Contents

Journeying Together
Worship Services
Special Events and Announcements
Opening Task Force
Honoring Indigenous Peoples Group
Social Justice
From the Board of Trustees

 

 

From the Treasurer
Humanist Connections
Personal Theology
Partner Church Committee
From the Executive Director
Music Matters

Journeying Together

Rev. Dr. Michelle Collins

November’s worship theme that we’ll be exploring all month is Holding History. Not just “history” but “holding history.” Given that we just passed so-called Columbus Day and are coming up on the so-called Thanksgiving holiday, and with Veterans Day and the Transgender Day of Remembrance this month as well, it’s an appropriate time to take a look backwards. While we’ll be taking a larger look backwards both at American history as well as UU history in our worship services, it’s also worthwhile to take a look backwards at UUCB’s history as well as our own histories. Yes, I’m supposed to say these things as an interim, but it’s also a really good idea to do. Our history and our heritage inform who we are as a church and how we are as a church, and each person’s personal history with the congregation (and the others before that) also impact how they are here at UUCB.

One of the ways of looking back and holding our history is to think of it in terms of joys and sorrows or challenging times. In your own history here at UUCB, what is a high point or a favorite time that you can think of? What made it special for you? On the other hand, what’s a challenging time that you faced for some reason? How did you come through that? Was there anyone in particular who was there for you? And it can be helpful to think about times in other religious communities as well as UUCB. But it’s not only thinking of these times, but consider how they impact how you are at UUCB now and how these times may influence what is important to you here.

And the congregation’s history… UUCB certainly has both high points and low points. Folks will remember different times as they think through the joys and sorrows/challenges question for the history of the congregation depending on when they started coming here and joined.  The comings and goings of ministers and other staff members tend to end up in these kinds of lists.  As do moments in the congregation’s history, like UUCB’s move to its current campus up on the hill, with a myriad of issues and feelings that go with that. Holding our history means not neglecting the parts that we may not want to think about but rather embracing them all and being mindful of how they influence us today. As we move towards coming back together as a congregation, I hope that we can keep these questions in mind. There is both joy and rediscovery for how we are as a community. I am truly looking forward to SEEING you all in church.

Blessings for the journey,
Rev. Michelle

Worship Services in November

Sundays at 11 am on Facebook Live and YouTube Live

Theme for November: Holding History

November 7 – Re-Educating Ourselves. Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Don Klose. So-called “Columbus Day” was last month, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. These, along with many other aspects of our nation’s history, as well as the language that we may use, has been funneled through particular mindsets or agendas. What do they look like if we take a hard look at them with our UU justice-seeking glasses on? What are each of our opportunities for re-educating ourselves? (Ex: I grew up loving the books Little House on the Prairie and Where The Wild Things Are. What a surprise those actually were. I’ll tell you more in church!)

November 14 – What Is Our Chalice. Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Bill Brown. At the start of each of our worship services, we light a chalice. So does almost every other UU congregation. Today we’ll explore where this symbol and ritual comes from and what interpretations it carries now.

November 21 – Don’t Buy Nuthin’. Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Bob Adams. We are heading into the most consumer-oriented part of the year, the holiday season when it seems like spending often goes into overdrive. Yet our ultra-consumer-based society continues to be detrimental in many ways, both to the environment and in our own lives. Many folks and even some stores are embracing alternatives. Today we’ll consider some different ways of being for this holiday season.

November 28 – When History Is Hard to Hold. Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Cynthia Asprodites.  As we’ve taken a harder look at our history and our past, we’ve found parts that are less than comfortable to talk about and may be difficult to even bring up. What are some of these, and what can we gain by holding them up for ourselves and for others?


NO Virtual Coffee Hour immediately following worship on Sundays
Our amazing Ushers have been at the helm facilitating Virtual Coffee Hour during the last year and eight months. Their service every week helped keep us connected through a most distanced time. At the time of this publication, virtual coffee hour has gone on hiatus. Please read The Week Ahead for updates.

Good Neighbor for November

Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is an urban, intertribal, women-led trust that facilitates the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous people. Through the practices of rematriation, cultural revitalization, and land restoration, Sogorea Te’ calls on native and non-native peoples to heal and transform the legacies of colonization, genocide, and patriarchy and to do the work our ancestors and future generations are calling us to do.

