|Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, outmoded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
|There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.
In faith and care, Your Interim Minister, Rev. Jennie
“Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” - Anonymous
As I write this we are still awaiting Candidating Week and I am trying to savor every moment of the suspense and the unknown. By the time you read this, decisions will have been made on both sides and we will have an answer to the question “Who is next?” And the wonderful Ministerial Search Committee will finally be done with all its hard work.
And church life goes on. We still have many things going on in our near future for which to plan. We have the Cornerstone Society induction of Mary and Ben Thomson on May 10. Music Sunday is on May 17 and I’m expecting a choir extravaganza! The Buffalo River weekend is towards the end of the month and it has expanded to include other congregations which is so wonderful for all.
May 30 is the Variety Show and Silent Auction Fundraiser “We Love Arkansas!” We’ll be getting some money for the coffers while blowing off some steam and having great fun.
June 5 will be the final UUCLR Presents event. Keep your eyes open for more information about this fantastic series that our church offers free to the wider community.
June 7 is the Annual Congregational Meeting – put it on your calendars! There will be the vegetarian potluck following the service and, hopefully, the meeting will commence at 12:30 with everyone full and ready to work. There are the usual very important items for vote – the Budget for 2015/16 and the slate of nominations. There are some more tweaks to the Bylaws – notably getting the Committee on Ministry back up and running with the added duties of the old Personnel Committee. Be sure to read the materials you will be getting on all of these things which require your informed vote.
There will also be updates on the status of the RE wing renovations, the Community Garden, the front doors, and lots of reports from the Interim Minister, the DRE, the President, Teams and Committees. It’s our time to look back and to move forward.
June 21 is the last service that Rev. Jennie Barrington, our Interim Minister, will preach. Following that service we will have a farewell party. Rev. Jennie will still be around for another week and then will be on vacation for July. She will be available to us if we need her.
July 1 marks the beginning of the new church year. I will move to the office of Past President and John McNee will step into the role of President of this congregation. I am so happy that the church will be in very good hands!
Whew! We are one active church!
Kater Reynolds, Board President
Members and Friends,
I don’t know the origin of the above quote. But I do know, as I’ve told you joyfully many times, that you are the best at feeding people, of any congregation I know of! The original thought behind that quote may be from the wise and helpful religious author Kahlil Gibran who wrote, “Work is love made visible.” In his essay, “On Work,” in his book, “The Prophet,” Gibran reflects on work as laboring with our hands, and as sowing seeds, and as singing. He writes of how engaging in a common endeavor binds a group together in lasting ways, perhaps even everlasting ways.
This month you all will have an opportunity to do all that, and more. A milestone week in the congregation is upon us. All systems are “go” for your hard-working Search Committee to choose one Candidate to whom to offer the position of new settled minister of UUCLR. They will do so in early April. They’ll tell us who that minister is, and when Candidating Week will be, and what the schedule of that week will be, by mid-April. This is surely a joyful and exciting time! It is likely that Candidating Week will be from Saturday, April 25th through Sunday, May 3rd. (It is possible that it will be a week earlier. So please continue to be flexible until the Search Committee announces these details.)
I’m happy to let you know what that week will be like. The Candidate will preach and lead worship twice, once at the beginning of the week, and once at the end, followed by an all-member vote to call the Candidate as new settled minister of UUCLR. Friends of the church can attend that meeting, but only members may vote. Between those two worship services, there will be ample opportunities for the Candidate to meet with members, their families, staff, and friends of the church. Perhaps one time slot will be with three committees or teams of the church, with others invited to attend if they are interested. At least one time slot will be for families with young children. These gatherings are sometimes called “Meet and Greet and Eat.” So you will have several opportunities to work to set them up graciously, and to feed the Candidate abundantly. In short, you will have opportunities to do what you do best, and be who you are as your best selves.
These several gatherings will also be your chance to ask all your questions and raise any concerns you have. Candidating Week is when you should talk directly with the Candidate, the Search Committee, and the Board about UUCLR’s history; present successes, joys, and concerns; and bright future. Following the final worship service of Candidating Week, there will not be a discussion before the vote-to-call. So all questions and concerns should be expressed previously. I know you will do beautifully with all the work, social times, and discussions that week. I need to give you a heads-up that I will not be at the church that week. It is necessary that I absent myself so that all of you and the Candidate can get to know each other without my inserting myself in any way. I look forward to hearing the result of the vote, and I imagine it will be a happy success!
So please make every effort to attend the two worship services of Candidating Week, and several of the gatherings or meetings in between them. And, if you are a member, please make every effort to attend the vote-to-call. A high turn-out for that vote will shine an enthusiastic light on the culmination of UUCLR’s search process, and on its future.
In Kahlil Gibran’s essay, “On Work,” he writes: “And what is it to work with love? …It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house. It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit. It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit, and to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and
This month, and especially during your Candidating Week, may you reap the harvest of all the good work you have done during this interim period, and infuse your congregation with affection, so that your
congregation’s dearly departed predecessors may look upon you with pride and love.
In faith and care, your Interim Minister, Rev. Jennie
The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” Benjamin Franklin
So, what is the “job” of our church? I’m not talking about our mission or our work in the city, but about what each of us expects for ourselves from this church. I suspect we all have our own answer to that question. Unlike mainstream churches, UU churches don’t TELL you what church is about. It truly is your own experience – your own search for truth.
I have heard a number of people recently say things like “I’m just not getting much out of church right now” and “Church doesn’t do if for me anymore” and I wonder about their expectations. What are they hoping to get from their church experience? Do they know? Why do these unfulfilled folks not speak up in order to try to get what they want so much? Maybe they have and we didn’t listen? Maybe they don’t think that they will be heard? I suspect it’s more that they don’t think that the church will change for THEM.
Change – Ah, that devilish little word! None of us seem to be a big fan of this unalterable state of being. Change will sweep us up, kicking and screaming if need be, but we WILL be moved along. So why play the ostrich? UUs are all about inspiring change – pushing for good education, equality of races and sexes and sexual identities, recycling,…and the list goes on and on.
Every person’s needs are important. The church becomes what the members want it to be. Yes, I know, there are ‘institutional’ features that seem to bog things down sometimes – and let’s not forget that favorite saying “It’s how we always do it.” But things can evolve to better fit what the members want and need. The flip side of that coin, however, is that not everybody will see the changes that they want – the church may not change in the way YOU want it to.
I urge you to become a part of UUCLR – with your voice, your talents, your time. The members ARE the church. This church is about an enduring community of support and love. It won’t always be exactly what you want and you won’t always find just what you need here. But think about what drew you here, what has kept you here and what incredible things you can still find here for a long time to come. Then work to make it the best church it can be for you, for this beloved community and for the big, beautiful world out there. It’s well worth the effort!
Kater Reynolds, Board President
The deepest vocational question is not ‘What ought I to do with my life?’ It is the more elemental and demanding ‘Who am I? What is my nature?’ Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks, we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need.’ Buechner's definition starts with… the nature of the human self, in what brings the self… the deep joy of knowing that we are here on earth to be the gifts that God created.” (Parker J. Palmer)
Dear Members and Friends,
Recently I walked in Maumelle Park, in bright, warm, sunny weather, alongside cheerful people of all ages, dogs of all sizes and temperaments, birds I’ve never seen up close before (including the Least Tern), and the ever-companionable Arkansas River. Despite the guilt I felt in solidarity with people I care for in Northern Climes who are beset by several feet of snow, I couldn’t help being joyful. Guilt about something like the weather is ultimately unproductive anyway. A minister is of greater service to the world when she or he is connected to joy.
There’s a little dock I could walk down onto, to view the wide expanse of the river. I did so several times, stretching my arms out and upward, grateful to have found this precious “Natural State.” I looked both to my left, where the river had come from, and to my right, where it was headed into its future. I prefer looking forward, rather than back; most of us probably do. In this interim period, we have examined, extensively, your church’s history, including things we can be rightly proud of, and unproductive patterns we have now broken, old emotions we have now processed, and mistakes we now vow not to repeat. I am very proud of you for engaging in that exploration and work. And we have turned a corner toward looking ahead to UUCLR’s bright future, including preparations for a week with a candidate for settled minister this spring. An important part of those preparations is for us to explore the nature of ministry, including the work and role of a professional ordained minister, and the many forms “lay ministry” takes. So the theme for worship services and religious education this month is: “Ministry Is…”
We will also explore the nature of ministry and vocation when we host the cluster of Arkansas UUs on March 28 and 29. Last year, your board and I conceived of our “Moneyball Leadership Development Plan,” based on the movie and book, “Moneyball.” We have put it into practice in many ways. When an open position in the church needs to be filled, we are considering individuals’ inner gifts and talents. And we have tried to create teams of people whose strengths and weaknesses complement each other, rather than putting too much responsibility on any one person.
What I have been most inspired about lately is ways I’ve noticed that when a person or group is asked to do something, they are able to do well, and are motivated to do, such that they stretch themselves and shine in new ways. This has been true in my ministers’ study group, when the right minister is asked to do the right paper at the right time. This was true when a colleague in Nashville gave our church and the UU Church of Hot Springs Village the opportunity to help and came to know two of the most brave and determined people we have been honored to meet. And this was true for our “Heart Communion” worship service, when several members were asked to take parts in that script, gifting us with delight, humor and new insights.
At its best, this is what a congregation can do for itself and the world: provide opportunities for people to serve in ways that deepen their connection to their most authentic self, and to joy. I look forward to learning more about your sense of vocation or ministry, and to discovering more ways we can help one another stretch and flourish.
In faith and care, your Interim Minister, Rev. Jennie
We’re getting a new settled minister!! Wait – back up – we still have a few things to think about and to work on before our candidate arrives.
The Ministerial Search Committee will be doing three “Pre-Candidate Weekends.” They will be spending most of a weekend with each pre-candidate, in person, which will involve various activities including a lengthy interview and hearing them preach at a neutral pulpit. They will then narrow their list of fabulous ‘finalists’ to one minister. This person will be their choice for our settled minister. The Negotiation Team will then start discussions to confirm the contract particulars. After that, the board will review and endorse this agreement.
This minister will then come here for a week. The Search Committee will give us lots of information, in early April, about what will happen that week (including which week this will be – since the minister’s schedule is part of the puzzle, too.) But, from what Rev. Jennie tells me, there are some ‘usual’ formats to that week. The candidate will preach on the first and last Sunday and, after that second Sunday’s service, the congregation will vote.
How will we know the candidate well enough by then to make a decision? Well, there will be a full week of meetings and discussions – with the board, the committees and teams, the staff, and the whole congregation. We can talk among ourselves and ask the Search Committee members for more information. By the end of this candidating week, we should all know this candidate pretty clearly and be ready to vote on inviting him or her to be our next settled minister.
So, let’s think about that week. The candidate will be appraising US as much as we are appraising him/her. The match has to be made both ways. We have a responsibility to put on our best face, use our company manners and do what we can do to let this minister know what a wonderful church this is!
No, we don’t want to misrepresent ourselves – no lying, no sweeping the metaphorical dirt under the rug, no pretending to be something we are not. But we CAN be the best that we can be. And we can be pleased by our many accomplishments and proud of the wonderfully supportive community that we have built here. Just let all that wonderfulness shine through!
Along with our positive attitudes and conveying our many strengths, comes the mundane need to LOOK good. A lot of people turned out for Work Day in February and made a good start. There is still much to do, so let’s all pitch in – on the next Work Day on March 7 and whenever we see something that needs to be done. Take a look at the church with fresh eyes – what would a visitor see? What has gotten ignored or forgotten – those things we no longer notice? Like closets and the pulpit area that have things in them that belong elsewhere, disheveled books and hymnals, unorganized RE supply room and class rooms, etc.
