By Steve Kadar
Delivered at UUFP online Sunday Service, May 18, 2020
To quote from a Joni Mitchell song “Don’t it always seem to go...that you don't know what you've got til it’s gone”.
UUFP is the third stop on my tour as a Unitarian Universalist. How I ended up becoming a UU is a story in and of itself best left for another time. In 1986, I joined the The First Unitarian Church of Richmond. It was an established church with a huge building with a large membership and many activities, committees and programs.
Around 1994, I joined small groups in living rooms and at potlucks and discussed what we would want in a different type of UU church, and that was the beginning of UUCC, the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Glen Allen. We started from scratch, met in community centers and schools until we built our own building. We had a growing membership along with many activities, committees and programs. It was my spiritual home and in many ways it was my “child” that I continue to watch grow.
In 2006, I came to a heart wrenching decision to leave UUCC because I could no longer live in Richmond and commute 75 miles each way to work in Newport News for Ferguson Enterprises as an Architectural Designer. I bought my current home in Newport News, moved in on May 19, 2006, and joined UUFP later in the year.
At my two churches in Richmond, I became heavily involved. In my tenure here at UUFP, I was the former Building, Communications and Sunday Services Chair. I launched a LGBT support group and a second “Work Transitions” support group. I served on the Membership, Safety and Social Concerns Committee and on one of the former Planning Committees. And I was involved and/or took part on many other social and service related activities. And while it was “fun”, it became “work”, and I thought “that's enough of that” so I stopped doing anything and was “just a member”. And in stopping being active, I also somehow stepped away for the community.
But something changed.
And as the song goes “Don’t it always seem to go...that you don't know what you've got til it’s gone”.
This year, I started coming back on a pretty consistent basis, but then this Pandemic business came along. So within the last several weeks, when we worship via social media on a screen, where the bonds of community for me have reformed and re-solidified. Having you at UUFP has been what I needed, and most likely what we all have needed, to get through something nobody has ever experienced or seen before. Even during the world wars we could still connect with people physically, albeit not in the best circumstances. We have a common cause, all of us, no matter our station in life. This time of isolation and being alone has tested all of us, even myself with the added irony that on the MBTI, I score off the sheet as an extrovert. I believe fully that is the connection and community with others that will get us through this. It is what allows us to be part of a larger whole. But to be part of a “transformational” experience, you have to be involved, you have to be connected, or in my case, reconnected or using a more modern term “Reloaded”.
So if you have been away or lost connection, this is a good a time to “reload” as I can think of. And if you are “connected”, you are in a good place. And make sure to “enjoy the experience”, a lesson learned along the way. Yes, committee work and volunteering can be “work” but it can also bring “joy” as we can give to this unique community. As much as we feel constrained by our inability to meeting in a physical place, obviously we strive meeting together in a virtual place using a technology that did not even exist years ago. We all need to be connected as much as we can because, as we have all found out, we have no idea what is coming down the road next and it is much better to be together for the journey.
So get engaged (or re-engaged), and get ready to be transformed (maybe all over again).
by Dennis Shaw, presented at online service May 3, 2020
Afterwards, we went inside for some cake and fellowship, and a look around the place. We kept asking each other “So this is a church”? It did not look like any church we had ever seen. There were words posted on the walls. The words were thoughtful, meaningful, words about “respect for the interdependent web of existence” and “inherent worth and dignity of all”. What we saw spoke to us. We knew UU-ism deserved a closer look. We explored deeper …and found our spiritual home.
We participated in various ways. I spent very worthwhile time on the membership, Adult Religious Education and Caring committees. I facilitated a fellowship circle. I began singing in the chorus. After a few years away living in Germany, we returned in time for me to serve on the minister search committee which brought Andrew here. On the search committee I learned that the desires and needs of our entire congregation can be distilled and channeled in order to find a minister who understands and will tend to our needs. Powerful stuff.
Andrew came to the ministry following the trauma of 9/11. It is way beyond coincidence that he became our minister and that he is here for us, today, in this situation, where his kindness and empathy are so important. The power of his sermons and his compassion cannot be dimmed by the current need for a “virtual service”. In the same way that the caring and sharing we all give one another cannot be diminished by “social distancing”. The statement made daily as the world struggles to find a way through this is “we’re all in this together”. I found this to be a cornerstone at the UUFP from day one. No matter our religion, spiritual calling, orientation, or politics we are all one here: all accepted, all valued, all loved. By staying together, we know we will see light at the end of the tunnel. We know we will someday be getting those amazing hugs from Henry again (hi Henry). The warmth and compassion I felt here twenty years ago are stronger than ever. These qualities, and the friendship and caring of each one of you have changed my life. I am a better person for being here and having known each one of you. Thank you for being such an important part of my life. Namaste.
by Joanne Dingus
But what I like the best is watching these incredibly talented young people grow as individuals and as performers and really get a chance to follow their dreams.
