2018 Morning Seminars



1 – Get F.L.Y.! (Fitter, Leaner, Younger)

Christa Champion

Would you like to regain your youthful daily energy levels? Do you want to feel better, move more easily, and get rid of some of those nagging aches and pains you’ve been carrying around lately? Wouldn’t it be nice to touch your toes again? If you need some motivation to get up off the couch and get active, then this workshop is for you! We will:
1. Review the science behind the powerful anti­aging effects of exercise.
2. Learn basic nutritional information to improve your everyday eating habits for better long ­term health.
3. Practice simple and functional exercises that you can do without joining a gym, and that will improve your posture, strengthen your movements, and increase your flexibility, while simultaneously reducing joint pain.
No prior experience or fitness level is needed, and we will not be doing killer workouts each morning (you can do those on your own in the afternoon!). We will spend a good part of each meeting learning & discussing concepts, and the remainder of the time learning & practicing various stretches and exercises. Participants should dress in loose comfortable clothing and be prepared for a little light exercise each day.

Participants should bring: Wear loose comfortable clothing and sneakers. Bring a notebook and pen.

Christa Champion is an athlete, an educator, and a life­long learner. For nearly thirty years she has been a physical educator and basketball coach at the collegiate and scholastic levels; she currently teaches PE and helps coach the track team at Concord Academy in Massachusetts. Champion holds a Master of Science degree in Exercise and Sport Studies from Smith College, and occasionally works as a private health and fitness consultant.


2 – Zero Carbon Summer Institute!

Bob Mitchell and Cindy Frantz

Are you looking for the most effective ways to really make a difference on climate change? Do you wonder how important is it to buy a hybrid car, or turn down the thermostat, or stop eating meat? This workshop is for you! In the workshop, we will focus on the carbon footprint we produce during our week at Summer Institute. How can we reduce that footprint – or even make it zero?
We will learn how to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our activities at SI. We will also learn how to apply that knowledge to understanding and reducing our carbon footprints at home during the rest of the year. Finally, the workshop will explore actions and policies we can support as citizens who are concerned about the growing impacts of climate change.

Participants should bring: Their interest and curiosity

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 – Thai Yoga Massage

Lisa Thiel

In this workshop we will learn…
­ Basic techniques of healthy touch and massage
­ Some traditional Thai Yoga Massage sequences
­ The art of being present with and for another
­ The importance of being both giver & receiver
BYOP…or not (bring your own partner). Work with someone you know or we will pair up while there. Suitable for most as postures can be adapted to accommodate restrictions, but is best suited for those with at least a beginner’s exposure to yoga.

(Thai Yoga Massage is a meditative massage that takes place on the floor with fully clothed participants. The giver assists the receiver’s yoga postures and applies some traditional massage techniques along with stretching the body and relieving tension in joints. It is practiced with full presence to establish an atmosphere of metta ­ the Buddhist term for compassion.)

Participants should bring: Yoga mat and blanket; plus pillows or bolsters as needed to allow both comfortable sitting and lying down on the floor. Wear flexible yoga­ type clothing daily.

Lisa A. Thiel E-­RYT500 has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 20 years and teaching for 12. She specializes in working therapeutically with those who have chronic conditions. Lisa is a bodyworker in the art­forms of Thai Yoga Massage, Thai Reflexology, and Jin Shin Jyutsu, and has over a thousand hours of training in yoga, philosophy, pranayama and meditation. Her passion is helping others develop a relationship with their own selves and inspiring self­ care practices for all stages of life.


4 – Relaxing and Rejuvenating Yoga Retreat

Maggie Comstock and Jeremy Brauning

Ever wanted to learn Yoga? Already a practicing student? Just interested in what all the yoga folks are talking about? Great! Join certified yoga instructors Jeremy Brauning and Maggie Comstock for a calm and uplifting experience. In this workshop, they will explore the different styles of breathing, yoga poses, and guided imagery. This workshop encourages all ages and levels to experience the beautiful art that is yoga.

Things participants should bring: Yoga mat, water, and smiling faces

Jeremy Brauning and Maggie Comstock have been life­long UUs with a friendship that blossomed at SI two decades ago. They learned at a young age to be peaceful and kind to everyone and both love to be able to teach this through yoga.


5 – Climate Change­­ Connecting through Collage

Mary Schinhofen

Many of us don’t think about the reality of climate change or its consequences. Our reactions are ambivalent, confusing, and often hidden. Designed as a way to connect with our emotions surrounding climate change, this course will afford an opportunity for participants to explore and express their feelings about the challenges we face in the future. For the first four days, we will work on two collages- ­­one expressing our hopes and one expressing our fears. On the fifth day, each of us will talk in class about the pieces we have produced, sharing our concerns and vision. With the consent of the artists, we will then put the pieces on display for the entire SI community to view.

