By Donna Sprock
The wise man, or wise-guy, Stephen Colbert, once said: “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without conditions, and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
My name is Donna Sprock, and I am the volunteer coordinator and kitchen organizer for the Meals Ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula (UUFP). A little over 15 years ago, I stepped into the amazing shoes of Shirley Grice, who had been our kitchen organizer for PORT (People Offering Resources Together), LINK's* emergency winter shelter program, when she wanted to step back and let a younger generation take up the work. I was a little intimidated by the idea, but let Shirley’s example inspire me. Fortunately for me, she had a lot of great recipes that serve dozens of people! I talked to her, took lots of notes, and tackled my first PORT night. I was surprised to find that I have a knack for planning, shopping, organizing, and directing enthusiastic volunteers to create a meal for 100 people!
Ten years ago this month, in July 2008, the UUFP took on a new mission—to serve meals at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Newport News to people in our local community who are food-insecure. Our first day there was a Saturday. I had raided a friend’s garden and brought a lot of fresh summer squash and tomatoes, with the garden soil still on them! We worked with Reverend Isabel Steilberg and Pat Morrell to learn how to cook in their kitchen and how to minister to the people in the downtown, Newport News, area. I don’t remember the full menu that day, but I do know we made a hot lunch that included beef and vegetable soup with our fresh from the garden vegetables. We even had work for the kids, because we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for bag lunches. It was a great experience and everyone wanted to do it again. We were able to volunteer for four or five Saturdays a year, and as we gained experience we decided that we really wanted to do more. After a couple of years, we were able to take a monthly slot on the third Friday night of every month. Over time our skills and recipes evolved into the program that we are today. And now we have added the first Friday of every month, as well.
It is incredibly rewarding work; work that I personally believe has made me a better, more compassionate person. I don’t expect the people I help to change or “get better.” I don’t expect or want their gratitude. They don’t even have to like the food. I just try to treat them with respect—and remember that they are still people, too. At St. Paul’s we cook a hot meal, always including fresh vegetables and fruit, and serve it to our guests. Then, once everyone has a plate, we volunteers take a plate of food and sit down at the tables with the people we are there to help. We don’t all gather at one table, separate to ourselves. We spread out, one or two of us to each table. I say, “May I join you?” I put down my plate, pull up a chair, and then we talk. What do we talk about? The usual things—sports, the news, the weather. I’m often asked about the UUFP, what kind of church it is. And answering that question usually leads to very interesting conversations. “You accept everybody?” I often hear. And convincing them that we accept all beliefs often takes a while. It’s funny how acknowledging that we even accept atheists here is often the final proof! So of course, I’m asked what UU’s believe. And my answer is “It depends on the UU. But what we all believe is that a person’s beliefs or disbeliefs in God, or gods, or goddesses, are that individual's own business. It’s not up to a UU to tell anyone what to believe. We don’t have any creeds, but we do have a set of principles that address what we truly care about—which is how we treat each other.”
Besides being just neighborly, it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression and paranoia that many homeless people face. I try to put that old Golden Rule into action.: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat others the way you want to be treated.
There is another saying I try to put into action, one that at first seems to conflict with the Golden Rule. That is: "There is no free ride." But I don’t apply this to the people I’m there to help. I apply it to myself. It pertains to all of us. Every one of us has inherited benefits and developments from generations past, and each of us lives in a network of the labor of others. In order to keep that human network going, each one of us must contribute back to it. It is not always true that if you watch out for others, others will watch out for you. But you are more likely to get out of something what you put into it—from study, to relationships, to society. And the farthest that anyone is allowed to fall in your society is the farthest that you will be allowed to fall. If no one is allowed to starve, you will never starve. If it is unacceptable that anyone be outside without shelter, you will never be outside without shelter. If the dignity and civil rights of all persons—including those who annoy you—are respected, your own dignity and civil rights are safer, too. I believe these values inform all of the work our volunteers and I do at St. Paul’s and PORT.
