Wednesday, July 1, 2009

UU convicted of littering while supplying humanitarian aid

Title: : uu convicted of littering while supplying humanitarian aid

You try and do something nice, and what do you get for your trouble? The threat of a $10k fine and a year in jail.

Chances are, he'll be in seminary in a year...

Friday, May 22, 2009

How my congregation voted for Morales and Hallman

At our annual congregational meeting, members looked over the two single page sheets the UUA provided in the last meeting, one for each presidential candidate.

Last month's newsletter article from me, which went out in April, but didn't get posted here until recently, and it had the web site addresses for the candidates, etcetera.

I told people I would announce who I was backing at the annual meeting, but I stressed they should check out the web sites and try to get a feel for the best president themselves, in advance of the annual meeting.

At our annual congregational meeting we had a secret ballot, it occurred early in the meeting, so we could announce the results before the end of the meeting. We had previously agreed that we would award votes proportionally. That is if 50% of the congregation voted for one candidate, then each would get 6 votes (we get 12 delegates at GA, due to our size-- 576 adult members).

I discovered just before the annual meeting that I, the outgoing board president, the music director, and an incoming board member (the only people who told me their picks) had all chosen the same candidate-- Peter Morales.

The congregation voted this way:

10 votes -- Rev. Peter Morales
2 votes -- Rev. Laurel Hallman

We will be mailing in our absentee ballots next week, well in advance of the June 17 deadline.

I am proud of my congregation. They did the research, arrived at their choice, and are making their voice heard, despite the fact that only 4 of us are attending GA in Salt Lake City, due to costs, etcetera.

The Next UUA President

Paul Rickter, the secretary of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s board of trustees, writes:

“Absentee ballots with instructions and biographical information about the candidates will be mailed to congregations in early May and must be returned by June 17.

“By sending delegates to vote on site at General Assembly on Saturday, June 27. All GA delegates who have voting credentials that were not used to vote absentee will be eligible to vote on site...

“When discerning how to vote in the election (absentee or on site), congregations have wide discretion in determining whether and how to instruct their delegates. For example, a congregation could hold a congregational meeting to discuss the election and then could direct its delegates to vote for particular candidates. Or the congregation could appoint delegates and allow those delegates to vote their consciences.

“More detailed instructions for voting will be included with the ballot mailing in early May.

“Please let me know if you have questions about the election. For more information on UUA Elections, see”

What does this have to do with you? About every 8 years, there is a major election for UUA president. This year, at the General Assembly (GA) in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a major election for UUA president, and the two candidates are distinctively different.

Because the GA is being held in Utah, and few Eliot members are expected to attend, and because many UUs (including me) believe the selection of the next president is an issue critical to the future of Unitarian Universalism, we will take part of our annual meeting (9:30 a.m., Sunday, May 17) to vote the congregation’s wishes. At that time, I will also indicate who I am endorsing. In the meantime, you should review the two candidates web sites yourself:

Peter Morales -
Laurel Hallman -

We will accomplish our democratic exercise by briefly reviewing the two candidates, vote by secret ballot, and then fill out the absentee ballots proportionally. For example, we get 12 delegate votes: if the two candidates each get about half the Eliot member votes, then the absentee ballots will be split 6 and 6, and we will mail them all in. Hopefully, one candidate will clearly emerge as the front runner, but it is more important that we vote the congregation’s will, and not any particular person’s will.

Notice of Eliot Unitarian Chapel
Annual Meeting

9:30 a.m. Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Halfway There

A minister was in a long line at a gas station. The cashier said: “It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.” And the minister replied, “It’s the same in my business.”

As I write this, we are 4 weeks into our canvass, and half of our pledging families (200 out of 350+) have made their financial pledge. It used to surprise me that after a month only half a congregation would answer the call to make their pledge.

After all, it happens every year, it’s not a surprise or anything. It takes less than 5 minutes to fill out a card. Why would it take more than a month to answer the call?

I think many of us have an ambivalent attitude toward financially supporting our church.

We like church, but we are uneasy with the thought of paying for it. And if we don’t send our money in, we won’t get our home foreclosed on, our water or electricity turned off, our cable TV going dark, or our cell phone silenced.

Does my congregation really need “my” financial donation? The short answer is: yes.

We have collected about $300,000 of the $430,000 we hope to collect for the annual canvass. Half the members and friends have already contributed more than half the money we need. But it is those last few dollars and pledges that will make a difference.

We operate on a very thin margin. It is the extraordinary generosity that makes things happen, that keeps the mortgage paid, the water & electricity flowing, the phone and computer systems humming.

