The Steeple. First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont. Inside this issue: September 2014 Newsletter. Seek and Inspire 2

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1 The Steeple First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont Message from Rev. Mara September 2014 Newsletter Return again, return again, return to the home of your soul, we sang at a recent retreat of the Worship Associate Team. Return to who you are, return to what you are, return to where you are born and reborn again. The words of this chant, found in Singing the Journey, capture the spirit of September at the UU, when we return to the regular rhythms of congregational life after summer s lighter pace. Return to two services, return to religious education, return to monthly meetings, return again. There can be a deep comfort in coming home to a place we feel embraced for who we are, welcomed for what we are, and inspired into new learning in the coming year. And yet, as we return to our spiritual home, we may also notice the ways in which who we are has grown or changed over the summer. Some of us have literally picked up an inch or two, others of us have found ourselves transformed by a crucial life passage or by a powerful experience. All of us have lived through events in our city, our country and our world this summer, when, as a friend recently wrote, it seemed that everything went viral. We have taken the ice bucket challenge, we have grieved the loss of beloved public figures, we have lamented anew the horrors of war and the travesties of systemic oppression. We return at once changed and familiar. This goes for our faith community itself. As we return to the UU, there is much that is the same, but some things, too, will have changed. We enter the familiar meeting house, but we may be heading to a new RE class this year, or taking on new commitments, or welcoming new leaders to our committees. Starting on Sunday, September 14, you may also notice a physical change at the familiar front of the Sanctuary. After a year of getting used to preaching and leading worship in our beautiful, historic space, I have decided to try out a different location for our grand pulpit. As a year-long experiment, we will try having the pulpit on the upper level of the chancel, where we are used to seeing a table with flowers. As a relatively short minister, I have found it challenging to see folks who are at the back of the sanctuary when standing on the low chancel. (On a related note, I recently discovered that I am exactly one foot shorter than my predecessor Gary Kowalski!). During the Installation Service this spring, when I stood on the upper level with Board President Chip Patullo for the Act of Installation, I immediately felt a powerful sense of connection with the entire congregation, including those in the back half of the sanctuary and those in the upper balcony. The energy of worship is greatly shaped by the physical space that contains it; I would like to see what kind of possibilities for connection and flow this new arrangement unlocks. Related, moving the pulpit up will also create a larger, accessible space from which our growing choir can sing. In developing this plan, I have consulted with the staff, Worship Associates and the Sanctuary Committee. None of us are sure of the exact year the pulpit came down to the ground level from its original position on the high chancel, but we know it was some time since the 150 th anniversary of the building in During those decades, many progressive congregations changed the configurations of their sanctuaries to bring their pulpits physically closer to the congregation, reflecting the theological understanding that clergy and laity all have the same level of access to the divine. While the decision to bring pulpits down has in recent decades been theological, this particular decision to move it up is decidedly practical. Our inclusive UU theology will still be evident in our services, and of course, both lay leaders and clergy will be speaking from the pulpit! There will also be a podium positioned on the lower level to ensure that microphones are available and accessible for all service participants. In the coming months, I welcome your input on how the new arrangement is feeling to you and how it is shaping your worship experience. If you have any questions about it, please let me know. I look forward to seeing you soon, as we return again to the UU! Warmly, Rev. Mara 1 Inside this issue: Seek and Inspire 2 Seeking Your Input 2 Policy-Based Governance 3 Infrastructure for Ministry 3 Infrastructure (continued) 4 People s Climate March 5 September Worship 6 Rev. Mara J. Dowdall Senior Minister Martha Dallas Director, Religious Education Christina Fulton Director of Administration Bob Furrer Facilities Manager Kathleen Kemp Administrative Assistant, Newsletter Editor Lisa Wolff Music Director Chip Patullo President, Board of Trustees

