After developing a vision statement, it can sometimes be difficult to communicate how it should impact the ministry of the congregation. The UU Fellowship of Greater Cumberland created this stunning Vision Visual to help guide that process. They plan to share it at…and post it…. So that it can guide the board, committees and ministry teams going forward. And they have graciously agreed to share their Vision Visual with the rest of us.
The congregation intends to put the Vision Visual on posters and post them in the sanctuary, our community room, and the room where the Board meets. They will devote part of one Sunday service next month to discussing the Vision Visual with the congregation, then present it again at the Annual Meeting on May 5. Each Board member will get a copy for the Board Manual and we will distribute a copy to each congregation member. An additional Strategy Vision for the board was also created.
Thank you to the UU Fellowship of Greater Cumberland for sharing this with us all.
A Minister, a Rabbi and an Imam walk into a bar… We’ve all heard it but this time it’s not a joke. Pastor Don McKenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Sheikh Jamal Rahman were brought together by 9/11. “The Three Amigos”, as they call themselves, provide an entertaining presentation designed to bring people together, while respecting each other’s differences. Their approach to inclusive spirituality provides a foundation for personal and communal healing. They start with the premise, “Everyone’s truth is true.” They add that “To try to convince someone of something else, is a significant waste of time.” They begin their conversation with this question, “You mean there is nothing I can possibly say that would influence your belief? That’s how it is with me too. Now let’s talk.”
We are excited to welcome the Interfaith Amigos to Appalachia, an area that is among the least diverse culturally, religiously, and ethnically in the US. Our goal is to build personal connections with those of different faiths, increasing understanding of faith traditions outside of our own, enhancing thirst for information and gaining a greater sense of welcoming and acceptance.
As our area becomes more diverse, there is a pressing need to learn about the growing number of residents coming into our community. Even more important is to get to know some of them personally so that our fears, suspicions, prejudices, and pre-conceived notions can be re-evaluated in the light of genuine friendship. We must not only build bridges to newcomers, but also seek to understand the faith that these persons hold dear. We could all benefit from the sincere engagement of interfaith dialogue.
This project involves:
Four public presentations presented at Marietta College and Ohio University (2 each), Nov 10-12, 2017
A new course called Interfaith Dialogue: Finding Common Ground at Marietta College as part of the Institute for Learning in Retirement, including a visit to Arab-American Museum in 2018
A film Festival focused on interfaith issues
A coalition of local book clubs reading books on the interfaith issues
Interfaith Religious Education taught at local churches
“Getting to the Heart of Interfaith” added to the essential reading list at the Marietta Reads
The World Religions course adding interfaith dialogue and visits to a mosque and synagogue
Articles on interfaith dialogue released to the local media during and after the event
The office of student engagement to plan and conduct interfaith service projects in Marietta
Marietta College Bookstore purchasing 200 copies of “Getting to the Heart of Interfaith”
Establishing local interfaith dialogue groups throughout the area
Continued service projects and incorporation of interfaith dialogue in local college courses
We already have raised over $10,000 and need an additional $4,000. Please consider helping us make this a successful event! Learn more and donate at the Faithify website.
Unitarian Universalist presence in the state of West Virginia is deeply needed and wanted in today’s climate.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, WV is West Virginia’s largest UU congregation, and the only one in the state which is minister-led. All UU congregations in West Virginia are dedicated to serve as beacons of hope, love and progressive religion in the state. Because of our size and location in the nation’s capital, our congregation feels a sense of responsibility in being a part of this state-wide UU effort to share the good news of our faith in our state.
Our congregation is known throughout the area as leaders in environmental and social justice issues. We are known as a place of sanctuary for many peoples: Pagans, atheists, theists, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, younger folks, older folks, activists and those in recovery. Most recently, those who felt fear and despair following our presidential election came surging in through our doors.
And now, we need help. Our parking lot is in need of repairs, our doors and entry ramp are falling apart, and many who want to come can’t get in.
Let me tell you a bit more about us. We are a caring congregation, who is deeply committed to our community. This is clearly seen in our efforts to be a part of assistance following the water crises our state has experienced in recent years. We raised tens of thousands of dollars for groups working to protect people and water after the Charleston chemical spill in 2014 contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 people. In the Summer of 2016, we again raised thousands, using this to help those ravaged by the June floods. By staying in relationship with community leaders and a variety of partners, we were able to identify gaps between immediate flood relief and long term recovery.
