The Beacon is our fellowship newsletter.
We shifted from .pdfs and hard copy to online articles at the beginning of 2019. To view older Beacon articles, visit the pdf archive library.
UUFF is in exploration to form a new Youth Group (6-8th grade) who will meet together regularly to support one another’s interests and accomplishments, learn and enforce the core values, and to just have a some fun. They would meet Sunday’s at 10am, plus other times as agreed!
Some of the things we would do in the Youth Group include attending theater performances – many times in which one of our children or youth is performing. We enjoy going on group hikes, and other fun outdoor activities. And we also like to host movie and pizza nights at the church.
These kind of activities depend on our members and friends caring for and participation to provide activities for our youth. Sign up to get to know our youth, and help them learn the UU values by your example! Sign up Here: I’ll Help RE!
by Teresa Honey Youngblood
What a rich class we had on 2/17, on the topic of conflict! So rich, in fact, that we’re going to be picking up the topic again after our Mentor Bagel Breakfast, since we only got to half the material I intended for us!
One interesting piece was a “forced choice” activity, where the students had to choose YES or NO (not “it depends,” or “sometimes”). Statements such as these split the group:
“If someone has a problem with you, it’s their problem, not yours.”
“Learning and growth is possible without conflict.”
And, “Being rude or impolite is always wrong.”
We were working toward the ideas that 1) conflict is uncomfortable, but can be used for creative transformation of self and systems, and 2) Being conflict-averse props up the status quo, and can prevent necessary change from happening. When we next pick up the topic, we’ll talk about covenant as a tool to help us navigate conflict well.
Below are a couple of pictures from the 2/17 class. We began with a challenge, building a chalice together with exactly 100 planks of wood. And, the youth also heard the story about the blind mice and the elephant–pictured next to the chalice–which shows us how making room for multiple truths (i.e. conflict!) can often produce the most complete picture of a situation.
-Teresa Honey Youngblood
By Rebecca Bryant
The Arkansas Citizen’s First Congress (ACFC) is a coalition of organizations working for progressive change –- primarily by lobbying the Arkansas legislature. Assisting ACFC in this effort is their tandem organization, the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, which monitors all bills in the Arkansas legislature and retains full-time lobbyists on staff.
In 2017, UUFF began supporting the Arkansas Citizen’s First Congress as one of the Justice Team’s picks for ‘Share the Plate’. In 2018, we persuaded the board to let us use that money to purchase a membership with ACFC, rather than simply making a donation. That membership gave us the privilege of sending delegates to the organization’s Congress of members that takes place every two years.
Four delegates (Shermon Brown, Maren Chism, Karl Brown, Rebecca Bryant) attended the 2018 Congress which took place from June 8-10 in Little Rock. On Friday evening, following dinner at the Sheraton Midtown, we heard presentations from member groups, describing why they do their work. Speakers included Alyce Love from the Desha County Social Justice Alliance, Ginny Massullo from the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, and Furonda Brasfield with Decarcerate.
For the rest of the weekend, our mission was to identify five short term goals that would become the focus of lobbying through the next legislative session. Justice Team members spread out through the four caucuses; Civil Rights, Economic Justice, Environment, and Education, taking part in their deliberations.
By the end of the weekend, the Congress had passed five resolutions: 1. Support fair residential landlord-tenant laws (tenants have little protection at present); 2. Support a juvenile diversion program (i.e. try to keep minors out of the prison pipeline); 3. Upgrade Arkansas’s voter registration system (championed by the League of Women Voters); 4. Deter wage theft; and, 5. Support equity in professional licensure (In Arkansas, for a variety of professions, licenses cannot be issued to noncitizens).
I’ve known about the Citizen’s First Congress and Arkansas Public Policy Panel for decades. But, this was my first immersion in their process. Meeting others that are also engaged in the fight for justice and hearing their stories and ambitions was inspiring. Adding the small voice of UUFF to that of nearly 60 other organizations makes us a chorus with a chance of being heard.
