St. Lawrence District
Congregation Development Resources Available Through CERG
A marketing and ministry development tool is now available free to St. Lawrence congregations through the Central East Regional Group.
Link2Lead.com, a demographics website for congregation leaders, offers information about population and issues in and near the church community. Among its features are a tool that can provide a map showing where members live and how far they are from the church - information that may be helpful in visitor follow-up and the formation of small groups. Link2Lead can also provide area demographic reports highlighting diversity, community concerns, and other issues of particular interest to a congregation.
Mark Bernstein, CERG Regional Growth Development Consultant, invites congregation leaders to get in touch with him about using Link2Lead; he notes that he must generate some of the reports in order for them to be available to CERG congregations without charge. Mr. Bernstein may be reached at email@example.com, 610-639-3389, and through CERG at www.cerguua.org.
- E. A.
Rev. Michelle Buhite Ordained in Buffalo
The UU Church of Buffalo and the UU Church of Jamestown ordained Rev. Michelle Buhite Saturday, May 12, at the Buffalo Church.
Jamestown is Rev. Buhite's home church. She served Buffalo as ministerial intern in 2010 - 2011, and was intern for Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries for the Ohio-Meadville District during the past year. She has been called as minister to the UU Congregation of Spartanburg, S.C.
Rev. David E. Bumbaugh, Minister Emeritus of the UU Church of Summit, NJ, gave the sermon, "A Community of Faith," at the ordination. Rev. Joel Miller, former minister at UUCB and interim minister at the UU Fellowship of Corvallis, OR, gave the Charge to Minister and Congregations; Rev. Dr. John Tolley , member of the Affiliated Faculty at Meadville Lombard Theological School, led the Laying on of Hands; and Rev. Jann Halloran, Minister of Prairie UU Church, Parker, CO, offered the Prayer of Ordination.
Service participants from the St. Lawrence District included Rev. Dr. Margret A. O'Neall, UUCB Interim Minister; Karen LoBracco, Program Consultant for Lifespan Faith Development for the St. Lawrence and Ohio-Meadville Districts; and Dave Batt, Chair of the UUCB Board of Trustees. Others in the service included Carole Faulk, Co-VP, UUCJ Board of Trustees; Joyce Rose, UUCJ weaver; and Les and Ashera Buhite, representing Rev. Buhite's family.
- E. A.
May 2012 News from our Congregations
Roles Are Switched in Brockport's Easter Food Hunt
Photo by Robert Remley
Adults did the hunting in the Brockport UU Fellowship's Easter Food Hunt. Children in Religious Education class on Easter Sunday learned about world hunger and hid food items brought in by their families. After the worship service, adults searched for the food, which was donated to the Brockport Food Shelf.
Buffalo Remembers Architect Who Died on the Titanic
Photo by Bill Parke
The UU Church of Buffalo recently mounted a display featuring Edward Austin Kent, Unitarian and architect of the UUCB building who died on the Titanic. The exhibit, "Edward Austin Kent: Our church Architect, Our Titanic Hero," has resulted in considerable media coverage, with stories in a number of outlets, among them the online UU World, the Buffalo News, and Channel 4-WIVB. In addition, two college students have produced a video about Mr. Kent, filmed in part in the UUCB sanctuary. On April 15, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, UUCB Historian Bill Parke and the church Commemorative Committee offered a church tour, a visit to the new exhibit, and a showing of the 1997 movie Titanic, along with music and refreshments. The exhibit will remain open to visitors during the coming weeks.
Immigration Committee Collects Clothing, Blankets with GUUSTO
The five congregations in the GUUSTO (Genesee UU Societies Together) cluster - Albion, Brockport, Canandaigua, Rochester Unitarian and Rochester Universalist - recently gathered clothing, blankets, and toys for area migrant workers in an effort organized by its Immigration Committee. Member Carole Hoffman said a pickup truck and six cars were required to transport "beyond mounds" of items to the Brockport Clothing Center, for delivery to local migrant worker families.
Two DRE's Receive Credentials
Two St. Lawrence District Directors of Religious Education have been named Credentialed Religious Educators by the UUA's Religious Education Credentialing Committee. Leah Purcell, DRE at the First UU Society of Albany, and Sonja Jensen, the UU Church of Buffalo's DRE, received the designation in early May. Karen LoBracco, SLD Program Consultant, notes that the credential is "the culmination of years of trainings, study, reflection and writing."
Rochester Petition Weekend a Huge Success
The Social Justice Council at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester reported it had gathered 693 signatures on letters and petitions to lawmakers at its recent petition weekend. After Saturday and Sunday services, Task Forces and other groups offered petitions and information on topics ranging from early childhood education to immigration reform, producing at least 100 more signatures than in previous years.
Syracuse First Donates 2000 Books
Since it received a request last July, the First UU Society of Syracuse has collected 2,000 gently used books, including 500 children's books gathered through the Religious Education program, for St. Lucy's Pantry. FUUSS also collects health and beauty supplies, toys, clothing and furniture for distribution through the food pantry's Agape shop.
- E. A.
Rev. Christina Neilson Named SLD Congregational Life Consultant
Rev. Christina Neilson has been named Congregational Life Consultant for the St. Lawrence District. Beginning July 1, she will provide support and resources to district congregations as well as stewardship and resource development for the Central East Regional Group (CERG), which includes St. Lawrence and three other districts.
"Rev. Neilson is a firm believer in shared ministry and an evangelist for Unitarian Universalism," said Dave Munro, SLD President, noting the district board's enthusiastic endorsement of Rev. Neilson. Mr. Munro said the Search Team, in recommending Rev. Neilson, had cited her mediation and organizational skills, her stewardship success and her ability to help people move forward even in difficult circumstances. "We are very excited to start working with Chris," he said.
A self-described "district cheerleader," Rev. Neilson has chaired the Ohio-Meadville District's Commissioned Lay Leader Committee and served as Annual Program Fund representative and president of the UU Ministers Association chapter in that district.
Rev. Neilson holds an M.Div from Starr King School for the Ministry as well as degrees in Nursing and Theater. She is Minister of the SouthWest UU Church in North Royalton, Ohio. During her ten years at SWUU, the congregation has seen significant growth, had a very successful capital campaign, and purchased a building.
Mr. Munro offered thanks on behalf of the District to "our first-rate Search Team" that recommended Rev. Neilson. Members were board members Jeff Donahue and Nancy Reed; Rev. Douglas Taylor, Minister in Binghamton; Melissa McKinnon, DRE in Schenectady and co-hair of the SLD Liberal Religious Educators Association chapter; Ted Fetter, President of the Metro NY District; and Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Ohio-Meadville District Executive and CERG Regional Lead.
- E. A.
Rev. David Messner Ordained by Rochester Unitarian
Photo by Barbara Gorski
Rev. David Howard Messner was ordained Sunday, April 22, by the First Unitarian Church of Rochester. Rev. Messner was a Ministerial Intern at Rochester Unitarian and currently is its Consulting Assistant Minister of Membership Development.
The ordination service included Reflections on Ministry from three ministers: Rev. Charles Blustein Ortman, Senior Minister of the UU Congregation at Montclair; Rev. Cynthia Gano Lindner, Director of Ministry Studies and Clinical Faculty for Preaching and Pastoral Care, University of Chicago Divinity School; and Rev. Scott Tayler, Rochester Unitarian Parish Co-Minister.
Other participants in the service included Rev. Messner's wife Jennifer and their children Cassidy and August; Rev. Kaaren Anderson, Rochester Unitarian Parish Co-Minister; Rev. James Pitts, Chaplain Resident, University of Rochester Medical Center; Rev. Bill Reynolds, Associate Director of Chaplaincy Services, University of Rochester Medical Center; and Anne Perry, President of the Rochester Unitarian congregation.
- E. A.
Register by May 10 for Women's Spirituality Conference
Chakra Healing, Balance in Your Life, and Creating Personal Altars are among the workshop topics at "Transforming Women's Spirits," the Third Annual St. Lawrence District UU Women and Religion Spirituality Conference. Poet Melinda Morris Perrin will deliver the keynote address, "Life as a Magical Mystery Tour," at the conference, set for May 18 and 19 at the First UU Society of Syracuse. Conference brochure and registration information are available at www.slduuwr.org.
District Appoints Part-time Consultants
The St. Lawrence District has named two new part-time consultants. Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer will serve as Youth Coordinator, and Rev. Peggy Clarke as Social Justice Coordinator.
Rev. Carvill-Ziemer brings to the position a great deal of experience working with youth, including three years as Young Adult and Campus Ministry Consultant for the Ohio-Meadville District. She will continue to work for Ohio-Meadville as half-time Program Coordinator.
Rev. Clarke is minister of the First Unitarian Society of Westchester, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, and is the part-time Consultant for Racism and Social Justice for the Metro New York District. She is a member of the UU Ethical Eating Core Team and co-founder of InterGenerate, non-profit dedicated to food justice and the encouragement of local resourcing.
April News from Our Congregations
Rochester Unitarian Hangs New Equal Marriage Banner
Photo by Ira Srole
Now that same sex marriage is legal in New York, the First Unitarian Church of Rochester has replaced its "Equal Marriage for Same Sex Couples" banner with one that reads "Equal Marriage Everywhere." The new banner, which hangs on an outside wall facing the street, was unfurled in the sanctuary for March 23-24 services.
Athens Hosts Trauma Response Workshop
Photo by Chris Eng
Rev. Craig Schwalenberg of Oneonta and Rev. Julie Taylor, members of the UU Trauma Response Ministry board, led a workshop in March at the UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin. Rev. Darcey Laine of UUCAS invited the Trauma Response Ministry to help area congregations prepare for future emergencies and consider the congregation's role in supporting the wider community during a crisis. Athens experienced major flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee in the Fall of 2011.
May Memorial Completes Growth and Vitality Program
A group of Trailblazers at Syracuse May Memorial UU Society has led the congregation through a UUA regional growth and development program for mid-sized churches. May Memorial's representatives met with those of five other Central East Regional Group (CERG) congregations every six months for two years, sharing strengths and challenges as they worked on congregation goals.
Rochester Universalist Names Acting DRE
Rev. Lori Staubitz has been named Acting Director of Religious Education at the First Universalist Church of Rochester. Rev. Staubitz, a graduate of SUNY Brockport and Virginia Union University School of Theology, holds dual Fellowship with the UUA for Parish and Religious Education ministry.
Cluster Holds Clothing Drive for Migrant Workers
Congregations in the GUUSTO (Genesee UU Societies Together) - Albion, Brockport, Canandaigua, Rochester Unitarian and Rochester Universalist - are conducting an April clothing and blankets drive for area migrant workers. The drive was organized by GUUSTO's Steering Committee on Immigration Justice.
Canton's Capital Campaign Off to a Great Start
Early appeals resulted in pledges for about 80% of the $250,000 capital campaign goal at the UU Church of Canton. The "Under One Roof" campaign aims to replace the church roof and make improvements to the sanctuary and kitchen. The church website also notes that this year's annual canvass was the most successful in church history.
Albion Receives Loan from Universalists Convention
The New York State Convention of Universalists has agreed to make a $40,000 loan to Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion. The no-interest loan will help with roof repairs.
- E. A.
The Smart Church - Trust
by Connie Goodbread, SLD Interim District Executive
A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge. The father was kind of scared so he said: "Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don't fall into the river."
The little girl said: "No, Dad. You hold my hand." "What's the difference?" asked the puzzled father. "There's a big difference," she replied. "If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go." In any relationship, the essence of trust is not in the bind, but in the bond. So hold the hand of the person whom you love rather than expecting them to hold yours... - unknown
It is not the bind, it is in the bond. Bonds are forged in trust as the story above illustrates. Unitarian Universalism was birthed by brave people making a bond to support, care for and challenge each other to be the very best that they could be. Our founders bonded together entering into the struggle of becoming fully human, as one faith. Did our association begin in trust? Did we hold the hand of those we love and move into our future fearlessly or were we fearful and mistrustful?
by Dave Munro, SLD President
Excitement is building as General Assembly 2012 approaches. Whether you will be in Phoenix, at another local or regional Justice GA event, or your church or home watching events on a computer, GA promises to be a particularly meaningful experience.
Like many of you, I am trying to do some reading to bring myself up to speed on immigration and other justice issues. An article that I strongly recommend is "We Are One"
by UUA president Peter Morales. It is included in a collection of essays on the future of Unitarian Universalist justice work entitled "A People So Bold." Morales explains that we need to view our present situation in its historical context: "The border between the United States and Mexico was created to make space for slavery. We are building fences and guard towers along that border to keep Mexicans from reentering land that was taken from them. . . It is easy to determine who has a legal right to be here, but who has a moral right to be here?"
March News from Our Congregations
Albany Offers Evensong for Families
Leah Purcell, Director of Religious Education at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, is offering Evensong for Families beginning in March. The spiritual program offers families an opportunity to "live their faith beyond Sunday," Ms. Purcell says.
Binghamton Surveys Members on Climate Change
At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, members are taking a survey that offers an opportunity to reflect on one's feelings and beliefs about climate change. Rev. Douglas Taylor will use the survey results in an Earth Day sermon, and a congregational discussion will follow.
Members Make Valentines at Brockport
As part of the Standing on the Side of Love effort, congregants at the Brockport Unitarian Universalist Fellowship made valentine cards to send to those who had taught them something about love. "There's something about cutting and pasting in the old-fashioned way, not in an electronic document but with scissors and construction paper and glue, that is quite satisfying," Rev. Peggy Meeker reported in the church newsletter.