Special Events and Announcements

  • The Board Listening Presence for November is Cordell Sloan. His contact information is cordellsloan@hotmail.com 510-388-1492.
  • After much listening and deliberation at a special meeting on Monday October 25, 2021, the Board decided to suspend for now the move to in-person worship services. In the meantime, worship services will move from being pre-recorded to being livestreamed from our Sanctuary on Sunday mornings at 11 am. What you see on your screen will be happening in real time! The Board asked the Opening Task Force to draft a policy recommendation about if/how vaccinations should be required, for Board consideration at its December 1 meeting. While some will surely be disappointed in the pause on in-person worship, the decision was grounded in making sure the church is carefully thoughtful about how it considers concerns around safety and inclusiveness. Read the full announcement here.
  • Families and family friends: make sure you keep an eye out on these communications because the family ministry committee and associated volunteers have some fun things coming your way as UUCB returns to in person service! We have the November movie night, some free play, great community-building games and even spiritual opportunities during the upcoming in-person church services! Hype your children up for fun and if you don’t have children, maybe you can still be part of the excitement by volunteering! Just contact the family ministry committee at fmcommittee@uucb.org

A Thanksgiving Day Letter

from UUCB’s Honoring Indigenous Peoples Group

Hello everyone,

As we did last year, UUCB’s Honoring Indigenous Peoples Group offers these thoughts at this time of Thanksgiving.

When planning your celebration, please consider that while Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday for many, it is also a painful one for many. With the persistent retelling of the story of a joyous meal between Native Americans and Pilgrims, the holiday completely covers over the reality of the history of Native Americans. In short, Thanksgiving is based on a false narrative and has been called “The Day of Mourning” by some indigenous people.

The Thanksgiving story does not typically take into account the fact that huge populations of Indigenous peoples were killed, lands stolen, and children placed in boarding schools, forbidden to speak their native languages – all in an attempt to decimate Indigenous peoples and culture.

 So, as we gather together with family and friends – in person and virtually – consider some of the following:

  • Read up on some of the history around Thanksgiving.

    One Way to Honor Indigenous People This Thanksgiving — Kajora Lovely

    How to Decolonize Your Thanksgiving Dinner

    With Thanksgiving: A Native American View

    THANKSGIVING: A Day of Mourning

    8 Ways to Decolonize and Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving

  • Include a simple dish that honors Native Americans. For example, the Three Sisters – corn, beans and squash – prepared to your liking.  “Call in the spirits of the land and ancestors. Let them know this offering is out of respect, and you can also add anything else you like. For example, you can ask that the spirits and deities continue to guide and protect their living descendants.”

  • Read a land acknowledgement during your event – we offer one here – or make one of your own!

    During this Thanksgiving holiday, we acknowledge that our home sits on land formerly stewarded by the Muwekma Ohlone people. We pay deep respect to the ancestors and to members of Indigenous peoples in the community. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide and forced removal of Indigenous peoples from this land and extend honor and recognition to those still connected to this land. Colonization is an ongoing process, and it continues to harm. We commit ourselves to continue on the long road toward true equity and liberation for all.

  • Encourage conversations with questions such as:

    How has our awareness of Native American history, especially around land theft, changed over time? How is it different from what you learned in school?

    How did our family get to where we live? To this continent, state, and city?

    What family stories do we have that are in relationship to Indigenous people?

We are thankful for our awareness of the history of this holiday and this land, and we are committed to continue to highlight and contribute to the work currently being done by and for the people indigenous to this land.

Love and best wishes for this Thanksgiving holiday,

The Honoring Indigenous Peoples Group: Mimi Bull, Carol Carlisle, Rev. Michelle Collins, Ann Harlow, Lynne Henderson, Don Klose, Wyndy Knox Carr, Helen Tinsley-Jones, Anne Wardell, Julie Winkelstein

Social Justice Council

Co-Chair’s Message

As we head into November, and take stock of all the things we have to be thankful for, I would like to share my gratitude for the fact that UUCB is a thriving, vibrant church. We have strong programs and passionate participation. But our connection to the greater world and the surrounding community is not as robust as it could be. In the recently released Widening the Circle of Concern report, it was noted that Social Justice work needs to be the work of the entire congregation. One way to reinforce this suggestion is to have more congregants involved in the Good Neighbor Program.

