FIRST UNITARIAN CELEBRATES OUR 150th ANNIVERSARY THROUGHOUT THE 16-17 CHURCH YEAR!
Our congregation was founded on January 14, 1867, with the Bond of Union. In our “birthday” month, plans are being made to have a gathering of UUs at Trinity downtown from a number of congregations, highlighted by Jim Key, current UUA moderator. We hope everyone turns out for this wonderful celebration, with a workshop, worship, and reception.
We can’t let this joyous occasion pass with just one event. Plans are also underway for an open house or two, special guests in the pulpit in most months, opportunities to hear stories from our long term members, special music, and more. We are also eagerly anticipating the Spring unveiling of the commissioned history of our congregation, by Virginia Dawson.
Did you notice our updated logo? We thank Harriet Abigail Ward for her graphic design contribution.
This church year will be a rich time of discovery and engagement, especially if you contribute your ideas and energy. There’s plenty of room in the plans
for more. Please contact Laurie Albright at 216 371 8163 or firstname.lastname@example.org to offer ideas and support.
We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. What will be our contribution to our future?
Everyone is welcome!
The exploration of our spiritual nature continues this Wednesday . We will enhance our understanding of ourselves, our relationships to others and to the universe on a deeper, more profound level. Spiritual Conversations examine questions at the center of our lives: what does it mean to be human, how can we live a rich life, what deepens our appreciation of the magnitude and mystery of life?
Everyone is welcome!
GCC News - First Unitarian at Public Action
13 members from First Unitarian participated in the Criminal Justice Action organized by Greater Cleveland Congregations in response to the Brelo verdict on Tuesday, May 26th.
Religious Education at the First Unitarian now has a blog! You can follow the entire depth and breadth of our Lifespan RE program at firstuclere.wordpress.com . Consider this new blog to now be your one-stop-shop for all things RE. Find out about events, classes, workshops, worship, volunteering, and more ways to be engaged with the faith tradition of UUism. We want your comments on posts! We’re so excited to have this new way of communicating with you. See you online!
Why I'm Here
Members Share Their First Unitarian Connection
Members and Friends recently began sharing “Why I Am Here” stories during Sunday services. As you read these heartfelt "testimonials," please reflect on what our church means to you and reach out to Daniel or David Kantor if you'd like to share your own story at an upcoming service! As well, we urge you to share these stories with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Shouldn't everyone know what this wonderful place could one day mean to them?
Why I am here
Many of you know me, I’m Laurie Albright, and I’ve been attending here about 30 years, beginning when I was pregnant with our first son. I joined the church about 20 years ago. It was in the search for a place where I could support myself and my young family in asking the big questions, even if the answers seem somewhat elusive, that I found myself here. Making ritual space for the questions is important to me.
Simply, the reason I am here is: I love this community that embraces the principles of Unitarian Universalism, and specifically how “we are” in relationship to each other here. I want to go a bit deeper into why I love you all.
Many of you know I was trained as a school psychologist, and so studied Freud, among many other psychologists and their theories. While I was more drawn to Jung, Gestalt and behaviorism (how’s that for disparate package!), I remember Freud referring to two realms that you need some success in to have a satisfying life- love and work.
Well, when I came here, I largely had some pretty good things going in both those departments, yet I found myself yearning for more. To me, satisfaction in love and work is similar to getting the minimum support to avoid, say scurvy or rickets, but it does not necessarily lead to what is needed for a rich, fulfilling life.
Ah Ha! You’ve already figured out what I am about to say. Being a part of this community has given me SO many opportunities, experiences, and relationships with others, all in the context of a religious purpose. I feel I have hit the mother lode! In the many circles of community here, I can engage in social justice, nurture next generations, grapple with practices for things such as “How DO people, who come together on a completely voluntary basis, figure out how to govern themselves, make decisions, support each other, and bring out our “best angels”?”. And engage in this in the context of you, who accept both my “heresy” and my attempt to understand my own yearning to “understand the mystery”, without having to put it in a neat box.
You helped us raise our sons in a culture we sometimes felt we had to fight- you are a sanctuary.
Here’s what you do for me: Buckminster Fuller said, “I seem to be a verb.” You help me be a verb: to wonder, to contemplate, to connect, to consider, to feel, to work, to learn, to stretch, to strive to “grow” my better self.
And so, for me, a rich rewarding, challenging life means attention to work, love, and my beloved community. Thank you for being here for me and my family.
Why I am here….
One big reason I’m here is that I don’t have to hear or recite words that make no sense to me or that I strongly disagree with. I don’t worry about that here. I can be authentic here and that’s important to me.
