Faithify Reaches $500,000!

This week, FAITHIFY, the Unitarian Universalist crowdfunding site, passed the $500,000 pledged mark. In plain speak that means that over 5,000 people pledged their gifts of over half a million dollars to campaigns created by everyday UUs. Each of our funders demonstrated their love for Unitarian Universalism in one of its myriad manifestations on faithify.org.

They love the soulful music or worship of their local congregation.

They love the gift that Unitarian Universalism is to the life of a young person they know.

They love the hands and hearts determined to shape our world into a place with more love and less hate.

This is #FAITHIFYLove.

 

faithifylove1Each of the over 130 campaigns that have run on FAITHIFY represents a labor of love. To start a crowdfunding campaign you need to articulate your unique response to the question: How am I called to live our faith? You need to risk sharing your vision for faithful living with the wider movement and invite others to support you on that journey.

This is #FAITHIFYLove.

 

#FAITHIFYLove inspires UUs to act on their dreams!

#FAITHIFYLove unites strangers in our movement together!

#FAITHIFYLove invests in our faith at the grassroots!

 

What is the power of #FAITHIFYLove?

  • faithifylove2#FAITHIFYLove is 83 funders making it possible for 15,000 people to register to vote in North Carolina.
  • #FAITHIFYLove turned $710 into over a 100 #BlackLivesMatter lawn signs to be prophetically displayed outsides homes in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • #FAITHIFYLove is the 31 campaigns that did not meet their goals, but kept on going.
  • #FAITHIFYLove is 159 people responding to a call for solidarity from our indigenous partners from Lummi Nation and funding an anti-extraction Totem Pole Journey.
  • #FAITHIFYLove is an individual Unitarian Universalist hearing of a congregation suffering and coming to their aid, the only connection between them our shared faith.
  • #FAITHIFYLove is the power of what happens when we come together, risk together, pool our money and talents together. It is the power of saying “Yes!” to our dreams. It is the power of a movement that has our back.

 

To celebrate this milestone FAITHIFY is launching the #FAITHIFYLove contest. We want you to share on social media stories and pictures that showcase what #FAITHIFYLove truly is. Enter and you could win a $50 FAITHIFY gift card.

 

Spread the #FAITHIFYLove

 

neil-barron_sean


Sean Neil-Barron is the project manager of FAITHIFY, who loves the crowd so much he is contemplating spending an entire day crowdsourcing his every movement.

 

Growing in Spirit

One of the most exciting areas of growth I’ve seen in our tradition has been in spirituality. When I first became involved with Unitarian Universalism in the mid-90s, spirituality was a somewhat unfamiliar concept to many of the people in our congregations. But toward the end of the twentieth century, more and more resources became available to help familiarize UUs with the idea spiritual growth.

One book in particular was enormously influential for me and many others: Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, edited by Scott W. Alexander and published by Skinner House Books. It’s still in print today and is available online at inSpirit: the UU book and gift shop.

In its pages, you’ll find a wide variety of approaches to spirituality, which is only fitting given our tradition’s long appreciation of the many spiritual paths offered by the world’s religions. What really interests me, though, is that a number of the essays in the book were written by UU ministers who are also trained spiritual directors.

Two of those authors, Erik Walker Wikstrom and Christine Robinson, have gone on to create a number of resources that have helped move personal and communal spiritual growth into the forefront of our movement.

One of my favorite resources from Rev. Wikstrom is Spirit in Practice, a ten-session Tapestry of Faith Program for adults which “was created to help Unitarian Universalists develop regular disciplines, or practices, of the spirit—practices that help them connect with the sacred ground of their being, however they understand it.” And as with most Tapestry of Faith resources, it’s available free and online!

Rev. Robinson and her co-author Alicia Hawkins have “reimagined…small group ministry” by developing a small group format which “offers readings, journaling suggestions, and thought-provoking exercises to help participants prepare for the spiritual practice of sharing in community.”

There are three books in this Deeper Connection Series, each with fourteen gatherings: Heart to Heart, Soul to Soul, and Listening Hearts. All three are available from inSpirit.

