From the Associated Minister of RE – Rev. Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister of Religious Education March 4, 2020

    On Tuesday, March 3, I participated in a Webinar for congregational leaders on coronavirus (COVID-19), led by three M.D.s, including a pediatrician. The most important message I got from this Webinar is to take coronavirus seriously, but there’s no need for panic. In fact, the precautions you should be taking are the same public health precautions you should be taking anyway. You already know that during flu season, adults and children should wash their hands frequently. You already know that if your child has a fever, you should keep them home from school or church so they don’t spread their illness to others. These common-sense precautions, which you are already taking, are the best precautions for preventing the spread of coronavirus.

    If someone in your family does become ill, said the doctors on this Webinar, it’s pretty much the same thing you’d do if someone gets the flu — stay home, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and stay away from elderly or immunocompromised people (it’s worth knowing that coronavirus is different from the flu in that it is prompting more severe infections in elderly and immunocompromised people, and less severe infections in children). Symptoms to watch out for include lots of fever, deep lung cough, and/or difficulty breathing — of course, this is true for flu as well — and as always, if you see any of those symptoms, you should contact your doctor.

    All of this is simple common sense. The doctors’ recommendations for congregations were also common sense, and staff and volunteers will be following those recommendations. One last piece of sound advice from the doctors on this Webinar: Don’t believe what you read on social media; the best source for accurate information about coronavirus in our area is the Santa Clara County Public Health Web site — https://www.sccgov.org/sites/phd/Pages/phd.aspx

    Stay healthy, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

  • From the Associate Minister of Religious Education February 6, 2020

    As an educator, I feel everyone should know the basics of nonprofit finances. This is in large part because I consider the nonprofit sector — especially smaller membership nonprofits like UUCPA — to be one of the bulwarks of democracy. Totalitarian regimes hate small nonprofits and other voluntary associations, so when you see a society with a robust nonprofit sector, that’s a pretty good indication of a strong democracy. Since smaller nonprofits depend on volunteers to oversee finances, this implies that one of the basic skills of democracy is nonprofit finances.

    This in turns suggests that one of the most important things you can teach your children is the basics of nonprofit finances. To help you out, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how UUCPA spends money, and how we raise money.

    Let’s talk about expenses first. The operating budget for UUCPA this year is $723,650 — call it $725,000. 78% of our operating budget goes to staff costs (salary and benefits), and 22% to routine operating expenses (utilities, office, routine maintenance, program. etc.). Because we are a democratically-run organization, UUCPA staff members (our biggest expense) follow the priorities set by the UUCPA members at our annual meetings.

    Next let’s talk about income. We’ll spend about $725,000 this year, and about $600,000 of that amount comes from members and friends. About $500,000 of member and friend contributions comes from so-called “pledges,” that is, donations promised at the beginning of the fiscal year by members and friends. Pledges from members and friends provide a chunk of stable income for the year. The remainder of our income comes mostly from letting outside groups use our campus, and receiving donations from them in turn.

    So our biggest expense is staff costs. The vast majority of our income consists of contributions from members and friends. Put those two things together, and you can see that we are self-funded, and that means we can use the democratic process to set our own priorities.

    As you make your pledge to UUCPA this year, I hope you will take the time to sit down with older children and teens, and help them understand where UUCPA’s money comes from, and where it goes. Help them understand that your family’s contribution allows us to remain a democratically-run organization.

    One last thought — if you have not yet become a voting member of UUCPA, you might think about becoming a member now, so you can vote in the annual meeting in March.

  • From the Associate Minister of Religious Education January 7, 2020

    Our Our Whole Lives (OWL) comprehensive sexuality education seems to keep increasing in popularity, and for the first time ever we were not able to accommodate all the children and teens who wanted to enroll in our OWL classes. (Fortunately, however, we were able to accommodate all the children and teens from UUCPA who wanted to participate.)

    I was unhappy that we had to turn some people away from OWL. Even though California has mandated comprehensive sexuality education in the public schools, our OWL program is still superior, because we can be unabashedly feminist and unabashedly LGBTQ-friendly. Plus, we are able to focus on building relationship skills and communication skills in a way that just isn’t possible in a public school setting. Our wider community needs OWL.

    So why did we have to turn people away from OWL programs this year? It was because we did not expect to offer three age levels of OWL in one year. We had planned to offer OWL for gr. 7-9 and gr. 4-6, but then some of our high school students came to us and asked if we could please also offer OWL for gr. 10-12 this year. Of course, we said yes!

    But that stretched our pool of volunteer teachers to its limit. In the past, when we have had a larger-than-expected demand for OWL in a particular age level, we have been able to offer two sections to accommodate everyone. But this year, by adding another age level, we ran out of teachers.

    Needless to say, I’m starting to look for OWL teachers for next year. If you have relevant professional experience — we especially can use M.D.s, R.N.s, social workers, and teachers — or if you are a parent who is committed to sexuality education, please contact me to apply to become an OWL teacher!

    See you soon,
    Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister for Religious Education – Holidays @ UUCPA December 5, 2019

    If you’re going to be around during the holidays, there are some fun things happening at UUCPA that you and your kids might enjoy.

    The No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant on Sun., Dec. 22, at 9:30 and 11:00, allows kids to participate (if they want to), as we retell the Christmas story from a Unitarian Universalist perspective. Kids will also be invited to come to the front of the Main Hall at the beginning of the service to help lead the congregation in singing “Deck the Hall” and Jingle Bells” (Red, Yellow, and Green classes have been singing these songs during Sunday school). And there will be Fourth Sunday Brunch between the two services. It’s a fun and relaxing thing to do in the holiday season.

    The candlelight service on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at 6:30 and 8:00 p.m., is also fun for children. Everyone gets to light a candle (younger children will want an adult to help them hold their candle), we sing Christmas-y songs, I’ll tell why we Unitarian Universalists light candles on Christmas Eve, we’ll listen to some traditional readings, Amy will give a short talk about Christmas. And there will be hot chocolate and potluck snacks in the kitchen afterward.

    And there are other fun things to do at UUCPA this month — check out all the events in this newsletter!

    See you soon,
    Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister of Religious Education – November, 2019 November 7, 2019

    Parents regularly ask if UUCPA has a discussion group for parents of children and teens. For many years, there was such a group, called “Parent Journey.” This group was organized and facilitated by parents, and it faded away a couple of years ago when the parents who organized it moved away.

    The Children and Youth Religious Education (CYRE) Committee and I would like to revive some kind of parent discussion group because we think there’s a need for a forum where parents can come together and talk about issues of mutual concern. And we’re going to start next month.

    I’d like to invite all parents of children and teens to join me on Sunday, December 8, from 11 to noon, for a parent discussion group. We’ll start the way most of our small groups at UUCPA start, with a “check-in,” that is, with a time to talk about what’s been going on in your life recently. Then I’ll present a topic and we’ll have time for conversation on that topic. Finally, we’ll spend five minutes at the end talking about how the group could be organized on an ongoing basis.

    I’m giving you a month’s notice so you’ll have time to plan join me for this parent group. And I’ll mention three things that might make it more attractive for your family:

    1. There will be child care available on the playground during the parent group.
    2. You can attend Story Time, led by Maricia Scott, with your child from 10:35 to 11:00, just before the parent group meets.
    3. You and your family can go to Second Sunday Lunch, an inexpensive, kid-friendly meal, which is served at about 12:15.

    I hope you can join me for this parent discussion group. If you have an idea for a topic for the first meeting, please let me know. And think about whether you might want to help organize this group (reserving the room, sending out reminders), or facilitate this group (keep the conversation moving during the meetings).

    See you soon,
    Dan Harper