AND REPORTS FOR MARCH/APRIL 2023
AUCTION 2023: WE DID IT! CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE WRAP-UP …
…AND CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON THE 2023 EDITION OF GREAT DECISIONS NOW IN PROGRESS.
(Important reminder: Don’t forget to turn in your pledge cards by Sunday, March 19. Thank you in advance for your ongoing caring support!)
SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE ANNOUNCES MANATEE PRIDE PARTICIPATION
The 8th Annual Manatee Pride Festival will be held Saturday, March 11, at the beautiful downtown Bradenton Riverwalk from noon to 5 p.m.
Manatee Pride is a fundraiser, and all proceeds benefit ALSO Youth (formerly PRISM), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Florida corporation, providing Advocacy, Leadership, Support and Outreach for LGBTQ youth in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and dedicated to supporting, affirming, encouraging, enabling and empowering all LGBTQ youth.
Manatee Pride 2023 will have live entertainment, great bands and music, great food, beer, refreshments, health checks and more.
Manatee UU Fellowship is a sponsor and will have a booth at the festival. Let’s show our welcoming spirit at this lively festival. We need volunteers to staff the table for one-hour shifts between noon and 5 p.m. Contact Mariano Vera to sign up.
In addition, we are proud to have ALSO Youth as the beneficiary of our March Special Collection, which runs from March 12 through March 26.
Please make checks payable to ALSO Youth and bring or mail to Manatee UU Fellowship, 322 15th St. W, Bradenton, FL 34205. Thank you for helping us to support this important local organization.
— Mariano Vera
IMPORTANT MEETING ON UUA ARTICLE II
Join Rev. Fred at the Fellowship on Saturday, March 18, at 10:30 a.m. for a reading and discussion of the proposed revisions to Article II. Please sign up on the social room table.
What is Article II? It’s the section of the UUA Bylaws that serves as the home of our Principles and Sources, the UUA’s Purposes, our Inclusion clause, and Freedom of Belief Statement. It was adopted as a bylaw by the 1984 and amended 1995 General Assemblies.
Turn to pages x and xi of our hymnal Singing the Living Tradition and read the current Article II. It’s important every UU is aware of and understands why revisions are being proposed to this UUA Bylaw.
REMINDER: NEW SCHEDULE FOR OUR MONTHLY SOCIAL EVENTS
Join us Tuesday, March 7, at 4:30 p.m. at Motorworks Brewing, 1014 9th St. W, Bradenton, for this monthly outdoor (covered) gathering. Come early for a parking place right next to the building. Plan to join us for a drink, an appetizer or an early dinner. Everyone is welcome! You can check out the venue online: https://motorworksbrewing.com/bradenton
NOTE: Our monthly social outing to Motorworks Brewing has moved to the first Tuesday of each month. All are welcome.
Once a quarter, we offer a Share a Dish brunch following a Sunday service in lieu of our usual monthly potluck Friday dinner. (Check this space for the latest savory update.) Our next Share a Dish potluck is Sunday, March 19, immediately following the Sunday service. Bring a dish to share and join us for as we celebrate the conclusion of our 2023 Stewardship Campaign.
Next month, on April 21 at 6 p.m, Share a Dish resumes its new regular schedule, the third Friday evening of each month. Mark your calendars!
FELLOWSHIP HAS STRONG PRESENCE AT STREAM VIGIL
On the evening of March 9, Rev. Fred L Hammond and more than a dozen members and friends of Manatee UU Fellowship attended a candlelight vigil held by STREAM (Stronger Together Reaching Equality Across Manatee), the multicongregation, multifaith coalition for social justice in Manatee County.
The vigil was held outside the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department headquarters in support of implementing an Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program (APAD) in Manatee County. The program was designed by State Attorney Ed Brodsky, and has been adopted by the sheriff of neighboring Sarasota County — but not by Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells.
