Welcoming in the Age of Social Media

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

As recently as five or ten years ago, visitors to our congregations showed up full of questions—and brought with them some apprehensions about what Unitarian Universalism might be.

Times have changed. Thanks to the Internet and social media, today’s Sunday guests have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting into by the time they make their first in-person visit.

Peter Bowden, a Unitarian Universalist media consultant who often gives workshops on the relationship of changing culture and social media to ministry, wants congregations to adjust their thinking when it comes to welcoming. 

Go to full article.

 

New curriculum supports ethical eating

Two Unitarian Universalists—Diane Bassett and Jennifer Greene—have created a food-education curriculum designed to support the UUA’s 2011 Statement of Conscience on ethical eating.

Titled, “Demonstrating Our Values Through Eating,” or DOVE, the curriculum has six sessions of one-and-a-half to two hours, which include discussions on food marketing, climate change, food-worker justice, nutrition, food insecurity, and other food-related topics.

Greene said the course can also be used for individual study. It is not just for vegetarians, she noted. “It will be useful for people no matter where they are on the continuum of current food choices.”

The first session is an orientation. The second is a viewing of the documentary Food Stamped, which must be purchased or obtained from a library. Several sessions involve cooking, so a kitchen is needed. The curriculum itself is free online.

A Planning/Publicity Kit includes a timeline for promoting the course and preparing for it. Greene can be reached at jrg123 at optonline.net.

 

Webinars offer expert advice

If you’ve ever needed advice on a congregational issue at odd hours, there are now at least three collections of archived webinars available for anyone to access.

These are mostly one-hour webinars that were created in the past several years, then archived. Most feature a UUA staff member or a congregational leader making a presentation, followed by a period of discussion including the people who participated in the live presentation of the webinar. Topics include nearly all aspects of congregational life––running board meetings, committees on ministry, digital-spiritual literacy, tips for new youth advisors, religious education curricula, volunteer practices, and more.

The UUA’s MidAmerica Region has an archive of webinars, as does the Central East Regional Group (CERG), and the UUA’s Vital Leaders blog, edited by the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke. Check the website of your own district or region, as well. Registration is required to view the CERG webinars.

In addition, there is a list of upcoming webinars on Growing Unitarian Universalism’s Facebook page. Click on the Webinars icon at the top of the page.

Sermon-writing for lay people

New from Skinner House is The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People by the Rev. Erika Hewitt.

The book is described as “a complete workshop to help lay people gain experience writing and preaching a full-length sermon.” It provides a step-by-step lesson plan for eight sessions, including the theory and theology of preaching, and practice sessions in writing and speaking.

The book includes a separate leader’s guide, homework readings, sample sermons, and other exercises “to help first-time preachers polish their preaching craft.” It is $14 from the UUA Bookstore.

Hewitt has an earlier book on worship, Story, Song and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for All Ages, which is $12 from the bookstore.

Fair Share Giving Guide is stewardship aid

Looking for a way to help congregants understand responsible levels of giving now that it’s time for the annual stewardship campaign? Share the UUA’s Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide with them.

It suggests a minimum financial commitment of 2 percent for congregants earning up to $25,000 and goes up from there, all the way to a full tithe of 10 per cent at the other end of the scale.

The guide can be especially helpful for new congregants who may be accustomed to different giving styles. Those who have been unchurched will appreciate knowing what appropriate levels of giving are. The guide can also be a reminder to longtime congregants who make small financial commitments that one of the responsibilities of membership is appropriate giving.

The amounts on the guide are suggestions only, of course. Congregants should also be made to understand that these are not goals to necessarily be achieved in a year, but goals to work toward.

‘Welcoming Children with Special Needs’ available as PDF

Welcoming Children with Special Needs, the 2004 book by Sally Patton, is out of print but is now available as a PDF on UUA.org.

The book is a resource about accepting special needs children into congregations. It includes information on common physical, mental, and emotional disabilities and disorders. It also has teacher training guidelines and strategies and techniques for inclusion. It is designed for religious educators, ministers, lay leaders, and parents.

