AND REPORTS FOR MAY 2022
MAY SPECIAL COLLECTION FOR HOPE FAMILY SERVICES
HOPE’s primary purpose is to provide services to survivors of domestic violence and help them stay safe, gain strength, and evaluate their options.
From the first program until today, HOPE (https://www.hopefamilyservice.org/) has had one goal; to offer high-quality, life-saving services, which are confidential and offered at no charge for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Make your check payable to HOPE Family Services and bring or mail to MUUF 322 15th St. W, Bradenton, FL 34205. This collection runs May 10-24.
Thank you for your help in supporting this important organization.
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.
AROUND THE FELLOWSHIP
Our April 12 social gathering at Motorworks Brewing was enjoyed by all who attended. Great company, food, drink and weather: What’s not to like?
AROUND THE FELLOWSHIP
On April 10, Kait Thomson of Planned Parenthood spoke at our Sunday service to kick off our April Special Collection for the organization. She is seen here at the podium, with Rev. Fred L Hammond at right.
AROUND THE FELLOWSHIP
STREAM’s Nehemiah Action Assembly
A delegation from Manatee UU Fellowship participated in STREAM’s Nehemiah Action Assembly on April 4 at Southeast High School (top photo), where Manatee County officials were urged to take action on a slate of social justice issues impacting county citizens. See in bottom photo, Rev. Fred L Hammond addresses the assembly.
AROUND THE FELLOWSHIP
Reopening In-Person & New Members
Our reopening to in-person Sunday services on April 3 was made even more special by the formal welcoming of four new members. In top photo, Tom and Barb Ehren are seen with Rev. Fred L Hammond. Joining the service online were Joyce Simard and Ladi Volicer, in photo below from Zoom.
NEXT VESPER SERVICE: Wednesday, May 4, at 5 p.m.
Our monthly late-afternoon, midweek vesper services began in November, and we continue to hold them on the first Wednesday of each month either in the sanctuary or outside in the grassy area behind the children’s playground at the back of our fellowship building, depending on the weather.
Nearly 20 members and friends have enjoyed each of these services led by Rev. Fred — and, in January, by Shirley Loebel, who offered a special musical service on our deck.
We look forward to having you join us for these monthly services. Check back here for updates.
UPCOMING SOCIAL EVENTS: Tuesday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m., and Friday, May 13 at 6 p.m.
Don’t miss our next monthly social outing at Motorworks Brewing, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. The address is 1014 9th St. W, Bradenton. Come early for a parking place right next to the building. Everyone is welcome. You can check out the venue online: https://motorworksbrewing.com/bradenton
Our popular monthly Share a Dish dinners continue Friday, May 13, at 6 p.m. at our building. Bring a dish to share and reconnect with friends new and old.
WELCOME BACK TO OUR FELLOWSHIP LIBRARY
As we return to our building you will once again be able to peruse the library shelves and check books out! We have a number of new books, not all of which are cataloged.
On display for easy finding are four books donated by Mary Desmone and Steve Henry:
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law by Sherrilyn Ifill & Loretta Lynch
Selma, Lord, Selma: Girlhood Memories of the Civil-Rights Days by Sheyann Webb & Rachel West Nelson
While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry
Other newly added books include: 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It by Chuck Collins; Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope by Gabrielle Giffords & Mark Kelly; Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Dewart Bell; Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times by Jonathan Sacks; Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World by Vivek H. Murthy; Too Much and Never Enough by Mary; The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson; and Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? by Alexander Keyssar. There are many more; all you need to do to borrow a book is complete a check out form and take your selected book(s) home!
— Carol Bartz
EXPLORE IDEAS WITH OUR BOOK CLUB
The Book Club‘s most recent meeting was May 2, when we discussed the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.
For June we will be reading Moving Water: The Everglades and Big Sugar by Amy Green. In 1947, Marjory Stoneman Douglas investigated the destruction of the Everglades and reported it in her notable book The Everglades: River of Grass. Now here we are 80 years later and still hearing about the destruction of the Everglades. This time it is about Big Sugar. This is a major problem to Florida, and we should all be aware of it.
We have lots more books in our line up and will be deciding at the May meeting which ones will be chosen for reading. The books we read are all chosen by the Club members.
The Book Club meets the first Monday of each month at 2 p.m. on Zoom. Come join us. Everyone is welcome. Contact Bill Hayes directly or though this website for more information.
— Bill Hayes
REPORT FROM OUR SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE
During our April Social Justice Committee meeting the group decided to approve a proposal that will take letter writing to the editor to a new level. The proposed letters, once approved by the SJC committee members, will be signed as follows: “Social Justice Committee, Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.”
