Grow in Wonder - Connect in Love, Engage in Service, Inspire Generosity
By Alan Sheeler
This reflection was read aloud by its author from UUFP’s pulpit on Sunday, March 10, 2019.
I believe the elements of our mission statement identifies qualities most of us already possess, and therefore, help to focus our path into the future.
Here at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula (UUFP), I am your past—just about everything—past finance chair, past canvas leader, past long-term planning chair, past treasurer, and past president (five or six times). I am currently finance co-chair, the piano tuner, and one of the grounds crew. So, let's put that “engage in service” thing to bed right now.
And “inspire generosity”? As finance chair I've given a couple of pleas that brought tears to my eyes, and some of you may have cried too (albeit maybe for a different reason).
I know. The question is why have I done all of those things. The answer is not just my stock response that Michelle was nominating committee chair. I could have just said, “No thanks, Hon, I'm too busy.”
The real answer is in here, in the heart.
Forty years ago I became a Unitarian Universalist (UU). About 45 years ago, I became a backpacker. Many of my initial outings were on the Appalachian Trail. Although you could, and still can, walk the trail for free, I joined the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) to help support something I valued, the Trail. At some point, I had the opportunity to purchase a lifetime membership for $200. Although I knew I would be a lifetime member, I did not take the offer for two reasons. First, I wanted to continually support the trail, and second, $200 wasn't in the budget of a second year teacher.
I believe it was good old Pennsylvania, middle class work ethic, practiced and taught by my parents and their parents before them, that was the reason behind my actions. That ethic has been magnified by my becoming a UU and is now written in the mission statement of the UUFP.
Fast forward to now. I've probably paid in the vicinity of $2,000 dues to the ATC. Some would say that I've wasted $1,800. Some would say I've wasted $2,000. I, however, feel that I've done my part, helped support that footpath, and I've helped to make it what it is today.
Now, a different type of path, not a footpath but a path through life . . . a way of living. I harbor the same attitude toward this path as toward the Appalachian Trail. I became a UU in 1979. I signed the book in Wilmington, Delaware, and I have been an active UU ever since. Michelle and I signed the book here in 1999.
Though we here at the UUFP are a very diverse group, at this moment, in this place, we share the same path through existence. Not that we all came from the same place, not that we’ll necessarily continue from here as a unit, not that we share any dogma, but at this instant, our paths have come together . . . here.
So at this instant you can look back on the path you have taken, the route that brought you here. And you can look forward. Perhaps your future is becoming defined, and you can look around.
Some of those you see will use their time with this community as a stepping stone to their future. Some will refresh here and continue their journey. Some will stay for a while, and then move on. Some will stay.
I feel this time, this place, this community is an important part of my journey in life. I suggest, maybe it is for you too. We have this opportunity because people, like Richard Hudgins, came together and shared a similar moment some years back. They had the foresight to create the UUFP. They formed a society strong enough to endure to this day.
I submit that we owe future UU's and society the same opportunity. This is the challenge going forward.
In closing, let me share the benediction of the late Rev. Dr. Robert Doss, minister emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington—words that I've heard many times, by the way, as they constitute #700 in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal.
“For all those who see God, may God go with you. For all who embrace life, may life return your affection. For all who seek a right path, may a way be found . . . and the courage to take it, step by step.”
I started by reminding everyone that we are in the season of Lent. And for many people, Lent is a time to give up something. I told the congregation that I had decided to give up Dr. Seuss stories for Lent, but not just for Lent, for future use in our Religious Education Program.
So, the big question is WHY?
Religious Educators have been talking about this for a while. There have been different articles written on Dr. Seuss’s work, some positive, some negative. The topic came up again recently as many children across the country were celebrating Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, March 2. The Read Across America program has encouraged children to read more, especially promoting the stories of Dr. Seuss. But over the last couple of years, Read Across America has toned down its use of its mascot "The Cat in the Hat" and offered more diverse options.