So start thinking (again) about what you want from a minister – what you want him/her to know, to do, to care about – and what you want her/him to know about this church and its members. Help prepare the building and grounds for close inspection. Then attend the Sunday services and meetings – and PARTICIPATE. This is a time of great responsibility and wonderful possibilities. Let’s enjoy every minute of it!
Kater Reynolds, President
“If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are a one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated.” [Victoria Moran]
Dear Members and Friends,
The theme your hardworking Stewardship Team chose for this year’s Pledge Drive is: “We Are UUnique!” That’s a high standard, and I applaud them for it. There are several very worthwhile efforts that our members regularly promote, which other congregations also take part in. We should be proud of such efforts like our outreach to the Correction Center, Lucie’s Place, Our House, and also of our annual Blessing of the Animals service. But for the month of February, your Stewardship Team is also proudly naming things about our church which are uniquely special. Some shining examples are: our “UUCLR Presents” series of panels, presentations, and discussions, which educate and enlighten the greater Little Rock community; our annual Buffalo River Float Trip on Memorial Day weekend, joined by UUs from all over Arkansas, and Missouri; our original IllUUmination celebration, always enriching and beautiful, and which other UU congregations have begun to emulate; and our embracing and encouraging diversity of religious and spiritual beliefs. One unique creation of our church that is very moving to me is the Cornerstone Society. Last year we honored two inductees: David Rickard, posthumously, in October; and John Howard, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday. I hope to have at least two more Cornerstone Society Sundays before the end of this church year. If you have an exemplary church leader in mind, please speak to the Executive Committee of the Board about the process for nominating them.
The impressive list of UUCLR’s unique efforts, above, doesn’t even include the many special worship services we have done together. Our annual Water Communion and Flower Communion services are uniquely Unitarian Universalist, and they are unique because you, our members and friends, contribute yourselves, your life experiences, and your insights to them. Our worship services honoring famous Unitarians Pete Seeger and Henry Bergh (the founder of the A.S.P.C.A.) were also unique, because you, the worshipping community, contributed inspiration and insights, so that we all learned and grew and found new joy together. I also was so impressed by how you stepped up when I suggested we have a Unitarian Universalist Bread Communion service, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, to learn about each others’ ethnic heritage, and family backgrounds. That service was beautiful and enriching (and the breads were delicious!). I hope it will become an annual autumn tradition.
Just as the above unique events take many people’s ideas, time, and work to be successful, our Stewardship Drive will take contributions of your ideas, time, and other resources to be successful. As we did last year, we will be hosting several events as opportunities for group discussion and questions and answers about our church goals, strategies, and long-range plans. The times and places of the stewardship gatherings are listed in this newsletter. I hope each of you will attend at least one, and plan to attend the annual Fellowship Dinner, too. The stewardship gatherings will be receptions and celebrations; they are free; and you will be fed yummy food-- because as I’ve complimented you several times: You are the best at feeding people of any congregation I’ve served!
I really look forward to hearing your thoughts, concerns, and ideas about UUCLR’s future at the
stewardship receptions. The leadership of the church and I took to heart the things you said last year. That’s a big part of why we have moved forward with improvements to the Religious Education wing, greater social action outreach to the community, leadership development, and connection with Unitarian Universalists throughout Arkansas. This month, I hope you will pledge generously to UUCLR, as will I, and I hope we will clarify the many wonderful ways this church is unique, so we can enhance them, expand on them, and celebrate our “differentness” proudly and with joy.
In faith and care, your Interim Minister, Rev. Jennie
Well, it’s January as I write this and perhaps it is time to look forward to what the second half of our church year has in store for us.
UUCLR has started the Annual Fund Drive. Our Stewardship Committee is talking to everyone about pledging for next year, so now is the time to start thinking about what you can give to the church. The total amount that is pledged will determine what can, and can’t, be put into next year’s budget. Please take your time to consider – this should not be done without asking yourself about how much this church means to you. Maybe you are healthy and active right now and don’t feel a need for some of the things offered here. Fair enough – but do you care about the people here who DO need this community and its support? Please spend a little time thinking about the role of UUCLR in your life now and in the future.
If you came to the Congregational Meeting on Jan. 18 you heard Dawn Harris report on the progress of the Ministerial Search Committee. Wow, it is thrilling to hear about it first hand. They have had a very good response from ministers who are interested in serving UUCLR and have been working to narrow down the list. How wonderful is it that we have good candidates that we can pass over!?
Let’s not forget that, with the coming of our new settled minister, we will be saying goodbye to our Interim Minister Rev. Jennie Barrington. It’s hard to believe that she has been here only 18 months – she has done so much to help us. Yes, we will have a time to thank her and celebrate all she has done for us!
On Friday, March 27 (evening) and Saturday, March 28 (morning and afternoon), UUCLR will be hosting a Leadership Workshop for the Arkansas Cluster (of UU churches). This will be open to all and will be run by Rev. Carlton Smith of the UUA. These meetings are fascinating and give you so much good
information – for how to most effectively work for this church and in our outside lives. You will also get to socialize with people from the other UU churches around the state. If we get some kids coming, there will be child care, some workshop activities for them as well – and they will join us all for meals and
Don’t forget about our UUCLR Presents offering on February 27. There are three speakers lined up for the program “Poverty, Part II: Food Insecurity in Central Arkansas”: Kathy Webb, Director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Coalition; Shannon Hendrix, Director of Clinical Nutrition at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Shamim Okolloh with the Arkansas Food Bank. The committee has put together impressive professionals who speak powerfully to the topics – you will not be disappointed
And the last thing I want to mention is that we are planning a Variety Show and Silent Auction fundraiser for some time in late spring. The best date is still being discussed. The plan is to have some singing (rumor has it that the Choctaw Crawdads may help) and routines that center around the theme “Famous Arkansans.” That well is certainly deep! Start thinking NOW about what you want to do. How about reading some Maya Angelou? And skits – well, there’s Bill & Hillary, Huckabee, Central High School, and many more (my favorite is the Duggers…!) And there will be a silent auction of donated items. Let’s keep the theme going – things “Made in Arkansas.” What might you be able to offer? This should be a hoot of a time for everyone. Come! Enjoy! Participate!
Kater Reynolds, President
“Take courage, friends. The way is often hard, the path is never clear, and the stakes are very high. Take courage. For deep down, there is another truth: you are not alone.”
Dear Members and Friends,
After the worship service on December 14, you inspired me anew. A few leaders in our church asked me to preach about setting social justice priorities and, during the service, to ask you to write down at least five social justice organizations or causes that you support, or that you’d like to see UUCLR support. I’m not even sure how to describe how fantastic it felt to hold the collection of your slips of paper in my hands, each with names of causes that matter to you deeply in your hearts. I am very moved to see how much you all care about social justice, and by how many causes you wrote down! Please continue to tell me, and Sharon Marcum, and Cas Rifkin, which social action efforts you want UUCLR to support. It is not too late to do so; it is never too late to do so. We should be including our social justice convictions in all our conversations in our church.
I will be noting with care how your social justice concerns fall under some broader categories. This list is not yet exhaustive. But looking it over preliminarily, I saw several passion areas. The work we are currently doing with “Our House,” “Lucie’s Place,” and the outreach to the Correction Center is very meaningful to you, and should continue. Several other concerns mentioned were: the Arkansas Food Bank, environmental concerns and protecting the watershed, gay rights, voting rights, help for victims of domestic abuse, protection of animals, and literacy efforts. Some more specific causes mentioned were: “WAND” (Women’s Actions for New Directions), Heifer International, “Corporations are not People,” Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement. This heartfelt feedback from you will be helpful to me and our church’s leadership, including the board, the Program Council, the “UUCLR Presents” team, and our choices for the Share-the-Plate Sunday collections.
Speaking up and advocating for these causes that mean so much to you can be hard. I know and understand that trying to do so can leave a person feeling anxious and at a loss as to where to begin. But please know that our church is here to help you become better and more confident at doing just that: articulating the ways your values make you feel moved to act to make the world a better place. The Board, Program Council, and I care about leadership development and we are always on the lookout for the best ways to help you become stronger leaders in our church and its wider community. Speaking up for what you believe in takes courage. And “Courage” is our theme for worship services and religious education for this month. Do not expect becoming more empowered and articulate to happen without practice over time. But in the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Thank you for inspiring me to work with you to change our communities for the better.
In faith and care, your Interim Minister, Rev. Jennie
Oh boy! A Congregational Meeting on Sunday, January 18, 2015, at 12:30 pm. It’s our democratic principles in action. We will have a lot to discuss, some things to vote on, and updates to pass along. The board calls congregational meetings only when there is something important that the membership needs to do, so please make every effort to attend and participate. There will be a vegetarian potluck that Sunday (moved from the usual second Sunday) so bring a “hot dish” to share and then we’ll get down to business.
To be honest, the most serious part of the meeting is the projected budget deficit. It hasn’t gone away,
though the status is constantly changing. The success of the Ministerial Search Fundraiser was wonderful
but we are still looking at a projected deficit at the end of the fiscal year. You will get general figures before and at the meeting and then we need to talk about how to deal with the situation. One thing that will help with having a clear picture of our financial state is if the members become current with their pledges.
These are running behind right now and it’s hard to know if that’s temporary or indicative of a trend. And look at your end-of-year finances to see if you need to, or are able to, give a little more in 2014. Don’t
panic – we will survive. But the congregation needs to be part of the conversation about how we will do that with this year’s finances.
We will put you to work voting on changes to some of our documents. The Articles of Incorporation only needs some housekeeping updates. The Rules and Regulations are maintained by the Board but you will be updated on what those changes are. The bulk of the changes happen in the Bylaws. There are some important changes but I don’t think that any of them are particularly controversial. We are really trying to ‘get our house in order’ before our new settled minister arrives. The more substantial changes include:
OK, now to the FUN STUFF! We are looking at putting in a Community Garden out back. Devin and Miranda Keith have spearheaded an effort to get this project going. They think that there will be grant money to cover the expenses of start-up and plot rentals to cover the ongoing expenses. This is also a way to welcome our neighbors and reach out to the community. Come and see the proposed garden layout, ask questions and catch their enthusiasm! You will get all the information sent to you so you can study up and come informed.
Finally – the mystery is solved! What is going on with our Religious Education building?! Well, I’m glad you asked. We have hired a professional building inspector and gotten an extensive inspection done for us. The building is structurally very sound! Yes, we do have some problems that will need to be fixed. What are they? What will we do when? How much will it cost? What color will the drapes be? All these questions and more will be answered at the Congregational Meeting (well, maybe not ALL of them). Miranda is putting together an RE Wing study group that is looking into all of this and will have a short, preliminary report for us.
If you are dying of curiosity, the full inspection report is in the office for you to look over. It STAYS in the office. We will have a summary available for the members before the meeting. For all of these meeting discussion items we will have materials for you. The changes to the Articles, Bylaws and the Rules and Regulations will be sent out by email to everyone (any who get the Outer Circle mailed will get these mailed) and hard copies will be available at the church. Please study these and ask questions early and often for clarification. Also, some of us will be available to answer questions on January 11 at 12:30-ish (following coffee hour) and on Monday, January 12, in the evening. Maybe we can also have reports from some of the other projects available. If you have questions or concerns about any of the meeting topics or contents, please come to one of these meetings so we may discuss them. This way we can do more research if we need to and hopefully we can keep the Congregational Meeting length reduced.
