Changing, Even When It’s Hard

We at UUCA rightly take pride in our commitment to social justice. Our principles, our values call us to be advocates for change to make the world more fair, compassionate, and equitable, to disrupt patterns of historic wrong that oppress so many people and endanger the Earth. Yet, nearly always, it seems, the hardest kind of change that we are faced with is not in the world but in ourselves.

When you think about it, that’s not surprising, since some of the toughest problems that face us are the result of deeply-ingrained practices and thoughts, ways of thinking or doing things that are woven into the fabric of how things seem to work, that we don’t really even think about. Yet, that is precisely why we need to examine them.

This is especially true when we’re dealing with the heritage of white supremacy. Those of us with white skins pretty much get that there are patterns of oppression that put people of color at a disadvantage simply because of their color and also give us privileges simply because of our whiteness. It’s not something that we or they have a choice about; it’s marbled into our culture.

So, part of our work, as people who love justice, is to do what we can to change that culture, to disrupt assumptions, and to use our privilege, our advantages, to correct disparities that result from them. Much of our most important social justice work in the last several years has been focused precisely on that. And it’s helped us make important and lasting connections in communities of color and with other organizations allied with us in this work.

But as we get deeper into this work, we see how much further we have to go. Once we are in conversation with people of color, strategizing next steps, we find that even how we organize tasks can insinuate white supremacy culture into the work. For example, we may be stingy in how we allot decision-making power, seeking to hold onto it ourselves, rather than sharing it. Or we may bring a hyper sense of urgency or perfectionism to the work that stymies our effort. All of these, we’re coming to realize, are artifacts of the prevailing white culture that make it hard for people of color to fully participate with us.

To help sensitize myself to this I am participating, along with about a half-dozen UUCA members, in a webinar called “Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves” that helps address these issues. I’ll include links at the bottom of this column to some of the resources I’ve gleaned from this training that I hope you will consider taking some time to look over during the summer. This is all part of the inner work that we need to be doing if we are going to be effective advocates and allies in the work of justice.

Here are some resources from “Changing Sytems, Changing Ourselves:
I Love My Undocumented People” – a 3-minute YouTube video

Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo – a 22-minute YouTube video

White Supremacy Culture – a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Teacher Appreciation

“Our open and welcoming congregation connects hearts, challenges minds and nurtures spirits while serving and transforming our community and the world.”  

When considering those words of our congregation’s mission, it is evident we take them to heart in Religious Education.  And we are able to offer this type of full, enriching program only because of the large group of volunteers who help make it successful.

The skill and dedication our volunteer leaders provide the children and youth is truly amazing.  We see thoughtfulness from the teachers when planning and enacting the lesson or activity; our teaching teams are tuned in to the needs of their students and use their expertise and heart to navigate hiccups.  The independence, creativity, and capability our volunteers have shown to implement our RE program this year has been tremendous.  We have a talented and committed bunch of folks serving in RE!

People like Bob Roepnack, Mariah Wright, Mike Horak, Ann McLellan, Wendy Fletcher, Gordon Clark, Kay Aler-Maida, Will Jernigan, Melissa Murphy, Langdon Martin, Nancy Bragg, Jon Miles, Jodi Clere, Judy Harper, and Mike Neelon, to name more than a few.  You likely recognize these names not only because they might be your friends or who you sit next to during worship service or covenant group, but because many of them have other integral roles in our congregation as well: Board members, Buildings and Grounds team, Earth and Social Justice Ministry, covenant group leaders, musicians, and more.  AND they volunteer in RE.

The time and energy of about 80 volunteers make Religious Education happen here each year.  Because of them, our RE program is strong, meaningful, and laying a foundation for growing new UUs in a world that desperately needs them!  We provide age-appropriate, thought-provoking curricula and materials; we seek to honor the individual while being in community together; and we connect children with adults, parents with adults (!), and all of us together.

“When children know there is a whole community of adults working within our principles to wonder together and make change in the world, they can feel empowered to know they are not alone on this journey.”

— Melissa Murphy, 4th Grade, Love Connects Us

This is our community and we are full of gratitude for our volunteers!  We hope to see all of them at our RE volunteer appreciation event at the end of May!

p.s. Want to join us in Religious Education?  We have a solid volunteer roster started and are recruiting now to round out the teaching teams for 2018-19.  (It’s not as difficult as it sounds, and we hear all the time that it is meaningful to the adults too!) Or try it out by volunteering for 1-2 Sundays this summer — leaders and assistants wanted.  Find out more here and contact Kim or Jen with questions or to sign up.

