Tagged: “New England Region”

Sustainable Leadership for Social Change

Our justice movements are in need of resilient, transformative, community-centered leadership. We are in politically tumultuous times as a nation and across the globe. Social justice movement leaders are in need of spaces in which they can recharge, reflect and renew their commitment while connecting to a larger network of change makers. Through Rowe Camp and Conference Center, we are able to offer the Sustainable Leadership for Social Change Program. This program gives us the opportunity to train new social change makers, support leaders currently immersed in justice work and explore sustainability practices in social change work grounded in Unitarian Universalist values. Our first cohort will begin in November and due to the remote nature of Rowe Camp and Conference Center, we’ve created this Faithify campaign is to assist participants with transportation costs to western Massachusetts. While there are some limited scholarships to assist with the other associated costs of the program, we continue to seek out ways to reduce the costs for those in need of additional financial assistance. As our congregations and communities offer refuge to the seeker of spiritual depth, may we be able to offer that refuge to those that seek and strive for the liberation of all people.

The goals for this new program are:

Serving the need: a vision for what the world needs, and so what we aim to achieve in the Sustainable Leadership for Social Change program.

1. Awareness of need for collective practice:  We need to envision new ways of engaging in the work of social change together. This includes practices that lead us towards collective decision making and collaborative action and models that are grounded in trust and sustainability, allowing us to move in and out of leadership and support roles while identifying those amongst us with a variety of skill sets, interests and energy.

2.  Community care practices for keeping ourselves and our movements going:  The vitality of our movements are connect to how we care for one another and ourselves. It is our imperative to cultivate and expand practices of resilience and persistence especially when faced with loss.  We will find creative, inspiring and nourishing ways to sustain our spirit while addressing ongoing issues and obstacles.

3.  Connection and Support:  Each of us gains through being connected with those around us.  We will delve into relationship building and explore the self-awareness needed to sustain meaningful connections.

4.  Intersectionality and Interconnectedness:  Leaders recognize we cannot afford to only focus on a single justice issue, on the contrary there are many areas of injustice that together impact how we experience the world. Justice issues are connected, so we must work collaboratively in addressing this complex web  with a holistic approach. We will broaden our focus and support of coalition building, moving beyond a narrow focus.

5.  Desire to model justice in practice: Our praxis and methods matter as much as the actions we take in creating a more justice world. What would it look like for us to embody how we want justice to look in our world?  Effective justice work practices doing the work in the same way we hope the world will do the work of justice.

6.  Collaborative decision making and consensus: Majority rule decision making process leave too many people ignored and unheard. We will experiment with decision making processes that allow us to respond with a deep respect of all voices and opinions while exercising effective and inclusive communication.

7.  Practical techniques for social change:  We will explore how political theories and history inform our current praxis. This provides us an opportunity in responding to the technical question of “how do we do this”. The diverse aspects of being involved in justice work involve strategic planning, a tactical toolkit and a focus on relationship building.  In justice work, it’s important that we are adaptive, intentional, relational, accountable and grounded in liberation of all.

8.  Moving towards spirals and cycle of justice:  Visionaries that recognize justice movements ebb and flow with experiences of great victory and loss. We will work through disenchantment and discouragement by maintaining a steadfast practice of persistence and holding the long range view in our sights.

UU congregations will benefit from having trained Social Change leaders who can work within their congregation and community to promote justice actions and activities in stragegically created programs.

This program is two years long, with participants coming for two week-long sessions and two weekend workshops each year.  The first program starts this November, 2018, with the second week in May, 2019.

The Director of the Sustainable Leadership for Social Change (SLSC) program is C. Nancy Reid-McKee.  She has been involved in social justice work for over 35 years, in a variety of roles: community organizer, protest leader, activist, legislative involvement, direct service projects, educator, agitator, and more.  She has just completed the requirements for ministry through Starr King School for the Ministry where a lot of her work focused on how to develop social justice work that is grounded in a sustaining spiritual practice, and that can enhance and be enhanced by being integral to our faith community.

Assistant Director is India Harris: India Harris is currently serving as a Youth and Young Adult Program Coordinator at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock. She is an active member of the Audre Lorde Project; The Audre Lorde Project is a community organizing center for LGBT people of color based in New York City. Her organizing work has consisted of base building, membership development, leading community organizing trainings, campaign development and supporting a national gathering on community accountability and transformative justice. Before gaining experience as an organizer she spent a year with AmeriCorps Public Allies. There, she completed 1700 community service hours as a Client Services Advocate for the Alliance of AIDS Services in Durham, NC.

This program is also receiving money from the UU Funding Program and from the Rowe Center, to provide program support and student scholarships.

