What have our national organizations done for us lately? Plenty!
It’s easy for us at WES to get us-focused, thinking mostly about what happens within our four walls and without our own congregational system. But of course we are connected to two national movements–first, and at our most core level, to the American Ethical Union, which is the organizational body of Ethical Culture. The American Ethical Union was instrumental in WES’ founding, and represents our (almost!) 75 year history as an Ethical Society. In 2008, WES voted to join the Unitarian Universalist Association, hoping to find both relationships with congregations that held similar values (although a distinct history and often different language) and resources from a larger organizational body.
Ten years in to the “dual affiliation,” as the decision was called at the time, WES stays connected to both denominations. We are proud to have WES members serving in key roles in the American Ethical Union: Sonja Kueppers on the Board and Jo London on the Leadership Committee, and of course I am part of the National Leaders Council. WES Board president Rachel Alexander participates in monthly Presidents Council calls, and we work together to stay engaged. With the Unitarian Universalist Association, we are connected through clergy (Zeb and me) and through the support we receive from UUA staff on everything from navigating conflict to creating childcare policies. And of course we send funds to both organizations to support their work and our sibling societies and congregations.
But we’ve also had some unique connections and benefits in the last year that I wanted to tell you about!
The Unitarian Universalist Association launched a special fund called Wake Now Our Vision, which provided matching grants–up to $10,000 each–now for bequests that are made to benefit a UU congregation later. Although we don’t yet have the final tally, we know that a number of WES members participated–essentially “registering” with the UUA that they plan to leave a bequest to WES in their will. As a result, we expect to receive the matching funds in the fall of next year! We can’t wait to share with you the details of the funds raised, and to extend our deep appreciation for the generosity of those who have chosen to recognize WES in their wills. Because of the matching campaign from the UUA, their gifts will not only create a lasting legacy for WES in the future, they have the potential to impact what we are able to do in the world right now.
The American Ethical Union has offered a different kind of support for its societies in the last year, centered around spreading the message of Ethical Culture as broadly as possible. Thanks in part to a grant from the Adler Fund, the AEU has hired a PR firm called Momentum to work with individual societies on what’s known as “earned” media, basically print, TV, and radio features, anything that isn’t a purchased ad. Our contact there is Zach, and he stays in touch with me regularly–asking what’s new (and newsworthy!) at WES, pitching stories to media outlets, and connecting us in to larger stories about the movement. Through Momentum’s work, our Harry Potter SEEK curriculum was featured in a TV news segment, the Immigration Film Festival got a fantastic write-up in the Washington City Paper, and I’ll be doing a podcast about some of WES’ anti-racism work for Wesley Theological Seminary, my alma mater. Even more media “hits” are in the works…we can’t wait to share them with you!
Let me know if you have ideas of ways we can continue to connect with our national affiliations, and thank you for supporting all of those who are working hard to grow our movements.
p.s. Another way we receive support is through related organizations. I’m applying for a grant for a Membership Coordinator from the Chalice Lighters Fund, which grows Unitarian Universalism in the region. One of the things that can help our application for that grant (which could be up to $20,000!) is having WES members signed up as “Chalice Lighters”–basically, sending $60 a year to the fund. If you want to participate, check out https://www.uua.org/central-east/programs/chalicelighter/cerclsignup. Your relatively small gift to the fund could lead to a very big win for WES!