Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


My congregation and Tuesday’s Big Day of Giving!

Although religious organizations like UUSS do not participate in the Big Day of Giving on Tuesday, May 5 in the Sacramento region, you can be sure that many individual UUs from our community are participating as donors!

A wide range of local not-for-profit organizations seek special donations on this one special day:  performing arts, education, environmental, domestic violence, food and shelter, community service and children’s organizations and a few other categories.

Personally I serve on the local YMCA advisory board, and I know how important the Y is to kids, families, and seniors, especially those of low incomes.  I attend many concerts and plays in this area. They enrich our community and my own life.  I know many hardworking human service professionals and volunteers who serve important local organizations.  I admire what they do.  All these organizations make this region a great place to live.

Last year our shared Big Day generosity generated $3 million in special gifts!  This year the goal is $5 million.  It matters that we give on this day, as each organization stands to gain special matching funds and prize money (for having the largest number of givers, for example).

This Tuesday is “24 Hours to Give Where Your Heart Is!”

Add a comment below stating two or three of the local organizations close to your heart that are part of the Big Day of Giving lineup.  Learn more at https://bigdayofgiving.org/

Yours with thanks,

Rev. Roger

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A SHARED MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT & SENIOR MINISTER: The Annual Pledge Drive Kickoff!

FEBRUARY 3, 2015

Dear Members and Friends,

UUSS IS AT ONE OF THE SHINING MOMENTS OF ITS HISTORY RIGHT NOW.

• We’ve added 50 new members since May. Worship is deep, joyful and lively. Our Greeters welcome new visitors every Sunday—even at our temporary home.

• Our dynamic duo of ministers has yielded new surprises in our worship and programs. We can build on this progress by fully funding Rev. Lucy’s position at UUSS.

• Our music program is blossoming now, with a growing choir and amazing duets and soloists. Next year, we strive to fund a Choir Director position once again.

• The new Spiritual Deepening Circles have 100 participants. Adult Enrichment has brought more than 125 people together. Theater One has staged a great variety of plays—more now than last year, when we had a full stage and auditorium!

Religious Education volunteers and staff give generously of their talents and love to our children and youth. We seek to support UUSS families even better.

• Our talented staff works together with high spirits to support the congregation in pursuit of our UUSS mission: we come together to deepen our lives and be a force for healing in the world.

• Our Earth Justice Ministry, Kids Freedom Club, and other social-action groups have brought people together to learn, organize, serve and give of themselves.

Our pledges of monetary support make it all possible. Starting Sunday, February 8, members and friends will make pledges to the operating fund for the 2015-16 year.

Funding our UUSS goals for success in the new budget year calls for an average pledge increase of 10%. We know that hardship has affected some of our households, so we also appreciate that many others will stretch in order to make an increase larger than 10%.

In shared commitment, both of us will increase our household pledges to UUSS.
Your pledge is your decision. Pledges of all sizes are valued and appreciated.

What we ask is your generosity.

Generous giving makes possible so much within and beyond our congregation. Thank you.

We can keep this congregation shining in the coming year. Let it shine!

Yours in service,

Roger Jones, Senior Minister, and Linda Clear, Board President

PS—Please read the Pledge Form for 2015-16. Fill out your Pledge Form and bring it to the next Sunday service or mail it to the office at 2425 Sierra Blvd., Sacramento 95825.  Your monthly pledge of support will keep UUSS thriving… from month to month, from year to year, and from generation to generation. Thank you!



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, #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.



A Kid’s Eyewitness View: What Happens in Religious Education?

 

By a Spirit Play Member

I am 9 years old and I have been attending Religious Education, or RE, for two years. I’m writing this to let you know what goes on every Sunday in RE.

When it’s time to light the chalice in the main hall, we know it’s time to go to RE. I’ve memorized our Mission, Values, and Covenant, so I am comfortable saying them in front of the congregation. As they sing us out to the “Go Now In Peace” song, the aisle where all of the kids are exiting is very crowded. As they walk the kids in a line to the RE classroom, all of the kids catch up on each other’s news.

The Doorkeeper shakes our hands and asks if we are ready for Spirit Play. After we come in, the kids form a circle with everyone sitting next to their friends. When we do “Joys and Sorrows,” everyone says what they are happy or sad about.

The storyteller then tells a story based on the “Rainbow Principles.”  When it’s time to do activities, everyone gets really quiet so they can get picked first. The things that there are to choose from are blocks, drawing, dress-up, Play-Doh and other fun activities.

Everyone is in a rush to get first in line when RE is over and their parents have arrived to pick them up.

Some of the kids are happy to see their parents, and some don’t want to leave.

