“For over 30 years I’ve been listening to fellow members describe why they give joyfully & generously to this community; give of their time, their talents, & their treasure. Well, they ﬁnally got me, so now it’s “My Turn.”
It was 1982, & my sister Mary was visiting from St. Louis. Would I take her to service this Sunday at a new church she had joined? Sure! I’d never heard of the Unitarian Church, so I looked it up in the yellow pages (that’s how long ago this was) & the Summit church seemed to be the closest one. That day changed my life. We walked into this beautiful sanctuary; Jan Knost was preaching, & a soloist played the violin. As a viola player in a previous life, I thought it was a sign. I had become uncomfortable with my Catholic roots, & this place seemed like a breath of fresh air. What, you choose your own minister? Any source of wisdom is considered holy? The service is different every week? Then we all chat over coffee & treats?
When I got back home, I said to my husband, Ron, “We may have to check this place out.” We started coming to services, we helped at the garage sale, we got to know folks, & made our ﬁrst donation. In the fall, I joined the choir & the kids started church school. Dave was 5 & Ellen was 3. What a relief to have somewhere for them to learn religious values without the confusing dogma that we did not believe; truly a church of open minds, loving hearts, & helping hands.
So that’s how our journey here at UCS started. Over the years we took our turn ushering, placing ﬂowers (or kites) in the sanctuary, hosting coffee hour. We helped out almost every year with the garage sale, the services auction, & the annual giving campaign, co-chairing each at one time or another. We both served on the BOT; I served a year as president. We went to picnics & proms, concerts & dinners; we developed deep friendships.
But it was not all just work & fun; this is a religious community after all. David Bumbaugh introduced me to Joseph Campbell; I read ”Hero with a Thousand Faces” then all four volumes of “The Masks of God.” We taught RE classes; Ron taught OWL & was a yourth group advisor for many years. Our kids went from RE to youth group. And every Sunday morning we had an hour to focus on the meaning of our lives, on our relationship to the ineffable & to those around us.
About a dozen years ago the church developed a plan to unite our programs “under one roof,” & we were glad to contribute to such a daunting building project. After a year of meeting in a school gym with our new parish Minister, Vanessa, we ﬁnally returned to Summit. The ﬁrst wedding in our newly restored sanctuary was that of my daughter Ellen & her husband, Bob in 2002.
Then in 2010, the unthinkable happened: Ron died. After a simple, successful surgery, he succumbed to unexpected complications. I have a large, supportive extended family, but they are all 1000 miles away, in different directions. I had my children to support me, but experiencing their own grief. It was my family here UCS, members & staff, that got me through the next few weeks & months. They called & sent cards, brought me food & comfort, sat by me in church & invited to their homes. Some helped my son move back into my house. Vanessa created a wonderful memorial service, & Nicole Kirk, our assistant minister at the time, came with me to St. Louis to present that same service for our families there. My ﬁnancial adviser & lawyer, both members of this congregation,walked me though the long & complicated legal process. I will be forever grateful for the love & support I received from this community.
I’m still singing in the choir, ushering, working on committees. But now that I’m retired, I’ve been able to take advantage of other opportunities. I went to my ﬁrst GA three years ago, & marched at the Rally in Raleigh this February; I joined the World Religions class & the pastoral care team. When the property next door went up for sale, I contributed toward it’s purchase. Two of my granddaughters are now enrolled in the RE program; Hannah is 5 & Kate is 3. Little Amelia got to be baby Jesus in the Christmas pageant. My son Dave, a youth adviser, & his wife Lisa got married in this sanctuary just last fall.
So why do I give?
Because I want this congregation to be here; for now & for years to come; for me, for us, for our kids, our grand kids, & for all those strangers who will walk in these doors like I did 30 years ago, looking for a liberal religious home. I’m proud to help make that possible.
So here’s my pledge card, signed & sealed. Now it’s your turn. “