Morning Seminars

1. Circling Together: Using Circle Practices to Enrich and Restore Your Home, Your Church, Your Community, and Our World

Kim Connelly

Let’s gather in a circle at SI, to learn more about how to embrace the power of circles! Our Unitarian Universalist faith, of course, has many places in which we form circles. We may regularly circle in small groups, such as in Faith Development/Religious Education settings, or in covenant groups, or in book/topic discussion groups. We may make bigger circles in some worship settings, or in singing groups, or in youth activities. And we may use occasional circles to resolve some complicated situations. Some UU churches also host restorative Peacemaking (or just Peace) circles, in which people come together in a circle as equals to have honest exchanges about difficult topics. Many of these circle approaches can also be used in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and beyond. This workshop will explore the basics of circle practice, including underlying theory and sample approaches. This workshop will also allow participants to engage in several kinds of circle practices, and plan for at least one circle approach to deploy in their own lives shortly after SI. As Kay Pranis writes in her wonderful work The Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Guide to Peacemaking (Good Books, 2005), “The underlying philosophy of Circles acknowledges that we are all in need of help and that helping others helps us at the same time. The participants of the Circle benefit from the collective wisdom of everyone in the Circle. Participants are not divided into givers and receivers: everyone is both a giver and a receiver. Circles draw upon the life experience and wisdom of all participants to generate new understandings…”

Kim Diana Connolly was recently certified in restorative practices by the International Institute for Restorative Practices, which adds new tools to her commitment to providing access to justice as a law professor in Buffalo. She co-habits with two UU Youth who love SI, and “a few” felines plus one crazy puppy, and holds high hopes (which are often dashed) that she will have time to garden regularly and cook from scratch every night. She works with youth and in restorative practices at her home congregation, UU Church of Amherst (NY), and serves as the Chair of SI’s Committee on Ministry – because of all this and more, she honestly believes that committed circle practices can change the world. This will be Kim’s fifth SI!

2. 2020 Climate Action on the Political Stage

Bob Mitchell and Cindy Frantz

In previous SI workshops the we have explored how to understand and reduce our carbon footprint at SI, in our homes, and in our churches. But we aren’t going to fix the climate problem one lightbulb at a time, or even one rooftop solar array or electric vehicle at a time. Instead we must think and act at the public policy level to really make a difference. With a view toward the 2020 election, this workshop will explore the power of collective climate action. Topics will include: finding climate organizations that suit your interests and skills; communicating effectively and respectfully with climate skeptics; reaching out to your community via talks to churches, service organizations and schools; meeting with elected representatives to seek their support; and writing letters to the editor that reshape the public dialog. You should come away feeling empowered to help create the political will for a livable world.

Cindy Frantz is an environmental psychologist and activist who has taught at Oberlin College for 15 years. She belongs to the Oberlin Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and has attended Summer Institute every year since 2010. Bob Mitchell retired in 2014 following a physics and engineering career that ranged from high power lasers to robotic perception systems. For the past seven years, he has been researching climate change science, impacts and solutions. He belongs to the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh and has been attending SI with his family since 1998.

3. Creating Sacred Space: Art for Meditation

Carol Comstock

The urge to create sacred time and space amid ordinary reality is deep within us. Satisfy this urge by creating a portable altar in the form of a box, mini book, &/or amulet from repurposed materials, as well as a variety of art & natural materials, using mixed media techniques. Although materials will be provided, you are encouraged to bring any interesting images, papers, stones, or tiny items that are interesting or have special meaning for you (for your personal use OR for sharing, if you desire.)

Carol is a mixed-media artist with a focus on art as a spiritual practice, which includes yoga & labyrinths, as well as fine art and photography. She works in her studio, Goods of the Spirit www.goodsofthespirit), in Erie, PA and exhibits her work in galleries year round. Carol has attended SI more than 25 times.

4. A Fairy house created in a week!

Carol Noel

Found materials and recycled items will be used to create a fairy house lit with a solar light. Campers are encouraged to bring their preferred plastic jugs as a base that will be built up with papermache and embellished with natural items.

Carol Noel is a creative G’mom with a love of nature. Active member of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County in Wooster Ohio, since 2006. This will be Carol’s second SI.

5. Good Vibrations – The Healing Drum

Rebekah Benner

Share your voice through the drum. Drum rhythms and songs will be taught along with shamanic and trance drumming for personal introspection, relaxation and self-healing. There will be hands-on experiences in learning to lead a community drum circle for your own congregation. No musical experience needed.

Rebekah has been facilitating drum circles for over 25 years, for area communities, outreach shelters and health agencies. She is an Interfaith Minister, Grief Recovery Specialist and on-call chaplain to area hospitals and the Veteran’s Administration. Founder of Terra Amma Grove Holistic Center, she uses crystal singing bowls in weekly sound vibrational healing sessions. She is also a member of the Ethical Metalsmith Guilde and creates adornments from recycled metals, fair trade beads and gems. Rebekah has attended SI 15 times.

6. Malala, Greta and Emma Gonzalez- What Youth Activists Can Teach Us

Karen Jepsen

Our nation and our world have seen youngsters standing in defiance against oppression with remarkable courage and persistence. What are the lessons we can learn from their example and how might we support their efforts to be heard, to have a voice and make a difference?

Karen has supported youth-led leadership for over 5 years in northeast Ohio, and is trained in how to be a youth ally. Karen has been to SI about 7 times.

7. The Promise of Permaculture: Saving the World One Backyard at a Time

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

The threat of climate change calls for a revolution in our way of life, toward a sustainable future. Permaculture offers this revolution in the brilliant disguise of a gardening fad that is really developing a deep understanding of the complex workings of natural systems. Renee will share the basic principles of Permaculture, how they connect with UU Principles. She will share examples of how she is implementing biological princples in her back yard garden and social principles in her work as UUA Congregational Life Staff.