By Theresa Parrish, appeared in Sept/Oct 2017 issue of The Beacon
Unitarian Universalists take pride in our open minds and open hearts. We welcome difference and diversity. We lean into controversy and educate ourselves on issues. Recent events in Charlottesville, repeated attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion access, and threatened cuts to healthcare and social programs have caused many of us to feel anxious about the future of our country and about the immediate health and safety of our loved ones.
What does all this have to do with Our Whole Lives – the evidence-informed, lifespan sexuality education curriculum co-authored by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ? Everything!
Imagine Madison, who is much taller and heavier than their peers. After years of teasing and bullying, Madison believes there is something deeply wrong with them. They become depressed and suicidal.
And there is Adrian, whose friend pressures them to engage in sexual activity until they reluctantly give in. Adrian learns to associate sexuality with shame.
Or Jaden, who feels attracted to a friend of the same sex and who was told by their conservative religious grandparent that homosexuality is sinful and disgusting.
And Angela, who wanted to talk to her boyfriend about birth control, but didn’t know where to start. Now she finds herself pregnant, worries that her parents will be enraged, and wonders if she will be able to finish school.
It’s not hard to imagine a bully who relentlessly calls a classmate “faggot,” “fairy,” and other derogatory names. The bully tries to persuade others to join in tormenting the victim. How many of us are prepared to respond in a way that honors our Unitarian Universalist values?
[Use of pronouns “they,” “their,” and “them” is intentional. Even the most enlightened people make assumptions and value judgments based on gender. What assumptions might you have made about the gender of the individuals in the scenarios above? ]
All of these narratives occur regularly here in Northwest Arkansas. They are due, at least in part, to our reliance on sexuality education provided by public schools or by well-meaning but ill-informed parents (who are often dreadfully uncomfortable discussing anything sexual), or by no one at all. Much of the sexuality education provided in Arkansas (including here in Fayetteville) is based on the “abstinence only” model that charges youth to abstain from “sex” until marriage. Youth are often pressured into signing vows of chastity and are shown repulsive videos of sexually transmitted infections meant to scare them into “abstinence.” This propaganda leads young people to believe that any sexual contact will result in pregnancy, infection, or both. The material presented is flawed enough, but even more egregious is what is lacking — topics of relationships, of difference, of consent, and information on birth control that is comprehensive and medically accurate.
The theoretical basis of Our Whole Lives (OWL) runs contrary to all of this. OWL affirms that we are sexual beings from the moment we are born until the moment we die. We know that sexuality is a broad concept, involving not just genitalia and reproduction, but gender and orientation, relationships, consent, body image, families, justice, inclusivity, friendships, values, sexual health, contraception, and much more. This is all delivered by trained OWL facilitators in a safe setting and in an age-appropriate manner. What’s more, OWL acknowledges parents/caregivers as the primary source of sexuality education and involves them in their children’s classes.
OWL opens up the discussion on sexuality, empowering students of all ages with vocabulary and information that can help them navigate relationships with confidence. They come to understand their inherent rights as human beings and are equipped with vocabulary to express themselves. They are challenged to think deeply about various scenarios that might occur in their lives and to prepare to make informed, deliberate choices.
So, with experience of Our Whole Lives:
Madison might love their body just as it is, significantly decreasing the negative effects of bullying.
Adrian would have denied consent with confidence and might still see sexuality as positive.
Jaden would have an opportunity to accept t heir same-sex attraction as “normal” without fear of punishment or ostracism by family and church.
Angela would likely have discussed birth control and their relationship with her boyfriend, and her pregnancy might have been averted.
Fewer bystanders would have joined with the bully, and more would have protected the victim and spoken out.
In your mind’s eye, are you imagining a school-aged child – or perhaps a teenager – in all of these scenarios? While traditionally, sex-ed has been served up almost exclusively to pubescent youth and teens, OWL is for EVERYONE. Appropriate OWL classes are offered at all age levels, beginning with kindergarten and continuing through old age. And, if you are wondering what an older person might learn from sexuality education, consider that the incidence of sexually transmitted infections is rising significantly in adults aged 55 and up. Information about sexuality (and sexual health) constantly evolves. Social values are regularly re-examined. It is impossible to outgrow Our Whole Lives.
