Encourage first-time GAers with cash, support

The UU Congregation of Princeton, N.J., typically sends five to eight adults and several youth to General Assembly each year. Over the years most of them have tended to be “GA regulars,” folks who had attended several previous GAs.

Like many congregations, UUCP longed to interest new people in GA but hadn’t had much luck. This year the membership committee tried something new to do just that. Since cost is typically a major deterrent to attending GA, the committee raised $800 to pay much of the cost by soliciting donations at two Sunday brunches. It also promoted GA through the congregation’s website, newsletter, orders of service, and from the pulpit. It let it be known it wanted to send someone “new” with the money it had raised.

That person turned out to be Kevin Trayner, co-chair of the Religious Education Council at UUCP.  He and his wife, Lisa, began attending five years ago “for the kids” but quickly found their own places in the congregation. He was recruited as an RE teacher and both continue to teach, including OWL, the UUA’s sexuality education program.

“I think that the experience of attending GA will give me a better grounding in the overall UU experience,” said Traynor. “It will be valuable to me to connect with other UUs from different backgrounds, and to share that experience with others. Part of it, also, for me, is to educate myself so that when I talk to newcomers I can better speak to ‘who are we.’”

Several congregational leaders, including the Rev. Bill Neely, met with Trayner to fill him in on GA and help him register. He’ll attend GA sessions related to welcoming guests and integrating people into the life of the congregation.

“We plan to meet with him after GA to discuss what he learned that can help us with welcoming,” said Lisa Roche, co-chair of the membership committee. “We’re hoping that because he’s active in RE, this will also lead to closer ties between the RE council and the membership committee. And we want to work with him on welcoming in his role as RE co-chair.”

Roche offers the following tips toward encouraging GA attendance:

  • Start promoting GA in the fall.
  • Talk it up among other committees.
  • Raise a substantial amount of money.
  • Show videos of events at past GAs.

She said the committee hopes to try again in coming years to recruit others to attend GA.

New curriculum supports ethical eating

Two Unitarian Universalists—Diane Bassett and Jennifer Greene—have created a food-education curriculum designed to support the UUA’s 2011 Statement of Conscience on ethical eating.

Titled, “Demonstrating Our Values Through Eating,” or DOVE, the curriculum has six sessions of one-and-a-half to two hours, which include discussions on food marketing, climate change, food-worker justice, nutrition, food insecurity, and other food-related topics.

Greene said the course can also be used for individual study. It is not just for vegetarians, she noted. “It will be useful for people no matter where they are on the continuum of current food choices.”

The first session is an orientation. The second is a viewing of the documentary Food Stamped, which must be purchased or obtained from a library. Several sessions involve cooking, so a kitchen is needed. The curriculum itself is free online.

A Planning/Publicity Kit includes a timeline for promoting the course and preparing for it. Greene can be reached at jrg123 at optonline.net.

 

UUSC begins Haitian garden project

This spring, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is inviting congregations to help families in Haiti plant vegetable gardens. Congregations are being asked to raise money to buy the necessary tools and seeds to enable Haitian families to grow their own food.

The Rev. Katherine Jesch, former director of environmental ministry for the UU Ministry for Earth, says that $250 will allow one family to be trained and supplied with tools and seeds for a garden. The UUSC hopes to raise enough so that 100 families can plant gardens.

Jesch said that individuals, youth groups, congregations, and other groups are being encouraged to support this project. She noted, “Once Haitian families don’t have to buy all their food they are better able to cover other basic expenses, like school fees for their children. Food sustainability can be at the heart of thriving families and communities.”

Donations of amounts smaller than $250 will also accepted. Visit the UUSC website for more information.

Social justice events to engage youth

Youth who want to pursue social justice interests this summer have several offerings to choose from through the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice.

There will be a gathering of youth on June 25 in Providence, R.I., the first day of General Assembly, to get acquainted and learn about the issue of raising the minimum wage. The event is described as “a primer for all youth who care about social justice, even if they are unsure where to begin.”