As an added bonus (who doesn’t love a bonus?!) we are hoping to have a display of some of Little Rock’s most beautiful doors to show you. Why? Because the Board has approved, and the Endowment Committee is working on, replacing our front doors with beautiful, welcoming and handicapped accessible doors. How wonderful will this be? We will only have some other buildings’ doors to look at right now, but we are hoping to soon have some sketches and ideas from artists (yep, real artists!). Then there have to be bids taken and decisions made before we have an idea of timeline. But we can get excited NOW!
I look forward to seeing everyone at our Congregational Meeting Jan. 18. Have a wonderful end of 2014 and a great start to 2015
Kater Reynolds, Board President
“We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted. We need one another when we are in trouble and afraid… We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose, and cannot do it alone. We need one another in the hour of our successes, when we look for someone to share our triumphs. We need one another in the hour of our defeat when with encouragement we might endure and stand again. We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey.All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.” [George E. Odell]
Dear Members and Friends,
The reading above, from our gray hymnal, is one I have struggled with, as have many Unitarian
Universalists. In our denomination’s history, we have emphasized the individual’s rights and abilities to think for ourselves, improve our knowledge and skills, and build our own theology. That is all good, and very dear to me. But it means it is not so much in our nature for UUs to remember that we are each vulnerable and flawed, and we all need caring communities of many types and sizes in order to live full and healthy lives, materially, emotionally, and spiritually. In UUism’s more recent history, UU
congregations have discussed that they are not being the best they can be if lots of individuals act as lone agents and it’s a place where people think they can do whatever they want. Contemporary UUism has realized and raised up the value of covenant groups and small group ministries; social action groups working collaboratively; minister, staff, and volunteers working in synergy; and the whole congregation setting some collective priorities and voting on social justice positions, such as affordable health care for all. It has been enjoyable and enriching for me to discuss and work with you on these projects, accomplishments, and priorities in my time here so far. And we will be doing so even more in-depth this winter, through congregational meetings, celebrations such as the Christmas Eve Service and IllUUminations, the stewardship drive, and our hosting of the new cluster of Arkansas UUs.
I’ve recently returned from an annual trip driving all through the Midwest, to my UU Ministers’ study group in Dayton (our topic was “Race;” ask me about it!), through the cornfields of my beloved Indiana, and I even took in a college football game! I was nervous about how I and my car would handle all that driving. But sometimes I’m a person who’s not happy if I don’t have something to be anxious about. The only way I could find the inner strength and courage to set out on that trip was to believe that, should I encounter trouble along the road, kind and generous people would come to my aid. I’m happy to report that my car and I fared just fine. And I’m happier to report that I met many nice people along the way who truly were ready, willing, and able to help strangers in need. The most heartening example is a garage and gas station off of route 57 in Illinois called, “K & K Auto and Truck Stop.” All I needed was for the gas tank to be topped off and to freshen up. But the friendly and helpful group there provide repairs, tires, and 24-hour road service to travelers, and they’ve done so, in that location, for decades now.
Our congregation is like that, too. We are here, in good times, for companionship, celebration, and
encouragement. And we are here providing solace, support, and hope in the worst times in people’s lives, too. And we’ve done that for decades, now. I hope that, increasingly, it will be second nature for us to remember that we need caring communities, and there are unique reasons we need the caring community that is the UU Church of Little Rock. –because being a Unitarian Universalist is special, and being a member of a UU congregation is special, and being a member of our congregation is uniquely special. Please turn out for our congregational meeting on January 18th, and keep your ears pealed for the Candidating Week this spring, at which votes will be taken on everything from building
issues, a community garden, social justice causes, and a new settled minister. If you are not yet a
member, and would like to be, please speak with me and our membership chair, Cas Rifkin. UUCLR gives us all the opportunity to commit to a strong and vibrant congregation with a proud history of
creativity, learning, and liberal values. Individually, what we can do is always limited, but together, UUCLR will continue to be a source of understanding and progressive ideas, in Little Rock and
statewide, for decades to come.
In faith and care, your Interim Minister, Rev. Jennie
So, what HAS your board been doing these past five months? I bet you’d like to know – well, I’m hoping that you do anyway. That would mean you are involved in the life of this church and that’s a good thing.
I’ll start a list and elaborate on a few of the items. If you have any questions, please speak with a board member. We all have name tags that are blue. Or look for the following people:
Kater Reynolds, President
Nancy Kimpel, Past-President
John McNee, President-Elect
Miles McCullough, Treasurer
Mindy Morell, Secretary
At Large Members
Jim Bell (also Disbursing Officer)
Approved / Voted
In Process / Being Discussed
Just Plain Work
Not enough? You should know that every member of the board is involved in many other jobs besides sitting on the board – every one of them! They truly step up. I am grateful for each of them.
Kater Reynolds, Board President
“When I think about creating abundance, it's not about creating a life of luxury for everybody on this planet; it's about creating a life of possibility. It is about taking that which was scarce and making it abundant.” Peter Diamandis
Dear Members and Friends,
Exploring ‘Monthly Themes’ has been enriching and enjoyable for all ages this church year. The August theme was “God” and the September Theme was “Mercy.” Rachel Finley, our excellent Director of Religious Education, and I are using heartening “core stories” of enduring truths in the Religious Education programming and the Sunday morning worship services. Some stories are of the lives of Unitarians and Universalists, as well as other great leaders and thinkers from around the world. The children have been listening intently and have many insightful responses and questions. Our worship is also enhanced by our Music Director, John Perez, and our choir. On Sunday mornings and in many areas of our church life, we are experiencing a synergy in which the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. I am thoroughly enjoying my collaborations with Rachel, John, and all of you.
That abundance of learning, creativity, and caring is our theme for this month. When Rachel and I chose “Abundance” as November’s theme back in August, we did not know what the results would be of the Supplemental Funds Drive to fund the search for a settled minister. It is with tears of joy in my eyes and pride in my heart, that I report success beyond anything I had imagined! The original goal was $15,000, to include the Search Committee’s budget plus expenses to relocate the new minister, as well as an installation ceremony next year. The grand total in contributions and pledges is $18,670! How wonderful it is that we are starting this church year with such a happy success! You are a congregation of stand-up people who truly stepped up and did your best. Thank you!
But abundance means more than just money and material things. It is also our collective wisdom about ways to live more ethical lives and leave a better world for generations to follow. Some of that collective wisdom is from our Unitarian Universalist history, heroes, and heroines. This month’s worship services and religious education will explore that collective wisdom through core stories and spiritual practices that are meaningful to all ages.
Some of those practices will nourish your bodies as well as your spirits, and some of those stories are yours! On the Sunday before Thanksgiving on November 23 in Thomson Hall, we will hold a Unitarian Universalist Bread Communion worship service. Please bring some bread that represents either your ethnic heritage or a family tradition--also fixings like butter, jam, and cream cheese. We will place the breads on long tables and bless them. During the service you will be invited to tell us about your ethnic or family tradition. We will then sample the breads in fellowship, sing a closing hymn, and enjoy more breads and fellowship! For more information, please talk with me or the Worship Arts Team. Intergenerational baking projects are encouraged! Please also email me or call me to tell me that you will bring bread, and which country or family tradition you will share with us. That will help me write the homily for that morning.
This is the Unitarian Universalist blessing we will say before we break bread together (adapted from the words of the Rev. Richard Kelley):
This is the bread of the earth. It symbolizes the hard labor of our lives, be it physical or mental labor, by which we create and fulfill ourselves. Whether our path upon this earth be rough and barren, or smooth and fruitful, still we do not make that journey totally alone. For the tasks and duties of the earth are made lighter, made more joyous, when we are willing to share them with others, and work diligently side-by-side to make our dreams of earth come true. Let us then break bread together, in a common commitment to the task of making the earth a more peaceful, safe, and abundant place for us all to live.
Please bake and break bread together often this season, especially across generations, and please tenderly share the stories and insights you learn with me and with our church.
November…. the month of the Thanksgiving holiday. I love Thanksgiving–it is a powerful thing to give thanks. And it has no religious trappings, which is so very UU.
Giving thanks for what we have is an effective tool for daily living also. I like to practice gratitude-naming before I fall asleep each night. After a while, instead of naming the ‘usual’ things (so as not to become insensitive to them), I turn to other, less vital things. I identify the beautiful sunset I saw, or the snake that my dog found in the yard, or the kind word or gesture of a stranger that day. Even the difficult conversation I had that taught me something. Then I try to look outward much farther – to things happening in the world.
The Buddhists have taught me to occasionally apply gratitude and awareness to the food I eat. I sit with my food and think of all the people who made it possible for me to eat these things. There is the first line of farmer, transportation, grocery or market, and my preparations. But then I go deeper: the farmer has people who help with the harvest and grow the seed that he/she planted; then the veggies get shipped and processed and boxed up by more people; the grocer puts them out on display and someone checks me out and charges me for the food. I am far from done at this point–there are people who make the tractors, people who supply the needs of the seed producers, people who make the trucks, pave the highways, make the boxes, etc. And then there are the people who make life possible for all of THOSE people. Yep, a meal is not a simple meal. We are interconnected to millions of people every time we eat food. And not just at Thanksgiving.
So let’s take a look at expressing gratitude for our weekly church service. The first layer of thanks are to the people we see doing things: our minister or lay speaker, the ushers, the greeters, the pulpit assistant and the musicians. We see them doing tasks during the service, but they also do various things to prepare the church, the sermon and the music (think of all the hours of choir practice!), and they work after the service is over to close down the sanctuary, count and record the collection, and sort the choir music. We also have people who plan the services with the minister–the Worship Arts Team. That committee works with the Program Council (the leaders of the other Teams) to communicate and coordinate so everything runs smoothly. Let’s not forget the people who lead the church now and in the past who keep the whole organization running and the building standing. Oh, and the ever-important people who give money and time to make sure we can have the Sunday services which glue our community together.
Now expand your thinking to include all of the things that this church does (inside and in the outer world) and it becomes beautifully overwhelming. There truly is a lot for which to give thanks!
Kater Reynolds, Board President
Recently I watched a few episodes of the new TV show, “Utopia.” I wouldn’t want to turn you against it. The topic has been of interest to me for a long time. I once wrote a paper on Liberal Utopian Communities and the future of Unitarian Universalism. You are welcome to read it. So if you would like to, please ask me for a copy. The TV show follows fourteen strangers who have been set up to start a new utopian community in a lovely spot of rural California. As individuals they each have a vision and desire to live in a new, different, better, and counter-cultural way. But what bothers me most is that there isn’t one vision or mission at the core to unify them and their efforts.
Your excellent Search Committee is currently soliciting your answers to the question, “What is the burning coal at the heart of UUCLR?” through their survey and Focus Groups. I hope you will let them know your answers as to why, uniquely, UUCLR is here, so they can provide prospective ministers with one clear answer, instead of several disparate ones. In our recent Board Retreat, which was very pleasant and productive, the board expressed that “To Be the Best We Can Be” and “To Be a Good Neighbor” are two core things for which UUCLR is here.
A utopian community must answer for itself many human questions and basic issues, as must a congregation. Questions such as: “Why are we here?” “Why don’t ‘they’ agree with us?” and establishing goals, objectives, work, sustenance, ownership, and authority. As I tried to watch the “Utopia” TV show, I dearly wished those fourteen souls had worked out many of these things before the taping began. The TV show is called Reality TV. But the scenes, many of which were overly dramatic, seemed staged-like fake arguments that resolved with scripted reconciliations. But when a congregation has worked out their own collective answers to questions of their values, priorities, covenant with each other, and ways they want to be in relationship with the wider community, there is great good they can do, for and with neighbors near and far. And the world is in great need of our liberal principles and ethos. UUCLR has clarified its answers to many of these questions. But the question of how we want to be in relationship with the wider community is the one UUCLR has met with some hesitancy in its history. So in the coming year, we all will be working on that question. Why has UUCLR been hesitant about reaching beyond its walls in church-wide social justice efforts? Perhaps it has felt shaky confidence, or not wanted to feel too vulnerable or uncomfortable. And perhaps the myriad of ways “social justice” can be defined has held UUCLR back, as well. But in the coming year we will have many opportunities to show the wider community our principles and values through the work of our hands (and feet!) The Gay Pride parade on Sunday afternoon, October 5th will be joyful chance for us to do that. I hope many of you will join us in walking or staffing a UUCLR table that day. I and your leadership want members, friends, and neighbors to walk side by side with us.
