By Parker Stokes, UUFP Planning Committee
Parker Stokes presented this update on the planning committee's work during the Sunday Services on October 13, 2019.
Before you can create a plan, you need some goals and guiding values. So, we started the planning process in 2017 when we agreed that WONDER, LOVE, SERVICE and GENEROSITY are our CORE VALUES. We have extended these CORE VALUES into our MISSION by attaching the verbs GROW IN WONDER, CONNECT IN LOVE, ENGAGE IN SERVICE, INSPIRE GENEROSITY.
You are already familiar with this as our MISSION STATEMENT and our intention to let it be the guiding principle that informs all our actions. This intention was best summed up in Andrew’s May 26 sermon when he asked us:
Written inside the wonderful graphic footprints on the back wall of the sanctuary you can read the commitments many of us made several months ago as our first step toward this process. You can also see that these small step commitments have begun marching us forward to the place where some of the five year goals for our building and Fellowship are displayed. The Planning Committee has also solicited five year goals from each of our committees and the Board. We are in the process of organizing these ideas into an actionable list that you will see more of in the future.
The most important and popular idea expressed in the process so far was your enjoyment of being associated with the like-minded community you find in this Fellowship. Rev. Andrew has suggested that “perhaps OUR PURPOSE is COMMUNITY, practicing it as deeply and thoroughly as we can, both within and beyond our walls." Community will likely become the central organizing theme around which all of our future efforts will be built.
So, with guidance by our Mission Statement, energy supplied by our enjoyment of our community, and goals supplied by you, I am excited to see us continuing the process of defining the VISION of our next five years. To this end, the Planning Committee and Board will be working with you to further craft this vision. We are planning a monthly update like this to keep you informed. All of the committee members mentioned earlier and I welcome your input.
Henry Chambers and Sandra Engelhardt served on the Planning Committee. Joanne worked with Youth; Rev. Andrew led a workshop; and Robin facilitated a panel discussion. All told there were 16 workshops in four tracks: Environmental and Social Justice; Spiritual Practices; Congregational Leadership; and, Music.
I headed to my first workshop where I met Abbie Arevalo-Herrera who is under the church’s Sanctuary protection with two of her children (see: facebook.com/handsoffabbie). She spoke frankly as to her appreciation for this saving her life, but also about the realization that being so confined has become taxing. The experience brought the current immigration situation in human terms.
Next, we heard from community organizer, Dr. Charlene Sinclair, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and program coordinator for the Interfaith Organizing Initiative. She has presented at the UU Association’s General Assembly. She spoke of the need to deal with Dangerous Memories of structural violence. To do this will require collective action; reminding us that "if you’re not safe, I’m not safe." The need is to not be involved in cultural perspectives that create non-persons. Time will need to be looked at not as a linear event, but as circular, encompassing past, present, and future. Our comfortable “head” work needs to become “heart” work. Challenging us to be aware of western, patriarchal thinking, and to change our muscle memory affected by society. Racism, though structural is experienced individually. That there is a "structure of whiteness" that has to be broken.
By now, during a break, I had been approached by a Williamsburg UU suggesting an immigration intuitive. This is why these meetings are so valuable - formal sessions and informal conversations.
The Prison Ministry session was an eye-opener. Todd Landeck, member of the Fredericksburg congregation and former prison inmate told of his work in bringing Secular Humanist groups to the Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells, VA. Having to deal with chaplains, wardens, and the Virginia Corrections Department (VCD). His efforts have led to twice weekly meetings that we would recognize as small ministry circles. Other religious groups were holding meetings. Todd realized there were inmates searching for more open-minded views and discussion. His efforts led to Humanism and Unitarian Universalist being recognized as religions by the VDC, on par with others who were meeting. Rev. McCusker of Fredericksburg has been a support to this effort and visits the Wednesday group once-a-month, usually taking a visitor with him. Todd credited the American Humanist Association and the Freedom from Religion Foundation for the legal work. This was an inspirational session.
“Working Towards Environmental Justice in the Commonwealth: What Can Your Congregation Do?" This panel discussion was facilitated by our own Green Faith Fellow, “Doc ” Robin van Tine. He introduced Gustavo Angeles of the Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org/virginia) and Kendyl Crawford of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light (https://vaipl.org). They both are a valuable resource for local inequality issues. They depend upon a local issue to come to their attention, and they will come to do training and support to empower those affected by the injustice. Participants were requested to inform them of where such local needs exist.
