Glowing Chalices

The UUA Growth Strategies Office purchased ten thousand glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos to pass out at General Assembly and to make available to congregations and Unitarian Universalist groups.  If you attend a camp or conference this summer, you may see these tattoos as fashion and religious statements.

Someone asked me how these (on the surface) whimsical tattoos could possibly be a growth strategy.  I suggested they wear one visibly, go out into the wider community, wait for someone to point to it and ask, “What is that? What does that mean?” and then come ask me that question again.  How many of us wear symbols of our faith on a regular basis putting our elevator speech to the test? And honestly it was just plain, old fun to see each other’s chalices glowing in the dark during times the plenary hall got lights were dimmed and to see the creativity of place selection!

The temporary tattoos dispelled the myth that we don’t know how to testify and put our faith out there demonstratively.  The temporary tattoos gave people the  ability to try out a chalice tattoo as if our religion was worthy of permanence and mattered enough to commit all-in on skin.  People wanted to have fun.  They wanted to represent and be identified as Unitarian Universalists. And they sure did, all over Phoenix.

People of all ages sought them out in almost a frenzy.  I was surprised and delighted. Elders, babies, youth, middle agers, people in tie-dye, people in suits, all rocking the glow-in-the dark chalices.  Biceps, wrists, cheeks, ankles, anywhere skin showed. When people asked for a tattoo I’d in turn ask how they grow our faith and then engage in conversation and soak up their stories of living Unitarian Universalism.  It was inspiring and uplifting. People wanted to claim our chalice, or perhaps be claimed.

Please send pictures of you sporting your chalice tattoo so it may be shared on Growing UU Facebook.  Please share your glow-in-the-dark chalice tattoo stories in the comment section.  We’d love to hear.

General Assembly: Grounds for a Growth Spurt, Part 3 of 4

We’ve been reflecting on the shift that just happened at Justice GA. So many are reporting a difference.  As a faith tradition, we seemed to have gone through a collective growth spurt.  This is the third in a 4-part series featuring examples of how we experienced and observed health and transformation.



Incarnational/ Faith in Action

Check out the video:  Thousands of Unitarian Universalists protest Sheriff Arpaio’s ‘Tent City’ jail


Orange Polos

When I work with a congregation on growth I will often ask them, how do people outside know you’re Unitarian Universalist?   take a moment and think how you would answer that.

For those of you who have never been to Phoenix in late June, let me tell you. It is hot. Really hot.  Three digits hot. The City of Phoenix set up a water cart on the street outside the convention center where city workers in nice, orange polo shirts handed out fresh, cool water and constantly reminded us to stay hydrated.  I found this so welcoming and caring that I stopped to tell one of them.

“It’s a pleasure!  We’re so glad you’re here.”  The sincerity with which he declared this caught me off guard.

“You are? We’re Unitarian Universalists.  Do you know who we are?”

“Oh yes!  I looked you up. I know what you’re about.” He put a hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the eyes, and continued, “I know who you are.  I’m really glad you’re here.  It makes a difference. You make a difference for me.”

Yes, I invited him to church on Sunday to hear Rev. John Crestwell’s message. And every time we saw each other we’ve wave and say, “see you on Sunday!”

  • If you asked a random person on the streets of your town what difference the Unitarian Universalists make in your town, what do you think the answer would be?
  • What keeps you from inviting people you meet throughout the day to your religious community?


Crushed Ice

I bought a soda from one of the food court eateries in the convention center. The woman behind the counter noticed my empty water bottle and cheerfully offered to fill it with ice and fresh water.

“It’s so important to stay hydrated out there!”

“I can’t get over how nice and hospitable people of Phoenix are!  What is your secret?”

She laughed. “I think most of us come from somewhere else, and we remember what it’s like to be new to a place.  We want you to feel like you’re welcome, like you could stay.”

“Thank you.  I will take that with me.”

  • What does it say about your religious community from the manner in which you welcome visitors?
  • Remember back to the moment you first walked through the doors of a Unitarian Universalist congregation.  What would have made a positive difference to you in the way you were or were not welcomed? What can you do to better welcome the visitor, the pilgrim?


Yellow Shirts

I bought a t-shirt from the Puente Movement that said, “Arrest Arpaio, Not the People.” And I wore it to the airport.  Through security.  I have to admit, I really wasn’t thinking about the consequences, and that is part of my white privilege and responsibility. One agent from the Transportation Security Administration stared at my shirt, and brought me into the reality of Arizona and other places.  The TSA agent who looked at my id glanced at my shirt and then quietly leaned in toward me.