Participants should bring: An apron, scissors, old magazines or advertisements suitable for
collage work, a stiff acrylic brush approximately 1″ wide for glue, a jar for water, and paper towels.

Mary Schinhofen is a long­time member of First Unitarian Church in Pittsburgh, where she has led collage workshops as well as other art­ related courses. She is particularly fond of collage because of its impact and immediacy and believe that it is an art form particularly suited to the exploration of our inner selves and, because of its simplicity, accessible to everyone.


6 – Mindful Connections

Stephanie Romero

Mindful Connections is a workshop that will help participants experience various mindfulness meditation techniques allowing them to build emotional intelligence skills, mindful communication techniques, and various resourcing and resiliency building skills. Participants will also explore the importance of developing self­ care strategies and practices, which will help to increase compassion for self and others.

Participants should bring: Something to take notes with.

Dr. Stephanie Romero has working to bring her mindfulness and meditative practices into her own personal and professional life for nearly 15 years. She now is the Executive Director of Awaken Pittsburgh where she brings mindfulness programs to helping professionals, educators and youth.


7 – Restorative Justice Practice Skills for you, your church, and your life

Kim Diana Connolly

Restorative justice (or restorative practices) steps away from a traditional model of justice (involving punishment by authorities under set rules) and instead focuses harm that has been done to people and relationships. RJ creates a space were a harmful situation can be explored in a safe setting, where those who have been harmed are part of the process, and seeks restoration through inclusion and reintegration. RJ can happen alongside or in lieu of other processes. Restorative Justice practices have been embraced by many in UU faith as aligned with our principles and worthy of adoption in some form for our faith and our churches. In fact, RJ has been adopted as an approach by SI’s youth, and was explored in some depth as part of the 2017 SI experience. This workshop will open with some background on the RJ movement, including exploring some of the fundamental texts, then will move into active encounters including circling. It is designed for participants to take away new skills they can use in their own congregations, with their families, friends, and/or workplaces, and throughout their own lives.

Participants should bring: Open hearts and something to take notes with if they want.

Kim Diana Connolly teaches people to solve problems. By day, she is a law professor specializing in clinical law (where students work for real clients). By night, she is a single mom to two UU youths and an active church (through the UU Church of Amherst NY) and community volunteer. Kim is trained and in the process of certification as a restorative justice practitioner.


8 – Art as a Form of Meditation

Michele Tarsitano-­Amato

As Utilitarian Universalists, we live out our principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience. – UUA website

In 2017 we experienced Art as a form of Meditation that focused on the 7 principles. This year, let us focus on the 6 sources. What do we draw upon to live out our principles? As Rev. Kathleen Rolenz said, “Throughout history, we have moved to the rhythms of mystery and wonder, prophecy, wisdom, teachings from ancient and modern sources, and nature herself.” We will use Rev. Kathleen Rolenz book – Sources of our Faith, to guide each day’s art meditation.

Art has power to connect to one’s inner self, and seeing that expression connects one individual to another. This is why art is so important at all stages of life, and is essential to the second half of our lives. The act of art making promotes wellness of mind and spirit. This 5 day workshop will provide participants a chance to reflect through art making on the UU 6 sources. Each day individuals will start with chalice lighting and a review of one of the sources. Participants will use the multimedia collage to reflect upon the source. The last 20 mins of each day will hold a reflection upon images and how they relate both the source and one’s inner spiritual journey. Join us for expressions of self through art.

This program is a combination of my years of training as an art therapist and my UU spiritual journey. The goal of the group is to bring together an opportunity to explore self expression through the art making process and reflection upon that process. The subject of focus for the art self­ expression is the book by Rev Kathleen Rolenz – Sources of Our Faith.

Art has the power to speak the unspoken.

Participants should bring: Odds and ends art supplies they like to work with ­ fabric, yarn, gel pens, collage images, etc….

Michele Tarsitano-­Amato, holds a Masters in Art/ Art Therapy from Ursuline College. She is an Art Therapist Registered ­ Board Certified. She has been a member of West Shore UU Congregation since 2002. Her passion is helping older adults with cognitive loss live their most resilient life.


9 – Dazed and Confused? Conversations about the Legalization of Marijuana for Parents

Karen Jepsen

The structure of this workshop will center around 5 questions (1 each day) parents might consider to be important talking points when addressing the legalization of marijuana with their families. This is NOT a platform for political opinions or people who are interested in swaying the views of others. This is a safe space to have meaningful dialogue about questions and concerns as our local laws change and social norms are impacted.

Karen Abel Jepsen is a parent of 2 teens and has worked in the substance abuse prevention field for 20 years. She has worked with elementary through high school aged students in primary prevention as well as court diversion interventions. She is passionate about helping young people and those who love and support them navigate difficult topics such as this.