UUCB’s Good Neighbor program is an integral part of our congregation’s culture of giving. Each month, on the first Sunday of the month, we invite a representative from a local non-profit to come and speak about what their organization does. We hear about the ways in which the non-profit helps people in our community, and many times we learn about ways in which we can help, not only with monetary contributions, but with our volunteer time, as well.

The Good Neighbor program connects us to East Bay non-profit groups that are transforming the community in ways that work to support UUCB’s commitment to live our UU values in fighting for racial justice, healing, and transformation in our world.

If you have a non-profit organization that you wish to nominate, please contact Natalie Campbell at nataliehcampbell@yahoo.com. We need all nominations by October 31; we will vote on 2022 participants at the December Social Justice Council meeting. You can submit your nominations here.


Environmental Project

Several of us have been meeting to plan this year’s environmental project, “Restoring Our Earth for All.” We have some great ideas that we’ll share with everyone in the UUCB community as we firm them up. If you have ideas to share or you’re interested in joining our team, please contact Sheila at starbet99@gmail.com. Expect to hear more from us soon!


Literature, Film, Drama & Music Contingent

The fish were jumpin’ and attendance was high at this year’s Fishbowl Conversation.

The topic was “Race,” and three schools – identifying as white, mixed-race, or people of color – spoke poignantly and honestly in response to the bait tenderly tossed by Julia Rogers. As this “social construct” sadly continues throughout the U.S., many in the Social Justice Council wonder WHY? For more information about the LFDMC, contact Camille Parker at camilleparker@comcast.net.


November is National Native American Heritage Month, and UUCB’s Honoring Indigenous Peoples Group (HIP) promises an informative and inspiring experience on November 7 at 12:30 (Fireside Room and Zoom). They will present two short videos, featuring Ann Marie Sayers, Mutsun Ohlone leader and tribal chair of Indian Canyon, and Hopi elder Thomas Banyacya. Discussion will follow the video presentations, as we look at Ohlone history and explore our being in right relations as visitors on Ohlone land. Please contact Helen Tinsley-Jones for more information at  htinsleyjones@yahoo.com.


Youth Spirit Artworks Tiny House Village Update

The Tiny House Youth Empowerment Village is still evolving. The second bathroom trailer arrived last week. Fundraising continues for the final payment on the trailer, as well as for materials for the disability access platform. Two flatbed trailers also have arrived. They will be transformed by magical fairy elves into live/work tiny houses. Julie Winkelstein is working with YSA staff to create a mini library at the Village. Social Justice Council Project funds will be used to purchase a bookshelf. By the time you read this, a representative of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust project will have given a talk to the YSA and Tiny House community. The Social Justice Council will fund the honorarium for this event. More information about the Tiny House Village mentorship program will be forthcoming soon. For more information, contact Jim Acock at jim.acock@gmail.com.

 


GRIP’s Interim Educational Director Describes the Program

Manusiu Laulea, interim ED for the Greater Richmond Interfaith ProgramManusiu Laulea, interim ED for the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, joined us via Zoom during the Sunday service on October 10, to enlighten us about all that goes on within the organization we have supported for many years. Here is what she said:

We have three programs going on at GRIP:

  1. Resources, where people can pick up their mail, do laundry, take a shower, and have lunch. Our soup kitchen is open 365 days a year. You don’t have to be homeless to get service from us.
  2. The Care Center provides case management, information about housing, and programs that help clients find a job and/or apply for SSI.
  3. The Family Shelter: We are the only family shelter in West County besides the Bay Area Rescue Mission (BARM). The difference between our programs is that we believe in keeping families together; while BARM separate families – with men on one side of the building and women with children on the other side. Most shelters do not take single fathers, we do at GRIP. We need all the help we can get to keep the Shelter open. We provide three meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We need volunteers to help provide, cook, and serve meals. We also need of handyman and money to keep the Shelter open.

GRIP is a non-profit organization. We operate with a government grant, private donations, and funds raised from the annual Harmony Walk. And we are very grateful for all the assistance UUCB provides!

