Helpers among the community of Pittsburgh area UUs. Link to the main Sunnyhill site.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A word from our president.... Jay P

Thank you to all who participated in the four budget forums held between the end of the pledge drive and prior to the congregation meeting to vote on the proposed 2009 budget. Thank you also to all who participated in the budget meeting.

I do want to address Murray Zeldman's question about the boards follow-up and communication of issues raised at the four forums held to hear comments and responses to the board's draft budget. I need to take full responsibility for not addressing at the congregational meeting, the issues that were brought up and the board's discussion and responses to each point. I had intended to. I even said at the board meeting on the 8th that I would. Believe me, it was oversight. I actually spent all my preperation time on trying to properly address the Minister/Search Cmte issue, which we found was really the major thing that was on everyone's mind. Below, I'm pasting a copy of the draft minutes from the board meeting pertaining to the budget forums. Please keep in mind that the brevity of the responses to the (equally brief) concerns does not indicate the time spent on each issue. If you have any further concerns, or feel that issues were left out or not addressed, please let me or any other board member know.


excert from the draft minutes of the December 8th UUCSH Board of Trustees meeting regarding responses to issues raised at four public budget forums held prior to the congregational meeting to approve the 2009 budget.

Budget: The board discussed the issues raised during the budget forums, as follows:
Discount on pledge income: Because pledges now exceed the budget, a discount exists.
Sunnyhill-to-go: Overly ambitious? Since the fund raiser has raised more this year than has been projected for next year, it was felt that the projection was reasonable.

Maintenance and Supply: What is included in this item: Charlie will make a separate list of what was included in 2008, with the understanding that it is a flexible fund.
Cleaning services: Cover-All. Elizabeth has not gotten any complaints about the service; if anyone does have complaints, they should be brought to her.

Fees-for-Services: Some board members felt this would be useful to learn more about in the coming year for consideration at a later date.

Costs of copying: It was decided to monitor this item which can be done at the copier, just to identify what groups are using the most paper and to raise awareness.
Search committee/ministry: The budget as proposed funds Rod as full-time interim minister through the budget year. It does not fund a search committee. It was felt that this should be made perfectly clear to the congregation at the budget meeting

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Friday, December 19, 2008

Call for papers: Transhumanism? | Re-public: re-imagining democracy - english version

Call for papers: Transhumanism? | Re-public: re-imagining democracy - english version: "Are we in a position to redefine, to drastically transform our very human nature?

This is a question formed in the last 20 years by an international movement, deriving from a scientific current, advocating that if the human is a result of an evolution process of millions of years time, nothing rationally preempts its conclusion. On the contrary, transhumanism proposes that the convergence of nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information and cognitive sciences provide us with a new opportunity, as well as, the responsibility to collectively participate and assume this evolution: it is, more than ever, possible to “form a better humanity” meaning better health for individuals, longer life expectancy, a more effective control of themselves, through enhanced skills, capacities and capabilities."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Church joins movement to spend money on those who really need it this Christmas

Church joins movement to spend money on those who really need it this Christmas Church joins movement to spend money on those who really need it this Christmas 'Conspiracy' against holiday gifts

There are no Christmas tree, no holiday decorations, no creche with the baby Jesus. No altar, no stained glass windows and no pews, either.

But make no mistake: The spirit of Christmas is alive and well at the Christ Community Church of the South Hills, which meets in the Eisenhower Elementary School gymnasium in Upper St. Clair.

Our Christmas Tree at Sunnyhill is a mitten tree. It is filled with hats, mittens and gloves for those in need.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Harrisburg UU Church on Dec 6

Please join with members of PUSH and Health Care for All PA affiliates for this important meeting. Health care reform is near the top of the national agenda but it's up to us to see that single payer - the only cost-effective, efficient, comprehensive health program that serves everyone - is passed into law.

Health care for all PA. invites you to

“Call to Action" Health Care for All Convention
Workshops : "Media & Communications," "Networking, Organizing & Mobilizing for Reform," "The Economic Genius of Single Payer," "Winning Pa in 2009” “ Effective Citizen Lobbying at All Levels of Government."

Saturday December 6, 2008

10 am – 3 pm

Unitarian church of Harrisburg

1280 Clover Lane Harrisburg, Pa. 17113 717-564-4761
Norman Solomon
nationally-known media critic and a leader in the movement for a Single Payer Solution
in California, SB 840 & the u.s., HR 676

While the conference focus revolves around SB300/HB1660, PA single payer bills, and Congressional , "bridge" legislation, HR 506 & S.1069 the fastest track to HR 676, organizing and lobbying activities must center on all levels of government: municipal, county, state, national, using leverage points wherever they appear.

Info./Register: or

Carpooling from W. PA:


Norman Solomon, nationally-known media critic and Single Payer Solution leader on California's SB 840 and Congress' HR 676, is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a national consortium of policy researchers and analysts. His weekly column on media and politics, Media Beat, has been in national syndication since 1992. A longtime associate of FAIR, he has written op-ed articles on media issues for many papers, including the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Newsday, New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Baltimore Sun. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Canada's Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Jordan Times. Norman Solomon's book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death was published in 2005. His latest book is Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State.
PUSH PA. United for SinglePayer HealthCare
Health Care for All PA
Everybody In, Nobody Out

Monday, November 10, 2008

UU and Beijing Olympics - merger on t-shirt

This is Erik's t-shirt and his neck charm, a UU design.

Here is Erik with the traditional tie-dye t-shirt, still with his UU pendant but in front of Beijing's Bird's Nest. And, notice the hat. It is the "R" of Radford.
Okay to click on the images for larger views.

From A for Athlete

Does that look like a UU Chalice to you?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

GOOD FILM - Save a date for Nov 16


The Middle East peace Forum sends this announcement to you at the suggestion of Rev zHermdon


At 7:00 PM on Sunday, November 16, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East will present the Pittsburgh premiere of a new documentary video directed by Mohammed Alatar entitled "Jerusalem: East Side Story." Mr. Alatar himself, who previously directed "The Iron Wall," will be personally present to answer questions about this extraordinary new effort to present the history that has led to the present oppressive situation in Israel-Palestine. This presentation will take place at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, 605 Morewood Avenue, in Shadyside. You can learn more about this video by visiting

Refreshments will follow the discussion. All are welcome.

Rev. David Herndon

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chalice Lighter Invite

This is an open invitation for you to become a Chalice Lighter in the Ohio-Meadville District. The Chalice Lighter Program is the single best, most effective way we have to directly support our fellow congregations who are working to reach out to others, who want to grow in health and numbers, but need a little help from the rest of us to get the job done.

