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At the UU General Assembly, delegates chose "The Corruption of Our Democracy" as the 2016-2020 Congregational Study Action Issue (CSAI). The text of the CSAI and the new Study Action Guide are now available. The guide addresses how structural racism, economic inequality, violence, and climate change can be addressed through creating a strong movement fighting for the promise of our democracy.

In addition, the draft statement on Escalating Inequality is available for review and comment. It is scheduled to be adopted at GA 2017. This statement also takes an intersectional approach to the deep systemic problems we face as a nation and will serve as a statement of intent for the future work of Unitarian Universalism. Discuss in your congregation and take part in the congregational poll and comment period by February 1.

 

 

On Sunday, November 13, the Board of Directors met with interested members of the congregation to discuss the retirement of the Rev. Connolly next summer and our options for what happens next. The Board showed the UUA material and resources available at the UUA website, including the Transitional Ministry Handbook, and we all watched a 15-minute video about Interim Ministry. As you can see in the handbook, when a long-standing minister retires, the next step recommended and preferred by UUA is “almost universally” an Interim Minister.

However, that does not mean our church has to hire an Interim Minister. Generally speaking, we have four options:

a Lay-Level Ministry (what we had before hiring a minister)
an Interim Minister
a Called Minister (full-time, either from UUA or elsewhere)
a Consulting Ministry (full-time or part-time)

To choose the option that best serves our church requires us to understand what each option offers and requires. Also, given our current size and location, we must get a sense of what is possible. Further, recognizing that efforts to pursue one particular option might fail, it would be prudent for us to develop back-up plans.

During the November meeting, some members voiced a concern that the Board will move forward and act without providing adequate opportunity for the congregation to engage in discussion and make their voices heard. As President, I promise that the Board has no desire or intent for this to occur, and we will schedule a very important meeting in January (separate from the Congregational Meeting on January 22) with the sole purpose of addressing our next ministry.

For this meeting in January to be productive and for us to make a good decision, we must all inform ourselves adequately. I strongly encourage everyone to follow the links at the bottom of this letter or to read the information available at the church, so that we can educate ourselves on these options. The Board has already begun to do this.

Details are still to be determined, but the plan is to produce a written ballot that lists well-articulated choices, and when we are ready (probably in February), the congregation will vote. All members are welcome to contact myself or other Board members should you like to have a one-on-one conversation about this important topic.

Resources

In the Interim edited by Keith Kron and Barbara Child
Don’t Wait Until the Pastor Leaves by Michael Durrall
org/careers/ministers/transitions (transitioning)
org/careers/ministers/interim (interims)
org/sites/live-new.uua.org/files/transitional_ministry.pdf (Handbook)
org/careers/ministers/interim/173977.shtml (Video)

There are religious traditions that encourage passivity. A common teaching is that there is a God who controls everything and that it is the role of human beings to believe that everything that occurs is an aspect of God’s will, and that it is our duty to submit to that will, trusting that in doing so, all will be well and that we will be rewarded in a heavenly afterlife. Unitarian Universalists have consistently thought otherwise. Our fourth principle affirms the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

Asserting that we affirm and promote the right of conscience means also that we promote action prompted by conscience. To believe in a cause or a right or a way of life and to take no steps that will actualize that cause or right or way of life is to live in a separate and interior world that does not recognize the truth of our seventh principle: respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

At the Ohio-Kentucky ministers’ cluster meeting that I attended in Louisville at the end of November, I heard from a minister who identifies as transgender. She and her partner had plans to marry when the time was right in their lives. She believes that as a result of the recent election, that right may be taken away from them. It’s a belief that is founded on a realistic fear, as the team of the president-elect and vice-president elect have voiced their support of “traditional” ideas of marriage and other social norms.

I listened to a minister who is of Iranian extraction as she wondered what the effect on her life and her 15-year-old daughter’s life would be after inauguration day in January. She is very much afraid that she and others of their nationality will be targeted, victims of prejudice and inflamed passions. As a woman, she was offended by comments that implied that women exist to be used for pleasure by men with power and privilege. The rhetoric used by the president-elect during the election season was often rude, hateful, dismissive, and demeaning of those who do not identify within a very narrow vision of what it means to be an American. Many people are afraid of what the next four years will bring.