Chautauqua Announces Summer Ethics Program
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Chautauqua has announced its 17th Ethics in Everyday Life program. Topics this summer will include end-of-life and ending life issues, politics when values are in tension, ethical questions in the art world, the ethics of a vegan diet, and legal ethics.
1899 Mason and Hamlin Piano Arrives in Ithaca
The First Unitarian Society of Ithaca's newsletter reports the congregation's "newest member": an 1899 Mason and Hamlin BB grand piano.
Northern Chautauqua Considers Space Needs, Capital Campaign
A UUA Stewardship consultant recently spent a weekend at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northern Chautauqua to assess the congregation's readiness for a possible capital campaign as it searches for space that suits its needs.
Compassionate Cooks Provide Meals in Plattsburgh
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Plattsburgh's Compassionate Cooks provide meals to members and friends who are sick, moving, adjusting to life with a newborn, or for some other reason could use a home-cooked meal.
Backstretch Employees Service Team Honored at Saratoga
A February service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs honored the Backstretch Employees Service Team of the Saratoga Racecourse. Those who attended brought clothes, eyeglasses, toiletries, linens and housewares for the backstretch employees.
- E. A.
Have a Transcendent Experience at District Assembly
Workshops on cyberbullying and the UUA Gathered Here initiative are among offerings at "Transcendence," this year's District Assembly. The Assembly is set for Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28, in Rochester.
On Friday evening, Rev. Lynn Ashley will deliver the Josephine Gould Discourse: "From Grandmother's Closet to the Occupation of Wall Street." A dinner will precede the Discourse at the First Universalist Church, 150 S. Clinton Ave., and a coffeehouse will follow.
Connie Goodbread, interim district executive, will give the keynote address, "Transcendence - the Art of the Extraordinary" on Saturday at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Rd. S. Rev. Kaaren Anderson will lead the closing worship service, "Laughing Our Way Back to Life,"
"Cyberbullying", to be presented by Zoe Harter-Saunders and other district youth, is one of two youth-directed workshops planned for the Assembly. The other, "Where 2 or 3 are Gathered," will be led by youth delegates to the Central East Regional Group (CERG) Youth Summit, along with Karen LoBracco, SLD Program Consultant for Lifespan Faith Development, and Michelle Buhite, Ohio-Meadville District Intern for Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry.
Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Ohio-Meadville District Executive, will lead "What Is Gathered Here?" The two-workshop presentation invites participants to join this UUA initiative to help shape the future of Unitarian Universalism.
The two remaining workshops will feature CERG consultants. Mark Bernstein, Growth Development Consultant, will lead "Channeling Success: How Communication Practices and Processes Can Move Your Congregation Forward;" and Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Leadership Development Consultant, will offer "Vital Leaders for Vibrant Congregations."
For more information, and to register for the District Assembly, see here.
- E. A.
A Justice GA: Education, Witness, Service, Reflection
Registration for June's Justice GA in Phoenix opens March 1.
This year's General Assembly, June 20 - 24, is focused on immigration, racial and economic justice issues. It will also be more action-oriented than the typical GA. "This year, it's not about what the GA does for me, but about what I am called to do," says David Friedman, UUA Trustee from the St. Lawrence District.
Two years ago, delegates to General Assembly considered moving this year's meeting from Phoenix and joining a boycott of Arizona, in protest of its harsh anti-immigrant legislation. At the invitation of two immigrant advocacy groups, the 2010 General Assembly voted not to cancel, but to go to Phoenix and stand with those targeted by the law. Delegates called for a radical departure from business as usual at a "Justice GA."
Watch an invitation to the Justice GA from UUA President Peter Morales here.
For more information about what you can expect at this GA, listen live or to archived recordings of episodes of "The Journey Toward Phoenix," a weekly internet-based radio-talk program featuring members of the UUA General Assembly Planning Committee here.
Since that time, the UUA has established an Arizona Immigration Ministry and has partnered with many immigration reform and human rights groups in the state as it made plans for the Justice GA. "This is an unusual partnership with people who see us as coming to work with them on issues important to them," says Mr. Friedman.
The 2012 General Assembly schedule reflects this work, with workshops and worship services offering education about justice issues, opportunities for witness and service, and groups for reflection on those experiences. For more information about the Justice GA, or to register, see here.
- E. A.
February Congregation News...
Facilities, Fundraising, and More
Albany Offers Assistance with Travel to Justice GA
The Board of the First UU Society of Albany has decided to increase support for adult and youth members who will attend this year's UUA Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to delegates' registration fees, some assistance with travel costs will be available to those who apply to the board, listing their reasons for attending GA and their plans to apply what they learn to local justice issues.
Auburn to Renovate Kitchen, Install Accessible Bathroom
The UU Society of Auburn has installed wireless Internet in its building and will soon renovate its kitchen and add a fully accessible bathroom in its building. "We are constantly looking at ways of opening our building up for use by more people," says Rev. Stan Sears.
Canandaigua Considers Move, Building Renovation
The UU Church of Canandaigua is considering an offer of rental space in another local church. The board has appointed a committee to put together information on three possibilities: moving to the rental space, selling their building, and planning for a future building purchase or site development; moving to the rental and renovating their building for future use; and remaining in their building and committing to a capital campaign to renovate and expand their building. The issue will be decided by vote of the congregation.
Canton Approves Capital Campaign
The UU Church of Canton has approved a $250,000 capital campaign for new roof shingles and related repairs, audio and visual upgrades to the sanctuary, and the congregation's depleted capital reserve fund.
Ithaca's Christmas Eve Collection Raises More than $4600
The First Unitarian Society of Ithaca raised more than $4600 at its annual Christmas Eve service at Cornell's Sage Chapel. Each of two local organizations, the Babies First Loan Program and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, received more than $2300 from the collection.
Rochester Unitarian's Wellspring Program
Receives UU Funding Panel Grant
First Unitarian Church of Rochester's Wellspring spiritual deepening program recently received a $15,900 grant from the UU Funding Panel. Wellspring, now running in 22 UU congregations, includes commitment to spiritual practice, spiritual direction, study of UU history and theology, small group participation, and reflection about how we put our faith into action. The grant will allow Rochester to continue to share the program with other congregations and to develop two more years of programming.
Syracuse First Begins Healthy Congregations Training
The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse has begun Healthy Congregations training for the congregation. All members were invited to participate in the series. "The Healthy Congregations program is geared to help us gain the unity of mission we so badly need," Rev. Holly Baylies wrote in a recent newsletter.
- E. A.
Spiritual Practice in the New Year
The Smart Church: Becoming
by Connie Goodbread, SLD Interim District Executive
Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around. - Henry David Thoreau
Happy New Year! This is the time of year when we make resolutions and promises to ourselves about what we will do in the coming months. What have you promised yourself this year? Will you loose weight? Will you exercise more? Will you be more patient, kind, compassionate? What about your faith development? Did you think of it? Did you make a promise to yourself to grow and deepen your faith?
May We Walk the Soulful Journey Together
by Dave Munro, SLD President
As a daily spiritual practice I carve out 20-30 minutes each morning to try to silence myself. I read a daily passage from a wonderful book called Awakening the Soul- a Book of Daily Devotions. UU minster John Morgan, who edited the book, states that while religion has an intellectual quality, it also requires intuition and heart and community - and mostly soul. So each morning I tried to get in touch with my heart, and my soul.
Each day presents a quote, often by a "famous" person; then a question; and finally, a challenge. Here is the reading from January 1. First, the quote, by Carlos Castaneda: "Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. . . One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you."
January News from Our Congregations
Schenectady's Dining for Dollars Benefits
Storm Recovery in New Orleans, Schoharie
Ellie von Wellsheim and Ginger Ertz in the FUSS kitchen
Photo by Michael Hochanadel
Four-year-olds in New Orleans and families rebuilding their homes in Schoharie County will benefit from the efforts of cooks, organizers, drivers and underwriters of this year's Dining for Dollars at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady.
Since 2006, the program has delivered lasagna dinners in Schenectady and the surrounding area on one day in December. There is no fee, but a donation envelope is included in each canvas bag along with lasagna, garlic bread,salad, dessert and coffee.
Dining for Dollars typically has made about $5,000, according to Ellie von Wellsheim, who conceived of and continues to spearhead the fundraiser. This year, she said, a story about the program in a local newspaper produced additional orders, and the 348 dinners delivered have so far produced more than $7100. "The donations will keep coming in for a while," said Ms. von Wellsheim.
Those donations will go to storm recovery programs in New Orleans and New York and to the FUSS general fund. All monies raised through the fundraiser go to those organizations: ingredients and packaging are donated or covered by underwriters and the cooking, baking, packing, route-planning, driving, bookkeeping and all the other work that goes into Dining for Dollars is done by volunteers.
The two New Orleans efforts receiving funds were identified by Ms. von Wellsheim in the many trips she has made to the area since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Slidell Elementary School's "at risk" program aims to help four-year-olds enter kindergarten as smoothly as possible, and helps their parents meet immediate needs. The New Orleans Rebirth Volunteer program offers volunteers housing, work, and a curriculum on the history, culture, and current issues of the area.
Schoharie County was added to the list of beneficiaries this year, after it sustained significant damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Schoharie Recovery Inc., which provides aid and supplies to rebuild homes, will receive the funds.
Amherst Shawls Are Spirit-Lifters
The Knitting and Crochet group at the UU Church of Amherst makes shawls for mastectomy patients at the Erie County Medical Center. Members make whole shawls or squares that are sewn together as part of what the group's Kimberly Kent calls " this wonderful spirit-lifter" for the patients. The Knitting/Crochet group meets weekly at the church or at a local knitting shop.
Rev. Darcey Laine to Teach CLF Course
Rev. Darcey Laine, minister of the UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin, is one of two teachers for the online course "Economic Justice and the Bible," offered in January and February by the Church of the Larger Fellowship. Among course topics are creating the ideal economic community, debt and debt forgiveness, and ethics in banking. For more information about the course, see http://clf.uua.org/learn/.
Central Square Christmas Day Dinner Draws 54
"All are welcome to share friendship and food," read the invitation to the First Universalist Church of Central Square's annual Christmas Day Dinner for the larger community. Ronna Schindler, who with her husband Kurt has organized the dinner for the past ten years, said organizers and volunteers had "a wonderful time." Among the 54 persons who attended the dinner were several who had come yearly since the first dinner and many who were new this year, Schindler said.
Ithaca Receives Pride of Ownership Award
The First Unitarian Church of Ithaca recently received one of seven Pride of Ownership awards for building renovations from the Ithaca Rotary Club and the City of Ithaca. The church was recognized for its repairs to the church roof and steeple, and particularly for the use of copper along the steeple's edges to provide protection during high winds. The church was built in 1893.
Thought-Full Tuesdays Offered at Oneonta
December "Thought-Full Tuesdays" at the UU Society of Oneonta offered members and guests "engaging, educational, social experiences. Topics included a screening and discussion of the film The Economics of Happiness; a guided meditation for stress relief; a grief support circle facilitated by Rev. Craig Schwalenberg; and a discussion of desired change.
Rochester Universalist Says Farewell to Rev. Sally Hamlin
First Universalist Church of Rochester held a farewell reception for Rev. Sally Hamlin, who is withdrawing from her called ministry with the church because of continued health concerns. Rev. Martha Munson, who served as consulting minister at the church this fall, will remain as interim minister.
UUMA Chapter Changes Name to St. Lawrence
Members of the local chapter of the UU Ministers Association agreed at their meeting last month to change the name of the chapter from Iroquois to St. Lawrence. "The change came about because of our increasing awareness that the word Iroquois was not a proper name for the Native Americans of this area but a derogatory epithet for the people known as the Haudenosaunee," said Rev. Peggy Meeker, chapter secretary. According to Rev. Meeker, the name St. Lawrence was chosen to match the District, but chapter members were glad to learn that St. Lawrence, one of seven deacons of ancient Rome, was said to have been martyred because he distributed the wealth of the church to the poor rather than turn it over to Rome.
- E. A.
Program Consultant Notes
by Karen LoBracco,
SLD Program Consultant for Lifespan Faith Development
Light One Candle
This is the dark time of the year, a period of introspection and gestation. Sometimes massive bursts of light - from an over-the-top light display on a lawn or the mall intrude. But it's the small candles that capture our heart - from the advent wreath, the menorah, the Yule log, the Christmas Eve service, the kinara. So too, it's the small personal gifts we share that matter - an invitation to drive around looking at those lawn displays, or to view the night sky, or asking someone you hardly know to join a holiday meal or school concert. Your invitation just might light up someone's entire world! Now that's a real miracle!
A Healthy (early) New Year's Resolution
January 1 is traditionally the day when we make all sorts of promises to adopt a healthier lifestyle. But now would be the right time to commit to growing a healthier congregation! If you are in the eastern portion of New York State, then join the CRUUNY cluster for Healthy Congregations training beginning February 3. The Western cluster's first of six Saturday gatherings is January 14 in Buffalo, with the registration deadline Dec. 15. More information on the Healthy Congregations program with registration links is on the
Not Optimistic, But Hopeful
by Dick Gilbert, SLD Social Justice Coordinator
The tragedy of life is not death, but what dies inside while we are
living. We must recognize that we get our basic energy, not from
turbines, but from hope.
- Norman Cousins
It is the season of hope, but the liberal religious activists I know are
not optimistic about the state of the world. The unfinished business
of two tragic wars, political paralysis in Washington, a study of low
civic engagement by New York State citizens and the prospect of a
long and boring election campaign do not bode well for 2012.
