Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Introducing our New Business Administrator: Candace Scharber

We on the hiring committee are happy to tell you about our interim business administrator, Candace Scharber.  She was interviewed on Thursday and started Monday.  She attended Wednesday’s staff meeting and Board of Trustees meeting Thursday night.

Candace brings varied experience in  consulting, project management, customer and member services, entrepreneurship, marketing, staff supervision and personnel management, accounting and budget development, computer programming and hardware, vendor relations, team-building and organizational development and transitions.  She is very used to starting a project or job where she “does not know what is going on.”  She listens well, works respectfully and manages with heart, but is clear about giving directions, expecting hard work and team support, and managing change.   She strikes us as wise, compassionate, creative, non-defensive, open, inquisitive, a good listener and a frugal manager.

Candace brings 15 years of experience as an Information Technology (IT) consultant and project manager, including work for the California Department of Managed Health Care (development of an HMO Help Center using customer relationship software), the State Controller’s Bureau of Unclaimed Properties, the Franchise Tax Board, and CalSTRS (managing 13 testing teams, where she used Myers-Briggs testing to improve team cohesiveness).  She’s also served the Nevada Department of Taxation, where the project included “cultural change management.”

Since 2005, she has run a fitness gym of 12,000 square feet, which she and her husband own in Placerville.  She has 40 staff, several vendors and outsourcing service providers, 2,000 members (with 900+ members using it per week).  It’s now open 24/7.  She’s used to dealing with members and the general public, and is skilled at dealing with difficult situations.  She is familiar with the ebb and flow of a member/customer base and the challenge of keeping and gaining more members than you lose.  She values listening to members and staff and learning from them.

She manages janitors, baby sitters, member services receptionists, group-exercise teachers, and an assistant.  Through automation, better software, staff reductions and other efficiencies recently she has become able to spend much less time in managing it and less time on-site there.  She also has closed-circuit cameras at her home to check in.  Some years back her parents were killed in a car accident.  She and her siblings inherited duplex apartments in several states.  This included Corpus Christi, and she had to manage them for a while at a distance—when a hurricane was heading to the Gulf Coast.   One tenant blew up his apartment when he heated a cold can of paint with the furnace.  She’s got plenty of other stories.

Candace understands our progressive form of religion and can affirm our theological inclusiveness and interfaith respect.  She also understands our commitment to be an LGBT-affirming “Welcoming Congregation.”  She happily affirms that stance as a person as well as a staffer/consultant with UUSS.  She lives with her husband and young adult daughter.

The Hiring Process

Based on the Board’s appointment of a hiring committee and approval of a job description posting at its June meeting (after Tina met with Linda Klein, Doug and me), the hiring team of Linda Klein (new VP), Kathy Canan (former VP), Doug and Roger interviewed three strong candidates last week.  (Candace learned about this opening from a colleague of a church member just as she began a new consulting job search. )  We received a few additional resumes and had a few phone inquiries.   We enjoyed and were impressed with all our interviewees, but were unanimous in our choice of Candace Scharber as the right match for this job at this time.   I followed up with  references she provided.  All were very strong: hard worker, smart, good with project management and day to day, highest integrity, excellent team building, respectful, creative.

Candace will work with us as a consultant for about 9 months, working an average of approximately 30 hours per week:  on-site and off site and at relevant committee and church-wide meetings and events as needed.  Inherent in the day-to-day management and support that she will provide, Candace will help  all of us on staff work more as a service-oriented and mutually supportive team.

We will be an even stronger expression of our mission and vision as we pursue the spirit of shared ministry.

I am excited about working with Candace and about what she can bring to UUSS at this time of transition.   I also appreciate the hard work and reliability of  our Office Assistant and Book Keeper during this time, and the support and extra work of many of our lay leaders and other volunteers.  Thanks to all of you for your support.

Advertisements


Money, Anxiety, and Abundance– my sermon in “Quest”

Not only is it humbling to be asked if your sermon can go into the magazine of the UU church with the largest number of members around the globe (the Church of the Larger Fellowship), it’s even more humbling to see all of the heavy-hitters whose writings are in the same issue.  Thanks!

Money, Anxiety and Abundance — July/August 2011.  This is an edited version of a sermon given some time back at church.  If you have comments, reflections, or questions, join the conversation here with the “Comments” link.  Or see if there is a conversation with other UUs on www.uua.clf.org.



