This coming Sunday, four new members will be welcomed into membership in the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh. Some reflections on what covenanting with new members means:
To belong to a Unitarian Universalist religious community is to belong to a covenanted relationship. To become a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation is to explicitly or implicitly become part of a covenant with others who agree to “travel together” in common purpose. Unlike a contract, a covenant is open-ended and flexible. A covenant is an agreement to be in relationship, and the nature of covenant is that the terms are adaptable to the realities of the relationship. The operative words in such a covenant are often “we unite,” or “we associate.”
Some congregations recite a covenant every Sunday morning, and a new member implicitly signs on to that covenant when they join. But covenant of a congregation isn’t just about words, it’s about the relationship those words represent. Expectations of membership include support and participation in the life of the congregation.
According to a report on the meaning of membership by the Commission on Appraisal of the Unitarian Universalist Association, “if we understand the congregation to be an organic entity, every new person who participates actively in the life of the congregation changes the dynamic and, in effect, causes the covenant to be rewritten.”
Members of a religious community belong to each other and to something larger than themselves alone. In a religious community, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To be a member of a religious community is to be one of the parts of the whole. To take grammatic liberties, to be a member of a religious community is to be one of the parts which, summed up, the whole is greater than. In such a community, people gather together to be more and do more than they could be and do individually, in order to live in the best way they can and to do their part to make the world a better place.
Without its members, the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh does not exist; unlike National Public Radio, this congregation, this covenanted community, literally is its members. The Rev. Kim Beach asserts that “People do not ‘join’ a covenanted community; rather they constitute it; there is no ‘it’ without them and each time new folks join, the whole is literally reconstituted.” Although the word
“reconstituted” makes me think of frozen orange juice, or maybe powdered milk, I really like the idea of the congregation being remade, the covenant being renewed, each time a new member joins.
In this view, the covenant, like the religious community itself, is dynamic and ever-changing. When people join the church, the status quo of the congregation shifts, ever so slightly. Those folks who join the congregation bring their gifts and needs, their questions and responses, and by their very presence as covenanted members, the congregation is “reconstituted.” In the process, all are changed, individually and collectively.
In faith and hope,
Opportunities for Involvement
Please contact Rev. Connie Grant at Constance.L.Grant@gmail.com or 847-840-8542 if you would like to learn more about any of these opportunities to help congregation members stay connected with each other and with the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh!
Forming a Racial Equity Task Force Do you want to be part of the ongoing conversation, study, and action on the topic of race? How can we focus on working for racial justice? It has long been true, today it’s truer than ever: In these times it’s increasingly important to face the reality of where we are as a society and to do something concrete about it. There are many conversations going on, with many questions about what we can do. How can we focus our conversation and our actions in our individual lives and the First Unitarian Church community, and in our larger world?
Engaging the Congregation Are you interested in being part of an Engagement Team, to help church members and friends connect with each other and with the church? What additional large- or small-group activities would enhance congregational life?
Technical Support for Streaming Services Our tech crew has been doing an amazing job of producing our streaming worship services, achieving high production values, and maintaining this central experience for the church community. There is a need for at least one more member of the crew. If you are AV-savvy and/or have a technical bent, your assistance would be welcome!
Adult Religious Education
New adult faith offerings will return in the fall!
In the meantime...have you wanted to join or start a book group? Email email@example.com with your proposal or interest, and I will try to connect people with like interests together. There are a number of people who would still like to read Braiding Sweetgrass, and An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States, as well as others!
Young Adults Religious Education
Young Adults Small Group Weekly Meetings on Zoom
Please join us for our weekly meeting at 8:30 pm on Tuesdays
We are currently going through a program called Spirit In Practice, which explores spiritual practices for Unitarian Universalists.
2020-21 RELIGIOUS EDUCATION PROGRAM ANNOUNCEMENT REVISION COMING SOON Would you like to volunteer to teach in religious education? Contact the LRED at firstname.lastname@example.org let her know of your interest!
Summer Religious Education for Families @ 11:30!
