Beacon on the Hill, February 2020
From the Ministers
From the Board of Trustees
From the Executive Director
From the Treasurer
Social Justice Council
Buildings & Grounds
Partner Church Committee
From the Kitchen Team
From the Ministers
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: . . . The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process.”
The fifth principle of the UUA, the association of which our congregation is a part, speaks about our commitment to a form of decision-making that gives all people a vote in the most important matters we decide.
For us as UUs, this is a commitment both to how we work in our congregations and also in our larger communities, all the way up to our nation.
In our congregation, we practice this in congregational meetings, in which every member of the congregation (with a caveat: members must have been part of the congregation for at least 60 days before the meeting) gets to speak and vote on matters. A reminder: if you have been a member but have not made a financial contribution to the congregation in the last year, your membership is in jeopardy and you won’t be able to vote at the meeting! It is a requirement in our church for members to make an annual contribution – you can do this in one of many ways, so long as we know that the money you give is from you (i.e. a check, or money in an envelope with your name, stock transaction, PayPal payment, etc.).
We want everyone who should be able to vote to participate!
This month we have our chance to participate directly in the democratic process here in church at our congregational meeting. At the February meeting, we elect new leaders for our board. Our nominating committee has proposed a slate of candidates picked from a long list of possibilities, and we also have two candidates running by petition.
We also have a chance, for the third time in as many years, to ordain a minister. In the recent past, we have ordained our former interns Amanda Weatherspoon and Zackrie Vinczen. Our current Acting Director of Family Ministry, Catherine Boyle, is a recently fellowshipped minister, and has asked us to ordain her. In the UU tradition, only a congregation can ordain a minister, and to do this, we vote as a congregation to make that decision. We urge our members to ordain Catherine, who has been a great addition to our congregation’s staff and is fully vetted by our association for the ministry.
At a larger level, we support access to voting in our government at all levels. This year, with an extremely important presidential election coming up this fall, UUs across the country are coming together for “UU The Vote” (uua.org/liberty/electionreform), a joint effort to promote democracy by engaging in voter registration, election reform, protecting voting rights and democracy, and Get-Out-the-Vote drives this year.
Revs. Christian and Kristin
Worship Services in February
Sanctuary, 11 am on Sundays
Theme for February: Courage
February 2: Eyes Wide Open, Rev. Kristin preaching. As the impact of the climate crisis continues to grow, it is tempting to look away, focusing our energy instead on problems that feel small enough to solve. This week in worship, we will consider how our liberal religious values are calling us to engage the impending catastrophe courageously. Show up this Sunday and commit yourself to showing up for our planet. There will also be a family-oriented Celebration Chapel on the theme of “living with courage” after the Time for All Ages.
February 9: Speaking Out, Rev. Christian preaching. Unitarian Universalists have a long tradition of advocacy, public engagement, and refusing to be quiet in the face of injustice. Learn more about how we can be a voice for compassion, mercy, and justice in our world right now.
February 16: Finding Silence, Rev. Christian preaching. It takes discipline and courage to admit that you don’t know something or aren’t the right person to tackle a particular challenge. Being an effective presence for change in our world can also mean learning when to be quiet and listen and when to support others’ work. Part of a healthy spiritual life is learning when to do this.
February 23: Centering Different Stories, Rev. Kristin preaching. Join us this week as we celebrate Black History Month through story, song, preaching, and personal testimony. This is a service for all ages, and childcare is available in the Nursery for babies and young children.
Good Neighbor for February (sharing our offerings):
Mission: “Regina’s Door is proud to be a healing artistic space of love and compassion in Oakland, and we are honored to be a sanctuary of solace for survivors of sex trafficking, young creatives, at-risk youth, homeless youth and women.”