However, this is a religious newsletter, and we need to articulate religious values. I find that
distinguishing between optimism and hope is useful. Optimism in my lexicon is an
unsubstantiated belief that things will somehow work out, will inevitably get better. Hope, on
the other hand, is a religious value that embodies commitment to work for the Beloved
Community. There is a world of difference between the two. I may not be optimistic from time
to time, but I am ever hopeful, because that is what my faith requires of me.
The Smart Church: Magic
by Connie Goodbread, SLD Interim District Executive
Christmas lives inside of me, delighting all my senses... - Bob Goodbread
Mommy, is Santa real? This is a faith development question. When we are parents and our
child comes to us with this question we answer as if we have been caught in a lie. We think it
is a question that has a yes or no answer. We think that the child must learn the truth, the hard
facts of life. The child must become worldly, mature and realistic. As we age, we begin to see
that the truth is much deeper and much much more complicated.
by Jeff Donahue, APF Coordinator & Board Trustee
I hear from many congregations' lay leaders that they would like ideas on how to improve their congregational stewardship. Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, our Leadership Development Consultant for the Central East Regional Group (CERG), has compiled a great list of resources to help you and your congregation. The list includes web-based articles, free on-demand webinars, blogs and books. The list is available at the CERG website: cerguua.org/stewardshipres.html
December News from Our Congregations
Canton Raises a Mountain of Food For Local and Area Pantries
Canton members and friends carry donated food
to a local food pantry
Rev. David Blanchard and children of the Canton church
with Catherine Mathews, director of the Church and
Community Program, and some of the food donated
by the congregation
Photos by David Pynchon
The November Shared Offering at the UU Church of Canton was received in a grocery cart, as the congregation collected healthy food items for area food pantries. "...The lingering economic downturn has hurt the poor among us most dramatically," the church newsletter reported, noting that, as more families turned to them for help, many pantries were reporting shortages.
Rev. David Blanchard challenged the congregation to collect 600 items. The mountain of donated items passed that number by the third Sunday of the month, and members went on to bring in more than 1000 items. After church on Sunday, December 4, men, women, and children of the congregation carried donated items to the Church and Community Program on Main Street in Canton. Food pantries in several neighboring towns and villages also received donations from the collection.
Ithaca Celebrates Dia de los Muertos
DRE Jennifer Wapinski-Mooradian led the second annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration after church at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca on Sunday, October 30. The RE Council and staff invited members to join them in honoring those who had died in a memorial service that included readings, a silent meditation, and an opportunity to place photographs and mementos of loved ones on an altar.
Streamers and papel de muertos (cut-paper designs) decorated the room for the Mexican-themed potluck that followed the memorial service. While Mexican music played, children were invited to try traditional crafts and participants met in small groups to share stories of their loved ones. While the potluck had a different tone than the memorial service, Ms. Wapinski-Mooradian said, "it remained respectful to the spirit of the event." The RE Council plans to offer the celebration again next year.
Alternative Gifts Available at Schenectady
The Alternative Gift Project at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady allows members to make donations to local, national and international charities in the names of loved ones. The project offers a catalog listing charities and three levels of gifts for each, with items such as $5 for two beds of organic collard greens in a youth agriculture program, $25 for a year's medical care for a child living in the community of the Guatemala City Garbage Dump, and $65 for a month's bus pass for a refugee adult attending English classes.
Fredonia, GUUSTO Churches Feed Occupiers
The Social Action Committee of the UU Congregation of Northern Chautauqua agreed to support Occupy Fredonia and to provide meals for the group on two evenings in November. The First Universalist Church of Rochester will open its building to Occupy Rochester on Tuesday evenings in December. Other congregations from the GUUSTO cluster will help provide supper at the church on those evenings.
Albany Sale Volunteers Choose Proceeds Recipients
The First UU Society of Albany raised almost $2000 at its annual Fall Clothing Sale. FUUSA receives one-third of the proceeds of the sale, with two-thirds, in $250 awards, going to non-profit community-based agencies selected by the 58 volunteers at the sale.
You're the Gift at Rochester Unitarian's Don't Go Back to Black Friday Service
"Be there or be dreary!" warned the advertising for the First Unitarian Church of Rochester's second annual "Don't Go Back to Black Friday" service on the day after Thanksgiving. The service was offered as an opportunity to get centered for the holiday and as an alternative to the mall on the biggest shopping day of the year. Early arrivals for the service stood in line outside the front doors and were offered cake-on-a-stick treats baked by Co-Senior Minister Rev. Kaaren Anderson. The service featured stories, homilies, and music by the house band, Orange Sky, all focused on the theme, "You're the gift, so give yourself away."
- E. A.
Immigration the Focus of Social Justice Conference
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray
Photo by Rev. Richard Gilbert
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister at the UU Church of Phoenix, was the featured speaker at the 2011 St. Lawrence Social Justice Conference, held at the First Universalist Church of Rochester October 29. At the conference, "Repairing the Statue of Liberty: UU's and Immigration in the US," Rev. Frederick-Gray spoke of the injustice at the heart of America's broken immigration system. For more information about immigration and about the UU Justice General Assembly scheduled for this June in Phoenix, see Rev. Frederick-Gray's
keynote, "The Courage to Love," and her
Also at the conference, immigration lawyer Diane Chappell-Daly discussed immigration history and the DREAM Act. Ms. Chappell-Daly referred listeners to a "myth-busting"
video from the American Immigration Council. Other speakers were Pacho Lane, a representative of The Workers Center of Central New York, and David Friedman, Unitarian Universalist Association Trustee. Mr. Friedman spoke of his trip to the Arizona-Mexico border with UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and other trustees to witness the US immigration system. Read his sermon on the experience
- E. A.
Hydrofracking and Eco-Justice In New York State
by Dick Gilbert, SLD Social Justice Coordinator
I was shocked to read in the October 9 Rochester Democrat and
Chronicle that land I own on the northeast shore of Seneca Lake is in
the 30% of the Finger Lakes area already under lease to natural gas
companies, 810,000 acres, about the size of Rhode Island. I fear for
the very character of the Finger Lakes. If one reads the Governor's
Finger Lakes Regional Economic Council strategic plan, it is striking
to note no mention of hydrofracking; quite the contrary, energy
references are to renewables like solar, wind, biomass and the like.
Hydrofracking flies in the face of the economic assets of the region.
Change as Spiritual Practice
by Karen LoBracco,
SLD Program Consultant for Lifespan Faith Development
As part of the Credentialing process for Religious Educators, I was expected to write about my personal spiritual practice. I had a hard time with this, because although I had done a lot of the usual activities - journaling, yoga, walking, swimming, meditation - there was not one thing that defined my practice. What I claimed then was an intentional commitment to balance. Years later this still feels right, but sometimes I wonder if the ground beneath my teeter-totter isn't moving too!
Improving Congregational Stewardship
by Jeff Donahue, APF Coordinator & Board Trustee
I've been St. Lawrence District's Annual Program Fund (APF) representative for less than a year, but the national team has devoted a lot of energy on improving congregational stewardship. How do we improve our communications to congregational leaders to better understand what their funds are used for? How do we convey the need for congregational leaders to be in covenant with their district and national offices? Is there a better formula to calculate each congregation's "fair share" to the district and UUA?
Phoenix 2012 - Not Your Ordinary General Assembly
by Dave Munro, SLD President
"No one deserves to die in the desert for lack of a cup of water."
This is a quote from The Death of Josseline - Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands, by Margaret Regan, a book being widely read in UU circles.
Briefly: Josseline, 14 years old, 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, embarked on a journey with her 10 year old brother from El Salvador to meet their parents in Los Angeles, 2000 miles away. They were woefully unprepared. Josseline got sick, and the group left her behind in order to keep moving. She died in the desert alone.
The Smart Church: Ch-ch-changes
by Connie Goodbread, SLD Interim District Executive
Change is inevitable, pain is optional
We all struggle toward our own human wholeness, our own becoming. Unitarian Universalism is a faith that supports us in this struggle to become, urging us to go deeper and to strive to reach our full potential. People who can make friends with change, who can enjoy every stage of their lives and remain open to all possibilities, will live the most fulfilled lives. To do this one must have vision, a sense of adventure, flexibility and an appreciation of the struggle.
November News from Our Congregations
Rev. Jennifer Hamlin-Navias
Photo by Bob Schulz
Rev. Jennifer Hamlin-Navias was installed as Associate Minister for Religious Education at May Memorial UU Society in Syracuse October 16. Rev. Hamlin-Navias has served the congregation as DRE for several years. Congregation participants in the installation included Rev. Jean Wahlstrom, minister at MMUUS; Harsey Leonard, president of the congregation; Dalton Ackerman, member of MMUUS Teenz; Kelly Kilmer Hall, ministerial intern; Glenn Kime, Music Director; Geoff Navias, Jesse and Naomi Hamlin-Navias. Others with roles in the ceremony were Mr. Barb Greve, Consulting Director of Religious Education to the First Parish in Newton MA; Halcyon Westall, Director of Religious Education, Channing Memorial UU Church in Newport, Rhode Island; Rev. Dr. Kathleen Waters, Interim Minister, Plymouth Congregation, UCC Syracuse; and Connie Goodbread, Interim District Executive, St. Lawrence District.
Albion Holds Dual Ceremony
Rev. Richard Hood, PMUC President Chris Loss,
and Pastor Lee Richards
Photo by Louise Wu
In a dual ceremony October 9, members of Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion named Rev. Richard Hood Minister Emeritus and formally installed their first called minister in 40 years, Lee Richards, as pastor. Rev. Hood came to Pullman as a pulpit supply minister, but "went above and beyond his preaching duties" for 35 years, according to Pastor Richards. Susan Daiss, M.Div., Rev. Hood, and Pastor Richards offered mini-sermons at the ceremony.
Anti-Racism Events At Binghamton, Athens
Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed facilitated a workshop on racism at the UU Congregation of Binghamton Saturday, October 29. Rev. Morrison-Reed drew on more than 30 years' experience in ministry and human relations in the workshop, "On the Road to Tomorrow: Discover, Explore, Heal, Transform: A Workshop on Racism." On Saturday evening, Rev. Morrison-Reed traveled to the UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin for a reading and discussion based on his books In Between: Memoir of an Integration Baby and Darkening the Doorways: Black Trailblazers and Missed Opportunities in Unitarian Universalism.
Canandaigua Supports Occupy Spirit
Photo by Linda Starkweather
The Social Justice Ministry of the UU Church of Canandaigua organized "Occupy Canandaigua," a witness in support of the spirit of Occupy Wall Street. There were about 100 in attendance at the event on Saturday, October 22.
Brockport a UUA Member Congregation
The Brockport UU Fellowship's application for affiliation with the Unitarian Universalist Association has been accepted, and BUUF is now an official member congregation.
Buffalo Plans Three-Year Interim Period
The UU Church of Buffalo will have a three-year interim period. A congregation-wide appreciative inquiry process, a governance study group, and education in covenantal relationship and engaged stewardship are planned for the transition. "...We need to clarify who we are, what we want and then move into finding the right minister to partner with us in the future," says Dave Batt, president of the congregation. Rev. Dr. Margaret A. O'Neall is Interim Minister in Buffalo.
MMUUS Intern Receives Scholarship
Kelly Kilmer Hall, ministerial intern at May Memorial UU Society, is one of the first five recipients of a new scholarship at Meadville Lombard Theological School. The Joe and Marion Wertheim Internship Grants offer $5000 in support to students interning in congregations, working with ministers and lay internship advisory committees.
Rochester Universalist To Restore Hope-Jones Organ
The First Universalist Church of Rochester is raising funds to restore its Hope-Jones organ. Phase one of the restoration plan, intended to stop increasing organ deterioration, will cost $8,850; contributions to the Hope-Jones Organ Restoration Fund are being matched up to $4000.
SLD Churches To Receive OMD Chalice Lighter Call
The Ohio-Meadville District's November Chalice Lighter call will benefit two St. Lawrence congregations working to recover from flooding along the Susquehanna River. The UU Congregation of Binghamton and the UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin will receive the proceeds of the call. Both congregations experienced basement damage, and have organized efforts to help those in their communities who suffered more serious effects of the flooding. In Athens, the church continues to provide free bag lunches on Saturdays, and has been joined in its efforts by the fifth grade church school class of the Universalist Church of Hartford, Connecticut. The class voted to make helping families affected by the flood their service project of the year after member Megan Striff-Cave, whose grandparents live in Athens, offered a speech and slide presentation on the flooding.
- E. A.
Fall Leaders Conference: Making Change in Our Congregations
Talking change at the leaders conference
Photo by Suzy Farrell
Philosophy and methods for congregation change agents were the focus of this year's St. Lawrence leadership conference, "at the Leading Edge: UU Congregations at the Speed of Change."
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke gave the keynote speech, "Catching Fire in the Burnt-Over District"; video of her speech is available here. Rev. Ruchotzke also offered the workshop "Adaptive Leadership," describing a framework that can prepare individuals to lead through any type of change. Rev. Ruchotzke is Leadership Development Consultant for the Central East Regional Group (CERG). See the slides from her workshop here.
Applying a spiritual maturity lens to leadership work was the focus of "Growing the Spirit of a Leader," led by Patricia Hall Infante, Faith Development Consultant for
CERG. Here are the slides from the workshop, along with handouts on spiritual intelligence and qualities of spiritual maturity, and a spiritual maturity exercise.