10 – Artistic Hand Embroidery

Kim Homsher

Design your own artful embroidery while learning stitches, design tips, pattern transfer techniques, and framing methods. With the knowledge of a few easy stitches you can create trendy, quirky, and heirloom pieces. We’ll explore lush color combinations, color blending, and fabric options. Join me for fresh perspectives on embroidery, hands on instruction, inspiration, and resources. Enjoy a little slow time as we practice this relaxing, centuries­ old meditative art.

Participants should bring: Nothing.

Kim has been embroidering since her aunt taught her Candlewicking and “Chicken Scratch” techniques over thirty years ago. Since then she’s explored and completed pieces in Blackwork, Drawn Thread, Ribbon Embroidery, Surface Embroidery, Knotwork, and Whitework.
She’s currently having fun creating her own designs and “free­styling”, making it up as she goes.


11 – Creating with Polymer Clay

Christy Decker

Explore your aesthetic and have fun with this remarkably versatile and easy ­to ­use medium. We will examine basic to advanced intermediate techniques ­ such as, millefiori, surface treatments, veneers, stamping, moulding, vessels, stenciling, creating faux natural materials, and inclusions ­ and their applications for decorative and functional artwork and adornment. In past years, we’ve made pens and pencils, buttons, light switch plate covers, beads, earrings, sculptures, chalices, brooches, pendants, candlesticks, and vessels ­ to name a few. I’d like this seminar to be a maker’s delight!

Participants should bring: Polymer clay and extraneous supplies. Leader will email participants with details.

Christy Decker is long time UU, teacher, SI’er, and a polymer clay enthusiast with 15+ years experience. She is keen to share the awesome possibilities of this medium. Christy believes in the dynamic relation between making art/personal expression and spiritual growth.


12 – Right Here, Write Now

Nancy Boutilier

Join poet Nancy Boutilier for a writing workshop that will focus on generating new work. No prior experience is necessary! This will be a low ­stakes, high energy, process­ oriented workshop in which you will learn ways to tap into your natural creativity, be playful with language, and tell your stories. In addition to providing quiet time to write, each meeting will include examples and explanation, as well as step­ by ­step writing exercises or a general prompt. The workshop is appropriate for all levels, from complete beginner up to experienced writer. The workshop lean is toward poetry, but prose writers and even songwriters will find there’s words enough to go around. One of Nancy’s favorite motivational quotes is “An artist is someone who finishes things”—after taking Nancy’s workshop, you will go home an artist.

Participants should bring: Participants should bring whatever they like to write with: pen or pencil, loose ­leaf paper, notepad, notebook, or journal. Laptops are also welcome, but there will not be a printer available. There will be daily handouts, so a pocket folder or 3 ­ring binder to keep papers organized might be useful.

Nancy Boutilier has been leading formal and informal writing workshops on campuses and community centers for decades. She is the author of According to Her Contours and On the Eighth Day Adam Slept Alone, both from Black Sparrow Press and both finalists for the Lambda Literary Award in poetry. Nancy holds an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop. Her writings have appeared in a variety of magazines, newspapers, and journal, and most recently, Nancy’s poems have appeared in the LGBTQ literary journal “Bloom” and and the US Air Force Academy’s “War, Literature and the Arts.” She teaches at Concord Academy.


13 – Men’s Groups in UU Congregation

L.D. Moore

A Community of Men, a guide to Men’s Programming in Unitarian Universalist Congregations will be the primary resource and source of information about forming a men’s group. The guide also presents basic principles for conducting men’s groups and will be discussed and used while facilitating actual group interactions. Other resources will be Rev. Tom Owen­-Towle’s books, A Circle of Men. Gatherings, small group ministry for men. And Moore and Gillette’s book on male Archetypes.

Participants should bring: Themselves, their wonderings, openness to share and listen to themselves and each other.

L.D. is a retired school psychologist who has experienced personal growth groups and trainings with the Living School, the Mankind Project. as well as facilitating the men’s group at the Oberlin UU Fellowship among others.


14 – Good Vibrations ­ Healing Drum

Rebekah Benner

Share your voice through the drum. No experience needed. Drum rhythms and songs will be taught along with shamanic and trance drumming for personal introspection and self­ healing.

Participants should bring: A pedestal type drum ­ ashiko, djembe, along with other drums, rattles, bells and percussion instruments. Blanket and small pillow, if you need them for laying on the ground during some journey drumming.

Rebekah has been facilitating drum circles for over 25 years, for area communities, outreach shelters and health agencies. She is an Interfaith minister, on-­call chaplain to area hospitals and the Veteran’s Administration , founder of Terra Amma Spiritual Center in Akron, and 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.