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “fascism” as a “political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a central autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” There is evidence aplenty that the nation as a whole should legitimately fear that we are in the early stages of the imposition of this kind of regime. As ministers, we have a choice: to be silent, to sit on the sidelines, to rationalize, to avoid hard conversations and hard realities or to make statements and take actions in accord with the dictates of our consciences. As Unitarian Universalists, we have the same kind of choice.

I have heard arguments and insinuations that the kind of fears that I have listed here are overreactions or that to draw such connections is to misuse the role of religion and to use the pulpit as an instrument of partisan politics. In response, I can only point to the well-known words of Rev. Martin Niemoller:

First, they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist.

Then, they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then, they came for the Jews and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then, they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Many of us have a fairly comfortable life. We’ve seen budgets stretched as costs of health care, education, and housing have gone up, but we’ve managed and have faith in the system that has provided this fairly comfortable life for us and a fairly stable political climate up to now. Taking actions to stand up to bullying when we see it—whether of gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or questioning folks, immigrants, refugees, or women—will take a kind of initiative and courage we have not had to cultivate until now. Taking no action when we are aware of institutionalized bullying means, frankly, being complicit with systemic injustice. I don’t believe I’m overstating it when I say that these are times that will try our souls and make demands on our spirits. We will be challenged to speak and act on behalf of what we understand to be justice. If we don’t, we’ll have the consequences to live with for a generation or more.

My blessings are with you as we all do our best to speak for justice, express gratitude for what we have been given and spread hope and love and joy and peace wherever we go during this holiday season.

See you in church and in the community,

Peter

As everyone knows, our minister Rev. Connolly is going to retire next summer. In my last perspective, I wrote about how the board will be contacting the UUA to discuss this transition and our options. This is a new experience for us, but every church that has called a minister will one day say farewell and then find itself in transition. For UUs, hiring an Interim Minister is a common practice.

Accordingly, the Board will be in communication with our Congregational Life Consultant, Lisa Presley, as well as with the UUA’s Transitions Director, Keith Kron, to obtain expertise and support regarding the process of hiring an Interim Minister.

This process is usually successful, though sometimes a church does not immediately succeed in finding a match from the available candidates. In our case, we need someone willing to move to the Bowling Green area and accept the employment conditions. For this reason, the Board will of course be considering other possibilities to present to the congregation.

In the face of uncertainty, it is natural to speculate about various scenarios that might happen after Rev. Connolly leaves. Generating ideas about what is possible can be a healthy discourse that leads to solutions we should explore. At the same time, fostering unsettling or alarming predictions that are not grounded in the facts can be unhealthy. Also, what occurs to one person as a good idea might seem quite disturbing to another.

Anyone who has questions about the process or what the board is considering regarding the transition next year is encouraged to contact myself and other Board members.

We will be having a Question and Answer meeting for interested people after church at 12:30 pm on Sunday, November 13. All are welcome to attend.

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I first encountered the term “Right Relations” in a UU context at the General Assembly in Louisville in May 2015. A Right Relations Team was available to assist participants who took offense at comments made in presentations or if heated discussions seemed to be headed toward damaging conflicts.

I appreciated the recognition that—even amongst groups of "like-minded" individuals—we can find ourselves in opposition and so may need help working out differences in mutually acceptable ways. I felt gratified to be part of an organization that not only aspires to living according to certain values but also offers support for doing so.

Here at UUCBG, our Board established a policy about Conflict Resolution in March 2015 and two months later appointed Frank Snyder, Eileen Arnold, and myself to a conflict resolution team. The team was created primarily in preparation for addressing situations that have evolved into intense conflict requiring formal mediation or adjudication.

But it’s better to address issues before they become serious, and so this past February, I was pleased our congregation voted to adopt a Covenant of Right Relations. Soon after, the team decided to take the title and role of Right Relations Facilitators, and John Downing has since become a Facilitator, too. I know I am not alone in recognizing that, as sincere as our intentions may be, keeping our covenant with each other will prove challenging for all of us.

As facilitators, we hope to offer support to our church community members in building skills for working through disagreements. We will look to find ways to avoid an escalation into conflict that could be more challenging to address and could disturb our community.

As Right Relations Facilitators, we are available for consultations to offer empathy and provide guidance on resolving situations that have triggered feelings and created uncomfortable tensions with other members. We are willing to listen as you identify your feelings and clarify your needs so you can choose a strategy to pursue in moving forward. We might offer a practice role play or suggest that one of us facilitate a difficult conversation with another member. We hope you will accept this offer of support for stretching your capacity to deal constructively with disagreement and conflict.

