Remembering Wendi Winters

Wendi Winters
Wendi Winters

July 1, 2018 at 6 pm ET.

You are invited to gather to remember the extraordinary Wendi Winters. We invite all who knew her, especially youth, young adults, youth advisors, religious professionals from the Joseph Priestley District. Wendi attended more than 50 youth cons beginning in 2003 with her own children and staying on out of her dedication to Unitarian Universalist youth. We will gather to be together, in silence, meditation, and sharing. If you have an image of Wendi you’d like to submit for a montage, please email it to [email protected] before 4pm eastern 7/1/18. There will be a minister present from the UU Trauma Response team for personal support for anyone who needs it.

If you have a chalice or candle, please have it with you to light.
To access the online meeting:
From your computer: https://zoom.us/j/776476444
Or iPhone one-tap : US: +16465588656,,776476444#  or +16699006833,,776476444#
Or Telephone:mUS: +1 646 558 8656  or +1 669 900 6833
Meeting ID: 776 476 444
 
For tech support text (412) 999-7067‬.
There’s a closed Facebook group for sharing memories and photos as well: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RememberingWendi/
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Maintaining the Beloved Community

Shannon Harper

Summer is a glorious season. Traditionally it’s sold as a leisure time, a time to relax, enjoy yourself, get outdoors and have some fun. But anyone who has ever had children in or around their lives knows summer can actually be even more work – scheduling, planning, coordinating and entertaining – than the rest of the year. And whether because of travel or change in routine or just wanting to enjoy some extra lazing hours on cool Sunday mornings, many of us find our church attendance slipping during the summer months. But the beautiful part about beloved community is it calls us to practice our values beyond the limitations of Sunday mornings in the sanctuary. When I reflect on what keeps me coming back to my congregation in the fall, ready to re-commit, pouring our sacred water in covenant, I think about the relationships I’ve formed there. These bonds have not only expanded my own world, they’ve tied me to the congregation as a whole.

If “othering” or seeing persons or groups of people as somehow “different” or not “fitting in” is one of the stumbling blocks of beloved community then relationship is the jackhammer that breaks it down. I see this happen all the time in youth communities like Goldmine and Midwest Leadership Schools. We take teenagers from many different backgrounds with many different personalities and ways of being in the world and ask them to basically live and learn together for a week. During our time together we build covenant, play games, learn technical skills like how to plan a worship service or lead a meeting and even have some fun and insightful history and theology lessons. But the real magic is in the work we do together. Physical work like cooking and cleaning, gardening and taking care of our temporary home. Challenging work like creating a worship service and receiving feedback. And spiritual work like reflection and deep sharing. That work, done side by side and collaboratively, builds relationships that see them through not just the challenges and tests of the week but for many of them into young adulthood and beyond. It turns a bunch of teenagers who were apprehensive and nervous at the beginning of the week – who said they came to Leadership School because it would look good on their college applications or because their parent/minister/DRE made them – into family. The Group – the friendships – were now the reason they were there and why they didn’t want to leave.

Congregational life also gives us many opportunities for building the relationships that bond us to one another in community. And we can create even more connections on our own. This summer make some new friends in your congregation, invite someone over to your home for dinner, arrange a family playdate at a local park, spend time weeding each others gardens, or preserving your bounty together; build a shed, paint a fence, teach a new driver how to do minor maintenance on their car; coordinate a group trip to a local destination or a carpool to the library or shopping center. There are so many ways to spend time together in more personal ways. Nurturing authentic relationships that build solidarity and break down walls within our faith communities seems like the perfect summer homework during the season of leisure!

Shannon Harper, CER Youth and Young Adult Coordinator

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UUs Participate in March for Our Lives

Fifty people left UU Fellowship of Harford County early on Saturday, March 24 for the rally in Washington, D.C. The experience seems to have resonated with the students who attended as well as the adults.

