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Congregations raise money for UUA diversity initiatives

Almost 500 congregations sign up for Association Sunday
By Donald E. Skinner
10.12.09

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The third year of Association Sunday, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual fundraising event, got underway last week. On Sunday, October 4, hundreds of congregations held a special worship service that included a collection to support UUA diversity initiatives. Many more congregations will hold their events later in the year.

The money raised will expand the “Building the World We Dream About” curriculum that is designed to promote multiculturalism. It will also be used to support congregations who are working to become racially, culturally, and economically diverse, as well as congregations and districts that minister to youth and young adults of color.

The Rev. Stephan Papa, special assistant to the president for congregational giving and growth funding, said the funds raised will move the UUA toward diversity. “Growth in diversity is a challenge for us,” he said. “It’s also one reason Peter (the Rev. Peter Morales) was elected president in June. We told him we wanted our faith to be part of the multicultural future.”

In 2007, the first year of the program, Association Sunday raised more than $1.4 million for an advertising campaign in Time magazine, a program to support ministers of color and their congregations, and grants for individual congregations’ growth initiatives.

Last year, Association Sunday raised $406,000 to support theological education programs, continuing education offered by the UU Ministers Association, scholarships for people entering UU ministry, and a program supporting ministers of color.

Papa noted that last year’s Association Sunday, in October, came just a few weeks after the major drop in the stock markets. “A lot of people were in shock and quite anxious,” he said. “This year every congregation goes in knowing it’s a challenging time and an opportunity to grow our faith and our spirit of collaboration and generosity.” The goal this year is to raise as much as, or more than, last year, said Catherine Lynch, the UUA’s director of campaigning.

Papa noted that in the first year of Association Sunday, 626 congregations participated, representing almost 129,000 congregants. Last year there were 520 congregations, with 106,600 people. This year the total thus far is 494 congregations representing more than 114,000 congregants.

Association Sunday is about more than raising money, said Papa. It’s a time to make connections among congregations. On October 4, Papa attended an Association Sunday worship service at the UU Church of Lancaster, Pa., with eight Pennsylvania congregations participating, from Lancaster, Harrisburg, Reading, State College, Boiling Springs, York, Gettysburg, and Northumberland. He reports that more than 500 people attended the intergenerational service. A similar regional Association Sunday service is being planned for April in Leominster, Mass.

And in coastal Georgia and South Carolina, six UU ministers traded pulpits October 4 to mark the day. “We are starting to strengthen connections,” said Papa. “This will make us more effective.”

This year, Association Sunday includes a new Connecting Congregations program in which a congregation is invited to pair with another congregation. The two congregations will share information with each other and may decide to sing the same hymns, do the same chalice lighting, or challenge each other on the amount of money raised. About 100 congregations have signed up thus far for Connecting Congregations, Papa said.

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