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

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 principles in her back yard garden and social principles in her work as UUA Congregational Life Staff.

Participants should bring a notebook or notepad.  Limit: 32

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.

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

Kim Diana Connolly

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…”

Participants should bring a notebook or notepad.  Limit: 24

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

3. Coming of Age 3.0

Tiffany Grinstead

Many of us did not have the opportunity to grow up as Unitarian Universalists. While our youth go through a year-long experience to write their faith statements and share them with their congregations, we may have never had that opportunity. This class will focus on conversations and journaling built around the topics covered in a typical coming of age class. By the end of the week you will have the opportunity to write and share a faith statement with the class. Together we’ll prove it’s never too late to come of age.

Participants should bring their whole hearts.  Limit: None

Tiffany Grinstead is a member of First Unitarian Universalist of Columbus and has presented at past Summer Institutes on marketing, social media and Coming of Age 2.0. Tiffany has been a facilitator and mentor for youth Coming of Age at First UU for several years in the past.

4. T-Shirt Memory Quilt

Sheryl Schrot

Take your old SI t-shirts, team shirts or special shirts from special people to make a snuggly quilt wrapped in memories. You will need to ring a sewing machine and non-stretch fusible interfacing to convert your knit shirts into fabric. A supply list will be sent prior to class.  Sewing experience recommended.

Participants should bring sewing machine, thread, sewing scissors, iron, fusible medium weight non-stretch interfacing, t-shirts.   If you don’t want to bring a sewing machine – you can still cut and pin your blanket and take home to sew.    Limit: 16

Sheryl Schrot is an experienced quilter and teacher who has made dozens of t-shirt quilts. Sheryl hails from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where she is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Bay de Noc Fellowship. 

5. Creating Sacred Space

Carol Posch Comstock

The urge to create sacred time and space amid the ordinary reality of life 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, beads, or tiny items that are interesting & or have special meaning for you (for your personal use OR for sharing, if you desire.) (Broken jewelry pieces could also be useful.)

Participants should bring any interesting images, papers, stones, beads or tiny items that are interesting & or have special meaning for you (for your personal use OR for sharing, if you desire.) (Broken jewelry pieces could also be useful.)   Limit: 16

Carol is a mixed-media artist with a focus on art as a spiritual practice, with an emphasis on fine art, jewelry and photography, as well as yoga and labyrinths. She truly believes that everyone is creative and promotes “trusting the process” and listening to your inner guidance. She works in her studio, Goods of the Spirit, in Erie, PA (www.goodsofthespirit.com)

6. The Banjo:  From Instrument of Oppression to Tool for Justice

Dave Strickler

Despite its reputation as an American instrument, the banjo came to the Americas via the knowledge, experience, and artistry of enslaved Africans.   In this seminar we will listen to recordings which exemplify different eras or styles of banjo music and then discuss the historical or social context.  We will learn about the appropriation of banjo music by white Americans for minstrel shows and the multicultural interaction of the banjo with the fiddle in Appalachian string band music.  We will discuss Earl Scruggs’ role in creating and popularizing the modern 3-finger style of Bluegrass banjo.  We will then celebrate Pete Seeger’s use of the banjo as a tool for justice.  For the finale, we will focus on contemporary African-American artists, such as Rhiannon Giddens and Jake Blount, who have reclaimed the banjo by uncovering almost-forgotten aspects of African-American culture and creating new music which incorporates that history.

Participants should bring good ears and an open mind!  Limit: None

David Strickler is a Commissioned Lay Minister at the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, OH.  In his spare time, he works as an R&D scientist for a large flat glass company and plays old-time guitar and clawhammer banjo.  This workshop is his first attempt at Banjo ministry.

7. Get “F.L.Y.” — Fitter, Leaner, Younger!

Christa Champion

Would you like to regain your youthful energy levels? Do you want to feel stronger, move more easily, and lose some of those nagging aches and pains? 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 Get “F.L.Y.” is for you! In this workshop, we will: 1. Review the science behind the powerful anti-aging effects of exercise. 2. Learn some basic nutrition to guide your everyday eating habits toward building better long-term health. 3. Learn and practice some simple exercises that you can do at home, without joining a gym—exercises that will improve your posture, strengthen your movements, and increase your flexibility, while simultaneously reducing joint pain. Woo-hoo!  No prior experience or fitness level necessary. We will spend part of our time learning about & discussing concepts, and part of our time learning & practicing various stretches and exercises. Participants should dress in loose comfortable clothing and supportive sneakers, and be prepared to stand up and move around a little each day.

Participants should wear loose comfortable clothing and stable supportive footwear. Bring a notebook or paper, and a pen or pencil.  Limit: 20

Christa Champion is an athlete, physical educator, and life-long learner who has taught and coached at the collegiate and scholastic levels for over thirty years. She currently teaches PE at Concord Academy in Massachusetts, where she also coaches the throwers and pole vaulters on the track & field team. 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.