The attitudes and practices laid out in our Covenant of Right Relations can be understood as both guides to how we behave and indicators of where a habitual response or the choice of strategy is failing to invite the understanding and collaboration we are seeking to establish with one another.

In upcoming newsletters, you will find discussions of the significance of particular pieces of our Covenant of Right Relations that contribute to us being the community we aspire to be.

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by Jan Garrett



Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach;
the restorer of streets to live in.  –Isaiah 58:12.




If you regularly attend our Sunday Services, you will recognize some of these prophetic phrases. When we sing Hymn #121, We’ll Build a Land, we are singing lyrics inspired by Isaiah. So it is appropriate that Unitarian Universalists have been supporters for some time of the interfaith social justice and moral revival movement led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, who is Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC, and lead organizer of the Forward Together Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013.

Moral Monday demonstrations started as weekly demonstrations that ultimately drew tens of thousands of North Carolinians and others to the state legislature, where more than a thousand peaceful protesters were arrested, handcuffed, and jailed. (Speeches by Rev. Barber given at Moral Monday protests have been published in Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, Chalice Press, 2014.)

Repairers of the Breach (breachrepairers.org) is a nonpartisan, ecumenical organization that aims to create an agenda rooted in a moral framework to counter extremist groups that seek to dominate public life. The Repairers aspire to frame public policies that are not constrained or confined by narrow exclusionary tenets. They unite clergy and lay persons from a variety of faith traditions along with people without a spiritual practice who share the principles that lie at the heart of great moral teachings. Repairers aim to broadly spread the vision of a nation that is just and loving.

As our church’s member-delegate at the 2016 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which met in Columbus, Ohio, this past June, I had the opportunity to hear Rev. Barber address Unitarian Universalists in three sessions. At one session, his topic was The Third Reconstruction (also the title of his book, published in 2016 by Beacon Press and available in eBook and other formats).

The First Reconstruction occurred in the post-Civil War period when freed slaves and poor whites came together to support the 14th, 15th, and 16th amendments and use the ballot to elect state constitutional conventions. They established a framework to promote justice and social equality that began to unify—and guarantee rights of—formerly divided populations. This Reconstruction was undone by the divide-and-conquer strategy of the former slaveholders and organizations like the KKK.

The Second Reconstruction is better known as the Civil Rights movement. It was led by groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with which Rev. Martin Luther King was associated, and was largely based in the churches. By working across racial, ethnic, religious, and class lines, this movement was successful to a certain extent by the mid 1960s, but it was gradually undone by the “Southern strategy” adopted by certain politicians who created “wedge issues” to separate allies from one another.

The Third Reconstruction, as Rev. Barber calls it, is the most recent attempt to regain movement for civil rights but also to “repair the breach” that developed in the late 1960s and 1970s between those groups that had been able to collaborate at the height of the civil rights movement. It also brings new allies into the struggle.

On October 4, Reverend Barber’s “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values” comes to our state. This multi-state tour aims to redefine morality in American politics. It calls on people of moral courage to join together to oppose harmful policies that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities. The Kentucky Council of Churches is hosting this Revival, led by Rev. Barber and the Repairers of the Breach, on Tuesday, October 4, 6:30pm at St. Stephen Church, 1010 South 15th, Louisville. Kentucky.

For information on carpooling, see kftc.org/contact

The leader spoke these words: “We have heard the prophet’s call to repair the breach, and we know our Constitution’s goal of a more perfect union.”

We replied in unison: “We reach back to our sacred texts that affirm life, love, and justice. This is what the Lord says: ‘Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood.’”

It was Monday, September 12, and I stood on the steps to the statehouse in Frankfort, Kentucky, with another sixty or seventy religious leaders. Among us were Catholic priests, Anglican priests, rabbis, imams, and ministers from Protestant and Unitarian Universalist denominations. It was Kentucky’s first Moral Monday, and it made a difference by allowing all of us present to feel the deep connection between and among religious traditions that believe justice must become a dream made real.

One after another, religious leaders stepped up to the microphone and led us through a litany, a “Moral Declaration Litany,” that included proclamations from texts held sacred by the traditions, the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, the Qu’ran, and the Bhagavad Gita. And from the U.S. Constitution, a secular document held sacred by many citizens.

Leader: We believe this to be true: All people have inherent rights, and no one can take them away.

