UU Justice Revival – Taking a Collective Breath Please click here to preview Sunday’s Service
April 25, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. Online Only on YouTube
Twenty-five Unitarian Universalist congregations in IL, the UU Advocacy network, and UU Prison ministries are gathering to take a collective breath. As spring waits on the horizon, can we breathe? We can breathe as vaccines become available. We can breathe as we once again gather together. We can breathe into a new administration, breaths of accountability, breaths of attention. We have work to do to create a just world where everyone can find their breath. It is time to breathe. Let us take a collective breath together. Click here on April 25th to join us via YouTUBE:https://youtu.be/HvNlIMCjDk4
Happy Birthday to: Holly Hanson (04/21), Grandon Tolstedt (04/21), Sandy Perpignani (04/21), Robin Gausebeck (04/25), Pat Littlejohn (04/25), Alicia Oczus (04/26), & Melissa Vyborny (04/27)!
Matthew’s Memo April 20, 2021
The Board of Trustees and I have a very exciting announcement. We have hired the Rev. Joyce Palmer as Assistant Minister, beginning August 1st, 2021.
Rev. Joyce Palmer found Unitarian Universalism here in Rockford by watching FUSION and participating in events at the church. When she moved to Atlanta, she attended seminary at Chandler School of Theology to be a Unitarian Universalist minister. She served in ministry roles at All Souls UU Church in Washington, D.C., and at UU Church West in Brookfield, WI. In both settings, her portfolio included pastoral care, adult spiritual development, membership integration, and similar work. This is the kind of work she is passionate and skilled at working with adults and families to encourage their spiritual journey, their participation in community, and their growth as people.
Joyce and her husband Tim, and their two sons Dorien and Antonio, moved back to Rockford a few years ago to care for both of their parents and return to a place they knew well to raise their children. Joyce became an affiliated community minister here at the church while she worked at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois to support foster parents and families. She’s preached here and participated in some small groups and programs, including the RE program.
When Chris Ainsworth let us know that she would be moving to Florida this summer, I suggested to the Board of Trustees that we consider a ½ time Assistant Minister position to take up that portfolio and recommended that we see if Joyce wanted the job. She had done this work so very well in Wisconsin and brings a warm, thoughtful, and people-centered presence to everything she does. The work Chris was in charge of — membership, caring, and adult programs – makes up a very common Assistant Minister portfolio. The Board agreed and created a job description and a hiring team (myself, Neita Webster, and Kathy Scarpaci). Following the UUA recommend policy for “inside candidates,” we interviewed Joyce, talked to her references (who raved about her), and reviewed her materials. The committee and the Board enthusiastically offered her the job, and she accepted.
I’m thrilled! In addition to taking on most of Chris’ portfolio, Joyce will be a partner in worship for Tim and me. She’ll be a colleague on the team providing ministry for and with you.
Joyce will not begin until August 1st – until then, she remains an (uncompensated) affiliated community minister. When she does begin, we’ll have ways to introduce her to those of you who don’t already know her and set goals and covenants together, especially in her portfolio with the caring and membership teams. She will be ½ time and doing other projects she’s interested in with her non-work time.
I’m grateful that Joyce wanted to be part of our team, and that the Board was so supportive of this effort.
Wonderful Wednesday Two-session class on “How to Have Hard Conversations.” April 14, 21 at 7 pm This two-week adult program will discuss how to have hard conversations with folks we disagree with — and when not to. We’ll discuss political, theological, and social differences. When do you engage? When do you walk away? We’ll talk about how to respond to conspiracy theories as well. Most importantly, we’ll look at how to uphold our 1st principle, that everyone has worth — in a way that also respects our integrity and the truth.
On zoom, led by Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson. There will be time to practice what we learn in class and work through example situations. Zoom ID: 337-267-3668
Upcoming Wonderful Wednesdays May 5, 2021: Socially Responsible Investing
Woodsong Open House
Woodsong Nature School, the church’s 2-year-old preschool program, is hosting an Open House on April 24th. They are accepting registrations for the summer session and the 2021-2022 school year. Families are asked to sign up ahead of time for a private tour on the Open House day, to ensure that proper social distancing can be practiced. If you’re interested, or know of anyone who might be, you can find details on their Facebook page or by email@example.com.
Clean Air at Church! We need your help!
We are planning to install 16 “Ion Generators” for our 16 HVAC units, which will keep the air in our building clean. These devices reduce the amount of dust, allergens, VOCs, and pathogens – including COVID – in the air. They are part of our way to keep us safe. Each until is $800. So, if you don’t need all of the $1400 American Rescue Plan payment many of you will soon get, and want to donate that to the church, we would be grateful. Send a check and mark it in the memo line, or give online and email us to let us know.
