PWR Newsletter – December 2022 - Archived

Rev. Roger Butts on Tragedy in Colorado Springs, PWR Spotlight, Transitions Team Update, PWR & UUA News, and more!
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Pacific Western Region
Newsletter • December 2022
Rev. Roger Butts, UUs of Colorado Springs, and the Tragedy at Club Q


Across the Pacific Western Region, our hearts shattered at the devastating news of the assault rifle attack on Club Q in Colorado Springs, which resulted in five deaths and 25 others injured. As many of us observed Transgender Day of Remembrance, we were reminded once again of the targeting of LGBTQIA+ people, whom our faith began explicitly affirming and including over 50 years ago.
Rev. Summer Albayati, member of the PWR Team, is the primary UUA contact for both the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church (ASUUC) and High Plains Church Unitarian Universalist, both in Colorado Springs. We give thanks for her outreach to and support of those congregations closest to this recent tragedy, which was swiftly followed by the attack at the Chesapeake, VA Walmart, which we also grieve.
All Souls UU Church was a natural gathering point for LGBTQIA+ people in and around Colorado Springs after this heinous crime. Rev. Roger Butts was interviewed in the Guardian by Keri Dequine and had his opening paragraphs from that Sunday’s service published in the Colorado Springs Independent. Below is his newsletter column the following week to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Outer Banks (UUCOB) in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where he also serves part-time. During this holiday season, we acknowledge that “joy and woe are woven fine” as one of our hymns states, and we make room in our hearts and spirits for resistance, resilience, illumination, gratitude, and loving care. – Rev. Carlton E. Smith, Lead – Pacific Western Region
This past weekend (11/20/22) in Colorado Springs on Saturday night around midnight five beautiful dancing glbtq people were gunned down and murdered at Club Q, a place of safety and sanctuary.
That Sunday morning at 7 a.m., I received a call from my friend, Jessie Pocock, the director of Inside Out Youth Services, here in the Springs. “Our community needs a vigil today. Inside Out is too small. Can we use All Souls Church?” “Of course,” I said and set in motion the leadership of the church to host the vigil. I was preaching in Parker [Colorado] that morning. My co-minister Beth Elliot was covering All Souls (we both work half-time for All Souls).
The service at All Souls that morning was to have been a celebration of All Souls finishing their congregational record [as part of their ministerial search process]. Instead, they sang together and prayed together and opened the doors of the sanctuary at 11:30 a.m. An estimated 700 people came through that morning and afternoon. The Governor Zoomed in and he and his husband both spoke to the grieving crowd. The Mayor came to pay respects.
It was a powerful day. And what I’ve told All Souls is that instead of celebrating the congregational record, we lived out and embodied the congregational record. I came back right after preaching in Parker to be with my community. Jessie Pocock told me: “All Souls was the first place I thought to call.”
We provided safe space for a community in deep grief. We provided coffee and AV. We provided candles and Jimmy Johns sandwiches. We provided hugs and pastoral presence. It was enough and not enough, all at once. It is impossible to put into words the grief and anger in that church that morning and afternoon. We were all shattered, and still we showed up.
As it is with All Souls, so it is with UUCOB. All of our congregations are places of liberation and healing, a place of refuge and community. (We are not alone in that. Sunday night and Monday, progressive churches and temples held interfaith vigils that were also well attended.) But for we who call ourselves Unitarian Universalists, we know our call in this world: to be places of community (with radical openness to folks regardless of their identities), healing, and ultimately liberation (for all).

An update: After the vigil, a letter from local clergy ran in both area newspapers. You can read them here and here. And a follow up to how the letter came to be was published in the CS Gazette. Read it here. To reach All Souls UU Church, their email is

In this Issue

Rev. Roger Butts, UUs of Colorado Springs, and the Tragedy at Club Q
PWR Spotlight
Transitions Team Update
PWR & UUA News
Youth & Emerging Adult News
Pacific Central News
Mountain Desert News
Pacific Southwest News
InSpirit UpdatePWR Links
Calendar and Events
Staff Contacts
Job Postings
Youth Ministries
RE Trainings

PWR Lead
Carlton Elliott Smith

PWR Program Staff
Summer Albayati
PWR Spotlight: Janet James Gives the Scoop from Camp de Benneville Pines

For the last PWR Spotlight of 2022, we turn our attention to the only landed Unitarian Universalist camp in the Pacific Western Region – Camp de Benneville Pines (CdBP). Its origins go back to the early 1960s, around the time of the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America to form our Unitarian Universalist Association. With participation from several Unitarian and Universalist congregations in Southern California over the generations, CdBP represents a long heritage of partnership in the mountains.

