‘Reclaiming Prophetic Witness’ is Common Read book

The Unitarian Universalist Association’s Common Read book for the upcoming church year is Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square, by the Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor. The 105-page book was published in 2013 by Skinner House.

Rasor is director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan College. He is a UU minister and the author of an earlier book, Faith Without Certainty: Liberal Theology in the Twenty-first Century.

A UU theologian, Rasor dispels the myth that conservative Christianity is the only valid religious voice in national debates on social policy. He calls on religious liberals to bring their religious convictions to bear on current issues.

A discussion guide will be available in October. Reclaiming Prophetic Witness was one of 14 books considered for the Common Read. The book is $15 from the UUA Bookstore, with discounts for purchases of multiple copies.

More information about the selection process is on the Call and Response blog of the UUA’s Faith Development Office. In the forward of the book Rasor writes that there has never been a more important time for UUs to speak about about issues including the environment, immigration, and gender.

How to respond to intruders in worship

From one of August’s InterConnections feature stories, now online at UUA.org:

Would you know what to do if your congregation’s Sunday morning service was disrupted by people who despised your beliefs? It happened July 20 to the congregation at First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans.

In the middle of a service—during a period of meditation—activists from the anti-abortion fundamentalist Christian group Operation Save America began speaking about “abominations” and shouting that the church was “not a true faith,” said the Rev. Deanna Vandiver, who was leading the service. She is executive director of the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, a group affiliated with UU congregations in New Orleans.

The service was dedicated to commissioning UU youth leaders from around the country who were completing a youth justice training program in New Orleans.

The congregation responded appropriately to the disturbance. Vandiver invited the protesters to stay if they could worship respectfully. When they continued to speak out, the most vocal ones were escorted out by members of the congregation and police were called. Others were made to leave later when they engaged youth and others in inappropriate conversations during coffee hour.

Read full article.

How to create vital young adult ministries

From one of August’s InterConnections feature stories, now online at UUA.org:

There was a time when it was a bit of a challenge to identify Unitarian Universalist congregations with thriving young adult ministries—but not anymore. More and more congregations are getting the hang of young adult ministries, and they have lots to teach the rest of us.

The Rev. Annie Gonzalez, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Young Adult and Campus Ministry Associate, has been collecting stories from congregations with thriving young adult ministries and posting them on the Blue Boat blog of the UUA’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries staff group. She writes about a different congregation each month.

If you’re looking for inspiration or simply for helpful tips about starting or strengthening a young adult ministry, this is a place to start. “It’s been very inspiring to collect these stories,” said Gonzalez. “It also reminds us there is no one formula for engaging young adults.”

Read the full article.

Including people with disabilities at church

EqUUal Access, the volunteer group charged with encouraging UU congregations to become more accessible and inclusive, recently posted a list of ways that religious communities can support people with special needs. The list was excerpted from a Huffington Post article entitled 7 Ways Congregations Can Embrace People with Disabilities.

The seven ways are:

  • Communication – Provide a resource person to listen to the needs of the person with a disability and their family to learn how they can work together toward full inclusion.
  • Accessiblity – To the extent possible, meet the physical needs of the individual.
  • Support – Provide an aide or peer assistant to enable participation in religious education, small group ministry, etc.
  • Leadership – If leaders of faith communities are committed to inclusivity then it is more likely to happen.
  • Participation – Invite people with disabilities to be on boards and committees and to take visible roles in congregational life.
  • Education – Congregations that educate their members on disability issues are more welcoming and better able to integrate people with special needs.
  • Love – Parents of children with special needs who experienced love and acceptance reported their congregations were sources of great strength and support.

In addition, UU World had an article on books to help UU congregations welcome people with disabilities in its Summer 2014 issue.

Professional associations support congregational staff

Want to help your staff members and volunteers be more effective in the coming year? Consider paying for memberships for them in professional groups that support them.

For membership professionals there is the UU Association of Membership Professionals which is open to paid staff who work with membership issues. A membership is $40.

The Association of UU Administrators is open to administrators of congregations. Fees range from $55 to $75, based on the size of the congregation.

The Liberal Religious Educators Association supports educators with continuing education programs, conferences, and newsletters and other publications. Fees are $50 to $175.

The UU Musicians Network invites congregational music directors and others involved in music ministries to join. Fees are $70 to $100.

The UU Small Group Ministry Network is open to leaders of small group ministry programs. Membership is $40 for an individual and $100 for a congregation.

General Assembly workshop recordings available

So you’ve come home from General Assembly 2014 in Providence, R.I., filled with the fire of enthusiasm. You’d like to share what you learned in the various workshops. But how? Or maybe you didn’t get to GA, but you heard there was a workshop there that dealt with that thorny issue your membership committee is struggling with. But how to access that workshop?

Here’s how.

Virtually all of the workshops at GA, which cover a wide range of topics about aspects of congregational life, were audio recorded.

Any adult who registered for any part of General Assembly should have received an email (probably on July 10) from Strategic Events Plus with a code that provides free access to the audio content of all of the workshops. For $75 you can buy the workshops loaded onto a flash-drive.

If you didn’t attend GA you can buy downloadable access to all of the workshops for a fee of $150, or you can get them all on a flash-drive for $225.

The business sessions and the worship services from GA can best be viewed by accessing them directly from the GA website, for which there is no charge.  The only content you cannot get are those presentations that include music, which is copyrighted and for which the Unitarian Universalist Association could not get permission to use apart from the original presentation at GA.

If you have not received an email from Strategic Events Plus you may contact the company at support@strategiceventsplus.com or 888-640-4899, extension 104, from 9 to 5 p.m. weekdays. Please check your spam filter for the email before contacting the company, however.

Strategic Events Plus also has GA content back to the 2009 GA.

Best-selling books at General Assembly

The following books were top sellers at General Assembly 2014 held in June in Providence, R.I. All are available at the Unitarian Universalist Association Bookstore.


Get more tips in the InterConnections newsletter

The InterConnections Tipsheet is a great place for church leaders to get quick news and ideas, but there is more expanded coverage in our monthly InterConnections email newsletter. Are you getting InterConnections? Do you know a congregational leader you think should be getting InterConnections who isn’t? It’s easy to sign up for a free subscription.

Brochures boost Small Group Ministry

The March/April issue of Covenant Group News, the online newsletter of the UU Small Group Ministry Network, describes a brochure the UU Fellowship of Vero Beach, Fla., created to explain that congregation’s small group ministry program to congregants and to others who enter the building.

Vero Beach member Pete Kersey notes: “We created our brochure when we realized that everything we wanted to pass on to the congregation about covenant groups/small group ministry was too much to swallow in a letter or flyer format. The brochure allowed us to include pictures, graphics, and text in a format that was a page-turner, easy to look at, and full of timely and relevant information, including what the movement was about, when we were recruiting members, and how to join. We have found it to be an effective piece.”

More information is here. The Small Group Ministry Network website invites other congregations to submit their brochures.

Small Group Ministry is a program of intentional lay-led small groups that deepen and expand the ministry of a congregation. The Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network is a grassroots organization of small group leaders and participants. It publicizes information from many sources and encourages networking to enhance the development of Small Group Ministry. Congregations with small group programs are encouraged to join.