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How do we nurture our Beloved Community?

By giving … that’s how
This year’s Stewardship campaign is officially kicking off this Sunday, March 15th. The online pledge form is already open for business here. Please check it out. Come by the Stewardship table in the social area before/after services to find out more. And, watch your mailbox for the Stewardship brochure and pledge card. We need everyone to think about increasing their annual pledge and submitting it as soon as possible.

“With our membership increasing to almost 500 members we have many more demands on our staff, facilities and volunteer lay leadership … as a result of this growth our staff, buildings and grounds and committees are all stressed”  – Phil Thomason, Stewardship Chair


Stewardship Testimonial from Ibba Surface

I’m Ibba Surface – I’ve attended church here for about 25 years and this is my story about my church. This story is not important because of anything special about me. Rather, this story is important because for many of you, it is your story too. And if it isn’t yet, it can be.

When I came here, I didn’t know much about being a member of a church community.  I must have known something though because early on, when I was asked to help out I said yes.  Within a short time of being around, my old college buddy Chris Wood asked me to be a canvasser.  I had no idea what that meant but I agreed to help him.  Guess I didn’t do too bad because soon I was asked to teach RE.  Now, looking back, I know that even then I knew if you want to be part of something, if you want it to be meaningful in your life, you have step up and pitch in.  Soon I was serving on the Board and in 1998 I went to Leadership School.  There I learned lots about myself.  It was tough for an introvert. I became more aware of myself in community – how I like to work, to communicate, make decisions- and the good and bad aspects of those tendencies.  I came back herewith all kinds of theories about myself and how I work with others.  That was great – I’d learned a lot -, but it really only took because I returned here, to my church, and I got to practice all that with you, in community.  Sometimes I pushed ahead when others needed more time.  Sometimes I hesitated when decisions needed to be made.  But throughout all the activities,- Board work, committees, talking about money, planning, specific projects, even cooking and cleaning –  with each misstep and every good outcome, I learned more about myself.  This has been a place for me where there is support, shared purpose and love.  The long and short of it is that I learned to be more effective and more whole by working in community with you for our church – when to lead, when to listen, when to just dig in and work hard, how to better communicate – and from this, gained the confidence to try something I don’t know how to do.  It has helped me in every aspect of my life – my career, my profession involvement, my community involvement, my family – even my marriage.  The opportunities I’ve had to grow have been a great gift to me, learning to do things I never thought I could do – it has made my life more full and joyful.

I found this description in some planning materials for a committee I serve on at Vanderbilt.  It is from the engineering school and when I ran it by my favorite consultant (Tom), he sweetly called it a bit dry but I loved it.  So, altered to express my church experience:

First UU provides a discovery and learning community that allows a congregant to optimize their own human performance in a modern spiritual environment.

[I’ll repeat that]

So we are are all human, fallible and vulnerable, and here we get an opportunity to optimize our performance in a loving, safe place.  That’s exciting to me!

This is about stewardship.  So here is my connection.  Through all this, I’ve learned to say that this is MY CHURCH –mine.  I have taken and given back.  I’ve had such joy and made connection to so many of you through all that we do together.  That’s why I love to say this is my church.  Many of you may say that too – I hope so.  Because this is my church, and it’s your church, it’s our church together.  And our church has given me many gifts.  And when something is mine, when something is yours, you draw from it and nurture it.  Like bread starter.  You take something and bake something wonderful – tasty, hot, homemade bread – and you feed it, you give back so it can grow too.  You nurture it.  And maybe you have a dream about what it can become.  Maybe you share it.  Because this is my church, because I dream about what it can be if I nurture it, I pledge with a generosity that my church deserves. This is our church and only we will dream about what it can be.  And only we will nurture it.

I ask you to join me in pledging generously.  With our support this church can give the gift of optimizing human performance to many more people.  And it can grow.  And it can become more whole.  Just like you and me. Our church.  Our story.