Just as congregations evolve, so do camps like CdBP, which is a Covenanting Community with the UUA. Having weathered earthquakes, fires, mudslides, economic downturns and a pandemic over the decades, CdBP’s resilience remains intact, as it serves campers of all ages throughout each year.

If anyone is the “face” of Camp de Benneville Pines, it’s Executive Director Janet James, whose affiliation with CdBP goes back some 28 years. Janet graciously agreed to this interview in the lead-up to the holiday season. – Rev. Carlton E. Smith, Lead – Pacific Western Region

I know that each person associated with Camp de Benneville Pines is encouraged to reflect on their “camp story”. In 100 or so words, how would you summarize yours?

I have been camping all my life! When I was in elementary school, I would sell Girl Scout cookies to earn a spot at summer camp. I was called to be in the mountains–to be in nature. I was busy in a successful career in the city when the opportunity to work at camp came my way. I thought I was coming to help a UU friend “save her camp from closure”. I thought I would be here a few months and then go back to my life in the city. But I discovered “my place” at camp, so I reorganized my life, and I have never looked back.

Some people only think of a camp like de Benneville Pines as a place for spring and summer activities. Why should they also pay attention to camp events and possibilities in the fall and winter?

That’s what is so fantastic about a church camp that has retreats take place year-round – we experience the four seasons very differently up on our beloved mountaintop. For Southern California folks, coming up to the snow to enjoy wintertime activities is novel. One minute you are wearing your sandals and shorts at home, and two hours later you are playing in the snow at camp! In the Fall we host a number of UU church retreats and families enjoy hiking, archery, art, music, tie dye, worship, and being in community. We offer a family-oriented Thanksgiving weekend, and a folk music weekend in November which are open to anyone.

With the eventual organizational merger of the Pacific Southwest District (PSWD) into the Pacific Western Region, Camp de Benneville Pines has had to reframe its relationship to those who benefit from it. What has that looked like from your perspective?

From our perspective, we are still owned by the membership of churches located within the boundaries of the old PSWD, and we now refer to this geographical area as the camp’s Pacific Southwest Service Area. I think it is fair to say that both the camp and the churches have been busy trying to reopen and find their footing once again. Camp will be reaching out to its member churches over the next 16 months to see how we might be of service and support to them.

As we publish this month’s PWR Newsletter, our hearts break again with the news of another horrific shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub, this time Club Q in Colorado Springs. Can you say a bit about Camp de Benneville Pines as a retreat for marginalized people and their allies, including LGBTQ+ youth and families?

Beyond the camps offered under the Camp Ministries umbrella (5 annual youth camps, week-long family camp, Young Adult Camp), de Benneville Pines sponsors each fall Camp Transcend, designed for trans youth and their family members and allies. Families travel from as far away as Montana and Colorado to be a part of this meaningful community. In the spring we offer Rainbow Family Camp. This camp gives LGBTQ+ parents the opportunity to bring their kids to camp for quality family time, while developing lifelong friendships and support within the queer community. We are in contact with many of the families who have aged out of the program, and they share how they are still in contact with the families and friends they made at Rainbow Family Camp.

Is there anything else Pacific Western Region UUs and their friends need to know about Camp de Benneville Pines going into 2023?

We plan to host our first PSWSA assembly on April 21 – 23, 2023, which will follow the same format as our beloved district assembly. It will feature a keynote speaker, offer transformative workshops, and include meaningful worship and music. The camp will hold its annual business meeting on Saturday afternoon so everyone can get caught up on Camp’s status. Our deep gratitude goes to our host site, the UUs of San Luis Obispo, and the members of the planning committee. Watch for registration information coming out in the next few weeks.

In closing, I wish to thank all the churches, campers and camp supporters for their continual support of our fundraising efforts.  It has been a monumental task to raise enough money, month after month, to meet our financial obligations–insurance, payroll, utilities, etc. This re-opening year we have been operating at 1/3 to 1/2 capacity, and it does seem that the idea of being “fully operational” once again may take a few years. Through January 31, 2023, our supporters can donate to camp operations and have it matched up to $100,000. Visit our website and click on “Donate Now”. Please consider being a part of keeping the UU legacy of Camp de Benneville Pines alive and well.

Thank you, Janet! Happy Holiday Season to you!

If you’d like to follow up with Janet or learn more about Camp de Benneville Pines, email her at To suggest future PWR Spotlight profiles, email

Holiday Greetings and Update from the PWR Transition Team

Hello members of the Pacific Western Region of the UUA!  Hopefully, you enjoyed our holiday greeting. Our wish is that you have things to be grateful for, and are looking forward to whatever holiday, if any, you celebrate in December!