Ms. Infante also offered "Learning Tools for Building a Multicultural Community," covering curriculum, family learning tools, and ideas for community events that employ an anti-racism, anti-oppression, multicultural lens. See the slides from her presentation here.
The challenges and accomplishments of congregations recently designated as "Breakthrough" by the UUA were discussed at Mark Bernstein's workshop, "Lessons from Breakthrough Congregations." Mr. Bernstein is the Growth Development Consultant for CERG. Here are his slides and handout.
In "21st Century Stewardship," Joan Van Becelaere, District Executive of the Ohio-Meadville District, used Appreciative Inquiry and Systems Theory in her presentation on motivation to share time, talent and treasure among congregants today. See her slides here.
Phyllis Smith-Hansen, Care Ministry Coordinator of the First UU Society of Ithaca, discussed burnout, buy-in, and boundaries as she described Ithaca's process and structure in "Building Good Pastoral Care Programs." Read her handout, "Creating and Maintaining a (Pastoral) Care Team."
Kimberley Debus, seminarian, led "Leading Through the Generations," outlining differences in style, needs and triggers among generations, and describing how those differences affect expectations about church life. Read her handout here.
"Commissioning Lay Leaders" focused on the Ohio-Meadville District's "alternative to becoming a professional minister." Rev. Christina Neilson, Minister, SouthWest UU Church in Berea, Ohio, led the workshop; here she shares the program's brochure, manual, and required reading list. In addition, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke's presentation from the 2011 District Assembly may be viewed here.
The Smart Church: Covenantal Faith
by Connie Goodbread, SLD Interim District Executive
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.
- Rabindranath Tagore
Whether your congregation has gone through a formal covenant writing process or not, every
congregation that is a member of our Association is part of our covenantal faith community.
Look in the front of our hymnal "We the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist
Association covenant to affirm and promote:. . ." the seven principles and the six sources of
wisdom. Our UUA Covenant insists on respect, justice, inclusivity, responsibility and openmindedness.
by Jeff Donahue, APF Coordinator & Board Trustee
Each year the national Annual Program Fund (APF) office teams up with the St. Lawrence District to jointly produce a "unified ask" - a single pledge form for congregations to state their pledges to both organizations. These pledges are for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. We ask these be submitted by the middle of June, but this year our congregations are behind in returning the pledge forms. I suspect I'm largely to blame for this -- I'm new in my role as the district APF's representative and in retrospect I should have communicated more often with all of you. But now we must work quickly to encourage most of our congregations to return their pledge.
Only seven of our 34 congregations submitted a pledge this year. This is causing consternation among the district leaders with financial responsibilities, so I'll be reaching out to many of your congregations to ask for a speedy resolution.
For now, I ask you to check with your congregation's president or treasurer to see if they have completed your pledge form. If the form has been lost, I'll be happy to provide another electronic copy. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Program Consultant Notes: The Value of Diversity
by Karen LoBracco,
SLD Program Consultant for Lifespan Faith Development
I've preached the value of biodiversity in classrooms and newsletter articles, noting the applicability of biology to human systems. Some people wonder why I keep talking to congregations and other communities about encouraging diversity of ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, social and economic status, education, racial identity, etc. "Strength in diversity" was a great tee-shirt slogan until I saw my family embody it last month.
Plutonomy and the Wall Street Occupation
by Dick Gilbert, SLD Social Justice Coordinator
Years ago I read an article by theologian Richard Schaull which comes to mind. While the exact title escapes me, its thesis was the political power of symbolic actions. From the civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau to the Millionaires March by United for a Fair Economy, activists have sought to persuade the public by dramatic actions. I recall participating in a Peace Seder at Cornell's Barton Hall in 1970 as Father Dan Berrigan emerged from eluding the FBI after pouring blood on the draft files at Catonsville, Maryland. I later learned that The Bread and Puppet Theater Company that night had spirited Dan away on a motorcycle to continue his subversive witness for peace. Dan's dramatic actions reinvigorated the rest of us. This is the political power of symbolic actions.
That is how I see "Occupy Wall Street" and its clones across the country and world. These protestors have been accused of not having a specific political and economic strategy - a point well taken - though in their own version of grassroots democracy they are trying to create one. While not taking the analogy too far, the Hebrew prophets of old and Jesus did not articulate a detailed political platform. Their mission, at least in large part, was pinpointing the evils of the age by singling out the "powers and principalities" whom they believed were responsible.
Thoughts From the Small Congregation Growth Project
Growth Project participants at the October gathering
Photo by Barbara Freeman
By Barbara Freeman
The Unitarian Church of Barneveld was one of eight churches in the St. Lawrence District that participated in the on-going Small Congregation Growth Project, committing to send four representatives to semi-annual two-day meetings for a period of three years. The workshops were led by Ellen Germann-Melosh, with assistance from others, among them Mark Bernstein, Central East Regional Group Consultant for Growth Development. Barbara Freeman, Barneveld president, made the following comments about the Growth Project at a UUA General Assembly workshop in June.
- Three years is a good period of time to effect change in a gradual but real way - as opposed to one-shot workshops that seem to get "lost in the shuffle" of everyday challenges.
The lure of a competitive process for free services was a good carrot for churches that knew already they wanted to grow. Requiring participating churches to pledge to financially support room, board, and transportation and send a minimum of 4 persons to all the workshops required Board resolutions and a line in the budget.
It was hard to get four busy people for each semi-annual meeting but that pledge kept us coming! Sometimes we rotated persons. The more people participating, the higher the "buy in" at home.
- The assignments were effective over time and helped us to tailor the project to our individual church needs. At first we analyzed and assessed our congregations so that we could assign ourselves useful tasks to be done and reported upon in 6 months. Later there were required assignments. The data collection was not my favorite assignment but it allowed us to see that as a congregation, we are more racially diverse, much more highly educated, and older by far (1/2 are 60 - 75) than the local community and counties we serve. Though we lose members due to death and relocation, we lose a smaller percentage of our population than the larger community, and we have been replacing them and remained stable! The assignment goal was to see where our target populations might be.
Another assignment was for the congregation to have three deep conversations. We chose the topics. My favorite topic will be "What does membership mean?" During deep conversations I've seen trust built and very personal information shared. It's an effective way to build community!
- It was clear from the beginning...even more so now...that numerical growth is probably the last component. For us, organic growth with good governance and processes was first; now we are into incarnational growth where our beliefs are more openly becoming actions and may attract others; and we are looking toward a new minister with an eye to deepening our maturational growth, so important to individual spiritual satisfaction and personal growth.
- It occurs to me that a by-product of the process above is that all participants - coordinators and church representatives - were congenial and shared their ideas freely to those who wished them. I found several ideas that served Barneveld well. Ideas ranged from the 80 most singable Unitarian hymns (we all got that list) to handling that never-ending list of suggestions for more projects. Yvonne Stalker of the Niagara Falls Church says "If you have a suggestion for a new project, please find two others to join you (now you have a committee) and plan how to cover the costs before bringing the idea to the Board." This kind of in-depth sharing by churches was valuable.
Radicals, Hydrofracking Topics At Universalists Convention
By Suzanne McNamara
Denominational Affairs, First Unitarian Church of Rochester
The New York State Convention of Universalists met jointly with the Pennsylvania Universalist Convention at the UU Congregation of Binghamton October 7 and 8. About 90 UUs attended, with 39 delegates from 14 New York State Universalist Convention churches. There are seven churches in the Pennsylvania convention, which had a separate business meeting.
The Friday evening presentation was from Bradford County PA on three years of experience of natural gas development (hydrofracking) in Bradford County - the "canary in the coal mine" for New Yorkers.
Saturday morning Dan McKanan, Emerson UUA Chair at Harvard Divinity School, delivered the keynote, "Before Clarence Skinner: Rediscovering Early Universalist Radicals." Workshops covered subjects as diverse as Archiving, Social Media, Spiritual Direction, and the Golden Rule.
The Binghamton Church did a super job of hospitality despite having recently suffered flooding halfway up in their basement from Tropical Storm Lee.
October News from Our Congregations
Congregations Offer Help After Storms and Flooding
St. Lawrence congregations hard hit by recent storms and floods have rallied to aid community members most in need.
Athens cooks ready bag lunches for delivery
Photo by Chris Eng
In early September, Tropical Storm Lee caused flooding throughout the Susquehanna River watershed. After a flash flood inundated Athens, members of the UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin cleaned out their basement and went to work feeding their neighbors. With water and electricity restored, they opened their building at lunchtime to serve a free meal in their social room, make their restrooms available, and give out "to-go" lunches.
According to church president Katie Replogle, they served as many as 100 persons a day for two weeks. "We were uniquely positioned in this crisis to serve our neighbors," Ms. Replogle said. "We are at the very edge of the flooded area and the damage to our building did not prevent us from continuing to operate."
Now that most in the area are back at jobs and working on their damaged homes on the weekends, church members are delivering lunches, including hot soup, on Saturdays. UUCAS received donations of food and $2000 from members and friends for the project, which Ms. Replogle calls "intensely energizing and rewarding."
A duck checks out a parking sign in Binghamton's lot.
In dry times, the sign is at windshield level.
Photo by Lora Timonin
The same storm brought flooding to the UU Congregation of Binghamton for the second time in five years. Members were able to move furniture from basement rooms just before flooding began, and they returned after it subsided to clean the area that took in more than five feet of water over three days.
Following the floods, the congregation's Caring Committee held a "Flood Relief Fair," collecting donations to the Minister's Discretionary fund and promises of household items for congregants who had flood losses. Furniture, linens, dishes, shelves, lamps, large and small appliances and gift cards were among the items donated.
Members of the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady helped congregants who suffered damage from Hurricane Irene and the tornado that hit the area at the same time. Youths from the Society traveled to Schoharie County to help with flood relief.
Jacqui Williams Joins GA Planning Committee
Jacqui Williams, a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany and chair of Catalyst, SLD's anti racism/anti oppression/ multicultural committee, has been named to one of two vacant positions on the General Assembly Planning Committee. Williams is currently president of DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries) and recently completed service on the Commission on Appraisal.
Auburn Gets a New Look
The UU Society of Auburn's new look.
Members of the UU Society of Auburn painted their church this summer and saved the congregation $4,000, according to president Katherine Potter. "No one will ever claim they never saw the church on Seward again!" says Potter of the new, bright red, facade.
Dr. Jay Williams Named Interim Minister at Barneveld
Dr. Jay Williams has been named interim part-time minister at the Unitarian Church of Barneveld. Dr. Williams, a frequent speaker at the Church, holds an A. B. from Hamilton College, an M. Div. from Union Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He retired from the Religious Studies Department at Hamilton, where he taught for fifty years, in June.
Talking Transitions at Northern Chautauqua
Jefferson Westwood and Carol Grant Smith recently spoke on "Beginnings and Transitions" at the UU Congregation of Northern Chautauqua. The two told stories from the 1980's founding of the congregation through the installation in May of Rev. Terry Kime as the congregation's first settled minister.
Schenectady Celebrates the Building's 50th Anniversary
The Great Hall in Schenectady's 50-year-old building.
Photo by Don Porter
The First Unitarian Society of Schenectady celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its building September 24 and 25. A gala on Saturday included a walk from the former building to the current site, displays, a slide show and entertainment on the theme, "Where we have been, where we are now, and how we envision the future." Sunday featured a forum with two members who supervised construction and electrical work for the building and a sermon by Rev. Priscilla Richter about the meaning of the building to the congregation and its members. A description of the weekend, written by Anniversary Committee chair Lois Porter, is here.
Watch Rochester Unitarian's Video
The First Unitarian Church of Rochester produced a video, "Coming Home" for homecoming Sunday in September. Watch it here. See also the UUWorld article, "Rochester church's rap video goes viral," here.
- E. A.
by Karen LoBracco,
SLD Program Consultant for Lifespan Faith Development
How could it happen that September is already here? But as I focus on how many summer events I missed, I notice the exuberance of the college students in my neighborhood a block away from SUNY Brockport. Yes, new beginnings are important, and you have probably detected a change in the mood at church too. Enthusiasm and good intentions are a good way to start, but as my college instructor husband reminds his students, more is needed:
9-11 and American Exceptionalism
by Dick Gilbert, SLD Social Justice Coordinator
Several thoughts raced through my mind as I attended an interfaith commemoration of 9-11 here in Rochester. The community's major and not-so-major religious figures delivered brief talks, prayers, music and silence to remind us we are one people despite all that divide us. There were a few Christians in our community, however, who wondered why the occasion should not be used to attempt to convert all in attendance to Christianity. I prefer diversity myself.
The Smart Church: Innovation
by Connie Goodbread, SLD Interim District Executive
I was a free man in Paris, I felt unfettered and alive. . .
- Joni Mitchell
My husband Bob and I have just returned from a two week vacation in France. The countryside was gorgeous. The people were kind and friendly. The wine was wonderful and the weather was fun. The art and history was rich. The road signs were unreadable and the language lyrical. We saved up for five years so that we could go. We both know how lucky we are that we had enough money to be able to do that. We both know how lucky we are that we could get the time off to spend two weeks in France. We also both understand how important it is to play.
Confessions Of A UU Evangelical
by Dave Munro, SLD President
I don't know about others, but I often get "jazzed" when I read columns of UUA President Peter Morales in the UU World. Maybe it's because what I read during my day job as an energy and environmental lawyer for NY State is much less inspiring- especially at a time when interest in (and acceptance of) climate change and renewable energy seems to be waning. In any event, Rev. Morales' recent column, "Get Religion," was right up there with his best.