The issue is racism. Dr. Seuss expressed his racist views against Black, Japanese, Arab and African people in his depictions of characters. Before starting his career as a children’s author, he had many hateful cartoons published in newspapers and magazines. Once he started writing for children, his racist views continued in the lives of his drawings, often changing them slightly so that they were not as obvious.
For some of you, this may come as a shock. How could the much beloved Dr. Seuss be a racist?
You may want to find a way to justify or defend his actions. You may be feeling personal distress, loss, confusion, anger. After all, you may have spent countless hours joyfully reading these stories to your kids. You may have sewn red and white striped hats for them, made oobleck with them, welcomed Christmas with Fah Who Foraze, Dah Who Doraze.
If you have loved these stories as so many of us have, it may take some time to process this new information.
You may want to go back and read some of these stories with a new lens. What about "The Sneetches" with stars upon thars? Isn’t that a story about everyone being equal? Or is it a story about erasing identity?
How about "Horton Hears a Who!"? A person’s a person no matter how small? Isn’t that promoting tolerance? Or is it segregation, and the use of a savior swooping in to keep them from experiencing genocide?
Or "The Lorax" trying to save the earth?
And what about Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) himself? Wasn’t he just a product of his time? Didn’t he change and evolve out of his racist past?
And what about this solution; aren’t you just sweeping the issue under the rug by not reading these stories? Couldn’t they be teachable moments? Couldn’t they teach kids that there is good and bad in everyone?
I ended the children’s focus by asking, if you know that these stories are hurtful and harmful to many groups of people, and you also know that there are millions of other books out there that do not contain harmful images and words, why would you knowingly choose the books that hurt people?
I also talked to some parents afterwards because we have a choice. I do think you can use these stories as teachable moments, to really help your kids understand what racism looks like, how subservience dehumanization, stereotyping, caricature, and exotification are used to oppress groups of people. But I would caution you to wait until you know your child is old enough to understand these concepts and decide what you will do about the fact that they may be getting mixed messages. At school their beloved teacher didn’t say anything about these stories hurting people; so, why are you being such a Grinch?
Here are some links to articles that can help you decide for yourself how and if you will continue to share the works of Dr. Seuss with your children.
"Rethinking and Examining Dr. Seuss' Racism" –Pragmatic Mom
"The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books" –the conscious kid
“Research on Diversity in Youth Literature” –St. Catherine University
“It’s time to talk about Dr. Seuss” –Gabriel Smith
“Dr. Seuss’ racial history draws controversy” –John Wilkins
Sponsored by the UUFP Membership Committee
Scott Kasmire who so deftly led us in last month’s exploration of the "Spirit of Life" - “Sing in My Heart” phrase, has agreed to do an encore performance. He will facilitate the third workshop on March 20, 2019, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., in the UUFP Sanctuary. As part of our Beloved Community Wednesdays, a potluck supper begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by this workshop and other programs.
On March 20, Scott will lead us in exploring more deeply the phrase “the Stirrings of Compassion” from our beloved anthem, “Spirit of Life."
All workshops are “stand alone” so we hope you will join us for one, several or for the remaining seven (of nine) sessions.
We warmly invite you to share this time with us to grow, connect, engage and to inspire one another.
Grow in Wonder - Connect in Love, Engage in Service, Inspire Generosity
By Megan Wasilausky
How has the fellowship helped me to grow in wonder?
Like many parents, I sought out a Unitarian Universalist (UU) fellowship when my kids became old enough for Sunday School. I attended Lutheran Sunday school as a child, and while I am no longer Christian, I appreciated learning the messages of showing love and kindness in the world, as well as gaining some knowledge of Christianity and the bible. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula (UUFP) is a place where my children can grow in their religious knowledge and develop their own spiritual beliefs. While I started attending church again for my children, I never realized the benefits I would gain from being a part of worship services. I continue to grow in wonder here because of the sermons and workshops, often challenging me to think of my spirituality in new ways. I love coming into the sanctuary a few minutes before services start and listen to the beautiful music. Singing hymns together brings back fond memories of singing in church as a child. Of course, now that I'm a UU, I have to scan the lyrics to see if I want to sing them or not!
