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Parents and Educators Grapple with Challenging Racism

September 8, 2018

Sixty persons representing 25 congregations in northern Illinois gathered on Saturday, August 25, for lively conversation about how  to confront and challenge racism as it impacts the lives of our children and youth. 

Dr. Jennifer Harvey

The Colors of Love: Raising Children in a Racially Unjust World workshop featured a presentation from Dr. Jennifer Harvey, professor of religion at Drake University, whose research addresses the encounter between religion and ethics, race, gender, activism, politics and spirituality in the U.S.  Dr. Harvey challenged parents, clergy, and educators to consider how to be effective in making their children aware of U.S. racial realities, while simultaneously nurturing their children’s emotional resilience and a healthy sense of racial identity.  In particular, Harvey used personal stories to demonstrate how the common approaches of “colorblindness” and “diversity” fall short in responding to our deeply racialized and hierarchical society.   She offered suggestions for how parents and church leaders can stretch themselves to adopt “antiracist” ways to communicate with and empower our children and youth. 

Panelists Jaelyn Pirtle, Lucy Hermann, and Abigail Mendoza

Following Dr. Harvey’s provocative presentation, three high school youth shared their personal experiences and reflections on how they have confronted racism in their lives and relationships.  Lucy Hermann (Trinity UMC, Mt. Prospect), Abigail Mendoza (First UMC, Park Ridge) and Jaelyn Pirtle (Gorham UMC, Chicago) talked insightfully about what they have learned and who has influenced them in observing and challenging racism at their schools, churches, and home.

Rev. Darneather Murph-Heath, Elgin District Superintendent, opened the workshop with a prayerful and impassioned invitation to the attendees to be open to being changed by what they heard that day—and then to be that change they want to see in their families, communities, and churches.

Rev. Darneather Murph-Heath

“I appreciated Dr. Harvey’s caution that if parents, teachers, church leaders and other caring adults practice ‘white silence,’ our children’s default formation about race will come from TV, friends, school, social media, and others. White silence occurs when white people become silent in the face of racism rather than engaging our children by stepping in and stepping up to name, confront, and challenge actions as racist. Ignoring manifestations of racism by silence fosters and festers racism,” reflected Kim Coffing, United Voices for Children (UVC) President.

UVC board member Ed Miner left the workshop realizing that, “We need to talk to kids about our attitudes about race. They know more than we think they do and they learn it earlier than we think. Our own attitudes may be incomplete but we need to talk to our kids anyway.”

Another UVC board member, Meg JungEun Park, succinctly identified helpful components of Dr. Harvey’s parenting strategy: 1) create a race-conscious schema in children’s early development by talking about difference early and often; 2) develop “racial scripts” to become attentive, careful interpreters of the stories of/from others; 3) develop an anti-racist “agency” by complicating history (and stories people tell) at every turn. Park noted that “Our kids need to wrestle with the complex stories of what actual people have done and what people actually still do.”

UVC President Kim Coffing

Christine Hides, UVC board member, expressed hope for what we can do: “What was most powerful for me was seeing a diverse group of faith-filled people confront an issue that impacts the lives of all our children. With practical tips and resources like this workshop, churches can and should place where the evils of racism are identified and actively resisted.”

UVC President Kim Coffing also looked ahead to next steps after the workshop: “UVC is committed to confronting the issues that put children at risk in all of our communities and equipping churches to advocate for our children’s well-being. Racism puts us at risk of losing our children. Racism in our churches destroys our credibility of being witnesses of a God who loves us all. It is our task to let God make a difference through us.”

Colors of Love: Raising Children in a Racially Unjust World was sponsored by United Voices for Children (www.unitedvoicesforchildren.org) in collaboration with First UMC Elmhurst, Christians Engaged in Faith Formation, Commission on Religion and Race in Northern Illinois and the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Jennifer Harvey’s 2017 book, Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America is published by Abingdon Press and available from Cokesbury.

Register Now for Colors of Love Workshop

June 4, 2018

Registration is open for the Colors of Love: Raising Children in a Racially Unjust World training event coming up on Saturday, August 25, 2018.   Colors of Love will present practical guidance and resources for clergy, leaders of children & youth and parents featuring Dr. Jennifer Harvey and a panel of Northern Illinois youth.   Dr. Harvey is professor of religion at Drake University whose research addresses the encounter between religion and ethics, race, gender, activism, politics and spirituality in the U.S. 

