Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC 2018 Gathering

February 15, 2018

Registration is now open for National Open and Affirming Gathering, June 27-30 at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, TX! Join us for this annual family reunion of our growing movement of LGBTQ-affirming communities in the United Church of Christ. Help us welcome ONA church #1500, and renew our commitment to become a church where everyone is welcome, wanted and needed, and no one left behind!

This year’s theme: “Living Our Covenant Beyond Boundaries.” We live in a time of great danger and great opportunity. The Trump Administration is threatening the basic rights for which the LGBTQ community and our allies fought for years. Violence against transgender Americans is on the rise. Research shows that anti-LGBTQ feelings  ——–  which had been declining steadily for two decades  ——–  is creeping upward again. And ONA congregations are challenged not only to defend their LGBTQ neighbors, but all whose lives and human dignity are under attack.

If there was ever a year when National ONA Gathering was needed, this is it!

We’ll tell you more about the program in the coming weeks. Our keynoter is the Rev. Justo González II, a leader in the UCC’s Sanctuary Movement, who will challenge us to renew and expand our ONA covenants. While we’re still working on the schedule, every National Gathering is an opportunity to:

  • meet and develop friendships with LGBTQ people and our allies throughout the United Church of Christ.
  • learn new ways we can be effective advocates for the Gospel of God’s love in our communities.
  • celebrate, sing, and have fun!

More information and registration are at If you’ve any questions, please contact us at

Help us build our scholarship fund to help people with financial needs attend this life-changing event! Tax-deductible support for scholarships is an option on your registration form.

Open and Affirming Coalition | United Church of Christ | 216-926-6262

Free Luis

Rev. Kim Wells, Rev. Victoria Long, and Susan Pomeroy from LUCC attended a rally in support of Luis Blanco and just immigration policies at Allendale United Methodist church in St. Petersburg on Feb. 1. It was a great way to begin Black History Month!


Community Conversation on Gun Violence

LUCC was one of the Community Partners sponsoring the League of Women Voters’ “Community Conversation on Gun Violence” at Allendale United Methodist Church on the evening of Feb. 13th.

Patti Cooksey, Sue Sherwood, Earl Waters, Kim Wells, Lucille Ruga

Gun Violence pamphlet created by Grace Lewis

Lucille Ruga, Earl Waters, Kim Wells, Patti Cooksey

Speakers: Ryan Mitchell (firefighter paramedic facilitator), City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Brown, Amanda Thalji-Raitano (licensed psychologist/school counselor), Dr. David Berman (physician at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital)

Sue Sherwood at the LUCC table with church brochures, UCC “firsts,” and the Gun Violence pamphlet created by Grace Lewis.


Some local events of interest to the social conscious

This information is provided by former members of the Women’s March St Pete steering committee to raise awareness about upcoming events that may be of interest.


Oct 20.
Sheroes & Heroes Among Us
6 PM @ Enoch Davis Community Center, 1111 18th Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

The arrival of a new documentary series shot on location in South Saint Petersburg. Sheroes & Heroes Among Us kicks off with its first premiere “Winnie Foster: The Activist Pollinator.” Mrs. Foster’s contagious energy and tenacity fed the progressive spirit for civil rights . Her courage and willingness to work with bulwarks of integration and the women’s rights movement forever altered the political and socioeconomic landscape in Southern Pinellas County.

This documentary is the first of twelve episodes about Saint Petersburg’s Sheroes & Heroes Among Us who have left an indelible footprint in the advancement of equal rights, education, and the arts. The documentaries are scheduled to be released over the next year. A panel discussion and dinner will follow every viewing.

A $10-plus donation at the door would be most appreciated. Food will be provided.
Oct 21. Petition Picnic2pm @ Capaz Park, 2700 W Aileen St, Tampa, FL 33607

Join Indivisible Action Tampa Bay in downtown Tampa to meet progressive candidates running for office in Hillsborough County and sign petitions to help them get on the 2018 ballot. Bring food to share for a picnic potluck.

Everyone is welcome at this family-friendly event with a terrific playground that will appeal to kids — bring them along! Spend the afternoon hanging out with fellow progressives making a difference in the world.