Back in the nineties, it was sometimes difficult to explain to people who had never explored their spirituality just what that might entail. Now with resources like Spirit in Practice and the Deeper Connection Series, our congregations can be places were everyone—newcomer and longtime members alike—can experience spiritual growth together.

 

Phil Lund


Religious educator, minister, spiritual director, and wannabe geek dad, Phillip Lund is a congregational life consultant with the MidAmerica Region of the UUA and co-creator of the Clergy Seminar Series in Congregation-Based Spiritual Direction.

How I Made My Congregation’s Website in 90 Minutes

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Websites are the front doors to our faith communities, so it’s important to have an attractive, helpful and welcoming one! As someone who makes this point to congregations all the time, I thought I should take my own advice and try out the UUA WordPress theme, which I helped create through my UUA job, and use it for my home congregation. I made my UU congregation’s website using the UUA WordPress Theme, and rescued it from certain death, all in an afternoon.

Our story today is in four acts.

Introduction

Think of your website like your building (or physical space). It’s absolutely as important as your building for interacting with the wider community. It requires land to sit on; that’s your hosting service. The WordPress platform works as your building’s foundation, and the UUA WordPress theme creates outside walls, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, all the structural stuff. Once you’ve got your building/site up, you still have to decorate and arrange it with furniture, paint, lighting, etc. That’s your site’s content (and we give you a recommended setup and some furnishing examples with the draft content). The menu operates like internal walls that are really easy to move around and reshape your rooms depending on your furniture/content.

The UUA WordPress theme is like a prefab website house for our congregations, one built using best practices and great design. But to use that prefab house you still have to get the land (hosting), and, like any construction project, you still have to know how to wield a hammer.

I would say I can use a hammer, though I’m definitely not an architect or a general contractor. I’m not a tech guy. But I’ve been working on this website theme project for months, so I wanted to test it out and see if a guy who does some home improvement/website work on the side can pull this off.

Prologue

My home congregation in Malden has an ok website, but it isn’t responsive, isn’t screen-reader accessible, and it’s hard to get multiple accounts to edit it. Plus, we are paying a lot for hosting, and not even using the full range of services we are paying for (e.g. a custom social network). We decided to switch to the cheaper, easier, more flexible, more accessible and generally more awesome UUA theme. I set aside some time, and rolled up my sleeves to get started.

Act I – Hosting

First, I signed up with Blue Host. I picked BlueHost because they are cheap, reliable, have a solid reputation, and do good work with nonprofits. They also offer easy integration with webmail as part of their hosting package, something we don’t currently have in Malden (that means you can get accounts like minister@yourchurch.org or office@yourchurch.org). Plus, using a third party hosting company and setting up a new site meant it was easier to meet the technical requirements for using the theme.

BlueHost requires payment for hosting up front, but I got a year of hosting for $60 (side note – be careful what you subscribe for! I actually picked the $4/month option first, which turned out to be a 3-year package, and had to call them to switch my plan). This is WAY cheaper than our current hosting fees.

As part of signing up for Blue Host, I had to pick a domain name. We decided to change our domain name as part of the process, but you can transfer an existing domain name. If you want to use your current domain name, you will probably want to create a sub-domain to use as your staging/development site (maybe www.dev.yourchurch.org), which you do through your “domains” section of the control panel. From there, you can also add a new registered domain name to your BlueHost account later and transfer your original URL.

Act II – Installation

Bluehost control panelNow that I was logged in to my BlueHost account with a domain set up, I went to the “hosting” section of the control panel and clicked “install WordPress” and then followed the instructions to install on my domain (no need for any of the paid options to help install).

Perfect! Now I had my WordPress site set up. I’m familiar with WordPress from other blogs and sites I mentioned, but if you don’t know WordPress then I recommend the WordPress Support site: https://en.support.wordpress.com/.

