Donor helps children share with the world

Imagine giving kids $10,000 and telling them to go help heal the world and spread the word about Unitarian Universalism.

That’s what has been happening at the UU Church of Reading, Mass. (292 members). A year ago, an anonymous donor made a gift of $10,000 for the purpose of involving the kids and teens in social justice work and helping them experience the joy of sharing money and time. And thus, the Helping Hands Outreach Fund was born.

Each year, the children in the church’s Faith Development program select five area organizations that are aligned with UU values of social justice. During a “Principles in Action” Faith Development quarter, the older children and youth educate the younger ones about the work of these nonprofits. Then, led by the Senior High Youth Group, the kids vote for the one they most want to partner with for the year. The kids then present the selected organization with a check for $7,600 and enter into a close partnership with the group for the year. The other four groups receive a gift of $600 each.

For the first year of the program, the kids selected an organization that served individuals with developmental disabilities. “This has been very engaging for the whole congregation,” says Lorraine Dennis, past president of the congregation. “We don’t just give money, we work hand in hand, together. The clients played music at a Sunday service, we had a lunch workshop about the group, we collected clothing for their prom, our teens attended their dances, and people volunteered in other ways. Most importantly, we sponsored and staffed a training program for Special Olympics, with our church kids and the group’s youngest kids working together on various physical and sports skills. ”

For the second year of the program, which kicked off in September, the kids are partnering with an environmental action group that is working to preserve an area river.

The Rev. Tim Kutzmark, minister of the church, reports that they will be sponsoring hikes, canoe trips, a community garden, displays at the town soccer field, and educational forums for the surrounding communities on water and green issues. “And because we’re out in the community working,” he says, “people learn about UUism and the things we stand for!”

Welcome to the new InterConnections

Dear readers,

By now, most of you will have seen the brand new InterConnections monthly email newsletter, sent on September 15. We hope you enjoyed it; we have been grateful to hear your comments!

InterConnections is now a totally online publication. The last paper copy was the Spring 2009 issue. For financial reasons, the UUA has gone electronic with several publications, including InterConnections. One practical result is that without the costs of publishing on paper, InterConnections can now be sent to whoever finds it useful. If there are leaders or potential leaders in your congregation who you think should receive it, invite them to sign up.

We do recognize that the transition away from print will be difficult, even impossible, for some who do not have access to a computer or choose to live without one. We regret that. The Rev. James Hobart, longtime UU minister and now on the Affiliated Faculty at Meadville Lombard Theological School, spoke to us about these folks after receiving our September issue.

He wrote: “I reluctantly accept the decision that for financial reasons InterConnections will be limited to an electronic edition. However, I fail to see you acknowledge that this works a hardship on those who are not electronically connected. Now that may be mostly ‘old fogeys’ and there may not be very many of the older generation or anyone else who does not have email. However, it is a loss to them not to have paper communication. I seem to remember we UUs have some statement about ‘the worth and dignity of every person.’  To be denied communication affects a person’s sense of their worth and dignity. Perhaps financial realities trump that, but I think at least it should be acknowledged that we are marginalizing some of our constituency.”

Hobart’s comments lead us to invite congregations to consider whether some of their members who would find InterConnections useful might not be able to access it, and, if so, to consider making a paper copy of new articles each month for these folks.

The Rev. Josh Snyder, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, Del., spoke for others: “Let me say I prefer electronic communication like this! Our church just went to an electronic newsletter with a few still getting a paper version. Let me tell you, folks love it!  I do too. I can save this, print off a million copies if I want to, cut and paste it into a presentation using OneNote or PowerPoint, blog about it, or email it off to all my friends. That beats a piece of paper anytime.”

InterConnections strives to provide relentlessly useful information to congregational leaders to help them do their jobs better, drawing on the shared wisdom in our congregations. To quote from the very first issue of the newsletter in 1998: “InterConnections searches out the churches that have had extraordinary successes with an issue and tells you how they did it, then recommends other resources you can draw on in tackling the same issue. The issues it addresses range from the familiar to the surprising, from nuts and bolts of money to the magic of membership growth, to nourishing the spirit.”

InterConnections wants to hear from you when your congregation has a success story. Send story ideas, questions, and other comments to InterConnections Editor Don Skinner at interconnections @ uua.org or (800) 204-2523.

If you’d like to sign up for the free newsletter, you can do that here.

Welcome to the new InterConnections. I’m looking forward to working with you to make it the best it can be.

–Don Skinner

UUA halts sale of Spanish-language hymnal

Sales and distribution of the UUA’s new Spanish-language hymnal, Las Voces del Camino (Voices on the Journey), which was introduced at General Assembly in June, have been halted due to a number of serious errors.

The errors will be corrected and a new edition published, said new UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales. He also promised that there will be a review of the process that lead to publication of the flawed hymnal.

Anyone who has purchased the current edition will receive a replacement when a new edition is published.

For more details read “Sales of new UU Spanish hymnal halted” at uuworld.org.