See what some of our members have to say about why they choose to give:
It’s that time of year, according to Puxatawny Phil we have 6 weeks till spring, the traditional time of renewal. As we launch into our Spring Stewardship campaign I and many of you will be thinking about what it means to renew our commitment to this church. I was asked to give testimonial about my journey with this church. While standing up here is not the most comfortable thing to do, I never hesitated to do this. It feels right, because my commitment has grown and is strong.
In 2010 I came to this area after 11 years in Texas. I didn’t know anyone in this corner of the country and I was relocating for my husband’s job even though our marriage was falling apart and…oh yes I was starting a new business. One thing I knew for sure was that I needed to find people. While I am capable of enjoying a bit of solitude, I am most definitely a people person. And while I have many friends around the country, I am old fashioned and actually need to see and be with live people.
So what to do? I certainly didn’t have time to meet people randomly over the years, and I was working from my home office so I didn’t have the natural company of colleagues. I desperately needed to identify a source of caring, intelligent and welcoming people. Of course I had noticed this awesome building. And over the years my sister and in-laws had become Unitarians.
I had thought about Unitarianism, but had never acted on my interest. And while “church” had never been my answer in the past, it seemed like a good option this time around. I also have a son, and I felt that I needed guidance to help teach him about values, our community and the world. He was about 7 when we started coming here and he had questions that I wanted him to explore.
I wanted him to be inspired and informed by something other than the TV and Nintendo DS. And….I wanted to create a life for him where he would be surrounded by love, acceptance and people who understand that life is complex but wonderful. I am a very lucky person. I had a need and I reached out and the answer was there.
As I started to attend services and I immediately felt happy to have found a spiritual home. Unitarianism is a perfect fit for me. I found something that had been missing for me, a space where I could be and think about giving, love and community. It has been great for my son Jake as well. He has met adults, children and ideas that expand his world.
I want to say thank you to all the church school teachers and to Lisa Elliot for tending our precious children. We put out a quality product at this church! But nothing comes without work. I tell my son, if you want to have friends you have to be a good friend. And, you have to show up. So, to get the most from my UU experience I make it a point to show up. Unless I am out of town, I try to be here…no excuses. No matter how tired, sad or grouchy I might be, I always feel better after church. And as for Jake, there is no discussion. We are going and that’s it.
There is plenty of other stuff I’m willing to discuss, whether or not to go to church is not one of them. But showing up is the beginning, to get the full experience one has to be really connected. How did that happen? As I said I am lucky. My first friends here were and are Shannon McGuire, her husband Chad Perry and her son Ashton. We knew each other from school and that was enough to break the ice. Because, no matter how nice people are it is hard to make that first connection. That is one of my big insights this year.
Just attending church is not going to feel like enough, it is not going to make you feel connected. When we get here we want to be known; we want to have a meaningful conversation and to feel a part of the group. Think back to the high school cafeteria. You want to have someone to sit with at lunch. It is a human need. My personal journey to greater connection with this church included participating in a small discussion group on UU parenting. I got so much inspiration from the parents and the book we read and from Lisa Elliot. I also learned how important it is for our children to know our spiritual and religious beliefs. Providing our children with a spiritual home is a gift.
The next step in my journey occurred when out of the blue Jack Dean, who I barely knew, came up to me in coffee hour and ask me to be on the Stewardship Committee. I was surprised, and flattered that someone knew who I was and wanted me on a committee. I was also a bit puzzled, since I didn’t really know what Stewardship was… I was already making a financial contribution, but serving on a committee was really the next step. On the Stewardship Committee I learned a lot more about our church, the membership,its finances, its activities and I worked with such a lovely group of people who inspired my ongoing commitment to this church.
I also became very comfortable with the mission of our committee. Our primary responsibility of course is providing financial support for the church, but this is only successful and only worthwhile in the context of fellowship, spirituality and love. That is the mission of our committee and I feel great peace and happiness about that. So, that’s where I am after 3 years. I’m on my 3rd Stewardship campaign, my son is in his 3rd year of church school, I feel connected and am at the point where I can be more of a leader. So whatever I am doing, stewardship, RE or just coffee hour, I will be working to help create more connections because that is what will grow and sustain our church.