I logged in with my BlueHost account (login at yourchurch.org/wp-admin) and went to the Appearance > Themes section of the Dashboard. I had already gone to uuatheme.org and downloaded the theme, which comes as a ZIP file (don’t do anything to it, just let it be zipped!). I clicked “Add New” and uploaded my zip file and BOOM! I was in business. I followed the prompts and installed all the recommended widgets.

Act II – Setup

WP dashboard theme installThe theme requires some setup, especially for the custom options. So I followed the guidance on uuatheme.org and adjusted the theme options (colors, header, etc.), available once you click into the UUA Theme. I followed all the steps listed the initial setup instructions.

Next I installed the Demo Content to get started (I declined to import all the images, since they weren’t specific to my congregation). But the demo content gave me enough to work with to start managing and organizing the site.

I then set up the homepage by going to the Appearance > Widgets menu and added the widgets to the appropriate Homepage boxes (the homepage uses a couple of different widgets to make all those fun options work). This was the trickiest part so far, just keeping track of which widgets go where. But it’s all laid out on the theme documentation site.

I looked at my site. It was beautiful! I stepped back to admire my work, and I was all ready to get started working on my content. But no one’s perfect, eh? Everyone makes mistakes. I’ll tell you about my mistake here so you don’t make the same one, but there are plenty of other mistakes out there for you to explore :). That’s why we’re building up a community of users to help each other.

INTERMISSION 

I got a third cup of coffee for the day.

Act IV – Climactic Disaster

My misstep started when I noticed that the domain was not directing to the actual homepage, it was just giving me the most recent blog posts. Then I thought what all non-techies who are on a roll with tech stuff think, which is “I can figure this out on my own!” I proceeded to poke around and try to fix this by changing the Site URL on the Settings > General menu, which actually means I redirected the site’s directory. Bad move, bro. Suddenly, all the formatting was stripped out of my site, and I couldn’t log in or access any page but the homepage. I had put the site in an endless self-referential loop, like looking into a set of facing mirrors.

Undoing this, or even figuring out what the problem was, involved an hour-long detour through WordPress help forums across the internet. Eventually, magically, I discovered I could log into the PHPMyAdmin listing through my hosting service and replace the directory link with the correct address. Phew! I had made it through the Mines of Moria and out the other side. Then I found the true answer to my question, which (for some reason I don’t understand) involves going to Settings > Reading and changing your “Front page displays.”

Act IV – Denouement
Yes, I set up the site in 90 minutes. And then it took me another 90 minutes to totally break it and fix it again. I should be clear, though, that populating the content took much longer, because truly there’s always more content development to do. I didn’t try to import anything from our old site, I just copied and pasted by hand (we only had 20 or so pages). I spent a solid afternoon just uploading photos, rewriting pages, and adding previous Sunday services through the fantastic custom services plug-in.

Curtain Call

Gee whiz, it’s amazing what we can do with technology these days! I hope my story helps inspire you to give the theme a try. If you feel comfortable working on websites, and want to get some practice in with that hammer, I believe you can do it too. Huge thanks to Chris Wulff, the developer who made this project happen, and thanks to all the work of my colleagues at the UUA, especially Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, who helped shepherd it through. Appreciation for the congregations who beta-tested the theme and provided supporting documentation last summer, the theme was made better by your efforts. And a big high-five to all the congregations who are already using the theme, your sites are fabulous!

I’ll post a link to the site here once our new Malden site goes live.

_________________________

cmcdonald_headshotCarey McDonald is the UUA Director of Outreach, total data geek and trend-spotter, as seen in his presentation Future of Faith.

 

4 Things Crowdfunding Can Teach The Church

e-book coverI became a Unitarian Universalist for one reason, and one reason only. You might have many reasons why you became a Unitarian Universalist, or remained one if you grew up within the faith. I have only one reason and her name is Gaby.

 

I became a Unitarian Universalist because my high school friend Gaby invited me to church one springing Sunday morning. It truly is that simple.

 

According to Dr. Thom Rainer, 82% of people who don’t attend church would probably try it out if they were invited by a friend. But only 2% of churchgoers actually invite ANYONE to church.