Morales recognizes that his column title might be "a bit of a shock" for some UUs, especially given our historic disdain for evangelical fundamentalists and the proselytizing that we associate with such groups. Yet he urges us to "take our religion seriously. . . We have a rich tradition that we want to share and pass on to future generations."
September News from Our Congregations
FUUSA Gets a Solar Oven
Members of the Crash Course Continued class work on a solar oven for FUUSA.
Pictured are, L to R: Elaine Doremus, Sandy Steubing, Geo Kuehn,
Chris Bystroff, Carol Butt, Fred Elfenbein, Frank Simpkins.
Photo by Jonathan Newell
Members of the Crash Course Continued group at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany recently built a solar oven for the congregation.
The oven will be available to religious education classes, and for use during a power outage, according to Sandy Steubing of the C3 class. In addition to building the oven, group members demonstrated solar cooking at a late summer potluck, hoping to interest FUUSA members in energy-efficient cooking.
"If families see how easy ovens are to use and build, they may begin using this style of cooking which saves electricity and money," Ms. Steubing said. Lead solar cook Anne Marie Haber provided an additional example when, finding no free oven, she covered a cardboard box with aluminum foil to bake her plum crisp. "That did the trick - it's that easy," said Ms. Steubing.
150 persons, including local Congressman Paul Tonko, attended at least one of the seven sessions of Chris Martenson's Crash Course at FUUSA last winter. The video and discussion course deals with the impact of energy and the environment on the economy. Following the course, fifteen participants formed Crash Course Continued as a FUUSA adult education offering, according to Ms. Steubing. "Our purpose is to prepare for energy descent due to peak oil and climate change," she said.
After-abortion Talk Line Open to Calls
Connect and Breathe Inc., the after-abortion talk line initiated by Rev. Kaaren Anderson and the Reproductive Rights Task Force of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, is open to calls.
The toll-free Listening Line, 866-647-1764, is available Tuesday 6 - 9 pm EST, Thursday 6 - 9 pm EST, and Saturday, 10am - 2 pm EST. Currently, fourteen trained volunteers staff the line; training for additional volunteers is scheduled to begin soon.
In its first year, Connect and Breathe Inc. has received national recognition. It was awarded $5000 from The UU Women's Federation Equity and Justice Grants Program, which funds projects that directly affect the lives of women and girls. The grant will fund wider promotion of the organization's work. In addition, Rev. Anderson recently received the 2011 Rev. Betsy M. and Thomas R. Davis Distinguished Service Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Fundraising will continue this fall, along with a marketing campaign to distribute Listening Line materials to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other care providers throughout the East Coast and as far west as Oklahoma.
Utica Hosts Children's Peace Week
The UU Church of Utica was host in August to the 10th anniversary Children's Peace Week.
Peaceful conflict resolution and an understanding of diverse cultures are important aspects of programming at the camp, which was begun by members of the church and of the Clinton NY Quaker Meeting House. The camp, open to children in the community in the post-kindergarten - post-8th grade age range, this year included adult and youth UU's in its volunteer staff. Children attending the anniversary Peace Week learned about refugees as they performed a play, built an outdoor shelter, and listened to guest presenters.
"We received a great deal of help from the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees," said Sarah Cannon, a church and camp staff member. "They did a great interactive presentation about training refugees in skills like using American money, paying bills, using unfamiliar appliances, reading street signs, and getting help in an emergency."
HAUUS Meets Through Summer, Not in January, February
The Hornell Alfred Unitarian Universalist Society has moved its twice-monthly meetings from Saturday to Sunday afternoons from 3 - 5 pm. In addition, the congregation agreed last spring to meet through the summer and not in January and February because of potential travel difficulties after dark in winter weather.
Same-Sex Marriages Performed at Niagara Falls
The UU Church of Niagara hosted one of the first legal NYS same-sex marriages, with member Marge Gillies officiating. Rev. Terry Kime, Niagara's minister, was one of the officiants at a large group wedding ceremony on Goat Island at the Falls.
- E. A.
Welcome to New Religious Professionals in St. Lawrence District Congregations
H. Lee Richards began providing part-time ministry to Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion in June; he will be installed on October 9.
Rev. Dr. Margaret A. O'Neall has been named Interim Minister at the UU Church of Buffalo. Rev. O'Neall, who holds an M.Div. from Meadville-Lombard Theological School and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, comes to Buffalo from the UU Church of Sarasota, FL, where she served as Interim Minister.
Rev. Beverly Waring is Interim Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Glens Falls. Rev. Waring holds an M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School and an MSW from Salem State College. Previously, she was temporary second minister at First Parish in Wayland, MA.
Rev. Martha Munson will serve as Contract Minister at the First Universalist Church of Rochester while Rev. Sally Hamlin is recovering from an illness. Rev. Munson, who received an M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School, has served several congregations as Interim Minister, among them the First UU Society of Syracuse; she was the settled minister at the UU Church of East Aurora for ten years.
David Messner has been named Consulting Assistant Minister of Membership Development at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester. Mr. Messner holds an M.Div. from the University of Chicago and is a candidate for the UU Ministry.
Linda Thomson is the Intern Minister at the UU Church of Amherst. Ms. Thomson is Director of Congregational Services for the Canadian Unitarian Council.
Gretchen Weis, a second-year student at Meadville Lombard Theological School, begins a two-year, part-time student minister internship at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester this fall.
Kim Dehon has been named Director of Religious Education at the First Universalist Church of Rochester. Ms. Dehon previously served as DRE at the UU Church of Canandaigua.
Please send information about new staff in your congregation to Ellen Asprooth, St. Lawrence District Reporter, email@example.com.
Tales from the Borderlands
In January, St. Lawrence UUA Trustee David Friedman traveled with UUA president Rev. Peter Morales and other trustees to the Borderlands of Southern Arizona and Mexico to witness the US immigration system. Mr. Friedman's sermon on this experience, delivered to the Genesee UU Societies TOgether cluster and at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, follows.
It's a bright and sunny morning, though with a bit of a chill in the air as I wake at my host's condo in the foothills outside of Tucson, Az. I'm kind of tired from the previous day of long flights, waiting for others to arrive in Phoenix and then the 2 hour van ride south. But I'm ready. This is the long awaited border crossing day. The UUA Board of Trustees, on which I serve, has come to southern Arizona to fact find on immigration issues.
After breakfast, we drive the 25 minutes to the UU Church, past the office of wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. We pause long enough to admire the many dozens of square feet occupied by bouquets of flowers deposited by well wishers. The tension of the day rises a bit. At the church, we gather, do a passport and water bottle check, are briefed on logistics and set off in a convey of vans for the 75+ mile drive south.
Each van has a local guide. Ours points out all the police cars waiting outside of a neighborhood which we are told has separated administratively from the city of Tucson to protect its population which is mostly of Mexican background. Of course the police are doing only "random" checks.
The flavor of the day is now set. Our guide explains a lot during the drive. We observe the vast areas of missile silos in the Green Valley area, hopefully vestiges of a by gone era, and then past strange evidence of border security implanted in the desert. For example, wooden towers with machine guns pointed out of each quadrant, which we are told fire based on heat-sensing and without human intervention. At last, we park at an abandoned gas station next to the commercial truck crossing at Mariposa, a mile or two west of where the auto/tourist crossing station is located.
We are here because this is where the deportations take place, particularly at night. Tensions rise as we have to cross ditches, duck between trucks, and finally in single file walk through a turnstile in a fenced area. But wait, the signs have all switched to Spanish, and we are walking in a small city. We are in W. Nogales, Mexico. But no authority has asked to see a passport or asked us any questions. We just walked in and seem welcomed. Interesting!!
But my mind is not yet in Mexico. It is still occupied thinking of what I had just observed. There was this long, slightly over a quarter of a mile, tunnel which was being constructed starting in the US and proceeding under the new border fence, and then coming up in Mexico. Our guide said this was a tunnel to be used for deportation. Great, your federal tax dollars at work! Technology has solved the problem of needing to deport people under the cover of darkness, we can now shove people into a tunnel and say adios. What value system is being applied here? Certainly NOT my UU one!
We walk a goodly distance and are ushered into a food & clothing shelter, a "comedor" operated by the Jesuits and funded by the Diocese's of Mexico City and South Arizona. This shelter feeds and helps clothe the newly deported who walk in right after being forced across the border. We are briefed and learn that business has slowed down to maybe 250 to 300 customers on a good night vs. the 800 to 1000 in the recent past.
We meet some people and hear their stories. One that sticks is from a young mother, Lourdes, who has made 3 attempts at crossing back into US. Recently she spent 15 days in the life-threatening desert, and is already planning the next try. Why is she so motivated? She has 9 and 15 year-old children at an aunt's home in California, her residential state, and she feels called to be present there. We are told that the US Visa application process has a 5% success rate with a 5-8 year long processing time. So guess what? Most folks have stopped applying and opt for taking their chances in the desert.
My liberal underpinnings, including the assumption that our federal government is generally a defender of liberty and for humanitarian rights, is now being challenged. I need to hear more context-setting stories. So our UU delegation splits-up, leaves the comedor, and I decide to join the group walking over to the local bus terminal/shelter. It is run by a local entrepreneur. We plan to interview those waiting there who might be willing to talk to us. These stories would not be subject to orchestration, and I figured if I hung out with Trustee Jake Morrill and President Peter Morales, both who are fluent in Spanish, I'd make out OK. I did not know the anguish that was coming.
The first story that I witnessed was a mother with her 8 year old daughter who were residents of Atlanta. She was properly documented, employed and a tax payer. Seems she had to return to Mexico for a family emergency and did not have the 5 weeks to wait for travel approval, so she went anyway trusting her documents. Back at the border, she was told that her US papers had been voluntarily forfeited by virtue of her unapproved travels. This woman was at wits ends as her estranged and sometimes violent husband was threatening to pick up her one year old, whom she had left in the care of a neighbor back in Atlanta. It was gripping when the 8 year old grabbed onto our UUA Trustee from Atlanta pleading to be taken home so she could go back to school, even if her mother couldn't join her.
I wandered over to a group surrounding President Morales, noticing a tall individual with a tell tale backwards NY Yankees cap on. Overheard that this chap was in US with papers, but was picked up on a DWI charge, so he pleaded not-guilty figuring that this would get him a trial. Surprise, he was now in Nogales, Mexico with his papers, his money, and his cell phone confiscated. Did I say he was a tax-paying job holder when he was in NYC?
I moved one last time, this time to hear an agitated young man, who also had everything he was carrying confiscated. Seems he did not have papers to work in US, but had been gainfully employed in Phoenix for the past 11 years. His wife did have US papers, and his two young children are US citizens by virtue of being born in Arizona. But he got caught at a traffic stop because of a defective tail light. Thus a family will now be divided up and go on welfare in Phoenix, and yes, US taxes won't get paid by this fellow, but apparently homeland security is enhanced by this apprehension and deportation, or so it is implied.
So I ask do these stories suggest that you, your friends and neighbors here far from the Arizona border are safe from such goings on? Note that Atlanta, New York City, as well as Phoenix were mentioned in my narrative. Does the confiscation of money, cell phones, all paper documentation and contact lists meet your concept of humanitarian treatment of people? Does the inherent worth and dignity of all persons carry any weight in policy?
So by the time we walked back over the border, or at least what I thought is a border (though now I am not sure what exactly a border is with regards to jurisdictional matters on each side of line), we were emotionally drained. And yes, our passports were carefully examined coming into the US.
Our over supper de-briefing hosted by the UU congregation in Green Valley helped a bit, and there was a lovely sunset. We did not hear any of the heat-seeking drones we were told that our government flies over the desert at night.
So the question to pose here is: Is this experience just mine to ponder, or does this matter to you? To try to make the case that this matters to all of us who live in the western New York area or anywhere else in the country for that matter, I share some learnings from day two of our fact finding tour. We were back in Tucson for a structured day of visits, to meet with neighborhood organizers building support networks for divided families, and supposedly to view 65 - 70 shackled defendants on trial as a group under the Operation Streamline program. This morphed into an interview of attorneys of the Public Defender's Office, as trials were on hold that week.
In this day of intense briefings, I learned that on the current US president's watch, more than 46,000 children have been deported, and am told most without their parents [yes, 46,000 is the correct number]. Families are often split up and deported individually through very geographically separated border crossings. The term is "lateral repatriation." If you Google "lateral repatriation," an officially cleansed explanation is provided. I learned that cell phones, contingency contact lists, always all money and often personal medications are routinely confiscated by the authorities, just as our bus terminal interviews had indicated. But the operators of the comedor did tell us at least they are no longer receiving 6 to 8 year olds deported over the border in their underwear at 2 AM.
But despite this, maybe like me, you feel that border control matters, after all, there are drug cartels just across the border who have murdered an estimated 34,000 people in the last 2 years. And what about population control? And maybe like I, you were caught up in the media framing of the story so that the Arizona deportation context is that people without documents are crossing the border into the desert, are getting caught and sent back. Some of this does happens I suppose.
But the real evidence as observed in the stories and briefings just related here seems much, much different, and are inconsistent with the UU values of compassion and love, and inconsistent with the founding principles of this great nation. I am compelled to speak out.
