Tagged: “UU”

Support Seminary Students...

This spring, Starr King School for the Ministry is running its first-ever pilgrimage in the Holy Land within its ECO model of educating to counter oppressions and build just and sustainable communities.

This semester long-course, entitled “Reviving Pilgrimage: Decolonizing Religious Travel to the Holy Land,” involves a 10-day pilgrimage mid-semester of Spring 2020 in order for students to both engage in historical forms of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish pilgrimage while also challenging the paradigm of pilgrimage and the religious pilgrim’s role in colonization.

Over the course of the semester, students will ask the questions: What does it mean, as a religious leader, to visit the Holy Land in these times? Is pilgrimage possible in the midst of occupation and colonization? How is bearing witness to injustice a political tool in liberation movements, and what more is required of us? How does travel to the Holy Land require of us responsivity to the moral and political crisis on the ground? How can we challenge the white/western saviour complex in the way we travel? How can we move from charity to solidarity? How can we move from religious tourism to pilgrimage? How do we, as people of faith, put faith into action?

In our times, we desperately need religious leaders with a critical awareness of and engagement with the political realities of the Holy Land today. Help Unitarian Universalism be a model for training its leaders for this crucial ministry. Your donation will go to off-set student travel costs, rendering this trip affordable for a socioeconomically and religiously diverse student body. Class registrants include students from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Unitarian Universalist faith traditions.

We need an additional $6000 in the next 30 days to make the trip possible for this upcoming cohort of faith leaders. Can you support us?

Class Instructor and 2 students featured in video

Course instructor Faryn Borella and two of the registered students, Lisa Kynvi and Ariel Aaronson-Eves, recorded the segments in the video for this campaign explaining the concept of the trip and its importance to them.

This fundraiser is cosponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, and Friends of Sabeel North America

Thank you for your support.

International Youth Pilgrimage

2016 pilgrimage village horse cart ride

The Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council (UUPCC) and the Országos Dávid Ferenc Ifjúsági Egylet (ODFIE)—the youth wing of the Hungarian Unitarian Church in Transylvania and Hungary—are proud to collaborate on a pilgrimage and summer camp in Transylvania. The pilgrimage/camp will take place in July 2020. The UUPCC and ODFIE last collaborated on a highly successful summer camp in 2016. ODFIE runs the largest Unitarian or Unitarian Universalist youth camp operation in the world.

The UUPCC interviewed an impressive number of applicants before selecting fifteen North American youth who will go on the trip. The exceptional youth accepted on the trip come from coast to coast. ODFIE will choose a roughly equal number of Transylvanian youth to join in the experience.

During the pilgrimage and youth camp, we intend to foster community through encouraging personal connections between cultures and empowering youth through discussion groups, home visits with local families, camp games, etc. The group will also visit culturally and religiously significant sites in Unitarianism to help them grow in their own spirituality and knowledge of our faith. These sites will include Déva where Francis David died in prison, Torda where the Edict of Torda was debated and proclaimed, and Gyulafehérvár where early Unitarian leaders King John Sigismund and his mother Queen Isabella are buried. ODFIE will choose a service project for North American and Transylvanian youth to work on together. Before the pilgrimage and youth camp, we will work with youth and their advisors to ensure their cultural competency and preparedness for an intense and transformational journey. This will include Zoom sessions as well as a few days together in New York City before flying to Transylvania.

Planning the 2016 joint work project

Visiting Transylvania—in many ways the birthplace of Unitarianism—and getting to know kinfolk in faith from a different country will help North American youth participants grow deeper spiritually and become more skilled at intercultural engagement. They will experience firsthand some of our most important religious roots, as well as our faith’s rich past and deep, complicated present. Building cross-cultural community through shared activities, worship, common meals and visiting sacred sites will help participants sharpen their community building skills and create lifetime friendships. More than anything, they will learn about themselves and their spiritual journey through leaving their ordinary rhythm and living in a liminal space full of adventure and opportunity. Through this pilgrimage/camp, they each have the possibility to return home a changed person.

