Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Nudge from the Family Minister: …An Open Invitation to Families with Kids

It’s amazing to see how busy and full are the lives of parents these days.  Amazing–and inspiring too.

Since I arrived in 2008, I’ve seen many families come here in search of spiritual support, religious learning, meaningful ways to serve others, and a sense of community.

We now have 82 kids and youth registered for Sunday RE programs, not counting visitors who have yet to register.  Thanks to the parents, grandparents, foster parents and guardians who bring such vitality into our midst!  I know you appreciate the staff, ministers and volunteers who make an excellent Religious Education program possible.

I would like to invite each one of you to join this congregation.  Become an official member!

…If you’ve been coming regularly, you probably think of yourself as part of the community. You support UU values. You want your kids to make friends with those who are learning the same spiritual values.  I bet you hope society at large will be more inclusive, accepting, fair, generous, socially just and environmentally sustainable.  You are ready to be a member!

…Learn what it means to sign the membership book.  By joining the congregation, you can count yourself among the hundreds of people who have made UUSS their home, and the thousands who are UUs all over the nation and world.
As a member, not only will you gain a voice and a vote in matters of church life, you will show that this is a growing and vital community, a place to put down roots.  What do I get out of this, you ask?  Well, I get to call myself one of your ministers!

Of course, you need not be a member to participate, to register your child, to attend services, or to support UUSS programs financially with a monthly pledge or Sunday morning offering donation.  But if UUSS is what you refer to when you say “That’s where we go to church,” then why not say: “This is our community.”  Why not!

The next Newcomers’ Orientation to Membership is Saturday morning, Dec. 4.  Sign up at the Welcome Table.  If you can’t wait till then to join UUSS, let me know!

One of the reasons this church decided to look for a Family Minister was to help it grow in size and effectiveness as it serves families with kids.  I hope you, as visiting family, will affirm that commitment by exploring what it means to make your own commitment.

Yours in the spirit,
PS:  Don’t miss the video about the kids and adults in the UU congregations on the Philippine island of Negros, after the second service on Nov. 21.  Friends from the church in San Mateo will present and discuss the video.  Meanwhile here is another one of Philippine UUs at worship.

Why is that “No on Prop 23” sign on the church lawn? How did it get there?

I received an inquiry about the sign that says No on Proposition 23 on our lawn near the church sign by Sierra Blvd.

How was it authorized?

Why endorse opposition to this proposition, and not another one?  Why not NO on Prop 26 also?

Don’t we welcome those people who might vote YES on the proposition?

My answers:

UUSS governing documents provide for either a Board or congregational action to take public stands on issues of public policy.

In this case, as with the No on Proposition 8 sign in 2008 (regarding same-gender marriage equality), the Board of Trustees took a vote to post the sign.  The very active members of our Green Sanctuary/Earth Justice team at UUSS made a request of the Board for the No on Prop 23 sign as part of the team’s efforts for the 10.10.10 campaign (see  I supported this request. They noted that the Action Network of the UU Legislative Ministry of California has made defeating Prop. 23 a major focus of its climate and water justice ministry.

While the UULM Advocacy Network and many members support and oppose several other propositions, this one has brought together a lot of energy and attention among UUs, just as Prop 8 did in 2008. I am pretty confident that if any Board or congregational vote on something like this were less than a big majority–less than overwhelming–Board members would have second thoughts about making a public stand.

Our UUSS Board members considered this issue and dealt with several questions before voting overwhelmingly to approve the request.  This action is regulated (but not prohibited) by a number of jurisdictions:

As a 501 c (3) not-for-profit organization, a church cannot endorse or lobby for a candidate or political party, but any not-for-profit can advocate for policies and ballot propositions.  See “The Real Rules:  Congregations and the IRS Guidelines On Advocacy, Lobbying, and Elections,” provided by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.  Expenses for such advocacy must represent a very small percentage of a not-for-profit organization’s total budget, and UUSS is well under that ceiling.

UUSS is in an unincorporated area of Sacramento County–an area that is zoned “residential” and not commercial.  This zoning limits how many weeks in advance of any event we can have a temporary sign out front, and it limits the size of the sign or banner.  Again, we are well within these rules, as the sign is small and won’t be up more than 15 days.

UUSS will be a polling place on Nov. 2 (for all those folks who haven’t voted by mail in advance!).  The Elections Commission asks us to take down any campaign-related signs the day before Election Day.  Though the sign is well over 100 feet away from the voting booth, we are happy to comply with this request to avoid any confusion or accusations about electioneering.

It is true that we have a variety of opinions among us, and do not all agree on particular election issues or public policies.  We also have participants in church life who cannot vote at this time, due to immigration status, age, or felony background.

However, we do have a long UU history of taking stands on public issues.  We do this by study, deliberation, discussion and following the democratic process of our church bylaws and constitution.  While a public stand is the official stand of the organization, we are not a creedal body, so the official stand does not require everyone to agree.  While the public stance of many of our congregations and our UUA is pro-choice on abortion services, for example, we do have pro-life members in this and other congregations.  Perhaps we have members who voted Yes on Prop 8, but our church’s public stand–after years of study, discernment, conversation, and Welcoming Congregation work–has been in favor of Marriage Equality.