Drop-In Coffee Hour with the Intern Minister
Join us for informal conversation and community on Friday mornings! Can’t make that time? Contact Omega to set up another firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like to make a direct difference in the life of an incarcerated Unitarian Universalist? Are you looking for a way to volunteer on your own time from home? Do you like to write or receive letters? Would you like to learn more about prison ministry through the lens of relationship-building? The Church of the Larger Fellowship in partnership with UUPMI organizes the Pen Pal Program for incarcerated UUs. From their website:
Correspond with a fellow UU who lives in a United States prison
Bring a message of hope and make a big impact in someone’s life
Be one of hundreds of free-world pen pals who are at the heart of the CLF Prison Ministry
Get the support you need for this safe, easy, and rewarding letter writing ministry
Requires only a small commitment
Most CLF members in prison are new to Unitarian Universalism and learned about the CLF from friends or cellmates. With no access to the web or UU Sunday services, people who are incarcerated can only learn about Unitarian Universalism from the mailings we send them and the letters they exchange with our staff and other Unitarian Universalists like you!
Meeting ID: 985 2813 1912
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Opportunity & invitation to help with community gardens
1. build friendships with folks who are different from us
2. grow real food
3. learn & teach gardening
4. enjoy time outside with others while accomplishing worthwhile goals
5. dirty hands, face & clothes – be in touch with the earth
6. identify bugs & perhaps overcome fear of them
– Spectrum School garden on church property
– Beautiful Beginnings @ Fairgrounds (Rockford Housing Authority family site) – Beautiful Beginnings K-8 21st Century One Room Schoolhouse @ Rockford Community Church, Auburn & Meridian
Beautiful Beginnings is a free private school which serves high-risk children who have been removed from or have abandoned public school. It pushes innovation envelopes by bringing learner-centered best practices and community support to children the system has failed. These include GED prep, apprenticeships, entrepreneur opportunities, and project-oriented, multi-age instruction. Community participation and wellness are critical to this mission, and I believe growing food and flowers will change children’s lives.
Beautiful Beginnings develops skills and self-reliance to successfully return to school or to enter into meaningful work. The children we serve often have no place to go other than the streets, gangs, or juvenile homes. Continuing to provide them opportunities to develop life skills, education, and hope has been imperative throughout this pandemic. We are a school and community center that gives young adults and adolescents a place to be, a place to hope and to believe in themselves when no one else does.
Lunch with Matthew
Each Wednesday, next one on April 21, you are invited to join Matthew and other church members at noon, at the church, to chat, catch up, and reconnect. We’ll talk about whatever is on our minds. Bring your own lunch if you like — and bring a lawn or folding chair, because we’ll be outside for this. (Vaccination encouraged but not required). If the weather is bad, we’ll skip that week, so check in with the church’s Facebook page if you’re unsure.
Around 12:45, those who are interested are invited to join Matthew on a walk through our neighborhood, as part of the “Faith Leaders ‘Walk the Neighborhood'” challenge. We’ll see what’s going on in our neighborhood — to celebrate and connect folks.
Do You Have Church Keys?
We want to make sure our records are correct and do a bit of “spring cleaning” on our security system. Please email Autumn at email@example.com with which keys you have, if you have a front door key we will need the number stamped on it and your security code. If you have lost any keys, it is ok! Just please let us know. If you do not need your church keys anymore you can drop them off in an envelope with your name written on it in our mailbox located outside the office doors.
Water: A Limited Resource
Thursday is Earth Day. We know that we homo sapiens have done a number on this Earth, with burning carbon to cause global warming and creating poisonous chemicals that endanger animals, bees, and even humans. But our wasteful use of water may be the straw that dooms life on earth.
I actually set the alarm for 5 am on Sunday mornings to listen to the BBC on WNIJ. In March, BBC broadcast a 4-session podcast on “Water: Too Much and Not Enough.”
Personally, the second episode is my favorite, although the scariest one. “Water as a Resource” can be listened to athttps://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct29by.
Groundwater isn’t really an underground lake. It’s a layer of waterlogged earth winding through rock and sand. Our groundwater has been accumulating over tens of thousands of years of water percolating through the ground and rock. Hydrologists describe our use of groundwater like a milkshake glass with a limitless number of straws. Wells are the straws that pump water up for us to use to drink, water crops, and flush the toilet.
But, like a bank account, you can only withdraw from the account for so long before you put something back into it. That process is the water cycle of evaporation, rain, rivers, ocean, and back to evaporation. It takes decades to hundreds of years for a molecule of water to complete that cycle.
We, humans, are depleting our groundwater. In our west, the water law is the “reasonable use doctrine.” Any use of water that is “reasonable” is legal. That law doesn’t limit the amount of water that can be used. Large corporate farms in Arizona drill 1500 ft deep wells every 100 acres to pump as much as 2,000 gallons of water a minute for 24 hours a day. Wells of other residents go dry because they aren’t deep enough to reach the remaining water.
