Beacon on the Hill, December 2019
From the Ministers
From the Board of Trustees
Coordinating Team Notes
Social Justice Council
Partner Church Committee
Buildings & Grounds
From the Ministers
In one sense, the world around us has been preparing for the holidays for months already. The day after Halloween department stores began running Christmas shopping ads. At the same time malls, grocery markets, and big box stores erected their winter holiday displays. We began receiving end of year donation pleas weeks before Thanksgiving. Even for those of us who adore this season, it can seem a bit like holiday overload.
While the world around us bustles to make all things “merry and bright” we know this is not an easy or joyful time of year for everyone. However it is with your spirit this season, we hope you feel welcome here in the fullness of who you are— joy, sorrow, humbug or otherwise. May we all find some comfort and inspiration in the ancient stories and traditions of hope being born in hopeless times. And may we all rejoice together at all the good work happening here at UUCB to make room for hope and possibility to flourish among us in new ways.
Thanks to the generosity of Jane Lundin, preparations continue for the January installation of an accessibility ramp from the main level of the Sanctuary up to the Chancel. You can see a rendering of what the ramp will look like on the central bulletin board in the Social Hall. What a blessing it will be to have our Sanctuary physically reflect our values of inclusion and warm welcome.
You will also notice some changes in the bathrooms to help align our practices with our values. During the service on Sunday, December 15 our 4th-6th graders will graduate from OWL, our comprehensive sexuality program. In celebration of their learning and our congregation’s commitment to sexual health, education, and accessibility for all bodies, we will begin supplying menstrual care products, condoms, and diapers in all four main accessible bathrooms (those closest to the Sanctuary and those near the Safir Room) that day.
We hope to see you at one or more of our holiday services which include the Winter Solstice service and potluck at 6 pm on Saturday the 21st, a Sunday service for all ages on the 22nd about hope in hopeless times, and our candlelight Christmas Eve services at 5 and 10 pm.
Revs. Kristin and Christian Schmidt
Worship Services in December
Sanctuary, 11 am on Sundays
Theme for December: The Unexpected
December 1: Advent for Buddha, Rev. Bret Lortie, guest preacher. For many, the season of Advent is about waiting—in a period of holy discontent—for something greater than our imaginings to pull the world out of confusion and suffering. Often that power is discerned only by listening through the din of the holidays to the quiet message of hope coming to the world. (Rev. Bret Lortie currently serves as an Air Force chaplain at Travis AFB. He has served two Unitarian Universalist congregations as Senior Minister—in Evanston, Illinois, and San Antonio, Texas—and prior to ministry was a magazine editor for the Chicago Sun Times and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Rev. Lortie is married to Cindy Lortie and in his spare time plays trombone in the Solano Winds.)
December 8: When Love Makes a Boundary, Rev. Kristin preaching. This week we will hear the story of how two people with different perspectives listened deeply to one another, and how the experience empowered them in different ways. We will celebrate as our Board President changes her name and consider deeply how we are all called to listen and respond when love makes a change or a boundary.
December 15: Not Just Fire Insurance, Rev. Christian preaching. There’s an old line that religion isn’t just fire insurance—that is, it’s more than just a way to avoid eternal flames in hell. A deep, healthy spiritual foundation can help us be ready for things we could never have seen coming, good and bad. Our community aims to teach skills, foster resilience, and create relationships that strengthen us all.
December 21: Winter Solstice Service, led by Catherine Boyle and Rev. Kristin. The Winter Solstice is a time to journey inward and reflect on the lessons, joys, and sorrows from the past year. It is also a time to celebrate the light and darkness that is in each of us. Join us for a time of readings, reflection, songs, stillness, and ritual in honor of the Solstice.
December 22: Waiting in the Dark, Rev. Kristin preaching with Catherine Boyle. This time of year we remember and celebrate holidays about miraculous light shining in time of darkness. Join us this week as we worship in new and unexpected ways and consider how to hold onto hope before the miracle. This is a service for all ages.
December 24, 5 pm: Christmas Eve Family Service, Catherine Boyle preaching. In this shorter service geared toward children and families, we will hear the Christmas story, sing carols, pray, and light hand-held candles together. Everyone is invited to bring cookies to share after the service!