“Today (March 24) was very inspirational to me, and to others all across the world. This is something only we can solve, and today was a great stride towards success. Old sins cast long shadows but not in our case. We can use our past to brighten our future, only if we stand together and act as a whole body who wants to make a change.” So said 14 year old Aaron Knight, an 8th grade student at the Tome School in North East, after participating.

Mary Jane Price organized the trip. When asked what her motivation was for going, she responded, “TIME Magazine has called 1968 “the year that shaped a generation”. I believe that 2018 may well be the year that shapes this generation. As someone who lived through the Viet Nam war protests, the Kent State killings, the assassinations of RFK and MLK – I will never forget those times, and they forever changed me. Now I have the honor, and obligation, to help our young people navigate our current political and social climate – and discover what is within themselves, and what they are capable of. My respect for the ways in which they are stepping forward is boundless.”

Valerie Greene, a dental hygienist in Bel Air, had difficulty reflecting on the day without tears coming to her eyes. She was so impressed that kids who had gone through this unbelievable trauma were so courageous and articulate expressing their goals for removing assault weapons, also known as weapons of war, from being sold to individuals. She went on to say that one time a man tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe on a plane and even though he was unsuccessful, 17 years later we are still removing our shoes in order to board a plane. However, assault weapons have killed hundreds and nothing has happened yet.

Liam Gallihue, a 15 year old from Havre de Grace has a plan as to how a change will happen. Although he isn’t old enough to vote, he plans to encourage his friends to talk to their parents about voting for representatives who do support the goals of: banning assault weapons, stopping the sale of high capacity magazines and closing loopholes in background checks. His mother, Suzi Gallihue,  went on to say that, “If 800,000 people can stand in silence (during Emma Gonzalez’s speech), the world can be changed!”

“Witnessing first-hand the determination, courage and conviction of so many young people gives me hope for our nation’s future. I believe this march will be noted in history books as a turning point for changes in gun laws — on par with historical marches to end the Viet Nam War, racial segregation, and suppression of women’s rights,” was Belcamp resident and former school administrator Olivia Spencer’s reaction to her experience on the 24th.

Lisa Nickerson, from Havre de Grace, attended with her college professor son Evan, and she was equally moved. “To see ‘our’ children in such pain broke my heart. Saturday’s rally gave me hope that adults who have turned a blind eye to the NRA’s corporate greed are now awake. And, that our youth will hold us all account.”

“From my perspective, the courage, strength, passion, and eloquence exhibited by these students is awe inspiring. Where most kids are afraid to get up in front of a classroom, these kids are standing up in front of the world” was the reflective take-away of Maureen North, former teacher and administrator from Bel Air.

Other UU Churches around the region also participated in DC or at local marches.

First UU Columbus sent a bus filled with 20 youth, 3 young adults and 13 adults to Washington DC for the March 24 March for Our Lives led by Rev. Eric Meter and Sylvia Howe. They enjoyed the hospitality of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, VA. The youth raised funds for over half the cost of the trip through donations from the congregation.  They held a bake sale and sign-making party for the entire church to participate.

First UU Columbus also had a great delegation of folks meet up with many other UUs from Central Ohio to attend the local march in Columbus, OH.  The Washington DC youth rode overnight back from the march and reported that they learned a lot about gun safety and gun violence. They shared their reflections about their experiences on Sunday, April 8th, at First UU Columbus as the congregation marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The photos below are from the Columbus Trip.

The UUs for Social Justice in Washington DC also participate and took photos. Executive Director Pablo DeJesús said:

“March For Our Lives was an inspiring rally here in D.C., especially for the beauty of all ages living our UU values together, with the youth leading the way, and the diversity of those voices. Glimmers of a beloved community indeed! I heard talk about transforming the rally event into a movement against ALL gun violence, about making the rally moment into an inflection point in the debate. I heard youth talking about the power of their future votes, and a readiness to hold elected leaders accountable at the ballot. I heard a desire to change American culture from favoring gun safety locks over safe schools and safe communities. Fundamentally, I heard our youth in a collective declaration ‘we are our changemakers’ echoing the refrains of ‘we are the ones we have been waiting for’ and ‘el pueblo unido, jamás serávencido.’  As we UUs discern how to help the youth transform the Good Trouble (Rep.J.Lewis D-GA.5th) activism of these rallies into concrete advocacy, I urge us to embrace our denominational history on the gun issue, build upon that intellectual and moral foundation, and support sustained federal advocacy to help bring about the vision of this new generation of changemakers.”