Rev. Fred joined several other pastors from the county in offering prayers that Sheriff Wells would agree to meet with STREAM leaders. By the end of the evening, it was announced that Wells’ office had tentatively agreed to meet with a small delegation from the organization. Negotiations for the meeting are ongoing.
Earlier in the month, STREAM delivered more than 500 letters in support of APAD to the Sheriff’s Office.
Go online to streammanatee.org for more information on this organization and its work on real issues that affect Manatee County’s citizens. Manatee UU Fellowship is a proud member of STREAM.
MAKING TIME FOR RECESS
During Black History Month this February, Manatee UU Fellowship was a proud History Maker Sponsor of the “African American Education Luncheon: State and Solutions — ‘The School-to-Prison Pipeline'” hosted on February 25 by RECESS Education (Rosalyn Walton EduCation and Enrichment ServiceS) at State College of Florida in Bradenton. Rev. Fred L Hammond and several members of the congregation represented us at the event. Dr. Brenda L. Walker was the featured speaker on the program.
RECESS was the beneficiary of our Special Collection in January. Go to recess4all.org for more information about this important organization — and ‘like’ them on Facebook.
KNIT FUN, CHAT TOO
Knit ‘n Chat members are proud to report that our “Country Quilt” sold at the Fellowship’s Live Auction for $200. It’s estimated that about 10 of our members had some input into its creation — knitting squares, designing the layout, sewing it together, and completing it with a final crocheted edging. It was a yearlong labor of love.
We welcome new members at any time. Renewing your rusty knitting or crocheting skills is possible with members willing to help. Other handcrafts are always being sought out also, so if you have something to share, or just for chatting, please join us at our building on a first or third Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m.
Contact Carol Alt directly or through her contact form under “Contacts” on this website for more information.
— Carol Alt
ALL HANDS ON OUR DECK!
Many of you remember Ed and Mary Hord, long time active members of Manatee UU Fellowship. To honor Ed’s memory, his daughter Wendy and her partner Deb have donated funds for the purchase of new tables, chairs, and umbrellas for our deck. Bernie Salzinger is making some minor alterations before putting everything in place and when it’s all done, it will look fabulous AND we will be shaded from the afternoon sun by handsome red umbrellas. A plaque is being made to read: The Ed and Mary Hord Memorial Deck. Ed did a lot of work on the deck; he would be proud.
As Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), said, “We continue to join in solidarity with so many around the world and pray for the people of Ukraine. Our hearts go out to those who are enduring devastating loss of life, violence, instability, and upheaval due to Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Our UU faith calls us to remain committed to justice and we believe we have a moral responsibility to support the creation of peace and the equal rights of all people.”
Follow this link, then click on “Donate Now”: https://www.uua.org/pressroom/press-releases/supporting-ukraine.
RENEWING OUR LEGACY CIRCLE
Anyone can join our Legacy Circle and make meaningful gifts to Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in their will. Regardless of the amount, your bequest is a statement of faith that our UU movement and our voices for compassionate justice, democracy, and religious freedom are heard long after we are gone. When you demonstrate that you care enough about this fellowship to support its future, others will follow your generous example.
No matter what your age, you can designate Manatee UU Fellowship as the beneficiary of all or a percentage of your IRA and it will pass to us tax-free after your lifetime. It’s simple, just requiring that you contact your IRA administrator for a change-of-beneficiary form or download a form from your provider’s website.
Join the Legacy Circle at our fellowship by stating your gift plan on your personal intentions form available in our office. Your name(s) will be placed on the Legacy Circle plaque in the sanctuary. Because most popular retirement plan administrators assume no obligation to notify charities of their client’s designations, the intentions form is an important document to us and will be held in a confidential file.
Please contact our treasurer, John Isham, directly or via this website to join or for more information.
— John Isham
A GIFT FOR US ALL
For our 2021 auction, Peg Green offered to create a flaming chalice fabric wall hanging “to hang in your home or give as a gift.” The winner would get to choose the flaming chalice design and color scheme. and then Peg would create the piece.