Four times each year, the OMD Board chooses an outreach and growth project for funding from among those submitted by our congregations. Then individual Chalice Lighters throughout the district are asked to contribute $10 or more if possible. It’s that simple and easy.

Right now, in Fall 2008, the Oberlin Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was chosen to receive Chalice Lighter assistance to increase its outreach to address its lack of visibility in the Oberlin community. The congregation has no building of its own. It meets for Sunday service in a day care center and rents office space in a small building. There is no sign on the office building and only a hand-lettered sign outside the day care center on Sunday morning (see for a photo).

If you join Chalice Lighters now by mail or through the OMD website (, your donation will be used by the Oberlin congregation to:

1. Purchase signs so the congregation has an attractive physical presence throughout the week. This includes 4 highway signs to be posted by the main roads into Oberlin, a sign on the office building, and an attractive sign for Sunday mornings that can be read from both directions.

2. Purchase a demographic study from the UUA which will be used to help identify potential new members and create and target mailings and newspaper advertisements based on the information.

There is more information about Oberlin’s plans and the Chalice Lighter Program on the Ohio-Meadville District website – – including examples of how other congregations have used Chalice Lighter money to reach out.

To become a Chalice Lighter, you can send a check made out to OMD Chalice Lighters for $10 to the address below. Be sure to send your email address, if you have one, with your check to receive future Chalice Lighter notices.

Chalice Lighters

Ohio-Meadville District, UUA

PO Box 157

St. Clairsville, OH 43950

Or visit the OMD website at to sign up online and donate using a credit card.

And please consider increasing your donation to $15 or $25 or more if you are inspired to help this small congregation reach out to its neighbors in need of a welcoming spiritual home.

So -- why should you join the hundreds of OMD members who are already Chalice Lighters and sign up today?


Hope for the Future.

Hope for the future of Unitarian Universalism in the Ohio-Meadville District and in the world.

Please visit the OMD website and show your hope and support for the faith that means so much to us all.

And many, many thanks to those of you who faithfully support Chalice Lighters. You are making a direct and much needed difference here in the Ohio-Meadville District.


Rev. Joan Van Becelaere

District Executive

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Local Candidate Night Debate

Monday, Oct. 27th

Congressional District 18 Debate, live in Mt. Lebanon!

CD 18 spans four counties: Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland and Beaver, so come and hear the candidates speak for themselves. Co-hosted by the League of Women Voters, Mt. Lebanon PTA Council, and Greater Pittsburgh Student Voices.
7:30-9PM, Jefferson Elementary Auditorium, 11 Moffett St, Mt. Lebanon

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Welcome back! (Message from the board president.)

As we move into the new church year, I’m more thankful than ever that there is a home for liberal religion in the South Hills. Ours is a truly unique community where diverse spiritual beliefs are not only tolerated but warmly accepted for what they really are; each person’s attempt to find deeper meaning in life and to connect with the world we all share. As many of us know, that kind of acceptance can be hard to find.

I’m also thankful for our new Director of Religious Education, Cheryl Kelley, and for our great volunteer teachers and the large, vibrant RE program we enjoy here. My son and daughter love coming to church every Sunday and seeing their friends. The values being taught in their classes reflect my own—love, respect, democracy, environmental stewardship, making good choices and living with the consequences of your choices. Indeed, lessons to truly be thankful for.

I’m thankful for Rod Thompson, our Interim Minister. Besides giving us a fresh perspective from the pulpit, I’m very excited about the series of workshops he has planned for us this year. They’ll help us start building the strong foundation we’ll need to move into the future. First, Rod will lead us through a Right Relations workshop. Many of us believe this should be our number-one priority, so we’re tackling it first. In January, we’ll offer an Identity workshop, where we’ll get to the heart of “who we really are” as a community. In February, we’ll have a Visioning workshop, where everyone will have a chance to tell us where they think we should focus our energy moving forward. In March, I’ll travel to the District Assembly in Cleveland, where I will publicly convey our thanks for the Chalice Lighter grant we’ll receive from the member congregations to help us rebuild after a difficult year. And finally, in April, we will take a thorough look at the church’s Mission in light of all the work we’ve done up to that point. We’ll then turn that mission over to a yet-to-be-formed Strategic Planning Team, who will create a solid action plan to bring our mission to life and ultimately lead us into the critical process of searching for a new minister.

And yes, because it’s that time again, I’m not only thankful, but thrilled about our exciting new Canvass; one that puts monetary contributions into a larger context of giving. It takes much time, talent and treasure to keep a roof over our own heads and food on our tables at home. This church is no different. It takes considerable time, talent and treasure to keep our shared house in order and to feed our own hungry spirits. From RE…to roof leaks. From programs…to plumbing. From staff…to software. We need your many gifts. And most of all, we need you.

In mid-October, you’ll receive your Canvass packet. Between now and then, I urge you to put some real thought into what you can pledge to this community moving forward. Do you want to see it embody everything you know it can be? I know I do. So I ask that, according to your ability and your faith in our future, you make a commitment. Make your voice heard. And by all means, make it resonate.

In Faith,

Jay Pullen

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

P-G blasts out DVD that is 'hate-filled'

A recent Sunday edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette included an obviously expensive, professionally-produced anti-Islamic DVD titled "Obsession." One of our OMD ministers who viewed the DVD frankly called it "hate-filled" and "lie-filled." It was also included in newspapers in Akron, Columbus, Canton, Toledo and other cities in Ohio; and, apparently, in still more cities in "battleground" states in the presidential election. The Cleveland Plain Dealer did not carry the DVD.

Many Unitarian Univeralists in the OMD have already expressed outrage that something which blatantly violates the principles of religious freedom and tolerance could be distributed in our community, and put into the hands of our children, under the label of "advertising". They are writing the newspapers which distributed the DVDs to let them know how they feel.

This is a non-partisan issue. Our congregations and the district are able to express their disgust with this kind of reactive messaging without any risk to their non-profit status. I believe that we are called by our values and principles as Unitarian Universalists to speak out against those who would promote intolerance and fear in our communities.

Some district congregations and the Ohio Council of Churches are organizing around this issue and leading protests. Your congregation can too. If you need assistance, please contact the district office at office at

You can write a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Letters may be mailed to the Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Letters may be faxed to (412) 263-2014 or sent via e-mail to or by clicking here

Drummer (newsletter) got a blurb about this space = unofficial blog

Sunday music from both the choir and the folk group, with the new wash tub bass player, are two recent postings at the unofficial Sunnyhill blog. All sorts of chatter is fair game at the unofficial blog. Many have signed up to be contributors. Others are welcome.

The blog allows for a main post and comments to sustain the discussion. Blog postings
are less invasive than blast emails. But, blogs are also able to be seen by others on the internet.