Oct 25.  Fired Up Pinellas: FL Gun Laws & Issues, Charter Schools6 PM @
Metro Wellness & Community Center, 3251 3rd Ave N, Suite 125, St. Petersburg, Florida 33713

  • FLORIDA GUN LAWS AND ISSUES. Speaker: Patricia Brigham, First Vice President League of Women Voters Florida & Co-Founder Florida Gun Safety Committee & Chair. Learn about gun safety issues, advocacy, and legislative goals.
  • CHARTER SCHOOLS, WHOSE CHOICE?. Speaker: Robin R. Jones – Education Co-Chair, LWV St. Pete. -Charter schools began in the 1990’s as laboratories of innovation within the public education system, supported by teachers and education professionals. Today charter schools have become highly controversial, promoted more as competitors of rather than compliments to public schools and often built and managed by national for-profit charter chains. Last spring the Florida legislature continued its quest to make Florida one of the most charter friendly states in the country with it omnibus HB 7069. As parents and taxpayers we need to understand charters and their proper role in our public education system.
  • METRO HEALTH, WELLNESS & COMMUNITY CENTER – Learn about this center with a mission to provide quality health and wellness services that are inclusive, relevant, supportive and represent the lifetime continuum of the diverse people in our community.
  • CLOTHES TO KIDS – Learn about this great local organization and their mission to provide new and quality used clothing to low-income or in crisis school-age children, free of charge.
  • PLEASE BRING DONATIONS – New or used children’s and teen’s clothing, school uniforms and shoes (especially sneakers). Also, new donations of socks and girls underwear (bikini style) and boys underwear (boxer style).
Nov 2. Brookwood Florida’s 90th Anniversary Celebration6:30 @ Duncan McClellan Gallery, 2342 Emerson Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Join the 90th anniversary celebration of Brookwood Florida — an amazing organization providing a home for girls diverted by abuse, neglect or homelessness. At Brookwood, girls learn the life skills they need to lead self-sufficient and independent lives.

This fun-filled evening will include food, craft beers, wonderful wines, music, a special live glass blowing demonstration, and a raffle for an amazing one-of-a-kind piece of glass. All proceeds from ticket sales, raffle and sponsorships wilI directly benefit Brookwood.

Nov 8. Get on the Bus – Advocacy Day in Tallahassee
Guns at the courthouse? Guns in churches and private schools? No thanks! Tell your legislative representatives how you feel in person during Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense Florida Advocacy Day. The round-trip chartered bus ride leaves from Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa and is free to any and all volunteers. Interested?  SIGN UP HERE
November 9, 6:30pm @ Kaizen Collaborative, 5215 W Laurel St #110, Tampa FL  33607
Events like the mass shooting in Las Vegas or the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville weigh heavy on people’s minds and hearts, and it can be difficult to disengage entirely from these critical events and conversations while at work. So how do we talk about current events in ways that strengthen relationships rather than divide them? What happens when someone’s identity feels too “political” to talk about?
Join Community Tampa Bay for an evening that will include interactive learning, dialogue, and networking focused on best practices in inclusion. Free and open to the public. Light meal served.
Nov 11. 100% St Pete Solar Tour. 8:30 AM @ St. Pete Eco-Village, 302 15th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Join the 2nd annual 100% St Pete Solar Tour to see how neighbors and businesses, such as LEED certified Planet Fitness and USF St. Petersburg, are using solar energy and energy efficiency to reduce monthly utility bills and to help tackle climate change – and how you can too.

The tour concludes at the St Pete Eco Village for optional garden lunch and informal Q&A with homeowners and business owners from the tour.

Hosted by St. Pete Eco-Village, Florida Suncoast Sierra Club and League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area

The St Pete Solar Tour includes $15.00 to cover the transportation. Registration required:

Nov 11. Circus McGurkis:
The Next Generation  

Celebrating Peace Education, Diversity, and Community Activism
10am-4pm @ Lakewood United Church of Christ, 2601 54th Ave S St. Petersburg

Featuring arts, crafts, music, games and ideas which celebrate the creativity and activism that makes our community a more beautiful, loving and just place to live. Roving poets and actors, musicians and drummers and art activities for children and families of all ages and types  Circus McGurkis is an expression of Quaker belief in the dignity and worth of each person an in the power of love and nonviolence to bring about change. Sponsored by the Quakers and hosted by Lakewood United Church of Christ

Nov 16. A Former Skinhead Speaks Out Against Hate, 7 PM @ Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL 33711

Frank Meeink, author of “Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead,” will share his personal story.

Frank Meeink was a skinhead at age 13. By age 17, he had his own cable-access TV show, “The Reich” and he was roaming the country as a skinhead leader and Neo-Nazi recruiter, with gangs that would beat people indiscriminately. At age 18, he was finally arrested and convicted of kidnapping and beating a member of a rival skinhead gang.

While in prison he befriended men he used to think he hated, men of different races. After being released from prison, Meeink tried to rejoin his old skinhead pals but couldn’t bring himself to hate those whom he now knew to be his friends.

Now a noted speaker, author, and founder of Harmony Through Hockey, Frank’s life stands for tolerance, diversity, and mutual understanding in racial, political, and all aspects of society.

Presented by Eckerd College. Sponsored by The Florida Holocaust Museum.

