AND REPORTS FOR JULY & AUGUST 2021
On July 11, Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship held its first in-person Sunday service since March 8, 2020. The service was live-streamed on Zoom, making it the first ‘hybrid’ service offered by our fellowship. More than 30 people, all wearing masks at our request, were welcomed by Rev. Fred L Hammond at our reopened building at 322 15th St. West in Bradenton — while more than 20 joined us via Zoom. Although we are still not resuming live congregational singing, Barbara Jensen played a prelude and postlude live at our piano, and video hymns projected onto our screen made for satisfying musical offerings. And during the service, Rev. Fred dedicated our beautiful new chalice, commissioned especially for the occasion.
Response both in-house and online was warm and appreciative, and we extend special thanks to Mariano Vera and John Isham for their tireless, weekslong work coordinating the technology to make the service a rich and satisfying experience for all.
We repeated the experience on July 18, when our new and continuing Board of Directors and Leadership Development Committee were officially commissioned by Rev. Fred and the congregation. Outgoing vice president Carol Bartz presented incoming treasurer and president emeritus John Isham with a gift from the board to thank him for his recently completed years of service as president.
Our plan is to offer such hybrid services each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. We will continue to require masks at the fellowship and refrain from congregational singing as we monitor the evolving COVID-19 pandemic situation, choosing a cautious path as we do all we can to promote the health and safety of our members, friends, and visitors.
We look forward to seeing you at the fellowship or online!
MARIANO VERA ELECTED TO UUSJ BOARD
We announce with pride that Mariano Vera has been elected to the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ): UU Advocacy in the Nation’s Capital. The mission of UUSJ is to advance equitable national policies and actions aligned with UU values through education, engagement, and advocacy. Mariano’s passion for social justice advocacy and his commitment to UU values will serve him well as he begins his work with this essential organization.
LIBRARY NEWS – and CALL for VOLUNTEERS
From Carol Bartz
As we return to our building, you will notice additions to our library.
Following their February presentation on the Civil Rights Movement, Mary Desmone and Steve Henry donated four very relevant books to our library that you will want to borrow.
Also, the Sun City Unitarian Universalist Fellowship disbanded and very generously donated their entire library and three bookshelves to us! There are about 230 books which are currently being cataloged into our system. Acknowledgement of the donation from Sun City UU will be on the inside label of each book with a yellow dot on the outside binding. Many thanks to the folks at Sun City UU and to Mark & Sharon Chofey and John Isham who helped with transportation of the books to our fellowship.
If you would like to help with the labeling of these new books please contact Carol Bartz who will show you how to use the labeler. The more quickly we get this done the quicker we can rearrange our library shelves to include all the books.
SPECIAL COLLECTION FOR MANATEE CHILDREN’S SERVICES
Manatee Children’s Services offers several programs for children and families, designed to help them move past their traumatic experiences. At Manatee Children’s Services, a team of more than 50 professionals is dedicated to helping abused and neglected children in Manatee County and the surrounding areas.
Manatee Children Services offers: Residential Programs, Emergency Shelter, Girl’s Group Home, Boy’s Group Home, Treatment and Counseling, Crisis Intervention Counseling, and Prevention Services, among other essential services.
This special collection will begin July 11 and run through July 26.
BOOK CLUB REPORT
by Bill Hayes
The Book Club’s July meeting is July 5 at 2 p.m., when we will discuss “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham. In explaining today’s contentious period, he tells us that we have been in similar periods before and that we can find a way out now by avoiding tribalism and respecting and listening to history. He feels the soul of America is ultimately one of kindness and caring, not rancor and paranoia.
On Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. we will discuss President George W. Bush’s new book “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants.” The book is a collection of portraits, both drawn (by him) and in words, of 42 recent immigrants to the USA. Regardless of the country’s problems we see, it still is a magnet for newcomers. Bush’s short stories of these immigrants give us an insight into why.
Meetings continue to be on Zoom at 2 p.m. on the first Monday of each month.
RACIAL CONCERNS ACTIVITIES
from Cindy Evans and Bill Hayes
At the Racial Concerns Group’s June meeting, 10 members and friends gathered to discuss “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” by Jemar Tisby.
Discussion began with a review of the first four chapters covering: Colonial history and the church’s acceptance of slavery; the Declaration of Independence; the rise of revivals during the Great Awakening period; and the founding of the AME church. Institutionalizing race in the antebellum era, a time of compromise and complicity, was also covered.
Discussion expanded to include such issues as “race norming’ by the NFL, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to prevent the teaching of critical race theory, recent examples of anti-Asian and anti-Semitic hate crimes, and more.
More chapters of Tisby’s book will be discussed at the July 12, 2 p.m., meeting, and a proposal to watch relevant movies and documentaries together at the fellowship at future dates was favorably considered.
SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE UPDATE & ACTIONS
by Mariano Vera
Something to celebrate: The Senate voted unanimously on June 15 to pass legislation that would make June 19, known as Juneteenth, a national holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S. The bipartisan bill was signed by President Biden on June 17. The vote and subsequent implementation marks a significant step forward towards this legislation.
At our June meeting, Gun Legislation was seen as our main issue, even though nothing has been done at the local, state, or national level, despite the rise of the gun violence, leaving the issue in the hands of the Judiciary. This makes 2022 a very consequential year, since all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested.
As you may be aware The Worship Committee is working hard trying to produce a Hybrid Service (in-person and streaming via Zoom). This has created a series of scheduling issues for Social Justice Committee meetings. We will keep you informed about any further changes. The August SJC meeting will be on Aug 1.
At the National level, the UUSJ still offers Write Here! Write Now! (WHWN), a letter-writing tool that congregation organizers and individuals can use. Just upload the document and the UUSJ’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Corps will print the letter during a visit to offices of members of Congress in D.C. every month and hand deliver the letters. Right now, the hand delivery has been suspended, but they will deliver the letters to the Congress in a different fashion.
The WHWN has a monthly mission and in July is asking Senators to support pathway to citizenship for essential workers and their families. Go to http://uusj.net/wp1/whwn-letter-submission/
Social Justice Calendar:
July 30: World Day against Trafficking of Persons
Aug. 9: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
Aug. 12: International Youth Day
Aug. 23: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
This cartoon was a post on Facebook. We have had a hard 16 months being cooped up in our homes. The sermon I shared on June 20 included the following reflection that I had after reading the above cartoon. Folks seemed to enjoy it and so I include it here for us to further reflect upon.
UU Theologian James Luther Adams is quoted as saying “church is a place where you get to practice what it means to be human.” I think there is an error in this quote. Being human we have down pat. Every time we express anger, frustration, annoyance, hurt towards others we are being human. These are natural human responses. We don’t need church to practice being human. Being human is easy. We need church to practice being HUMANE with one another. I need church to practice being present with one another, to show tolerance and compassion, to offer and receive corrections done with love and patience towards my own and other’s very human responses in order to not cause further harm. We covenant to practice being humane with one another. And because we are human, we will continue being human in our responses and reactions as well, unless we practice being humane.
Be well and gentle with yourself and others.
It’s happening! After 14 months of having our building shut down we are making our moves to return to the building and moving forward with our reality of partnering with technology to offer services. The vast majority of our members are fully vaccinated and CDC guidance has given the go ahead to being able to gather again.
We recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable coming back to a large group of folks yet, so we will continue offering services online. We will be doing what is being called hybrid or multi-platform ministry. Our services will continue to be aired on Zoom even as we begin to gather in the sanctuary.
The worship tech team will be working out a few things first before
our doors will open for in-person. So, starting in June we will begin hosting our online zoom services from the building. And then July 11 we will open our doors for socially distant in-person worship.
We are still working out whether we will take reservations for attendance or if we will use the social hall and TV as an overflow room. We especially want to welcome back our members who have not, for one reason or another, been able to attend online services. We will also begin having some small group sessions in person. There may be some meetings that simply work better online.
New Small Group offerings! Our worship theme for this next year will be our Six Sources. To accompany our worship theme, I will be hosting small group discussions pertaining to our sources. These small groups will begin
in July so stay tuned. The first source we will be examining will be “Direct Experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit.” If you want to prepare
ahead, two of the sessions will be examining the sermons of Ralph Emerson, specifically his Divinity School Address; and Theodore Parker, specifically his sermon “The Transient and Permanent in Christianity.” Both
sermons and excerpts can be found online. We will also explore our own spiritual stories and our own direct experiences of transcending mystery and wonder.
Stay tuned for more information on these small group offerings.
I find my mind being distracted a lot these days by the pain that is happening in our country. I do not want to become numb to it. I do not want to normalize it as just the way it is. I do not want to cause greater harm by my own anger towards it.
There seems to be gross misunderstanding to what folks mean when words like systemic racism are used. It must be hard to comprehend systemic in a culture that focuses so much on the individual experience. If the person has not experienced something, then in their individual minds, it must not exist.
I do not need to personally experience fire ants’ sting to know that they exist and their sting burns. I do not need to personally experience the ravages of an E5 tornado to know that tornadoes exist. I can trust the accounts of others who have experienced fire ants’ stings and tornado’s ravages. Why then is it so hard for us to trust the accounts of other’s experience of systemic racism? Why is it so hard for us to accept that white privilege simply means that white people have encountered fewer barriers to achieve their full potential than people of color? It doesn’t mean I have things handed to me on a platter. It simply means that when I reach for the platter, I don’t have an impossible obstacle course to overcome first before reaching that platter.
