The DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church exists as a beacon of liberal religious thought and practice. Amid the challenges and changes of a chaotic world, we aspire to proclaim and embody the possibilities of meaning in human life, of freedom in human thought, and of peace and justice in human community.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Resources: Those Who Are Homeless

Reverend Tom's powerful sermon last Sunday was paired so well by music, story, and video.  Asking each of us to start seeing the person behind the box - to start giving to all in the ways we can.

We encourage you to watch, listen, read some of the amazing pieces that helped make the sermon so powerful.

In addition, if you can give of your time, your energy, or your resources DUUC works with the following local groups to end homelessness and provide temporary (and long-term) housing.

DuPage County PADS

Bridge Communities

The Lady in the Box written by Ann McGovern
(find it at your local library or hometown bookseller!)

(Youth RE Director Steve Cooper reads The Lady in the Box)

Make Them Visible Campaign Video

Would You Harbor Me?
Song by Ysaye M. Barnwell 
Performace by the Choral Project (almost as flawless as our own DUUC choir's performance!)

Song by Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala
Performance Ladysmith Black Mombazo

DUUC congregants were invited to decorate some of the boxes that will be used for  Sleep Out Saturday.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Spotlight on UU: Steve Connet

**Editor's note:  we took a break over the summer from our monthly spotlight.  Each month we ask congregant from DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church (DUUC) five questions and post their responses here on our blog.  We hope that old friends get to know each other better and new friends can find a friendly face when they visit!**

Spotlight on UU
Five Questions with DUUC Congregant Steve Connet

How did you find DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church? 
My parents were introduced to the church by a childhood friend of my moms.  I sort of came along for the ride.

What makes you keep coming back?
The feeling that other congregants are part of my family.

What has been your most memorable moment here?
I don't have a single memorable moment.
(Editor's note:  Steve may not want to commit to one single moment but he has been part of many memorable moments for the rest of us!  He is a friendly face, formidable Quiddler opponent and giver of incredible hugs!)

Where is your favorite spot to sit in the sanctuary? Why?
I haven't found "my spot" yet.  I find myself in the A/V loft more often than any other location.  At least in part because I enjoy seeing what is going on behind the scenes (on those days when I am not actually working there).

What are you currently participating at here at DUUC? 
I am currently on the A/V, Visitor Relations and Buildings Committees and also work as a Greeter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sunday Service: Those Who Are Homeless - October 12th, 2014

Those Who Are Homeless
Reverend Tom

I have had many experiences with homeless people.  As I share some of them with you, I ask you to reflect on your experiences with people who are homeless.  

I was one of the initiators of a homeless emergency shelter program in Cedar Rapids called Family Promise.  I felt this was a vital program; it provides shelter for three intact families—meaning the father and male teenagers could join the rest of the family in the shelter, which is not the case in most homeless shelters—these three families would stay within church buildings at night and a day shelter during the day, if they were not at work or in school.  However, it wasn’t until I actually spent time with one homeless family in this program that I came to understand how being homeless profoundly affects a person.  I mean I knew from what I had read and what others had said to me, but my friends that is very different from actually spending time with someone who is homeless.  I brought a meal to a mother, her preteen daughter, and 6 year old son.  As we ate she talked about how she had a job but did not make enough money to buy a vehicle or rent an apartment.  She was trying to get a better job, and had hopes of leaving the Family Promise program very soon.  Her daughter was very quiet as we ate together, and after the meal found a corner in the church building to sit and read.  Her son was a ball of energy.  He wanted to play and had no-one to play with.  So I spent an hour or so throwing a ball around a large community room with him.  He seemed to really have a great time.  But having so much energy was taxing on his mother, who at times, demonstrated an abruptness with her son that showed the pervasive exhaustion that being homeless can cause.  I understood on a visceral level how this young woman craved someone to affirm her worth and dignity.  As she first entered the room for dinner, her depression weighed so heavily on her shoulders that she walked hunched over and her eyes were downcast.  After some time in conversation, with me, though it could have been anyone who would listen to her, her eyes brightened, her body seemed to gain some strength, and she eventually relaxed enough to lean against the table as we talked as if we had known each other for years.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

About that homeless, mentally ill, and intoxicated man

**Editor's Note:  The service on Sunday October 12th was an incredibly moving sermon on the easily forgotten human element of homelessness.  The following post was written by DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church congregant, and frequent blog contributor, Ruth Elliott.**

Today the service was about homelessness. I wrote this in the Spring, and thought it was appropriate for the blog today. - Ruth Elliott

