Beyond Categorical Thinking: Workshop Summary

The Unitarian Universalist Association (of which we are a part) offers a workshop called Beyond Categorical Thinking to any member Unitarian Universalist church that has embarked on a ministerial search.  It is designed to help congregations see beyond societal categories that might sometimes constrict our choices, and to consider prospective ministers who might not fit into our “categorized” thinking.

The UUCUV Ministerial Search Committee arranged for such a workshop on September 24th, 2017. It turned out to be an extremely hot and sunny day. After the Sunday service given by Jacqui Williams (the facilitator), approximately 38 workshop participants enjoyed a lovely lunch provided by the Board.

After lunch, Jacqui spoke to us at length on how easy it is to put people of color, people with a disability, people who are LGBTQ+, and people who are young or old into categories that may prevent us from seeing their value as a minister, a member or a friend of a congregation. She gave us examples from around the country.

The first workshop exercise was to imagine growing up as someone different than who we are. We counted out the numbers 1,2,3,4 around the room, and Jacqui then assigned these scenarios: 1 was born into a family of color, 2 was born with a mental or physical disability, 3 was born gay or transgender, and 4 was assigned a different (than what they are) sex at birth.  Each person had to consider how their life would have been different given those circumstances. It was interesting to hear the discussion and to realize how we are so affected by the happenstance of our own situations.

Next we formed groups of five or six, each group facilitated by a member of the search committee. Each group was given about 5 case studies of uncomfortable situations (that had actually happened in UU congregations) regarding attitudes toward a person of color, Latino/a, Hispanic, LGBTQ, disabled in various ways, young or old, formerly addicted, obese, and formerly mentally ill.  Our task was to choose one of the situations, determine whose problem the situation was, and discuss what would have been the most appropriate response. This challenging exercise compelled us to grapple with our own attitudes as well as to think about the integrity of those in the case study and the greater good of the congregation.

Finally, we were asked to fill out a survey that assessed what our concerns would be regarding ministers of color, LGBTQ+ ministers, and ministers with disabilities, and what the benefits would be of having such a person as minister. In general, participants said the benefits would include educating the congregation, broadening our thinking and responses, living our principles, and helping to reduce prejudice. Participants’ concerns about these categories brought up some important points to consider.

In response to some people’s concern about whether a minority minister would be comfortable or happy here, Jacqui pointed out that actually, people who are members of minorities have a lifetime of experience of being a minority in a majority-dominant culture, and they have the agency and intelligence to know what they’re getting into and to make their own choices. Their comfort is really not for us to discern or even to worry about on their behalf.

Jacqui’s response to those who don’t like the statement “Black Lives Matter” and would replace it with “All Lives Matter” was, “When your house is on fire, and the fire department responds, they don’t water all the houses equally.  They put the water on the house which is burning.”  To say, in response to “Black Lives Matter” that “All Lives Matter” is to refuse to acknowledge that in the United States currently (and historically), black lives are significantly more in jeopardy than white lives.

In response to some people’s concern about the functionality and longevity of ministers with certain disabilities, Jacqui pointed out that ALL ministerial candidates with the UUA go through a vetting process, which includes a psychological screening and a criminal background check.  All ministerial candidates who have a history of mental illness and/or addiction must have been effectively treated and functional for a period of time, such that they are capable of doing the job and worthy of being in the candidate pool.

Jacqui told us that the most common disability is hearing impairment.  According to Google, hearing loss afflicts about 20% of the population, while over 40% are nearsighted.  However, nearsightedness is almost always easily fixed, while hearing impairment is more difficult to fix.

Participants grappled with concern about issues of too young, too old, and obesity, and how such circumstances would or would not hinder a minister’s ability to fit well and function well in our congregation. Jacqui advised that many searching congregations are also grappling with these concerns, and responses depend on the history and circumstances of each congregation as it seeks the best fit.

The Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop was challenging, interesting, and educational! Thanks and kudos to all who took time on a sunny, hot Sunday afternoon to participate, thus giving the Search Committee a wealth of thoughts and ideas for our process going forward, as we seek a minister who best fits our unique congregation.

From the Ministerial Search Committee

Joani Nierenberg, Grace Alden. Kathy Christie, Leah Goat, Maureen McNulty, Bob Riccio, and Mandy Ruest

 

 

 

Showing Up for Racial Justice, Jan. 28, 2017

The UUCUV was well represented at a packed Showing Up for Racial Justice meeting on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at the Kilton Library in West Lebanon. Here are some links to resources mentioned by speakers at the event:

Valley News article:

Showing Up for Racial Justice: 

Upper Valley Young Liberals: 

Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform: 

Justice for All Vermont: 

Franchesca Ramsey YouTube videos: 

Prayers and Reflections for Standing Rock (Dec. 4)

The following prayer was read at the Dec. 4, 2016, service in support of the Water Protectors of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and our sister congregation in Bismarck, North Dakota.

