Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


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!

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Roots and Wings: Annual Ingathering and Water Communion

Ingathering Sunday, August 25, 2013

Prelude                                             Prelude from Suite Bergamasque

-Claude Debussy

Nicholas Dold, Guest Pianist

Invocation                                                              Rev. Lucy Bunch

We come together this morning to remind one another
                    To rest for a moment on the forming edge of our lives,
To resist the headlong tumble into the next moment,
        Until we claim for ourselves awareness and gratitude,
Taking the time to look into one another’s faces
        and see there communion: the reflection of our own eyes. This house of laughter and silence, memory and hope,
        is hallowed by our presence together.

-Kathleen McTigue

*Hymn #347                                                             Gather the Spirit

-Jim Scott

Welcome & Announcements                                Rev. Roger Jones

            Welcome to UUSS.  I am Roger Jones, happy to serve here as the acting senior minister.

Whoever you are, and however you arrived here, and whatever you may be seeking, please know that you are welcome here.  This congregation strives to be inclusive regarding the diversity of religious and spiritual beliefs and practices reflected among us, as well as of gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background, economic situation, and political opinion.  We strive to see diversity as a source of strength and richness.

With me today making the service possible:  Rev. Lucy, Religious Services Committee members Deirdre   and Diane  , and Erik  , our Sound Manager Ian , our new Board President, Linda .

Our two music staff members are not here today, so I am happy to introduce you to our guest pianist and a brand new Californian, Nicholas Dold. Read about him in Thursday’s Ministerial Message email or in the order of service.

We also give thanks to the ushers, greeters, coffee and tea servers– today and every Sunday.  We offer special thanks today to the salad makers for the lunch of salad, bread and dessert that will follow the service.  Thanks to Glory  and Keith for planning and putting this on, along with her volunteer team.  [Other groups will be invited to sign up to put on a Salad Sunday.]

This lunch is a mini-fundraiser for the church, with a sliding scale of donations ranging from 4 dollars per person to 4,000 dollars per person.  Trust me, this lunch will be worth it!

Three important conversations after the service, for your salad-munching consideration.  Please see the Blue Sheet.

Coming of Age orientation for youth interested in this special program for making friends across the generations, developing UU identity and building your own set of beliefs and articulating them.

There is an American Friends Service Committee presentation on the 49-day hunger strike in California prisons by prisoners protesting the widespread use of solitary confinement in our State.

Our Implementing the Master Plan team offers you a Master Plan Update – here in the Sanctuary.  First part of our master plan is our outdoor Labyrinth.  Diane Kelly-Abrams invites you to come Saturday morning till 2 PM on September 7 to help lay the bricks and finish the Labyrinth.

In two weeks, on September 8, we move back to a schedule of two Sunday services.  Religious Education for youth and children will take place during the 9:30 service.

Today’s service is our Ingathering Service, when we kick off a new church year in our congregation.  This is our welcome service.

If you have been away the past few months, welcome back.  If you have been taking the summer off from church…I hereby forgive you.  Almost completely.  And I say, welcome back.

If you are just now visiting us for the first time, checking us out, looking for a spiritual home, we extend a welcome to you.  Every person sitting here has been in the same situation as a first time visitor, and we have hung around and kept coming back.  We invite you to fill out a Newcomer Form at the Welcome Table in the back after the service, and to make a nametag for yourself after the service.  We invite you to please stay afterwards so we can get to know you.

Greeting with the Hand of Fellowship

Now please we ask you to put your cell phones on their most reverent setting for the rest of the worship service.  It would be nice to have an awesome review on Yelp about our congregation or a happy Tweet about the service, but please wait until afterwards.

Now I’d like to invite you to reflect on the freedom and power that each one of you has.  No matter whether you are a brand new seeker here or a long time church member, young or old, rich or poor or somewhere in the middle, you have the power to give an amazing and welcome gift to a few other people. And that is the simple gift of the words, “Good Morning!  Welcome!”  You could make it better if you introduced yourself by name.  Let’s try that now.  Please rise as you are able and reach out and greet a few other people.

