A Big Night for a Small Church

Peter & Joe
UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and Rev. Joe Cherry

Last week we invited the group Repairers of the Moral Breach to the UU Society in Cleveland, and it was a wild ride.

 

So often we UUs talk about interfaith work, and I do believe we try our hardest, but there so often feels like so many barriers to doing the work. So many questions about how we can engage authentically and without laying our own agenda over the work that we often stop ourselves before we begin.

 

I, too, have this concern.

 

But, when I was approached by the Repairers group I took a deep breath, I did a quick check by email with the Board of the congregation I serve and we were a go!

 

UU Society Entrance
UU Society of Cleveland, OH

The UU Society of Cleveland is a small church, about 60 people, and having this big, national movement come to us was daunting. We had about 300 people in our church last Monday, and it was definitely not church as usual.

 

The Repairers of the Breach Team is a well-oiled machine that knows what it needs to put on a good program, and they used their own social media and contacts in media to bring folks from at least 15 different congregations to our church. The result: Historic Black Churches in Cleveland, Historic Liberal Churches in Cleveland, all coming together in a church that had to rent chairs to fit everybody.

 

As minister, I try to greet every person who comes through our church door with a handshake and a how-do-you-do? I ask for everyone’s name and tell them mine as I welcome them in. It was such a joy to meet so many new people who walked through our “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Are Precious” signs as they approached our front door.

 

The service was loud and lively. I welcomed everyone to our church, and gave a short history of our ritual of lighting the chalice. I ended our chalice lighting with these words:

 

This is the 50th Anniversary of the Hough Rebellion/Hough Uprising, and our congregation was there, at 82nd and Euclid. This weekend our Black Lives Matter banner was stolen from the front of our church. Again, we find ourselves in a world in the process of giving birth to a new way of living.

 

They may steal the sign from the front of our church, but they cannot steal our determination to work for a world more fair and more just.

 

As we light our chalice this evening, symbol of freedom, assistance and faith, let our hearts become and remain open to one another.

 

After the lighting of our chalice, I stepped back and stepped out of the way.

 

The experience of having so many world-class preachers in our sanctuary was electrifying. For an evening, it didn’t matter that we hadn’t had enough chairs. It didn’t matter that people had to sit in Fellowship Hall (the basement) watching the events upstairs via live feed. It didn’t matter that our air conditioning wasn’t up to the task of 300 people alive together.

 

What mattered was that we were alive, together.

 

Photo Gallery of the Event:

James Forbes
Rev. Dr. James Forbes
Traci Blackmon UCC
Traci Blackman, United Church of Christ
Stories of Witness
Stories of witness
William Barber II Telling Truth
Rev. Dr. William Barber II
closing prayer
Closing prayer

 

_____________________

RevJosephMCherryphoto2Rev. Joe Cherry is a giant history nerd and unapologetic evangelist for Unitarian Universalism. When he’s not out sharing our good news, you can find him engrossed in research at the Western Reserve Historical Society, practicing his clarinet, or in his basement quilting studio.

 

That’s Camp. That’s Church. That’s faith.

quuest-indoorsLast week I was the only adult of color on a 16+ person staff for QUUest church camp in CO. There were 14 youth of color at high school camp.

 

Being the only staff Person Of Color (POC) during this week of violence, protest, and grief was the toughest challenge of my professional life.

 

I’ll say this: The choice between white fragility and solidarity really matters.

 

We had 14 young people of color who were terrified that they or family members or friends might be the next hashtag, and we had folks who seemed more concerned about the camp schedule/their idea of what camp ought to be.

 

The POC high schoolers spent a lot of time in POC-only space last week. It was hard and healing.

 

At first the group feared gathering. It’s unusual for them to be around other POC, and they worried about dividing the camp. Quickly they saw that it was most important for them to *take care of themselves* and be in community. They ate, laughed, grieved and sang–together.

 

They got close not just through mourning Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the officers in Dallas, but through seeing that they are not alone. It was life-changing, life-affirming space. They found and made home.

 

I was the lone adult POC supporting them. Luckily several of our white adult/youth staff members helped. Predictably, that wasn’t true of everyone.

 

As the schedule kept changing, as tragedy and need to process kept “getting in the way,” though several were supportive and helped the schedule shift, some folks expressed frustration–with me, with the prospect of losing camp traditions, with the POC-only space, and more.

