Small Group Ministry Network offers variety of resources

Leaders of small group ministry programs and groups are encouraged to join the UU Small Group Ministry Network. Members receive a monthly newsletter and a quarterly journal. Both include practical information about small group ministry. Other resources include many free session plans, several books and other publications available for purchase, and an online discussion group where ideas can be shared with others.

The June/July issue of Covenant Group News, the monthly publication, includes an article on what to do about low attendance. The Summer issue of the SGM Quarterly journal has an article on how small group ministry can help a congregation weather change.

A new resource from the UU Small Group Ministry Network is the publication Social Justice Work: Preparation, Action, Reflection Through Small Group Ministry, by Helen Zidowecki and Susan Hollister.

Congregational leadership resources, including videos and webinars

The UUA’s Congregational Life Facebook page is highlighting several issues that are timely for congregational leaders as the new church year begins.

Leadership Retreats – Resources include team-building exercises, videos, and curriculum segments.

Assembling Leadership Teams – What to look for in team members, how creativity works, why teams are more innovative than individuals.

Leadership videos – The UUA’s Central East Regional Group has assembled an online library of videos on topics including leadership development, growth, vitality, and history.

Leadership webinars – Includes free on-demand and scheduled webinars on issues including congregational growth, safety (disruptive behavior and right relations policies), and faith development.

Add the UUA Congregational Life page to your list of websites to check frequently for updated information about congregational issues.

Coordinate your social justice efforts with the UUA

Coordinate your congregation’s social justice efforts with the UUA’s through the Association’s online Social Justice Action Calendar. The calendar currently features ten events, beginning with Labor Day weekend and progressing through Indigenous People’s Day (October 8), the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), and Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 21).

Also online are suggestions for how to mark those dates, as well as resources for preparing worship services and engaging in public witness events. Books and videos are also recommended for many of the events.

New program helps kids live their values

Getting children involved early in social justice work can set a pattern for them for the rest of their lives. At Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo., member Joyce McLaren has started the Living Our Values (LOV) program. About once a month children up through middle school age come to church with their parents sometime during the week, other than on Sunday morning. Activities this year have included making blankets for a home for teenagers, visiting a retirement center to put on a talent show, a trip to an organic farm, and helping collect school supplies.

Each activity has an orientation and a debriefing. Before the retirement home trip the kids learned from aging specialists how to talk to someone who doesn’t hear or see well. Said McLaren, “The kids’ goal was to make that person feel warm and loved because they don’t get very many visitors. And the kids really got it! They can’t wait to go back and see their elders again.”

More information about Living Our Values is in JUC’s newsletter. Look for Kids Practice Living Their Values, July 3, 2012.

Resources for congregational governance, leadership, conflict, stewardship

Earlier this year Annette Marquis, district executive for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Southeast District, compiled several lists of books she believes are useful for congregational leaders. She created lists for the following topics:

• Good governance in congregations

• Congregational leadership

• Leadership tools

• Covenant, conflict, and right relationships

• Congregational stewardship

She notes, “Although you probably can’t read them all, engaging your congregation’s board and leadership in a planned course of study of at least one of these books a year will help to build a culture of commitment to best practices in your congregation.”

The lists are on her blog, Vital Congregations. While you’re there, check out some of her other blog posts on Technology Resources for Congregations and Right Relationships in Congregations.

Rasor book invites religious liberals into the streets

Unitarian Universalist theologian Paul Rasor’s latest book, Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square, comes at a good time. A few weeks ago several thousand UUs crowded a public street in Phoenix, protesting the existence of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City jail. Rasor’s book is a call to action, inviting us to embrace our prophetic heritage and bring our religious convictions to bear on the issues of the day. He writes that liberal theology must be a liberation theology oriented toward social justice and overcoming oppression.

Speaking historically of one side of our religious heritage, he writes, “Universalism taught that one’s own personal welfare was inseparably linked to the welfare of all of humanity. . . the principle of universal salvation generated a sense of wholeness and harmony that was the theological basis for a truly egalitarian society.”