*Hymn (words on insert)                       Spirit of Life/Fuente de Amor

-Carolyn McDade; Spanish trans. Ervin Barrios

Our Mission, Values and Covenant

We come together to deepen our lives
and be a force for healing in the world.

We value the goodness in everyone,
the openness and curiosity that illuminate that goodness
and the love and courage that sustain us.

We, an intergenerational community, travel together

with open minds, open hearts, and helping hands.

We value justice, compassion, integrity and acceptance.

We seek spiritual growth, intellectual stimulation,

caring and laughter.

To these ends we pledge our time, talents and support.

Commissioning of Rev. Lucy, Assistant Minister

See separate attachment

Prayer and Meditation                                                     Erik B.

Gift of Music                                  “Ondine” from Preludes, Book II

-Claude Debussy

 

Sermonette:  Roots and Wings

         

            Our song “Spirit of Life” sings: Roots hold me close; wings set me free.   That’s what I’d like us to think about for a few moments.  Roots and wings.

The writer Brian Nelson says:

People think of the roots of their lives as fixed, while their lives keep growing toward the sun.  But roots keep growing, too, in unexpected ways and directions….  Your story changes as you grow and learn new truths about yourself.  Even as your wings set you free, make sure that you keep track of the … ways in which [you are] grounded.

One of the reasons we seek out religious communities, I think, is to put down roots and spread our wings.  We practice new expressions of ourselves.  We find opportunities to learn, reflect, put our gifts to use, and stretch ourselves.  When we first get involved, we may not know what to expect, but if we stay engaged with anything for a time, opportunities for growth appear.  Opportunities to stretch our wings appear.

I first became a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation when I was 24, starting my first career, living alone in a new city in the middle of the Illinois prairie.  People in the church were friendly, and after my first visit, some called me by name.  It helped that I wore a nametag, of course, but as a new person in a strange town it was nice to hear the sound of my name.

After a number of visits, an usher asked me if I could help:  to hand out the order of service, and receive the offering.  A simple thing.  But let me tell you, the first few times I walked the offering basket up and down the aisle, I felt as self-conscious as if I’d been singing a solo or giving the sermon.  It was a small step, but I was exercising my wings.

The result?  I began to learn that I could stand up in front of a group of people I didn’t know… and survive.  And of course I would get quite used to standing in front of church people.  It started in that congregation.   One more thing:  I felt useful, I sensed more ownership of the place.  I started to grow roots.

Looking back, I find it odd that they asked me only to be an usher, but never to serve the coffee.  Was it easier to trust a newcomer with collecting money than the making coffee?  I don’t know, but I suspect all we had back then was instant coffee, anyway.  After all, it was 1985 in the Midwest.  The trend of really good, brewed coffee had not yet begun.

Also back in the 1980s, coming out as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person was more daunting and lonely than it may be now for a lot of people.  I had begun edging out of my own closet three years before, mostly to myself and my friends in college.  I had little practice speaking my truth in other settings.  Here I was, in a conservative city in a new job, and in a new church, in 1985.  But in truth, most of the barriers were in my own mind, most of the fears in my own heart.  I needed practice at being myself and feeling accepted.  Our church had a series of Sunday morning discussions–a small circle of chairs bringing together all those who showed up on a given day for a given topic.

One Sunday a lesbian therapist from the church led a talk about homophobia.  I found myself contributing to the conversation among these new people in a way I had not experienced before.   I used the words “we” and “us” when speaking about LGBT people, rather than keeping my words at a safe, academic distance.  Nobody shuddered; the walls did not fall in.

In that circle of kind people, I stretched my wings and hopped out of my nest of self-silencing.  It was a subtle change, but also part of a lifelong transformation into a happier human being.  Some time later, I began working on a committee, and became friends with a shy middle-aged woman.  She spoke to the group about her brother who had died, but spoke only vaguely.  Later she told me that he had contracted HIV, which was nearly always terminal back then.  Having been married, he had remained in the closet through death, and the family was holding this great secret, adding to the grief of their loss of him.  Yet for his sister, the burden lifted a bit when she spoke to me, because I had opened up.  Thanks to that church, she and I both grew stronger wings.  We both poked our heads out of the nest of our own fears and vulnerabilities.