These photos were taken by UUSJ during their participation in the March:

Below – UUs gather at All Souls Unitarian in Washington DC to make signs. Pictured is Community Minister Rev. Karen Scrivo, UUSJ Board Member for Goodloe MD, who is busy coordinating her people by cell.

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Below – March participants move along the street towards one of the entry points.

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Below  – Signs from the March. Two of the UUs in this photos are key UUSJ volunteers.

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Below: UUSJ Executive Director Pablo DeJesús is interviewed by the news (in the black hat and jacket), also pictured is Key UUSJ volunteer, Lavona Grow, to his right and UUC Arlington SJ/Youth staff, Elisabeth Geschiere, in the sunglasses

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CER Hires Shannon Harper as Youth and Young Adult Coordinator

Shannon Harper
Shannon Harper

The Central East Region’s staff is excited to announce the hire of Shannon Harper, our new Youth and Young Adult Coordinator.  Shannon will be starting on September 1st and is already scheduling trips to meet youth, young adults and professional religious educators around the region. You’ll be sure to meet her soon. Welcome, Shannon!

 

Shannon Harper has been serving the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Dayton, OH for five years as their Director of Religious Education.  In addition she’s served as the OWL and Youth Event Coordinator for MidAmerica Region for a year and as a contracted staff member before that. She’s served on staff at Youth Midwest Leadership School for four summers and most recently as co-dean at the school.  Over the years she’s served as adult advisor on the Heartland Area Youth Council, supporting youth leaders as well as coordinating and attending dozens of youth CONs, trainings and workshops.  She’s also served as Youth Caucus Staff for GA, Adult Chaplain at the UU United Nations Spring Seminar, Teen and Youth Staff at the Southeastern UU Summer Institute (SUUSI).  Some people have joked that wherever UU Youth congregate, Shannon is there. In addition she served as Youth Committee liaison on the Heartland LREC and as at large member of MidAmerica Youth Advisors Network (MAYAN) Board.

 

When she’s not hanging out with other people’s teenagers she enjoys kicking back with her own teenage and young adult daughters and her brand new granddaughter.  Shannon is an artist at heart and although she doesn’t find much time to get into the pottery studio right now she’s always looking for ways to express her creative spirit.

 

You can contact Shannon once she starts at [email protected].

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Report from the Regional Youth Caucus

A couple weekends ago (on President’s Day weekend) CERG youth had our very first regional caucus at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg on Clover Lane! Our goal was to have youth and adult representatives from each district meet and figure out how to organize ourselves before the regionalization process happens- what type of programming we want to have, forming regional youth leadership, changing geographic boundaries, and more.

CER VerticalWe began programming on Saturday with a quick and informative overview of the regionalization process and changes that will come with it with David Strickler, who is on the Ohio Meadville Board of Trustees. For the rest of the day, we divided up into two sets of “focus groups” to discuss various issues related to regionalization in smaller groups and then present them, which ended up being very productive. We decided to form a regional YAC committee of youth and adults from each district to organize future CERG events and serve as a resource for youth leadership from each district/cluster. Additionally, we hope to have two major CERG events each year- a community con in the fall and then a themed event later in the year, like a smaller leadership or social justice event. Although we don’t have a formal structure for letting youth from each district/cluster attend cons for another district/cluster, Lars Dahl made an incredible interactive Google map of each church that has held cons, chaplain trainings, and other youth events in recent years for us to look at (see his contact information at the bottom of the page if you would like access to this resource).