We hope that the pilgrimage/camp will deepen youth participants’ sense of UU identity and strengthen their commitment to continue engaging with our faith as they bridge into adulthood. Young adults who have had deep experiences of our faith such as this will help our faith thrive for many decades to come. In their own unique way, each youth who goes on the pilgrimage/camp could make important and lasting contributions to U/U congregations in North America and internationally.

The North American youth will be accompanied by three adults over twenty-five years old. The advisors will include a minister and a religious educator. The process of selecting the advisors and every aspect of the trip will be guided by the UUA’s youth safety guidelines.

The cost for the North American youth and adult advisors to go on the trip is around $2,100 per youth. A grant from the UU Funding Program and (hopefully) a successful Faithify campaign will help make the trip affordable for every youth who has been accepted into the program. Reaching the Faithify campaign goal of $10,000 will pay for about 60% of the youth overseas airline tickets. Additional funding will come from the UU Partner Church Council, fundraisers at the youths’ congregations, and youth families.

2016 group at the airport before departure

Immigrant Housing in Chalice House

The need for housing for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. is critically important. In a recently released report, the National Immigrant Justice Center described immigration detention centers as a “sprawling network of wasteful prisons operated by for-profit companies, county jails, and a small number of processing centers owned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that are interchangeable from jails in structure and practice.”

Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist (Palatine, IL) currently owns a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house that is adjacent to our main church building, and we are partnering with Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) to convert this home into transitional housing for immigrants seeking asylum.

It’s our goal for the home to be ready for a family by sometime in 2nd Quarter 2020.

Chalice House is a shared project whereby ICDI provides ongoing services and support to its asylum-seeking clients, while Countryside and donors like you provide housing and hospitality. Community-based housing such as Chalice House offers alternatives to detention while an immigrant’s case is pending so that families can stay together and immigrants don’t experience additional trauma in immigration detention centers.

ICDI is a non-profit, faith-based organization that provides housing and other services to immigrants released from ICE detention. An ICDI case manager connects people to educational, ESL, religious, health, and legal services. By providing a supportive and caring environment and trauma-informed care, ICDI seeks to help people heal and adjust to life in the U.S. while they wait for future court dates or work permits.

Chalice House is a way to build the beloved community right here, right now. But we can’t do it alone — this is where the support from you can come in. In addition to seeking the support (both financial and volunteer) of areas congregations and community groups, we are seeking support from individuals who support this cause.

If, for any reason, Chalice House does not come to fruition, all funds will go directly to ICDI to support other community housing for immigrants.

Help rejuvenate this...

Our Unitarian Universalist church was built almost 170 years ago by a group of abolitionists, including our main founder, who was not a funeral director but drove a hearse around town as a means of helping formerly enslaved people find their ways to freedom. One of our other early members went with a group of women to Town Hall on Election Day, where they demanded to vote — before the vote for women was officially allowed in 1920. (She was not a woman to be crossed, and the group was allowed to vote.)

Dr. Edward Everett Hale, Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many other key thinkers of their day have given lectures in our church hall (yes, the very hall we’re trying to renovate).

UCMH church hall We’ve have a lot of fun in the old hall, including after church services during coffee hour.

We’ve been working to keep our founders’ dreams alive ever since the church began, making social justice a cornerstone of our community — raising money for Habitat for Humanity, hosting community suppers, becoming a Welcoming Congregation, hosting educational events about racial, economic and climate justice, holding Amnesty International letter writing campaigns, and holding a vigil and fundraiser to help reunite separated immigrant families.

Thing is, our church is really starting to show its age despite our small congregation’s best efforts, and we’re trying to increase our outreach to include everyone we can in the awesomeness of our beloved community. Under the rubric of our Spiritual Growth and Community Center, we host dozens of programs every year that are open to the community and that take place in Union Hall.