December 24, 10 pm: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, Revs. Kristin and Christian preaching. Join us for a contemplative yet refreshing service about what the Christmas story can mean for us today. We will hear sacred scripture, modern poetry, special music by our fabulous choir, a Christmas sermon, sing lots of carols and light our beautiful candles. All are invited to stay and enjoy the candlelight after the service has ended.
December 29: Grace in the Unexpected, Kathryn Jay preaching. “Expect the unexpected,” my mother always said. She meant that as a fair warning, as a reminder to be careful because life isn’t easy or fair. My mother wasn’t wrong. But could expecting the unexpected also be a call to mindfulness and a deeper awareness of what can happen when we pay attention?
Good Neighbor for December (sharing our offerings):
Mission: The program recruits, trains, and supports volunteer advocates as a powerful voice for the best interest of abused and neglected children during the court process, in order to help every child ultimately thrive in a stable and permanent home and complete their education.
Note: The Social Justice Council will vote on Good Neighbor recipients for 2020 on December 8—see below.
Sunday mornings, 9:30-10:45 am, September to May, Fireside Room.
December 1: Kit Hewitt, UUCB member, Facilitator for UUCB Write For Your Life Writing Group, and Personal Theology publicist. Joy: Galapagos Islands.
December 8: Lenore Ralston, has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College and an M.P.H. from UC Berkeley. UUCB Member. Two Faces of God: Elohim and Adonai: A faith-journey of a secular Jew.
December 15: Dr. Karen Voorhees, UUCB member, Fulbright Scholar, writer of essays and novels, visionary, lover of good stories, a historian by training, long-time meditator, and elder relatives’ caregiver. Death Doesn’t Exist.
December 22 & Dec 29: No sessions. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Sundays, 12:30 pm, Safir Room
The Humanist Connections discussion group meets 12:30–2 pm every Sunday. We discuss issues with social, ethical, political, and artistic implications. Topics are chosen by vote a month in advance by the group, and then scheduled for the following month. All are WELCOME to come and join in the discussion.
After the discussion, we have a potluck and further discussion. Newcomers welcome.
December’s Discussion Topics:
December 1: Manipulation by the media, Kris Homme
December 8: Second Sunday, open topics
December 15: How to the survive the holidays, Anne Fitzmaurice
December 22: Transformation, Al Kueffner
December 29: Government subsidies for fossil fuels (subsidies to oil companies are equal to the defense budget), Earl Williamson
Special Events in December
GRIP Clothing Drive
First 3 Sundays – As in the past, UUCB is having our annual Winter Warmth for GRIP clothing drive in December. Please go through your closets, or buy new items, to help clothe the GRIP (Greater Richmond Interfaith Program) residents for the cold and wet winter months and bring your items to church during the first three Sundays in December. All sorts of clothing, including new packaged underwear, are acceptable, as well as sheets, blankets and towels. A large purple basket to collect your items will be located next to the front doors in the atrium. Thank you. —Ray Westergard
Sing For Peace
Sunday, December 8, 1 pm – Young folk will lead a musical event titled Sing for Peace: a holiday concert and cookie buffet. This will be joyful and focused on secular pieces and music of peace. Featuring Katie Lipka and our dear Youth and Children’s Choir, Luminescence choir, instrumentalists, soloists and guest musicians, this is a fundraiser for the church’s general fund, as well as a fun raiser for the entire community.
Sundays, December 8 and 15, 10:30 am–1:30 pm – This year’s sale includes a lifetime’s collection of Christmas decorations along with crafts, jewelry, plants, baked goods and recycled gifts, with higher-end items and donated services in a silent auction. Please donate, volunteer, shop, bid, and invite friends! To bid in the silent auction, look up your auction bidder number on the list provided, or add your name to an available number. To donate or volunteer, contact Ann Harlow.
Help Make Holiday Bags of Remembrance
Saturday, December 14, 2–4 pm – Children and families are especially encouraged, but all are welcome to help bake and decorate cookies and make cards for those unable to join us regularly at church and our Elders 90 and better. Bring your holiday cheer, join in the fun, and help us remember and appreciate those in our hearts. This event will take place directly before our December Family Ministry’s Parents’ Night Out. Even if you don’t come to this event, you may volunteer to be a Santa and deliver one or more bags and stay for a chat. Contact Melissa Rosales or Barbara Cullinane with any questions.