Remember the new deportation tunnel I talked about earlier, and the range of 250 to 800 people arriving per night at the comedor after deportation through the Mariposa truck crossing? Well the officials in Tucson briefed us that greater than 50% of the people deported through this south Arizona "zone" have nothing to do with Arizona. They do not live in Arizona, and were not caught in Arizona (witness the NYC and Atlanta bus terminal folks). Deportees are from all over the US, California, NYC, Chicago (Chicago has more immigrants from Mexico than has either the state of Arizona or the state of New Mexico, for that matter). Most deportees have been in the US for over 10 years and 74% have children who are US citizens. Many hold jobs that make them US taxpayers. The immigration control folks have no independent accountability. Homeland Security thus far having successfully declined to establish any form of independent review board.
So I do need to ask: Why are we spending millions on a deportation tunnel? Is this securing borders and enhancing homeland security, or aimed at something ELSE?
Lest you think my mind is totally gone, Google "ATTRITION BY ENFORCEMENT", I repeat "Attrition by Enforcement" to get a view of what right wing propaganda says about this... how it took decades to get these 12 million people declared illegal etc., etc.. These south Arizona deportations are soon coming to Western New York and to our community and neighborhood if they haven't already. Perhaps the goal of this program is to harass immigrants into self deporting and perhaps more resembles ethnic cleansing than securing our borders. I need to ask: Are the 300,000 to 500,000 undocumented Irish alleged to be in the Boston metro subject to such indignities of treatment or even mentioned as problematic? If not, why not? Guess the answer is obvious.
Let me bring this sermon message home: Rochester has another problem, geographic location. Remember my mentioned confusion as to what is a border, at least as to jurisdictions and laws that apply on each side? Let's say the edge of this stage is the US/Mexican border and you are on the Mexican side. (I step off the stage and then return to the podium). When I stepped off stage, I became subject to the laws of Mexico, right? Correct! When I stepped back up on the stage, I became subject to the laws and constitutional protections of the US, being now in the USA, right?
Not exactly! At least, yes for me and likely you but not for all. I stepped back into what the ACLU calls a "Constitution Free Zone." This extends until I am a full 100 miles into the US from the borderline. While in this 100 mile zone, if I cannot prove my US legal residency on the spot, I can be turned over to Homeland Security and Border Patrol as if caught on the border itself and can be summarily deported. In fact, I could be held for months in a detention center and deported at a future date. I would have no right to an attorney, would not be automatically entitled to an appearance before a judge, no right to call family, and I would just join the disappeared. Yes, here in the USA, and the ACLU says this applies to Rochester (as it does to Tucson Metro). Since we are within 100 miles of the Canadian border, undocumented Mexicans immigrants could be arrested and turned over to Border Patrol and disappear for deportation (probably out of the Arizona zone). I now pay attention when I see a Border Patrol SUV with a stopped passenger vehicle on Route 390.
FOLKS, this is OUR COUNTRY and OUR BACK YARD and these actions are taken in OUR NAME. These are not some overzealous nuts out in the far distant wild west, but OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND OUR POLICIES AND OUR TAX PAYER DOLLARS working, and the actions are running ran shackle over our expressed Unitarian Universalist values.
It hurts to learn that the situation is likely worse on Obama's watch than on that of George Bush. Increasingly, fear is driving immigration policy and it is irrational and out of hand. Arizona is simply ground zero for Homeland Security whose actions are coming to a theater in your town shortly.
Well, where does this leave us and is there anything we can do?
First, Let us recall that in 2009, our Association launched a campaign branded: Standing on the Side of Love. Why? In the words of the organizers:
"This is a time of great hope and possibility, yet our communities are threatened by the increased prevalence of acts motivated by fear and hate.
"No one should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence because of their identities.
"In public debates over immigration, LGBT rights, and more, religious people stand on the side of love and call for respect, inclusion, and compassion."
We can embody the principles of Standing on the Side of Love in all that we do and insist that our public officials approach the needed control of our nation's borders in a principled, humanitarian, and compassionate way. We can do more to inform ourselves, keeping our eyes open.
As a sampler, on October 29, the St. Lawrence District Social Justice Conference is being held at our sister church downtown, and the UU Reverend Susan Frederick-Grey of Phoenix, who also chairs the UUA's Arizona Immigration Ministry, will be present and the keynoter. As a larger commitment, consider attending the Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012 which will have this topical focus and will provide an opportunity to witness for justice.
We can support our state's governor in pulling New York out of the "Safe Communities Program," which provides the basis for local police turning undocumented detainees directly over to the US immigration authorities with a likely ensuing deportation. Through the church and its partners, we can learn more about what is going on in the local migrant worker scene.
So I conclude with the thoughts:
- REMEMBER THAT ACTIONS CAN BE ILLEGAL BUT PEOPLE CANNOT!
- LEARN MORE!
- DO MORE!
- STAY GROUNDED!
- REMEMBER STANDING ON THE SIDE OF LOVE!
- IMAGINE WHAT THE WORLD LOOKS LIKE IF STANDING ON THE SIDE OF LOVE IN FACT BECOMES OUR STANDARD PRACTICE!
- SERVE NEEDS GREATER THAN YOUR OWN!
- WE CAN FIX THIS PROBLEM, HOWEVER DIFFICULT.
- LET IT BE SO!!!
SLD Congregations Join to Offer Coming of Age
The Coming of Age class in cooler times
The UU Fellowship of Big Flats and the UU Church of Athens and Shesequin teamed up this year to offer a Coming of Age program, an experience not always available to youth in family-sized congregations.
Rev. Darcey Laine of UUCAS led the program in collaboration with parents and volunteers from both congregations. Six youth, aged 12-14, each completed ten hours of community service, met regularly with a mentor, and participated in a program of theological reflection. In addition, the group held a retreat and outdoor silent vigil. Following completion of the program, each of the youth gave a short homily during a service honoring them at UUCAS.
Participants were Teague Bower of Athens, Reeder Bruffey of Corning, Sarah Christiansen of Athens, Rickie Crawford of Sayre, Alexa Kline of Waverly and Bevan MacPike of Elmira.
This was the second joint Coming of Age program the two congregations have offered. The first, in 2009, was inspired by Lydia Bruffey, a youth member of UUFBF, who noticed the COA calendar listing when attending services at UUCAS.
SLD Staff, Leaders Are Presenters at General Assembly
Rev. Scott Tayler and Rev. Kaaren Anderson
at GA Sunday worship
Representatives of the St. Lawrence District and CERG Region gave sermons, led worship, and offered workshops at the recent UU General Assembly in Charlotte, NC. Links to resources they offered and coverage of their presentations follow.
Rev. Kaaren Anderson and Rev. Scott Tayler, Parish Co-Ministers of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, led GA's Sunday morning service, "Living Outside the Box." Watch the video of the service and read the text here.
Rev. Dick Gilbert, minister emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester and SLD Social Justice Consultant, preached at the Ministry Days 25/50 Worship Service, representing ministers who had served for 50 years. See the UU World story about the service here,
and read the text of Rev. Gilbert's sermon here. Rev. Gilbert was also a member of the panel for "Moral Imagination: 50 Years of UU Social Justice." Watch that workshop here.
Connie Goodbread, SLD Interim District Executive, and Rev. Dr. Richard Speck, Joseph Priestley District Executive, offered a workshop called "Mature Leaders Foster Growth." See a PowerPoint presentation on that subject prepared by Ms. Goodbread here.
Rev. Craig Schwalenberg and Sarah Summers of the UU Society of Oneonta won the UU-United Nations Office Dana Greeley Award for their sermon, "Ethical Aspects of Climate Change." Watch the sermon here.
Mary Jones, Director of Member Services, and Rev. Kaaren Anderson of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester presented a membership workshop entitled "Powerful Pathways to Membership: Large Congregations." The workshop PowerPoint presentation is available here.
Jacqui Williams of the First UU Society of Albany participated in "Views From the Pews: Race and Unitarian Universalism." Read UU World online coverage of the workshop, "Difficult to be a UU and a person of color," here.
Ms. Williams is also a member of the Commission on Appraisal. For coverage of the Commission's Plenary report, see "Commission on Appraisal continues study of ministry and authority."
Mark Bernstein, CERG Regional Consultant for Growth Development was a presenter in two workshops on disability issues. Read the slides for "Hospitality Holds the Keys to Accessibility" here
and for "What Else Is In My 'Invisible Knapsack'?" here.
Jan Gartner, former DRE at the First Universalist Church of Rochester and at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, and new UUA Professional Development Associate for Religious Education and Music Leaders, was one of the presenters for "Learning Together Musically," a workshop on music in multigenerational and children's worship. See her resources here and here.
Rev. Scott Tayler of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester didn't use slides or handouts at his workshop "Intentional Programming for Adult Faith Development." However, the audio recordings of his and most GA workshops and programs may be purchased; a listing of recordings is available here.
- E. A.
District Congregations Stand on the Side of Love as Marriage Equality Is Debated and Passes in New York
|Members of Albany and Schenectady congregations at Troy interfaith rally
See also video of Robb Smith, Executive Director of Interfaith Impact and member of the Albany congregation, speaking at the rally.
||UU's with banner at a Statehouse rally, June 21|
(photo by Don Porter)
|Kevin O'Connor of Schenectady, Rev. Sam Trumbore, and Albany DRE Leah Purcell outside the Senate Majority Leader's office, June 20
(photo by Don Porter)
||Nora Purcell of Albany at a June Marriage Equality demonstration|
|Post-passage celebration at Rochester Unitarian under its five-year-old banner
||Katie Replogle and Chris Eng, of Athens and Sheshequin, helped carry the Heritage of Pride banner at the front of the NYC Gay Pride parade the day after passage|
Representatives of St. Lawrence District congregations were featured or quoted in a number of stories about the vote to approve marriage equality in New York. Rev. Jen Crow and Loretta Mitchell of Rochester Unitarian were featured in a story a week before approval.
Following passage of the bill, among those quoted were Rev. Lucy Ijams, minister of the UU Church of Utica; Tamara Miller, president of the UU Fellowship of Big Flats; Rev. Jean Wahlstrom of May Memorial UU Society in Syracuse; and Rev. Joel Miller of the UU Church of Buffalo.
- E. A.
Marriage Equality Is the Law in NYS!
Following a 33-29 vote in the NYS Senate, the Marriage Equality Act was signed into law late Friday night, June 24. Congratulations to the countless members and friends of St. Lawrence District congregations who signed petitions, who joined demonstrations, who called, wrote, and visited legislators in support of the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples.
Northern Chautauqua Installs Rev. Theresa Kime
Rev. Theresa Kime with
UUCNC Board President Donald Dowling
photo by Mitchell Cummings
Rev. Theresa Kime has been installed as Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northern Chautauqua.
Rev. Dr. Tim Ashton of the UU Church of Amherst gave the sermon at Rev. Kime's installation May 22. Rev. Dr. Lynn Ashley, of the UU Church of Barneveld, gave the charge to the congregation; Rev. Rodney Houck and Father Daniel O'Rourke gave the charge to the minister. Karen LoBracco, St. Lawrence District Program Consultant, brought greetings from the District and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Among those who took part in the installation were Donald Dowling, UUCNC executive board president; Julie Clark, Virginia Horvath, and Amy O'Connell, past presidents; Mitchell Cummings, president-elect; Jefferson Westwood, Wendy Westwood, and Carol Grant Smith, founding members of the congregation; and Connie Salisbury, member of congregation's predecessor, the Adams Memorial Church. Other participants from the congregation were Myra McAlevey and Jack McAlevey, youth group representatives; Leanna White McMahon; and Karen and Chris Taverna and their daughters. Musicians included Connie Salisbury, Cheryl Ritch, Barb Albert; Jack McAlevey; Cate McAllister, Greg Forsgren, and the UUCNC choir.
Rev. Kime is a graduate of San Francisco State University and Starr King School for the Ministry. In addition to her ministry with Northern Chautauqua, she currently is Consulting Minister to the UU Church of Niagara. She has previously served congregations in Erie, PA: Cleveland Heights, OH; Jamestown, NY; and San Rafael, CA.
- E. A.
Brockport Members Sign Charter
Rev. Peggy Meeker and Interim District Executive
Connie Goodbread at Brockport Charter Sunday
photo by Marie Gibson
Thirty persons became charter members of the Brockport UU Fellowship at the congregation's recent Charter Sunday service.
St. Lawrence Interim District Executive Connie Goodbread preached at the service, which drew more than sixty to the Garland Church in Brockport where the Fellowship meets.
BUUF will submit its charter and apply for membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association later this summer.
"Two years ago, we had 10 persons at worship," said Rev. Peggy Meeker, Organizing Minister for the congregation. "Now we have 30 to 40 at Sunday services." BUUF holds worship services on the first and third Sundays, and adult education on the second Sunday.
In addition to Rev. Meeker and Ms. Goodbread, participants in the Charter service included Worship Associates Bonnie Beiswenger, Matt O'Donnell, and Don Zimmer; Karen LoBracco, Children's Faith Development Coordinator; Rev. Maureen Thitchener, Minister Emerita, UU Church of Canandaigua; Lee Richards, Minister, Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, Albion; and Timothy Burns, guest musician. David Markham, who initiated plans for the Fellowship, and Mr. Zimmer, Chair of the Steering Committee, assisted with the ceremony of membership.
For more information about the Brockport UU Fellowship, see its website at www.brockportuu.org.
- E. A.
Rochester Unitarian Greater Good Program Profiled in UUA Video
The Greater Good holiday giving program at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester is the second St. Lawrence congregation to be profiled in the Unitarian Universalist Association's "A Religion for Our Time" series. The Greater Good asks members to add up their planned holiday spending and give half to the church for two charities chosen by children in the church school. View the five-minute video here.