Also, this FORKED blog exists, FWIW,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nuff Said

Sunday, September 14, 2008

All World News: My Afternoon With Doug Shields

All World News: My Afternoon With Doug Shields: "'Enough is enough,' he said criticizing Ravenstahl for saying that the settlement was 'protecting the public' while not actually saying what the mayor was protecting the public from. Shields guessed that the mayor's office 'felt panicked' by Ford's resignation letter and questioned Ravenstahl's description of a 'settlement of potential claims.' What claims? he asked. Ravenstahl claimed that Ford's letter was a lie. If that's the case, then why the settlement? Shields asked rhetorically.
Enough is enough of the all D political folly of Pittsburgh.

City council is not an investigative body. Doug is right. However, it is a funding body. It holds the purse strings. The members of council can cut off all pay to the URA and shut it down fully.

Don't pay someone to go away. Rather, have the entire URA go away. Liquidate it. Shut it. End its charter to make any additional transactions. Lay off the employees.

Unitarian Gospel Song -- tune up

From Joe Jencks house concert

Joe Jencks gets tuned up and does part of the introduction to the song, Come With Me. To catch the entire set -- come to our house concert on Wednesday, September 17, 2008. Arrive at 6 or after. Music starts at 7.

Do RSVP to Mark Rauterkus,, 412 298 3432.

From Joe Jencks house concert

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Song at Service

New Minister in town -- and "pre-fired"

The new minister is at Sunnyhill. He comes to us "pre-fired." He is a temporary minister.

From people & vips

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Conference-Big Ideas for Small Congregations(members<175)

OMD Fall Leadership Conference

Big Ideas for Small Congregations

“Whatever size you are, know that there are gifts and challenges all along the way. The trick is to be the best you can be at whatever size you are. Have quality worship, find one social action project to commit to, pay your bills, take care of each other, learn to handle conflict graciously, welcome visitors and love your children. Any congregation can do that. We’ll show you how.”
-from Big Ideas for Small Congregations:
A Friendly Guide for Leaders

Is your smaller congregation (175 members or fewer) energized and poised for growth? Or maybe you would like to grow, but just don’t know how. Or maybe are you a new or potential leader of a mid-size (150-300) congregation who wants to learn more about church leadership. If so, this conference is for you! Presenter Ellen Germann-Melosh, the co-Author of Big Ideas for Small Congregations: A Friendly Guide for Leaders, will present a model that will help put the work of your congregation into perspective and will share success stories of small congregations that became healthy, growing, vital members of their community. The afternoon session will be tailored to address the important issues in our congregations.

October 18, 2008
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
of Wayne County
3186 Burbank Road
Wooster, Ohio 44691
Registration: 9:00-9:30 a.m.
Conference: 9:30 a.m. till 3:00 p.m.
Fee is $25 per person*, including lunch and snacks. Home Hospitality and Childcare can be requested with early registration (by October 3). Fee after October 3 is $35.

*Congregations sending 3 or more members receive a
$5/person discount (early registration only) and get a free copy of the book!
Registration information was sent in your Congregational packet, or may be found at

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Global Warming Aug 24, 2008

You know, I originally intended to speak about alternative energy forms. What piqued my interest was George Bush’s pushing the “hydrogen economy”. I thought it was an interesting contrast, H2, the least dense substance in the universe being championed by W (Dubya), the densest substance in the universe. However, after some thought I decided that I preferred to talk about global warming, as it is the fundamental threat to our species in the coming century, more than war, more than poverty, more than terrorism, more than-here I will be bold enough to state “insert your favorite social issue here”. I include any social issue I may favor in this statement. I will not mince words. If our species cannot timely come to a sound successful strategy regarding global warming, we could be looking at our extinction.

For disclosure purposes, I am not a scientist nor do you need to be a scientist to understand global warming. Science’s role is to give us correct information; our role is to use the information responsibly.
First I would like to state that you will also hear the term global climate change, which I feel is only part of the story. Global climate change is a result of global warming. Global climate change includes such phenomena as moving a village higher up a mountain in Africa because the mosquito line has migrated upward; the possibility of more severe storms in the coming century; drought due to a diminishing cryosphere (ice and snow cover), or possibly precipitating a new ice age in Europe due to shifting the Gulf Stream. These phenomena are used to undermine the credibility of global warming as a real phenomenon by those who have vested interests in continuing business as usual, are simply in denial about a major paradigm shift needed in human organization, or who simply live in a constructed reality impervious to contradictory evidence. Global warming is the term I will use because the scientific evidence points to global warming as the phenomenon that causes the observed climate change effects. More specifically, anthropogenic (human caused) global warming is the core issue we must effectively address. This activity is primarily the burning of fossil fuels.

I have no problem with any legitimate scientist who may question global warming and addresses the question by the scientific method. However, societal decisions have to be made with the information currently available; global warming will not stop occurring while we wait. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that we are experiencing human induced global warming. My hope in presenting this program is that you will have enough information to responsibly participate in the public policy discourse, including being able to reject misinformation or disinformation. My information must be necessarily brief; if you wish more detail Mount Lebanon Public Library has an excellent resource, Earth’s Changing Climate by Professor Richard Wolfson of Middlebury College. They have it available in DVD, audio CD, and transcript form.

Let me distinguish between climate and weather. Global warming is about climate, the long term atmospheric trends, not weather, which is short term variation in atmospheric conditions. We have direct temperature measurements back to about 1860. Prior to that scientists use indirect evidence, called proxies, to study past climate. We have boreholes that go back about 1,000,000 years. These records show a cyclic pattern of brief (10,000 to 20,000 years) warm spells (interglacials) separated by longer cold spells (ice ages). The pattern repeats approximately every 100,000 years. This pattern results from subtle changes in the earth’s tilt and orbit and other complex feedback mechanisms. Climate reconstruction goes back even further using a variety of other proxies, including geological evidence for ice, fossil vegetation, and oxygen isotope (same protons, differing neutrons) ratios from fossil plankton. This evidence suggests that earth has been considerably warmer in the past as well as thought to have 4 periods when the planet was frozen solid, entirely covered with ice. These extremes occurred tens of millions to hundreds of millions of years ago. However, during the last at least 1,000,000 years earth has not experienced a warming greater than the period beginning with the industrial age and accelerating during the last twenty years.