That led to the Closing Ceremony. The seven Cluster minister processed to the front to a standing ovation. They then closed out the meeting and extinguished the Chalice repeating the "LET’S GO" theme. Attendees then joined in song. Congregations then gathered separately for pictures. I am a big believer in Saturday gatherings of UUs like this Cluster. The spring of 1987, as new UUs, we attended a Thomas Jefferson District meeting in Charlotte, NC. We wanted to learn more about what Unitarian Universalism was all about; how far and wide had those ideas spread. That led to many adventures and friendships and much inspiration. I always want to support the gathering of UUs. The Tidewater Cluster will meet at Coastal Virginia UU, Virginia Beach, next October 2020. This event is going strong. So, LET’S GO!
On Sunday, February 10, I gave a sermon called: “The Garden Grows the Community.”
The idea of creating a community garden was introduced in part as a response to what I saw happening in the Children’s Religious Education (RE) Program and in part as a way to live our mission: Grow in Wonder, Connect in Love, Engage in Service, Inspire Generosity.
I asked our congregation to imagine the possibilities a community garden might bring. I asked, if a community could grow a garden, could a garden grow a community?
So now that we’re in October and the summer growing season has almost come to an end, I wanted to share with you some of what did happen.
We grew in wonder and squash! We tried a different planting technique called straw bale gardening. There were several advantages to using straw bale. They acted like raised beds, being more visible and easier on the back. They were easy to prepare and maintain. What did we learn? Don’t put more than a couple of plants per bale, and if planting tomatoes, stake them before they grow too big. We also learned the power of a couple of squash plants. They could produce over 100 squash but also overwhelm the nearby tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. We gazed in wonder at the bees, birds, butterflies, squirrels and deer that visited the garden, pollinating and feasting.
We connected in love each Wednesday evening when food for the potluck was made from our own garden vegetables. New recipes were tried and shared. On Sunday mornings, the weekly harvest went home with members and visitors, spreading the love organically.
I think the garden itself inspired generosity each time it produced more than we could use ourselves. Produce was given to neighbors walking by and to many different people outside of our fellowship who attended meetings here. Veggies were given to the Boys and Girls Club as well. It also inspired our members to be generous with supplies and time. We had many donations of both.
This year, we are taking our monthly themes from “Soul Matters”, a network of Unitarian Universalist congregations who follow the same themes for the purpose of sharing worship, music, religious education and small group resources.
Unless otherwise noted, services include sermons preached by the Rev. Andrew Clive Millard and take place at 9:30am and 11:15am on Sundays.
October 6th: “Water of Life”
Our bodies are mostly water. Each one of us once floated, unborn, in the sea of our mother’s womb, our lungs filled with fluid. Before and after we were born, water has moved in and out of each our cells, at every moment of every day of our lives. Water is essential to our living, and to our spirituality: the water we drink unites us with the Earth as intimately as the air we breathe.
We’ll celebrate the Water Communion! Please bring a small amount of water from your home — from your kitchen sink is perfect. During the service, we’ll pour the water into a common bowl, representing what each of us brings to the shared life of our congregation.
October 13th: “Intentionally Inclusive”
Every second Sunday, the lay leader mentions that we are a Welcoming Congregation, “intentionally inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.” When it comes to who belongs to our Fellowship, what does it mean to be “intentionally inclusive”? Do we only need to leave the door open? Or is there more to it than that?
October 20th: “Unity”
Following a brief description of biographical information and marginalized identity, Unity will share a four-part autobiographical story about the daily lived experience of a non-binary person as well as the spirituality involved with such an identity.
Unity Walker is a PhD student at the College of William and Mary studying Counselor Education and Supervision. Unity uses they/them pronouns. Their research focuses on spirituality and marginalized identity. They have recently moved to Newport News from Auburn AL where they worked as a counselor at a local psychiatric facility and were the LGBT advocacy coordinator at Auburn University.
October 27th: “Would We Be One?”
Much of what goes on in society seems to be the result of a tension between the individual and the group, between independence and conformity, between separateness and belonging. Within Unitarian Universalim, community is offered as the antidote to the myth of rugged individualism, and yet, when it comes to being one, there are subtle traps for the unwary.
Special music will be provided by the fabulous ChorUUs!