Sunday mornings, 9:30-10:45 am, September to May, Fireside Room
February 2: Rev. Kristin Grassel Schmidt, UUCB Senior Co-Minister, will give a seminar about Eyes Wide Open: Courage in the Face of the Climate Crisis. As natural catastrophes grow in intensity and frequency here in California and around the world it is all too easy to look away, allowing tragedy to become part of the white noise of world suffering. Rev. Kristin will talk about a faith-based approach to the climate crisis, and how our religious values will be crucial to protecting and growing human equality amid disappearing resources.
February 9: Catherine Boyle, UUCB Acting Director of Family Ministry, soon to be ordained as a Unitarian Universalist Minister, will speak on Ancient Practices, Modern Illumination, discussing how ancient Pagan and Christian practices influence her modern spiritual practice and highlighting the early February celebration of Imbolc and Candlemas.
February 16: Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox is a world-renowned theologian, the founder of the University of Creation Spirituality in California, a writer of about forty books, a visiting scholar at the Academy for the Love of Learning and the recipient of numerous awards, among which are the Abbey Courage of Conscience Peace Award (other recipients being the Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, Ernesto Cardenal and Rosa Parks), and the Ghandi King Ikeda Award. He will discuss The Tao of Thomas Aquinas.
February 23: Nori Hudson, BA, MBA, is a Nutrition Consultant, owner of Radiant Vitality, a Community Volunteer, and an Educator; she has taught at Bauman College in Berkeley, John F Kennedy University, Albany Adult School, and San Quentin Prison. She will discuss Nutrition as a Spiritual Practice.
For more information contact Gloria Merrill (firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-527-2681). Personal Theology Committee: Gloria Merrill, Barbara Rockhold, and Anne Wardell; Publicists: Kit Hewitt and Charles Wright; and Audio Technicians: Dwight Merrill, Mac Lingo, and Charles Wright.
Sundays, 12:30 pm, Safir Room
A discussion group to explore our humanity, values, ideas. “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” (Fourth principle of Unitarian Universalism.)
Format (most weeks): A 10- to 15-minute presentation followed by moderated, timed discussion and a potluck at 2 pm (bring a dish to share or donate $5). Newcomers welcome! Contact Harold Ogren with any questions.
February 2: How can we ensure a response to climate change?, Lee Lawrence
February 9: Selection of next month’s topics plus short topics drawn from a hat.
February 16: Mysteries of science and religion, Stan Klein
February 23: The anthropic principle: Do we live in the best possible world?, Harold Ogren
Sat. and Sun. Feb. 1 and 2: Love Songs and Chocolate! on February 1 at 7:30 pm and February 2 at 1 pm, both in the Social Hall. A full buffet of songs and delicious desserts in a bright array from Broadway to opera to jazz, all in a casual cabaret setting. Chocolate treats to satisfy the most fervent chocoholic. Tickets are $20 at the door and $15 online at https://brownpapertickets.com/event/4487037. (Between the Sunday service and the concert, small plates of food will be for sale in the Atrium to tide you over and add to the proceeds of the fundraiser.)
Sun. Feb. 9: Congregational Meeting following the worship service, with canvass kickoff, Flaming Chalice Awards, Board of Trustees election, and ordination vote.
Thurs. Feb. 20: Workshop, Introduction to Project Drawdown, 6–9 pm, Fireside Room and Social Hall. UUCB’s Social Justice Council and Pachamama Alliance Golden Gate Community volunteers will present a two-hour workshop, Introduction to Project Drawdown. Project Drawdown brought together an international coalition of researchers and other experts to identify, based on peer-reviewed literature, the most substantive solutions to global warming. We’ll learn about the wide scope of the solutions, which include our sources of energy and our transportation, the food we eat and how we grow it, how we design our cities and our buildings, how we manage our land, and how we support women and girls. We’ll connect with others to get inspired and discover new ways to contribute. Everyone is invited to gather together for a meal at 6 pm, and the workshop will be presented from 7 to 9 pm. You can enroll at https://bit.ly/UUCB-Drawdown. Please contact Sheila Tarbet for more information.