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP at 727.820.0100, extension 301.

Nov 16 & 17. Impact Summit @ USF St. Petersburg Student Center, 200 6th Ave South, St. Petersburg FL 33701

Data is key to the identification of community trends and a basis for addressing health disparities and inequities and to mobilize around other key issues that matter to residents.  Yet, the validity of data is routinely questioned and information is increasingly coming from unreliable sources. Now at growing risk of being eliminated or withheld, community data matters more than ever.

The 2017 Impact Summit will offer a forum to discuss and explore the role of data in supporting community change, on how to facilitate the use of accurate data for democratic decision-making at various scales – locally, regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally – and on opportunities to fortify and intensify our efforts to promote and lead change through the use of community data.   Sponsored by the Community Indicators Consortium.


Nov 17. Lecture: White Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and Neo-Fascism7pm @ Allendale United Methodist Church, 3803 Haines Road North, Saint Petersburg, Florida 33703
The Leif Nissen Social Justice Lecture Series of Temple Beth-El, in partnership with Allendale United Methodist Church, presents a Social Justice Shabbat with Investigative Journalist, Scholar & Author Chip Berlet.

  • 7:00 PM Shabbat service
  • 7:45 PM lecture and Q/A

The evening is free and open to the public; dessert reception to follow lecture.

Chip Berlet is a progressive activist, journalist and scholar who has spent over thirty years studying bigoted right-wing movements. He is a co-author of the entry on Neo-Nazism in the current Encyclopedia Judaica and contributed a chapter on Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to the book The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 2000, he co-authored the book Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, which received a Gustavus Myers Center Award for outstanding scholarship on the subject of human rights and intolerance. Berlet has authored numerous peer review articles and book chapters on White Nationalism and Neo-fascism.
Chip blogs at

Nov 21. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?
6pm @ Childs Park Rec Center, 4301 13th Avenue South, Saint Petersburg, Florida 33711

During this electoral cycle proverbial shots have been fired, shade has been thrown and relationships have been tested. As sad as it is, the one thing we can all be sure of is, no matter who wins and who loses, the work must continue. With that in mind, we would like to invite you to a post election community conversation and dinner to discuss, “Where do we go from here?” We will highlight the book with the same title by Dr Martin Luther King Jr and work to settle our differences and prepare to move forward.

Every Tuesday-Resist Trump Tuesdays10:30 am, Corner of Kennedy and Dale Mabry Blvd, Tampa. Sponsored by Indivisible Tampa – Join us every Tues for our ongoing show of dissent! Bring your favorite sign.
Every Wednesday – Independent Investigation Rally, 12 noon – 1:30pm @ St. Petersburg Judicial Building, 545 1st Ave N, St Petersburg, FL 33711. Ongoing Wednesday rallies to demand a public, independent investigation into Trump/Russia ties. Bring signs! We meet on the sidewalks surrounding the St. Pete Judicial Building.  Organized by Floridians Against Corruption & Treason (FACT).

Confronting Our Racism

Monday, November 20, 2017
8:45am – 4:30pm
Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida
Fox Hall and Wireman Chapel
4200 – 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33711
(727) 864-8587

Whether you are just thinking about this issue for the first time or have been doing this work all of your life, you are invited to join us for a day long conversation about opposing racism. We will be asking questions and talking about next steps in dealing with racism in our own local communities.

Our guests will be the Reverend Paul Roberts, President of Johnson C. Smith Seminary, and Professor Erin Cooley of Colgate University. There is no cost to register for the conference. You will be asked to pay $15 (cash or check) for lunch on the day of the conference. To register for the conference, please visit the following Google link:

This conference is made possible with funding from the John and Phyllis Ogden Fund of the Synod of the South Atlantic.

Doug McMahon
Director of the Center for Spiritual Life and Chaplain
Wireman Chapel, Eckerd College
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711


Restoring Respect”, a community conversation, at The Cathedral Church of St. Peter

ST. PETERSBURG–The Cathedral Church of St. Peter will host a five-part series, “Restoring Respect: A Community Conversation,” starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17.

The initial gathering, “Restoring Respect: Where Did It Go?” will offer a panel discussion with President Donald R. Eastman III; Eric Deggans, television critic for National Public Radio; and Dr. Brendan Goff, professor of history at New College, Sarasota.

“Lack of respect for those who look, think, worship or vote differently is one of the compelling issues of the day,” said the Very Rev. Stephen B. Morris, dean of the cathedral. “It is something we all confront, day in and day out, regardless of who we voted for in the presidential election, where we are on the political spectrum, where we get our news,” Dean Morris said. “This is a time of heat without light, shouting without listening. We want to contribute to a community conversation that helps us get beyond that, listen and learn from each other.”