Stewardship Testimonial from Jessica Stein

While you’re making pledges this year, I’d like you to…think of the children.

No, I’m not going to parade images of spiritually starved orphans in front of you, but I will tell you a story.

When I graduated from crawling under the pews of this church to sitting on them, it was a bright time for the Stewardship committee. We raised enough money to buy the house next door, opening new spaces for interest groups, OWL classes, and youth meeting spaces. We had many paid positions—including an advisor solely for the youth group, who could use their time to plan incredible fundraisers like the Harry Potter Ball, or schedule trips to other churches in our district, even as far as Boston for GA, and BeachCon in Florida. Our pews were so full by second service, people often stood on the back wall for the sermon, likely due to word-of-mouth, and the vibrant community we were able to spread through block parties, themed dinners, and wallet/vision synergy.

That was also a bright and formative time for me, a child of the church. My entire moral compass was crafted here. It bears on the work I do today. When I teach World Religions to my high school seniors, much of what I’m teaching I learned in a UU curriculum. When I ensure the health and pursuit of happiness for all the animals and plants on my farm, I am practicing the seven principles. I wrote my college essay on the Transgender Day of Remembrance I attended in this very sanctuary, so I directly owe my degree to the church.

I listened to an NPR episode the other day about how crucial playing is for developing healthy adult behaviors. I ran on these floors till the ancient carpeting turned my feet black. I climbed through windows, hid in the library, made macaroni art in RE, skipped RE in a closet, made lifelong friends, hide Easter eggs so well we didn’t find them for years—I learned the definition of stewardship in a 12th grade RE course in the basement of this building. I returned as a young adult determined to share back what I received. Like some of you, I don’t make very much money, so I have to take the TIME part of DONATING TIME AND FINANCES very literally, but I do give what I can.

So while you are thinking about rebirth and sacrifice this morning, please…think of the children.


Stewardship Testimonial from Jill Fellow

A few weeks ago I was driving my 4 children home from the best playdate ever. I mean this really was like the best playdate ever. There were horses and baby kitties and juice boxes. I mean, what could be better? And as we drove I assumed my kids were just in the back reflecting about all the blessing in their lives. But then I heard some bickering and eventually actually had to stop the car. I saw that each girl had a pen in her hand. And I said, “Wait, what?!” And no joke, this is what Quinn, my 8 year old said to me, “McKenna wanted to write I hate you on the back of her seat in the car. And she was talking about ME, that she hates ME, and then she asked me how to spell hate, and I was like, ‘I’m not telling because you are just going to write I hate you on the car about me.’  But she wrote it anyway, and she wasn’t even spelling it right. So, I scratched in out, and I wrote POO.”

In Quinn’s world, she had been wronged by mean words. In McKenna’s world, she’d been wronged by a mean sister. And in mom’s world – you do not want to know what was going on in my head or what I wished I could do about it. But in that moment it was never more clear to me that while truth and reality may be relative, feelings – no matter how crazy – are real. And they feel so real.

Today I’d like to share a testimony with you some of the very real feelings that brought me to be part of this congregation, and a little of what my family has gained from communing with you these past 6 months.

I had my first spiritual crisis at age 5. I started young. It’s in me, I guess. I couldn’t figure out what would happen to my thoughts when I die. I verbalized my worry with the question, “What is life?” I asked it all the time. My sweet mom gave me a beautiful UU answer. She said – “Life is Love. It’s you and it’s me. It’s the Love we have together.” She did a good job, right? Except we were Catholic and so her answer seemed totally insincere. It seemed simple. It felt like a 5 year old answer – and I wanted the whole truth. We never talked about religion in my home. So I never felt like I got answers, and I eventually just figured my family didn’t have the answers.

And then in high school, I found the Mormons. And, man, did they have answers. Lots of them. For everything. They had a right way and wrong way to do everything and pretty stories to explain all of it. Most importantly, I was told that all of the stories and doctrines were 100 percent true, and I never had to think or worry again. So I rolled with it. I was ALL in.