So, recently, when American Idol aired the first of their Coronavirus Pandemic episodes, filmed from the contestant’s homes instead of on a huge Hollywood stage, I couldn’t help but feel crest-fallen and a little heartbroken for these contestants. I wasn’t sure if I could even watch. I questioned whether the producers had made the right decision to continue on. Maybe they should have just postponed the competition until things got back to normal.
I stuck with it, watching Ryan Seacrest host from his living room, and the judges comment from their separate homes. The show must have sent each contestant a box of candles and several sets of string lights because each setting featured these items whether they were singing from their living rooms, garages or back porches. I’m still not sure how they managed to arrange the backup band music to accompany the performers but all in all the sound was good. The singers dressed up in glamorous costumes and did their best to fill their performances with emotion and try to connect with an imaginary audience. Some were lucky and had a couple of family members clap for them when they finished but others had to perform alone.
I share this, because even though none of our children or youth are having to go through this specific scenario, we are all having to make some real life adjustments. The plans we had made, the dreams we were hoping to chase have been either cancelled, postponed or adjusted in ways that leave us struggling to know if the best decision was made.
All of our families are having to figure out how to deal with online everything; educational classes, extracurricular activities, clubs, an endless calendar of Zoom, Google classrooms or hangouts. Birthday celebrations, high school proms, graduations, school concerts and events, summer camps, family vacations have all been cancelled, postponed or adjusted. Even our church has had to do everything online.
So how are we supposed to deal with all of this disappointment, confusion and change?
There is a saying in the entertainment world, “The Show Must Go On.” We can certainly see this in the decision that was made to continue airing American Idol. I suspect much of the decision was financial and contract related. I also suspect the contestants had little say in the matter.
During this Coronavirus Pandemic, we have seen thousands of inspiring and creative ways people are managing through this time, exhibiting flexibility and resilience. If you thrive on creative solutions, go for it. But I also want you to know that it’s okay if you’re not able to put on a show right now. If it’s too much to get dressed up and sing your heart out to an imaginary audience, there will be another season.
In Unitarian Universalist settings, we often talk about the importance of self-care. When we take care of ourselves physically and emotionally, we are much more prepared to handle times of stress and change.
So, take care everyone. Be kind to yourselves. And one day in the future we will . . .
See you in the RE!
by Bobbie Schilling May 10, 2020
Our second son Matthew was born that December, and his naming ceremony was the first to be held in the present sanctuary. When Chris was the only teen attending regularly, many adults stepped in to encourage, mentor and befriend him. He chose the fellowship as the location for his Eagle Scout ceremony. As the UUFP grew, Matthew was more fortunate to have a strong group of friends his own age in the fellowship. I remember camping trips, kite flying on the Yorktown battlefield, potluck dinners, marches for social justice, distributing food at the foodbank, and Halloween costume parties. These many activities gave our sons fond childhood memories and instilled in them the importance of caring for others.
Being a member of the UUFP has always given me opportunities to grow and try different skills. One of my first attempts at something new involved editing and printing our newsletter, The Flame, which I found to be a most rewarding job for a stay at home mom with a baby and a preschooler. The role of Religious Education Director encouraged me to get to know the families of our fellowship better. More recently, involvement with the Membership Committee, facilitating fellowship circles, contributing to the Caring Committee, and organizing volunteers for PORT, the Winter Homeless Shelter, all foster relationships and keep me active in my retirement years. You could say we are a Fellowship for all seasons of life.
By the time our sons were grown and moved away, the UUFP was not just church – it had become family in the truest sense of the word offering us support, love, compassion, understanding, and connection to like-minded people. I have found lasting friendships with many of you through shared books and travel, shared food and recipes at potlucks, and shared ideas in Adult Forum, committees, workshops, Second Sunday Lunch, Book Club, and fellowship circles. You have been with us during life’s milestones both joyous and sad. This is doubly important to Roy and me as neither of our families live nearby.
I have told you about the UUFP in my past and present. Will it be a part of my future? There is no doubt in my mind that it will be. I am still learning, growing, and getting to know all of you. I still trust in the promises of life that our fellowship offers. If you are wondering whether the UUFP is the right place for you, I encourage you to get involved in as many activities as you feel comfortable. It is through involvement that you will get to know and appreciate the wonderful people here at UUFP - for it is the people, not the building, that makes us who we are.
by Sandy Burkes-Campbell
By the UUFP Planning committee
It seems as if the world has stopped for many of us. The pandemic has affected us all and in different ways.
