Congregations do transgender outreach

Eleven UU congregations from the District of Columbia to northern New Jersey reached out to the transgender community in early June with a presence at the Mazzoni Center’s Trans-Health Conference in Philadelphia. The congregations placed a two-page ad in the event program and staffed an information table. They also contributed $500 to the Mazzoni Center, which provides a range of services for the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender community.

Ken Goldberg, chair of the social justice committee at the UU Church in Cherry Hill, N.J., said, “we shared our compelling message—you are welcomed to our churches, at all levels of congregational life; please share your personal journey with our loving, spiritual communities; ours is a place where you can be your real self.”

He said five people who attended the event came to services the following Sunday at First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, the closest congregation to the event.

He also noted Unitarian Universalism was the only faith group represented at this event. “We became more aware of transgender issues, trans folks became more aware of us, and we developed contacts with other groups supporting this community,” he said. For information in organizing similar events email Goldberg.

Skinner House offers new military resource

Skinner House Books has published Bless All Who Serve: Sources of Hope, Courage and Faith for Military Personnel and Their Families, a pocket-sized book of readings and songs from many faith traditions. Free copies are available to military chaplains and enlisted personnel of all faiths. Chaplains and ministers should contact Julie Shaw for those copies. Other service personnel may contact Lorraine Dennis at the Church of the Larger Fellowship.

Copies may also be purchased through the UUA Bookstore for $8. An article about the book, edited by the Revs. Matthew and Gail Tittle, both military veterans, is here. The book is similar to one published in 1941 by Beacon Press.

Last-minute GA information

Last-minute information about General Assembly 2010, to be held June 23–27 in Minneapolis, can be found here. It includes information about the GA schedule, business agenda, the convention center, nearby restaurants, public transportation options, and travel from the airport.

Follow GA on Twitter and Facebook. UU World’s GA Blog will follow developments in GA business, social justice, and other issues daily.

For information on how your congregation can watch GA events live at home, read this InterConnections article.

How your church can appeal to a younger crowd

In the introduction to her book, Designing Contemporary Congregations: Strategies to Attract Those Under 50, the Rev. Laurene Beth Bowers, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Randolph, Mass., describes some of the people in the congregations she has served over the years:

They are people I love and care about, but they are also a stubborn and stagnant people who have sacrificed for too long at the altar of “everything must stay the same” and who need gentle encouragement and caring confrontation by passionate leaders who will love them enough not to let them remain there.

Bowers suggest ways to lead congregations into change that can be more inviting to a younger generation. Among her suggestions: Create worship that moves. Add nontraditional music, dance, drama, and personal witnessing, with elements no longer than three minutes each, plus a 10-minute sermon. And yes, it’s OK if it goes more than an hour. “It moves, so you don’t notice the time,” one congregant told her.

She includes chapters on worship, social justice, life-cycle rituals, and evangelism. Her 128-page book is available at the UUA Bookstore for $14.

TIAA-CREF new UU retirement recordkeeper

The UUA Board of Trustees made TIAA-CREF the new recordkeeper of the UU Organizations Retirement Plan at its meeting May 20, replacing Fidelity Investments. The decision was made on the recommendation of the UUA Compensation, Benefits, and Pension Committee. Both groups voted unanimously for the new recordkeeper.

The Rev. Richard Nugent, director of the UUA Office of Church Staff Finances, and Joyce Stewart, UUA Retirement Plan director, noted that plan participants will not have to take any action as a result of this change. Retirement investments will be transferred to funds that mirror ones they are already invested in.

Information packets will be sent to all 2,800 plan participants, including many staff of UU congregations. The conversion will be made around November 1.* The change was spurred by a growing commitment by the UUA to genocide-free investing, coupled with its disappointment in Fidelity’s refusal to move out of that area.

*This sentence has been corrected. It originally stated erroneously that the conversion would be complete by June 30. InterConnections apologizes for the error.

Watch General Assembly events live

From a special pre-GA InterConnections story, now online at UUA.org:

Video from fourteen major events at General Assembly, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual gathering of congregations June 23–27 in Minneapolis, will be streamed as they occur. Congregations are encouraged to gather and view these events online as they actually occur or watch video of the events later.

Go to the full article.

Regional Association Sundays strengthen church connections

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

Association Sunday was begun three years ago to provide an opportunity for individual congregations to think about, celebrate, and support their connections with the larger world of Unitarian Universalism and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

More than 500 congregations take part each year, holding a Sunday worship service focused on associational ties. But what do you do if you’re a small congregation and your denominational ties simply aren’t as apparent or as numerous as they might be in larger congregations? Or if you simply want to get to know your UU neighbors better?

For some congregations the answer to those questions is to gather with each other to create a combined Association Sunday event that is bigger than any of them could manage alone.

Go to the full article.