Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Capital Campaign — invitation to participation extended to new guests and visitors, old friends moved away, former members

[This was emailed to the above group of folks on Tuesday.]

Dear Friends and Guests of UUSS,

In late September the Unitarian Universalist Society launched our first Capital Giving Campaign in a half century.  We’ve named it Building the Beloved Community.  The giving campaign in 1960 left its mark on our congregation.  It fostered the community we have become—a community of caring, questioning, generous, thoughtful people committed to living our principles of justice, love, respect, peace, and compassion.   Generations to come will be inspired, welcomed, and nurtured by the results of our current campaign and improvements.

We invite you to stop by to see what we have already done to support the recently adopted Master Plan for the buildings and grounds.   You may already have seen or heard about the new canopy-covered entry structure that draws you in to the gathering space and the Flaming Chalice sculpture by Taylor Gutermute that adorns our entry door.  The UURTHSONG community garden is in its 4th year and will be planted soon for winter.   Volunteers renovated the kitchen and the Theodore C. Abell Library.

Our child, youth and adult Religious Education programs have grown out of the space we have.  Our Main Hall sanctuary is in need of improvements and expansion.   The infrastructure that supports that sanctuary and the Religious Education buildings needs upgrading and repair.  In addition to a larger and brighter sanctuary, plans include more offices, Religious Education rooms, an outdoor amphitheater, and labyrinth for walking.  The architect’s renderings are beautiful and inspiring.  See the plans at this link.

Given your connection to UUSS, I invite you to consider making a financial contribution in support of this unique, liberal religious community that has been meaningful to you and many others.  You may download and print a Commitment Form at this link, or you may ask the Office to mail one to you.

Sunday, November 4, is First Gifts Sunday, when members, friends, and guests will make first gifts of varying sizes and make commitments to the capital campaign for the next two calendar years.  (If you are in town, we’d love to see you.  Remember to “fall back” an hour as Daylight Saving Time ends.)

The campaign will conclude on Celebration Sunday, November 18.

We want to sustain the best UUSS has to offer to you and to others—including both those who are like you and those distinct from you.  Join us in this venture to make UUSS the welcoming and inspiring space we envision as together we build the beloved community.   Thank you for your consideration!

In the spirit,




Chair, Capital Campaign Leadership Team


P. S.  — If you are a friend who has been away for a while, here is an update:  in addition to our settled Senior Minister, Doug Kraft, we have called and installed an Associate Minister, Roger Jones, who brings to UUSS a different approach and with Doug, guides us in our own personal spiritual journeys in a way that is rich, challenging and fulfilling.   We have an energetic, talented and dedicated church staff.

Check out the Unigram past and present at this link to see where we’ve come from, and where we’re going.  If you are a newer friend or one who is in the area, we hope you have read and responded to the invitation for this Friday’s all-church celebration dinner, at The Center at 2300 Sierra Blvd.


Voices of the Beloved Community, #5 — UUSS worship service 10/29/12

We had a beautiful ensemble of members’ voices last Sunday, talking about how this religious community has touched their lives. This one is by a member in his early 60s who works in the environmental field and leads Buddhist meditation courses.  There are six entries here in total, including the opening words for the Chalice Lighting.

I did not come to UUSS by accident. When my wife and I arrived in Sacramento in 1988, we based our search for a place to live on three factors: work, the American River, and a Unitarian Universalist community.

We first became UUs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis in 1979. We deepened our involvement at the West Hills Fellowship of Portland, OR in the early 1980’s. When we returned to California in 1982, it was to a rural town on the North Coast with no UU presence. After 3 years without a church, we moved to a larger town in the San Joaquin Valley as committed UUs in search of a religious community. As soon as we arrived, we looked up Unitarian Universalist in the phone book. I called the number. “Where do you meet? Do you have services this Sunday? What programs do you have for children?”  “We meet in a member’s home, but we’re not meeting this week – it’s Super Bowl Sunday.” With two daughters 3 and 6 years old, we decided maybe that was not the congregation for us. So from 1985 to 1988, we drove an hour each way to the UU Church of Fresno to sing in the choir and attend services.  Our girls attended religious education. The community was caring, intelligent, and deeply engaged in the affairs of the day.