In our west, water is fought over. Rivers are depleted before they reach the ocean. As the groundwater level drops, the land at the surface drops, and fissures form. This is happening in the central valley of California, our country’s vegetable garden. As the climate changes, water will trigger political tensions in our country and in the world.
As a socially responsible investor, one of my investments is a mutual fund that includes only companies that work with and for water. It’s not only socially responsible, but also it will surely have good yields over time.
Submitted by Teresa Wilmot
Eliminate Racism 815
Book Discussion: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown: An eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, she writes that she had to learn what it means to love blackness.
Date: Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 6 PM CDT – 8 PM CDT
An In-Person and Online Future
The staff and board have created a draft plan of how we welcome in-person participation in church programs, including worship. This plan is for your feedback, questions, concerns, and suggestions. This is a community process, and we want everyone to have lots of time to consider these matters. We are planning for a future where we have both online and in-person programs, including worship. We are planning for a future when we can hug – if both people want. Where we can see each other’s faces, hear each other’s voices, and be in each other’s presence – and where robust online options, safety measures, and other steps keep everyone connected and safe.
Our general principles remain:
Inclusivity and justice: We will not exclude people and will take special care that equity and anti-oppression are centered in our decision making.
Safety: We will do our utmost to keep our people and the community safe. We will not contribute to community spread.
Community matters: We value our community and being together. As soon as it is safe to gather in an inclusive way, we will.
Pro-science: We support vaccination for those who are able as a scientific, reasonable, and loving decision. You protect yourself and others. We believe that vaccines are effective and trust the scientists who have worked on them.
Here is our plan:
We are in Phase 4. Matthew will be 10 days past his second dose on Feb 22nd, and at that point in person pastoral care with other vaccinated people will begin in earnest. Beginning in March, small groups can choose to meet in person or stay online. We will always continue to have some online-only small groups. However, worship will remain an online only experience.
When three criteria are met, we will plan to begin hybrid worship – online and in-person – for six weeks following the ascertainment that the criteria are met. Those criteria are:
1. Illinois has entered the Bridge phase between Phase 4 and 5, or has entered Phase 5.
2. On CovidActNow, Winnebago County’s Infection Rate and Test Positivity is “green.” (meaning below .90 and 3%, respectively). These numbers may fluctuate, especially if the number of people getting tested drops. We’ll look at the longer trend.
3. The vaccine is widely available to adults. Widely available means free to patients, at multiple accessible locations in the County, with a same day appointment. We’ll know we are at this point when the “Appointments Available” is green all the time on the Walgreens site, and/or the WCHD allows same or next-day appointments at the mass sites.
Once these criteria are met, we will select a Sunday, at least six weeks out from that date, to welcome in-person worshipers. The first Sunday may be an outside service, before moving inside the next week.
Assuming this date is in the summer, we will have outdoor-only children’s programs through at least Sept 5th. If the weather cooperates, children’s programs will be outside as long as possible. It is important to note that we cannot begin hybrid worship until we have enough RE volunteers to staff the program, including when Lauren and Lindsay are off. These volunteers cannot be anyone – they need to be able and willing to be out in the woods, on the grounds, being active with children during Summer Sundays. Vaccines are required for volunteers who work with children, for so long as children cannot be vaccinated. If you know you will be vaccinated by mid-summer and are ready and able to be a regular RE volunteer, please contact Lindsay.
Only people who have been vaccinated should volunteer as greeters, ushers, and hospitality hosts. Contact Chris if you are interested in these roles when we return.
We pledge that we will be transparent, responsive, and deliberate about how we go about this. Below is our beginning list of questions and answers. If you have a question, please ask – it will help us think through all the aspects of this process. You can email or call Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-398-6322.
What about masks?
We will require all people to wear masks until Winnebago County reaches a “herd immunity” threshold of at least 70% of the total population vaccinated. (Staff may remove their masks when working in their own office, and Matthew and Tim will remove their masks when speaking or singing, with adequate distance.)
After we reach the 70% vaccination threshold, people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or because they are children for whom the vaccine is not yet approved, should continue to wear masks. Other people are more than welcome, though not required, to wear masks, whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. People with any COVID or flu-like symptoms should worship online, and not in person. We may adjust these requirements based on CDC and IDPH guidance.
Will we require proof of vaccination?
We will only require proof of vaccination for RE volunteers. Hospitality volunteers should be vaccinated, but that, and our encouragement for everyone who is able to be vaccinated, is on the honor system. We did not feel it was appropriate for the church to ask or keep track of this information. However, if we find that we have a large number of unvaccinated people whose choice to not get a vaccine puts those who cannot get one for medical reasons at risk, we will reevaluate this. The Board and staff agree that you can be trusted to get your vaccine – please do so.