PRAYER FOR STANDING ROCK

Spirit of Life, Mother Earth, with deep respect on this Interfaith Day of Prayer, we lift our hearts towards the Indigenous peoples gathered at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. We honor them for more fully awakening us to the environmental injustices that are deeply experienced by indigenous peoples around the world .  We thank them for making these injustices visible right on our nation’s doorstep.

We rejoice that hundreds of the years of shameful oppression of the First Nations has not destroyed the spiritual bonds that link these peoples to Earth and all her beings.  Through our own Unitarian Universalist respect for the interdependent web, we feel a deep spiritual kinship with the people of Standing Rock, and we honor them as our teachers.  We are thankful for the lesson they bring, teaching us that reverence is a powerful form of resistance.  Reverence for water is resisting the path of corporate profit that pays no heed to the well being of the living systems of Earth.

As winter comes, we pray for the safety and continued peaceful stance of the thousands living in tents, tepees, and yurts in the Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone camps and for thousands who come and go as allies – indigenous leaders from around the world, UN observers, lay people and clergy, including, today, hundreds of Unitarian Universalists; and for the 2000 or more veterans who are gathering tomorrow to stand in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock and to witness against an inappropriately militarized law enforcement presence.

We pray, as well, for the safety of members of the law enforcement agencies.  We pray that individual officers will not be put into positions that contravene their own hearts,  that these officers will choose to de-escalate potentially violent  situations and fellow officers that turn toward violence, and that they will look into the eyes of the Water Protectors and see them as brothers and sisters with rights equal to their own.

We end our prayer with gratitude for water, for each cup we pour, each free-flowing tap we open, each stream we cross, each raindrop or snowflake that falls upon us.  We pray that at Standing Rock on the banks of the Missouri River and everywhere that water flows on Earth, it will now and always runs clear and clean. We pray that we, too, from today forward we will have the love and resolve to protect water always. Mni Wiconi. Water is Life.  Amen.

Camerata Fall Concert Saturday Oct. 8, 7 pm, at UU Meetinghouse in Norwich

Camerata New England’s second and final concert of the fall season will be on Saturday, October 8 at 7:00 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley Meetinghouse in Norwich, VT. Cellist Linda Galvan, pianist Evelyn Zuckerman, violinist Omar Chen Guey and violist Peter Sulski will play the Mozart G Minor Piano Quartet and Schumann E Flat Major Piano Quartet. The group’s performances have been described by The Complete Hoot as “among the very finest in any genre available to us.” Tickets are $28 for adults; children 18 and under are free. They may be purchased online at www.cameratanewengland.org, by calling 802-785-4833 or at the door.

Camerata Opens Season Sept. 3

Camerata New England will open its 8th chamber music season with a concert of lesser-known but nonetheless excellent composers.  Cellist Linda Galvan, pianist Evelyn Zuckerman, and violinist Omar Chen Guey will perform piano trios by Baroque composer Buxtehude, classical composer Hummel, and romantic composer Arensky on Saturday night at 7 pm, September 3rd at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley Meetinghouse at 320 Route 5 South in Norwich.  Tickets are $28, with children 18 and under free of charge.  A reception to chat with the performers follows.  For tickets, call 802-785-4833 or go online at www.cameratanewengland.org.

Steering Committee selects consulting architect

The Steering Committee is pleased to announce that it has selected Haynes & Garthwaite Architects of Norwich to draw up conceptual plans for the sanctuary/renovation project.

The committee interviewed a total of six firms (four architects and two design/build firms with architects) to consult on this early phase of the project, With the invaluable assistance of our consultant, Shawn Donovan, and congregation President Cappy Nunlist, the committee met with each firm and then reviewed written “scope of work” statements.

We asked each firm to submit a proposed fee schedule that would include preliminary sketches and floor plans for a new sanctuary; a detailed estimate of what it would cost to build that structure; and details regarding engineers to consult on various aspects of the early designs. We also asked that a structural engineer be retained to evaluate the existing Meeting House structure and what improvements may need to be made to it.

As a group, we were impressed by how much talent there is in the Upper Valley for tackling the design challenge that we presented. In the end, H&G’s presentation skills, body of relevant work, and sensitivity to the process we will be going through to build congregational support, were among the factors that swung the decision in their favor. We’re hoping to begin work with H&G in August. We expect there will be one open “brainstorming” meeting with the architects and the congregation — stay tuned for more information.

The committee is starting to interview fundraising consultants who can help us to assess how much money our congregation might raise in a capital campaign. We’ll have more information about that in a future update.

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Architect/Designer Selection Under Way

The Steering Committee had a busy week, completing initial interviews with six architect/designers for the UUCUV building project.

We met initially as a group with Shawn Donovan, our construction consultant, and with Cappy to come up with a categorized set of questions, so that we could be sure the interviews were consistent in terms of content discussed. From that initial discussion, Shawn also created a scope of work statement that clearly explained what we were looking for: basically, a set of conceptual drawings and schematics with preliminary cost estimates that will be presented to the congregation in the fall. These will also be used as part of a capital campaign, should the congregation vote to continue to that next step.We are also seeking opinions from a structural engineer regarding code and other issues in the existing Meeting House.