Before the pandemic so shifted the rhythms of our lives, we had worked toward and made important decisions to deepen our congregational life and mission. The congregational vote in March to “stay or go” created excitement and anticipation as our search for new sacred space was about to begin. We were looking forward to our first visit with congregational consultant Mark Ewert from Stewardship for Us at March’s end. Of course, that meeting and other events were postponed.
During the past couple of months, the Planning Committee has continued to work to find a way forward. We have been making progress and discerning the next steps in our journey towards a new location for UUFP. Thus, the real estate task force continues to evaluate properties that members bring to its attention. And we seek your ideas and inspiration for what appeals to you in a new-to-us building and location. To help, Jerry Dingus has just established a lively Facebook group – “What does our new UUFP space look like?” We welcome members to join in the envisioning, sharing, and discussion. And Lin Chambers has set up a Pinterest site for sharing images and inspirations. There will also be a physical bulletin board in the sanctuary as well where you can post paper images when we are able to come back together in person.
In thinking about moving forward, we remember what you resoundingly affirmed in our vision work last summer:
Now ready to reprise our forward momentum we have reached out again to Mark Ewert and he has agreed to a virtual Next Step “weekend” with us beginning June 7! However, instead of an in-person weekend of meetings and engagements, we will spread out our sharing and learning with Mark in a number of one-hour zooms across a two-week period, so nobody suffers undue "Zoom-fatigue."
Meeting with Mark represents our first step in drawing upon the expertise of a church consultant to support our congregational goals and aspirations. It will let him get to know us as foundation for future collaboration. Importantly, it will provide our leadership insight into the options before us, i.e., capital drives, strategic planning and other areas determined after our initial work with Mark. Both of our sister congregations in Williamsburg and Norfolk began their expansion process in much the same way.
So, welcome virtually back to the next steps as we find a new home for UUFP. Let us look to our future together as we grow in wonder, connect in love, engage in service and inspire generosity.
UUFP Planning Committee
“Soul Matters” theme: Thresholds
Unless otherwise noted, services include sermons preached by the Rev. Andrew Clive Millard and take place on Sundays at 11am via Zoom.
May 3rd: “That I Might Know Your Mind”
In this time of physical distancing, we are called to connect with one another more carefully and more intentionally than before. When we can’t get together in person, we need to find other ways to check in with one another, to learn how our friends are doing, and to remind ourselves that we are still held in the promise of Beloved Community.
May 10th: “Radical Acceptance”
American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is a personal request for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” For most of us, courage and wisdom are reasonable and worthy, but accepting our limits is easier said than done, especially when it feels like giving up!
May 17th: “Life Calls Us On”
Since the turn of the century, prognosticators have metaphorically looked toward 2020 as the year in which we would be able to see into the future with 20/20 vision. The first few months of 2020 have been like nothing we have ever experienced. All predictions are off. We are moving through uncharted waters with no personal protective equipment to shelter us from what’s ahead. Let’s explore how we can move forward into the future without clear direction, without confidence of conviction, and without a guide to lead us on.
Annette Marquis is the Operations Director for the Living Legacy Project, Inc., an organization that educates people about the enduring lessons of the American Civil Rights Movement. Previously, she served the Unitarian Universalist Association as LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director and as District Executive for the Southeast District. Annette is the author of Resistance: A Memoir of Civil Disobedience in Maricopa County. Her writing has appeared in various journals and anthologies including Coming Out in Faith: Voices of LGBTQ Unitarian Universalism and The Women of Katrina: How Gender, Race, and Class Matter in an American Disaster. Annette lives with her wife, Wendy, in Richmond, where she is a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond. With Anita Lee, Annette is co-founder of the Richmond Pledge to End Racism.
May 24th: “Living into Covenant”
From 1648’s Cambridge Platform connecting New England’s congregational churches to the Principles and Sources of today’s Unitarian Universalist Association, our religion has responded to the challenges of interdependence through covenant rather than creed. As such, this is not only our preferred response but the defining feature of our faith.
May 31st: “Let’s Get a SHIFT On!”
It sounds like the set-up for a joke: “How is a church like a family?” Many of us, in talking about what it means to us, compare our congregational home to a family at its best: loving, comforting, encouraging, caring. Let’s explore just how a group of people with a shared identity will behave in many of the same ways that a family behaves.