Additional sessions and topics are:

Nov. 14: Restoring Respect: In the Media; Jan. 16: Restoring Respect: In Religion; Feb. 20: Restoring Respect: In Race; March 20: Restoring Respect: In Politics.

All five sessions are free and open to the public. The Cathedral is at 140 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. The entrance is on Second Avenue N, and there is free parking in the city-owned lots on the north side of Second Avenue opposite the Cathedral. Information:(727) 822-4173.


Lakewood UCC is a member of the Florida Coalition to prevent gun violence

Your energy is needed!
The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is on the move again with introducing bills that would ban semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Senator Linda Stewart and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith brought the bills forward in the 2017 Legislative Session, and they are again sponsoring them for the upcoming 2018 Session. We applaud them for doing so. Read about their announcement here.
These bills did not get a hearing last Session, even though Florida had just experienced what was, at that time, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
This week with the terrible news out of Las Vegas, now the site of the worst mass shooting in American history, the ban is more relevant than ever. The Nevada shooter possessed 47 guns, and jerry-rigged his semiautomatic rifle so that it would work like a fully automatic weapon. The result was at least 58 people dead and over 500 injured.
We cannot allow the further normalization of gun violence. We should not have to fear getting shot whenever we step into a movie theater, nightclub, or attend a concert.
The fight for smart gun laws remains in the states. Senator Stewart’s and Rep. Smith’s proposals—SB 196 and HB 219—deserve a hearing. The time for debate on responsible gun safety legislation is long overdue. We need your help to encourage Florida Legislative leaders to hear these bills!
Please call the following lawmakers and request that they give Senate Bill 196 and House Bill 219 a fair hearing!
Senate President Joe Negron
Senator Bill Galvano
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Sen. Greg Steube
House Speaker Richard Corcoran
House Rules Chairman Rep. Jose Oliva
House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman, Rep. Ross Spano
Thank you! With the thousands of members under the umbrella of the Coalition and League of Women Voters of Florida, we can affect grassroots change that will make our state safer from gun violence.
In League,
Pamela Goodman
Patti Brigham
Co-Chair, Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

League of Women Voters of Florida


Florida Coalition to end gun violence

Lakewood UCC is a member of Florida Coalition to end gun violence

Media Contact:
Pamela Goodman
President, LWV Florida
Patricia Brigham
Co-Chair, Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence
Statement from LWVFL and Coalition on Las Vegas Shooting
Once again, Americans awoke this morning to the news of another horrific mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas. At this writing, at least 58 were killed by a lone gunman. In addition, over 500 people were injured. Just a little more than a year after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the mass shooting in Las Vegas is now the deadliest in modern U.S. history.
While we are still learning the facts of what happened, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence mourn the loss of life of so many innocent people in Las Vegas. However, the response of our elected officials with messages of “thoughts and prayers” is insufficient. We do not elect our government officials for thoughts and prayers. We elect them to make law. We cannot continue to allow easy access to assault weapons in our country. We have seen the consequences of such access too many times. We honor the lives lost today with our unwavering commitment to protect all communities from gun violence.
Pamela S. Goodman
LWV Florida
Patricia Brigham
Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence
Andy Pelosi
Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

Response to Las Vegas Shooting


Las Vegas Response, Oct. 2, 2017


Having trouble viewing this email? Click here Oct. 2, 2017

Conference Call


Rev. John VertiganDear Church,

The member congregations and staff of the Florida Conference woke this morning to an all-too-familiar tragedy; a mass shooting. Our hearts break at the thought of more terror being spread by a lone gunman with a high-volume weapon. We are brought back to the morning of June 12, 2016, when the PULSE nightclub became a crime scene and a memorial.

We hold our sister churches in Las Vegas in our prayers, knowing that the path to wholeness is a long one and that the scars of those few minutes of gunfire will stay with the Las Vegas community for years to come. As congregations in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Hood, Texas, have taught us, the work of healing goes on long after the cameras are gone and the candles have gone out, and people are left with pain in body and soul.

We are also witnesses to the power of love. We learned from the PULSE shooting that communities can come together to proclaim and live out the gospel news that LOVE WINS. Violence scars and strains our communities, but it is not the final word.

But as faith communities that respond to individual need, to natural disasters and to the specific needs of our local communities, we have to ask ourselves and our nation this question: what are we called to do to help end gun violence? Whatever the motive of this shooter, he had the means to inflict enormous harm in a very short time. Can we continue to wring our hands and accept this violence, or will we seek policies that limit the access of angry people to means of destruction? As contentious as this issue can be, it is one that we must confront if we are to honor the memories of those who have been lost today and each day.