However, I think one of my favorite pieces of programming was a noisy and competitive group game of “UU Jeopardy” to wind down after a long day of discussions and meeting. The game featured  difficult questions on UU history, geography, and the structure and leadership of General Assembly (thanks to GA Senior Youth Dean Andrea Briscoe, who is also the regional co-dean for JPD). When all was said and done, the team entitled “Egg” emerged victorious.

Please look out for more information about the formation of a regional YAC (planning to happen by the end of the school year) as well as future regional youth events coming soon!

By Eliza Steffen

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the caucus or the annual CERG con, please contact:

Eliza Steffen ([email protected]) for OMD
Andrea Briscoe ([email protected]) for JPD
Hannah Rigdon ([email protected]) for MNY
Lars Dahl ([email protected]) for SLD

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Goldmine Youth Leadership School

It’s that time of year again! Time to sign up for Goldmine. What’s Goldmine? It’s a week long life changing experience for teenage UU’s. It’s a chance to practice leadership skills, to explore one’s values, to ponder on one’s own calling. It’s a chance to learn to lead worship and to learn more about our past. And definitely a chance to form deep bonds.

 

Each year something evolves. This year’s evolution is experimenting with how to bring the curriculum into the 21st century. Not with technology–we’re already doing that. But by raising new questions.

 

Our world is changing rapidly. The form religious community takes is changing rapidly. And the whole of Unitarian Universalism is asking big questions about this. What we’re adding this year is arranging the curriculum to invite youth into these conversations–so they’re ready to be leaders in our changing religious community. Here are some of the questions we’re thinking about exploring together:

 

What does it mean to be UU? Are there any requirements? Do we have a core theology? Can you be UU by yourself? Do you have to be part of a formal congregation? Or can UU’s gather in other ways and be just as UU? Does your group have to call itself UU to be UU? And if we didn’t call ourselves UU, how would you know we are UU?

 

What is the purpose or calling of UUism today? Do we provide sanctuary for liberals from a conservative world? Are we a springboard to action in the public sphere? Is our purpose to change the world together? Or to nurture each other?

 

How do we change the world? Nearly all UU’s think this is part of our job, but the how is very very different and can lead to a lot of conflicts. Is our job public activism? Political involvement? Marching? Getting arrested? Feeding the homeless? Loving our neighbor? Nurturing each other so each one of us changes the world in our own way?

 

What does it mean to be a leader and what kind of leaders does UUism need? Is leadership just the person up front? And if it’s not, what are the ways we need leaders that aren’t so obvious?

 

If you’re an adult and those sound like good questions, maybe you should be talking about them too!

 

Register here!

 

Evin Carvill-Ziemer

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Bold Directions in Structured Youth Programming

First Unitarian in Rochester NY has made some really exciting changes in how their youth program is structured. While they have a large youth program, the philosophy of these changes is accessible to youth programs of every size. Here’s an over view from Sheila Schuh, DRE:

Based on the suggestions in Sustainable Youth Ministry, we have changed the structure of our Youth Group in significant ways-

1. Movement from a Youth Director to a Youth Coordinator/Youth Advisor Specialist Team. This model takes all the responsibility and channel of support from one director and creates a network of adults for youth to connect and work with. Youth Advisors have particular program areas they provide support for (Social Justice, Spirituality, Education, etc) We have also let go of the idea of having a highly charismatic youth director to having a coordinator who is grounded in UU values with a highly collaborative style, working with a team of passionate youth and adults to sustain membership.

2. Movement from limited calendar planning with no defined aims to advanced calendar planning with defined UU balanced programming area objectives. Youth organize the calendar based on these areas: Social Justice, Education, Community Connections/Fuun, Spirituality. They have had 2 major brainstorming and slotting days this year and simply select and slot their priority ideas. Leadership and connection with intergenerational community life is built into the framework.

3. Movement from an all-youth and ad-hoc subgroups leadership model to a Child Adult Leadership Forum (leadership team, all with defined roles) which includes youth in double ratio to advisors and staff. The CALF team meets separately to handle everything from firming up the calendar to making policy decisions and trouble-shooting changes needed to best serve the group. Roles include Youth Moderator, Junior Moderator, Education, Social Justice, Community Connections/Fuun, Food Coordinator, Secretary, etc. This model supports collaboration between a youth leader and advisor specialist to help make a session’s program event happen.

