Archive for May, 2008

Look for the people in the lime green t-shirts!

May 29, 2008

Here’s a great idea from our congregation in Salina, Kansas [36 members].

They’ll be collecting recyclable plastic bottles at the Smoky Hill River Festival on June 15. They’ll be the ones wearing the lime green t-shirts that say “RU UU?” on the front. What a great way to let others know about our values [the Seventh Principle – respect for the interdependent web of all existence] and offer a public service and get out the word about our faith tradition, all at the same time!

Way to go, people!

[Learn more about their congregation at  ]


Going Green in the North Country

May 27, 2008

Earlier this month, I was present for the Building Dedication for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth [MN].  UUA President Bill Sinkford spoke at the dedication.
UU Congregation of Duluth

Bill is pictured with Duluth’s Interim Minister, Rev. Sally Hamlin.

The congregation has worked for several years to undertake this large building project and are to be celebrated for their commitment to “green” principles. What a magnificent building! The building has an indoor garden, where plants, shrubs, and trees provide humidity and help purify the air.

UU Congregation of Duluth

UU Congregation of Duluth

It has a parking lot under the building, to reduce the size of the footprint on the site.

UU Congregation of Duluth

It has native grasses on the roof, which will capture the rain and let the water evaporate.

It has on-demand water heaters and a high temperature dishwasher [that uses hot water, rather than chemicals, to clean the dishes].

It has eleven air conditioners and eleven furnaces, so temperature can be controlled in different zones.

The designs in the high windows are reminiscent of the birch trees outside.
UU Congregation of Duluth

Here’s the sanctuary.
UU Congregation of Duluth

There’s more information about the building and photos of the Building Dedication on their Web site:

If you’re in Duluth, be sure to stop by to see this great new facility, which will serve their congregation and their community well, for many years to come.


And Now, in News of Religion from Elsewhere…

May 15, 2008

And now, in news of religion from elsewhere… perhaps a galaxy far, far away???

In Wales, a man dressed as Darth Vader received a suspended sentence after he struck the founder of the local Jedi church with a crutch. The founder of the church, Master Jonba Hehol,  and his cousin, Master Mormi Hehol, were both attacked. Perhaps “Darth” should just have tried the Force instead of a crutch.  Somehow I don’t think Master Yoda would approve.

[Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 15, 2008]

Meeting the need for intimacy in a growing congregation

May 12, 2008

Research tells us that if newcomers to a church don’t make some significant friendships in the church within a few months, they’ll leave the church.  Wise leaders in growing congregations provide many opportunities for people — newcomers and longer time members — to get to know each other and begin to form friendships. Here are examples from two growing congregations in Prairie Star District.

Shawnee Mission UU Church in Overland Park, KS [335 adult members and growing!] has many groups that are open to all – visitors, members, and friends. Some examples are the Thirtysomethings Potluck group, the Tuesday Book Group, the Ulysseans [active seniors], the Thursday Book Group, the Halftimers [adults 40ish to 60ish], the Math and Science Group, the Quilters, the Men’s Group, the Playgroup, and so on. Invitations to participate are listed in the monthly newsletter and the weekly Order of Service. It gives the impression that there’s a group for everyone — or there could be. The President of the congregation told me recently, “We want to be the kind of church where if someone comes to us with an idea, we will ask just two questions: ‘Does it fit with the mission of the church?’ and ‘Does it bust the budget?’ If the answer to the first question is ‘yes’ and the answer to the second question is ‘no,’ we’ll say ‘go for it!'”

When I spoke with an active member of SMUUChurch yesterday, she mentioned a recent Women’s Health and Wellness Retreat. Held on a Saturday, it featured yoga, a talk on the healing aspects of music, nutritious food, other programming, and plenty of opportunities for women to chat and get to know each other. “How did this come about?” I asked. “Oh, two women had an idea, and it just went from there.” And more than forty women of all ages came together for the day!

Here’s another example. I recently attended the Building Dedication for the UU Fellowship of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. [See photos in the sidebar.] During the reception afterwards, I spoke with the woman who’s in charge of the Covenant Groups** in this layled congregation of 93 adult members [and growing!]. She told me they have recently started a Covenant Group for people in Tomah, WI.

“Tomah?!? But that’s fifty miles away,” I said.

Yes, they have people who drive an hour to get to church on Sunday mornings. The congregation wanted the people in Tomah to have a way of bonding with one another at times other than Sundays, so they started the group for Tomah residents. And they’re thinking of starting another for people who live in Sparta, which is between LaCrosse and Tomah. In this way they’re meeting the needs for intimacy and connection for those folks who live too far away to come to LaCrosse for evening meetings during the week.

These forward-looking congregations know that people are coming to us looking for connection with people with similar values, for enrichment of their spiritual lives, and for ways to make a positive contribution in  the world. Providing these groups is a way of giving them what they’re seeking, and it can make all the difference!

**If you want to know more about Covenant Groups [sometimes called Connection Circles or Small Group Ministry], go to 

Great Idea for Youth Groups

May 7, 2008

I was in Eau Claire over the weekend and, with someone who hadn’t been there before, had a tour of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s building in Eau Claire [WI]. I was so excited about their youth group’s latest project that I just had to tell you about it.

This project combines our Unitarian Universalist seventh principle – “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part” – with the adage “Reduce, reuse, recycle” – and invites creativity and imagination and just plain fun. I haven’t spoken with the youth or their leaders, so I don’t know whether they thought of this themselves or read about it elsewhere.

What they did was this: they took used clothing and refashioned it into new items, using a variety of methods. Included in their display were several craft books where some of the ideas came from. I took a couple of  photos to show you the charming results!


Note the redesigned and decorated red shirt! Someone added polka dots and a decorative button to the yellow sweater. The knitted hat was created from the ribbing of an old sweater.


The mittens are made from old sweaters that were felted, cut out into a mitten shape, and sewed with a blanket stitch. A bag was created from another piece of felted sweater, and another bag was sewed from fleece. The white sweater has new, colorful buttons. The books on display were used to generate ideas.

I can just imagine how much fun they had with this! Great work, people!



Photos of the District Board – April, 2008

May 6, 2008

Here are photos of Prairie Star District Board members at the Board meeting in Nebraska last month. We were meeting in the newly remodeled parish hall at First Unitarian Church of Omaha.


Kathy, John, Libby, and Kathy

April 2008 Board meeting

Cheryll, Bobbie, Kathy, and John

April 2008 Board meeting

Fred, Mary, and Vickie listened to Nancy’s comment.

The Board meets three times per year in person and will be adding some bridge line calls to its schedule to keep up with the expanding work of the District. Our Board members are devoted Unitarian Universalists and care deeply about the congregations of the District.