So we have extremes of hot and cold. What determines a planet’s temperature, and therefore its overall climate. The basic cause is a balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing infrared radiation. The physics of temperature as a function of that balance is well understood. The presence of an atmosphere complicates the situation, as it blocks outgoing energy, thereby shifting the energy balance to warming. This is commonly called the greenhouse effect. For earth the natural greenhouse effect warms the planet by about 60° Fahrenheit, from 0° to 60°.
The earth’s atmosphere is made up of mostly nitrogen and oxygen, both of which are transparent to incoming sunlight and to outgoing infrared radiation. The greenhouse gases, primarily water vapor and carbon dioxide, are transparent to incoming sunlight but opaque to outgoing infrared radiation. This is due to an effect of their more complicated atomic nature, having three atoms per molecule rather than two, as do oxygen and nitrogen. We really have no need to get into the science of it; the point of mentioning this is that the greenhouse effect is an identified scientific phenomenon. Those who, for whatever their reasons, oppose policies designed to curb global warming, have the burden of refuting the evidence with better evidence, not with rhetoric, misinformation, disinformation, or outright ignorance.

I would like to spend some time presenting the false arguments of those who oppose policy formulated to stop global warming in order that you can recognize them and know them to be false arguments. Again, I state that those who have legitimate doubts have recourse to the methods scientists use to settle disagreements. Legitimate scientists, however, do not go on Fox News or its ilk to publish their findings. Those who do contribute not light, but noise, to the issue.

We have already mentioned one of the arguments, using global climate change’s varying outcomes to undermine the credibility of the global warming phenomenon itself. Those who study the outcomes can tie them back to global warming. Those who claim otherwise do not do so for scientific reasons but for other reasons, which may be anywhere from shallow research to researching to a predetermined conclusion.
Another argument is presenting a false statistical analysis. This includes statements that the effect is too small to measure. This is incorrect, if there is any correlation at all, the effect is measureable; methods other than correlation are used to search out the nature of the effect. Another is to say that climate change is cyclic, and we are merely experiencing a warm cycle. Statisticians can measure cyclic effects and determine if the effect is statistically significant beyond the cyclic effect. Very briefly, if you segment those 100,000 year hot-cold cycles, overlay them, and statistically calculate the representative curve, you have a measure of the cyclic effects to whatever degree of certainty you wish. I state this not to go into the mechanics of the statistics, but so that if you hear these arguments you know that they are false.

Another argument is to state that scientists don’t study climate, they study computer models of climate. This is about as specious an argument as can be made. Computer models are a legitimate tool of science. Their results must meet the standards of validity and reliability that all scientific tools must meet. Computer models put us on the moon, and even more impressive, brought us back to earth from the moon. Specifically regarding climate study, models are validated by determining if they “predict” the past as it is known from the methods previously stated, direct measurement or proxy measurements.
Another false presentation is that models have widely varying outcomes. The different outcomes is what they are designed to measure. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has, at last count, 31 scenarios that measure variables the IPCC considers important. The main axes are Economic Growth vs. Environmental Preservation, Globalization vs. Regionalization, and Technology type and level (carbon based vs. renewable). The outcomes are different because the inputs are the variables, and the model is measuring the effect of the particular variable. Again, those whose impartiality may be slanted are distorting legitimate information to illegitimate ends. For the record, I do not see economic growth and environmental preservation as inherently at odds but at odds due to the economic joining of government and vested economic interests. That’s a subject for another talk on another day.

The last argument I will mention is more of an attempted indictment than it is an argument. It goes something like this: Einstein disagreed with the mainstream scientists of his time, and proved to be right. Therefore, we can’t accept global warming merely because scientists overwhelmingly agree with it. Their argument, however, is specious. Neither Einstein nor anyone else whose theories prevailed argued for the null hypothesis, which in this case is that we don’t know what causes global warming or that what we know is insufficient. They argued for their specific theories and peer-reviewed evidence ultimately supported them. In the case of global warming peer reviewed research overwhelmingly points to a human induced global warming effect. Scientists do not take a vote.
That said; let’s get back to the greenhouse effect. Nature has provided us with, though not a controlled “experiment”, an opportunity to study the effect of atmosphere on a planet’s temperature through the study of three planets, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Earth, we have already mentioned, has a natural greenhouse effect of about 60° Fahrenheit (33°C). Venus would have an atmosphere-free-temperature of about 55°C. It, however, does have an atmosphere density 100 times that of Earth’s and this is 96% carbon. Venus has an actual surface temperature of about 500°C (not a misprint). Mars would have an atmosphere free temperature of about -55°C. Mars has an atmosphere about 1% of Earth’s and its actual temperature is only slightly cooler than predicted by the net result of sunlight in and infrared radiation out, supporting, through elimination, the greenhouse effect being due to atmosphere. The greenhouse effect on Venus is why I say that global warming is the issue we must address above all other issues.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, we have mentioned two major greenhouse gases, water vapor and CO2. Some recent scientific research indicates a third possibility, the burning of sacrificial candles at Unitarian Universalist rituals, but we can address that at a future service. Water vapor cycles between surface water and airborne water in about a week, on average. Due to precipitation, the effects do not accumulate. There may be some increase in the absolute amount of vapor in the air as the earth warms, but it is not thought to be significant in terms relative to CO2. CO2 cycles between the air and earth due largely to photosynthesis with a secondary cycle of surface water and air exchange. CO2 cycles between air and surface on the average every 5 years. The difference is that, unlike water vapor, as CO2 is added to the atmosphere it accumulates. It is still being recycled every 5 years, but a larger amount is being recycled. The larger amount causes less infrared loss, and consequent heat retention. The process is called a positive feedback mechanism, feedback that enhances its own effect. Don’t be fooled by the name, it has negative consequences in that it is not self-correcting as is the water vapor cycle. The accumulation will remain in the atmosphere for centuries.

The only question remaining is: how do we know it’s anthropogenic (human induced)?
Remember, the Earth’s energy flow is sunlight in, infrared radiation out; adding atmosphere causes the greenhouse effect. The composition of the atmosphere determines the extent of the greenhouse effect; the presence of carbon dioxide being the main determinant. The natural CO2 exchange is about 560 gigatonnes-a gigatonne is a billion tonnes. Now, let’s go to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are carbon that was removed from the atmosphere by natural processes eons ago. As in-ground solids or liquids, they don’t effect the energy flow. Burning releases them back into the atmosphere at the rate of 7 gigatonnes per year. In addition, deforestation accounts for about 2 gigatonnes per year of CO2 not removed from the atmosphere. Humans are increasing CO2 at the rate of 9 gigatonnes per year. The deforestation effect is easily measurable and not contested by any legitimate source. The fossil fuel burning is also easily measurable, but there are those who do contest that the carbon is coming from human sources, for whatever their reasons. How about the carbon? How do we know it’s from our fossil fuel burning?

Scientists are able to use carbon dating techniques to determine that the carbon being added is from fossil fuels, and not some other source. It really is confirming what we already know, as once again, fossil fuel use is a commercial activity and its volume is extensively documented.