So, as soon as we arrived here, we settled near the River and near UUSS. Over the years since then, our places of work have changed, but the River and UUSS have remained. They have literally “been there for us.” The River is a place to walk in nature, to allow the oaks and salmon and egrets to bear witness to whatever sorrow or frustration or joy we bring to that moment.

UUSS offers a different kind of engagement. I love that there are people here who are happy when I am sad. I love that there are people here who share their grief and fear with me when I am feeling grounded.

When we joined, I loved that there were people who were old when I was young. I was in a men’s group and a Latino awareness group called LUUNA with Frank “Paco” Winans.  Frank started offering our Day of the Dead services in 1999 and asked me to take over for him the following year. My wife and I were privileged to visit with him as he was dying in August 2005, to sing hymns to him, and to whisper in his ear as we left “Vaya con Dios, Paco.”

Now that I am old, I love that there are people here who are even older, and there are people who are much younger. I have facilitated the junior high youth group, served as a mentor in the Coming of Age program, and gotten to know children on our Annual Family Camp and through our Valentine’s Day intergenerational activity called “Special Friends.”

UUSS has also been there for our family. When our older daughter began exploring her sexuality as a teenager, she had people at UUSS to turn to with life experiences different than ours. The OWL program gave her a safe environment to learn about sexuality in a group of peers led by adults with a commitment to our youth and supported by a solid curriculum developed by our denomination. When she chose to research the HIV/AIDS crisis for a school paper, she found Steve. Steve was the director of The Lambda Center and he shared his own knowledge as well as the Center library to help her research. Steve moved on to become active in the San Francisco UU Church; The Lambda Center moved on to become the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center; and our daughter earned a Masters Degree in Human Sexuality from San Francisco State University. In one of her first classes, the professor asked if anyone in the class had had any positive reinforcement of their sexual identity from a religious community. Rachel was the only one to raise her hand. When she was asked about her own “coming out” for another paper, she wrote that it was no big deal – she felt in our family and in this community that she never had to “come out” in any dramatic way. She continues her involvement with the UU movement and spent the last year in the first program for young adult activists sponsored by the UU Legislative Ministry of California – as a Fellow in the Spiritual Activist Leadership Training program.  She graduated at the UUA General Assembly in Phoenix in June.

UUSS has been there for my family and for me. That’s why I plan to be there for UUSS over the long haul.

Voices of the Beloved Community, #2 — UUSS worship service 10/29/12

#2:  We had a beautiful ensemble of members’ voices last Sunday, talking about how this religious community has touched their lives. This one is by  a retired state employee in her 60s, a divorced grandmother whose grown children live out of the area. 

Good morning.

During my college years, I left the church of my youth, Roman Catholicism, when it became clear to me that I could no live within it tenants.  Although I sometimes attended services at various churches, I did not feel connected to any particular church and did not identify with any religion for years.  My religion, if one stretches the definition, was social action—against the Viet Name war, and for fair housing, civil rights, and equality for women.

I came to Unitarian Universalism as so many other do after my children were born and growing to school age.  We felt the need to provide them with some church background and structure.  Truth be told – I knew I was missing something, too, but couldn’t articulate what I lacked.

As my husband and I were discussing our search for a church with a friend, he suggested that we might like the church he was attending.  He lived in Colorado Springs and we lived in Boulder – miles apart – but he was sure there was a UU church close to us.  As he told us more, we were intrigued.

It wasn’t long before we attended services at the First UU Church of Boulder and quickly jumped with both feet to be fully involved.  I remember feeling, “Ah, I’m really home.”  The kids liked it, too. There were Sundays that the only reason we went to church was that Kir, then 6 years old, had to go to RE.  He loved his teachers and the Haunting House curriculum.  I’ll never forget the day, Erika, then about 11, came home from visiting another church as part of the Church Across the Street program.  She said, “Mom, do you know that at that church, they….”

