Spotlight on Membership

Thanks to some good conversations, the Membership Committee has deepened the experience of joining the congregation. Visitors usually enter our doors to attend a Sunday service. Events such as Soupathons and rental groups have generated interest as well, just through the inclusive posters and beautiful space to be found here. If folks want to keep abreast of what’s happening, they give the office their contact information through the ubiquitous Blue Sheets. Rachel, our dauntless Office Administrator, enters the info so that she can add these folks to our weekly “What’s happening?” blast and Sparrow, the membership Staff Liaison, writes a personal letter to the visitor.

For several years now, Patience has offered monthly lunchtime discussions about Unitarian Universalism and our congregation. When a Visitor begins attending these discussions, it’s a great way to discern whether they feel ready for membership. Some of these new folks might love to help out now and then, join a Hospitality team, get a name tag, and be in the Directory without being ready for membership. Being in the Directory is definitely a mark of comfort and belonging – being available to be called to join an event or to arrange a kid’s play date! We call these folks Friends of the congregation and treasure their perspective, their good energy, and the gifts they bring to UUCUV for as long as they would like to be part of this community. When a Friend says “Yes!” to the formality of membership, there is process for helping them choose how they will contribute to the congregation – i.e. committees, activities, and stewardship. The process includes a meeting with the Membership Committee, Minister and Director of Religious Education. This meeting happens about a week before the ritual of signing the book. Membership includes the formal commitment to our covenant, to working for the good of the congregation, and the rights and responsibilities of voting in UUCUV affairs. The newly formed Membership Committee is experimenting with how to do their job well. If you have ideas or wish to join the committee, contact Mugs Johnston, Chair, through the office.

– the original version of this article appeared in the Summer 2017 Call newsletter.

September 10: Renewing the Spirit & the Ceremony of Water Communion

10 AM with Rev. Patience Stoddard.   In this first service of the new church year, individuals and families are asked to come with a small amount of water from their homes or travels and to share a meaningful moment of their summer.

The offering plate this Sunday will be shared with Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief efforts.

After brief intergenerational worship, children will attend their own religious education.


“Will the new minister hear me? Will my concerns and needs be met?  Will the minister understand what I’m living with? How will the community respond to our minister?”

In answering these questions, often an image of the “ideal minister” comes to mind, which image can fall into categories (age, gender, gender identity, nationality, physical ability, race, and sexual orientation).  With this image in place, it can be easy to unintentionally exclude ministers who fall into other categories. At times, as we get caught up in comparing candidates to our image, we can even forget what it is we hoped for in a minister.

On the weekend of September 24, the UUCUV will participate in the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop offered by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for congregations involved in the search for a new minister.  The Search Committee invites all members and friends.  It is very important that as many as possible participate.

The Beyond Categorical Thinking program is designed to promote inclusive thinking and help prevent unfair discrimination in the search process for a new minister. This program includes the Sunday morning service, AND a BCT workshop from noon to 4 PM. Lunch will be provided.  In the workshop, UUCUV members and friends will:

Consider the hopes, expectations, and concerns they have for a new minister
Learn more about the ministerial search process, and
Explore how thinking categorically about people sometimes interferes with choosing the best candidate.

The Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop is another opportunity for everyone in our congregation to be a part of the Search process. This experience will provide guidance for the search committee in our work.

Also, importantly, this workshop will further the conversation which we committed to at the Annual Meeting, about diversity and how to represent our congregational views on such things as Black Lives Matter.

Sparrow’s Article of the Week

In my first week as the UUCUV’s Director of Religious Education, I learned from two different families about the anxiety therapies of their elementary-school-aged children.

I made a promise then, eighteen years ago, that I would honor our faith tradition, steward the congregation, educate the parents… but I’m here to serve the kids.  This is a region with the weirdest combination of social pressures on children – educational overachievement hand-in-hand with Yankee reticence to articulate emotions, in an age of social media telling preteens they must give up their treasure, freedom, and franchise to even try to be “good enough”.

I’m still holding my ground when met with “My child says all they did in RE today was make pictures out of clouds.”  Yep.  They did.  And they got outdoors, spent time with a well-educated young woman with the grit to run marathons, stayed in covenant, faced possible tick-borne diseases with education and calm preparedness.  They took turns with the responsibility of carrying the first aid kit, the fussed and argued and made up and had fun being at church.  They learned – again, because hearing about something once is not learning: being, doing, and experiencing over and over for a year is learning – that this is their place, as they are.  Safe.  And that they are also the stewards of our community.

Sorry about the rant.  It happens.  Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading this week.  I would add to the author’s list: every four year old should have the skill of self-control – and that’s something to begin learning in babyhood, via appropriate baby steps.  Pull me aside for a chat anytime –

~ Sparrow

Reaching Out, Reaching In

This article may be found in full in the Summer issue of The Call

Unanimity can be a good thing especially when it is the result of individuals truly listening to each other and being willing to give up a desired personal outcome on behalf of a recognition as to what the community needs in order to more forward together. However, as Scott Peck the author of A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace notes, while compromise can be a sign of health, fear and avoidance of coflict can lead to “the danger of pseudo-community.” Pseudo-community, where individual differences are minimized, unacknowledged, or ignored, tends to stultify growth and ultimately undermines its mission to be an agent of spiritual and societal transformation.

At Annual Meeting, we discussed what signs (if any) to put out in front of the church as a public expression of some of our core values and stance on certain social issues.

Much of the time was spent discussing whether or not/where
to put up a Black Lives Matter sign and what consequences might ensue from that decision. Expressed thoughts ranged from seeing this as a necessary early step in our journey to find ways to work against racism (both within and without), to a hesitation to do something that might antagonize some others and not actually pro-mote dialogue which might lead to deeper understanding about the reality of racism and ways to overcome it. Eventually the person who suggested a motion to put out the signs decided to withdraw the motion in order to create more time and space to understand the issues (and feelings) involved and the organizations we would be supporting.

I agree with Peck that the path to true community and spiritual growth entails not the silencing of the individual’s voice, but the willingness to listen to all voices; not the false hope of continuing unanimity but a willingness to stay open and present in conflict “committed to struggle together rather than against each other.”

~ Patience Stoddard

August 27: Where Do We Go from Here?

10 AM with Rev. Patience Stoddard and Lori Fortini

Self-proclaimed Facists are marching in our streets; black men and women are afraid of the very police who are meant to protect them; and Unitarian Universalist are once again being reminded of our failure to change or even recognize the racism and economic inequality that pervades our society.  So where do we go from here?   What next steps should we take as individuals, as a congregation and as a UU Association?  This service hopes to begin what I hope will be an on-going conversation with Lori Fortini’s experience at this year’s UU national assembly in New Orleans, some thoughts by your minister, and an opportunity for dialogue.

Simultaneous children’s religious ed