Dear Well Intentioned Friend,
I know your intentions were not unkind when we talked the other day. I'm certain you had no idea the affect your story would have on me, and I'm somewhat ashamed I didn't speak up more clearly at the time.
homelessOkay, here's the thing. Your story? About your daughter's dance class being threatened by a lone homeless man, the one where the instructors bravely hid all the girls (who 'were practically dressed in bikinis') in the locker room to protect them? The story where the lone homeless man who may have been intoxicated, who likely was mentally ill  (spoken with your voice lowered), had come into the lounge near the studio and sat down to watch the tv, you remember? Do you remember telling me how horrified you were, what danger these girls were in. Do you remember when you first described the man that I said, poor thing, he was probably just looking somewhere safe to rest?
Here are some things I didn't tell you. I have worked with homeless people for the last ten years. Yes, many are mentally ill, many are alcoholic or addicts or both. All of them suffer greatly. All of them are human beings, who love and are loved by someone. I didn't point out that mental illness and substance abuse are medical illnesses, just like cancer, or diabetics. I also didn't mention the reason many of them are homeless is because of inadequate resources to treat these disorders,and the tremendous negative stigma that goes along with being homeless, with being an alcoholic, with being an addict.
At one point while you were describing in great detail how horrifying and dangerous this man was, I did manage to quietly say, just like my son. I don't think you caught my meaning. I don't think you understood that what I was saying was that my son is homeless, that my son is mentally ill, that my son is an addict, that my son has curled up in all sorts of places trying to get some sleep, some comfort. I don't think you realized that while you talked about saving these girls from this threat, all I could see is the countless cruelties that the homeless, mentally ill suffer, that my son suffers. The diseases themselves and the heartbreak they cause to families are bad enough, but the stigma that well intentioned people attach to them and then use as a justification to treat them badly, as something less than human, and something not worth compassion, or love or comfort, the stigma is the worst of it all.
Change mentally ill to someone with cancer, with diabetics, suddenly it seems horrifying that someone suffering from cancer, or uncontrolled diabetes would be ostracized, would be seen as a threat to children.
Eventually all I could see was someone treating my son with the horror and disdain you very eloquently described, all I could see was the pain and the humiliation he has suffered. All I could see was my little boy being threatened, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing I could do to save him. All I could feel was all the pain and the heartbreak of the last several years as I fought to keep my son sane, sober and safe. You see, my well intentioned friend, I too am a mother, a very protective one, and I do understand the overwhelming desire to protect my children. My daughters took dance when they were young, I did my time sitting in studios, going to recitals, I do understand that part, to this day I would do anything to keep them safe. I also love my son with the same intensity, and I have done, and still do everything I can to protect him. Sadly with his disease part of doing what's best for him and my daughters is to let him hit a bottom so he can hopefully one day come back to me.
I couldn't tell you any of this. All I could do was to cover my face to hide the tears and run away. When I got to my car I sat for a very long while until I stopped crying and could drive home.
The other thing I didn't tell you is what I may have in common with the homeless man, I'm an alcoholic. I was raised by one and am related to several. The disease runs rampant in my family. I've been told to say I'm a person in long term recovery, meaning I'm sober and have been so for quite some time. I don't generally tell people this, because unlike, say cancer survivors, there aren't any coloured ribbons, or fun walks for alcoholics or addicts, even the clean and sober ones. People don't look at you as someone who has fought - and remains constantly vigilant - against a chronic and deadly illness, and survived, people see a drunk, an addict, someone who has a flaw in their moral character, someone who cant' be trusted, someone you can't leave your children with (yes, I have been at the receiving end of all these attitudes) people look at you as something that is less than normal people. That's why I don't generally share that about myself. That is also why when you told me about the homeless man the first thing I felt was empathy for him, and the pain he must feel at fear and loathing that he experienced in your daughter's dance studio, and likely just about everywhere else he goes.
I didn't tell you any of this, because these things are usually too raw for me to say out loud. These things have brought judgement and negative stigma on me and my family, and some days I'm just not up to saying out loud that this is wrong. This is so very wrong. That it is not okay to view people as less than. No is less than anyone else. I think if people could get that straight in their heads the world could be a more compassionate and beautiful place.
So, maybe, next time you see a homeless person, someone who is mentally ill, intoxicated,maybe, you could let some compassion enter your viewpoint, and not let fear guide your thinking and actions, maybe you could lead with kindness and compassion, just a little at first. Or maybe you could, just for a moment, reexamine the way you view the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicted, the alcoholic. Maybe that could be a start.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sunday Service: A Hunger for Justice - October, 5th, 2014

A Hunger For Justice
Reverend Tom Capo
October 5, 2014

We affirm justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.  I’m going to ask you the same question I asked last month when we explored “Beloved Community.”  What does “affirm” really mean to us, individually and as a congregation? What does “affirm” really look like? Many of you do work in the community, or perhaps in your jobs, to help others, to fight injustice, to educate those who are unaware of the some of the human, animal, and ecological crises our world faces.  I know that many of you are yearning, hungry for justice, equity, and compassion in our world.

What does it mean really mean to be “hungry for justice?”  Are these just words we bandy about during coffee hour and snack after the service?  “Here, have some fair trade chocolate.”  “Thanks I am hungry for justice!”  Is it a personal question?  “I got detention because I was sitting next to the person who was disrupting class.  But it wasn’t me!  I was just sitting there!  It’s totally not fair and I’m going to get my parents to file a complaint!  I am hungry for justice!”  Or is it a different kind of personal question?  “I’ve read the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2013-2014 Common Read Behind the Kitchen Door, about wage inequality and unfair working conditions in the majority of our nation’s restaurants.  I am hungry for justice and I’m going to do something about this.”