A year later the Religious Education Committee asked me to teach Sunday school.  First and second graders.  Who, me?  I had barely seen a first grader in years, let alone try to have a conversation with one of them.

Did that committee see the potential in me?  Who knows–they merely might have been desperate.  Of course, desperate was how I felt.  Yet I had a co-teacher – a dad in the church.  He was easy going and reliable.  We had a book of lessons to guide us.  Some props required, but the lessons were planned.  We would talk every week in advance of Sunday:  who was leading what, who should bring what.  I survived that year, and so did they.  I learned things, and left with fond memories.

Not all congregations help everyone spread their spiritual wings, of course.   Especially when it comes to religious ideas and personal expressions of spirituality.  Some discourage the stretching of wings.

On the other hand, there are plenty of ways beyond a congregation to stretch your wings in 21st century North America:  hobbies, sports and cultural organizations, book clubs, Yoga studios, personal trainers, community colleges, website courses.  But here in a congregation you may wander into a way to spread your wings that you had not been looking for.   Rather than doing a methodical review of opportunities on local websites, and finding an opportunity that you choose, in a community like this one, in a congregation, the opportunity may find you.

You may grow in a way you were not seeking to grow.   Learn lessons you were not looking for.  A benefit of a larger congregation like ours is that we have diverse ways to participate, many opportunities to learn, grow, try out new things, serve, and help out.  You can get involved here in one activity for a while, and if later you feel ready to try something else, we’ll try to help you do that.

Outside of a congregation, if you drop out of a book club, you may not see the people again.  If you give up Yoga class, you may lose your Yoga classmates.  In a congregation, you might slip out of an activity, but you are still part of the community.  You have roots!

Even better, you can use one commitment in order to decline another.  I’m sorry, I can’t install paving stones in the labyrinth next Saturday out in the hot sun with you.  I’m co-leading a workshop at the UU church in Davis, which by chance is indoors in the air conditioning.  Sorry!

[In truth, the Labyrinth is in a well-shaded area here.]

For some folks, the opportunity for growth provided by the church could be… just sitting in one place for an hour.  For others, the stretching of wings could be the invitation to rise to your feet and sing with a room full of people.  Or to greet a few others and say, “Glad to meet you.”   Even if you don’t know for sure that you’re glad about it, you do know it feels good to be greeted, so you decide you will reach out.

In this place, we can watch one another stretch and reach and spread our wings.  We can encourage one another.  If we stumble or flop, we can catch one another.  If we are the ones flopping or falling, we might feel others easing us down to a soft landing.

And while all this is going on—the stretching of wings and the efforts at flight—something else happens.   We get rooted!  As we encourage others and receive encouragement, as we strengthen the wings, we deepen the roots.  We ground ourselves.  Roots grow as we add to our life story by the moments we spend with others.  At a shared meal, we nourish the roots, not only by the food, but also by the fellowship aroundthe food.

Roots grow as we let ourselves be known.

Most of us, I hope, begin to realize that we belong.  We experience a deeper sense of connection and rootedness, not only to a community, but to Life and the spirit and the whole human family.  As we stretch our wings, we deepen the roots of belonging to Life.

The presence of others makes a difference.  All those with whom we invest our time and our gifts can support the roots as we dig deep into life.  And we can do that for others.  You can do that.  Your smile, kind word, outstretched hand, your voice lifted in word and song, can do that.

On this Ingathering Sunday, I ask you to remember that your presence matters to others around you.  Even to those you have not yet met.

We come together to receive encouragement for ourselves, but by showing up, we also extend encouragement to others.  Just by coming together, you help others to dig deep roots into life and stretch out the wings of the spirit.   What a blessing it can be, when we come together.

So may it be.   Blessed be, amen, and Namaste.