“Are you one of the Yellow Shirts?” I gulped.

“Yes, I am.” I stood a little straighter.

She almost whispered, “Thank you for coming and being here.  It makes a difference. A lot of us are too scared to say anything.”

“We’ll keep coming back, m’am.” Our eyes locking. We nodded to each other as I moved on through.

  • How do you wear shirts or make statements that others might not be able to, because your privilege allows it and demands it?
  • How do you show up for people who are too afraid to show up themselves?
  • How do your partners in your community know that you are Unitarian Universalist by your actions?


Those are some examples.  How else did you experience and/or observe growth spurts at General Assembly?  Please share your thoughts in the comments and include your name and congregation.

General Assembly Growth Opportunities

For those of you getting ready for General Assembly 2012 by pouring over the program and plotting out your educational experience, we’d like to point out some workshops that might give you some tools and/or paradigm shifts to aid congregational growth.

UU World will provide timely reports and articles on their GA Blog, illustrated by some striking selections from their Photostream on Flickr. Follow UU Worldon Twitter for up-to-the-minute news during major GA events.

We also recommend downloading the GA Mobile Ap. And for those of you staying at home who would like to participate virtually, there are events being live-streamed.


Organizational Maturity

How to Build Meaning-Full Social Justice Ministry Teams

Thursday, 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 224 B

It takes more than passion to save the world. Learn how to build sustainable, theologically ground ed, strategically based Social Justice ministry teams that will engage your whole congregation. Explore a method for developing or focusing your concerns about immigration, ARAOM, peace, poverty, the environment and more.  Rev. Joan Montagnes


Organizing 101: Recruitment & Leadership Development

Saturday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 125

In this interactive workshop, we’ll focus on why people must be central in justice work and learn a framework for assessing who’s in your activist crew to help you do effective and spiritually grounded recruitment and leadership development, two key and often-neglected pieces of our justice work in congregations.  Rev. Cathy Rion

Spiritual Vibrancy


Beloved Conversations: Transforming Church Culture on Race & Ethnicity

Thursday, 10:30 am – 11:45 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 232 AB

Race and cultural identity continue to be determining factors in our society. Even so, there exists a sense of “stuckness” and fatigue around the work of building Beloved Community—especially for people of color. Come experience an alternative approach that engages the arts, deepens compassion and strengthens multicultural competency.  Rev. Kate Lore, Dr. Mark A. Hicks, Rev. Bill Sinkford


Getting Unstuck: New Directions for Congregational Life: Theology

Thursday, 10:30 am – 11:45 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 120 D

Congregations play a crucial role in shaping a just world. William Schulz will explore the theologies that inspire us to take up the soul expanding work of social justice and sustain us through the challenges. Provost Sharon Welch and Meadville Lombard students will respond.  Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, Dr. Sharon Welch, Debbie Cole, Nathan Hollister


Building Beloved Community as Radical Practice

Thursday, 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 124

Beloved Community as envisioned by people of faith such as Dr. King is bold, transformative and inspirational for justice ministry. Join us to consider justice making as the practice of love and explore how this powerful vision can integrate our desire for spiritual integrity with our hope for social transformation.  Rev. Deborah Holder, Meck Groot


Getting Unstuck: New Directions in Cross-Cultural Partnerships

Friday, 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 226

Mark Hicks, Lee Barker and Shawna Foster will lead in a celebration and exploration with congregations that are creating authentic, transformative cross- cultural ministries. We will explore both the joys and challenges that accompany living at the frontlines of our multi-racial, multicultural and theologically diverse world.  Dr. Mark A. Hicks, Rev. Dr. Lee C. Barker, Shawna Foster


Understanding & Developing Multicultural Competencies in Congregations

Saturday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 222 BC

Learn how identity work is essential for building our capacities to create a fair and just world! Through panel presentation, resources and experiential learning, participants will engage with six identities— class, ethnicity/languages other than English, race, gender identities, abilities, affectional orientation. For religious professionals and lay leaders. LREDA Integrity Team  Rev. Natalie Fenimore,  Jennifer McAdoo,  Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles, Janice Marie Johnson


Building Cultural Competence in Congregations

Saturday,  10:45 am – 12:00 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 229

