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    1. So I'm working to get the United Church of Christ to be approved for Facebook donations.  Others have worked on this before - starting with two years ago.  Laurel Steinetz and I are having a lot of fun corresponding with the fine folks at Facebook who have many questions for us to answer prior to granting approval to receive donations.  We have been at it for the past month and we are up to 31 messages without any success.  So.......we are inviting you to make a guess about HOW MANY messages it will take to get the "golden ticket" of Facebook donations approval.  The winner (the one closest to the actual number without going over) will receive a custom meme designed by Laurel.  Happy guessing.

       

       

    2. Lots of intersecting issues as we barrel toward the election on November 3.

      Our Faith Our Vote has provided an avenue for UCC advocates to learn how to register voters, engage in new ways to educate congregations on issue education and help people share why they are planning to vote. You too can download the “I Vote Because” template and share it on social media with the #TheUCCVotes or send the photo to quinnj@ucc.org for inclusion on #TheUCCVotes web page. We also have an OFOV social toolkit to share with your networks with a whole host of resources from sample tweets to social media badges for first time voters!  In all of this we’re also thinking strategically about how best to organize ourselves in the face of an election like we haven’t seen before. We are working on coordinating with faith and secular partners to position our community as best possible to address the myriad scenarios we’re faced with; for example out these five non-partisan ways faith leaders can engage.

      There is a lot of uncertainty in this moment.  The President has not agreed to oversee a peaceful transition of power or accept the results of the election, and worries of voter suppression are very real; for instance fake ballot boxes placed by the California GOP.  Or this decision in South Carolina that makes voting more difficult. The House and the Senate have adopted resolutions supporting a peaceful transfer of power after the next election and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs has offered to Congress that the military will not play a role in the election. With all of this news we’re providing resources to UCC advocates to make a voting plan and stay engaged. We’re also developing resources to help people understand the process of a contested election, should there be one.  This voting season is different than others.  We’re partnering with Faithful Democracy with a “Sacred Season of Voting” campaign that will run through the election. This multi-faith resource grounds voters in faith during an anxious, turbulent time while inspiring, energizing, and equipping them to use the power of their voice in this election.  The role of the faith community in mobilizing, providing pastoral care and also de-escalating violence is critical.  We also partner with Election Protection to make sure people know their rights, and what resources are available to them if they experience or see voter suppression efforts.  Finally, it will take everyone standing firm that every vote should count.

      Staff: Sandy, Katie, Madison, Jessi, Mike

      Congress and COVID

      Without immediate and robust relief from Congress a precarious economic situation will become much worse for the U.S. The Federal Reserve Chair said “Congress should err on the side of overdoing it with the next economic relief bill.” And warned of a “tragic scenario… [that] could continue to exacerbate existing disparities in our economy.” According to the Census Bureau’s recent Household Pulse Survey, 23 million Americans report not having enough to eat for their families, 1 in 4 renters is behind on rent and over 35 million people are unemployed.  (Click here for a great and comprehensive report detailing how people in individual states are faring.) Negotiations with the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), have resulted in nothing, literally nothing of substance from the Senate has been produced to help people who are experiencing hardship.  And that whiplash sensation you feel, it makes sense because just last week the president tweeted that he was ordering negotiations to stop until after the election, but now this week is pushing for a “strong stimulus” saying, “go big or go home.” However, Republican senators have said the White House proposal is not workable and offered their own “targeted bill that largely just provides more money for business relief without addressing the very real needs of people on the brink.

      For months UCC advocates have been working to pass robust legislation, including Conference ministers joining constituent lobby visits, action alerts, and letters.  We also helped organize, with partners, a 12 hour online vigil praying for the Senate to take immediate action and sharing that the half measures proposed by the Senate majority will not cut it.  We’re encouraging people to write letters to their local papers expressing these concerns, and if you’d like to do so, please feel free to reach out and we can help you with that.

