Unitarian Universalists celebrate the art of moral revival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation wants to raise money for and awareness of the Poor People’s Campaign. And they want to have fun doing it. On Sunday, Nov. 18 the congregation will hold an art-in from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Rev. Lynn Kerr said that the Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio has been working with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. That included helping people register to vote and then helping them get to the polls. “Though obviously we’re not encouraging them to vote any particular way,” she said. The proceeds from the art-in will be shared with the Poor People’s Campaign and the congregation. The art-in itself has two elements. Art supplies are being donated by local artists and businesses and will be sold at low prices so people can get the art supplies they want.  “The second thing is we have local artists who are sharing their talents where someone can come in do DYI project. But the artists will be there to show them how to do those projects,” she said. The projects include jewelry making, crocheting, holiday ornaments, and origami. Kerr will be showing how to make ornaments out of birch bark. “They’ll be doing cool things that don’t take a terribly long time to do,” she said. That way people will be able to complete several over the course of the afternoon. Food will be available including items from the Share Our Grounds cafe in Whitehouse. Poor People’s campaign is calling for a moral revival. “We’re just adding art to it to raise awareness.  What’s lacking in the country is we need to think about what’s a compassionate act,” Kerr said.  “What we’re missing right now is compassion through moral action.” During the congregation’s 11 a.m. service Melissa Jeter, who is studying to be a lay minister and often speaks on social issues, will give the sermon. Jeter said that the Poor People’s Campaign is a continuation of the work Martin Luther King Jr. was pursuing in the years before his assassination. So much of what she sees, from the Flint water crisis to concerns about violence in schools, goes against King’s belief in the need to build a beloved community. This new call for a moral revival is not a commemoration of the effort started by King. “This is to continue the work that’s not been completed,” Jeter said. All these issues from the growing income disparity to threats to the environment are part of a web. “We’re all in the same boat.” That there are still poor people who struggled for life’s basics in this wealthy country “does not seem right, does not seem moral,” Jeter said. That someone making minimum wage has to work 74 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment makes one question how much value is put on a person’s life. Unitarian Universalists value every individual’s life. Tying this mission to the arts is fitting, she said. “It’s a way of reclaiming our own power to create.”  

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St. Aloysius marks Catholic Schools Week

Submitted by ST. ALOYSIUS CATHOLIC SCHOOL An open house, mayoral address and teacher/student appreciations will highlight a week of activities at St. Aloysius Catholic School in honor of Catholic Schools Week on January 28-February 3. “So many good things happen at our school year round, and Catholic Schools Week is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the great successes of our faculty and students,” said Andrea Puhl, principal. “I particularly encourage the public to visit St. Aloysius during our  pen house and experience the education of which we are so proud.” The open house kicks off the weeklong celebration, which will be held Sunday, Jan. 28 from 11:15 a.m.  to 1:30 p.m., following the 10 a.m. Mass; all are welcome. Building tours will be available, as well as presentations for preschool (11:30 a.m.), junior high (11:30 a.m.) and kindergarten (12:00 p.m.). Other activities throughout the week include:  Monday, Jan. 29 Community service projects by various grades.  Tuesday, Jan. 30 Bowling Green Mayor Richard A. Edwards will present a proclamation to the entire school at 2:45 p.m.  Wed., Jan. 31 Students get to dress up as their future profession. Sweet treats will be distributed to locations around the community who help show students the way to success.  Thursday, Feb. 1 Teacher luncheon in gratitude for their service. All-school liturgy and dress-up day.  Friday, Feb. 3 School spirit day, treat at lunch, plus a Catholic Schools Week gift for all. Academic pep rally, followed by 1BookBG kick-off for preschool-Grade 5. More information on St. Aloysius School is available at