I think that we can safely leave the “if” debate regarding global warming to talk radio, and get on with the business of the “how” of addressing global warming. The following is an extremely brief overview of global warming policy issues for the future. It comes down to eliminating fossil fuels as an energy source.
There are only three non-fossil energy sources for earth; solar, geothermal, and motion (wind and tides). The average North American uses 10KW per person, the equivalent of 100 human slaves. Sunshine provides ten thousand times the energy needs of the current human population of the earth at the North American consumption level, geothermal about a thousand. Even motion, the least abundant of the three, provides 100 times human energy needs.

Converting these sources to usable applications is a solvable engineering problem. The primary issues to be considered in alternative fuel technologies are scale, physical capital, and the extent to which the alternative technology is dependent on a fossil fuel foundation, which is now mostly petroleum. Here I would like to sound a cautionary note; we must beware of what I call Sidewalk Supervisor Syndrome. It goes through three stages. Stage 1 is “It can’t be done”. Stage 2 is “It can be done but it’s not worth it”. Stage 3 is “If they would have listened to me, we would have had it a long time ago”.

Of all the alternative fuel technologies, only nuclear power is scaled to be available in the reasonably near future, which I will arbitrarily set as a transition time of 20 years. The technology beyond 20 years is simply an unknown. I have read legitimate articles that state nanotechnology will lead us to the replicators of Star Trek, except that we will be able to replicate any substance. If I have a faith, it is that if someone can dream it, we can build it. But we need to do what we can with what we have right now. The other alternative energy sources scale on a regional or local basis. I don’t state that as an endorsement of nuclear power, only a fact to be addressed. We can have the talk about alternative energy at some future service, for now we simply have to begin looking at how we should start. We need a transitional fuel that we can do now.

The “Precautionary Principle” is the IPCC’s answer to the “if” part of global warming. The Principle states “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”.

I think it’s excellent for a start, but the devil is in the details. I would prefer to omit the term cost effective, because the concept of cost effectiveness is distorted by the vast subsidies that are given to the fossil fuel industries. However, we have to start somewhere, and The Kyoto Protocol is the beginning of an attempt to put this principal into action. The Kyoto Protocol is not the final answer because it sets goals, not requirements. I would prefer a set schedule over no less than 20 years to reduce carbon emissions to zero with no exceptions.

The barriers to this are not scientific or technical, they are economic and political. The extent to which the alliance of finance and government has corrupted society on a global basis is, as I see it, the root problem to be addressed before any other. I don’t have a detailed proposal; I have been vocal in other forums about the effect of our economic structure on our societal outcomes. I do not think government subsidies of any fuels are the answer; private capital should take that risk. But if ever we needed a zero tolerance policy toward something, it is fossil fuels. The first step is to remove the influence of money from our political system; otherwise we are just continuing the practices that brought us where we are today.

Economists, high priests of the spirituality of money, who have the power to commune with the unseen hand of the marketplace, traditionally measure the status of human development by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. Using this measure, there is strong correlation between GDP and energy consumption.

An alternative model published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI is the signature trademark of the Human Development Report (HDR), an independent report commissioned by the UNDP that is written by a team of scholars, development practitioners and members of the Human Development Report Office of UNDP. The HDI has had a significant impact on drawing the attention of governments, corporations and international organizations to aspects of development that focus on the expansion of choices and freedoms, not just income.

The HDI measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development:
A long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth;
Knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate;
A decent standard of living, as measured by GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms in US dollars.

It is interesting that initially, the HDI rises with an increase in per capita energy consumption, but after this initial rise increasing energy consumption does not increase HDI.

This is one model of alternative methods of measuring our well being. There are others; the point being that we need not blindly accept the mythology of the marketplace in human well being. We need to do more than shift our priorities; we need a fundamental shift in how we vision our relationship with the earth. We can no longer look on the earth as a resource for private exploitation but as a commons for which we all share responsibility. It belongs to all of us but not to any single one of us. Any lesser vision is at our peril.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sunnyhill Board has Blog!

Sunnyhill Board of Trustees is proud to announce our latest way to communication with the congregation. We have a BLOG.
Just click this link to get the most current happenings at Sunnyhill at the board level.
We will update it often so subscribe to the blog or check back often. Thank you - the Communications Team (Amy Kent, Lee Young, Louise Machinist and Sibyl McNulty)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Simplicity Circle Recycles Electronics Responsibly during Garage Sale

Simplicity wants to make sure that the electronics we inherit during the garage sale will be disposed of responsibly since most will not sell (if history is any indicator). We have found Agreenspan, a local recycler, who will dispose of electronics in an environmentally-responsible manner. Since this will cost us a few bucks we are passing on this charge as a drop-off fee during the garage sale, see list below. Most “free” collection events unwittingly send these electronics overseas into cyber-age waste dumps where computers are burned emitting toxic fumes, micro-chips are washed in acid baths and then dumped into local rivers. The fees will be collected on the honor-system; an instruction sign, drop-off fee pricelist, and cash box will be at Sunnyhill’s front door during the garage sale drop-off. Please contact Elizabeth or Charlie with any questions.





The following prices are a guide to recycling charges for television sets.

Screen size- measure glass diagonally Recycling fee

15” or smaller $20.00

Over 15” but less than 27” $30.00

27” but less than 36” $40.00

36” and above (TABLE MODELS) $ 50.00

Floor models (wooden cabinets,

on wheels,etc,) $ 50.00


The Recycling Lie
“We may think we’re doing the right thing by giving our old electronics to a ‘recycler’ or a free collection event,” said Sarah Westervelt, BAN’s e-Stewardship Program Director. “But most of those businesses calling themselves recyclers are little more than international waste distributors. They take your old equipment for free, or pocket your recycling fee, and then simply load it into a sea-going container, and ship it to China, India or Nigeria.”

Once on foreign shores your old computer or TV becomes part of a cyber-age horror story. In China, woman and children breathe in the toxic solder vapors as they cook circuit boards, dioxins are produced when wires are burned, and micro-chips are washed in strong acid baths and flushed into the rivers as primitive metals extraction techniques take their toll on the local environment and the health of thousands of migrant farmers. In Nigeria the imported techno-trash that is not repairable is dumped and burned in swamps. BAN revealed these sad truths as early as 2002 in their film and report “Exporting Harm: The High Tech Trashing of Asia” and again in another report and film entitled “The Digital Dump: Exporting Re-use and Abuse to Africa," in 2005.

