AND REPORTS FOR JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: NEW SCHEDULE FOR OUR MONTHLY SOCIAL EVENTS
Our popular Share a Dish potluck dinners will resume Friday, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m. and continue on the third Friday of each month — a new monthly date for this event. Once a quarter, we offer a Share a Brunch following a Sunday service in lieu of a dinner. Check this space for the latest savory update!
And join us on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 4:30 p.m. at Motorworks Brewing, 1014 9th St. W, Bradenton. 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.
JANUARY SPECIAL COLLECTION FOR RECESS EDUCATION
Founded in 2016, RECESS Education (Rosalyn Walton Education and Enrichment Services, Inc.) is a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization that aims to partner with other community organizations to empower and enrich the lives of children and families. It is committed to ensuring equity and justice by ending disparities in education that adversely impact students of color and their communities. Its goal is to create and support research-based, innovative, and culturally relevant programs aimed at closing the achievement gap.
Our Special Collection for RECESS Eduction runs from Jan. 8 through Jan. 22. Please make checks payable to RECESS Education and bring or mail to: Manatee UU Fellowship, 322 15th St. W, Bradenton, FL 34205. To learn more about RECESS Education, go online to recess4all.org. And ‘like’ RECESS Education on Facebook.
Thank you for your help in supporting this important organization.
RACIAL CONCERNS DISCUSSION GROUP: A COMMON READ
On Nov. 19 and Dec. 10, Racial Concerns Discussion Group and Rev. Fred hosted the first two meetings of a four-session discussion of the book Mistakes and Miracles: Congregations on the Road to Multiculturalism. This is presented as part of a “common read” encouraged by the Unitarian Universalist Association for all its congregations. The conversations were rich and full of insights for our fellowship. Thank you all for your participation. We offered pizza afterwards.
The third session will be Saturday, Jan. 21, at 10:30 a.m. at the fellowship and on Zoom. We will review chapters 5 and 6. There will be a short video by the authors summarizing these two chapters. If you want pizza, please sign up and state your pizza preference; the choices for pizza are: cheese, pepperoni, veggie, and gluten-free with peppers and onion. Please sign up either by contacting Rev. Fred via his contact form under ‘Contact’ on this website or the sign-up sheet in the Social Hall. Zoom link will be sent out by email.
Looking ahead, the final session will be Feb. 18 at 10:30 a.m.
KNIT FUN, CHAT TOO
Though we have been meeting indoors in the cold weather, Knit ‘n Chat continues to gather on its regular 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month at 10 a.m.
Our dozen or more members continue to come as they are able, making possible the completion of our ‘Country Quilt’ which is now ready for the MUUF Auction (see photo). In addition to in-person, we often have a Zoom session for AJ in California and others who are still away or homebound.
We welcome any new members with hand crafting skills or without. Sharing our home projects or simply chatting is always enjoyable.
Contact Carol Alt directly or through her contact form under “Contacts” on this website for more information.
— Carol Alt
UPDATE FROM OUR SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE
Barbara Ehren suggested a new organization that will be part of the annual special collection starting January 2023. Founded in 2016, RECESS Education is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization that aims to partner with other community organizations to empower and enrich the lives of children and families. They are committed to ensuring equity and justice by ending disparities in education that adversely impact students of color and their communities. The goal is to create and support research-based, innovative, and culturally relevant programs aimed at closing the achievement gap.
The Social Justice Committee meets next on Sunday, Jan. 8, in person and on Zoom right after the Sunday service. Note that date is one week later than usual monthly meeting due to the New Year’s Day holiday.
— Mariano Vera
EXPLORING IDEAS WITH OUR BOOK CLUB
The next meeting of the Book Club is Jan. 2, for which we are reading Horse by Geraldine Brooks. It is the story of the fabled racehorse Lexington, its racing days in the 1850’s and its devoted Black jockey, the discovery of a painting in 1954 and then the discovery of its bones. Brooks takes these and braids a story of spirit, obsession and injustice across American history.
Our read for the Feb. 6 meeting is Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir of the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg. Totenberg, an NPR legal affairs correspondent, relates the friendship forged over many years between herself and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It tells us of the value of lasting friendships in our lives.
