PWR Newsletter – November 2022

PWR Spotlight, Chalice Lighters Update, PWR & UUA News, and more!
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Pacific Western Region
Newsletter • November 2022
PWR Spotlight: Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevens Counters Christian Nationalism in Northern Idaho
“Pastor Seeks to Make Moscow, Idaho A “Christian Town”. That YouTube video title intrigued me enough to click on it. As I watched, NBC news correspondent Anne Thompson interviewed Douglas Wilson, the Senior Minister of Christ Church, who is campaigning to make the liberal college town a haven for evangelical Christians – a place where same-sex marriages would not be allowed and men would be affirmed as “little kings” of their households who dominate their wives and children.

Then I heard a voice of reason. My ministerial colleague Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevens, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse there in Moscow, described the congregation as a “dominionist cult” that represents patriarchy as it fights a culture war. A stained glass window at the Church of the Palouse is of a flaming chalice surrounded by the rainbow colors of LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Meanwhile, Senior Minister Wilson operates a thriving publishing enterprise, which includes hundreds of books for evangelical Christian parents homeschooling their children.

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth and I have known each other for decades now, going back to her seminary days at Starr King School for the Ministry in the late 90s, while I was serving as one of the ministers at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. I was delighted when she agreed to an asynchronous interview for this month’s PWR Spotlight. – Rev. Carlton E. Smith, Lead – UUA Pacific Western Region

Rev. Carlton E. Smith: You’ve been Minister at the UU Church of the Palouse for a decade now, since the beginning of President Obama’s second term. How has Moscow changed over that time, and the congregation in relation to it, particularly as that regards Christian nationalism?

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevens: Like much of the country, Moscow has become more polarized. The right-wing extremists here in town make up less than 10 percent of the population, but they are very noisy and aggressive. The congregation has responded by living out loud. Our UU values are on display literally and figuratively. We have a reputation in town for making good trouble! In responding to the offensive and bullying behavior of Christ “Church,” the Dominionist cult, it feels vital to us to have our faith community embody and proclaim progressive values AS religious values.

CES: Douglas Wilson’s rhetoric is very much geared toward a pre-1960s world, before the modern women’s movement, the LGBTQIA+ movement, legalized reproductive choice, and desegregation. Where are you seeing the impact of his agenda? Who in the congregation and the larger community is most affected?

ES: Doug Wilson aims to shock and offend, and he is largely successful in this.  However, what’s more concerning are the ways cult members are bullying our City Council. Their protests of the mask mandate were vicious and targeted specific city leaders. It was disgusting! Many of us are also worried about the amount of real estate the cult is buying up. They’ve already forced several beloved local businesses to move or close their doors permanently. I’m also in touch with organizations supporting women and children trying to escape the cult. They are the most heartbreaking victims.

CES: So many of our congregations across the region and the country are liberal outposts in conservative states and particularly college towns like Moscow. What advice do you have for UU congregations where the rise white Christian nationalism is active and spreading?

ES: It’s a tricky dance.  On the one hand, responding to the outrageous and shameless promotion of Christian Nationalism feels like a waste of time and energy. I mean, who even takes these ideas seriously anymore? On the other, real people are being harmed, so we have to do something. I generally think it’s more effective to be ‘louder’ about what we believe than it is to argue with the ideologies we oppose. Clarity around what we are for is more effective than attacking the beliefs we are against. The Christian Nationalists are particularly good at playing victim.

CES: Where are you finding hope in the midst of the struggle toward justice, equity and compassion?

ES: My congregation is amazing. When I look out into the sanctuary on Sunday morning, I see so many good hearted, deeply faithful people, all of whom are quietly going about making a positive difference in our community as they are able. We recently completed a 2.4 million dollar renovation and expansion- quite an accomplishment for a congregation with less than 200 members! No one wastes time or energy on fake fights.  We just do church well, and trust that what we do, matters.

CES: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

ES: I think these times demand deeper relationships between congregations, especially those in rural areas. Idaho has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, so we will need help getting pregnant people across state lines to access the care they need. We may also need to get trans folks and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community to safety, if things keep going the way they are in the Idaho Statehouse. Those of you living in states where basic human rights are respected? We’ll need you to open your hearts and maybe your homes to people who are under attack from extremists like Doug Wilson.

CES: Thank you, Rev. Dr. Elizabeth!

ES: And thank you!

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stephens can be reached at revehstevens@gmail.com. If you have an idea for PWR Spotlight, email pwr@uua.org.