This summer, we will be offering a program exploring wonder, mystery, and the idea of "miracles" that is open to families! Parents and kids are invited to participate together in this multi-generational program, led by Erica Shadowsong. We will think about what the word "miracles" means, what it means to us, extraordinary, and ordinary, everyday experiences. This program runs until 8/30. Sessions are 30 - 45 minutes. Zoom link will be sent out to the parent email list; please email email@example.com be added to this list and receive relevant religious education announcements.
Are you worried about your children starting school during these uncertain times? Do you need someone else to help to engage your child? Would you be interested in having an adult church member paired with your child for tutoring, storytelling, or even as a pen pal to practice writing?
Are you interested in helping a child at our church by tutoring, telling a story, or being a pen pal?
If you could use such help for your child or would be interested in volunteering to be paired with a child, please contact Stephanie Pawlowski at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stephanie will collect names and send out a survey to determine the specific needs of the families and the availability and preferences of the volunteers. Because everyone has different needs, this relationship could be in person or online. Providing your name does NOT guarantee a match. It all depends on the number of people that would like to get involved and their specific needs and availability. Let’s help each other!
Covenant group Opportunities
Consider joining or creating a virtual covenant group.
If you are interested in joining or creating a new covenant group, you can complete a Covenant Group interest formor contact Alice Bright : email@example.com
Perhaps this should be ‘How ARE you UUing the VOTE? I hope many of you have found ways to fulfill the directive articulated by the UUA in February that we “speak with moral courage and act with prophetic clarity in the 2020 elections. …... We are needed to register, talk to, and bring out voters who share our values. We are needed to hold our elected officials accountable and to question candidates and urge them to act for justice.” We have less than 90 days before the election on Nov. 3. It is time to get out there and assure people are registered and aware of the deadlines for requesting Absentee or Vote by Mail ballots!
Reflecting on Donovan Hayden’s message on 8-26, ‘Protesting Racism as Spiritual Practice’, perhaps our work to UU the VOTE might be a Spiritual Practice and viewing it through that lens adds a deeper sense of purpose to the actions we choose. There are options, in spite of the limitations of this pandemic. There are writing letters and postcards, phone banking, text messaging, and working with campaigns as you individually choose. You pick the medium that best fits your skills and allows you to effectively UU the VOTE.
Vote Forward, https://votefwd.org/, is recommended by UU the VOTE, UUA organizers. They focus on Democratic-leaning registered voters who are unlikely to vote and have over 150,000 names on their list in PA to encourage voting on Nov. 3. Their system is easy-register, sign-up for letters, copy, add your personalized message, and mail in October.
The Sierra Club has groups that are texting, phone banking, and writing letters. If you choose any of these activities you can join their SLACK group and receive information on all of these. You can sign up to write letters at sc.org/RequestLetters. Their letter format is similar to that of Vote Forward. They have recently broadened their text message to include anti-racism as well as environmental concerns and begun to focus on PA.
Postcards to Swing States, www.Postcards2SwingStates.com, is an effort that only requires you to write a script (personalize as room allows), address, add the 0.35cent stamp to free postcards designed for the state you choose, and mail in October.
I ordered 200 (one of my optimistic moments!) and several 1st UUers have taken 120 of them. If you want some of these I will get them to you with their addresses and instructions.
League of Women Voters, Pgh Chapter, is a non-partisan group adapting to not being able to educate and register people in person. Their Voter Service Committee is being creative; I am working with a sub-committee to place registration and voting information flyers into 172+ Senior Housing complexes in Allegheny County. Other sub-committees are organizing to distribute information via Food Services, Schools, Colleges, Universities, Churches, and developing Candidate Forums. If you are interested in working with any of these efforts, I can provide links for contact.
PIIN, with whom 1st Unitarian has a long association, has held two pieces of training to introduce an Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) strategy to contact potential voters, either within our congregation, other PIIN congregations or marginalized neighborhood or groups. The IVE strategy focuses on asking open-ended questions to identify a person’s concern(s). The short-term focus is on getting the person to Vote and to Complete the Census if they have not already. Longer-term (after the election) the goal is to draw the person into working with others on Justice Issues. That is the Mission of PIIN to organize people and money to work on social justice issues. PIIN is developing a list of people to contact and a script for contacting people by phone, email, or text. For information on how to get involved contact Karen Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org or PIIN organizer Ronnie Cook Zuhlke at email@example.com or 412-421-5024.
