Conference Updates

(A More Perfect) Union

On 27 June, 2019, the newest family conference on star Island began. It is called simply “Union”. As the name implies, the goal was to bring people together, to connect physically and spiritually, and to share thoughts and hopes for us as individuals, and the Star and national community.

The idea began when Joe Watts asked if there was an opportunity to begin a new family conference to answer the growing desire for people to attend a Star conference. After looking at the calendar, the opportune time seemed to be the end of June. Planning began in early autumn of 2019, with a group of Shoalers- Tricia and Tom Coleman, Kemp Harris and Bill Tibbs, Kyle Belmont, Dr. Rev. Leon Dunkley, Cheryl Anne and Carl Sturken, and Stephanie Sersich.

The idea was two fold- to form a new family conference celebrating honored and new traditions that are Star Island, and to deliberately look at our roles in twenty first century America eand what we could do individually and collectively to more towards the ideal of a “more perfect union”. We looked to several inspirations; President Obama’s 2008 address treating divisiveness in America, the Star Island Beloved Community initiative, and the phrase “…to create on Star Island an environment that frees all who come to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence, and gain knowledge about the world as it might ideally be” from the SIC Vision Statement.

The perfect approach to this was to feature Kemp Harris as speaker. A long time Shoaler and musician, teacher, and storyteller, Kemp has the master touch of bringing people together and drawing them out. Approaching this with his professional music and storytelling background, he is able to invite, inform, and inspire people to both relax and step out. Kemp’s program was a week of sharing personal narratives, both his own and the rest of us, examining “what if…” moments in our life, group music, and a powerful and honest discussion by Christian Douglass. Christian is a speaker at The Racial Equity Institute, and presented a compelling and moving examination on the roots of systemic racial prejudice in our society, and the underlying roots and tensions inherent in modern America that cross racial and economic lines. Although challenging, the week was also centered on reaffirmation of hope and the potential for personal action and healing.


Complementing the theme were the usual Star diversions of yoga, exercise classes, Island Naturalist activities, tours, and co-sharing of lectures with IRAS. Star union also birthed some new traditions. The first night was “Burning Star”, a group construction of a wooden star that people attached notes, ribbons, drawings, or other totemic objects to. The star was then brought to the rocks, and put on a Solstice bonfire accompanied by songs and marshmallows.







Shoaler and conservation expert Bill Gimpel conducted a multi-day workshop on rugose cuttings, so Union conferees could bring home and grow Star Island roses in their own gardens. There was a “welcome back Oscar” session where we signed various parts of the newly restored windvane (Oscar) for reinstallation on the Chapel.

Social Hour was a highlight. We had a group of caterers, beverage servers, and musicians that wove a tapestry of joy each evening. The early summer light and breezes in Marshman created the perfect setting for joy and celebration. This was followed later by Lobby concerts and late night sessions in Marshman.

One evening we held Family Dinner, a festive fete at a long table in Newton that recognized the wise elders and youngest members of our gathering. This was culminated with a special dessert- “Ile des Etoiles”- a Star Island shaped pudding in a sea of berry coulis. At the end of the week, all signed a miniature wooden plaque of Oscar the Cod, to be brought back each year as a memento of 2019. Each Shoaler also took away a commemorative coin with the Union motto- “One Star, One Love”.

The week was magical, peaceful, and rejuvenating- a celebration of Star at its best. We anticipate continuing our themes and traditions in 2021, and invite you to join us!
“One Star-One Love”

On the Island

Compost Cookies

Compost Cookies….what?! No, they’re not cookies made of literal compost, they’re arguably the most famous cookie on Star Island (we see you, mint avalanche cookies). How did they come to be, you ask? Compost cookies were invented by Pelican Mandy Lamb. They’re called compost cookies because you can use leftover things from your kitchen, like potato chips or coffee grounds. We’re excited to share the recipe with you today, as well as a video on how to make compost cookies at home. A big thank you to Kyle Belmont for walking us through the process. Don’t forget to wear appropriate Star Island attire (you know you have a favorite tee shirt) and remember your name tag!

How can you make compost cookies at home?

