Skinner House offers new military resource

Skinner House Books has published Bless All Who Serve: Sources of Hope, Courage and Faith for Military Personnel and Their Families, a pocket-sized book of readings and songs from many faith traditions. Free copies are available to military chaplains and enlisted personnel of all faiths. Chaplains and ministers should contact Julie Shaw for those copies. Other service personnel may contact Lorraine Dennis at the Church of the Larger Fellowship.

Copies may also be purchased through the UUA Bookstore for $8. An article about the book, edited by the Revs. Matthew and Gail Tittle, both military veterans, is here. The book is similar to one published in 1941 by Beacon Press.

Book table group offers discussions, solutions

An online community for congregational book table folks has been created at http://uubooktables.forumsplace.com/.

The UU Book Table Forum provides a place to discuss problems and solutions, make book recommendations, hear about new titles, get new ideas, and support each other, says Jim Davenport, cochair of the bookstore at First UU Church in Columbus, Ohio, and creator of the online forum.

All bookstore managers, volunteers, authors, and other book enthusiasts are invited to contribute to the discussions, he says. “One of the hallmarks of a Unitarian Universalist community is the openness with which it embraces a diversity of thought and a diversity of people. To serve this questioning community, books covering UU thought, UU history, world religions, spiritualism, social justice, racial justice, GLBT justice, and much more are out there to be found. A UU book table finds these titles and gets them in front of the members of its community for their benefit.”

Davenport explains that, for people new to a UU church or community, the bookstore or book table can be “an inviting refuge amid the sea of well meaning but often daunting post-service fellowship. Visitors can explore the ideas represented by the books on the table, talk with other book-lovers, or just browse in peace.”

He adds, “Book tables are run by volunteers following their own ideas of what books to order and how to run the table. Sometimes they hope to contribute monies to their community from the book sales or at least not run at a deficit. There hasn’t been a good way for these book table managers to talk with their counterparts across the country and the world until now.”

An earlier InterConnections article on bookstores is here. Contact the UUA Bookstore for information on starting a book table.

Donor helps children share with the world

Imagine giving kids $10,000 and telling them to go help heal the world and spread the word about Unitarian Universalism.

That’s what has been happening at the UU Church of Reading, Mass. (292 members). A year ago, an anonymous donor made a gift of $10,000 for the purpose of involving the kids and teens in social justice work and helping them experience the joy of sharing money and time. And thus, the Helping Hands Outreach Fund was born.

Each year, the children in the church’s Faith Development program select five area organizations that are aligned with UU values of social justice. During a “Principles in Action” Faith Development quarter, the older children and youth educate the younger ones about the work of these nonprofits. Then, led by the Senior High Youth Group, the kids vote for the one they most want to partner with for the year. The kids then present the selected organization with a check for $7,600 and enter into a close partnership with the group for the year. The other four groups receive a gift of $600 each.

For the first year of the program, the kids selected an organization that served individuals with developmental disabilities. “This has been very engaging for the whole congregation,” says Lorraine Dennis, past president of the congregation. “We don’t just give money, we work hand in hand, together. The clients played music at a Sunday service, we had a lunch workshop about the group, we collected clothing for their prom, our teens attended their dances, and people volunteered in other ways. Most importantly, we sponsored and staffed a training program for Special Olympics, with our church kids and the group’s youngest kids working together on various physical and sports skills. ”

For the second year of the program, which kicked off in September, the kids are partnering with an environmental action group that is working to preserve an area river.

The Rev. Tim Kutzmark, minister of the church, reports that they will be sponsoring hikes, canoe trips, a community garden, displays at the town soccer field, and educational forums for the surrounding communities on water and green issues. “And because we’re out in the community working,” he says, “people learn about UUism and the things we stand for!”