Mid-Sized Congregations Focus on Growth
Karen LoBracco and Mark Bernstein at
"Running With the Big Dogs"
Photo by Leah Purcell
Teams from four mid-sized congregations - including a group of 17 from the UU Church of Buffalo - met in Syracuse recently to find out what it takes to "run with the big dogs."
In addition to Buffalo delegation, the growth conference drew nine representatives from the UU Congregation of Binghamton, six from the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady and four from the First UU Society of Albany, as well as a staff member from the Canadian Unitarian Council.
Mark Bernstein, Central East Region (CERG) Growth Development Consultant, planned and organized the conference, assisted by Karen LoBracco, SLD Program Consultant, and Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Leadership Development Consultant. According to Ms. LoBracco, a highlight of day was the "speed networking" exercise, which she describes as "a fast-paced alternative to group discussion." Before the conference, participants read Moving On From Church Folly Lane by Robert Latham; follow-up webinars will be scheduled in June.
- E. A.
The Smart Church - Clarity
By Connie Goodbread
Leadership is the spiritual process of discerning what one believes (clarity), acting on that
belief in the public arena (decisiveness), and standing behind that action (responsibility)
despite the varied responses of people (courage). - Rev. Frank Thomas
The first portion of this leadership quote, Leadership is the spiritual process of discerning
what one believes is about clarity. In other words, having clarity about one’s core values and the
principle upon which one is taking a stand helps leaders to act decisively, responsibly and with
At this liminal moment in the maturational growth of our faith, we find that it is vitally important
that we understand what our shared core values are. While it is a relatively easy task for us, as
individuals, to know the values by which we live our lives, it is more difficult for us as faith
communities to come to our shared values. It takes discernment, genuine relationship and depth
of understanding. This discernment is central to the growth of our faith.
Lincoln's Visit to First Unitarian Church of Buffalo Remembered
Left: First Unitarian Church where Fillmore and Lincoln worshipped in in 1861 (from the archives of the UU Church of Buffalo)
Right: The former First Unitarian Church building in 2006 (photo by Bill Parke)
An exhibit at the UU Church of Buffalo focuses on Abraham Lincoln's visit to the congregation during his inaugural trip from Springfield, Ill. to Washington, DC.
"Lincoln's 1861 Visit to Buffalo: Enjoying Unitarian Friends and Worship at the First Unitarian Church," was mounted in February to coincide with a presentation at the church of Lincoln's Buffalo speech. UUCB cosponsored the event, part of the National Park Service's "Civil War to Civil Rights" program.
The exhibit explains that Lincoln attended Sunday services at the First Unitarian Church with former President Millard Fillmore, a charter member of the congregation. The church building where that service was held still stands, now owned and used for offices by Erie County.
According to Bill Parke, UUCB historian and creator of the exhibit, Fillmore's welcome and hospitality to Lincoln contributed to the success of the Buffalo stop. "Lincoln's inaugural trip is an important part of our history," Parke said. "This exhibit puts a UU perspective on the Lincoln and Fillmore event here in Buffalo."
The exhibit will remain on display at the church into the summer.
- E. A.
Registration Open for UULTI Leadership School
Leadership, growth, and theology tracks will be offered at this year's Unitarian Universalist Leadership Team Institute, the three-site leadership school of the Central East Regional Group (CERG). Registration with reduced fees is open through May 15.
Here in the St. Lawrence District, UULTI By the Lake is scheduled for Sunday - Wednesday, July 24 - 27 at Notre Dame Retreat Center in Canandaigua. It will offer three tracks: Adaptive Leadership, led by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Regional Consultant for Leadership Development; Mission-based Growth, led by Rev. Joan VanBecelaere, Ohio-Meadville District Executive; and Practical Theology, led by Rev. Douglas Taylor, Minister of the UU Congregation of Binghamton.
In addition, the leadership school will offer opportunities to view the leadership learning experience through different lenses. At UULTI By the Lake, lenses and their leaders will be: Faith Development - Pat Infante, CERG Regional Consultant for Faith Development; Transformative Multicultural Sensibility - Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, Minister of the UU Church of Kent, Ohio; and Healthy Systems - Karen LoBracco, SLD Program Consultant for Lifespan Faith Development.
Two other UULTIs are also available this summer. Track content and lenses may vary at UULTI on the Hill, at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, July 7 - 10; and UULTI by the Sea, at Ocean Grove Retreat Center in Ocean Grove New Jersey, August 18 - 21. Rev. Mary Grigolia will be the Musician at all three UULTIs.
Congregations are encouraged to send teams to the leadership school, and to consider including youths or young adults on those teams.
For information about the UULTI experience, see "UULTI Participants Find Spiritual Ground," "UULTI Team Brings Back Energy, Spiritual Leadership," "Good Leaders Critical to Healthy Congregations," and "Change is the Thing at UU Leadership Training Institute." Registration materials for this year's UULTIs are available at http://cerguua.org/programs/uulti.html.
- E. A.
Rev. Chris Antal Ordained by Albany Congregation
Rev. Chris Antal with his children and the chalice
Photo by Chris Strebel
Rev. Chris John Antal was ordained Sunday, March 20, by the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. Rev. Antal was Intern Minister at Albany during the 2009 - 2010 church year.
Dr. Douglas Johnston, President and Founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy in Washington, DC, gave the sermon, "Creating Peace Through Faith Based Diplomacy." District Ministers with roles in the ordination included Rev. Craig Schwalenberg, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta; Rev. Faith Grover Scott, retired Minister; Rev. Dr. Deane Perkins, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Glens Falls; Rev. Dr. Lynn Ashley, Minister of the Unitarian Church of Barneveld; Rev. Priscilla Richter, Minister of the Unitarian Society of Schenectady; and Rev. Sam Trumbore, Minister of the Albany congregation.
Other participants included Richard Antal, Rev. Antal's father; Dave Munro, past president of the Albany congregation and Vice President of the St. Lawrence District; Jacqui Williams, co-chair of the SLD Anti-Racism Team, Catalyst, member of the Albany congregation and mentor to Rev. Antal during his internship; Jill Antal Smith, Rev. Antal's sister; Matt Edwards, Albany Music Director; Dr. Kathy Winings, Academic Dean and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Unification Theological Seminary; Chuck Manning, President of the Albany Congregation; Kate Dahlstedt and Dr. Edward Tick, co-founders and directors of Soldier's Heart, based in Troy, NY and mentors to Rev. Antal; Jan Satin, a member of Rev. Antal's Internship Committee; Barbara Manning, a member of the Albany Membership Committee; and Rev. Kay Greenleaf, retired Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie, NY.
- E. A.
Albany, Binghamton Named Threshold Congregations
The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany and the UU Congregation of Binghamton have been selected as Threshold Congregations by the UUA's Central East Regional Group.
The Threshold program offers the assistance of CERG's staff to congregations ready to break through to another level of size, activity and effectiveness. Calling Albany and Binghamton "wonderful, energetic congregations with enormous potential," St. Lawrence Interim District Executive Connie Goodbread said the program should help them to realize that potential.
Nine threshold congregations were selected from twenty-five applicants from the four districts that make up the region. The nine will work with CERG consultants over a three-year period on aspects of church life identified in their applications as meriting additional attention or a new approach.
In Binghamton, for instance, the congregation has made steady progress over the last ten years, but has reached a plateau, according to Addie Deacon, moderator. A focus of their Threshold application is leadership development. "We need to develop a really intentional, structured leadership development program," she said. "We need not only to have a pool of persons to fill positions, but to have people who feel they are ready to take on bigger jobs."
Rev. Douglas Taylor, Binghamton's minister, says lay leadership development is a "key piece" of what needs to happen if the program-size congregation is to break out of the pastoral size model. "We need to develop people who see themselves as leaders and also have the skill set to open things up," he said.
Albany president Chuck Manning said his congregation wants to become more intentional about bringing anti-racism and multiculturalism into church life, and to engage more of the congregation in social justice work. "We'd like to see nearly everyone in the congregation engaged in some kind of social justice work over the course of the year," he said.
Membership coordination is another area of focus in Albany, according to Mr. Manning. "We're really strong in relating to people when they come in, but we need to spend time focusing on the transition period, after they become members," he said. "We need to learn how to integrate them into the congregation so they feel connected and stay connected over the long term."
How will the Threshold program help? Rev. Sam Trumbore, minister at FUUSA, said just being named a Threshold congregation is important to his congregation. "The congregation needs to see that it's doing well - its self-image needs to be encouraged and supported," he said. "The recognition of all the hard work we're doing helps build people's commitment and willingness to put energy and time into making things happen."
Rev. Taylor emphasized the importance of the expertise and resources the CERG consultants will bring to their work with his congregation. "If we want to change from a nominating committee to a leadership development committee, we won't have to have two or three people spending a lot of time doing research on other models and available resources," he said. "The CERG staff has done the research, and they'll work with us." In addition, Rev. Taylor said, the continuity provided by a three-year program will be helpful. "Having someone walk with us for three years will have a deeper impact on our culture, on the ways we think and do things," he said. "Having that kind of relationship keeps things moving, goes deeper, further, and lasts longer."
Representatives of both congregations said they looked forward to another part of the program: sharing their experiences as Threshold congregations. Karen Palmer, St. Lawrence District President, said this aspect of the work is particularly important to the district. As the Threshold congregations share their learnings with neighboring congregations, she said, "the results will be exponential!" As a beginning to that work, copies of the successful Threshold applications from Albany and Binghamton are available here on the district website.
- E. A.
Albany Presents First Love Award
Chuck Manning Presents Love Award to Lynne Jackson
photo by Chris Strebel
On Valentine's Day the First UU Society of Albany gave its first Love Award to local activist Lynne Jackson. Ms. Jackson was selected for her work as co-founder of Project SALAM - Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims.
In presenting the award, Albany President Chuck Manning cited Ms. Jackson's compassion and concern for Muslims who have met with intolerance and injustice. "In public debates over religious profiling and unjust prosecutions, she stands on the side of love and calls for respect, inclusion, and compassion," he said. Project SALAM provides public witness, community organizing, and work for systemic change.
Albany's award, Mr. Manning said, was based on the national Standing on the Side of Love Campaign, using love to challenge identity-based exclusion, oppression and violence.
- E. A.
Group Focuses on Spiritual Deepening
by Jennifer Wapinski-Mooradian
The Spiritual Deepening Council had its first phone conference
meeting on Saturday, January 22, 2011.
Formation of this Council was an important component of the
Long-Range Plan adopted at District Assembly last April. The
need for such a Council was identified by several friends and
members of congregations in our District.
During the phone meeting, members of the Council
articulated what the work of the Council should be, including our
expectations and goals. Many ideas for resources and programming
were shared. The Council also discussed connecting to young adults
in congregations, and how to best serve their spiritual needs in
their phase of life.
Members of the Council will be facilitating a Spiritual Deepening
workshop at District Assembly in Ithaca, April 29-30 in Ithaca, NY.
The workshop will seek participants' input for items for the
Council to consider as it develops.
The Spiritual Deepening Council is made up of a
variety of religious professionals and lay leaders from the Saint
- Barb Green, member and Chair of the Ministerial Relations
Committee, UU Congregation, Glens Falls
- Dave Munro, District Board Member and Board Liason to the
Council, member and Chair of Nominating Committee, UU
- Rev. Priscilla Richter, Minister, UU Congregation, Schenectady
- Michael Scott, active member of First Universalist, Rochester,
and life-long UU
- Rev. Tina Simson, Director of Lay Ministries at First
- Brin Taylor, Student, Young Adult Representative, and
life-long Unitarian Universalist
- Rev. Douglas Taylor, Minister, UU Congregation, Binghampton
- Jennifer Wapinski-Mooradian, Director of Religious Education,
UU Congregation, Ithaca
Canandaigua Teens Sponsor Standing on the Side of Love Vigil
SOSL Vigil in Canandaigua
Photo by Sarahfina Wipf
Holding "Standing on the Side of Love," and "Unitarian Universalists for Love" signs, teens and adults from the UU church of Canandaigua participated in a youth-led vigil February 13.
Canandaigua's Young Religious Unitarian Universalists held their vigil on a church member's property after Sunday services. "We are holding this event because we want to harness the power of love to stop oppression," their fliers said.
"Last year the youth group members handed out fliers and signs to make the congregation aware of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign," said Youth Programming Leader Scarlett Miles. "This year they wanted to do something more."
February 14 was the second annual Standing On the Side of Love Day, part of the UUA-sponsored campaign promoting respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
- E. A.
Connect and Breathe Opens In Rochester
An after-abortion nonjudgmental talkline initiated by Rev. Kaaren Anderson and the Reproductive Rights Task Force of the First Unitarian Church has opened in Rochester.
Read the story of Connect and Breathe in “To listen without judging” in the UU World on line, and see the organization’s website at connectandbreathe.org.
Thoughts for February from Karen and Connie
An Aha Moment
A few years ago, I volunteered my time and energy to support a political candidate. I had the opportunity to work pretty closely with Kimberly, a staff member of the campaign who happened to be a person of color. We were working very hard together to get out the vote. One day, Kimberly and I decided to take a break, have some coffee and chat. We talked about a lot of things and got to know each other better. The conversation turned to exploring why we were investing so much of ourselves into the effort to get someone elected. I said that my intention was to stand for the principles I believe in by working to get someone in office whom I felt would support those principles. Kimberly said, "I'm doing this so I don't get killed some day just because of my skin color". Wow...I did not see that coming. I was under the illusion that after the civil rights movement, people of color still felt the effects of subtle racism, particularly at the institutional level, but that fears of the overt racism that could result in a threat to one's life was basically a thing of the past. How ignorant I was!
