Newsletter for May, 2017

May 2017
From Our Minister: 

Passing the Torch: Saying Thank You and Keeping Covenant

Dear congregation,
And now the time has come to say goodbye. Since November, when I announced my decision to resign as your settled minister, we have had a chance to offer one another a compassionate, caring, and meaningful leave-taking. Thank you for “taking the long way around” in worship and in opportunities for reflection and celebration of my ministry with you throughout our life together (some of which are still coming up in mid-May and early June, thanks to our Farewell Committee and their wonderful organizing!) Thank you, to all of you who have written notes of appreciation, shared stories and memories in “Open Hours” small groups, or one-on-one, or presented me and my family with heartfelt tokens of gratitude. Please know how touched I am by your gifts, and how deeply they have affirmed the very best parts of my ministry with you over the past seven years.
Many of you have been asking where my next ministry will take me. As of this writing, I am not yet sure. I will be looking for a “match” through the process that links congregations in transition with interim ministers, and I am exploring other ministry opportunities here in Los Angeles and on the East Coast. Thank you for your good wishes as this process unfolds for me. Now, it is time for me to pass the torch to your incoming minister, the Rev. Greg Ward. I have great respect for Rev. Greg and all he brings to this time in ministry with the congregation, which has such promise and potential. And, after my final Sunday on June 4, and my final day cleaning out my office on June 10, I will no longer be your minister. This means that I will no longer be in touch with members of this community. It does not mean that I will not say “hello” at the Santa Monica farmers’ market or when we run into one another at a larger UU gathering. But, it does mean that I will be fading from view. This decision reflects my support for you and your new minister, my covenant with my UU colleagues, and my commitment to our UU Ministers Association Code of Professional Ethics. It is time for my ministry with you to become a chapter of your history; your ministry with Rev. Greg and with one another is your present, and your future.
My spiritual friends, it has been an honor and an unforgettable journey to serve as your minister. Thank you for your courage, commitment, love, and trust in me, and many blessings on the new ministry you will soon take up with Rev. Greg.
Much heart,
Rev. Rebeccca





Rev. Rebecca’s last meeting with the Heart to Heart Circle facilitators: (back row, left to right) Margot Page, Norm Richey, Kathleen Hogue, Bev Shoenberger, Natalie Kahn, (front row, left to right) Leslie Beauvais, Rev. Rebecca Benefiel-Bijur, Rhonda Peacock, Abby Arnold.
From Our President: 

A Call to Accept Our Differences and Understand Each Other

As Unitarian Universalists, we jointly give voice to the value of diversity and the acceptance of diversity.
Our congregation has been effective in acknowledging diversity of race, sexual expression, gender, and sometimes spiritual and religious expression.
We have not achieved our best selves as individuals and community in curiosity, understanding, compassion, and acceptance of diversity in governance, process, and acceptance of difference in point-of-view.
We now celebrate the many ways in which Rev. Rebecca has aided us in our journey. We have great  appreciation and great concern for her and her family.
As we move to become our best selves, it is time to also look within our selves to see what we have learned.
Let us look within our selves to seek what we have learned of late of the acceptance of the beauty of diversity of opinion. Look within our selves to seek what we have learned of the acceptance of the complexity of community and how community requires sharing, not winning.
We are in change. Let us use that change to make a better world.
Ron Crane


News & Announcements: 

Celebration of Reverend Rebecca’s Ministry Save the Dates!

Rev Rebecca’s Portrait Unveiling Reception
Sunday, May 14 at 12:30 pm, UUSM Forbes Hall
All members, friends, and their families are invited to join Reverend Rebecca, local clergy and colleagues for the unveiling of her “official portrait” taken by our own Alice Hall. Following the unveiling, all are invited to enjoy a cake and champagne reception.
Rev Rebecca’s Celebrational Service
Saturday, June 3 at 1:30 pm, UUSM Sanctuary
Mark your calendar to attend this very special service honoring Rev Rebecca. Childcare will be provided. More details to come!
Rev Rebecca’s last service
Sunday, June 4 at 10 am, UUSM Sanctuary
Please note that this will be the beginning of our one service summer schedule. There will be refreshments for all, and a bouncing house for children in the courtyard, after this service. 