Recent and ongoing programs include: the Sessions open mic and coffeehouse, Japanese playgroup, drum circles, annual clothing giveaway, murder mystery dinner theater, potluck suppers, games nights, Mooncircle full moon rituals, labyrinth workshops, Red Tent events, Dungeons and Dragons, “Shake Your Soul” Yoga Dance, yoga, a rank choice voting informational musical event, Halloween Harry Potter-themed open house and fundraiser, winter blues beach party and many more. We also lend our space to Hudson town conservation meetings and the downtown holiday stroll.

UCMH church hall wall The hall is in dire need of some updating.

We’d love to do even more, including increasing our attractiveness to outside renters as a way of improving our financial self-reliance. But be honest: If you didn’t already know and love us, would you really want to hang out in a place with cracked paint that’s in semi-darkness? (Neither do we, but we really need coffee after the service. You know.)

So, please, consider helping us buy new tables, upgrade to dimmable LED lights, cover Ye Olde Radiators with pretty fabric, and buy paint (for a DIY project). If our Faithify goal is exceeded by $1,500, we will also upgrade the wiring for the stage and the hall in general. (Yes, we have a stage, from the days before television, when folks used to engage in quaint activities like putting on plays and making music to entertain themselves and to raise money for the church.)

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for any help you can give us. And whether you donate or not, please visit us in wonderful downtown Hudson, Mass. – we’d love to meet you! (Even if the lighting is suspect, at least we’ll be able to offer you some coffee. And there are lots of great restaurants and cool shops to check out afterward.)

For more information about our church and our wonderful minister and staff, head to www.ucmh.org.

Sanctuary for Rosa!

I took sanctuary because I love my children and do not want to leave my country. I want to fight from here. -- Rosa Gutierrez Lopez

Eighteen months after voting to become a sanctuary congregation, Cedar Lane welcomed our first guest into physical sanctuary.

Rosa Gutiérrez López was scheduled for deportation the morning of December 10, 2018.  She would have left behind three U.S.-born children and a full life – work, her own church community, friends, and more.  Instead, she made the difficult decision to come into sanctuary at Cedar Lane, determined to continue to fight her legal case.

Imagine Rosa were your mother. Your daughter, your sister, your wife. I want you to imagine that until it hurts your heart. Until it disturbs your mind. Unti it makes you weep and you find the courageous love to fight for Rosa and end these cagings, separations, and deportations. -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President, Repairers of the BreachImmediately our Sanctuary Leadership Team sprang into action.  Putting the finishing touches on what would be Rosa’s living space and stocking the fridge were first on the list, but they quickly moved on to training volunteers, creating systems for communications, and seeking answers to all the questions we never anticipated.

We are now eleven months in – and Rosa’s three children have joined her in residence at Cedar Lane.  Her children’s presence is a blessing.  Rosa deeply missed them while they finished the school year in their home town.  She is gratified to see them every day – preparing their meals, checking homework, guiding their growth and development.

Cedar Lane congregants and others have stepped up in ways we only hoped for, giving generously of their time, talent, and financial support.  But we cannot do this alone.

We are now turning to you, the greater UU community and beyond, to help us support Rosa through this next phase of sanctuary.  The costs of sanctuary are more than Cedar Lane can bear alone, and due to the long delays in the immigration court system, we expect our guest and her family will be with us for as long as 18 more months – or perhaps longer.

Can you help us raise $12,500 in the next month?

Your donation will help cover the cost of groceries and personal care items; school supplies; new clothes as the seasons change and Rosa’s children grow; educational outings and fun activities for the kids; background checks for volunteers; and out of pocket healthcare expenses, as well as other professional support for the family as they navigate this new reality.

Meeting our goal will help ensure our sanctuary program is on strong financial footing for whatever may come — and however long it may take.

Thank you.  Thank you for your support of Rosa, her family, and Cedar Lane.  Thank you for your commitment to building a more just world.

***

Our partners:  We would not have been able to sustain our sanctuary work to date without the support of hundreds of volunteers who give thousands of hours of their time each month.  In addition to Cedar Lane members, many come from religious institutions that are members of Congregation Action Network, a group of 70+ congregations in the DC/MD/VA area that is committed to providing support and solidarity to our neighbors who fear being detained, deported, or profiled.  CAN has provided trusted guidance to Cedar Lane’s lay leaders and staff.