Unfortunately, according to BAN and ETBC, this ugly waste trade continues unabated from the United States because the government refuses to ratify the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment – international accords prohibiting trade in hazardous waste to developing countries, and has otherwise expressed little interest in controlling its toxic waste exports as long as they are claimed to be destined for recycling or re-use. As such, US e-waste exports are in contravention of international law, but not US law, and thus US “recyclers” are able to claim they abide by all environmental laws and are even "EPA approved".

Doing the Right Thing: The e-Stewards Initiative
To help distinguish between these unscrupulous exporters and the responsible recyclers and refurbishers, BAN and ETBC created the e-Stewards Initiative – a program identifying North America’s most responsible e-Waste recyclers that have agreed to adhere to strict criteria created by the non-profit environmental groups. The criteria require that no hazardous electronics equipment or parts (as defined internationally) will be exported to developing countries or be processed by captive prison labor, and that none of it will end up in landfills or incinerators. These responsible recyclers can be found at: or Consumers are urged to avoid recyclers not on this list including free e-waste collection events that do not state that they only use e-Stewards recyclers.

“We strongly urge all consumers to avoid all but those recyclers that have qualified as e-Stewards. If your local recycler has not qualified for the program, ask them to do so. Otherwise while trying to do the right thing with recycling, you can unwittingly become a player in a global digital dumping game, and end up poisoning those in developing countries,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of ETBC.

For more information contact:

Sarah Westervelt at BAN in Seattle: 1.206.652.5555, or

Barbara Kyle at ETBC in San Francisco: 415-206-9595, or

For photographs of electronic wastes dumped in Africa and China:

For more information on the horrors of e-waste export read the reports Exporting Harm and The Digital Dump, found on the Basel Action Network website:

For a list of responsible recyclers/refurbishers (e-Stewards):

ATTN. Editors: Many newspapers and media outlets have been promoting recycling of electronics without paying attention to what the "recyclers" really do with the waste. Please be cautioned against helping promote free collection events or local recyclers that are not vetted as being non-exporters. Please call us if you have any questions in this regard.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pointers to recources

These are articles to which I think members should have direct access on our website or blog, and I am submitting them for your consideration.
This is a library of UU resources:
The following are specific articles from the above that I think would be worth specifically noting separately:
This is a congregational self-assessment protocol;
This is a by-law review protocol;
This is a policy governance model.
Thank you for your attention and any consideration you may give to the above.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Next Forum

The US Army operates a center at Ft Leavenworth Kansas called "the finest learning center in the United States of America." We will watch the Commandant explain how the Army is now training the troops in "Nation Building" whereas just a few years ago, one politician mocked the previous President (Clinton) for using the Army for such activity.

We will also watch part of an interview with Gen. Petraeus where he relates some of the complications of the occupation of Iraq. The lesson to be learned from both officers is how well educated, perceptive and well spoken they are compared to the civilians to whom they must answer.

This will be in Room 25 at 10:15


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Big Meeting and APT results are delivered

The Sunnyhill Service auction was as much fun as a day at the beach. It was held on Saturday night.

Sunday night the community gathered to get the results of the Action Planning Team in the next step of the 'bridge building process.'

The congregational meeting is next week.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Herb's idea for a new group

I am interested in hearing from those who are interested in forming a member-driven discussion group regarding who we are as UUs and what we expect from UUism and Sunnyhill.

In order that there be no misunderstanding, I will first state that I am specifically not interested in offering an alternative to the bridge building process. For full disclosure, I will state that I remain unconvinced that the bridge building process is responsive to the needs of our congregation. Our needs are both transactional and transformational; the consultant's report is limited in scope, whether intended or not, to transactional change. It addresses issues necessary to correcting management errors of the past but does not go beyond this aspect to address the core issues of defining who we are as a congregation and what will fulfill our congregational identity.

I will participate in the bridge builder process primarily as an observer and commenter, not because of the value of the process but because of the value of being aware of the state of the process. I will not be disruptive but I will not silently stand by if I see the process as contributing to advancing a forgone agenda from either within this congregation or from the UUA.

That said, I would like to meet with persons who would like to discuss what we expect from being a UU. I cannot be specific in an agenda because I want those who come to bring their own issues and perspective free from the necessity of having any prefixed limits on their concerns. One of my own concerns is do we need a minister at all, another is what, if any, relationship should we have to the UUA. I am stating these not because they should be the agenda, but as examples of transformational issues as opposed to transactional issues such as who should be the minister or how much dues we should pay the UUA. I hope that such examples would encourage others to look at fundamentals and to speak freely in an atmosphere not burdened by an outside agenda.

In order to be clear, I would like to specify that the group would be free ranging as it desires in considering issues, but only issues. I am not looking for the group to be a management alternative or to be mission driven. There are plenty of other opportunities for action driven agendas. Of course, participants may gain ideas or learn of allies for taking action within the congregation, but that would be a derivative benefit of the group, not a directed intention.

For those of you who feel more comfortable knowing I didn't invent a non-agenda driven group, I am copying the model of Calvin Pava, of the Harvard Business School in looking at Task Complexity (High/Low) and Conflict (High/Low), and am using the Quadrant 4 model, Nonsynoptic Systems (High Complexity, High Conflict). It's set forth on Page 151 Leading Change in the Congregation by Gilbert Rendle. It's characteristics are that it uses unclear objectives, imprecise methods, encourages disorderly action, and uses tacit emphasis on changing the system.

Finally, I have been doing a little reading in Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma aspects of game theory, and will use my conclusions from the material to set the following standard for forming and continuing the group: I will meet as long as there are two other individuals willing to meet for two meetings, or two additional meetings once the group forms. In forming or continuing the group I will give no weight to the approval or disapproval of any non-participant, whether or not they occupy any position of authority in the church. I will terminate the group if, and only if, it does not meet the stated standard. This is not a hostile statement, it is a clarity statement.

If anyone is interested, please let me know.

Herb Caponi

Friday, March 28, 2008

SUUSI 2008 catalog | SUUSI

SUUSI 2008 catalog | SUUSI SUUSI 2008 catalog

The SUUSI 2008 catalog will be bulk mailed at the end of March. Until you receive your copy, or if you would prefer an electronic copy, you can download the catalog below.

SUUSI 2008 catalog - without registration forms (2.3 MB)

Monday, March 24, 2008


For March, the Forum will be the video of Charlie Rose interviewing the author of the book: The Shock Doctrine, the Rise of Disaster Capitalism followed by the usual discussion.

Naomi Klein says: “The best time to push through these very unpopular economic policies is in the aftermath of some kind of crisis or shock” and giving numerous examples.

Share in the exchange of ideas during LifeCraft at 10:15 am on Sunday, March 30, 2008, in Room 25.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Greek organizers kindle backup Oly torch - Sunday March 23, 2008 12:52PM

We light this ... - Olympics - Greek organizers kindle backup Oly torch - Sunday March 23, 2008 12:52PM: "a Greek actress in the white gown and sandals of a pagan high priestess used a backup flame lit at a rehearsal on Saturday.

