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GNOUU is a local cluster of UU churches who are revitalizing their faith while rebuilding their city.

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Community Church Unitarian Universalist
10 year commemoration of Katrina PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 June 2015 15:54
 To:  Our Partner Churches
From:  Suzy Mague, Partner church liaison, Community Church Unitarian Universalist, New Orleans
Re:  10 year commemoration of Katrina
It is May, 2015, and we are preparing for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina - remembering the collapse of the floodwalls and terrible flooding which followed; the dreadful experience of loss; the wondering whether we had a home to come back to; and then the long, often uncertain recovery.  When we sing “Wo Ya Ya” – “…it will be hard we know, and the road will be muddy and rough, but we’ll get there…heaven knows how we will get there…” I always feel drawn back to that time – that’s exactly how we felt.  But Rev. Jim stayed with us, providing unfailing leadership and vision in spite of his own terrible loses, and we who returned were determined - “we know we will” was our mantra.

But now we know how we “got there”, and it was with Jim’s leadership, some strong lay leaders, the faithful help of our members and friends, and the enormous support we received from our partner churches.  A very partial list of our memories includes receiving a gift toward rebuilding from Community Church New York that arrived even before many of us had been able to return home; Target gift cards from Fox Valley for everyone in the congregation at Christmas, 2005; a big gift of fun stuff for a party, also from Fox Valley; guidance from consultant Leigh Henderson, who was available by phone and also made several trips to NOLA; a fund raiser by the Universalist Church of West Hartford that featured our own Cindy Scott; and an enormous financial boost from Pacific Unitarian, who gave us our lead gift.  We had visitors too – from the UU church in Montclair; from Fox Valley and Pacific Unitarian; from the UU Society of Greater Springfield, MA; from West Hartford, CT,  and Williamsburg, VA and from other places too numerous to count.  You helped us develop strategies; you helped rebuild houses; you kept us in your thoughts and let us know we were not alone; you made our survival possible.  And some of you are still there for us, particularly Dave Banks from Williamsburg, who continues as our web master, providing an invaluable service.

We are happy to report that all of your efforts were not in vain.  We are thriving, with a beautiful new solar church, and, of course, regular, meaningful Sunday worship. Our congregation includes about 17 children on many Sundays, so we are growing in the right direction.  We participate in four GNOUU church services each year with our two sister churches, and we support the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, GNOUU’s secular nonprofit that works in the larger community toward justice and compassion.  We have a community outreach collection monthly, which is given to a nonprofit with which we partner; we have an excellent music program, with an experienced and talented music director, a choir, and jazz on a regular basis.  We have a small group ministry with three groups meeting monthly, exploring spiritual topics and forging strong personal friendships, a women’s book group that meets monthly, and other occasional sessions on UU history, immigration, and other topics we need to know more about.

We hope members of our partner congregations will continue to visit New Orleans in the coming years and will come worship with us while you’re here.  Do notice our partner church wall, with posters, pictures, and other reminders of you.  We particularly hope someone from your congregation will be with us for the weekend of August 28 – 30, when we will hold our commemoration of Katrina. Rev. Marta Valentin will return to New Orleans to hold a service at First Church on Sunday, August 30th.  Marta was the newly called minister at First Church when Katrina hit.  She currently serves as minister in Littleton, Massachusetts, which happens to be one of the 5 churches that partnered with NSUUS after the storm.  Although still in the planning stages, we are in conversation with Marta about also presenting a workshop on Saturday, August 29th, for all three congregations.  And plans are underway to hold a GNOUU Katrina Seder on the evening of the 29th.  We would love to have you join us for this weekend.  And do come to GA in 2017 in New Orleans – what a wonderful time that will be!

As we move through this 10th year, hoping we don’t have another storm, we are very aware of how much we have to be grateful for and how much opportunity we have now, to make a difference both to those in our congregation and to the larger community.  Thank you from all of us – long-timers who lived through it and all the new folks who are glad we’re still here.  You made an enormous difference, and we remember with deep appreciation.
Best wishes to you all from all of us at CCUU.
OWL Training Comes to New Orleans PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 11:11
We will offer OWL training for grades 7-9 and 10-12 in New Orleans prior to GA. It will begin on June 19th at 9 a.m. and end on June 21 at 1 p.m. and will be held at Community Church UU at 6690 Fleur de Lis Drive in New Orleans Lakeview neighborhood. The registration form is on this web site and payment may be made on line or by check; the registration fee is $165. If a check is used it should be made out to GNOUU (Greater New Orleans Unitarian Universalists), with OWL training in the memo line. Mail the check to CCUU at the address above. A registration form may be mailed with the check or submitted on line. 22 persons will be accepted for training – get your registration in early!

Go to the OWL Training Registration Form and submit it now!


CCUU Day of Gratitude Presentation PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 September 2015 13:35
These presentations are the same. The PowerPoint version is in slide show format but is a large file. The PDF version is a set of individual slides but a much smaller file.