Colors of Love will be on Saturday, August 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at First UMC in Elmhurst, Illinois.  Register by August 22nd at this link. After that date, call 773-316-8892 to ensure space available.  The $25 fee includes lunch.

The first 20 persons to register will receive a free copy of Dr. Jennifer Harvey’s most recent book, Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America.   Others can purchase a copy of Raising White Kids from UVC for $18, including shipping.  Place your order at: unitedvoicesforchildren@gmail.com

Colors of Love is co-sponsored by United Voices for Children, First UMC Elmhurst, Northern Illinois Commission on Religion and Race, the Christian Educators Fellowship Chapter and the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

 

UVC Announces Annual Awards

May 1, 2018

United Voices for Children has announced the recipients of its 2018 annual awards for outstanding advocacy and service for children and youth in Northern Illinois.  The Bishop Jesse R. Dewitt Award will be given to Deacon Wes Dorr of United Church of Rogers Park (Chicago) for his dedicated advocacy for and ministry with urban children and youth.  The Katherine B. Greene Child Worker Award goes to two recipients: Karen Klaus of First UMC Crystal Lake for instituting the Nathaniel’s Hope Buddy Break program for special needs children and their families; and to Chana UMC for its recreational, education and social service ministries with rural children and youth in its community.  The Rev. Margaret Ann Williams Service Award will be given to Licia Knight of St. Mark UMC (Chicago) for her lifelong service of establishing a Children’s Church and directing a dance ministry, among other ministries with children and youth. 

These persons will be honored at the United Voices for Children (UVC) Breakfast on Tuesday morning, June 5th, at 6:45 a.m. during the Northern Illinois Annual Conference session at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.  To make a reservation for the gala UVC Breakfast ($20/person) contact  unitedvoicesforchildren@gmail.com by May 25th.  United Voices for Children is a coalition of congregations and individuals in Northern Illinois dedicated to speak and act on behalf of needy children, youth and their families as well as to support ministries in the Conference serving these children and youth.   

You can find more information on each awardee on this page.

Fr. James Swarthout to Speak at Annual Breakfast

March 23, 2018

The Rev. James E. Swarthout will be the featured speaker at the United Voices for Children’s Annual Breakfast on Tuesday, June 5th, 2018.  Fr. Jim Swarthout has been involved in mental health and addiction counseling for more than 33 years. He has master’s degrees in Divinity and Social Work and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor and a Certified Intervention Professional. He is Director of Clergy and Alumni Relations for Rosecrance Health Network. His work is to align interdenominational awareness and support for bishops, clergy and faith communities. Within Rosecrance Fr. Jim is also engaged working with Trauma and Invitational Intervention.  At the Breakfast Fr. Jim will speak on “’The Art of Possibility.”

United Voices for Children (UVC) is a coalition of  congregations, agencies, groups and individuals in the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church that speaks and acts on behalf of children, youth and families in need.   At the Annual Breakfast UVC will honor the many congregations and individuals who are supporting its mission.  In addition, UVC will present three awards to honor extraordinary volunteer service or advocacy efforts on behalf of children, youth and/or families in Northern Illinois.  Learn more about UVC and its programs at www.unitedvoicesforchildren.org

The UVC Annual Breakfast will be held at 6:45 a.m. at the Pheasant Run Resort, in St. Charles, Illinois, during the session of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.  Advance reservations (cost of $20) are requested to unitedvoicesforchildren@gmail.com by May 25, 2018. 

UVC Receives Culbertson Bequest

January 31, 2018

The United Voices for Children (UVC) Board of Directors is both grateful and pleased to announce receipt of a financial bequest from the Estate of Nancy Culbertson.  Nancy Ruth Culbertson of Melrose Park, Illinois passed away February 18, 2016 at the age of 71.  

Friends report that Ms. Culbertson’s church was her family and she was a long-time active member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Cicero and later transferred to River Forest United Methodist Church.  She worked several summers as a camp counselor at both Wesley Woods and Camp Reynoldswood, and served as registrar at the Proviso Food Pantry.   She had retired from a long professional career with Sanford Ink Co.

