ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND CELEBRATIONS
Can you imagine what connection these famous people have with our district: Henry David Thoreau, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stow, Horace Greeley, Charles Sumner, Thomas Starr King, Theodore Parker, Samuel J. May, Horace Mann, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Ralph Waldo Emerson?
They have all spoken at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cortland. Yep, that small church has had an incredible list of distinguished speakers at their pulpit over their 200 years of existence. Yes, you read that right, too – 200 years.
On November 10, I was thrilled to accept Cortland's invitation to attend their special service led by Rev. Richard Gilbert to celebrate their 200th anniversary. Rev. Gilbert did a fabulous job of telling the history of this small church.
Some of these historical guest speakers were controversial with other churches. Some churches expelled those attending presentations at the Cortland Universalist church, referring to it as an "unholy place."
A proud period of time at Cortland was in the mid-1800s when the church supported the Underground Railroad and helped form the Republican Party that was, "opposed to slavery and to the extension of slavery over the territory of the United States."
There's much more to Cortland's history. And Cortland is one of many small congregations in our district with a deep history. But it's not just our history that is special. Rev. Gilbert led a story about Jonah with the help of Rev. Christina Neilson, our district's Congregational Life Consultant, and Cortland's consulting minister, Kathy Tew Rickey. Jonah tried to run away when God asked him to be a prophet – he didn't feel he had the ability or time. Rev. Gilbert challenged Cortland to be a spiritual center "with a civic circumference." He told us we are often in awe of the great prophets who spoke at the Cortland church. "But we can't afford to wait for people like them – we are the ones we have been waiting for."
With so many small UU congregations in upstate New York with deep, rich histories, it's time we step up and out and let our neighborhoods
know who we are, what our values are, and offer the message that we have an open door for those looking for a safe and progressive religion.
The staff of the St. Lawrence District would like to express our gratitude for our volunteers, members and congregations in our district. Thank you for all you give us. And Happy Thanksgiving!
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Do you have questions about what is going on with regionalization? Read the CERGing Foward Blog, written each Friday by members of the CERG Transitions Team.
Want to know more about what is going on in the district? Read the Better Together Blog, written each Monday by the OMD and SLD Staff.
THANKS BE FOR THESE
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My huge family always had a great meal, watched the parade and football. There were enough cousins to play a game of football, so even though the weather was brisk in Minnesota, that always started off the day. It also got the kids out of the hair of our mothers and grandmother who were inside fussing away at the feast. We had lots of fun, lots of food, but without the pressure of exchanging gifts.
And I know the origins of Thanksgiving give us cause to pause as great pain was caused to the Native Americans in those early days. Some of my friends call this day Thanks-grieving.” How can you sit at the table with those who have caused you harm? I honor that sensibility on Columbus day- a day to reflect upon colonization, how we got here and at what cost.
I think it’s important that we give thanks sometime during the year. It would be better to have a spiritual practice of gratefulness, but at least one day should be set aside, with some measure of humility, to give thanks for all that we have.
I want to highlight some of the thanks that have been shared around the district. Some of these are great ideas that can be duplicated in your congregations. Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, NY presented a Humanitarian Award to the Rape Crisis Center that serves surrounding communities. The church held a reception for them, collected a special offering that was donated to their center and honored them with a plaque, thanking them for their service to the community.
Last year near this time, Hurricane Sandy hit and devastated much of the shoreline, business and homes in New York and New Jersey. There is still work to do, and now we have a staff member in place to assist clean up crews. We are still receiving thank you notes from the physical and monetary assistance we have given during a great time of need. We raised over $360,000 dollars in the region, and an additional $100,000 from Shelter Rock and $100,000 from the UU Funding panel. Thanks to all of those who contributed to this effort. A recent note says, “Thank you so much for your support during trying times. With your assistance I have been able to put together a down payment on a new car. I appreciate the concern and the helping hand.”
Another way to give thanks is to recommend that person for an award. Recently Rev. Stanley Sears was awarded the “Hopkins Grant.” This award goes to ministers who are doing good work in small congregations, who may also be experiencing financial hardship. Rev. Sears has done great work with the Auburn congregation as they engaged the Healthy Congregations materials last year. Congrats to Rev Sears and the Auburn Congregation!
Throughout the year we do work that is not easy in our congregations. Through love, we work together to find a better way to be in community, and do the hard work of building a community that invites and respects who we are. Thank you for all the good work that you do in the name of our faith. Look beyond your congregation to find someone to thank- someone that represents your values, that makes a difference in the world. We are larger than ourselves or our church.
In faith and with love,
TRANSITIONING TO THE REGION
Last May the boards of the four districts that constitute the Central East Regional Group (St. Lawrence, Ohio Meadville, Metro New York, and Joseph Priestly) voted on a vision for evolving from four districts to a region. This was a major step – not one set in stone, but one that initiated a significant effort to find a better way to provide services to the congregations in our region.
The four boards formed a regional Transition Team who is charged with the following:
- Clarify the vision of regionalization in a way that is comprehensive, clear, unambiguous, and specific.
- Create/develop specific steps, milestones, and entrance criteria for districts.
- Participate and engage in communication of the CERG transition in a way that represents a unified position, accurately reflecting the group's decision and milestones.
The Transition Team consists of two representatives from each district plus our Regional Lead, Rev. Joan Van Becelaere. Catherine Atherden, SLD's vice president and member of the Glens Falls congregation, and I serve on this team. I was selected as the team's chair.
Six working groups were formed: Communications, Governance, Funding, Clusters, State Legislative Groups, and Staffing. Each of these groups will be doing its research and engaging in our constituents for input in how we could collectively be better.
Rev. Scott Tayler, the new Director of Congregational Life for the UUA (formerly with the First Unitarian Church of Rochester) is working with the Transition Team and our regional leaders.
There are a lot of unanswered questions at this point, but we fully intend to engage you in our discussions – we want to hear how you think we could be better.
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