Groups large and small follow utopian type visions to live as if a better world is already here-a world that values reverence for human beings, democracy, inclusiveness, the beauty of the natural world, and greater heights in education, the arts, and non-violence. To so live is to practice resistance to the ways of the dominant culture, and resistance is our theme for the month of October. There are many ways our
individuals and small groups are practicing resistance to a dominant culture which treats people and the earth with indifference rather than reverence. These range from being vegetarian to believing prisoners can have a fresh start. But collective action is always more effective than individual action. It creates more support, camaraderie, and synergy. And collective action is necessary in so many arenas. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “There are some things in our social systems to which all of us ought to be maladjusted.” I look forward to exploring possible collective responses to these things. As Marge Piercy writes, in her poem, “the Low Road:”
|“Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope…
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
|A thousand have solidarity and your own
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.
It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again and they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.”
That saying is going to be my motto for a long time. It seems simple and, perhaps, obvious. But it was presented to us by the Unitarian Universalist Association as our tool for surviving and thriving.
I hear people talking about how our membership numbers have dropped and how we better get them up and fast. We DO have very real challenges with our budget and, most likely, raising our membership would bring in more pledge money. But sheer numbers won’t necessarily pay the (larger) bills–and we want to be cautious about how we raise those numbers. Many of us are convinced that by being the best that we can be, we will attract (and keep!) lots of people who will become members. At any rate, working towards excellence is a good thing by itself.
Ah, but HOW to be our best – that’s the real question. And that’s where we begin our work. Taking a hard look at what we do and how we do it is a good start.
On September 5 and 6 your Board of Directors participated in a leadership retreat. The focus of the retreat was “The JOBS of UUCLR’s Board of Directors” and what we can do with those. The theme of the retreat–and, I think, of the year–is “Be the Best that We can Be”
Rev. Jennie Barrington talked to us about Social Justice. She also gave us an extensive list of the things that UUCLR is already doing in this area. It was such a thrill to be reminded that this church is very involved already. We have nothing to apologize for in that work.
When discussing how we might put our values to work in the outer community, the board came up with three main areas of focus: Neighborhood Outreach - Climate Change - Homelessness
We also talked about a possible big event (ideally making some money) that might be a kind of Earth Day Festival. We additionally put together an Ad Hoc Committee to study and recommend ways that the church can better address the needs of our young families. Barbara Fuhrman and Miles McCullough will be heading that up.
Lastly, we started work on what we are calling the “QUUik Action Team” which would be a group (probably an email response group) of folks interested in getting out there to put our values in front of the public. This might mean answering the call to participate in a protest, walk, or rally; answering a call to help after a tornado; or maybe even putting on your Standing on the Side of Love T-shirts and showing your support of our minister as she performs same-sex marriages!
Be Proud – Be a UU!
Kater Reynolds, Board President
“Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issue of how our lives fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things. This is true even when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is 'spiritual' when it reveals our personal d esire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life.”
(Robert C. Fuller)
Dear Members and Friends,
If someone asked me to say one of the most important things in my life at this time, I might answer: air conditioning. Air conditioning keeps me feeling refreshed and motivated, physically and emotionally. The spiritual aspect of our lives needs regular means of refreshment, too. One of the things I, our staff, and our congregation are here for is to give you ways to enrich and develop your spirits. To that end, our excellent Director of Religious Education, Rachel Finley, and I will be incorporating spiritual themes and practices in the sermons, worship services, and religious education programs for all ages – themes such as Courage; Compassion; and Repair, Healing and Self-Actualization. It is not our intent to make more work for anyone. But potentially, every group could plan at least one program that would coordinate with the theme for that month, including Adult Religious Education, Social Justice Advocacy, Musical Programs, Caring Committee, UUCLR Presents, and Hospitality. Rachel and I will be providing lists of resources such as books and essays (including novels for young readers); films, and maybe even songs groups can sing together. Ideally, the resources will foster rich conversations between generations, and even between people of the same generation. Thereby, we will all learn more from and about each other. And it should be fun! Lively discussions about Life’s Big Questions are central to why we come together at UUCLR.
When I was growing up Unitarian Universalist, I did not hear much about spiritual practices. At that time, UUs may not have even realized that spiritual development is a process, much less that it is better done with a teacher and a group (or sangha). But in recent years, Unitarian Universalist have asked for this information. What makes something a spiritual practice is intentionality, regularity, and depth. Spiritual practices range from meditation or prayer, to being vegetarian, recycling, spending quality time with family, practicing yoga, and quilting or other visual arts. And the fit of a spiritual practice varies depending on a person’s situation and stage of life. If you would like to incorporate a spiritual practice, or enhance one you are already doing, I would welcome talking with you.
The monthly themes for the year will be:
DECEMBER: Wonder & Delight
JANUARY 2015: Courage
FEBRUARY 2015: Compassion
MARCH 2015: Repair, Healing, Self-Actualization
APRIL 2015: Creation (both the process and the thing)
MAY 2015: Blessing
JUNE 2015: Letting Go
In the coming year, may we all feel a refreshment and re-enlivenment of our spirits, as appreciated and needed as air conditioning on a hot Arkansas summer day!
As summer ends and we refocus for the ‘serious’ months ahead, let’s try to keep some of that fun, carefree vacation feeling with us. There is plenty of work ahead for all of us here – a special fund drive for the Ministerial Search Committee expenses, balancing a deficit budget, and all the day-to-day work that keeps the doors open, the lights on and the coffee brewed.
But this work is opportunity, not drudgery. Do you love this church of YOURS? Then being part of its success is a privilege. Like helping our family members or friends, our lives are made better by every task we are allowed to tackle. I have done a lot of different work at this church and I can honestly say that almost all of it has been a joy, if not downright fun. I feel blessed by the opportunity to participate and help. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to pitch in and support this wonderful church.
My summer contained a lot of travel and I am glad to be home for a while. A highlight for me was the UU General Assembly in Providence, RI. 5,000 UUs in one place – awesome! And where ever I went, I was able to take UU with me. As I get to know more about this faith and this church, I can better share it all with others.
The first board meeting of the year is coming up and will be followed closely by the board retreat. We will be diving into our work as usual but also doing some energizing work on our vision and our hopes for this church. How do we want others to view our church? What do we want to be doing in the outer community? How do we see ourselves in the world?
Do you have any thoughts about this? I’m hoping to start some church dialogue and maybe get some concrete projects started once we know what YOU want. So, please, stay in touch with your board and with the leaders of this church to let us know how you feel. And complete the Search Committee’s survey – this is the information they need to give the candidates a picture of the church and its members. Participate – it’s a great opportunity!
Kater Reynolds, Board President
Dear Members and Friends,
On Sunday, May 11, I realized I was wrong about something. I’ve never been enamored of officiating weddings for people who know nothing about the congregation I serve nor about Unitarian Universalism, but they like the look of our building and grounds and are under the impression that UU ministers will marry anybody. I even told the board, the Transitions Team, and our Church Administrator that I would be saying no to requests for weddings from couples who had no relationship to our church. It is true that, when I have been able to do such weddings in the past, that has given a group of people a favorable impression of Unitarian Universalism, but I felt my time serving UUCLR would be better spent on strengthening it as an institution and caring for its members and friends.
After a circuit court ruling on Friday, May 9, struck down Arkansas’s ban on same-sex marriage, I knew I had to reverse my “marriage decision.” So I talked with Sue McDonald and Karen Walls, who then gladly sent out this announcement:
“In light of the recent decision by Judge Chris Piazza of the 6th Circuit Court that the ban on gay marriage in Arkansas is unconstitutional, gay couples were able to obtain marriage licenses for the first time in Eureka Springs on Saturday morning, where 15 marriages were performed. In anticipation of couples in Pulaski County seeking licenses on Monday morning, our Rev. Jennie will be going to the County Courthouse tomorrow to be available to perform marriages for gay couples. She feels this is an historic event in Arkansas and wishes to be part of this joyful occasion.”
Judge Piazza (Bless his heart!) discerned that Arkansas’s previous prohibitions on gay marriage were wrong, just as the prohibitions against inter-racial marriage were wrong. He felt deeply that they needed to be reversed. The end of his ruling is exquisite: “It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.”
So Sunday night I drove to the church to create a sample same-gender wedding ceremony and print it out, and I picked up everything I thought I’d need, including my credentials to legally officiate marriages in Arkansas. Then I called my colleague, the Rev. Cindy Landrum, in Jackson, Mich. A similar scenario has recently occurred in her state, and she rose to the occasion. I told her what I had amassed to bring with me and asked her if I’d forgotten anything. “An ink pen,” she added, helpfully. “Got it,” I said, “I have two!” I did not know how many couples would be there in the morning. The news articles said there would be long lines of people. Cindy said that I might have to do several ceremonies at once, inserting the couples’ names, then sign the licensesin a row, then do several more ceremonies. I prefer not to do weddings that way, but I was prepared to do whatever would be most helpful. As it was, after a couple of hours on Monday, we heard that Judge Piazza refused to stay his decision, so we had all day for the officiating and recording of gay marriages.
The atmosphere was boisterous, celebratory, and amiable. I was given a nametag that said “Officiant” by people from the Human Rights Campaign. For the first several hours, there were at least fifteen officiants in addition to me. We did not have to do “mass weddings”; we were able to give each couple personal attention. Some officiants were clergy, and some were lay people. All of us were committed to giving gay couples the right to be married that they should have had a long time ago. To my knowledge, none of the officiants accepted any pay, and neither did the photographer, Ms. Eilish Palmer. You can view her photos of that day at her website: www.aladywithacamera.com And there were many volunteers and people who had come to cheer us on, offering to take pictures or record the ceremonies on the couples’ phones. Many of them had name tags that said, “I’m an Ally—Free Hugs!” This meant a lot to me because I have been trained to advocate for gay rights, empowered to do so, I would even say charged to do so. But the allies, friends, and family were there because of their deep personal commitment, without any official role to bolster them on. I heard several people say that they have been fighting for this cause for at least 25 years. Throughout the day, we all kept spontaneously crying at the realization of the magnitude of the right of gay people to marry in the state of Arkansas. But the fact that Arkansas is the first Bible Belt state to have legal gay marriages does not surprise me. I have found the people of this state to be Christian in the broadest and best sense of the word. When I moved here in July (from Indiana and, before that, from New England) every time I turned around, people were feeding me—delicious food, rich conversation, warm fellowship. People here notice when someone is in need and do what they can to help, to share what they have, to level the playing field. They give people rides, provide home hospitality, and lend a caring ear. So I was not surprised that what I experienced in the rotunda of the courthouse was an ethos of graciousness. Why on earth shouldn’t gay people be given the same rights of marriage that heterosexual people have?
