Blogs

Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.

Developmental Youth Ministry Specialist

What is a Developmental Youth Ministry Specialist? Besides being a mouthful, this position is both unique and temporary: unique because no other position at ERUUF claims “specialist” (though every paid staff position here requires a degree of specialist skills), and temporary because the “developmental” part should be finite and complete by this summer. In order for this ministry to be sustainable and fulfill the mission of transforming young lives, we need to establish a few basic building blocks.

Why was I hired as the Developmental Youth Ministry Specialist? I believe there was literally an “aha” moment during my interview when Deb, Julia, and I all realized that there was some formational work that needed to be done for youth programming that was more urgent than ministerial work at this moment in time. As an educational leader, I bring the skill set of understanding, facilitating, and directing a necessary cultural shift in the program to bridge the perceived gap between the “grown up” sanctuary and the CARE building. I accepted the position because I, too, share your hopeful vision of ERUUF transforming lives. So, I hit the ground running, taking direction from Julia about where to dig and what to research. We put together a fabulous Youth Ministry Team of dedicated members including two youth from the High School Youth Group. Together, we are planning a Visioning Session for the afternoon of February 17 after services to hear from all of you – the wonderful members and friends of ERUUF who support the Youth Ministry with your time, good wishes, sharing of space, and of course, financial gifts. Youth ministry has the potential to grow ERUUF’s community and add to its vibrancy and effectiveness as a place of spiritual growth and justice building. What are your ideas to make this real? Ensuring that Youth Ministry is the interconnected part of ERUUF that it should be, will take all of us.

Please join us on February 17th after the service to be part of this transformational process with the Youth Ministry at ERUUF. Prior to the Visioning Session, please take a moment to take this short survey (by Feb 1).

 

Finding Renewal

In the midst of uncertainty of many varieties, this fall I’ve been looking for renewal everywhere I can find it. A great source has been a new garden that Chris and I designed and helped install in our backyard in October.

After heavy rain that caused our basement to flood with “compost tea” (solid compost that was originally intended for the garden) we decided that we needed help. So we hired a landscape crew to install new pathways and a patio, and put in fruit and nut trees and shrubs: fig, persimmon, blueberry, kiwi, hazelnut, a tea camellia. Also serviceberry, stewartia, oakleaf hydrangea, carpet roses, red twig dogwood, and a few spring bulbs. We’ll see what survives this winter, and we’ll plant a bit more in the spring. Even with all the heavy rain and sudden cold, it seems to be holding together; I’m grateful we had such good help from professionals.

Where are you finding renewal as we head into the growing winter darkness? Is it with family? Friends? Books? Movies? At the gym? Over shared meals? With meaningful volunteer work? And how’s your spiritual life? I’ve been snacking on spirituality books like they’re popcorn—so good! I haven’t been able to walk as much as I’d like, but I’ve been stringing beads and drawing Zentangles, and I joined a prayer writing group. And I put a Contemplative Prayer app on my phone so that I can practice every day for 15 minutes. I don’t normally “do” this much, but I’ve found that keeping busy has been good for me. And any regular practice always puts me back in touch with my center. And when I’m grounded I feel ok no matter how much the world seems to spin all around me.

Do you have a regular practice that supports your inner life in the midst of stressful times? What is that for you?

Blessings, Deborah

The Memory Collector

My mother is the family griot. She holds the memories of our family from way back, and enjoys sharing them, sometimes for the sake of the stories themselves, at other times for the irony and teachings they hold.

In certain West African cultures the griot is a highly respected hereditary position; the person who holds the community’s historical narratives, oral traditions, and genealogies. No one ever conferred the title upon my mother, except me. After I learned of this position within African communities, I immediately recognized her role within ours.

But I was puzzled by Mom’s deep fascination to know the stories of our family. When we gathered at my grandparents’ South Carolina home, Mom would eagerly ask her father to tell the stories of times past, of the old ones, of siblings who died less than a year of being born, of grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. She was also intentional about visiting with other elder relatives to find out how they were doing and, it seemed from her inquisitiveness, to collect some new memory.

Memories which sometimes frightened me. They were of a world, a time, people and suffering I could not relate to in all my modern, educated, New York City-fied ways. I was glad I didn’t live during the old times they remembered, and wondered at the relevance to now. Wouldn’t it be easier to just move on, glad for today?

Over time I began to recognize what these memories had to tell me about myself. How they form the resilient woven cloth of who I am. How much there is to be learned in the wisdom they hold. How finely they are woven into the fabric of our nation.

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Finding Your Inner Brunnhilde

Before you know it, the holidays will come and go, leaving us with inevitable resolutions. Whether it’s jettisoning carbohydrates, noticing the key fob which tells you what gym you pay for every month, or finally finishing that great novel, many of us will make and break a great promise to ourselves. If you are still among those who succumb to this annual tradition, I invite you to add to the list a pledge to find your inner Brunnhilde.