The Book Club meets the first Monday of each month at 2 p.m. on Zoom. Come join us; everyone is welcome, and discussions are low-key and congenial. Contact me, Bill Hayes, either directly or though this website for more information and to receive the Zoom link.
— Bill Hayes
A special message from Rev. Fred
UUA DISASTER RELIEF FUND
I know firsthand how vital this support of our congregations and members to this fund was in supporting those who lost their homes to an E4 Tornado in April 2011 in Alabama. Many of my members there, while having insurance, did not have the funds to pay the deductible. Without being able to cover this on their own, they would not have been able to replace their roofs, rebuild their homes, replace their cars. It was incredible to know that Unitarian Universalists across the country cared for the well-being of their siblings in the faith. This gift to them supported their healing and resiliency of a horrific traumatizing experience.
The recent devastation south of us is heartrending and for about a day, Hurricane Ian was on track to land here and not the Fort Myers area. Please if you are willing and able, consider making a donation to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s disaster relief fund. You may make a donation by going online to: giving.uua.org/disaster-relief.
BUILDING SIGN REFRESH
In conjunction with our re-opening to in-person services this spring, Manatee UU Fellowship commissioned new signage for the front of our building. Set within the original frame, the new printed sign provides essential basic information that is easily seen from the street. You can see it for yourself in this photo and, even better, when you next visit our building.
Thanks to all who were involved in this project, especially to Bill Denison, who was instrumental in making this happen, and to our webmaster (and graphics expert), Jody Calder, for her clean, readable design. And extra special thanks to Bernie Salzinger for rehabbing the sign’s frame — and painting it to match our building. We couldn’t be happier with the result of these folks efforts!
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 the summer he generously gifted the lovely quilt to our fellowship.Because we have not been meeting in person most of our members have not yet seen it, but it is bold and beautiful and is patiently waiting for our return for all of us to enjoy!
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!
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.
The news of yet another shooting, this time at Club Q, a gay establishment, has shaken me to the core. I remember what it felt like to be able to relax in a gay setting when the rest of one’s day was filled with code switching and attempts to fit in with the dominant heterosexual culture. It was exhausting to live in the closet but in order to survive one did what one did. Going to a gay club was like being able to breathe after being submerged in the water for longer than comfortably able.
For a while it seemed like the country was beginning to be more accepting of the unique differences in the human species. But in the last few years this is seeming more like an illusion than reality. The country we live in is increasingly unsafe for the LGBTQ+ community. It is therefore vital that enclaves of welcome remain to offer respite to this community. This is an important role that we as Unitarian Universalists can embody.
I appreciate this Unitarian Universalist faith that has countered the prevailing culture to embrace this diversity in the human species. May we remain open and welcoming to all facets of human expression. May all who cross our thresholds find the ability to breathe with their full self.
The other night I had a dream. I drove into the Manatee UU Fellowship parking lot and there were about six youngsters playing in and around the playground. Another group of slightly older youngsters were playing tag around the oak tree. Several adults were chatting at the fence keeping a watchful eye.
I walked up the walkway towards the screened in deck. A group of adults were engaged in the morning forum topic. The whirl of a fan overhead kept the space cool. Inside the choir was rehearsing the morning’s anthem. I could hear the director and choir having fun with one another as they prepared.
In the corner of the library there was a small group of adults talking about their latest school district project with the NAACP. In the kitchen several people were plating food and getting coffee ready for after the service.
I reviewed the week’s announcements. Several activities were coming up that might be of interest. We wanted to be sure to attend the 2,000-strong Nehemiah Assembly where STREAM was going to be requesting the Bradenton Police Department to adopt a new mental health response for individuals in crisis. Instead of police responding, qualified mental health counselors would respond to de-escalate the situation. The partnership with STREAM energized the congregation to assist in creating justice solutions for the citizens of the county.
The Peace Choir was meeting at the courthouse gazebo to sing at the lunch hour. This small choir has given Manatee UU renewed recognition in the community. Several new members have joined the congregation because of this one simple community effort.