One example of this was our collaboration with Kanawha County School’s homeless coordinator and area principals and teachers, to identify needs of families displaced by the flood. Many were in transitional housing, living in tents or campers, staying with family, or back in their own housing with only the most urgent repairs being attended to. Many children and families were sleeping on floors with nowhere to store their belongings. With the help of many of you, we were able to provide beds and dressers, making their difficult living situation livable.
Our congregation, which has helped so many, needs help now. Help us continue to grow as a beacon of hope and love in our state. Help us be able to open our doors to all who wish to enter.
We are raising these funds through a Faithify campaign, which has more information on our repair projects, as well as a donation link.
The New River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in Beckley, WV has coordinated two interfaith demonstrations. The theme was Standing On the Side of Love. They joined the UU Congregation of Charleston for a third demonstration on the same topic.
The Lewisburg Interfaith Fellowship, Quakers and Unitarian Universalists from the area participated in a demonstration in Lewisburg on October 29 at the Green Space. A second demonstration was held in Beckley in Word Park on November 10. A third demonstration took place in Charleston at Haddad Riverfront Park, Nov. 15 and was part of the 2nd Annual WV Welcomes Refugees event. Members of the UU Congregation, Charleston, WV also participated.
Issues that were upheld included Standing on the Side of Love, Ban Walls of Hate, Black Lives Matter, Gun Control Now, Words Matter, Let Go of Fear, Live in Love, LGBTQ Lives Matter, and Practice Love.
The events received local news coverage from both television and newspaper reporters.
The First UU Society of Marietta, Ohio (FUUSM) has gone solar! Solar panels were installed at the First Unitarian-Universalist Society of Marietta (FUUSM) during the week of October 17. This installation establishes FUUSM as the first religious organization in Washington County to have solar panels as a major source of electrical power in its main worship building, located at the corner of Third and Putnam streets in Marietta. The 1.2-kilowatt solar panels will be placed on part of the new roof, which was installed in May of this year. The solar panel installation will be done by Pickering Associates of Parkersburg , W.V. The cost of acquisition and installation of the solar panels will be covered by a private company, Golden Rule Associates, LLC, owned by FUUSM member, Dave Ballantyne. The reason for this arrangement is that only individuals or organizations subject to federal income tax liability can claim the 30 percent federal income tax credit available for solar-panel acquisition and installation, not nonprofit or religious organizations.
The solar panels will generate approximately 66 percent of the annual electrical usage of the church building. Initially, FUUSM will save about 10 percent on its electricity bill annually because of the solar panels. Members and friends of FUUSM may purchase additional solar panels for placement on the roof of the church building, and they may also buy portions of Golden Rule Associates’ ownership of the original solar panels. Golden Rule Associates will donate the solar panels to FUUSM after such time as the original investment has been repaid, or 25 years, according to a formal agreement between Golden Rule Associates and FUUSM. Then, when FUUSM fully owns the panels, the electric-bill savings will be the full 66 percent.
George Banziger, president of the FUUSM Board of Trustees, noted that the installation of solar panels is a momentous event for FUUSM and helps to fulfill its commitment as an official “Green Sanctuary” congregation, a designation it received in 2014 from the Unitarian Universalist Association, its national denominational organization, after a rigorous application process.
“We are very grateful to Golden Rule Associates for its support of our solar panel project. This will allow us to live out one of the principles of our FUUSM affirmation: To ‘cherish the universe and its resources, and recognize the unity of all life,’” Banziger said.
“I am pleased to support FUUSM’s commitment to its Green Sanctuary status with this initiative, which I hope will be exemplary to others for increasing use of renewable energy and decreasing use of fossil fuels. The solar panel project represents our serious spiritual engagement in environmental sustainability,” Ballantyne said.
The Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker said those at the church feel that what they are doing with the solar panels truly represents what they believe in. “We really feel like we are putting our faith into action,” she said, adding that they are committed to clean air, clean water and environmental issues. “In a way, it demonstrates our commitment and is an example to others.”
Marietta is on the border with West Virginia and is deep in heart of coal country, however the congregation has not experienced any pushback from other groups in the area.
FUUSM’s building was built in 1857. However the location of the modern solar panels are not visible to those who are in and around the historic building. You can learn more about FUUSM at their website www.fuusm.org
The West Virginia House of Representatives has passed a “Religious Freedom” bill. You can read an article about this on the Think Progress website.
The bill still has to clear the senate and the governor, but one of our local UU ministers has already written a letter to the editor addressing the issue. Rev. Rose Edington, Minister Emerita of the UU Congregation of Charleston wrote the letter below. You can also read it on the Charleston Gazette-Mail Website.
Religious Freedom act restores discrimination
I have been an ordained minister since 1975. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with discrimination.
