GA housing still available

Dormitory-style rooms remain available for people planning to attend the UUA’s General Assembly 2014, June 25-29 in Providence, R.I. Hotel rooms have been in short supply because the UUA had to withdraw from some hotel contracts because of labor issues.

Home hospitality is also available. Most of the money raised will be donated to local congregations.

Adult registration for the full week of GA is $335 until May 1, when it increases to $385. There are reduced rates for those attending less than full time.

Information on GA programming, registration, and housing can be found here.

 

Welcoming in the Age of Social Media

From April’s InterConnections feature story, now online at UUA.org:

As recently as five or ten years ago, visitors to our congregations showed up full of questions—and brought with them some apprehensions about what Unitarian Universalism might be.

Times have changed. Thanks to the Internet and social media, today’s Sunday guests have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting into by the time they make their first in-person visit.

Peter Bowden, a Unitarian Universalist media consultant who often gives workshops on the relationship of changing culture and social media to ministry, wants congregations to adjust their thinking when it comes to welcoming. 

Go to full article.

 

Detroit-area choirs gather for music, community

Every other year since 2003, the choirs of many Unitarian Universalist congregations in the Detroit, Michigan, area have come together for a music festival. The latest was March 9 at First UU Church of Detroit.

At the first festival there were eight choirs; this year there were choristers from ten congregations, with a total of about 130 singers.

“This is just an amazing experience every time we do it,” said Al Acker, a longtime choir member with First UU. “The thing I like most is that my own choir on a good Sunday will have only twelve or thirteen members. To sing with a group of more than 100 is just such a wonderful experience. Also, we get to work with the music directors of other congregations. And once we’ve learned these songs we can sing them at other services throughout the year.”

It’s a lot of music to learn, he acknowledged. “That’s why we only do this every other year.” The choirs practice the numbers at home then gather Saturday for practices and lunch. They come back Sunday for the performance.

Acker said most of the 80 to 90 members of First Unitarian contributed to the concert by singing, providing and serving the lunch, helping with parking, or ushering. The concert is held in a different location every year.

In addition to First Unitarian, the congregations that participated are First UU Church of Ann Arbor, Birmingham Unitarian Church, Emerson Church UU, New Hope UU Congregation, Northwest UU Church, Paint Creek UU Congregation, Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church, UU Church of Farmington, and the UU Church of Olinda, at Ruthven, Ontario.

The original idea for the concert came from Todd Ballou, music director at the Detroit congregation and Anna Speck, the then-music director at Grosse Pointe. “It’s become one of the rare opportunities to get people together from all the area congregations,” said Ballou.

Special guests sometimes appear. This year Naomi Long Madgett, the poet laureate of Detroit, read some of her poems. UU songwriter Carolyn McDade led some of the songs several years ago. “Sometimes we can’t decide if this is a church service with tons of music or a choir concert with some speaking parts. This year it was more of a concert,” said Ballou.

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.