This entry isn’t so much about the iconic Wagnerian character, as much as it is about a college classmate who is playing the role to great acclaim. In fact she’s considered possibly the greatest dramatic soprano of our time, and preparing to don the horns and breastplate for her 2019 turn at the Met's production of The Ring. The performance will likely cement her reputation as an all time opera heavyweight, and yet the casual fan will be completely unaware that she almost didn’t go into singing at all.

Christine started off as a woodwind player, with the goal of becoming a high school band director. According to her, she was a pretty bad clarinetist, which the faculty soon discovered. She switched gears and declared to family that she was going to be an opera singer and one day sing at the Met, an aspiration roughly on par with waking up one day and declaring you’re going to play for the Yankees. Problem was, she had never really sung before. Long story short, we all watched her first at chilly SUNY Fredonia, and then at SUNY Stony Brook explode into a dynamic lyric soprano. One tour de force role after another, and here we are.

What is your inner Brunnhilde? Does it exist within you despite a perceived artistic, creative, or even spiritual shortcoming? What if you woke up on January 1 and declared you will win a Pulitzer, a Nobel, or a spot in the Philharmonic? What if you went into it knowing you will probably fail in your resolution, but succeed in voicing it aloud? We can’t all wear a breastplate at the Met, but we can tell ourselves what we want, what we need, and maybe take some baby steps in a way that is healthy and fulfilling. See you at the opera.

The Peace of Wild Things

Ahhh… we’re finally getting a delightful taste of crisp weather! The shortening days signal the transition to a fall season with glorious leaf color, bird migrations and fresh scented air. Upcoming elections and world political, social and economic challenges may create greater uncertainty that can add to the stressors of daily living. I believe as we honor these feelings and intentionally seek ways to minimize our stress we can face most any situation. Life’s difficulties are made a bit easier when we can share them amongst one another in a caring community – chalice circles, covenant, affinity, or faith/focus groups.

Need a hand? … Lend a hand!

If you need a hand, you may fill out a ‘JSM Card’ (Joy, Sorrow, Milestone) located in the pews or on the counter in the gallery, and place the card in the locked box nearby, or in the offering plate. You may also email your information to The Care Ministries team can offer some support.

If you can lend a hand, please stop by the Care Ministries table during coffee hour and sign up to become part of the Care Ministries team to provide a meal, ride, card or phone call.

In the days ahead, I invite you to pause, BREATHE… spend time outdoors in the natural world… simply allow yourself to rest in the sights and sounds around you. And may you experience a peace within you, as expressed by Wendell Berry in this poem. The Peace of Wild Things When despair for the world grows in meand I wake in the night at the least soundin fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,I go and lie down where the wood drakerests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.I come into the peace of wild thingswho do not tax their lives with forethoughtof grief. I come into the presence of still water.And I feel above me the day-blind starswaiting with their light. For a timeI rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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Good Grief

Good grief! We, in NC, know the magnitude of Hurricane Florence’s wind and rain. Severe flooding has wreaked havoc south and east of the Triangle; and, it will take many years to recover. People, livestock, pets, fish and other wild critters are displaced. There is much to grieve in the loss of lives, homes and other structural damage. Good grief! 2000+ people are still in shelters. Many people are seeking basic survival supplies to support their families.

Good grief!  

And…as Governor Cooper surveyed the damage throughout the affected areas and extended a compassionate hand to so many people, he responded “We will get through this…One thing I know - North Carolinians are strong. North Carolinians are resilient. People…are helping each other. Neighbors are helping neighbors. Communities of faith are stepping up.

Good grief!   Many in our ERUUF community are experiencing grief not connected with Florence. Their grief relates to a different storm-- the inward parts of oneself–wrestling with loss of a relative, a life partner, or dear friend. Good grief! These losses are often difficult to navigate!

Yet, isn’t grieving one’s intimate loss a natural expression of love? An ongoing love of the relationship with that person who is no longer present? All parts of our physicality, spirituality, emotional state of being, cognitive awareness become jumbled as they reset into new rhythms of daily living. It is a process during which one can grow and discover that these feelings are signs of healthy grief. Good grief!

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ERUUF’s Disaster Response

What a frantic week of preparation for a terrifying storm, and what a relief that Hurricane Florence weakened and turned away from our area. And yet, how shocking to watch reports of rising flood waters turning eastern North Carolina cities into islands and major interstates into scenic rivers.

On Sunday, September 16 we raised over $3,800 for relief for storm victims. ERUUF’s donation will go to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, which gives 100% of funds to victims. The next day I also received a notice from Democracy North Carolina. You might like to give to this effort that is reaching out to minority communities that are usually overlooked and underserved. Check out this link for more information about needs and where your donations will mean the most.