2 Exploring Our Monthly Seek and Inspire Theme This year, we are ordering our worship and some of our learning and reflection around monthly themes. September s theme is Gathering. Gathering sustains us. For millennia, people have cultivated the wisdom to gather plant foods at just the time when they were ripe, nutritious and plentiful. The gathered bounty was then processed or stored to carry the people through times which might turn out to be lean and tough. Gathering helps keep us safe and warm. Mother hens, with their feathery wings, gather their young chicks under their bodies when they are tiny and most vulnerable. Gathering clarifies and concentrates a shared endeavor. A cappella singers gather closely to one another to better listen, resonate, and unify their shared sound. Gathering makes for something more. Black raspberries, carefully selected by my one hand for ripeness and gathered in the palm of the other are tossed en masse into my mouth. I must pause picking so as to fully yield to the sweet juice s flavor, which seems to transcend mere taste. Showing up at a place and a time with others choosing to gather speaks to them, to ourselves, and to others - about who we are and how we endeavor to live. Gathering quickens our movement in the direction of our dreams. As you ll read elsewhere in this newsletter, gathering for the People s Climate March on Sept. 21 st will concentrate our hopes, our convictions, and our voices into a presence of power focused on the ears, minds, and hearts of global leaders, themselves gathering at the United Nations. Whether literally or figuratively, the act of gathering packs its punch of meaning when there s something ripe to harvest. The common time and place proclaim what it is that is ripe and sustaining. Come September, we UUs gather in Burlington in robust numbers, ripe with readiness for the surge of a new program year. We concentrate ourselves in the Meeting House pews, in the Community Room, the Parlors, and in classrooms to recall what it means to be Unitarian Universalist, and to listen for ways in which this identity is ripe for renewal in each of our spirits. Come. Gather here in one strong body. Welcome September as you welcome one another, and together we ll harvest the ripe fruits of our gathering. Martha Dallas, Director of Religious Education Seeking Your Input on November s Theme: Generosity This year, we will be seeking resources and ideas from you, the congregation, to help us develop upcoming seek and inspire themes. In this way, the spirit of shared ministry will infuse this new program. Similar to Rev. Mara s sermon-slow-cooker last year, we invite you to send in material related to the theme two months from now. We welcome quotes; personal experiences; stories from books, media, or mythology; poems; music; and/or favorite hymns. Please send your submissions to by the Third Monday of the month (September 15). If you are not on , you can drop off paper submissions to the church office. A member of the Worship Associates Team will receive and collate these submissions, then in turn, share them with Rev. Mara, Martha, our music staff, the small group ministry task force and other staff and lay leaders planning programs. This material will become important fodder for the upcoming month s worship, RE, and other programming. A few things to keep in mind when you submit: - The person who receives submissions will rotate throughout the year. - If you are sharing a personal story, please indicate if it s okay to attach your name when it s shared with staff and lay leaders. - Submissions will be acknowledged with an automated reply. - We can t guarantee exactly how or whether submissions will be used throughout the month, but we welcome and appreciate all of them. So without further adieu, we invite your submissions related to Generosity. Thank you in advance for your contributions to our collective ministry! 2