Help create bail...

Should someone be in jail simply because they cannot pay bail–even if the amount is as low as $100? For most of us, the answer is a no-brainer. And yet it is happening at the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, New Hampshire, and while many New Hampshire citizens have been working to change the law on bail, it’s a stubborn problem, and the jail continues to resemble a 19th century debtors’ prison. Fortunately, there’s a way to help people even under the current system. We are a coalition of Unitarian Universalists in partnership with the Manchester NAACP who hope with your help to bring change.

The people being held have been charged but not convicted of anything. Their jail time costs the general public $100 per day or more in taxes. On a typical day, more  than 60 people are held in Manchester because they can’t pay bail of $1,000 or less (New Hampshire Public Radio). On a recent visit to the jail a reporter for The New Hampshire Union Leader found a 66-year-old being held on $200 bail who is on his eighth day in custody who is charged with throwing someone’s clothes into a laundromat dumpster while intoxicated. Another woman was being held after missing court dates for a longstanding dispute stemming from a bad check she wrote to keep her heat on back in 2012.

A number of court and correction officials, including David Dionne, superintendent of Valley Street Jail, have spoken out against the use of bail in many low-level cases. Dionne told the Union Leader that people who are held on bail can have their Social Security retirement of disability benefits cut off, and some may lose Medicaid and have difficulty getting it reactivated once they’re released. “People with low bail like that–$100, $250–they shouldn’t be here,” he said. New Hampshire Public Radio quotes Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau:  “we get into trouble when we set low cash amounts because we think somebody might be able to post it, and really the people we’re seeing are poor and can’t.”  According again to NHPR, “many will spend more than a month behind bars awaiting court dates.”

Pretrial detention disproportionately affects people of color. NHPR reported in 2016 that while only 8 percent of Hillsborough County’s population is black or Hispanic, these groups make up 16 percent of county arrests and 27 percent of those who are locked up while awaiting trial.

Ideally, the whole institution of bail should be challenged, but this isn’t going to happen immediately, and meanwhile people are suffering. Our plan is to create a fund that would pay the bail of those recommended by a public defender, generally for those owing $500 or less. The good news is that eventually the court will return most of this money, so that your generous contribution will be multiplied again and again as accused people make their court dates and the money gets returned to the bail fund.  Such funds have proved successful elsewhere.

Right now–as in so many other ways–the deck is stacked against those at the bottom, who may lose jobs and have their lives torn apart while they languish in jail needlessly.

It’s time to change this!

Installation of our first settled Minister in 35 years

Our Fellowship was founded 35 years ago as a lay-led congregation, and eventually hired a string of quarter-time consulting ministers. In 2013, the congregation went through its first formal search committee process and hired Rev. Erika Hewitt as a half-time consulting minister. Both of us — congregation and minister — quickly realized that our shared ministry was a perfect match between beautifully imperfect parties. The Fellowship voted unanimously to call Erika as their first settled minister in December 2017. Now we’re pulling out all the stops to celebrate this milestone in our congregation’s life.

This ceremony will be following the time-honored Unitarian Universalist tradition of celebrating settled ministry. Our principles and values will be present in the ceremony, with visiting UU clergy invited to speak, intentional hospitality to the surrounding congregations and community and with a worship service celebration of the congregation. Acclaimed UU singer Joe Jencks will provide the music for the ceremony, as well as a mini-concert preceding the service.

The installation service will take place on August 19, 2018 at 4 pm at Second Congregational Church in Newcastle, Maine.

Thank you for your generosity! Any amount will be gratefully appreciated.

The Lane Lyceum at First Parish in Needham

When Reverend Catie Scudera, Minister at First Parish in Needham, MA, drafted the eulogy for Ed Lane’s July 2017 memorial service it was 15 pages long! There was so much to say about this extraordinary and humble man.

For many of us who knew Ed during his 21 years as a member of First Parish, we simply knew that he was the beloved husband of Helen and a retired UU minister.  Those who were fortunate enough to hear Ed lead a service or speak at the First Parish Lyceum, knew that there was much more to learn about Ed.

Ed was ordained in May of 1957 and first served as the minister in Winchendon, MA. Ed got involved immediately in denominational affairs. He began attending General Assembly annually, as well as UU Ministers Association events nationally and locally, which he kept up until his retirement.  He went on to serve churches in Cherry Hill, NJ, Westport, CT, Cambridge, MA and in Waltham, MA where he retired in 1996.