From Ray Westergard: Please join us to prepare and/or serve lunch on the fourth Tuesday of each month! We make sandwiches from about 10:45 to 11 am, and serve the food from 11:30 to 12:45 pm.  You can do either or both activities. For more information, contact me at raywest2@sbcglobal.net.

From the Board of Trustees

David Roberts

Benchmarking – How Do We Know How We Are Fulfilling Our Mission? 

Based on recommendations of the Location Task Force, in early 2020, the Board resolved “to establish an ongoing process to help evaluate how the church is doing in fulfilling its mission.” It has chosen to use the “health, vitality, sustainability, and ‘widening the circle'” of the church as touchstones for measuring areas of success and areas of concern. Benchmarks are specifically intended to help identify trends, improvements and declines, aspects warranting celebration of success, or issues warranting change in resources, policy, direction, or mission-related decisions.

The Board established a committee led by Trustees David Roberts and Cordell Sloan with the charge of working with staff, Reverend Michelle, and volunteer members for establishing the key benchmarks.

The term “benchmark” has a corporate, bottom-line connotation for many – a soul-less counting of things, events and numbers that don’t reveal the ultimate outcome in non-quantitative terms. While used most frequently in businesses, it is increasingly used in churches to better understand their communities and their impact in those communities.

Benchmarking, of necessity, involves counting. We count many things at UUCB with modest or very little effort at all – pledges, attendance, payroll, rent, volunteers, Chalice Circle members, attendees at various functions both on and off our campus. But benchmarking involves more than just counting. It also utilizes surveys, focus groups, and other qualitative evaluation methods.

Preliminary planning at UUCB include three categories of benchmarks.

Financial/Facilities – Integrity 

Financial evaluation elements are reasonably easy to collect and analyze including rentals, pledge income, bequests, and fundraising as well as key expenses including staffing, benefits, maintenance and program costs. Endowment balances, changes, and income as well as other investments are additional useful financial measures.

Internal Engagement – Joy 

Measuring the opportunities for engagement and the path to greater commitment is an important way to identify how people find UUCB, engage with us, and deepen their commitments. These include membership, number of entry and side door events and the number of attendees, participation in Chalice Circles, religious education, arts and music, and other largely internal programs.

Counting participation is one measure of impact but more challenging is measuring the qualitative elements of engagement through periodic surveys and focus groups. Quantifying our progress toward achieving the recommendations of Widening the Circle is a critical element of fulfilling our mission that is both quantitative and qualitative.

External Engagement – Service 

Understanding and measuring the impact we are achieving in communities beyond the church includes donations, number of volunteers and hours, providing church assets for hosting meetings and technology support, another equally important and countable set of criteria. The more difficult measures are once again qualitative.

Measuring the impact of UUCB’s social justice activities cannot be captured with just the numbers. Some impacts can never be measured because there is no measure for inspiration or comforting or inspiring. But just because some things are difficult or impossible to measure, doesn’t mean counting what can be counted should be avoided or diminished.

Participation

Participation by the entire congregation, friends, external partners and skilled advisors is important, first to identify our key benchmarking criteria and then planning how to analyze, integrate our knowledge, and act to make changes. We welcome input and advice from all.


Board of Trustees October Meeting Action Summary

  • Called for a special Board of Trustees meeting to determine what role, if any, vaccination status will have in attending in-person worship service. Meeting was scheduled for Monday, October 25.
  • Began work towards developing a Board vision for UUCB’s anti-racism, anti-oppression and related work, in pursuing recommendations from the Widening the Circle of Concern Task Force.
  • Appointed Suzette Anderson-Duggan, Lonnie Moseley, and Melissa Rosales as initial members, and Helen Tinsley-Jones and Kerry Simpson as Board liaisons, to the new Widening the Circle Committee, and authorized them to appoint the remaining initial members.
  • Asked for congregants willing to serve on the Audit Committee to contact Board Member Randall Hudson.
  • Authorized using funds from the Spatz and the Morgan Endowment Funds towards the ministerial intern position, as programmed in the budget
  • Welcomed Lenore Ralston as Interim Treasurer, and thanked Jessica Rider for her service in that position.

From the Treasurer

Lenore Ralston

As your new Interim Treasurer, my value-added contributions will likely be made at a macro- and a systems-level. I don’t pretend to be an accountant; my strengths are in systems analysis, quality control, and team-building.