During the live auction held in February 2021, Bill Hayes kept raising his bid and finally outbid everyone. Over that summer he generously gifted the lovely quilt to our fellowship. It is bold and beautiful, and can be seen in our Sanctuary on Zoom as well as in-person during our Sunday services.
Peg’s artwork can be viewed on her website www.peacepeg.com and one of her works is on the cover of the UUA Pocket Guide for new members.
Thank you, Peg and Bill, for being so generous!
Being Religiously Liberal in an Illiberal Age
Delivered to Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on February 12, 2023
© Rev Fred L Hammond
In May of 1940, Alfred Van Dien went to his Rabbi — he was quite agitated and expressed his concern to the Rabbi. The Germans had just defeated the Dutch and rolled into the Netherlands. Immediately, Hitler had ordered for Jews to wear yellow stars and fired those who worked for the Netherlands government. Alfred wanted the Rabbi to encourage the synagogue to flee the Netherlands. The Rabbi told Alfred he was over-reacting. Hitler would not cause them harm even as he ordered them out of their homes. The Rabbi told Alfred to go home and pack a few things. The government was simply relocating them for a few weeks, nothing to be worried about.
Alfred and his sister Julia were not able to leave the Netherlands, so they and a few others decided to hide in an underground bunker. His parents were arrested by the Nazis. His mother, Sara, was killed in the concentration camp in Westerbork just outside of Emmen, Netherlands on April 12,1941. His father, Meijer, died in Auschwitz Oct 8, 1942.
When Alfred and Julia came out of hiding from their underground bunker in 1945, their entire family, aunts, uncles, cousins, — dead. The Rabbi was dead. All at the hands of the Third Reich, who believed that they were preserving traditional German Christian Values.
I had the privilege of speaking with Alfred’s son, Han Van Dien, about his father’s harrowing tale of survival. At the time, I thought this could never happen here. But when I talk with Christians who support DeSantis, they too believe Christian Values are being preserved by this vindictive authoritarian state regime.
How did it happen? One event that I hope sounds alarms for us occurred on May 10, 1933, four months after Hitler became Chancellor: Nazi-identified students publicly burned books claimed to be “un-German.” This occurred in 34 universities throughout Germany. Works considered “un-German” were prominent Jewish, Liberal, and Leftist writers. After the book burning, bookstores and libraries were raided to remove these “un-German” books. There is a narrow leap from burning books to throwing people into crematoriums.
In July 2022, the Governor of Florida signed into law House Bill 1467, which mandates books must be approved by a school media specialist otherwise they are banned. The law carries with it a third-degree felony charge — up to five years in prison and $5G fine. Public Libraries are already under scrutiny for the books they have for children. DeSantis has removed school board members that do not agree with his authoritarian agenda.
What are the books that Duval and Manatee counties banned? Books about Muslim, Jewish, Indigenous, Korean and Mexican culture. Books about the Civil Rights Movement, Japanese Internment camps, and LGBTQ families. These books, according to the Governor of Florida, do not represent American values. They are un-American much like the books were un-German in 1933.
One of the actions by DeSantis was the hostile takeover of New College with the firing of their President and removal of the chair of the board. He took aim at New College’s promoting values of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, aka DEI. His newly appointed board and interim president will be removing DEI from this campus.
One student in opposition to the planned removal of DEI values, stated that during President Okker’s brief tenure, Jewish and Muslim students were for the first time able to receive Kosher and Halal foods at the cafeteria in recognition of their religious practice. This is what DEI in practice looks like — people of differing cultures having the ability to practice their religious beliefs publicly instead of hiding them away to assuage the majority faith’s fear of being exposed to alternate cultural and religious views.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are our religious values. When the governor decries them, he is attacking our religious freedom to practice our faith. When he rails against Black History and Queer History being taught in colleges, he is attacking our faith’s desire to dismantle systemic white supremacy culture. He enforces white supremacy culture by his refusal to acknowledge that Florida is not homogenous in race and ethnicity, class, education, and culture.