How have I seen UUFP members connect in love?
From the moment my family and I first stepped into the fellowship, we felt the love of this congregation. We just moved to Virginia and were still staying in a hotel getting settled. Everyone was so welcoming and genuinely interested in getting to know us. We soon found ourselves at potlucks, picnics, and even camping with the UUFP. I feel like there is a truly authentic community here, with so many opportunities to reach out and connect with one another. Soup Socials, potlucks, book club, yoga, game nights, women's drumming, and knitting are just some of the ways that allow a time for members to connect in love and get to know each other on a personal level.
How have I been encouraged to engage in service, both within and beyond the fellowship?
As a busy parent, I appreciate that the fellowship offers both small and large roles to serve. I may not have the time right now for larger roles, but it is true that many hands make light work. I have found my time volunteering with the hospitality team to be an easy way to help Sunday services run smoothly. Whether it's washing coffee mugs, taking attendance, ushering, or staying after service to vacuum, there are so many opportunities to help here in simple ways. I believe that every person here has a talent to serve the UUFP. I am also a member of the Planning Committee. It's an exciting time in our fellowship as we grow and look for new ways to be a positive impact in our community.
I have found ways to engage in service outside of the fellowship, as well. I am an assistant girl scout troop leader, where I hope I can encourage girls to be good citizens and leaders. They will be leading us sooner than we think! Since settling in Virginia after moving around with the army, I have participated in several political campaigns. The Fifth UU principal, "The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large," has encouraged me to participate in "get out the vote" events and canvass for candidates whom I feel represent my UU values in the past several elections. It's not easy for me to knock on doors and talk to people face to face. I'm a classic introvert, but I feel it is essential to work toward a healthy democracy in our country. The mission of the UUFP inspires me to step out of my comfort zone, and to do what I can to make the world better.
How does the UUFP inspire generosity in support of our own congregation, but also in advancement of our UU values in the world?
I have always appreciated how much the UUFP does in our own community. Programs that have immediate impact, like feeding people at PORT and Good Fridays at St. Paul's, are an expression of our UU principal of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Our share the basket contributions to the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, Living Interfaith Network (LINK), and the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood show we are committed to economic justice in our community. Steve and I knew right away that the UUFP was the right community for us and our girls. This fellowship belongs to all of us, and we thrive when each member brings their time, talents, and treasures to it.
Sponsored by the Adult Religious Education (ARE) Committee
"When body, mind and spirit are in harmony, happiness is the natural result." Deepak Chopra
The Adult Religious Education (ARE) program kicks off the New Year with its continuing enlightening opportunities. The following excerpts from its Sunday Morning Forum classes are just a few stars in the odyssey of nurturing mind, body and spirit! Peruse the past recaps; join us for the upcoming guest speaker on March 10 (ref. below).
Let fellowship with, in and through the Sunday Morning Forum become, for us, a "natural result"!
"How U, YES U, Can Identify and End Wage Inequities"
Presented by John Whitley
March 10, 2019
"Homeschooling: Historic Institution or Current Trend?”
Presented by Rachel Bevins
March 3, 2019
"Homeschooling" has been around for a long time, from native tribes to prairie families. What does it mean today, and why are the numbers growing?
"A UU Military Journey"
Presented by Corey Anderson
February 24, 2019
"Yoga - a Way of Life"
Presented by Nancy Sessoms
February 10 & 17, 2019
Is yoga a spiritual path, or is it physical fitness? In this two-part Sunday Morning Forum an overview of raja yoga’s eight-limbed path was presented. Upon completion, each participant could decide whether yoga is a religion, a means to stay in shape, a framework for healthy living, or something else.
"The Importance of Rituals to Humans"
Presented by EarthRising Members
February 3, 2019
"Number, Logic, Faith"
Presented by Scott Kasmire
January 13, 20 & 27, 2019
In Part C, the group will looked more closely at the connection between metaphor and faith and determined what sorts of metaphors are most useful in determining our place in the world.