  • Follow the video, or use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe as a base before adding some extra bits
  • Potential extras:
    • potato chips
    • oatmeal
    • shredded coconut
    • peanut butter chips
    • coffee grounds
    • nuts
    • oreos
    • graham crackers
    • cereal






On the Island

But What Is the Beloved Community Project? By Rev. Deanna Vandiver

This piece is an excerpt from It Is Time Now: Offerings from the Beloved Community Project, an educational resource produced in 2019 as part of Star Island’s Beloved Community Project. The Star Island Beloved Community Project is a journey SIC has begun as an organization to create a more inclusive and intentional community, to help spread more empathy and understanding in the world, and to become a more welcoming place for all people. We recognize and affirm that many have been on this journey for a long time, and we are excited to listen and learn as we continue on this important journey.


I can tell a bit of   why
And share some   who
But the    what
And the    how
are being manifest even
as we lean into each other
with holy curiosity
The possibility of living
with self-differentiated, undefended hearts
brings songs flaring forth
like solar wind
Alive with the kinetic energy
of re-membering
respect, kindness, hope
A vast love blooming
In spirit, muscles, blood, and bones


Many storms—named and unnamed—etched
in our nervous systems
Barrels of pain stored
in our collective memories
We are aching for the
Only possible when
the harm
has stopped
Thousands of years
of suffering and surviving and thriving
Daydreaming a whole and holy liberation

Tender solos rising up from choral strength
Sorrows held so, so gently
Joy reflected, like mirrors reflecting mirrors,
unto infinity
wonder tendered with trust
rituals created/re-created to hold
all that our words cannot
Each time we meet
In body or in spirit
my heart is stitched
by another thread of love
To your heart
And yours
And yours
And yours

And yours…
Choosing to be and do differently
Than how we have
done been conditioned to be and do
Oh, how we co-create
With courage, faith, and wisdom
a love net
to hold us in the healing now
(even when it is not yet)
Beloved community.


On the Island

Art Project – Turn Your Home Into Star Island

Many of us are missing the beloved quirks and intricacies of our Spirit’s Home. The spaces we gather on Star can be as compelling as the conversations and experiences we have there. What’s the first thing you see when the boat pulls up to the pier? For many, it’s the Welcome to Star Island sign beckoning you to set foot on your Spirit’s Home. This art activity, created by former Pelican Art Director Annabelle Cook, gives you the chance to visit each of the special moments you experience on Star. Lighting a chapel candle, ordering a lime rickey off the snack bar menu, visiting the front desk, writing with a flower pen, the list goes on! This project lets you unleash your creative side while taking time to reminisce all the little moments Star Island adds to our lives.

How to Turn Your Home Into Star Island:

  1. Watch the video – See link below
  2. Download “Star Island at Home” PDF’s – See link below
  3. Print
  4. Color & Cut
  5. Hang up around your house
  6. Record video tour
  7. Post online with #StarIslandAtHome

Click here to watch the video and get your printables



Conference Updates

Star Arts 2020 Chalkboard

Welcome to the Star Arts Chalkboard! Close your eyes and pretend you’re in the Oceanic Hotel lobby. Take a deep breath and smell the salt air. Open your eyes and see the array of activities Arts is offering this year. Maybe you’ve never been to Arts and want to see what it’s all about. Or you attend Arts every year and can’t wait to join in a little differently this time. There’s something for everyone at Arts! Click on each activity for more information and have a wonderful week!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Star Arts Evening Chapel Service, 8:00 PM

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Chi Gong, 7:15 AM 

Yoga, 1:30 PM

The Word Painter of Appledore: An Appreciation of Celia Thaxter, 8:00 PM

Monday, June 22, 2020

Chi Gong, 7:15 AM 

Morning Chapel with Mary Frances Comer, 8:00 AM

Yoga, 1:30 PM

Bingo Funfest!, 7:00 PM

Evening Chapel Service, 8:00 PM

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Chi Gong, 7:15 AM 

Yoga, 1:30 PM

Poetry Night, 7:00 PM

Evening Chapel Service, 8:00 PM

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Chi Gong, 7:15 AM 

Morning Chapel with Rev. Mary Edes, 8:00 AM

Yoga, 1:30 PM

Painting with Bob Ross!, 7:00 PM

Evening Chapel Service, 8:00 PM

Wednesday, June 25, 2020

Chi Gong, 7:15 AM 

Morning Chapel with Rev. Mary Edes, 8:00 AM

Men’s Gathering, 4:00 PM

Storytelling, 7:00 PM

Evening Chapel Service, 8:00 PM 

Yoga, 1:30 PM

Thursday, June 26

Morning Chapel with Rev. Mary Frances Comer, 8:00 AM

Evening Chapel Service, 8:00 PM 

On the Island

A message from the leaders of the Star Arts Retreat

Star Arts Retreat is an amazing week on Star Island that focuses on all of the creative arts – writing, dance, music, photography, visual art, and theater. No need to be a professional – each workshop is for all levels, whether beginner, intermediate or advanced – all are welcome and encouraged to get in touch with their creative sides! Star Arts Retreat is made up of a welcoming community of people from all walks of life, some of whom have been attending for decades, and other who this may be their first experience with Star Island.