 



Joys and Terrors of the Religious Education Volunteer Ministry

A Sermon Dedicated to Janet Lopes, Retiring Religious Education Assistant

Unitarian Universalist Society. Sacramento, CA, Sunday, March 14, 2010                                                                        

Hymns:  #324, Where My Free Spirit Onward Leads; #16, ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple; #299, Make Channels for the Streams of Love.

Reading:  “It Matters What We Believe” by Sophia Lyon Fahs (#657, Singing the Living Tradition)

Today’s responsive reading is based on the words of Sophie Fahs, the minister after whom our Fahs Classroom is named. 

In 1937 the American Unitarian Association hired her to edit the children’s materials in a new series of religious education curricula.  Her books include Tomorrow’s Children and Yesterday’s Heritage; Jesus, the Carpenter’s Son; Beginnings of Life and Death; The Old Story of Salvation, and The Church across the Street.  She taught at Union Theological Seminary.  She was ordained a UU minister in 1948, at age 83. 

            

Sermon

            If you haven’t visited our Community Garden (out at the end of the parking lot), I invite you to do so–today or any day.  Last Sunday morning in Religious Education we had a Garden Day, thanks to the organizing efforts of several volunteers.  Children and youth decorated bird houses made out of hollowed-out gourds, which were then mounted on the wooden fence.  They made signs to stick in the raised garden plots or take home for their own use.  Then they explored.    

Children, youth and adults wandered around our enormous garden, investigating, collecting, chatting, wondering, delighting.  A few kids wanted to show me the many ladybugs crawling on a pile of composting weeds–and crawling over their arms and hands.  Others harvested shiny green snap-peas and greenish-yellow broccoli flowers.  One showed me green onions and the skinniest little carrots, with fresh brown dirt clinging to them.  The carrots were a far cry from those uniformly cut mini-carrots  you find in a plastic bag in the supermarket, the ones that look like big orange capsules.  On the last Sunday in April, we will invite youth and children again to the garden–to do a lot more hands-on work, and by then the harvest will have more variety. 

Wandering in the garden gave me a chance to chat with adult volunteers as well as kids—much less rushed than I usually am on Sunday.  It seemed that once you entered the garden, the boundaries between being a teacher and student, between leader and learner, became fuzzy.   People of all ages were giving one another a helping hand.  We showed one another new discoveries.  We learned again about feeling excitement about ordinary things, like plants and bugs.     

Some of you might think this sermon is a plea for volunteers in our religious education program for the summer or next fall.  Not really.  I do hope that you can appreciate the ministry that we do with youth and children, and the ministry they do with us.  Even if you never spend more than a few minutes interacting with a child, your support of our religious education ministry makes possible so much inspiration and insight, so many transforming moments.  Well, to be truthful, I hope you can’t resist stopping by the Religious Education table outside to ask how you can be part of the fun. 

             Often when we say the words “education,” what goes off in the mind is an image of teacher and pupil, of children in rows hearing facts and not saying much in return.  Or maybe it’s an image of kids not staying in rows and not hearing a thing, all talking at the same time, a great chorus of chaos and noise.   Maybe when you hear the words “Sunday school” you think about learning rules, doctrines, dates, famous names, and other forgettable facts.  That’s not really the way it is, and not how it should be, if we are true to our liberal faith tradition.

The late Harold Howe was a professor of teacher education at Harvard and a Commissioner of Education in the federal government.  He was also a UU.  After a church service, he gave this note to his minister: “Here’s a definition of a Unitarian Universalist: a person who can ask children, ‘What is God?’ and listen seriously to their replies.

“P.S.: I once went to Sunday school for about 7 years, but no one asked me ‘What is God?’ Instead, they told me.”

Our tradition affirms the value of hearing what stirs the spirit of every person, at every age and stage of life.  When we ask another:  “What do you think?  What do you feel?” we open ourselves to be changed.  This interchange is the heart of religious education.   

            I asked a few volunters in our own Religious Education program for their reflections.  One writes:  “Given my own Sunday School experiences of expecting to be proper and very quiet, I am constantly amazed that UU kids are … polite, not afraid of adults, confident that their opinions matter and won’t be laughed at, and [that they are ] able to ‘pass’and not say anything as an option.  UU religious education is such a good foundation for children.” 

The Reverend Til Evans is retired from a career as a director and minister of religious education and as a professor of seminarians at Starr King School for the Ministry.  Now in her late 80s, Til says that whoever we are, when we give time and attention to children in our congregations, we are educating them religiously.  It’s not about giving them facts and concepts, she says.  By our actions and by our presence, we’re teaching about relationships, community and love. We’re teaching children and teenagers about their own dignity and worth, and about the value of their own ideas and sources of inspiration.  She adds that when we religiously educate others, we are religiously educating ourselves. We are engaged in the work of transformation, not forthose we teach, but with them. We are all changed by what we do together. 

