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Becky Brooks

Becky Brooks

Director of Religious Education

Becky Brooks joined the staff of First Unitarian in the fall of 2006. Her love of religious education work began as a volunteer youth advisor at her home congregation in Eugene, Oregon when she was in college. In graduate school and throughout professional development work, Becky has studied with some of the preeminent practitioners of Unitarian Universalist religious education at all age levels.  Becky earned a Masters of Divinity at Starr King School for the Ministry and holds a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She was elected to the Board of Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) in June of 2013. She is currently serving a three year term as Board Secretary.

Website URL: http://bit.ly/uLZRUo E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

On Friday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Saru Jayaraman, activist, author and professor, will present our next Zoerheide Lecture. "Behind the Kitchen Door: Paying Fair Wages and Building a Just and Sustainable Food Industry" will be presented in Enoch Pratt Hall, 514 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.

Ms. Jayaraman is the author of Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press 2013).  She asks how restaurant workers survive on some of the lowest wages in America and how poor working conditions and exploitation affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables. 

In her book Ms. Jayaraman argues that, “Sustainability is about contributing to a society that everybody benefits from, not just going organic because you don't want to die from cancer or have a difficult pregnancy. What is a sustainable restaurant? It's one in which as the restaurant grows, the people grow with it.” 

Saru Jayaraman is co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a graduate of Yale Law School and holds a Masters Degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has been profiled in the New York Times “Public Lives” section, was named one of Crain's “40 Under 40” and one of New York Magazine's “Influentials.”

The Robert and Jean Zoerheide Lecture Series speaks to the civic values of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore (Universalist & Unitarian), and provides regular opportunities for public dialogue with leading voices in the Unitarian Universalist and other liberal religious traditions. The series honors our late Minister emeritus and his wife for their years of leadership in Baltimore. For more information, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or call the office at 410-685-2330.

Acting

Monday, 18 February 2013 17:01 Published in RE-Connect Baltimore

by Becky Brooks

My parents left the Catholic church shortly after I was born and I grew up unchurched. My early religious education, as a result, was from pop culture. Most notably, Star Wars. (Or, more specifically, Empire Strikes Back). Picture it…our hero, Luke, has been stranded on a strange planet. With the help of his spiritual advisor, Yoda, he begins to learn his practice. During a moment of frustration while attempting a project that is so large and overwhelming it seems impossible, Luke is ready to give up. As Yoda urges him to keep up with his work, Luke says—unconvincingly—that he'll try. Yoda responds: "Do. Or do not. There is no try."

 

The thing about wisdom is that it can take a while to settle in. Though this scene made a big impression on me as a kid, I've only recently begun to understand it. Luke wants to give himself an out. He wants to be able to say, when his efforts fail, that he wasn't dumb enough to think that he was capable of doing such an enormous task to begin with. He wants to preserve his dignity (and identity) by being right. But Yoda sees through that. 

 

We do this a lot. We use "trying" to protect us from failure. Giving something a "try" helps cushion the fall and lighten the blow. But it also prohibits us from committing to an endeavor. Imaging wearing water wings all the time. You may stay safe, but you never learn to swim. What might it look like to resist the impulse to protect ourselves from failure? What might it look like, instead, to choose commitment. Or, just as valid, to understand our limitations and choose inaction? I would argue that the act of commitment itself is not only a spiritual practice in learning to be one's best, whole, self, but also a tool for ultimate success. 

 

I've never been a great goal maker. I am very good at dealing with the present moment and focusing on what is right in front of me. It's difficult for me to create a goal for the future and keep it in my sights long enough to accomplish it, especially in regard to personal change and growth. But when I do manage to meet a significant goal, it's because I have committed to it. And when I commit to something and I fail, it hurts. There's no pretending it doesn't. Failure hurts. But so does setting myself up for failure, and so does—in a way—lucking into success. 

 

We have the opportunity in our congregation to commit. To projects, to tasks, to each other, to acting faithfully with one another, we can choose to commit. I hope we can remember the power of that choice, of action (or, even inaction). Committing together to be our best, whole selves, is the only way we can make that happen.

Join us for a SOUPer Lunch on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3, after church!

