AND REPORTS FOR NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2021
NEXT SOCIAL EVENT: DEC. 14 AT 4:30 P.M. AT MOTORWORKS
Instead of returning to Caddy’s for our monthly social event, we decided to try Motorworks Brewing Company for our Nov. 9 gathering (see photo). Turned out to be a fine decision — the 150-year-old oak tree spread its lighted branches across the entire patio area, lots of space for 15 of us to be together.
So: Join us for our next social event Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 4:30 p.m. at Motorworks, 1014 9th St. W, Bradenton. Come early for a parking place next to the building. Everyone is welcome.
Check it out: https://motorworksbrewing.com
A HOLIDAY MESSAGE FROM REV. SUSAN FREDERICK-GRAY, UUA PRESIDENT
OUTDOOR VESPER SERVICE: Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 4 p.m.
[UPDATE: Check back for a report on our Dec. 1 vesper service and for details and time for our next one, tentatively set for Wednesday, Jan. 5.]
Following up on the success of our first outdoor vesper service on Nov. 3, we will be meeting again on Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. in the grassy area behind our children’s playground at the back of our building. Bring your own lawn chair, and a friend if you like!
On Nov. 3, about 20 members and friends enjoyed the event led by Rev. Fred as we gathered together in person to sing and share stories of acts of kindness by us and towards us (see photos).
We look forward to having you join us for what we hope to make a monthly event with start times adjusted to account for sunset. Check back here for the latest updates.
CONGRATULATIONS TO HOPE FAMILY SERVICES
Hope Family Services, the recipient of our fellowship’s monthly Special Collection in May, has received a Small Business of the Year award from the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce in the nonprofit category (https://www.bradenton.com/news/business/article255880361.html).
HOPE’s primary purpose is to provide services to survivors of domestic violence and help them stay safe, gain strength, and evaluate their options.
Thanks to all who support this worthy organization.
For more information on HOPE’s work, go to hopefamilyservices.org.
NOVEMBER SPECIAL COLLECTION TO BENEFIT UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE (UUSC)
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization advancing human rights together with an international community of grassroots partners and advocates. It focuses on intersecting roots of injustice to defend rights at risk due to criminalization and systemic oppression of people based on their identity. It supports self-determination and defends the rights of people displaced due to climate, conflict, or economic hardships; and it responds to humanitarian crises as partners with people whose access to aid is most limited. https://www.uusc.org/
Our special collection for UUSC will run for two weeks during the month, from Nov. 14 to 28. Please make checks payable to “UUSC” and mail to Manatee UU Fellowship, 322 15th Street West, Bradenton, FL 34205.
A GIFT FOR US ALL
For our last 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 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!
WE COULDN’T BE PROUDER!
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has awarded Manatee UU Fellowship its Creating Justice Banner Society and James Luther Adams awards “in recognition of your outstanding support during our recent fiscal year (July 1, 2020 — June 30, 2021).”
The awards recognize, respectively, congregations with 25 to 49 percent membership in UUSC and congregations that contributed gifts of up to $24 per member.
To continue our support for this important organization, the Social Justice Committee has selected the UUSC to be the recipient of our November Special Collection (see next item).
LINKS TO OUR ACTIVITIES PAGE FOR MORE NEWS YOU CAN USE:
ADULT RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
• November Adult Religious Education sessions have been set. Click here for a schedule of upcoming sessions and how to participate.
• We’re getting ready for Auction 2022! Click here for the latest auction news and schedule.
KNIT ‘N CHAT: WOOL YOU LIKE TO JOIN US THIS MONTH?
It’s getting cooler and we have enough shade, so we continue to meet on the fellowship deck at 10 a.m. the first and third Tuesdays of each month (this month, Nov. 2 and 16). Bring any craft projects to share and the squares you worked on over the summer for our collective project.
We ask that you be vaccinated and practice social distancing and wear masks as needed. Everyone is welcome!
Use the contact button on our website to message Carol Alt for more information..
— Carol Alt
Alia Starkweather, left, our artist/painter, painted a balloon on her mask when a splotch accidentally got on it! We are a creative bunch!!!