You may remember that last year at this time, the Mountain Desert District and the Pacific Southwest District were hoping to combine by the end of 2021. Both their memberships had voted to merge. The Transitions Team of the PWR had formed a bylaws task force to draft bylaws for the new entity, and they worked diligently to meet the target deadline of December 31. And even though the original merged entity would consist of the two districts mentioned above, both the Transitions Team and the Bylaws Team had members from all four districts. It is our hope that once the new entity is formed, it will truly become region-wide, and we wanted to have region-wide input from the start.

However, it soon became apparent that the deadline was an artificially imposed one, and that it would be better in the long run to take more time and do it right. In that spirit, the Transitions Team – both volunteer and staff members – continue to meet regularly. The discussions have been designed to build a strong foundation of trust as well as examine governance structures that encourage us to fully, boldly live into our UU values.
We are striving to be as transparent as possible! If you have any questions, please feel free to email the Transition Team, and one of us will answer you as soon as possible.

In faith,
Your PWR Transitions Team

The PWR Transition Team is Bob Miess (Pacific Central); Mary Nordhagen and Rhoda Whitney (Mountain Desert); Aria Curtis (Pacific Northwest); Kia Bordner and Keith Strohmaier (Pacific Southwest) and Revs. Carlton E. Smith and Ian Evison (PWR Staff). If you would like to reach out to the Transition Team, please email us at

FOUNDATIONS: Skill Building Series for Congregational Leaders
This series of PWR-hosted webinars in October to December will equip leaders and potential leaders in congregations with skills to lead their congregations effectively, relationally, and focused toward transformation and liberation. These leaders and potential leaders will connect with one another and foster a sense of connectedness with the region and larger UUA. Some sessions will be role specific; many will support every type of leader in our churches.
1st and 3rd Tuesdays ( 2:00 PT) and Thursdays (6:30pm PT) – each topic offered twice
  • Dec. 6th & 8th Governance: Beyond Robert’s Rules
    Is there life beyond Robert’s Rules? For some of our congregations, life is thriving without Robert’s Rules. If you want to know more, and bring more possibilities to be more inclusive within your congregational governance system, then join us for this wonderful workshop where we will explore life beyond the norm.
Register via Wufoo once for the entire series, and join when you can for what serves you.
Elements for a Holiday Season Service Now Available!

In response to requests for pulpit time from my September newsletter blog, the PWR staff is offering the following elements that can be used for a Sunday service: A “For All Ages” by Annie Scott, CRE; the poem “Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye read by Rev. Summer Albayati, and: a sermon, “Lessons from Gate A-4”, made of reflections from Dr. Melissa James and Revs. Sarah Millspaugh, Sarah Schurr, and myself, Carlton E. Smith. Here is the blurb for that service:

“Lessons from Gate A-4”
Pacific Western Region Staff Team
In her poem “Gate A-4”, Arab-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye shares an account of distress, compassion and community as she is called to interpret Arabic for a fearful traveler at an airport. As many of us take to the highways, airways and railways this November and December, the PWR Staff has put together a worship service that touches on the themes of the poem, and questions such as Who are we called to care for? When do we answer the call to serve? Where might we be surprised by grace?

This content is now available (free of charge) to all congregations for Sunday services! A version with captions in English is available now, and a version with Spanish captioning will be available soon. Sign up here for access.

UUMA/UUA Neurodiversity Skill Up Series

This series is jointly supported by the UU Ministers Association and your UUA staff. It is aimed at religious professionals but open to all. Religious educators can get credit for credentialing and UUMA members continuing education credit.

Save the date: January 24 1-3pm ET/10am-12pm PT with the Rev. Leela Sinha.

Rev. Leela Sinha (ze/zim/zir) is a brown, queer, genderqueer, entrepreneurial community minister with a theology of pleasure and a habit of transformative mischief. In zir work, ze offers leadership coaching, training, and keynotes, working with leaders and organizations to develop and delight in the power and intensity we have, and to use that power for good. Zir book, “You’re Not Too Much” came out in 2016. Ze has been a UU all zir life, and lives and works in the Bay Area. Check out zir’s work with zir Sinha Intensive/Expansive Framework, work supporting teams and individuals working together, and podcast The Intensives Institute. We’re excited to welcome Leela because zir’s framework of supporting individuals and teams in embracing their strengths and working together even with different brains does not depend on medical diagnosis. Find out if you’re an intensive or expansive!

While you wait, you can download past presentations from the UUMA’s website or access the first in the series with Rev. Heather Petit.

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