Handel’s Messiah Sing-along
Sunday, December 22, 6 pm – A beloved annual UUCB tradition. Bryan Baker conducts an orchestra and soloists Marcelle Dronkers, Paul Robles, Michèle Voillequé, Phil Buonadonna, Meghan Dibble, Rod Lowe and Barry Zuckerman, and the audience sings along with the choruses. $20 at the door or at Brown Paper Tickets.
Reflections from Family Ministry
As winter arrives and darkness is creeping earlier and earlier, I am reminded of why this time of year makes us humans want to be together. No matter your beliefs, there is something in this season that draws us together.
During this holy season, we will celebrate the story of Hanukkah, the story of a people making a welcome last in their own temple, even when it seemed against all odds.
When Christmas Eve arrives, we will tell the story of refugees seeking a safe place for the birth of a child. Mary and Joseph found welcome in the inn’s door that they knocked on. The innkeeper could very well say, there is no room, sleep on the street in the cold.
We also tell the ancient story of fire birthing community on the longest night of the year, Winter Solstice. Before electricity and heat, what kept people safe and warm was the welcome of other people.
We’ll have many occasions to practice welcoming in our own congregation this month within and beyond Family Ministry:
Join the Youth and Children’s Choir on December 8 for Sing for Peace Concert to support the mission of this church. They will be singing songs that you will be sure to carry in your heart for the rest of the season.
4-6 OWL Graduation is happening on December 15 during service. We welcome these children newly knowledgeable about their bodies and sexual health. This event also celebrates the start of our new bathroom policy to ensure that all in our congregation feels welcome. There will be a presentation on this during the December 15 service as well.
Ministers and Youth Ugly Sweater Party on December 13 to decorate the church for the season. All kids in grades 6-12 are invited.
Cookie Baking Party – On December 14, there will be a cookie baking and packaging party in the kitchen from 2-4 pm. We want to make sure our friends who may be ill or unable to attend church during this season receive some holiday cheer.
I hope during this season that you emit this spirit or receive it. Life is precious. Let’s take care of each other.
Acting Director of Family Ministry
From the Board of Trustees
Hi everyone! As some of you may know, I’m back at UUCB after a year away in Minnesota. (I was the ministerial intern at Unity Church in St. Paul.) I jumped right back into church life, and I’m serving out the rest of Linda Zittel’s term on the Board of Trustees after she moved to Oregon.
So much happened at UUCB while I was away! In no particular order: there was some financial righting of the budget, along with an acknowledgement that we need to address long-deferred maintenance projects. Y’all started an up-at-the-front “prayground” for the kids so that they can experience the spiritual beauty and rhythms of UU worship and develop a clearer sense of UU identity. And conversations that had just begun about the future of the church when I left have matured into committees and transparent decision-making processes. There’s also clearly been a deepening of a commitment to racial justice and confronting white supremacy culture in the past year. And you held a congregational vote on what to do with Freestone, where a majority — but not two-thirds — voted to sell the property. It seems like an important step to a larger conversation about the future.
None of that seems easy, but, wow, what an impressive list. Really — I’m gone for a single year and so many big changes happened. I appreciate how each action, each discussion, each congregational vote reminds me–reminds us–that we’re all part of a vibrant community unwilling to rest on past laurels, that we’re open to embracing our future, that we’re ready to lean into new ideas.
Still, I know that change can be hard. Change so often feels like loss instead of opportunity, even when it needs to happen. I find myself wondering how we, as a community, can encourage spiritual growth and congregational engagement from each other while trusting that we are all acting with good intent. I wish we as a congregation had a deeper sense of trust among ourselves, a commitment to realizing that disagreements over policy don’t symbolize betrayal or dishonesty.