 

 

 

Stand in Awe

One of our opportunities as UUCA Board of Trustee members is to take turns writing this little “blog” – the thinking being that the blog gives you an opportunity to know us a little better.  Just as I was pondering my topic this week my phone rang.  It was my husband John on his cell phone, enthusiastically inviting me to join him on the property across the street.  “You’ve got to see this nesting hawk and chicks!”

As I approached the area near the hawk’s 45-foot tree, two neighbors had already set up their camera tripods and were busy shooting away.  Their telephoto lenses captured the three (or was it four?) bobbing heads of the chicks as they energetically vied for each morsel from their parent’s beak.  We were all surprisingly mesmerized, though this was simply a predictable and ubiquitous act of natural parenting.

For each of us, at that moment, there was only this tree, this particular hawk family, this particular feeding of the chicks – this little ‘miracle’ happening on a beautiful spring day.  How rare and wonderful to step out of our own worries and concerns – for our planet, for our world, for our country –  and share this small but significant moment together: to appreciate and marvel at this simple act of nature.  Such a reminder to stay open to these happenings as we move through our days.

Let’s all leave a little space in our souls each day for something surprising – let’s be ready to “stand in awe” of the simple moments of beauty in the everyday world around us.

Diane Martin, Board of Trustees

 

Why You Need Our UUCA Kids

Creating a worship service (YRUU this Sunday) or credo (May 13 services) doesn’t emerge out of nowhere!  Our now-teens have been building up to these services in all of their years of religious education. 

Our Religious Education (RE) Program depends on more than 70 volunteers each year to implement this foundational work for our congregation.  It takes many volunteer teachers every year to provide that consistent and compassionate presence; mentors to foster the growth of our Coming of Age youth; a dedicated RE Council; and people enacting the behind-the-scenes work (like cleaning closets and rooms, prepping materials, etc.).  We are grateful for this year’s and past volunteers for what they have given to our RE kids.  We also hear that the volunteers are appreciative of what RE has given them.

Here is what some of our teachers and parents have said about RE:

“I am happy that my children get to form relationships with a variety of adults in this intergenerational community — not only with the parents of their peers but with the elders in our community as well.” — RE Parent

“t is as much a learning experience for the teachers as the kids–and it’s fun!  And the kids are awesome. ” — 6th-8th Grade Neighboring Faiths Teacher

 “As an older person, I enjoyed getting to know this age group.  I was impressed by how bright, thoughtful and articulate they can be.  Visiting the different faith communities and learning about them was a great learning experience for me.” — 6th-8th Grade Neighboring Faiths Teacher

“Without RE volunteers and without RE classes, our children would be lacking in meaningful faith development.  We owe them this investment as the future leaders of this world!” — Parent and RE Teacher

“Working on an RE team with other congregation members allows you to form new relationships in this large community.…”  — RE teacher

“This year has been special. Asked to teach RE, we said yes and I’m so glad we did. We’ve been blessed with an intelligent, thoughtful, curious group of youth to learn from.  We’ve also worked with three amazing co-teachers who have become new friends we look forward to seeing at coffee hour.”   — RE teacher

(I have volunteered for years…)”During most of that time, I thought I was volunteering as an expression of my spiritual journey. Well, yes, it was that, but I began to realize that more importantly, I was discovering my spiritual community, and to my surprise it included 15-year-olds…. Are you ready to receive the gifts that our young people have to give you? But be prepared to have it be a life-changing experience, both for you and for them.”   — Coming of Age teacher

“I have seen children connect faith ideas to their everyday lives; ask the big questions in a safe space; be silly and have fun together; form new friendships and connections in a large community; learn from other perspectives;, and enjoy lots of food together!  There is value in taking time to slow down; to learn, reflect, and question together.” — 4th grade RE Teacher

Now it’s your turn.  We want YOU to be involved in RE!  What will YOU say after volunteering?  How will it transform you?  We are asking each of you to join us for Religious Education in 2018-19. You may ask, “But how?  What will I do?  How much of a commitment is it?”  Let us fill you in, because we know there are some myths and questions about volunteering in RE.

Visit our RE Council table on Sundays in Sandburg Hall to find out more, or email Kim or Jen.

Kim Collins and Jen Johnson, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinators

Emergence with Hope

I have been thinking of our April theme of Emergence.  Emergence surely implies hope.  Without hope, how would emergence be possible?  At our April meeting, board member Diane Martin opened with some words from the Christian “theologian of hope,” Jurgen Moltmann, who says that hope is a fine thing, an antidote against despair, but that hope without some action is ultimately a pretty sad thing, that hope grounded in faith “causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience” with the status quo, that hope is “the goad of the promised future” which “stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.”  As Unitarian Universalists, we are aware of so many things around us that cry out for change, and we certainly have high hopes.  As we emerge from our winter burrows into the glory and warmth of spring, may we all bloom exuberantly with high hopes born of our faith, and may we have the energy and the will to continue our efforts to bring those hopes to fruition, in ourselves, in our communities, in our nation and in our world.

