From the Associated Minister of RE – Rev. Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister of Religious Education – June 2020 June 7, 2020

    A number of people have wondered when UUCPA might start having in-person events again. The UUCPA Board of Trustees is currently researching options, and developing a policy to answer this question.

    The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), to which our congregation belongs, has issued guidance that we should plan as if we’ll be doing all our activities online through May 2021. This guidance is based on what we know right now about how COVID-19 is spread, and on possible timelines for an effective vaccine and/or cure.

    At a recent meeting, the Board of Trustees reviewed this guidance and passed an interim motion that no in-person events may be held at the UUCPA campus without prior Board approval. The Board is in the process of reviewing state guidelines, information from our insurance company, and other reliable sources to develop a science-based and rational approach to determining when in-person events might be held.

    The Children and Youth Religious Education Committee has also looked at the UUA guidance and concluded that we will make plans assuming that we will not be able to have in-person Sunday school through May 2021. If other in-person programs become possible before then, our first priority will be to resume the OWL class for grades 7-9, and perhaps other small group programs for middle schoolers and teens. But we have set no time table for this, and at this point, Santa Clara County still does not permit Sunday school programs.

    On a brighter note, even though humans can’t join programs at UUCPA, stuffed animals can. So we are sponsoring a Stuffed Animal Sleepover for the weekend of June 19-21; see below for more information. This Stuffed Animal Sleepover will conclude with the stuffies attending the Flower Communion led by our senior minister, Amy, on Sunday morning — even if your stuffed animal can’t attend the sleepover, be sure to watch the service on Sunday morning to see the other stuffies!

    See you on Zoom sometime soon,
    Dan Harper

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

    As we continue into another month of shelter-in-place, the Children and Youth Religious Education (CYRE) Committee and I have been figuring out how to serve kids and families in this situation. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been doing:

    Online Sunday school has been going well. Regular Sunday school was scheduled to end on May 3. On Mother’s Day, May 10, there won’t be any Sunday school. On May 17 we’ll start doing mixed-age summer Sunday school for elementary grades. We’re still working out the details of what we’re going to do for middle schoolers during May. And once we go to the summer schedule of one service per week on May 31, summer Sunday school may change as well.

    All OWL sexuality education programs have been closed down, based on guidance from the Unitarian Universalist Association. We are looking into online alternatives for sexuality education, but have nothing definite yet.

    The Senior High Youth Group plans to continue meeting at their usual time, 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening, throughout the month of May.

    We’ve started a UUCPA CYRE Youtube channel, and we’ve been working with Amy to incorporate family-friendly elements into Sunday services.

    Looking ahead, we’re all dreaming up fun, creative ways to deal with social distancing. In one example, I’ve been talking with Bruce Olstad, our music director, about the possibility of online sing-along sessions this summer. Looking even further ahead, the CYRE Committee and I are beginning to think safe plans for the fall, but right now there are too many unknowns to say anything definite.

    There’s one thing we can be certain of — we’re going continue to dream up fun and creative online programming for families. And if you have any ideas, let me know!

    Take care, Dan

  • 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 —

    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