Sun. Feb. 23: Come Join in UUCB’s Black History Month Worship Service, 11 am. In song and dance, we join together to honor African American history and share stories that inspire and give us strength and hope for the future. Light lunch follows the service. For more information, please contact Helen Tinsley-Jones.
Sat. Feb. 29: Kensington Symphony Orchestra “Happy Birthday Ludwig!” Concert, Sanctuary, 7:30 pm.
From the Board of Trustees
Threshold of Real Magic
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke
Are we magical or what? I’m writing this article not on papyrus or a clay tablet. But on an enormously powerful computer. And I could be writing this while flying at 570 miles an hour! Sitting comfortably at 38,000 feet in the air in an “OMG! God-Bless-a-miracle” 747. Our inventive minds are really putting on a show, especially conspicuous in technology, and all around us is ample evidence of our capacity to do large-scale magic virtually at will.
However, this capacity has been largely hijacked by organized business, because in our socio-economic system huge profits enable the buying up and control of a huge share of the genius born to humankind. I don’t want it to be true that business folks work more and harder and more creatively to produce profit than we work to create the values that are essential for a humane and sustainable world.
I believe we stand on the threshold of a “promised land” where we learn to empower our spirit-cultivating instincts with emerging tools and understandings. Not just growing understanding of nature but of human nature as well. Where human cultivation is becoming a less haphazard and more pointed activity. Our mission statement expresses the values we seek: to create loving community, inspire spiritual growth, encourage lives of integrity joy and service. Beautiful! But what are the details of our engagement in our mission? What are we doing and how are we doing it? If our mission is truly critical then we must build the capability to achieve it at meaningful scale and with sound strategy. We must conceive ourselves as a system, an organization rigorously designed to apply our collective resources and capacities at whatever level of sophistication may be needed to achieve our mission.
Then maybe we can follow the industrial age with an equally transformational spiritual age. The real beauty of humanity will come from our humanistic values more than the mind-boggling profit of a few. So, we’re attempting to meet a critical need. What we’re doing is woven throughout every level of Maslow’s pyramid. Not just the topping.
So what does that mean for us? What are our innovations? How are we like other human endeavors using the product of our collective genius to further our mission and purpose? Are we doing the best we can on our watch? Certainly tradition has its place, however if we always let tradition rule we would be cave dwellers still. Grunting out our disapproval of the “weird” cave wall painters fervently trying to contribute the fruit of their minds. I’m suggesting a mindset adjustment where we keep the most meaningful traditions yet seek to engage our mission from a stance of continuous improvement. That’s what we as human beings do with what is most important to us.
So enter the threshold of the Twilight Zone. Imagine, if you will . . .
Would you take your mind on a jaunt “out-of-the-box” to dream of the church we can be if we think with the full wealth of human knowledge and ingenuity. Be the sci-fi author just a few minutes and envision some futuristic feature that might be a part of our evolving inventive movement into the future. Possibly producing positive impacts that were not imagined a century ago. Don’t judge, just brainstorm. If some idea that occurs to you makes you laugh, gasp, toss your eyebrows into arches, then write the idea or the wish on a bit of paper and put it in my mailbox. Among us are all the ideas we need if we give ourselves permission and invitation to give them up to our community brain and see what we think together. Know that the vision of our church is not restricted to the vision of the board of trustees. Perhaps there is a spiritual Steve Jobs or Grace Hopper among us.
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.
Six months ago, I first stepped onto the UUCB campus and met all of you, a congregation dedicated to living the values of love and justice out loud and fostering a future for our faith in your children and grandchildren. As we explore the theme of courage this month in our worship services, I lift up hope as the fuel of courage. In the face of the climate crisis and the global spread of authoritarianism, hope is inoculation against the stagnation of despair. To believe this world can and should be better not just for our children but for all children is a radical act because it spurs folks to action. So thank you, for hoping with me and daring to dream of a beloved community for all people young and all the world round.