OUR MEMBERS IN ACTION
REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS MARCH — OCT. 2, 2021
MANATEE JUSTICE MINISTRY UPDATE
Exciting times are coming to Manatee County. In October as part of our worship theme of our second source — Words and Deeds of Prophetic People which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming powers of love — we hosted four house meetings which we entitled “Becoming Prophetic People.” These conversations facilitated by fellowship members and friends were also being done across the county in other congregations. There were 50 such conversations in preparation for Manatee Justice Ministry’s inaugural rally Nov. 8.
Thirty members and friends of Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship attended these conversations. This is an unprecedented participation for MUUF. You showed your heart and soul for justice at these meetings. Thank you for your participation and your enthusiasm. It shows how important this work is for the people of Manatee County.
These powerful stories told across the county will assist us in discerning what justice issues we should tackle first in the county. We are the prophetic people of our times, and we cry out to heal the suffering of the people of Manatee County just as the people of old did in the days of Hebrew prophet Nehemiah.
The facilitators of these 50 meetings were scheduled to gather on Oct. 26 to hear and listen and discern the areas we should seek to address. On Nov. 8, we are being asked to attend Manatee Justice Ministry’s first rally where these issues will be chosen by the assembly. Imagine the power if an average of 350 people brought just three people with them, more than 1,000 voices raising their concerns for Manatee County to do better by its citizens.
Like I said, exciting times. There is hope breaking out that the needs of people in Manatee County will begin to be addressed not just with empty campaign promises but with accountability to confront powers and structures of evil. To do this the people must claim their power with justice, compassion, and love.
We are marching in the light of love, and we invite all who are able to show up on Nov. 8 in person or on Zoom. Stay tuned for time and place.
— Rev. Fred L Hammond
UPDATES FROM OUR SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE
We have created an online group via Google Groups. The name is “MUUF Pro-Choice Advocacy.” So far, the members are the ones who have attended the Social Justice Committee meetings; however, by emailing the group, anyone is invited to participate. The group will be dedicated exclusively to a woman’s right to choose, and the group description is as follows: Woman’s decision whether or not to bear a child is one of the most intimate and important, she will ever make. Like choices about contraception, marriage, and child-rearing, the decision to continue or end a pregnancy is protected from government interference by the U.S. Constitution. © (ACLU).
We are not relenting on the fight for gun legislation. Following is a link to Brady United Against Gun Violence, which provides support to groups like ours with ideas and how to get off the ground There are online seminars offered every Thursday between 5 and 6 p.m. Workshops are every Thursday until Dec. 30. For more information go to: https://www.mobilize.us/thecomedyresistance/event/380248/
Just a reminder: Some changes were made on the Social Justice page of the Manatee UU Fellowship website. A “Social Justice Virtual Table” including our monthly social justice calendar has been created, and the goal is to make it as interactive as possible. At some point, the Virtual Table will have its own link within the Social Justice menu.
— Mariano Vera
READ UP ON THE NEXT BOOK CLUB SELECTION
For our meeting Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. on Zoom, we are reading “Once I Was You” by Maria Hinojosa. This is the story of a Latina who immigrates to the U.S. at age 1 yet feels the stings of discrimination throughout her life.
Then for January 3, we have chosen “The Last Flight” by Julie Clark. Two troubled women exchange identities and destinations at the airport, then one of the planes crashes and kills everyone on board. What happens to the other woman? Join us to find out.
Message Bill Hayes via the contact form on this website for the meeting Zoom link and any other information. All are welcome.
— Bill Hayes
NEWS FROM OUR RACIAL CONCERNS DISCUSSION GROUP
On Oct. 11, members of the Racial Concerns Discussion Group viewed the last hour of the PBS documentary The Black Church. The rise of Black nationalist politics merged with Black theology in the late 1960’s. James Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power and God of the Oppressed emphasized that God’s story is the Black story and the Black story is God’s story. Black liberation theology emerged as a practical theology. We witnessed the rise of Jeremiah Wright and his 8,000 member congregation in Chicago’s south side, and the Love Center in San Francisco, a congregation of black Pentecostals who welcomed the whole community in the 1970s. Chicago in the 1980s witnessed the rise of Jesse Jackson, New York’s Al Sharpton’s activism, and the emerging ministry of Hip Hop and Gangster Rap. The 1990s saw wealthy blacks move to southern states, like Texas, and open mega churches like the Potter House near Dallas. The film ended with the rise of Black Lives Matter and the shootings in Ferguson, Missouri and Charleston, South Carolina.