Ed’s work beyond parish ministry was extraordinary. In March 1965, Ed took part in the third and final Selma march, both in support of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a world without racism, militarism, or poverty, and in memory of his friend Rev. Jim Reeb, who was murdered by white supremacists after the second attempt of a Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights march. Ed was chair of the Beacon Press Board that published the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971, detailing government secrets about the Vietnam War. Thirty-some other publishing houses had turned down Alaskan Senator Mike Gravel’s request to publish, but, as chair, Ed pushed Beacon Press to do the right thing and bring the truth to light. Ed considered this among his most important lifetime contributions.

First Parish in Needham bestows the “Doctor of Durability” award to members on their 90th birthday.  Ed would have turned 90 on June 19, 2018 and the congregation thought it would be an appropriate honor to rename the First Parish Lyceum, the Lane Lyceum.  The church is raising funds to support continuing education at First Parish with the Lyceum as the focal point.

Ed loved the First Parish Lyceum and was a frequent speaker.  We reached out to our former minister, Reverend John Buehrens for the history our Lyceum and to share our plans to honor Ed. He replied with the following:

As Ed knew, such programs, though modest, were an homage to the historic role played in New England by lyceums, especially after the financial Panic of 1837, to spread the discussion of the best thinking in science, religion, philosophy, and the arts beyond the parish churches to the wider community. Our Transcendentalist forbears knew this. They spoke at Lyceums far and wide. When I left Needham, I worried that the Lyceum would either become a burden to my successors or simply die. Ed chose to help keep it alive. Naming it for him now makes great sense. Offering even expenses, much less a modest honorarium, was always a struggle. I had a large Rolodex of contacts to beg for a free Sunday morning. That is not a sustainable model.

Ed’s name will be repeated many times over when referencing The Lane Lyceum. Our hope is that by honoring Ed in this very public way, today’s newer First Parish members and future generations will want to know, “Who is Ed Lane? Why is the Lyceum named for him?” And after learning about Ed, a minister who lived his life fully committed to UU values and devoted to service to others, they will be inspired to live their own best lives.

A small group of First Parish members have donated $38,000 in seed money and we are reaching out to all members and the greater UU world to help grow the Lane Lyceum Fund with donations through this page with the hope to raise a minimum of $5,000.  We would be deeply grateful if you would consider this opportunity to honor Ed and his tremendous contributions by donating today.

The Lane Lyceum Fundraising Team: Florence and Sam Graves, Reverend Catie Scudera, Nancy Simpson-Banker and Rick Vincent

Mental Health First Aid

I am a UU who has a passion for improving the lives of those impacted by mental illness. As the mother of 2 sons with bipolar disorder, I have returned to school so I can help affect change. This month I finished my first semester at Boston University’s School of Theology. I plan to become a UU Chaplain and educate and advocate through a mental health ministry.

The intersection I am standing at in the picture is where one of my sons was in 2010 when he was having a mental health crisis. He stood in the middle of the street throwing CD cases at cars and yelling. Most motorists swerved around him and some screamed in anger. There was just one woman who stopped. She unrolled her car window and asked if he needed help. He replied, “Yes,” and she got out of her car and led him to the curb. This stranger sat and talked with him until the police came. We never found out who she was, yet she made all the difference that day.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an 8-hour training that teaches how to assist someone who is facing a mental health or substance use challenge. I want to teach MHFA because 1 in 5 people has a mental health condition, and anyone can encounter someone in crisis like my son was that day. I have a strong foundation for teaching the course. My background is working as an RN, and I recently completed a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

A great place to start in providing mental health education is within our churches. Your contribution will allow me to attend an MHFA 5-day training in June, covering the cost of the course, travel, and lodging. Completing this training will certify me to teach the class which I will then be able to offer UU ministers and congregants in the greater Boston area. You can find out more information regarding MHFA at https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/. Thank you for your support.

South Church Senior...

The 2018 South Church Senior Youth Trip to the San Diego area is an opportunity to learn and grow in relation to the topic of immigration justice.
This year, in preparation for our trip, the 14 participating youth have attended local discussions about immigration concerns in our local community. In particular, we have learned about how new deportation policies are impacting the Indonesian people who live in our community.

Our group has read a book called Enrique’s Journey and then engaged in a discussion about the book. It tells the story of a young child on the path of hardship and trauma that immigrants face as they attempt to get to the United States from central America. This book helped us understand the intensity of the challenges facing families who are separated from one another due to extreme economic hardship and the hope for better opportunities in the United States.

We are hoping this trip will open our eyes to the real facts of immigration in the United States. Politics lie and stray from the truth to keep people in favor of controlling immigration. What we see on our trip will show us how much of those lies are said, allow us to ask questions in connection with things we’ve heard, and allow us to have deeper knowledge to engage politically on this issue.