That flame will be sent to China if storms forecast for Monday scuttle the official lighting ceremony beside the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera in ancient Olympia.

'We hope the weather is good tomorrow,' Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said.

Clouds spoiled the ceremony for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the last three Winter Olympics.

But bad weather is not the only headache for the mock-ancient ceremony's organizers -- who took the rare step of moving Monday's event an hour back to avoid rainstorms."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bridge Building Forums

For those who have something to say and for those who want to learn.

Tues: 3-11-08 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm

Wed: 3-12-08 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm

Sat: 3-15-08 from 9:30 to 12:30 pm

Sun: 3-16-08 from 1 to 4 pm

Just show up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This Super Delegate Loves to Swim

A member has passed

There is some sad news that is headed out in an email. Or, call the church for details.

Religious Education Committee — Catherine P, Chair

Starting February 1st 2008, the RE Committee took on the role of running the RE program until the new DRE is hired (target date August 1, 2008). The committee consists of Catherine (chair) , Bob and Beth H, Bruce K, Denise O-K, Cheryl K, Judy K, Marina L, and Geneva. Amy serves as the Liason from the Board. One of the primary activities of the committee is to coordinate the activities beyond Religious Education Classes.

The Harvest Festival was hosted by Lisa P; Spring Festival will be hosted by Geneva and Judy; and Secret Friends is being coordinated by Catherine. Bob and Beth are the liaisons from the Youth Group to the RE committee and participated in a very successful Italian dinner (fundraiser for NEED).

Susan R and Lynn Acquafondata took over coordination of the Coming of Age program in February and that will culminate with a COA service in May.

Our Whole Lives (OWL) will be offered again next year for our 9th and 10th graders.

Denise is the Children /Youth Choir Director. Marina directs the Sunnyhill Youth Orchestra which has played opening music and special music at services.

The RE committee members also provide much of the summer RE volunteer teaching and help recruit others to fill these slots. Geneva and Amy will provide a full lesson plan for each summer Sunday this year which is very helpful to volunteers.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Come, stretch out on a blanket and be mesmerized by the flames, expanse of sky, and good company. We hope to see you there!

BONFIRE 2008!!

It’s time again for our "open-house" spring bonfire at our acreage in Washington County! We'd like you to come and bring anyone with whom you'd like to be (1). It’s on Saturday, March 29 from 2:00 PM until after dark, so come and go whenever you like. We plan to light the bonfire at around 2:30, watch the flames roar up, then let the fire collapse as it burns into the evening. Meanwhile, there's power-sitting, hiking in the woods, chopping logs, climbing trees, modified baseball (2), dog play, roasting food, eating s’mores, - and maybe we can sing as we have down in the early bonfire years. Friendly dogs are welcome, too, as are kites, musical instruments, sports gear, etc.

We provide the basics (3) such as water, some chairs, s'mores (4), and hot dogs with options from vegan to carnivore. You may want to bring blankets, lawn chairs, and clothing for all seasons (5). And, if you have some tree parts that you want to get rid of, just bring them and throw them on the fire.

See the attached map to get to ‘Playland’, our 13 acre property on Welsh Road in Chartiers Township, Washington County. That is approximately 10 minutes west of the Meadowlands Racetrack and McDonalds. It’s rustic: no plumbing, no electricity --- and few restrictions (6).

In case of very extreme weather (i.e. a lot of wind or rain), it may be postponed to Sunday afternoon. Please call us to determine this: the weather is frequently different there, than in Allegheny County. If you RSVP, we will know with whom to get in touch in case of questionable weather.

Just in case you get lost on the way to the bonfire, we recommend you bring our cell phone numbers with you. Also, feel free to call (or email us before 12:30) about the weather situation or anything else.

(Phone #s DELETED by BLOG Owner)

Peter and Denise

(1) Adults must give consent, according to my stalkee.

(2) The open terrain is a little rough and sloped.

(3) Shovel and toilet paper included.

(4) Graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars.

(5) One year the weather went from T-shirt weather to a blizzard in the same day.

(6) Just in case, dress for poison ivy: long sleeves and pants.

315K View Download

Friday, February 22, 2008

Film 'East of Liberty' to screen Saturday at Allegheny UU

Friday, February 22, 2008, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Filmmaker Chris Ivey will screen his film "East of Liberty: A Story of Good Intentions" at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church in the Central North Side.

"East of Liberty" documents the struggle that residents and business owners have witnessed in East Liberty's current resurgence of development. Tickets are $5 at the door. A discussion will follow.

A wine and cheese reception before the film at 5:30 p.m. will raise funds for the third installment. Tickets are $50 and are available by calling 412-901-8026. Reservations are limited; cash and checks are accepted.

The second part of the trilogy -- "East of Liberty: The Fear of Us" -- will premiere soon.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Core Team for Bridge Building is starting to assemble

Invites are going out to those willing to serve on the larger team. What that would mean is:

° Attending a work session with the consultant on February 17 from 3 p.m. through into evening

° Co-facilitating at least two focus groups between Feb. 17 and the end of March, each requiring at least two hours

° Summarizing the results of each focus group and sending them to the Core Team within a day or two after the focus group

There are more details, of course. The list of 12 people (invitation only) is to be finalized by Tuesday morning.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

BRIDGE BUILDING from the realm of Herb Caponi

Herb Caponi wrote in an email to the community:

I do not feel that Bridge Building, as it has been presented, is an adequate instrument for resolving or even addressing the issues present at Sunnyhill. Specifically, it seems to be substituting therapy for effective leadership or effective management of church affairs. In terms of systems theory, I believe it will be a self-reinforcing system rather than a self-limiting system, increasing rather than reducing existent problems.

I resent the imposition on my time and energies in being involved in this process. However, not participating in a major church activity, no matter how ill conceived I view it to be, is not an acceptable option. I propose that we should examine structure and organization rather than pursue therapy.

We cannot address or resolve issues if we do not know the issues. As best I can determine from the only resource available to most of us, rumors and hearsay, there are two major issues.

The first is a dispute between the Minister and former Director of Religious Education regarding the role of religious education at Sunnyhill. Dispute resolution is a skill required of all professionals; however, absent a resolution between the Director of Religious Education and the Minister, the by-laws are clear that the Director of Religious Education reports to the Board, not to the Minister. The Board did not meet its duty to the congregation in not resolving this issue when it first appeared. The DRE operates independently of the minister, and the Board should defer to her judgment absent demonstrated cause to overrule her.