A congregational public stand is intended to add our moral voice to the public conversation.

It’s not intended to replace the freedom of concscience of individual members and friends.  It’s not intended to tell folks who disagree with that stand that they are not welcome or valued in our church community.  They are valued as important members and human beings of integrity.

Every one of you continues to have full rights of membership and the benefit of pastoral care by our ministers or Lay Ministry and the benefit of participating in Religious Education,  Grasshoppers (grounds crew), Beautification Saturdays, the Nov. 6 Harvest Fest Dinner/Auction, Thanksigiving Dinner, Theater One, Sunday worship, Adult Enrichment, Monday night Meditation, etc.

You all continue to have the right to speak out, speak up, and keep us engaged in the conversation, so that we continue to see that there is more than one way to view any public issue.

Thanks for listening, and for caring.  Thanks for being here.

Yours in service,

Roger, family minister

PS–You can see pictures from the drumming processional of youth, elders and the rest of us when we installed the sign on Sunday morning, Oct. 17.  They are part of the slide show of pictures in the home page banner at

News this Week of Anti-Gay Witch Hunt in Uganda

A tabloid newspaper’s cover says “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos, with pictures” and has a yellow banner in the corner that says HANG THEM.  See BBC coverage at this link.

This is going on while the Rev. Mark Kiyimba is traveling in the US. He will be speaking here next Wednesday night, Oct. 27, at 7:00 PM.  I am sure he’s been on the phone with folks back home in Kampala and look forward to his arrival in Sacramento.

Please invite your friends and neighbors.  Next weekend he will be speaking to the UUs of San Mateo.

Here is a link to a BBC story about this breaking –and heartbreaking–news:

Facing Death while Standing on the Side of Love in Uganda
October 22, 2010, 10:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here is a Youtube video of the Rev. Mark Kiyimba, who will be speaking at the UU Society of Sacramento Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 7:00 PM.

Here is a podcast of his 15-minute Public Radio interview this morning with Jeffrey Callison on “Insight.”

Here is a link to the Sept. 2010 Harper’s Magazine article on the American roots of homophobic legislation in Uganda, by journalist Jeff Sharlet.

Here is a link to his video interview with the International Resources Director of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in early October.

Struggle for LGBT Rights in Uganda–Wednesday, Oct. 27, UU Society of Sacramento

Unitarian Universalist minister Mark Kiyimba  is perhaps the only religious leader in Uganda who is a champion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights.  His Unitarian church held a conference in Kampala to stand against the very punitive Anti-Homosexuality bill in parliament.  The church also runs an orphanage and school for 550 children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Mark will be speaking Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 7:00 PM at UUSS, 2425 Sierra Blvd, Sacramento 95825.  Refreshments before and after the lecture.  Bring your friends!  You may see the flyer and more information at this link:



Ministry Report to the Congregational Meeting Oct. 17, 2010

October 17, 2010
Congregational Meeting, UU Society of Sacramento
Ministry Report to the Members by the Consulting Minister

Child/Youth R. E. enrollment: 82 as of 10/3/10. Nursery and Story Time: 19; Spirit Play (grades 1-5): 34; Junior High Youth Group: 15. Senior High Youth Group: 14. Coming of Age: a voluntary extra program for youth in grades 8-10, each paired with a mentor. Youth attend three weekend retreats organized by the Pacific Central District (PCD) & monthly meetings here with mentors and two coordinators (R.J. and Taylor L.). 4 youth from UUSS, total 60 in PCD. UUSS hosts senior high youth conference next weekend and middle school conference in November.

Adult Enrichment: Committee started in spring, is responding to Interest Survey completed in 2010 by over 100 people. New groups, classes, programs starting all the time. We are making good use of our facilities and our talented members. As Family Minsiter I oversee this program area; Carole provides strong support.
Newcomer Orientation Course: Lasts 5 ½ hours, offered 3-4 times a year. Purpose: help newcomers to feel known by us, get to know us better and know how to take advantage of what UUSS has to offer, get to know other newcomers, learn UU heritage & identity, learn ways to connect and serve, the meaning of membership and financial stewardship.
In these times, larger congregations do have a constant flow of comings and goings of members, visitors. Yet we do not want to repel visitors or fail to help new members find their way to a sense of belonging and commitment.

Staffing Changes: Head Custodian Elaine on long term recovery from surgery for shoulder injury. Other staff is pitching in, with volunteer help. Member Connections Facilitator a 3-year pilot project in 2nd year now: last year staffed by a seminarian who had other duties here to create a full-time internship. In July the internship ended and Board hired Carole to do this ½ time job.
Music staff search: Hired pianist Rachel for this church year as accompanist. No music director was hired before Doug’s sabbatical, so we recruited Eric, lifelong UU, to be interim coordinator of our special music. Choir keeps warmed up weekly with volunteer Meg.
Religious Education: Miranda promoted to R. E. Assistant last spring from child care room. Current child care staff: Stephanie & Susan, both hired in last 6 months, and occasional substitute assistants senior high and older. Miranda supervises and schedules them, and I oversee all 3 staffers.