Frankly, it’s a miracle that 570+ mostly unrelated adults get together and continue a 50 year tradition that is Eliot. They don’t have to. No one is forcing them.

And yet, the miracle that is Eliot continues.

Soon, we will send out an email and begin to make phone calls for the remaining pledges. After that, we will send a letter, and then another one. That’s what it takes to get some folks to follow through on their implicit promise they make when they agree to support Eliot.

The implicit covenant is this: when you join a church like Eliot, you promise to support it with your care, concern, and gifts. You do this because you know that is what it takes to make Eliot happen.

In turn, the community makes things happen you could never do on your own: we foster free religious thought in Kirkwood, we nurture spiritual growth for hundreds of children and adults; and we act for social justice in many, many ways.

No matter how often you come to church, whether or not you like the music or the preaching on a particular Sunday, the miracle that is Eliot Chapel is deserving of your speedy, thoughtful consideration.

Only you can know how generous you want to be financially with Eliot. But all of us can know, that getting a pledge card in quickly– regardless of the amount– enables the leadership to plan well for the short term future.

How much should you pledge? I think 3% is a goal worth shooting for. It’s what Bonnie and I aim for. Gross or net or adjusted gross or whatever. Pick a number.

If that number is too big, think about a base line pledge of $150 per month (Bonnie and I are increasing 5%, and will be at $275 per month, starting now).

In any event, think about a 5% increase to support a cost of living adjustment for our excellent, new staff. For the vast majority of us, a 10% increase in our pledge wouldn’t even be noticed in our cash flow.

And remember the Preservation Pledge the congregation unanimously voted for at our last annual meeting. That works out to $1 per day for 3 years. I just wrote a check for $365 last month.

So? If you feel you can’t afford $365 for a Preservation pledge, then make some smaller amount. It is important to participate in the Preservation Pledge at whatever level you can. Your financial contribution is more important than the actual amount.

It may seem like a lot to ask for a 5% raise and another $365 per year to fix up the aging sanctuary. It is.

It is a lot to ask 570+ mostly unrelated adults and over 300 children to think about coming to church several times a month, to teach, to sing, to read, to talk, to drink coffee, to delve thoughtfully into the great events of the day, to truly consider who we really are, and who we really want to be.

It’s too much to ask, really. It’s an impossible undertaking. Probably one that shouldn’t even be tried.

But that’s what we ask people to do. And by some sort of incredible, wonderful miracle, that’s what happens.

If you have already made your pledge: bless you and thank you.

If you haven’t yet made your pledge, you can call us, email us, go to our web site and fill out a form. There are a dozen ways to say: Yes! Eliot is important, and I’m going to do my share to make it happen.

May you feel good about your generosity, and may we continue the miracle that is Eliot.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Taking the Next Step

We are at a unique time in our history. On February 1st, we had 36 people sign the membership book, probably the most who have signed in one day since Charter Sunday. Our adult membership is at 576, making us the 37th largest physical congregation (out of 1100) in the United States, and our children’s program, at 305, makes ours the 14th largest.

We are in the middle of our canvass, which, despite the economic recession, looks to be doing well. This fall we will celebrate our 50th year. Already, Jan Erdman and Mary Quinn are working on this. We will begin a new ministry evaluation process. We will begin a new strategic planning process. We are beginning to think, now in the spring, about the kinds of things we want to be doing in the fall.

Now is the time to think about how you might help fulfill your personal life mission, by helping fulfill the Eliot mission: we gather to foster free religious thought, nurture spiritual growth, and act for social justice.

There will be leadership opportunities in some new groups that are forming. And it can be great to get leadership training and the opportunity to network with other UUs about how they get things done, and the kinds of programs they are doing.

So, I encourage you to think big about what we might do in the fall, and I encourage you to consider attending the annual District Assembly in Milwaukee, WI in late April. A couple hundred UUs will be in attendance and you can read more about it in this newsletter.

If you are considering going to the UU General Assembly in Salt Lake City, UT in late June, you will want to acquire housing via the UU web site ASAP. I have more information about that in this newsletter as well.

Just remember– if you’re an old-timer, or you just signed the book, or even if you are still a guest– now is the time to think about your involvement at Eliot. Just check the Information Guide, the website, and this newsletter for the latest updates. And please, don’t hesitate to give me a call, send me a note, or make an appointment if you would like to ask a question, make a comment, or just plain talk. I would really enjoy that.