 

I can’t really remember what Gaby said that convinced me to venture to church for the first time in my life, beyond the odd funeral or wedding. But if I am to be honest, I am the type of person who doesn’t turn down the opportunity to try something new, so it probably was a pretty easy sell.

 

What I never expected was how Unitarian Universalist would change my life. How it connected me to some of the most fabulously creative, intellectually challenging, and compassionate people I have ever met. How I would have my heartbroken by the numerous moments when we fell short of our lofty values and ambitions. How I would fall so in love with our movement that I would go to divinity school and become a minister so I could devote my entire life’s work to our faith.

 

None of this would have occurred, if Gaby had not extended an invitation for that first encounter, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

 

Currently I have the priviledge of working for FAITHIFY.org – our Unitarian Universalist crowdfunding website. Every day I get to help to support individual UUs and congregations to crowdfund their dreams – and each day I am reminded of Gaby.

 

Why? Because the success or failure of crowdfunding campaigns relies on one simple thing: Did You Invite People In?

 

The stats are staggering: successful campaigns on FAITHIFY have been shared an average of 300 times on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. (Unsuccessful campaigns are shared  less than twenty times).

 

People don’t come to church, or to your crowdfunding campaign, if you don’t invite them in. That’s the hard truth.

 

In the last one and a half years FAITHIFY has learned some important lessons that could help our congregations thrive in the 21st century world in which we find ourselves. We decided that we shouldn’t keep our learnings quiet…so we wrote a book (well an e-book!).

 

Four Things Crowdfunding Can Teach the Church explores four practical lessons that can help congregational leaders, like yourself, amplify their impact. Each lesson is accompanied by a set of exercises or questions that can help you implement the lesson in your local context. Better yet, the book is free! Want to get your free copy?

 

Claim your free copy of Four Things Crowdfunding Can Teach the Church here. 
______________________________

neil-barron_seanSean Neil-Barron is the project manager of FAITHIFY, who loves the crowd so much he is contemplating spending an entire day crowdsourcing his every movement.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County (Media, PA)

www.flickr.com/photos/uuworld

Congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County (Media, PA), for being the newest UUA Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Congregational Life Office recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals.

The UU Church of Delaware County is highlighted in the current edition of the UUWorld, which will be hitting Unitarian Universalist members’ mailboxes at any moment. The following study guide is intended to accompany the article about the Lawrence congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

Picture from www.flickr.com/photos/uuworld

 

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

 

The UU Church of Delaware County has a culture of saying “yes” and is described as a “congregation that puts themselves on the edge” in bold ways.

Questions for Discussion

  • In what ways does your congregation says “yes?”
  • How might a culture that encourages innovative thinking help leaders and members deepen their own spiritual growth?
  • What is the boldest action your congregation has taken in support of its mission? How did it feel to take a bold step forward and what did you have to “leave behind” to move forward?

www.flickr.com/photos/uuworld

Delaware County has an innovative “Growth through Service” program that integrates volunteer service opportunities with faith development. Congregants develop individual goals for spiritual growth and are matched with volunteer opportunities to help them meet those goals.

Questions for Discussion 

  • What are some of the ways that your congregation connects volunteers to service opportunities?
  • Is there a process by which congregants can articulate individual spiritual goals and do you see a connection to service within your context?
  • How might such a program help your congregation reimagine the way in which leaders are trained and developed?

 24349250654_65e2527438_o

At UUCDC, several volunteers identified a target group, young families, and sought permission from the leadership to develop social opportunities for connection that evolved into several small ministry groups.

Questions for Discussion 

  • As you think about your congregation, are there groups or ministry areas that are ripe for connection through small group ministry?
  • Is this something you can imagine happening in your congregation? Why or why not?

 24684335740_26a7c62f96_o

UUCDC has raised its expectations for members in a number of ways including asking for an increased financial commitment, the Growth through Service program and an overall culture that values “showing up.”

Questions for Discussion 

  • What areas can you think of where higher expectations could help your congregation live its mission more fully?
  • How receptive is your congregation to change and how might leaders prepare the congregation for this work? What might be a first step to raising expectations?