Several years ago, in my former congregation  I interviewed some Religious Education volunteers.  I asked, “How has doing this work changed you?  What have you gained?”  One volunteer said: “Doing this teaches humility! The more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know.” Another said that helping with kids, even on an occasional basis, teaches patience and self-confidence.  One teacher said she became more flexible and observant: “I listen better now.” Another said he was learning to use his intuition, especially when a dry lesson called for some spicing up.  A fairly new member of the church said working in religious education has “Made me more accountable to working thorough my own journey in becoming a Unitarian. These kids are so sharp. They want to know how this material relates to their lives. Teaching has made me do my own reading and walk my own path.”

A religious education volunteer here at this church says this:  “I … know from watching my own kids that having adults other than your folks take an interest in you is so important.  It gives the kids another perspective and an opportunity to see themselves in others’ eyes.  (School) teachers are helpful, but at church we can serve in a personal way for the kids. I also believe it’s important to give parents a break and allow them to be in roles other than mom and dad all the time.  I remember as a mother of small children, I really needed adult contact, interaction and accomplishments.  I’m pleased that I can give back to my church community by being with the kids.”

Often when we talk about volunteer work, teaching, or other kinds of service, it can have a sense of duty about it.  We want to think well of ourselves, so we might think we should be of service, should help out.  How about if we approach our altruism… selfishly!  How about asking: What’s in it for you? What are you getting out of this experience?  How is it changing you?    

You could ask these questions to anyone, about any of their chosen activities, in or out of the congregation.  How has joining this venture changed you?  What do you gain from giving?

Our growing group of Religious Education volunteers here ranges in age from 18 to 80, and older.  They must be getting something out of it. 

One of our newer volunteers writes this: “The RE kids always enrich me with their honesty, openness, confidence, and humor (even if they don’t mean to be funny).  I go away feeling like the future will be okay.”   

            I myself never wanted to work in Religious Education.  When I was asked to teach Sunday school for the first time,  I was 26 years old.  It was a year or two after I had joined my first UU congregation, in Springfield, Illinois.  I didn’t want to work with kids; I had barely spoken to them.   Why would I want to give up hearing the speaker every Sunday or give up mingling with adults?  To be honest, I was afraid. But somehow, I said yes. 

It was a small class of early elementary-school aged kids.  My co-teacher was a guy named Steve, older than I was, and the father of two children, one of whom was in our class. I forget the topic of our curriculum, but one Sunday we learned about Harriet Tubman, the black slave in the American South who escaped from slavery and then risked her life by going back to help many other slaves to escape.  For this we made a house out of a cardboard box and crawled in and out of it on the floor.   

One day I led a discussion that included pussy willow branches. The thin branch of a pussy willow tree has buds covered in a furry skin—hence the name. The size of a vitamin capsule, the buds are fun to hold and feel. As I sat there talking to the kids, a girl named [Annie] said: “Roger?” “Yes?” I said. “[Jenny] has been playing with a pussy willow bud that she took off the branch. And she put it up her nose and now she can’t get it out.” Sure enough, tears were rolling down Jenny’s little face.  She was poking in her nose, pushing the bud up farther as her panic increased.  Those were the days before churches had two adults in the classroom all the time, so I was there alone.  To the other girl, I said, “Would you please go upstairs to the service and get Kathleen?” She did. Kathleen was not the girl’s mother, but a woman I knew who had seemed to be a take-charge kind of person. Either I didn’t know who the girl’s mother was, or I was afraid of getting into trouble. Kathleen came downstairs and held the girl in her arms. She spoke easily to calm her down. She coaxed her to blow gently till the alien object came out. Crisis over.  Jenny must be over 30 now. I don’t know if she has remembered that traumatic experience, but I know I’ll never forget it. 

Last year I spoke to a group of seminarians at Starr King School.  One of them was Annie, the helpful girl from that class.  She’s going to become a minister!  

That same year that I began teaching Sunday school, my aging mother’s  health declined fast.  One Thursday evening, a few days after Mom had been hospitalized, I received a call that I should come home right away. It was a four-hour drive to Indianapolis, and I wouldn’t get there till after midnight.  I was scheduled to teach the coming Sunday.  While packing to leave I called my co-teacher to tell him. I offered to drop off the lesson plan and supplies on my way out of town.         Steve was more than willing to cover for me on Sunday, and happy to come to my apartment to pick up the materials.

 We had a brief exchange at my door, and he wished me well. He didn’t say much, and all we did was to shake hands. But it made a difference to have some friendly human contact before setting out on that late-night journey to the hospital.  Had I not been in a teaching relationship with Steve, I wouldn’t have had his kind words to take with me on that long and lonely drive.