There is, however, plenty of accounting expertise among members of the Finance Committee, Endowment Committee, and our talented UUCB staff. Further, my recent experience as Chair of the Endowment Committee, member of the Location Committee, Stewardship, and primary author of the Endowment True-up report puts me in the middle of many of the issues UUCB will be resolving this fiscal year.

The following is an overview of what, together, the various team members, on behalf of UUCB, hope to accomplish as we engage with an official Board-authorized audit:

In FY2020-2021 our finances went through a Financial Review process. The summary result was: “Based on my review [Suzanne Robinson Healy], I am not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the accompanying financial statements in order for them to be in conformity with accepted accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.” June 1, 2021.

However, a Financial Review is not the same as an audit. We have engaged Healy and Associates, Certified Public Accountants, to audit both our books and our financial management system. Since Healy did the Financial Review, they already have a leg up when it comes to a full audit.

Separately, financial highlights to date: UUCB’s Endowment Funds have grown substantially. This is partly due to the $250,000 gift from Ann Lane in September 2020. However, we also have benefited from a strong market. The UUCEF posted a composite net increase as of June 30, 2021, of 27.3%. This translates into more than $380,000 in growth across all nine funds (https://uucef.org/files/2021/08/June-Flash-Report.pdf ).

The Ann Lane fund, alone, has grown from $250,000 to ~$308,000 in 10 months.

Pledge income is up by roughly $68,000 compared to last year at this same time.

Our Executive Director procured another large Federal COVID relief grant for $107,000 (she pulled in about the same amount last year, so the above mentioned grant is the second of two huge forgiven Federal loans);

Our long-term school rentals and short-term rentals (weddings, memorial services, etc.) have both grown substantially. Our School Buildings have been rented at market-rate levels, and our short-term rentals – despite COVID – have also increased.

Last, thanks to David Roberts, Gail Simpson, and our staff, our Cottage has been remodeled and rented, bringing in $3,100 per month.

Humanist Connections

Sundays, 12:30 pm, Zoom

A discussion group to explore our humanity, values, ideas. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” (Fourth principle of Unitarian Universalism.)

We begin multi-platform meetings starting Nov. 14, that is, meet at church with Zoom access for those wanting to connect virtually. Please visit the church calendar for discussion topics.

Zoom links are available under the “Calendar” listing on the UUCB website, and are included with each week’s email notice about the upcoming discussion. For additional information contact Marcia Bates, mjbates@ucla.edu. Group managers: Susan Singh, Ray Westergard, Al Kueffner, Lee Lawrence, Kris Homme, Anne Fitzmaurice.

Personal Theology

Anne Wardell

Sundays 9:30, In Person and Zoom

As we resume in-person gatherings at the church on Sundays, I wanted to let you know that all Personal Theology seminars will be of the hybrid format, i.e. available both in-person and via Zoom. We have two very interesting programs lined up for November 7 and November 21. If you have any questions or suggestions for speakers for the future, please let me know at adulted@uucb.org

For those of you who are curious to know, we had 65 attendees at Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox’s seminar on October 10. Some of our guests were from New Mexico, Colorado, and other UU churches in the area. For our session with Dr. Steven Herrman, we also had a guest from Wales!

November 7 – Trying Once Again to Say Who We Are. Rev. Dr. Jay Atkinson.

The UUA Principles are once again up for revision with a commission charged to propose an update to Article II of the UUA bylaws. Why “principles”?  Why not values, or covenants, or commitments? And where do our present UUA principles come from? Rev. Atkinson will offer a historical look at all this and raise some questions about what’s transient and what’s permanent in the identity of our UU tradition.

Rev. Atkinson is a retired UU Minister and a current member of UUCB.

Click here to join on Zoom

November 21 – We Have it in Us to Heal: Ancestral Memory, Tribalism and Finding ThOur Way Forward In the Half-light and DarkWyndy Knox Carr.

My story, ThOur Story – Learning of our Anishinaabe roots in 1986 during a healing retreat at Kitchee Gummi; brief reflections on the Celtic roots of Neopaganism, hunter-gatherers and European immigrants as tribalistic, violent Outliers; jury duty in Minneapolis in 1994 and racism/misogyny sandwiched in between police riots in 1968 Chicago, 7 Jan 2018 Oprah’s #TIMESUP speech at the Golden Globes and the George Floyd murder and Chauvin conviction as vindication that “We’re not crazy after all.”