It was great.  I could have told her that, but to have her find it out and then share it with me was magic.

When we told our parents about our decision to go to a UU church, my mother-in-law’s response was not helpful.  My mother, the Roman Catholic, understood completely.  She said, “I’m so glad you’ve found a comfortable church community.”

And that’s why I’ve stayed.  I found a wonderful community.  When I moved to Sacramento 25 years ago, I attended UUSS on the first Sunday I was in town and have been here every since.

I’ve been challenged to learn and try new things.  I’ve been cared for and supported during times of trouble and hurt.  I’ve laughed and cried.  I’ve danced and I’ve sat (as in mediation).  I’ve taught and have learned.  I’ve taken social action, too. Now it’s more focused on voters’ rights, education and health care.  Not so much different that in my youth.   Being part of the UUSS community helps me be more like the person I want to be.

I am part of a wonderful group of caring, thoughtful, accepting, loving people.  I’m thankful beyond measure to be part of the UUSS community and am so glad you are here, too.

Blessed Be and Amen.

Voices of the Beloved Community, opening words — UUSS worship service 10/29/12

We had a beautiful ensemble of members’ voices last Sunday, talking about how this religious community has touched their lives. This one is the personal reflection given before the lighting of the Flaming Chalice.  It was given by a 60-year-old man who is a city government administrative worker.

Twelve years ago I would never have thought of acting in a play.  I would never have thought of standing in front of a congregation telling a story about my life.  I would never have thought of singing in a choir.
UUSS has given me the chance to do those things and more.  UUSS has given me the chance to find my “voice.”
We find our voices through the support of others.  In those twelve years I’ve learned that this community is supportive when one succeeds or stumbles.
Later in the service, we will hear from five fellow members sharing their unique experiences of UUSS.
I light the chalice for finding our voice in the community.

Voices of the Beloved Community, #4 — UUSS worship service 10/29/12

We had a beautiful ensemble of members’ voices last Sunday, talking about how this religious community has touched their lives. This one is by a woman who is 20 and who grew up here with her older brother and parents.  She volunteers at the UU Legislative Ministry offices in Sacramento.

Good morning.  I have been going to UUSS for 15 years now. I was born in San Luis Obispo in 1992 to Janet ___ and John ____. I first started attending a Unitarian Universalist church in Coronado when I was 2. I don’t remember much from my time there, a few Sunday classes and maybe meeting the minister. We moved to Sacramento when I was 4 and we started going here when I was 5. I started in the Kindergarten class where I met my two best friends Shannon and Hillary. We have remained good friends to this day.

I went to Sunday School, Junior High Youth Group, and am currently still with the Senior High Youth Group. I did all 3 sessions of OWL and went through Coming of Age.  Connie [minister for education] was still here when I went through coming of age, and we were the very first group to go on a pilgrimage to Boston and the UUA headquarters. I’ll never forget that experience, we took part in a protest about Marriage Equality [for same-sex couples] in Massachusetts. We were in the middle of the protest trying to find the subway entrance and we had to cross the street where the anti- gay marriage protesters were. I was so shocked by the things that they were saying it made me appreciate being raised UU. I never thought much on my being raised UU until then and how unusual that is.  I realized that many people come to Unitarian Universalism later in their lives. Both of my parents were raised Catholic, and they didn’t find Unitarian Universalism until they had us.  My Dad likes to say “I’m a recovering Catholic.”

UUSS has always been a part of my life; I’ve played, laughed, and cried here. I’ve served twice as the youth member on the Board of Trustees, and served on the All Ages Task Force. All this I have accomplished because of you, you being here is what’s made me the person I’ve become today.

You have taught me compassion, integrity, and acceptance. It was you who made me grow not only spiritually, but also intellectually. It is because of you that I can speak in front of an audience of many without even batting an eye. It is because of you that I found my voice, my inner fire that burns within all of us, that spark which we all feel. I want all the youth to know that these people, these wonderful people, are going to be here for them just like they were here for me. Because we are a community that plays, laughs, and cries. We care, and I am glad to be a part of that “we.”