 

I badly want white UUs and other progressive folks to know and see that carrying out white supremacy isn’t always obvious. It can look like never asking “How can I help?” or “How are you holding up?” It can be never asking “I wonder how this black person is handling two black persons’ murders.”

 

It looks like responding to a white person’s statement of “next year Kenny can’t be the only POC on staff” with “beware of affirmative action,” like there aren’t fifty other wonderful religious professionals/young adults of color we couldn’t pay and have join us.

 

If you take nothing else from this status, take this:

 

I’ve attended camp since I was four. It means eeeeeverything to me. We can get stuck on whether to sing Rocky Raccoon or I Wanna Linger at Bridging, or whether it’s Good Friends or Dear Friends (it’s obviously Good Friends ‪#‎SWD4lyfe) or whether moving talent show/coffeehouse back a night messes up the flow of camp, or who knows what else. I say this as someone who *loves* traditions.

 

Camp, and church, and faith, are about showing up for people when they need us. It’s about finding compassion even through our frustration. It’s about loving hard and saying “how can I help?” It’s about letting people cry and weep and holding them as they do.

 

I barely made it through this week, friends.

 

I called and texted UU adult POC like Elizabeth Nguyen (UUA’s Leadership Development Associate for Youth and Young Adults of Color) and Jamil Scott (Director of Religious Education serving First Unitarian Society of Denver) in tears over and over because I didn’t think I could be what the youth of color needed and because the killings brought such grief.

 

Alicia Forde (UUA’s Professional Development Director) drove two hours on one night’s notice to spend Friday with us so I wouldn’t be alone and so the youth could be with a minister who shared their experience.

 

That’s camp. That’s church. That’s faith.

 

If we’re not doing that for each other–supporting others when we’re less directly affected, and sitting together in hard times, and driving or moving to be there for each other–then I have to ask: what’s the rest of it even for?

 

I fail at this all the time. I’ll fail at this tomorrow no doubt. It’s hard work. But it’s worth it.

 

To my UU and human families: I love you. To my POC UU fam: as we’ve said and sung to/with each other so many times this summer, I need you to survive.

 

May we demand more of one another, be kinder to one another, and remember why we gather.

 

_________________________

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

Kenny Wiley is a UU World senior editor and director of faith formation at Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church in Parker, Colorado. His writing has also appeared in the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, and Skyd Magazine.

Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016

SFS meme 1[1]So many of us are longing to be a part of an authentic multigenerational community. A place where children, youth, adults, and elders share, learn, worship and grow together. We believe one of the most important ways to build multigenerational community is through worship.

Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016 Here Together: Developing Multigenerational Communities Through Worship is a resource that is free online for you and your community. It is a video course on all the aspects of planning, creating, and celebrating worship to include everyone!

The Fahs Collaborative brought together a team of musicians, ministers,and religious educators to create a “best practices” learning course, to help you create great, multigenerational worship. This includes videos, resources, reflection questions, and music. Sophia Fahs Sunday highlights multicultural diversity, multiple learning styles, and the best of what we know about faith development.

Watch the videos on your own, or invite your team of planners to watch the videos together and discuss them together. It’s all about Collaboration!

Find Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016 Here Together: Developing Multigenerational Communities Through Worship and information on other Fahs Collaborative projects here.

SFS meme 2

Tops Picks for Growth at General Assembly

uua_ga2016_logoAre you looking for new ideas to grow your congregation? General Assembly is just around the corner, and there are a dozen workshops on growth to choose from.

Here’s a list, sorted by topic for you to mark in your Program Book or Mobile App.

Small Congregations

  • LEGACY OR RENAISSANCE: SMALL CONGREGATIONS ON THE EDGE
    #210 Thursday, 10:45am – 12:00pm E160
    Some small congregations are realizing that the way they’ve been operating is no longer sustainable. What’s next? Is it time to move towards a holy death? Or are you ready to make a vibrant new start with radical re-envisioning? How can you decide which choice is your congregation’s? This workshop will provide a framework and examples for both paths.
    Megan Foley & Rev. Mary Grigolia
  • SUCCESS IN SMALL CHURCHES: HOPE IN UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM’S HEARTLAND
    #410 Saturday 3:00pm – 4:15pm CC C226
    Small churches, the heartbeat of our faith, are uniquely positioned to innovate and experiment with new ways of being healthy, vibrant, and relevant – if they put mission and covenant first. Learn to identify your small congregation’s gifts and plan strategically for innovations to grow new possibilities for our faith.
    Rev. Megan Foley & Karen Bellavance-Grace