      Staff: Katie, Sekinah

      Global Impact of COVID-19

      Concern continues to grow over the impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having globally.  The World Bank recently reported that the virus could push as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021. The first increase in two decades.  The UN World Food Programme, which recently received the Nobel Peace Prize, also reports that the number of people facing starvation could double, possibly reaching a quarter of a billion people by the end of 2020. The UCC continues to call for robust international aid in COVID supplemental legislation, and this week issued an action alert echoing that call along with the global call for debt cancellation and release of IMF bonds (called Special Drawing Rights or SDR’s) that could infuse needed funds into the economy of developing countries. The alert also points advocates to resources to mark Jubilee Weekend which takes place this weekend. Last week, the WCC and other ecumenical organizations hosted a panel on “Interfaith Perspectives on Just Finance and Reparations” that featured Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson.   

      Staff:  Mike, Beka, Krista

      Supreme Court Nomination

      What is the senate doing you ask? They’re pushing through a Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, to replace Justice Ginsburg in a swift and distinctly unthoughtful manner.  Should she be confirmed (and all signs point to that likelihood) the first significant worry is that the Affordable Care Act will be overturned.  For years the Republican leadership has worked to overturn the bill, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a legal challenge to it right after Election Day.  This will result in over 20 million of Americans losing their health insurance and more than 135 million would lose pre-existing condition protection (including the millions of Americans who have contracted COVID) – right during a pandemic.  It is also widely believed that her appointment will usher in an even more conservative majority in the Supreme Court which puts a number of civil and human rights at risk, including Roe v. Wade. She has an uniformly conservative record on gun rights, immigration, discrimination, and abortion.

      This is heartless.  The UCC has joined with other faith partners to bring this message to the Senate, asking for them to let the voters decide who should be president and then allowing that person to appoint the next nominee.  Faith, and religious liberty is playing an enormous role in this nomination process.  Which is why it is even more essential for the UCC to speak up and say that among other things; we believe in reproductive justice and we believe that healthcare is a right.

      Staff: Sandy, Katie

      Domestic Violence

      October is Domestic Violence Abuse Month and we have an alert up calling on Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act, and also COVID relief that includes funds to specifically address survivor’s needs.  There has been a significant increase in intimate partner violence, with people staying at home; and for those experiencing abuse home is not a safe place to be. 

      Staff: Sandy, Katie

      Census

      As of now the census has ended operations - and the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to halt the 2020 census count ahead of schedule, effectively shutting down what has been the most contentious and litigated census in memory and setting the stage for a bitter fight over how to use its numbers for the apportionment of the next Congress. Any way you look at it this is a bad census, and the data will need to be cleaned up significantly if it’s to be useful.  Congress has the power to change this, but it seems unlikely at this point.  We will be doing another round of outreach visits and contact with members of congress. There is bipartisan support for a fair and accurate census, just not enough of it.

      Staff: Katie

      Global Security

      North Korea revealed a previously unknown intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) over the weekend in a military parade in Pyongyang. The showcasing of such a weapon of mass destruction by North Korea is a reflection of a wider trend of increasing threats of nuclear weapons and a new arms race that has taken place during the Trump administration. In the weeks leading up to the election, foreign policy experts and some global partners continue to sound the alarm of a possible “October surprise” in the form of a military conflict with Venezuela, Iran, or North Korea.  History shows a pattern of such ‘surprises’ that could come in many forms.  President Trump is considering a major foreign policy speech in the weeks to come, possibly to announce further drawdown in Afghanistan, but anything is possible.  The UCC remains engaged in nuclear abolition efforts, and those efforts are likely to get a boost in 2021 as the UN Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons is only three ratifications short of meeting the 50 country threshold to go into effect.    

      Staff:  Mike, Beka

       

    3. Shameerah Lemon
      Latest Entry

      By Shameerah Lemon,

       

       

      Contributed by Jan Gomoll

      My Recent Delta Airlines Flight

       

      Last week my husband and I flew from Cleveland to San Diego, with a connection in Detroit.  We returned with a connection in Minneapolis.  Overall, we found all airports and airplanes to be very clean and accommodating.  All staff were very friendly and helpful.  At the Minneapolis airport we were each given a package of 5 cloth face masks!

       

      At the airport:

      • All persons we encountered in Cleveland Hopkins Airport wore face masks/shields.
      • Flight/baggage check-in procedures were standard practice.
      • Hand sanitizer stations with large liquid sanitizer dispensers were located throughout the airport.  
      • Every other seat in the gate waiting area had a sign indicating that the seat should not be occupied.
      • We heard continuous recorded announcements describing special airport cleaning/sanitizing procedures due to COVID-19.