In 2013, I had been married for 10 years, and had 3 beautiful Mormon children, who could mostly sit perfectly in church. But it turned out that our 3 year old was coming out of a serious episode of depression. She couldn’t find joy, and she hardly ate for several months. And in a blink our whole prospective on life and parenting and church changed. We didn’t know what was wrong from McKenna, but we did know that the gloves were coming off and we would spend our lives fighting to protect her. Suddenly we saw and heard the world from HER little eyes and HER little ears. What stories did we want her to hear? Who did we trust to teach her or to love her unconditionally? Where would she be safe to be who she needed to become? And suddenly it occurred to us that our current faith was not safe for McKenna. And then we came to the very powerful and life changing conclusion that, if it wasn’t safe for her, then it probably wasn’t safe for any of us.

Having an ex-religion is complicated – I’m sure many of you are familiar with it. And certainly, being post Mormon was complicated for us. We both lost many friends. And almost every relationship we had was changed forever. But at its root for my husband being Post Mormon was freeing and authentic. It was peaceful and filled with hope and opportunity. And I felt a lot these things too. But for me, at its core, being Post Mormon was also confusing and lonely and stressful. It’s life without pretty stories. It’s scary. When baby Charlie was born in August, he almost didn’t survive childbirth because he was ginormously awesome. And in that moment, brief, but real, I was paralyzed with fear. I lay there without my pretty stories for the first time and it was dark and scary and powerful. I may never fully heal from that moment and that fear. But that’s ok, because life as a post Mormon gives me the freedom to feel all things more deeply. The pain, yes. But also the joy. And the love. When we left, I felt a flood gate open with love for my children. And of course this makes me all the more committed to helping them find peace in life.

I crave new language to give my children about life and love. I really do. I crave hope. I crave celebration and community. I crave healing. And so I find myself here with you.

We got to Nashville less than a year after the big change. I took a faith quiz online that told me that I was a Unitarian Universalist (yay). And I knew one Unitarian Universalist who used some language about the spirit of love that resonated with me. And so when we got here, I knew where I wanted to be.

It is different for me here. You don’t have many rules or absolutes. Since you don’t tell me what to do, I have to do all kinds of work on my own. But I feel safe and there seems to always be something new for us here. Something to do or something to think about.

A few months ago I brought my husband to the church for the first time to come to the FUUN auction. Before I knew it he was bidding and cutting checks. What are you doing? I asked him. Well this is your church, right? This is your place? So, let’s do this. He gets that I need a place and a space to grow and to change.  A place to inspire me. We are kind of all in or all out people – did you get that yet? – so like I said, sometimes it overwhelms me that there are not concrete answers here, that I do not have to show up every week, and that no one is going to guilt me into doing what is good for me. One time a UU friend told me they were not coming to church that week. And, no joke, I picked her brain like 4 times about how she came to such an interesting and unusual and independent conclusion. I wanted to know here process. It had not fully occurred to me that this was an option. But it is a beautiful option. I choose to come. Or not come. I want to be here. What an empowering message for my children. “Please get your shoes on and get in the car, Mom really wants to go to church.”

For now, being with you gives me the space to try new things and truly pay attention to my own joys and concerns. It gives me the space to feel accepted HERE but to also email back and forth with an episcopal minister in Colorado who helped me see hope again in December when the promise of Christmas seemed shattered. Being here gives me the space to sing my baby a Mormon song I used to love called, “I’m trying to be like Jesus,” and to hear it with new words and a new dream for his life and for my life.  Or to just change the words all together if I want. (That’s a nice perk, too.)