Shared Offering

This congregation has a tradition of giving away half of every Sunday morning offering to an organization doing good work in the larger community beyond these walls.   For this month, the month of August, we share the offering with Sacramento Family Promise.  This is a program of hospitality and support services to homeless families with children, including school for the children and assistance in finding employment, stable housing and self-sufficiency for the parents.  Several families will be staying overnight with us in our church buildings for a week starting next Sunday night.

Your generosity today will keep this important program thriving and successful.  Thank you for making a difference.  The shared offering will now be given and received.

Offertory                                                       Cancion y Danza No. 1

–                                                                              -Frederic Mompou

Roll Call and Water Communion Ceremony—Rev. Roger

See separate attachment

           In a congregation of our size, transitions are always taking place, even in years when we don’t have a construction project in the works.

In addition to the good news of Lucy’s joining our ministry here, we also have the sadder news that Eric  has announced his resignation from the position of Music Director.   He’s held this job since 2011.  Last week he wrote to our Board and staff members, and his letter to the congregation will appear in the Unigram.   Next Sunday will be Eric’s goodbye service with us—one service at 10 o’clock.  The Music Committee is planning a farewell for him after that service, with cake.  Please come.  Also, if you would like to contribute money toward a gift, you can see Judy  today after the service.  Next week, we will honor and thank him, and I bet he will sing to us.

Other transitions in the life of our congregation, every year, include the passing of a number of members and friends, and family members of congregants.

You will find an insert in your order of service entitled In Loving Memory.  This is our roll call of those who have died since last year’s Ingathering Service.  If you think of a name that should be added, or if you have in mind others who died in years prior to the last one, we will take a moment after the roll call.  As we conclude, our Board President will pour into this empty vessel some of the water that has been collected from Ingathering Rituals in years past.  This jar includes the waters brought here by people we have known and lost over the years. And after today it will be mingled with the waters that you will pour into the vessel in a few moments.

Now please join with me in saying these names one at a time, with a brief pause to hear each name in our heart.

[Unison speaking of the Roll Call.]

At this time, if you are holding in your heart other loved ones who have died, we will take a few moments to hear the sounds of their names spoken into the space of our sanctuary.  [PAUSE.]  May their memory be a blessing.

[President Linda  pours about half of the tall jar into the cylinder.]

Water Communion Ritual—Rev. Roger

If you have brought a small container of water, this is the time when we will mingle the waters together.  Whether you are bringing or just remembering waters from oceans visited, glaciers, lakes, local rivers, or a local tap, you are invited to mingle the waters.

If you didn’t know about this ritual, forgot, or didn’t read the newsletter, there are containers of water up here for your use.  Please line up on both sides, and when it is your turn, use the microphone, alternating between right and left sides, and speaking loudly.  You may say “This water is from _________” or “This water represents ______.”

At the end I will say a blessing.

*Hymn   There’s a River Flowin’ in My Soul, and It’s Tellin’ Me that I’m Somebody

-Rose Sanders, arr. Kenny Smith

Led by Rev. Lucy

[words are at #1007 but we didn’t use the hymn supplement book]

*Benediction


           If you are comfortable, please join hands or just be with us for this Benediction.  At the end, you may be seated for the Postlude, or you may come back to the Lobby.

In the days to come, take the time to consider when and how you are deepening your own roots and your own sense of belonging to life and to community.

Consider opportunities to stretch yourself and try your wings.   And remember that your presence makes a difference.  Your presence can help others to find a place to put down roots, and can help us all to try our wings.

As you go out beyond these walls, may you see blessings around you, and may you know that you bring a blessing into this world we share.

Postlude                                             Prelude in c-minor WTC vol. 1
-J. S. Bach



Recap of UUSS Summer Worship Services 2013

This past summer we had a variety of service topics, styles and speakers.  We said farewell to Doug in June and to Eric in September.  

Religious Diversity:  Whether in sermons, special rituals, or with meditation, prayer or Yoga practice in the service, we covered a variety of religious traditions and perspectives, including longtime Unitarian Universalists and UU children showing how they put their faith into practice in the ways they try to make a difference in the world.

