Opportunities for Connection ~ October 2023

By Central East Region of the UUA

Featured Resource: Disaster Relief Fund

Four photos illustrating climate change-caused disasters: aftermath of a hurricane showing destroyed houses in top left, trees burning in a forest fire in top right, houses and trees almost submerged by flooding in bottom right, and crops bent and destroyed by drought in bottom left.

The Disaster Relief Fund Needs Your Help 
This calendar year has been an eventful year for disaster impacting our UU congregations. The Disaster Relief Fund is in place to help channel donations from individuals and congregations to our UU congregations to help them in the wake of disasters, and for them to also be able to support their local community’s recovery, particularly those most affected and unable to access other funding sources.

Already this year, thanks to the generous contributions over the past few years, the Fund has distributed more than $275,000 to our congregations impacted by hurricanes, flooding, and other natural disasters. This is the second highest amount since the fund was created in 2017—the highest year was 2018. In total we have given out more than $1.5 million in grants over the 7 years of the Fund’s existence.

But we need your help—the Fund is at its lowest level since the beginning—we have under $50,000 on hand, and that can be distributed with just one more request. Can you share some of your funds with congregations that will be impacted because of natural disasters, many of which are worsening because of climate change? If your congregation does “share the plate” Sundays, can your congregation be part of the group that lives out our interconnectedness by sharing the collection with the Disaster Relief Fund?

Often our grants are the first to roll into the congregation and allow them immediate resources to protect their people and their buildings. We have had a couple of congregations return the funds, when they discovered that their insurance or other sources paid for their needs, and they have been pleased to be able to support the fund in that way.

Please consider joining us in this way to live out our covenant with each other!

Information on the Disaster Relief Fund, including how to donate, and how to file a claim, are on the UUA website.

CER Leadership Skill Ups - October is Where Do We Get Volunteers?

stars in the sky. words say CER Leader Skill Up. CER Leadership Skill Ups for changing times. Where Do we get volunteers? Fun, meaning and connection. October 3rd, 7-9 pm ET.

The Central East Region team is excited to announce our monthly Leadership Skill Ups for Changing Times series next year! These are drop-in calls for all congregational leaders where you can learn a new skill - or fine tune an old one - with CER staff and other leaders doing similar work in other congregations. Calls alternate monthly between Tuesdays and Thursdays – mark these dates on your calendars and stay tuned for topics as they emerge – and let us know what topics would be helpful to you. All times are 7-9 pm ET.

  • Tuesday, October 3 - Where Do We Get Volunteers? Fun, Meaning, and Connection
  • Thursday, November 9 - Renewing Your Shared Ministry in A Season of Busyness and Rest
  • Tuesday, December 5 - Raising and Protecting Funds for Your Congregation's Mission

Remaining dates: Thursday, February 1st - Tuesday, March 5th - Thursday, April 4th - Tuesday, May 7th.

Contact your primary contact for the link or see your email copy of the newsletter.

Worship Resources for Smaller Congregations

image of three figures in a circle with small congregation, congregational life

Putting on weekly worship can be onerous for smaller congregations, especially those with part time or no professional minister. Right size your worship calendar by engaging with these trainings and offerings.

New! Sermon of the Month Series Subscription Service, Offered by Your UUA Congregational Life Field Staff: Monthly sermons (and suggested hymns and readings) from a variety of speakers created monthly for your use. $350 for 12 sermons, $50 discount for Honor Annual Program Fund (APF) contributors.

New! Worship for Transformation (Training) with Rev. Erika Hewitt, convener of WorshipWeb. Learning tools for Worship Teams to develop tools and frameworks to craft meaning-full, sensory-rich, and holistic worship experiences. $30 per participant.

New! Spiritual Deepening Through Worship and Small Groups, from the Center for Congregational Spirituality and the MidAmerica Region. Develop a liturgical year for your congregation, plan worship services centered on spiritual practices, and go deeper with small group spiritual companioning. $350 for teams of four, $300 for three, $225 for two, and $125 for individual registrations.

Tried and True! Meaningful Worship for Small Congregations video with Rev. Sarah Schurr. Center your worship planning with this review of some basics. Free, 16 mins.

Tried and True! The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People. A workshop guide to develop preaching experience among lay people. This 8-session seminar includes a leader's guide, readings, sample sermons, and exercises to help first-time preachers polish their craft. $14 per book.