8. The Awesomeness of Drumming!

Rebekah Benner

Share your voice and spirit through the heartbeat of the drum. Drum rhythms and songs, drum circle facilitation techniques, and shamanic journey drumming for personal introspection and self-healing will be experienced in a fun and all level inclusive workshop.

Participants should bring a tall pedestal type hand drum that sits on floor, : djembe, ashiko, conga. Doumbek is also fine. Other percussion instruments are also welcome and will be utilized.  Limit: 30

Rev. Rebekah is an interfaith minister, chaplain for the Pagan community in Akron area hospitals and the Cleveland veterans administration. She has been facilitating drum circles for over 30 years, for area communities, outreach shelters and health agencies. She is founder of Terra Amma Grove, and uses crystal singing bowls in weekly sound vibrational healing sessions. She is also a member of the Ethical Metalsmith Guild and creates adornments from recycled metals, fair trade beads and gems.

9. Yoga for Every Body

Anne Lapidus

Accessible Yoga considers the wide range of bodies, age, ability, size, experience, flexibility, and so on and works to remove barriers to equitable practice. All people move differently.  Newcomers to yoga will find a place here as well as seasoned practitioners.  We will hold space where we can learn about ourselves and take care of our needs through agency and self-empowerment, to make each practice our own.   All instructions are mindful, giving lots of variations to personalize your practice.  Let’s move together, breathe together and be together.

Participants should bring a yoga mat.    Limit: 30

Ann is a lifelong UU, who began attending Summer Institute in 1990. She teaches yoga at Open Up Pittsburgh and with the von Hippel-Lindau Family Alliance. These programs of adaptive and accommodating yoga practice are in alignment with her belief that meeting people where they are and using open communication are the best methods for allowing people to feel welcomed, wanted, and included.​

10. Challenging Conversations Around Race and Oppression

Deb Lemire

The 8th Principle requires us to “accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”  So how do we do that if we can’t talk about it without feeling defensive or causing harm?  Building on Dr. David Campt’s R.A.C.E. method (White Ally Toolkit) and incorporating the themes in John McWhorter’s Woke Racism: How a New Religion has portrayed Black America; we will explore how to have those important conversations and apply them across our social justice work. As challenging as these conversations can feel, they are needed to develop a deeper understanding of the issues and prevent further harm. We will not just learn about it, we will practice it using improv and imagination.

Participants should bring a notebook and a pen, there will be handouts    Limit: None

Deb Lemire is a long time member of the UU Church of Akron.  She wears several hats including Social Justice Council co-chair, Racial Justice Task Force co-chair and 8th Principle Transformation Team.  Deb presented How to Dismantle Racism One Conversation at a Time at our last in person CERSI in 2019.  Deb is a trained actor and has her own production company, Queen Bee Productions.  She is most happy when she can bring both her passions….theatre and social justice ….together.

11.  Speak Up and Stand Out

Sharon Marrell

The sound of your voice matters more than the words you say. Speaking with confidence, knowing your heard and taken seriously can be gained by making subtle changes to your voice.Communication style and knowing your voice type is the key to presenting a powerful presentation. You’ll learn to use Melody, Pitch, Pace, Volume and Tone and make quick and easy changes to create a voice that people listen to and take seriously! This workshop is interactive so come with something you want to say to transform your voice to be heard!

Participants should bring a notebook and a pen.    Limit: None

Sharon has been music teacher with over 4 decades of experience, She has educated people of all ages on the art of music and speaker voice coaching.  Through music, Sharon realized that a spoken language that incorporates characteristics of  art of music can empower people to achieve success and strengthen the power to connect to others. She works with groups and individuals as a speaker voice coach.

12. Sacred Listening and Your Life Story

Rev. Elaine Strawn and Diana Van Winkle

This small group experience provides an opportunity to explore our own narratives, expand deep listening skills and enrich our lives through our personal exploration of story telling. We, as human beings, tell stories. Some shared stories are from childhood, told because they are funny or reflect an aspect of self. Some we tell our children to share a lesson learned. Some stories are so personal that we may choose to tell them only at our deathbed or not even then. Stories make up our sense of self and well being. We hope to cultivate conversation, enrich deep listening, and enhance our connection to narratives which immerse our selves in that which is sacred. This workshop is based on Dr. Diane Millis’ goal, “To me, the first step is giving yourself permission to be whole.”

Participants should bring  an openness to looking within and to hearing others. All other materials will be provided.    Limit: 16

Diana Van Winkle is a spiritual seeker believing in the power of groups, listening, and stories. She has been privileged to spend three decades engaging with people, listening deeply to stories, and experiencing the amazing human spirit.

Elaine Strawn has been a UU minister for 25 years, 23 of which she served in partnership with the UU Fellowship of Wayne County. Currently, she has a Spiritual Direction practice in Akron and serves as co-chair of the CER Commissioned Lay Ministry Council.