RE program on money created

A new Tapestry of Faith adult religious education program has been created, focusing on the intersection of peoples’ financial lives with their religious, spiritual, and community lives.

Written by Patricia Hall Infante and David H. Messner, with editor Gail Forsyth-Vail, the curriculum is titled The Wisdom Path: Money, Spirit, and Life. Says Forsyth-Vail, the UUA’s Director of Adult Programs, “How can we have a relationship with earning, spending, giving, and investing that is spiritually healthy and grounded in our deepest values? While money is a pervasive part of our day-to-day existence, it often receives little attention in our religious lives.

“As religious people, we have much to gain by making money a part of an intentional, covenanted and faithful conversation together. This program helps participants understand how decisions and attitudes about money can be a more effective force for living lives of meaning and value, and for creating positive change in themselves, their congregations and groups, our society and the world.”

The Wisdom Path is available online. It consists of twelve 90-minute workshops. Each one suggests an activity that can be done outside of the workshop period.

Thirty Days of Love campaign set

The calendar of activities for Standing on the Side of Love’s annual 30 Days of Love program is now available on the SSL website. The program, designed as a month-long spiritual journey and commitment to sustained social action and service, begins January 18 and culminates February 16.

This is the third year for the campaign, which invites and encourages congregations and individual UUs to engage in a different act of social justice for each of the thirty days. Congregations are invited to sign up and to share their activities on the website during the campaign. The campaign will also include opportunities for personal transformation.

The campaign will send an email about each day’s theme, but congregations and individuals can also plan ahead to identify or develop activities in their own areas that fit that theme.

Letter: What to do about lack of volunteers

My name is Dan Kirchoff and I’m a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, Maine. I’ve been enjoying the Interconnections e-mail newsletter, especially a recent article (or perhaps I should say chain of articles) about the digital congregation. I’ve been working with others to form a Communications Committee in our church and we’ve been studying the initial article as well as all the blogs, tip sheets and such with great interest. I very much appreciate you folks providing us with that.

One issue I’ve see come up in our church, as well as my previous UU church in Rockland, Maine, is volunteer overload. Perhaps you’ve already had articles on this subject that I’ve missed, but it might be well worth re-running. All too often the need for volunteers at church outstrips the available manpower and a new member who is willing to do something gets overloaded with requests to join multiple committees, special tasks forces and councils. I’ve seen others (and felt the urge myself) pull back from participating in church as a result of this overload of requests. It’s as if the church “powers that be” discover “we’ve got a live one” and it’s all downhill from there.
Not too long ago, I was part of a cooperative art gallery in our area of Maine and while things can be hectic with 30 artists all trying to work together, they had some very good ideas. One exceptional requirement for membership in the gallery was that everyone was expected to participate on ONE committee or take on ONE task in the gallery’s function. We had full participation, lots of diversity of ideas, and complete ownership of what was happening there. I’ve often thought of how this might be extended to the functioning of our church in Belfast.
My thought is if everyone in the church’s congregation was encouraged to do just one thing—even if it’s just to join the choir—then we would have an abundance of participation and the diversity of thought and ideas and action would be rich indeed. The idea is not to have one person do five or six things (although since there are members with lots of time and energy on their hands, it also would not necessarily be discouraged) but to have five or six people all doing one thing each. Is it impossible? I wonder if other UU churches have been able to do this, thereby breaking the chain of overuse of a few qualified but very tired people.
I have yet to convince our church council to embark on such a mission, but I’m still working on it. We could even have entry-level, new-member participation slots such as greeters, hospitality and the choir (I’ve found that you make more friends in church just by joining the choir). Then these now-seasoned participators can move up to committees and task forces, eventually ascending to leadership positions. So far, I’ve heard of no such UUA church volunteer initiative, but perhaps it’s time we had one.
Perhaps if you have information on this topic, it could be shared.
Thanks for your attention and I appreciate any feedback you folks might have.
Dan Kirchoff
UU Belfast, Maine

 

Editor’s Note: Dan, many congregations make it clear to new members that the congregation can only function if everyone helps out in some way. They point out that giving of one’s time is an important aspect of membership. Often this happens in new-member orientation courses, but there are other ways to make this point as well. InterConnections will be happy to publish responses to Dan’s question.

 

 

UUAMP supports membership professionals

When Marie Murton became responsible for membership functions at Fox Valley UU Fellowship at Appleton, Wisc., in 2005––her title is now Congregational Life Coordinator––she spent months combing the UUA website searching for membership resources. It wasn’t long before she began compiling those resources on Fox Valley’s website.

They have since been moved to UUAMP.org, the website of the UU Association of Membership Professionals. The association was founded in 2011 to help paid and volunteer membership professionals in UU congregations find the resources and other support they need.

The mission of the organization is to develop and support the ministry of membership through professional development and collaboration. Said Murton, “We want to help grow Unitarian Universalism––not only through numbers, but through spiritual depth and connection.”

The organization meets annually at General Assembly and has smaller gatherings around the country. It also brings members together through webinars, book discussions, a monthly newsletter, mentoring, and an email list. Membership in UUAMP is $40.

 

Morning Watch, by Pescan, reissued

Skinner House has reissued Morning Watch, the book of meditations from the Rev. Barbara Pescan, first published in 1999 as a UUA meditation manual. The book has thirty-four poems and prayers on love, spirit, and the extraordinary significance of daily life, and is suitable for both personal reflection and public worship.

