Welcoming congregation

The Peach State

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UUCG Standing on the Side of Love, 2012.  Photo credit: www.uucg.org
UUCG Standing on the Side of Love, 2012. Photo credit: http://www.uucg.org

Standing on the Side of Love, Peter Mayer in concert, and the National Preach-In on Global Warming had the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and its minister Rev. Jan Taddeo, in a whirl this past Sunday.  Not to be weighed down by a busy schedule, the community affirmed Love with grace, enjoyed Peter Mayer with the strength of UU spirit, and was moved by Rev. Taddeo’s emotional plea for our Earth.

Standing on the Side of Love is “an interfaith public advocacy campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression. It is sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association and all are welcome to join” in this fight for social justice.  And join it has, as with many other congregations in the United States, the UUCG has joined in the “30 Days of Love” movement which ends its annual drive this Sunday, February 17th, 2013.

Rev. Taddeo focused her moving talk, “Living the Beauty Way,” around the need for Unitarians to focus their lives lessening our footprint on the earth, and in taking steps such as lowering the use of its resources by simple means like recycling and driving electric vehicles.  Of course, her concern was far deeper, bringing her emotions within reach as she discussed a documentary, “The Hungry Tide,” about a tropical island that is slowly disappearing due to Global Warming and in the process taking the home of its residents and the land from our earth.  Joining Rev. Taddeo, the congregation signed postcards to be mailed to the White House requesting that President Obama and the United States exert itself as the international leader in the war against Global Warming and in the support of peoples displaced by its destruction.

Peter Mayer, photo by Paul Dols
Peter Mayer, photo by Paul Dols

Lifting the spirits of everyone was the addition of one of our own, Unitarian folk singer Peter Mayer, to the weekly service.  Mayer sang three of his songs including “Blue Boat Home” and “Church of the Earth,” following the day’s theme on the wonders of our earth.  A bonus for me was meeting Mayer and sharing our pilgrimage with him, and then enjoying one of the CDs he gave me, “Heaven Below,” as we drove east through the Georgia rain.

Unique to the service was the format of the day’s events, a once monthly practice.  After attending the regular service, we then got our drinks and snacks and formed circles of six people where we joined in listening groups focused on the monthly theme “Evil.”  On the surface a strange topic, but we took turns discussing evil and how it has affected our lives. It proved to be a moving and bonding exercise for all in our circle. And while the adults were focused in our groups, Austin was with the middle-school kids discussing topics related to the congregation’s quest for becoming a Welcoming Congregation.

For information on attending the UUC of Gwinnett:  www.uucg.org

Standing on the Side of Love: www.standingonthesideoflove.org

Interfaith Power & Light, A Religious Response to Global Warming: www.interfaithpowerandlight.org

Video trailer for “The Hungry Tide” documentary about the nation of Kiribati: http://www.imdb.com/video/withoutabox/vi727292953?ref_=tt_pv_vi_1

To see Peter Mayer’s concert schedule or purchase CDs, visit: http://www.petermayer.net/news/

For information on the UUA and Welcoming Congregations, click on the chalice to the right or go to: www.uua.org

The Magnolia State

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Sanctuary art at UU, Photo credit: www.uuoxford.co
Sanctuary art at UUCO, Photo credit: www.uuoxford.com

Mississippi is a land of hospitality, history and unlimited beauty, and there was no shortage of that true southern hospitality as we arrived to the home of Ole Miss in Oxford (University), Mississippi.  With weekend parking and electric hookups provided by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, Austin and I were able to get comfortable and even disconnect the Jeep to do some more personal tourism in the area.

A young community by Unitarian standards (formally joined the UUA in 1997), this lay led congregation is overwhelmingly representative of our seven principles while ready and eager for the growth it is destined to receive.  On this Sunday, guest minister, the Rev. Fred L. Hammond (The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, Alabama) presented “Violence in America,” focusing on the existence of micro-aggressions within society.  Rev. Hammond expressed the need for the recognition and reevaluation of our own roles as UUs in the presentation and acceptance of micro-aggressions in our communities and in our governments as these apply to social justice needs and improved gun ownership legislation with mental health provisions.

After the service was an amazing “potluck,” (a term not fitting the cloth napkins, table coverings, and dinnerware!)  Also not fitting the term was the fabulous diversity of food for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike.  I can honestly say that I have never attended such a thoughtful potluck gathering–and amongst such wonderful people–before this day.

Welcoming chalice, Photo credit: www.uua.org
Welcoming chalice, Photo credit: http://www.uua.org

Not to be outdone, Rev. Hammond came back after our meal and presented an eye-opening workshop on Heterosexism, including revealing unethical and even unenforceable laws within the state of Mississippi that limit and undermine the education of Mississippi’s youth about the LGBTIA community (sexual minorities) within society.  And, although already a diverse and open community, the UUC of Oxford is currently working towards the formality of becoming a UUA recognized “Welcoming Congregation,” arranging the workshop as a part of their venture.

For information on attending the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, visit: http://www.uuoxford.com

For a wonderful sampling of Rev. Hammond’s thoughts, visit his blog “A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South”: http://serenityhome.wordpress.com/

To better understand the requirements for becoming a Welcoming congregation, visit: http://www.uua.org/lgbtq/index.shtml