Child Dedication: A Sacred Ceremony

Would you like this congregation to welcome your child to our life together on May 14?
Raising children is a sacred stewardship and a daily spiritual practice. A child dedication is an act of affirmation; a recognition of the reverence for life that we speak of in our first principle. On May 14 during either the 9 am service or the 11 am service (you choose), we will formally welcome children into our congregation. As a part of the service we will dedicate ourselves to nurture the inherent sense of personal dignity and worth of our children. Although we call this ceremony a Child Dedication, it is really a dedication of the primary caregivers and the congregation to nurture these children with those values that promote responsible and generous living. It is a celebration of both responsibility and promise. If you would like to participate, please contact Kathleen at 310-829-5436, ext. 105, no later than May 8.

Patio Furniture Renovation Project

Members Steve White and Mark Cristianson are giving our wooden outdoor furniture an upgrade, with repairs and refinishing to combat the effects of our ocean air. Thank you, Steve and Mark!

Saying Goodbye to Reverend Rebecca

Open Hours: Sat May 20, 9:30 to 11 am, in Forbes Hall. In this time of ministerial transition, you may want to spend some time with our Minister to share your thoughts, feelings, or stories of our time together, as we say goodbye. Open Hours are hosted by a member of our Board of Directors and/or our Right Relations Task Force with our Minister and intended to open space and time in our life together for a  compassionate leavetaking. For our final Open Hours on May 20, hosted by Sue Stoyanoff of our Right Relations Task Force, you are welcome to drop in or rsvp to Rev. Rebecca at or Sue Stoyanoff to let us you know will be stopping by.

Second Sunday Supper Spring Brunch!

Sunday, May 14
5:30 pm Social Hour
6 pm Dinner
Join us for Brunch for Dinner this month, hosted by the UUSM Kitchen Ministry (Jacki Weber and Beth Brownlie, co-chairs)
ON THE MENU: Spring Vegetable Egg Casserole, Roasted Potatoes and Salad
YOU CAN BRING: Beverages, fruit salad, muffins/rolls, sweet treats. Bring your own plates and silverware if you
can, to decrease cleanup
YOU CAN HELP: Join our Kitchen Cabinet and help with cooking (the day before), setup or cleanup. You know
that the most fun at any party is in the kitchen! Sign up at


Engraved bricks for $400 if ordered by May 19th (Regular Price $500!) Provide a lasting memorial to your loved one with an engraved brick in the Garden of Eternity at the UUSM. You can include up to three lines of text including your loved one’s name, dates, quotations or fond memories.
We are offering this special rate for engraved bricks to take advantage of the brick supply now at the engraver. In future, engraved bricks may cost more than $500 due to extra transportation costs. If you order now, we can  install your memorial brick in 2017. If you’ve been wanting to do this to honor and remember your parents, siblings or dear friends, this is your opportunity.
Please contact Nurit ( or 310-829-5436 ext 100) in the office to order your bricks and provide payment and final wording by May 19 for this special offer!


Sunday, May 21, 2017
12:30 pm
UUSM Sanctuary
Founded 90 years ago, our congregation has much to celebrate. One way we honor our commitment to the democratic process is by participating in annual meetings. All members are welcome and eligible to vote on leadership and policy for the church. Look for your ballot and more information in the mail.
Before the meeting, a light lunch will be available for a donation.