We will have visibility within our community, and also deliver our ideas and hopefully start a community conversation regarding our principles and positions regarding social issues.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers made a presentation via Zoom, and Planned Parenthood made a presentation at the sanctuary. For now, looks like the Special Collection Day (second Sunday of the month) presenters will be with us in person.
Our March Special Collection for the CIW raised $1.015. The final total for our April Special Collection for Planned Parenthood is not available yet.
— Mariano Vera
LATEST FROM OUR RACIAL CONCERNS DISCUSSION GROUP
On Monday, April 11, nineteen participants, including members of the Manatee League of Women Voters and the UU Church of Sarasota, joined Dr. Barb Ehren for an in-depth presentation on “Critical Race Theory: A Fake Issue in K-12 Education.”
We looked at some of the detractors of Critical Race Theory that included the Heritage Foundation, Parents Defending Education, Moms for America, and Moms for Liberty. We examined legislation and policy in 2021 Florida Statutes, 2021 State Board Rule requiring instruction planning and reporting, and the Florida House Bill 7 or “Stop Woke Act” that takes effect July 1. On a positive note, we examined the findings proposed by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, the NAACPLDF, the African American Policy Forum’s “Truth be Told Campaign,” and the Civic Way.
Our main understanding is that CRT per se is taught in universities, not K-12, and is not the same as diversity training, equity advocacy or the teaching of historical facts. Florida law requirers the teaching of African and African American history. Racism is an observation about social institutions and understanding the past will help us to move forward.
Next month we will watch the movie Driving While Black. The two-hour film will be presented over our May 9 and June 13 meetings. Interested members and friends are encouraged to join us for the discussion afterwards.
The Racial Concerns Discussion Group meets the second Tuesday of each month at 2 p.m.
— Cindy Evans & Bill Hayes
OUR SKILLFUL, CARING KNITTERS
Our Knit ‘n Chat knitters and chatters have been busy … and are enjoying our evolving creation. As AJ joins us often from California via FaceTime, she suggested tying the wonderful earth tones together with a soft beige Florida sand color, for its border. We are still enjoying our 10 a.m. cool 1st and 3rd Tuesday mornings on the fellowship deck but happily have the option of using the AC inside our building as needed over the summer. All are welcome to come and chat, bring a knitted or crocheted 6-inch square and see our work in progress.
For more information, contact Carol Alt in person or through her contact form on this website.
— Carol Alt
UUA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Multiplatform / Portland / 2022
General Assembly (GA) is the annual meeting of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Participants worship, witness, learn, connect, and make policy for the Association through democratic process.
This year’s GA is June 22-26, online or in person, in Portland, Ore. Please go online to https://www.uua.org/ga for more information.
Through our annual UUA certification, Manatee UU Fellowship is allowed two delegates to attend and vote on the issues. If you would like to attend the GA please contact Sally Isham.
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!
Reverend Fred L Hammond
Our hearts were light
In the merry, merry month of May.
It is hard to realize that it is already the 5th month of 2022. Soon, it seems the year will be over. I don’t know about you, but are you feeling the excitement in the air? After two plus years of not being able to see each other in person, we are finally open. There is joy in the room. We added four new members in April and we will be adding more new members in the coming weeks. Exciting times!
“Finally! It has happened to me, right in front of my face
/ My feelings can’t describe it!”
No, I’m not talking about falling in love as CeCe Peniston’s song declares, but rather the long-awaited re-opening of Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship building. We will have a hybrid, in person, on Zoom, service on April 3rd at 10:30 a.m. at 322 15th Street W, Bradenton, FL 34205!! This will be a fun and exciting service — We welcome four new members! Tom and Barb Ehren and Joyce Simard and Ladi Volicer will join us in our member recognition ceremony!
The current trend of the COVID pandemic is in fast decline, may it stay in decline. Infection rates in Manatee County are under 5 per 100K, positivity test rate under 2.5%, roughly 66% of folks in the county have received at least 2 vaccine shots. The state and county are classified as medium risk and medium risk refers to those who are NOT VACCINATED. This means that those who are vaccinated with the recommended boosters for their health status are at lower risk of severe infection requiring hospitalization. It does not mean that it won’t happen, just that the risk is lower.
What does this mean for us at Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship? At this moment in time, specifically late March early April 2022, the board encourages everyone to be up to date in their vaccinations to reduce their risk as low as possible. We request that folks use their best judgment regarding wearing masks inside the building. The board will not police mask-wearing. Food and beverages may be shared outdoors. Worship services will include singing from the stage but no congregational singing for the time being.