CCUU Day of Gratitude presentation--27Mb PowerPoint

CCUU Day of Gratitude presentation-4.2Mb pdf


About Ten Years Ago PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 22 August 2015 17:48
I see friends shaking hands, sayin', “How do you do?”
They're really sayin', “I love you.”
George David Weiss, George Douglas, Bob Thiele (but sung by Louie Armstrong) 

It was about 10 years ago that Louisiana’s UU ministers met on a Thursday and had a wide-ranging discussion on local issues but nobody mentioned Katrina. On the very next day the storm’s clouds had covered the Gulf and its winds had shifted direction. Our city, the center of jazz, gumbo, Mardi Gras, and joie de vivre could only surrender when the levee failures let loose a surge of water.

I recall when the National Guard allowed us back in to see the devastation. The Reverend Aaron Payson of the UU Trauma Ministry Team accompanied me on my first return to the city. We already knew that 80% of the homes were flooded but it was so difficult to see the water surrounding the homes in the neighborhood of our church.

The National Guard allowed people back to the city 60 days later and we learned that UU church membership was halved and our buildings were all damaged. Many UUs rebuilt their homes as they rebuilt their churches. The rebuilding focus led to the establishment of the Greater New Orleans Unitarian Universalist (GNOUU) cluster, a special gift that continues to gain strength over the years.

I serve at Community Church Unitarian Universalist. Its members met in three churches and a synagogue from 2005 to 2007 before buying and saving the house next door. We worshipped in this “annex” for four years while raising money and making our plans for rebuilding. Church members gave much but could not do it all. They are most grateful for the help of UUs around the country. The magnificent results of the special collection thrilled us. But we share a special thanks to our partner congregations: Fox Valley UU Fellowship, Appleton, WI; Community Church of New York UU, New York, NY; UU Congregation at Montclair, Montclair, NJ; Universalist Church of West Hartford, West Hartford, CT; Williamsburg UUs, Williamsburg, VA; and Pacific Unitarian Church, Ranchos Palos Verdes, CA. Their members helped CCUU build a passive solar, solar-powered, 21st century building—a church that is very close to net zero in energy use.

There is much more to church life than rebuilding although rebuilding seemed a major concern at all three of our congregations until our churches were serviceable. But those at CCUU noticed three vexations in our struggle toward justice and equity: patriarchy, heterosexism, and racism. We looked for people to help whose needs were greater than ours, found community partners, and supported the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. Here are a few of our partners:

  • The Greater Seventh Ward Social Aid and Pleasure Club—we helped their youth spend after school hours sewing Mardi Gras Indian costumes, keeping them off our city’s streets. 
  • The Days for Girls program helps young African women—we sew and send sanitary kits to young women who want to go to school through an entire month.
  • The music program in Mamou, LA—we helped fund their school band. 
  • Unity for the Homeless—we assist in their efforts to reduce homelessness in New Orleans. 
  • The Shepherd Center—our tenants, who provide activities for senior citizens. 
  • The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond—for their anti-racism training.
  • Justice and Beyond—where we join African American leaders in dialogue on justice and righteousness for all citizens. 
  • The Louisiana Transgender Association—where we support members in its leadership.
  • Saturday breakfasts for day laborers—where members bring food, assistance, and leadership.
  • The League of Women Voters—continuing to provide information and voter registration.
  • Planned Parenthood—where several have joined in work their valiant effort to erect a new health care clinic. 

Despite the federal flood of 2005, and a swarm of difficulties that have followed, we are grateful for the journey. Those gray clouds led to a silver lining. Our commitment—to “live loving; love living”—guides us as we engage with this interdependent web of existence of which we are a part. And we still love the City of New Orleans, the Birthplace of Jazz, sight of Plessy v. Ferguson, where we are now involved in efforts to remove Confederate monuments.

There is work that remains here, yes there is. But one of the benefits to our Unitarian Universalist community is that you have supported a group of UUs who are joining in the fight. We appreciate your help whether it was through a donation or time at the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. Your support has allowed us the precious gift of revitalizing our churches, our lives, our city, and our world.

Most gratefully yours,

Rev. Jim VanderWeele
Second Sunday Social Justice Collection June 11 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 12:53

Our Second Sunday collection in June will benefit Voice of the Experienced.  VOTE began in 1987 as an effort of the Angola Special Civics Project, a group of prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Their initial focus was on jail-based voter registration. They were surprised to learn that detainees not on probation, parole, or serving time on a felony conviction were legally allowed to vote.  The group began to lobby their legislators and encourage their family and friends to vote. In 2003, several members of the project were released and established Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) as a 501(c)(3) organization, focusing on voter registration for pre-trial detainees and those convicted of misdemeanors in the state of Louisiana.  VOTE has since expanded its work to include education for Formerly Incarcerated Persons (FIPs) about their rights.  In order to seize on the groundswell of energy around civic engagement, in 2008, VOTE hired full-time staff and created an ambitious but well-planned agenda to effect greater change.  Currently, their language for discussing this important work and the impacted community has shifted to be more inclusive. They now refer to themselves as Voice of the Experienced.



In the most incarcerated state in the nation with the highest rate of recidivism, during the second wave of civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements, they face incredible injustices and yet overcome staggering obstacles.  Their reach now extends well beyond New Orleans and Louisiana, to a vast network of individuals and organizations highlighting, addressing, and fighting for criminal justice reform and an end to mass incarceration in America.


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