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.

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Choosing vendors for your church using UU values

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

Congregations traditionally promote and encourage Unitarian Universalist values through sermons, religious education, and social justice work. Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, Minn., is taking its values to a new level—applying them to the companies that it buys products from.

Unity Church leaders refer to this as holding “values conversations” with those vendors. Here’s how it works: Any company that the church buys $2,500 in products or services from annually will be evaluated as to how well it meets certain social justice criteria—minority hiring, environmental sustainability, community engagement, fair treatment of workers—and whether its fees are competitive.

This practice, which gets underway this summer, had its genesis in the renovation of Unity Unitarian’s building, which was completed in November and dedicated May 19. Going back farther, said Barbara Hubbard, Unity Church’s executive director, the congregation has had an active antiracist and antioppression effort for at least ten years, and that work is becoming woven into the fabric of congregational life.

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Successful share-the-plate program supports Denver nonprofits

From one of our May feature stories, now available online at UUA.org:

When the offering plate comes around on Sunday morning at First Universalist Church of Denver, Colo., many nonprofit groups in the community feel the earth move just a little. This is the third year that the congregation has given its entire offering—every Sunday—to local groups or to support the work of the congregation’s own Social Justice Council task forces.

Associate Minister the Rev. Jeannie Shero said nearly $150,000 has been collected so far through the program, called Compassion in Action. “The first year we collected $44,000, then $56,000,” she said. “This year, which ends in June, will be close to $60,000. Prior to the program the offering would bring in around $25,000, much of which was largely used to support the operating budget.”

“This program represented a major shift for us,” Shero noted. “Was it a hard sell to the congregation? No. Did it make the board of trustees nervous? Yes. Giving up $20,000 for the operating budget was no small thing since the board has fiduciary responsibility.”

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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).

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How congregations can respond to hate crimes

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

If you’re fortunate, you’ll never arrive at your meetinghouse to find your rainbow flag or marriage equality banner ripped, defaced with swastikas, burned, or simply stolen. But what if you do? How should you respond?

Late one Saturday afternoon in 2001, at First Parish of Sudbury, Mass., a passerby noticed that swastikas had been spray-painted onto rainbow flag symbols on two street-side church signs. He notified police, who contacted the congregation. That same day members of the congregation removed the swastikas, but the perpetrators returned and drew them again. This time they also stole a rainbow flag flying at the entrance to the meetinghouse.

The congregation spoke out immediately, notifying local and state officials, other clergy, and the school district. On Monday, two days after the defacement, the congregation held an emergency meeting. It concluded the swastikas and the flag theft were acts of hate and that it was a problem that belonged to the whole community, not just First Parish.

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