Morning Watch is $8 from the UUA Bookstore.

 

Author sought for multicultural practices book

Skinner House Books and the UUA’s Multicultural Ministries Team is seeking proposals for a book that will “inspire and give practical guidance” on the subject of making Unitarian Universalist communities authentically multicultural.

Writers are encouraged to address one or more of the following topics in such a book: leadership, justice, worship, and community. Mary Benard, Editorial Director for Skinner House, adds, “We are intentionally leaving the specifics about the form of the book open-ended. In fact,  we’re hopeful that we’ll publish more than one book as a result of this request for proposals. In the interest of timeliness, we will give preference to proposals that do not rely on more than three individuals to submit writing.”

Proposals should be grounded in personal experience, UU values and theology, and reflect a deep knowledge of the benefits and challenges of multicultural faith communities.

A complete proposal description is on the Skinner House website. Deadline for submissions is February 4. A complete list of other prospective books for which Skinner House is seeking authors is also on the website. Questions may be directed to mbenard @ uua.org.

New Owen-Towle book on Christmas

Longtime UU minister the Rev. Dr. Tom Owen-Towle, has written a book, Unwrapping the Inner Gifts of Christmas, to help Unitarian Universalists navigate the celebration of the holiday period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Owen-Towle writes, “Peddling Christmas as merely a holly, jolly affair diminishes the fullness of our humanity as well as the scope of the original gospel narratives. Here’s the key: When we bravely face, then embrace, the entire gamut of human emotions and experiences during December, we’re spiritually prepared to do so the rest of the year. We become whole persons whenever we willingly confront the whole of life.”

He acknowledges that emotions during the holiday period run the gamut from sadness to joy. The book has twenty chapters devoted to different perspectives about the holidays. It is $15 from the UUA Bookstore.

Mental health recommendations made

The mental health caucus of EqUUal Access, a group of UU volunteers who support equality and access for UUs with disabilities, has created a resource called “Mental Health Issues and Recommendations,” for use by congregations.

The 30-page document, available free of charge online, was created to guide congregations in relating to people with mental disorders, including understanding their abilities, welcoming them into congregations, and advocating on their behalf.

The document was created following the shooting deaths at Newtown, Conn. in December 2012. EqUUal Access wanted to raise awareness, according to the document, “of the stigma placed on people who live with mental illness, the roles the UUA and UU ministers can play to confront the discrimination, the need for ministers to provide comfort and acceptance to those being marginalized, and the importance of the language UUs use about mental illness and those who live with it.”

The document is useful for adult education courses, sermon preparation, membership and hospitality committees, and discernment about inclusion.

More information on EqUUal Access’s mental health caucus is here.

 

Congregational resources profiled on uuworld.org

The following articles, which appeared on uuworld.org in recent months, contain information useful to congregational leaders.

Long Strange Trip, a new video history of Unitarian Universalist history has been created by Ron Cordes, UU history buff from Bedford, Mass. The six DVDs of one hour each are available individually or as a boxed set from the UUA Bookstore. The set has high production values and Cordes presents much of the dialogue from the locations in Europe and elsewhere where significant events in our history occurred. The DVD set will be useful for new-member sessions and for adult education courses. The six hours can easily be divided into half-hour segments followed by discussion. As yet there is no study guide. The full uuworld.org article is here.

An article detailing how several congregations are pursuing social justice initiatives related to the Doctrine of Discovery, appeared on October 14. Delegates at General Assembly 2012 voted to repudiate the doctrine, a centuries-old principle of international law that sanctions and promotes the conquest and exploitation of non-Christian territories and peoples.

An article describing how a Florida UU congregation welcomed Boy Scout troops that had been turned out by a Baptist church after the Boy Scouts of America decided to permit gay youth to join troops, appeared on Sept. 16.

The work of the UU Funding Program, which accepts applications from congregations and others for social justice and other projects, was also highlighted Sept. 16. In 2012 the program gave out more than $1 million in grants ranging from $300 for a voter registration volunteer training, to $20,000 to help organize interfaith support for homeless people in California. Grants Administrator Susan Adams noted that many UUs she meets are still “astonished” that money might be available to support their dreams.

The UUA’s Leap of Faith congregational mentoring program was profiled Sept. 2. Now in its third year, the program brings together congregations that want to learn from each other.

Reaching out to the nones

The Rev. Renee Ruchotzke has a three-part essay titled “Could the Nones Become Unitarian Universalists?” on the UUA blog Growing Vital Leaders. She notes, “Young adult ministry has been a challenge for congregations of all liberal protestant denominations for decades but the game is changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined back in the post WWII church-building boom.”

Many young adults find conservative churches too restrictive, she says in Part 1. And liberal ones have not articulated a compelling theology. In Part 2 she ticks off reasons why young adults leave churches. The reasons include not developing a close friendship with anyone, and not getting help with discovering their own mission in the world.

In Part 3 she highlights congregations like First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY which have created small group programs that lead to deeper engagement and spiritual development.

Growing Vital Leaders is a good blog for congregational leaders to bookmark. Other recent topics have been on cohesive leadership and making members and the larger community aware of your congregation’s outreach ministries.

Ruchotzke is Leadership Development Consultant for the Central East Regional Group (CERG), of the UUA.