My personal dream for my ministry always included religious education and making our churches home for families, children and youth. Before I attended seminary, I served as an RE and OWL teacher. After seminary, I served as a Director of Religious Education at UU Silver Spring before joining the staff here. The education and empowerment of young people to learn and live their faith deeply is the heart of my dream for ministry, a dream I’ve seen in the youth of UUCB in our food drive, in the in-depth reflections of the people on the R3 committee and in the actions of our RE teachers each Sunday morning. I want to make the dedication to this ministry and dream between you folks and I by being ordained by UUCB.
On February 9, 2020, we will have a congregational meeting with the question to ordain me up for a vote, meaning I would become Reverend Catherine Boyle. I hope you join arms with me in officiating this ministry on this date.
From the Executive Director
Tess Snook O’Riva, Executive Director
It has been an interesting month. I have mostly recovered from my emergency appendectomy, but I am still trying to take it easy. The UUCB staff and volunteers have been very supportive of me during this time and I am extremely grateful.
As I look at the worship theme for February – Courage — I think of all the courageous work being done here at UUCB. In my many years in government and nonprofit work, it was extremely rare to see people lift up, discuss, and engage in really difficult topics. In the past month, I have seen UUCB’s two most contentious topics addressed head on, and I think it’s important to recognize not just the outcomes, but the process and the efforts of the courageous people involved.
The Locations task force, which had divided to delve deeper into the research and came back together to coordinate their recommendations, have presented to the Board. Although the full recommendations are not yet published, I had an eye-opening learning: We can’t sell the Lawson Road location, get another location, and still have extra money to put in the Endowment. There are too many unknowns in this location for a buyer to pay top dollar. At best, we would break even. Let’s state that clearly . . .
We are not moving off the hill in the foreseeable future.
It was a hard question to ask, and some people responded very emotionally to even asking it, but we should be proud that we had the courage to ask it. If we aren’t continuously engaging in self-reflection as an institution, we are limiting our ability to ensure we remain relevant and able to devote ourselves to our mission in the best way possible.
The other big issue that has been plaguing UUCB is the Freestone Retreat. I have heard from the Freestone Committee and other leaders of the congregation that not having a definitive plan of action and the lack of forward motion had contributed to a complete impasse and a heavy weight on the hearts of all involved. At the end of January, the Board asked me to facilitate a discussion and help find a way forward. The two dozen people attending came prepared with questions and research, listened deeply, and participated fully in the discussion. We dug deep into our creativity to name every possible option for the retreat property. I will be giving a full report of the meeting at the full board meeting February 5th. We will move forward.
I am proud to work for an organization that will ask the hard questions and leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of our mission. It reaffirms the bravery behind being Unitarian Universalist. We don’t take the easy path. We find our own answers.
“Real courage is being afraid but doing it anyway.” – Oprah Winfrey
The Coordinating Team advises the ED and meets on first and third Thursdays from 10 am to 12 noon. Starting in February 2020, meetings will be on second and fourth Thursdays. If you’re interested in attending, please contact the Executive Director to verify meeting time and place. Questions for the CT? Email ED@uucb.org.
From the Treasurer
We are now halfway through the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year, and the new Finance team of Tess O’Riva, Diana Steinbach, Monte Meyer and Philip Smith of Shining Star Consulting, and myself are gaining a foothold on the UUCB finances. The UUCB books have not been audited since 2015 and given the tumultuous financial events in the last year it is more than prudent to audit the books. They will require a review of the books by a CPA who is skilled at audits, and the review in turn will require books that are in reasonably good shape. I hope we can move the audit process forward by March.
There are a few items worth noting concerning UUCB finances.
- Most importantly, pledge income through December was less than budget by $ 115,097. The good news is that this shortfall did not include $ 21,743 in pledges from stock, and about $ 60,000 in pledge payments were deposited in January. Nonetheless, pledges are still $ 33,000 less than budgeted. I don’t have a good reason for this, but I think the Board of Trustees needs to address this problem.