So, when I read of yet another police shooting of an unarmed person of color, my heart feels anger. When I read of yet another act of hatred against Asian, Muslim, and Jewish communities, my heart feels anger. When I read of legislation placing up barriers to families to offer their transgender and non-binary children medical treatment so that the outside matches the inside of who they are, my heart feels anger. When I read of legislation placing up barriers to prevent LGBTQ parents from giving good supportive homes to orphaned children, my heart feels anger. I do not know what to do with this anger other than acknowledge it. And when I do, it transforms into immense sadness for this country.
We have become an example for autocratic governments to tout being safer for its citizens. We have not yet evolved as a species to have a set of moral and ethical codes that come from within our hearts. We are still too dependent on having them imposed on us to control our lower natures. The imposer of moral and ethical behavior might be belief in a god or set of commandments of ‘shalls’ and ‘shall-nots’ or a series of laws imposed by a government. (Who decides what those imposed orthopraxy behaviors are is another post.) Perhaps we never will evolve to where the spirit that seeks after righteousness comes from within us instead of being artificially imposed.
Unitarian Universalism seeks to advance the human condition to enable all people to pursue their full potential, unhindered by artificial barriers of systemic racism, classism, and transphobia and homophobia. As flawed as humans are as a species, this faith gives me hope that there may be better days for all of us. I am grateful for your spiritual journeys towards this goal. Together we learn what love is.
Reverend Fred L Hammond
By Sally Isham, President
Thank you for your confidence in electing me as your Board President. I will try my very best to do a good job for you and for Manatee UU Fellowship in our community and beyond.
July begins our new fiscal year and changes on the board. We thank outgoing Board President John Isham for his service and welcome him in his new position as Treasurer. Bill Hayes, who has served ably as Treasurer, will remain on the board as a director and Ted Medrek will serve as Vice President. Huge thanks to Carol Bartz who has served on the board for years as President, Vice President, and President Emeritus. She will now serve as a member of the Leadership Development Team, which is responsible for raising up new leaders in our Fellowship to serve on the board, on committees, as event chairs, and as delegates to the General Assembly in June. We also say thank you and farewell to AJ Wolff who served out her final term as board member even though she had relocated to California. And we welcome Mariano Vera to the board. Mariano has been an important player in the success of our Zoom worship services during the COVID shutdown of our building.
Your Board of Directors for FY 2021-22 is: Sally Isham, President; Ted Medrek, Vice President; Randy Coleman, Secretary; John Isham, Treasurer; Sharon Chofey, Ass’t Treasurer; Directors Bill Hayes, Sandy McCarthy, Pat Rohrer, and Mariano Vera.
The coming two years will be a busy and important time in the life of our Fellowship. We are beginning this new fiscal year with our eyes focused on reopening our doors to members and visitors on Sunday mornings. This needs to be thoughtfully and carefully done to ensure everyone’s safety. The Board and the Worship Team are working closely with Rev. Fred to make certain we are doing this right. Or as “right” as can be determined at this moment.
At the same time, we need to be thinking about what happens on June 30, 2023, when Rev. Fred’s contract as Developmental Minister comes to an end. Do we consider hiring him as a settled minister? Do we begin a search for an interim minister? Do we want to be lay-led? These questions must be in the forefront of our minds as we work together over the next two years to reach the goals this congregation set forth when Rev. Fred was hired in the fall of 2018. We will focus on the three objectives (goals) which came out of the Cottage Meetings held in March 2021 and were described by Rev. Fred at the June 6 Annual Meeting. We need to continually ask ourselves: “What can I do to turn these objectives into realities?”
Lots of work to do. Let’s begin together!
By John Isham, President Emeritus
The latest CDC mask requirements rollback lit a fire under Rev. Fred and the Board and new things are on a roll at Manatee UU Fellowship. The Worship Team is practicing procedures to Zoom from the sanctuary. If we are successful with all the new logistics, it will mark the beginning of a gradual transfer over to hybrid services which will include Zoom as well as in-person, in-sanctuary services ultimately leading to include live streaming on You Tube and Facebook.
The end result will be to have our services available to all members and friends and potential new members and friends no matter where they are or what their immediate situation is. This, of course, is where we
thought we were headed last February (2020) just before the pandemic hit.
In addition, this marks new discussions of a return to many of our popular events of the past including pot luck suppers, in-home dinners, adult RE programs involving spirituality, UU history, social evenings, and small
group discussions about a variety of intellectual, personal, social and political topics. Included will be social justice events, and films and discussions in the sanctuary.
We want to actively reach out to the community and have events which involve more than just the membership, such as musical artists and interesting speakers. We will start small but gradually open up over the next few months as we learn and grow and acquire new equipment to facilitate the growth.
We plan to have a discussion and presentation of these plans at the Annual Meeting coming up. We want all members to attend the Annual Meeting (on Zoom) after the service on June 6 because we want everyone to be part of and be available to take part in these future plans at and for
our fellowship. Imagine a grand opening affair sometime in September or October complete with a barbeque on the deck and live music by the Manatee UU Players. (Who are they? Wait and see! We are taking volunteers now.)
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