What’s Your Tee-Shirt Gospel? (Third Annual Tee-Shirt Theology Service)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unitarian Universalist Society

Sacramento, CA

Advance Publicity/Invitation to Participation:  Please wear a tee shirt with words or images that reflect one of your religious, spiritual, ethical, organizational or social justice commitments. We’ll be invited to show our messages around. (What to wear?!?)  Please, no shirts with partisan political attacks or adults-only content.

 

Hymns: When Our Heart Is in a Holy Place (1008); Enter, Rejoice and Come In (361); Dear Weaver of Our Lives’ Design (22), Maglipay Universalist (Be Joyful, Universalists, printed on insert)

Shared Offering: Family Promise of Sacramento

 

Introduction to First Song

Good morning!  Welcome.  It’s good to see all of you here.  I serve as one of the ministers here.  On most Sunday mornings I don’t look like this.  [In a tee shirt.]  Usually I have on a suit and tie.

Some people may not like to see a minister be so informal.  “So under-dressed, un-accessorized.  He’s dishonoring the specialness of this holy place.  He diminishes his role in in worship!”

Well, I can accessorize a little bit for this occasion of worship.  [Put on sunglasses with candy-apple red frames.]  Maybe my eyes can adjust by the time I have to give the sermon.

But really, our coming together here is not about how we look, what clothing we wear or the shoes we have on.  It’s about what’s in your heart.  We come here to bring our hearts into a holy place.  May it be that for you today, a holy place, a place of love, courage, and joy. Now let us sing hymn number 1008, from the teal song book, When Our Heart Is in a Holy Place.  Please rise as you’re comfortable for number 1008.

 

[Tee-Shirt Processional Followed Sermon]


Sermon

Recently a member said:  “When I came here the first time, I didn’t know anything about Unitarian Universalism.  My spouse had been a UU before, but I hadn’t had any experience.  It would have helped me to see a paper with some bullet points, saying ‘This is what we are.’”  I’ve heard that request over the years.  No matter how many brochures we have in stock or what’s on the website, people still ask for an explanation of our faith.  We don’t have a creed or any published articles of belief.  There’s not one definitive list.  Instead, there’s a variety.  These lists don’t all read the same, but neither do they cancel out one another.

I have one for you to try on for size, right now.  These bullet-pointed words come from Laila Ibrahim, a lay leader and religious educator at our church in downtown Oakland. You can find these words on a tee-shirt.  Laila wrote them as the slogan for Chalice Camp, a children’s UU summer day camp.  Our church hosted chalice camp in 2006.  We didn’t have enough kids for it this year, but maybe next summer.   The words are on the front of your order of service.  Why don’t we read them aloud together?

It’s a blessing each of us was born.

It matters what we do with our lives.

What each one of us knows about god                        is a part of the truth.

You don’t have to do it alone.

Unitarian Universalism.

This is our good news.  A UU gospel message.  It’s not the only message, but it’s a valid one.  In times like these, in a world with so much hurt, we dare not limit our expressions of good news.  Now I’d like us to look at each statement, going from bottom to top.

            You don’t have to do it alone.

Life can be hard, and unfair.  Every day of the week, wherever you might go, you are surrounded by people who are living with grief, uncertainty, regret, anxiety.  Some us here are dealing with health challenges, physical pain and scary diagnoses.  Or we may feel well ourselves, but we worry about someone we know.  Many of us have emotional pain, feelings of self-doubt or depression, fear or loneliness.  Many of us have lost people we love.  Lost them to old age and illness, and sometimes to violence—accident, suicide, murder, war. We worry about our economy, our country, our world and those who live and die in oppression or misery.

With all our burdens, it’s easy to think we are alone and separate.  We can think:  “Everybody else has got their stuff together!  But even if they don’t, how can I be of any help?  What can somebody like me do to help others?”

Here’s the problem, in my view.  We live at a time that celebrates the individual. Individual accomplishments and personal success deserve praise and celebration, of course.  Still, too many messages in our culture tell us that success, happiness, prosperity and well-being are up to the individual alone.  This message, this myth, makes up the plot of inspiring movies and the so-called “secret” of best selling advice books.  It’s behind a lot of our politics and public policy.  Everybody who wins is a winner by choice and by will, only by their efforts.  Those who fall short, or suffer or face financial devastation—they just let themselves be losers.  Such an ideology blames individual people for their misfortunes.

It makes us forget how important we are to one another.  Let’s think about those who have made our success possible, those who’ve made our lives good:  Our ancestors, our teachers, the founders of our schools, museums, libraries and recreational programs.   Friends and social workers.  Public safety and medical professionals,  custodians and construction workers.