Teams from the six firms presented to the committee (with Shawn and Cappy) Tuesday and Wednesday. All were very impressive. We are fortunate to have such a deep reservoir of design talent, with relevant experience in historic preservation, energy efficiency, and prior work with churches, here in the Upper Valley region. On the other hand, that makes our task of selecting a finalist difficult. We have asked each team to reply to our scope of work statement with information about fees and details regarding engineering teams in a week (July 10), so the committee can discuss and narrow the field shortly thereafter.

We are also beginning the hunt for a fund raising consultant who can advise on the direction and timing of a capital campaign. Our intent is to keep the entire project moving on a path that would allow us to break ground for a new structure in June 2015.

Board OKs First Steps in Sanctuary Building Process

At its meeting Thursday, the UUCUV Board of Directors followed up on discussion at the Annual Meeting regarding a new sanctuary by formally appointing a Steering Committee (Joan Nierenberg, BJ Shabel and Bill Brawley) to oversee the project. The group will be responsible for coordinating both financial and planning/construction with the ambitious goal of breaking ground by roughly this time next year (in 2015).

Toward that end, the Board approved, on the recommendation of the Steering Committee, a contract with an experienced building project manager. The initial contract with Shawn Donovan, a former UUCUV member and manager, most recently, of the Dismas House project in White River Junction, includes support for the process of interviewing and hiring a designer/architect to create conceptual drawings and associated cost estimates. Thanks to the work of previous committees and Rev. Patience, we have a good sense of what the congregation wants to see in a new sanctuary/multi-purpose space. 

Once those initial drawings and cost estimates are in hand, the Steering Committee will ask a fund raising consultant to perform a feasibility study aimed at determining how much the UUCUV might raise in a capital campaign. The findings from that feasibility study, as well as the conceptual drawings and cost estimates, will be presented to the congregation in the fall. At that meeting, the Congregation will be asked if it wants to proceed to the next step, which would likely be a capital campaign and the hiring of a designer/architect to create final drawings, based on the conceptual drawings revised with additional input from the congregation.

More (much more) to come! Stay tuned for additional updates as this project starts to unfold. — Bill Brawley, Joani Nierenberg, and BJ Shabel

Committee Report on Two Sunday Services

At its meeting on Jan. 9, 2014, the UUCUV Board of Trustees approved a recommendation from the Sunday Services Committee to hold two services on Sunday mornings, at 9 am and 11 am, with a social hour between 10 and 11. The first two-service Sunday will be Feb. 2. Below is the report of the Sunday Services Committee:

Sunday Services Committee Report for the Board Meeting on January 9, 2014

The Sunday Services Committee has spent several meetings discussing the possibility of the two Sunday Services.  Early on we all agreed that there was a need.  We do not think it is welcoming or safe to frequently have a sanctuary that is 90-95% filled. After talking about many different possibilities we asked for congregational input at the service on January 5.

We began with a proposal for a service at 9 and 11 with a coffee hour in between.  At the meeting there were suggestions for a late afternoon service or services at 9:30 and 11:30.  The choir strongly prefers to participate in the earlier service so they can have a rehearsal with a piano. There was some discussion about contemplative services.

The committee wants to support Patience, Linda, and Sparrow, all of whom are willing to participate in both services and also support the choir that is an important part of our congregational life.  We also think that both services need to have similar content to promote congregational unity and not to overwhelm the committee or the staff.  We also want to encourage congregational unity by having both services on Sunday morning.

Either two religious education opportunities for children or one RE time plus childcare will be held on Sundays.  Two RE times are preferred.
    On lay led Sundays, a lay leader would (probably) not wish to lead two services.  Sparrow is available to assist the committee, either providing a multigenerational service or leading an adult contemplative service at the non-lay-leader time with a volunteer RE leader or a childcare provider with the children.

We believe this is a temporary emergency plan until the beginning of the summer.  We are concerned that without more resources we will face a similar situation in the fall.  If the situation continues, the congregation needs to be more involved in future decisions.

We have the following recommendations:

  • Starting on February 2 and lasting until June 15, two services of similar content would happen at 9 and 11. The choir would be part of the first service.
  • Sunday Services Committee will work closely with the Communications Committee and the Office to be sure they have the information they need to inform the congregation about parking, childcare and RE, and congregational unifying activities including coffee hour. Clear roles on these tasks will be necessary.
  • Other congregational activities to build community might be necessary, but need to be organized by others.  Potlucks or other social activities might be considered.
  • Careful planning needs to happen with the teams who support Sunday Services.
  • RE or childcare during each service.
  • On lay led Sundays, two different services probably will need to be planned. Possibly a contemplative service can happen during one of the services.

If you want to read more about the Sunday Services committee recommendations, the February call will have a summary and the website will have a link to the report. Your input on this change is welcome now or later when you have an idea or concern.  You can email Bonnie Kawecki  bonniekawecki20@gmail.com and she will pass your thinking to the appropriate committee or person. She can also e-mail you a copy of the report. Other members of the Sunday Services committee, Margaret Robinson, Paul Schmidt, and Terry Rosenmeier are also happy to talk to you.