In partnership with the UU Living Legacy Project, both youth and adults are invited on the Mississippi Civil Rights Journey, July 5–12, honoring the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and exploring the continuing struggle to preserve voting rights. 
Application deadline is May 19. Cost is $1,280. Financial aid is available.

In July and August there will be three youth justice trainings in New Orleans, Boston, and Seattle. In partnership with local organizations, youth will learn about the realities of oppression and build skills needed to enact social change. The cost is $840, $1,860, and $1,100, respectively, plus transportation costs. Financial aid is available. Reservations are due by May 4, May 11, and June 1, respectively.

Webinars offer expert advice

If you’ve ever needed advice on a congregational issue at odd hours, there are now at least three collections of archived webinars available for anyone to access.

These are mostly one-hour webinars that were created in the past several years, then archived. Most feature a UUA staff member or a congregational leader making a presentation, followed by a period of discussion including the people who participated in the live presentation of the webinar. Topics include nearly all aspects of congregational life––running board meetings, committees on ministry, digital-spiritual literacy, tips for new youth advisors, religious education curricula, volunteer practices, and more.

The UUA’s MidAmerica Region has an archive of webinars, as does the Central East Regional Group (CERG), and the UUA’s Vital Leaders blog, edited by the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke. Check the website of your own district or region, as well. Registration is required to view the CERG webinars.

In addition, there is a list of upcoming webinars on Growing Unitarian Universalism’s Facebook page. Click on the Webinars icon at the top of the page.

GA rebate offered to presidents

Presidents of congregations can get a $100 rebate on General Assembly registration fees this year.

The Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees hopes the incentive will entice presidents to come to General Assembly 2014, which will be June 25-29 in Providence, R.I. There is one rebate per congregation. It can be claimed by presidents-elect and chairs of governing boards, as well as presidents.

Those coming to GA would pay the full registration fee, which is $335 if paid by April 30 and then submit a rebate claim.

UUA Moderator Jim Key said the board approved the rebate because it wants as many presidents as possible to come to GA to take part in discussions “about the future of our faith and our Association.” The board has been working on ways to transform GA so that it is more meaningful to congregational leaders, more economically accessible, and more useful as a way to discuss big questions about UUA governance and the UUA’s mission.

In addition to sending presidents or board chairs to GA, the board is also asking congregations to elect people who will commit to serving as GA delegates for two years so there can be continuity in decision-making. A longer article on the rebate is at uuworld.org. Key’s letter to congregations about the rebate is here.

 

Sermon-writing for lay people

New from Skinner House is The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People by the Rev. Erika Hewitt.

The book is described as “a complete workshop to help lay people gain experience writing and preaching a full-length sermon.” It provides a step-by-step lesson plan for eight sessions, including the theory and theology of preaching, and practice sessions in writing and speaking.

The book includes a separate leader’s guide, homework readings, sample sermons, and other exercises “to help first-time preachers polish their preaching craft.” It is $14 from the UUA Bookstore.

Hewitt has an earlier book on worship, Story, Song and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for All Ages, which is $12 from the bookstore.

Fair Share Giving Guide is stewardship aid

Looking for a way to help congregants understand responsible levels of giving now that it’s time for the annual stewardship campaign? Share the UUA’s Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide with them.

It suggests a minimum financial commitment of 2 percent for congregants earning up to $25,000 and goes up from there, all the way to a full tithe of 10 per cent at the other end of the scale.

The guide can be especially helpful for new congregants who may be accustomed to different giving styles. Those who have been unchurched will appreciate knowing what appropriate levels of giving are. The guide can also be a reminder to longtime congregants who make small financial commitments that one of the responsibilities of membership is appropriate giving.

The amounts on the guide are suggestions only, of course. Congregants should also be made to understand that these are not goals to necessarily be achieved in a year, but goals to work toward.