Our PA UUPLAN has suggested that here in W PA we partner with PA UNITED. They work to “connect communities of color with white working-class communities in counties across Western PA around issues of equitable development with environmental protections, increasing the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and support for workers organizing in unions. ……. and building a multi-racial, working-class movement for long-term change.” We are referred specifically to Voices of Westmoreland who provide training for ‘Deep Canvassing’ phone banking similar to the IVE approach noted for PIIN. Training and outreach are ongoing weekly. The contact to register for training is Celina Culver at firstname.lastname@example.org and their Election Kickoff is Saturday, Aug. 8 from 10:30 to 11:30. Go to https:bit.ly/VOW_Kickoff to register and the link to join this event will be sent to you.
UUPLAN also encourages partisan activities via their 501c4 component, and Rick Williams has set goals to support specific critical races across the commonwealth. If you are interested in this targeted outreach for the races in SW PA, please contact me email@example.com I will forward you the list.
Indivisible is a national partisan organization with local chapters. Indivisible Forest Hills is supporting Emily Skopov (PAHD28), Pam Iovino (PASD37), and of course, Joe Biden. Others may want to work with Indivisible Squirrel Hill,firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have found other worthwhile venues to UU the VOTE, or would like more information on any of the above, please contact Becky Studer email@example.com or 412-225-9946.
Good News from the Khasi Hills Partnership
Teacher Funding Success: Thank you to all who contributed to the May Share the Plate and also donor outreach letter! We amazingly reached the goal to again fully fund the two teachers in our new-ish Higher Secondary School, with a bit extra to help begin the 2020-2021 efforts.
Student Success: We received an email this week with the good news that all 12 of our 12th grade students passed the graduation exam, three with highest division distinction and none in the third level lowest division. Our school is growing and expects 20 12th grade students in the coming year.
Thank You from India: Also in the letter were these heartwarming words to you from our contact, Barri Mukhim:
“I am so grateful to the 1st Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh for being such a big brother to our school. I can humbly and openly say that without your helping hands we cannot help our poor students. When I say poor is that they are really poor. Had it not been of the AM Barr S School, they are bound to stop their studies because they cannot afford to proceed further. Blessed are the hands that rock the cradles. Thank you Pittsburgh, thank you so much for being kind to us.”
Sharing the Plate! Is there an organization you’d like to nominate to be the recipient of our third-Sunday Share the Plate offering? Please send your nomination to Tony Rutigliano (firstname.lastname@example.org) on behalf of the Serve Council. Please include the following information:
Name of organization
Website address or other source of information
Is this a 501 (c) (3) organization (required)?
What is your involvement with this organization?
Why do you consider this an appropriate recipient for our Share the Plate offering?
Preferred month (if any)
Helping Each Other
During these trying times, members of the church may occasionally need a helping hand. The Pastoral Care Team asks you to identify ways you may be able to assist. We expect you would be called only a few times during the year. Please contact a member of the team if you are able to help.
You’ll be asked to indicate which of these you may be able to help with from time to time:
□ Providing a meal for an individual or family
In the event of a need in the congregation, you may be contacted to see whether you are available to help at that time. Your help will be appreciated!
Pastoral Care Team Contact Information:
Christine Beregi: email@example.com Phone: 412-992-1888 Jan Carlino: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 412-727-0200 Julie Childers: email@example.com Phone: 412-726-3590 Jim Cunningham: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 412-256-0205 (Co-Chair)
Kathy Miller: email@example.com Phone: 412-639-8012 (Co-Chair)
Bob Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 412-952-7772 Rev. Connie Grant: email@example.com Phone: 847-840-8542 (Church Office: 412-621-8008)
Need an answer to a question and don’t know who to ask? Want to pass along some feedback and not sure who to contact? Reach out to your Board Ombudsman Ebe Emmons. Ebe will coordinate with staff, committees, and the board to get an answer or pass along feedback. Ebe can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org