Muslim students at BGSU dedicate themselves to social justice

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Many people serve others because of the dictates of their religions. For Adam Smidi, it was his desire to serve others that led him to rededicate himself to Islam. As he read the Koran and about the prophet Mohammad, he found a calling. At the recent Muslim Student Association Convention at Bowling Green State University, Smidi said:  “I wanted to learn more about my religion that I was so far away from. I found that there was this element of social justice, like a pillar, or a backbone of the religion … treating yourself with dignity and treating others with the dignity that everyone deserves.” The Muslim Student Association has dedicated this year to reaching out to the community through service, Toghrul Alakbarov, president of the group, said. They will collaborate with others including plans to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service next year. The convention is attended both by members of the association and community members invited for a free dinner, conversation, and entertaining lessons about Islam as well as presentations on weighty matters. Smidi, now a doctoral student in organizational communication at BGSU, was born in West Virginia, making him a self-described “Muslim hillbilly” and grew up in Toledo. His family, though, frequently traveled back to Lebanon to visit. He was “growing up with two cultures, two identities, and loving them both, my American and Muslim identities.” He now runs his family’s car dealership. “What’s most important to me is community service,” he said. He’s pursuing his doctorate to learn how to bring organizations together to help others. The yearning for justice is universal, a tenet of all faiths, he said. “Inherently we feel the need to be just.” He was drawn to it at first because of injustices to those who shared his faith, but that “opened my eyes to all the other injustice happening today.” While a handful control half the world’s wealth, many others go hungry. “We don’t have to look globally, we can check out in our own backyard,” Smidi said. One in five residents of Northwest Ohio have problems putting food on the table, and 35 percent of those are children under 18, he said. One of the first commandments by the Prophet Mohammed was to feed the poor. “A moment of justice is better than a year of worship,” Smidi said. But this service “is not something that will have an end game,” he said. “It’s a lifelong journey. It’s a life style. Don’t expect to see results immediately. …  If your intentions are true, you will find peace.” The second speaker Ahmad Mehmood turned his gaze globally, to a world with 65 million refugees. “Every minute in the world 24 people flee for their lives, 24 people leave behind everything they love and cherish in their lives.” He said they flee persecution, war, and violence. To flee when your life and the lives of your loved ones are in danger is a human instinct, he said. And these people are part of the human community. So far fewer than 200,000 of those refugees have actually been resettled, he said. “How do we react when fellow humans are facing a cataclysmic event? … Do we open our arms, or do we turn…

BGSU Muslim Students Association invites community over for dinner & talk about refugees

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Muslim Student Association is inviting members of the community to dine with them. There’s more than dinner on the menu though. The third Muslim Students Association convention will be focused on Community Engagement with a focus on the issue of refugees. The free event will be Thursday, 6-9 p.m. in the multipurpose (room 228) in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union on the Bowling Green State University campus. “Our focus is to bring people from all backgrounds, cultures, and faiths together some we can have a discussion, come together and get know each other,” said Ahmad Mehmood, graduate student in the College of Technology. And some Middle Eastern food and pizza will help ease the interaction. That conversation will center on the global refugee crisis and “what can we do from a humanitarian standpoint,” Mehmood said. Many of those refugees are Muslims, he said, but it is an issue everyone should be concerned about. “It doesn’t matter what you believe or ascribe to, we feel this is a topic that can bring everyone together,” he said. “People like us who have been every privilege, in every way, have the education, the financial ability, if they don’t come together to preserve humanity, to help humanity, I don’t think anyone else will.” He hopes those speaking can share personal stories that will deliver the message better than didactic speeches. There will be several speakers. The main address will be given by Adam Smidi, a doctoral student in Media and Communications. “We’ll be looking at the nature of the crisis that grips us and how this problem is our problem,” Mehmood said. The Trump Administration’s antagonistic attitude toward refugees, especially those from Islamic countries, has not had an impact on Muslim students, Mehmood, who is from India, said. The attitudes in Washington have not changed the attitudes of local people. “The university has been good to us,” he said. “The community has been good to us.” Students are ensconced within campus, so Muslims who are long-time residents may have different experiences, he said. Still the change in political climate in the United States has some potential students in Muslim countries giving second thoughts to plans to study in the United State. Mehmood said he knows a number of engineering and technology students who were considering coming to America to study but now were reconsidering because of concerns about shifting visa rules. “Everyone wants some assurance about his future before they come,” Mehmood said. Now they are considering going to the United Kingdom or Canada. He knows one student who opted to study in Germany rather than at BGSU. Abdullah Alshahrani, freshman aviation studies from Saudi Arabia, said, he’s aware of the choice. Before coming to Bowling Green, he spent time in England learning English. At one point while in the city he wanted to use his language and started to speak with Englishman. He was immediately rebuffed. He’s felt more welcomed in the U.S., and shares that opinion with anyone who asks. He enjoys socializing with his roommates and sharing his culture. “I love being in the U.S.”  

