Avoid acronyms on Sunday morning

When you make announcements on Sunday morning, do abbreviations come out of your mouth before you know it? Do you speak of “RE” and “UUA” and “GA”?

Do you roll past “CUUPS” and “CLF” and “SRI?” It’s easy to do. But keep in mind that every Sunday there are guests who won’t have any idea what you’re talking about. The use of UU acronyms and abbreviations is insider language that is not as welcoming as it could be. So even though it takes longer, try to remember to speak of “religious education,” the “Unitarian Universalist Association,” “General Assembly,” the “Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans,” “Church of the Larger Fellowship,” and “socially responsible investing.” It’s the inclusive thing to do.

And if you are ever confused about UU abbreviations, there’s a page on UUA.org with a complete listing of UU programs, resources, and organizations.

Socially responsible investing benefits everyone

New on UUA.org is Ten Things All UUs Should Know About Socially Responsible Investing. The article, from the UUA’s Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, will be useful to congregations and individuals interested in using their money to change the world in positive ways.

The article notes that socially responsible investing has been instrumental in getting McDonald’s to reduce its use of Styrofoam packaging and in persuading Procter & Gamble to sell Fair Trade Certified coffee. It has also influenced companies to adopt nondiscrimination policies around sexual orientation and gender identity.

The article makes the following points:

• Socially responsible investing is more than avoiding bad companies. It means supporting responsible ones as well. It also focuses on investing in low-income communities that may have difficulty obtaining loans from more conventional sources.  Socially responsible investing also supports struggling small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world with microloans.

• Studies have shown that responsible investing does as well as conventional investing.

• Congregations can participate in socially responsible investing through the UUA’s Common Endowment Fund.

UUA Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Tim Brennan recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post on socially responsible investing and climate change.




UU bumper stickers

Q. A committee at our fellowship is interested in bumper stickers, either designing our own or getting one from the Unitarian Universalist Association. I see no way of seeing what the UUA bumper sticker looks like. Can you send us a visual?

A. The UUA no longer sells bumper stickers or other marketing materials, says Kiki Giatis, administrator of the UUA’s Congregational Life staff group. However, graphics are available so that congregations can print their own, if they wish. Graphics for bumper stickers and other marketing materials, in the form of EPS [Encapsulated PostScript] files, are here.

Giatis said, “We have learned that people with strong graphics design backgrounds at local printing companies are able to produce great quality graphics with the EPS files. To view EPS files you will need an EPS viewer. Several free programs are available on the Internet to help with that. The UUA offers these materials to any congregation that wishes to use them without qualifiers or release forms; however, we are unable to provide technical or marketing support for them.”

There are two other sources for UU-themed bumper stickers. They are available from UniUni (formerly Uni-Uniques). You can see them here. The UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign also sells a LOVE bumper sticker.

The Café Press website also has at least one UU bumper sticker.

UUA offers grants for Doctrine of Discovery projects

Grants of $500 to $1,000 are available from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Resource Development office for congregations interested in pursuing projects that teach about, repudiate, and mitigate the current effects of the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Doctrine of Discovery is the premise that European Christian explorers who “discovered” other lands had the authority to claim those lands and subdue, and even enslave, the people of those lands simply because they were not Christian. The Doctrine was introduced to UU congregations at General Assembly 2012 in Phoenix and through a uuworld.org article last spring. The doctrine continues to be the basis for many contemporary laws that serve to oppress indigenous peoples.

UUA Adult Programs Director Gail Forsyth-Vail said that projects can include “education, reflection, and action,” and should also include outreach to partners in indigenous and/or interfaith communities and demonstrate the prospects for broad or long-range impact.

Information about why the Doctrine continues to be problematic, and what congregations can do about it in their own communities is here. Information on the grant process is here. The application deadline is April 15. Applications and questions should be sent to religiouseducation@uua.org. Recipients will be notified May 1.

Forsyth-Vail said, “We’ve already had some inquiries about the grants and there has been some tentative work on projects. I’m excited about the possibilities.” She noted that the Doctrine of Discovery touches many social justice areas. “Working to undo colonization can mean doing something as simple as working with a local group on a land rights issue or an environmental justice project. Every congregation could do something.”



Annual themes inspire, motivate Dallas congregation

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

It is, of course, every congregation’s desire to have most of its members actively engaged in personal growth, in deepening their spiritual development and working to improve the larger community and the world.

There’s a lot of all of that going on at First Unitarian Church in Dallas, which has embraced a congregation-wide theme this year: Year of Engagement and Service, or YES!

