An Anchorage Family Shelter Needs AUUF's Help
Twice in the last month, I've had the opportunity to help at an emergency family shelter run by Christian Health Associates (CHA) and a host of volunteers (St. Mary's Episcopal, Central Lutheran, and Shiloh Baptist are just some of the other congregations helping). For me, it was a joy because I got to help cuddle a teething 9-month-old (Mama needed a break!) and play hide and seek with a 2-year-old. I also got to chat with their parents, and get to know them a little as we shared parenting and life experiences. These families are in such a tough spot and knowing that this shelter is available with folks who honor their worth and dignity doesn't solve everything, but it certainly helps!
Some of you may be familiar with this CHA program from the past. It runs October through April (the coldest months) and housing for these families used to be provided by various congregations on a rotating basis. It had to stop during the pandemic and this year a donor provided a large home in a neighborhood. This has made it so much easier for families as they don't have to clear their stuff out on a daily or weekly basis. CHA also provides help getting the folks settled into long-term housing. Two of the families I talked with a few nights ago were looking forward to moving into their own places this week!! And this support is definitely needed as the shelter has been close to full, if not at capacity, since October.
So how would we help? What the shelter needs most is volunteers to manage the evening shifts. They especially need help on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday nights of the month. Here's a basic breakdown of what kind of help they need. Michele Champion and I did a 10 pm -- 6 am shift, and Andrew Gray did a four hour shift in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago.
6 pm--9/10 pm: 1-2 people bring dinner, help clean up and get newbies settled into their rooms
9/10 pm--6 am: 3 people to be on fire watch as the building doesn't have sprinklers yet. Stay awake and log in hourly so that there are no fires. Help guests as needed with getting rides (taxis) for work or to the hospital if someone is in need. Remind folks it's quiet time from 10 pm--6 am (this wasn't a problem at all).
6 am--9 pm: Call taxis for children who need rides to school. (The program tries to provide some normalcy by keeping kids in their regular schools even if the shelter isn't in that area.) Set up the breakfast makings and help clean up.
There are a few other basic odds and ends, but this pretty much covers it. In our off time, Michele and I colored, read books, did emails, and chatted. If we could get a group of six volunteers from AUUF for a Tuesday night we could break the evening into shifts so no one had to stay up all night. If we got 12 folks we could possibly take on two Tuesday nights a month. With 12 folks we'd each be volunteering for about 6-8 hours, in one go, once a month, and only through April. More volunteers would mean we'd have subs.
I hope you'll all seriously consider joining me in this effort. The next Tuesday they need help is December 27. Please contact me if you'd like to volunteer.
Draft of Possible New UU Principles
Last Sunday during the worship service I discussed that it is written into the UUA bylaws that we need to re-examine our principles and purposes every 15 years. This re-examination doesn't mean that we have to change our principles, just make sure that they are still meeting our needs. We do this to make sure that our association supports a living, breathing tradition, not one that becomes carved in stone and inflexible. As part of this process, a commission is appointed to evaluate our principles, and if they feel it is necessary, to propose amendments, additions, or maybe a new version. Once changes are made, the information is sent out to congregations for feedback, and then if the feedback seems mostly positive, the changes are brought before the UUA membership to vote on at the General Assembly in June. If they are passed, then the UUA membership is asked to vote on the changes again during the next year's General Assembly to confirm this is what everyone really wants. (In my brevity, I'm sure I'm leaving out some details to the process, but these are the basic points.) As I also shared, we are at that re-examination point once again. A commission has been appointed, and there is a new draft of principles for folks to consider and provide comments on. We read the newest version and discussed it some during our worship service and I hope that those of you who had concerns and comments will take the opportunity to give the commission your thoughts.
Here is a link to a google form to share your opinions: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdgJEx_L8VCBOrolhjfUYKkpWHUT9XBab1cKePxT7hHqpKXhw/viewform
Here is a link to the draft of the principles: https://www.uua.org/files/2022-10/article2_draft_language_102022.pdf
If you need a refresher on what our current principles and sources are here you go: https://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/adults/river/principles-sources
I'd be interested to know what folks think, too, and look forward to discussing these changes with anyone who might like that conversation.
Warm regards, Rev. Lise
Kudos to Us All
Please join me in welcoming our new Board members for the 2022-23 fellowship year! They had their first meeting last night, and one of the first orders of business was to elect officers for the year. I know you all voted for them back in May, but in case you forgot who they are, the line-up for the next 12 months is:
Kalen Saxton, Vice-President
James Dryden, Secretary
Sid McCausland, Treasurer
Jim Kerr, Board Member
Yolanda Meza, Board Member
Kathleen Lucich, Board Member
I'm looking forward to working with them as we continue to work our way through our continuing endemic/pandemic, and create our beloved community together. We usually meet on the third Wednesday of the month and our Board meetings are open to the fellowship. And, while these folks are in obvious leadership positions within our community, they are just the tip of the iceberg. All of us at the fellowship are important in the many roles we play: RE teacher, committee and team members, greeters, pastoral caregiver, musician, gardener, Sunday services attendee and more. Thank you all for your contributions! A big thank you as well to our outgoing Board members Peggy Robinson and Robin Hill. Happy summer everyone! I'll see you at AUUF! Blessings, Rev Lise
Reactions to the Buffalo Shooting
Below is a recent letter from the staff at UUA's Side With Love regarding the recent shooting at the supermarket in Buffalo, NY. I think it's important to read because it brings out the complexities in the motivations behind this shooting and the deep-rooted cultural norms that allow this kind of behavior to happen.