I like the fact that we have many sources of wisdom, rather than one source written for a different time and place long ago. I love so many of the people that I know here. I like being able to learn from you. You enrich my world.
Beyond these reasons, which are genuine and which echo what many others have said, there was also a special moment many years ago that had a huge impact on me.
Some of you may remember Dorothy Baroush, who was a member here and later in life became a UU minister(which I also thought was pretty neat). In the early 70’s, she was a delegate to our General Assembly and was instructed, either by a congregational vote or the board, (I don’t know which) how to vote on one of the resolutions at our national meeting. I haven’t been able to track down the exact wording of the resolution, but it was something in the nature of supporting the full acceptance of gays and lesbians in our congregations and she was told to oppose that resolution. Remember, it was the early 70’s –in Ohio.
After returning from GA, she stood right up there in the pulpit and told us that she did NOT vote as instructed. My first reaction was, “What? You went against our specific instructions to you? How could you do that?” I couldn’t believe my ears. A moment or so later, I thought, “Wow!! Holy Toledo!!” This is a place where principles and soul-searching are more important than rules. Let me repeat that. This is a place where principles and soul-searching are more important than rules.
And then she explained. She told us that before going to GA, she’d discussed the resolution and her instructions with her son, whom she then learned was gay himself. (That seemed to be a surprise to her, but I don’t have the details on that either.) Having learned more, she couldn’t, in good conscience, vote as instructed. Instead, she was free and courageous enough to trust her own judgment based on a better understanding of the issue, the consequences of that vote, and our values as Unitarian Universalists. I would guess that she struggled mightily over her responsibility to represent us - and to do the right thing. It could not have been easy. In the end, she had the courage to act according to her own greater understanding - and to stand up for a higher principle against probable criticism back here. Although our banner over the back door came much later, to me, she embodies its words, “To Search and to Serve.” I’m sure she searched long and hard to figure out the right thing to do and to serve us well.
She not only acted as she believed was right, she had the courage to stand up there and tell us. She didn’t have to do that. No one would ever have known she had voted as she did. But she told us - and taught us that, based on new information and her sense of who we ought to be, we were wrong and needed to look more carefully to our roots.
I’m here (in this denomination and at this lectern) because I do believe in courage. Since we don’t have absolute rules to follow, we need to search carefully for our own understanding of justice, compassion, and ways to live with integrity. I’ve heard people say that Unitarians can believe whatever they want. But that really does us a great disservice. It’s true that we don’t impose rules and beliefs, but I think it means we hold ourselves responsible and accountable for leading a principled life – and figuring out what that means and how to do it.
I believe in us as a denomination. I also believe in us as a congregation. But, for me, church is more than a comfortable community of like-minded individuals. It’s more than the benefits I receive by being a member. It’s also a place where I can give.
What keeps me here is that there is opportunity to contribute – to join with others to try to grow in understanding, in caring, in making a difference. I can use my own head and whatever skills I have to try to make a difference, where I can, for individuals, for programs, and for the congregation. Sometimes, what I do, what I give, does make a real difference. I can see the impact of that. Not all of my incredibly brilliant ideas bear fruit, of course, but that’s OK. It’s the trying that matters. If I can contribute something that is needed or help shape an idea, I feel valuable, worthwhile, and a part of you – and that’s very rewarding. It makes me want to give more! It binds me closer to you.
So. After all these years , I still remember Dorothy Baroush and her gift of integrity and courage. She, in her own way, was able to “Search and Serve”. Now it’s our turn. That’s a very important part of why I am here – and still her
Why I'm Here
Like many of you I've come to The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland from a different religious background. I was raised catholic, I was very devout and I said my prayers. Then, I became a teenager. I started to question why, if there even was a God, would he want everyone to fear him. The Catholic God started to sound like a bully to me. Over time I became a closet atheist but even though I didn't believe in God I was sure I'd go to hell for it. I started to have trouble with words like blessed, faith, God and church. Just saying those words felt wrong. So, I let it go. I let all religion go for a long time.
In my 20's, I came across Carl Jung. My exploration into Jung's philosophies, the idea of the collective unconscious and how we are all connected resonated deeply in me and that became my new religion. Jung often found his divine spark through creativity and drawing beautiful mandalas. I found mine through drawing and painting images that I called tree spirits.
Regardless of my beliefs, when my son Gabe was born I wanted him to have a religious education so that he could at least make an informed choice about religion. I had had a wonderful experience visiting a Unitarian church with a friend many years prior so when Gabe was three years old I signed the membership book here at First Unitarian without hesitation. I think I was one of Kathie Kitchingham's easiest sign-ups. That was in 2005.