I agreed to sit on the Board this year because I believe in UUCB. I love so many people in this community and want us to continue to draw the circle ever wider. I agreed to serve because I want to help steward UUCB toward its amazing potential. I believe in the power of Unitarian Universalism — and the power of this church — to save lives and to transform our world. In my short time on the Board, I’ve gotten that same sense of commitment from all my fellow Board volunteers. The meetings can be long, and yes, occasionally dull, but there’s a lovely sense of commitment and camaraderie that happens in the Fireside Room. We want UUCB to grow and thrive.
Note: Each month a different member of the Board of Trustees writes this column so you can get to know them better and get a sense of the issues dealt with by the Board. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Board as a whole.
Coordinating Team Notes
Tess Snook O’Riva, Executive Director
I was warned. I was repeatedly told that being hired over the summer was designed so that I could get my feet under me before things got too busy. And now it’s busy. Crazy busy. There are so many things going on, I’m not even sure I’ll remember to tell you everything!
Let’s start off with the big happenings. Music is a huge part of our lives here, and I am really excited about the Sing for Peace youth concert on December 8th! Other than having my youngest singing in the choir, I am just giddy at the prospect of hearing Harry Potter music on our epic organ! With cookies! (Not near the organ, of course.) And with the legendary Sing Along Messiah happening on the 22nd, it looks like it will be an epic month!
As we look to improve communications, I have started posting information about large, upcoming projects on the center bulletin board in the Social Hall. Currently there’s a large color picture of the new accessibility ramp!
It’s important to point out that the ramp will make it easier for ALL those with mobility challenges to feel welcome in that sacred space. We would like to make our whole campus that accessible and are moving forward on our plans to be so. We are emphasizing an environment where people feel good energy and welcoming spaces according to where they are at that moment, from quiet spaces, to kid spaces, to gender-inclusive spaces, to boisterous spaces; we meet people where they are to serve what they need. “Come, come, whoever you are…”
And I’m not the only one. All of you are shouldering impressive loads to move UUCB forward to the next level. For starters, I definitely want to thank the participants of the November 16th work party—we got so much done! The candle wax was chipped out of the racks in preparation for the Christmas Eve service, forty 60-pound bags of cement were moved, trees were trimmed, knives were sharpened, posters were made, art was consolidated, kitchen appliances cleaned, etc. Many thanks to Lynne Cahoon for organizing the work party and providing such an awesome breakfast! The crew included: Tess, Brian, Miles, and Madison O’Riva; Rev. Christian Schmidt, with Matthew, CJ and Samuel; Lynne Cahoon; Anne Greenwood; Ann Harlow; Don Klose; Patrick Cullinane; Morgan Hall-Cottrell; Kerry Simpson; Sheldon Jones; Diana Smith; Judy Sam; Lisa and Phil Maynard; Jane Eisenstark; and Jo Maxon. I hope I didn’t forget anyone!
There’s so much going on that sometimes it’s hard to stop and plan for the future, but it’s imperative that we do so. It has been a challenge, but we are finally ready to post for the part-time Connections Coordinator position. If you know anyone who has great people skills, knows databases, and would work well with our membership, please have them call me. We are also looking for additional Event Hosts to cover rentals and events on evenings and weekends. With these positions, we will be well positioned for the coming year. Thank you all!
The Coordinating Team meets on first and third Thursdays from 10 am to 12 noon. If you’re interested in attending, please contact the CT Convener to verify meeting time and place. Questions for the CT? Email ED@uucb.org.
Report from the Treasurer
At the Board of Trustees Board meeting on September 3, I was elected to the office of UUCB Treasurer, succeeding Mary Muehlbach, who has done an admirable job in the office in very difficult financial times for UUCB. I am still learning the ropes of this position, and I have to admit the learning curve is much steeper than I thought it would be. My goal is to make the finances of UUCB simpler to understand and more transparent to everyone in the congregation. I think congregants should have as good an understanding of the finances of UUCB as they have of their own personal finances, and, to this end, I will be submitting monthly articles to the Beacon giving a very brief statement of UUCB finances.