As Unitarian Universalists we struggle with acknowledging that our denomination tends to attract people who are white, middle class, well educated, heterosexual, over 40 years old, and without significant disability. In other words, we are the church of the open mind and the dominant class. Could this change? Do we want this to change? What would it mean if this changed? What would we be called to do and be for this to change? Is this just about being more welcoming or would it require us to reinvent how we do worship, programming, and governance in our congregations? How can we open ourselves to the possibility of creating true multicultural and multigenerational community? We'll be exploring these and other questions together during District Assembly in April.
Jacqui Williams, one of our Catalyst co-chairs and a scheduled presenter for DA, shared with me recently that it's not so much about focusing on bringing more people of color (or people who identify with other marginalized groups) into our congregations. It's more about doing "inner" work. It's about having those "aha" moments where one's eyes become open to a new awareness and the heart opens up as a result. It's about what Kimberly did for me and I am grateful to her for that gift.
The Smart Church: Multi-Multi-Multi
"Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common.
Celebrate it every day." -- Unknown
In 1961 the Unitarians and the Universalists found a way to put aside their differences and join together as one faith. Theologians said that this experiment would bring about the greatest theological discussion of all time. One thing that makes us a unique spiritual discipline, a unique faith, is that we are the people of the many paths. We believe that all paths to the truth and a good heart are good paths. There is no fundamentalism (the idea that there is only one way) in Unitarian Universalism. There is not a creed that one must adopt or adhere to in order to be in full fellowship. We are a covenantal faith. We think that how we behave, how we come together and how we treat each other and the world is more important than how individuals come to truth.
When other liberal denominations talk about diversity they speak of diversity of beliefs. They struggle with how they might be more open minded about beliefs. When we speak of diversity we speak of age, ethnicity and socioeconomic differences, not beliefs. However, if we look at our common worship one could deduce that we have one way of doing worship and that way is adult, Euro-American in flavor. We lean toward the intellectual, meditative and classical music kind of worship. There is little movement, little to no encouragement from the congregation to the minister, other kinds of music, portions that would appeal to children or young adults, hand clapping, dancing or noise.
This is, of course, one way to worship. This worship style feeds some people. If we are to become the multi-theological, multi-generational, multi-cultural congregations and faith that we say we wish to be, then we must begin to offer other kind of worship too.
What would we need to change? Remember that the only thing that we have any control over is ourselves, so this question is actually - what do I need to change? What do I need to change about myself in order to be more open to the worship needs of others? How do I move from my personal likes, dislikes and needs to being more accepting of the likes, dislikes and needs of others?
The practice of radical hospitality is the practice of opening one's heart to the needs of others. St. Francis said, "Seek to understand before seeking to be understood." I do not like joys and sorrows. If I had my way we would not have this ritual in worship. However, there are times during a well-done set of joys and sorrows that I look around at the congregation and I see that others love this. I want to be in community. I want to move out of myself and into that which is larger than myself. I wish to be open and accepting of the worship needs of others. So I try to put my dislike aside and allow that ritual to feed those whose dish it is.
We say we love differences, until one shows up, then we want everyone to be justlike us. This is a common human trait. We need to recognize that this is normal, but does it help us to grow the kinds of congregations we want or does it get in the way?
Would you invite someone to your home for dinner and then not have anything for them to eat? No, none of us would do that. Worship is the public table set by the congregation. Worship is the time we set aside each week to uphold and celebrate those values that we find most worthy. If we truly value diversity then we need to set the worship table so that a diverse group of people will find a dish that is to their liking. Look around your congregation during worship. Who is not there? Those missing people are the people who are not fed by the worship.
My suggestion here is not that each and every congregation change its entire worship style. My suggestion is that we begin a discussion and deliberate discernment about who we are and who we want to be. I suggest that we take a sincere look at our worship services and either begin to add other elements, or totally different worship services at different times, so that a variety of people will be fed.
Interim District Executive
New Congregation is Family-Focused
UU Congregation of the Two Rivers Steering Committee,
L to R: David Street; Sylvia Vatalaro; Vicki Hedeen;
Rev. Linda Hoddy; Bob Hedeen; Kristin Greenberg;
Betsy Bitner; Jennifer Fullam; Vee Abbitt;
Jennifer Stanley; Leslie Eisele
Photo by Bob Hedeen
The integration of children and adults in church life is a focus of the UU Congregation of the Two Rivers in Clifton Park.
In January, the congregation began holding worship services on the second Sunday of the month and religious education on the fourth Sunday. Adults and children attend both gatherings. "The idea of multigenerational services was the steering committee's," says Rev. Linda Hoddy, New Congregation Organizing Minister. "I'm encouraging them to reinvent the worship service."
The religious education topic is the same as that of the worship service two weeks earlier, and involves discussion groups for adults and children, followed by a joint project. "We're hoping to tweak the expectations for religious education - that kids go off to another room while adults stay in the worship service," says Jennifer Stanley, member of the Two Rivers steering committee. "We see a real benefit to having everyone learn together, having the children see that learning doesn't stop for adults."
Forty-seven persons attended the Congregation's first public service - a good turnout, according to Rev. Hoddy, who says she is "absolutely convinced" that this is the right area for a new congregation. She chaired the District's New Congregations Task Force that reported in 2003, citing demographic studies in its recommendation of Clifton Park as a promising site.
The CRUUNY (Capital Region UU's of New York) cluster and its four member congregations have supported the development of the Congregation of the Two Rivers, and its steering committee includes representatives from the Albany and Schenectady congregations. The cluster's annual combined service in June this year will feature Rev. Scott Alexander speaking at the Round Lake Auditorium in Round Lake, in the Two Rivers area.
Funds generated by the District's most recent Chalice Lighters call will go to the new congregation, to cover worship, religious education, and office supplies, room rental, and some of Rev. Hoddy's expenses. Election of a Board of Trustees and adoption of bylaws are planned for this month, with Unitarian Universalist Association chartering in the spring.
The UU Congregation of the Two Rivers meets at 4:30 pm the second and fourth Sundays of each month, at the Southern Saratoga YMCA, 1 Wall Street in Clifton Park. More information is available at its website, http://www.uu-tworivers.org/.
- E. A.
Resources from Fall Conferences Available
Fall leadership and social justice conferences not only offered inspiration and guidance to those who attended, but provided resources for continued use throughout the District.
The September Leadership Workout described workshops and trainings in terms of fitness, strength, and flexibility. Among the day's presentations were the PowerPoint presentations, handouts and speeches that follow.
Mark Bernstein, Central East Regional Group Consultant for Growth Development offered "Avoiding a Workout Burnout: Cultivating a Ministry of Volunteerism," suggesting ways churches can best use different types of volunteers, and meet the volunteers' needs as well as those of the congregation. See Mr. Bernstein's Power Point.
In "Being Fit to Lead," Karen Palmer, SLD President, and Jeff Donohue of Binghamton discussed team building, leadership development, communications and running meetings, including e-meetings. Read their PowerPoint and a compilation of advice from other leaders.
Mary Jones, Director of Member Services at Rochester Unitarian, and Karen West SLD Nominating Committee Chair, presented "Integrating New Members," covering welcoming practices and resources for membership committees. Read their handouts covering gathering information and key welcoming practices, membership resources, and ideas for making connections and building relationships.
"Robust Communications" was the topic of Newsletter Editors Harriet McMillan of Watertown and Amy Lent of Albany. The workshop covered setting policy for print and electronic publications as well as practical suggestions for publishing church newsletters. See Ms. McMillan's guide to publishing a church newsletter.
Dave Munro, Vice President of the SLD Board, and Michael Scott of Rochester Universalist led "Building on Robert Latham's Energy" - further discussion of the April District Assembly keynote speech, "A Mission Born of Mystery," about the need for Unitarian Universalism to clarify its mission. Read Mr. Munro's introduction to the workshop and Mr. Scott's related reading and sermon about articulating UU beliefs.
This year's Social Justice conference was entitled "Spinning the Interdependent Web - Eco-Justice and Unitarian Universalism." When the invited speaker for the conference was forced to cancel, Rev. Richard Gilbert, SLD Social Justice Coordinator, stepped in with a thought-provoking keynote, "Does the Earth have Moral Rights? An Eco-Justice Ethic for Unitarian Universalists."
Jan De Waters of the UU Church of Canton offered a workshop on "Community Gardens," describing its five-year-old U Share program that annually delivers 2000 pounds of fresh organic produce to 17 food pantries and neighborhood centers in 14 townships. Watch the Power Point shown at the workshop.
First UU Society of Albany is one of the St. Lawrence District congregations that have earned the designation, "Green Sanctuary" from the UU Ministry for Earth. Thayer Heath described the process and the continuing green projects at Albany. See the overview of Albany's program.
Rev. Darcey Laine of the UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin presented "Hydrofracking," discussing the church's involvement in the Community Shale Network in their area of Pennsylvania, where hydrofracking has begun. See Rev. Laine's annotated PowerPoint introduction and read issue papers on flooding, boomtown effects, housing costs, water quality, and business diversity.
Rowan Van Ness, Environmental Justice Program Associate at the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth, led a workshop on "Faith and Environmental Justice: the Context of Our Work." Read Ms. Van Ness' list of recommended links on that context.
- E. A.
Articles from 2010:
• Rochester Unitarian a Mentor in Leap of Faith Program
• Rev. Shelley Page Ordained by UU Church of Canandaigua
• Rev. David Blanchard Installed at Canton
• CUUPS Members Make Brooms at Samhain
• Women's Conference Focuses on Turning Belief into Action
• Webinars Offer Learning Opportunities to Individuals, Congregations
• Four St. Lawrence Congregations Hope to Join Threshold Program
• Step Across the Threshold with New CERG Program
• Annual Social Justice Conference to Focus on Eco-Justice
• UULTI Participants Find Spiritual Ground
• Leadership Workout Set for October 2 in Syracuse
• CRUUNY Profiled in UUA Video Series
• Rev. Renee Ruchotzke Joins CERG Regional Consultants
• Welcome Your Late Summer Guests
• Program Specialists to Serve CERG Region
• Goodbye. . .from Tom
• Hello. . .from Connie
• Social Justice Council Surveys Congregations on Environmental Work, Needs
• Regional Program Staff Named
• President's Message: Looking Ahead: Changes and Opportunities
• CRUUNY: A Cluster on the Cutting Edge
• UUA President Rev. Peter Morales Speaks at CRUUNY Joint Service
• Now More Than Ever, A Religion for Our Time
• Western Cluster Marches in Buffalo Pride Parade
• Connie Goodbread to Join St. Lawrence as Interim District Executive
• Jeff Lamicela Named Youth and Young Adult Coordinator
• First Unitarian Church of Rochester Ordains Rev. Kelly W. Asprooth-Jackson
• Good Leaders Critical to Healthy Congregations
• Rev. Tom Chulak to Leave District Executive Position
Other Older Articles:
• Unitarian Universalist Community Forms in Olean
• A Letter From the Rev Tom Chulak, Karen LoBracco and Ernie Hall
• Welcoming is Key in CRUUNY Marketing Campaign
• Glens Falls Celebrates 50th Anniversary
• Athens Members Share the Harvest
• Brockport Fellowship Begins Services
• Vicky Gordon of Binghamton Named a UUA Credentialed Music Leader
• Money, Conflict Subjects of 2009 Presidents Conference
• More Than 600 UUs Show Spirit at Building Bridges Celebration, as Four Congregations Worship Together
• "We Are In this Together," Rev. Chulak Tells Annual Meeting
• Graduating Seniors, Retiring Ministers Honored at SLD Annual Meeting
• Of Good News and Thai Food: The Gould Discourse
• Workshops Highlight Many Ways to Build Community
• Rev. Sally Hamlin Installed at Rochester Universalist
• UULTI Team Brings Back Energy, Spiritual Leadership
• Cortland Retreats Produce a Strategic Plan
• Social Justice a Critical Part of Youth Religious Education, Rev. Gilbert Says
• Canvassing Draws Neighbors to Outdoor Concerts in Rochester
• Chautauqua Fellowship Announces Summer Sunday Speakers
• Youth, Adults Put Spirituality into Practice at Conference
• Futures Team Meets with District Congregations
• Conference in Syracuse to celebrate the Birth & Growth of Unitarian Universalism
• UU House at Chautauqua Open This Summer
• Unirondack Summer Camps Set
• Schenectady Tells an Old Tale in Yuletide Revels
• Small Congregations Think Big at Workshop
• Athens and Sheshequin Celebrates "Roots and Wings"
• UU House Open at Chautauqua in Summer 2009
• Small Groups Offer Grounding
• Canandaigua Knitters Aid Pakistani Familie
• Rev. Peggy Meeker Ordained by First Universalist Church of Rochester
• Congregational Updates from the SLD News Packet, August 2008
• Support for Knoxville
• Cluster Members March in Pride Parade
• UU House Underway at Chautauqua Institution
• Congregational Updates from the SLD Spring/Summer News Packet
• Unitarian Universalist Service Committee honors 13 District Congregations
• Congregational Updates from the SLD Winter News Packet
• NYSCU Admits Two New Societies as Rev. John Buehrens gives keynote address
• The new Emerson Community Hall is dedicated by the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany
• First Universalist of Rochester celebrates the centennial of their building
Does your congregation have news to share??
News Briefs is compiled from congregation
newsletters and the reports of District Board cluster liaisons. Send your announcements and photos to
Ellen Asprooth, SLD Reporter, or call her at