 

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Photos from the UUWorld pages on Flickr.

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pinfanteThis Study Guide creator is Patricia Infante, Congregational Life Staff with the Central East Regional Group. CERG offers many excellent growth resources. Please check them out! Thank you, Pat, for so generously serving our faith.

By The Numbers: Religious Education breakdown by size and age

Today on the Unitarian Universalist Religious Educators‘ FaceBook page there was a thread that caught my eye about congregational certification.  Specifically the Religious Education Enrollment part of certification.

 

Joy Berry, the Director of Lifespan Religious Education serving the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, NC, ponders, “Anyone else wondering why, if RE for all ages is a best practice, we aren’t asked any question about lifespan RE?”

 

She goes on, “What might we learn if we gather data on the number of adults enrolled in RE? As a % that can be compared to the membership and to children and youth in RE. For DREs in search who are considering lifespan positions, it might be really useful to know the relative size of that element in the program. And for settled DREs, to be able to quickly compare numbers for adult RE across years (like I just did to see we had a sizable increase in children and youth RE) would be great.”

 

When we analyze the certficification numbers, (children and youth) RE Enrollment is analogous to adult membership. In this case think of adult membership as “adult enrollment.” Think about it, just because you’re registered in a book doesn’t mean that you actually show up consistently, right? I think those can stand together rather well.  The Average Sunday Attendance is the figure that captures everyone actually gathered.

 

Over 50% of our congregations responded to the Faith Communities Today Survey. In that survey the interfaith consortium ask congregations to break their religious education programs down by percentages: senior adults (65+), adults (50-64), adults (35-49), young adults (18-34), youth (13-17), children and preteen (0-12.)

 

The following are charts from those figures and are broken down into these sizes of congregations:

Fellowship Congregations (0-60) – 80 in this size responded
Small Pastoral Congregations (61-160) – 159 in this size responded
Midsize Pastoral Congregations (161-300) – 97 in this size responded
Transition Congregations (301-400) – 20 in this size responded
Program Congregations (401-600) – 22 in this size responded
Large Program Congregations (601-800) – 12 in this size responded
Corporate Congregations (800+) – 5 in this size responded

 

The following pie charts are the averages of the congregation that responded.

 

RE fellowship

 

RE Small Pastoral

 

RE midsize pastoral

 

RE Transition

 

RE program

 

RE Large Progarm

 

RE corporate

Joy wonders, “what might we learn if we gather data on the number of adults enrolled in RE, as a % that can be compared to the membership and to children and youth in RE. For DREs in search who are considering lifespan positions, it might be really useful to know the relative size of that element in the program. And for settled DREs, to be able to quickly compare numbers for adult RE across years (like I just did to see we had a sizable increase in children and youth RE) would be great.”  Yes!   Measuring such things can help break down assumptions or flag things to pay attention to.  Over time you can measure change and then change course accordingly.

 

Our FACT survey didn’t ask for either a membership/enrollment or Average Sunday Attendance percentage breakdown by age.  It would be nice to be able to compare and see which groups may be underserved. It’s also good to keep i mind that these figures come from people in congregations self-reporting.  It’s soft-data.  But it’s a start.

 

More figures from both the FACT survey and congregational certification will be coming out in about a month. A team and I are working on publishing a report based on the UUA Board Monitoring Report of our Ends.

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Tandi Feb 2012Metrics and analysis are a small part of Rev. Tandi Rogers’ portfolio, but it’s one of her favorites.  She’s grateful that this year she gets to team up with Michelle Rediker, Carey McDonald, Heather Bond, and Annette Marqui to report out. That’s simply a formula for more fun!

 

Road Trip! We’re better together!

road-trip-sign-285x190We’re better together.  You’ve heard this before. And often it is in the context of pooling resources to create something larger than we could offer as a separate entity.

