Saturday, May 13, 2017

2017 Stewardship Interview Series

You might remember that as part of last year's campaign, the Stewardship Committee coordinated in-person visits with members of the church. The purpose of these visits was to chat about members' experiences at First Unitarian, the four goals of the Stewardship campaign* and member pledges. The core of these conversations was about participation. We discussed questions like: How are you feeling about your connection with the church? Are there any groups, volunteer activities or leadership opportunities that you'd like to be more involved in? What are your thoughts about this year's stewardship goals? Do you have any concerns?

My Experience as a Visiting Steward

Our family officially joined First Unitarian at the beginning of 2016. And while we had attended sporadically for years, there were lots of people we didn't know. So when Ellen announced that the Stewardship Committee was looking for volunteers to be visiting stewards, I thought it would be a fun way to meet some new people. And it definitely was that.

I had a blast hearing about people's experiences at First Unitarian. We met over cups of tea and coffee, at coffee shops and in people's homes. Hearing fellow member's stories about why they joined the church, or what what they love about the community, or special memories.
    I met new people, learned a ton about the church and its history, and found new ways to get involved myself. I'm really looking forward to being a visiting steward again this year.

    If you're interested in serving as a visiting steward this year, let Ellen Foley or me know or email We'd love to have you involved!

    The Interview Series

    This year we'll also be publishing an interview series with First Unitarian members on topics like:
    • Visiting Stewardship experiences
    • New Member stories
    • First Unitarian memories
    • Updates about the Stewardship Campaign
    We'll be sharing the first interview later in May, and publishing one new interview about every two weeks throughout the campaign.

    Want to be a part of the Series?

    If you have topics you'd like to hear about or if you'd like to contribute to the series by being interviewed or writing a post, please email or talk to me on an upcoming Sunday morning.

    Brian Shea

    * the 2016 Stewardship goals were: (1) Pay a Living Wage to all First Unitarian staff members, (2) Pay our fair share to the UUA, (3) Decrease the Endowment Draw, (4) Fund a Connections Coordinator role.

    Monday, December 12, 2016

    Why Do We Give to the UUA?

    If we meet our pledge goal this year of $310,000 (and we are getting close), the Prudential Committee has set as one of the four goals for next year to move closer to paying our full 'fair-share' dues to the UUA.  Many members of our congregation ask why should we do that, wondering what we get in return?  We feel a great answer to that question can be found here.

    Monday, November 21, 2016

    The time to pledge is now!

    First Unitarian Church’s Stewardship campaign for 2017 is well past the halfway point.  We have raised over $200,000, and we have just over $100,000 to go.  The Stewardship team has been energized by the tremendous generosity of our fellow church members and friends.  The commitment and dedication to our spiritual community reflected in this year’s giving are truly inspirational.   

    As you might have guessed, it’s time to pledge!  Our visiting stewards are still busy contacting church members and friends for visits.  But with the holiday season upon us, we would like everyone to make their pledge as soon as possible.  Please consider increasing your pledge by 20% to help us reach our goal of $310,000.
    Pledging is easy:
    Pledge by phone: call Jennifer in the church office: 508-757-2708
    Pledge by e-mail: send a message with your 2017 pledge to Jennifer Bowes (
    Financial giving through annual pledges is just one of many ways that church members and friends give generously of themselves to our community.  We are grateful for all gifts that you bring to our shared mission of worship, connection, and justice. Thank you in advance for your generous support of the 2017 Stewardship campaign.

    Monday, October 24, 2016

    Our Response to a Stewardship Visit

    Aaron and I both really appreciated the Stewardship Visit from Lee Reid and Steve Knox. It was nice to talk quietly and make personal connections, and it was good to see what the financial goals of the church were. We had talked through some thoughts about how Aaron and I could contribute to the church community. Lee and Steve seem very connected to the different people in the church, and I know that I appreciated the recommendations for personal introductions. -- Jennifer deWinter

    Aaron McGaffey and Jennifer deWinter
    Aaron and I both really appreciated the Stewardship Visit from Lee Reid and Steve Knox. We joined the church hoping to form communal bonds (among other reasons), and we came to realize that people were driving in from all over, so connections outside of church times were harder to form casually. It was nice to talk quietly and make personal connections, and it was good to see what the financial goals of the church were. Lee and Steve seem very connected to the different people in the church, and I know that I appreciated the recommendations for personal introductions. Coffee hour seems particularly difficult to talk with new people (especially when we are worried about what are children are doing at any particular moment).

