With Gratitude…

With Thanksgiving past and the holiday season approaching, this marks the beginning of the season of thankfulness and gratitude. And so we want to take this opportunity to say Thank You.

Thank you to the congregations who pay their fair share to the Annual Program Fund and those who stretch to pay as much as they can. Your funds make our work possible and allow us to provide resources, trainings and support to all our congregations in the region.

Thank you to all our Chalice Lighters who make a commitment to help those beyond their own congregation with growth and outreach projects, or to recover from devastating situations. Your generosity has an impact on the lives of our congregations and members that you cannot imagine.

Finally, we could not do it without our volunteers. Those who volunteer in our congregations to make them representatives of our values in your communities. The committee chairs and members, those who plan events, congregational volunteers who help us with on the ground planning and logistics for events and more. We would not be able to do anything without our volunteers. To you we say Thank You over and over again.

So to all of you who make these many things possible, we say Thank You.
Your Regional Staff

Rev. Megan Foley, Cristina Sanchis, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Andrea Lerner, Rev. Hope Johnson, Patricia Infante, Rev. Megan Foley, Beth Casebolt, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Paula Cole Jones, Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, Amy Kent and Shannon Harper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev. Megan Foley
Regional Lead, Central East Region

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Religious Educators are “Changing the Narrative”

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

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

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

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

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

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Ysaye Barnwell 2019 Summer Institute Theme Speaker

Dr. Ysaye Barnwell
Dr. Ysaye Barnwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Social Justice Learning at Home and Away

There are many opportunities for all of us to learn more about various social justice issues in our homes, congregations or at trainings and events around the region. Here is a sampler of what is available. If you know of others, please recommend them in the comments!

Learning and Participating at Home
For those who want to learn more or participate in something from home:

Participate in this year’s Common Read. The 2018-19 Common Read is Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Environment, edited by Manish Mishra-Marzetti and Jennifer Nordstrom (Skinner House Books, 2018). At a time when racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice are seen as issues competing for time, attention, and resources, Justice on Earth explores the ways in which the three are intertwined. People and communities on the margins are invariably those most affected by climate disaster and environmental toxins. The book asks us to recognize that our faith calls us to long-haul work for justice for our human kin, for the Earth and for all life. It invites us to look at our current challenges through a variety of different perspectives, offers tools to equip us for sustained engagement, and proposes multiple pathways for follow-up action. Justice on Earth is available at inSpirit: UU Book and Gift Shop. The UUA has created a discussion guide that offers Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups, and individuals a single 90-minute session and a more in-depth, three-session series. Optional slides (PowerPoint) allow groups to project the discussion and reflection questions rather than write and display them on newsprint or a chalkboard. If your congregation does the common read as a group, please share your congregation’s participation in this year’s Common Read map.

Looking for a personal or congregational outreach program? The Church of the Larger Fellowship will be sending almost 900 holiday cards to CLF members experiencing incarceration. Could you help?  Invite your social action committee or youth to write messages of hope. If you’re interested, it’s important to read a detailed list of Do’s and Don’ts at this link. CLF staff and volunteers will address all envelopes, bringing a bit of cheer to our incarcerated UU members, many of whom are lonely and without support. Questions? Reach out to Beth Murray at [email protected].

If you want a longer investment, Church of the Larger Fellowship has a Prison Ministry program. You can become a penpal, join with others as part of a community working to support prisoners or become an Ambassador. Learn more about this program at https://worthynow.org/

Trainings and Events around the Region or Beyond
For those who want an interactive experience these events may fill your desire to have learning with others:

Join the Pittsburgh Cluster for their Annual Assembly with a focus on social justice non November 10, 2018. Keynote speaker is Rev. Kathleen McTigue of the UU College of Social Justice speaking on The Faithful Resistance: Prophetic Witness in Dangerous Times. This event will include panel discussions and interactive sessions with local social justice leaders from PIIN, ACLU and other organizations to help us join the Faithful Resistance.