The 7th of January, 2018, Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes said: “it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies… What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

Wyndy Knox Carr is a member of UUCB and the Honoring Indigenous Peoples Group.  She is also a writer, librarian-archivist, book reviewer, and mother of four.

Click here to join on Zoom

Partner Church Committee

Church in HomorodujfaluStephanie Ann Blythe

Last month’s report on the changing faces in the Hungarian Unitarian Church garnered a few comments. The leaning toward the autocratic ways of Hungary’s Fidez Party wouldn’t deter one UUCB member from contributing to our Village Education Fund. We had a similar situation several years ago when the formerly named Transylvanian Unitarian Church reversed a pro-same sex marriage stance under heavy pressure from the Romanian government. Then, as now, none of our contributors were put off by these actions that run counter to our beliefs.

And thus it is that time of year when the Transylvanian Partner Church Committee sends out its annual appeal for donations to the Village Education Fund, along with something extra to bring Christmas cheer to our friends in Homorόdύjfalu.

Late UUCB member Roger Thompson and his wife Marion were generous contributors, but as a committee member Roger could be counted on every year to draft our annual appeal for contributions. Alas, we have to rely on electronic media these days to make the “ask” instead of snail mail and the occasional in-person arm twisting. But the appeal is before you now, and we ask for your own generous contributions.

All contributions are welcome, whether one-time or a recurring donation. By now, all of you should be familiar with the “Donate to UUCB” button, and you’re just a click and a few keystrokes away from making that donation happen. How much, you might ask? Once upon a time $400 was the suggested donation to support one student from the village for a year. Of course, it takes more these days to support the students, but any amount will be gratefully received.

In addition to the Village Education Fund, there are some church and village projects in Homorόdύjfalu that our financial support could make a difference. Contact Stephanie Ann Blythe at steph62850@yahoo.com or Anne Greenwood at annegt1@sbcglobal.net if you would like to learn about these vital projects.

Tess O'RivaFrom the Executive Director

Tess Snook O’Riva, Executive Director

I was very much in touch with last month’s theme of Cultivating Relationship. Having just returned from a week in Nebraska, I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing.

Since my dad passed, I’ve been getting to know my Midwest relatives. Although stereotypically conservative in many ways, I find that there are many things we can agree on. Our values of family, freedom, and purpose are similar, even if we define and approach them differently. Everyone we met treated us with the utmost respect and hospitality, being very generous and assuming we were newfound friends from the start (even when they knew we were from California). There was no hesitancy. No suspicion. And everyone, but everyone, waved at us.

So yes, there we were, making friends and challenging people’s stereotypes of “damn liberals” by just being present, friendly, and open. The wide range of hair colors in my family didn’t seem to phase anyone, although most people struggled with the they/them pronouns preferred by my youngest. They tried, though. They didn’t agree and we had more than one debate, but when there’s a 13-year-old staring up at you and saying, “It’s important to me,” you have to decide on your priorities in that moment.

And that’s what last month’s theme really means to me. It’s not just making friends. It’s Cultivating Right Relationship. It’s looking at one person, seeing them as a stand-alone entity, without labels or preconceived notions, and treating them how they want to be treated. It’s also having boundaries and standing up for how I, and my children, want to be treated. It’s teaching my kids to forgive people messing up their pronouns or gender, as they continue to ask that people respect their preferences. It’s being willing to have deeper conversations about their self-identity with those who are truly interested.

At the end of the story, relationships are what we have. They carry us to the finish line of this adventure called life, and make it worth the difficulties we encounter. They hear our stories and laugh with us at our blunders. And all the other warm and fuzzy sayings you find in a Hallmark store to help you appreciate your loved ones and friends. (Did you know that Hallmark’s headquarters is in Nebraska?)

It’s amazing to me how often our Covenant of Right Relations influences my interactions and relationships. As we go forward into this New Normal of re-opening, with all its challenges and fears, I hope we can all keep in mind that maintaining relationships with each other is of the highest priority. May we hold each other up, and as soon as we safely can, hold each other close.

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