Archive for November, 2007

Chalice Lighters Announces a New Fund

November 26, 2007

We’ve got a nifty program here in our District that has been assisting congregations with their growth-related projects for more than 20 years. It’s called Chalice Lighters. Here’s how it works: individual Unitarian Universalists sign up to be Chalice Lighters. They promise to respond to three calls a year, with a check for between $10 and $25 each time, to support a worthy project in a local congregation. Some projects are large  and receive a “full call” of $6,000 – $8,000 — first professional staff member such as a minister or a religious educator, or purchasing or renovating a building, or starting a new congregation. Some projects are small and receive a smaller grant of $1,000 – 2,000 — examples include a small sound system, a keyboard for better music, starting a campus ministry group or young adult group. This program, conceived by Rev. Alan Egly in the early 1980s, has given out more than $400,000 over the years. Those small checks really add up!

We’ve just started a new fund for a new purpose: a Social Justice Fund. This fund will make grants of up to $1,000 to congregations for use in integrating social justice work into the active life of their congregation. The intention of these grants is to build community awareness of UU values in action. Recipient congregations are expected to fund a portion of program costs. Examples of programs that could be funded include things such as: workshops on self-sufficiency and welfare rights; nutritional weekend food supply for elementary school students; UU Social Justice Empowerment workshops; micro loans; Green Sanctuary/Earth Ministry projects. In each case, the congregation needs to be able to tell how they will publicize the project in their community when they apply for the grant.

Obviously, the more Chalice Lighters we have, the more money we can give to congregations for their growth-related projects. The “full calls” could be bigger, and we could fund more of the smaller grants, too. If you’re not already a Prairie Star District Chalice Lighter, consider signing up today. You can find more information at 


Is It True? Is It Kind? Will It Help?

November 21, 2007

The Prairie Star District Board met last weekend at the UU Church of Minnetonka in Wayzata MN, a western suburb of Minneapolis. Mounted above the office door of the Minister, Kent Hemmen Saleska, was a sign that read: “Is it true? Is it kind? Will it help?” Great questions, as far as I’m concerned.

Recently I’ve been consulting with leaders of several congregations about the conflict the congregations are experiencing. After listening to stories of the way people interact, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be helpful if people asked themselves those three questions before they opened their mouths?” Is it true? Is it kind? Will it help?

Is it true? Well, it may be true as far as you are concerned, but are you sure others would agree? There are certainly different opinions about “the truth.” Is it true that “the minister sure doesn’t care about us old ones because he spends all his time working on that new Celebration service” ? ***   I think it takes a leap in logic to make that assumption. Don’t be so sure you know the truth — or at least, the whole truth — until you’ve talked this out with the person from whom you’re feeling estranged.

Next scenario: Well, yes, it’s true — but is it kind? Just because something is true doesn’t mean that talking about it is kind. It may be true that the religious education director’s teenaged son came to church in dirty jeans and raggedy sneakers, but is it kind to mention it? What is your point?

Next scenario: Well, no, I know it’s not kind, but I feel like saying it anyway [Read: “I’m feeling snarky!”]  Then ask yourself, will it help? Will it help, or will it make the situation worse? Will it help to bring you closer to the person you’re feeling cranky about? Or if you’re tempted to mention it to a third person, is it really an attempt to enlist another person onto your side? Is it triangulation? At a deeper level, how will this comment help us to get beyond our discomfort and start the road to mending our relationship? And if it won’t, why am I tempted to say it? Is there something else I could say, or should I, perhaps, just hold my tongue? And look for a better way to address my concerns, when I’m ready to approach the person, in an attitude of humility and forgiveness, seeking understanding and reconciliation.

Is it true? Is it kind? Will it help? Three excellent questions that I’m going to try to keep in mind, as I go about my life and my work, in the days and weeks ahead.

***[from the “Anxious Congregation” DVD, Healthy Congregations workshop, by Peter Steinke]

Here If You Need Me

November 5, 2007

I’ve just finished a wonderful memoir by a Unitarian Universalist minister, Kate Braestrup. Its title is Here If You Need Me. Kate is a Community Minister who works as the first-ever Chaplain with the Maine Warden Service. She is called out to companion family members when someone goes missing in the woods, or to accompany the authorities when they go to notify family members of the death of a loved one.

Kate was the wife of a state trooper, mother of four, and a writer when her husband Drew was killed in a traffic accident. Drew’s dream had been to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. Over time, Kate decided to go to seminary. Her story about being perceived as The Plucky Widow says lots about the way we tend to make assumptions about peoples’ lives.

Kate’s theology and her views about death are insightful and thought-provoking. Her stories about family life make it all very real.

I hope you’ll read this fine book by one of our own. It’s well worth your time.