People: We have the right to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness.

Leader: We believe that the power of our government derives from us, the people.

People: For the purpose of providing for the general welfare and protecting our human rights.

Leader: We believe in the values of democracy we were taught, so we cannot accept our democracy’s feeble state.

People: We cannot accept voter suppression and intimidation that target people of color and the poor.

Leader: We cannot accept demagoguery and fear-mongering that demonize and divide.

People: We cannot accept that 45 million are poor in the richest country in history, or that 1 in 5 children are food insecure.

The litany continued, addressing other moral shortcomings in our country, including

the suppression of workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively;
wages inadequate for purchasing the necessities of life;
segregation and inequality in our public schools;
the lack of health insurance for 29 million Americans;
inaction in the face of climate change;
the fact that our country holds 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners;
attacks on immigrants, religious minorities, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered folks, the disabled, and the poor;
and endless wars that spend lives and resources to destroy lives and resources.

 

After the litany was read, ten speakers read aloud an address to candidates for President, the Senate and Governors, a ten-page Higher Ground Moral Declaration, quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the prophets Isaiah, the Qu’ran, and the Gospel of Luke, declaring that silence is betrayal and a revival of moral principles is necessary. We confessed that we are called upon to stand up for justice and to tell the truth.

For each of the ten issues we see as moral imperatives, a speaker cited a religious text and the words of the U.S. Constitution appropriate to the topic, then detailed the specific policies and practices we see as contrary to the spirit and intent of those texts. At the close of each statement, a declaration was made: “We believe that this is a moral issue. Do you? If not, please explain why.”

What did we accomplish in our hour standing in the 93 degree heat? We understand now that we are not alone, each church a silo, each voice a cry in the wilderness, but that we are brothers and sisters united by a moral calling and a fierce desire to see that moral vision become a reality. We understand in a personal and experiential way that Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and UU can work together to support a cause larger than our own denomination’s survival and health. And we understand better the presence of the Spirit that unites us.

What could have we done better? Publicize, publicize, publicize. We needed a bigger audience for our message and to ensure that the media covered the event. Outside of the Frankfort newspaper, I saw very little coverage.

But, Kentucky religious leaders will meet again on 4 October 2016 in Louisville at 6:30 pm to continue promoting “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values.” Events are also scheduled for Indianapolis IN, Richmond VA, Charleston SC, Ferguson MO, Milwaukee WI, and Minneapolis MN. You can expect that I will keep you updated. I pray that we will all find a way to be engaged in these perilous times.

See you in church,

Peter

In October, our collection on the third Sunday will be donated to the grassroots organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), which comprises 10,000 members across Kentucky. They are builders of New Power who want to

address the problems caused by coal mining,
make a transition to cleaner and safer forms of energy,
reform our tax structure so it’s fair,
restore voting rights,
and choose better leaders who represent the people instead of powerful interests.

KFTC is committed to building a strong, diverse organization. Many of our members here at church belong to the local chapter.  KFTC invites you to join them in working together for a better Kentucky.

Here’s an excerpt from Simone Payne’s article “Religious community talks about peace, similarities” in the August 26 issue of Bowling Green Daily News.

Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green Pastor Peter Connolly said the interfaith gathering is always a friendly group with good intentions aiming to build a better sense of community communication among people of diverse backgrounds. “I think that’s one of the most important things that we need. I think most of our communication is to increase conflict ... and feel like the only way that you can win is if someone else loses ... that’s the political climate that we’re in,” Connolly said. “Something like this ... we really need more of it.”

The next interfaith gathering is from 2 to 4 pm on Saturday, October 16, at the Bob Kirby Branch of Warren County Public Library at 175 Iron Skillet Ct.

We’re pleased to announce that a volunteer teaching team will be leading Preschool lessons for children ages 3 to 5 years. Children can either go to the Nursery (opens at 10:45) for some playtime or stay with their family and attend the service at 11:00. A teacher will escort children to RE at about 11:10, and class will run from 11:15 to 11:35. Children enjoy free play in the combined Nursery/Preschool after class time.

We recognize that each child matures at their own pace, so we take our cues from the child, not the calendar. If your child is about to turn three or already five, they can still attend Preschool, or they can stay in the Nursery. Please let a teacher know where your child should be. (Email preschool@uubgky.org. )

Posted: 7 Sep 2016
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Are you a good organizer? Social butterfly? The life of the party? Good! We need your talents! The Caring Community Team is looking for people to develop ideas for, plan, and coordinate church social events this fall. In an effort to build a stronger church spirit and generally joyful camaraderie, we need "people-people" to step up to the plate!