For many, “cultural competency” is a theory or a hope. In this workshop, clergy from three congregations share examples of the steps members took toward establishing multicultural ministries. Lessons learned, challenges met, and the resulting surprises and rewards as their congregations continue to grow and deepen in cultural competence and spirit.  Rev. Jacqueline Duhart, Rev. Kathy Huff, Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube

Faith in Action


Congregational Based Community Organizing: Raising Our Prophetic Voices

Friday, 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 222 BC

Congregation-based community organizations (CBCOs) are organizing the interfaith community and partners, and making gains for migrant, racial, and economic justice across the country. Current campaigns include stopping mass deportations and incarceration, austerity policies, and corporate control of our democracy. Learn about how these organizations work and how to get involved.  Rev. Lydia Ferrante-Roseberry, Rev. Linda Olson Peebles, Rev. David Carl Olson, Audra Friend


Effective Congregational Immigration Ministries

Friday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 227 AB

Congregational leaders from Iowa, California and Georgia share experiences with developing and sustaining effective immigration justice ministries. Presenters discuss strategies for public witness, partnering with community organizations, justice immersion trips, engaging youth, and more. An NDLON organizer addresses how these partnerships have strengthened the immigrant rights movement.  Rev. Anthony David, Sally Hartman, Bob Lane, Amy Moses-Lagos 

Associational/ Partnership


Crossing the Faith Border

Thursday, 10:30 am – 11:45 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 222 BC

Our justice work takes us out into the world where we often are working with people of different faiths. How are we called, as UUs, to celebrate this religiously pluralistic world? How can we work interfaithfully more effectively? What tools do we possess for building interfaith leadership across the generations?  Abhimanyu Janamanchi,  Janice Marie Johnson, Jessica York


Partnering Congregations and Community Organizations

Saturday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 231

How do I connect my congregation with community groups leading campaigns for justice? What are the steps to building meaningful relation- ships between congregants and partner groups for  B. Loewe, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith, Felipe Findley








Looking Back At The Next 50 Years

The Closing Worship of the Pacific Northwest District Assembly, which was also the 50th Anniversary Celebration, included a reflection looking back at the next 50 years.  Young adult Chris Jenkins and youth Elizabeth Hitchcock of the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship shared a the following compilation created by the assembled  youth and young adults…

During our District Assembly the Rev. Dr. Tom Chulak gave us knowledge of our past. Moderator Gini Courter gave us hope and ideas for our future.  And we, the high school youth and young adults have our own ideas as to what the next 50 years hold… (more…)

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, UT

Congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden (UUCO), Utah, for being the newest Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Office of Growth Strategies recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals. UUCO’s embrace of multigenerational worship and religious education for all ages has drawn attention from across the UUA. UUCO has also become a sanctuary for LGBT youth and a community hub for social justice work.

UUCO is highlighted in the summer 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 Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, Utah.  We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

Cora Webb passes a collection basket at UUCO.

UUCO prides itself on having truly multigenerational worship, with children and youth participating in multiple roles throughout the entire worship service. (more…)

Mosaic Makers: Vital Multicultural Congregations


The following is an excerpt from the full and dynamic report which can be found here.

Mosaic Makers: Leading Vital Multicultural Congregations conference (February 17-19, 2012) was exhilarating, energizing, meaningful, and deeply informative. The event grew out of the Multicultural Growth Consultation (March 2011) and was a by-invitation gathering for congregations that are deeply engaged in the work of building intentional multicultural community. (more…)

Growing Beyond Numbers

I like frameworks to help me hang ideas on and organize my thinking. For years I’ve used the growth categories from Ted Buckle and popularized by Loren Mead in his book More Than Numbers: the Way Churches Grow (the words are changed a bit.)  At the suggestion of Jan Gartner (Professional Development Associate for Religious Education and Music Leaders), I’ve added Associational Growth. We will use these categories to organize this blog.  Each blog entry will speak to at least one kind of growth.  Rather than definitions, I’ll introduce the categories with some questions.  I invite you suggest some of your own questions for these categories in the comment section.  What else would you add?

Organizational Maturity

  • What is your congregation’s purpose for existence? How do you know? How is your purpose expressed?
  • How does your governance and organizational structures fit your size and serve your purpose? How do you understand governance and organization to be different?
  • How are your policies community-owned and responsive to your purpose and the people you want to be?
  • How does your building or meeting space serve your mission (rather than be your mission)?
  • What is your pathway to leadership and service? How is this communicated?