Ministry needs and trends at UUSS:

I am here on a consulting ministry contract, starting my 3rd year. This is the 8th year for a full-time second minister position. I oversee a few program areas, I work with Doug in most others, and I have minimal involvement in a few areas. I do pastoral care as avaialable and called upon. I lead worship less often than the Lead Minister. For a church our size, my position is typically called a Program Minister. It is often a hired position and not called. Doug’s role is that of a Lead or Senior Minister, a called position.

You have completed 10 years of ministry with him as your Lead Minister. The needs for his role are changing and the areas of his focus and impact have been changing. This is typical of churches of our scale of operation, and it is necessary if we are to achieve our potential in program excellence and opportunities for involvement.  It’s necessary if we are to reach a sustainable level of program vitality, gain a higher profile and a have a stronger moral voice in the community.
In his early years with UUSS, Doug initiated a lot of new programs for lay involvement and enrichment. Now he cannot be as visible in day to day activities as the Program Minsiter is. A Lead Minister must now have the major role of being a leader, not only a pastor.

What does this mean? Examples of such work: Casting the vision for our future, supporting our long range plans and reaching our 5-year goals. This includes more work with UU Master Planning Facilitators and support of a future capital campaign for expansions and renovations of our facilities. He will need to work on inspiring greater generosity, and attending to major giving programs.

The Lead Minister works on developing new lay leaders and supporting the growth of those we have (e.g., Spiritually Grounded Leadership), and works closely with a Board of Trustees. The Lead Minister must keep attention focused on the health of the congregation as a whole system, not just tinkering with parts of it. He has to see the big picture, and articulate what it looks like. Doug hopes to have a profile in the larger community as our Lead Minister.
In addition, he will need to give time and assume greater responsibility as the Chief of Staff, whether he likes it or not. This role includes recruiting, supporting, coaching and directing other staff leaders. The purpoose? So that we all work as a team in serving the congregation’s leaders and committees, to assure clarity of accountability and clarity of purpose with regard to goals.


At the same time, at our mid-size category (known as a program-size church), it’s not really possible for us to “manage” all the elements of UUSS life. A program-style church is not big enough to be a well-oiled machine or a streamlined ship, but it’s too big to have a solo minister who is everything to everyone. This is not unique to UUSS; it’s borne out by congregational consulting organizations that serve a variety of faiths and by our own UU denominational experts.


As you grow more, you can expect additional specialized staff or ministry positions, though some of those may be volunteer positions and some new staff may be part time. Examples from other UU churches: areas like membership support, adult programs, pastoral care, social justice programs, expanded music programs, campus ministry.

Any leader’s role is to get out of the day-to-day details, climb up to the balcony and get a broad view of the organization, and articulate that view to us, and remind us of our plans and visions for the future. In a congregation, this role is a crucial one for the Lead Minister.

Again, this role means Doug’s highest and most useful leverage is not in being seen everywhere all the time, but in focusing his time and attention toward pursuit of our vision and goals.

It has been a joy not only serving you all and working with our volunteers, but also working with my staff colleagues and with Doug as Lead Minister. It is good to see that a minister can continue to grow and change—in his 60s—and can sustain a high level of energy and focus. Of course, you and he have grown together, and helped one another grow and thrive. The recent party to celebrate your 10th anniversary with Doug was a high point of the year, and better attended than most congregational business meetings. And his book of sermons is a cash cow.

I know I speak for Doug as well as myself when I say:

Thank you for all the ways you make this a wonderful congregation in which to serve. The future is bright, and the present is a blessing.

Pastoral Prayer for Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010
October 18, 2010, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Rituals, Prayers, Elements of Worship Services

(All-Ages Service)

Creative Spirit of Life, we give thanks for this time together and for all the blessings of our lives.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses—by a variety of people of all kinds of gifts and needs, all reasons for hope and gratitude.  We extend our care to those among us who are doubting or worried or sorrowful.  To those of us burdened by concerns of health, money, housing, work or family problems, may we be granted serenity, and wisdom and courage when we need it, again and again.  In this peaceful room, we send our thoughts beyond these walls around the globe to zones of conflict and oppression.  My all people be safe, and may those in danger or desperation find protection and relief.  We send our prayers for peace, healing, co-existence and cooperation among the world’s peoples.

In this time of crisis for our planet, we long for better stewardship of nature’s richness and beauty, and we pray for generosity and care to outshine greed and fear.  We give thanks for the animals and plants of the earth and sea, for all beings who share this life with us.

We give thanks for the rescue this past week of the miners in Chile, and for all miracles of humanity and nature.

Let us greet the sun, the clouds in the sky, this day and every moment of this day as if we had just been rescued from a hole in a mine deep in the earth. And may we live, work, and pray so that all people may be free from danger, fear, and confinements of all kinds.  So may it be, day after day.  Amen.