In this Issue

PWR Spotlight
Chalice Lighters Update
PWR & UUA News
Youth & Emerging Adult News
Pacific Central News
Mountain Desert News
InSpirit Update

PWR Links
Calendar and Events
Staff Contacts
News
Job Postings
Youth Ministries
RE Trainings

PWR Lead
Carlton Elliott Smith


PWR Program Staff
Summer Albayati
Chalice Lighters Update from the PWR Transition Team

Greetings! I am Mary Nordhagen, a volunteer member of the Transition Team of the Pacific Western Region. I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Missoula, MT. I am writing with exciting news of the status of Chalice Lighters in the region.

As many of you know, Chalice Lighters began in 1984 as a way for individual Unitarian Universalists to support projects and programs within and among UU congregations by donating $10 or more three times a year. Once a District’s Chalice Lighter Team approved a project, a “call” would go out to participating UUs who would then write checks and send them to help meet the Chalice Lighter goal.

Most recently in the Districts of the PWR, three separate District calls were held each year, with the proceeds going to help a congregation in the District. These calls had varying degrees of success, especially between Districts. With each of the four Districts in discernment and negotiation with each other about the future of the Region, recurring issues include the evolution of Chalice Lighters in the geographic areas represented by each District and funding for projects of particular importance to each of the current District Boards.

The members of the Transition Team envision a Regional Chalice Lighters program that does the following:

  • Builds on the successes of the District Chalice Lighters programs
  • Honors and affirms the generosity of current Chalice Lighters
  • Focuses on generous giving to the program itself, rather than to specific projects
  • Reflects the priorities and needs of the different areas within the Pacific Western Region
  • Standardizes grant amounts, which supports congregational financial planning
  • Streamlines and clarifies the application process
  • Allows for low-risk investment in experimental and emerging ministries, including those that might otherwise be marginalized
  • Centers marginalized groups and projects at each state of the Chalice Lighters process
  • Benefits from sustained and sustainable PWR/UUA staff support

To move this from a vision to reality, a Chalice Lighter Helping Circle (a task force in sociocracy) is being formed – stay tuned for news from them!

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 transitionsteam@pwruua.org.

PWR & UUA NEWS
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
  • Nov. 1st & 3rd – Sustaining leadership: leadership succession planning & development
    Oh, no! Who will be president next year? Who will take on worship? If this feels like an annual anxious and typical experience for your congregation, then come and learn about planning for leadership succession and subtle ways to develop more leaders within your congregation.
  • Nov. 15 & 17 Elements of a congregation: Understanding the parts and roles that make up your community (good for sabbatical planning, lay-led, and sustainable ministry)
    Who does what in this congregation? What do we need? What can we live without? If you are interested in how you will cover every aspect of ministry now that you are facing sabbatical/departure of a minister or being unintentionally lay-led, then this is the workshop for you.
  • 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.

Join us Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm EST for a panel presentation and Q&A focusing on supporting neurodivergent children and youth. Learn with Katie Resendiz, Rev. Sierra-Marie Gerfao, April Rosario, and Meredith Plummer. Between them they have extensive experience across many kinds of neurodivergence and decades of experience with neurodivergent children and youth inside and outside UU congregations. We recommend having watched at least one of the first three sessions and read the recommended 101 document to get the most of out this experience. You can find all previously recorded sessions on the UUMA Store Front and you will receive the 101 document when you register for the November 16th viewing. It’s worth registering even if you can’t attend because you will be sent the video in advance, can submit questions to the panelists and will receive a recording of the Q&A. Subscribe to our announcement list to be notified of future events and resources. Visit the Neurodivergence Skill Up Series main page for more information.

Article II Study Commission Draft Feedback Sessions

The Article II Study Commission is excited to share a full draft of Article II (PDF, 3 Pages) for feedback. The Study Commission’s outreach team will be hosting Zoom feedback sessions in the first half of November, along with gathering feedback through a forthcoming online form for individual comments. To register for one of the eight Zoom sessions, visit our website.

Widening the Circle of Governance in Congregations: Sociocracy
Webinar Saturday December 3 1p-3p ET/ 12p-2p CT/11a-1pm MT/10a-12p PT

Congregations wanting to move to inclusive and engaged decision-making are exploring Sociocracy.
We will share an overview and some real-life examples, followed by Q&A and more resources.
This webinar is co-sponsored by Sociocracy for All, and is open to any faith community looking to dismantle systems of white supremancy in their governance system. Learn more here.
Call for Nominations for the Distinguished Service Award

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