DA: Leadership in Times of Profound Change

I invite you to join me and hundreds of Unitarian Universalists to the 2009 Central Midwest District Assembly! We will gather in Waukesha WI, for three days of worship, fellowship, and fun. The dates of the Assembly are: April 24-26, 2009, Friday through Sunday.

We welcome Sharon Daloz Parks, author and independent scholar, as our keynote speaker to speak on our theme this year "Leadership in Times of Profound Change," followed later in the afternoon by the reverends Peter Morales and Laurel Hallman. We are one of the few districts to get them both in person at our annual meeting. These two candidates for the Presidency of the UUA will speak to us and will answer some prepared questions. Our UUA trustee, Justine Urbikas will moderate.

Our district executives and staff solicit ideas about the kind of programming that will be most valuable to the leadership of congregations. This year, we have recruited people to present workshops on such topics as ecology and sustainability, retaining visitors as involved members, and healthy congregations and covenants.

Our exciting Opening Celebration comes with music, inspiration and a banner parade. There will be a delicious banquet along with fabulous entertainment. We will gather Sunday morning for special worship. We will be together with UU friends, old and new, from across our Central Midwest District!

The registration fee for the District Assembly itself is $155. All events will be held at the Marriott Milwaukee West in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and overnight rooms are reserved until April 15, 2009 at the rate of $105 per night. You can reserve rooms online.

Consider a weekend of inspiration and celebration. I do have some funds available to defray registration costs for Eliot folk who want to go as our congregational delegate.

GA and the next UUA president

Some of you will recall that the UU General Assembly (GA) happened in St. Louis in 2006.

About 4,000 UUs invaded downtown for four days of workshops, worship, networking, singing, and so forth. There are tremendous opportunities to learn more about all aspects of church leadership from the best and brightest in the denomination.

This year, the GA is being held in Salt Lake City, Utah. So far, the only people going I know about are my family, Jan Chamberlin (music director) and Leon Burke (choir director). We will go to learn, and to contribute, and to bring back creative ideas for Eliot for the coming year.

Every great once in a while, a really important election happens at the national level of the Unitarian Universalist Association. This year there will be an election for the next UUA President. Two UU ministers are running: Peter Morales and Laurel Hallman.

Peter’s web site is at:
Laurel’s website is at:

Much like the United States, the UUA national organization is at a critical time in its discernment for the future. It is important that Eliot make its voice heard in such an important decision.

Only congregational (and minister) delegates get to vote at GA. Delegates are apportioned according to congregational size, with a ratio of one delegate per 50 congregational members. Because of our membership size (576 as of this writing), we get 12 delegates. Normally, those delegates would only get to vote if they were physically present in Salt Lake City.

However, the UUA bylaws allow for the provision of absentee ballots in elections. This means, we as a congregation can figure out who we want to be president, and send in all 12 absentee ballots accordingly.

Since delegates are representatives of a local congregation, they should vote the will of the congregation, not their own will; otherwise they are representing themselves as individuals, not as a messenger from the congregation. The difference here is between representative democracy and direct democracy.

So, here is how we can accomplish this at Eliot. At our annual meeting in May (or perhaps sooner), I will have the two candidates information available, probably as an order of service insert, along with a ballot of our own design.

I will answer any questions you may have about the process and tell you who I am endorsing as president. Then, we will collect the Eliot ballots and with the help of 12 volunteers, apportion the UUA absentee ballots according to how the congregation votes. So, each candidate got half the vote, we would send in 6 ballots for one candidate, and 6 for the other.

This system ensures it is the will of the congregation-- not the opinion of particular individuals-- who decide the votes. It also ensures we vote all of the absentee ballots we are entitled to. This system ensures any congregational member can have input simply by showing up to a meeting after church. It allows you to be more informed as to what is going on at the national level, it gets far more people informed about the candidates, and it insures the congregation as a whole (and not just a few elite) gets a chance to participate in the election process of GA.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Friday, November 21, 2008

What We Get From Eliot

What We Get From Eliot

We are at a turning point– in so many ways– at Eliot Unitarian Chapel. We have a new, coherent administrative staff. We have new energy in our music program. We are standing by our faith in restoring our historic stone chapel. And our children’s religious education program continues to grow. Six years ago, when Rev. Bonnie and I first got here, the RE registration was a little over 250. Now it is over 300, a 20% increase. To accommodate further growth, we will eventually have to gut the old RE wing and put something else up. But that is an issue for another day.

We are undergoing another staffing transition in our children’s RE program. As part of that effort, meetings have been held, surveys collected, conversations started. Some of the initial results are in– results about how people feel about their Eliot experience.