There were several activities coming up — a trip to the Family Heritage House Museum to learn about the contributions of Black Americans to Manatee County; the children’s religious education program was going to the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature to learn about the habitat of our Florida coast. The seniors were continuing their luncheon series of local faith groups responses to current issues in Manatee County with the rabbi giving the address.
The worship service began with a small jazz ensemble performing the prelude. The worship services often would have a variety of musical styles presented, jazz, classical, reggae, hip/hop to appeal to the multicultural multigenerational congregation present. People are still talking about the youth group’s powerful liturgical dance ensemble. The messages delivered by lay members and clergy alike are inspiring.
The congregation, with other UU congregations in the region, hosted a delegation from the Kenya Unitarian Church and there are plans for some of our members to visit their congregation.
The whole congregation has a golden aura of joy and anticipation of all they could be. It is warm and welcoming on multiple levels. It was not an easy journey to reach this rejuvenation, but Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is a fun, exciting place to be.
I knew that I could retire knowing this merry band had a bright future ahead of them. I awoke with a smile on my face and a dance in my step.
It may seem that this vision of some future date is too fantastical for it to become reality for Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Visions often seem beyond the reach. We do not have families here now, so it may seem impossible to envision families here. We do not have a choir at the moment, so perhaps having this reunion of the Family Singers will aid us in seeing the possibility of a choir again. If we have a vision of where we want to be, then we can develop a roadmap on how we might make that vision a reality.
May it be so.
(This was originally offered as part of a sermon on Oct. 16 titled “Mission: POSSIBLE.”)
Reverend Fred L Hammond
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,
Some people say COVID is over and done with. Well, you and I know it’s not.
A Christmas Blessing
Ah, friends, dear friends, as years go on
and heads get gray,
how fast the guests do go!
Touch hands, touch hands,
with those that stay.
Strong hands to weak,
old hands to young,
around the Christmas board, touch hands.
The false forget, the foe forgive,
for every guest will go
and every fire burn low
and cabin empty stand.
Forget, forgive, for who may say
that Christmas day may ever come
to host or guest again.
— William Henry Harrison Murray (1840-1904)
We have much to be thankful for during this season of gratitude. Hurricane Ian spared Bradenton from its most fierce and destructive winds. And we exclaim, “Whew, we dodged that one!” But then we mourn for all the humans, trees, plants, and animals who weren’t so lucky, who suffered catastrophic loss of life and habitat.
As I write this I am looking out my window and seeing an amazing Florida sunset framed by intact palm trees, healthy oak trees, green grass. I have to shake off the thought of our friends to the south of us who might be seeing the amazing sunset but the rest of their view is horribly different from mine. I think, “What do they have to be thankful for?” And then I think of the newspaper articles I’ve read and the stories of those who survived. Maybe their homes didn’t but they did and their stories are filled with words of gratitude for family, for neighbors, for strangers who have reached out to help in any way they can.
Resilience, grit. Story after story about grit and resilience. And what keeps those with grit and resilience from collapsing into despair? Knowing they are not alone. They are supported. They are loved.
I’m starting to lose my train of thought as my mind wanders to the truth that all living things respond to love. I have a plant that I touch gently and whisper words of love to every time I walk past it. I truly believe that plants and animals respond to words of love. Why not? We humans do so why don’t the rest of the world’s living beings?
My theme for this message started out with thankfulness and it’s ending with love. Which is OK, right? To love is to be thankful. I am thankful for this congregation, for your generosity, for your sense of justice and fairness, for your caring of this planet and for each other. You have faithfully stood by Manatee UU Fellowship during the COVID shutdown. Thank you for your loyalty. There’s spirit and joy in the room on Sunday mornings. I love being a part of our fellowship’s family.
Finally, I will say how thankful I am to be surrounded by people who share my values. Nov. 8 will be a test of our resilience and grit. We are not alone. We will support one another. We are loved.
Happy Thanksgiving, with love,
NEWSLETTER SIGN UP
MANATEE UUF NEWSLETTER
Sign up for our Monthly Newsletter!
Sign up today to receive our monthly newsletter, “UPDATE” in your email inbox.