Read more:  Rosa’s story has garnered media coverage from across the globe.  You can read some of the most comprehensive stories here:

Sanctuary is saying ‘yes,’ to our deepest religious and spiritual values, those values that compel us to care for the vulnerable, to welcome the immigrant, to organize society around the needs of the poor. Sanctuary is calling on our elected officials to fix our broken immigration system, so that congregations such as ours no longer have to use our physical spaces to protect human lives. -- Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Cedar Lane UU Church

Help Midwife Seminarian...

Peace and civility can only be manifested through forging personal relationships by way of interfaith dialogs, across secular lines, and taking our message of peace into the public square. I consider myself an artist of that ministry.

Sunrise Lake Michigan Painting

I see myself as a religious leader, poised through my training to teach people how to forge relationships civilly and bring about real change. I am to respond to situations of growth, conflict and change pastorally and creatively. The degradation of peace is often lost in the discourse when people are afraid to sit in discomfort in order to make this world just. So often peace is equated with ease. Peace comes in examining problematic behaviors in ourselves and our communities.

Weaving together marketing, arts and public relations with ministry has been the way I’ve shaped my vision to grow peace and civility in today’s world. I enroll people in our movement for peace by making it voluptuous, gorgeous and reverent. When humans are engaged by splendor, they are in a better space to hear one another and can engage in the deep listening required to reach peace in our hearts and actions. Art and beauty invite people in. It softens the discomfort. I affirm what Toni Cade Bambarayou says: “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” As an artist of ministry, I  use all my tools to make our movement irresistible. Won’t you support me, so I can take this next step toward becoming an artist of ministry on the canvas of our movement?

I see the MFC on December 6. I travel to Boston. I have had to prepare tests, reviews, photos, and more to get to the MFC. Now I need to travel, eat, take transportation and lodging while there. Your donation of any amount will help.

All who donate $100 or more will receive a postcard set of five of my art prints suitable for framing. 

I have spent decades sharing our ideologies outside of our churches in places where people are struggling. Knowing how to harness the power of media is necessary to our movement. When we dance, sing and display beauty outside the church walls, we can appeal to people and open their hearts.

Autumn Trees: Falling Forward Reaching Back

Systems of oppression need to be dismantled and that only comes from 1:1 relationship. If we cannot love our mother earth, our transgender siblings, our unhomed neighbors, our queer children and our immigrant cousins as much as we love our god, how will we claim grace?

I answer this question with the sentiments of Alfred S. Cole and John Wesley: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”

It is in that loving, carrying beauty in one hand and our message of peace in the other across lines of faith, that we will bring about true and lasting peace.

Please come with me on this journey.

The Basics on Backers

Backers: Who are they and how many do you need for a successful campaign?

Let the Music Play!

Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship is blessed to have a vibrant music program and an energetic new music staff. With new staffing and new programming comes the need for new music. Some music can cost up to $2.50 per booklet of sheet music; with 20+ choir members, costs can add up quickly.

Staff and the music committee have been working hard going through our files to assess what music is still relevant in keeping and making room for new pieces. Your generosity will help in really lifting our new music program to new heights

Empower Marginalized Bolivian Women to Create Change!

Background. The project builds on a pilot leadership development program implemented with funds raised on Faithify in 2018.  It took place in District 7 of Viacha (near the Bolivian capital, La Paz), home to indigenous Aymara, where women are mostly street vendors (and thus part of the informal economy). The initiative consisted of bi-weekly training courses in sewing, hairdressing, and baking, over a three-month period (August-October 2018). The practical trainings were complemented with workshops addressing economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, leadership, gender and society (with a special topic on masculinity, machoism, and femicides), prevention of domestic violence, and spirituality and meditation. The training was an inspiring spark for the 45 participants to think about paths to better livelihoods and to confront their situation of gender marginality. Project leader Calixta Choque Churata, a Unitarian from Viacha, would now like “to move forward and reach more women and girls who feel the need to be trained and empowered.” Given the success of the pilot training, interest in the continuation of the program is high. Please read more information about the pilot program here.