November and December meetings will focus on police reform initiatives. A current ACLU course will be discussed along with the reading of Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler. Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m. on Zoom.
All interested members and friends are invited to attend.
— Bill Hayes & Cindy Evans
GET READY TO MAKE SOME GREAT DECISIONS FOR 2022
Great Decisions was formed in 1919 after World War I when it was felt that as the U.S. was the world leader, its citizenry should be aware of what is happening around the world. The Foreign Policy Association was formed and it developed the framework for Great Decisions. Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of local groups throughout the country using a curriculum from the Foreign Policy Association. Each year eight current topics are chosen to study. All of the Great Decisions groups study the same topics.
Manatee UU Fellowship has been a host for the Manatee County group for over 25 years. There are usually 10-15 members in the group and it is composed of both fellowship and community members. June Brenner was the original organizer, followed by Dennis Theriot, and now I try to hold things together.
We meet for eight consecutive Mondays during February and March for about 2 hours each. Each meeting has a different volunteer leader from the group, and we watch a video and discuss the topics from the curriculum book. No one is required to be a leader and no special experience in the foreign policy field is needed.
If this sounds interesting, get in touch with Bill Hayes via this website. We are currently getting organized for the 2022 year.
— Bill Hayes
RENEWING OUR LEGACY CIRCLE
Contribute to the Future of Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship — to a place in Bradenton where Unitarian Universalists can gather and share their individual meaningful searches; to a place where social justice can be practiced and brought to the needs of the surrounding community.
We are renewing our Legacy Circle. Members who join intend to provide a donation to the fellowship in their estates. It is commonly called legacy giving. Such a group was formed about 15 years ago at the fellowship and the generosity of our members has added much to our longevity and financial health.
Contribution amounts are private and reflect the wishes of the member. We will soon have a Zoom gathering with an expert who will describe some of the innumerable ways to set up legacy giving in your estate.
We have adapted a member interest form from one used by UU Long Beach that you should have received in the mail. We ask that you give it your attention and return it to us.
— John Isham
This photo is of a Brocken Spectre — the shadow of a person surrounded by a rainbow halo known as the glory. It occurs when a person on a mountain has the sun behind them and the mountain is wrapped in fog.
There are still wonders in this world that amaze me. This is one of them. We have been through and continue to go through unprecedented times. These are wearying times. It drains our spirits. It drains our energy. And then something marvelous like this photo still from a video recorded by Nikki Klein shows up and refreshes my spirit.
In this photo is the miraculous and the science all wrapped up in one. I imagine this is what the transfiguration of Christ might have looked like. According to the story, after several wearying days of crowds, Jesus takes a few of his disciples high into the mountains. And while there he is surrounded by the glory and shines bright. These wearying days we need moments, a string of moments, to be refreshed by the glory that is life itself. The miraculous and the science revealed in one instance.
May our hearts in these troubling and wearying times be nourished by our own moments of transfiguration in the glory.
Blessings, Rev. Fred
I, like many of you, I presume, am baffled by the stances that folks are taking in dealing with this pandemic that is now 18 months in duration. Our governor has placed our children’s health at risk by preventing the only means of protection (mask wearing at the moment — Pfizer vaccines being approved for children at time of writing but no mandate for vaccination will be allowed) in schools and just placed another barrier by mandating that quarantining exposed children is optional. He and many others have refused to allow businesses to mandate vaccines for their employees or for their customers. He has encouraged the use of the expensive monoclonal antibody as a treatment for early onset Covid infection, but he has refused to recognize that prevention is better than treatment — it costs less, it places less people at risk, and it reduces overtaxing the hospital system. All of which is currently happening in our state.