I’m hear to tell you that we’re better together also in the opening of imagination that happens when we experience other religious communities.  I was working with a stuck congregation years ago.  Let’s call them UU Society of East Cupcake. Every suggestion I had was met with “we’ve already tried that” or “that just won’t work here.”  Those are signs that people need to get out of their heads and into new experiences, out of their congregation and into the streets.  I gave East Cupcake an assignment to visit a congregation 3 hours away to freshen their views.  I will cut to the chase — they came back fresher and bonded and ready to try some new ideas.

 

Characteristics of a Better Together Road Trip

  • First things first.  Unless you are already the president or minister, pull them into this idea from the get-go. Please don’t surprise them after the fact and say, “Tandi suggested this idea.”  Really.
  • What are we searching for?  Possibilities, my friend.  How do other UU communities do stuff? What do they feel like?  How do they treat each other? How are they alive and awake outside their walls?
  • Pre-Trip Connections.  Call ahead and let your sibling congregation know you’re coming. Arrange to meet with and perhaps share a meal with their leadership. If there is a specific piece of this congregation’s ministry that captures your attention, ask to learn about that while you’re there.  Visit their website ahead of time and start crafting some questions and things to pay attention to.
  • Innovation-adoptionRoad trippers. You know that bellcurve of change? Consider that curve when choosing your road trip mates: “2 Innovators, 3 Early Adopters, and 2 Early Majority”. (This comes from the Diffusion of Innovation Theory.)  You want folks who generally see possibilities and adopt them quickly along with some who are a little slower in convincing and adapting.
  • Magic Vehicle. Borrow a 7 person van.  You want to keep people together.  That van is actually a Fresh idea Incubator on wheels.
  • Van Conversation, there.  What brought you to East Cupcake? What brought you to Unitarian Universalism/ what makes you choose to stay in Unitarian Universalism? When do you feel most Unitarian Universalist?  How does East Cupcake help grow your soul?
  • Paying Attention. Come open and curious. There are various tools from Mystery Greeters programs that may be useful to help you organize your thoughts.  Participate fully. if asked let your siblings in faith know who you are, where you’re from and why you are visiting.
    • What felt familiar?
    • What was new?
    • What was surprising?
    • What was delightful?
    • What gives you holy envy?
    • What challenged you?
    • What grew your soul?
    • What stretched you further into Unitarian Universalism?
    • What might you like to experiment with at home? And who from this congregation might be able to give you some guidance?
  • Van Conversation, back. See questions above.  Make sure someone is recording.  What was challenging? What was sparky? What might you try in your own UU community and who do you need to talk to when you return?
  • Leadership Check In. Gather again over coffee with your leadership to share what you learned.
  • Next Road Trip.  Keep heading out there. Find another congregation to visit. Rotate people so eyes and conversations stay fresh.  Pass around the fun.

My last advice.  Wear your seat belts.  Literally and metaphorically.  Happy travels!

 

_________________________________

Tandi Feb 2012Rev. Tandi Rogers is the Congregational Life’s Innovation & Network Specialist and loves most everything about road trips and visiting new congregations.  She’s usually in charge of games and bad road trip food.

 

Reflection on Moving, Wisdom, Humility, and Reaching Out

Last week I took a quick trip to Boston to attend Terasa Cooley’s good-bye party and to meet, in person, with several colleagues who normally are only in my zoom room on my computer screen.  The weather was beautiful – cold, clear and crisp – which prompted me to spend time doing what I love best to do in Boston, walk around the city.

One morning I walked up to our old UUA headquarters at 25 Beacon Street to see what was going on.  “25” and the other two buildings that the UUA sold on Mt. Vernon Street and the former Eliot-Pickett Houses, were covered with giant “tents” out front, with a back hoe digging dirt and many construction workers scurrying around.  I took a peek inside 25 and saw that the main staircase has been torn down and much of the ground floor, as I remembered it, had been cleared away.  As I walked across town to our new headquarters at 24 Farnsworth Street, I remembered with fondness walking up those stairs to see the MFC in 2000 and imagined all the lives that were touched and changed in the place the UUA used to call home.