My name is Howe Allen.
And I’m Tim Evans.
We’ve been members here for a year, but it feels like longer, In a good way. We were first attracted to the church by its physical beauty, but found more meaningful and deeper beauty as we began to attend services and meet other members.
Howie: I grew up in the rural Vermont.
Tim: I grew up in a small city in Iowa.
Our religious background was different too.
Howie: My family was a very conservative fundamental Christian family.
Tim: And my family was Lutheran, but religion was not the most important thing in our lives. We may have taken very different journeys, But have found a home where we belong in this town and in this church. A place where we are supported and encouraged, not judged.
I think our story is not that much different from many of yours. We pledged last year as new members because we found a community that is important to us, And we want to see it flourish.
If you aren’t a member or haven’t pledged before, consider doing so this year because this church is more than just a pretty face.
We would like to take a moment and share with you our reasons for supporting and participating in this congregation. Rob and I both grew up Catholic and continued to practice and participate in the Catholic Church into part of our adult lives.
For both of us, it always seemed we were still left yearning for a deeper spiritual connection. About 2 years ago we bought a home here in town and we were always very intrigued by the beauty and sounds coming from this church. One Sunday morning in early September of 2012, Rob and I decided to attend a service here.
We walked over to the church and entered through the magnificent bronze doors, which led into a beautiful sanctuary that took our breath away. We are standing up here today to tell you that the beauty of this church runs much deeper than what you see on the outside. We’ve had the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends along our spiritual journey here. These new friends have shared their personal joys and struggles with us and we have shared ours with them.
We enjoy attending the services here, because we never claim to have all the answers… but admit to not knowing all of the questions. We value that the congregation is open to everyone’s beliefs and that our potential to grow spiritually is limitless. I guess some might say that we like it here because it’s complicated. We appreciate the support this church provides to the local community with regular donations to the Shepherd’s Pantry, various homeless shelters, and many other organizations that protect and support individuals and families in need.
My connection to this Church has led me to serve on the Preservation Committee and participate in various groups and events. Rob joined the Men’s Fellowship last year and has enjoyed participating in their events as well. The spiritual community in this church has provided us with overwhelming support and encouragement in both good and difficult times. For that, we are forever grateful. We are very fortunate to have found our spiritual home. We will continue to pledge and support this Church and it’s mission and hope you will consider this your spiritual home as well, and do the same.
I grew up in a conservative Lutheran family in Western New York. One of the guiding rules of our family that I learned from my father was that we “tithed”, that is, ten percent of all of our income was to be set aside for charity. In grade school I believe my allowance was $1.50 of which I set aside 15¢ each week. Usually that 15¢ went into my Sunday School envelope.
After courses in philosophy and religion I found the Lutheran Church too doctrinaire and ended my membership in 1971. I never gave up “tithing”, however; my contributions just went in other directions, largely to environmental and social justice causes.
A few years ago I realized that I missed the feeling of community provided by the church. Most of what I knew of the Unitarian Church I had learned from jokes on “Prairie Home Companion” but I had known one Unitarian while in high school, my choir director, whom I greatly respected so I considered finding a church in 2009.
I believe I found a listing for the Unitarian Society of Fairhaven on the internet and I decided to visit to see what it was like. I had two significant impressions that first day. I do a bit of amateur woodworking so when I entered the sanctuary and sat in a pew, I was stunned by the craftsmanship that went into its creation; the wood, stone and stained glass work were overwhelming. I was convinced I must be in a sanctuary that was created by Episcopalians only later to fall into the hands of Unitarians.
My second impression was the joy that I saw in the young children running about at “Hospitality Hour.” Clearly this wasn’t just a retirement community but a vibrant organization serving multiple generations. My childhood Sunday School envelope had two sides: one side was for the benefit of the church and the other side was for helping others.
