I took copious notes at the workshop devoted to youth ministry, presented by a panel from across the district who have been working on a new model due for implementation over the next year. I am still distilling the various ideas and discussion that was presented, but offer a brief summary here of what is currently happening in youth ministry.
After a period of Appreciative Inquiry, involving individuals at all levels of programming across the district, it was discovered that the things that district youth express longing for in programming are the same things that adults also want to create: deeper worship experiences, connecting the dots to create truly multi-generational congregations, more meaningful and localized social justice work, developing spiritual resiliance, and thinking about “the way we gather” in order to include more people.The question becomes, how to put it all together on a district level, a cluster level, and in our congregations.
The current vision for the new model of youth ministry includes emphasis on creating more geographical clusters of youth programming, rather than centering on the lines drawn by congregational clusters: for example, instead of a Denver cluster encompassing all of Colorado, reorganizing into Northern and Southern Colorado. The team envisions that events that are not as intensive as the traditional three-day Con, such as a one-day social action project, or a social evening, could happen more easily in these geographical clusters, where participants would not be expected to drive more than an hour or two to get together.
The current structure of YRUU will need to rewrite their bylaws in order to implement a new governance structure to support these clusters, including creating more leadership positions to facilitate communication between congregations. This process would conclude at the Bridging Con to be held in April.
District wide Cons would still be a big part of District youth programming, but much more emphasis will be placed on networking individual congregations.
Concretely speaking for right now, while this transition is still in the planning and process stages, it falls to individual congregations to reach out to one another to plan events for their youth. District resources are available for building congregational programs, and individual congregations are encouraged to ask for help as they need it.
Voting on a new name for the District youth ministry program will take place this weekend as well.
I’ll post more later as I get through my notes — this workshop was packed with good information and good ideas for moving forward.
Posted Saturday, 17 October 2009 12:58 Written by Jess Cullinan
The workshop on Healthcare Reform, presented by members of the Foothills Unitarian Church of Fort Collins, used a mix of presentation styles to discuss what can be a difficult issue. Through skits meant to “bust” common myths surrounding the debate, informational presentations of facts and figures, and discussion with participants, the workshop centered around a rundown of what is currently happening nationally, political maneuvering, and how we can as UUs communicate with our representatives, particularly as the bills are passed and go to conference committee, which is where they can be really shaped.
A few notes:
Looking at what is good in the current bills before Congress, the House bill is much more restrictive of insurance companies. All bills will cover more people, are focused on preventative care, and do away with the pre-existing condition issue.
Looking at what is not so good in the bills — mandates with penalties, some of which are too low. Lack of public option. Hybrid system with too many administrative costs. The presenters showed a strong preference for the House bill, which has the best of the “weak” public options, medical loss ratios, highest mandate penalties.
None of the current bills would create a single-payor system, which has overwhelming support amongst the presenters.
Amendments — Kucinich sponsoring one that allows states to voluntarily offer a single-payor option to their residents. This is similar to the way Canada ended up with a national single-payor system because it was so popular with the people once they tried it.
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.” –Churchill
The good news is that there is a lot of really good work being done on this issue, nationally and locally, work that can be magnified and supported on many levels by individuals and organizations.
Posted Saturday, 17 October 2009 10:13 Written by Jess Cullinan
A roundtable discussion about the UUA campaign, “Standing on the Side of Love,” brought out many different perspectives on MDD congregations’ social justice activities. Here are a few brief notes of things that came up:
Many participants identify with same sex marriage issue, but others see it as a way to unify our message as a national Unitarian Universalism. Many congregations have started SSL committees, others “just do things” that fall under the banner of the program, whether or not they are officially branding their activities as part of the SSL program specifically.
Seeing SSL as a tree rather than an umbrella, because it’s embodiment of the covenant our congregations already practice. We’re not like-minded, but like-hearted, rooted in an overall covenant of love.
Using SSL as a visibility tool, t-shirts, branding. Suggestion to make tote bags as well as t-shirts, because they “fit everyone.”
Weaving the campaign into RE programs.
Issue of “Standing” when there are people who don’t stand — the idea of standing tall spiritually regardless of physical ability.