I officiated twelve gay weddings. Each couple was unique, and very nice and appreciative. All of them wept. For the sample ceremony I brought with me, I cut out most of the extra words, knowing people would want the briefest of weddings, so they could be recorded before a stay was announced. So what are the essential parts of a wedding when you boil it down? Certainly not the frills and party favors and fancy attire. The couples looked like their most real and comfortable selves, and many came to the courthouse on a break in their work day. I said some opening words by way of blessing, including that marriage takes patience and courage. And we took time for the vows, including, “for better, for worse” and “so long as we both shall live.” Some couples exchanged rings, some did not. I said a prayer for each of them. Then a pronouncement, a benediction, the kiss, and the presentation of the newly-married couple. Eight of the couples were women, four of them, men. Two were African American. One drove from Oklahoma. But most of them were from right here in Little Rock. What was the same about all of them is that marriage is really important to them—important enough to walk into a room full of strangers, several of them with no attendants, worrying that there might be hate-filled protesters blocking their way (for the record, there was only one, and he was shooed away quite early in the day), and risk asking, “Is there someone who will help marry us?” The day has dawned that the majority is saying, “We do.”
I am grateful that today, I now have the influence, credentials, and backing to spend a day at the
courthouse of a capital city legalizing gay marriages. I am most grateful to you, the members and friends of the UU Church of Little Rock, for having the resources, decision-making processes, and wherewithal to have brought me here. You all were so glad and proud about what I did at the courthouse, and so were the many other people who sent me texts, cheering on me and my couples. There are moments in time when we must dare to claim our agency to be a vehicle for what is true and fair and gracious. Alfred North Whitehead said that that agency is divinely endowed to all people. But it is up to all of us to
recognize those moments of kairos and to bravely engage with each other, with systems of power, and with God.
Your grateful pastor, Rev. Jennie
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president of this congregation. It’s been a challenging and rewarding experience, and what’s made this year unique is that it’s the first in our two-year interim ministry period. The interim ministry timeline, tasks and goals have provided the framework for the board’s work this year.
In August, we warmly welcomed Rev. Jennie Barrington as our interim minister, and her first few months were spent getting to know us and us getting to know her. A more positive outlook, more energy and hope marked this period, and these feelings have carried us through the church year.
Despite our overall energy and enthusiasm, this was also a very sad year for UUCLR with the passing of several members whom remain close in our hearts. With resolve and resiliency, we comforted and supported each other and are moving forward.
One of the board’s highlights this year was the formal instituting of the Cornerstone Society. Dave Rickard was inducted posthumously into the Cornerstone Society in October, and John Howard was inducted in January. We look forward to members of the congregation making future nominations of qualified members to this esteemed society.
Despite a forecasted deficit budget, the work of the church carried on. In preparation for the December congregational meeting, the board held three town hall meetings in the fall to discuss a bylaw proposal concerning the definition of membership as well as to discuss the status of the budget as it related to our UUA dues contribution percentage.
In the Strategic Plan, a major objective for the board is to develop a leadership development plan that will be implemented in the future by the Nominating and Leadership Committee. We’ve created our “Moneyball” plan based on the book (by Michael Lewis) and movie Moneyball. We began with a survey of members and friends to learn their talents, interests and passions. We want to focus on the hidden potential in each of us, with the goal being that instead of filling leadership slots in the short-term, we’ll nurture and develop new leaders whose abilities and interests can be put to mutually beneficial work for the individual as well as the church, strengthening the congregation’s leadership base over the long-term. The board will move forward with the next steps of the plan over the course of the next year.
In January, the board completed the first interim ministry appraisal. The purpose of the appraisal is to provide a picture of the congregation’s progress to date toward its interim goals. Two special board meetings were held in January to discuss UUCLR’s timeline, and following her sermon on UUCLR’s history, Rev. Jennie guided the congregation through a similar exercise. Based on these sessions, we’re well on track in claiming and honoring our past, in acknowledging grief and conflicts, in recognizing our unique identity and our strengths, needs and challenges, but there’s still more work we can do. According to Rev. Jennie, we need to continue to strive for a church culture of acting with respect and maturity, so that honesty, transparency, accountability and good process prevail.
This year we tried new things and new ways. Thanks to the hard work and diligence of the
Membership Team and the Stewardship Team, our annual gifting is now tied to signing a gifting form, giving an accurate membership number, and the new process for conducting our annual gifting online resulted in a streamlined gifting process as well as an accurate pledge figure for budgetary use. At our retreat this summer, the board also crafted a covenant by which we conducted meetings as well as our interactions at UUCLR and in our personal lives.
A different approach was used in the formation of a ministerial search committee. Using the UUA’s approved method of forming a search committee, the Board and the Nominating & Leadership Committee worked collaboratively to set up the process by which each member could nominate four people they would like to have on the search committee. At the end of the process, we have seven well-chosen members who will serve UUCLR well in our search for a settled minister.
The hard work and accomplishments of this year wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment and leadership each board member: John Adams, Jan Bowen, Miles McCullough, Barbara Fuhrman, Bill Goolsby, Kater Reynolds, Cas Rifkin, Ginny Slothour-Hudnall, and Karen Walls. When you see these folks, thank them for a job well done.
Dear Members and Friends,
As a Parish Minister, my highest priority is to try to hold the whole congregation together, as cohesively and harmoniously as possible. In UUCLR’s past, there were many differences of opinion expressed about what Sunday morning worship should be like. I am always open to hearing what you want and need from our worship services. But I don’t need to restate what those past concerns were, here. Your leadership feels that those issues are solidly in the past, and I know that you were trying earnestly to make Sunday mornings as enriching aspossible for members, friends, and lots of visitors! I’m happy to say that some of my Sunday mornings with you have been my favorites of my whole career. Turn-out has often been over 80 people, giving reverent attention to our joys, concerns, and milestones, and those of the wider community. But I still think we can do even better. Holding a whole congregation together cohesively and harmoniously is especially tricky across so many generations. Our model for Sunday morning education and worship is actually an ideal way for us to mutually enrich each other’s lives, and model our UU values “in the hope that we may see them practiced at last in the world around us.” (See UUCLR’s congregational covenant, “At Peace Among Ourselves.”)
You may not know how popular and innovative our model for Sunday mornings is in the wider world today. (See the “Faith Formation 2020” Report). We are doing exactly what young families are seeking from a congregation these days! We hold Religious Education for all ages at 10:00 a.m., and “All Ages Worship” (sometimes called, “Second Hour Church”) at 11:00 a.m. (with child care for our littlest folks). We do this because many families in our church, and many visitors, want to worship together. During the rest of the week, they are segregated by age groups. These families are greatly enriched by our worship services! They are talking about the themes, questions, music, and caring interactions for the rest of the day, and the whole week. The children are getting a lot out of it even if during the service they are coloring. (Personally, I really like to color while I’m listening to a story.) But another reason we use this model is logistical. Our 10:00 a.m. Adult R.E. programs are very important to members and friends. Having R.E. for children and youth at 10:00 a.m. allows the teachers and assistants to attend our whole worship service. We do not have enough volunteers to provide R.E. programming for children and youth during both the ten and the eleven o’clock hours, nor the funds to pay staff to do so. Our Sunday morning model is a cutting edge innovation that many UU churches have done in recent years, and it is the norm in many other denominations. Since Sunday morning worship is our most important hour, children will not know that if they never experience it, from the opening words through the extinguishing the chalice. We do want them to be active UUs, including as church-goers, when they get older. That won’t happen if it’s not part of their week now. So we want an hour a week to be an intentional expression of our UU values, our UU history, and ways we can make sense of and be helpful in the midst of events that are confusing, emotional, or raise big questions.
I know that to have children in the sanctuary for the whole service is not comfortable for everyone all the time. But it is an opportunity for us to look at and improve the ways we are in relationship with each other. As a start, I think it could help if parents were beside their children in the sanctuary, helping to enhance everyone’s
Sunday morning experience, in the ways outlined on the pink insert in the order of service, written by our DRE,
Rachel Finley. But our congregational covenant (“At Peace Among Ourselves”) is “goals we strive toward as we model the Seven Principles in our daily lives, not rules to be enforced.” As such, I think we can all do more to
create a culture within our church that enriches our lives, and ripples outward to others. What might the qualities of such a culture be? They are in “At Peace Among Ourselves.” But another way to phrase them is this list of “Twelve Great Riches of Life,” by Napoleon Hill:
1. Positive mental attitude
2. Sound physical health
3. Harmony in human relationships
4. Freedom from fear
5. The hope of achievement
6. The capacity for faith
7. A willingness to share one’s blessings
8. A labor of love
9. An open mind on all subjects
11. The capacity to understand people
12. Financial security
May our time together be increasingly worshipful, educational, humbling, and inspiring
Rev. Jennie "It's a privilege to be here."
We’re well into the ministerial search process, and this month we look ahead to the next fiscal year and begin making leadership and budget plans. At this writing, we’re in the middle of the search committee selection process. Five to seven esteemed members will serve on the search committee making them unavailable to serve in other church leadership roles, creating a potential leadership shortage for the 2014-2015 church year.
Remember the fable “Stone Soup”? It’s the story from long ago about a great famine when people thought they had to hoard food to survive. One day, two soldiers returning from war arrived in the village asking for a meal, but the villagers refused. Then the soldiers decided to make stone soup, so they asked for a large pot and water to fill it. They set it in the middle of the village and built a large fire underneath. One of the soldiers removed three stones from his cape and dropped them into the pot. The villagers were curious and a crowd gathered. One soldier asked for salt and pepper to make the soup taste better, and since that wasn’t too much to give up, a villager fetched some salt and pepper. The other soldier said that stone soup with carrots would taste so much better, so another villager brought some carrots he had hidden in the cellar. And so it went on, until there were onions, potatoes, barley and cabbage for the soup. It was a great feast the soldiers
happily shared with the villagers.
The moral is that we can accomplish more when we pool our resources and work together.
For the sake of illustration, pretend that the soldiers in the story are actually members of the Nominating and Leadership Committee, the villagers are UUCLR members, and the food provisions being hidden out of fear are, in reality, members’ time, talents and energy.
What “leadership famine” keeps you from saying yes to a church leadership position? Is it the fear of having to do all the work without support? Is it the fear of inadequate skills? Is it the fear of responsibility or of being a committee chair? Is it the fear of becoming so involved that you realize you’re more committed to the church than you thought?
Whatever your fear, working together we can accomplish the tasks that need to be done. When you receive a call from a member of the Nominating and Leadership Committee, please give their request for time and service your serious, thoughtful consideration. Everyone’s help is needed to do the work of the church making really, really good stone soup!
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Dear Members and Friends,
Signs of spring are heartening, including the daffodils, flowering trees, and more days of bright sunlight. I’ve even switched the stole I wear on Sunday mornings from the more somber one I wear in autumn and winter, to the lighter brighter one which represents spring and all four seasons. Our theme for worship services in April is renewal. And our month will be packed with worship services, activities, social gatherings, and events that flourish with creativity, artistry, new life, and new
endeavors. Yet even so, in order for renewal to occur, there always have been some losses, some regrets, and some ways that time has moved on. And, much as we might wish to, we cannot stop time, nor get back old days, nor dear ones who are no longer with us. We are now eight months into our two-year interim period. That time has moved along at a very brisk clip indeed! I am so proud of how well you all have engaged in the “interim work,” especially looking at and talking about your church’s history, griefs and losses, and ways we all can “do church” better in the coming years. People’s spirits are noticeably brighter and more hopeful than they were a year ago. Yet people are also feeling spiritually weary, and understandably so, from the losses your congregation has experienced, including several people who were dear to you. Grief is something that cannot be instantly fixed nor completely cheered up, even by the kind words and deeds and delicious food you so generously give to people in a time of transition. Grief is something that has to be talked through, and literally worked through, while we wait for time to pass and some greater understanding to break through. But we all can be present to the emotions and questions that deaths and losses bring up. And we are present to one another through such times, with understanding and care. Please know that I and the congregation are here for you even when the sunny days of spring do not feel cheerful to you. This month your congregation will take some big steps forward with its search for a new
settled minister. I want to hear how you feel about the steps of that process, and be sensitive to how you feel.
