OWL field test sites sought

Congregations are being sought to field test the new edition of Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education for Grades 7-9, during this congregational year.

Although OWL contains 27 workshops, field testers do not have to commit to all workshops. The test is of new and significantly revised material only. Congregations may choose how many workshops they want to use and evaluate, and in what order they use them. The field test will end June 1, 2012.

For more information or to apply, contact fieldtest@uua.org.

Association Sunday 2011 focuses on excellence in ministry

From a September InterConnections feature story, now online at UUA.org:

Excellence in Ministry is the theme for the fifth Association Sunday, which gets under way October 2. Funds collected this year will be used to support Unitarian Universalis ministries in a variety of ways, including providing scholarships and continuing education grants for UU religious professionals and conducting a comprehensive assessment of UU ministries.

Association Sunday is an annual fundraising campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Association to promote growth and to reaffirm our connections as an Association of congregations. Congregations are invited to set aside a Sunday to focus on their connections to one another and to the Unitarian Universalist Association. They are also asked to take a collection to support special UUA projects.

Funds raised by Association Sunday in previous years were used, in part, to fund scholarships for UU ministerial students. Gretchen Haley received a $17,000 scholarship in 2010 through Association Sunday.

Go to the full article.

UUA’s 2011-12 Common Read is ‘Acts of Faith’

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, a memoir by Eboo Patel, is the 2011–2012 Unitarian Universalist Common Read. The Common Read project invites Unitarian Universalist youth and adults in all congregations to share a common reading experience, and to engage in reflection and action about that book.

In Acts of Faith, Patel shares his faith journey as an American Muslim who comes to believe in religious pluralism. Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a nonprofit focused on building an interfaith youth movement. Patel invites those who believe in religious pluralism to support young people, helping them ground themselves in a faith that can equip them to work across faiths to make the world a better place.

Gail Forsyth-Vail, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Adult Programs director, said the book was chosen with an eye to both the tenth anniversary of September 11 and to the work of building coalitions as UUs prepare for General Assembly 2012, a “Justice GA” focused on immigration issues, in Phoenix.

The discussion guide will be published in October and will offer materials for a single 90-minute session or three 90-minute sessions, each expandable to two hours. The guide will provide the option of splitting the single 90-minute session into two shorter sessions. Download a flyer for Acts of Faith. The UUA Bookstore is offering the book for $14, plus a discount for multiple copies.

The UU Common Read last year was The Death of Josseline, stories about crossing the Mexico-Arizona border.

Fair Share amount is $58

The Fair Share contribution requested from congregations for the fiscal year just started is $58 per certified member, an increase of $2. Congregations with 550 or more members have the option of contributing 4.2 percent of their budget instead.

Fair Share contributions to the Annual Program Fund enable the UUA to support congregations with programming and other resources, including books, UU World, InterConnections, lifespan faith development curricula, stewardship services, worship materials, and ministries to young adults. Contributions to the APF make up nearly half of the UUA’s undesignated funding. A PDF of a brochure explaining the Annual Program Fund is available online.

 

Task force report on professional ministry available

UUA President Peter Morales commissioned a task force after he was elected in 2009 to study the area of professional ministry and make recommendations. The task force’s final report is available as a PDF on UUA.org.

Its recommendations include:

• developing formal systems for recruiting strong, diverse leaders who are committed to transforming Unitarian Universalism

• supporting seminarians and religious professionals in multicultural learning experiences

• rethinking the ministerial credentialing system, described as “overwhelming, bureaucratic, and complex”

• considering expanding the Transitions system, including extending interim ministries to 18 to 24 months to allow time for change to take place.

Morales has said he believes that Unitarian Universalism can be “the religion for our time.” He adds, “If we are to live up to this challenge, we must equip our religious professionals to become deeply grounded in theology, cross-culturally competent, strategic about the use of technology, entrepreneurial as leaders, and resilient in the face of new challenges.”

Off-site GA delegate test underway

Congregational leaders who cannot attend General Assembly this June have until April 15 to sign up to participate from home as GA delegates as part of a new test to make the UUA’s annual business meeting more easily accessible.