Some of us who are white might still be uncomfortable with the term "white supremacy." Many of us have been taught that this term only refers to those in Ku Klux Klan garb or those who espouse neo-nazi rhetoric. That is not what this article is referring to. Instead, it is referring to the dominant US culture that holds up those from a Euro-American background (white) as having the supreme or "right" culture. For centuries, through our laws and cultural norms, the privileges for and ways of being of those who are white have been considered the norm. Anything else has been considered less than and treated accordingly. Because these norms are so deeply embedded in our institutions, they can be difficult to recognize. Even by people who try to live compassionate lives of justice for all.
This article is not (I don't think), trying to shame folks into feeling bad about our culture. Rather, the writers want us to be aware of the inequities of systems and cultures that white folks have lived with for so long that we may not notice their ills. Once we notice, we are then called by our faith and love to do something about it.
If you have questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I am learning, too.
Please take a moment to send love to all those family and friends affected by the Buffalo shooting and think of one thing you might be able to do to help. Then do it.
Blessings, Rev. Lise
Our AUUF Logo
Sometime in the fall of 2021, our Board and ex-officio members Rev. Lise, DLRE Rosene, and Ministerial Intern Becca had a conversation about our AUUF logo. If you’re not sure what we mean by our logo, it’s the Tlingit-style chalice that graces our letterhead, and our nametags and can be found in various other places throughout our AUUF community.
We were discussing the logo because several people have made various observations and asked several questions about it over the years: The demographics of our congregation are over 90% white, so why does AUUF have an Alaska Native styled logo? What are we trying to say with this logo? Are we trying to show our appreciation for Native culture? Are we trying to show that we are connected to Native culture? If we are trying to show we’re connected to Native culture, are there other ways we can demonstrate this connection other than with our logo? If we are trying to show those things, why aren’t we using a Native art style that is from our geographic region?
During our Board conversation, we wondered if maybe we weren’t misrepresenting our connection to and relationship with Native folks here in Alaska. To be clear, none of us thought that we were using our AUUF logo with the intent of lying about who we are; we don’t think anyone had nefarious intentions at all! But, as our culture and our congregation continue to come to terms with the ways the Euro-American culture has claimed many things that weren’t theirs to claim, we wondered if maybe it was time to rethink our AUUF chalice logo.
So, the Board decided that a couple of us would write a letter to the congregation about this and start a conversation so that we might be able to choose a new logo, if that was our decision, at our May 2022, meeting. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Life and COVID continued to happen, and we focused on other priorities. However, we did replace the AUUF chalice with the older style UUA logo in several places to hold the
space until we could have deeper conversations about this. We are now hoping to begin this conversation at our annual meeting on May 1, 2022. We’re not expecting any decisions—simply a conversation and a show of hands of folks who might be interested in exploring our logo options. Our Anti-racism team will probably help facilitate our conversation.
In the meantime, please take some time to consider how you feel about our logo. Please also accept our apologies for not bringing this matter to your attention sooner in the year.
On behalf of the Board,
Kalen Saxton, Board Member and Rev. Lise Adams Sherry, Ex Officio Board Member
We're Opening Up!
Hey everyone! We are opening back up for in-person, 11 am worship services beginning March 13, 2022. Actually, they'll be "hybrid" services, available via Zoom and in-person. Forum will continue be online only (via Zoom) for a while longer. And while it's great that Omicron COVID numbers have gone down and we can all be back together again, we're still going to be a bit cautious. We have "littles" who haven't been able to be vaccinated yet, and some folks who might be high risk, or planning to go visit folks who are high risk later in the week. We still want to help keep each other safe, so masks will continue to be required in the AUUF building. We'll also be opening windows, running fans and our air filtration systems. We'd rather be safe and keep our COVID numbers low, than have everything jump up again--thank you for your cooperation and understanding. Oh, and I just realized, our first day back, March 13, is also our first day of daylight savings, so don't forget to set your clocks forward (spring forward). Everyone will be too excited about coming back to AUUF in person to sleep that late anyway, right? ;-) I can't wait to see you all! Blessings, Rev. Lise
It's good to be back with you again! (And it looks like I'm going to be here for a while! But more on that in a couple of paragraphs. (-:)
As most of you probably knew, I was down in San Diego for a minister's conference and then stayed with Nelson for a week of vacation and seeing family. It was wonderful to see colleagues (after two years!) and share what we've been doing. As a group, we did a lot of grief work and letting go in our corporate worship. As we know, the pandemic has forced us all to reconsider our priorities, let go of expectations, and be more flexible--not always easy tasks! We also started talking about what's next, which is kind of funny since none of us has learned how to read crystal balls. :-) (For some reason, it wasn't a UU seminary class . . .)
