Tagged: “MidAmerica Region”

Growing Green Burial the UU Way

In November 2016, Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, created Heritage Acres Memorial Sanctuary LLC, a non-profit 501(c)3 with the mission of “providing a natural or ‘green’ burial option in Greater Cincinnati while preserving a part of God’s creation for future generations.” Now, nearly three years later, we are in contract to purchase and preserve 40 beautiful acres of farmland in a rapidly developing suburb just east of town — land that would otherwise almost certainly become yet another shopping center or subdivision filled with cookie-cutter suburban homes.

Green burial is a growing movement in the U.S., designed to stop our culture’s wasteful and environmentally harmful burial practices by returning to age-old human rituals and traditions: simple, dignified burial without concrete vaults, metal caskets, or toxic embalming. Heritage Acres will be only the third such burial preserve in the state of Ohio, and the only one of its kind within a 150-mile radius of Cincinnati. And without a doubt, it will be the first green burial sanctuary in the world created and owned by a Unitarian Universalist church.

Our contract requires us to close on the purchase by Nov. 1, or the property will go back on the market and, most likely, be bought up by a developer. To date we have raised a little more than $250,000 of the $300,000 purchase price. In this Faithify proposal we are seeking just one percent of the total amount needed to buy and preserve this land — $3,000. Here’s your chance be part of the one percent! (Donors, if they wish, will receive a limited-edition “Donate Your Body to Nature” green burial bumper sticker to proudly display on your Prius, refrigerator, or wherever you like…).

By now we can almost hear you asking, “What will happen after you have bought the land?” Glad you asked! With an active and engaged Board that includes one member who has previously overseen a green burial preserve elsewhere — and with rules and regulations, zoning and other infrastructure already in place — Heritage Acres is ready to go operational and expects to be open to the public by the end of the year. Then, as with other green burial sanctuaries nationwide, we will use the fees paid by families for burial to maintain and preserve the land in a natural state, in perpetuity.

Learn more about us, and our vision for spreading the good news of natural burial, by visiting our website at heritageacresmemorial.org. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/heritageacresmemorial, or follow us on Instagram at instagram.com/greenburialcincy.

Seminarian Seeks Support...

Denise Cawley is Unitarian Universalist seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. She seeks funds to offset the cost of food and lodging for General Assembly (GA) and plans to use leadership and arts of ministry tools she learns about at GA to serve our UU faith. Denise provides spiritual and emotional care chaplaincy at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and writes about the intersection of abortion and spirituality. Denise has long been a pivotal player in Milwaukee and Door counties working on diversity, inclusion, marriage equality and voting rights. Denise has written about and continues researching Florence Buck, one of our queer, anti-oppression Unitarian heroes few know enough about. Denise will use connections at GA to further her research in both abortion and UU women’s history to benefit our faith.

Denise has overcome many challenges to pursuing seminary and it has been said that there is never any doubt she will make it, the only question is how. Classmates and professors describe her as both prophetic and pastoral. The congregation she serves in Kenosha, WI have said many wonderful things about her service there including:

“Denise has the ability to turn the subject of stewardship from awkward to inspiring.”

“Denise responds to local events in a constructive manner, most recently co-authoring an article in the local newspaper addressing sexual harassment in the school district.“

“I see Denise as a thought leader in a larger congregation. She holds the big picture, has a great handle on the mission and can raise positive energy.”

Her committee on ministry reports: “She digs in, motivates us and executes. Denise has brought Bradford’s presence to the wider community through networking and media work. Denise has established boundaries that allow her to connect to us without hampering the professional relationship. Many of us have been on ministerial search committees in the past. We have been told that ministers are expected to be good administrators/fundraisers, good preachers and good counselors; and that if your minister is 2 out of 3 of these the congregation is fortunate. Denise is good at all three and as she continues in this internship and her education, she will be excellent at all 3.“

For these reasons and more, supporting Denise’s additional training and classes at GA, Ministry Days and the Ministerial Formation Network events in Spokane, we will be investing in our faith. Any additional money raised will be used for seminary expenses for her classes in Chicago this summer as well as the many books she needs for the MFC.