UU Justice Ohio General Assembly on November 17, 2018 is focused on A New Way: Building a Moral Democracy. Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign speaking on A Prophetic Voice for the Poor: Building a Movement to End Poverty. The day will include workshops on Health Care, Sanctuary, Poverty, Congregational Justice Ministries, The Promise and the Practice program, and Prison Ministry.

Note that other Legislative advocacy groups offer trainings and events throughout the year, however this is the only one we currently know about.

Youth in particular are invited to join us in Mt. Kisco, NY for UU College of Social Justice’s Activate Training. Activate Your Community: Love Resists! will offer youth, youth advisors, and chaperones an opportunity to deepen their understanding of opportunities for youth engagement in social justice activism, guided by Unitarian Universalist values and practices. Over the course of a long weekend gathering, participants will build community, explore their identities, and discern how they can show up in the world, beginning in their own communities, as agents of spiritually-grounded social change. The training takes place December 7-9, 2018

Your Central East Regional Staff are hosting a training on January 26, 2019 at UU Congregation of Fairfax in Oakton, VA, on Struggling with White Supremacy Culture: Identifying Your Congregation’s Next Steps. Registration and details on this event will be available soon.

Want something more immersive for your congregation or yourself? Now is the time for congregations to schedule immersion learning journeys with the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice for Spring and Summer 2019. Learn more about the journeys available to youth, young adults and adults of all ages or contact [email protected] to ask about setting dates for your congregation.

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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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We Need Churches

Paula Cole Jones

The communities where we live and work and go to school are constantly changing.  The nation and the wider world is constantly changing.  There is so much that we do not control.  We face everyday challenges as we go through the various phases of our own lives and the lives of family and friends.  And in these challenges there are many opportunities for us to stretch and grow.

I grew up in the UU church, All Souls in Washington, DC.  It helped to shape me.  In my younger years I was skeptical about organized religion.  It was my belief that we don’t need to go to church to be good people, and there was no guarantee that people would be better because of church.

Somewhere along the way, my attitude changed.  My appreciation for what the church had given to me deepened and I wanted to give back.  The more I got involved, the relevancy of the church in people’s lives and in the wider society became more apparent.  I started to see churches as critical centers of community life that  tend to important individual, family and community needs.  The church is where we mark certain cultural and life transitions: child dedications, graduations, marriage, anniversaries, and celebrations, caring and memorials when life comes to an end.  It is where we bring our joys and sorrows and know that we are not alone.

In addition to my own lived experience, I had an interesting window that helped to shift my understanding.  Most Sundays I attended services with my mother.  We processed sermons together and attended meetings.  She was usually the first person I called to bat around some new ideas or to make sense of confusing feelings.  At the same time, my daughter was being raised as UU.  I was seeing church through three generations at one time.

When my mother retired from teaching, the church community became more central to her life.   There she could find people she loved, inspiring messages from the pulpit, music to soothe the soul.  She could count on our church for continued intellectual engagement, and being active in a caring community contributed to a healthy emotional life.

At one point, I became evangelical in my belief that everyone needs to belong to a church.  I wanted to shout from the rooftop, everyone needs to belong to a church, no matter what church it is!  There are things that are essential to our lives and churches are perfectly suited to be centers that contribute to quality of life for each of us.

Recently, someone shared that they joined a UU church, after the last election.  They found us on the internet and knew they had found their people on the first visit.  There are many others who are in need of sanctuary, community or safe harbor in a troubled world.  The program year is well underway and the next election is approaching  Let’s keep building healthy ministries and be ready to welcome newcomers.

Paula Cole Jones
Interim CER Congregational Life Staff

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Summer Institute Has a New Name!

THE RESULTS ARE IN! Summer Institute finally has a new name, chosen by an overwhelming majority vote of members of the SI community, and that new name is…  Central East Region Summer Institute! Our new name is practical and descriptive, it echoes our old name (switching OMD to CER), and, as a huge bonus, we now have an easy-to-pronounce acronym—let’s give a big welcome to our new nickname, “CERSI”! A new logo and website are coming soon…

40THANNIVERSARY OF SUMMER INSTITUTE! Next summer will mark the fortieth time that UUs from the region gather together for the magical week-long multi-generational conference that we will now call CERSI. All year the Planning Committee will be working on ways to make next summer’s gathering extra-special—if you have ideas to offer, please send them to [email protected].