Threats from Without, Care from Within

diverse crowed supporting each other

Saturday, October 21, 12 Noon - 6 pm ET. Online. 
In 2023, an increasing number of our congregations have been targeted and threatened by extremist groups who do not like the way our congregations act for justice and equity. Though most threats do not lead to violence, these times call us to be prepared. This daylong online conference will begin with worship and inspiration, followed by workshops and panel discussions. We encourage teams from congregations to sign up and to participate in the conference on different screens to be able to attend different workshops.

Registration fee: $10-$30-$50. Registration fees are on a sliding scale, based on your assessment of your ability to pay. Those who pay at the highest level are making a donation to help those in financial need for this event. Please remember that for a sliding scale to work, we need the same number of people with means to generously pay more to balance the needs of those who can afford less.

Register today! Registration closes on Friday, October 20th.

Letting Go of Our Beloved Buildings

group os people gathering for a photo on stairs

Wednesday, October 25, 1:30pm – 3:00pm ET 
Our buildings connect us to our history and are special and unique spaces that provide a home for our communities. But with these blessings come the challenges of maintaining older buildings and adapting them for today's needs. This is especially a challenge for congregations who are now smaller than when their buildings were built. What if the space we need to live our mission no longer matches the building we own? Could our building find a new calling? Learn more and register.

CERSI Workshop Proposals Now Open

Central East Region Summer Institute Logo

Do you have a great idea for a workshop for Summer Institute? Interested in leading a morning or afternoon workshop at CERSI next year? Please apply and share your proposal. Deadline Oct 30, 2023.

  • Morning seminars are classes designed for adults to learn a new skill, get creative, move and meditate or contemplate a deep topic in the company of others who share a similar interest. Details are on the form. Morning Seminar Proposal
  • Early-afternoon workshops tend to be intergenerational & open to all ages (though adult supervision may be required for younger children). Late-afternoon workshops tend to be age-segregated and usually more adult-oriented, with child-care offered. Details are on the form. Afternoon Workshop Proposal

CER BIPOC Gathering Dates

2023-24 Dates CER BIPOC Gatherings. Joint Rev. Sana Saeed for our first gatheirng of the year on Oct 2nd at 6:30 pm et on zoom. These calls are explicitly for people who identify as black, indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC)

If you identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC), you're invited to join us for the Central East Region's BIPOC gathering happening on the first Monday of the month at 6:30pm ET. In our gatherings we are joined by lay folks of color, lay leaders of color and/or religious professionals of color to be in community. Our conversations focus on topics like wellness and resilience and our goal is to center BIPOC experiences and create space to explore our UU experiences. Please email Sana Saeed, ssaeed@uua.org for zoom information.

2023 - 2024 Dates: Oct 2nd, Nov 6, Dec 4, Jan 8, Feb 5, Mar 4, Apr 1, May 6, June 3.

Learn more at the CER website.

Taproot: A National BIPOC Gathering

On a lime green background with a black outline of a root system reads: Taproot: A National BIPOC Space. Fall 2023 Dates - Thursday, October 12, Thursday, November 9, and Thursday, December 14. From 8 to 9:15 eastern time pm, 5 to 6:15 pacific time pm.

2023 - 2024 Dates: Oct 12, Nov 9th, Dec 14th, Jan 11th, Feb 8th, Mar 14th, Apr 4th, May 2nd , & June 13th.

The work of the spiritual community is complicated in the 21st century. From busy schedules to the ever pressing tension brought on by systemic injustice, the need for faithful leadership that is grounded and resilient is imperative. This is all the more true for leaders within our communities and congregations who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC). All too aware of this need, Congregational Life is excited to explore and co-create a network with congregational leaders that support them in this time in emergent ways through Taproot: A National BIPOC Space. The organizing pillars of this collective is:

  • Rest & Renewal
  • Analysis Building
  • Leadership Development

BIPoC Leaders rooted in the Unitarian Universalist congregations are invited to take part in this monthly, virtual gathering as we explore these pillars in creating a means by which to ground ourselves in resilient communities of care. Learn more at the Taproot Page.

UPLIFT Trans/Nonbinary+ Monthly Gatherings

Image Description: UUA rainbow chalice next to the word UPLIFT in rainbow colors. Underneath, text reads, “Uplifting the LGBTQ+ Experience within Unitarian Universalism & Beyond.