Our Religious Education classes will be cooking up a big 'ol batch of chili & cornbread for the whole congregation. A suggested donation of $8 per person (or $25 for the whole family) will benefit the Maryland Food Bank. 

This is the second year we've participated in the SOUPer Bowl of Caring, a nationwide effort to raise money and awareness of hunger and poverty all across the United States. We will join congregations, individuals, and other groups to do what we can to help our neighbors. 

Fill your belly on Feb. 3 and help us provide food for other Baltimore families.

Mystery Buddies Sign Ups Begin Feb. 3

Monday, 28 January 2013 11:25 Published in RE-Connect Baltimore

Drop by the Religious Education Table any Sunday in February to sign up to be a Mystery Buddy!

 

What are Mystery Buddies?

In this fun intergenerational program, kids and adults or youth are matched in Mystery Buddy pairs, with the goal of getting to know a little more about each other every week until identities are revealed on March 24. Adults, youth, and kids who sign up to participate will choose a mystery nickname, fill out a brief questionnaire, and decorate a mailbag. Pairs will exchange clues each Sunday, March 3-24 (see attached document for some ideas.)

 

How does it work?

Every Sunday before service, mailbags will be out by the front doors of the church, ready to accept letters and small homemade gifts* from both older and younger buddies. After service begins, mailbags will be moved to the Parish Hall for coffee hour when participants can check their mailbags for that weeks' clue. The event will culminate in a potluck breakfast on March 24 when Mystery Buddy identities will be discovered!

(* we ask that you spend no more than $5 over the course of the month on any gifts for your Buddy)

 

Who can participate?

Anyone under the age of 18 can be a "younger" buddy and anyone over 12 can be an "older" buddy (youth can choose to be an older or younger). All participants are asked to exchange at least a little clue each of the four weeks (either in person or by proxy—just let the DLRE know if you will miss a week!)

 

Sign up today! Clue exchanges will begin March 3. 

Have you seen an RE Volunteer go above and beyond in their work at First Unitarian? Now's your chance to let us know in a quick and easy way! We are now accepting nominations for the RE Volunteer of the Month online. Check it out! Take a break today to say something nice about the folks who make our program possible!

The New Jim Crow Radioblog Opportunity

Tuesday, 15 January 2013 19:45 Published in RE-Connect Baltimore

The First Unitarian Church has been invited by the UU Church of Arlington to host an episode of the their Radioblog “A Common Read of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.” The blog will feature eight 1-hour long discussions of The New Jim Crow with UU congregations. We are hosting Chapter 4: The Cruel Hand, which will air on February 10. Five participants are needed to read the chapter and participate in the discussion. Join in the conversation! To participate, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

  • Even if you can't participate in the radioblog, let your friends know about it and listen online

  • From UUA.org: Racial profiling, criminalization, and mass incarceration of African Americans and other people of color constitute today’s legal system for institutionalized racism, discrimination, and exclusion. Dr. Michelle Alexander, civil rights advocate, litigator, scholar and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness exposes today’s racial caste system and how to resist it. Dr. Alexander spoke to an audience of over 600 people at Justice General Assembly 2012 in Phoenix and challenged us to learn about the oppression that’s happening through the criminal justice system to people of color in our nation and our communities, and to step up and witness. Join the movement to support prisoners and their families and to put an end to mass incarceration. As Unitarian Universalists, we have the religious grounding, the resources, and the opportunity to make a difference in partnership with those who are most affected by institutionalized racism and ‘the new Jim Crow.’

Seeking

Thursday, 03 January 2013 09:12 Published in RE-Connect Baltimore

by Becky Brooks

At the core of our faith lies a commitment to "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning." This value isn't unique to Unitarian Universalism, but I would suggest it is one of the values that define us. The wording of the fourth principle doesn't specify whether this is a personal or corporate search, but I like to think it means both. Certainly we value the individual's search for a personal truth and meaning-making that makes sense to their own minds and hearts. We assume in our congregations that while our pew neighbors may share our commitment to Unitarian Universalism, they may not share our theology. Part of the purpose of Religious Education is to offer a forum where individuals can engage in their own search and articulate their findings, all while listening respectfully to and learning from others. 