According to her pastor at Wesley UMC Cicero, Rev. Lynn Pries, “Nancy was a faithful United Methodist Christian all her life and lived frugally and had no heirs. She wanted her inheritance to make a difference in the lives of children.” 

Kim Coffing, UVC president stated, “UVC is indeed overjoyed to receive this generous gift from Nancy Culbertson’s estate.  We are deeply moved by her demonstration of how someone who appeared to be unassuming assumed the best for children and teens through her legacy of a bountiful contribution to UVC.”  

The bequest was made through the Northern Illinois Foundation and totaled approximately $35,000.  More than half of this amount has been disbursed to support the ministries of the three child-serving agencies affiliated with UVC: ChildServ, MYSI and Rosecrance.  The UVC Board is still considering how to best utilize the balance of this generous gift to appropriately serve the needs of children and youth in need.

United Voices for Children is a coalition of congregations, agencies, groups and individuals in the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church that speaks and acts on behalf of children, youth and families in need.

 

Skin in the Game Workshop

June 14, 2017

Congregations in Northern Illinois are invited to participate in an important growth and training opportunity, Skin in the Game: Equipping Congregations to Challenge Racism.  This half-day workshop on August 19 will provide practical guidance and resources for clergy, lay leaders and Christian Educators to address one of the most troublesome issues in our churches. The guest speaker will be Rev. Dr. Felicia LaBoy who has 14 years of urban and multicultural pastoral ministry as someone who moves from the “seminary to the street, from the pulpit to the pavement.”

The Skin in the Game workshop will be held at First UMC Elmhurst on Saturday, August 19th, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Registration fee of $10 is requested to cover expenses.   Advanced registration is requested here.    

Skin in the Game is cosponsored by United Voices for Children, the Northern Illinois Chapter or Christians Engaged in Faith Formation and the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.

Download a flyer to share with friends and colleagues in your congregation:
Skin in the Game flyer       OR      Skin in the Game presenter flyer

UVC Announces Annual Awards

May 15, 2017

United Voices for Children has announced the recipients of its 2017 annual awards for outstanding advocacy and service for children and youth in Northern Illinois.  The Bishop Jesse R. Dewitt Award will be given to two recipients.  Lorena Cory of First U.M. Church Arlington Heights is being honored for founding and facilitating Pinwheels, a support group for families with gender-creative children.   The Rev. Dr. William Lenters is recognized for his 19 years of service as chaplain at Rosecrance.

These persons will be honored at the United Voices for Children (UVC) Breakfast on Tuesday morning, June 6th, at 6:45 a.m. during the Northern Illinois Annual Conference session at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.  To make a reservation for the gala UVC Breakfast ($20/person) contact  unitedvoicesforchildren@gmail.com by May 24th.

Lorena Cory is the founder of Pinwheels, a support group for families with gender creative children. Lorena started Pinwheels in March 2011 out of her family’s needs. Since then, this unique support group has steadily grown to more than 100 members meeting monthly in two locations.  Parents who have experience with a gender creative child gather with parents who are new to this journey to build relationships, share resources and offer support to one another. Lorena facilitates the meetings with dedication and reaches out to the members with compassion. Her advocacy work for trans children and their families goes beyond the church walls. Pinwheels is the only known faith-based program of its kind—though people of all or no faiths are welcome. The focus is on love and acceptance and learning to advocate for trans justice in the schools, community, and nation. 

Cory is also the director of Sound Foundation, the youth choir for her congregation. One of the youth participants notes that fifteen youth look forward to rehearsal each week because of the sense of safety that Lorena provides. The youth know they can be themselves in that space; they can share joys and concerns and are met with compassion, care, and prayer. Lorena is the mother of three children and a private voice instructor with studios in two high schools and her home. Her oldest daughter is transgender and her family is on an amazing journey together.