Save the Date - Annual All-Church Interweave Picnic

Sunday, July 30, 11 a.m. – Church Courtyard
To help, contact Kris Langabeer
Faith in Action News: 

UUs Join Second Annual #InterfaithMarchLA

On Sunday, April 2, at least 25 members and friends of our congregation participated in the second annual Los Angeles Interfaith March, a show of solidarity in troubled times that began at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, LA’s oldest Jewish congregation, and ended one mile down the street at the Islamic Center of Southern California, the city’s original Muslim community. Whereas last year’s event was inaugurated as mainly a coming together of the Abrahamic faiths, the organizers intentionally expanded the frame this year to include “people of all faiths, philosophies, and creeds.”
Along the way, we saw familiar faces from the interfaith community and heard from many local faith and civic leaders. A rabbi spoke of the Wilshire corridor as having long been a microcosm of the city’s religious diversity. A Catholic priest decried through a megaphone that people in his church were living in fear of the new administration’s policies. A Zoroastrian priest preached from a Presbyterian pulpit on the dignity and equality of all women and men. Two city officials and an Imam spoke words of welcome specifically to humanists, atheists, and other secular folks who had joined in the march from Sunday Assembly LA, Atheists United, and the Santa Clarita Freethinkers. (The pluralism modeled here could not happen easily in every city.) Sikhs passed out bowls of hot food. The event’s principal organizer, Dr. Arik Greenberg, thanked so many UUs (many of us visible in our yellow shirts) for turning out. In closing remarks to the crowd at the Islamic Center, he argued that we are at war -- not with our fellow people, despite perceived differences, but with racism, sexism, homophobia, ignorance, greed, and other “spiritual faults” that prevent us from realizing beloved community.
I was asked to be on the planning team for this year’s march, and would appreciate your feedback both on how it
went and what we can do to increase UU participation next time.
James Witker

Inspiration for the Future from Michael Dowd’s Visit

On March 19, the Rev. Michael Dowd delivered two rousing sermons at UUSM on the sacred side of science, his own eco-theology, and climate justice. Later that afternoon, he gave his full 90-minute multimedia presentation to a packed sanctuary of UUSM members along with friends from the wider community and Citizens‘ Climate Lobby. A lively reception co-hosted by Adult RE, the Green Committee, and AAHS (Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists & Secularists) followed. We’re fortunate to have someone familiar to UU congregations who can “evangelize” so passionately on these crucially important subjects. As Michael terms it, he preaches a unique “synthesis of science and religion that transcends and includes both.”
The Adult RE Committee has acquired the complete collection of Michael and Connie’s video and audio presentations, which they dub “The Great Story.” This will enable us to further explore the richness and relevance of their ideas -- evidence as modern scripture, death in the context of deep time, Big History and cosmic/biological evolution as a sacred creation story, and more -- in study and discussion groups in the months ahead. We think there’s material here (and also in Dowd’s bestselling book, “Thank God for Evolution”) for many Adult RE programs. And we’re encouraged by the way Michael and Connie (“crea-theist” and “cre-atheist” respectively) have the potential to bridge persistent theological differences in a profoundly meaningful way.
James Witker

Anti-Racism Talk after Second Sunday Supper, May 14 at 7:15 pm

Shelly Tochluk — “Feeling the Push to be an Ally for Racial Justice? Concerns, Conundrums and
The Faith in Action Commission and the Peace and Social Justice Committee invite you to welcome anti-racist activist and educator Shelly Tochluk to a program following the Second Sunday Brunch for Supper potluck on Sunday, May 14 at 7:15 pm. Shelly is a Professor of Education at Mount St. Mary’s University - Los Angeles, a volunteer at Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere - Los Angeles (AWARE - L.A.), and the author of the books “Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk about Race and How to Do It,” and “Living in the Tension: The Quest for a Spiritualized Racial Justice.” Shelly has spoken about her anti-racist work at venues across the country, including UU churches, and has been invited to participate at General Assembly New Orleans this summer.
“Shelly Tochluk invites you into welcome conversation about how we can reawaken our deepest moral traditions to promote inclusion, equity, and address fundamental questions of belonging that embrace our diversity and complexity,” says John A. Powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley. Rebecca Parker, President Emerita, Starr King School for the Ministry, says of Tochluk’s work: “. . . Living in the Tension makes it clear that racial justice work requires spirituality and spirituality requires racial justice work.”
Shelly will address questions contemplated in social justice circles regarding the role of racial dynamics, the tension between the need to uplift our common humanity and to respect difference, accountability to others, and whether a primary focus on personal and collective healing is sufficient without engagement in political action.
Please join us for the presentation, questions, and discussion.
Office of The Americas, International Action Center,
and ADDICTED TO WAR invite you to a screening of:
CITIZEN CLARK: A Life of Principle
A Film about Ramsey Clark, Former U.S. Attorney General and Human Rights Activist
Directed by Joseph Stillman - Narrated by Martin Sheen
Saturday, May 13 – 7 pm
Doors open at 6 pm for food, drink and talk
The Peace Center
3916 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City 90230
Parking behind building or at the book store next door
Suggested $10 Donation at the door
With Special Guests:
Director Joseph Stillman
Blase and Theresa Bonpane of The OOA
John Parker and Maggie Vascassenno of The IAC