Finally, as Rev. William Barber reminds us in this opinion piece, "storms like Florence do more than destroy; they also expose the inequities in our society that are perpetuated by extreme policies."  There are lots of ways to respond to this disaster. You can give money, donate supplies, or help displaced people register to vote. You can also hold our friends and neighbors who have been >so hard hit in your heart, with love. That’s a really good way to remember that we’re all truly connected, and feel comforted as you do.

Peace, Deborah

We Come with a Dream

Art by Dawn Hummer

We Come with a Dream

created by the Soul Matters Team

We come bound by the threads of a dream

Of all walking together side by side,

none of us above or below

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The Inner Work of Forgiveness

Jane Fonda recently was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by director Michael Moore at the Traverse City Film Festival. She’s known for her career as an actress. Now, at age 80, she continues to be an inspiration as an activist and an elder, as she speaks for the environment and other causes.

A few months ago as part of my Sage-ing® Legacy training (Sage-ing®), I watched a TED talk in which Jane Fonda discusses Life’s Third Act. I was encouraged by her comments since her words model some of the same topics on becoming more awake and conscious. Some of this inner work is challenging and private; some is more helpful to share within a spiritual community open to wrestling with these questions of life. This work is not just for ourselves. If enough people do this inner work, it leads to a cultural shift which then leads to transformation through action combined with thought.

What is crucial in this work of self-examination is the practice of forgiveness - of self and others. It is no surprise to me that many spiritual traditions encourage this work of forgiveness. In the Jewish tradition, the month before the high holy days is a time for recalibration. Forgiveness is an ongoing process to untie our own tangles, which leads to a greater sense of freedom and self-acceptance.

We are growing into the new paradigms of the 21st century that acknowledge the constant evolution of the soul and the potential of the human being for ever greater manifestation. Each one of us has a part to play. We have the capacity to continue the deepest exploration possible for each one of us to express the essence of who we are. When we do this together in community, we bring our full selves authentically present to help transform our world.

Much Too Much Fun

What was the most fun you’ve had recently? This past July my husband and I went to work on our backyard. For three weeks, he took a saw, pickax and finally a shovel to privet clumps. One large stump was so entwined and heavy that it took three people to carry it away. It looked awfully hard, and Chris would come into the house soaked with sweat, covered in mud, yet grinning like a kid having the bestest day ever. “Did you ever see the movie Shane?” he asked. “It’s like that giant tree stump the two guys hack away at…this is GREAT!”

He was removing the privet because we designed and built a fence. The lot next to us is covered in bamboo and we have an appreciative but vigilant relationship with it. We admire its graceful arcs but cut it back and dig it out when it starts creeping too near our house. We’ve been saving the poles though and this summer hired a strong, younger friend to dig post holes and drainage ditches. Then we built frames out of 2x4 and 1x6 cedar, cut the bamboo to fit and attached the cedar and bamboo screens to the posts.

This is phase one of our DIY landscape plan. And it was about the most fun I’ve had since I was a kid building forts in the backyard out of scrap wood and other junk. We don’t know if the fence will last or if we’ll have to figure out another way to create a sense of enclosure for the new garden. But for now we’re still amazed by a sense of “Wow! We did that?! How fun!”

Have you ever played with a weird idea and come up with something wonderfully unexpected? I highly recommend it.

Namaste, Deb

ERUUF Rocks

 Every summer it was the same. Pack a sleeping bag, and a week’s worth of contraband snacks, and take the seven hour bus ride to Haliburton, Ontario. The attraction was a youth camp for reform Judaism. The Jewish youth circle in my small town never exceeded a handful, so I was always happy to make the trip.

Invariably, by the end of the first evening a guitar would be brought out, and we’d settle in for an hour of singing the common songs we learned in our own congregations. Shaky adult voices from home disappeared from memory and were replaced by a hundred high school singers, all realizing we were experiencing a special sense of belonging.

Looking back, the adults were pretty smart. They provided the foundation of a culture of singing in dozens of small congregations, and only when we came together did we feel the payoff. In talking to a number of church friends who come from various Christian traditions, I learned for them it was the same.

But what of UU? Would two hundred high schoolers at summer con enjoy the rush of familiarity as the first guitar chords of a song special to our tradition rang out? Would they involuntarily flinch toward a hymnal that wasn’t there, vaguely remembering half a verse or a chorus, but not really feeling connected?

This past year, ERUUF received a significant grant from the UUA, augmented by a generous match from the Foundation to support the foundation of a culture of singing among UU youth. We know that the richer the religious experience is for our children, the deeper the connection to UU will be in adulthood, and so we hope ERUUF can be ground zero for something special. We identified 22 songs which reflect our history, our diversity, and our values. We professionally recorded them using the wealth of talent in our fellowship. We created an RE teacher’s guide so that this resource could be used in our classes. By having songs shared throughout the program, we will first capture a little bit of that familiar magic by singing here and there around campus.