Funding for UU...

As one of the few women of color in the UUA as a whole and as a part of the lay-lead multicultural women’s group at First Unitarian Chicago, my attendance to this vital Assembly will enable me to share with the broader UU Women’s groups some of the insights which we have obtained in the short time of our women group existence.  At the same time I will be attending workshops and other presentations connected to the UU Women’s group in order to understand better how we grow our own First U Women’s group and connect with the larger movement.

I believe that a description of our emerging Mission and Vision statement will give you a picture of our efforts.  The Women’s Group of the First Unitarian Society of Chicago open to all identifying as women who are members and friends of the Society, is intentionally multiracial and inter-generational.  It affirms and promotes closer relationships among its members and service to the congregation and the wider church community.  I was one of the founders of this group, inspired by my earlier attendance to other GA’s where I saw women of all colors engaged in both leadership and fellowship.  I also attended the Black Convening Conference and met ma y black women in multiracial congregations.  We have a First Men’s Group and so I felt it time for a First Women’s Group.  We had at our first meeting 20 to show up.  It was quite exciting.  Now I hope to see how this group can become a part of our small group ministry here at First Unitarian.

2019 Miami Valley UU Fellowship Teen Trek to the United Nations


The intergenerational seminar, “EQUITY IN ACTION — GENDER IN AN INTERSECTING WORLD” April 11 – 13 in NYC is an opportunity to collaborate with others while learning how to be a global activist. Through workshops, peer and expert-led panel discussions, community building activities, and worship services, participants undergo a transformative process of learning, reflection, and growth on the topic of gender.

With a deep passion for and commitment to international human rights, youth and adults from all over North America will dig deeply into issues; our Miami Valley UU Fellowship team will return to Miami Valley with suggestions for further congregational education and action.

Your donation to this project will fund expenses for our youth and sponsors as they travel to the conference. Our youth have each funded their own registration fees.  Your Faithify donations will go towards travel expenses for this year’s conference. Any extra funds raised this year will help establish a foundation for future years as we seek to make this an annual event for the youth in our congregation.

MVUUF Youth who participate in the UNO Teen Trek will:

  • Gain a deeper appreciation of the UU-UNO’s vital social justice work around the world;
  • Travel with and meet other UU youth who share similar values;
  • Practice leadership skills by engaging the congregation in the UU-UNO mission upon their return.

MVUUF plans to offer the Teen Trek as an annual venue for offering leadership training to youth and young adults.  Your investment in this effort will give young people an opportunity to find their voice and offer their service in the life of our MVUUF congregation, community and wider world.

Deva Guest House


The Project

Sitting on the hill high above Deva, the Citadel reminds us of the importance David Ferenc, (Francis David), the founder of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania. David Ferenc died here because of his belief in religious freedom and the need for our faith to keep on progressing. Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists around the world continue to enjoy the rich legacy of David Ferenc’s courageous faith. Thousands of Unitarians/UUs from around the world visit Deva each year to honor and be inspired by his life and his ultimate sacrifice for our faith. The Unitarian Church of Deva has embarked on an ambitious plan to create the David Ferenc Center of Pilgrimage and Diaspora to celebrate our Unitarian history and the lasting impact of David Ferenc on our faith. And finally, a major piece of that dream is a guesthouse that can house many of the Unitarian/UU pilgrims who flock to Deva. Other guesthouse and hotel options in Deva are not very good (a perennial complaint of pilgrims who travel through the UUPCC). This guesthouse in the shadow of the citadel will be greatly used and appreciated by many.

