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Seasons of Giving, Winter 2019: Rev. Lauren Smith, good news for FL voters-to-be, and more.

Image: saguaro cactus against winter blue sky with UUA logo
Seasons of Giving
Winter 2019

In this Issue

Opening Words

Introducing The Rev. Lauren Smith

Video: You made it possible in 2018

Disaster Relief Fund: 2018 activity

Good news for Florida voters-to-be

News from 24 Farnsworth

Opening Words

The Craft of Winter Solstice
Rev. Daniel Gregoire

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year's threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future....
— from "Solstice Poem" by Margaret Atwood

Here we are on the cusp of the Winter Solstice, when the light comes back! To celebrate, I went to the discount store in search of inexpensive picture frames. I felt the urge to use what I have in the way of old photographs and glitter glue for some higher and greater purpose. So off I went to buy the most perfect plastic frames for $2.99.

As I made my way to pay the cashier, an older man looked at me and my frames and knowingly exhaled, “Ah, this is the time for reflection.”

Apparently, I was not the first person to feel nostalgic and buy many picture frames near the end of the year. We then engaged in small talk about Christmas and the state of the world. He lamented and I tried to cheer him up. But, both of our flames seemed to be flickering in the cold winds of coming winter.

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It doesn't help that on the eve of winter the days are so painfully short. The nights are relentless, and they keep coming earlier. But then the Winter Solstice arrives and although it is the official start of winter, it comes as a brief reprieve from the growing night and a hopeful signpost.

I need the solstice and all it represents: a threshold, the closing of a chapter, the start to sunlight timidly warming our cold and frostbitten souls. Winter solstice neatly coincides with our collective desire for a break in time to unlock and review the past and as we look to the light of the future.

This time around, I'm greeting the solstice with craft: using my old photographs and re-framing the past with some bright, artistic flourishes courtesy of glitter glue.

I am making the most of this unique astronomical time, perhaps not unlike the ancient peoples of Europe who gathered breathlessly around bonfires and hearths for warmth to celebrate the new thing that is just on the horizon, growing light and the end of night’s dominion, even in the midst of cold.

The end can be a beginning too, as someone once said, and the solstice is where we start from.

Spirit of the empty places, Spirit of new beginnings, here we are.
In this often difficult season of cold and night, it seems the light we need might go away forever. Help us to catch our breath so we might not stumble into despair. Let the past be our guide, helping us to the future we need — just on the horizon, unlocking, opening, growing.

"The Craft of Winter Solstice" appeared in Braver/Wiser, email newsletter of courage and compassion for life as it is. This and other reflections can be found on WorshipWeb.

Rev. Lauren Smith, Director, Stewardship and Development
  Rev. Lauren Smith. Photo courtesy UUA.

From the Office of the President

The UUA is pleased to announce that the Rev. Lauren Smith has been appointed Director of Stewardship and Development. In her new role she will oversee the UUA’s fundraising efforts, including Annual Program Fund contributions from member congregations, starting February 4.

Rev. Smith has served as co-senior minister of South Church Unitarian Universalist in Portsmouth, NH, since 2012 along with her husband, the Rev. Chris Holton Jablonksi. She has also served as a minister with the UU Congregation in San Mateo, CA, and as the Island Minister of the Star Island Retreat Center. Prior to her career in ministry, she worked as an Assistant Director at the Harvard Business School Fund.

Rev. Smith’s ties to Unitarian Universalism stretch back five generations. Her great-great-grandfather William Hazel was born a free black person in North Carolina and became a member of the First Parish in Cambridge after his family fled north prior to the Civil War. She and her husband live in Dover, NH, with their three beloved children, Ben, Jack, and Aliyah.

Read the full announcement on

You made it possible in 2018
  Still image of Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray video

A special video thank you from Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray.

Christopher Hartley, Deputy Director, Stewardship and Development 

Thank you to all those who supported our UUA this past year.

The UUA is the embodiment of the covenant we make to each other as Unitarian Universalists to build something stronger than any of us could accomplish on our own.

I am pleased to share a short video message from UUA President the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray expressing her appreciation for your generosity—spoiler alert, you also get to meet her family's impossibly adorable 12-week-old puppy, Hercules.

