Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St. Croix
Newsletter – January 2014
Happy New Year
(The Fellowship meets at the Jewish Community Center in Hermon Hill (Route 83) the second and fourth Sundays September-May. Services and Sunday School are held at 10 AM. Refreshments and conversation follow.)
Sunday, January 5: Covenant Group meets at the home of Emy Thomas. Leader: Gail Nealon.
Saturday, January 11, 10AM-NOON: STEWARDSHIP WORKSHOP at the synagogue with Connie Goodbread of the UU Regional Congregational Life Staff. She will lead a discussion about our expectations, dreams and concerns.A POTLUCK LUNCH will follow. Please bring a dish to share.
Sunday, January12, 10AM: “Gratitude and Generosity” by Connie Goodbread. (The UU values of hope, love, justice, courage and joy can change the world. How will we give them away?)
Please note: Immediately after the service Connie will meet with parents of the children in our Religious Education program to discuss their particular interests.
Sunday, January 19, 9AM: Covenant Group at the home of Emy Thomas, led by Gail Nealon. Please note change in starting time to watch a NOVA video about Machu Pichu, the subject of the day.
Sunday, January 26, 10 AM:. “Owning Your Own Shadow” by Guest Speaker Nancy Ayer. (The unacceptable characteristics of ourselves collect like dust bunnies under the carpets of our personality. The shadow is the despised or unacknowledged part of our being. Nancy will bring the shadow into the light through the perspectives of modern day news headlines and her own personal experiences.)
“RED VIOLIN” CONCERT
A celebrated violin virtuoso will perform on St. Croix the evening of Sunday, January 12, at 5:30 PM at the St. Croix Reformed Church and we’re all invited. Elizabeth Pitcairn will play Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and the Bruch Violin Concerto on her legendary 1720 “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius violin, said to have inspired the Academy award-winning film, “The Red Violin”. Ms. Pitcairn comes from a musical family and began playing the violin at age 3, making her debut with an orchestra at age 14. An alumna of the Marlboro Music Festival, she has performed with members of the Juilliard and Guarneri String Quartets among others. She is also currently the President and Artistic Director of the Luzerne Music Center in Lake Luzerne, New York.
She will be accompanied by pianist Barbara Podgurski, who is currently the Executive and Artistic Director of Musica Reginae Productions, a non-profit musical foundation devoted to bringing music and the arts to underserved schools in Queens, New York, as well as many other musical organizations and groups performing chamber music in New York City.
The concert is being offered to the St. Croix music loving community without charge, though contributions are welcome for the Reformed Church’s Vesper Series.
Ms. Pitcairn is a friend of UU Friend Helen Engelhardt, who arranged the concert.
A Few 2013 Reflections
Family ties have taken on a new meaning for me being so far away from family and friends stateside. However, I have made new friends within the UUFSC community and the larger Island community. Family and friends are slowly beginning to visit now that I am settled in. As I sit writing these brief reflections I anticipate the arrival of my son Muhammad, the youngest of my three children, his wife, Michelle and my granddaughter, Malia. My granddaughter was born premature weighing one pound. Malia is now a hale 13 pounds and well on her way to becoming a vibrant toddler with little evidence of her birth trauma. Life is filled with miracles – small and large.
During 2013 I became more familiar with some of the social issues that plague St. Croix. In my role as Medical Social Worker at the Caribbean Kidney Center I am exposed to some of the many health challenges facing residents of St. Croix and the paucity of resources. The ongoing crisis of the Juan Luis Hospital, our only hospital on Island, makes me nervous and yet some assure me that the government will never let it go under! In addition to the prevalence of asthma, diabetes and hypertension on the Island, I have discovered that the Virgin Islands has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of HIV Aids per capita outside of Africa. As a clergy person, I strongly believe there is a critical role that the faith community can play to address this epidemic. I hope that as a community we may see the need to channel some fiscal and human resources towards this troubling issue. I stand ready as your representative to the Interfaith Coalition (IFC) to lend my voice and efforts to this issue.