But don't we, too, "affirm and promote" (to use the language of our UU Principles) the ways in which we as a whole body "search for truth and meaning." I think back to last Fall and the 20/20 Vision conference. That congregational conversation was an example of the ways in which we do the work of seeking together. And the outcome of that conversation was more than the list of "Ten Right Things" that we decided on together, it was also the process of the conversation itself. I won't deny that I'm a lover of lists. I like post-it notes and notebooks and knowing what to do next and having a plan. That's why it feels so lovely to me that we have this nice ten-item list as a commemoration of our conversation. 

But the religious in me, the one who has committed her life to Unitarian Universalism, sees even more value in the way these ten right things can help us continue our corporate free and responsible search. Who are we, as a church? What defines us? How are we of use to our community? How are we integrating UUs of all ages into our work? To be asking these questions and discussing them with not only congregational leaders, but with all who work and worship here, is a religious act. We live our values by our practice. Maybe that means lighting a chalice, maybe it means being of service to our community, it certainly means treating each other with respect, but it also means engaging in the conversations of seeking together. I look forward to conversations with many of you about the hows and whys of First Unitarian. As we seek and make meaning together, so we grow as Unitarian Universalists and make this living tradition a home for ourselves and those who still seek us.

First Unitarian Kids Remind You to Vote!

Monday, 05 November 2012 05:46 Published in RE-Connect Baltimore
For November's Service Project Sunday, the kids talked about what issues are most important to them and the importance of voting. The Unitarian Universalist Fifth Principle says that our congregations affirm and promote: "The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large." Clearly our families live their principles as three of the young people in class had already volunteered at the polls or were planning to in support of Maryland's Question 6. As one of the kids said in class, voting is important because it helps us make decisions together instead of leaving power in the hands of the very few. We made a video reminding folks to practice our fifth principle and get out the vote this Tuesday (see below).

To learn more about the election at home, watch Kids Pick the President: The Issues with your kids. If you don't already know where your Maryland polling place is, you can find it easily on the State Board of Elections page. A comprehensive list of Maryland ballot items is also online at vote-md.org.

Don't forget to vote!

Folks Have a Blast at Halloween Party

Friday, 02 November 2012 13:09 Published in RE-Connect Baltimore
Halloween
Thanks so much to everyone who braved the weather to come to our annual Halloween party!
You can view a slideshow of pictures here. It was a great time thanks to our fantastic volunteers: Helen, Molly, Grant, Laurel, Jennie, Andy, Sharon, Tony, Rev., Jim, Joshua, Zeke, Ben, Sam, Claire, Lee, Marta, Melinda, and—of course—RE Chair, Karla Peterson!

art_project

One of my favorite parts of any Sunday is standing out on the church portico welcoming folks as they arrive; long time members, newcomers, friends, and families. I love seeing you rush in from the rain and saunter up those stone steps, squinting a little when the sun is brilliant and beautiful. And every single Sunday I'm grateful to watch the teachers arrive. If you're out there on the portico you can tell who's teaching that day because they come with bags. Tote bags with flower pots or fruit salad, special scissors or duct tape—whatever the lesson calls for that they've brought from home or bought for the kids in their classes. Curriculum binders poke out of their canvas shopping bags and purses and back packs. Their own children sometimes come carrying the sample of the craft for the lesson that they put together that morning or the night before to show the other kids how it's done. They come with serious faces, concentrating, going through mental check lists of this, that, and the other thing that they need to prepare to be ready for the children when they come. 

At the end of the year we say thank you to the teachers and other volunteers, as we should. And many of us try to say "Thank you" literally whenever we can. But one thing that's missing is having a special way to appreciate our volunteers throughout the year. That's why we will be honoring an "RE Volunteer of the Month" starting in November. 

Anyone can nominate someone for the RE Volunteer of the Month. Nomination forms will be available at the RE table after church each Sunday, or you can email me directly with your nomination. Be specific. Tell us why you think your nomination has gone above and beyond in the service of Unitarian Universalist Religious Education. 

I hope each one of you will take a moment to say a word of thanks to someone in the congregation who is growing our church from the inside. I cannot wait to read the wonderful things you'll write about your fellow congregants. I hope those of you who volunteer in Religious Education will be given a glimpse of how deeply we all value your work. Thank you, each and every one.

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Location: 12 W. Franklin St:
Corner of Charles and Franklin Streets in Downtown Baltimore

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