Behold:

May 26–Grievable Deaths (Memorial Day), Roger’s sermon.

June 2 — Czech Unitarian Flower Celebration (Flower Exchange), Roger’s sermon, plus a 10-year salute to our Grasshopper Groundskeeping volunteers

June 9 — Doug’s last dialogue service

June 16 — Worship Committee Ensemble Service:  Father’s Day

June 23 — The Common Good?  Part 1 (Adam Dyer, Starr King School for the Ministry, with my participation)

June 30 — Doug’s Farewell Message (Concluding 13 Years of Ministry with UUSS)

July 7 — Rev. Bob Oshita, from the Buddhist Church of Sacramento

July 14 — The Death of Me: A play in place of a sermon, offered by Theater One with Roger’s participation on the other parts of the service

July 21 —  Becoming Love’s People (Rev. Meghan Cefalu of UU Community of the Mountains, in a pulpit exchange with me; Roger preached “Money and Life” in Grass Valley)

July 28 —  Yoga Etc.:  Care for the Body is Care for the Spirit with Paige, Roger, and UUSS Monday Yoga class members

August 4 — The Common Good? Part 2, with Adam Dyer

August 11 — Faith Theatricals:  Tell a New Story, by Rev. Sonya Sukalski, with Roger’s participation.  Blessing Ritual for Youth Departing Sacramento for the First Year of College

August 18 — Touching Hearts Through Bullet-Proof Glass:  Visiting Immigrants Held in Federal Detention in Local Jails:  Roger, JoAnn, Mary Helen, and Joan.  Blessing Ritual for Youth Departing Sacramento for the First Year of College

August 25 — Annual Ingathering Water Ceremony.  Buddhist Metta Guided Meditation by Erik B.  Roger’s Sermon “Roots and Wings.”  The Water Ceremony has Earth-based themes and was first created several decades ago as a feminist ritual at a UU women’s organization’s retreat.

September 1 — Modern Slavery:  Kids Making a Difference:  Roger, Aliya, Ben and other UU kids  from the Kids’ Freedom Club.  Pastoral Prayer by Petra.   Farewell solo by Eric S.

Now what?  Two services starting September 8:  9:30 and 11:15 AM.  Religious Education for Children and Youth at 9:30 AM.  Nursery Care during both services.



When “Spiritual but not Religious” is not really enough: a Colleague’s Perspective

At the  June meetings of the UU Ministers’ Association, we had an entertaining and inspiring (as well as challenging) talk by the Rev. Lilian Daniel, a liberal Congregationalist minister from a Chicago suburb. Her somewhat snarky blog post of 2 years ago went viral. Her more recent book includes that but has a lot of other, more charming anecdotes and reflections about church community and the calling of parish ministry. Anyway, take a look:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lillian-daniel/spiritual-but-not-religio_b_959216.html



New UUSS Family Pledge Drive Testimonial from February 24 service–Sustaining Our Vision From Year to Year, From Generation to Generation

Every Sunday during the pledge drive we have been hearing what this UU community means to people, and why they support it with their financial pledge.  Our pledge drive ends soon.  So far we have received 98 pledge forms for the 2013-14 fiscal year.  Only 300 to go!!

This is from Amanda, a mother of two little ones who is new here and already on the Religious Education Committee.  Her husband, Darrel, has been here on Saturdays working on the grounds of our church campus.  Their kids are quite charming too.  You can tell that the words she quotes are from a few decades back, as now our baby dedication ceremonies use gender-inclusive language, but clearly the sentiment and heart were there in 1979.

Testimonial
It was a cold morning in March in the year 1979. The place, My Grandfather‘s “old” Unitarian Church on North Broadway, New York. The minister spoke, “When one baby is born it is the symbol of all birth and all life, and therefore all men must rejoice and smile, and all men, must lose there hearts to a child.” The words spoken and heard there were the words that have traveled with me in the depth of my heart wherever I have gone. This was my dedication ceremony at two months old, as a Unitarian.

Given that I was dedicated as a baby in the church, one might assume I have been in a Unitarian congregation throughout my life. But the truth is the furthest thing from that. I cant say for sure, but I am pretty sure I hadn’t stepped foot into another Unitarian Church until I arrived here at UUSS. This isn’t to say I wasn’t involved in any religious movement at all throughout my life. We regularly visited the Self Realization Fellowship, the church of Science of Mind, and whatever other alternative form of seeking my family interested themselves in.

But here I am back where I began. It was about a year ago, after a major move here to Sacramento, I found myself wondering about reconnecting to these roots. I was a transplant. My roots were in major need of some good wholesomely rich natural nutrients to grab a hold of. So, I returned.

In my dedication ceremony the minister said, “In the church the child will be introduced to his world, there he will learn meanings men has found in the skies, the fields, the hills, the valleys, and the cities of men. There he will be able to count the number of his days and weigh their meaning, to gather into his mind the wisdom of his ancestors, to know why men call one thing right and another wrong, to treasure beauty, mercy and justice in the deep places of his being.”

I am a mother now. I have been given two amazing children to guide and help grow. But I believe children are guided not only by their parents but by the people surrounding them; their friends, their family, their neighbors, and their elders. What the Unitarian Universalists are and are not, what they stand for or against, what they consider, what they notice, what they act on or not at all, is what I want my children to grow up around.

And I don’t want to stop there. What I want for my children, is what I want for all children. I want all children to grow up learning how to stand up tall. I want all children to grow up learning how to use their minds. I want all children to grow up knowing they can make a difference. This is why I think it is important for this congregation to stay strong, keep growing, and be the force for healing in the world it already is for many generations to come.



UU Teenager’s testimonial during church for the 2013-14 Pledge Drive: Sustaining Our Vision: From Year to Year and From Generation to Generation

A young woman from our UU Youth Group delivered this testimonial on Sunday at both services.  The congregation was quite responsive!  I look forward to the Pledge Drive Kickoff this Sunday, Feb. 17.  I also look forward to training our Pledge Visitors this Saturday (for those who would like a home visit to give feedback and make a more personal connection to UUSS).  Enjoy…

Why should the UUSS community be around for future generations?

I know a lot of people who have been coming to UU churches since before they were born. They have always been familiar and comfortable with their church. Or there are people on the other end of the spectrum, who hadn’t started coming to this church until they were well into adulthood.

           Neither of these were true of me. I think most of the people here come to church willingly. I can see why. We are what I would consider the ideal church. But I did not come to church willingly by any means for a long time.

When I was younger, my mom would decide my brothers and I were inadequately holy, and pick a church at random that we would attend for about a month. Then she would have a disagreement with somebody or be offended by something the minister said and we would never go there again. I grew to despise churches. I did not like how looked down upon questioning that which was preached was. I did not like being compared to a lamb because lambs are invariably dumb. I did not like the painful christian rock that was played before or after church, even though the musician had a cool beard. I did not like that God’s love or a vast eternal plan we weren’t allowed to know about could explain away every mystery in this world. And I certainly did not like that the minister referred to the children as “cherubs”. I knew I was anything but a cherub, and I was convinced my little brother was a little ball of evil.

In hindsight this church was not that bad. It was open-minded, as churches go, and not everyone considered original thought slanderous. The minister was well intended. But the assumptions and stereotypes had solidified in my mind, and to me church had become nothing more than getting up way too early on a weekend to go listen to people I don’t like talk about things I neither cared about nor believed in. I had lost any interest I’d previously had in learning about other people’s beliefs or culture.

My mom has since given up on making me go to any church. It helped that I no longer stay at her house on weekends.

    When my dad announced that we were going to church, I was horrified. He was supposed to be the sane one. And what person who wasn’t crazy would want to go to church? I fought this new, alien hexagonal church with my entire being. The people here only want to tell me what to think and what kinds of people are okay and all about this great God and how much he loved me and wanted the best for me and whatnot and about how those other churches who were saying the same thing were utterly wrong.