Presented by Bob Mosolf
January 6, 2019
UUFP Member Bob Mosolf spoke about the history of cancer, cellular level changes, treatment options and personal interactions with someone with cancer.
By Mason Moseley, Acting Chair, Meet the Author Committee
On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at 7:00 p.m., Brad Harper will present his acclaimed new book, A Knife in the Fog, a thriller, in our sanctuary to an audience drawn from the Greater Hampton Roads Community, and at the same time, inaugurate the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula's (UUFP) Meet the Author program, a service of connecting authors with area readers.
The advent of computerized book printing has greatly changed the way publishers market new books, leaving much of book promotion up to the individual author. The new Meet the Author (MTA) series is intended to help area authors to promote their work, while establishing a stronger presence for UUFP within the Hampton Roads community.
Following Brad's presentation, there will be a reception at which copies of his book will be available for purchase, the author will sign autographs, and complimentary wine will be served.
UUFP members are urged to support this launch of Brad's book, as well as the MTA program, by planning to attend, and possibly bring a non-member friend. We hope to make this a classy kick-off for both Brad's book and the series.
Join us in the UUFP Sanctuary
415 Young's Mill Lane, Newport News, VA 23602
Authors with a currently published book who would like to present at future events are urged to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unless otherwise noted, services include sermons preached by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard and take place at 9:30am and 11:15am on Sundays.
March 3rd: “Who’s Taking My Stuff?”
It’s a natural feeling: we don’t like it when somebody takes something away from us. But it’s not that simple. When we’re promised something and then the promise is broken, we feel the same loss, even if we didn’t actually want what we were promised! And if we had some advantages that are now given to other people, too? Then it can feel like we’re the ones being oppressed.
March 10th: “Embracing Paradox: Exploring the Contradictions that Vex and Enrich Our Lives”
How do we live with the apparent opposition between good and evil, scarcity and abundance, individuality and community, death and new life? If we hold them as paradoxes, not “either/ors”, the tension can then open our minds and hearts to new ways of seeing and being. We will look for what Thomas Merton called life’s “hidden wholeness”, the underlying unity of all things.
Dr. Susan Moseley is contract Minister for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock in White Stone. She received her Doctorate of Educational Ministries from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2012 and her certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Haden Institute in 2017.
March 17th: “The Whole Megillah”
Intrigue! Passion! Pride! Betrayal! No, it’s not another day in Washington. This is the story of Queen Esther, who bravely saved her people by winning a victory over religious discrimination. As communities all around the world look forward to celebrating Purim, the most festive of all Jewish holidays, let’s remind ourselves of the timeless delights and drama of this Bible story.
March 24th: “Spiritual Activists”
In these times, what does it mean to be actively resisting oppression? How much resistance is enough? What will really make a difference? And how can we tend to our souls as we continue to stay engaged with the world?
Rev. Laura Horton-Ludwig has served as minister of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists since 2017. Previously, she served with congregations in Wisconsin, Illinois, California and Northern Virginia. A graduate of our Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, Rev. Laura is also a trained spiritual director. We welcome her to the Fellowship in her second pulpit swap with Rev. Andrew!
Special music will be provided by the UUFP’s ChorUUs!
March 31st: “Justice on Earth”
Racial justice, economic justice and environmental justice often seem to be competing for time, attention and resources, so let’s explore some of the ways in which they are intertwined. For when those on the margins are most impacted by pollution and climate change, our faith calls us to do the long-haul work of making justice for our human kin, for the Earth and for all life.
This service is part of our Fellowship’s participation in this year’s Common Read.
Happy Birthday to all our members born in March!
Jerry Dingus, Jr.
March is also the birth month of Joseph Priestly (March 24, 1733) who was a Unitarian minister, teacher, author, and natural philosopher. He is known for discovering oxygen.
If you are a member and have a birthday in March that we overlooked, please contact Bobbie Schilling at email@example.com.
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