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Our Deepest Wisdom

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.Do justly now.Love mercy now.Walk humbly now.You are not obligated to complete the work,But neither are you freeTo abandon it.

On a Saturday morning not long ago, a yoga instructor shared these words, attributed to the Talmud, to center the minds and hearts of those of us in her class.

It had been a hot summer week that was particularly fraught in our democracy. We released a collective sigh at these words of comfort. I also sensed a twinge of uneasiness at the reminder that we were not to become too comfortable. No, we were not free to do that.

Every wisdom tradition offers reminders like these -- about our responsibilities to each other; exhortations not to abandon one another. History across the ages and global cultures has provided us with ample examples of the terrible things that happen when humans have chosen not to heed these appeals or have twisted their meaning. And so it is true for us in this moment.

In their exploration of the life and death realities of our current global crises, Savage Grace: Living Resiliently in the Dark Night of the Globe, Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker say, “The necessity in our time demands that we listen to all [spiritual traditions] for whatever guidance they can offer us in what is the defining evolutionary crisis of our entire human journey.”

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What Wants to Happen Next

Ten years ago this week I began what I thought would be a one year interim ministry at ERUUF. Wow….life is what happens while you’re making other plans, yes? When I visited that June to sign a contract and find an apartment, the moment my feet touched the earth here on campus a strange thought resonated through my whole body as if I were a bell: “I’m home.” To which my rational self immediately responded, “Ok, yes, but just for one year.”

Life had other plans and the past ten years has brought enormous change. And through it we’ve figured out how to work, learn, contemplate, cooperate, demonstrate, play, and resist together.

One of my favorite theological questions is, “What wants to happen next?” A great way to begin to discern possible answers is to simply pay attention to what comes up from deep within as you ask yourself this question, and then also as you listen to what’s compelling to other people when they do the same. As you do this you begin to sense not just what worked ten, twenty, thirty years ago here or somewhere else. You begin to sense new possibilities that want to emerge here and now.

I’m looking forward to the next exciting chapter in this vital community, in this vibrant region, where good things will happen as we pay attention, open our hearts, listen and make room for who and what wants to happen next.

Blessings, Deborah

R.E.flections

August is upon us, bringing with it back-to-school energy, orientations, retreats, camping trips, new classes, new friends, new teachers. August, with all it's newnesses, holds the promise of possibility. We sign up and sign on for the possibilities of personal and communal transformation.

In R.E., we let ourselves dream of the possibilities. We dream and we hunger for truly beloved community, for creating spaces for us to become our true selves in authentic and just relationship with others in their true selves. We come together knowing beloved community is only possible with community, with each other, and with practice.

Everything is possible. And we can begin here in Religious Education. Come and join us.

 

Warmly,Julia

Refreshment

I've been reflecting this month on the various ways our community finds refreshment and renewal of mind, body and spirit. June is the month UUA gathers at General Assembly, which you know well is a place and time for such refreshment.

During these summer days many vacation with their family and friends. Some choose a 'stay-cation' to rest and recharge near home, some travel to far off places, while others choose to find retreats or 'camp' style gatherings, such as Star Island and SUUSI for their refreshment. I recently attended a Jewish Renewal biannual spiritual gathering at UMass where over 500 people from across the globe joined together in community and sacred space seeking fellowship, education, and spiritual renewal.

How do we take the nuggets of these brief gatherings of refreshment that warm our hearts and minds into the rest of our daily living? I imagine each of you has your own practice that supports you. And yet, the common thread I hear from you is the joy of being in community! We share our joys, sorrows, and friendships with those we hold dear in our hearts. We are beings who need community and thrive in community, as we share common interests and causes, educational and spiritual growth within the UU framework. ERUUF is a place where we can continue to nurture the sparks that refresh us.

Our ERUUF campus, so beautifully maintained by members of our congregation, offers floral and arboreal enjoyment along with a shady walking trail including a bench for quiet meditation. There are so many opportunities for us to drink from the well of abundance that surrounds us to receive enrichment for our daily living. Perhaps you’ll choose to meet a friend, take a walk together, enjoy the fruits of your time together, here at ERUUF… in community.

 

Rest

In June I took my first real vacation in quite some time. A confessed workaholic (a term I discovered in the book Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang originated from a study of ministers!), I was finally tired enough to unplug from work.

I leaned very deliberately into my time of rest and embraced days filled with joy, love, contemplation, and simple fun. I made art, read books, played board games, listened to music, slept in, played in the ocean, lazed in the sun, danced, put my feet up, and perhaps most enjoyable of all, surprised my mother with a visit on her birthday.