The Florida Conference is a member of the Florida Coalition to End Gun Violence, and we encourage our local settings to act for the safety and security of all God’s children. We hold in prayer those who have lost loved ones, or who face long-term rehabilitation. We ask that our members be sensitive to victims of violence who are re-traumatized by this event. And we pray for the courage to confront the gun violence in our society, believing that change can happen.

Be at peace and be in touch, won’t you. LOVE WINS.

Rev. John Vertigan

The Rev. John Vertigan
Conference Minister

A pdf version of this letter on Florida Conference letterhead is available here for further distribution.


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Another Florida Execution Scheduled

Governor Scott has ordered the execution of Michael Lambrix for Thursday, October 5th at 6pm. This would be the 25th execution ordered by Gov. Scott, a new record for a Florida governor. Originally scheduled for February 2016, Mr. Lambrix’s execution was put on hold when the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hearst decision declared sentencing juries must be unanimous. There were hopes that Lambrix would be resentenced to life in prison, where he has already served 33 years. But the state of Florida has since determined that the Hearst decision could not be considered retroactive, so the 8-4 and 10-2 jury decisions to execute have been declared legally binding.

Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty works for restorative justice in the form of effective alternatives to the death penalty. More information is available at We expect that there will be a vigil at the time of execution; information about that will be shared when available. In the meantime, letters to Gov. Scott (400 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399) are an appropriate response.


Help for Hurricane Harvey

Help for Hurricane Harvey

HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 28: Evacuees are helped to dry land after their homes were inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries is already engaged in response to Hurricane Harvey by supporting partners and planning for recovery. Giving to the Harvey appeal ensures that 100% of your support will be used for disaster relief and rehabilitation targeting the unique needs of vulnerable individuals and families. We do this by being nimble and adaptable in each disaster which allows us to fill gaps in services through provisions of spiritual care, community organizing, repair and reconstruction of homes, tools, building materials and volunteer coordination.

This Epic disaster will require an epic response. Your generous contribution today makes the long-term response that will be needed, possible.

Read more about how UCC Disaster Ministries is responding and how you can help by clicking here.


League of Women Voters’ Sunrise Over the Bay: Sustainability Summit

Sunrise Over the Bay: Sustainability Summit
Saturday, September 16, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM EDT
Add to Calendar

Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
100 8th Ave SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701-5020
Driving Directions

Hello Claire!

Solar panels, bicycles and electric cars, green stormwater management, preserving beaches. Each of these helps make our area more sustainable.
What’s going on in your county? Your city? Maybe even your neighborhood?
Sunrise Over the Bay, sponsored by the LWVSPA Sustainability Action Group, will look at the many ways organizations and individuals are working towards clean energy and clean water–and sustainability.
Speakers include:
  • Alan Brand, AKA the “Solar Shepherd”
  • Mary Dipboye, FL SUN Solar Co-op
  • Claude Tankersley, St Pete Public Works
  • Holly Greening, Tampa Bay Estuary
  • Andy Squires, PC Beach Restoration
  • Susan Glickman, Southern Alliance Clean Energy
  • Dr. Gary Mitchum, Associate Dean,USF College of Marine Science
Topics will include solar energy co-ops, actions the City and County have taken in support of solar energy, and community solar opportunities. Also, as part of the conversation about climate change, participants will explore stormwater and wastewater planning, integrated sustainability action planning, and beach replenishment,
Register Now!
Doors will open at 8:00 am. A 20-minute break mid-program between sessions when light refreshments will be provided.


Metered street parking is available, along with the pay lot at the Mahaffey Theatre.

Sponsorship and vendor opportunities are available. Tables will be available at no charge to non-profit exhibitors. Please reply to this email to reserve your vendor/table spot.
We hope to see you at Sustainability Summit 2017!
LWV-St. Pete Sustainability Action Group Co-Chairs,
Lisa Vanover
Claire Karas
Susan Tuite
LWVSPA, P.O. Box 11775, St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Workshop Offers How-to for Citizen Action

Workshop Offers How-to
for Citizen Action
A spirit of activism not seen since at least 2008 is sweeping across America. Motivated by the 2016 election campaign and its outcome, people on both sides of the political aisle are energized to become active in the political process – either to support the policies of the current administration at the national, state or local level, or to oppose them. But many are unsure of how the process works. How does one begin to make a difference in the political world?


Former Congressman David Jolly and Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long will provide national and local perspectives on our system of government at a workshop as part of our Civics Literacy Initiative. Sponsored by the Institute and the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area Democracy 101: A Civic Action Primer takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 28 at the American Stage Theatre, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg. This free workshop will provide the basics of government structure, policy-making, and civic engagement.


Moderating the workshop will be Tara Newsom, Professor of Social and Behavioral Science at SPC, and Julie Kessel, president of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area. They will give a brief overview of the nuts and bolts of government as well as strategies for engaging with elected and appointed officials. Advance registration is available here.