Trans, nonbinary, and other not-entirely-or-at-all-cis UUs are invited to join our monthly gathering, which we hope will feel like a cozy cup of something soothing (in virtual meeting form!). This intentionally multi-generational gathering is open to and welcoming of trans/nonbinary elders as well as children, youth, and young adults. Learn more and register at the UPLIFT webpage.

This gathering is intended to foster connection between trans/nonbinary+ UUs (and non-UUs who are ok with being in a UU-grounded space) to co-create support and community.

This is a closed event specifically for trans/nonbinary+ people. Anyone who is trans, nonbinary, metagender, multigender, genderfluid, agender, demigender, genderqueer, questioning, and otherwise not wholly or entirely cis is welcome to attend. Register to join us the fourth Thursday of each month.

NOTE: There may be cisgender people present as parents supporting their 13-and-younger-child's presence in the space, as tech support, or as captioners. However, if you are completely cisgender and not trans/nonbinary, please join other spaces supporting trans/nonbinary+ people that are open to all, such as our Side With Love Monthly Mixer or our monthly Faithful Grounding (see the Side With Love Website for more info on each event.)

New Resources for Worship Associates!

Screenshot of a light-skinned woman with shoulder-length brown hair in front of a bookcase with a bouquet of peonies on it.

As described in the recent UUWorld Article Liturgy of the People, co-creating worship along with the minister can be a transformative experience for worship associates. The UU Institute just published a new training, Worship for Transformation, designed for worship arts teams to take together. WorshipWeb‘s Erika Hewitt interviewed accomplished UU worship teams and individuals from around the UUA and beyond and curated those conversations into a robust training. It’s like attending a national conference for only $30 per person!

Erika Hewitt is also the author of The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People, a complete workshop to help lay people gain experience writing and preaching a full-length sermon for their congregation.

For those ready to expand their preaching skills, Stephen M. Shick’s Speaking By Heart: The Spiritual Practice of Unscripted Public Speaking, is now available from the InSpirit bookstore! In the spirit of adrienne maree brown's principle of Emergent Strategy "less prep, more presence," the author guides the reader into an embodied practice of preaching with presence and connection with the congregation.

Covenant Calls Us In: The Why of Covenant

a red felt heart, stitched back together up the center with blue thread and a needle

When you’re a member of a vibrant congregation, you hope for a deep and radical welcome there. You want to be able to bring your whole self, and feel called to be your best self, accountable to the vision of beloved community the community shares. In these congregations, when actions, words, or behavior arise that are destructive to the community's well-being, Covenant can help call us all in.

A new course posted on UU Institute, Covenant Calls Us In: The Why of Behavioral Covenant (109), is the first part of a two-part on-demand series that helps congregations understand and move more deeply into covenant. This first course helps us learn the history of covenant and why we would bother with behavioral covenants. It is available now, on demand. It sets the stage for dealing with destructive behavior. A second course, Part 2, Covenant Calls Us In: Living Into Behavioral Covenant (209), will cover how to create policies and procedures, and how to engage the congregation in adopting a behavioral covenant. The second part is scheduled to be released in Winter 2024.

Learn more about this class, how to register and more at the UUA LeaderLab.

Exploring Transgender Lives and Issues

Image is a bridge with a chalice above it

Join us for the 10th Annual UUs of Greater Pittsburgh Cluster Gathering.

We are honored to welcome Alex Kapitan of the Transforming Hearts Collective as our Keynote Speaker on the topic "Exploring Transgender Lives and Issues". A second speaker from the ACLU will address legal and social aspects. There will also be a panel discussion, business meeting, morning worship service and more. Full agenda will be posted closer to the event.

All are welcome! You don't need to be a Unitarian Universalist or a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation to attend. You don't need to be a member of the Pittsburgh cluster. You can attend in person at UU Church of the South Hills OR virtually through zoom. Learn more and register at the event webpage.

Exploring Accountability with The UU Common Read: On Repentance and Repair

a book cover

On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World is the 2023-24 UU Common Read. In this 2022 Beacon Press book, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg offers a fresh perspective on how we make ourselves accountable to others.