24_Farnsworth

It has been less than two years since the UUA headquarters have moved.  The area has changed a lot and the many cranes and construction workers in our new neighborhood predict more change is on the way.  I love the modern feel of our new headquarters and the opportunities they provide for easier collaboration, more productive meetings and new ways to connect today while remembering our yesterdays.

“24” and 25 provide a metaphor for the work we must do as ministers in the future; a future that has virtual cranes digging up many of the practices and foundations of our past, while building up new expressions of community and spiritual practice all around us.   Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that my walk through the streets of Boston and UUA office history prompted my ponderings about the future of our work and our faith.  The weekend before my trip I was at the third intensive of our Beyond the Call – Entrepreneurial Ministry program learning new ways to finance and market innovation; and the importance, practices and “how tos” of cultivating and nurturing the eco-systems to sustain innovators and the organizations they lead.

We’ll be sharing the highlights of our third intensive in a webinar sometime in March.  Our guest speakers inspired and challenged us in many ways but one phrase stuck with me, especially while I was walking around the streets of Boston.  Greg Jones, the former Dean of the Duke Divinity School who worked closely with Greg Dees the “father” of social entrepreneurship, talked about “traditioned innovation” (https://www.faithandleadership.com/content/traditioned-innovation) as a practice for those of us in religious leadership.  The cranes of sociological, cultural and religious change are all around us digging up the old and building the new.  We stand, hopefully, with one foot in tradition and one foot in innovation dancing back and forth as fast as we can.

In these days of change, challenge and opportunity I pray we each have the wisdom and humility to continue to learn how/when to stand in each stream knowing that our spirits and our people need both waters to thrive.  And, most importantly, we reach out to each other so we don’t need to swim in these choppy waters alone.

______________________

DonRev. Don Southworth is the founding Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association. He lived in the corporate world before ministry where he spent ten years in parish life before joining the UUMA in 2009.  He’s a bit on the old side of life but fights through his crumedgeony ways as much as he can looking for pockets of innovation and radical change that provide the main hope for religion in the 21st century.

In Spirit!

New Titles from Skinner House

 

 

Turning PointTurning Point: Essays on a New Unitarian Universalism

Edited by Fredric Muir (Skinner House Books)

 

In fresh, inspiring essays, 20 Unitarian Universalist leaders issue a clarion call for change. Unitarian Universalism is at a crossroads. Will we cling to individualism, exceptionalism, and anti-authoritarianism or will we embrace the promise of what we can be? Turning Point presents stories of innovative new types of Unitarian Universalist communities across the country and inspires faith that Unitarian Universalism can deepen and grow, meeting the aching needs of a new generation.

 

Fredric Muir serves as the Senior Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Maryland. He is a board member of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland and the UUA ambassador to the UU congregations of the Philippines. He has written and edited several books, including The Whole World Kin: Charles Darwin and the Spirit of Liberal Religion (2009) from Skinner House Books.

 

Recent Announcements & Resources

 

New Bookstore Name!In Spirit

 

In order to reach a broader audience and to share the good news of Unitarian Universalism, the UUA Bookstore has been renamed to inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop.

 

As inSpirit, the bookstore will continue to offer a wide range of books and gifts that reflect the values of our UU movement, including titles from Skinner House Books and Beacon Press, selected titles from other publishers, and fair trade items.

 

The name inSpirit is one that we ourselves have adopted for our series of “Meditation Manuals.” The series name changed in 2015 to the inSpirit Series, but the tradition lives on. The many rich meanings of the word inSpirit—including to hearten, to enliven, to bestow with strength or purpose, to fill with spirit—reflect the many ways these books and our bookstore tend to us and our faith lives.

 

We invite you to visit the inSpirit website and the inSpirit Series page for more information.

 

 

Selma Awakening Curriculum

 

SelmaThe Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society has awarded the UU History and Heritage Prize for Best Original RE Curriculum to the curriculum created for The Selma Awakening: How the Civil Rights Movement Tested and Changed Unitarian Universalism by Mark D. Morrison-Reed.

 

“This is a deep and challenging adult education curriculum that invites participants to research their own congregations’ Selma stories and thus broaden our understanding of one of the most important events in twentieth-century Unitarian Universalist history.”

