President’s Message

Like all of you, I have so many feelings since the events in Charlottesville VA – outrage and deep sadness at the senseless murder of Heather Heyer, disgust at the lack of leadership in denouncing the white supremacist Neo-Nazi groups, and a restlessness calling me to action, but a sense of helplessness as to what to do. I tell myself that the church needs to respond. We need to just put up the “Black Lives Matter” sign right now and stand up. But I know this is not a unanimous decision by the congregation and I cannot move forward unilaterally. I want to assure you that we did not drop the ball on this issue after the Annual Meeting. On Sunday August 27th, Patience addressed the issue of race and action and I shared my experiences from the UUA General Assembly in New Orleans from June regarding the racial healing work being done at the UUA. (See story in this issue of the Call, page 12). But as ready as some of us are to move, there are some in the congregation that voiced discomfort and disagreement with the movement. And so, we have to once again take a deep breath and step back. We need to find other ways to talk together and become more educated in the issues surrounding the Black Lives UU. It is slow going. Process can be tedious. But, being in right relations and in community with each other is hard work. We need to learn to talk together and deeply listen to each other to be sure that all voices are heard. We need to move forward with intention. The Board needs to grapple with how decisions are made on what goes up in front of our building. But doing nothing also sends a message. Being silent is being complicit. Bill Brawley is starting to mobilize people interested in social justice work. Please let us know if you are interested in this effort. (Bill can be reached at BBrawley@mac.com.) I believe there are ways to become a voice for social action while still listening to each other and trying to find common ground. Many of us do our social action work outside of the church with other groups. Although that is satisfying, I still believe that the UUCUV needs to be a united voice in the Upper Valley. A place where we live our values and where people who are struggling with injustice can find allies. May we work together to find a way to respond to the hate and terrible injustice in our country. And may you all hold our congregational leadership accountable if we don’t work fast enough.

~ by Lori Fortini, reprinted from the Autumn 2017 newsletter

November 12: The Myths We Live By

10 AM, Rev. Patience Stoddard

Understanding the difference between a myth and a historical fact is one of the many things that differentiates the UU approach to faith from that of the more orthodox traditions. However, in our personal and cultural lives this clarity can be difficult to perceive and act upon. What are some of the myths we live by and may need to challenge in order to grow?

Outside In, Inside Out

We participate in this community for many reasons and to meet many needs. Some wish to focus on the inside. In our current society which prizes action, innovation and consumption, we may need a time and place to look inward, to embrace meaningful traditions, to focus on giving rather than getting. Others wish to act on the outside. In a nation where hurricanes, racial prejudice and economic inequality are on the rise, we need a community of shared values and concerns to help us find ways to understand and respond effectively.

Many UU congregations live in the midst of this (often unspoken) tug of war. Do the minister, lay leaders, and services focus primarily on deepening spirituality, personal growth, and strengthening the interpersonal relationship within the congregation? Or should our primary focus be on deepening our understanding of problems and challenges in the greater society and in finding effective ways to be agents of change in the wider world?

For the first three years as your minister, my primary focus was on helping strengthen the roots of trust, confidence and vitality in this congregation. This past year with the growing energy of the congregation, the national election, and the sharpening recognition of divisions in our nation, my focus has turned more outward. The decision to “Share the Plate” (highlight an organization doing justice work and giving to them directly), the topics of sermons, and the Diversity Book Groups are all signs of this shift in focus and energy.

Nevertheless, in order to be most effective as change agents we must also take a deeper look into our own prejudices, fears, and privilege. We must shine the light inside in order to be able to help our society and government make the necessary changes outside. And I believe we need to re-commit ourselves to living out more fully our core principles and values in our communities and in our nation. You are ready. Let us put our faith into action together.

~ Rev. Patience Stoddard, reprinted from the Autumn issue of The Call

Spotlight on Membership

Thanks to some good conversations, the Membership Committee has deepened the experience of joining the congregation. Visitors usually enter our doors to attend a Sunday service. Events such as Soupathons and rental groups have generated interest as well, just through the inclusive posters and beautiful space to be found here. If folks want to keep abreast of what’s happening, they give the office their contact information through the ubiquitous Blue Sheets. Rachel, our dauntless Office Administrator, enters the info so that she can add these folks to our weekly “What’s happening?” blast and Sparrow, the membership Staff Liaison, writes a personal letter to the visitor.

