More congregations participated in Association Sunday this year than in 2008-2009.
The third annual Association Sunday campaign has collected $325,959 from Unitarian Universalist congregations this fall and winter to support diversity initiatives.
Catherine Lynch, director of campaigning for the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, noted that while the majority of participating congregations held Association Sunday events last fall—the official date was October 4—some will continue to hold events this winter and into the spring. *
The amount collected is down from the $409,000 that congregations contributed last year and the $1.4 million raised in 2007. The campaign this year reflects the current economy, said Lynch. “Considering the economy overall, I’m pleased with how it’s turning out.” Association Sunday invites congregations to contribute $50 per member.
This year 553 congregations are participating, compared to 520 last year and 626 in 2007.
The money will be used for three purposes:
Expanding the Building the World We Dream About curriculum, which is aimed at creating and supporting multiracial and multicultural congregations.
Supporting congregations with specific projects to make Unitarian Universalism more diverse.
Helping congregations and districts minister to youth and young adults of color, focusing on spiritual development, racial and cultural identity development, and leadership training.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington, N.Y., raised the most money—$11,000. The Rev. Paul Ratzlaff said that a member, Joan Caly, contacted major supporters of the congregation and of the UUA ahead of the October 4 service, receiving advance commitments of around $9,000.
It also helped, he said, that the Rev. Beth Graham, now the UUA’s associate vice president of Stewardship and Development, is a former minister of the fellowship. “We have very generous supporters and there is also deep affection for Rev. Graham here,” Ratzlaff said. “Everyone wanted to be supportive of an effort she was involved with.”
At the UU Church of Arlington, Va., Taquiena Boston, director of the Identity-Based Ministries Staff Group at the UUA, led a service in October at which members contributed $5,575. Said the Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz, “We’re grateful we were able to contribute that much, given the uncertainty of the times. Having Taquiena here also generated a nice discussion on our website about what ‘identity-based ministry’ is. Since we’re on our own multicultural journey, that fit in well. It was a day about what we can do together, with the UUA.”
Association Sunday recognizes two congregations from each of the UUA’s 19 districts for giving the most per district in total dollars and the most per member. That list of 38 “empowering congregations,” will be available on the Association Sunday website by June 1.
One of those empowering congregations is the 102-member UU Fellowship of Durango, Colo. It is the only congregation to be an empowering congregation in all three years of Association Sunday events.
“We have always felt that if a church was going to thrive it needed to have a good relationship with the district and the Association,” said Durango member Ken Carpenter. “Our small fellowship has benefitted from the support of the UUA, including a generous grant when we bought our first building a few years ago. Association Sunday is a way of giving back.”
This year congregations were encouraged to pair up in a “Connecting Congregations” program for Association Sunday. North Parish of North Andover, Mass., paired with the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel in Ellisville, Mo. The ministers, the Rev. Lee Bluemel of North Parish and the Rev. Krista Taves of Emerson, each wrote a welcoming piece that was read by the other minister. Each minister’s sermon included information about the other congregation, including differences, similarities, and challenges.
Emerson created a slide show from photos on the North Parish website, and showed it during the service. North Parish made a brief Sunday morning video with a message of solidarity with Emerson. “My congregation really did feel connected with Emerson after all this,” said Bluemel. “I’ve had requests from people in the congregation to do the same thing next year with another congregation.”
Groups of congregations also joined. Eight congregations in Pennsylvania held a combined service at Lancaster. Seven congregations in Massachusetts are planning a service at the First Church Unitarian Universalist in Leominster in April.
The Rev. Nan White, with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort in Port Royal, S.C., was among six ministers in South Carolina and Georgia who traded pulpits on Association Sunday in October. White addressed the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Low Country in Bluffton, S.C. That congregation’s minister, the Rev. Thomas Schmidt, spoke to her congregation.
Her congregation contributed $1,150, and Schmidt’s $533 as of January 19. White said congregations in the area try to gather as often as possible, since they are relatively few in number. In recent months there have been gatherings for a Standing on the Side of Love event, another to learn how to explain Unitarian Universalism, and another to share leadership skills. Association Sunday gave the congregations an opportunity to meet clergy other than their own, said White. “We’re so spread out down here that any time we can get together it’s a huge shot in the arm for us. The day went really well.”
Lynch said money raised this year will begin to be dispersed this summer. She noted that half of the money raised last year is being used this year to support lay theological education programs. The other half is supporting Excellence in Ministry programs by the UU Ministers Association, and diversity of ministry efforts. Funds raised in 2007 supported a national marketing campaign, diversity in ministry, and growth grants to UUA districts.
Association Sunday is intended to be an annual day when congregations can focus on denominational connections. The date for the 2010 Association Sunday is October 3. Congregations can sign up at the Association Sunday website.
Correction 03.01.10: A reference to an outdated earlier total has been removed from the article. Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.