4. Movement from a system in which adults hold youth accountable for violations of covenant and guidelines, to a collaborative restorative circles model. Issues are brought to the Youth Coordinator and DRE, and a team of peers selected by the youth involved go through a multi-step circle process to resolve the conflict.

5. Movement from a splintered communication system to a weekly parent newsletter, active facebook page, and pre-con mandatory meetings.

Youth continue to affirm the model and have the leadership structure in place to make organic changes as needed. They are currently revising roles needed and their definitions for the upcoming year. We are also considering how to build skills needed in leadership earlier in the RE program.

Sheila Schuh, DRE
First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY
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Big Change for a Small Congregation

I have had the privilege of being the Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst for 4 years now. As any veteran DRE knows, change is something that often needs to be approached delicately, and in small increments. For at least my first 2 years, consistency and a non-anxious presence were my main goals. With that said, I have been slowly moving toward a more cooperative and inclusive feel for our Religious education programming, and feeling the urge to pull the youth group in tighter while still allowing them the independence they so need at this age and stage of development.syg 2014

For the first time since I have been at the helm of the program I decided to implement a tapestry of faith curriculum for our Senior Youth group. In previous years, the youth would attend a retreat in the late summer and loosely establish their own curriculum for the year. This year the overlying theme for our religious education program is UU Identity, and so I chose for them the curriculum titled “A Place of Wholeness”. This seemed fitting as we are also running our Coming of Age program this year, and most of the youth are also attending that.

I expected some eye rolling and push back from the youth, as they were accustomed to a more unstructured class time. I was very pleasantly surprised to find they love it! They have enriching discussions, and some have even taken on the responsibility of co-leading workshops with their advisers. They still have their social time at occasional overnights.

I have every intention of continuing with a TOF youth curriculum next year. This experience has shown me that often the youth are more open and flexible than I might anticipate, and that balancing structure with freedom can be a key element in a successful youth group.

 

In Faith & Service,

Victoria Crago

DRE

UUCA

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First UU Columbus Reproductive Justice Week  

            During the week of June 16-21st, 2014 youth from First UU Columbus alongside a couple of teens from other UU congregations came together to learn about reproductive justice. We learned a lot, challenged each other, affirmed our strong beliefs in human rights, and had a bunch of fun. Our major community partner in this endeavor was Jaime Miracle from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and our primary youth leader was Eliza Steffen.photo 4 (5)

The beginning of the week brought learning about the definition of reproductive justice. Our youth created opinion statements when they first arrived- without having learned anything just yet. We handed around a bowl filled with definitions and read them aloud to one another. A panel of invited guests joined us, including young adults from the area, a UU woman from Akron, and a woman from Cleveland who later presented a program with us on the intersection of identities with reproductive justice.

We learned that the scope of this issue spans beyond pro-choice issues relating to abortion- it encompasses all decisions whether or not to have families and the access we have to raising families in healthy and happy ways. This includes a larger systemic framework in looking at who has access to healthcare, where resources are available, confronting our broken foster care system, challenging stereotypes of who chooses whether or not to have children. Choice is a complicated issue in the midst of structures that want to make decisions for us: family, culture, societal norms, identities, communities.photo 2 (4)

Our youth collected stories from the congregation for a video project. They spent hours listening, opening their hearts, and creating safe space for people to share. Each morning we would open with a worship moment, where we lit candles. One morning, we shared things we were grateful for and so many youth expressed gratitude for the courageous folks who came to share their stories with us. I echo their gratitude. In order to overcome reproductive injustice, we have to begin speaking out to heal ourselves from the shame and stigma associated with abortion, adoption, infertility, birth control, and the list goes on. The people who shared their stories took a big step forward towards creating healing in our world. When we tell our stories, chances are we are telling the stories of the people in the room.