Our 10th anniversary at St. Paul's is this month. I honestly think of it as a good beginning to good work. I feel fortunate to have found something that I am good at which also helps other people. I feel incredibly blessed that others in the UUFP also want to help and support the meals ministry. I think we all find the work to be enjoyable and important. So many people in the UUFP share my love for this meals ministry and believe in its value. I consider it a sort of yoga for the soul and believe we receive as much benefit from the program as our guests do. I don’t know how to express the depths of my gratitude for the opportunity to do this work. I can only hope you might consider joining me.
*LINK: Living Interfaith Network
Sponsored by the Adult Religious Education Committee
The Adult Religious Education program encourages and supports the spiritual, social and intellectual growth of our UUFP congregation through educational classes, activities, and focused discussions on topics of interest. These opportunities allow participants to learn from one another and from active members of the broader community.
Fostering a vibrant sense of mutual understanding, curiosity, respect, empathy, tolerance, and social justice, Sunday Morning Forum is one such educational opportunity. Here is what is slated for an intriguing July 29th forum and a perusal of other recent stimulating topics.
“The Evolution of Darwin’s Religion”
Presented by Ken Goodwich - July 29, 2018
“To See in West Africa”
Presented by Dr. Hugh E. Berckmueller - July 22, 2018
Guest speaker Dr. Hugh E. Berckmueller shared about his personal and professional experiences in a Ghanaian eye clinic.
Interested in a mission such as this and reaching out beyond the comforts of one's own world? Contact email@example.com, and we will help facilitate the connection to learn more!
“Widening the Circle, Healing Divisions”
Presented by Pam Luke & Kathryn Ozyurt - July 15, 2018
Inspired by the power of fellowship circles, the class shared in small group format their perspectives on key questions provided by the Luke-Ozyurt team.
The Legend and Myth of Gilgamesh”
Presented by Meg Glenn-Albiez - July 8, 2018
Adventurer Meg Glenn-Albiez took us on a voyage to discover what this age-old story means to us today.
“Giving Hugs: Reading the Signs”
Presented by Gary Ott & Henry Chambers - July 1, 2018
In their joy, when the released prisoners of war got out of Hanoi they “hugged.” These hugs among men, those released and those of us who were bringing them home, were unconditional—hugs that showed happiness, sincerity, and were without fear. From that kind of hug, when we retired to the U.S. mainland, the unwritten rules for how men are supposed to hug were back in place. Bang! Facilitators Gary Ott and Henry Chambers were the perfect tandem team to illustrate the spectrum on this "hands-on" topic!
“Autism, ADHD, & the Sensory Spectrum: What To Do With Quirky in a Neurotypical World”
Presented by Rachel Bevins - June 24, 2018
So what do those terms really mean, and what can we as a community do in respect and support of people with special needs?
“Bananas in Heaven”
Presented by Kathryn Ozyurt - June 17, 2018
“The Radical Teachings of Jesus”
Presented by April Kelsey - June 10, 2018
We continue to owe a debt of gratitude to each forum facilitator and our faithful interactive attendees in creating such an enriching program! Join us, Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 12 noon in the UUFP Office Building!
It will run for all five Wednesday evenings in August. We will start with a light meal at 6:30, and the class will run from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Andrew and I will provide the meal the first week, and we will do potluck for the remaining four weeks.
Childcare will be provided on request. And we encourage all parents in the household to attend.
This course was written by Makanah Morriss and David MacPherson, long time UUs, who have both preached at our church in the past. They share in the introduction to this course:
Throughout our Unitarian Universalist Association, most religious education centers on the weekly hour of classes offered each Sunday. Beyond that there may be a youth program, and periodic meetings and social events. Almost everyone admits that is not enough. For example, parents are continually asking how they can better understand and interpret UU values during the week. They want to help their children respond to questions such as: What is the Bible? What do UUs believe about God? Parents want to know how they can make their homes stronger centers for UU values.
Each session is divided into three parts:
The session titles are as follows:
By Rachel Bevins
Questions? Contact Rachel B. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
By Rachel Bevins
As our August summer camp approaches, I wanted to take a moment to share with you how wonderful our June camp was!
