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.
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.
I looked at the telephone pole 30 feet in the air on a mountain where we were 5,000 feet above sea level. She was right, I had promised that if asked any of the Coming of Age youth to do something, I would do it too. At that time, the ropes course was months away and barely worth my notice. Now, here it was. Very real and very high.
Did I mention I’m afraid of falling? It’s not heights. I can be high- it’s falling.
Our task, while harnessed for safety, was to climb up, walk across the phone pole that narrowed to six inches on the other side and then walk to the middle. All of that seemed reasonable and doable. The next part, so much not. We were to stand on the middle of the beam, lean backward, keeping the rope on the harness tight, until we were very nearly upside down and then to “swing” safely to the ground. All the while, looking upside down at the desert valley below.
For the record, I survived. And the teen who insisted I go first did it and survived.
Why do I share this story in a blog post introducing myself as the newest Congregational Field Staff in the Central East Region? First, because this job feels as big as that moment. Intense, terrifying, exciting, and totally worth it. Second, because I make the same promise to you. I will not ask you to do anything I am not willing to do. Of course, I won’t be asking you to fall off a rope’s course willingly, but I am aware that much of what we are asked to do in our congregations can feel just as intense.
I come to this work because I believe that our congregations have the potential to heal and energize our world. Finding the healthiest path is sometimes amazing and easy and everything we want it to be. More often, it is messy, hard, and a challenge to our very core.
I came to this denomination in my 20s. As a child, I was raised by my atheist father, my eastern Cherokee and Seminole mother, and Catholic grandparents. My mother kept religious texts and symbols from many different religious traditions and paths around the house. In many ways, I was raised a U.U. without every seeing a church. Within two years of joining my first congregation in Tucson, AZ I was hired as the Spiritual Development Director (Coming of Age, high school, and adult religious education). In this job, I discovered the call to interim ministry.
I went to Starr King School for the Ministry to become an interim ministry. In the last six years, I’ve served congregations in Montgomery, AL, Alton, IL, and Syracuse, NY as interim minister. I have completed the certification training for The Interim Ministry Network. It is work that I love and yet…
I have watched regionalization roll out across the denomination and seen the great health and connection it has brought to congregation after congregation. I have been impressed and supported by regional staff. When this position opened, I jumped at the opportunity.
I want our congregations to be the healthiest places they can be so that they can do their good work in the world. As Congregational Field Staff, I think I am especially well placed to do this with you and your leaders in concert with an amazing team of Regional Staff dedicated to work with you.
I will be working with 30 congregations across Ohio and western Pennsylvania. In addition, I will be the primary Regional Staff Lead for the Summer Institute, supporting the Commissioned Lay Ministry Program (Hope Johnson will be lead), and collaborating with regional staff to form a conflict resolution team responding to incidents of conflict with religious professionals and leaders of color. All of this helps build connection and healing and growth for our members and our movement.
I bring to this work, experience of attending and/or working with Unitarian Universalist congregations in nine states and four regions, experience as a religious educator and a minister, and experience working on particular programs as well as systemic process. I simply love systems theory even with its challenges and complexities. I’ve taught and created curriculum around anti-oppression and anti-racism work. I have specialties in governance/board work, after-pastor congregations (where professional misconduct has occurred), countering oppression work, religious education, creative worship, and collaborative leadership. Working with this region’s congregations, I look forward to expanding my knowledge, experience, and skill.
I am based in Columbus, OH and will be traveling quite a lot. That said, I am available for phone, Zoom, and in-person meetings when needed. If you have questions about how I can support you and your congregation, please feel free to reach out.
The First Universalist Church (UU) of Lyons, OH is experiencing a revival in northwest Ohio. This small village (pop. 562) is just west of Greater Toledo, and the suburbs are steadily stretching out closer and closer to Lyons. The congregation’s new “G.O.D.” (Growth, Outreach, and Deeds) team has been a big part of the congregation’s recent revival, forming partnerships with local service organizations and engaged in intentional efforts of community outreach and service. The congregation has made quite a few changes to its Sunday service, with updates to worship and music. This revival also has a lot to do with the dedication of the congregation’s minister Rev. Larry Hutchison. The congregation could only afford to bring him on as a part-time minister, yet he does so much more on a volunteer basis. Things have been looking up for this very small but now growing congregation.
Then, all of a sudden, the congregation’s focus was jerked back to financial struggles and the basic operation of the church. A recent wind storm hit the aging and worn sanctuary roof with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. This was followed by heavy rains that led to a large ominous dripping wet spot with ceiling tiles stained and loosened. To keep the 149 year old church home from sustaining any more damage the members have had to scramble to raise the money to get the work underway as quickly as possible. The most economical bid for the replacement of the main part of the roof, just over the sanctuary, is $13,500.00. The insurance company has pledged $6000.00 to cover only what was damaged by wind, not the entire section of aging and compromised roofing.