I did receive more than I gave in that volunteer job. We cannot predict how we will be changed, enriched or blessed by the experience when we decide to participate.

How might being involved in this congregation change you?  Or has it already?  I believe that any kind of activity can be a source of insight and growth, if we only take the time to reflect on why we’re doing it, what we’re experiencing, what it makes us feel, how it stretches us, how it affects our outlook.  What are we getting out of it?

What is your participation giving back to you?  This is not a cost-benefit analayis.  It’s a question for spiritual reflection.  Giving and receiving, speaking and listening, lending a hand or reaching out for one, we are changed by what we do together.  We are changed by making this congregation our home. 

Another one of our religious education volunteers writes this:  “Working with the kids feeds my soul.  It’s so wonderful to see them learn and develop.  I learn so much from them and gain insights about myself.  I’ve also been blessed with great teaching colleagues and have learned from them as well…. I truly believe that helping children grow into fully functioning adults is the most important thing I can do.  Thanks for letting me do that.”

As Professor Til Evans says, when we work with youth and children in our churches, we are educating religiously—educating ourselves no less than them.

            In my early 30s I was a member of the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago.   After many years doing other kinds of church work, I started helping out  with our teenage youth group.  It had meetings on Sunday mornings as well as service activities in the church and local community, field trips, and weekend parties.  My role was to show up, be present, and sometimes be a chauffer.

I rarely got any evidence that my presence made a difference or that I might be a valued source of advice.  Little did I know that many parents have the same experience with their own teenagers.  That church’s Minister of Religious Education told me not to worry—many teenagers don’t like to show what they are thinking, especially if they appreciate something you’ve done for them.  This advice has given me the courage to reach out and greet the youth of any congregation, including this one. Even if the expressions on their faces look as if they would prefer to do anything else in the world than talk to me, I force myself to ask them what’s going on.

One year I was a  chaperone for some of our Chicago teens at the General Assembly

of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  After our return, I helped them to put on

a service about their experiences.  Both were funny and full of passion. Willy,

a classical pianist, played music in that service. In his remarks he said he had been inspired by the social action discussions at General Assembly, including a vote in favor of same-gender marriage equality. This was 1996, and he was only 14.  Ten years later I was a minister in California.  I flew back to Chicago for a national conference of religiously-based advocates for low-wage workers, especially for the right to organize a union. It was interfaith, with Jews, Catholics, Protestants, UUs and Muslims participating. And it was inter-generational. Many of those faith-based activists were in their 20s and 30s. They were sharp, optimistic, and passionate. They spoke well, sang well, and could articulate practical strategies and long-term goals. 

One of these activists was Willy, the kid from my former church. Now a college graduate, he recognized me before I figured out who he was. By this time he was no longer Willy, but Will.  Tall, with a mop of reddish brown hair, he was cheerful and energetic, speaking to people of all ages with confidence and conviction. After graduating from an Ivy League university, Will had volunteered for an election campaign in Ohio—his side lost.  Then he moved back in with his parents in Chicago. He told me that in college he had he let his piano practicing slide so he could do a little studying and a lot of activism. Now he was looking for a job as a labor organizer. His mind was set on being an overworked, underpaid activist on behalf of low-wage working families.

Now, I can’t be sure that Will would be any less visionary, self-confident, hopeful and

happy if he had not gone through years of Unitarian Universalist religious education activities

with not-so-confident volunteers like me. I cannot be sure of that. But I am sure that I wouldn’t have come to know him if I hadn’t been one of those volunteers. If I had not stretched myself to do what I felt awkward about–to do what I thought wasn’t sure was making a  difference– I wouldn’t have been able to witness the development of inspiring young Unitarian Universalists.  

In the words of another volunteer:  working in religious education “makes me “optimistic about life in general.  It gives me hope for humanity.”

Last Sunday in the garden, I chatted with a few kids who have recently begun visiting the church.   One recent young visitor had been dragged here—I know that’s true because his grandfather told me he had dragged him here personally.  This young man showed me a handful of green peas he had collected in a Ziplock bag.  He said to me, “You know, this church is 100 times better than I thought it was going to be!  You have a garden… and all these other things to do!” 

“I’m glad to hear that!” I responded, and told him about the program that we would have waiting for him on the following Sunday.    

My hope is that before long he won’t say “You have a garden and all these other things to do”—he will say, “We have a garden and all these other things to do.”  If we convey only one thing to youth and children here, let it be that this community is theirs.  In this congregation, we belong to one another.   May we teach this lesson to them, learn it from them, learn it from one another. 

Giving and receiving, speaking and listening, lending a hand or reaching out for one, we are changed by what we do together.  We are changed by making this congregation our home. 

So may it be. Amen.