Why don’t we worship outside all summer?
Outside worship, though lovely on a mildly warm day, is not accessible. It is hard to make audio work well outside, it can be too hot for many people, and, if we are on the lawn, folks with mobility challenges cannot access it.
What happens if new variants or slow vaccine uptake changes things?
In all cases, we’ll follow the most conservative advice of the WCHD. That includes how we might respond to a new strain, to rising case numbers, or other measures.
What happens if we have an outbreak in the church?
If an outbreak occurs among our people (5 or more cases that may be linked), we will pivot immediately to online-only worship while we assess what happened and what steps we should take.
What happens if we can’t get enough RE volunteers?
If we cannot secure sufficient RE volunteers, we will have on-line worship only that week. Under no circumstances will we have in-person worship without an RE option.
What about singing?
When and how we begin to sing at worship is an open question. We await the science on this. It may be that we can begin to sing when we return, or it may be that we wait for a herd immunity threshold. At the moment, we are leaning towards having instrumental, vaccinated soloist, and/or pre-recorded music only until we get to 70% vaccination.
What if lots of non-vaccinated people are coming and putting folks at risk?
If we become concerned that a large number of unvaccinated persons is putting the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons at risk, we may require vaccination (or proof of ineligibility) to attend. The Board will make this decision. Please, plan to get vaccinated if you can.
I know this is driven by metrics, not dates, but what’s your best guess for when we will start in-person worship again?
The key measure is when vaccine supply outstrips vaccine demand. Folks have been guessing that this happens in May, which means it is possible – but by no means for sure – that we will have an outdoor informal worship on July 4th and begin in person worship on July 11th. That’s a reasonable guess, but it could be a few weeks later or earlier, since some are now estimating that supply could outstrip demand as earlier, as production increases. A fourth surge would delay our opening. We’re preparing for everything from June 6th to July 18th as first days for indoor worship.
What about Staff who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons?
Staff who are contraindicated for a vaccine because of a history of medication-related anaphylaxis or another similar reason will be offered a reasonable accommodation when possible, and in accord with our staff policies. That might mean limiting their exposure to crowds though shifts in duties (but not a reduction in hours), providing social distance space around their work area, or other measures. We will not generally disclose which staff are contraindicated for vaccination, and we strongly encourage congregation members not to pry into the medical status of employees. Staff who are not medically contraindicated may receive some accommodations, but there are no guarantees. They have chosen to take that risk.
How do I submit a question?
Email Matthew at email@example.com or call at 815-398-6322.
Literature Link for April 18, 2021 May All Beings Be Well
• “Saint Francis and the Sow” by Galway Kinnell. “Our connection to the Source of Love within us is what feeds the flow of our love into the world. No amount of love yearned for or perceived as coming from outside us can fill what has never been empty. There is within each of us a vast and infinite reservoir of Love, fed by LOVE itself, the Creative Source of the Universe. We are, in fact, one with that Source.
We are each a wave in the body of the ocean—sometimes forgetting and living under the illusion that we are separate and alone. This poem by Galway Kinnell is an invitation to remember.”
“as Saint Francis/ put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch/ blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow began remembering all down her thick length,” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42683/saint-francis-and-the-sow
• Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
In this inspiring book, Sharon Salzberg, one of America’s leading spiritual teachers, shows us how the Buddhist path of lovingkindness (metta in Pali), can help us discover the radiant, joyful heart within each of us. This practice of lovingkindness is revolutionary because it has the power to radically change our lives, helping us create true happiness in ourselves and genuine compassion for others. The Buddha described the nature of such a spiritual path as “the liberation of the heart, which is love.” [public library or buy online]
*ZOOM Church Calendar*
Most “all church” events will be 337-267-3668. This is the Personal Meeting
ID for “Thomas Kerr,” our online identity (and the minister from 1870-1900,
who used all the new technology of his time to reach those he
served). Generally, there will be a waiting room and the host will need to
– Coffee Hour on Sunday. 337-267-3668. 11:10 am. Chris will
– Touchstones: contact your touchstones group facilitator for the time
and meeting ID, if you don’t already have it.
– Caring Team Meeting – The first Tuesday of each month at 6 pm. ID 337-267-3668
-Membership Team Meetingsare on the 1st Thursday of the month at 7 pm. Meeting ID: 980 2780 4780
Want to have a group – a book group, a parent group, a “circle supper”, or
whatever you like? You can create a free Zoom account (40-minute limit,
though often waived by zoom at minute 35). Or, you can use “Thomas Kerr’s”
– just email Autumn firstname.lastname@example.org she can give you the login
and password. Please make sure to tell Autumn if you are having a meeting so we can put it on the calendar.