My overall sense from the group was that things are going pretty well but that we could do more. Some of the comments were: We would like more events like tonight, more youth group (maybe twice a month), more plays, more parties, more multi-generational activities (perhaps bringing back the annual picnics from past years), more small groups (writers group, typing group) more Soup Socials (year-round), more non-food focused events (this would especially help kids with dietary or allergy concerns), more service projects (visit to an animal shelter), "A Blessing of the Animals" service, and last but not least, more rainbows!
I reviewed the events we currently have scheduled. Game Night (a combined Membership and RE effort) will now be offered year-round on the first Saturday of the month. With the success of the first Pancakes and Pajamas event, we have decided to try it again on the last Sunday of each month. It was suggested that we add a pajama fashion show and waffles (not just pancakes) to the event. Our current Youth Group meets on the 4th Tuesday of each month. We discussed adding additional age group events on a rotating basis. So, we might do a middle school event one month, an elementary school event the next month and then a multigenerational activity the following month. I am in contact with RE leaders in Norfolk and Williamsburg about doing combined activities for high school youth, including a CON (a weekend long event designed by and for youth) in the fall. We are also looking into new ways to support parents. Look for information on a "Parents Afternoon Out" program and "Being a UU Parent" classes in upcoming newsletters.
I encouraged families to start scheduling play dates with each other. This was something that really helped connect my own family to the Fellowship when my kids were little. Practically every week after church, my kids either went home with other kids or invited other kids home to our house. It gave the parents a chance to connect at pick up time, too.
I asked people to think about possible, what I’d like to call, “Living Our Faith Field Trips.” Whether we travel near or far, field trips could be a great way to build community in a meaningful way. What if we organized groups to go to museums or memorials based on Social Justice, Peace, or the environment? Think of the discussions we would have on the ride home. Or what if we planned visits to nursing homes to play games with residents? Or what if we planned multigenerational nature hikes or clean-up days? If you would like to help organize something like this, please contact the RE Committee.
I brought up the fact that there are UU religion badges for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts so if any of our scouts are interested in working through the process to obtain the badges please let me know and we can make this happen.
I’m working on a summer program based on "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy." If you would like to help this summer as a volunteer guide, please let me know. That said, we will be looking for teachers to help in the fall as well. We work in teaching teams so there is flexibility for you to teach as much as you want. We are also looking for more members for the RE Committee as well. Being on the committee is a great way to get involved with shaping our program.
See you in the RE!
“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
What do you remember of life and events at our Fellowship over the last sixty years?
As we prepare to celebrate the UUFP’s Diamond Anniversary next month, you are invited to help us build up a timeline of significant points in the congregation’s history. On the back wall of the Sanctuary, there are large sheets of paper labeled by decade. On Sunday mornings or any other time you’re in the building, you are welcome to add a note of what you remember, whether it’s from the last ten years or going all the way back to our chartering in 1958. (Though the paper is supposed to resist ink bleeding through, we have markers with washable ink, just in case!)
As for the celebrations themselves, don’t forget to mark your calendars for May 12th and 13th! We’re inviting all members and friends both past and present to join us for food, fun and fellowship!
When: Saturday May 12th, 6pm-10pm; Sunday May 13th, at 9:30am and 11:15am services
Where: UUFP Sanctuary Building (415 Young’s Mill Lane, Newport News)
What to bring: yourself — you are our special guest for the celebration!
What to wear: what about an outfit that represents the decade you began coming to the Fellowship?
What activities are planned? On Saturday, there’ll be a potluck featuring food and music of the last sixty years. (Potluck sign-up sheets are posted in the Sanctuary Building.) On Sunday, past Presidents will be recognized at the celebration. And for children and youth especially, bring something to put in the time capsule that represents the current time period.
By Kathryn Ozyurt & Maria Cory
“Diversity is generally divisive, and it has to be managed. There is some interesting research showing that when you celebrate diversity and point it out, you split people, but if you drown it in a sea of commonality, then it’s not a problem. So anything you can do to emphasize how similar we all are, how much we have in common, is good. Anything you can do that celebrates — 'Look at how different we are. Look at how diverse we are' — that tends to make it harder to have any group cohesion and trust.”
Lin Chambers had a “driving moment” as she was listening to NPR’s On Being radio show featuring social psychologist Jonathan Haidt - The Psychology of Self-Righteousness. Intrigued by Haidt’s interview, Lin subsequently purchased his book: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.
Haidt’s works were an inspiration and springboard for discussion at the March 4, 2018 Adult Forum. Facilitated by Lin, the class focus included how essentially good people can end up on opposite sides of the political and religious perspective, and how people at both ends of the continuum are at risk of blind self-righteousness.
Haidt defines “conservative” and” liberal”—"not necessarily as political affiliations, but as personality types or ways of moving through the world.” With the psychology of morality and the moral emotions as Haidt’s specialization, this New York University professor’s research indicates that people often believe they have discovered sole truths and are stating facts, while they are actually repeating what they have heard and read, and what they have seen and interpreted.
People’s ideas, beliefs and what they declare as facts often become a closed “moral world” in which they are unwilling and unable to think beyond their own perspectives. Haidt cites that it is impossible to see the flaws in one’s own “moral matrix”—a major impediment to conflict resolution and bridging political and religious gaps between conservatives and liberals.
Lin continued by explaining Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory and its importance in civility, problem-solving and speaking across difference. Liberals are viewed as morality-focused, with emphasis on compassion, fairness and social justice. Conservatives value loyalty and authority, preferring order and structure. People on the left tend to be universalist. People on the right tend to be parochial. Rigid application of each group’s values limits their understanding of the other’s motivations in political and spiritual decision making.