I am reminded of the Christian scripture where Jesus is asked, “What are the signs of the end?” and Jesus in his reply includes as one of many signs: “The love of many will grow cold.”
Now I am not suggesting that these are the end of days in an apocalyptic sense, but I do sense that love has grown cold in this nation. The cavalier way people respond to the welfare of their neighbors on many fronts is disheartening. Their refusal to get vaccinated and/or to wear a mask because of some misguided sense of personal entitlement places all of us at risk. The entitlement is that we as a wealthy nation have access to vaccines that can prevent the spread and mutation of this virus. But we need to be willing to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves to put an end to this pandemic. But the love of many has grown cold.
There are many stories of people who refused the vaccine becoming ardent vaccine advocates when they have ended up in the hospital with this virus or have lost a loved one to this virus. Then they find the muster to speak up, because they have been personally impacted by this virus which has now killed more people than the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Would it not be better to develop love for your neighbor as you love yourself and seek to protect one another from this virus before contracting the pain, suffering, and grief of losing loved ones? Or even our own lives?
The love of many will grow cold is sadly the response our society has towards so many pressing issues today. May we Unitarian Universalists be the example of how witnessing the pain and hurt in the world can break our hearts open to love one another with a love that will not let go. May we choose to side with love and do what we can to bring this pandemic to an end — wear masks when out, get vaccinated, receive the booster shot when available, and keep our love warm for one another.
If anyone was to tell me back in March 2020 that we would still be dealing with an out-of-control pandemic in September 2021, I would have laughed in disbelief. And yet, here we are.
The virus has mutated into something even stronger and more deadly than what initially shut us down in March. It may mutate again as such a small percentage of the world’s population has not been able to access the vaccines that are available. And even in the United States, which in my opinion has shown itself to be as uneducated and illiterate to the sciences as any of the poorest of nations, still is barely 50% vaccinated. This means 160 million of us are unvaccinated and at risk of being hospitalized or dying from this virus. We are seeing the results of being unvaccinated with the highest rates of infection and hospitalizations in Manatee County seen in the history of this pandemic.
There is now evidence that those of us who are vaccinated may have waning immunity as the months away from vaccination increase. Breakthrough infections are increasing and fortunately the vaccines have thus far made hospitalizations a rare outcome. This could change if the vaccine potency wanes further or if the virus mutates to circumvent the vaccines used. As I am writing this, our government is advising folks to receive a booster shot eight months after being fully vaccinated with the two shots of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines beginning on September 20. At the time of my writing this, the data is still being collected on whether the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will require a booster shot.
I encourage all of you when it becomes time to receive the booster shot, that you do so.
As a fellowship, we have taken the conservative approach to close our building once again to worship and groups. This is painful and requires us to be adaptive in our responses by using online technical strategies to remain in touch with one another. Please wear your masks correctly (this means tightly covering your mouth and nose) when out in public; the positivity rate in Manatee County is approaching 25%. Wash your hands frequently, and stay safe. Please call on another to check in to provide support to one another in these difficult times.
I have heard from several of you wishing for a copy of the chalice lighting words I wrote a few Sundays ago. Here it is:
In the beginning,
if there was a beginning,
or so we have been told—
In the beginning there was
the great radiance
into stars, planets, moons, comets, asteroids, dust, solar wind,
— and LIFE.
We light this chalice candle,
to honor that which we cannot fully explain,
we try to explain,
but words fail us
— and yet —
the light still casts its radiance into the universe.
© 2021 Rev. Fred L Hammond
Reverend Fred L Hammond
By Sally Isham, President
Community Means Strength: a poem by Starhawk
We are all longing to go home to some place
we have never been—a place half-remembered and half-envisioned
we can only catch glimpses of from time to time.
Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands
will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter,
voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength
that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing.
A circle of friends.
Someplace where we can be free.