History of The David Ferenc Center of Pilgrimage and Diaspora

  • The church building was purchased in 2003 with funds raised by Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, First Presbyterian Church of Neenah and the Transylvanian Unitarian Church.
  • Building improvements through the years include: garden, finished meeting room, sanctuary, guest house with WiFi, air conditioning, library, open kitchen with non-stop coffee, and continental breakfasts
  • The guest house will accommodate 14 people in 6 different rooms with adjoining bathrooms and breath-taking views of the Citadel

Where will the money go? The funds raised through Faithify will help buy dressers, beds, bedding and other amenities for the Deva Guest House. Through this gift:

  • The David FerencCenter of Pilgrimage and Diaspora will receive much needed income by welcoming pilgrims to the Deva Guest House.
  • Visiting youth and pastors will have a new gathering and training space.
  • Pilgrims from around the world will have a warm and welcoming place to stay in Deva.
  • The David Ferenc Center of Pilgrimage and Diaspora will open its doors to pilgrims in the summer of 2019
  • Please give to this campaign!

How much money do we need? The people of The Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship have been very generous:

  • Money raised so far: $2,500
  • We need to raise an additional $5,500 to make this dream a reality.
  • We are appealing to any past and/or future pilgrims who will be visiting Deva and need a wonderful place to stay.

The Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has been in partnership with the Unitarian Church of Deva since 2001. During this time, we have exchanged visits with Deva, both hosting people from Transylvania in Appleton and also traveling to Deva to visit our partners and friends about eight different times. Our partnership is strong. It is built on love, generosity, respect and the willingness to build deeper relationships across differences of culture, language and distance. We celebrate this opportunity to make the Deva Guest House a reality.


Our minister, Roger Bertschausen, came to our FVUUF Social Action Committee in 1999 and said, “How would we like to become a Partner Church with a Unitarian Church in Transylvania?”We had no idea what he was asking, but we said, “Yes!”  (Who says UUs don’t have faith?!!)We became partners with the Unitarian Church in Deva in 2000.We did not know that 120 something UU churches in North America were in these kinds of partnerships.

I, personally, did not know that the spark of my UU faith had started in Transylvania a long time ago. At that time, I did not know of the difficulty and bravery of that act. And, I did not know that entering into a partnership of this kind would transform me.

Here’s part of my UU story; my wife Lynn and I, raised and married Methodist, did not know a thing about a liberal faith called Unitarian Universalism.  But having three young daughters we were searching for a spiritual community diligently.  In the fall of 1983, Lynn noticed a one line ad in the local newspaper that said, “How would you like to help your children find their own spiritual path?  Come visit our UU Church.”  We did, and became members that January.  Lynn soon became DRE and I was one of the RE teachers.  Finding Unitarian Universalism was one of the best things our family ever did.

Fast forward to our partnership with Deva. I learned that the spark of spiritual tolerance was lit by Francis David over 400 years ago in Transylvania, and that he was martyred for his efforts in the citadel at Deva. I learned that it is a long winding path from Unitarianism in Transylvania to Unitarian Universalism in my world. I learned that making a pilgrimage to Transylvania and climbing the hill in Deva to pay respects to our founder is one of the great adventures we UUs can do in our lifetime!

I cannot express how deeply my life has been enriched by our friends in Deva…

They have shown us unconditional love and generosity, and we now take Communion every Christmas Eve in their honor! I am proud to say that this Faithify campaign will complete their efforts to provide a guesthouse in their church for visiting pilgrims from all over!!

It is a pilgrimage that can transform your life…

Bill Carlson, member Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

First, I think it is important to recognize that Deva is a very important pilgrimage site for all Unitarians. The founder of Unitarianism, David Ferenc, who 450 years ago crafted the radical proclamation for religious tolerance known as The Edict of Torda, perished in a cell on top of the citadel that rises above the city. The Deva church lies just below the citadel and is a very convenient location for travelers on pilgrimage, as well as Unitarian youth engaged in faith related gatherings.

 Current options for convenient accommodations include either a hotel about five blocks away, or a hostel type guest house that at times has been known to lack basics such as hot water, heat, toilet paper, etc.  When completed this guest house will accommodate visitors on pilgrimage as well as others gathering for faith related reasons.