1st Unitarian Denver created a portrait gallery of different family configurations (Reframing Family), will lend out for the cost of transportation. First unveiled at MDD conference in Denver, 2004.
Concern for poverty issues in the recession, seeing the need for love to be actualized in more concrete terms. Steering committee concept as a way to move forward, forming allies with other communities even though we don’t agree on all issues.
Welcoming Congregations as a pre-step towards engaging with SSL, including the Welcoming II curriculum. Leveraging resources by including other issues, seeking more allies by looking for connections between passions.
Your congregation can get involved with the SSL program by signing up with the UUA at http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/ssl/. Many resources are available.
Posted Saturday, 17 October 2009 10:01 Written by Jess Cullinan
“Spiritual Harmony: Celebrating the Unitarian Universalist Religious Voice” is the theme of our gathering this year, featuring singer-songwriter-activist Holly Near.
7:58: We all sing “I am Willing” together: “I am open, and I am willing, for to be hopeless, would seem so strange. It dishonors those who go before us, so lift me up in the light of change.”
8:03: A story from walking down the street in New York City: a couple at the end of their rope, and the father reaches down and strikes a three year old child for not walking fast enough. Holly thought about all of the things she could say to let the child know that this is not acceptable behavior, and a man across the street, in dreadlocks, started to dance and sing, “Don’t hit the baby.”
So simple, so pure, and a story that is now retold for decades. There is always someone watching, someone witnessing, the actions of others.
Posted Friday, 16 October 2009 19:32 Written by Jess Cullinan
The assembled choir of the congregations of the Mountain Desert District just sang us into dinner and a banner parade with emma’s revolution’s song, “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” — quite the spectacle! I will post some photos later.
After some welcoming remarks from Rev. Marc Salkin of the Foothills Unitarian Church of Fort Collins, CO, and District Executive Rev. Nancy Bowen, we will break bread blessed by a song from a local singer-songwriter, Kathryn Mostow. Our keynote speaker, Holly Near, will present her program later this evening. Every table is full, and we’re ready to get down to business.
We number over 185 for this conference, with representatives from the Northern and Southern-most congregations, as well as our Eastern and Western borders.
Posted Friday, 16 October 2009 18:23 Written by Jess Cullinan
The concert with Holly Near and emma’s revolution was filled to capacity, and the audience rapt. The three women treated us to amazing harmonies, tender moments, call to action, and above all, inspiration and beauty.
Holly, Pat Humphries and Sandy O began the evening with “I Am Willing,” sung a cappella, and invited audience participation from the start. Fully half of the concert was a cappella, featuring stunning three part harmonies to familiar songs and new ones, too, many of which are featured on the just-released collaborative CD, “We Came to Sing!”
emma’s revolution sang a few songs of their own, along with accompanying Holly, including a not-yet-recorded “We Begin,” written for a Unitarian Universalist congregation near Washington D.C. The song includes a congregational response “In the dark,” “in the light,” “we begin better days,” and is sure to become a UU favorite.
At the end of the show, with a contemplative yet rousing version of “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More,” Holly reminded us that while there is much work to be done in this world, we must also be tender with ourselves, as much as we are with others.
She will join us tonight for her keynote address, after the banner parade and opening dinner.
Posted Friday, 16 October 2009 12:28 Written by Jess Cullinan
I've just arrived in Fort Collins, driving up from New Mexico, and it is an absolutely beautiful evening. We're looking forward to the concert tonight, that's for sure!
For those of you who can't join us, enjoy this taste of Holly Near's wonderful song, "I Am Willing," performed with Pat Humphries of emma's revolution, among others:
Posted Thursday, 15 October 2009 18:09 Written by Jess Cullinan
The Mountain Desert District gathers this weekend for the 2009 District Annual Meeting and Delegate Assembly in Fort Collins, CO. You can follow along at home from right here, where district webmaster Jess Cullinan will post updates and summaries as events unfold.
This year’s keynote speaker is the amazing singer-songwriter-activist Holly Near, who will kick things off with a concert on Thursday night at Foothills UU Church, 1815 Yorktown Ave, in Fort Collins. Rumor has it that she will be joined by emma’s revolution, who have performed at several General Assemblies in the past.
Posted Wednesday, 14 October 2009 12:59 Written by Jess Cullinan
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