Then on the last Thursday in June I sat in an airport transfixed by a television monitor covering news of what had been going on while I was away. My heart hurt. I thought about people I knew who would be upset, discouraged, and overwhelmed by these latest national and world events.

Activist and healer Jardana Peacock says, “Overwhelm and burnout continue to be pillars in our activism and inside our organizations—however, more and more people, organizations and movements are committing resources to healing, to spirituality, to resilience.” Yes.

Science backs up the notion that deliberate rest aids healing and makes space for building personal resilience and the fortification of the spirit.

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It’s Difficult in Times Like These

“It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”  The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank 

These past few weeks, no matter how politically active and spiritually healthy we are, we wake and find ourselves in a land that increasingly feels like a nightmare: 

We incarcerate children just like Anne Frank in dog kennels, with only mylar “blankets.”  We separate them from their families, and don’t know how or when they’ll be reunited. 

We send children just like Anne Frank back to Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, where they'll become the property of gang members, or be murdered if they refuse (gangs that US policy inadvertently helped create when we trained foreign leaders at the School of the Americas).

Some in this country are in thrall to illusions around our president.  And with their loyal devotion he’s able to subvert democracy, threaten our economy, and radically reshape our political relationships with world allies.  It will not last.  His supporters will wake up at some point.  And then they and all the rest of us will have to pick up the pieces and begin again.      

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Powerful Voices of Love and Truth

You might have heard that one of Rev. Barber’s latest endeavors is to pick up the civil rights agenda that has lain dormant since Dr. King’s assassination. Rev. Barber has partnered with Rev. Liz Theoharris, a long time anti-poverty advocate from New York. Together they’re leading this spring’s Poor People’s Campaign in 30 states, including North Carolina.

Read more about the campaign: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/And yet this movement is about so much more than two powerful leaders. On June 4 I heard stories from people who are ill and have no health care; others shared the work they’re doing to keep our water clean and free from chemicals and coal ash. This past week I sat with a Latino pastor who cried as he shared stories about corporate wage theft from migrant farmworkers who come to him for support. With real grief he proclaimed, “God’s people are hurting!”

And yet…through it all there are the strong, loving, determined voices of people working for justice, jobs, health care, respect, and dignity. “Love is here; power is here; we are here” one banner proclaimed. Change begins when we listen to each other’s stories.

I’m grateful to ERUUFians Joan Tilghman, Emily Cox and Ann Ringland who’ve organized and served as peacekeepers for six weekly rallys where these stories have been told. Amid the swirling chaos and heartbreak of national politics, the clear voices of people who speak the truth clearly, plainly and with love have grounded me, steadied me, and brought me back to my senses this spring. Love is here; power is here; we are here! And ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around!

Video from Poor People's Campaign (June 2018)

Introducing the New Web Site

Welcome to a new version of the ERUUF web site!

The primary intention is to show the ERUUF community in action, with a focus on the shared ministry teams and values of the fellowship. The invitation is to explore and find your way on the site and in this beloved community.

By design, it is set up to encourage exploration instead of linear mapping. It is searchable, mobile friendly and hopefully more accessible to people who are new to UU and ERUUF. The site is built with a visual language of pictures and images in addition to text and links. Menus introduce new headings and categories. Pretty much everything on the old site is also on the new site, just in a different organizational pattern. In the future, we plan to add more video components and interactivity with social media.

Features:

Visual language (we are always looking for high quality photographs of ERUUF groups and activities)New blog page (reflections from ministers and staff)Emphasis on shared ministries in actionSearchable calendarNew auto-draft giving portalMobile friendly

The layout, design, and focus of the new site are all the result of conversations with staff, leaders, and members, combined with ERUUF site analytics and evaluation of web sites of UU congregations and other spiritual communities. In all our research, we could not find any congregation anywhere with as much emphasis on governance and policies as ERUUF seems to hold. As a result, any information in this area, that focuses on "how we organize ourselves," has all been pushed down to the bottom menu. If you are a leader or just policy curious, scroll down to the bottom of any page to find numbers, reports, and governance.Feedback welcome -  Give Feedback

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Finding Yourself at ERUUF

I moved to North Carolina from Brooklyn 15 years ago, with much apprehension, two boys, and a dog in tow. A friend who relocated here several years before said, “Give it three years to decide whether it’s working.” What?! I thought. Three whole years?

She proved correct. We settled into a Raleigh home, convinced by conservative southern relatives that Durham was not the place for us. But it wasn’t too long before I wondered whether suburban southern life would work for the particularities of my family and our northern liberal big city ways. Even as one of my greatest surprises was that, except for my relatives, rarely did I meet a native North Carolinian.