The most important first step will be an all-congregational meeting with our Ministerial Settlement Representative [our MSR], the Rev. Jim Eller. He will talk with us after the worship service on Sunday, April 6th (Flower Communion Sunday). He will explain the UUA’s recommended processes for a congregation that is in search, and answer your questions. Then the board and the Nominating Committee will collaboratively begin seeking your recommendations for the honor and responsibility of being on the search committee. I am more than happy to talk with you about the steps, timeline, and other details of the search process. So please try to attend the meeting on April 6, please respond in a timely and thoughtful way when asked to recommend four names, and please contact me directly with your questions. The search process moves along fast, and that can be anxiety-producing, but talking through the details and emotions will help UUCLR sail smoothly toward a successful finish.
“It’s a privilege to be here.”
The UUCLR Presents team had a positive, energy-filled meeting last week! It was a follow-up meeting for our recent event and also a meeting to assess how the programs have gone so far and what would be best for UUCLR Presents going forward.
The idea for UUCLR Presents began during the 2012 board retreat. The board wanted the church to host a regularly occurring educational event that would involve the community, making UUCLR more visible with the hope of attracting more visitors and members. The Program Council was charged with developing and implementing such a program, and a subcommittee was formed to work out the organizational and functional details. The members are Edith Bradberry, Cas Rifkin, Miranda Keith and myself, and this month we welcome new member, Ruth Bell!
In the beginning, the 2012 Arkansas Times list of “The 50 Most Influential Arkansans” was used for inspiration, and moving forward, we broadened our scope. Speakers are chosen based on their work as it relates to our Seven Principles. Our Seven Principles are the driving force behind UUCLR Presents.
Below is a list of individuals and organizations with whom UUCLR Presents has created and developed relationships that are mutually caring, respectful and collaborative:
It’s through these rich and positive relationships that UUCLR Presents has built a strong following and a trusted reputation. Our efforts wouldn’t be as successful if it weren’t for the help of board and program council members and other willing volunteers. Our teamwork makes UUCLR Presents shine! All of us are honored to do this work for the church!
Where do we go from here? For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, UUCLR Presents would like to focus on multigenerational events held just a couple times a year instead of bi-monthly. We envision doing this in partnership with other organizations to increase manpower as well as funding. Based on feedback from our surveys, some popular topics are poverty, women’s rights, different cultures and environmental issues. What suggestions do you have? We welcome your feedback and would like to hear from youUU.
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Dear Members and Friends,
Our theme for worship services this month is “Great Thought and How It’s Expressed.” Many of the thinkers and community organizers we’ll learn about are Unitarian Universalists. And many of them have incorporated a love of music, the natural beauty of this earth, and other inspirational sources into the development of their philosophy of life. We are especially honored on March 30 to create a tribute to the legendary Unitarian Universalist Pete Seeger. As one who continually strived to make his life choices match his high ideals, he is an example to us all. All of the values and beliefs we will learn about this month will help us continue our rich conversations about what it means to strive to live our UU values.
At this point in this interim period, I’m sure you’ll also want to begin to have conversations about the process of searching for a settled minister and the formation of a search committee. I’m happy to report that UUCLR is well on track with its “interim work.” We’ve been examining UUCLR’s past history and current structure of governance and staff, clarifying what it means to be a member, working on church finances and stewardship, and creating a plan for leadership development. In April and May, we will begin “the search process,” with the goal of a successful vote to call a settled minister next spring, who will begin on August 1, 2015.
The first step is a visit by your Ministerial Settlement Representative (the MSR), an experienced UU minister who is specially trained to advise UU churches that are in the search process. The board will schedule that visit for a Sunday in April or May. After the worship service, the MSR will tell us about the UUA’s search process in detail, including the timeline and best practices for forming a Search Committee, and will answer all the questions you have about this exciting undertaking. The MSR will also meet with the Board about its responsibilities in the search process.
The UUA has amassed a lot of wise advice about the best ways to form a search committee. To begin with, it needs to be members of the church, not simply friends. And it is better to actively recruit volunteers than to passively accept the first members who assert their names. The UUA’s recommended process is for board members (and perhaps also the Nominating Committee) to divide up the names of all members and call them. The board member will describe the ideal characteristics of a search committee member. Then that member will suggests names of members they would trust with this honor and responsibility. The member may suggest their own name if they’d like to.
The Settlement Handbook describes the characteristics of ideal Search Committee Members as:
During the search, members should be released from other major duties in the congregation. The chair should be assigned as a board liaison, but should not be a board member.”
Once the members’ recommendations are tallied, those with the highest votes are called to ask if they will be willing to put their name forward. Biographies and pictures are posted. And the Search
Committee is voted on by you, at a formal congregational meeting.
I can answer many of your questions about the search process. So please don’t hesitate to ask me for more details than will fit in this newsletter column. In short, it’s a method, and it works! I have high hopes that UUCLR’s search will be successful, and that my successor and you will have a relationship that is mutually happy and rewarding for many years.
“It’s a privilege to be here."
My father, Maxwell J. Lyons, is one of the wisest men I know. I think some of his wisdom comes from raising four girls, managing a three-generation family business and being active in the community. Growing up, I was always amazed at the number of people he knew and how easily he talked with friends as well as new acquaintances. This ability really impressed his quiet, reserved oldest daughter. When I asked him his secret for conversational ease, he said, “Everyone has a story to tell. Find out what it is and see what you have in common.”
Having visitors and new members at church is exciting, but coffee hour conversation can seem intimidating to both seasoned members as well as first time visitors. Try my dad’s approach. After the introductions, make your conversation intentional by asking questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Be genuinely curious about the other person and ask questions such as “why” or “where does that idea come from” or “what in your life motivated you” or “what makes you feel fulfilled”. With questions like these, you won’t be exchanging information; you’ll actually begin forming a relationship. And relationships are what church is all about.
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Dear Members and Friends,
The theme for this month’s worship services was going to be, “Relationships that are Sustainable.” But in my discussions with the Worship Arts Team, which are always helpful and enjoyable, we clarified the theme so it became, “Covenants.” “Covenant” is a word used by UUs increasingly frequently, and
applied to a wide variety of relationships. Yet I think all UUs can agree that we are all trying to live principled and caring lives. Personally, I have found UU congregations [as well as groups of UU ministers and Religious Education Directors] to be of the most help to me in my efforts to live a life of integrity. I would even say that my relationships with Unitarian Universalists have been an essential part of my efforts to live worthily.
But what do we really mean when we use the words, “Covenant” or “living a compassionate and principled life?” Here is an exquisitely concise answer for us all:
“People of integrity are those who:
Tell the truth;
Keep their promises; and
Take responsibility for their actions.”
Those are the words of Dr. Ross Campbell, a psychiatrist and family counselor, from his book, Help Your Twenty-Something Get a Life… And Get it Now. He is writing specifically for parents whose “Twenty-Something” daughters or sons still need more help and guidance in getting on their own feet, and assuming adult responsibilities. If that is something you’d like to talk about, I would be pleased to share Dr. Campbell’s sound advice with you. But the truth is, being a responsible part of all one’s relationships does not happen effortlessly, nor automatically. Living a life of integrity is a back-and-forth thing. It’s the result of both giving and receiving gratitude and constructive criticism. It’s the result of both self-care and taking into account needs that are larger than oneself. And it involves making mistakes, admitting to them, pledging to do better next time, being given second chances, and then trying to do better in the future. I have come to know your congregation as a place where such transparency, honesty, earnestness, and growth can happen. That has been most heartening for me to see. Please look over the topics for sermons and worship services this month, as they relate to strengthening and sustaining all our relationships. And please do all you can to join us on Sundays this month, especially on February 2, when we will hear about UUCLR’s history, and discuss it as a whole congregation after the worship service.
There are two other ways I hope you will take part in what your leadership and I are doing to sustain and strengthen your church. The first is a “survey of talents, interests, and passions,” part of our Leadership Development plan. Please go to UUCLR’s website and click on the survey. It will only take a few minutes to complete. And it will tell your board and I what you would most like to do, through UUCLR, to live out your values and gifts in the wider world. The second link is called, “We Are Our Treasure.” This page has a voluntary and anonymous way for you to assess what your annual pledge might be. The Stewardship Campaign team and I are trying some new approaches to the pledge drive this year. We earnestly hope that this link will help you discern both what you are receiving from, and are in a position to give to, this church. I believe that the ways we, as individuals and as a whole church, treat one another and the church’s resources, within its walls, are the main way we convey our UU values to the wider community. When you look at your church’s history, you will see ways UUCLR has made the world more compassionate and fair. By sustaining and strengthening our relationships in covenants of integrity, UUCLR can continue to be a vehicle for transformation and healing, for generations to come.
With care and cheer,
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
My two grandsons, Bradley (3 years) and Will (22 months), wiggle and squeal with delight when they see me, their Nana. I don’t know what makes me so special in their little eyes, but it sure makes me feel good. Maybe it’s the unconditional love I have for both of them that they in turn give back to me.
All my growing up years, my maternal grandmother lived either outside of Boston or in Northeast Harbor, ME, so time spent with her was limited, but I always, still today, remember her with warmth and fondness. She wasn’t an easy person to get along with, as other relatives told me, but we had a special bond that smoothed her rough edges in my eyes. She loved me unconditionally, and I her. She didn’t like some of the things I did, but she loved me fully for who I am. What a difference that kind of love makes in a person’s life.
Our daughter is pregnant with twins, and I look forward to the late July/early August day when I get to meet them in person. Two new little ones full of hope and promise and future giggles. How can I not love them unconditionally?
Ok. Unconditional love for a grandchild is one thing, but loving one’s neighbor can be a hard to do, and an irritating co-worker can be intolerable. At the very least we should strive to find a common ground with someone whom we have difficulty dealing with and then start to build our interactions with him or her from that point. Reaching out and making a connection is a form of love. Really listening to a person to understand where they’re coming from is a form of love. And making someone feel valued, honored and needed is love.
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide with an open heart,
I usually make the right decision.”
- Maya Angelou
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Dear Members and Friends,
The fortune in the fortune cookie I just opened up says: “You have firm convictions-stand strong behind them.” It is an understatement to say that Nelson Mandela had firm convictions and stood strong behind them. Few people can imagine giving all he gave, and sacrificing all he sacrificed, in his efforts to end racism and create peace. I heard him speak in Yankee Stadium in June of 1990. He had been in prison for almost as long as I had been alive. Yet he still provided people in his country and all over the world with vision, leadership and symbols of hope. It is also an understatement to say that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had firm convictions and stood strong behind them. From my earliest memories throughout my whole life, Dr. King has provided me with vision, leadership and symbols of hope. In our worship service on Sunday, January 19, we will lift up Dr. King’s words and work and legacy. And on Monday, January 20, we will join together to take part in Little Rock’s Martin Luther King Day Parade. I hope to see you and your families on both those occasions. Though I was just short of seven years old when Dr. King died, I remember the sight of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC, and the sound of them singing together “We Shall Overcome.”
The deaths of both of these great men remind us that the work of ending racism and creating peace is still around us and before us. “Standing on the shoulders of such giants” can make us feel like dwarfs, as Bernard of Chartres said. Even so, there are many ways you and your families do have firm convictions, and have stood strong behind them. And so has your brave church. This month we will be looking at some history: of the members and friends of UUCLR, because they are truly the treasure of the church; of the world and our nation, because what any small group of committed people does has ripples that are wide-reaching; and that of this congregation, because that’s one way to not let UUCLR be defined by any one person, group, period, or event. Our past knowledge and experience can help us create new initiatives, solve problems, break unhealthy patterns, and become our fullest best selves. But all those things happen more easily after we have intentionally examined successes and celebrations, and also mistakes, omissions, and losses. Though I have served you for only a few months, it is my sense that yours is a congregation in which people are able to acknowledge that they have made a mistake, and receive understanding and compassion, in the hope that we all can learn from the past and do better in the future. As such, your congregation is a rare setting in the world, and it can be a source of real healing. I look forward this winter to discerning, with you, the ways looking at UUCLR’s history can make it firmer in its convictions, and stronger as it stands up for them in Little Rock, in our nation, and in the world.