Judy Harper, Board of Trustees

During a Time of Emergence

We enter April this year working on the theme of Emergence in worship and our small groups. It’s a powerful religious concept that embraces growth, renewal, hope, and surprise. And we see it this time of year realized in the celebration of Easter as well as the awakening of life all around us.

We celebrate emergence because we know that whatever it is we’re working on, or whatever is working on us, we’re not done. There is more to come. But the unsettling thing is we’re not exactly sure what is coming, or what shape it will take. So, the discipline that comes with observing emergence is keeping ourselves open, attentive and focused.

We at UUCA are aware that we are in the midst of change that invites us to attend to what we want of this community and how we might prepare to bring it about. We are headed toward an important transition this summer when we will bid farewell to our Associate Minister Lisa Bovee-Kemper and welcome our new Minister of Faith Development Claudia Jimenez.

Already we have begun talking about ways to mark Lisa’s leave-taking and Claudia’s arrival in a way that honors both the wonderful ministry we have had with Lisa and what we look forward to with Claudia. You’ll hear more about that in days to come.

With that change in ministers, we also anticipate a change in the ministry of this congregation. With Claudia’s arrival, we are embracing the notion that faith development, the growing, learning, and awakening that happens in spiritual growth, is something that all ages, all times of life, take part in. None of us is finished. None of us is done.

We’re not yet sure of all that will encompass, but we have some ideas, and you’ll be hearing more about that as well. Along with that, we will continue our focus on strong Sunday worship and deeply engaged social justice work. Throughout this, let me invite you to adopt the disciplines of emergence – to be open, attentive and focused – and to stay connected. We are moving forward into this new time together. It is good to be in this work with you.

I close with one of the poems offered in our latest small ministry packet. You can find more on Emergence by clicking “Worship Theme” on our Web site.

Song of the Shattering Vessels

BY PETER COLE

Either the world is coming together,

or else the world is falling apart —

     here — now — along these letters,

     against the walls of every heart. 

Today, tomorrow, within its weather,

the end or beginning’s about to start —

     the world impossibly coming together

     or very possibly falling apart.

Now the lovers’ mouths are open —

maybe the miracle’s about to start:

      the world within us coming together,

      because all around us it’s falling apart. 

Even as they speak, he wonders,

even as the fear departs:

     Is that the world coming together?

     Can they keep it from falling apart?

The image, gradually, is growing sharper;

now the sound is like a dart:

     It seemed their world was coming together,

     but in fact, it was falling apart.

That’s the nightmare, that’s the terror,

that’s the Isaac of this art —

     which sees that the world might come together

      if only we’re willing to take it apart. 

The dream, the lure, is the prayer’s answer,

which can’t be plotted on any chart —

    as we know the world that’s coming together

    without our knowing is falling apart.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

 

Summer Breezes Make Me Feel Fine

We want to try something new and awesome in our summer RE classes this year.  But we need help.

As I write this, the snow is coming down outside as it has been all day, so it’s not unnatural to be daydreaming about summer breezes, drifting down a river, campfires, and fresh herbs and veggies from the garden. One of my other favorite things about the season is Summer Religious Education. First off, RE staff gets to sleep in a little later so that’s nice. We also have a lot more unstructured play time on the playground. There is definitely a more relaxed feel. We might spend time talking about what everyone is up to all summer. Among vacations, camp at The Mountain, sports camps, music camps, and day camps, our kids sure have a lot going on.

You may have noticed some changes to our outdoor spaces lately, including most recently, our new raised-bed garden planters! Jodi Clere has done a wonderful job coordinating and implementing much of this work and has taken the burden of worrying about where to go next with the playground off the shoulders of RE staff. Our kids love spending time outdoors and they especially love our playground. I’m betting they’ll be pretty delighted with the new garden, as it’s a much better and more friendly set up than our past two years of container gardening in an old sandbox.

We’ve been doing some thinking about what our plans are for Summer RE lately and we all agree that we’d like our kids to get the chance to spend as much time outside in our new “outdoor classroom” spaces as possible. What we really need now are some dedicated folks to help us develop a plan for nature-focused religious education this summer. People with knowledge of gardening, local flora and fauna, and other environmental subjects would be great! We have some ideas and have put together some resources to cull from, but we need some nature-minded volunteers to help make it happen! If you can help make this summer dream come true, please get in touch with Jen or me and let us know you’re in!

Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator