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Grateful for October…

by the Rev. Heather Melton, UTO Missioner

I have always loved October. Growing up in Ohio, October meant crisp air, colorful leaves, apples, pumpkins, sweaters, and hayrides. October, for me, always feels a bit magical, like the gateway to the holiday season. Needless to say, it’s all things autumn at my house. My two-year-old twin daughters have learned to say “boo” and carry around their pumpkins, which they lovingly decorated in a modernist style. There is so much to be thankful for this month in my life; I feel like my Blue Box is overflowing. This month, I am most thankful for all of you – thankful for all the ways you teach others gratitude, for the ways your blessings go on to bless others.

This is our second e-newsletter, and I was blown away by all of the great thank you emails I received after the first one and for all of the new subscribers. Please continue to invite your friends to subscribe also. Each month we’ll share updates about UTO, a story about a grant site or two, and important information about upcoming events. It’s a great way for us to keep connected and to walk the path of gratitude together. If you have things you’d like to hear more about, let me know. I’d love to include them in an upcoming edition. Be sure also to follow us on Facebook. It’s a great way to get weekly (and sometimes daily) updates on grant sites.

Thank you – thank you for practicing the spiritual discipline of gratitude with UTO, thank you for helping others to learn how transformative this discipline can be, and thank you for all of the ways you love others in your community and around the world through UTO.

UTO Board Visits North Dakota & Standing Rock Reservation

Reflections by Joyce Landers, Province IV Representative to the UTO Board

The UTO Board visited St. James’ Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota this past week to tour the site of the Tiny Houses project. (For more about this and other UTO projects, please visit our website.) While in North Dakota, we had the opportunity to meet residents of the Standing Rock Reservation and to visit the camp of those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Right now, oil from the Bakken Oil Fields is transported by train, and there have been a number of explosive derailments over the years. The people of Standing Rock understand the need for an oil pipeline, but they also want the oil company to do more to protect the tribes’ water supply and sacred burial grounds. They are peacefully protesting and are unarmed, though there have been some incidents of trespassing and civil disobedience. However, the local law enforcement officials and the National Guard are treating the protesters as if they were armed and dangerous. I fear this heavy-handed response will ultimately lead to a loss of life. There have already been injuries.

I did witness a glimmer of hope amidst the strife. The Rev. Canon John Floberg, vicar of St. James’, explained to us that many of the tribes around the country, who have been enemies in the past, are now making peace. Locally, the Lakota Sioux and the Arikara have been able to set aside their mutual animosity to support one another. Native Americans from as far away as Alaska have been arriving to stand side by side with the residents of Standing Rock. The road that runs through the camp is lined with flags, too many to count. They have been sent to the reservation from other tribes, states, and countries to show support and solidarity. The UTO Board proudly posed under the Episcopal flag that day. I see that road of flags as a symbol of unity and grace. I can’t help but wonder whether, like the native people who are setting aside their centuries-old differences in order to work together, we – the newest residents of America – can do the same? Please keep the people of the Standing Rock Reservation in your prayers.

Grant Site Update: Tiny Houses Project, Cannon Ball, ND

by Joyce Haines, Province III Representative to the UTO Board

The United Thank Offering Board recently made a site visit to a grant recipient in the Diocese of North Dakota. St. James’ Episcopal Church, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, received a UTO grant to build six tiny houses, which will form the nucleus of a program to bring hope to an otherwise nearly hopeless situation. Each tiny house will be home to a young tribal man intent on getting the education and skills to live a productive and fulfilled life.

Because the timing of our visit coincided with the protest demonstrations and upheaval surrounding the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across sacred burial grounds and its threat to vital water sources, we were in for quite an adventure. To get to St. James’ and the tiny houses we had to go down the access road to the protest site!

The morning after our arrival, the Rev. Canon John Floberg from St. James’, our driver and tour guide, gave us some historical information, and then we were off. At a checkpoint a few miles from the site of the protests, armed members of the North Dakota National Guard with dogs, stopped us. “Have you been down this road before?” a guardsman asked. “Yes, I live here,” Canon Floberg responded. We were then allowed to proceed. “Whew!” I sighed. Of course we were told in advance what to expect, but hearing about a situation is quite different from living through it. The flashback memories of the demonstrations during the ’60s were overwhelming!

Needless to say, I was relieved when we reached the tiny houses, which will be ready for occupancy in November. This phase of our tour, including our lunch at the Prairie Knights Casino, was the calm within the storm.

Back at the hotel, we shared our responses to the field trip, which varied from feeling like an outsider – “the other” – to sensing that the tiny houses were a light in the darkness and that the protesters needed our prayers and support. I continue to pray for the success of the protests, and I wrote a check to support the effort. I hope others will do the same.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time –
Webinar to answer questions regarding the Young Adult and Seminarian Grant process

Friday, November 4, 2016 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time –
Deadline for submission of Young Adult and Seminarian Grant applications

Friday, December 2, 2016 –
The focus and criteria for the 2017 UTO Grants, as well as the applications, will be available on the UTO webpage

Planning Thanksgiving activities at your church? Don’t forget the Blue Box Turkey!

As families and friends gather for Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to bring out your Blue Box and have everyone share what they are thankful for from the past year. To help parishes prepare for Thanksgiving, we’re offering materials for Sunday School groups (or even an intergenerational educational program) to turn the Blue Box into a turkey for the month of November. Lesson plans, supplies, and more can be found here.


UTO Grant Sites Featured on Episcopal News Service Last Month:
Navajo mission finds fertile ground for water conservation project

Beekeeping connects nature and sustainability in Navajoland

UTO Grant Site in Montana Creates a Video
Be sure to watch this wonderful video of the UTO Grant to the Diocese of Montana in 2015 for Camp Marshall.

Want a great idea to help promote UTO in your parish?

Check out what the good people at All Saints’ in Bentonville, Arkansas, did as a part of their Ingathering! They asked people to write what they were thankful for on sheets of paper, decorated the parish hall with those, and then created a video. Thanks for sharing this on our Facebook page, All Saints’! Be sure to share your Ingathering photos or ideas with us to help inspire others!

Looking for more information?

Be sure to check out our webpage for all of the latest videos, news, and resources about UTO.

Our blog also offers tons of resources for supporting UTO in your parish or diocese, from sample bulletin inserts and newsletters to hymn suggestions at an ingathering.

Follow us on Facebook for weekly updates and grant stories.

Order UTO materials here.