DeSantis declared that Florida is where woke comes to die. An attorney for the governor in the Andrew Warren suspension trial was asked what does woke mean? Andrew Warren was an attorney who stated that he did not agree with DeSantis’ Abortion and Transgender health policies. He gave an opinion; he had not broken any law. DeSantis’ attorney defined Woke as “the belief there are systemic injustices in America and the need to address them.” I would agree with this definition of woke. Unitarians and Universalists have a long heritage of seeking to address systemic injustices in America going back hundreds of years. Our fellowship’s mission includes working for social justice — this is foundational of our faith.
The Liberal Religious community of yesteryear’s Germany said and did nothing. They were like Alfred Van Dien’s Rabbi, do not worry, this will pass. This can’t happen here. They were complicit with their silence. We, as part of the liberal religious community must not remain silent. We need to be vocal. We need to let others know that we will not be complicit with this governor’s attack on other’s inherent worth and dignity. Write letters to the editor. Discuss strategies of how we can publicly show support to the groups that DeSantis and company want to silence and erase. Find like minded organizations to join in their activities and actions and do so proudly as Unitarian Universalists. Do not hide your light under a bushel. Let your love for others, your thirst for justice, be visible in your day to day conversations and activities.
Martin Niemöller was one of those Lutheran pastors who remained silent before and during the Third Reich. After the war, he expressed his own guilt and complicity which included this famous quote which I am adapting to reflect today’s Florida:
First, they came for the Blacks and Latins, and I did not speak out — because I was not Black or Latin.
Then they came for the Transgender youth, and I did not speak out — because I was not a transgender youth.
Then they came for the Drag Queens, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Drag Queen.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Let us be among those who speak up for these groups. Let us become knowledgeable on how this American culture has not lived up to its promise and be among those who act in bringing it to fruition of all it promises to be.
Happy New Year!! This is the time of year that people think about resolutions of things they want to do differently in the New Year. Usually, the proposed amends we make are not done with any real conviction. Lose weight. Quit smoking. Join a gym. And come February 15th these promised endeavors are long forgotten. Part of the reason for not achieving these worthy goals is they are surface goals and do not address the inner work that led us to overeating, nicotine, couch potato-ism in the first place. It is hard work to re-orient ourselves to doing this inner work.
Our siblings of the Hebrew faith celebrate Rosh Hashanah, their New Years in the fall. They celebrate this by renewing their covenant with their G-d and with one another. They review the previous year and make amends. Then a few days later they celebrate Yom Kippur where these wrongs committed are atoned and forgiven.
Unitarian Universalism is also a covenantal faith. Every Sunday, I define our covenanted community by saying we have made a promise to one another that we would seek to not harm one another with word or deed. Achieving this is a lifelong learning process, so we also seek one another’s forgiveness when our behaviors do not live up to our ideals.
Later in the service during Prayers of the Community, I pray: May we continue to be gentle with one another in word and deed because we never know the struggles and pain one may have hidden away from public view yet is experiencing in this present moment. I encourage us to offer that kind word, that gentle aid so it may be a comfort and hope provided at the right time, even though perhaps it is unknown to us. Blessings and mercies for our collective journeys.
There is a step that I do not mention in these statements, perhaps I should. It is a very important step and one that many avoid. I have not been saying, let one another know when words or deeds shared stung or triggered an old or new wound and were not gentle so the person could ask forgiveness and grow closer to being the loving person this faith beckons us to be. Once they know better, they can do better. We each have a role to play in the healing of our beings, and it is difficult to say “when you said that, I heard this and it stung.” No one wants to stir the beehive that is buzzing below the surface of a person’s psyche. We want to make nice, smooth things over, ignore the comment, and absorb the pain felt which then gets translated into feelings of shame, guilt, resentment and/or not feeling safe.