I didn’t want to hear any other opinions about this church. I would not hear it. I had developed the same blind insistence that what I believed in was all there is that had made me so intolerant of religion in the first place.
But slowly I began to warm up to this new church. It wasn’t like the others. I was never told where we came from or what entity was out there or what happens before or after this life. Those were all questions for me to determine the answers to. This church had values, not strict beliefs, and I recognised after reciting them for a few months how much I agreed with them. They seemed like perfect ideals. There was no judgement of those who strayed from our moral views. There was no judgement, period. We were welcoming, and open. Recognising the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Who needs a heaven when you’ve got that?
I know there are a fair number of people who don’t like churches for the same reasons I had. And church isn’t right for everyone. But there will always be people who question. There will always be people who traditional religions don’t approve of. But if there is always a church like ours available, there will always be an option for these people.
A lot of what we preach isn’t contradictory to what is preached in other churches. But what I like most about us is that big questions are left to the individual to answer, because everyone has their own truth or lack thereof, and a right to decide what that is. It’s okay to believe the same things as other people, but it should also be okay not to.
And our values are that of acceptance. Everyone deserves to be accepted in a community, regardless of who they happen to be or what they happen to be like. The people in unitarian churches are, as a group, incredibly accepting. Everyone is welcome. That is amazing. I would previously have thought it unachievable.
And UUSS is the biggest UU church in the area. It has amazing ministers and youth leaders and coffee people. It is an incredible community as a whole. There are few people who would not fit in among us.
That is why UUSS needs to stick around and grow. Future generations will inevitably be in need of a church like this, and they deserve to have it available. Thank you.



Priceless! Notes from an Outsider’s Perspective — Associate Minister’s February Newsletter Column

            Ah, remember the day you installed me! 

            A member of my doctoral class at Berkeley had something to say about it.  He is Korean and a Protestant minister.  He had come to that ceremony.  He’d brought his mom, also a Korean Christian immigrant. 

            During our seminary course recently, I was talking about Unitarian Universalism to my religiously mixed class.  He said, “I didn’t know much about UU theology, and I still may not understand it all.  But what I felt at Roger’s installation really impressed me.”

            In particular, he said, was the sense of inclusiveness in the service and from our congregation.  Priceless!

            He was struck also that the service had beautiful music, eloquent liturgy, dance and other arts, and a woman’s deep and powerful preaching.   He noted the participation of children and youth in the service and congregation.  The reception food was generously abundant and flavorful.

            Most of all, he said, “I could really feel the love there.”  So could his mother.  She told him that if she lived close to UUSS, she would want to come regularly.  Whatever the theology, he said, the message they felt was deep and impressive—the love.

            It was great to have an outsider’s fresh perspective.  Priceless!

            Isn’t this the reason you are here?  We long to experience the gifts of depth, beauty, love and hope in this place.  This place to belong and be cared for—this is why we keep coming back.  These are priceless gifts.  You could NOT put a price tag on what this community creates. 

            The combined gifts—all that we do here—are indeed priceless.  Yet providing all of this congregation’s component parts every year does call for cold, hard cash. 

            To sustain Religious Education and music, put on services, support our hardworking staff, and reimburse dedicated committee volunteers, we must raise money, year after year.  To pay utility bills, support our denomination, produce newsletters and host the web site, we must raise money. 

            By paying our way year after year, we sustain our vision from generation to generation. 

            That’s why we have the annual Pledge Drive for the operating budget.

            I hope to see you during this year’s brief pledge drive:  February 17 is Kickoff Sunday.  February 24 is a Pep Rally (an Appreciation Reception for all ages).  Then March 17 is Touchdown Sunday.  Thank you for pledging your financial support, year after year.  

 

With gratitude,

 

Roger  

 

P.S.—The pledges we make this month will enable the board to present a budget proposal to the congregation to fund our programs and staff needs in 2013-14.  Our budget year starts July 1 but we need to plan ahead every year.  Thanks again.