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

Earth Day resources available

For congregations planning events around the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in April, the UU Ministry for Earth has developed an Earth Day resource packet. Earth Day itself is Thursday, April 22, and many congregations will hold events that week or the weekend before or after.

The resource packet includes information on the UUA’s current Congregational Study Action Issue “Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice,” fair trade products, labor issues, and organic food. It also has an Earth Day order of service cover and insert, and a certificate to honor your Congregational Eco-Hero.

There is also information on what other congregations are doing and ways to engage your own community. You can share what your congregation is doing for Earth Day by registering the event and by emailing the UU Ministry for Earth photos and information about how the event went.

The Ministry for Earth is also encouraging congregations to hold a special collection to support its ongoing work.

InterConnections now on Facebook

InterConnections now has a Facebook page to make it as easy as possible for leaders of congregations to keep up with the latest in useful information about congregational topics, including membership, stewardship, and administration.

Facebook is a place to not only read about new InterConnections articles and blog posts, but to comment on them. We also welcome suggestions for articles. In the short time InterConnections has been on Facebook, hundreds of people have already become “fans,” and we’re hearing some great feedback. So if you or your congregation is on Facebook, why not become a fan of InterConnections?

Worship with a small group focus

Many smaller congregations served by part-time ministers are faced with the sometimes daunting task of filling the pulpit while not having the funds to secure professional ministers. This task, while challenging, has the potential of generating new and innovative styles of worship, says the Rev. Marguerite Sheehan, of  First Parish Unitarian in Northfield, Mass.

First Parish has begun hosting a monthly “Chalice Sunday Service,” which combines a traditional service with a “small group ministry” model. The service includes all the elements of a meaningful worship service, including opening words, hymns, a children’s time, an offering, and a prayer or meditation. In place of the sermon, a lay member chooses a centering topic (reflected in the hymns and a reading) that is offered for reflection.

The congregation is invited to gather in a circle, listen to the reading and a few thought-provoking questions, and then each person has the opportunity to share a short response (without interruptions or cross conversation.)

There is also time built in for the participants to offer gratitude to other people in the circle who may have stimulated their hearts and minds or offered a divergent response, thereby challenging their own thinking. This model encourages reflection on a broad range of spiritual and religious concerns and reinforces deep listening and fellowship.

The “template” is easy for lay leaders to plug into, says Sheehan, “which means that a wide spectrum of the congregation feels confident in stepping up to the plate to facilitate the services. Visitors to the church report that they feel welcomed into Chalice Sundays.” For more information, email Sheehan.

General Assembly 2010 registration open

Registration and housing reservations open this Monday, March 1, for General Assembly 2010, which will be June 23–27 in Minneapolis. Registration is $310 for adults. Youth, retired ministers, and aspirant and candidate ministers pay $185. Find complete information here.

More information is on the GA blog, including details about GA events and logistics. There is also an email list, UUA-GA, for information and questions about GA, and an audio podcast. This year you can also follow GA on Twitter as well as Facebook.

This year most business sessions, also known as plenaries, are on the weekend to make it easier for delegates to participate. All GA workshops, around 190, will be on Thursday and Friday. More information on that is here.

UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales will lead the worship service on Sunday morning, and the Rev. Paige Getty of the UU Congregation of Columbia, Md., will lead the Service of the Living Tradition on Thursday. Other speakers this year will include Native American activist and two-time vice presidential candidate for the Green Party Winona LaDuke, presenting the Ware Lecture. UU songwriter Peter Mayer will be part of the opening ceremony.

The Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, senior minister of All Souls Church UU in New York City, will follow up last year’s popular UU University program track, Theology for a Secular Age, with a new, eight-part workshop series entitled The Necessity of Virtue. There will be no UU University this year.

The GA service project will be helping residents of Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, less than a mile from the convention center, with landscaping, painting, installing walkways, and similar projects. GA participants will be invited to sign up for blocks of time during GA.

In a separate project, local UU congregations will begin building a Habitat for Humanity house in the Twin Cities in June through a UU Service Committee JustWorks camp.  GA participants are invited to come a week early to help with that. Go to the UUSC JustWorks website for details later this winter. There will probably not be opportunities for GA attendees to work on this house the week of GA. Funds will be solicited for both the service project and the Habitat house.

Intergenerational service focuses on love

To the Editor:

My name is Gail Stratton, and I am with the 65-member Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, Mississippi.

This last Sunday, February 14, we had an intergenerational worship service that focused on love and the idea of reimagining valentines. Our message was about loving ourselves, loving our community, and loving the wider world. The younger children helped with the chalice lighting and taught it to the rest of the congregation.