As participants in this trip, we are aware that this journey is mostly for our own benefit. We are not doing a whole lot to help by traveling to San Diego and Tijuana beyond serving as witnesses to the trauma through which the people we meet are navigating. The real point of this trip is to learn together, to reflect, and to build a connection between this experience and our Unitarian Universalist faith.  Every time our youth group gets to be with each-other for extended periods of time, the most valuable friendships and memories are made. We are all closer then most kids our age and so, in addition to learning more about immigration, this trip is also another opportunity for our group to deepen our connection with one another.

Send McKayla to...

Hello, everyone! Thank you for visiting my campaign page!

My name is McKayla Hoffman, and I am an aspiring minister who is fundraising in order to attend the 2018 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly!

About My Journey:

I found Unitarian Universalism in 2011, during my sophomore year of college. Most of my undergraduate campus at Bridgewater State University appeared as a blur of color to me. Like many college students, I was perpetually running either to class, a meeting, or one of my three on-campus jobs. However, the rainbow flag at First Parish Church always caught my eye. Since the first day I walked into First Parish to sing in the choir, the wonderful congregation there embraced, loved, and inspired me as a close (and very sassy!) family does. I realized after being involved for a couple of years that something was different about this religious community than any I had encountered before. This denomination’s message of radical love and justice enabled me to express myself fully and openly for the first time in a church community. Knowing that there was a group of people who knew and fully embraced my identity was transformational. 

I deeply appreciated Unitarian Universalism’s emphasis on honoring many truths and nurturing the daunting task of living in love among all of them. Probably like your UU community, the incredible people at First Parish embodied this transformative questioning and the complimentary maxim “love is goodwill in action” while creating a supportive spiritual home. I was inspired to add my own effort into supporting this home for present church members and for the new seekers who came through our doors.

Something that began as a very small impression at a young age grew exponentially during my first three years at First Parish. I assisted with a particularly moving service, and the thought suddenly hit me: I should pursue UU ministry. Even after I graduated college and started my career in archaeology and museums, I haven’t shaken this call (though I’ve desperately tried–and failed). In the wake of recent work to dismantly white supremacy in our denomination, I felt that if I wanted to begin serving our community of loving movers and shakers, I should start now and set my fear and trepidation aside.

I attended the 2017 UU General Assembly, which proved to be a consequential one amidst the current work of dismantling the systemic racism in our denomination. The voices that span generations, races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and abilities are each vitally important. This year’s GA serves as our chance to continue giving credence and legitimacy to each of these voices. Also, the opportunity for our united UU family to network and connect during these challenging times is incredibly beneficial. Last year’s GA gave me new tools to dismantle my own complicity in white supremacy and colonialism, which was important to me as an aspiring white minister. I was also overwhelmed to be able to spend time speaking with GA attendees who were young, queer, and had experienced the same fears and hurt that I did. They empowered me in a way I’ve never experienced. For these reasons, attending the 2018 GA would serve as an important step in my ministerial–and personal–formation.

I’m currently working for a nonprofit living history museum. It’s a phenomenal place that educates underserved, inner city youth about history and its consequences, including ingrained racism, class divide, ethnocentrism, the need for environmental sustainability practices, and more. Unfortunately, working in the nonprofit world comes with its setbacks; it serves the heart and mind, but certainly not the wallet. However, after speaking at length with our Revered about the opportunities that the 2018 GA would present, I decided that I should try my best to make it there! I am grateful for the network and platform that is Faithify, and that it is available to those who struggle financially.

In order to offset the cost of attending General Assembly, I applied for and received a scholarship that covered the cost of registration and a small portion of expenses. However, I still have $500 to raise.

If you would like to consider donating to my fundraising campaign, I would be deeply grateful. As a young professional who understands the deep value of every dollar, I’ll highlight the fact that there is truly no amount that is too small. I am blessed to know such incredible people, and to have such supportive family and friends. Nothing that I could ever do would express my gratitude for the support you all give me, and no matter where this road takes me, each step will be for you all. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Lupembe flood victims

Lupembe Village is in Karonga District, northern part of Malawi. This  is my hometown . I left Malawi in 1993 to pursue a better life here in the United states.

On February 2nd 2018, I learned that  most of Lupembe residents  had lost everything due to the flood on February 1st 2018. It was estimated that there are 1,028 families  affected by the flood. Based on my understanding  20-30 families were assisted by the Red Cross of Malawi.  To date, hundreds of families are remain without assistance. I feel compelled to help the families, however am not able to do this alone.