By the third year I decided to move to Durham. The diversity and imperfections of the city reminded us of home. We formed friendships and it seemed things might work after all so we remained, and eventually found ourselves at ERUUF, immersed in Unitarian Universalism in ways I’d never imagined.

Each Sunday as I meet newcomers who find themselves at ERUUF, by choice or happenstance, I remember my own mix of eagerness and apprehension when I arrived the first time, long before I ever worked here. I stood alone at the edges of what felt like a sea of people in the Fellowship Hall after Sunday service, wanting to feel welcome and trying to figure out how to navigate the place. I departed and it was three years before I returned.

Feeling welcomed, connected and engaged in a new community can be challenging for both the one who wants the welcome and those expected to do the welcoming. The responsibility lies on both sides though. Newcomers, however tentative, must explore, seek out the information or connections they want.

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Winds of Change

It’s been an amazing year at ERUUF. A generous member challenged us last December; they would match what members could raise dollar for dollar up to $250,000. Members stepped up and we more than met the match. As a result ERUUF has been able to pay off its $104,000 mortgage and put the rest into a reserve fund for scheduled maintenance (the big stuff that needs replacing and repair—and we will still cover our normal “wear and tear expenses” out of the funds we each contribute annually—as we should). Alleluia!!

And yet all this comes in a time when the Durham Herald Sun has been running a series on our local economic boom, the building downtown, and how all this affects our low income neighbors. In some neighborhoods developers snatch up homes for pennies on the dollar that residents can’t afford to maintain, then renovate and sell the properties at huge profit. Since long-time home owners, most of whom are People of Color, don’t realize the greatest profits, the remnant of wealth remaining in Durham’s historically Black communities is flowing out at stunning rates.

In the midst of such significant changes, I’m inspired by long time fellowship members who have a strong commitment to all of Durham. ERUUF was recently recognized as the group that contributes the most annual volunteer hours at Urban Ministries. And for the past several years Durham CAN, our local community organizing group that works on jobs, affordable housing, and community policing has had an office here on our campus, and we’ve become increasingly active members with them. Our commitment to dismantling systemic racism is significant in all this, because it helps us become partners who better understand the issues and increase our skill at following the lead of local People of Color who are fighting for their rights.

In a time when the winds of change are blowing fiercely, Unitarian Universalists have a great moral compass in the form of our principles and liberal religious values—justice, equity, and compassion just to name a few. At ERUUF we’re using these important tools as guidance to find meaningful, impactful ways to transform life for ourselves and our neighbors.

Blessings, Deborah

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It Takes a Village

The phrase ‘it takes a village’ is often used to describe the many ways we acknowledge the importance and value community plays in the midst of our daily lives. Here at ERUUF on a recent Tuesday afternoon, I witnessed the ‘village’ come together as the sanctuary filled with people from ERUUF and the broader community to honor Sue Coon.

Nineteen cellists gathered from Florida to DC - including some of our own ERUUFians - to provide a heartwarming one-hour concert simply because they love Sue and want to show that love through their musical offering. We listened to storytelling, jokes, words of honor and remembrance of the many ways Sue has put her mark upon the various communities of ERUUF, cello camp, workplace, and life relationships. These were woven together with the beautiful vibrations of sound to bring soulful rest to all who were present. The reception that followed was coordinated by many ERUUFians who together prepared refreshments and service for the many.Sue is living with ALS and each day is new for her as she navigates the waters of its progression. Many in her circle of friends, choir members, and Pastoral Care Associates have been supporting Sue and Conrad as her needs shift. If you would like to learn more from Sue, please go to Sue’s CaringBridge page. To assist Sue and Conrad in the future you can click on ‘ways to help’ to sign up for specific needs.

Here are Sue’s words of gratitude for the outpouring of love she experienced:

“Sue Coon and Conrad Weiser would like to thank everyone who helped with the CELLOBRATION on May 15. Our hearts were warmed by All of the support and love. Special thanks to Deb Cayer, Stacy Grove, Kevin Badanes, Daphne RHODES And Lenora Harris-Field. Plus to everyone else who helped, and of course to my cello buddies. We really appreciated such a meaningful event. Thank you so much!"

Thank YOU, Sue, for the many ways you touch our lives!

Teacher Appreciation

Hello R.E.!

This last Sunday was our last day of the regular R.E. program year, before we start Summer R.E. All R.E. classes celebrated the year, reflected on the stories, games, songs, discussions, and spiritual practices they have experienced over the course of the year. During the worship service, we took a moment to recognize many ERUUFians who have given their time and their love to working with our children and youth this year.

Teachers, thank you for all your love and care for the children and youth in this congregation. This is a real gift. The seeds of wisdom you've planted will last a lifetime and will ripple out through relationship. It has been a joy working with you all this year, and inspiring to know that together we can raise the next generation with strong morals, spiritual practices, and compassion.