Choirs plan mighty celebration of 500th anniversary of Luther’s theses

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Saturday morning, the trumpet called and about 100 vocalists and instrumentalists gathered in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bowling Green to put the final touches on the J.S. Bach Cantata “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.” The familiar strains of “A Mighty Fortress” rang out, with voices entwined in harmony, bolstered by trumpet flourishes. The jubilant sound was fitting for a celebration. The University Choral Society will join the St, Mark’s Adult Choir and university soloists and instrumentalists for a presentation on the cantata Sunday at 4 p.m., at the church to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s declaration of his 95 theses, the central event in the Protestant Reformation. The anniversary is Tuesday, Oct. 31. Luther was also a prolific composer of hymns, the most famous being “A Mighty Fortress.” “You just can’t let a big anniversary like that go by without observing it,” said Mark Munson, of Bowling Green State University and director of the University Choral Society. “Bach was one of the great church musicians of the Lutheran church. We have a big active Lutheran church in town, so here we are.  It’s a perfect marriage of a great piece of music on a special day.” The concert will open with a contemporary setting of “A Mighty Fortress” set by Nancy Raabe. She employs the original rhythm, Munson said. “The way we sing ‘A Mighty Fortress’ in our churches now does not swing quite the way it did back then. …  So the contemporary setting uses the original rhythm and is modern sounding.” The choir is accompanied by organ and trumpet, played by Brian Bushong. Organist Michael Gartz will play a choral prelude by the 20th century organist Helmut Walcha. Then Kevin McGill, the church’s director of music, will perform Bach’s organ prelude based on the hymn. The cantata will feature soloists Hillary LaBonte, soprano; Ellen Scholl, mezzo, Christopher Scholl, tenor; and Lance Ashmore, baritone, and a chamber orchestra of BGSU students. Orchestra members are: Kurtis Parker and Ben Silberman, violins, Amory Fout, viola, Octavio Kavakama, cello, and Thomas Morris, Jana Kilova, and Samantha Carr, oboes. Munson, who was one of the founders of the choral society, said that such performances fit with its mission of giving singers from the community the opportunity to sing great choral literature and to share those performances with the community. Last spring the choral society presented Bach’s St .John Passion in two area churches. The core of the society’s mission, though, is to perform large scale pieces with orchestra. It has performed “Messiah” eight times with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and has done Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with that orchestra as well. On campus it has performed Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms,” Verdi’s Requiem, and other major orchestral masterworks with the Bowling Green Philharmonia. This spring the choral society will join the Philharmonia to perform Brahms’ Requiem.

Rainbow proudly flies again over Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation had a full house Sunday morning. They were a mix of regular congregants, and a lot of visitors who had shown up to support the church as it responded to an act of hatred. On Tuesday someone stole the church’s rainbow pride flag and mutilated it. The Wood County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident At noon on Sunday, about 100 people gathered around the flag pole as Andrew Schocket, president of the congregation, raised a new rainbow flag. The morning message on the congregation message board was “Still We Rise.” Schocket said that the news of the desecration of the church’s flag had an extra kick given the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the weekend before during a march by Nazis and other white supremacist groups. The Rev. Lynn Kerr said that in her sermon “I was asking people: don’t sleep through the revolution. The revolution is one of compassion. There’s just too much hate and division, and it only seems to be getting worse. .. We might feel like we’re a small group, but we can’t sit on our hands any more. We’re small, but mighty.” Kerr said she was grateful for all the visitors at that morning’s service. They had read about the incident and “just came out to support us.” “It felt wonderful,” Kerr said. “You just don’t always know how they feel about you. That came out today.” Kerr said she has also received many calls and emails. “The whole community has been very supportive.” After raising the new rainbow flag, Schocket said that the church now has another rainbow flag in storage, so that if something happens to this one, the congregation will be able to get a new one flying immediately.  

Rainbow pride flag to rise again over Unitarian Universalist church

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The rainbow pride flag has flown at the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation for longer than the Rev. Lynn Kerr can remember. She knows it was flown on occasion before she arrived at the church six years ago, and that it has been a constant presence since after she arrived. “We want it to be known that we’re welcoming so we have a big flag out there,” Kerr said. Many of the congregants, she said, identify as LBGTQ, or as allies. “We welcome anyone from the community to join us, especially LBGTQ.” That extends now to those who on Tuesday trespassed on the church’s property on Ohio 25, and ripped down the flag. Photos taken of the incident that Kerr and members of the congregation have seen, indicate the vandals were teenagers. “I felt bad that there are teenagers who have this kind of hate,” Kerr said. “That does not bode well for our future.” The Wood County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident. The suspects have not been positively identified, the BG Independent was told. The incident will not keep the congregation from flying the rainbow colors, though. Kerr said that organizers of Toledo’s Pride Parade, scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 19), will present the church with a new flag. On Sunday (Aug. 20) about noon after the service, congregants will gather out front to raise the new flag. Kerr said the public is invited to join them. The flag and the congregation’s outspoken support for LBGTQ rights has drawn criticism before. “We’ve riled some people up, but never felt in danger.” And it’s not only been flying the flag that has drawn the ire. “We put controversial messages on the board, important and liberal and good messages. Some people don’t like those either.” After the 2015 murder of nine black churchgoers at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, MVUUC posted: “Confederate flag down rainbow flag up.” The complaints come in the form of and e-mails, like the packet of Biblical passages sent to Kerr monthly. One local minister told Kerr she shouldn’t call herself a minister because of what she preaches. She and her congregants are undeterred. “I tell my congregation we’re not going to return their fear and hate with more anger. We’re going to return it with compassion.” Kerr said she will address the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the desecration of their flag in her sermon on Sunday. Kerr said she believes the vandals were “acting out of fear of the unknown.” “I wish they would get to know us and find that we’re not scary, that we welcoming people and loving people.”