There are two items I could use some help with. First, I firmly believe that we should have an Assistant Treasurer, and I am soliciting volunteers. Eventually, I would like to see the Assistant Treasurer become an ex officio member of the Board of Trustees, just like I am. For the time being, this will just be a volunteer position. The duties will entail becoming familiar with the accounting systems in use at UUCB, assisting me in the oversight of all UUCB funds, being available to sign checks as needed, assist in preparing reports as needed, assist in preparing the budget for the next year, preparing to ascend to the Treasurer position when the time comes.
Second, I will be reconstituting the Financial Advisory Council that played an active role in UUCB finances several years ago. The purpose this Council is to increase transparency in financial matters at the church, increase the general level of financial knowledge of the membership, and insure church members’ financial concerns are identified and addressed. The Advisory Council will do this by:
- increasing their own understanding of UUCB’s finances
- serving as a collection point for members’ financial concerns and questions, including suggestions for analyses
- acting as a sounding board for the treasurer in financial matters
- serving as ambassadors to the congregation by providing accurate and understandable financial information
If you are interested in volunteering to be Assistant Treasurer or to serve on the Financial Advisory Council, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (510) 558-0842.
Social Justice Council
November was another full month for the Social Justice Council. We held a very successful Symposium for Dreamers in collaboration with the Pachamama Alliance. The mission of the Alliance is to inspire people to work towards a socially just, environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling presence on Earth. With over 100 people in attendance and representatives from over 20 environmental groups present, we had an opportunity to look at new ways to work towards this mission. We’re planning a two-hour follow-up event in January or February to present an evening on Project Drawdown, which identifies the 100 most promising strategies to reduce global warming. Many of those attending the Symposium are interested in returning to further the work.
Nominees for the 2020 Good Neighbors have been submitted and at the December 8 meeting we will be hearing from representatives of the nominated organizations and voting for our choices.
The SJC and youth from Family Ministry completed our Food Drive to give to the Richmond Emergency Food Pantry and collected 2194 pounds of food and $4,335.
UUCB is storing four of the Tiny Houses that we helped Youth Spirit Artworks build in our back parking lot until they can go to their permanent home in April.
We had a delightful meeting of the Literature, Film and Drama Contingent after reading Lucky Boy. The author, Shanti Sekaran, was able to give us added insight into her choices and development of the narrative of her diverse characters. Participants expressed their added delight at the Berkeley setting, among familiar places and local culture. Next month we will be reading The Help, written by Kathryn Stockett.
Coming up: JOINT POCC/WOWS Lunch
Facilitators Lonnie Moseley, Helen Tinsley-Jones, Camille Parker, Julie Rogers and Jane Eisenstark invite you to join the People of Color Caucus and Whites Opposed to White Supremacy for lunch and dialogue together on Sunday, December 15, 12:40–2:30 pm in the Fireside Room. This is our way of strengthening our connections as we partner in confronting racism.
So do some shopping at UUCB’s Holiday Fair, which continues after the Sunday Service, grab your coffee or tea, and join us at 12:40!
December’s monthly potluck-meeting will be on Sunday, the 8th at 6 pm in the Fireside Room. UUCB’s social justice work comes with great food and even better company. Join us!
Music Matters – “Sing for Peace”
Two very special musical events are coming in December. One is new and exciting, and the other has a long history of joy.
*Sing for Peace! A Holiday Concert and Cookie Buffet.* Katie Lipka leads the Youth and Children’s Choir in charming songs of the season, keyboard duets from the Nutcracker, a heart-warming holiday story about a candle that connects people, Luminescence, and magical music from Harry Potter on the organ. Please come, support the young folk of UUCB, invite friends and family. An uplifting hour of music followed by delicious cookies, and it is a fundraiser for UUCB. Sunday, December 8th at 1 pm.
Our annual *Sing-Along Messiah* returns late in the month, a great chance to refresh your holiday spirit. Join hundreds of singers from across the Bay Area for Handel’s evergreen masterpiece. Soloists, orchestra, costumes, and the Sanctuary full of singers for the magnificent choruses of the Messiah. Join us in supporting the church and community outreach, and sing your heart out. Hallelujah! Sunday, December 22 at 6 pm.
Partner Church Committee
As I am writing this report for the December issue of the Beacon, it is still mid-November. Anne and I have paid our deposits for next June’s Transylvanian tour and pilgrimage. Hopefully, enough people have signed up to make it a “sure go.” And if you now find yourself wanting to go too, I’m sure we can get you signed up with no problem.