How will the funds be used? Funds will be used to implement practical courses in cooking and developing healthy food habits, hairdressing, sewing and making eco products; as well as leadership training focusing on capacity building in areas such as self-esteem development, gender equality, economic empowerment and entrepreneurial skills, prevention of violence, environmental education, and women in environmental decision-making. The participants will be selected by the local organizing team. Training sessions will take place twice weekly, over three months. Funds will be used for educational materials, training supplies, logistics, and the cost of trainers. The participants will enhance their ability to better manage their finances, be confident of their rights, and have a marketable skill. These results will decrease their level of vulnerability and discrimination and increase their ability to be financially independent. Graduates of the program can become resource persons for future training sessions.

Project Endorsements

Calixta, in green, with graduates of the baking class

Calixta Choque Churata, project leader (text of the video above): Life for women in Bolivia is difficult. “Machismo” culture is deeply entrenched. Sexism, misogyny, and violence are everyday occurrences. Many women are economically inactive and have limited job opportunities. That is why I believe that this program is a great opportunity for economically disadvantaged and marginalized women in Viacha to acquire tools and skills, gain confidence, develop leadership competencies, and achieve greater economic independence. This program offers marketable job skills – such as sewing, cooking or hairdressing – as well as business and leadership training. When women and girls are provided with training and entrepreneurial opportunities, they can challenge patriarchal norms and stereotypes; they can enter the workforce, build better livelihoods, and take on leadership roles in their communities. They can become role models to others. They can even start their own income-generating businesses. Please consider pledging to this project to give these women a dream. A dream to improve her livelihood. A dream to reach her financial independence. A dream to become a leader in her community. A dream to create her own future. Thank you! Gracias!

Participants in the Pilot Program

Delia Alexandra Fernández Vargas: I am 18 years old. This is my last year of school. I want to go to the university. I am thinking of studying biochemistry. I took the hairdressing training course because I like to learn hairstyles, hair care, new looks. I learned many useful things: for example, skin lightening, facial cleaning, hair care, massages, hair and skin hydration, new looks, and types of hair dyes. The teacher was very good. She knows her profession. I see myself doing hairstyles, hair dyes, or facial cleaning. I can offer these new skills. This training will definitely help me in the future. I wish I could learn so much more. The training course lasted a short time. I am grateful for what I learned. My heartfelt thanks go to all the people who gave us the opportunity of taking these courses.

Katharin Maldonado Tarqui: I am 14 years old. I come from a family with very limited resources. I took part in the hairdressing courses, which helped me get a job as a hairdresser’s assistant, during weekends, to supplement our small family income. I would like to continue this practical workshop as well as learn as much as I can about leadership and entrepreneurship – which will help me in my future. Who knows, I may be able to put my training towards starting my own business!

Project Partners. The Bolivian organizing team is made up of Unitarians from La Paz and surroundings. The project leaders, Calixta Choque Churata and Xiomara Salinas, attended IWC’s 2015 Gathering in Bolivia; Xiomara also attended IWC’s Third Women’s Convocation in California (February 2017). Our project partner is also the Unitarian Universalist community of La Paz, Bolivia (Comunidad Unitaria Universalista Boliviana).

Sanctuary Travel Fund

The Cambridge Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition (CISC) is a small group of Cambridge, Boston, and area congregations walking the journey with people facing deportation and unjust laws. 

CISC is committed to following the lead of people who are facing the greatest risks, while honoring their strength and resilience. CISC currently helps to support a woman (and her two children) who fears for her life if deported to her country of origin.

As part of our sanctuary efforts, there is an urgent, repeated, and ongoing need for funds to support the team of people who accompanies our guest to her out-of-state court hearings, and other important sanctuary journeys. This Faithify campaign will help off-set the cost of this vital travel, including food, airfare, and ground transportation. 