So, this is me and all my real feelings, doing all I can to give my family that new story, a safe story, a new tradition. And with you, I am learning every day. So far, I’ve learned that in many ways each person is a sum of their joys and their concerns. And in this, they deserve my love and attention. They deserve for me to know their history and their worth. And this changes how I see people and it moves me to care more. And it moves me to action. And it’s the new root for how I do my job with college students, how I care for my little family, and it’s an important tool I hope you use as I coach 8 year old girls soccer, as I host a Nashville playgroup for other UU moms, and as I fight for progress in our local school – all things I feel inspired to do through the mission of this church.

And as a family, we’ve been learning to validate each other when we speak. To give each person a voice. And then to really hear each other. To see each other. Each night the girls and I light a candle at dinner. The girls have learned from church school to call the candle a chalice. And each night the child who had the hardest day leads us as we recite together these beautiful words from Mahatma Gandhi — I offer you peace. I offer you friendship. I offer you love. I see your beauty. I hear needs. I feel your feelings. My wisdom comes from the highest source. I honor (Salute) that source in you. Let’s work together. (For unity and peace)

This is the testimony of me and my post-Mormon UU family. Thank you for having us.


Stewardship Testimonial from Doug Pasto-Crosby

I would like to make a plea for all of you to increase your pledge so that we can fully fund our fair share payment to the UUA.

When I first became a UU, I didn’t really think much about the denomination as a whole.   I felt a strong connection to my congregation, but little or none to the central office in Boston.  I didn’t really understand what the UUA did for us.  Then came our congregation’s episode of ministerial misconduct.  I didn’t see the UUA as very helpful at the time.  In fact, its sole function seemed to be to protect offending ministers.

Partly as a result of our frustration, the UUA sponsored a study to reform its rules on ministerial misconduct.  The report on needed changes was accepted by the UUA Board.   But no action was taken, and other victims who reported ministerial misconduct in the last decade, were treated as poorly as our complainants had been treated over 20 years ago.  I began to actively dislike the UUA.  When I was elected to be a member of First UU board of Directors, I would be the first to recommend that we cut our UUA Fair Share funding to balance our budget.

My attitude toward the UUA has changed dramatically in the last three years, and I would like to make a plea to all of you to increase your pledge so that we can fully fund our UUA fair share.  Two things have happened to change my attitude.   The first was going to India and meeting our Unitarian brothers and sisters.   The UUA sent ministers from the US, Canada, England and Eastern Europe to speak at the 125th anniversary celebration of Unitarianism in India.  The UUA also assisted us in partnering with a church in Pingwait India.  Seeing the UUA in action world-wide was an eye opener.

Secondly, the UUA is making huge strides toward correcting the imbalance in their policies on ministerial misconduct.  Last fall, the UUA held a conference on “After Pastors.”  “After Pastors” is the name given to ministers who serve a congregation after a misbehaving minister.  Several congregations with recent revelations of ministerial misconduct were invited.  The UUA asked for representatives from First UU to attend as survivors of ministerial misconduct and to show that congregations can not only survive after ministerial misconduct, but thrive if they are willing to deal with the issue openly, as we have.

The After Pastors conference was a success.  One congregation referred to First UU as “their heroes” for helping them through their episode and being a role model on how a congregation can thrive if the issue is openly discussed.

When I got home from the conference, I realized that I had been given a gift.  I had been given a denomination that could admit its mistakes and correct them.  I had been given a denomination that is active world-wide in support of our shared principles.  I had been given a denomination that I was proud of.   A denomination that I wanted to work for and support.  Please pledge generously, so we can fully fund the denomination that I have grown to love.


Stewardship Testimonial from Steve Haruch

Hello, my name is Steve Haruch, and I’m a member of this congregation.

Today, I want to talk to you about sausage – but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First a little background. For seven years, I was a staff editor at a free weekly newspaper called the Nashville Scene. Once upon a time, the Scene had a sister publication called The City Paper. Which was also printed weekly, and was also free. As we liked to joke when someone wrote an angry letter or comment: “You get what you pay for!”

I’d like you to hold that thought.