In our democracy, religious freedom is the freedom to worship (or not) according to your choice and your conscience. This means that the state cannot dictate how to conduct any denomination’s or religion’s worship service, nor what may be said during worship services, nor how you choose to worship, whether it be in a grand cathedral, your humble home or any place of worship in between.
No “restoration” to freely worship is needed because nothing has been taken away. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has not changed.
For those who need to discriminate to practice their religion, they may freely do that within their places of worship. Businesses, which are open to the public, are not free to discriminate. Business owners could choose to practice their religion based on their answer to the question: “Who is my neighbor?” as found in the story of The Good Samaritan, and the teaching from Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some have thereby entertained angels unaware.”
Personally, as a member of a multiracial family, I am all too aware that the statements being made today by people who use religion to discriminate against others because of their sexual orientation are the same kind of statements used by people to discriminate against others based on the color, or perceived color, of their skin a generation ago. It was wrong then. It is wrong now.
The Rev. Dr. Rose Edington (Unitarian Universalist)
On September 5, 2015, the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington, WV, experienced an electrical fire that results in fire, water and smoke damage throughout the building. Thankfully the fast response by the fire department prevented a total loss and minimized the damage.
But it is estimated that nearly $8,000 of the damages will not be covered by insurance and the roof, which was in need of repair before the fire will need replacing immediately. Replacing the roof is estimated to cost over $23,000.
The congregation has already received $5,000 to help with the roof repairs from the OMD Emergency Relief Fund – a fund created for instances just like this. The money from this fund comes from Chalice Lighter Calls, Friends of the OMD donations and other fundraising activities. A true example of our district coming together to help one another.
The congregation has also posted a request on Faithify.org which to date has had $1,745 pledged towards their $8,000 goal. If the goal is not met, they will not receive any of the money. So we are asking that you please reach out and support them on Faithify. We have heard that several congregations around the region will be taking up collections in the next several weeks to support their sister congregation. Any way your congregation can help is appreciated. But don’t delay, the drive on Faithify ends December 2.
The congregation is currently meeting in office space graciously donated to them for a brief time. This temporary space is not appropriate for the full spiritual expression of the congregation, but they count ourselves fortunate to have it. Finishing the repairs to the congregation will allow them to return to their spiritual home and resume their outreach work in the Huntington community. We need UUism in West Virginia to see our values represented where they aren’t always easily accessed!
This weekend, the Up Close issue for November featured three congregations with unique stewardship plans. Here are two more we’d like to share. If your congregation has a new way of handling stewardship, please let us know in the comments.
“Our Financial Health” at Marietta
FUUSM (First UU Society of Marietta, OH) has begun a regular process of educating our congregation about financial stewardship called “Our Financial Health.” This initiative began Oct 19 with a short presentation before the offertory during the worship service. Our minister, Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker, gave a brief introduction, noted our annual service auction and made the point that, although fundraisers are important, 77% of the income of our annual operating budget comes from pledges.
We shall continue this series of brief presentations at Sunday service. Subsequent presentations will describe the other features of our annual operating budget, then a description of our trust funds and how we use earnings from these funds to support improvements & renovations of our historic building. In later presentations we will get into how the trust funds work, a new trust fund to support non-capital projects (“Funding our Values”) and special funds (outside of the operating budget and trust funds), such as our Community Meal Fund, Green Sanctuary Fund.
This initiative was started by leaders who believe that it is not helpful to talk about finances only one time a year at the annual fund drive. The book “Cultivating Generosity,” by Rem Stokes, has informed much of the thinking on this subject.
Stewardship Team Works Year-Round
This year, the UU Fellowship of Wayne County (UUFWC) Stewardship Committee has been:
Shifting to a year round committee – to create a culture of giving
Working with the Leadership Development Team (LDT) and Volunteer Coordinator – to increase the volunteer base
Working with Finance to determine the annual budget needs – to increase communication about financial stewardship between committees and to the fellowship
Working toward a definition of a successful campaign (dollars and participation)
We increased participation – 75% responded to the “how do you want to be contacted?” survey
We used a multi-prong communication approach – email, face-to-face, telephone; still worked out as an every member canvass
Faster & easier canvass – most people preferred email; 79% of pledge goal reached in 30 days (versus 80% in 70 days during last year’s drive) – very few visiting steward requests allowed for quicker pledge responses
We encouraged fellowship leaders (X-team, volunteer coordinator and committee chairs) to help communicate concrete examples of what a pledge actually supports and allows the fellowship to provide.
We created and presented a celebration of giving service to thank the fellowship for their generosity