Community. “Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done.” Starhawk reminds us that often we can’t do it alone. We need “arms to hold us when we falter.” And falter we will, at some point, maybe not today but someday. Whose arms will hold you when you falter? Your family’s? Your neighbor’s? Don’t we all want “a circle of hands to open and receive us”?
Community. It doesn’t happen overnight. Building a community where we have “people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats” takes a lot of time and effort. Intentional effort. It can be exhausting. And scary, especially for those of us who are shy or afraid to reveal our fears.
These long months of COVID have left us wary and anxious. Yet we yearn to find that circle of friends who will receive us, who know what we are trying to say even when it doesn’t come out exactly right, who will allow us to be who we are… “Someplace where we can be free.” Have you found your community right here at Manatee UU Fellowship? I have. I hope you have, too.
As I write this, I’m getting ready to go to a reunion, which I call my kindergarten reunion because a few of us went to kindergarten together. Many of us went to elementary school together. All of us went to high school together. There are 10 of us and we have known each other for a long, long time. About half still live in the Maryland area where we grew up. The rest are scattered around the country. Over the years we have gotten together at different places — Colorado, California, Maine, Outer Banks, Rehoboth Beach. This year we’ll be on the Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland. Each time we have gotten together we have learned more about each other, we’ve gone deeper in our lives, shared some dark secrets.
This time we don’t have the luxury of looking forward to the next time we’re together. We have all reached the age when life isn’t so predictable. One of us has a progressive neurological disease that will take her from us soon, not sure when. One has a husband who was just diagnosed with aggressive bladder cancer. Another’s husband died a couple weeks ago from Alzheimer’s. Life is fragile now which makes this reunion all the more precious to me. As the date for our reunion got closer, I became more conflicted: Should I be doing this now? Should I get on an airplane? Should I be spending a lot of time indoors with people who aren’t ‘in my bubble’? We are all vaccinated, but still …
I know I am not alone with my fears and anxiety. All of us are wrestling with these questions every day. How we answer them is up to each of us. I have decided I will be as careful as I can possibly be, especially in public places. I will social distance, wash my hands, wear my KN95 mask. I haven’t yet decided how to behave with my lifelong girlfriends. Will we hug, touch, hold hands? I’ll bet we do. I’ll let you know.Some months ago, pre-Covid, Rev. Fred L Hammond arranged a workshop, held in the sanctuary, where we were asked the question: What are Manatee UU Fellowship’s core values? Lots of words were written on easel paper. Finally, three words led the list: Gratitude. Connected. Love. I think of those words when I think about my kindergarten reunion. Do you think about them when you think of our fellowship? I hope so.
We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
This quote is by Dorothy Day, journalist, social activist, converted Catholic, who devoted her life to working with homeless people. Another of her quotes: “The older I get, the more I meet people, the more convinced I am that we must only work on ourselves, to grow in grace. The only thing we can do about people is to love them.” This one speaks loudly to me. To me she is saying, we can’t change people, but we can choose to love them. But I would ask Dorothy, “What if they make it really hard for me to love them?” I imagine she would say, just try harder.
This line of thought takes me right to our UU first principle: … The inherent worth and dignity of every person; I don’t know about you, but I find this the most challenging of our principles. Many times, I have found myself repeating a chant in my head, “the inherent worth and dignity…” over and over, after witnessing a disrespectful remark or angry outburst.
I try to remember to ask myself: What might have caused that behavior? Are they ill? Have they lost a loved one? Are they afraid? That last one, fear, could explain a lot of angry words. Certainly, in these times of COVID when we simply do not know what’s around the corner, we have reason to be fearful. On a walk this week with a friend, I became aware of the number of times she used the word “fear” in her conversation. And later while listening to the radio, I heard the word several times again. Same thing on television later that evening. I began listening for the word ‘fear.’
Fear. Loneliness. Undeniably strong and very real emotions, and they often go hand in hand. Every Sunday morning Rev. Fred reminds us that we belong to a beloved community and asks us to notice an absence, to listen carefully to words, call, write a note. Even if you only have the energy to reach out to one person, do it. Make a difference in their life. Dorothy Day said, “ … the only solution is love and love comes with community.” Let’s all be someone’s community.
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