Alright, so that's how I got here but why have I stayed? Why am I here now? Why have I fallen in love with this church and the people who make it up?
That started on a personal level when I became a volunteer teacher in the Youth Religious Education program. The first class that I ever taught are the youth that are in this years Coming of Age Program. Back then, they were in the first grade. The curriculum was called "Stories about God". I remember struggling with whether or not I could be a good teacher since I wasn't even comfortable saying the word God. One lesson plan ended with us asking the children to share how they imagined God, what would they draw if they had to draw God. All of the children's answers were perfect, there was no wrong answer. But when one child said "I see God as a tree" I experienced, in that small classroom in the basement of this church, a feeling of connectedness and freedom that went beyond words. Looking back now I guess you could call it transcendence. After that I no longer felt uncomfortable saying the word God.
Right now I'm finishing up my third year on the Youth Religious Education Committee. My first year on the committee was also Bethany's first year. Bethany could have easily come in and told the committee what we needed to do to improve the program. Instead, she took the time to help us shine a light on our selves so that we could become better equipped to do this work ourselves. She gently guided us to the notion that this committee is OUR committee and that we were charged with the responsibility to give our children the best UU education possible. I wish I could recount for you the long passionate discussions where we aligned our intentions with the hope to design a program that could offer growth for all involved, the children, the volunteers and the parents. Because it was somewhere in these meetings, in this work, with these people, in community ... that I started to feel a new meaning of the word church.
I truly love and savor the church we experience in this Sanctuary. But through these volunteer experiences I've begun to feel church happening in other places. Those experiences have challenged me let go of my old religious definitions, so that I could get closer to my true self and through this process to honor that beauty in others. That's why I'm here. Because I know that there is no way I'm experiencing this alone.
Church happens when Membership greets us at the door. It happens in our covenant groups, in committees, through social justice work, in our gardens, on the board and in our classrooms. Church happens when we all come together in community and work together toward a shared goal. How beautiful is that?
Why I’m Here
When my husband, Kevin Ortner and I began coming to First Unitarian, I was Light Auburn #110. Our girls were 6 months and 2 1/2 years old and I was still in my 30 ’s. The girls are now 15 and almost 13 and I’ ve gone from Light Auburn to Golden Blond to Iced Meringue to Toasted Coconut to what I ’m now calling “undecided. ” I’ ll leave my age to your math skills.
We came here as a family looking for a spiritual community. We wanted a place where we could find support to raise our children with the values we held dear - the values we found in the 7 Principles. We had done our research before we walked in the door- but you ’d expect that from a lawyer and a project manager.
What we found when we came here was much more than a church community. Over the years, we have found friends who have become family to us and we found a spiritual home.
We were one of the families that started what is now called the We are Families Covenant group, way back when it was still “young families”. Betsy and Anna have grown up alongside the other youth in this congregation, who are like cousins to them. They have gone from being the little ones to being the “big kids”.
Many of you have taught them in Sunday school: you know them as well as their aunts and uncles do, and you certainly see them more often! We are so grateful to have had your caring wisdom guiding them along the way.
I have taught so many of your children - from preschool right on up through Coming of Age. I feel privileged to have been a witness to their blossoming.
We have ingathered, Halloweened, shared bread communion, made gingerbread houses, hung the greens, downed the browns, Christmas tableaued, potlucked, auctioned and flower-communioned with all of you. We have watched more than a decade of youth come of age and graduate and even come back to visit.
But these 12 or so years we have been here have not been all sweetness and light: there have been career changes and losses: Kevin ’s father and both of my parents; moves, job changes and other major and minor disasters. But through all of that, this beloved community - this home - has been a constant for us.
It’s where we come to be lifted up, to be encouraged and supported and then to turn right around and do the same for you, for our friends who have become family.
Because, really, the 7 principles might have been the key that unlocked the door to this church for us, but it ’s the people: our church family, who are the reason why we are here.
Why I’m STILL Here
As a Peace Corps volunteer in my mid-twenties, I was in Nepal teaching English as a second language for two years. When my Peace Corps term ended, I received a one-way ticket home, and was allowed as much travel time as I wanted . . . I took six months travelling through India on third class trains, the Middle East, and Europe. I encountered other religious and spiritual paths to climb up Life’s mountain, in addition to the one I had climbed in my Lutheran Church:
Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal and India
Islam in Iran
Judaism in Israel
Eastern Orthodox Catholicism in Greece
Roman Catholicism in Italy and Spain
When I got home, I returned to my family’s Lutheran Church where Gary and I were married 44 years ago. We both had discovered Unitarianism when we were in college. Gary would drive from Bowling Green to the Unitarian Church in Toledo to hear Waldermar Argo, the minister from the late 50’s to early 70’s. I would take the bus up High Street from Ohio State to the Unitarian Church in Worthington. So soon after we were married we decided to visit First Unitarian Church of Cleveland.