- There are also shortages in cottage rental income, preschool rental income, and community use rental income. As a result, total income is less than budget by $ 27,327.
- Total expenses are close to the budgeted amount.
- The bottom line is that I am now projecting a deficit of about $ 4,000 if the rest of the year continues as planned.
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 ensure 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 mattersserving as ambassadors to the congregation by providing accurate and understandable financial information
- 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 email me or call me at (510) 558-0842 or (510) 502-6244.
Love Songs and Chocolate on February 1 at 7:30 pm and February 2 at 1 pm, both in the Social Hall. This beloved annual event is full of beguiling songs and tempting treats, all in a relaxed, cabaret-like setting. Come enjoy the tunes and taste of the delights. Another fundraiser for UUCB; all proceeds go to the general fund.
Social Justice Council
January was another very busy month for the UUCB Social Justice Council with a lively UUCB contingent participating in the El Cerrito MLK March on January 19, holding banners and posters made by members of the congregation.
The People of Color Caucus with help from the Whites Opposed to White Supremacy will put on the February 23 Sunday Service and Lunch in recognition of Black History Month followed by the gathering of the two groups, POCC and WOWS, for recaps and path forward.
We also participated in the Women’s March, whose single focus this year is having everyone counted in the 2020 election. In furtherance of that goal, UUCB is a co-sponsor of the Reclaim Our Vote fundraiser, February 4, 6 pm, Berkeley City College Auditorium. Help fight voter suppression and hear how you can be engaged.
We also attended several community gatherings regarding the safety of 5G transmission towers and our health, culminating in the International 5G Action Day Rally and March in Berkeley.
Sheila Tarbet talked to us about the next step in our Sponsored Project, the Fight Against Global Warming. UUCB’s SJC will hold a follow-up event to the very successful “Awakening the Dreamers” environmental symposium. The workshop Introduction to Project Drawdown, based on the book Drawdown, will be held in the Social Hall, Feb. 20 with a supper at 6 pm, workshop at 7-9 pm. Free, but please sign up, bit.ly/UUCB-Drawdown, so we can prepare. In the workshop, we’ll learn about researched solutions to global warming and begin to think about what each of us can do to support them. Both sponsored project workshops are based on materials used all over the world and developed by the Pachamama Alliance.
Camille Parker put out the schedule for the 2020 Literature, Film and Drama Contingent meetings: the first Sundays of the month, 12:30–2:30 pm. You can find the schedule on the SJC table and in the Atrium.
The LFDC ushered in 2020 discussing a book with 31,000 reviews on Amazon: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, led splendidly by first-time LFDC attendee Susan Blair, followed by a rousing sing-along of Woody Guthrie’s “Crawdad” song, led inimitably by Cordell Sloan, and Smiley Nelson on guitar, with Dorothy Herzberg on bongos, and the LFDC chorus.
In celebration of Black History Month, The LFDC will be discussing Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, on February 2, 12:30 pm in the Fireside Room. All are invited to attend.
NOTE: In preparation, have a listen as Ms. Morrison discusses her book: https://podtail.com/en/podcast/oprah-s-supersoul-conversations/–the-oprah-winfrey-show-toni-morrison/.
Come to the next Social Justice Council Potluck, Sunday, February 9, 5:30–8 pm.
Buildings & Grounds Committee
Construction of the Accessibility Ramp for the Sanctuary is moving along well. Asbestos has been abated, demolition completed, and the basic frame for the ramp is done. We hope to have the dust enclosure down soon, but we are already back in the Sanctuary for Sunday worship. There will still be a lot of finishing work and inspections, so we don’t have a date for the grand opening as yet.