FIA Art Wall and Fundraiser June 4

June is the FIA Art Wall Show with each of our action groups represented (Green Committee, Hunger Task Force,
Interweave, and the Peace and Social Justice Committee). On Sunday, June 4 FIA will host a reception and have its annual fundraiser. The Fundraiser has church member-made craft goods and some special used items for sale. Please check out our sale and help our FIA groups do their good community service work. Contact: Diana Spears.

UUSM Children Put Their Faith into Action

Seventeen UUSM children made 55 sack lunches on Sunday, March 26 for a multi-generational Faith In Action project. Accompanied by 10 adults, the children walked five blocks to Turning Point Shelter, and delivered the lunches, along with their survival supplies, for the residents of Turning Point, who were  waiting for permanent housing opportunities to become available/
Green Living Committee: 

Great CSU News from the Green Living Committee

Community Services Unlimited, our climate justice partner in South Central Los Angeles, has received two grants towards their Veggie Bus project as they continue to remodel of their campus at the Paul Robeson Center at 6563 South Vermont. 
They won a Legacy Project grant of $10,000 from the Los Angeles Chapter of the US Green Building Council. Another $5,000 came as a grant from Whole Foods! This will allow them to relocate the colorfully painted Veggie Bus on their new site at the Paul Robeson Center on Vermont, and to renovate it for use as a classroom and seed library.
The bus is now on site although not quite positioned where it will ultimately be. While continuing to work on that aspect of the project there is an opportunity to celebrate and volunteer to help at an event on June 10, “Honoring Our Seeds: Historical & Ecological,” including a seed saving and canning workshop, a panel on the origins of the Paul Robeson Center, and a performance/video shoot, “I’m a Champion” by Sheldon Bailey and the audience.
UUSM members who would like to attend and help out, please contact Rick Teplitz. and we’ll try to set up car pooling or alternative transport.  Rick has room for three leaving from Westchester. Look for more information in the June newsletter.
Rick Teplitz
Splinters from the Board: 
Board Selects Developmental Minister, Accepts Nominating Committee Slate of Candidates
In addition to the regularly scheduled board meeting on April 11, the board met on March 28 in lieu of the executive committee meeting.
On March 28, the board met with 11 guests in attendance. Joe Engleman lit the chalice with quotes from A. A. Milne and Christopher Morley that called for creative thinking and originality.
The board approved the nomination of Kim Andres to the Finance Committee.
There was a lengthy discussion of a new DRE assistant position of 10 hours a week in support of the vitality of the RE program, which was recommended by the personnel committee and amounts to $10,000 per year. A position paper in support of the request was provided in the board materials. The possibility of a grant request to the Spirit Level Foundation was discussed as a source of funding. UUSM has received Spirit Level grants in the past for the roof replacement, Garden of Eternity, and Dazzle website project. A grant would require the congregation to match $15,000 over a three-year period. The board authorizes fundraising but that does not preclude obtaining a grant. The outcome of the discussion underscored a need to look at the big picture of RE long term, including the development of a plan before steps are taken.
The investment committee has recommended that not all the money allocated to our Endowment Fund be invested all at once in the UUCEF (UU Common Endowment Fund) investment vehicle. The committee recommends investing gradually over a four-year period, beginning with half the money to be taken back in cash. This is known as dollar-cost averaging. The board supports the expertise of the investment committee.