The second issue is alleged mistreatment of some church members by the Minister. I do not have any first hand information regarding this issue, and do not feel it appropriate to address it in factual terms but do feel it can be addressed in principled terms. I do feel that it is the Board’s responsibility to investigate the facts of this issue objectively and to present a reasoned fact-based recommendation to the congregation. I am not sure it is practical or even necessarily beneficial to investigate what are now aged allegations of misconduct, but others are certainly welcome to present contrary points of view. I do not say this out of any lack of sympathy for the feelings of those involved, but out of a lack of knowledge of what has happened and the impact on those involved. It is obvious from the consequences that the issues are significant.

I do not mean to slight anyone individually, but do feel obliged to state that early effective action by the Board could have resolved both issues before we reached the current state of affairs. That said, we still need a Board to run the everyday business of the church, so I cannot see requesting the Board to resign. We cannot retrieve the failed opportunity to have resolved these issues at their beginning; however, we can look to the future and determine our options from here forward. I feel that this is an opportune time to be looking at the fundamental structure of the church.

The three reasons to come to Sunnyhill which I have heard since being here are “spiritual”, religious education for children, and the companionship of interesting and agreeable persons. I put spiritual in quotes because despite diligent search, I cannot find a definition that does not encompass some form of supernaturalism, stated or implied. However, we cannot neglect the needs of those who find the word helpful to define the needs Sunnyhill fulfills for them. These needs seem to be, at least in part, the ministerial components of the minister’s function. My question is can we structure a way of meeting these needs other than the historical approach of a separate position for minister and director of religious education? I believe that we should look at combining the functions into one position for directing both adult and children’s programming and religious education. I do not include program presentation as part of the duties of this position but do include program planning.

Obviously this idea cannot be fully explored in a memorandum such as this one, but looking at who we are and what we need as a congregation has to begin somewhere. Questioning the structure is to me more important than presenting a finished plan at this time. There are other resources for those functions that are strictly ministerial. Absent the minister’s salary, we could afford speakers and get far more wide ranging points of view than any one individual minister could present. We have committees and lay people to reach out to those going through stressed periods of their lives. The local humanist organization, Center For Free Inquiry-Pittsburgh has services available for ministerial functions, such as weddings, funerals, etc. I do not speak for them but would be willing to ask them to present their available services to the church. A look at what resources are available cannot but be beneficial.

Restructuring the functions presently filled by separate positions for the Minister and Director of Religious Education into one position has more than the obvious budgetary advantages; it has the advantage of one resource person being responsible for addressing our needs as a congregation with consequent accountability. It also has the advantage of substituting an educational and program role for an implied or assumed power role relationship in the congregation.

I wish to specifically note that I do not propose this idea as a back-door way of firing our current minister. I think that for ethical and practical reasons we should honor the original term of the contract. The justifications for terminating a contract before its terms expire are generally lack of work, lack of funds, just cause, or gross incompetence. The ministerial position does not currently seem to lack enough work. If we are unable to fund the position, then what? The need is still there. Just cause requires, in my mind, clear and convincing evidence of misconduct; gross incompetence requires clear and convincing evidence of being unable to perform the requisite duties of the position. If the evidence exists for just cause or gross incompetence, bring it forth in an appropriate forum.

I do feel that the present level of dissatisfaction justifies deciding now not to renew the contract at its termination; it may establish gross incompetence.

I also wish to specifically note that I do not feel that a part-time minister is the solution unless it is considered on its non-financial merits after due consideration for that specific purpose. A part time minister still does not resolve the issue of power relationships in the congregation. Unitarians tend not to grant power over themselves to others without examination and justification. The existence of a minister position at all is for me a blanket granting of authority that has no reason for existing.

I think that we have to examine the authority mechanisms of hiring and firing for all positions. I was rather surprised to learn that the Board cannot hire or fire the minister. The congregation does not interview the candidates for the position, and has little choice but to defer to the judgment of those who do. The lack of Board authority to dismiss the minister coupled with the unreasonably high requirement for a dismissal by the congregation is effectively giving the minister the ability to function without accountability. This is an unacceptable interpretation of using democracy to conduct church affairs. The By-Laws should be amended to grant this authority to the Board for future employees. If the Board shows a disinclination or inability to deal with the responsibility, running for the Board is the solution that fulfills conducting church affairs by the democratic process.

For future reference, for any position in the congregation, I see neither need nor value in long term contracts. A one-year contract with an acceptable renewal clause should work nicely, and is rather common.

In addition to examining the personnel structure, I think that an issue that should be addressed is replacing the building with a modern structure designed for the purpose of being a church. The present building necessitates two services, a practice that fragments the congregation and limits expanding life craft. The number of meeting rooms also causes frequent scheduling problems due to the limited meeting space. Again, the issue cannot be adequately explored in a memo, but I feel it should be raised and considered. Effective long term financial planning, in addition to budget planning, is a corollary to this issue.

Another issue that I feel should be explored is the value and role of the UUA. The UUA may be a legitimate resource to the church, but the justification for that eludes me. I see the UUA as “corporate” trying to impose their formulaic vision of Unitarianism. Currently, the UUA has also provided a means of looking to a third party source for resolving issues that we should be addressing ourselves. In addition, the delays consequent to involving the UUA have allowed the problems to accelerate.

I think that we need to examine our relationship with the UUA specifically to determine if it has grown into an unexamined authority with power we never intended. There may be legitimate value in the UUA, but I feel that we would be better off as a congregation if we were convinced of that after an examination process.

We cannot help but benefit by examining our structure, regardless of the ultimate outcome.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sunday forum at 10:15 am, Sunday at Sunnyhill -- LifeCraft

During the televised Republican debate on November 28 with questions raised via YouTube, this question was asked: "To Christian conservative candidates, on the death penalty, what would Jesus do?" The answer was avoided by Mike Huckabee with: "Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office" which was followed by a round of laughter both by the other candidates and the audience. The question was not answered even when repeated by the moderator.

Is that retort acceptable? If yes, what does it say about any Christian politician? If not acceptable, why not?

There will be a 25 minute presentation by Ken Wagner about why politics is not serving our republic as represented in comments made by or about Mike Huckabee and others. Then there will be a discussion to complete the hour tomorrow during Lifecraft in the Forum at 10:15 am.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Get BridgeBuilding Letters/Emails/Phone calls to Richard by Feb. 1

“How do you see things (“what is your take”) on where Sunnyhill is right now in its life and ministry?” All members and friends are invited to send their answers to our UUA BridgeBuilding facilitator at:

Rev. Dr. Richard Speck, District Executive
100 West 10th Street, Suite 1008
Wilmington, DE 19801
302-778-4590 (fax)
302-528-3762 (cell)
302-239-6286 (home)