       

      Both our flight to Detroit and our connecting flight to San Diego:

      • Boarding was done by only a few rows at a time, starting from the back of the plane so that passengers would not be walking past occupied seats.

      • We were asked to space out while boarding and loading overhead baggage storage bins.

      • Upon boarding the airplane, each passenger was given a packaged hand sanitizer sheet. We were asked not to put the packaging or any food items into the pocket on the back of the seat in front of us.

      • Face masks/shields were mandatory during the entire flight except while eating or drinking.

      • We were asked not to congregate around the restroom doors while waiting to use the restrooms.

      • We exited the plane just a few rows at a time starting at the front of the plane.  People were asked to remain seated until their row number was called.

       

      Our flight from Cleveland to Detroit

      • Our plane to Detroit for our connecting flight to San Diego was small, with only two seats on either side of the aisle.  Although separated by the aisle, the aisle seats felt very close to each other.

      • There was no food or beverage service.

       

      Our flight from Detroit to San Diego

      • Our plane from Detroit to San Diego was, of course, much larger.  Middle seats of each row were empty. 

      • We were given packaged earbuds and zip lock bags containing snacks, bottled water, and Purell.

      • A video described the special Delta Airlines cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

      • A stewardess continuously walked the aisle with a rubbish collection bag.

    4. Hi All - This music video was just emailed to me by the artist who produced it. It's wonderful! I am including the email he sent along with the embedded link in his email. (unfortunately, the group is not UCC-related).

       

      The YouTube video is captioned, if you want to see the lyrics.

       

      - Bob

       

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------

       

      Hey there -

       

      I hope this e-mail finds you well. I recently came across your church/organization in the midst of some continual efforts between my team & I to push out a music video I released this Summer. I feel the project speaks for itself in a lot of ways but the general summary to perhaps grab your attention is that it includes a message of love & acceptance (particularly geared towards queer youth of faith but universal in a sense as well) that we are hoping to get to as many eyes & ears as possible. From my understanding, your church/organization is dedicated to building an open & affirming community where all gender expressions & sexual orientations are welcome. I thought this tune might resonate with those in your community working towards that mission & I was curious if maybe you'd be up for passing it along as you see fit. Ideally, the song will preach affirming & inclusive options to those out there who don't know about them yet but I figure if we can get it to those that relate to the story here, it can have a large impact that way as well.

       

      Here is a link to the music video. Thank you so much for any time spent listening/sharing. And thank you for creating inclusive environments that "little me" would've never believed existed. It sounds like we have similar goals of making it so that people don't feel like they need to change who they are to earn God's love & acceptance. And that's a beautiful thing! 

       

      Best, 

       

      --

      Brian Falduto (He/Him/His)

      www.brianfalduto.com

      @BrianFalduto

    5. Chris Gabriel
      Latest Entry

      Here is an original song that I wrote last Christmas and have finally brought myself to record. The lyrics and piano keys were written in tandem so the sound of the words should flow with the song for reference. I do sing this to my girlfriend but I'm incredibly too shy to even imagine recording something like that! I plan on sharing a lot more and this will be a soft introduction back into blogging as I think some of you may really enjoy what I share. May god bless all of you!

       

       
      The words begin at 47 seconds and are as follows:
       
       
      tell me how am I supposed to breathe....  
       
      Now I'm choked up..
         and I'm spent..
            and I have
                NOTH-ING
       
      The colors all gone..
         except red..
            and I feel
                NOTH-ING
       
      Lights have gone dark..
         in my head..
            and I see
                NOTH-ING
       
      every time that i attempt to breathe....
                theres NOTH-ING
       
      Then I found you..
         over there..
            looking
                STUN-ING
       
       Always right there.. 
         with your smile..
            when i'm
                RUN-NING
       
      Other than me..
         in this world..
            this girl wants
                NOTH-ING
       
      you breathed life right back into my lungs....
                like NOTH-ING
       
      Now I know that..
         before you..
            that i had
                NOTH-ING
       
      All of the  pain ..
         and the  tears ..
            was just for
                NOTH-ING
       
      I wouldn't trade..
         what is here..
            FOR 
                NOTH-ING 
       
      You showed me another way to breathe....
           like it was
              NOTH-ING
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