St Petersburg Plastic Bag Ban Petition

As the St. Petersburg City Council considers a ban on plastic bags, 36 members of Lakewood UCC signed a petition in support of such a ban. Along with the petition, Rev. Kim Wells sent a letter of explanation, it read:

Dear Members of the St. Petersburg City Council,
Greetings!  Our church is committed to the directive in the book of Genesis that humanity care for the Earth (Genesis 1:28).  We take this responsibility very seriously.  We feel an obligation to protect the Earth and all of the life that it supports.  We continue to seek out ways to fulfill this requirement of the Christian as well as the Jewish faith.
To this end, we enclose a petition in support of the limitation of the use of plastic bags.  This petition was circulated in church on the past two Sunday mornings.  There were about 30 people in attendance each Sunday.  We feel that the banning of plastic bags is an important way to show greater care and respect for the Earth and for the wildlife of our area.
I was in Portland, OR for a week in May attending a meeting and seeing the area since I had never been there.  After four days, I noticed that I had not been given a plastic bag at a store.  Paper bags had been used.  The next time I went to a store I asked about this.  Was there some kind of law or prohibition against plastic bags?  Oh yes!  The clerk was very enthusiastic about it and was quite surprised to hear that we did not have this in Florida.
Thank you for pursuing this initiative here in St. Petersburg.  Hopefully other municipalities will follow suit.  It’s good to live in a city that is setting the pace!
Many thanks for your leadership and service.
Rev. Kim Wells, pastor

Lakewood UCC presence at Candlelight Vigil for Charlottesville

On Sunday evening, August 13, Susan Pomeroy and Sue Sherwood from LUCC attended the Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil at Demens Landing in St. Petersburg. This candlelight vigil drew people together within 24 hours of the tragic and deadly confrontations in Virginia. This gathering was organized by many local organizations, among them the Women’s March Pinellas Chapter.

It was a hushed atmosphere. Gradually 300-500 people of all ages gathered – silently walking across the park to stand together or sit on the grass and talk quietly – remembering, mourning. praying, and breathing deeply of the power of community. Many in the crowd quietly held signs as in the January marches: Love Trumps Hate, Black Lives Matter, We the People Can Resist. The Uhurus silently wove through the crowd with a sign and flyers for their mayoral candidate.

There were many inspiring speakers — County Commissioner Ken Welch and Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith among them — the crowd often breaking into applause. One shared that the violence of Charlottesville brought back memories of what it was like growing up in racially charged Florida decades ago, urging us to reach out to one another across the differences that divide us and claim common ground. City Council’s Darden Rice called us all to view again the photo of the car plowing through the crowd in Charlottesville and to look deeply into each of the faces there.

As the evening drew to a close, we were heartened by this caring community with the pink sky above us and the babies around us, cuddled and happy as we raised candles of hope for their future to be one of justice and peace. We lingered after the candle-lighting to hear the shared music and poetry – passion expressed in so many ways.

We were especially touched by Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth-El, who blessed us with one of the most ancient prayers in Judaism:

Yevarechecha Adonai u’vishmarechav
May All that is Good surround you and protect you;
Ya’eir Adonai panav eleicha v’chuneka
May All that is Good enlighten you, and may you then shine it on others;
Yisa Adonai panav eleicha, v’yaseim lecha shalom.
May All that is Good be your constant companion, and may such Goodness bring you, indeed bring to all of us, wholeness, completeness, unity and peace.

–Sue Sherwood

Click on any picture for a larger image.

Here you can see the Vigil from the front near the stage. Squatting down & holding the “Hate Has No Home Here” sign is Joran Oppelt, President of Interfaith Tampa Bay. The Interfaith statement to the community is immediately below the picture.

Interfaith Tampa Bay Statement
In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA and as members of Interfaith Tampa Bay, we feel it is imperative to make our position clear.
It is the mission of Interfaith Tampa Bay to build bridges between individuals and faith communities through shared dialogue and experience, heal ourselves and our society by serving the community and fighting injustice together, and effect change in our world by promoting non-violence and religious pluralism.
This amazing and beautiful country belongs to all of us, not just one race, not just one religion. And while we believe in the benefits of multiculturalism, a culture of hate is not sustainable for our city, our society or the planet.
We invite people of all faiths (as well as our atheist brothers and sisters) to join us in our stand and support for what is right and just for all.
We believe that by whatever name we choose – God, Allah, Creator, The Force – there is something that connects us all. And that unifying principle, that Golden Rule – no matter how difficult it may seem – is that we love one another.
It is time to send a message to those who would support a culture of hatred, fear and xenophobia (specifically white nationalism and white supremacy). It is time for us to share the antidote for those who would poison the minds of our children. The message is that your time is up and we are not willing to let you divide us or run our country into chaos. The antidote is love, acceptance, courage, non-violence and dialogue.
Interfaith Tampa Bay stands in solidarity with all who uphold these principles in Tampa Bay and beyond.
Peace be upon you, Shalom aleikhem, As-salamu alaykum.
The Board of Directors of Interfaith Tampa Bay
Joran Slane Oppelt, President
Imam Abdul Karim Ali, Vice President
Rev. J.C. Pritchett, Secretary
Rev. Doral Pulley, Treasurer
Rev. Canon Katie Churchwell
Rev. Katy Korb
Kitty Rawson