This is where building relationship is crucial to finding the balance between the two extremes, says Haidt. In accomplishing goals, using conservative and liberal virtues in complement to each other render the most effective results. “When you get people to actually understand each other, and they let down their guard, and they learn something new, and they see humanity in someone that they disliked or hated or demonized before, that’s really thrilling. And that, I think, is one of the most important emotional tools we have to foster civility.”
Our thanks to Lin Chambers for leading us in a measure of self-examination and for generously donating Jonathan Haidt’s book to the UUFP. Interested in learning more about Haidt’s studies on moving from a state of polarization and paralysis to being a catalyst for political, religious and social change? Check out Haidt’s book available in the UUFP office.
Happy Birthday to all our members born in April!
If you are a member and have a birthday in April that we overlooked, please contact Bobbie Schilling; email@example.com.
By Joanne Dingus
When I first heard about the march, I held off signing up, hoping there would be something nearby. But after reaching out to local organizers and finding nothing had been scheduled, I made the decision to go to DC. Of course, closer to the date, it turned out that marches were organized in Norfolk, Williamsburg and even Newport News. I’m pleased that many of our other members and friends were able to support those events.
I had some anxiety about going to Washington. Although I was glad to have gone to the first Women’s March there, it was a really hard day physically and emotionally, and attending the Women’s March in Williamsburg this year was so much easier and less stressful. In addition to worries about overly crowded metros, being trapped in a crowd that never moved, finding a portalet when needed, staying hydrated, being able to see or hear anything, and getting back to the bus on time, there was the extra worry about whether there would be violence. After all, this was a march about gun rights. I fully expected to see counter-protesters bearing arms. But as it turned out, of the three marches I’ve mentioned, the only one where I saw someone openly carrying a gun was in Williamsburg.
When we arrived at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, my excitement revved up seeing all the buses already parked. I looked out the window and saw a group of young people heading toward a shuttle bus led by a woman my age. It was Chris Johns, the director of religious education, in Fredericksburg. Yup, I was in the right place.
My group of four decided to take the metro. We each grabbed an extra water provided by the city and prepared for long waits and crowds. But much to our surprise, we were the only people in our car except for a man from Pennsylvania who said he had come with a group of Quakers. For a moment I wondered if maybe, people had decided not to support this march. Maybe the attendance would be far lower than expected. Our group continued up to Pennsylvania Avenue and made it to 6th Street; that’s when we knew there would be plenty of support for this march. We pretty much stayed there for the entirety. Overall, it was a very comfortable location. We could see the stage in the distance, and the nearby speakers and screens made it quite easy to see and hear the whole event.
The streets were a melting pot, an undeniable visual of what democracy looks like. The signs in general, were powerful, raw and from the heart. The chants were for change: Enough is Enough, Never Again, Vote Them Out.”
My decision to attend was reaffirmed when the event began. Andra Day started singing “Rise Up,” a song I feel strongly connected to. A young girl next to me started singing along. Tears began sliding down my cheeks as we sang together. “And I'll rise up. I'll rise like the day. I'll rise up. I'll rise unafraid. I'll rise up. And I'll do it a thousand times again.” And I thought about my kids, and I thought about the kids I help to protect at my school. And I thought about the kids from my church whose signs I brought to the march. And I thought about all the kids on the march and those about to speak on the stage.
One after another, students from Parkland and students from around the country shared their stories and their messages about the effects of gun violence on their lives and the desperate need for change. Several other top singers performed and there was a special appearance by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, granddaughter who led us in a chant. There were several videos broadcast throughout, including the one where we heard the shots being fired at Parkland. Videos featuring views from various politicians and the National Rifle Association were met with roaring disapproval from the masses.
The whole event was extremely well organized and professionally executed. The student’s statements were powerful and confident. They showed their passion and their ability to lead. But there was one moment in the day, completely unplanned that may have sent the strongest message. One of the Parkland students began speaking about her experience. She went on to recite a poem she’d written, and halfway through, she suddenly threw up. You could hear other students yelling, “We love you,” as she continued to heave. A woman, perhaps one of her teachers, held her shoulder.
And then the girl rallied. She laughed and said, “Oh my God, I just threw up on national television.” And we all laughed, and smiled, and she continued. She finished her poem, and she finished her speech. She persisted. And it was the most human moment. The greatest moment of universal connection to the human condition.
Of course, she would throw up. She was a 15, maybe 16-year-old student in front of 800,000 people. She was on the same stage as Pop culture, super stars. She was public speaking! Who among us has not felt the shaky knees, the queasy stomach, the light-headedness that goes along with the courage needed to put yourself out there? But far more than stage fright, what happened to her, what happened in her school on February 14, 2018, was sickening. And 38 days later, her body spewed out in revolt; “enough is enough.” And I wondered how many students may have vomited that day as they ran passed the bodies of their murdered classmates? How many collapsed when they reached the safety of their parent’s trembling embrace?
Being sickened by the violence that is happening in this country is a human reaction. Because if knowing that our children and adults are being senselessly murdered in our schools, streets, churches, movie theaters, concerts and nightclubs isn’t enough to make you sick to your stomach, what is?
So, what will I bring home from the March For Our Lives? A renewed sense of conviction to speak up, to show up, to persist. And I will bring back the reminder that we are all human, and our universal experiences give us the power to connect beyond any differences. We can rise up! And we must rise up unafraid and even when we are afraid, because there is hope and we have each other. And with that we can end gun violence!