This faith is not an easy faith. Our covenant is not to be taken lightly. There are clues of when a non-helpful and harmful statement is about to shared. When the need to qualify a statement with a paraphrase of “I don’t mean to sound [insert a bigotry or negative behavior] but…” the words that follow are going to be hurtful. Such pre-qualifying does not lessen the blow of the harmful words about to be shared. No one likes the feeling of being told the words they used were not helpful but harmful.
The goal of covenantal community is to create a caring community where its members are self-differentiated enough to be able to hear words when we have slipped from our best selves. Hopefully our commitment to this faith’s principles has empowered us not to be scandalized when called to re-enter covenant. Not everyone is going to receive in a positive manner the message of being told their words or their behavior hurt another. Not everyone is going to care if their words or behavior caused harm, in part, because of their sense of privilege and power. These realities make speaking up harder to do. Even for the minister whose role is to do this work. Not everyone likes it when the minister says words spoken were not helpful but hurtful.
The goal is for us to grow in our own awareness of who we are, where we are, and where we want to be in defining our path forward. That awareness often happens when others tell us our words or deeds caused pain. What we do with those words is in our court — we can apologize and promise to do better, or we can respond in negative ways. In this faith, telling others their words caused harm needs to be offered in the hope of a promise to do better. No one wants others to react in negative ways and yet, they sometimes do.
Which is why this covenantal faith is difficult to apply. This is hard spiritual work. No one is adept at doing this well. Let me emphasize, no-one, not even the minister. There are those who expect the minister to be an exemplar of the faith, who has mastered all things Unitarian Universalist. True ministerial leadership is found in the minister who struggles with the people in fulfilling the covenant. It is found in the minister who doesn’t always know the words to say when hurtful and harmful words and behaviors are displayed. It is found in their stumbling and sputtering like Moses when confronting such behaviors.
So, in this New Year, may we seek to not harm one another with words or deeds. When we learn that we have, may we be willing to hear the harm done with grace. Promise to seek to do better so we may also receive forgiveness for not living up to our ideals. May we seek to continue to be gentle with one another because we may not know the wounds or traumas experienced in living in this unjust world. May our gentle word bring comfort and hope at the right time so as to be received as a refreshing spring of water on a blistering hot afternoon.
Reverend Fred L Hammond
It’s the first of March 2023 and we have begun our annual Stewardship campaign, the time when the appeal is made to all of us to think about the future, near and long term, of our Fellowship. Board member Becky Smith and Rev. Fred are co-chairing this year’s effort. Becky said some powerful words in her testimonial on a recent Sunday morning. She reached back to the early years of our Fellowship and named some members whose generosity is with us today. She used the phrase, “… standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s true that much of the funds in our legacy account today are due to the generosity of those who came before us. Rev. Fred says every week,” Our spiritual ancestors planted the vision of this fellowship.” He continues with the words, “We follow in their footsteps and plant trees knowing that we might not be the ones who harvest their fruits or see their grandeur.” Three cottage meetings are scheduled. Please sign up to attend one and learn where we are today, financially, and where we need to be when Rev. Fred’s contract ends. You have the letter from Rev. Fred and Becky, and your pledge card. Ask yourself, What does Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship mean to me? Truly mean to me. Take your time. Answer honestly. And then consider your gift for our future.
Love Beyond Belief. What do those words mean to you? I am writing this on February 25. This day is designated as a “National Day of Hate” by white supremacists who claim that “the one true enemy of the American people is the Jew.” Law enforcement agents are on high alert around Jewish houses of worship in NY, CA, IL, FL. I pray that our Jewish relatives, friends and neighbors remain safe from harm. Love Beyond Belief. Our religious beliefs might be different, but love is our strongest UU value.
Our social justice team is bringing before the board a request to place a banner in front of our building that says, “Hate has no home here.” My hope is that the board and the congregation all say Yes to the banner. Hate has no place here or anywhere. We are speaking up with boldness and courage, compassion and love.