Sunday, June 4 is the end of the church year celebration following Rev. Rebecca’s last service at 10 am. Help from the board to organize and execute this event was requested.
The board went into executive session to discuss and vote on the Developmental Ministry Task Force’s (DMTF) recommendation of a candidate. Following the executive session, the board unanimously voted to approve the recommendation of the DMTF’s candidate, and appointed a negotiation team made up of Garland Allen, Ron Crane, Kim Miller, and John Sussman.
The regularly scheduled board meeting took place on April 11 with nine guests in attendance. Kikanza Nuri-Robins lit the chalice with a poem by Amiri Baraka that is a poignant reminder of who we are, neither all bad nor all good. Sanna Legan was read in as a new member. The total membership is 334, down from 351. Lapsed members are removed from the membership roll each spring.
Kim Miller announced that an agreement has been reached with the Developmental Minister, who will be announced following approval of the contract between UUSM and the DM in executive session.
The board approved the nomination of Rebecca Crawford to the Personnel Committee.
The Nominating Committee presented its slate of candidates:
President: Ron Crane – For the second of three potential 1-year terms
Vice-President: Jacki Weber – For the second of three potential 1-year terms
Secretary: Beth Brownlie – For the second of three potential 1-year terms
Treasurer: Kim Miller – For the third of three of potential 1-year terms
Past President: Patricia Wright will likely continue to serve in that position
Emily Hero – For the second of two potential 2-year terms (having previously served by appointment)
Norm Richey – For the first of two potential 2-year terms
Jerry Gates and Kikanza Nuri-Robbins will continue their current terms
Nominating Committee:
Nalani Santiago-Kalmanson – For a 3-year term
Linda Van Ligten – For a 3-year term
Liza Cranis – For a 2-year term (to finish out the term of a seat that was vacated)
Bob Dietz, Barbara Gibbs, and James Witker will continue their current terms.
Candidates who wish to be added to the ballot may do so by petition of 10 or more voting members, validated by the secretary and submitted to the church office at least 20 days before the Annual Meeting, which is May 21.
The budget deficit is projected to be higher than the previously reported $33,403. It is anticipated that the compensation package for the new Developmental Minister based on the UUA grid for compensation will be higher. The budget also includes an additional $5,000 for Right Relations consultant Nancy Edmundson. Where the coverage for the deficit will come from will be determined by the congregation at the Annual Meeting. The board approved the FY 17/18 budget. The ultimate vote comes from the congregation at the Annual Meeting.
The board passed a motion to adopt the core values statement prepared by Right Relations based on the congregation’s stories of affirmation. The core values statement will appear on the agenda for approval at the Annual Meeting. It is emphasized in the statement of core values that it is a living document that will be reviewed periodically in the life of the congregation.
Beth Brownlie gave an update from the Facilities Development Committee on the state of our plumbing, which is not good. More investigation and more quotes are needed.
The board went into executive session to address two motions: 1) To approve resolution and agreement to buy out Rev. Rebecca’s vacation accrual, and 2) To approve the contract between UUCCSM and the DM. Following executive session, both motions were passed unanimously.
A plan for introducing the Developmental Minister to the congregation is in progress.
Patricia Wright


RE News: 