Each person, large and small, got a valentine sticker when they came in the door. After one song and the chalice lighting, we asked everyone to find someone else with the same sticker, introduce themselves, and share something that they loved. This mixed the ages, and was a lively exchange. When we came back together,  we sang “Make New Friends.”

We shared what Universalism is, and read several short poems about the love of God from the poet Hafiz. We talked about the idea of Standing on the Side of Love. We said there will be times we will be challenged to understand situations, but while we are figuring it out, we choose to stand on the side of love. We talked about specific examples, like immigration reform and also the support UUCO had shown for my partner and me when we had gotten married last year.

We then as a group made valentines and posters for members who are ill or have moved. We also did face painting and decorated cookies. We concluded the day by taking pictures. The images are here. I think everyone left feeling “fed” and connected!

A new InterConnections article on intergenerational worship will be online at uua.org/interconnections March 1.

Stewardship blog includes fundraising resources

As we enter the season for many congregational stewardship drives, check out the blog of the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship Services staff group. Recent blog entries include Growing Effective Lay Leaders, Accepting Loans from Congregants, Opening Our Hearts to Stewardship, and Environmentally and Socially Responsible Electronics Recycling.

About Growing Effective Lay Leaders, Dr. Wayne Clark, the UUA’s director of Congregational Stewardship Services, writes:

The chances of successfully implementing a stewardship development program are improved when there is one committed lay leader with a big picture understanding of stewardship development. The successful lay leader has an understanding that raising money for the annual operating budget is but one of at least five stewardship components; stewardship education, joyful giving, ministry and good works, the annual budget drive, and planned giving.

Clark describes his work with lay leaders in the UUA’s Southwestern Conference who have become “Champions of Change” in their congregations.

No APF Increase for FY11

The UUA’s Annual Program Fund Fair Share request from congregations will not change in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. The amount requested will remain at $56 per member. Likewise, the “percent of budget” option for large congregations will also remain at the 2009-2010 level of 4.2 percent.

Laurel Amabile, director of the Annual Program Fund, said the UUA is taking that step in response to concerns voiced by many congregational leaders who continue to feel the impact of the economic downturn. She noted that congregations annually provide almost half of the UUA’s unrestricted income.

FCC prohibits some wireless mics

Some churches will have to stop using their present wireless microphones because the spectrum those microphones operate in has been sold by the Federal Communications Commission, according to an article in Your Church, an online publication of Christianity Today.

Microphones that operate in the 700 MHz band (698–806 MHz) cannot be used after June 12, says the FCC, which auctioned off the rights to that band in 2008 to (among others) Verizon and AT&T.  Some emergency service providers also operate in that band, says the FCC. After June 12 all other users are subject to fines and will likely suffer interference from the new traffic, and may themselves cause interference, according to the article. The 700 band was formerly between the frequencies used by television stations. With the transition to digital television last June 12 the 700 band began to be used by public safety entities and commercial providers of wireless services.

Another article, by the FCC, is here. The FCC estimates that 25 percent of wireless mics operate in the 700 spectrum. A list of the affected devices, compiled by the FCC, can be found here. You can also call the FCC’s Consumer Center at 1-888-225-5322 (voice) and 1-888-835-5322 (TTY) for more information. The FCC says a small portion of affected microphones can be retuned to another frequency, but most cannot.

Letter: Small congregation website costs little

Regarding your article about the UU Church in Arlington, Va., (Arlington Website Creates Stronger Connections) spending $1,000 a year doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but for small congregations like ours at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, Tex., $1,000 is a big deal.

There’s never a need to spend hundreds of dollars to effectively reach visitors and communicate with members. For us, we can get the same level of interactivity—video, audio, forums—by doing the content management work ourselves for about $80 per year. No contracts. No downtime. No ads. No extra charges. Ever. If you don’t know how, I’m happy to share the knowledge for free.

Rob Cervantes, Tech Advisor

Multicultural, antiracism films available for loan

A library of 32 videos and DVDs focusing on issues of race, oppression, and multiculturalism are available for loan to congregations free of charge from the UUA’s Identity-Based Ministries Staff Group.

Titles in the DVD-Video Loan Library include “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” and “Farmingville: Welcome to the Suburbs, Home of the New Border Wars.” Some of the films have discussion guides.

Most titles aren’t readily available through commercial rental businesses such as Netflix. The UUA provides them for congregational and private viewing only.  They’re available on a first-come, first-served basis. The DVD-Video Loan Library is a cost-effective way to support and deepen reflection about key issues. The list of titles and instructions for borrowing them is available as a PDF online here.