Voices of the Beloved Community, #1 — Worship service 10/28/12

We had a beautiful ensemble of members’ voices last Sunday, talking about how this religious community has touched their lives. This one is by  a dad and horticulturist in his mid-30s.

I can’t believe it; it’s only been 3 years since I walked through those main hall doors for the first time, but it feels as though I’ve never been anywhere else.  I came through those doors with my head and heart agreed on the spiritual path on which I traveled.  The primary reason for braving the inside of a church was that this place, these people, this religious sect offered a home and a community to this religious derelict, who has never quite fit in.

I think many of us had reservations about walking through those main hall doors for the first time.  Myself, I was terrified of any sort of organized religion, but the Unitarian Universalists expressed acceptance of all.  Not only were my polytheistic, earth-based, pagan beliefs accepted, but I could talk about them, be understood, and not be scorned.  There was even an active group called CUUPS, the Covenant of UU Pagans.  Here I found others that were like minded and held beliefs similar to mine.

The family that raised me does not even know of what I believe, much less tolerate my spiritual viewpoint.  When I walked through those doors my mind was made up.  I knew what I knew, believed what I believed and that was that.  But if I could be a part of a community that understood and accepted me, then that was great.

But very soon I began to sense a change, an internal mind-shift regarding my stubborn, steadfast, unalterable beliefs.  I began to realize that I did not know it all.  I began to see that what I did know to be true was only one piece of the very complex puzzle that we call the mysteries of this life.

I began to open, to soften, to allow the spirituality of others to broaden my view and open my heart.

When I first began to sing our UU hymns during service, I would purposely skip over the word “God” or simply just replace it with “goddess.”  I remember one of our fantastic ministers saying that singing the word god, during a hymn, might not be for our benefit at all or even help to serve us personally.  But the person standing in front of me, behind me, or right next to me might need me to sing it, so they could benefit, and it might serve them.  I began to understand that using the word god, not necessarily the name, held similar connotations as using the word church.  These words give us a place to start from, and common ground to stand on.

I discovered something new, a huge part of my spirituality was fulfilled when I was helping someone else find what they might need, standing beside me as they travel down their own spiritual path, offering a warm smile or a great hug as they entered this hexagon [our main hall].

I was hooked.  I couldn’t get enough.  I dove in feet first, and right up to my neck in committees, groups and organizations that needed a body or a smile or just a little help.

One thing I know is that everyone needs to be loved, for themselves, for who they are–whether it is from a partner, a parent, a child, or from the outpouring of a congregation as great as this one.   We all need love and I have never been among a group of people who give so freely.

I have had the pleasure of working with many of you here.  Washing dishes, putting away tables and chairs, making copious amounts of polenta, flipping pancakes, helping you get connected with groups that share your interests, honing our spoken reflections, guiding your children, rehearsing lines for our stage, grieving, loving, laughing, and learning and working toward the implementation of this wonderful architectural Master Plan.

This beloved community is one that I will always treasure.  Thank you.

Immortality– by the Rev. Jack Mendelsohn (1918-2012)

The bold activist, author and minister Jack Mendelsohn died Oct. 11 at the age of 94.

Many UUs know him from the book Being Liberal in an Illiberal Age: Why I Am a Unitarian Universalist.  About immortality, he says:

When we reason together about the truths and mysteries of life, there is
one all-powerful reality: The humanity of which we are individual
expressions is a product of the sense and nonsense of our forebears.

We are the living immortality of those who came before us. In like manner, those
who come after us will be the harvest of the wisdom and folly we ourselves
are sowing. To let this reality permeate and drench our consciousness is to
introduce ourselves to the grand conception of immortality which makes
yearnings for some form of personal afterlife seem less consequential. So
long as there is an ongoing stream of humanity I have life.

This is my certain immortality. I am a renewed and renewing link in the chain of
humanity. My memory and particularity are personal, transitory, finite; my
substance is boundless and infinite.

The immortality in which I believe
affirms first and foremost my unity with humankind. My unity with humankind
gives meaning to my desire to practice reverence for life.

It is pride in
being and pride in belonging to all being.