This could change to more protective or more lenient. We will need to stay flexible in these protocols as there is another variant that is spreading rapidly but so far it has not changed the downward trajectory of numbers of hospitalizations or deaths. So, if that trajectory should dramatically change upwards, the board will inform the congregation of changes in protocols regarding mask-wearing, social distancing, sharing food and singing.
In the meantime — Join us on April 3rd — in person or on Zoom —10:30 a.m.!
Blessings, Rev. Fred
In my genealogy research I find a lot of trees that try desperately to claim famous people of history. And I get it, it is a boost to the ego to be able to claim this or that president or King or Queen as a direct ancestor. In my tree, there was a branch that if it was correct would have meant that I am a descendant of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). It is not true, the evidence against this link is strong but sadly many have overlooked it. But the temptation to want to claim famous people of history is a strong one. We all want to have a connection to the history that shaped our worldview and if we can claim someone as one of ours then by osmosis it means we have inherited worth by association.Unitarian
Universalists do this as well. We like to name folks who are Unitarian Universalist, especially if they were movers and shakers of our collective past. We have many that we can indeed claim: John Adams, Jane Addams, Clara Barton, Theodore Parker, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. We claim them because they had wonderful achievements and shaped our world in uplifting ways. We claim them because they are known to the world at large and offer this small faith of our legitimacy.
And then there are those who we claim who were not. Thomas Jefferson is one of those individuals that Unitarian Universalists tend to claim because he said some nice things about Unitarians. We like the fact that his religious views were liberal for his day, that he cut out the miracle stories from the Bible to create a rational story of the Gospel. And most importantly, perhaps, that he wrote his thesis on Separation of Church and State to the Danbury Baptists, defending their right to not have to pay a poll tax to the state religion of Congregationalists. Unitarian Universalists are big in defending separation of church and state. It is an important value for a free faith.
But people are complicated. They are never just one thing. They are often a mix of things, sometimes conflicting things. Thomas Jefferson wrote that men are created equal and yet he owned slaves. And he took Sally Hemmings, a slave fathered by Jefferson’s father-in-law and therefore his wife’s half-sister, as his concubine. Hemmings did not have a choice. This was not a love relationship. This was slavery, she could not refuse him. Jefferson fathered six children with Hemmings, four of whom reached adulthood. Hemmings, when she was in France and was free, refused to return to the states with Jefferson. Jefferson negotiated a deal with her so that her future unborn children would be set free. A promise he kept. She was never freed.
The story of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, an American sacred text, includes his being a White Supremacist. We need to recognize this fact. In our quest to dismantle the white supremacist culture that Jefferson and others established in this country, we need to recognize the complexity of our past heroes. And what their complicated lives might mean to folks who are still seeking to be freed from these less admirable accomplishments.
I don’t believe my worth is inherited from my ancestors’ accomplishments — both for good and for ill. But I do need to recognize and acknowledge the harm they may have done. I also have the opportunity in this life to be an ancestor that future generations will look back on and say I am proud to claim him as a Unitarian Universalist and as an ancestor. May we all be role models as future ancestors.
Are we ready? For two long years we have had a “Closed” sign on our doors. During these two years Rev. Fred and the Worship Team have worked hard to give our members and visitors a quality Sunday worship experience using Zoom, and they’ve done a great job. Our members have stayed loyal. Even those without Zoom. Now change is coming. Finally. Are we ready?
On April 3, we will pull down those “Closed” signs and our doors will be open wide once again to everyone who is seeking a friendly beacon for religious freedom. We need to figure out how to offer a quality worship service to everyone who comes into our sanctuary as well as to those who are watching the service on their computers or their phones. It’s called a hybrid service, and it’s tricky to pull off. As an example, when Rev. Fred delivers his homily, can he make eye contact with the camera as well as with the people in the sanctuary? If he looks only at the camera, he loses his in-person audience. And vice versa.
Plus, many aspects of the worship service which we took for granted two years ago, e.g., piano music, singing, responsive readings, etc., are difficult or impossible to do in a hybrid service without high-tech equipment that, currently, we do not have. To give our at-home participants the same, or nearly the same, experience as those who are in the sanctuary means we must spend a considerable amount of money and this requires a special congregational meeting.
Opening our doors after two years is going to take some re-learning on all our parts. Even though we didn’t lose members during the shutdown, we gained only a few. We need to bring in new members and we can only do this by being open and welcoming and offering a quality worship experience to new visitors. We need to go back in our memories to when each of us first came through the doors of Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. What was it like? Do you remember your first impression? Was it easy to find the building? Did you know where to park? Were the sidewalks clean? Did you know which door to use?