Children, youth, and adults who participate in OWL classes and/or who become educated in sexuality and relationships are people who are armed to resist misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia. They are likely to be accepting of others. They tend to make healthier choices. They are not as easily manipulated. They are less likely to passively accept violations to their bodies and to their rights as human beings. They resist. Congress might move to de-fund Planned Parenthood and other public clinics. But if we are empowered with information and grounded in our values, we will find ways to practice safe sex, to prevent unplanned pregnancy, and to maintain our sexual health. We will continue to be actively inclusive and will protect the vulnerable in our midst. We will continue to take responsibility for our choices. We will not give in to bullies or terrorists.
We will be respectful, valued members of our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our communities. Confidence, knowledge, and values cannot be legislated.
Visit the OWL page on our website for more information on the program and upcoming classes.
(Photo from left to right: Karl Brown, Evan Barnes, Andrew Gaber, Staffany Rhame, and Dylan Pearson.)
by Andrew Gaber, Chair of Sculpture Committee and Board Membe
Many of you may have noticed the work that’s been started in the landscaping bed next to our entrance. This is the result of some of the first steps in preparing the space for permanent installation of the sculpture, The Book, that was graciously donated to UUFF by Richard Ferguson before his passing last year.
Members of the Sculpture Committee have been working on a plan for this space that will further our grounds’ function as a space for reflection. Members of this committee are Andrew Gaber (chair), Ron Hanson, John King, Caroline Lennox, Joyce Mendenhall, and Gretchen Wilkes. Currently, the vision is to have some paths placed in the space, with decorative gravel surrounding the paths. The sculpture itself will need to be filled with sand to secure the sculpture in place. If you have any thoughts or questions on this project, any of us on the committee would love to hear from you!
I was so honored to be able to attend the call for clergy at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota in their quest for witness in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline has been routed through treaty lands that have sacred meaning and remains from burials and battles, and would be buried under the Missouri River just above the the reservation, putting the Dakota Sioux living there in peril.
This map shows the issues clearly, the pipeline was rerouted from a northern route above Bismarck, ND, because imperiled the water supply of that city. So, as our nation has done for centuries, we allowed people who have little voice or perceived worth, to bear the danger. Look at the neighborhoods where coal power plants, pipelines, railroads and waste is dumped, and you will see neighborhoods and land of discrimination.
When DAPL began bulldozing sacred sites within the treaty boundaries, and the intent to put a crude oil pipeline under the water source for an already impoverished people realized, the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, activists and environmentalists swung into action. Their unarmed, non-violent, but admittedly active protests and encampments along the pipeline route were met with violence, vicious dogs, rubber bullets, pepper spray and a sonic cannon. Their pleas for the pipeline to stop were not heard, and they were removed from its path. Amid growing despair, the Elders and religious leaders of the reservation wondered what to do next. It was a moment that had similarities to another call, a bridge in Selma, and now the Backwater bridge in Cannonball, ND.
The call went out on social media in late October for clergy from all denominations to come to Standing Rock as witness to a civil rights and justice action, to acknowledge the right of a people to not have their lives threatened for corporate profit. The tribe Elders and organizer Father John Floberg were expecting around 100 clergy, over 550 answered and came. Over 50 Unitarian Universalists attended, including our President, Peter Morales. Episcopalian Priest Father John Floberg of the reservation’s Diocese, organized and led us in the action of witness. We met at the Water Protectors main camp of around 2000 folks, Oceti Sakowin, circled around their Sacred Fire, and heard a reading of repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, which is a central tenet to the oppression of native peoples around the world, and tacitly gave permission for a pipeline to endanger indigenous people in place of anyone in power.
Led by representatives of the tribes, the organizing Episcopalian Church, and leaders of the gathered denominations, we then walked to the bridge on the Cannonball river that marks the demilitarized zone between the Water Protectors and the militarized police that removed protestors and camps from the path of the pipeline.