Faithfully, Rev. Jennie
A new year. A fresh start. A clean slate. All the empty date boxes on the 2014 calendar seem exciting and intimidating at the same time, much like the feeling I have while contemplating a blank canvas before beginning a painting. After the first brush stroke, though, things fall into place.
For any artwork, one has to consider things like the subject and composition, the angle of the light source, the color palette and where the dark and light values are. During this interim
ministry period we’ll be examining how we’ve done things in the past, what has worked and what needs improvement. Our policies and procedures will be evaluated. Our strengths and
weaknesses as a congregation will be revealed. What we celebrate and do well will be acknowledged and applauded. In essence, we will be painting another “picture” of UUCLR. One that is stronger in the knowledge of whom we are and where we would like to go as a congregation, so that we will be ready to call a settled minister in the near future.
A part of this new UUCLR composition is the leadership development plan that the board is working on. The keystone to this plan is a church survey, but not the traditional annual survey of the church’s ministries with which you’re familiar. The church is here to serve its members, and we, in turn, want to serve the church in a meaningful way. This survey will help each of us realize what are our gifts of talent and grace and how the church can help nurture and develop these gifts.
Each of us has a role in creating this new composition of UUCLR. Our individual brush strokes will strengthen our commitment and service to the church. What will be your first brush stroke on the canvass of this new year at UUCLR?
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Dear Members and Friends,
An interim period is a time to notice and name what your church is here to provide, and what the most important qualities are in the ways we in relationship with each other, our District, Region, and the UUA, and others outside our church walls. We are here to be of service. Some of what UUCLR provides can be named clearly and specifically. In her thank-you to the congregation in this newsletter, a treasured member lifts up the poignant ways she and her family were cared for in their time of need. To have walked with a congregation through such times swells my heart and renews my faith. And there are many things this church provides which are harder to see and articulate: Religious Education for all ages; spiritual development; quality worship services in our Unitarian Universalist tradition; social action projects and panels; ceremonies honoring the milestones of our lives, for life passages, tragedies, and celebrations; and, perhaps most importantly, holding up and living out a vision for how life could be more beautiful and fair for those who pass this way after we are gone.
Such a vision can be hard to describe. So I offer you a microcosm from my recent drive through western Kentucky, an area which is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. I found I was in need of a rest stop, not for gas necessarily, but where have the old-fashioned scenic rest stops all gone to? Regrettably, they are few and far between nowadays. So “service stations” have become the default. What I wanted to do was eat my raspberry yogurt, of which I had two little cups, and drink from my bottle of water, all of which was buried too far down in a bag to reach while I was driving. Also regrettably, I didn’t have any bananas left. Seeing a service station sign up ahead, not so far off the exit that I’d be driving way down winding roads in order to find it, I pulled off the highway, and did get gas. But I had to go inside for the receipt. This meant waiting in line. But I noticed that the young woman behind the counter was skilled and courteous. She was treating her work and all her customers with attention to detail and care. And I noticed, in a basket above her, Bananas! Two for a dollar! My lucky day! In order to print out a receipt for the gas I had pumped, she had to swipe my debit card again. “Uh, oh,” she said, in a voice more annoyed than alarmed, and picked up the intercom beside her: “Staff and manager to the front counter a.s.a.p.; Code Orange,” she said. “What’s a Code Orange?” I asked. “Tour bus just pulled in,” she replied. The timing coinciding with my debit card was coincidental. She and her staff then did all they could to assist the travelers who flooded in the door.
I got back in my driver’s seat, with my yogurt, water, and newly-purchased bananas, and opened the windows. I thought there wouldn’t be much of interest to notice, but I tried to look around me anyway. A young man passed by the passenger side window and said, “Howdy,” so companionably. I felt he knew how precious a little fruit, protein, and fresh water can seem in the middle of a drive that is several hours long. Then I glanced to my left and saw an older couple --he tall and thin as a beanpole, she short and round with a delighted smile— saying to each other, “take this carefully so the cats don’t get out.” I was charmed to see that the couple was travelling with their pets, two cats and a Chihuahua. “Oh, blessings on you for travelling with your pets!” I exclaimed. The woman waved through her window and held the Chihuahua up so I could see him. And on the passenger seat in front of her, they had rigged up a carpeted platform, with a cushioned pillow, on which sat a majestic black cat, comfortable and in command. I noticed that the pets each had a heart-shaped tag with their names, and contact information, in case they became lost, or injured, or ill. “This one needs extra blessings [the man said to me]. Last night he got out of the hotel room, and hid under a luggage carrier in the parking lot. We had to reach under there and pull him out. But since then he’s been extra snuggly and affectionate with us. I think he knows we rescued him.” I waited before I pulled out, so the couple and their precious cargo could navigate the parking lot first. I don’t know where they were headed to. But I thought of all the trips I had done with my cat, my companion of eighteen years, who died last spring. And I knew this couple understood that “family” means “beings we are mutually devoted to,” sometimes in non-traditional ways. And I felt neither odd nor alone.
What is the most important quality we infuse our relationships with? Not incidentally, the name of the service station was “Love’s.”
With care and cheer, Rev. Jennie
Our garbage disposal suddenly quit a few days ago. No sign of life on the voltage meter, so it was
assumed that after eighteen years of service, it was a goner, until at the vegetarian potluck we were
reminded of the reset button.
Wow, wouldn’t it be great if everything in life came with a reset button? That argument with your teenager or co-worker, push the reset button, and it never happened. That ding in your spouse’s car bumper, hit the reset button, and the car is as good as new. Deficit church budget, push the reset button and it never existed.
Oh, darn. Pushing the reset button didn’t work. Well, maybe the disposal is jammed. Ok, so where’s the allen wrench that’s usually kept under the sink by the disposal? We both remember seeing it there, but maybe that memory was before the fire, and the wrench never made its way back under the sink after the house restoration. So begins a thorough search of all the kitchen drawers. No luck.
Well, we do have a problem with a deficit budget, and there’s no special gizmo to fix it, but we keep plodding along, hoping it all will work out.
Not to worry. The household handyman selected the correct sized socket from his tool trove, and with one firm twist, the disposal came to life again.
It takes the right tools to fix problems, all the way from mechanical, electrical, medical to even church budgets. We have the right tools at UUCLR. We’re a group of hard working members and friends who value all that the church has to offer, and who willingly give of our time, talents and dollars. What’s needed now is to be creative and use our tools in different ways.
Planning is already underway for the 2014 budget drive, and there will be some new ways of doing things and saying things that will hopefully change our perspective on what it takes to keep our church alive and vital for our children and ourselves.
May your garbage disposal work merrily through Christmas and the New Year!
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Yesterday, I bought myself a map—a very large, colorful, beautiful map—of the continental United States. Then I put it up on the wall of my apartment, so I can gaze at it, in awe, wonder, and delight, and keep learning new things (not the least of which is: now I won't have to keep asking you things like, "How far is Dallas from here? And San Antonio? And Houston? And Austin?")
Many of you have asked me questions such as: How long have you been a minister? How long have you been an interim minister? (and) How long have you been on the road like this, moving from church to church? I have enjoyed all of these questions and answers, and I'll love to keep having these conversations with you. I am very interested in hearing about all the places you have lived, including if you have always lived in Little Rock, or in Arkansas. Some of my answers are that I have been a UU minister for thirteen years; about half-and-half interim and settled. My first interim ministry position was in Pittsfield, Maine. Then I was settled in Massachusetts for seven years. So my specialty as an interim-on-the-road began in the summer of 2008. I bought myself a map of the United States so I could look at, process, and feel proud and affirmed about, all the wonderful places and people I have gotten to know over the course of my career. An insight that came to me right away is that the some of the bigger moves were less arduous. A journey which is local or a short distance can still feel very emotional, and can raise big spiritual questions.
As your interim minister for these two years, I am here to provide you with a road map for your spiritual journeys, and for the strengthening and renewal of UUCLR as a whole congregation, and to help you have the happiest, most successful search for a settled minister possible.
So there are two things we’ll be doing together this autumn. The first is that I need to meet with all the lay leaders and staff, one-on-one. I will ask you all what your relationship with the church has been, what you perceive the joys and concerns of the church to be at this time, what your hopes and dreams for UUCLR’s future are, and what stumbling blocks you see that might get in the way of UUCLR becoming its fullest best self. So if you are a lay leader or staff, please contact me to set up a time for us to talk. (Some of you have already talked with me. But please touch base anyway. A conversation about your relationship to UUCLR will still be helpful to both of us.)
The second thing we will do together will be a History Wall—UUCLR’s timeline up on newsprint in the church. It will have UUCLR's ministers and staff, its accomplishments, its high and low points, and its presence in the wider community. Both these things will serve to clarify for you UUCLR’s history. Of course we will see some patterns or choices in its history that we’d like to do differently now. But I am sure we also will see resilience, and much about which we can feel rightly proud.
So please help me out, and the whole church, by contacting me to set up a time when we can talk more about "the interim work" our church is undertaking. I can also describe to you a general overview of the timeline of a two-year interim period, as well as best practices for forming a search committee.
As a test to see how many members and friends are actually reading their interim minister's newsletter column, now I will tell you how many miles I have moved since the summer of 2008: 2,860. If you contact me and tell me that number, I'll know that you read this Minister's Meditation.
But, even though I have only known you for a couple months, I bet you'all would tell me to round it up to 3,000. That's how generous of heart and kind I am finding you to be.
With thanks and care,
November is the month we give thanks, gathering together to celebrate our blessings with family, friends, delicious food and football games. At your Thanksgiving table this year, I ask you to give thanks for your church. Think of the many ways in which being a member or friend of UUCLR has enriched your life.
What brought you to Unitarian Universalism and UUCLR in the first place? What are you hoping to find at church? What do you want your children to learn? Do you and your family come for our Lifespan Religious Education program? What role do you see yourself playing in congregational life? What are your hopes for our church’s future? What role in the community and state would you like to see UUCLR play in fifteen or twenty years? Fulfilling these wishes and reaching these goals requires your time, commitment and financial contribution.
At the Town Hall meetings this month, we’ll have open, honest conversations concerning what we want for the church, the church’s finances, the deficit budget and its resolution. Also, as part of these conversations, we’ll discuss another aspect of the definition of membership.
The deficit budget is everyone’s concern, not just a concern for the Board or the Finance & Stewardship Committee. Each person is responsible for the resolution of the budget deficit, whether you attend church weekly, are actively involved in service to the church and make an annual pledge or whether you come infrequently, have yet to find your niche in church life and make an occasional contribution to the offertory. We’re all in this together, and together we’ll find a solution. If we don’t alter our present course of funding the church, we risk losing some aspects of church life that we hold dear.
We have to change our church’s culture surrounding pledging. The new definition of membership requires a member to sign a pledge card and make an identifiable financial contribution each year. No longer can volunteer time and service solely replace a monetary pledge. Spend some time this month reflecting on what belonging to this religious community means to you. How has the church helped you on your spiritual journey? If Unitarian Universalism and UUCLR have made you stretch and grow in your personal thinking and perspective, then consider stretching and growing in your financial commitment to the church.