The A/V cabinet that will house the rear projector and associated equipment is being installed in coordination with the ramp construction. The electrical outlets now blocked by the ramp will be replaced with new ones near the music room door for the cabinet and under the lectern for speakers to be able to use a laptop from the chancel.
The cottage did not have any evidence of substantial asbestos and it was determined that the red tagging was in error. Remodeling is now back on track and inspections are scheduled.
The County asked for an additional item to be able to remove the next 20 trees from our property. They need a bond from us, which is basically money that they hold until we prove that we’ve replanted trees like we said we would. We are awaiting final approval.
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.
Partner Church Committee
Hey, here’s the itinerary for our pilgrimage to Transylvania next year. It’s still a work in progress, but it gives you 90 percent of where we’re going.
We begin in Budapest starting June 9. After three days we head into Transylvania for another three days in Koloszvar, where the Hungarian Unitarian Church is headquartered. Our route to the medieval city of Sibiu will take us through the village of Torockό, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s the town with two sunrises at certain times of the year. After Sibiu we stop in Vlad the Impaler’s birthplace, Segesvár. When the main tour group arrives in Udvarhely on June 15, our little contingent may then head off to our Partner Church village of Homorόdύjfalu. We will most likely depart for home via Bucharest. The details for the village stay and departure point will be determined in the near future. Rejoining the main group in Bulgaria and Greece, or a Greek isles cruise are add-on options. Maybe these details will wet your whistle or whet your appetite! Join us!
Certainly, the biggest item on our agenda will be getting to know the village’s minister, and we hope to meet his fiancé. The home-cooked meals served by our host families are always a treat. Anne usually buys embroidery from the village women who still practice this art. One thing we always ask is what can UUCB do to meet the special needs of the village and the church. That is always an interesting conversation. We know of several stalled projects that we would be more than happy to give a boost forward.
From the Kitchen Team
Ann Harlow and Gerry Keenan
As part of UUCB’s effort to reduce our carbon footprint and live in accordance with our 7th principle, please help us minimize the waste we send to the landfill.
COMPOST: Deposit food waste, napkins and other food-soiled paper, tea bags, etc. into compost container outside kitchen. Though Kensington does not offer compost curbside pick-up, several members with composting at their homes have volunteered to take the church’s compost home. You can help by scraping food off your plates into the compost before placing your dirty dishes in the bin.
RECYCLE: Cans, glass containers, clean paper, cardboard, and plastic #1 & 2 bottles should be placed in a recycling container. Avoid “wish cycling”, i.e. placing other items in the recycling bin, as it may contaminate the recycling and makes the recycling workers’ jobs harder.
REDUCE SINGLE-USE PLASTIC: Most of it cannot be recycled! Instead, the majority of plastic is diverted to our landfill, where it lasts hundreds of years, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and polluting our oceans and waterways. The arrow symbol with number inside does not mean a plastic item is recyclable. For information on the plastic crisis and suggestions for reducing your plastic consumption, visit the Berkeley ecology website, https://ecologycenter.org/plastics/.
Thanks to Lucinda Young for the above information and for often taking the compost home.
We purchased “compostable” forks, knives and spoons, but have since been advised that local agencies do not have industrial composting facilities and we should not mix them in with our food scraps and paper plates.
You may have noticed that we have stopped serving Costco muffins on Sundays, because they come in rigid plastic containers and contain many artificial ingredients. Most of the produce we serve is organic.
Contributions of food for our Sunday refreshments before and after the service are welcome; a little advance notice is appreciated.
Please consider helping with kitchen cleanup on Sundays, so that we can avoid using disposable food ware whenever possible. Contact Ann Harlow or Gerry Keenan if you would like to help clean up on regular or irregular Sundays.
Many thanks to our frequent kitchen “cut-ups” Mickey Conley, Markate Daly, Barbara Daniell, Kris Homme, Brian and Miles O’Riva, Lynn Sullivan, and Nan Wemmer! We look forward to adding more volunteers to our merry crew!