Patton has advocated and worked with children labeled as disabled for more than 35 years. More information about Patton and her work is on her website, “Embrace the Spirit of the Child.” Her latest book is Don’t Fix Me, I’m Not Broken: Changing Our Minds About Ourselves and Our Children. She also has a post, “Teaching All of Our Children,” on the Call and Response blog of the UUA Lifespan Faith Development staff group.

Looking for a Skinner House discussion guide?

Wondering if there’s a study guide for that Skinner House book that you’d like to use for a religious education course? Now there’s a page on UUA.org devoted to Companion Resources for Skinner House Books.

In addition to study guides prepared by UUA staff and others, the resources include videos and UU World articles.

People are also invited to suggest other resources or create their own and submit them for posting on the site.

Restaurant workers subject of UUA Common Read

All Unitarian Universalists are invited to read the book Behind the Kitchen Door this winter and spring. The book, by Saru Jayaraman, is the 2013-14 UUA Common Read. Congregations are encouraged to use the book as part of adult education and book group discussions and also in worship, as a way of reflecting on congregants’ dining-out practices and the lives of those who create and serve restaurant meals.

The book describes how restaurant workers live on very low wages, and how poor working conditions, including discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens, affect the meals that are served to us. The author, who launched a national restaurant workers organization after 9/11, tells the stories of ten restaurant workers in cities across the United States as she explores the political, economic, and moral implications of eating out.

She explains that what is at stake is not only our own health, but the health and well-being of the second largest private sector workforce—10 million people, many of them immigrants and many of them people of color.

The author is cofounder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization working to improve conditions for restaurant workers. The book is a resource for the new minimum wage campaign announced July 18 by the UU Service Committee and the UUA. The campaign has a goal of raising the minimum wage to $10. The book, published by Cornell University Press earlier this year, is available from the UUA Bookstore for $21.95, with discounts for multiple copies. The book includes a free discussion guide.

RE spiritual preparation webinars offered

The UUA’s Faith Development Office is launching a monthly series of free webinars in late January for religious educators, other religious professionals, and lay leaders who plan, lead, or support programs with a faith development component aspect.

The webinars will be presented by the UUA Faith Development Office, which is directed by Jessica York. The first webinar, “Why and How to Do Spiritual Preparation for Leading RE,” will be Monday, January 27 at 9 pm Eastern time and then repeated on Wednesday, January 29 at 4 pm Eastern time.

Email Faith Development Editor Susan Lawrence for call-in information. Indicate which session you wish to attend.

Lawrence says, “Many religious educators and others who lead programs with a faith development component recognize the benefit of taking even a few moments to spiritually prepare for a session, workshop, or meeting. Yet we often feel we do not have time. The UUA’s Tapestry of Faith curricula support a regular practice of spiritual preparation with unique, reflective exercise for leaders/facilitators to do before every session or workshop. The January webinar will present theory, examples, and an experiential exercise to encourage and guide participants to make spiritual preparation a practice of their own. FDO staff will also solicit suggestions for future webinar topics.”

Building Bridges, new youth world religions curriculum

Building Bridges, a new free, online UUA curriculum for grades eight and nine, is designed to help youth understand the varied histories and expressions of many of the world’s religions. It also includes a strong sense of what our own faith offers, according to the author, Mary K. Isaacs.

The goals of Building Bridges include increasing knowledge of world religions, understanding how religion addresses basic human needs, building awareness of the diversity of followers within each faith, and empowering youth to respectfully discuss religious matters with people with whom they disagree.

Isaacs is a lifelong UU who has been director of religious education at congregations in Texas. She currently lives in Austin. Building Bridges is part of the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith curricula series. Susan Dana Lawrence, Managing Editor for the UUA’s Ministries and Faith Development staff group, says, “This is an unusually rich and deep curriculum containing solid information about many faiths and belief systems. We’d like to see congregations adopt it for individual learning as well as a resource for teaching RE groups.”