The YES! theme invites friends and members to get involved in social action and civic engagement projects outside of church, ranging from increased involvement in their neighborhoods to engaging with the world at large. They are encouraged to join one of three YES! “tracks,” focusing on their neighborhood (Neighbors), the Dallas metro area (Community), or the world itself (Global).

Go to full article.

Let your building speak for you

Congregations interested in clearly communicating their values and mission to guests and others will want to  read a recent post by the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein on her blog, PeaceBang. Weinstein describes a visit to the Countryside UU Congregation in Palatine, Ill.

Starting with prominent exterior signage, neatly arranged informative bulletin boards, and interior signs that make it clear where people need to go, Weinstein congratulates the congregation on ably communicating “congregational vitality and purpose.” She writes that, without speaking to anyone, she “learned a ton about the congregation’s values and general health. The building itself communicated the congregation’s purpose in existing.”

Weinstein especially noted the presence of major areas of ministry—worship, study, foundations (stewardship and legacy), and kinship—communicated through prominent wall displays. She writes that “the visual consistency across the space announces that these areas of programmatic interest are all elements within one integrated system. That’s important and impressive.”



Live-streaming services draws in stay-at-homes

UUA Growth Strategist Tandi Rogers couldn’t make it to church one recent Sunday because of a sick child, so she looked around for the next best alternative. She found around a dozen congregations that were live-streaming their services in a time frame that worked for her.

She notes, “I hope more congregations will consider using this technology as a way to lower their walls and to connect to members who are unable to attend for a variety of reasons.” Read her full post on the Growing Unitarian Universalism blog.

The UUA’s website has resources for congregations considering live-streaming. To livestream a service you need a video camera, microphone (sound quality is more important than video quality), and the ability to upload to a free service like Ustream or Livestream.

Rogers notes that some congregations post their Order of Service. Some pan out to show the congregation and choir in addition to focusing on the speakers, and some allow online participants to engage in a real-time chat about the service.

New books from Janamanchi, Tyger, and Owen-Towle

Three new books with meditative and inspirational qualities are available at the UUA Bookstore.

Falling into the Sky ($8) is the 2013 UUA meditation manual, edited by the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi and his son Abhimanyu Janamanchi, a leader in Unitarian Universalist youth and adult leadership circles. Falling into the Sky compiles forty writings from UU ministers, leaders, and lay people. These meditations evoke “vivid vistas of imagination and reflection,” according to promotional materials for the book.

Also newly available is War Zone Faith: An Army Chaplain’s Reflections from Afghanistan ($8) by Army Chaplain Capt. George Tyger, a UU minister, who served in parish ministry before entering the Army Chaplain Corps. Here’s the marketing copy: As an Army chaplain deployed to Afghanistan, George Tyger has seen and experienced things that many of us cannot fathom: naked children throwing rocks at him in the street, a playground in the middle of a Taliban graveyard, and incredible violence, anger, loneliness, and fear. Determined to find meaning in the midst of it all, Tyger reflects on his faith, his prejudices, and his privilege, and shares the unique perspective he has gained while serving and ministering in a war zone.

Both of these books are published by Skinner House.

The Rev. Tom Owen-Towle has self-published a new book, Wake Up! Daily Lessons for a More Liberated and Living Life ($18). The book is aimed at individuals and families. It could also be useful for spiritual-practice groups, for covenant and meditation groups, and for worship readings.

Writes Owen-Towle: “We will probably choose, on any given day, to accomplish at least one thing we truly enjoy. We always find time for the ‘must’ jobs too. We may even set aside moments for accomplishing a radically new or different task. However, most of us will do everything imaginable to circumvent quietude. We’re too busy filling up when we need to empty out. We need moments of plain, unadorned, unremitting stillness.”

How to update member information online

When someone formally joins your congregation, how soon can their name be sent to the UUA so they can begin receiving UU World magazine? Immediately.

All the information to change your membership list is at myuua.org. Someone in the congregation will need to be registered on the site. Each congregation may have up to four Data Services Updaters. You can print out a membership list if you wish, add and delete individuals, change marital status and addresses, and perform other membership functions.



Youth social justice training in Boston

High school-age youth interested in social justice are invited to apply to attend a three-week training program this summer in Boston. The National Youth Justice Training program will be June 30–July 21, sponsored by the new Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice. The program offers a tiered funding structure, ranging from $500 to $3,300 per person. Application deadline is April 15.  More information is included in a NYJT brochure.

In addition to time spent together learning about social justice leadership skills and UU social justice history, participants will intern at various sites in the Boston area. The trip leader is the Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, who is also the social justice educator at Boston Mobilization, which trains people for grassroots campaigns for peace, economic justice, and democracy.

This will be the second year for the youth training.