Operation Attack July Newsletter

Operation Attack
1310 22nd Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33705 (727) 822-1187


July 2017 Peggy Junkin & Diane Klamer – Lead Volunteers
Hours: 9:30 am – 12:00 pm (1st, 2nd, 3rd Tuesday each month)
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm (One evening a month)

The 2017-2018 school year will be beginning on August 10. Operation Attack continued our regular Tuesday morning schedule through the summer months, providing both food and children’s clothing. We hoped by continuing the summer schedule that our clients would feel less stress as they prepared for their children’s new school year. We appreciate your help in providing the students in our community the appropriate clothing, new underwear, socks, and a school uniform, if required. During the first half of the year we provided assistance to 271 families, clothed 301 children and fed 661 people.

We wish to extend a big Thank You to our friends at St. Andrew Lutheran Church who had a special collection for layette items in observance of Rachel’s Day. Rachel’s Day is a time set aside to mourn the loss of our children and to renounce the forces of violence and fear. The day takes its name from Jeremiah 31:15-17, in which matriarch Rachel grieves for her children. We were blessed to receive baby items, including newborn diapers, sleepers, onesies, bibs, clothing and more.

Each one of you, with your regular donations, special food and clothing drives, and volunteering your time, are critical to our being able to serve our neighbors who need this support.

Volunteers Needed
• To launder, sort and organize by gender, items donated and purchased for layettes.
• To be an “on call” volunteer when we need substitutes for our regular volunteers while they are on vacation or there is a special need.

Clothing Needs
As well as underwear and socks, we especially need jackets of all sizes and uniform items required by many of our schools.
Boys slacks/shorts, khaki or navy, size 5 -16
Girls slacks/shorts/skirts/skorts, khaki or navy, size 5-16, teen 7 & 9
Polo shirts without logos for both boys and girls, size 5-16, teen S,M,L
(white, navy, hunter green, maroon, sky blue, red)
We also welcome donations of newborn diapers to be included in the layettes and travel size hygiene products for seniors we serve from the Neighborly Care Network.

Food Needs
We can always use canned fruit, soup, vegetables, meat, pasta, pasta sauce, rice, beans, peanut butter and cereal.

Speakers/Tours available
We would be happy to speak to your group about Operation Attack or provide a tour of our facility.


United Church of Christ presence at St. Pete Pride 2017


World Refugee Day Commemoration

Each year the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force hosts a local event to commemorate World Refugee Day.
This is one day set aside internationally to recognize the courage and resilience of refugees.

This year’s local event will be held on June 16th at 1:00pm at Pinellas Technical College located at 901 34th Street South in St. Petersburg.

The event will begin at 1:00pm with a networking time in the lobby area featuring heavy hors d’oeuvres from the PTC Culinary Arts Department and live music from Lakewood High School’s 54th Ave Jazz Combo.

At 2:00pm a short program will be held in the main auditorium featuring Al Ruechel of Bay News 9 as the Master of Ceremonies, Mayor Kriseman of St Petersburg providing opening remarks and a Dance of Hope by refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A brief awards ceremony will also recognize 5 former refugees/immigrants who have distinguished themselves by giving back to our refugee population in our community through our “Making a World of Difference” awards. These awards highlight the fact that our community is stronger and more welcoming because of the former refugees/immigrants who invest their time and resources here by giving back.

Finally, a citizenship ceremony will be held with 30 former refugees becoming U.S. citizens. The keynote speaker will be Sandra Grudic, a Pinellas County high school teacher, former refugee from Bosnia and current volunteer for refugees in our community.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Doug Haskitt at

World Refugee Day Celebration:

“Yesterday, Refugees–

Today, Americans”

When:   June 16, 2017, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Where: Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th Street South, St. Petersburg, FL, 33711. From 34th Street South, go westbound on 11th Ave. S. (across from Gibb’s High School), go past the Commercial Trucking Training Area on your right, and take your 2nd right into our Main Parking Lot. The Main Entrance and Reception Area will be on the north side of the Main Parking Lot in the center of the building.