Thanks to your generosity, in 2018 we were able to respond to a series of natural disasters with grants to UU congregations and entities; to lift up the work of UUs and allies in Florida and Ohio to support key voting rights and mass incarceration-reduction initiatives; to advance UU values on the world stage through the UU United Nations Office, where our focus is on climate justice, gender equity, human rights, and LGBTQ rights; and much more.

None of this could happen without the collective support of our congregations and individuals like you. Best wishes from your UUA Stewardship and Development team!

Disaster Relief Fund: 2018 Activity

Through fall 2018, nearly $50,000 has been distributed to congregations in communities dealing with wildfires.

The UU Fellowship of Durango, CO, used the funds to help and thank the firefighters who were leaving their own homes to save other people’s homes.

In addition, organizations like Black Lives of UU and UU Social Justice Florida have received grants to assist people affected by hurricanes who may or may not have direct ties to our faith but are a part of our communities.

The dedicated staff who make up the Disaster Relief Committee have been collecting stories from grant recipients, which you can view here.

We encourage those interested to give to the Disaster Relief Fund

Congregations can apply for aid for themselves, their members, or for their local partners who were affected.

Good news for Florida voters-to-be

Adapted from the UUA's Facebook post on January 8, 2019

  Desmond Meade at elections office
  Desmond Meade, Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

This is an historic moment where 1.4 million people in Florida who were barred from voting because of former felony convictions can now register to vote!

Shown at right is Desmond Meade, Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, who led the campaign to get Amendment 4 passed, registering to vote today.

Mead said, “Love won! We showed up for our people. Let's celebrate and let's get everyone active in democracy. There are millions more in our communities around the country, not just returning citizens, who are unregistered.”

The UUA thanks the organizers who led this campaign and everyone who helped make it happen, especially UUs from Florida and all over the country. 

UU Justice Florida (UUJF) did much to support the passing of this effort. UUJF's Action Network promoted Amendment 4 state- and nation-wide, scheduling UU phone banks every month and providing flyers and pledge cards for congregational use. UUs for Social Justice in the Capitol Region (UUSJ) members were an active presence in phone banking.

We are humbled and honored that our UU faith tradition was able to help in the restoration of worth and dignity to disenfranchised people. Desmond is but one smiling face out of 1.4 million people in Florida who are now eligible to vote.

News from 24 Farnsworth 

Some additional staffing news from the UUA:

  Jessica York. Photo (c) UUA.

Effective November 1, 2018, Jessica York was named Director of Congregational Life.
Jessica York has served as the UUA’s Co-Director of Ministries and Faith Development since 2017, and previously served as Faith Development Director from 2014-2017 and Youth Programs Director from 2007-2014.

“We are thrilled to have Jessica in this role,” says UUA President the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. “Her collaborative leadership, creativity and experience are exactly what we need to help move our system forward in embodying mission alignment, faithful practice and liberation.”

  From left: The Rev. Karen Brammer; The Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen; Everette Thompson; Susan Leslie; Audra Friend.
Photo (c) UUA

As of December 16, 2018, the Organizing Strategy Team has been created to lead the UUA’s prophetic public ministry work.
The team includes Everette Thompson, Side with Love Campaign Manager; Susan Leslie, Director of Congregational Advocacy and Witness; Audra Friend, Communications Coordinator; and the Rev. Karen Brammer, Senior Associate for Climate Justice. The Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen will lead the team as Organizing Strategy Director. Formerly a part of the Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group, this new Organizing Strategy Team represents a mission-based realignment of staff.

  Dr. Janice Marie Johnson, left, with The Rev. Sarah Lammert, new co-leaders of Ministries and Faith Development. Photo (c) UUA

Dr. Janice Marie Johnson became the Co-Director of Ministries and Faith Development (MFD) on January 16, 2019.She joins the Rev. Sarah Lammert, who has led the MFD staff group since 2010. Dr. Johnson succeeds Jessica York in the role. Janice Marie is a religious educator who has been serving as the UUA’s Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director. Her transition to the MFD staff group will shift some of the additional Multicultural Ministries staff and programs to be incorporated in MFD as well, including the Rev. Michael Crumpler, LGBTQ and Intercultural Programs Manager.


To stay updated on these and other UUA news stories, please visit or follow the UUA on Facebook or Twitter.

Seasons of Giving is the quarterly e-newsletter from the UUA's Stewardship and Development Office. Questions should be directed to Suzanne Murray at or (617) 948-4392.