This coming Sunday begins the Summer R.E. program. Prek-8th grade will be making "Something Out of Nothing," and exploring evolution, creation, magic, and wonder.

You can stay updated on the latest at our R.E. facebook page

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Healing Walk

Currently in Nebraska, I am participating in the Ancestral Healing Walk from Rosebud, SD to Ft Laramie, WY culminating April 29th when we process into the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) treaty camp that will be gathering at the fort. It is a remembrance of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the 1868 Treaty with US government and Native American tribes. I write this as we begin the 11th day and 200+ miles of walking this beautiful land - for forgiveness of the actions of past generations that have so greatly impacted our US history and the continued healing for those who walk in the footsteps of their ancestors. I walk with the descendants of General William Harney and Little Thunder family.

As we began the walk, I witnessed a special ancient Lakota “Hunka” ceremony in which these Little Thunder descendants ‘adopted’ the man whose ancestor was responsible for taking the lives of their ancestors. “The ceremony binds each to his Hunka by ties of fidelity stronger than friendship, brotherhood, or family.” I was moved to tears by their tenderness and humility; I’ve watched these people journey these past few years, from fear of meeting one another to embracing one another and their shared history.

We continue expanding this unique intergenerational community, beginning and ending each day’s walk in circle with prayer and gratitudes for the day, deepening our relationships with one another, and honoring those loved ones who are ill or have died while on this walk. We bond with pure intentions for goodness, appreciation of our diversity and compassion for the challenges each experiences. It is a beautiful and blessed experience to listen and to speak authentically with open hearts. We cannot change the past events in our lives. However, we do have the potential to re-educate our-selves about our past-to bring new perspectives to old wounds, to recognize the truth in both sides of the story, to stand in the tension of both, and in the midst of those feelings to find wholeness and holiness.I have so much gratitude for this opportunity to walk and pray alongside these people I call family, bound by the weaving of story, prayer, and love.

Mitakuye oyasin all my relations

Ancestral Gratitude

I’ve been reading National Book Award winner Nikky Finney’s beautiful collection of poems called Rice. I close the pages after each haunting verse. This is the world of black folks who lived in Horry County, South Carolina, first enslaved and then free but oppressed and profoundly impacted by their labor in the rice fields of South Carolina’s coast.

Each poem seems peopled by lives that feel surprisingly familiar to me; then I realize that my mother was born in a tiny unincorporated village in Horry County called Green Sea.

And it’s also where Myrtle Beach is. I remember when visiting as a child my mother telling us we were not permitted on the beach because we were colored, though I believe by that time black people were legally allowed there -- but my mother and her family were not yet able to risk believing it.

Each of Finney’s poems bring forward the recognition of cracks filled with a hurting in my heart many generations deep. I close my eyes, become still, and breathe into them. Pause. I express love and gratitude for these ancestors. I read another poem the next day.

Even before Finney’s work, I’ve sensed the presence of ancestors with me always as I move through each day, the vibration of their energies powerful and strong. When I’m down in Paxville, SC -- a 1 mile square village of 500 people where my father was born, I walk the church graveyard on family land where the last person born enslaved holds the center and everyone else is gathered round. I walk the graveyard because I feel I must, out of respect for ancestors who I most physically resemble, whose struggles I cannot begin to imagine and whose deep joy I sometimes sense. Pause. Breathe.

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UUs in the News

The Black Lives Matter banner at the UU congregation in Winston-Salem has been stolen several times now. So often, in fact, that my intrepid colleague, Rev. Lisa Schwartz, bought a spare the last time she re-ordered.

Which was great, because on Sunday April 22, when someone not only stole their banner for the 3rd time, but also spray painted "WHITE" across their front doors in huge, skinny letters, she and the congregation were ready. The new banner was up by 12:15pm as the congregation sung their commitment: "Ain't gonna let no spray paint turn me around..."

Even better, at a press conference just days later, not only did the local Black Clergy Caucus turn out with their strong support, but so did many White ministers from mainline churches from across the city. Also joining them were a county commissioner, members of the city council and school board, and one lone, sweet member of the local Socialist party.

Rev. Schwartz says that every leader spoke in support of the congregation, and that in particular it was heartening that two prominent White mainline clergy publicly emphatically stated that the question was not why a White church would display a BLM banner, but why ALL White churches aren't displaying the banner. And they committed to lifting up banners on their churches.

After the press conference, Rev. Schwartz says that all the leaders who gathered agreed that “the vandalism was SO minor compared to the oppression that people of color have endured for centuries. We’ve pledged to lift not only the banner, but the issue, clearly and consistently.” Together they’ve vowed that they will continue the conversation about race and the work of Black Lives Matter in Winston-Salem.

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Hello Again!