3 Joining the Governance Journey An Update From Your Board of Trustees Three years ago, we began a journey on the road of policy-based governance. Our size lends itself to this model and it is a trend that is sweeping not only UU societies denomination-wide but throughout the non-profit world in the US. We have discussed this for years, seriously taking it up during our interim ministry days and especially when Rev. Roberta Finkelstein was here. This work culminated in our adoption of new bylaws at the 2013 annual meeting. The bylaws changes were designed to facilitate our transition to a model that distinguishes between governance and ministry. The board s role is now leading and guiding our society s development of broad policy goals and making sure our systems of accountability are working so we know we re meeting our goals. Our minister s role is now leading and guiding the work of actually meeting our goals; the work of our committees and small group ministries are discrete ministries within the context of our overall ministry. Think of the board as helping us focus on identifying our qualifying characteristics and core values that we are trying to live into in order to make a difference in the lives of our individual members, our congregation as a whole, and the world beyond our walls; to analyze the measurements of success in order to hold us all accountable; and to think of the Senior Minister as leading, facilitating, and supporting the various groups and people doing the work that is making a difference in lives. The changes we ve made have gotten the board out of the business of micromanaging the details of all the work we do in this society. This is allowing us to focus on big picture work. Reverend Mara had a very successful first year under this new system and the board created executive limitations to guide her as our chief executive. Now as we begin Mara s second year we have a lot of exciting work ahead of us. While the board has developed and will be adopting our own policies to govern how we do our own work, the most important thing for the congregation is that we will be initiating congregation-wide discussions to identify those characteristics and values which reveal the authentic, open, brave, free thinkers we know we are or can be. This will enable the board, with all the information gathered from you in the search for a settled minister, to develop ends, the articulation of what the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington seeks over the next few years in order to live more fully into the purposes and principles we proclaim, the mission-related results to be achieved for whom and at what cost or priority. Mara is also continuing to develop our ministry structures and for more on that, read her article below. We all are very excited about the work ahead of us and working with all of you to continue this amazing journey we are on together. Gene Bergman, Vice President Building Our Infrastructure for Ministry As the Board of Trustees moves more deeply into its clarified role under policy-based governance, and, related, delegates responsibility for the daily management of ministry to the Senior Minister, and by extension, our committees and staff, we are also beginning to develop some new structures to support these shifts. Last spring, Rev. Mara sat down with Council leaders Stephen Rainville and Lynn Douglas, and Christina Fulton, our Director of Administration, to begin to explore how our existing ministry structures namely the Council and the professional staff team might evolve as the congregation continues its journey into a new mode of governing. We brainstormed some possible adaptations of our existing structures, which would allow for greater collaboration among ministries and between lay leaders and staff. We also considered what kind of supports the Senior Minister would need in this new model to carry it out successfully. Out of that exploration and, related, research into how other congregations of our size are organized, a vision began to develop of how our First UU structures might likewise evolve. This concept for this new organizational model was shared with the Board in June, and we are beginning to put it into place this fall. It includes the following key pieces: (Continued on next page) 3

4 Building Our Infrastructure for Ministry, continued First, we have articulated five overarching ministry areas, which each support our mission and will have a role in advancing one or more of our congregational ends. With a few exceptions, all of our existing committees, programs, and staff will each nest into one of the ministry areas. Worship and Music Spiritual Growth and Learning Caring and Belonging Justice and Outreach Stewardship and Resources - Each area will have a lay Coordinator, who will work, in partnership with a key staff person for that area, to support and oversee the work of the ministries within it. - The Council will evolve to comprise the five ministry area Coordinators, rather than every program committee/ program chair. This smaller size will better allow for group discernment and decision-making and allow its membership to be more consistent. Coordinators will be responsible for bringing together the groups in their area on a periodic basis for coordination and collaboration on areas of shared ministry. Lynn Douglas will convene this newly configured Council. - In addition to meeting with the Ministries Council every other month, Rev. Mara will regularly convene a Management Team to help her oversee day-to-day operations and ensure we re complying with the Board s Executive Limitations policies. For now, this team will include the Council Convener, the Director of Administration, and the immediate past Council Chair. The Management Team might call on others (either existing committees or task forces or staff members) to help develop additional operational policies to comply with the Board s limitations. The Management Team, revised Council, and ministry area Coordinator job descriptions are in development. As we put these new structures into place, we expect it will be in the spirit of experimentation and exploration, rather than of setting something in stone. It will likely take a few years for us to get into place a ministry structure that works best for our new policy-based form of governance, and also to figure out how it all works together. Please let us know if you have any questions; your feedback is welcome! Our Mission: We gather to inspire spiritual growth, care for each other and our community, seek truth, and act for justice. For more information on upcoming activities and Society events, sign up to receive our weekly Enews 4 Blast at