One of the exciting developments forthcoming from the IFC is the establishment of a Peace Center. After years of planning, sweat and tears, Carolyn Keys and supporters have birthed the Peace Center. You will be hearing more about these peace initiatives in future columns. We know that St. Croix has not been immune to the epidemic of violence that appears to be sweeping our nation. I was reminded of this when I was honored to deliver the invocation at the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims of VI for the Women’s Coalition on November 25. This is an annual event that honors all murdered victims. Family members, though small in number, came out, often wearing
T-shirts and other tributes to their murdered loved ones. I missed the Take Back the Night Annual Silent March and Rally held in October because I was working. It was reported that it was the largest in the history of the Women’s Coalition. However, I was able to attend the “Best Dance Party Ever,” an annual fundraiser of the Women’s Coalition.
As you know there are a number of worthy non-profits on Island doing great things for at risk populations. I often times see many of you at these worthy events! Thank you each for your active support. It is one of the things that I love about UUFSC – you put your faith in action!
Health insurance was another issue challenging our Island population in 2013. Nearly 30% of the VI population is currently living at or below poverty. In light of the decision to either implement a Health Insurance Exchange or to expand Medicaid, the Virgin Islands opted to expand Medicaid. A government appointed Health Reform Task Force determined that it would have cost the VI $251 million over five years to provide subsidies while the Territory is only receiving $24.9 million in one time federal funding. The exchanges would have pooled users to create cost effective rates outside of traditional employer issued plans. In a survey conducted in 2009 almost 1/3 of residents in the VI were uninsured. This is twice the United States average (15.4%). While the decision to expand Medicaid and forego the Health Insurance Exchanges allowed for expanded eligibility of many previously uninsured individuals there still exist many individuals in the Virgin Islands who do not currently have health insurance – including individuals who are self employed (artists, landscapers and consultants). This population of entrepreneurs, which given the economic climate we would want to nurture, are left either with the option to purchase their own policies because they work alone or go without health benefits.
The year 2013 held many personal milestones for me: the acquisition of my driver’s license (I reluctantly relinquished my Illinois license), senior discount card, food handlers card and now my voter’s registration card. I am an official resident of St. Croix with all the documentation to prove it! I have also begun to read about and understand the history of the Island, including establishing a relationship with our Congressional Delegate, Donna Christensen. I actually took two kidney patients to her office to speak with her about some of their concerns living with End Stage Renal Disease. What I am learning about my beautiful, newly adopted home is that we often fall below the radar because we are small and geographically isolated. This history of being treated differently pains me since there is so much that needs to be done.
To that end, at the UUFSC we are looking at ways to grow ourselves so that we can become a larger presence on the Island to more effectively impact some of these issues. Currently, we await a visit from Connie Goodbread, a Unitarian Universalist Association Consultant, and the UU Regional Congregational Life Staff Consultant. Connie is a Credentialed Director of Religious Education with over twenty years of experience in two congregations. Besides her many other gatherings including meeting with the Board, members and supporters of the Fellowship and our Sunday guest speaker, she has agreed to meet with parents and other supporters to hear about our vision for Life Span Religious Education. Having access to services and staff like Connie are just some of the benefits we derive from being a “Fair Share” congregation, that is paying our annual dues to the Unitarian Universalist Association. There are several funding sources that we are eligible for that I plan to submit future proposals (once I finish studying and pass my licensure exam for clinical social worker).
And while 2013 was a stellar year in terms of membership growth with ten new members we also suffered the loss of our matriarch, Marge Tonks. Marge would be proud to learn of our progress toward growth and stewardship. As we move into 2014 I wish each of you and UUFSC all the very best. May we dream big and continue to look out for one another and continue to let our light shine brightly here on our beautiful Island of St. Croix.
Blessings, Rev. Qiyamah
P.O. Box 3034, Kingshill, VI 00851 * www.uustcroix.org *