In the last week of June, the UUFP coordinated with the homeschool group, Williamsburg Classical Academy, to create TIME TRAVEL week. With campers and youth counselors ranging from ages three to sixteen, we packed in a lot! We wrapped up mummies in Ancient Egypt, built (and destroyed) cardboard box castles in the European Middle Ages, learned a native peyote beading technique in the American Wild West, played an old-fashioned record player in the Swingin’ Sixties, and inoculated one of our counselors (with shaving cream!) against a strange alien bug on Future Day!
We were fortunate enough to meet a lot of special needs. It turned out that more than half of our participants are sensory special. It was such a treat to see kids realize they were not alone! I was so impressed by their ability to respect one another’s needs, help each other through rough patches, and just be able to relax, be themselves, and have fun. Of course a lot of amazing projects and inventive games were created as well. Special thanks to Joanne Dingus, Chris Addotta-Smith, Emily Darugar, Gail Engle, and Scott Kasmire, who were our fabulous guest counselors. They added their own perspectives and exciting activities to make an environment that was perfect for creating important bonds and wonderful memories.
Our next camp will be SCI-FI & FANTASY, August 6 - 10, 2018. Half day for ages three to six is $75, and full day for ages seven to twelve is $150. Junior and senior youth counselor positions, for ages thirteen to seventeen, and adult guest counselor positions are also available. Please contact Rachel B. at email@example.com for a flyer or registration information. We look forward to another week of making great memories!
Happy Birthday to all our members born in July!
Lucy Van Tine
If you are a member and have a birthday in July that we overlooked, please contact Bobbie Schilling; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Services include sermons preached by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard unless otherwise noted.
July 1st: “Human Kindness” and
July 8th: “Cosmic Perspective”
In describing the Earth as a “pale blue dot”, cosmologist Carl Sagan noted both the uniqueness and the isolation of our planet, lamenting the arrogance and cruelty that is unnecessarily common in human society and warning that “in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” In these Sundays bracketing the week of Independence Day, let us celebrate our interdependence, lifting up our urgent need for (in the words of our Second Principle) justice, equity and compassion in human relations and reflecting on the humbling and character-building experience of knowing our place in the Universe.
July 15th: “Between Every Two Pines Is a Doorway to a New World”
There is more to those woods than meets the eyes, and no, we are not talking ghosts and goblins; to the contrary, we are talking phytoncides. Phytoncides are volatile chemicals that plants emit that make us feel good. In this sermon, Jan will explore the concept of “forest bathing” and the importance of forests and nature not only in his life, but also in our lives and religious traditions around the world.
Jan Briedé has been a member of the UUFP since 2000. Originally from Holland, he became a US citizen in 1994. He has a Ph.D. in Range Science from New Mexico State University with a specialty in Plant Physiological Ecology and works for the Department of Environmental Quality for which he provides environmental workshops throughout the state. Jan has been married to Donna for forty-one years. In his free time, he sails, grows bonsais, bikes, blogs and “forest bathes”.
July 22nd: “I’ve Never Been This Old Before”
In pursuit of July’s theme of Exploring, Julian will tell us about his remarkable spiritual journey from “Jewish wanna-be-Catholic in Warsaw, Poland” to “dues-paying UUFP member in Newport News” “by way of the Holocaust, both political and personal.” An award-winning, best-selling memoirist, whose published memoir stopped at age twenty-two when he graduated college, Julian will now recount what he considers “pretty much the total journey”.
After college and military service, Julian Padowicz enjoyed a thirty-nine-year career producing documentary films. He has published a memoir with three sequels, five novels and “Mrs. Parsley” books for children, and he continues to write. Julian and his wife, Donna Carter (who will join him at the pulpit), moved to Hampton and joined the UUFP in 2016.
July 29th: “To Arrive Where We Started”
Does the journey matter more than the destination? It’s certainly important to reach a goal, complete a task or otherwise achieve closure, but how we get there matters, too. In a religious community like our Fellowship, for example, individual growth and the deepening of relationships is an essential part of everything we do, whatever our other intentions. After all, every journey, no matter where it takes us, is ultimately a journey of self-discovery.
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