The gathered clergy, Native Americans, and lay people prayed, sang and spoke of solidarity for over 4 hours, ending the action in a Niobrara Circle of Life, a circle of blessing each other, each and every one. We then took time to meet our hosts, help in the camp, and hear stories. I was thanked a number of times, sometimes with tears, for our witness, for giving the camp peace. I thanked them as well, for their sacrifice deeply touched me, they were on the edge of change, and I know I gained much from this encounter. There is a lot of what the protectors of Standing Rock are doing that needs to be done in my corner of Arkansas, and across this nation. I wonder what a true repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, and our own nation’s Manifest Destiny, might mean to our religion of Unitarian Universalism. I wonder how much of our struggle to be a truly diverse religion is because of the DNA of these doctrines of colonialism in our “soul.” I intend to find out… and I hope you help me by thinking about what you insist is UU, that doesn’t really have to be, and could be a barrier to our diversity.
I shared this greeting with Father John Floberg, to be given to the Elders of camp Oceti Sakowin:
Greetings from Northwest Arkansas, part of the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I bring well wishes and support from my ministerial colleagues in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and from the people in my ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fayetteville, Arkansas. I am here representing these voices, these hands and hearts, who stand in solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock as we all ask for their sacred lands to be honored and remain unsullied, we ask that the bodies of Native Americans be counted as sacred, full of worth and dignity to be lifted up in equality with all in this Nation, and as a united people who deeply understand that water is life… that we must do everything we can to protect the waters of this land from further harm. We stand with you in this cause, and hope to prevail for the sake of all of our peoples, our children, and our grandchildren. We are one.
So may it be.
Guest Post by Amanda Bancroft
I really don’t know how to begin writing about something so powerful and important in my life that I embarrassed myself immensely by crying with joy about it at a UUFF Board meeting once. Young adult ministry, like any UU ministry to any age group, is life-saving work. Introducing 18-35 year olds to the principles of UUism and the UUFF community can change lives with everything from access to OWL, comprehensive sexuality education, to “a place to go and be with people” on weekends and weekdays.
In Y’ALL, I can express and celebrate UUism with activities that speak to me. I can’t walk into a public space and go all flaming chalice. In Y’ALL, that is totally okay and encouraged. Results of a survey from last year indicate that the top three reasons people join Y’ALL are to make friends, have fun, and to share and learn about UUism with other UUs their own age.
Y’ALL began in 2012 but enjoyed an explosion of activity and membership in the past two years. In April, we went on a trip to the Eureka Springs Unitarian Universalist Fellowship where we met congregation members at a reception, did a historic walking tour of the underground, stayed overnight in the EUUF building, wandered the town, attended Sunday service and coffee hour. This is the second official Y’ALL trip we’ve done; the first one was a visit to All Souls UU in Tulsa Oklahoma for Youth Sunday 2015 (which was awesome!).
The first successful events that brought us together were Dream Circle dinners where we talked about what we wanted as YA UUs at UUFF. There are a variety of activities in Y’ALL that attract different people: weeknight coffee hours, 2nd and 4th Thursday night Cartoons for All Ages, weekday and weekend service projects like stocking stuffers, gardening at Tri Cycle or helping the homeless, overnight trips to other UU congregations, occasional hiking or fun events and spiritual discussions, dinners, and of course the coffee hour huddle after Sunday services. Y’ALL is also helping bring to life Linda Flores’ designs for a UUFF Little Free Library and Little Free Pantry near the building!
On movie nights for the past year (Cartoons for All Ages), we’ve been watching Avatar the Last Airbender cartoon series and Miyazaki films because they’re so UU! Themes in the Avatar cartoon series include peace, genocide, war, environmental justice, animal rights, worth and dignity for all people regardless of ability or identity, poverty, pollution, religious diversity and tolerance, spiritual growth, multiculturalism, racism, sexism, democracy, and more. Avatar Aang was listed as one of the most UU characters in UU World magazine. The films of Hayao Miyazaki focus on themes of environmental justice and peace against a beautiful backdrop of stunning artwork and believable, complex, thought-provoking characters.
This fall, the UA registered student organization “UU Razorbacks” will form the Campus Ministry wings of Y”ALL, promoting UUism and UUFF for students who may need this in their life.
Young adult ministry is life-saving work and I’m proud to be a part of it with the people who form my spiritual home.