Thursday, we traveled to Cleveland to learn about to women’s clinic Preterm. This clinic focuses on care for the whole patient, providing medical services alongside mental, emotional, and spiritual care. As we took a tour of the facility, we not only saw rooms where abortion procedures are performed, but also had a chance to see their Reflection Room where women are invited to take time to meditate and pray and take part in practices that sustain them. We heard from a constitutional law attorney about the history of reproductive laws in the United States. And then it was on to the Dittrick Medical History Museum, which currently features an exhibit detailing the history of contraception and will soon expand their portion on the history of childbirth practices. It was an extremely full day.

During Columbus PRIDE at the end of the week, our group of 12 youth had the opportunity to march with First UU’s group and then moved on to tabling for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. We asked people to sign postcards telling Governor Kasich to stop legislating our bodies by limiting access to reproductive services. Our youth collected over 200 postcards to send along.

This project was both multi-generational and helped our congregation learn more about what reproductive justice means.

Our next Justice Week is June 15th through 19th, where we will be learning about economic justice and racial justice in our local community. If you are interested in participating, please contact Lane Campbell, Director of Religious Education, at [email protected]olumbus.org.

 

Videos produced in the 2014 Justice week are below!

 

 

 

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CERG Youth Con Successes!

This is a post from the Con’s senior co-dean Lilly Kahris, information on bringing some of the programming to your congregation is at the end of this post.

I have found that car rides are a good time for thinking. I have been to 10+ youth conferences; many have which required a long drive. Usually I listen to music, or chat casually with the other people in the car, but yesterday’s drive was different. I spent my four hours reflecting on the past weekend, the second CERG Youth Conference.

This was a milestone in my youth career. I have been a conference dean before, but there was something really special about working with youth and adults from other districts to make this come together. Despite all of the cultural differences between each district, I think ultimately the event was successful, one that facilitated learning and personal growth for all.1383266_772502776145004_3708294956359316113_n

The programming we planned was a conglomerate of traditions. We made sure to include the dance for SLD youth, just as we included an “All-Con” game that was familiar to MNY and JPD youth. The workshops we planned proved to be a great success. We offered three workshops, broken down into two 1.5-hour sessions on a variety of topics. David Glasgow presented his “Empowering the Word” and “The Soul of the Song” workshops. Jess Halperin along with Eliza Steffen led a workshop on reproductive justice. Rounding off the exciting workshops, Eva Beal and Clare (lastname) led an Anti-Oppression, Anti-Racism workshop. Other highlights of the weekend included “People of Queer” and “People of Color” meetings, as well as an advisor workshop, where advisors from the different districts could get together and discuss advisor culture in their various districts

I found one of the most fulfilling parts of the whole con to be the Sunday morning worship service we did in partnership with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. This was a multigenerational service where the youth and adults worked together to present a service about how as a region; we really are “better together.”

Overall, many lessons were learned this weekend. We learned that regionalization is a process, and will take time. Even though we worked out many kinks at the first CERG youth event last year, there were still many cultural differences. This was a fantastic learning experience, and gives me hope about youth regionalization movements in the future!

By Lilly Kahris

p.s. You might want to bring some of this programming to your congregation!

Eva Beal is the youth group coordinator for the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh and loves working with UU youth on anti-oppression and service learning. Claire Galpern does community organizing with teenagers for a quality, just education system in Philadelphia.  Claire and Eva are all about youth leadership and making social justice work full of play, connection and fun!  They started doing anti-oppression work together in their UU youth group and are excited to share this journey with you. They are available to run programming at your church, just email Eva or Claire.

David Glasow is a UU musician and presenter on many topics related to worship and music. You can read all about what he has to offer here.

Eliza Steffen is working with her congregation to produce a curriculum so other churches can do the kind of social justice retreat she helped plan at the UU Church of Columbus Ohio. Email Director of Religious Education Lane Campbell if you’re interested in this resource.

Jessica Halperin works with the UUA’s Multicultural Growth and Witness Office on many topics including Reproductive Justice. To get in touch with that office look here.

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