My family leave time was amazing, challenging, funny, strange, and precious. We finally got to meet Emery Tyler Ferrell, and at 3 months, we are just starting to get to show him the world. He has been patient with Brian and I as we bumble through early parenthood, and when he smiles, he lights up all the corners of my heart. He is doing so well, and I look forward to introducing you to him in a few weeks when he is a little bigger.

Trauma and New Life

Emma Gonzalez. A tiny young woman who arrested our attention with the way she held space for grief and outrage not with words, but 6½ minutes of silence, the amount of time it took a gunman to kill 17 of her classmates and friends. She could have spoken, and it would have been a significant moment.Instead, her presence, raw courage, and commitment ...
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Our Blue Boat Home: When We Act

As a young girl running around my Brooklyn neighborhood playground in early spring, I quietly noticed tiny bumps that suddenly appeared on the branches of trees and bushes everywhere. Since no one spoke of this phenomenon, nor did I. But I walked to the school bus stop each morning and carefully observed the bumps transforming into buds, then growi...
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Care Blossoms

The windy month of March brings with it the beautiful signs of Spring. They are all around our ERUUF campus and our neighborhoods. Trees bursting forth with color and bulbs breaking through the earth's surface, all beckoning us to step outdoors, to work in our yards, to feel the earth in our hands, and to smell the fresh air with its hints of flora...
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Gospel Workshop

Recently in service we had the opportunity to experience the power of gospel together. Our Eno River Singers and Beloved Community Chorus joined with singers from One Human Family, accompanied by a powerful rhythm section, all under the baton of Dr. Raymond Wise. While not everyone personally espouses the religious traditions at the roots of gospel...
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Balance in Unhinged Times

We read the headlines at our house and shake our heads. Is this the Times or the Onion, we ask each other in disbelief. The world that we've known and prepared for is battered daily; institutions take big hits and falter; protections we had come to take for granted are no more. Is this just the way the pendulum swings, part of the big shifts of cul...
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Green Sanctuary

Through the fall and early winter ERUUFians took the initial steps toward Green Sanctuary accreditation. Green Sanctuary is a program offered by the UUA to give congregations a pathway of study, reflection, and action in response to environmental challenges, most notably climate change. It provides a structure for congregations to examine their cur...
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Seeking Balance

The quest for balance can sometimes feel like searching for a calm landing spot between the far reaches of a pendulum as it swings from one pole to the other in dichotomies: light and dark, joy and sorrow, justice and injustice, self and transcendence, health and illness, past and future, body and spirit, science and mysticism. Out and in, out and ...
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Update on Special Campaign for Facilities Maintenance

The Special Campaign for facilities maintenance concluded Jan 31, 2018 and raised $320,768. The match grant challenge of $250,000 will bring the total to $570,768. The remarkable generosity of the Fellowship will enable ERUUF to care for the campus well into the future. The immediate plan is to pay off the remaining mortgage ($104,000 paid Feb 2018...
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Eno River Fellowship Foundation

Each year, the Eno River Fellowship Foundation (ERFF) awards grants from the endowment for projects that make a significant difference in supporting our ERUUF mission and priorities. We fund creative, seminal initiatives and enrichment of our facilities to fulfill our promises. We request that proposals have a direct link to ERUUF's Strategic Plan ...
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Intentionally on Purpose

The sky this new year has been the pure, clear blue that comes when arctic air rushes down from the North Pole and sweeps it clean. It appears overhead like a bright fresh page that could hold any great vision, every resolution and best intention. But once imagined up above the fray of our everyday world, how do we bring these visions and ideals do...
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Bringing Our Intentions into Being

A few weeks ago I learned from Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen that in the practice of somatics --a learning process aimed toward embodied transformation -- it takes 21 times of focused practice for there to be a possibility of new behavior, 300 times for muscle memory -- for our bodies to instinctively do a new thing, 3000 times for embodiment -- so that it...
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In Community

Throughout these past weeks I have been reflecting upon the beautiful tapestry of our diverse ERUUF community. There are so many ways to find one's place here and develop relationships within this spiritual home. With any large community there are always individuals who are living in the midst of some life challenge which can be supported by the Pa...
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Deep Wells Require Tending

How is it with your spirit? What's holding you in balance after big losses? Amid big political and climate changes? What's holding you steady in the times when life doesn't unfold as you had expected? Me? I've been walking a lot more. I've reduced my intake of the news and have limited my time on Facebook. I try to read balanced reporting from reli...
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Out of the Shadows, Onto the Journey

My husband, granddaughter and I went on a half day rafting trip down the Nantahala River on August 21. We were in a group of about 100 very lucky people who paddled downstream between mountains that rose up steeply on either side of the river. We rested in a cove as the color seemed to drain from the world. The air temperature dropped to 63 degrees...
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