Three questions, in particular, struck me as particularly interesting. The comments we got were thought provoking too. Below are the 3 questions, and a sampling of responses, some edited for length.

In what ways have you and your family gotten what you hoped for from Eliot?

  1. We have met a group of friends with young children that are a constant support. We have Sunday services with messages that relate to our daily lives and ministers who give 100% to support the greater Eliot community. Eliot support staff are hard working and very supportive.
  2. My kids and I have found a lot of friends and they are learning respect for many religious and spiritual traditions. Also, I have found a congregation that gives voice to my spiritual beliefs.
  3. I feel like I have a spiritual community of people that share many of my values, though not all and that’s a good thing. I feel spiritual leadership from Daniel and Bonnie and support from them in a personal way. I think having a ‘third’ place’ has truly enriched our family life– creating a sense of belonging in a larger community.
  4. I could write a book about how my children have a healthy, balanced understanding of faith and religion that they have received from Eliot’s RE program, which is really the Eliot members and friends that have taught my children.
  5. We found a place [our daughter] can learn more about the different religious traditions than we could have shared. And in the process found out that we had a hole in our lives as well that Eliot has filled. It’s amazing to find out you were UU all along and just didn’t know it.
  6. I like the way the kids are exposed to a wide variety of religious traditions, and the seven principles. I like that they can see that you can live a moral, meaningful life without having to buy into a rigid set of religious beliefs. Things that come up at church often serve as a springboard for discussions at home. The kids have friends who are very religious, and I like that their experience at Eliot gives them their own religion and they are not interested in getting involved with their friends' religion. They are respectful of others' beliefs, but they identify as UUs.
  7. I feel like there is definitely a place for us at Eliot Chapel. We feel very integrated into the RE community in particular. I also feel like I'm challenged to live my values in a way that I wasn't before, but always felt was important.
  8. My children now feel our beliefs are part of something larger than ourselves. My daughter couldn't understand why we didn't attend a church when all of her friends did. When we found Eliot we were in shock that there was a place for us in the organized religion world.
In what ways have you and your family not gotten what you hoped for from Eliot?
  1. I wish influences beyond Jewish and Christian traditions could be utilized for teaching and learning during services and beyond. I want my children to be exposed to many perspectives.
  2. I haven’t connected deeply with anyone. I have a lot of buddies, but no friends.
  3. I would like to see, hear, feel more about social justice and community activism and how world religions, including Christianity instruct us in this way.
  4. I would really like more traditional spirituality, more Jewish and Christian focus.
  5. I think the spiritual leadership is excellent; however, I sometimes feel short-changed when we don’t get the real leaders. Both Dan and Bonnie are excellent, but the assistant/ interns have left a lot to be desired. In addition, the lay support often wears, suggests, and speaks their social agenda. I usually check the calendar to see who is ‘playing’ before we decide to go or not.
  6. Little attention paid to Unitarian Christian roots.
  7. Making more friends and family connections (due to our lack of attendance).
  8. Sometimes Sunday morning can actually be too hectic with the Chalice Choir, teaching, donuts, special services, forms to fill out, etc. We could of course, just choose to do less, but they are ALL things we want to do ;-)
In what ways have you and your family gotten more than you expected from Eliot?
  1. We have found the people that attend Eliot to be accepting and friendly. I appreciate the ministers are willing to listen to ideas/suggestions are promote a community that strives for decency in their thoughts and actions.
  2. The more we give and participate, the more we get that feeling of belonging.
  3. I think we are surprised by how many people are at Eliot who seem to genuinely care about us and our well-being- and vice versa. We came looking for spiritual guidance and ended up with a place that feels like home.
  4. I am slowly repairing my very broken relationship with God and enjoying my personal spiritual journey.
  5. I got more than I expected to (services and sermons, etc), when I first started coming for the kids.
  6. I never could have expected to feel so much a part of things so easily. We spent several years searching for our spiritual home and we felt almost instantly that we were more than just welcomed, but integrated almost seamlessly.
  7. I am so impressed by all the ways that parents and kids can be involved. From chalice choir to service projects.
  8. Met so many more wonderful people than I ever thought. Taking my kids to Bergfried has been an unexpected treat.
The good news is that, for the most part, Eliot folk are making connections, living out their faith, and finding hope and courage to act for social justice. Of course, there are the obstacles of time and follow through, but the range of responses is heartening and a good reminder of what we’re about, and what we might do better.

Here’s hoping you find some peace and joy in the beginning of winter.