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Online Worship Service May 19, 2024

How Unitarian Universalism Can Inspire Advocacy and Acceptance

In the second annual worship service produced by the UU Mental Health Network Speaker’s Bureau, author Sheri Thomas, will discuss how Unitarian Universalism has inspired advocacy and acceptance within our denomination and how it inspired her to become a leading disability advocate fighting to remove the stigmas surrounding physical disabilities and mental health.

Participants in the Service: 

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Sheri Thomas, a worship assistant and board member at Channing Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist, in Ellicott City, MD, was born with cerebral palsy and had a successful career as a journalist and sales executive before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her fifties. She breaks down barriers and promotes full accessibility as part of various disability commissions and committees in Maryland.  Her book, "IMBALANCED: A Memoir," traces Sheri’s remarkable journey from a front-page headline in 1962 to her current role as an advocate fighting to remove the stigmas surrounding physical disabilities and mental health. For a free digital copy of her book, email her at imbalanced.book@gmail.com.

Rev. Barbara F. Meyers is a Unitarian Universalist community minister with a mental health ministry based in Fremont, California. She is a peer support specialist and assistant director of the Life Reaching Across to Life peer support center, the author of a mental health curriculum for congregations, and the book “Held – Showing Up for each Other’s Mental Health” published by Skinner House Books in 2020. She is the President of the Board of the UU Mental Health Network. 

Skyla King-Christison (she/her) is the Director of Religious Exploration for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, in Oregon. She is also a restorative justice mediator, serving primarily juvenile offenders and their families. Before becoming a religious educator, Skyla worked in public education for middle schools in Tennessee, Oregon, and Utah, ultimately writing and speaking on topics at the intersection of child-centered education and spirituality. The mental health needs of her immediate family and the communities she serves continue to shape her personal and professional interests. 

Phoenix Bell-Shelton Biggs (they/them)  is a Queer, BIPOC, non-binary seminarian and aspiring Public Theologian. They claim a progressive Christian faith grounded in the Unitarian Universalist faith. Phoenix is called to lead Radical Love, care, and Sanctuary Movements, simultaneously disrupting patriarchy and all systems of oppression plaguing our world. They are healing, growing, and learning to love themselves, trying to find their place on this topsy-turvy journey that we call life. Before answering the call to ministry, Phoenix earned degrees in Media Production and Religious Studies from Pellissippi State Community College and Middle Tennessee State University. They genuinely believe that we must "Do everything in love" - 1 Corinthians 16:14 as we "Do justice, love mercy and tread humbly" - Micah 6:8:  When Phoenix is not working or studying, they love being out in nature, traveling, eating good ole vegan food, all things theater and of course coffee.

Erin White (she/her) has both personal and professional experience with mental health. She finds that sharing about her lived experience with mental health is both liberating and a way she can work to reduce stigma. Over the past six years Erin has been on a multifaceted journey toward healing, with the most recent chapter being residential trauma treatment. Professionally, Erin received her J.D. from Columbia Law in 2009 and her MSW from The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter in 2018. Her current professional goal is to continue the work she began during school with children & families impacted by trauma. Erin is a member and past board president of The Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York. She currently resides near Washington Heights with her cat, River.

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