We know that learning enough about Transylvania is a hard task. Prior to my first visit in 2006 I even watched a Romanian language movie in hopes of learning something, anything. However, nothing in it really prepared me for what Transylvania would be like. Thanks to Anne we have a link through an American UU into Transylvanian Unitarian life. The website is Unitariantorch.com. The website’s creator, Dr. Robert Kokenyesi, uses this quote to express his wonder for Transylvania: “Keeping tradition is about passing down the flame, and not about worshiping the ashes.” This is what we are all about on the Partner Church Committee.
In Unitarian Torch you might find the smiling face of one of the students from Homorόdύjfalu that we help support with our Village Education Fund. (Hint: click on the link to the high school in Székelykeresztúr.) There are translations of sermons by the current and past Balázs Scholars. I found the sermon “Kolozsvar Blues” especially provocative. It’s about being fully and truly Hungarian in a city overtaken by Romanian language and culture. These are just a few of the things that draw us back again and again.
We have updated the display case in the Atrium near the restrooms. We especially want to thank Dorothy Herzberg for her donation of a handcrafted picture of a Transylvanian church as well as prints donated by Susan Toth. Everything here involves an initial leap of faith into all things Transylvanian. Contact Stephanie Ann Blythe or Anne Greenwood if you’re ready to take that leap!
Reminder: The Balázs Scholar Tea is on Saturday, December 7, at 2:30 pm at Starr King School for the Ministry. Suggested donation is $25. You can RSVP to Arliss Ungar. This year’s scholar is Rev. Elöd Szabó, here with his wife Kata and two sons.
Buildings & Grounds
We have a new chair of the Buildings & Grounds Committee, Jane Lundin. We have also moved Committee meetings to the second Thursday of the month at 3:30 pm to better accommodate people’s schedules.
The Sanctuary furnace contract has been awarded to Hassler Heating & Air and should come in under $30,000, barring complications. This is far less than we had feared. They will use existing duct work and great care is being taken to ensure the organ will not be affected. Work to start by Thanksgiving.
Additional estimates to replace the electrical system for the cottage are being pursued. We are trying to stick as close to the $60,000 revised budget as possible.
The first step of the A/V update will happen in the next few months. A rear projector will be installed behind the current screen in the Sanctuary. This will allow for re-cabling in advance of the Accessibility Ramp project and improve safety by moving the slideshow laptop to the back of the room. The choir will no longer have to step over cables on the floor.
Plans for the Accessibility Ramp have been completed. The plans will now be sent to interested general contractors and the Bay Area Builder’s Exchange for posting. Work is still targeted to happen in January. Services and events normally in the Sanctuary will be held in the Social Hall while construction is happening.
The permit has been approved by the county to remove the dead and dying trees from our grounds. Work is targeted for January and must be completed before nesting season starts February 1st.
If you have any questions or want to help out, contact Jane Lundin (510-778-9055). Or just drop in at the B&G Meeting on the second Thursday of every month at 3:30 pm.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley
Covenant of Right Relations
- We covenant to build a religious community guided by love and sustained by respectful relationships.
- Believing that building healthy relationships is a spiritual practice, we aim to listen appreciatively, speak with care, express gratitude, honor our differences, and assume good intentions.
- We endeavor to communicate directly, honestly, and compassionately, particularly when we are in conflict.
- When we hurt one another, we will try to forgive, make amends, and reconnect in a spirit of love.
- In celebration of the common purpose that unites us, we will do our best to abide by this covenant.
MEMBERSHIP in this Unitarian Universalist congregation is open to all who see this church as their religious home and the principles for which the church stands as their own. People who wish to join participate in a “pathways to membership” session, sign the membership book, and commit to supporting this church through participation and financially. To become a member, please contact our Membership Co-Chairs, Lonnie Moseley or Paul Hudson (email@example.com), or speak with one of the co-ministers.
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WEB SITE: http://uucb.org
To subscribe to the email version of this newsletter or “The Week Ahead at UUCB,” email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find both newsletters at the uucb.org website under “News.”
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