Celebrate Florida June-July 2017

Celebrate Florida newsletter




  May 31, 2017  

Greetings Florida UCC members,

Here are the links to the June/July issue of Celebrate Florida. You will find two versions of this document; one is the standard PDF, and the other is the interactive version, which requires that your computer has a Flash player.

Standard version

Interactive version

We hope you will find this issue informative, especially the articles about:

• Earth Day, Easter and “Time for Conversations.”

• Congregational activities around music, the arts, movies, books … and food!

• Creative ideas to energize, motivate and expand your ministry; this issue is chock full of possibilities.

• The many opportunities open to our Florida congregations, clergy and members (see box on page 1).

Thanks to all those churches that share information about what has been happening in their congregations. But if you aren’t, maybe the reason your church isn’t mentioned is because we don’t hear from you. If your church is one that does not share with us, there’s a simple solution: add us to your mailing list, either electronic or hard copy. Mail us your information — hard copy (to 9300 University Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32817) or electronic (to Yes, we do want to know what you are doing; there is always room for more good news.

We especially appreciate your providing the Celebrate Florida link information above to church members via your Sunday bulletin, newsletters, e-communications and your website. Please help spread all the good news about the United Church of Christ in Florida among your church members.

With blessings and appreciation for our covenant,

Rick Carson


Celebrate Florida archive

UCC in Florida website

UCC national site

Donate now

United Church of Christ in Florida
9300 University Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32817
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(407) 835-7501
(800) 432-8311




One City Chorus and The Alumni Singers, come TOGETHER for a wonderful afternoon of music!

Sunday, May 28, 4:00pm
One City Chorus and The Alumni Singers Free Concert

Two great community choruses- One City Chorus and The Alumni Singers, come TOGETHER for a wonderful afternoon of music! This concert is FREE, and will include Freedom Songs, Civil Rights Songs, Spirituals, and Gospel Songs. You don’t want to miss it!
A freewill collection will be taken to benefit the choruses and Lakewood Methodist Church.

Location for One City Chorus and The Alumni Singers Concert:Lakewood United Methodist Church-5995 MLK Jr St. S, St. Pete


Rolling student fast of 2017 takes its place in storied annals of fight for Fair Food…

CIW list header
Rolling student fast of 2017 takes its place in storied annals of fight for Fair Food…

Weeklong fast at Ohio State University tapped into Dr. King’s “power in the universe that works for justice” and inspired a month-long movement on over a dozen college campuses;

Fast forges new leaders for the fight ahead, lays the groundwork for a student-led surge in the Wendy’s Boycott this fall!

A little historical context…

Following the Montgomery Bus Boycott victory in 1956 — a year-long campaign that marked the first significant triumph of Dr. Martin Luther King’s methods of creative non-violence — Dr. King was invited to speak at the University of California at Berkeley.  The speech he delivered that day, June 4th, 1957, laid out the theological underpinnings of Dr. King’s new, and startlingly effective, philosophy of social change.  That philosophy would come to guide his life’s work over the next decade and help the Civil Rights Movement successfully mine a deeply-buried vein of enduring justice that laid below the layers of brutality and exploitation comprising America’s awful history of racial oppression.  Here is an excerpt from his speech, entitled “The Power of Non-Violence”:


I am quite aware of the fact that there are persons who believe firmly in nonviolence who do not believe in a personal God, but I think every person who believes in nonviolent resistance believes somehow that the universe in some form is on the side of justice. That there is something unfolding in the universe whether one speaks of it as a unconscious process, or whether one speaks of it as some unmoved mover, or whether someone speaks of it as a personal God. There is something in the universe that unfolds for justice and so in Montgomery we felt somehow that as we struggled we had cosmic companionship. And this was one of the things that kept the people together, the belief that the universe is on the side of justice. (emphasis added)

The bolded sentence in the excerpt above is the theme of today’s post.  The power to which Dr. King referred of non-violent protest to tap into a sort of universal instinct for justice — and, doing so, vastly multiply its impact beyond the immediate reach of the action itself —  is real.  It is the thread that ties the sacrifice and struggle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the many fasts undertaken by Mahatma Gandhi in his lifetime to challenge colonial rule and promote Hindu-Muslim unity in India decades before it, and to the remarkable rolling student fast in support of the Wendy’s Boycott that took place on over a dozen college campuses this past spring, decades after it.

And it is the power that will propel that nascent student-led movement to new heights this coming fall, to the booting of Wendy’s restaurants off campus after campus in the school year ahead, and, ultimately, to a Fair Food agreement between Wendy’s and the farmworkers whose exploitation has fueled the fast-food giant’s profits for far too long…

Head over to the CIW website for a full reflection on the historic rolling student fast of 2017!