The congregation now has a Faithify campaign to raise $5000.00, which leaves $2500.00 for them to cover with an unplanned and hurried capital campaign and from their modest financial safety net. Failure, however, is not an option. Failing to secure a roof on our beautiful yet fragile church home could result in not only ending this amazing revival but the closure of the church. After surviving the Great Depression, World Wars, a lightning strike, and a beam falling through the sanctuary ceiling, it would unthinkable that a worn roof would be the end.
In the last year alone, the congregation…:
Started a “little free library” in our modest village that no longer has a public library.
Have marked out an area for our new community garden.
Sponsored 3 “Christmas families,” with a house full of gifts and household necessities, when they would only have taken on one in prior years.
Partnered with Sunnyside Peace and Justice Center in Adrian, Michigan to host a night of “Poetry, Tacos, and Music”.
Sent durable church-made dresses to Malawi so that girls there can meet the sole requirement for enrolling in school, having a dress.
Brought in quite a few guest speakers to bring insights about topics as diverse as solidarity with standing rock, NAACP, living as a Muslim-American, and overcoming addiction, to name a few.
Handed out treats at the village’s Trick-or-treat night, which facilitated a lot of community questions about Unitarian Universalism, including one child, to the dismay of his parents, asking, “What kind of church passes out candy at Halloween?”
Passed out free food and refreshments during the 120 mile yard sale on route 120.
Entered a lit float into the village Christmas parade.
Hosted movie nights. Some had a deep or intense message, others were just fun and for all ages.
Continued an adopt-a-highway portion of route 120.
“Wayside Pulpits” have been mainstays at UU congregations for decades. They started out as outside display cases that hold an uplifting quote from a famous sage (or other respected source) printed on heavy poster-sized paper. Some examples are:
Goodness is the only investment that never fails. — Henry David Thoreau
For a thought to change the world, it must first change the life of the person who carries it. — Albert Camus
I defy the tyranny of precedent. — Clara Barton
Never lose a holy curiosity. — Albert Einstein
Designed to pique the curiosity of passers-by, the quotes served as subtle evangelizing tools, especially for intellectuals. What kind of church quotes women, existentialists and scientists?
Originally printed by the UUA and sold to congregations, they are now available in pdf format so that congregations can have them printed locally. Of course, congregations can also choose their own quotes and create their own Wayside Pulpit posters.
But with modern technology and the advent of affordable electronic signs, the Wayside Pulpit can be a more effective evangelical tool.
The Maumee Valley UU Congregation in Bowling Green, Ohio is located on the main highway between the college town of Bowling Green, and the city of Toledo (to the north) with a lot of traffic and not much else to look at. Because the sign is electronic, it can be easily changed to offer a connected series of messages such as:
Be Good to Yourself. Be Excellent to Others. Do Everything with Love
We Believe in:
Freedom, Reason & Tolerance
The Necessity of the Democratic Process
The Transformative Power of Love
The Power of Beloved Community
The Never Ending Search for Truth & Meaning
Freedom of Religious Expression
They can also respond to current events with agility:
Rainbow Flag Up, Confederate Flag Down
Pro Black Lives, Pro Police Lives
The minister of the Maumee Valley UU Congregation, The Rev. Lynn Kerr, reports that many of the first-time visitors to the congregation say that they visited because they were intrigued by the different (and sometimes edgy) messages on the sign. (The rainbow flag sends its own message.)
Perhaps the folksy wisdom in the electronic version of the Wayside Pulpit might create a bigger tent for the faith in our postmodern age.
Here are more samples that MVUUC has displayed on their sign. Feel free to borrow them for yours:
All Welcomed, All Loved
Are You a UU and Don’t Know it?
Atheists, Agnostics, Religious, All Welcome
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Still Matter
Be the Change
Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Come As You Are
Compassion is the Answer
Find Us and You Shall Seek
For the Beauty of the Earth
Hate Free-Love Filled
Justice is What Love Looks Like in Public
LGBTQ Friendly & Affirming
Leap and the Net Will Appear
Live Now-Love Wastefully
Love, Courage, Wisdom – Found & Given Here
Make Your Voice Heard- Vote
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Our Only Doctrine is Love
The Path to Peace Begins With Us
Peace Can Only Be Achieved Through Understanding
Peace is Possible
Small Church, Big Heart
Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn
Speak the Truth, Even if Your Voice Trembles
Speak the Truth in Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Stop Hate. Together.
Truth and Love Always Win
War is Expensive, Peace is Priceless
We Are All Immigrants
We Put Values into Action
Rev. Renee Ruchtozke, primary contact for the Maumee Valley UU Congregation