He continues: “Early Universalists understood, as do contemporary religious liberals, that liberation is social, that human fulfillment and liberation are possible only in a context of open and inclusive communities based on respect and justice.”

The book is available through the UUA Bookstore for $15, with discounts for bulk purchases.

Letter: Holston Valley worship includes children

To the editor:

The congregation of Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, serving Gray, Kingsport, Johnson City, Bristol, and surrounding areas in northeast Tennessee, voted in its annual meeting to continue Expanded Sundays, the experiment it began last year around including children in the worship hour. There is paid child care for those 2nd grade and below if they choose to not stay during the service.

We are excited about this step. We include kids in all parts of the service. A middle school student just shared a marvelous and challenging This I Believe. Others have done Greeting and Welcoming functions, presented readings, played music, danced and sang with the choir. Religious education is 9:30-10:30 and is growing–especially the adult RE since parents have more freedom with their children involved in class at the same time.

This congregation has high hopes for its children and enjoys their presence and participation in worship. HVUUC’s social justice project this year is Hunger in Our Neighborhood. Children and adults bring cans of food to a tub in the front of the sanctuary during the first hymn. More experiential elements have been added to the service, including ritual singing, This I Believe, and more hymns from the teal hymnal that communicate the sermon’s message in various ways. I hone the sermons to 15 minutes without changing content, and I reference the Lesson for All Ages to tie the two together.  I’m sure the sermon goes over the heads of some, but parents do report their kids making references to what happens in the service.

—the Rev. Jacqueline Luck, Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Editor’s note: Some other congregations that include children in a substantial portion of worship services are Emerson UU Chapel in Ellisville, Mo., and the UU Church of Ogden, Utah.

Sexual health study guide updated

The study guide, A Time to Build: Creating Sexually Healthy Faith Communities, has been updated by the Religious Institute. The free guide, available online, outlines the building blocks of a sexually healthy faith community.

The guide focuses on sexually healthy religious professionals, incorporating sexuality issues into worship and pastoral care, creating safe congregations policies, and learning how to advocate for sexuality issues in the larger community. The guide also includes checklists for congregations to assess their own programs and policies.

New Skinner House publications useful in congregations

Here are some new Skinner House publications that might be useful in your congregation:

Reaching for the Sun: Meditations by the Rev. Angela Herrera. This is the UUA’s most recent meditation manual. It is $8, with discounts for volume purchases.

• The Welcome Wallet Card Variety Pack features five inspirational and informational quotes about Unitarian Universalism. Packs of 100 cards are $6. Read the text of the quotes here.

Las Voces del Camino, the UUA’s Spanish-language hymnal has been published in a large print edition for use by pianists and individuals who have difficulty with standard print. Cost is $25.

• Available in mid-June will be Sources of Our Faith: Inspirational Readings, edited by the Rev. Kathleen Rolenz. Readings are taken from sources including the Qur’an, Margaret Fuller, Rumi, and Rebecca Parker.

The Hub, a site for young adults on Facebook

UU young adults have a new place to connect on Facebook. The Hub: Young Adult UUs includes  a map where participants can add campus ministry groups and other organizations. It also includes a calendar that young adults can add events to.

The Hub describes itself this way: “Young adult UU’s are a big, diverse group, spanning ages 18-35. In fact, maybe the only thing that unites us is that we are UU’s going through transitions and discernment. That’s why The Hub embraces a diverse vision of young adult ministry that includes religious communities for college students, young families, working young adults, spiritual seekers and young religious professionals, just to name a few.”

The Hub, which also includes items from the Young Adult blog Blue Boat,  is hosted by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the UUA.

Carey McDonald, Youth and Young Adult Ministries director, noted, “A lot of young adults who are involved in congregations may feel isolated from other young adults. The Hub can connect them and give them ideas about what others are doing. It’s all about connecting people who are fairly spread out.”