Hospitality

  • THE SPIRITUAL PRACTICE OF WELCOMING ALL
    #228 Thursday 1:15pm – 2:30pm CC E162
    Many congregations have mastered the process involved in opening their doors for newcomers but are they opening their hearts? What would that welcome look like in our greeting, programs, and emerging ministries? We will consider together how our spiritual baggage could be preventing us from truly being welcoming to all.
    Marie Blohowiak, Rev. Tandi Rogers & Tina Lewis
  • BRINGING ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSION MINISTRY TO YOUR CONGREGATION
    #330 Friday 3:00pm – 4:15pm CC C223-225
    Heard the buzz about the Accessibility & Inclusion Ministry (AIM) Program for congregations? Wondering how to bring this new ministry to your congregation? Learn how to form an AIM Team to widen the welcome to people with disabilities. Become an AIM Congregation – moving ever closer to the beloved community.
    Michelle Avery Ferguson, Rev. Barbara Meyers, Michael Sallwasser & Suzanne Fast
  • WE MET ONLINE! GREAT VISITOR EXPERIENCES START WITH GOOGLE
    #432 Saturday 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC Union Station Ballroom A
    From the first online search to an in-person visit, emotions are a key part of what makes a visitor stay or go. User Experience (UX) approaches uncover the emotions we’re evoking to create positive and integrated experiences. Learn how to apply UX to your congregation to improve the visitor experience.
    Sarah Gibb Millspaugh & Carey McDonald

 Outreach

  • OUTREACH 101: JOIN OUR CAUSE, NOT OUR CLUB
    #317 Friday 1:15pm – 2:30pm CC C223-225
    Religion is changing, and just preaching to the choir ain’t gonna cut it. Learn how to reach out to your community as an extension of your congregation’s mission, get the tools you need to move forward, and hear inspiring outreach stories from congregations like yours.
    Carey McDonald
  • INNOVATING IN COVENANT: EMERGING MINISTRIES REACH OUT
    #422 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC E161
    Emerging ministries are new endeavors that are grounded in our faith and formed by covenant.
    How do some of these innovative ministries fulfill our UU mission in the world? Come learn
    from the stories of a new campus ministry, a network of interdependent communities and a forming congregation.
    Kevin Lowry, Rev. Nathan Hollister &Lori Stone Sirtosky

Innovative Ministries

  • UU MODELS OF PARTNERSHIP AND MULTI-SITE MINISTRIES
    #328 Friday 3:00pm – 4:15pm HR Union E
    We’ve featured various models of congregational Partnership & Multi-site over the years: branches, yoked, mergers, etc. This year we’re highlighting Clusters and Partnerships just starting their covenantal relationships, at the beginning of the continuum of collaboration. Especially useful for lay leaders discerning deeply partnering with other UU communities.
    Joan Van Becelaere & Rev. David Pyle
  • LIVING THE PRINCIPLES: THEME-BASED PROGRAMMING FOR ALL AGES
    #352 Friday 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC Hall E
    Many of us are seeking new ways to support multigenerational faith formation in our congregations. Living the Principles is an engaging full-year, theme-based program for congregation-wide exploration of the Unitarian Universalist Principles. This workshop equips professional and lay leaders to use this program, with free online materials, in your congregation.
    Ellen Quaadgras, Ann Kadlecek & Halcyon Westall
  • INNOVATION AND INSPIRATION FOR UU STEWARDSHIP
    #358 Friday 4:45pm – 6:00pm HR Delaware CD
    This workshop will equip lay and ordained leadership for effective stewardship in our congregations and our Association. This will be a “flash” presentation of the most innovative and successful fundraising ideas. We will close with an inspiring word from Peter Morales.
    Mary Katherine Morn
  • ANNUAL GIVING: THE BACKBONE OF CONGREGATIONAL STEWARDSHIP
    #420 Saturday 3:00pm – 4:15pm HR Delaware CD
    This workshop will equip lay and ordained leadership for effective stewardship in our congregations and our Association. This panel of on-the-ground congregational staff and volunteers will discuss their greatest successes in annual fundraising.
    Dr. Marlin Lavanhar, Rev. Trisha Hart & Rev. Peter Friedrichs

 

ReneeRev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on various aspects of congregational growth, leadership and congregational dynamics. She writes for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Blog Growing Vital Leaders and tweets at @Vitalleaders.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon

bridgeCongratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon (Bend, OR), 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.