Some ideas have been floated already--what else can your creative minds come up with? How about...

A Family Halloween Party: Tentatively scheduled for the Friday before Halloween. A scary (but friendly -scary!) opportunity for our young and young-at-heart to participate in family-friendly Halloween games (in family-friendly costumes, of course!). So poke around the attic for that (aaaaarrgh!) pirate garb and unearth your unearthly candy-corn-brownie recipe and join the Team!
Adults' Evening Out: What's your pleasure of a chilly Autumn evening (PG-13 ratings, folks!): Coffee Haus Talent Night? Board-Game-Palooza? Nostalgia, Action, Rom-Com, or Horror Movie Night? We need a team to put together "A Night to Remember"! Childcare arrangements available.

Come help us with these oh-so-social events! We need your expertise and enthusiasm! Please contact David Wellman, Rev. Peter Connolly, or any other member of the Caring Community Team. We are counting on lots of volunteers to help out, so not all the work needs to be done by you planning types!

The word “growth” connotes various things to various people. For most of us, the first thoughts that come to mind are positive. We all want to grow, don’t we, in wisdom, in strength, in proficiency, in maturity?
But, growth also means encountering obstacles and overcoming them. For some of us, there is excitement in that. Do you remember the excitement you felt in the accomplishment of riding a bicycle for the first time? You certainly didn’t succeed without a number of stumbles and falls, but the soaring sense of accomplishment that came with the feeling of mastering the skill more than made up for those. If you ski, you certainly are aware that there were many falls along the way before you were able to truly enjoy the liberating feeling of skimming down the slopes. If you play a musical instrument, there was many a fumble between the first lessons and the sense of fluid mastery that came after years of practice. (And, to be honest, “fluid mastery” will always include imperfection.)
So, what about “spiritual” growth? That’s a harder one, isn’t it? For one thing, we can’t all seem to agree on a common definition of the word “spiritual.” For another, no matter what understanding you do have, it remains a concept without the kind of substantial reality that allows you to measure “progress” in the usual ways. Who teaches you “spiritual growth”? Nobody will be issuing grades. And nobody will be marking your progress unless it you do that yourself, and what standards will you apply? And, still, here at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green, spiritual growth is at the heart of our mission.
I remember the first time I took a course in “Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography.” It was at the Boston Center for Adult Education. The leader was Dan Wakefield, who I knew as the author of several quite successful books of autobiographical fiction such as Starting Over and Going All the Way (his most recent project was editing the letters of Kurt Vonnegut for publication). Dan, himself, had taken the course with the Rev. Carl Scovel at King’s Chapel in Boston, our country’s oldest Unitarian church (some of you will remember meeting Carl from when he offered the sermon at my installation as your minister).
Dan started the class by saying that there are all kinds of autobiographies one can write: a history of one’s paid employment over a lifetime, a memoir based on your educational history, your personal financial history, the story of your life in sports—but the spiritual autobiography is the deepest and most comprehensive because it embraces all of these aspects and more. It’s a self-exploration of how you came to be the person that you are, how you understand yourself at the present, how you interpret the experiences that helped shape you. And what more interesting subject is there for most of us than ourselves?
But, surprisingly or not, writing a spiritual autobiography turns out not to be just an exercise in self-exploration. The process allows us to take stock of the various people, places, and circumstances that have helped shape us, and it allows us a chance to appreciate in a more concrete way—to give thanks—for the gifts of others that have contributed to our growth.
What does spiritual growth mean to you? How have you grown over time? What do you find yourself growing towards? How can you contribute to the knowledge that others can gain of themselves?
I hope you’ll take the opportunity to join some of us on Sunday afternoons beginning on September 11 at 2:00 pm to undertake this journey. We need a minimum of four to offer the class, and we have room for fifteen. If only a small number register, we’ll meet five or six times for 90-minute sessions. If there is a larger turnout, we’ll meet eight times (through October 30) for two-hour sessions to allow time for all to participate. To register, please e-mail me at revconnolly@gmail.com or add your name when the sign-up sheet circulates on Sunday morning.
Looking forward to the continuing growth of the spirit, I’ll see you in church,
Peter

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Beginning on Wednesday, September 21, the Rev. Peter Connolly will be leading an adult Religious Exploration class called Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography.  Over the course of eight Sundays, participants will engage in drawing and writing exercises and community-enriching conversations, culminating in the creation by each participant of an 8-to-10-page autobiography written from a spiritual perspective.

