A Sunday Morning Experiment

During the month of March, you will see a few changes to the service in the opening moments.  In their ongoing work to introduce the congregation to different pacings, formats, and styles of worship, they have accepted my proposal to create the service opening on four Sundays, culminating in Children’s Sunday on March 25th.

Please expect the opening fifteen minutes of worship to be quickly paced, full of hymns that are easy for young singers, and joyfully accepting of toddlers who need to wriggle their bodies.  Families with young kids will have special roles to fulfill.

We wondered whether folks who are uncomfortable with the high energy of active children might begin to be late to the services… and then realized that would be all right.  While we all recognize the value in true intergenerational interaction, nothing’s going to be lost by a one-month experiment.

I look forward to seeing you in March, my friends, Sunday mornings at 10 AM sharp.

ANNOUNCEMENT of Congregational Meeting to be held on February 11, 2018

ANNOUNCEMENT of Congregational Meeting to be held on February 11, 2018

In accordance with the Bylaws of the UUCUV, the Board of Directors will hold a Congregational Meeting on Sunday, Febryary 11, 2018 at 11:30 am.  This meeting is called in respponse to request form a group of members and friends who met on Social Justice issues on January 21, 2018.  The Meeting will consist of a single issue on whether we should put up the “Black Lives Matter” sign outside of the UUCUV Meeting House.

The Motion is: The Board asks that the UUCUV members approve the display of a “Black Lives matter” sign outside of the Meeting house.

We hope that everyone will be able to attend this meeting to vote.  While the UUCUV does not allow for proxy votes, if you are not able to attend, you are invited to write a note in agreement or in opposition to the Motion.  Please direct your note to the Board prior to the meeting by email or mail and the notes will be read at the meeting to have your opinion stated.

Child care will be provided.  Please contact a member of the Board if you have questions.

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

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




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.


“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.

Reaching Out, Reaching In

This article may be found in full in the Summer issue of The Call

Unanimity can be a good thing especially when it is the result of individuals truly listening to each other and being willing to give up a desired personal outcome on behalf of a recognition as to what the community needs in order to more forward together. However, as Scott Peck the author of A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace notes, while compromise can be a sign of health, fear and avoidance of coflict can lead to “the danger of pseudo-community.” Pseudo-community, where individual differences are minimized, unacknowledged, or ignored, tends to stultify growth and ultimately undermines its mission to be an agent of spiritual and societal transformation.

At Annual Meeting, we discussed what signs (if any) to put out in front of the church as a public expression of some of our core values and stance on certain social issues.

Much of the time was spent discussing whether or not/where
to put up a Black Lives Matter sign and what consequences might ensue from that decision. Expressed thoughts ranged from seeing this as a necessary early step in our journey to find ways to work against racism (both within and without), to a hesitation to do something that might antagonize some others and not actually pro-mote dialogue which might lead to deeper understanding about the reality of racism and ways to overcome it. Eventually the person who suggested a motion to put out the signs decided to withdraw the motion in order to create more time and space to understand the issues (and feelings) involved and the organizations we would be supporting.

I agree with Peck that the path to true community and spiritual growth entails not the silencing of the individual’s voice, but the willingness to listen to all voices; not the false hope of continuing unanimity but a willingness to stay open and present in conflict “committed to struggle together rather than against each other.”

~ Patience Stoddard