The families are in need of basic necessities, such as clean water, medical supplies, rebuilding of homes, food and household goods. The residents of  Lupembe  are  predominantly farmers and fishermen. My church, Unitarian Society of Hartford, Connecticut, helped to raise money towards purchasing 80 bags of  maize. This assisted eighty families.

I need your help to provide assistance to remaining families. Your contribution can help achieve a solution.

If you have information of international organizations that can help with rebuilding their homes, please email them to me. I have direct contact with the member of parliament for Karonga District, Mr. Frank Mwenefumbo. His contact information will be provided upon request.

Raise Up Unitarian Culture, Build Places to Gather

To survive as a community, people create spaces to come together. Places to share traditions and cultural values. Music. Dance. Language. Food. Play. Story. It’s the same in Transylvania, Romania, as it is around the world.

First U of Yarmouth, Maine, and Unitarian Kaláka ask for your help to create and expand gathering spaces in three Unitarian communities in Transylvania. Varosfalva, in the video above, is one of the three communities raising funds through our Faithify campaign.

In Transylvania, “kaláka” is the practice of working together – like barn raising in the old days – to accomplish shared goals. Each of these community-building projects will be achieved locally by village volunteers, matched with your financial support.

How will the funds be used?

1 To create a safe play space for children in Városfalva

Since the village school was closed, there are no play spaces for children in the Unitarian community of Városfalva. This “kalaka” project, initiated by parents, creates a vital playground, a safe and healthy environment essential to a child’s development – an oasis of freedom.

The new playground will serve the village’s 30 children, as well as parents, village elders, and young people of all ages.  All will benefit from this communal gathering space, and all are eager to volunteer in some way to make it happen.

“Remember your childhood…”

“We plan to build the playground with volunteers and we want to buy all the equipment from local companies to support the neighboring economy… Remember your childhood and the joy you had on playgrounds. Every child deserves such an oasis of freedom.”  – A Városfalva volunteer

2 To raise the walls on a new church hall wing in Torockoszentgyorgy

Urgently in need of expansion, the church hall is the center of Torockoszentgyorgy life, hosting the growing number of community groups who gather there: youth groups, the women’s association, children’s workshops and more.

Volunteers will construct a new wing with running water for a kitchen and bathroom, meeting rooms, and space for communal celebrations. With this project, the village is determined to preserve its traditional way of life.

“We have started to lose our traditions…”

“In the last 70 years, the world has evolved and we have started to lose our traditions. Our goal is to bring back those traditions with kaláka projects like this. We began building a new wing for our Community Hall two years ago. We hope that this year we can raise the walls, brick by brick.”  – A Szentgyorgy community member

3 To restore the community hall in Brassó

In Brassó, the Hall of Brotherhood is where villagers in surrounding communities gather to celebrate and solidify their Unitarian Hungarian roots. Groups come together – 100 to 200 each week – to dance, sing, learn English, play music, make handicrafts, and share precious time with each other.

After 35 years of use, the hall is in desperate need of renovation. The floor is slippery and uneven; walls need re-plastering; and tables and chairs have deteriorated. Restoring this hall will transform this community.

“Where traditions and cultural values are transmitted…”

“This hall is where traditions and cultural values are transmitted. The room is used continuously and now needs extensive renovation to remain safe and attractive. Through this communal effort, the Brotherhood Hall can once again serve our community.” Brassó community leader

Please help! These kaláka projects provide places to gather, play, teach, learn, celebrate, and work together – helping to preserve Unitarian village life in Transylvania. 

Thank you!

 

Help Us Build Sanctuary

In April of 2017, the congregation of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island voted overwhelmingly to become a Sanctuary Church. In the months since then, we have been hard at work creating a space, making community connections and coming up with a plan for how we will carry this out. We are currently the only church in RI we know of close to being ready to offer sanctuary. 

Extra seating doubles as a sleeping area for family.

Extra seating doubles as a sleeping area for family.

One of the final hurdles we face in being ready to take in a guest is to install a shower in our building.  This is why we are launching this campaign. We need to raise money to install our shower, replace the current sink and plumbing in the room, add a countertop to the kitchen area, and install a lock on the door. These items will make our sanctuary space feel like a home away from home for the guest or family who seeks our help. Can you help us meet our fundraising goal of $7,500.00?

If for some reason we are not able to fulfill our goal of becoming a sanctuary church, we will donate any unused funds to another sanctuary project in our area.

This journey we are embarking on is filled with uncertainty, but as Unitarian Universalists, we feel called to stand with and support those in our community who are vulnerable to unjust deportation. We feel called to resist those who would break up families and communities based on discrimination, fear, and hate. We thank you for considering our call to help.