Facing the Border Wall, With Faith

Last week I was privileged to take part in our Unitarian Universalist District Assembly. This year’s theme was Social justice… specifically border issues. I got to go on three excursions… The first, a trip that was about 30 miles from the border in the desert. The second, a trip to the Humanitarian Aid office in Aravaca. The third was to the border wall itself at Nogales. Here is a little of what I learned. Migrants walk for many days, sometimes months and sometimes years. Some come from Mexico but many more come from Central America, and a large majority of those are children traveling without a parent. They gave up all they had to come to a place of promise of freedom. Their guides, “Coyotes,” often lie to them about how long it will take. They also are not forthcoming with the reality that you cannot carry enough water in order to cross the desert. It was very sad to see how close to aid that some of them came…some just over a hill about a mile, before they could not go on.
The following is a poem I wrote, in the raw, right after my trip.
I walked through the desert where migrants have traveled. I walked a mile in their shoes. As I walked, I wondered, “Why did they come, why do they do it, are they forced, or do they choose?” I could hear their voices in my head telling me, “There was no food, no work, no place to live and our children were not safe.” The children were dying in the streets full of drugs and full of war. And for those who lived, a life of misery was in store.
As I walked further in the sun and in the heat, I began complaining about my sore feet and I heard the migrant voices once again. “Jumping cholla, prickly pear, the sun’s unforgiving rays. Walking, walking, walking, walking, that is all we have done for many days. I left all I own along the trail, all my family held so dear. They were sacred memories to hold and share but to keep them I could not dare for to carry them further might slow me down and I would surely get left behind.”
I saw a grave and I asked, “Who is buried here”? It is a migrant from years ago. Animals came and the bones were scattered. There were some shoes and some clothes all tattered from the wind, sun, and rain. As I walked further the voices spoke one final time, “Please, Coyote, may we rest? You said the journey would not be long. We thought we could make it but we were wrong. We will just stop here for a while.” They did not know that help was in less than a mile. I saw three more crosses and then I knew these were people like me and you, praying for relief from their suffering and their pain.
I saw one more grave on this trip. It was a baby, one just born, left on the trail all alone, never having a chance to live. I thought of the mother of this child and the pain she must have endured. How sad it must have been to carry for so long a life inside to have it slip away on a hot desert on a journey to freedom.
At the border I touched the wall and looked on the other side. I could see the people on the streets, and I thought about how we are the same. We all have hopes and dreams, and we all want to be able to take care of our families. Walls are built for two reasons…to keep something in or something out. When I look at the wall, all I see is something that divides “the other” from we and this is just not the way that things should be.
Kathleen Hogue, DRE

May 2017 – Adult RE

Spirited Seekers
Discover the world of spirituality in the monthly Spirited Seekers group! We shall endeavor to keep an open mind, and to delight in the multitudinous expressions of spirituality and the deeply personal encounters with the Divine, according to our understanding. We aim to discover new ways of looking at spirituality beyond the bonds of a specific theology, and we seek to enrich our own practices, if we choose to engage in any. All are welcome!
May’s Topic: American Shamanism, as presented by Julia Jonathan. Come and learn about Shamanism as practiced in America, including a demonstration of a drumming circle. Bring a cushion to sit on and join us!
Day, Time, and Location: Sunday May 7 1 pm to 3 pm in Room 4
Facilitator: Sarah Robson
Thursday Night Centering Meditation
We will do Centering Meditation where you choose a word to say silently to yourself as you enter the silence. You can choose a word such as peace, love, joy, etc. There will be a brief time of comments, sharing and questions. We will end the evening with a guided Mindfulness meditation.
Day, Time, and Location: Thursday, May 4 from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, in the Cottage. On hiatus through the summer beginning May 11.
Please contact the Facilitator, Bettye Barclay beforehand
An Enjoyable Dive into the Who and What We Are
This on-going, once a month class is presented to help participants master specific meditation skills. We endeavor to answer the questions Who am I? (attitudes and beliefs) and What am I? (Essence or True Nature). This class will include meditations which explore participants’ spiritual goals. The monthly group meetings will also focus on insights gained throughout the month. It is expected that participants have a regular meditation
Day, Time, and Location: Monday, May 1 in Room 1 from 7 pm to 9:30 pm.
Facilitator: Bill Blake
Co-facilitator: Dave Watson