Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jennifer Nichols On Thansgiving

My favorite holiday is coming up next week – I can hardly believe it’s next week!  Thanksgiving is about getting together with family and friends for a meal and fellowship and, at my house, the Cowboys game and Frisbee and board games.  We generally have 25-30 over, my family, my ex-husband and his family, and friends who are too far away from their families to be with them – either by distance or emotional chasm.  Our door is open and there always seems to be enough food.  While I try to be this open and giving throughout the year, it comes most naturally at Thanksgiving.

Recently I had the privilege to visit with a colleague and mentor, Rev. Dwight Brown, a few weeks before his death.  He knew he was dying and he was especially eager to share a couple of things he’d been thinking about quite a lot.  I didn’t want to lose what he said, so I immediately wrote it all down once I got my car.  I needn’t have worried because at his memorial service, every person  who’d seen him in the last few weeks, mentioned the same things – apparently Dwight had been thinking about this stuff QUITE a lot.  It was interesting to hear the different take we each had.

Dwight Brown was a thinker, big time!  He and I didn’t always agree, especially theologically, but I knew that within the realm of Unitarian Universalism there was room for both our ideas about God (or not), human nature, etc.  That last visit he told me he was dying and that put him in mind of a conversation he had with his daughter when she was very young.  She supposed that people died to make room for new babies.  Near the end, it tickled Dwight to remember that conversation and he seemed to quite like the idea that his death might in some way make room for new life.

Thinking of new life, he expressed that his life was a gift from his mother, and hers from her mother, and hers from her mother all the way back to the mother of us all – the big bang.  We are cradled in the arms of the universe and our lives are such miracles!  Dwight may have been rejoicing in the scientific wonder of that thought, and, as I listened, I heard all about God.

Dwight then spoke of something his father had talked with him about.  There are two kinds of people in this world, he said, those who approach others (or life) with a closed fist and those who approach others  (or life) with an open palm.  This seemed to resonate with Dwight on many levels though he spoke specifically about Unitarian Universalism for a bit.  He postulated that we UUs don’t like it when people disagree with us because we know they are WRONG (mischievous smile).  But dialogue cannot happen with a fist, the palm must be open.

How much more could we accomplish in helping change the world if we opened our palms and were actually accepting rather than tolerant, open to broader beliefs and interpretations rather than not?

After a long full life, most of it as a dedicated Unitarian Universalist and revered elder of our faith, Dwight’s words and ponderings were like a gift to me, and I hope now, to you.  His legacy will live on in name and spirit at the Dwight Brown Leadership Experience.

I give thanks at this time of Thanksgiving for Unitarian Universalism and our saving message that love is an answer.  Here’s wishing you and yours a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

MacArthur Fellow: Dr. Nancy Rabalais

Dr. Nancy Rabalais, a long-term member of the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was  named one of twenty-three MacArthur Fellows. “Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, the Fellows were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.”

Dr. Nancy Rabalais is the Executive Director and a Professor at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Cocodrie, LA. As a Marine Ecologist, she was selected for “documenting the environmental and economic consequences of hypoxic zones in the Gulf of Mexico and informing strategies for restoring the degraded waters of the Gulf and the Mississippi River basin.”

The Fellowship brings with it an unrestricted prize of $500,000 over a five-year period. Dr. Rabalais said that she will put the funds back into the important research, education and outreach that she conducts with her numerous colleagues, who have made their many achievements possible.  Dr. Rabalais was astonished when she received the call. “I knew about the prestigious award and have always honored it, but never thought I would ever be one. It is truly an honor.” 

Further information, story, photos and video are available at

Southern Regionalization Webinar

A Message from Denise Rimes, President, Southeast District of the UUA: 
Dear Congregational Leaders,
I am in touch to urge you and other leaders in your congregations to attend and participate in one of the two upcoming webinars hosted by UUA staff members that are listed below. These webinars will provide a brief overview of regionalization efforts across the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Southern Region, of which the Southeast District and your congregation is a part.
Regionalization is an effort to be better stewards of time, money and resources. It is well underway.   Our covenant of support and care calls congregations to be in deep relationship with one another. This support and care includes financial support for our Association of congregations. There has been deep dialogue about how to fund needed programs and staffing for those programs in a more covenantal way. As part of regionalization efforts, The Southern Region (Mid-South District, Florida District, Southeastern District and Southwest UUC) is participating in a pilot program to change how the annual ask for our Unitarian Universalist Association and district funding occurs.  This topic is the spotlight theme of the webinars I urge you to attend, as this program will develop over the next two fiscal years. Your voices are needed, your concerns should be shared and your participation will help to develop the program.
Feel free to contact me or the UUA Staff Members I've listed below for additional conversation about the new funding approach or to further discuss regionalization. It is important that we have access to each other during changing times; we'll find a way to be with you to share what's happening, answer your questions and address your concerns. Let us know how things look from your perspective!
Thank you for being among the leaders of our faith to move it forward.
In faith,
Denise Rimes
Southeast District, President

Monday, December 10, 2012
7:00 PM- 8:30 PM Eastern Time 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM Eastern Time

For both of these webinars, you may use the following log in information:

Conference Call: Toll Number: 213-416-1560, Access Code: 371 7887

Click here to log in when the webinars begin.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The 2012-2013 UUA Common Read

"The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander has been selected as the 2012-13 UUA Common Read. Alexander, a legal scholar, examines the redesigned racial caste system in America as it is enforced through the War on Drugs.

Some congregations are supplementing their study of the Common Read by watching documentaries about the War on Drugs such as  "The House I Live In," by Eugene Zarecki. The UU Fellowship of St. Augustine, FL recently hosted a presentation on the Common Read by Patricia L. Smith, Ph.D., a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Lubbock, Texas.

Is your congregation studying the book? How has it affected your ministry?