Religion

Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship shows faith through service, activism

The Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship operates on the UU faith’s seven principles centered around justice, respect, encouraging members to find truth and be active in America’s democratic process. As a part of that, Bernita Franzel, a member of the MUUF congregation sits at a table at Manatee Technical College to encourage students and staff to register to vote.
The Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship operates on the UU faith’s seven principles centered around justice, respect, encouraging members to find truth and be active in America’s democratic process. As a part of that, Bernita Franzel, a member of the MUUF congregation sits at a table at Manatee Technical College to encourage students and staff to register to vote. ttompkins@bradenton.com

Whether you’re a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist or other, the Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will accept you.

The Unitarian Universalist faith serves as a channel for anyone seeking a place to explore their spiritual life with a supportive, open congregation and accepts anyone who wants to live a life modeled after the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism. The principles can be summed up in a few phrases: respect and accept others, encourage spiritual growth and participate in democratic processes to help build a world full of peace, liberty and justice for all.

The Rev. Dee Graham, 64, said some members of the Manatee UU Fellowship attend early-morning services at other area churches before attending Sunday services at 322 15th St. W. Members of other faiths often seek out the Manatee UU Fellowship for its social justice lean, Graham said.

Carol Bartz, 66, is president of the Manatee UU Fellowship and said when she first arrived in the 1980s, the congregation had a “more intellectual-humanist bent,” but today the fellowship focuses more on social justice than anything.

The Manatee UU Fellowship, as well as the broader Unitarian Universalist Association is openly supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, the gay and lesbian community and takes a stand on many other social justice issues. Unitarian Universalist fellowships refrain from endorsing candidates, but work on issues they believe are important to fulfilling the seven principles.

Al Kobee, 81, and Al Usack, 86 are a gay couple who found the Unitarian Universalist faith before moving to Florida from Maryland. It was through the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Welcoming Congregation Program and other UU faith programs that the couple found their place in the gay community.

Kobee and Usack co-authored a chapter in “Coming Out in Faith: Voices of LGBTQ Unitarian Universalists.” An excerpt from their chapter:

“At first, we thought we could just drop all of our LGBT activism when we became members of the Manatee fellowship. Who were we kidding? Although Manatee is a Welcoming Congregation, there is still much to do, and we have become involved in renewing the fellowship’s Welcoming status. We find ourselves once again caught up in the church whirl, deriving much satisfaction from the shared responsibility of keeping a small fellowship a vibrant asset to its members and the community.”

To Unitarian Universalists, volunteer work, activism and encouraging involvement in democratic processes is “a way to put your prayer into action,” said Bernita Franzel, 83, chair of the Manatee UU Fellowship’s social justice committee.

“We don’t spend a lot of time focusing on what happens in the afterlife,” Franzel said. “We look at what we can do here and now to make a difference and make meaning.”

The Manatee UU Fellowship has a collection for a different charity or nonprofit each month. Last month, the congregation collected for Planned Parenthood and this month they’ll collect for Feeding Empty Little Tummies, an organization dedicated to feeding homeless children in the area.

To see a list of other organizations the congregation supports, visit http://manateeuuf.org/outreach/social-justice/ and click on the “organizations we support” tab.

Activities at the Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

The Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has a litany of groups available for congregation members to join and for the public to attend

  • Sunday services start at 10:30 a.m., sometimes with separate religious education classes held for children. The fellowship recently began filming the services to post online to YouTube for members unable to physically attend service
  • Several community groups such as Occupy Bradenton, Al-Anon, a meditation group and public-speaking group Toastmasters use the facility at 322 15th St. W. to hold meetings, all open to the public
  • Issue of the quarter: from July through September, the fellowship worked on registering Manatee County community members to vote
  • To “address the injustices in our local community,” once a month guest speakers from local charities speak at Sunday service and a collection is held for the speaker’s charity
  • Monthly share-a-dish meals are held on the second Friday for members. The social justice committee will often sponsor a program to “educate and inform about timely topics”
  • All of the Manatee UU Fellowship’s positions on various pieces of legislation can be found at manateeuuf.org/outreach/social-justice/ under the “legislation” tab
  • Monthly volunteer opportunities at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen
  • Twice-monthly book group
  • Weekly Bridge group
  • Weekly women’s spirtuality class
  • Twice-weekly Zen meditation sessions

Source: manateeuuf.org

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