About the Author
Don Skinner
Don Skinner is editor of InterConnections and a member of the Shawnee Mission UU Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

More flood relief needed

Congregations in Tennessee and Kentucky, which suffered severe damage from flooding in early May, need more help say the Rev. Dr. Lisa Presley, district executive of the Heartland District, and Annette Marquis, district executive of the Thomas Jefferson District.

In Kentucky, flooding put five feet of water into the UU Church of Bowling Green’s new congregational hall and religious education building. Damage was estimated to be $100,000 and was not covered by insurance. More than 70 UU families, primarily in the Bowling Green and Nashville areas, experienced everything from minor damage to total loss of their homes, with an estimated cost of $575,000.

A member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville has created three short video interviews with flood victims. They can be viewed on YouTube. A video of the Bowling Green damage is here.

Presley says the UUA TN/KY Flood Relief Fund, and a separate fund in the Heartland District, have received about $44,500 in contributions since the funds were set up in May. About $26,000 has been distributed.

She says, “If you have not yet asked your congregation members to make a donation to the fund, please do. This particular fund will help ensure that these congregations and their members will still be standing strong in their communities. An article about the flooding appeared on uuworld.org on May 10.

Donations can be made online here, or mailed to the UUA, 25 Beacon St., Boston MA 02108. Attn: Stewardship & Development Gift Processing. Please note “Nashville Flood Relief” somewhere on the check.

Seven principles for UU vitality

One document that was developed by participants at the UUA Growth Consultation, held May 5–7 in Colorado, was a list called “The Seven Principles for UU Vitality.” The Rev. Thom Belote, a participant and minister of Shawnee Mission UU Church in Overland Park, Kans., notes, “This document was produced using a process of brainstorming, the grouping of emerging themes, and reflection on our own experiences.”

Here are the Seven Principles for UU Congregational Vitality. More description of each is on Belote’s blog, RevThom.

• The congregation has a clear and powerful purpose and mission.

• The congregation is aware of and responsive to the world around it.

• There is vital worship and a vital Sunday experience for all ages.

• Church is done well.

• The congregation cultivates religious community.

• The congregation builds skills to lead and nurtures gifts to serve.

• Strong ministerial leadership supports the fulfillment of the previous six principles.

There were 17 participants in the consultation, including nine parish ministers, plus religious educators and UUA staff. The consultation was charged with developing a growth plan for the UUA. A list of the participants, a description of what the group attempted to do, and commentary about the process, is all available on RevThom. A program called Leap of Faith is being developed as a result of the conference. More information on it will be available this fall.

May/June 2010 congregation-focused articles from UU World

InterConnections is not the only source of useful information for lay leaders. Check out uuworld.org for articles about UUA changes and congregational activities. Sign up for a weekly email about new articles on uuworld.org.

  • UUA moves pension fund The UUA decided to move its pension funds from Fidelity Investments to TIAA-CREF after Fidelity refuses to divest from companies doing business in the Sudan (thus contributing to the genocide there). The change will have no effect on congregational pension plans. 5.24.10
  • UUA restructures staff Reduced funding inspires more effective ways of doing ministry, including focusing social justice work at the congregational level. 5.17.10
  • UUA moving toward changes See what changes the UUA has in mind for the election of its president and moderator, reducing the size of the UUA board, and altering General Assembly. 5.15.10
  • Read UU World’s comprehensive coverage of General Assembly 2010, June 23–27, on UU World’s GA blog and at uuworld.org.

Spanish-language hymnal ready

The Spanish-language hymnal, Las voces del camino: Un complemento de Singing the Living Tradition, is available from the UUA Bookstore for $18. It presents more than 70 songs in Spanish, including songs from Singing the Living Tradition, plus other selections from Spanish-speaking cultures the world over. There are discounts for orders of 10 or more.

The hymnal (English translation is Voices on the Journey) was first introduced a year ago, then withdrawn due to errors in translation. The hymnal was proposed in 2003 by a member of the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, Calif., and is a joint production between the UU Musicians Network and the UUA.

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.