For several years now, Patience has offered monthly lunchtime discussions about Unitarian Universalism and our congregation. When a Visitor begins attending these discussions, it’s a great way to discern whether they feel ready for membership. Some of these new folks might love to help out now and then, join a Hospitality team, get a name tag, and be in the Directory without being ready for membership. Being in the Directory is definitely a mark of comfort and belonging – being available to be called to join an event or to arrange a kid’s play date! We call these folks Friends of the congregation and treasure their perspective, their good energy, and the gifts they bring to UUCUV for as long as they would like to be part of this community. When a Friend says “Yes!” to the formality of membership, there is process for helping them choose how they will contribute to the congregation – i.e. committees, activities, and stewardship. The process includes a meeting with the Membership Committee, Minister and Director of Religious Education. This meeting happens about a week before the ritual of signing the book. Membership includes the formal commitment to our covenant, to working for the good of the congregation, and the rights and responsibilities of voting in UUCUV affairs. The newly formed Membership Committee is experimenting with how to do their job well. If you have ideas or wish to join the committee, contact Mugs Johnston, Chair, through the office.

– the original version of this article appeared in the Summer 2017 Call newsletter.

September 10: Renewing the Spirit & the Ceremony of Water Communion

10 AM with Rev. Patience Stoddard.   In this first service of the new church year, individuals and families are asked to come with a small amount of water from their homes or travels and to share a meaningful moment of their summer.

The offering plate this Sunday will be shared with Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief efforts.

After brief intergenerational worship, children will attend their own religious education.

SEPTEMBER 24: BEYOND CATEGORICAL THINKING

“Will the new minister hear me? Will my concerns and needs be met?  Will the minister understand what I’m living with? How will the community respond to our minister?”

In answering these questions, often an image of the “ideal minister” comes to mind, which image can fall into categories (age, gender, gender identity, nationality, physical ability, race, and sexual orientation).  With this image in place, it can be easy to unintentionally exclude ministers who fall into other categories. At times, as we get caught up in comparing candidates to our image, we can even forget what it is we hoped for in a minister.

On the weekend of September 24, the UUCUV will participate in the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop offered by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for congregations involved in the search for a new minister.  The Search Committee invites all members and friends.  It is very important that as many as possible participate.

The Beyond Categorical Thinking program is designed to promote inclusive thinking and help prevent unfair discrimination in the search process for a new minister. This program includes the Sunday morning service, AND a BCT workshop from noon to 4 PM. Lunch will be provided.  In the workshop, UUCUV members and friends will:

Consider the hopes, expectations, and concerns they have for a new minister
Learn more about the ministerial search process, and
Explore how thinking categorically about people sometimes interferes with choosing the best candidate.

The Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop is another opportunity for everyone in our congregation to be a part of the Search process. This experience will provide guidance for the search committee in our work.

Also, importantly, this workshop will further the conversation which we committed to at the Annual Meeting, about diversity and how to represent our congregational views on such things as Black Lives Matter.

Sparrow’s Article of the Week

In my first week as the UUCUV’s Director of Religious Education, I learned from two different families about the anxiety therapies of their elementary-school-aged children.

I made a promise then, eighteen years ago, that I would honor our faith tradition, steward the congregation, educate the parents… but I’m here to serve the kids.  This is a region with the weirdest combination of social pressures on children – educational overachievement hand-in-hand with Yankee reticence to articulate emotions, in an age of social media telling preteens they must give up their treasure, freedom, and franchise to even try to be “good enough”.

I’m still holding my ground when met with “My child says all they did in RE today was make pictures out of clouds.”  Yep.  They did.  And they got outdoors, spent time with a well-educated young woman with the grit to run marathons, stayed in covenant, faced possible tick-borne diseases with education and calm preparedness.  They took turns with the responsibility of carrying the first aid kit, the fussed and argued and made up and had fun being at church.  They learned – again, because hearing about something once is not learning: being, doing, and experiencing over and over for a year is learning – that this is their place, as they are.  Safe.  And that they are also the stewards of our community.

Sorry about the rant.  It happens.  Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading this week.  I would add to the author’s list: every four year old should have the skill of self-control – and that’s something to begin learning in babyhood, via appropriate baby steps.  Pull me aside for a chat anytime –

~ Sparrow