The Rev. Dr. William Lenters serves as chaplain at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus in Rockford. Each week Bill leads spirituality, grief and loss groups for teens and young adults seeking treatment for substance use disorders. And he meets one-on-one with young clients who have questions and concerns about faith, or who are struggling with various challenges during treatment. Additionally, Bill counsels young adult and adult clients at Rosecrance Lakeview, a substance abuse recovery home and outpatient clinic in Chicago.  Bill also writes quarterly recovery-focused columns titled “Bread for the Journey” that are distributed to clergy and lay leaders throughout Northern Illinois. The columns are written on behalf of all who suffer from addictions to help church leaders better understand the disease of addiction and how they can help. Bill pens monthly “View from the Pew” email musings about spirituality and recovery and provides content for a special Twitter account called “Rosecrance 12 Tweets,” modeled after the 12 Steps.   

For 19 years at Rosecrance, Bill has counseled people who are vulnerable and broken down by guilt and shame. He disarms adolescents and young adults who are angry, distrusting, and questioning faith and God by listening to their fears and concerns and countering them with acceptance. Bill does all of that with a laid-back demeanor and a sense of humor that can be both silly and hilarious. In his own words: “Recovery is spiritually grounded in acknowledgement of powerlessness, a need for a greater power.” Before coming to Rosecrance, Lenters served as campus minister at Purdue University, parish pastor at churches in Chicago and Cleveland and chaplain at a treatment center in Phoenix.

Rev. Dr. Virginia Lee to Speak at Annual Breakfast

April 7, 2017

The Rev. Dr. Virginia Lee will be the featured speaker at the United Voices for Children’s Annual Breakfast on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.  Dr. Lee is Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of Deacon Studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  Lee is also the co-executive director of the Garrett-Evanston Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program, a partnership with the city of Evanston, Evanston-Skokie School District 65, and other community groups including faith communities.  At the Breakfast Dr. Lee will speak on “’I’m not a mother, but I have children’: Compassion and Justice for All Our Children.”

United Voices for Children (UVC) is a coalition of  congregations, agencies, groups and individuals in the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church that speaks and acts on behalf of children, youth and families in need.   At the Annual Breakfast UVC will honor the many congregations and individuals who are supporting its mission.  In addition, UVC will present three awards to honor extraordinary volunteer service or advocacy efforts on behalf of children, youth and/or families in Northern Illinois.  Learn more about UVC and its programs at www.unitedvoicesforchildren.org

The UVC Annual Breakfast will be held at 6:45 a.m. at the Pheasant Run Resort, in St. Charles, Illinois, during the session of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.  Advance reservations are requested to unitedvoicesforchildren@gmail.com by May 24, 2017.

A Provocative Conversation on Violence

March 14, 2017

A provocative conversation, “Violence: A Faithful Response to the Plague in Our Neighborhoods and in Our Nation,” featuring Thomas Dart, Willie Jennings, Otis Moss III, and Michael Pfleger and moderated by Robin Robinson will happen at First UMC Chicago on Monday, April 3, from 5:30-7:30PM.  Sponsored by Yale Chicago and Yale Divinity School, this event will feature a timely dialogue between civic, academic, theological, and religious leaders confronting violence in our communities. Audience members will participate with their own questions, and a reception will follow. Presenters will be: Thomas Dart, Cook County Sheriff of the State of Illinois; Willie Jennings, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies, YDS; Otis Moss III, ‘95 M.Div., Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago; and Michael Pfleger, Pastor of Faith Community of Saint Sabina in Chicago. The program will be moderated by Robin Robinson, award winning journalist and broadcaster, and currently Director of Community Affairs at the Chicago Police department.

For more details and to reserve a space, go to: 
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-provocative-conversation-tickets-32806815067.

January 25 Workshop on Preventing Childhood Trauma

November 19, 2016

A coalition of Chicago area religious groups and social service agencies are presenting a workshop, Claiming the Healing Wisdom of our Traditions: Shaping a Faith-Rooted Movement to Foster Resilience and Prevent Childhood Trauma on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. James Commons.  This day offers an opportunity for faith leaders to learn more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) across a spectrum of traumatic experience—from abuse and neglect to experiences of violence and war. We will learn about the impact these experiences have on brain and genetic functioning, how to foster resilience in both the individual and across communities, and how to prevent adversity in childhood in the first place. This is a working conference and space is limited. The goal of the day is to lay groundwork for work that can be carried out across religious traditions in our region.  You can find more details here.  You can also direct questions or register by phone with  call Olga at 630-929-6108.