Winter is just beginning, but it is not too soon to think about summer! In the summer, there are many opportunities to expand your acquaintance with Unitarian Universalism beyond our church. Here are some options!
Summer Institute is a beloved tradition for Unitarian Universalists in Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and beyond. This all-ages intentional community meets for a week of spirituality, worship, learning, community, renewal, and fun for a week in July on the campus of Oberlin College. In 2018, the dates are July 8 to 14. Each year, about forty people from First Unitarian Church typically attend this family-friendly gathering of about six hundred people. Here is the website: http://omdsi.org/. Scholarships are available if you need financial assistance.
The Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice offers a series of mission trips in the summer and at other times during the year. These trips go to Nicaragua, the Arizona/Mexico border, Haiti, and West Virginia. There are opportunities available specifically for youth (ages 14 to 18) and young adults (18 to 34). Here is the website: https://uucsj.org/. The mission of the UU College of Social Justice is “to inspire and sustain a faith-based action for social justice through experiential learning.”
The General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association takes place in late June, each year in a different city. This is the largest gathering of Unitarian Universalists. You can participate as an individual, enjoying the workshops, presentations, and worship services. You can also participate as a delegate and vote on resolutions as a representative of our church. In 2018, General Assembly will take place from June 20 to 24 in Kansas City, Missouri. The theme is “All Are Called.” Here is the website: https://www.uua.org/ga.
There are several Unitarian Universalist camp and conference centers throughout the United States. Each of these organizations offers programming for all ages. Here are just a few. Located in the western part of New York, Camp Unirondack https://www.unirondack.org/ is located on a beautiful lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Camps for children and youth are scheduled throughout July and August, and other gatherings take place in May, June, September, and October. At the top of a 4200’ mountain in western North Carolina is The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center http://themountainrlc.org/. They have extensive programming throughout the year, with one-week and two-week camps for children and youth clustered in the summer. Star Island http://starisland.org/ runs a variety of camps and retreats for people of all ages. This camp and conference center is located on an island seven miles off the coast of New Hampshire. Finally, Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center http:// www.murraygrove.org/ is located on the coast of New Jersey near Island Beach State Park. They offer a variety of retreats and other events throughout the year, including the summer.
The week-long Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI) will take place from July 15 to 21 at Western Carolina University in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. Here is the website: https:// www.suusi.org/.
Unitarian Universalists also have a long-standing presence at the Chatauqua Institute just a few hours north of Pittsburgh near Jamestown, New York. The summer-only Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Chatauqua organizes Sunday morning worship services throughout the summer and offers a limited number of rooms.
Over the years, I have personally participated as a summer minister, workshop presenter, minister of the week, preacher, delegate, professional religious leader, or parent in all of these events or places (with the exception of Star Island and Murray Grove). In each case, I had a very rewarding experience, and I expect you would, too! As you make your summer plans, please consider whether you and your family might enjoy making our faith tradition part of your summer and exploring Unitarian Universalism in a different way!
Rev. David Herndon