Film explores LGBT crisis in Uganda, urges support

Congregations have an opportunity to stand against the oppression of LGBT people in Uganda. A new documentary film, God Loves Uganda, which explores a campaign by Western evangelical religious leaders to promote intolerance and punishment for LGBT people in Africa, is available for viewing by congregations. A movie trailer is on the website.

The film follows prominent conservative American and Ugandan religious leaders who are actively attempting to create an African culture based on religious bigotry and Biblical intolerance.

The Rev. Mark Kiyimba, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Kampala, Uganda and who runs a housing program for HIV orphans, homeless LGBT youth and others, is asking UU congregations in North America to raise their voices against this tide of intolerance.

In a video posted on the Standing on the Side of Love website Kiyimba said there are religious leaders and others in Uganda who do support LGBT people, but without backing from North American allies, they are afraid to speak out.

Kiyimba urges congregations to view the film and decide how they could support LGBT people in Uganda. To view the film, fill out an online application. Next to your  congregation’s name on the application add the letters “UUA” to receive a reduced rate of $150 for screening the film.

The film will be shown in theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Congregations in those cities will not be permitted to show the film. They are urged  instead to gather groups to attend one of the movie screenings. Bulk ticket prices will be available. Screenings around the country will be listed on the God Loves Uganda website as they are scheduled.

Congregations are also invited to support a fund created by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the UU United Nations Office, called the UUA/UU-UNO LGBT Uganda Fund, either by direct contributions or by naming it as a Share-the-Plate recipient.

UU Social Media Lab a place for questions

The UU Social Media Lab on Facebook has included the following discussions in recent weeks:

• Whether to make worship services available on DVD, livestreaming, or by posting the files onto websites and Facebook pages. And if posting to websites, to be mindful to omit music that is copyrighted unless permissions have been obtained.

• From a congregation that loans its folding chairs for public events: How can the chairs be creatively marked to promote the congregation’s mission?

• Locating email newsletter software that will allow creation of PDFs so it can be added later to a website.

• Reviewing and rating your congregation on Yelp as a way of attracting seekers. Try this. Go to yelp.com, put in the name of your congregation, and see what comes up.

Join the lab (registration required) for discussions about a variety of topics around how congregations can and do use social media.

‘Behind the Kitchen Door’ new UUA Common Read

The book Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman has been chosen as the 2013–14 UUA Common Read.

The book describes how restaurant workers live on very low wages, and how poor working conditions, including discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens, affect the meals that are served to all of us. The author, who launched a national restaurant workers organization after 9/11, tells the stories of ten restaurant workers in cities across the United States as she explores the political, economic, and moral implications of eating out.

She explains that what is at stake is not only our own health, but the health and well-being of the second largest private sector workforce—10 million people, many of them immigrants and many of them people of color.

All Unitarian Universalists are invited to read Behind the Kitchen Door as a way to reflect on their own dining out practices and the lives of those who create the meals and serve the food.

The author is cofounder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization working to improve conditions for restaurant workers. The book is a resource for the new minimum wage campaign announced July 18 by the UU Service Committee and the UUA. The campaign has a goal of raising the minimum wage to $10. The book, published by Cornell University Press earlier this year, is available from the UUA Bookstore for $21.95, with discounts for multiple copies.

Tips to recruit and retain volunteers

On the blog Growing Vital Leaders, the Rev. Renee Ruchtozke, leadership development consultant for the Central East Regional Group of the Unitarian Universalist Association, offers some tips for recruiting volunteers. In brief, find out what each member’s gifts and passions are and help them find a role that feeds them, notes Ruchtozke, drawing on information from Bonnie Blosser, the director of lifelong learning at the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kans. See the blog entry “Your Trash, Another’s Treasure.” Also read the comments for more information.

If someone is being fed, say Ruchtozke and Blosser, they are less likely to burn out or fade away. And if you find a volunteer who seems to be struggling, make it possible for them to give up part of that job to someone who might enjoy it more. Or leave it empty to see if someone will step into it. It’s important, Blosser says, to “walk beside” the volunteer. “Sometimes just knowing you have someone you can turn to helps you to plow through.”

Growing Vital Leaders is a blog of the Central East Regional Group that focuses on ideas, tips, and tools on leadership formation. Recent blog topics have included congregational communications and management issues.

Many other articles and several webinars on volunteer recruitment are here.

Resources to help you start new church year right

From our August InterConnections feature, now online at UUA.org:

The new church year is underway. Newly elected board members have been on the job since June or July at many congregations, and board retreats are scheduled this month or next. Religious education offerings have been organized and added to the calendar, and worship themes have been developed.