5 From the People's Climate March UU Bus Organizers A Story from the Future: Tipping Point for the Planet! Once upon a time, on September 21 st in the year 2014, Vermont Unitarian Universalists gathered in New York City with a massive and diverse crowd of concerned citizens to declare: Now is the time to take action & find solutions to the climate crisis that is threatening our whole world! Why did we go to the People s Climate March? As UUs, we knew that fighting for the health of our planet is central to our congregational promise to inspire spiritual growth, care for each other & our community, seek truth, & act for justice. We marched to show our fierce dedication to the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. We got on the bus motivated by the frightening realities of rising sea levels, severe droughts, species extinctions, floods and fires. Our love for Vermont was in our hearts that day marching to save our green mountains, maple trees and moose. We also walked to defend monarch butterflies, indigenous peoples, polar bears, and climate refugees around the world. It was a powerful day! We took to the streets for climate justice and came home energized to create a healthier planet. There was much work to do passing new laws that banned fracking and tar sands mining. We learned how to make our homes and church building more energy efficient. Our health improved as we walked and biked more often. Communities became closer as we shared our resources and consumed less stuff. Since we marched on 9/21/14, the world has been changing in so many incredible ways for trees, human beings, dolphins, and bees! We see real progress towards an international economy that works for people and the whole planet. The action in New York City was a great tipping point towards a positive future for mother earth and all creation! Lucy Gluck HOW CAN YOU BE A PART OF THIS AMAZING MOMENT IN HISTORY? Join us on the UU bus to NYC! Safe, family-friendly & FUN! Donate money to help support those who are going. Help us connect with people you know in NYC for housing. To participate or support the march, contact: Lucy Gluck Valerie Wood-Lewis Why my family is going to NYC on September 21 and you should too! I predict that when they get older, our children will ask us what we did about global climate change. So far, most of my answer has to do with individual behavior change: we biked and walked often, reduced our consumption, reused and recycled, ate a vegetarian diet, used cloth bags, hung our laundry out, and bought local, organic food. It s not enough. So last year, several members of FUUSB went outside our comfort zones and were arrested in D.C. as part of the largest single civil disobedience event in U.S. history, alongside the likes of Bill McKibben, concerned grandparents, leaders of faith communities, idealistic young students, and indigenous activists. Months later, some of us went back with our children to encircle the White House along with 50,000 others, little Isaac adding his loudest voice to, Hey, Obama, the earth is your mama! When Michael and I were young, we d have debates about who effected the most change - my cohorts in the trenches (classrooms, shelters, etc.) or his friends in policy and research. We both were feeling the other was ultimately more effective. I've always been an individual action person, not well-versed in the facts and figures on the policy level, not confident to debate issues on a systems level, shy about speaking up. But I feel sick in my heart about the direction our world is taking regarding global climate change - our seeming inability to accept any smidgen of sacrifice to change our oil-dependent habits to save our planet and ensure our own survival. So my family and I are hitting the road again, this time to the world s largest climate change action yet, a family-friendly, massive, inspired and inspiring march in NYC on September 21. Thousands of UUs from around the country will be there, and we encourage you to consider coming, too. Lucy Gluck and I are working hard to try to make transportation, lodging, and logistics affordable, easy, and doable for over a hundred of us at FUUSB to attend. Please take some time to review to understand a little more about the issue, and if you feel compelled, to participate in whatever way you can - support someone in our community to go to NYC, attend a solidarity event here, or join us in NYC for an unforgettable, hopeful, critical show of support for reversing climate change. Bring your kids they ll never forget it. Valerie Wood-Lewis 5

6 First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont 152 Pearl Street Burlington, Vermont Phone: ext. 21 RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED September Worship Service Highlights September 7, 9am and 11am Waves/Ocean Rev. Mara Dowdall and Martha Dallas Come worshippers of all ages, as we begin a new year of shared ministry at the UU. We will gather to give thanks for the collective waters of faith community that sustain us, to welcome newcomers whose journeys have flowed into the sea of First UU, and to remember our connection to the larger ocean of life. We will sing, reflect, and join in our annual UU ingathering tradition: water communion. Please bring a small amount of water from home or somewhere you ve been this summer to pour into our communal vessel. September 14, 9am and 11am Wake the Nation Rev. Mara Dowdall, preaching A week before the historic People s Climate March in New York City, we will reflect on the power and purpose of mass mobilizations for social justice. What happens when hundreds or thousands of people gather in one place, in one strong body, to call for change? Why do these actions matter for climate change and for other crucial issues of our time? We will also join in a ritual based on the ancient tradition laying on hands to bless and send forth the Burlington UU s who will be attending the march. September 21, 9am and 11am Guest Worship Leader TBA September 28, 9am and 11am To See It Is To Have It In an oft-quoted line from the Book of Proverbs, the ancient scripture-writer observes that where there is no vision, the people perish. On this final Sunday of our Gathering month, we ll consider the meaning and importance of vision in faith community. This year, the Board of Trustees will be articulating ends for First UU, which paint a picture of our shared values and the difference we hope to make in the world. As this work begins, we ll explore the power and possibility of gathering around a shared vision. 6

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