Like many new members, we attended service regularly and became very involved in church activities. Susan and Jack were born in 1972 and 1974. They began in the crib room and participated in the RE program. When they were three and five, I returned to my life as a high school counselor and eventually became a school psychologist.
But I still SHOWED UP regularly on Sunday mornings for the INSPIRATION of the Worship Services, attended other church events and our family celebrated holidays with our First Unitarian friends in each other’s homes.
I now want to share with you “Why I’m STILL here?” When I was working in schools, they were my primary communities, but I always knew that when I retired, OUR CHURCH would be MY BELOVED COMMUNITY, which it has been and will continue to be. That is why I am wearing a t-shirt that SAYS SO instead of being dressed in my Sunday best. I got the t-shirt this past July when Gary and I attended the Southeastern Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI) with 1300 other UUs at Radford University in Radford, VA.
BELOVED COMMUNITY was the theme of this year’s SUUSI. BELOVED COMMUNITY makes me think of our church’s “Ingathering” Worship Service this year. Daniel’s and Bethany’s homilies contained precious words:
REASON WITH COMPASSION
LOVE OF TRUTH
TRUTH OF LOVE
FULL WEEK FAITH and POWER RELEASED THROUGH ME.
What I treasure most in our “BELOVED COMMUNITY” are the FRIENDSHIPS I have had, the ones I have now, and the new ones that occur by attending SUNDAY SERVICES, being a member of the Lay Pastoral Care Team, belonging to the “What Next” and “Poetry” Covenant Groups, and participating in our congregation’s projects, events and celebrations.
Since we Unitarian Universalists are free to develop our individual concepts of God in the context of our UU core values, the brick I contributed to the border of the Perma-Culture Garden says “God is Love”. That is why I’m STILL here! I’m free to be who I am and share what I believe.
Why am I here?
Good question... the simple answer is "My wife made me" ...but let me explain.
I have never been a person who needed organized religion in my life. I was christened in an Episcopal church, but my family never attended services, not even at holidays. Both my parents were members of the Church of England, but I honestly can't think of a time when they discussed religion in the house. When my brother was in high school, he started going to a Baptist church that some of his friends went to... I tagged along maybe a dozen times, sitting in the Sunday school class, but it didn't resonate with me... then again, I was 7. Once he went to college, my church attendance ended until I was in high school. I was staying at a friend's house over a weekend because my parents were out of town and on Sunday they said they were driving an hour to Columbus to go to church and asked if I wanted to go. I had nothing better to do, so I tagged along.
This was my chance introduction to the Unitarian Universalist church. I really enjoyed the high school youth group, and felt comfortable in the service, so I kept tagging along for a few months. Then the parents of my friends divorced, things got awkward and once again, my attendance to church stopped.
Fast forward to the year 2000, and my then fiancée now wife, said that we needed to find a church. She was raised as a military brat, so non-denominational churches were the norm, but her mother was Catholic and Rose had gone through 1st communion and had mainly Catholic leanings. I was not going to become Catholic... so we had to find a solution so we could get married (she kept saying that a Vegas wedding with Elvis was out of the question, but her dad kept offering me $50 and a ladder so we could elope. I was conflicted). She wanted a place where we could religiously raise the kids. I said, "Whoa! What kids?" but that's another story for another time.
We considered a few options, and then I had a flashback to high school and my UU experience. If I had to go to church regularly, that was my one and only option (at least in my head). So we did some Internet searching (this was before google was a verb) and found a UU church on the other side of town (we lived in Parma, but knew we were moving to the east side eventually) and we ended up here.
This was the summer, so a Killam Fellow was in place, maybe you remember her as Natalie. The first Sunday we were there Rose was hooked thanks to the sermon... she was moved to tears (the good kind). The second Sunday was more of the same... so it was settled, we had found our church. In the fall we signed the book, and the rest as they say is history. Since then Rose has spent time in the choir, and in the RE wing as a teacher. I've spent time working on the website, and the auction, and even played some drums for the choir. I've found my church, but I don't think I've found my place yet... as in, where can I give back to the church with my time and talents... but I'm still looking.
We were married here. My daughters have been dedicated here... and after a few years of spotty attendance due to their nap schedules I can say even some friendships are starting to be made here. This is a special place... If you remember I started this with saying that I was never a person who needed organized religion in their life, but this church makes me want it in my life... and that's saying a lot.
So for the wife who "Made me do it"... thanks.