It’s just not possible to live and to thrive without being dependent on other people!  We need clothing makers, farm workers, and community volunteers.  Food inspectors, call center operators, webmasters, accountants, store managers and clerks. We cannot exist in isolation, and we don’t. This is why we come together in religious community.  We come together to remember that we are not alone, to renew our hope.

Notice how good it feels to be heard and accepted, how much it helps to talk over a challenge with another person, to gather suggestions for how to face a problem.   How does it feel to work together, to pursue common goals for the common good?  How empowering feels to share power, share ideas, share problems.

You don’t have to do it alone.”  No, you don’t, and you better not go through it alone, for your own sake.

Back to the list:

What each one of us knows about god is a part of the truth.

           

Both Universalism and Unitarianism started as movements of protest.  Our predecessors argued against narrow ideas of God and negative teachings about the nature of the human being.  Their gospel was radical, but simple.  God was a loving creator, not a tyrant.  As children of such a creator, all human beings have a divine spark in them.  That’s it!

Our forebears based this message on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  They argued that he was a teacher and a prophet, a very special person, but a human being.  Now Unitarian Universalists honor many great spiritual teachers from history, and we know that we can learn also from people sitting around us in church.

Universalists and Unitarians emerged in liberal Christianity but we kept evolving.   Our tradition grew and changed through study and conversation with non-Christian religions.  We have been enriched by non-religious thinkers, artists, and activists.

One of you may object:  God is not a useful concept! Most ideas of God are not based on evidence!  Okay, that’s a piece of the truth.

Yet another one may say:  I have a personal relationship with God.  That’s a piece of the truth too.

So is the image of the Goddess on the altar in your corner at home, and so is the practice of sitting in silence every day for a certain length of time.  So is the experience of rock climbing, surfing, snow boarding, gardening painting or literature.  We gain pieces of the truth from astronomy and poetry, from genetics and geology and so much more.  What each of us knows is a piece of the truth … about Life with a capital L.     This is another reason why you don’t have to do it alone:  Instead of the stubborn isolation of certainty, we hope to learn from different perspectives.  We strive to welcome doubt in our spiritual lives.

            It matters what we do with our lives.

 

            Any one of us can feel insignificant when we consider the forces that shape our lives and powers that rule our world.  But that’s thinking too big, which means it’s also thinking too small about our potential.           Whatever we do to spend our time, how we do it makes a difference:  whether we are working, retired from our work lives, or… looking for work.  Whether we’re studying, volunteering, child-rearing, resting.  It does make a difference if we are reliable, helpful, generous, and kind.

It matters if we practice compassion.  We can choose to be calm when we could be aggressive.  We can act out of our values when we’d prefer to retaliate out of our hurt.  The quality of our intentions and actions can make a difference.  We have occasions to say I’m thinking of you, I hear you, I’m grateful for you.  We all have occasions to say thank you.

It’s a blessing each of us was born.

This includes you and me.  It includes mean people and those who enrage us on the freeway or the TV news.  It’s not easy to affirm this, I know.  But consider…

When we hear that somebody has had a baby, or when a baby has become part of a family through adoption, we smile.  We say congratulations.  That’s because each child is a blessing.  Each one of us is a blessing.  No matter the circumstances of the child’s birth.  No matter that the future will include the circumstance in family life known as the teenage years… Each one is a blessing.

We affirm this value at church by preparing to welcome those who come here.  We show intentional hospitality to newcomers as well as to those already part of the congregation.  Each arrival is a gift.  Each person’s time and presence is a gift of themselves.  All people are worthy of welcome, for all people are children of the same Spirit.  All are worthy of welcome and caring.

I’ve had my own struggles of self-doubt.  I’ve had times when I’ve felt bad, unworthy, not good about myself.  But when we dwell on feelings and thoughts that there’s little of worth inside us, we’re not only being unreasonable.  We’re letting down our Unitarian Universalist heritage!  To diminish yourself–or anybody else–is to try to extinguish the divine spark.

Our ancestors in this faith were charged with heresy!  They suffered for this value:  the value of human dignity and worth.  How can we not protect it, and promote it, as a precious inheritance.

There’s no need to prove yourself worthy of acceptance and love.  In our faith, it’s part of your lifetime guarantee.  It is a blessing each of us was born.  And because we’re not alone, we can remind one another of this value and this principle.

