NOVA Congregations Use Faithify to Provide Teacher Training Program

Northern Virginia (NOVA) Congregations Collaborate to provide a Rich and Rewarding Teacher Training Program with the Help of a Faithify Campaign

teacher training exerciseFor the last two years, Congregations in the NOVA Cluster have offered a collaborative training day in the fall for religious Education (RE) teachers.  By pooling resources, the religious education programs have been able to offer multiple workshops and classes led by experts in the field.  Director of Religious Exploration at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax Linnea Nelson explained, “We had an opportunity to take it to the next level this year.  We wanted to offer exciting new workshops on important issues like providing OWL to children on the autistic spectrum, and understanding white supremacy in the realm of RE, as well as topics like basic classroom management, storytelling, and music.  We also didn’t want to ask our volunteers to pay for their own food or child care expenses.  These are people who deserve our thanks and appreciation, and we wanted to show it by planning a rich and rewarding day of training, with a meal and key note speeches.”

Early planning meant the NOVA training team was able to secure keynote speakers Pat Infante, Taquiena Boston and Shannon Harper speaking on Exploring Culture and Race as RE Teachers, as well as workshop leaders Ray and Shellie Selove on Including those with Special Needs in OWL and much more.  With an initial grant of $500 from CER, it became clear that a “dream training” was possible if it were supported by a successful Faithify Campaign .

“I really hope this event is funded and we’re able to attend,” comments 2-3rd grade teacher Leah Choudhury.  “I’ve been a volunteer teacher at Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church for 18 years, and the cluster trainings I’ve attended have been really worthwhile.  One great workshop in particular was on games for young children.  That’s not something we’ve been offered when just our Religious Educator led the training alone.  It really makes a difference when we can start the year off with a more comprehensive experience.”

The Faithify Campaign in support of collaborative NOVA teacher training will run until August 18.


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Capital and Northern Virginia Cluster Clergy Release Statement

The clergy of the Capital and Northern Virginia Clusters released this statement this week in reaction to the ongoing violence in the United States.

Dearest congregations,

Design by Shane Montoya, using Wordfoto App. From UU Media Works.
Design by Shane Montoya, using Wordfoto App. From UU Media Works.

We are your clergy–those Unitarian Universalist and Ethical Culture clergy serving congregations in the DC metro area–and we want to write to you in this time of national anxiety and pain. Every week it seems there is another mass shooting or another terrorist attack. America has seen an increase in hate speech and racist and xenophobic language. And we are in the midst of an election season that holds challenging possibilities for our country, and encourages anxiety about our future, both as a nation, and a people united.  We have been hearing from you, our members, about how it feels to be living in this world: scary, disheartening, hopeful, disturbing, disorienting. We feel this, too, and just as you have turned to us, we have turned to each other.

As colleagues, we are working together to coordinate our response to these times, sharing information about healing spaces and vigils, and supporting each other in ministering to you, our communities and the world. We wanted you to know that just as none of you stand alone, neither do we stand alone; indeed, this is a time that reminds us how grateful we are to be connected to each other, part of a engaged religious movement which reaches across the country.

Beginning in September, many of us will be offering a shared moment of connection and meditation during our Sunday services. We will ring a bell three times, inviting all into a space of solidarity and support with each other, remembering all who have been lost to violence in the week past, and honoring our commitment to a different world. As you experience that bell ringing in your congregation on Sunday morning, know that Unitarian Universalists and Ethical Culturists across the area are experiencing it as well, and that we are united in our care for this country and its people.

You are the reason that we have hope: your work for justice, your faith in humanity, your commitment to our shared  values and beliefs.

We are grateful to serve you, and we are grateful that we do so as part of a larger whole. May we remember our connection to each other, may the long arc of hope keep us connected in these challenging times and may that connection sustain us and lead us forward.

  • Randall Best, Leader, Northern Virginia Ethical Society
  • The Rev. James Gibbons Walker, Chaplain, UU Fellowship of Southern Maryland
  • The Rev. Louise Green, Minister of Congregational Life, River Road UU Congregation
  • The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg, Minister, UU Congregation of Frederick
  • The Rev. Laura Horton-Ludwig, Associate Minister, UU Congregation of Fairfax
  • The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Senior Minister, Cedar Lane UU Church
  • The Rev. Dan King, Minister, UU Church of Loudon
  • The Rev. Christina Leone-Tracy, Faith Development Minister, UU Church of Annapolis
  • The Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd, Senior Minister, River Road UU Congregation
  • The Rev. Aaron McEmrys, Senior Minister, UU Church of Arlington
  • The Rev. David A. Miller, Senior Minister, UU Congregation of Fairfax
  • The Rev. Rebekah A. Montgomery, Assistant Minister, UU Congregation of Rockville
  • The Rev. Dr. Susan Newman Moore, Acting Senior Minister, All Souls Church, Unitarian
  • The Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles, Minister of Faith in Action, UU Church of Arlington
  • The Rev. Amanda Poppei, Senior Leader, Washington Ethical Society
  • The Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael, Minister, UU Congregation of Sterling
  • The Rev. Scott Sammler-Michael, Minister, Accotink UU Church
  • The Rev. Lynn Strauss, Senor Minister, UU Congregation of Rockville
  • Hugh Taft-Morales, Leader, Baltimore Ethical Society
  • The Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker, Minister, Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church

More clergy will sign onto this letter upon their return from summer leave; it represents the collaborative work of the entire DC metro area.

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NOVA Cluster Shares Adult RE Programming

The Northern Virginia (NOVA) cluster religious educators have come up with a way to expand the religious education offerings for their adult members. They have created a website that lists Adult RE programming at each congregation that is open to members outside the host congregation. Cluster members now have one place where they can check out what opportunities are available.

NOVAsiteThe site, which is still in development, sorts the classes by source so folks can easily find what interests them. Eventually the plan is to include a calendar so individuals can check for classes chronologically. Other types of indexes may follow.

Ann Richards, Director of Lifespan Spiritual Growth and Religious Education at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church and the creator of the website, says the site has been in the works for over a year. She states, “In our geographic area, there are so many UU churches within driving distance and we should be taking advantage of that.” Having the Adult Religious Education Renaissance Module in the area last year also helped religious educators in the area think about the possibilities.

This site provides several opportunities. Professional religious educators can now see what is being offered in the cluster which helps with future planning. Religious educators who have a gap in their own programming can direct members to another site, or perhaps find a class that better fits their schedule.

The site does not list every religious education offering at every congregation in the cluster. Each church chooses which classes to include. Some programs might not be posted because they are experimental or they are specific to the home congregation, such as new member classes.

When asked what she hopes the site can provide, Ann responded, “I hope other clusters will do this as well. It just makes things so much easier.”

You can check out the site at

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Working for Change

UU Congregation of Sterling has been working towards change and understanding of racial issues. Here is what they’ve done from their October Newsletter article – Spare Any Change?

Rev. Anya Sammler-MichaelRev. Jacquelline Hollingsworth of Christ Chapel AME and Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael lead the Forum on Race, Safety and Relationships in Loudoun County, Sept. 17th, at the Christ Chapel AME congregation.  The forum invited participants into a deep discussion of our different experiences in our county, and our desire to reach across diversity for the sake of our community and especially our children.  Members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling were in attendance with faith leaders and members from all across Loudoun County.

Rev. Jacquelline HollingsworthThe conviction that rose from our gathering was: “If you are not safe, I am not safe.” or said another way: “I am my brothers, I am my sister’s keeper.”

This sort of a dialogue spurs change for our community that will serve us all – a way for us to build relationships around a common hope – safety for all.

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