 

The curriculum is available on our companion resources page.

 

 

New Resources for Older Adults from the UUA

 

The UUA has just announced the creation of a collection of resources to enrich and support the journey of older adulthood. On the pages, you will find resources to support the older adult journey, whether you are an older adult yourself, a caregiver or family member, or part of a congregation engaged in ministry to and with older adults

 

Explore these resources to find books (including many Skinner House books), programs, videos, and further information on a variety of subjects particularly resonant to older adults. We are so grateful to those involved in creating this resource!

 

 

Resources for Teaching English with Islamic Stories

 

Jamish

We’re pleased to present a series of free lesson plans and videos to teach English to students from oral traditions. The lesson plans are linked to the stories in Ayat
Jamilah: A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents
. The lesson plans demonstrate the use of folk tales to show how narration provides a basis of recognition and response. Using oral language and storytelling, the lesson plans and videos will show how to later prompt students into reading and writing. The resource is available here.

 

 

 

Kayla

Trending in the UUA Bookstore  

 

The following have been particularly popular in the month of January:

 

 

 

 

 

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This Here Is Some Radical Polity

The subject of the email was:  “If we set a date, it will happen”.

 

It was sent to a small group of Canadian Young Adults who’d been talking in pockets and clusters for a while about how to “do Church differently”. This was back in 2012, when I was peripherally aware that the Top People of Unitarian Universalism had started holding big meetings talking about this stuff.

 

We knew we were not Top People of Unitarian Universalism. We were a small group that cared, meeting to hang out for a weekend in a Church basement and talk. No pre-planned agenda, no facilitators, no real plan beyond the basics of food and sleeping space. Funding would be accomplished by “do what you can”. So would cooking and dishes.

 

Friday night, we planned the weekend—we planned any topics or activities or worships that we wanted to make sure happened, and drew up a chore list.  Then, we got on with the stuff.

 

We sang a lot, and joked a lot, and prayed together and sometimes cried. We talked about a lot of things, including the question of what types of sustainable religious communities might thrive in the future. At some point that weekend, something clicked and we realized we were a sustainable religious community ourselves. We met all the criteria—deep connection, meaningful worship, fiscal responsibility (we covered our costs and had lots left over to donate to organizations we were connected with).  Some of us continued meeting by Skype for a couple of years.  There were other smaller retreats, and another larger one again last year.  This community has been a deep and profound part of my spiritual life and my formation as a UU. Connections I created there have nurtured my work and my life in profound ways, and have fed the work of UUism in Canada.

 

As a movement, we talk about thinking big. We also need to think small. We need mini-ministries. We need to encourage and equip people to create communities and experiences where they are and with what they have. We need to make sure our people understand that you don’t need to have a seminary degree or a big budget to make things that are real. The Gathering (as it became called) was sustainable but not self sufficient. It drew on connections created over decades in congregational and regional programming, and on donated church space. It also gave back to those groups in the leadership, connections, and enthusiasm it generated. Also, money. It turned out to be a reasonably effective fund raiser.

 

More than that, it interconnected us. People who were disillusioned with some aspect of their home church got a second wind. People with no home community for their UU identity had a place to explore and worship and grow. People from different groups collaborated and shared ideas. We built trust and connection and foundation. We got out of our silos.

 

This here, I found myself thinking as one group came in from a snowball fight while another sat in deep discussion and a third practiced a song for worship… is some radical polity. This here… this is something we need.

 

Communion Song
Click to hear The Communion Song, one of the many creative, spirit-filling happenings of The Gathering
______________________
Liz jamesLiz James is a seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School, in training to be a Lay Leader Extraordinaire.  She believes that Unitarian Universalism in the future will need a diverse and talented group of us—lay, ordained, and other professionals—passionately serving a variety of calls.  Liz is an animated speaker, a Facebook overlord, and an expert in thinking outside the box. Way outside the box. Sometimes she forgets where she put the box.  Some of Liz’s writing can be found at www.freerangeseminarian.com.