Supporting the travel fund helps us continue doing what we do. Thank you for being part of our sanctuary efforts.

Please don’t share this link through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) or your congregation’s website.

New Couches for First UU Syracuse Youth Group

The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse youth group, Teenz, currently has five couches. Four of the couches are like the one pictured below. These couches are plastic, and are cold and uncomfortable to sit on. The blue one pictured is also broken.

As a result, a past group of teenagers went to the church’s annual garage sale and physically carried a couch from the sale back to the teen room. That couch is pictured below.

Couches may seem to fade into the background. In reality, though, they are a cornerstone for warm and welcoming youth ministry. They set a tone for the room, and literally support youth in their faith formation. These current couches have held joy and laughter and leadership and companionship. They are also now past due to be replaced.

We want our Teenz know that, while they are clearly resourceful, they don’t have to scrounge for used couches at a garage sale. Our teenagers are amazing. Let’s give them, and future youth, something new and beautiful.

We estimate that new couches will cost about $3,000. Fortunately, a generous youth parent has offered to match donations dollar for dollar up to $1,500. Please donate, and help us reach our goal of providing a more loving space for First UU youth.

Open FirstSteps Re-entry House for People Returning Home From Prison to Champaign Co, Illinois

-See Stretch Goal info below and News (with photos!) in the Update tab –

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign (UUCUC) is partnering with FirstFollowers to open FirstSteps, a re-entry house for people returning to our community after incarceration. UUCUC has already committed $5500 for this desperately needed program.  Many other congregations, community organizations, and government programs are also supporting this cause.  Funds raised from this Faithify campaign will be used to cover startup and operational expenses. The FirstSteps house is scheduled to open this Fall.  They have already raised 85% of the funds needed to open, this Faithify campaign could get them to 100%. Please consider supporting the FirstSteps home and sharing this campaign with your network.

FirstFollowers is a local non-profit supporting people returning to the community from incarceration.  Over the years of providing peer mentorship to people leaving prison, they recognized a stark need for housing.

Housing is very scarce for those with any history of criminal justice system involvement. Historically, the local Housing Authority has banned formerly incarcerated people from returning to their units, even if they have family members living there. This is slowly changing with advocacy, but the demand for public housing still far outstrips the supply. In Champaign, landlords are legally allowed to refuse to rent to people with certain felony convictions. Other obstacles, like application fees and credit checks, exclude most people returning home from prison. With nearly 400 people on state supervised release in Champaign County, there is a huge need for supportive services.

FirstFollowers is working with the Housing Authority of Champaign County to renovate a home on Ells Street in Champaign. FirstFollowers GoMAD scholars are young people with some criminal justice involvement who are being trained in construction skills.  GoMAD scholars are currently working side-by-side with contractors to ready the FirstSteps home for its first residents.  When the home is complete and enough funds are raised to launch the program, staff and volunteer mentors will welcome up to four residents at a time.

FirstSteps is not just a house or a bed. Individuals living in the house will have the support of FirstFollowers peer mentors. Residents will also be connected with local resources and provided with access to opportunities for employment, training, and education. In addition, peer mentors will help them establish personal plans and goals offering social/emotional support through their networks of allies in the community.

First Followers’ mission is to build strong and peaceful communities by providing support, guidance, and hope to formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones through peer mentorship.

​FirstFollowers offers:

A safe stigma free environment

Peer mentoring

Assistance with employment searches

Job readiness training

Advocacy for individuals with felony convictions

Family reunification

Service referrals

View website:  https://www.firstfollowersreentry.com/

UUCUC is pleased to sponsor this Faithify campaign to help FirstFollowers acquire the necessary funds to make the FirstSteps home a reality.  FirstSteps will not just benefit the residents, but the entire community. We thank you in advance for your support. We hope to have many community members present on FirstSteps opening day, to not only celebrate, but to commit to a continuing partnership. Please read the UU Connections tab to learn how UUCUC came to support FirstFollowers and the FirstSteps transitional house.