And remember, when the world is too much with us, Stop, breathe, clear all thoughts. Breathe in, slowly. Hold. Breathe out, slowly. Repeat. It really helps.
With love beyond belief,
Lately I’ve been having a lot of trouble focusing on whatever it is I’m trying to do, like write this message as an example. Words keep popping into my head like DeSantis … school libraries … New College … mass shootings … Tyre Nichols … McCarthy … Ukraine … Confederate statues … and I lose my concentration and start thinking about all the many things that are going wrong in this world, at least in my world, this very moment.
I read the other day that we might be entering a “phase of chaos.” Seems plausible to me. At least the term gives a name to what I seem to be experiencing. The writer went on to say we need the solace found in the company of like-minded and enlightened people.
I am so very grateful to walk into our peaceful sanctuary on Sunday morning knowing that I will soon be in the midst of people who see the world pretty much the way I do. We might come from very different places and we might have done very different things with our lives but there’s an underlying sense of trust that we are understood by one another. We matter to each other. It gives me solace.
I might be creating more chaos for myself while I seek solace. A group of us in the Fellowship, led by Rev. Fred, are reading the transformational book “Mistakes and Miracles.” The book tells the stories of five UU congregations that embarked on the intentional journey to become multicultural, antiracist Beloved Communities. The book is helping us develop antiracist, antioppressive, multigenerational, multicultural skills, skills we didn’t even know we needed. Beginning with language. I had never heard the term “microaggression.” It means, “a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.”
An example: In the passage I mentioned above about chaos and seeking the solace of like-minded people, the writer used the phrase “solace found in ‘tribes.'” The word “tribes” made me stop for a moment. I knew what the writer meant but I also am learning that we need to think before using words that others would find offensive. “Tribe” is a racially sensitive word, offensive to African and First Nations people. If I want to develop into the antiracist, antioppressive individual I want to be, I need to be able to identify a microaggression when I see, hear, or say one.
The monkey chatter is starting up again. At a recent Thursday chat session, the discussion topic was, “What is your chosen word for the year?” Mindfulness continues to be mine. To stop, breathe, clear all thoughts. Breathe in, slowly. Hold. Breathe out, slowly. Repeat. It works every time. At least for a while.
In her January newsletter a favorite author of mine, Louise Penny, said to her readers:
Have a Happier New Year. That seems more authentic and doable, don’t you think?
We had a joy-filled New Year’s Eve afternoon gathering at Manatee UU Fellowship — lots of food (my, but we have some good cooks in this fellowship!!). After sharing food and conversation, we formed a large circle and continued to learn about each other’s background and history with the fellowship. Then we did a New Year’s ritual that John and I did for many years with our children as they were growing up. We would think about happenings in the year just ending that made us angry or sad or afraid. Then, on a small piece of paper we would write a few words to describe the event and we would place the paper in ‘the burning bowl’ and watch the flames reduce our words to ash. It helped us to forget whatever it was that made us sad or angry or afraid.
Our group did the same ritual on New Year’s Eve. We took our old chalice out to the deck and performed the ceremony safely under cloudy skies. For our next ritual, each of us wrote down on a piece of paper our wish for the New Year and we placed our wishes in a box marked “Wishes for 2023” which will be opened same time, same place, next year. May all our wishes come true!
New Year. New Hopes. Many people look at January 1 as a blank sheet of paper. A new beginning. A promise to do better at their job, their marriage, their faith, their exercise program. To be a better friend. To be more kind. To read more books. To learn to play the piano. I think it’s the rare person who looks at that brand new calendar and says, Oh well, another day, another year. We all have hope. And we can help each other find it even if it’s buried deep. As UU Carolyn McDade says in her hymn “… and I’ll bring you hope when hope is hard to find …” Do you know someone who needs a little help finding hope in this New Year?
Have a Happier New Year, my friends,
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