In August 2013, after 12 years and nine months of reporting on the political, cultural, musical and business life of Nashville, The City Paper ceased to exist. In the final issue there was an editorial titled “Why Nashville Needs Newspapers.” Plural. Newspapers hold government and the powerful accountable, for one. They also provide a space for thoughtful people to tell stories, to raise issues, to connect dots and to build an ongoing conversation about the world we live in, and the world we want to live in. Not unlike this church, if you think about it. Normally, my advice is Do Not Read the Comments. Ever. But if you read that farewell editorial online, the the very first commenter says something very interesting, which is: “I would have been glad to pay for a subscription.”

I watched friends clean out their desks after The City Paper shut down. I watched people say goodbye to their colleagues — and in some cases, goodbye to a career in journalism. So even now, it really sucks to read that comment.

“I would have been glad to pay.”

By now I’m sure you’re wondering what any of this has to do with sausage, so let me try to explain. In the media business we have this expression: “how the sausage gets made.” Deciding what stories get written and which ones don’t; negotiating sources; occasionally involving lawyers; deciding when to hold a story and when to run it; figuring out how many ads you have to sell to stay in business; and so on. This is all “how the sausage gets made.” Basically: Journalism is a messy business. Enjoy the end product, and try not to think too much about the process. The funny thing is, we’ve started thinking a lot about how actual sausage gets made. Is the meat organic? Is it local? Did the animals get to walk around in a field and smell the grass for a while before they were slaughtered to make this delicious sausage?

But we don’t always think about how media gets made. That’s partly because we often have a very indirect relationship with it. And while it’s easy for everyone to feel like, “Eh, I can get the news for free.” The thing is, good journalism, real journalism, is not quick or cheap to make.


Dining Out For Life Donations

Did you miss Dining Out For Life? Do you like to win great prizes? YOU can still make a difference to help fight AIDS through Nashville Cares. We have extra donation envelopes for those who could not make it. You can pick one up at church Sunday or email dofl@firstuunashville.org for your envelope. You can mail your donation in the postage paid envelope and will still be entered in the drawing for some excellent prizes.

A HUGE Thank you to all of you who made it out to Tin Angel. The restaurant was full most of the evening and we met lots of nice people. Look for a final report in the June Newsletter.

Questions?  email dofl@firstuunashville.org.

Thank You

Scott Weaver & Victoria Harris


Celebrate Spring with a Turn around the Maypole

The bees are buzzing, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming… all of Middle Tennessee is suddenly verdant and lush. We welcome the fecundity of Spring after our cold winter! We will celebrate the turning of the of seasons next Sunday, May 3, between services, by wrapping our Maypole with colorful ribbons.


Denise’s Ordination: Save the Date!

The Worship Committee is thrilled to announce that, together with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Huntsville, we of FUUN will be ordaining longtime member and Membership Coordinator Denise Gyauch this spring.

When: Saturday, May 23, 2015
Service starts at 2:00PM
Reception to follow

Where: First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville
1808 Woodmont Blvd., Nashville, TN, 37215

We absolutely guarantee a good time. Highlights include:

– Peter Mayer (really — THE Peter Mayer) singing twice in the service
– Anthems by the joint Huntsville and FUUN choirs
– A sermon by Dan McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association professor at Harvard (and an old friend of Denise’s)

Would you like to contribute time or food? We would be delighted. We are hoping for a large and jubilant crowd, so the more helping hands the merrier. Opportunities include reception set-up, bringing finger food, feeding the choirs, contributing a box of wine, and so on.
Sign up at: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0a4caba62aabf58-denise

Questions: Please call Ordination Team chair Anna Belle Leiserson at 615-383-2041.


REMINDER. Dining Out For Life is Tuesday

I hope you are planning to join us at Tin Angel for dinner Tuesday night.  Remember reservations are required.  Please call the restaurant at 615-298-3444.  If you have any questions please send an email to dofl@firstuunashville.org

Thank you

Scott Weaver


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