Star Arts 2020 has been unique in so many ways – namely in that it is all virtual. The experience of working together with the Star Arts community, the Star Island staff and all others to make sure that our special week could still take place is what Star Island is all about. We are so incredibly thankful to all who have reached out, helped out, and who we will see during our virtual retreat. We look forward to seeing many of you on island in 2021!

On the Island

It Is Time Now by Rev. Chris Jablonski

This piece is an excerpt from It Is Time Now: Offerings from the Beloved Community Project, an educational resource produced in 2019 as part of Star Island’s Beloved Community Project. The Star Island Beloved Community Project is a journey SIC has begun as an organization to create a more inclusive and intentional community, to help spread more empathy and understanding in the world, and to become a more welcoming place for all people. We recognize and affirm that many have been on this journey for a long time, and we are excited to listen and learn as we continue on this important journey.


For you.

For your community, for your family, your conference, your neighborhood.

There is always something that you can do to help aid and abet love and justice, liberation and thriving.

Sometimes I think we can get stuck because we get too attached to an idea of what a mobilized, energetic, anti-oppressive community should do.

For instance, years ago I had a friend and colleague who had just started her first ministry. She and I had worked closely together in some anti-oppression initiatives and so when we first connected, months into her work there I asked whether or not she had been looking to do any anti-racism work with them.

“Please,” she said. “First I need them to start liking one another.”

We laughed and I heard about how fractured and disconnected her community felt. Her first step there along with her leaders was to help the community connect and weave real relationships with one another.

Every community will have a different next step.

Finding the enthusiasm and openness helps. Finding positive and generative energy to build on helps.

In my most recent ministry, along with some wonderful leaders, we were discussing ways in which we could introduce some anti-racism work and activism in the congregation. Without prompting, one of my most respected and wise leaders asked if she could lead a class with her daughter, a book reflection and discussion book around racism. I joined her in the effort, and it was a wonderful class. And it was born of her passion and enthusiasm. It also happened to fit perfectly with a desired strategic priority.

Sometimes we who are blessed with the sacred task of leadership can be impatient. Sometimes we can try to force an initiative, a class, a strategy, we can push and push because we are convinced we know what is needed. But there is a next step, an organic, life giving, generative, appropriate next step. Sometimes we just might need help to see what it may be.

Seek out wise counsel. Find similar communities who have experienced successes. The work for liberation and love has been going on for a long time. Find ways in which your community has experienced similar successes and build on those.

The Beloved Community longs to be. Whatever context, whatever community you love, it longs to be healthy and thriving, liberated and free. And so the task of leadership is together to discern, in what ways might we set this community free. And then to go and do that.

On the Island

Gratitude – a Testimonial By Joyce Pickel

(edited for brevity)

Getting the official notification that Star would not be opening this year was not a surprise, but we were so sad when it arrived. I thought of all the preparations all the incoming conference chairs, registrars, and youth leaders had done, all the Star staff and incoming Pelican staff had planned for this summer, and I thought of all the disappointed conferees that had already registered. I am especially sad for my high school junior granddaughter Mandy, whose last summer as part of the youth program was not going to happen.
In this difficult, scary time, it would have been wonderful to be in the huge embrace that is Star for many of us, but this just isn’t feasible now. I keep reading that one technique for dealing with the anxiety is to make a gratitude list and so here some are the Star things I am grateful for:

  • As a 16 year old, I came to Star without my family and experienced a life changing week.
  • When I came to Star with my boyfriend a few years later, he fell in love with it too.
  • It is where we met our dearest, closest friends, who have become family to us, that same year.
  • Where in 1969 that same boyfriend proposed to me beside the chapel looking at the moon and its reflection on the water.
  • That my parents also started coming to Star and that it became their favorite place for the next 30+ years.
  • Returning as a conferee with my teenage children for their first time and experiencing all the traditions with them.
  • Introducing our first grandchild, the first of the 4th generation of our family of Shoalers to Star.
  • Becoming chairs for our conference in 1998, a rewarding and exciting honor.
  • Being Registrar for our conference for two years which not only expanded my circle of conferee friends but also introduced me to wonderful, dedicated, capable Star staff members I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.
  • Making wonderful friendships, making music, sharing meals, listening, learning.
  • Watching our grandchildren enjoy and thrive at Star.
  • And, perhaps, most importantly, participating in our chapel services, both lay and clergy led, some of the most meaningful services I have been privileged to be part of, as an attendee, a singer, and twice as one of the leaders.

