smith), Patricia A. Tyson (Hallie Quinn Brown), Judy Williams (Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield)

On October 21, 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax (UUCF) was honored to host five visitors from the 1800’s, mostly the Civil War era, through the inspiring performances of the Female Re-enactors of Distinction (FREED).

The FREED performance was sponsored by the UUCF Racial Justice Steering Committee (RJSC) in support of its Second Principle Project. The project is designed to help UUCF live our commitment to the Unitarian Universalist Second Principle by affirming and promoting justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Through this project, the RJSC is dedicated to helping the congregation understand the root causes and effects of racism and developing partnerships with other institutions working to dismantle racism, particularly institutions led by people of color. Education is one of the ways the RJSC addresses these goals.

FREED was founded in 2005 in association with D.C.’s African American Civil War Museum and focuses on resurrecting real life stories of African American women of the mid-19th century whose stories are not found in traditional textbooks. Through these re-enactments, the women of FREED help to fill in the gap of so many important missing pieces of our nation’s history. Their mission is to educate the public and promote the accomplishments of African American Civil War Soldiers and the women who supported the fight for freedom. Most history books depict slaves working in plantation fields but fail to include the achievements of so many other African Americans, like the exceptional women portrayed by FREED.

The accomplishments of the African American women portrayed in their re-enactments are impressive, not only for the era in which they lived, but even by today’s standards. As writers, political activists, doctors, and nurses, they helped bring victory to the North and advance the cause of civil rights in the decades beyond.

After the performance, everyone joined together in a potluck dinner shared with the performers, while having the opportunity to talk with them in greater depth about the characters they portray and their reasons for being involved in these re-enactments. The event provided an opportunity for everyone to connect with one another and to learn and grow through reflection. It was an informative and educational event that taught us more about our history which has been ignored. As a woman in the audience said, “It makes you wonder how many more important figures in our past, such as these women, have been ignored in our history books.” Another attendee commented that it motivated her to start researching to learn more about the accomplishments of her African American ancestors and their contributions to the history of America. Anyone wanting more information about this event or the performers may contact Kaye Cook, [email protected].

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