I’ll close with this quote by President John F. Kennedy:
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live them.”
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Dear Members and Friends,
For our Ingathering Sunday and Water Communion Ceremony last month, we sang the above hymn... you sounded wonderful singing all together, and it was heartening to see the sanctuary so full! As you sang those words, you were probably thinking of yourselves, as individuals. And that is fine; one of the things our church is here for is to encourage people to be their fullest best selves. But that isn’t the only thing our church is here for. It is also here to be the fullest best UU congregation it can possibly be. An interim minister is always asking herself or himself, “What if we think about this congregation as a person? What are its gifts, graces, and strengths? What is its unique personality and history? And what are its challenges, growing edges, and possible obstacles to its future growth and development?” It is not too early for you to begin to ask yourselves these questions about UUCLR. Answering those questions is the core of the work of a church’s interim period. Over the course of the next two years, we will explore answers to those questions through meetings, gatherings, and other conversations, both informally and formally. And you all will end up with a much clearer picture of who UUCLR is, and where it’s at, at this unique point in its history.
So there are two things we’ll be doing together, between now and Thanksgiving. The first is that I need to meet with all the lay leaders and staff, one-on-one [but married couples can meet with me together if they’d like to], either in the church, or at a coffee shop. I will ask you all what your relationship with the church has been, what you perceive the joys and concerns of the church to be at this time, what your hopes and dreams for UUCLR’s future are, and what stumbling blocks you see that might get in the way of UUCLR becoming its fullest best self. So if you are a lay leader or staff member, please contact me to set up a time for us to talk. [Some of you have already talked with me at length. But if you have, please touch base with me anyway. An intentional conversation about your relationship to UUCLR could still be helpful to both of us.]
The second thing we will do together will be a History Wall: UUCLR’s timeline up on newsprint in the church. The decades will be marked on it, as well as the ministers and staff who have served you, UUCLR’s accomplishments, and its high and low points, including its presence in the wider community. Both these things will serve to clarify for you UUCLR’s history. Of course we will see some patterns or choices in its history that we’d like to do differently now. But I am sure we also will see resilience, and much about which we can feel rightly proud.
I’m also happy to give you a general overview of the timeline of a two-year interim period. I hope that information will feel reassuring to you. At this point in time, I do not want anyone to feel overwhelmed about the amount of work before us. I feel confident that you can achieve a candidating week and vote-to-call a new settled minister that are happy successes, approximately 18 months from now. What will save us from getting overwhelmed is to take the work piece by piece, in small doable parts.
In general, there is interim work that we will undertake between now and when a Search Committee is formed. Those tasks are written into my contract as reviewing the governance structure, looking at the history, processing griefs and conflicts, identifying strengths and challenges, working with outside consultants when necessary, and empowering individuals, groups, and this congregation as a whole. This winter, a staff person from the UUA will visit our congregation, known as our Ministerial Settlement Representative [MSR]. They will meet with the whole congregation, and also separately with the board, and describe to us the best practices for forming a search committee and undertaking a search, including the board’s responsibilities. The MSR will answer any question you have about being in search. Then in March, the board will begin the process of forming a search committee. If any of you would like to hear what that recommended process is, please ask me. I’ll be happy to describe it to you. [This is really a test to see how many people are reading the Interim Minister’s newsletter column in its entirety. I encourage you to read it every month, and to read the whole newsletter every month!]
Once the Search Committee is formed, they will do a retreat to discern how best to work as a team, and what their decision-making process will be like. They will then solicit information from members and friends about UUCLR and what you want and need from your next minister [from Focus Groups and a written survey]. By
autumn of 2014, the Search Committee will have amassed all their data into a Congregational Record [the “CR”] and a Packet, about UUCLR. The CR is posted on the UUA’s electronic “Search Page” for ministers
interested in UUCLR to review. Then the Search Committee will begin doing phone interviews, some
confidential “pre-candidating weekends,” and a great deal of discernment. The goal is for an eight-day
Candidating Week in the spring of 2015. The Candidate Minister would preach twice, meet with everyone and answer your questions, and members will vote regarding calling him or her as your next settled minister.
Again, may I say that I feel confident about happy successes in UUCLR’s future, as long as nothing huge and unforeseeable occurs. If something huge and unforeseeable does happen, then we will respond in thoughtful and compassionate ways. Even though I have only known you ‘all for a few weeks, I already known and trust that reaching out with kindness is at the heart of who you are and what you do.
With care and cheer, Rev. Jennie
It’s Time for a New Church Year and New Beginnings
At this writing, it’s mid-September, and the heat and humidity are gradually diminishing. There’s a hint of autumn’s blush on some of the leaves. Fall is almost here, and even though ragweed pollen makes me miserable, it’s still my favorite season. As the days get shorter and the nights longer, I wish the pace of my life would slow down a little. My schedule these past two weeks has been very busy, and the stacks of paper on my desk keep multiplying like the soon to fall leaves. Leaves can be raked up and composted, but the ever increasing, never diminishing paperwork has to be dealt with. Life is busy and rich with family, church, meetings, friends, birthdays, football games, camping and a wedding, but keeping things in perspective helps with this quote from Gandhi: “There is more to living than increasing the pace of life.”
As a retiree, I’m busier now than I was while working full time, but people and relationships are more important than completing tasks and having a clean desk. Helping others, working for a worthy cause and promoting the mission of the church should be the framework of our days. Maya Angelou has these wise words: “Making a living is not the same as making a life.”
May we make time in our busy fall schedules to joyfully do the work of the church, enjoy the season, and be
energized by the cool, crisp days of fall. Maybe a rainy day will force me inside to clean off my desk.
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
There are times when I look at what human history has been and I say, Oh, OK, there have always been people like us who get a momentum started and then it dies down and nothing becomes of it. And it’s a hundred years or so before those thoughts are resurrected. But there’s a little voice in my ears that insists that I continue. It insists that something really important is happening here, something that is going to have an effect here for years. Something that is going to make a significant change in the world. [Luisah Teish]
Dear Members and Friends,
Your church is doing so many things that make me proud of you! The Prison Literacy program, your Religious Education programming for all ages, the wide variety of music that is made and celebrated in the church, and the wonderful food, fellowship, and care that is given and received throughout the week. Unitarian Universalism itself also has much about it to be proud of. Our worship services this month will focus on aspects of Unitarian Universalism that are not as frequently talked about, and are worth a deeper look.
On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, we’ll look at the UUA’s efforts at immigration reform, and its “Standing On the Side of Love” movement. On September 8, we’ll come together for our Water Communion ceremony, a uniquely UU tradition. The worship service on September 22 will focus on UU Religious Education for children and youth, as developed by Sophia Lyon Fahs. We will also honor and dedicate the teachers and leaders starting up new RE classes this year. And on Sunday, September 29, we’ll learn more about Universalism.
I have found the conversations I’ve had with you so far to be very rich, insightful, and enjoyable. I will learn so much more as I hear more about the things you love, your life experiences, and how you came to your church. When we listen attentively to each other, we hear some of the most lasting wisdom in some of the simplest conversational phrases. I’ll close with a quote that John Howard shared in the covenant group last week: “There are three things we each need: someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.”
I look forward to getting to know you and your church more deeply,
With care and cheer, Rev. Jennie
At the Vegetarian Potluck last Sunday, we gave Rev. Jennie a warm UUCLR welcome! We look forward to working with her in the months to come in preparation to calling a settled minister. It is a time for a new church year and new beginnings. With the beginning of a new school year, I’m reminded of something I did about ten years ago with our then college-aged kids. At the beginning of each month, they were each sent a check to cover rent, food and utilities; their spending money was to be earned. I couldn’t just put a check in an envelope and not take advantage of a “teaching moment”, so I’d also include a quote or inspirational saying along with the check. My favorite one for September applies to “students” of all ages:
Follow the Three R’s
Respect for self...
Respect for others...
Responsibility for all your actions
This was a glorious morning for a walk with our dog. Towards the end of the walk, I crossed to the other side of the street so as not to be too close to a toddler riding his trike on the sidewalk. Our dog is friendly, but she’s larger than a little boy. That simple act changed my whole perspective. It was the same neighborhood, the same street, the same houses and the same neighbors, but it was as if I were in a different place, seeing things for the first time, and all because my perspective was from the other side of the street. I’ve been seeing things differently all morning.
This month, I invite you to remember the three R’s and to take a walk on the other side of the street.
Nancy Kimpel, Board President
Love cannot remain by itself - It has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service. Whatever form we are, able or disabled, rich or poor, it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing; a lifelong sharing of love with others. (Mother Teresa)
Dear Members and Friends,
Beginning to learn about your congregation has made me so happy! I have had such lively conversations and e-mails with several of you already. Through those conversations and e-mails, I can hear how much you care about UUCLR and each other, and your gem of a city. One thing that’s clear to me is that there is a whole lot of love in your congregation. I can already sense that you are not only interested in yourselves as individuals, but that you want others, and your congregation as a whole, to be as well and thriving as possible. I can’t wait to arrive in Little Rock and begin working alongside you all in doing just that! One of the things we’ll explore during this interim period is what makes UUCLR distinct - and unique, even - from other religious, educational, or non-profit organizations in your area.
Inasmuch as “Love cannot remain by itself… Love has to be put into action and that action is service” (as Mother Teresa so beautifully wrote), what are the unique purposes that the UU Church of Little Rock exists for? How is UUCLR distinctly a religious organization and, even more specifically, a Unitarian Universalist one? In what ways should our seven UU principles guide our words and actions, both inside and outside of our church walls and, not just on Sunday mornings, but all through the week and year? I will be arriving in Little Rock in time to begin serving you on August 1st. I am happily anticipating beginning to meet all of you then! Between now and then, you can continue to imagine how UUCLR can be as healthy and thriving as it can possibly be. And you can begin to think about, not just what it means to each of you to be a Unitarian Universalist, but what it means for UUCLR to be a Unitarian Universalist congregation, in Little Rock, in Arkansas, in our nation, and even as a good neighbor to people on faraway lands and shores. The more clearly we can articulate those things, the better poised you will be to find a long-term settled minister who will be a great match for UUCLR’s priorities, passions, and winning personality. I look forward to helping you let your colorful light shine!
With care and cheer, Rev. Jennie
I’m Nancy Kimpel, your 2013-2014 Board President. I’m a life-long UU, having grown up in this church since I was 8 or 9 years old. My husband, Bill, and I have been married 39 years, and we have two adult children, Lauren and Kyle, two in-law children, Brian and Jennie, and two adorable grandsons, Bradley and Will. I recently retired from a career as a medical technologist, with most of my experience being in hematology, flow cytometry and molecular pathology. I’m busier now in retirement than I was while working in the lab!
This church year will be one of exciting changes and tough challenges for us. Our interim
minister, Rev. Jennie Barrington, arrives in Little Rock on the first of August. She’ll spend the first two weeks unpacking, settling in and becoming familiar with our beautiful city. Her first
Sunday in the pulpit will be August 18, but we’ll be able to meet and visit with her before then. A Welcome Party is being planned for Sunday, August 11, following coffee hour and the
vegetarian potluck, so plan on coming that day to give a warm, Southern welcome to Rev. Jennie.
Our toughest challenge this year will be managing the budget deficit, due in part to a pledging shortfall. Other challenges will be continuing to attract and keep new members and growing our religious education department. Rev. Jennie will also challenge us as she guides us to the point of being ready to call a settled minister two years from now. It’s human nature to stay focused on our daily “to-do” lists or our “to-do” lists for UUCLR, but we each need to think beyond daily time demands and continually remember the vision and mission of this church, making them the foundation for all the work we do together.
Together we’ll have a great year! Nancy Kimpel, Board President