Rev. Renee has served as Central East Regional staff since 2010. On her recent sabbatical, she studied permaculture by taking a two-week intensive design course, spending a week on a Permaculture farm in Latvia, and designing and creating her own permaculture backyard food forest with her husband Randy in Kent, OH. She has attending 8 SIs.

8. Relaxing and Rejuvenating Yoga Retreat

Maggie Comstock

This yoga workshop will have sun salutations, balancing poses, core work, strength training, and traditional yoga poses. This class recommends basic knowledge of yoga poses as it will be more of a flow style practice. This seminar will also include meditations and essential oils. This class will help you feel more at peace with your mind, body and soul; mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Maggie has been a life long UU and SI attendee. She fell in love with the practice of yoga 7 years ago and has been an instructor for 5 years. The last year she has studied massage therapy and will share that gift to this workshop as well as demonstrate self massage techniques. Maggie has attending SI most of her life-for 30 years!

9. Spiritual Friendship and Social Justice: Lessons from the Transcendentalists

Rev. John Buehrens

Spiritual friendships across differences in theology, age, gender, class, culture, social location, and race are important in the pursuit of social justice. Examples will come from stories concerning our Transcendentalist forebears. We will then do some contemporary sharing, reflecting on both the blessings and the challenges such relationships have and could further in our own lives.

John Buehrens was UUA President, 1993-2001. He is the author of several books, including Universalists and Unitarians in America: A Peoples’ History (2011) and Conflagration: How the Transcendentalists Sparked the American Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice (2020). Rev. Buehrens has attended SI once before, when he was the theme speaker at Kenyon College.

10. Discover SoulCollage®

Alice Carnes

SoulCollage® developed by Seena Frost is a creative process of engaging your imagination and intuition. We will meditatively select magazine pictures to collage unto cards. You may not understand why you are drawn to specific images, but your soul does and will gravitate to those images intuitively. Through a deliberate process of questions, your cards will offer personal insights and guidance. Come experience the transformative power of images, imagination, intuition, and synchronicity with SoulCollage®

For many years, Alice Carnes created cards while attending workshops. Alice became a SoulCollage® facilitator in the summer of 2018. Alice says, “I’m continually amazed by the creative process of SoulCollage ® and the spiritual insights that are revealed to me.” This will be Alice’s second SI.

11. Developing a Personal Spiritual Practice

Rev. Caitling Coilberg

Want to develop and strengthen your personal spiritual practice, or just curious about personal spiritual practices? In this seminar we will explore types of prayer, forms of meditation, and ways to fold centering practices into our daily lifes. We’ll draw from the wells of creativity, tradition, and personal experience as we delve into how to use everything from prayer beads to labyrinths and coloring and music as part of an intentional practice.

Rev. Caitlin Cotter Coillberg is the minister for our Unitarian Universalist congregation Charleston, WV. A lifelong Unitarian Universalist from Knoxville, TN, Rev. Caitlin was an experiential educator, and environmentalist all over the country before formally beginning her path to ministry. This will be Rev. Caitlin’s first SI.

12. Understanding Your White Evagelical Neighbor

Gina Phillips

What are they thinking?? Have you ever wondered this about the Evangelical across the street, in the next cubicle, in the comment above yours online, in your family, or in your government? Although many UUs were previously members of fundamentalist and/or evangelical faiths, many were not. Evangelicals hold a particularly powerful place in modern American life, but their thinking can be baffling to those who have not been one of them. This class will aim to help participants better understand the faith and thought processes of Evangelicals. It will not be a place to mock or deride them, but rather to seek to better understand them. We will spend a little time with the history of American Evangelicalism, then discuss the modern Evangelical belief system and experience, what it’s like growing up in some of the Evangelical denominations, and some of the experiences of those who leave them.

Gina Phillips was raised in a conservative Evangelical Christian denomination and attended a Nazarene college, only to question her faith while there and emerge identifying as an atheist. After several years of having no faith at all, she found Unitarian Universalism, and has spent many years considering ways in which the deeply conservative faith of her heritage, which includes fundamentalist Nazarene and conservative Mennonite grandparents, might still speak to her as a UU. She is a member of First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio. Gina has attended 8 SIs.

13. What’s your story?: Using narrative circles to explore the way our life story shapes us

Rev. Elaine Strawn and Diana Van Winkle

“You are the story you tell so, tell yourself a good story.” (Diane Millis) This experiential workshop will use the process of Narrative Circles to help participants discover the truths and growing edges of their own and others’ life stories. Treated with openness, confidentiality and reverence, our stories are always unfolding. Rev. Elaine Strawn [a trained Spiritual Director] and Diana VanWinkle [an experienced story teller and listener] will facilitate this group limited to 12 participants.

Rev. Elaine Strawn has been a UU minister for 24 years and is a trained Spiritual Director. If she were writing her own life story, it would include a walk in the woods, a little dog and an intrepid weed that keeps coming back. Diana VanWinkle is an educator, learner, avid listener of story, and sky walker.

Youth Program (arriving 7th grade-Completed 12th grade)

Youth Theme Speaker: Angie Haze

Award Winning Singer Songwriter, Angie Haze is more than just a one-woman band. She is a humanitarian who’s driving force is to help the world find solace, value, unity and a safe haven through the power of art. Her songs are compelling and authentic with vocal arrangements that will move you to sing, unforgettable instrumentation that provokes goose bumps, and a sound so addicting you just can’t get enough. She has arranged and produced a collection of musically diverse, soul-deep songs. The uplifting message of her story never fails to inspire hope and change. She shares her art as a way to connect people proving the importance of music for the individual and humanity as a whole.

More Info on her website