So what were the conclusions? For those congregations who can, hybrid worship is definitely in the future, if not the present. We'll be looking at ways to recreate and strengthen connections after being virtual for so long, especially with young families who have borne and continue to bear so much stress during this time. We'll be listening to needs and, when appropriate, experimenting with new ways of doing things that fit better into our new world as we move from a pandemic mindset to an endemic one. Continuing to work on social justice issues will also be important as the pandemic has highlighted the vast extremes that exist in our society economically, socially, politically, and racially. Yes, these are big picture thoughts, but remember we didn't have a crystal ball reading class in seminary, so . . .
One thing, however, which does look pretty certain, is that I am going to be staying on at AUUF as your settled minister! (But you all still have to make it official by voting on March 20, 2022.)
When I got home, the MCC (Ministerial Call Committee) greeted me with their completed report. They then shared it with the Board on Wednesday night, and since their findings were positive, and I'm still agreeable to moving forward with you all, the Board is making plans for the final step of call which is the vote on March 20. They'll be getting the information for this meeting out to you all ASAP and sharing the MCC's report so you can all see what the fellowship said about what they want from their minister and how I fit into those wishes.
One of the things that I love most about the report (besides the positive conclusion) is the word cloud the MCC created about your ministerial wishes. Some of the biggest, and most popular words are leadership, guidance, inspiration, collaborator, service, spiritual, diversity, thought-provoking, administrator, spokesperson. These words are both humbling and exciting to me--humbling that you think I can fulfill them and exciting because we get to go on an adventure together! One of my favorite words in the word cloud is collaborator. I've always believed that folks can get things done best when they work together, and by having this word in such high standing, it infers you all believe so, too. But actually, I already knew that about AUUF from the last year and a half. It's good to have it confirmed in the report as well.
So what's next? Stay posted for news about in-person activities as we finish getting our AV system refined and AV volunteers trained (we still could use some more--contact me if you're interested). We need to finish our stewardship drive, so please pledge for our values and dreams if you haven't yet. We're going to be presenting our Covenant of Right Relations (title still to be determined) at our annual meeting so look for information on that. Stop by and say hi or drop me an email if we haven't met yet, or even if we have. I'm so looking forward to deepening our relationship and collaborating with you all both within and outside our AUUF walls.
Most importantly, please take care, everyone, and be kind to yourselves. You are all loved.
Blessings, Rev. Lise
Hopefully, many of you saw the announcement on Sunday that worship is via Zoom only through February. Sigh. In consultation with the rest of our staff, the worship team, and the Board we finalized this decision at the Board meeting Wednesday night. The Forum will continue online as well. And of course, it’s because of Omicron, the latest development of our pandemic.
“Our pandemic.” It sounds almost loving, doesn’t it? At least in my goofy frame of mind right now. Thinking this reminds me of a friend who named her cancerous tumor. She didn’t want to keep feeling angry and angsty about her condition so she named him so they could at least become friendly, if not friends, and work out some sort of détente. It seemed to work for several years—her very late-stage cancer and she lived together much longer than expected. This story isn’t meant to imply that all we have to do is reframe our situation and everything will work out magically; it’s simply an example of one way to cope that works for some people. Others of us ramp up our exercise routine, binge-watch Netflix, talk more to our friends, dance in our kitchen. Hopefully, many of us have found ways to continue to make ourselves feel good during this very, very challenging time.
But sometimes, despite our best efforts, nothing seems to work and we find ourselves sinking more deeply into our malaise, into the incomprehensible sameness of everything. Or we watch a loved one who simply stops thriving. It’s nobody’s fault—sometimes our brain chemistry just changes, or maybe we were born with a genetic tendency for depression or other mental illness. Years ago, I suffered from post-partum depression. Unfortunately, like many folks, I had to fight through the stigma of mental illness to regain my health. Fortunately, with the compassion of loved ones and the medical field, I got help.
Years ago, our son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. We confirmed our fears by taking him to the emergency room in the middle of the night. As we stayed with him as they went through the process of slowly lowering his incredibly high blood sugar, I was racked with guilt. What could I have done differently? Did I miss something? Was I a bad parent? Our nurse looked me straight in the eyes and said with sympathy and confidence, “This is not your fault. There is nothing you could have done to prevent this.” Our nurse threw me a lifeline, one which I’ve kept tucked in my back pocket and brought out for myself, and others when needed. Now, my son is healthy and thriving, using the medical tools available to treat his diabetes. Remember, there are medical tools available for treating mental illness, too.
All of this is to say that if you’re suffering, I hope you can reach out to a doctor, a friend, or me, and ask for help. Showing our vulnerability can be hard, but it can help us to get better, and stronger. It also allows us to bring the challenge of mental illness out into the open, to make it more commonplace and acceptable. If we work as a community to accept and help those with mental illness, we will all benefit. Here are some places to reach out to if you don’t feel you can share your concerns with someone you know just yet:
American Foundations for Suicide Prevention: Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741
Please remember You. Are. Loved.
Blessings, Rev. Lise