YSAYE BARNWELL TO BE THEME SPEAKER! The 40th anniversary of SI is already ramping up the awesomeness with the announcement of Ysaye Barnwell as the 2019 Theme Speaker. A former member of the vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Barnwell is an energetic and beloved workshop leader in the UU community. She has a deep knowledge of the African-American vocal tradition, and of music’s power to connect, motivate, inspire, and teach. Come and share in the experience of building beloved community through a collective voicing of our shared joys, concerns, and humanity. 

CERSI WORKSHOP PROPOSALS BEING ACCEPTED NOW! One big way that you can help make CERSI 2019 awesome is to help us offer strong programming that will appeal to a range of people. Morning seminars for adults meet with the same group every day for 75 minutes, with content building from day to day. Early (inter-generational) and late (sometimes  age-specific) afternoon workshops tend to be more open-ended, with folks coming and going during the 90 minutes of activity. All of them can be learning-based or activity-based, and topics might be spiritual, practical, physical, intellectual, gustatory, artsy, musical, or more! If you have an idea for an interesting morning seminar or afternoon workshop, please submit a proposal by October 30, 2018.  The links can be found at http://omdsi.org/news/already-thinking-about-si-2019/

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Dealing with the Flaws

tennis racquet and ballsI love tennis. I play it whenever I can (rather badly) and I am an avid fan. If there is tennis on TV, that’s what is showing at my house. I follow a number of the athletes, I’m on top of the news from the sport, I know exactly where the tour is going next, I have every tournament’s app on my phone.

But…

Let’s face it. This is a sport created by upper class white European men. It started in France and most of the rules were created in England. It has a deep tradition that has made it difficult to respond to changes in cultures and our changing understanding of the world. It’s been slower to adopt technology than other sports. It has its flaws.

One of those flaws is that many of the rules are vague and are up to the umpire to decide if they need enforcing. So while on paper the rules of tennis may seem fair, the enforcement of the rules can vary widely. Implicit bias can certainly enter the court as the umpire makes those decisions. Case in point is the US Open’s Womens Final this month. Serena Williams was given three code violations during the match, the final one for arguing with the umpire, which cost her a game and potentially the match.

I’m not going to debate whether or not Serena Williams broke the rules. What I want to point out is how the system made it possible for the rules to be enforced unfairly. As many male tennis players stated on Twitter, they have said much worse (oh so much worse!) to the same umpire and not been called for a code violation. So why was a woman? Here is an example of where implicit bias seemed to have taken hold. The umpire was reacting to an angry black woman. Not a tennis player. Was he trying to put her back in her place? Whether the umpire’s reaction was to her gender, her race or a combination of the two, no one knows. She only had to be judged to the standard in the umpire’s head, the ideal female tennis player.

Tennis is an example of our greater society that we’re currently living and working in. In our society there are rules that we all follow without thinking. There are rules that are vague that we enforce upon those around us in different ways depending on how we read the situation. We don’t usually take into account the culture of the other person or if the expectations or ideal in our head is inappropriate. We react. This is what we’re talking about when we say we’re fighting the white supremacy culture that’s in the water we swim in. We’re fighting against the centuries of cultural norms that are very white European in our expectations and trying to open up our minds to other ways of doing things. What other new ideas and innovations and ways of doing things are we missing out on because we’re focused on doing things they way they always have been? How many voices have we silenced? How many innovative ideas have we lost?

Changing the rules will only go so far. We have to change our minds, re-learn behaviors, and adapt how we react. That’s not easy for anyone at the best of times. But we will not see a world that is fair and equal for all until we do.

Because of this I will continue to work towards the Beloved Community and challenge white supremacy culture when I see it. Even in my beloved sport of tennis.

Beth Casebolt
CER Operations Manager and Communications Consultant

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