But there is still a lot to do and to think about as a new church year gets underway. For those times when you need information but don’t know where to find it, turn to InterConnections. For 15 years, InterConnections has been reporting about issues that leaders grapple with, and most of that information is online, available at the drop of a search word.

Go to full article.

Survey looks at needs of marginalized people

In an effort to learn more about the needs of people who are marginalized around issues that include ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, the UUA’s Multicultural Ministries Sharing Project has launched a survey intended for individuals in those groups.

The survey, which is online and may be taken until October 31, is open to anyone in the above groups who is at least 13 years old and has a UU affiliation. It is being conducted through the Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group in the Office for Congregational Advocacy and Witness. The survey will be followed by focus groups, to be held October through December to help UU leaders and UUA staff “understand where we are now and what we need to be well-equipped to meet the ministry needs of UUs in the 21st century,” according to the news release announcing the sharing project.

Those who do not fit the target categories are invited to share information about the survey with those for whom it is intended. If you have questions, contact Alex Kapitan, LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs administrator in the Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group.

Ministry and Authority report available

A report, “Who’s in Charge Here? The Complex Relationship Between Ministry and Authority,” was recently released by the UUA’s Commission on Appraisal after several years of work. It is available for $12 through the UUA Bookstore.

The 98-page report discusses both lay and professional ministry and makes the observation that many of the “struggles and stresses” around ministry in UU congregations stem from issues of authority. It includes the following chapters: “What is Ministry,” “What is Authority?” “Who Has Authority and Who Does Not?” and “Conflicts about Ministry and Authority.”

The Rev. Erica Baron, who serves congregations in Rutland and Bennington, Vt., was project manager for the report. Chair of the commission is Megan Dowdall, a ministerial candidate and an adjunct professor at Starr King School for the Ministry.

The report was presented at General Assembly in June. A 13-minute video of that presentation is here at the 1 hour 41 minutes mark. A uuworld.org report of that presentation is here.

New guide for emergency preparations

The Department of Homeland Security has developed a new resource for preparing for and responding to emergency situations in church buildings. The Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship was released in June.

It includes information on developing response plans for natural disasters, and it also has a section on responding to “active shooter” situations. DHS also has a webinar, Conducting Security Assessments: A Guide for Schools and Houses of Worship.

See also the InterConnections article from April 2013, Planning for Emergencies and the Unthinkable.

Church is not for nappers

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein has written an essay on her blog, PeaceBang, entitled Napping on the Floor of the Aerobics Studio, about encouraging and empowering leaders.

Church members, friends, newcomers and leaders should be nurtured in spiritual practice and equipped with the language of our faith traditions so that they can articulate the gifts they both give and receive from their experience with the church, the community that is gathered by God (or by the deepest yearnings of the human heart, if you’re a humanist).

The congregation should be in the regular practice of spending time discussing their spiritual experience. It should be as natural as a potluck. We should be ready to turn conversations away from petty gossip to deeper reflections. Leaders should be able to challenge people who constantly want to talk about the minister to talk about their own ministry, or about the church’s ministry.

And those leaders should be empowered to motivate the “nappers,” she adds.

If I go to the gym and people are sprawled out napping on the floor of the aerobics studio, I will think the gym management is not just remiss, but nuts. It’s no different in church. We’re all there for heart strengthening of a different kind. Leaders should be empowered to be able to say: ‘Get off the aerobics floor, please. You can nap at home. Napping on the floor of the aerobics studio is not part of our mission, so we won’t be addressing your complaints about the pillows.’

She adds, “This isn’t about not loving people. It’s about being clear what church is for.”

She writes that congregations should have a broader mission than simply “to collect the religiously wounded and enable them to stay that way. We must say, ‘We are all welcome here. There is a hospital wing here. But no one takes up permanent residence in that wing. They get better and leave the bed open for the next person.’”

 

UU College of Social Justice trips planned

The Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice’s new programs for this fall and into next spring include a two-week trip to India, two to Chicago to learn about organizing for justice in the food industry, and four involving immigration justice.

The India trip, through the UU Holdeen India Program is to the state of Gujarat, where participants will witness the work of the Self Employed Women’s Association, a Holdeen Program partner, and will learn about efforts to organize Dalits, the people once branded as “untouchables.”

In Chicago, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a partner of the UU Service Committee, will help participants on two trips learn about labor history, injustices in the restaurant industry, and organizing strategies.

The immigration justice trips, with BorderLinks, will delve into the connections between the food system and social justice and show how to stand with communities struggling for justice in the state of Chiapas. There is a separate program for seminarians. There are four trips in total.

Full information on the trips is on the UU College of Social Justice website.