As I look over my list what I realize is that what I have been so lucky to have experienced over the years is friendship, fun, spiritual uplifting, love, and joy.
I am sure that all Old Shoalers can create their own Star gratitude lists and I hope they will. How lucky we have been to have had this opportunity in our lives. This is what I will remember on these difficult days and especially when August rolls around. Star.
S – T – A – R

(Thank you to Bob Levine for the photograph.)

On the Island

A message from the leaders of the Young Adults Conference

About the Young Adults Conference (YAC)

In young adulthood, we may struggle through droughts of creativity, question our spiritual direction, and realign our core concepts of self-identity. Some of us pursue degrees, others careers, and still others pursue alternative paths, all of which afford us powerful and formative experiences. Young adulthood is a transition period of great opportunity: a time to share experience; learn from one another; create and destroy; debate and reflect; laugh and cry and be your true self. YAC explores this life in transition.

YAC challenges us to speak to each other and listen and participate without judgment. Deeply tied to Unitarian Universalist Association’s core principles, YAC is dedicated to the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people and the empowerment of young adults to affect real change in their lives and the world. YAC plays a unique role in the Star Island community by acting as a bridge between the Star Island youth groups, the Pelican community, and the family conferences.

YAC’s mission is to cultivate deep personal and spiritual relationships while providing an experience that is a unique combination of a summer camp, an experimental community and a spiritual retreat. YAC also offers respite at Star Island where one may enjoy a quiet sunset, be lulled by the ocean, or take part in one of our group activities. You can join the softball team, jam with fellow musicians, take a yoga class, or sing your heart out at karaoke night. You can also use the week to take time to yourself, relax with a good book, and catch up with old friends. YAC invites you to experience our community and Star Island and experience self-discovery and connection.

Shoaler Voices

Star Island Calling by Rev. Wendy Bartel

This piece is an excerpt from It Is Time Now: Offerings from the Beloved Community Project, an educational resource produced in 2019 as part of Star Island’s Beloved Community Project. The Star Island Beloved Community Project is a journey SIC has begun as an organization to create a more inclusive and intentional community, to help spread more empathy and understanding in the world, and to become a more welcoming place for all people. We recognize and affirm that many have been on this journey for a long time, and we are excited to listen and learn as we continue on this important journey.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident,”
Excuse me, who, is ‘we’?
and what do you mean when you say truths…and these…?

Ministry and majesty

condoning supremacy

throughout millennia, see,

in manifest destiny

and colonizing from the redwoods

to the gulf stream

whose land can this really be?

Unlearning centuries of practices of domination
invading and making ministrations
with lots of condemnation of those who otherwise
may make an oblation to the ancestors and the Earth
and the rhythm nation,
for generations and so-called civilizations.

g and f
n            a
i                   l
s                      l
i                          i
R                             n
.                                      g

so rarely calling us
to our better selves
even as we sought a better life.

Instead, a replication
of systems of subjugation
leading to the ruination of all.
As if we had to ration
all our sources rather than set a new course for the
distribution of soul force where they are actually needed.

Our norms are not normal if they leave some out.
If our aim is to normalize honesty and integrity,
sustainability and voluntary complexity,
island or mainland multiplicity,
covenants of accountability,
let’s make explicit our agreements
so we might all get free.
The delicacy of the taste of fresh joy on our lips
dripping with beloved community.

Speaking our heart’s deepest longings,
received by ears and hearts that
inspire a sense of belonging;
packing up our sorrows, not to hide them
rather to move with and through them
for we are not only our grief
or the hard things that happen to us.

Our habit may be to weaponize
long held habits that demonize
Perhaps this changing could be part of the resistance

the persistence
and insistence
for interdependence.

Practices and rituals building resilience.
Each of our gifts used to make a difference,
that we might just choose, once and for all,
to answer Love’s call,
offer a faithful hand when we fall,
especially if we’re in it for the long haul.

It is time now that we thrive.
Let us choose to pick up the best of our hearts.