The Dignity Project

Early in Rev. Ilene's tenure, she worked with the Social Action Task Force (precursor the re-formed Social Action Team) to identify work that UUTC could do to meet a currently "unmet" need in our community. 

In talking with the leaders of local non-profits, she quickly discovered that the marketplace inequities ("luxury" taxes on menstrual hygiene products, for instance) were further exacerbated by these products NOT being eligible for purchase through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This leaves our most economically vulnerable women faced with an even greater hurdle--on items they have no choice but to purchase. 

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The Dignity Project is based on Unitarian Universalism's First Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person.  A collection to kick-start the Project was taken in December. Then, based on the assessment of Rev. Ilene and the Task Force, the Social Action Team began deliveries to 5 key agencies, who serve the largest numbers of people in need: Bread of Life, El Centro, The Haven, S.A.F.E and The Sharing House. These agencies would be our partners in delivering a little dignity. 

“The Dignity Project has made a tremendous impact for our neighbors in need. When it is hard or sometimes even embarrassing to ask strangers for much needed and costly hygiene and birth control items, the Dignity Project is a welcomed resource! This respectful way of giving items takes away the stigma and honors everyone’s basic human needs!
— Rev. Shelly Webb, Sharing House Executive Director

Deliveries of menstrual hygiene products, diapers, dental health products, condoms, baby wipes and soap began in January of 2018. All of these are items which our neighbors desperately need in order to fully feel their inherent worth and dignity. To date, we have purchased and dispersed 200 toothbrushes, 100 bars of soap, 50 bottles of shampoo, 50 razors, 168 tubes of toothpaste, 800 condoms, 65 boxes of tampons, 42 packages of baby wipes--and 6,878 diapers. Without our partners in the community, there is no way we could equitably distribute these items--we are very, very grateful for the work that these agencies do in our community. 

 

Another Step Towards Realized Mission

 What's so exciting about this picture? 

What's so exciting about this picture? 

In December, a significant gift came to the UUTC Sponsored Projects fund, allowing the Board to select a project from the list of "wishes" towards improving our congregational space. 

That selected project was the installation of LED lighting in many of the spaces that were previously served by florescent fixtures. Our old fixtures had/have rusty and failed/failing ballasts due entirely to their age, and were definitely more appropriate to their original design intent: illuminating the appliance showroom of a natural gas company. 

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Above, you can see the first phase work: the social hall, gutted of its two foot x four foot fixtures. In this image, you can also see the new cross ties installed across the four foot length to create support for new 2'x2' ceiling tiles. We had a few "saved" ceiling tiles in the utilities room, but mostly we need to purchase new ones because of banged up corners and such. 

 As usual, our electrician, Jeremy, was very tidy as he created the tower of old fixtures to be recycled. These would be considered scrap metal.

As usual, our electrician, Jeremy, was very tidy as he created the tower of old fixtures to be recycled. These would be considered scrap metal.

 Each room had unique challenges, due to the fact that all ductwork and the main waterlines run just above the suspended ceilings. 

Each room had unique challenges, due to the fact that all ductwork and the main waterlines run just above the suspended ceilings. 

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The new lighting is warmer (mostly 2700K), making the spaces friendlier and more appropriate to the vast majority of the activities that take place in the spaces. The fixtures and bulbs are dimmable, and dimmers will be installed soon for the classrooms so that the groups meeting in them can control the lighting to meet their needs. 

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LED lighting, of course, consumes less power, helping us to reduce our footprint. It will probably create a small difference in our power bill, as not only do these individual bulbs consume only 9 watts of power, but there are fewer bulbs being illuminated than there were in the florescent fixtures. Lighting is not one of the big drivers of our power bill, but it won't hurt, either. Not all spaces were included in this particular upgrade, but most were, and the difference is delightful.

But despite the oh-so-practical reasons for installing the new lights, the greatest impact will be how these spaces now feel. As a liberal religious community, it is part of our values to work towards greater sustainability. But the primary mission of this congregation is to support individual spiritual journeys, and the spaces of this building now feel more in line with that mission. 

RK

Dodging a Big One...

...a Big Tree, that is!

Sunday, shortly after the second service, a large white pine from our Broad Street neighbor's yard lost its grip on the soil and came crashing down onto the UUTC campus. It could have been a real disaster, but it wasn't. 

Whether it was the sacrificial diversion by the sweet gum tree-- which lost 4 of its limbs in the process-- or just divine intervention, this pine missed every car, and every person, and only damaged the gutter of the building itself. Quite a feat, given the size of the tree. 