The course is based on the text The Story of Your Life by Dan Wakefield, published by Beacon Press in 1990 and now available from Amazon.  Dan describes the purpose of the course as a "pilgrimage to look for the source of one's faith and see one's experience in relation to that search."  Participants will look back on, rethink and "re-feel" formative experiences, "both positive and negative, that shape the spirit" of who we are.

Class size is limited to fifteen. Meeting times are from 6:00 to 7:30 on Wednesdays, beginning on September 21 and ending November .16. (No class will be held on Oct 5.) All are invited to participate.  For more information, please speak to Rev. Connolly.

(If you are interested in leading or co-leading another section of the course to meet on weeknights, please see Rev. Connolly.  Thank you!)

Posted: 4 Aug 2016
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Our Social Justice Action Committee asks our members to consider a petition from the group UU Humanists to the Unitarian Universalist Association on behalf of non-theist Boy Scouts. (Our congregation as a whole takes no position one way or the other.)

If this is something you wish to support or learn more about, go to UUHumanist.org. They have 850 signatures and need 1,000 before Labor Day. The Rev. Roger Brewin (Minister Emeritus First Unitarian Church of Hobart, IN Board member, UU Humanists, Former Life Scout, and Sea Explorer) writes: "Boys from a variety of non-traditional religious identities, as well as non-theist boys who wish to take advantage of Scouting, and the men and women who wish to volunteer to be their leaders, will all benefit from our efforts."




When I was four, my Presbyterian parents told me about God, Jesus, and Hell. It was traumatic. I truly thought that my parents were nuts. Forced to attend church while growing up, I endured the painful hour as one endures a necessary but painful medical procedure, and it was painful. Each Sunday as we exited the building, I experienced a certain euphoria—“It’s over!”

Perhaps only I have CCT (Childhood Church Trauma).

For the next 35 years, I dismissed western churches as closed-minded groups who insisted that one believe what they believed, and that in fact, belief was what the whole thing was about: “We’re saved because we believe what we believe! If you don’t believe what we believe, you are damned, evil, BAD!”

Really? I couldn’t accept a word of it, but I was no atheist. I felt a spiritual calling, a hunger for meaning in life, and a profound sense that there is more to humanity and the human spirit than the superficial aspects of making a living and survival, which (truth be told) does not last. Surely there had to be something more, something big enough to be the source of life itself.

My spiritual search led to eastern religions and esoteric ideas that are hard to find. Since Unitarian Univeralism was organized as a church, I automatically assumed it would not have anything spiritually worthwhile for me.  It simply did not occur to me that a CHURCH could embrace doubt, encourage hard questions, fully accept not knowing or not believing, and be honest about our limited grasp of the infinite in which we find ourselves.

When I first visited our church here in Bowling Green, I learned almost immediately how wrong I had been. When the minister said, “For us to believe something, it has to make sense,” tears welled up in my eyes.

Over time, I learned that Unitarian Universalism had been saying what I had been saying (though not as well) my entire life. UUs fully appreciate love, worship, and the religious experience of a higher truth, but we don’t pretend to know something we don’t know. We accept and embrace differences, and we don’t label others as “wrong” simply because they are different. As science and our knowledge of the universe expand, we incorporate into our beliefs what we agree makes sense.

Ten years ago, if someone had told me I would attend a church, I would have laughed. If they had added that I would become a member? Beyond ridiculous. That I would agree to serve on the board? Off the map.

Yet here I am. Language defies my ability to express the honor and privilege that I feel serving as President for the upcoming year. We’ve been through tough times, and we have much to consider this year.

Three of the six members on the Committee on Ministry are new, and they are looking with fresh eyes at their mission now that we have implemented new policies. We’re trying out a new organization with committees grouped into teams, and this is generating new conversations and ideas. Mostly by folks moving away, we have lost dear and long-term members who now live in Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, and elsewhere. What can we do to attract others? Our minister retires next summer, and together we must determine what we are going to do next.

I won’t promise miracles, but I do give my word that I will do my best to serve this church and promote what’s best for its future and for our congregation.

Matt Foraker

 

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