UUFCO is highlighted in the current edition of the UUWorld, as well as the 2016 summer print edition. The following study guide is intended to accompany the article about the  congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

 

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

 

UUFCO has identified identified some rituals that they will continue observing as they grow, because the rituals are central to their core identity.

Questions for Discussion 

  • What rituals are core to your congregation’s identity?
  • How else do people learn what it means to be a member of your religious community?

Bend foyer

The article identifies ways in which the town of Bend, OR and the congergation are similar.  Bend, OR is one of the fastest growing areas metropolitan areas in the country and the congregation has more than tripled in size in twelve years.  Bend, OR is an “oasis of natural splendor” and the congregation’s new building is an awarer-winning “green” design. Both are laid back and small in culture. Both are liberal beacons.

Questions for Discussion 

  • How does your congregation compare to the area it serves? What is similar? What is different?
  • How does this effect your mission?  How does this effect how your congregation is organized?

 

UUFCO was named a Breakthrough, not only because of it’s remarkable growth, but because the creative, adaptive way they used technology to overcome the work visa challenge that kept their new developmental minister from being able to travel to them. 

Questions for Discussion Bend announcment island

  • What are ways you could use technology creatively to meet an adaptive challenge?
  • What are ways you could use technology to communicate, both among your religious community and throughout the wider community?

 

They were also named a Breakthrough because of the spiritual way they deigned their building. The building was designed to fulfill their mission.  Their mission is not the building itself.

Questions for Discussion 

  • How does your space serve your mission?
  • How does your space reflect your values?

candles

Dinner Church

When people ask what my plans are for my ministry, I tell them that my dream is to start a dinner church. There’s usually a short pause before they ask, “Dinner church? What’s that?” The answer is pretty straightforward: dinner church is when a community gathers in an intentional worship space that incorporates dinner. It’s dinner, and it’s church.

My first encounter with dinner church was St. Lydia’s, a Lutheran dinner church Brooklyn. I took a weekend trip to New York with a friend of mine to visit. We helped cook dinner, set up, and participated in a beautiful worship service—singing, prayer, food, reading, a sermon, all bookended by sharing the bread and grape juice of the communion ritual. It was the first time I had immediately felt like I belonged in a room full of strangers, and it filled my love of sacred space and my love of sharing food with others at the same time. I was hooked. A friend who had recently graduated from Harvard Divinity School moved to Grafton, MA to plant Simple Church, a Methodist dinner church, and invited me to be the ministerial intern. I’ve spent Thursdays this year baking bread to sell at the farmer’s market, cooking soup, and helping facilitate our weekly dinner church services.

All the dinner churches I’ve come across, whether standalone or part of a larger insitituion, have one thing in common: they are all Christian and incorporate the celebration of communion into the service. As I went to more and more dinner church services, as I continued to move forward in the UU ordination process, I started to wonder what a non-Christian dinner church would be like. Communion has been part of every dinner church service I’ve been to—but does it have to be? Is there a way to craft a dinner church service that is still sacred and full ofmeaning, but that doesn’t include communion?

Through my MDiv thesis, I’ve been able to explore these questions in depth. My thesis ends with a model for a dinner church that is not built around communion, but rather centered in other rituals of community building. I’ve drawn various aspects from dinner church services, UU worship, and other sacred spaces to create a dinner church that feels deeply spiritual and full of meaning. Everyone is invited to come early to help cook and set up, and we clean up together as part of the service. There is singing, sharing, readings, and discussion. I’ve been lucky enough to get to pilot my dinner church at First Parish UU in Arlington, where I am a member—we’re calling it “sacred supper.” I’ve gotten to take my thoughts about dinner church out of my head and off the page to facilitate it with and for others—and this has only made me more sure that facilitating dinner church will be part of my ministry career.

Dinner church is a deeply communal form of worship, one that allows people to interact with one another in a fairly casual and yet deeply sacred setting. Beyond starting my own dinner church, my dream is to see dinner churches spread far and wide, including within our movement. And maybe brunch church, too.

 

aishaansano


 

Aisha Ansano will graduate from Harvard Divinity School with her MDiv in May. She is a candidate for UU ministry and will serve next year as a ministerial intern at First Church in Boston. Aisha considers food to be her ministry, including but not limited to dinner church!

 

 

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 11.39.13 AM

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!

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Wanna see First Parish Malden’s new site?

http://www.fpmalden.org

 

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. 
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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.