In this church I found a similar mission: a commitment to maintain the wonderful piece of art that is this church while simultaneously working toward greater social justice in the larger community. Here was a mission that I found compelling.
When the Stewardship Committee contacted me that first year, I agreed to pledge even though I would not choose to actually join the church for a couple years. This was a community that I valued and I wanted to do my part to keep it thriving. I have continued to pledge each year since then. My pledge is a sign that I believe in the mission of this church and its role in society. My pledge is my way of promising, “You can count on me.”
A member of the Stewardship Committee asked me to share with you this morning why I have chosen this place as my spiritual home. I’ll try to follow the advice of a respected long-time member of this congregation, “Less said, better heard, so I’ll try to make it short.”
I have been a member of the UU Society of Fairhaven for approximately 14 years – a relative newcomer! I wasn’t always a UU. I was born into a family of Episcopalians. Through the years, I became a very liberal thinking Episcopalian. After more years of questioning, I found my beliefs and those of the Episcopal Church moving farther apart. I came to the conclusion that I might belong in a Unitarian Universalist community.
How fortunate it was for me to discover and walk into this church many years ago. This beautiful sanctuary, a mini cathedral, the stone carvings cut by Italian masons, the wood carvings by Bavarian wood cutters and the wonderful windows designed by the impressionist artist, Robert Reid, were fantastic.
The windows especially spoke to me. My favorite stories of hope and love. The Nativity (behind me). The glorious Sermon on the Mount showing Jesus as Teacher and above the glorious Beatitude windows depicting thoughts and values to aspire to, not just rules to follow.
The music was also wonderful- songs sung beautifully by a talented choir and music played by a fantastic organist. And songs with familiar tunes but with new words which were very meaningful to me.
The service continued with an inspiring sermon by Interim Minister, Judith Downing. I thought the morning couldn’t get any better. It did, with coffee in the Parish House. You were made to feel welcome. People asked questions and they listened to your answers. Remarkable people, intelligent people, kind people. In December 1999, I became a member of this beloved community.
Through the years there have been many opportunities for me to develop my own belief system. Sunday services, sermons (Ann Fox), educational offerings, presentations by our children, small group ministries, attending district meetings and several General Assemblies. Also, I have been able to serve this community as a greeter and usher, a church tour guide, a member of the Stewardship Committee, and President of this congregation. Currently, I am a member of The Board of Governors and the Memorial Church Preservation Team.
I love this place and especially this community. I look forward to its continued growth! This is where I belong!
I hope you will take the time to think about your story and the part you play in this circle of life and love and support we call the UU Society of Fairhaven.
Good Morning! I am Brian Walsh and I have been coming to this Church since 1997. Not a lifetime, like some of you here, but long enough to have been through a change of ministers. With Reverend Ann retiring, we will be calling a new minister.
When I first came here, Bob Thayer was the Minister. Then he announced that he was leaving. “Oh, no he can’t!” Well, he did. So, Judith Downing was the Interim Minister, and we all loved her. “Oh, she’s great, can we keep her?.” No, you can’t.
The UUA Guidelines are very clear. As a UU congregation, you will be calling a new minister. Now I grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition, in Ohio. One of the ways that they tested us catholic school kids was to ask: “If you were walking down the street, and an angel & a priest were walking towards you, who would you bow to?” Now I realize that some of you are scoffing at this. Angels in Ohio? C’mon, Brian! But we knew the answer – the priest, because he was God’s direct representative on Earth. You didn’t choose priests. The Diocese sent them and then, after awhile, they shuffled them like a deck of cards.
So, we have a tremendous responsibility, and opportunity, here:
- Form a Ministerial Search Committee
- Announce the open position
- Then interview candidates from all over the United States.
We want to present ourselves in the best light:
- A stunningly beautiful Church
- Proximity to the Sea
- And a fair & competitive salary package.
By your generous pledge, in the upcoming Stewardship Drive, you will give the Search Committee the ability to insure that we have many candidates, eager to come here to Fairhaven. Then we, the congregation, will choose one, and call that candidate as our new minister.