 I feel that this project honors our partnership in one of the most meaningful ways possible. It will allow those traveling to Deva to have very nice accommodations with either private or shared baths, WiFi, continental breakfast, and a convenient location for a pilgrimage to the Citadel. There is also a nicely sized gathering room on the ground floor that is already complete and used by the Deva congregation. This will be a great way to support not only the Unitarian Church in Deva, but will also insure that all pilgrims will have a comfortable place to stay..

Jan McHugh, member Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

Wow! I had the most amazing pilgrimage to Deva, Transylvania in November 2018. The connection with the people of Deva warmed my heart and strengthened my belief in how love can transform us all. The Unitarian Congregation of Deva is wonderfully generous with their time, energy and love. I celebrate my time in Deva as one of transformation and dedication to deepen my Unitarian Universalist faith.

 And because of this, I truly believe in our quest to help the Unitarian Congregation of Deva make the guest house a reality. It will benefit both pilgrims and the Unitarian Church of Deva in ways we cannot yet imagine by providing wonderful accommodations for people from within Transylvania and from around the world. Our Unitarian faith calls us to offer radical hospitality to all. I believe the Deva guest house will do this and more.

 Tina Main, member Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I loved my many (5) trips to Deva. Why? I always loved the adventure of travel however, the added bonus of meeting with friends is exquisite. Over the years I learned about their culture and history. As well as bonding through shared meals, stories, and comradery.

Tom Pynenberg, Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

My visit to Deva helped me really appreciate our UU ancestors!

Taizan Alford, Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

In the spring of 2000, I made my first visit to Deva to meet our new Partners. It is no exaggeration to say that the experiences I had on that visit profoundly changed the direction of my life as I came to know a deeper, more expansive understanding of my chosen faith family and the people who bring it to life. The friendships I have made, the challenges I have faced and the lessons I have learned have shaped the person I am and am becoming. This one wild and precious life has become so much richer with each visit to Deva. I hope that all of you will be able to climb Citadel Hill one day and reflect upon your faith, then stay in the Deva Guest House to experience the love and warm hospitality you will find there.

Lee Boeke Burke, First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor

Children’s Defense Fund...

Nowhere is the shadow of racism longer in American than when it comes to educational disparities. You can change this.

Our six-week, evidence-based program, developed by the Children’s Defense Fund, has been proven through rigorous research to improve literacy skills, build character and engage parents. During our first two summers, All Souls hosted the only CDF Freedom School in the state of Indiana. In 2017, we got 501(c)3 status, and in 2018 we launched a second site.

Thanks to our donors last year, 83% of our scholars experienced no summer-learning loss of gained literacy skills. Normally their peers would lose 2-3 months of reading ability; such summer learning loss, compounded year-after-year accounts for 50% of the achievement gap. Faithify is our single largest individual donor source. $125 covers the cost of a scholar’s program for one week. Thank you for helping us mitigate the educational disparity gap that keeps so many of our children behind.

There have been three waves of “Freedom Schools” in American history, and Unitarian Universalists have been part of all three. Northern whites, often women, went to the South soon after emancipation to teach formally-enslaved persons to read. Then in 1964, as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the National Council of Churches and SNCC formed summer “Freedom Schools,” focused specifically on literacy, humanities, science and math. These schools, often “taught” by white, northern college students, also had a larger purpose: to show young, Southern black Americans that they were valued and to engage them in community problem-solving.

The Children’s Defense Fund has initiated the third wave with the development a modern, evidence-based summer learning and family engagement model. The model retains the historical focus on offering a culturally-appropriate program designed to empower and promote civic engagement and literacy. The model is defined by five essential components:

  • High-quality academic enrichment, which includes age- and culturally-appropriate books that are part of an Integrated Reading Curriculum involving reinforcing activities, field trips and games.
  • Parent and family involvement at multiple levels, from morning introductory activities to classroom assistance to supporting community projects.
  • Social action and civic engagement by our children and youth so that they are prepared to be active citizens. Participants engage in solving community problems and do social justice work, including through a Children’s Defense Fund yearly National Day of Social Action.
  • Intergenerational servant leadership development, by engaging college students and recent graduates to deliver the program, many of whom have had Freedom School experience themselves.
  • Nutrition, health and mental health, by requiring programs to provide—at a minimum—two USDA-compliant meals and a snack each day of operation, while training staff to recognize the importance of providing therapeutic health and mental health services.