The GA 2011 off-site trial allows delegates to watch live, streaming video of plenary (business) sessions from wherever they live or work, then queue up to speak and vote.

Applications for Off-site Delegate status can be submitted online from March 1 to April 15, 2011. Off-site delegates will need to confirm they are indeed certified delegates for their congregations, check technical requirements using an online video, participate in training and a test run prior to GA, and pay a nominal registration fee.

For information about requirements, the application process, and selection criteria, visit www.uua.org/offsitega.

The trial will include lay, ministerial, and religious educator delegates in order to reflect the whole potential delegate pool, with special care to include those who have historically been unable to attend in person.

Now available: Skinner House eBooks

Big news! The UUA Bookstore and Skinner House Books have announced the launch of Skinner House eBooks. Sixteen titles are now available through Google eBooks, with more to come shortly. For a complete list of Skinner House eBooks and purchasing links, visit the UUA Bookstore website and click on the big red eBooks logo on the right side of the page.

Customers who buy Skinner House titles from Google will be able to read them on any eBook reader except the Kindle. The same titles will be available soon through the Amazon Kindle store as well.

Fourth annual Association Sunday events to begin

The fourth annual Association Sunday fund drive and celebration of Unitarian Universalism begins this fall. Many congregations will hold Association Sunday worship services on October 3, but congregations are free to pick other dates as well, said Katrina Bergmann, director of donor relations and individual giving for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Stewardship and Development staff group.

Bergmann said more than 520 congregations have signed up to hold events this year, a number consistent with previous years. Funds raised this year will support the UUA’s new Leap of Faith Initiative, a plan that gets underway in November to encourage numerical growth by developing mentoring relationships among congregations. The money will also support events in 2011 in honor of the UUA’s 50th anniversary. The Association Sunday theme is “Celebrating 50 Years and the Future of Our Faith.”

Association Sunday resources, including tips for organizing a service, and promotional materials, are available at the Association Sunday website. Questions may be sent to associationsunday@uua.org. In an effort to conserve resources, information on Association Sunday will not be mailed to congregations this year.

In encouraging congregations to participate, the Rev. Stephan Papa, special assistant to the president for growth funding, said in a letter, “Our fiftieth anniversary is an opportunity to express our gratitude for the religion we have been given and to deepen our faith in its transforming power. The consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America is a success. We have developed the gifts of both traditions and brought them into a balance of head and heart, social action and spirituality, individual freedom and community responsibility. We are coming together this year to honor the past and to grow our faith into the future.”

UU Organizations Retirement Plan change

The UU Organizations Retirement Plan, which includes many staff members of congregations, will shift to a new fund manager, TIAA-CREF, as of November 1. No action is necessary by participants. The plan will undergo a transition period from October 29 to November 8. Accounts may be viewed online during this period, but no changes will be possible.

Questions may be directed to Joyce Stewart by email or phone: 617-948-6421.

More flood relief needed

Congregations in Tennessee and Kentucky, which suffered severe damage from flooding in early May, need more help say the Rev. Dr. Lisa Presley, district executive of the Heartland District, and Annette Marquis, district executive of the Thomas Jefferson District.

In Kentucky, flooding put five feet of water into the UU Church of Bowling Green’s new congregational hall and religious education building. Damage was estimated to be $100,000 and was not covered by insurance. More than 70 UU families, primarily in the Bowling Green and Nashville areas, experienced everything from minor damage to total loss of their homes, with an estimated cost of $575,000.

A member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville has created three short video interviews with flood victims. They can be viewed on YouTube. A video of the Bowling Green damage is here.

Presley says the UUA TN/KY Flood Relief Fund, and a separate fund in the Heartland District, have received about $44,500 in contributions since the funds were set up in May. About $26,000 has been distributed.

She says, “If you have not yet asked your congregation members to make a donation to the fund, please do. This particular fund will help ensure that these congregations and their members will still be standing strong in their communities. An article about the flooding appeared on uuworld.org on May 10.

Donations can be made online here, or mailed to the UUA, 25 Beacon St., Boston MA 02108. Attn: Stewardship & Development Gift Processing. Please note “Nashville Flood Relief” somewhere on the check.