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These images are somewhat deceptive, so here's a couple night time views. After dark fell and the lights went on, Brevard policemen and firemen were on campus to make sure everything was OK-- Doug D. & Elizabeth T. both happened on them and assured them that UUTC already knew as the "event" took place earlier in the day. 

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When you step back a bit, you get a better sense of the scale....

So this morning, Jake Zimmerman and the TreeZ Crew were on hand to commence the clearing up. They brought in the heavy equipment and the big chain saws, and before you could finish off a pot of coffee, they had the place almost looking like nothing had ever happened. 

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 All swept up

All swept up

 Only the stump remains

Only the stump remains

All that remains is the recycled tree-- ready to become soil-building mulch at the Varsity properties when the time is right. Big thanks to Jake & his crew for the timely and beautiful work!

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Covenantal, Not Creedal

Because of Unitarian Universalism’s radical commitment to the personal search for truth and meaning, we sometimes forget that it is much more than an essentially individualistic religion. Our faith, at its fullest, is composed of confessions, matured into covenants and incarnated in communities. The Unitarian Universalist path is more a communal spiritual journey than a personal exploration of faith.
— Tom Owen-Towle, "Growing a Beloved Community"

This week, on top of the regular work and the regular service contractors, we had a new face on campus-- the tech repair guy who disemboweled and rebuilt Rev. Ilene's computer. Like nearly every contractor before him, he asked "what we were." I'm frequently at a loss just how to address this question, and my responses tend to vary based on the inflection of the eyebrows of the one who is asking. 

This time, after an initial couple of responses that seemed to bounce off without impact, I described our congregation's faith as "covenantal, not creedal." That made the eyebrows go up with an accompanying "Hmm!," and we left it at that. He did not seem displeased. 

This week has been one of those where I really felt the "community" part of this congregation. The work would simply not have gotten done, due to the personal events in my own life that were impacting my time in the office. And so I'd like to hold up a few of our volunteers, who really live out the communal spiritual journey in front of me--setting aside multiple hours weekly to hold each other and this community together. 

The first is our care Team, Loving Hearts & Helping Hands. We are going through a period of intense need in terms of the number of people who need our care. This group just doesn't quit, and they provide us lessons in gratitude everywhere they go. 

Next are our office assistants--"the Susans." They excel at keeping the ship moving forward while at the same time being very sensitive to the needs of Members and Friends who come in to ask questions or seek solutions. Both of them have accepted quite a bit of discomfort--while learning new technologies--that have helped UUTC to transition from paper to digital archives, for instance. They don't exactly do that for themselves. They do it for UUTC. 

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Finally, I'd like to mention Jim & Sue, who every week are doing something to help UUTC and the community to which it belongs. Just yesterday, Sue made a dash to the post office for stamps. And Jim prints and mails copies of our newsletter every week for those who don't have email. 

None of these folks do the work they do because they are obeying a creed. They appear, to me, to be fully engaged in creating the covenantal community we call UUTC, selflessly. I am deeply thankful.

RK

The Gift of Above Average Weather

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Weather, for children, is not the same as it is for the adults who have to get to work, keep the car running, keep the pipes from freezing, and pay the power bill. Weather is an Event. Or a playground. This weekend, before it gets too warm and all the evidence is gone, take a drive or a walk and remember what it was like to build snow forts and snowpeople, to throw snowballs and have school cancelled. 

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Thanks to Heather for all the great pictures!

Preparing for Christmas

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So much happening!

Tonight, the Worship Team will be hosting their second annual Solstice Service at 7:00pm. Unlike most services, this one requires no order of service and no hymnals. What a gift to the office--they even created their own PowerPoint! 

Tomorrow, we will be caroling (6:00) in support of the Varsity Oxford House, which is a home for women in rehab. We all know that Christmas can be a time of agony for those separated from loved ones and family...and sometimes even for those who are NOT separated. So we will sing carols and share coffee and cookies and a few gifts. 

This week, the office (which is a term that covers the work of paid staff and a bunch of volunteers) have produced three orders of service, three PowerPoints, a sheet of carol lyrics for the choir... and that's just to get us through Sunday. Like most churches, this is an exceptional time of year. Given that next week is a week off for staff, we are also working on next week's newsletter and the order of service for January 31st. 

Imagine how awful it would be if we had no work? No community to support through our hearts, hands and minds? It is a season of gratitude, and we are filled with it. Thanks to all of you who are a part of the UUTC community. 

RK