Our message is indeed good news.  It’s a reason for joy and celebration.  As I mentioned, these few sentences of Unitarian Universalist gospel are printed on the tee-shirts of kids going to camp, though you can order one in your size, too.  You can get a fridge magnet as well.  I’ve got one!

Think about why Unitarian Universalists would invent a day camp for children, or hold summer conferences and weekend retreats, and have church potlucks and Friday night shindigs.

We do these things for fun.  We do things for fun, because joy and humor and playfulness and making music can be religious experiences.   It matters that we celebrate life, and give thanks for it.

Loving life is part of our tradition.  It’s the heart of it. Let us always give thanks for life, and for all the gifts of life.

So may it be.  Amen and blessed be.



Our UU Readers Book Discussion Group..–..What’s Up Next for Us?

About 15 folks showed up tonight for a good discussion of “The Immortal LIfe of Henrietta Lacks.”  Thanks to Judy B. for facilitating.  She reports:   “Numerous themes in book to talk about.  I enjoyed it.”
The next group will be on Tuesday, August 30.   The book will be A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.
It is fiction and won a Pulitzer prize.   Available in paperback.  Jim G. will be the facilitator
You can read the New York Times book review of this title by clicking on the link of the newspaper’s name.  You can read a review in Charlotte (NC) weekly, Creative Loafing, by clicking its name/link.

Here are other book discussion suggestions from tonight’s group.  If you are a member, friend or guest of our congregation and would be interested in reading and discussing one of these, give it a plug by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT.  If you are not close by us but want to recommend or comment on one of these books, feel free to do the same.  But since I can moderate comments, NOTE that I won’t let you spoil any plots!
The Book Thief
The Lonely Polygamist by Bradley Udah
Little Bee  – fiction about a Nigerian girl
Sarah’s Key – fiction about France during WWII
Nothing to Envy – non fiction about life in North Korea
The Lost City of Z – about Percy Fosset
Blink – nf
Tipping Point – nf
Inside of a Dog  – nf
The Man Who Loved China  –  nf
Water for Elephants – fiction
The Greater Journey – contributions of French in 1800s to American culture
In the Garden of Beasts – about Hitler
Yacoubian Building      by Aswany   Fiction  about life in Egypt {Pastor Cranky saw the movie of this novel in 2009 at an international film festival in Minneapolis.  It was amazing!}



July Newsletter Column: Family Minister’s Message: Late Spring & Early Summer Scenes

 

LGBTQ Unitarian Universalists (plus straight allies from our staff and membership) got up and out early on a rainy Saturday to march and to “stand on the side of love” for Sacramento’s annual Pride Parade.  Music Director Eric Stetson led us in song, and small crowds cheered our banners as we sloshed by them.

Then people took turns staffing the UUSS booth at the Pride Fair, along with the other gay-affirming faith communities.  My drenched feet and I held out till 1:30, then went home for a cat nap and wardrobe change.  Thanks to Diane & Jean for staffing the booth for the duration and Eric for his enthusiastic explanations of Unitarian Universalism to those who stopped by the booth.

A week later, with winter wetness behind us, the Youth Coming of Age’s teenage participants, their parents, siblings, adult mentors, and the two COA co-leaders gathered in one family’s back yard for an evening cookout.   Chatting, chowing and swinging on a swing set, the youth had clearly bonded with one another and with their mentors.  Parents poured out their appreciation of the time and care given by the mentors.

Eating a big wedge of cake, I asked a third grader about the most fun thing of his school year.  No hesitation from him:  It was working on his school newspaper, interviewing classmates and writing stories.  Name of the paper?  “The Cougar Paw Print.”

After church on May 22 our members and trustees engaged one another with open minds and deep hearts at the Congregational Meeting.  The Trustees trusted the congregation to share the challenge of our budgetary challenges and some painful options.  The discussion was not easy, but always respectful.  The meeting was continued for another day, June 12, for final discussion and a vote on the 2011-12 budget

By that meeting, many members and friends had stepped forward to make extra gifts and to raise their pledge commitments by $50, $250, $500 and a few thousand dollars.  As a result:  no furloughs, and full fiscal year ahead with vital programs to support us as we come together, deepen our lives, and promote healing in the world.

I love starting summer with memories and moments of inspiration.  See you again on July 17.

Yours in service,



7 Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Kids about Money– from Parents.com

To read this brief article from Parents.com, click this link.  Let us know your thoughts and experiences on this topic by submitting COMMENTS in the section here on my blog (not on parents.com).