This UU Common Read offers a glimpse into Judaism, one of Unitarian Universalism’s foundational sources, through the writings of 12th century physician and scholar, Maimonides. The book invites us to explore practices, informed by Jewish tradition, that can lead us toward meaningful atonement in our personal, community, and national lives. Discussion materials for On Repentance and Repair include a two-session workshop for in-person or online groups. While recommended as a two-part series, these discussion materials can also support a half-day workshop.

All resources for the UU Common Read can be found, along with Common Read updates, on the UUA website Look for additional videos and discussion materials in Fall 2023.

UU Common Read gatherings can be facilitated by a UU lay leader or religious professional. A co-facilitator with tech skills is recommended for online or hybrid groups. The inSpirit Book and Gift Shop offers a 10% discount on bulk orders of On Repentance and Repair.

Better Together Blog: Finding Unexpected Joy

Headshot of Beth Casebolt

by Beth Casebolt

Five years ago or so my family decided to plant a pollinator garden in a section of our front yard. We plowed up the earth, and scattered wildflower seeds we had collected and some we had purchased. The first year we got a lot of different flowers, all colors, shapes and sizes, blooming at different times of the season. 
But since that time, what we see each year has changed.

Read the rest of the blog post

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The Central East Region is hiring!!  
If you would like to work with a great team of people, serving our congregations in the state of New York, please consider applying. Find the job description at the Better Together Blog. New England Region is also hiring right now!

News from the UUA

Applications are now being accepted for an All-Levels Training of Trainers for Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education and its Sexuality and Our Faith companion program. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Eastern, October 10, 2023. 
Download application instructions and TOT details (PDF) 
Facilitator trainings contribute to the safe, successful, and meaning-making experience of comprehensive sexuality education. Trainers help facilitators develop the comfort, knowledge, and facilitation skills necessary to implement Our Whole Lives programs.

Large Congregation Staff Conference 2023: Collective Creativity for the Next Unitarian Universalist Chapter, November 1-2, 2023, 90-minute segments, 11:30 - 6 pm ET, specific subject times. 
This two-day choose-your-own-adventure workshop is for the staff of 450+ member congregations across the country. Each segment of the conference is an opportunity for those who work in the subject area to bring their questions and ideas and workshop them with colleagues from around the nation. You’ll connect with each other while envisioning the next generation of our faith. Let’s build Unitarian Universalism together. Learn more and Register Today.

UUA Legacy Giving Webinar, Saturday, October 14, 2023 | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET The UUA’s Legacy Gifts Office offers a number of services, including an online workshop to assist congregations and other UU organizations in creating legacy giving programs. The webinar on Saturday, October 14, 2023 covers the basics of legacy giving and aims to equip legacy giving committees with the knowledge they need to start or refresh their program. To register for the webinar or to reach out with a question about legacy giving, email us at legacy@uua.org or call (617) 948-6509.

Don't miss any of the great fall programming being offered by Side with Love. The Skill Up Series will look at Risk Discernment for Congregations in October and Faith Out Loud in November. Faithful Gatherings, which are an hour of spiritual sustenance and grounding are each month on the 4th Thursday at 7:30 pm ET. Monthly Mixers are the 2nd Monday at 8 pm ET. Get the details and learn more at the Side with Love website.

The UUA has a Disaster Relief Fund for those who want to make a donation to help congregations who have faced losses due to tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires and more. Please donate if you can. Learn more about the work of the Disaster Relief Fund. If your congregation needs assistance, you can apply for a grant on that webpage. We are Better Together.

Virtual Guest in Your Pulpit! The UUMA has a list of virtual speakers, check it out to see who is available! Visit the Virtual Guest in the Pulpit Database to see who is available. Also, don't forget to check out the CER Guest in Your Pulpit program, which includes both lay and professional worship leaders.

New publications from the UUA - Announcing the 2023-24 UUA Common Read: On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (Beacon Press, 2022). Now available for pre-order are: The Tending Years: Understanding Your Child's Earliest Rituals by J. L. Shattuck, A Fire at the Center: Solidarity, Whiteness and Becoming a Water Protector by Karen Van Fossan and Through the Lens of Whiteness: Challenging Racialized Imagery in Pop Culture by Diane S. Grimes and Liz Cooney.

The UUA is hiring for several positions. Find job descriptions and application information at their Job Openings webpage. Make sure to check out the positions in Congregational Life for both the New England and Central East Regions.

Calendar Items and News

For events, webinars and congregation news and events visit the following pages:

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