With your financial support, All Souls Unitarian Church would offer six-weeks of programming for 50 school-age children in summer 2019. Indianapolis has pervasive educational and opportunity disparities and our congregation sits in a high-need community. The church is in close proximity to two struggling public elementary schools. Robert Lee Frost is 87% African-American and over 80% free and reduced-price lunch. In 2014, only 51% of students passed both English and Math in ISTEP. Only 65% of students passed the IREAD-3. At Brook Park, 76% of students are African-American or Hispanic and over 76% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Only 52% passed ISTEP in 2014. Opportunity disparities in is high. Nearly 25% of individuals in the All Souls zip code (46226) live in poverty and nearly 40% of children live at or below the poverty level. We know from national-level research that poverty is correlated with fewer summer learning and other enrichment opportunities.

All Souls has already begun to build a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals committed to making a Freedom School a permanent fixture in Indianapolis. Our partners include, but are not limited to, the Indianapolis Freedom School Partnership (the umbrella organization we helped form), the neighborhood elementary schools near the church, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, neighborhood organizations, the League of Women Voters, the Indianapolis Public Library, and the education departments of Indiana University, Butler University, and Marion University.

“Indiana Black Expo, as the backbone support organization for the Your Life Matters Initiative, is in full support of All Souls’ endeavors with the development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis.” – Tanya Bell President & CEO Indiana Black Expo, Inc.

“The development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis is an important service and support for youth in the northeast part of our city. I applaud All Souls Unitarian Church for its vision and for making social justice visible for children who need a supportive community and gifts that participation in a Freedom School provides.” – Dr. Cindy Jackson, Positive Discipline Coordinator, IPS district, and member of the education committee of the Your Life Matters Task Force

Creating A Racial...

My name is Christopher D. Sims. I am a Unitarian Universalist community minister, artist, and community organizer. This collective idea is meant to combine our efforts across Unitarian Universalism as we tackle issues in regards to the movement for black lives, social justice, and racial justice. I am working with Unitarian Universalist committees and groups who are focusing on the serious work we are doing to help us obtain, or get closer to, the Beloved Community. In having these proximate relationships and connections with these groups, Creating a Racial and Social Justice Collective will be a vehicle and a database for successes of these groups that will help empower the overall work we are doing in our faith movement across the United States, and beyond. To give voice to these successes and efforts, the Collective will have an online presence. Physically, I will represent these voices at conferences or appearances in our faith movement to inform and encourage Unitarian Universalists to pursue or strengthen their social justice efforts.

The funds raised for this campaign will go towards maintaining an online database, staff, travel expenses, and materials needed to create books and pamphlets for the documentation of this project.

Help Save Our Historic Sacred Space From Stormy Weather


The project includes shingle replacement, fascia repair and gutter replacement.  The original estimated cost was $38,000.  With additional work done to complete the project, including interior repairs, the overall cost will end up being above $40,000.  While we’ve met our original $10,000 goal, please help us go a little bit further in helping to defray costs.


We’re so close to meeting our goal – thanks to the generous donations we’ve received. Please help us cross the finish line in the short time left in this campaign by becoming a donor. Please share this link with your friends or anyone else who might be interested in this campaign so we are able to continue the social justice work of Rev. Olympia Brown!

Project Description

The roof on our church building began leaking earlier this year and has already begun to damage our sanctuary’s plaster walls.  Unless we replace our roof, we risk more serious – and costly — damage, not only to the walls but to our historic organ.  The project includes shingle replacement, fascia repair and gutter replacement.  The total estimated cost is $38,000.

