Following the results of the U.S. presidential election, the Rev. Ashley Horan, executive director of the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance, started a movement to draw loving and inclusive messages in sidewalk chalk around her neighborhood (see photo opposite). Messages like “Everyone Welcome,” “We love immigrants,” “Black lives will always matter,” and “Ninguna persona es ilegal” (“No one is illegal”) popped up and were shared online with the hashtag #NeighborhoodLoveNotes.
A November 14 Pioneer Press article quoted Horan: “The day after the election I was feeling very upset. I knew how afraid and hurting everybody was in my community, which is full of queer folks and black and brown folks and immigrants. I needed to do something.” The idea was picked up by UU congregations and other communities across the country, with some churches handing out chalk at their worship services.
The UU Congregation of Columbia, Maryland, hosts a monthly meal for residents of the county’s “tent city.” Anna Katz of the Grassroots Crisis Center’s Cold Weather Shelter program placed an urgent call to the Rev. Paige Getty with a simple question: Would the congregation be willing to house and feed about thirty individuals in need of shelter for a full week at one of the busiest times of the year—mid-December? The congregation responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” For Getty, the Warm Welcome Center “has everything to do with being UU and living by our principles . . . it is a humbling experience.”
Members of Magic Valley UU Fellowship in Twin Falls, Idaho, came together to help a newly arriving refugee family, according to a December 21 article on MagicValley.com. Thanks to their efforts, the Makelele family, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, settled into their new home—furnished and decorated for Christmas—in early December.
At a recent awards ceremony at the Maine governor’s mansion, two hospice groups recognized First Universalist Church of West Paris member the Rev. Dr. Fred Jordan as the Maine Home Care Volunteer of the Year. Jordan volunteers every week at the Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice, Lewiston, and at the Hospice House, Auburn. He also volunteers as part of the First Universalist pastoral care team, a fairly new offering to its church members. Jordan, who was ordained into the chaplaincy three years ago, and the Rev. Fayre Stephenson, who leads service at the congregation twice a month, visit many congregants at hospitals, nursing homes, and in their own homes as they recover from health issues or loss of a family member.
Buildings and grounds
The UU Church of Fort Myers, Florida, created a 14-acre green space on its property, according to an October 1 article on news-press.com. The space includes a pond, foot bridges, and a series of 100 raised garden beds available for rent to the community. Members of the church said the space was created as part of efforts to combat over-development in the area. The campus now attracts native species of plants and wildlife, as well as many visitors from the community for relaxation and educational programs.
First UU Society of Marietta, Ohio, is adding solar panels to the roof of its church in an expansion of its Green Sanctuary program, according to an October 19 article in the Marietta Times. Through the solar panels and other efforts, they hope to serve as a model for using renewable energy and committing to the environment. The article quotes the Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker, who said: “We really feel like we are putting our faith into action.” The project cost is reportedly $45,000 and will contribute 66 percent of the annual electrical usage of the church building.
As the city of Santa Cruz, California, celebrated its 150th anniversary in December 2016, local Unitarian Universalists also celebrated 150 years of Unitarianism in Santa Cruz County and 50 years at the UU Fellowship on Freedom Boulevard in Aptos. At a celebratory luncheon held on December 4, the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, president of Starr King School for the Ministry (the UU seminary in Berkeley), gave a keynote address on the topic of “Urgency and Hope.” There were 128 people at the event, which included an anniversary toast, singing by the fellowship choir, and closing words by the Rev. Russ Menk.
First UU Church of Rochester, Minnesota, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016 with a series of events including a Boar’s Head Feast, musical programs, a printed history of the past 25 years, and the creation and installation of a commemorative stained glass window, culminating with a service on April 10 featuring UUA President Peter Morales.
First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Utah, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016, according to a March 8 article in the Salt Lake Tribune. The church was the state’s first Unitarian society. An event marking the anniversary included speakers, performances by the church choir, a rap, dancing, a skit, and a slideshow.
The First Parish Church of Groton, Massachusetts, Mental Health Working Group is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Its first activity was to gather a team of nine walkers for the annual NAMI Walks: Boston event in 2007, and raise $1,110 for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In the years since, the group has hosted performances and pooled financial and educational resources, all with the purpose of challenging mental health stigma.