Were you greeted with eye contact, a smile, a kind word, and an order of service? Were you directed to the visitor table where a volunteer encouraged you to fill out some visitor information? Were you offered a few brochures telling you about UUism and our fellowship?
Did you know where to sit? Did someone sitting near you offer to accompany you into the social room for coffee hour after the service? Were you told where the bathrooms are? If you stayed for the coffee hour, were you greeted by others and introduced to new people?
Do you remember how you felt when you returned to your car to go home? Did you say to yourself, “That was great! I felt welcomed. I’m going to do this again next week.” That, of course, is the goal of every church. In order to grow and flourish, every guest needs that quality first time experience. Are we ready?
Notice the sentence, ‘Was it easy to find the building?’ Sometimes GPS doesn’t get us to our destination, and we can’t do much about that. What we can do is to have clear signage in front of our building. The membership team has a proposal for a new sign which will also require a special congregational meeting.
These are exciting times. Our auction was a huge success; our Stewardship Campaign is nearly done and the results are strong; and we are opening the building. Lots to celebrate!
Are we ready?
The other day I was looking through my Update file to see what life was like at Manatee UU Fellowship on March 1, 2020, before COVID turned our lives upside down. Rev. Fred’s letter in the March 2020 Update talked about “stepping in to fill a void helps keep the fellowship a welcoming place for all who use this space, not just on Sunday but during the week as well.” I thought about the phrase, ‘for all who use this space.’ In March 2020, the fellowship was a busy place. We had bridge groups, two meditation groups, Al-Anon, Overeaters Anon, and Toastmasters, who counted on our building as their meeting place every week. Fellowship committees and groups met regularly: choir, board, men’s group, social justice, knitters, worship, finance, membership, Great Decisions, Mahjongg, book group, and our favorite Share-a-Dish dinners on the 2nd Friday of every month.
And then on Thursday, March 12, 2020, the decision was made to shut our doors and life as we knew it there stopped. Three weeks later, our life on Zoom was born (thanks to the efforts of Rev. Fred and the worship tech team). We’ve all become quite proficient at this new technology. It’s been kind of nice to attend Sunday services from our living room, barefoot, with our coffee cup nearby.
It’s been two years now. We’re becoming restless, eager to see life return to our beloved building. We’ve been fortunate to have Bernie Salzinger’s energy and skills available to keep the place in good condition inside and out, and Karen’s dedication to administrative details as she set up her office at home. These two plus a handful of others have kept our fellowship running smoothly all these many months and we are grateful to all.
It’s now time to plan for the day — soon — when we open our doors once again. New equipment needs to be purchased to ensure a quality hybrid service. New skills need to be learned. Lots of plans to be made. And we can finally reach out to “all who use this space” and invite them to return. Life at our fellowship might not be exactly as it was two years ago. But life anywhere on this planet will never be exactly as it was two years ago. The world has changed. We have changed. Thankfully, our beloved building has stayed pretty much the same and is waiting with open doors to welcome us back.
I’ll finish with a few lines from a poem Rev. Fred included in his Reflections of March 20, 2020. The poem is titled “Lockdown” by Brother Richard Hendrick.
Listen . . .
The birds are singing again,
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
By Sally Isham, President
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
These are the seven principles of our UU faith. As I write this, I am trying to process what happened on the floor of the U.S. Senate late last night when every Republican and 2 Democrats blocked the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act from advancing to a final passage. I am trying to process this outcome through the lens of our 7 UU principles.
At first I told myself to apply the first principle, which I often go to when my thoughts about people start to turn dark. But then my eyes went to the 2nd principle, and I thought, well, that one applies, too. Then I went to the third and saw the word “acceptance” and decided that one also applies. Finally, I looked carefully at all seven of our principles. Each one applies to my dilemma of how to process my feelings about last night’s Senate vote, which essentially killed the proposed law and very well could take this country back to egregious voter suppression not just in the South but in every state which has enacted laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. Last May, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law S.B. 90, a voter suppression bill that will make it harder for Floridians to vote.
I am aware that I am crossing the line separating church from state. But I simply cannot stand by passively and watch our democracy crumble without saying something. At this moment there is nothing that will undo the action taken last night. So, I am taking this moment to reflect on what I can do for myself, to turn my dark thoughts around.
I can be thankful that my religious community is experiencing the same pain and sense of hopelessness that I am experiencing right now so I am not alone in my grief. I know that my UU community will continue to fight for the rights of all people. I can be thankful that my religious faith teaches love instead of hate. Today I am repeating the mantra: the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Even when they do the wrong thing.
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