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.

Making worship part of kids’ lives

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

The Rev. Krista Taves believes children belong in worship. With adults. For more than 15 minutes.

And for the past three years that’s what has happened at the 100-member Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel in Ellisville, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. For fully the first half of every service, all children are in attendance. They take part in singing and candle lighting and are there for a prayer, the offertory, and a story before being sung out to their own children’s chapel.

Having children in the service for this long has been nothing short of transformational for Emerson, says Taves. But change didn’t happen without hard work.

Go to the full article.

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.

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.

Keeping up with UUA blogs

UUA staff groups have recently created a number of blogs to help UUs keep up with what’s new with the various groups. Here’s a rundown.

Congregational Stewardship Services: Items on fundraising, how to start a book table at church, coping with difficult economic times, and presenting a budget to a congregation.

General Assembly: News items about the upcoming General Assembly 2010 in Minneapolis, including speakers, recycling at GA, and how the GA Planning Committee works.

UU Living Mosaic: This blog supports ministry to youth and young adults of color

New Media for Unitarian Universalists: Describes social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasting, and how they can be used by Unitarian Universalists. Articles include: “Technology use, social isolation, and the implications for congregations,” and “9 ways to promote your UU congregation’s Twitter feed.”

Beacon Broadside: Blog posts largely by authors of Beacon Press books, commenting on social issues. Other posts about Beacon books.

Inspired Faith, Effective Action: Blog of the Washington Office for Advocacy about various social issues and the work of the office.

Standing on the Side of Love: Posts about the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love social justice campaign.

Unitarian Universalists in the Media: A weekly blog about UUs and UU congregations that are featured in news articles across the world, collected by uuworld.org.

The Interdependent Web: A weekly roundup of blogs and other web content about Unitarian Universalism, collected by uuworld.org.

New at the UUA Bookstore

The following books and DVDs are available at the UUA Bookstore.

UU University 2009 –– This 3-disc DVD set includes 7.5 hours of the very best materials from UU University 2009 in Salt Lake City. Excerpts from more than 50 hours of programming include innovative ideas around multigenerational ministry, multicultural congregations, stewardship, governance, and theology—perfect for those interested in leadership development grounded in our faith. $45

Ministry in the Borderlands –– (DVD) Presentation at UU University 2008 by the Rev. Nick Carter, president of Andover Newton Theological Seminary, on communicating and working with “people who think differently and pray differently.” $8

A Ready Hope: Effective Disaster Ministry for Congregations –– A Ready Hope is described as “an initiation for people of faith who are new to the ministry of disaster preparedness and response. By the Rev. Kathryn Hauelsen and Carol Flores, Lutherans who have been active in disaster recovery work. Published 2009.  $18

Designing Contemporary Congregations: How to Attract Those Under Fifty –– The author, the Rev. Lauren Beth Bowers, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Randolph, Mass., identifies strategies to develop contemporary worship, fellowship, evangelism, social justice, and rituals, and to train leaders to lead contemporary congregations. Published 2008.  $14

The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leading Multiracial and Multicultural Congregations –– The Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, senior minister for Vision, Worship, and the Arts, at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, shares examples of congregational leaders who have successfully overcome the challenges of leading multicultural congregations through telling stories about who they are and what the communities they lead are about, and the lessons that can be learned from them. Published 2009.  $16

Heart to Heart: Fourteen Gatherings for Reflection and Sharing –– Resources for 14 small group gatherings on topics such as forgiveness, loss, nature, money, and friendship. Heart to Heart, by the Rev. Christine Robinson, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, N. Mex., and Alicia Hawkins, member of the board of the UU Small Group Ministry Network, offers readings, journaling suggestions, and exercises to help participants prepare for the spiritual practice of sharing in community. Promotes listening rather than back-and-forth discussion. Published in 2009.  $14

Growth Summit book published

A dozen ministers of some of the fastest-growing Unitarian Universalist congregations gathered in Louisville, Ky., in November 2007 at the UUA Growth Summit to share some common threads about their growth. Parts of those conversations have been gathered into a book, The Growing Church: Keys to Congregational Vitality, published by Skinner House this month. The book is available at the UUA Bookstore for $12.

The book’s editor, the Rev. Thom Belote of the Shawnee Mission UU Church in Overland Park, Kans., participated in the summit. He cautions that there is no “magic secret,” but there are principles that will lead to growth. He says congregations need to have a saving message, a purpose, a balance between “looking in” and “going out,” excellent worship, a “moving, energetic spirit” (also known as “buzz”), seeing welcoming as a moral imperative, leadership from the minister, and a willingness to try new things and fail.

The UUA Growth Summit has also been featured at a workshop at General Assembly and in a DVD (available to watch online). There is an online study guide for the DVD (which will also work with the book).

Contributors to The Growing Church include the Revs. Ken Beldon, John Crestwell, Liz Lerner, UUA President Peter Morales, Christine Robinson, Victoria Safford, Michael Schuler, and Marilyn Sewell. The book features a foreword by Alice Mann of the Alban Institute, who facilitated the gathering in Louisville.