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

Author sought for multicultural practices book

Skinner House Books and the UUA’s Multicultural Ministries Team is seeking proposals for a book that will “inspire and give practical guidance” on the subject of making Unitarian Universalist communities authentically multicultural.

Writers are encouraged to address one or more of the following topics in such a book: leadership, justice, worship, and community. Mary Benard, Editorial Director for Skinner House, adds, “We are intentionally leaving the specifics about the form of the book open-ended. In fact,  we’re hopeful that we’ll publish more than one book as a result of this request for proposals. In the interest of timeliness, we will give preference to proposals that do not rely on more than three individuals to submit writing.”

Proposals should be grounded in personal experience, UU values and theology, and reflect a deep knowledge of the benefits and challenges of multicultural faith communities.

A complete proposal description is on the Skinner House website. Deadline for submissions is February 4. A complete list of other prospective books for which Skinner House is seeking authors is also on the website. Questions may be directed to mbenard @ uua.org.

New Owen-Towle book on Christmas

Longtime UU minister the Rev. Dr. Tom Owen-Towle, has written a book, Unwrapping the Inner Gifts of Christmas, to help Unitarian Universalists navigate the celebration of the holiday period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Owen-Towle writes, “Peddling Christmas as merely a holly, jolly affair diminishes the fullness of our humanity as well as the scope of the original gospel narratives. Here’s the key: When we bravely face, then embrace, the entire gamut of human emotions and experiences during December, we’re spiritually prepared to do so the rest of the year. We become whole persons whenever we willingly confront the whole of life.”

He acknowledges that emotions during the holiday period run the gamut from sadness to joy. The book has twenty chapters devoted to different perspectives about the holidays. It is $15 from the UUA Bookstore.

Mental health recommendations made

The mental health caucus of EqUUal Access, a group of UU volunteers who support equality and access for UUs with disabilities, has created a resource called “Mental Health Issues and Recommendations,” for use by congregations.

The 30-page document, available free of charge online, was created to guide congregations in relating to people with mental disorders, including understanding their abilities, welcoming them into congregations, and advocating on their behalf.

The document was created following the shooting deaths at Newtown, Conn. in December 2012. EqUUal Access wanted to raise awareness, according to the document, “of the stigma placed on people who live with mental illness, the roles the UUA and UU ministers can play to confront the discrimination, the need for ministers to provide comfort and acceptance to those being marginalized, and the importance of the language UUs use about mental illness and those who live with it.”

The document is useful for adult education courses, sermon preparation, membership and hospitality committees, and discernment about inclusion.

More information on EqUUal Access’s mental health caucus is here.


Congregational resources profiled on uuworld.org

The following articles, which appeared on uuworld.org in recent months, contain information useful to congregational leaders.

Long Strange Trip, a new video history of Unitarian Universalist history has been created by Ron Cordes, UU history buff from Bedford, Mass. The six DVDs of one hour each are available individually or as a boxed set from the UUA Bookstore. The set has high production values and Cordes presents much of the dialogue from the locations in Europe and elsewhere where significant events in our history occurred. The DVD set will be useful for new-member sessions and for adult education courses. The six hours can easily be divided into half-hour segments followed by discussion. As yet there is no study guide. The full uuworld.org article is here.

An article detailing how several congregations are pursuing social justice initiatives related to the Doctrine of Discovery, appeared on October 14. Delegates at General Assembly 2012 voted to repudiate the doctrine, a centuries-old principle of international law that sanctions and promotes the conquest and exploitation of non-Christian territories and peoples.

An article describing how a Florida UU congregation welcomed Boy Scout troops that had been turned out by a Baptist church after the Boy Scouts of America decided to permit gay youth to join troops, appeared on Sept. 16.

The work of the UU Funding Program, which accepts applications from congregations and others for social justice and other projects, was also highlighted Sept. 16. In 2012 the program gave out more than $1 million in grants ranging from $300 for a voter registration volunteer training, to $20,000 to help organize interfaith support for homeless people in California. Grants Administrator Susan Adams noted that many UUs she meets are still “astonished” that money might be available to support their dreams.

The UUA’s Leap of Faith congregational mentoring program was profiled Sept. 2. Now in its third year, the program brings together congregations that want to learn from each other.

Reaching out to the nones

The Rev. Renee Ruchotzke has a three-part essay titled “Could the Nones Become Unitarian Universalists?” on the UUA blog Growing Vital Leaders. She notes, “Young adult ministry has been a challenge for congregations of all liberal protestant denominations for decades but the game is changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined back in the post WWII church-building boom.”