Olympia Brown served as minister of our church from 1878-1887.  Our church building is in Racine’s Historic Sixth Street Business District and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.  The church serves as a center of social justice activism both for our congregation and for many other like-minded people in our community.  The building is not just a physical home for our spiritual community engaging in this important work, it is a symbol to the wider community of the faith that we live, inside and outside our 123-year-old structure.    Replacing our roof is necessary to enable us to continue the important work we do unimpeded by worries about its future.

Our congregation is in a time of transition after enjoying 43 years with the same minister. Improving our long-term financial planning and operation are among the important tasks we are undertaking during this interim period. Ensuring that we have a sound and solid building is part of that agenda.

Last year we had a major repair project on our congregation’s annex building that exhausted our Building & Grounds Maintenance fund as well as drawing down our operating reserve.   That reserve will be the main source of funds for the roof repair.  We ask for your help through Faithify to defray the costs of our roof repair and to supplement our remaining operating reserve to pay for the project.

Student Debt Reduction...

We have all heard about rising education costs and student debt; this trend absolutely extends to those who pursue a seminary degree. National data from the The Center for the Study of Theological Education at Auburn Theological Seminary indicates both the number of students entering seminary with debt and the amounts they have to pay back upon entering the workforce are increasing substantially. It is not unusual for new ministers to be carrying $70,000-$80,000 or more into their fledgling careers.

As Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship installs Rev. Laura Thompson as their next settled minister, we take a moment to pause and reflect on the financial costs and sacrifices that enabled her to be called. In recognition of those costs and in celebration of her ministry and her future with MVUUF, we invite you to contribute toward a gift of reducing her student debt. Thank you for your generosity!

Kansas Poor People’s Campaign Legal Fund

The Kansas Poor People’s Campaign is a participant in the national Poor People’s Campaign.  With cities across the state participating, including Wichita, Manhattan, Lawrence, Topeka, Lenexa, Kansas City Kansas, and many participants from rural towns as well, our campaign highlighted the issues of poverty, racism, militarism and the environment and the way in which they are linked.

With weekly press conferences and rallies, we organized moral direct action/civil disobedience designed to draw attention to the conditions in Kansas and across the country that are causing inequality to increase and creating barriers to civic participation.  In one action, we occupied the conference room of Kris Kobach, one our state’s most infamous leaders whose voter suppression policies have been touted nationally to conservative leaders trying to decrease the voter turnout of communities of color and communities of poverty.  In addition, his anti-immigrant policies and anti-LGBTQ policies  and pro-gun policies have been among the worst ideas to be introduced in our state and beyond.

We visited the Governor’s office and pointed out the ongoing refusal of our state’s leadership to expand Medicaid to the 150,000 people in Kansas (many of whom are disabled and/or working) who fall in the gap between the ACA and our current Medicaid qualifications.  We stood in front of our Department of Children and Families and highlighted the extremes issues we have had with this agency and as well as the work overload it faces due to the increase in poverty in our state and systemic underfunding by our legislature.  2,000 more kids are in foster care because parents can’t afford childcare and are working too much to try to make ends meet.  Our agency has lied and purposely hidden information about child deaths in abuse cases that were inadequately investigated.  Missing foster care kids and contractors keeping kids in offices overnight when they unable to place them have also been hallmarks of this dysfunctional institution.  We highlighted the simultaneous hyper funding of military efforts around the world and the recruitment of poor kids and kids of color into military programs where they are underpaid in stark contrast to the millions and even billions being made by private contractors.  Our young adults come home broken in mind and body and are virtually abandoned–leading to a high suicide rate among veterans and families on the brink of disaster.  15-35 people agreed to commit civil disobedience each week with 100-200 other participants supporting the actions.

Working with a local attorney and an ACLU attorney, we were able to negotiate some of our fees and bonds, but each participant in civil disobedience likely will spend a minimum of $200.  Many participants are themselves low income and several participated in civil disobedience more than once.

We hope to raise funds to assist them and to have on hand for the next campaign.  As this work continues, we hope to support more and more low income and people of color wanting to commit civil disobedience who have been concerned about the costs.