Many young adults find conservative churches too restrictive, she says in Part 1. And liberal ones have not articulated a compelling theology. In Part 2 she ticks off reasons why young adults leave churches. The reasons include not developing a close friendship with anyone, and not getting help with discovering their own mission in the world.

In Part 3 she highlights congregations like First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY which have created small group programs that lead to deeper engagement and spiritual development.

Growing Vital Leaders is a good blog for congregational leaders to bookmark. Other recent topics have been on cohesive leadership and making members and the larger community aware of your congregation’s outreach ministries.

Ruchotzke is Leadership Development Consultant for the Central East Regional Group (CERG), of the UUA.

Book encourages writing as a spiritual practice

Unitarian Universalist minister the Rev. Karen Hering has written a book, Writing to Wake the Soul, to inspire and encourage the act of writing as a spiritual practice. The book would appear to be useful for adult education courses and for writing and reflecting on sermons.

Hering is consulting minister of literacy, a title she created, at Unity-Unitarian Church in St. Paul, Minn., where she offers guided writing sessions that correspond to monthly worship themes. She says the book can stimulate “contemplative correspondence.”

In the introduction she writes, “At its essence, whether practiced in groups or alone, contemplative correspondence focuses on theological themes or words, and involves personal writing that is informed and inspired by religious teachings, poetry, stories, visual images, physical objects, memory, imagination, science, history, and wordplay.

Part I of the book offers a reflection on writing, metaphor, and spiritual practice, plus a practical guide to contemplative correspondence. Part Two explores ten theological themes which people can use as writing prompts or simply read as daily meditations.

Hering calls contemplative correspondence “a spiritual practice of writing rooted in theology and story; drawn to the surface by questions, prompts, and ellipses; and most fully experienced when its words are accepted as invitations into conversations and relationships with others. . .”

Writing to Wake the Soul is $19.20 from the publisher Beyond Words.

Discussion guide available for Muhammad: the Story of a Prophet and Reformer

The Faith Development Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association is publishing a three-part, free, online discussion guide for the new Skinner House book, Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer, by Sarah Conover.

The book offers younger readers and those who read with them “an encounter with a man quite different from the Muhammad often seen in Western popular culture,” according to publicity for the book. Conover relates the story of a radical prophet who challenged the rich and powerful, guided his community of followers through a dangerous time of persecution and exile, formed alliances with people of different beliefs, and preached “love for humanity what you love for yourself.”

Part One of the discussion guide is available now. It includes a 75-minute workshop for people aged 10 and up, using art and discussion to build knowledge about Islam and compare it to Unitarian Universalism.

Parts Two and Three of the discussion guide will be published later this fall and will be designed for combined groups of youth and adults. Part Two will explore contemporary stereotypes of Muslims. Part Three will examine interfaith relationships, including the interfaith roots of Unitarianism.

Conover is also co-author of Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs: A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents.

Accompaniment tracks available for hymns

The UU Musicians Network is making available recorded accompaniment tracks for certain hymns and other pieces used in worship. The tracks were created for use by congregations that have limited music resources.

Accompaniment tracks are available for Comfort Me [P. 1002 in Singing the Journey], De Colores [P. 305 in Singing the Living Tradition], The Fire of Commitment [P. 1028 in Singing the Journey], and Gather the Spirit [P. 347 in Singing the Living Tradition].

For each hymn there is a piano accompaniment and a second track with piano and saxophone. The tracks are free. The UUMN would like to hear from congregations that find these useful. Email uumn at uumn.org.  The network will consider making more tracks available if these initial ones prove useful.

‘Assembled 2013’ features major GA presentations

Assembled 2013, a collection of sermons and other major presentations from this past General Assembly in Louisville, is available from the UUA Bookstore as an eBook.

Assembled includes the Ware Lecture by Eboo Patel, the Berry Street Essay by the Rev. Donald E. Robinson, the sermon from the Service of the Living Tradition by Rev. Vanessa Rush Southern, and Rev. William F. Schulz’ sermon from Sunday morning worship.

The collection is $6 from Amazon and $4.62 from Google Play. A similar collection, Assembled 2012, is available from GA 2012.

The theme of General Assembly was “From Promise to Commitment,” about calling UUs and congregations into relationship.

Oct. 31 deadline for marginalized peoples survey

October 31 is the deadline for taking an online survey designed to gather information about the needs of people who are marginalized around issues that include ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity. The Multicultural Ministries Sharing Project survey is open to anyone in the above groups who is at least 13 years old and has a UU affiliation. It is being conducted through the Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group in the Office for Congregational Advocacy and Witness.

The survey will be followed by focus groups, to be held through December. Those who do not fit the target categories are invited to share information about the survey with those for whom it is intended. If you have questions, contact Alex Kapitan, LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs administrator in the Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group.