    We had talked through some thoughts about how Aaron and I could contribute to the church community, and I know that I have felt that talent has been a particularly under tapped category (at least for me). There are a number of things that I am able to do and have done in support of academic and non-profit institutions, including grant writing, study tours to Asia, help with job search materials, and the like. I wonder if there might not be a way to discover the talents of individuals in the congregation and mobilize those toward civic and spiritual ends. While I understand that it often falls to people to take initiative, sometimes it is difficult to identify what initiative would be welcomed and how that might fit into the larger structure of the community’s goals.

    Again, we are grateful for the Stewardship Visit and the time taken in talking with both of us.

    Monday, October 10, 2016

    Stewardship: Paying Our Way

    We’ve benefited from the UUA’s services directly: during the transition after Tom Shade’s retirement, in the search for our Director of Faith Development, and from a number of materials including our Hymnals and publications from Beacon Press.  Many of our church leaders and members participate in UUA programs that are vital to our church community. --Jesse Anderson

    One of our goals in this year’s pledge campaign is to reach a point where we can pay our UUA and New England Region dues, currently $60 and $19 per registered member respectively.  At First Unitarian Church we are used to thinking of “pledging units” or households, but UUA dues are on a per-member basis, so dues for one of our typical pledging units is $158 in 2017.

    I’m often asked, “Aside from a copy of the UU World, what do we get for our money?  We have so many things we should be spending it on in our own community!”  To answer, I need to talk a little about American Unitarianism in general, as well as our church and the UUA.

    Unitarian churches practice Congregational Polity - if you’ve been to one of our Annual Meetings, you’ve seen this in practice.  Unlike many denominations, the highest organizational body for the church is the church itself.

    The UUA exists as a voluntary membership organization, providing resources and facilities that would be hard to organize on a local level.  A good example is the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF).  Originally a “Radio Church,” the CLF exists as a means for isolated UUs in areas without UU churches to get RE material and participate remotely in worship services.

    We’ve benefited from the UUA’s services directly: during the transition after Tom Shade’s retirement, in the search for our Director of Faith Development, and from a number of materials including our Hymnals and publications from Beacon Press.  Many of our church leaders and members participate in UUA programs that are vital to our church community but are largely invisible to most of our members.

    Our congregation has a long and complex relationship with the UUA.  Aaron Bancroft, our first minister, thought that aide from the external association between ministers, relationships within individual churches was all that was needed and fought against the formation of the American Unitarian Association in 1825. Ironically, he was elected its first president and as far as we can tell accepted the responsibility and served ably.

    Maybe this is a lesson for us - within the wider denomination, we are considered a large, well respected church, even if we haven’t recently had much direct involvement.  By paying our way, we can help the denomination expand the reach of our liberal religion, assist congregations in need, and give existing congregations the resources they need to prosper.

    Please consider increasing your pledge to help us achieve this and all of our Stewardship goals!

    Monday, October 3, 2016

    Stewardship: A Bridge to Belonging

    Our church on Court Hill is where we practice our beliefs and actions – crazy as they seem to others. It is where we take risks. It is where we can leave our comfort zones.  It is a place to humbly try to live outside of one's self.   That is why I'm here. That is why I support First Unitarian. Please join me in this important work. -- Jay Lavelle

    At the Prudential Committee retreat in June, we came up with a set of goals for the year 2020. The first was “Create a diversity of modes of spiritual experience for members, friends, children and youth."
    My own path is relatively diverse: austere New England Trinitarian Protestantism based on service, charity, and being of good will, a dash of Charismaticism, and a heaping spoonful of Tibetan Buddhism. And that is not that uncommon. I know Catholics, Jews, Buddhists of all denominations, and Sufis in my ken, all of whom find a home at First Unitarian. There are agnostics and atheists living by the light of reason. And there are some who just don't know what they are.
    So how do they all fit into a church – an institution usually defined by specific beliefs and practices that everyone agrees to? How does this private, internal quest fit within a large group of people, within an institution that is 231-years old? And why is this important?
    The French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil talked about “experimental certainties.” An experimental certainty is something that can be only known through practice; something that can be only known when used in the presence of others. And those places of presence are churches. Our church on Court Hill is where we practice our beliefs and actions – crazy as they seem to others. It is where we take risks. It is where we can leave our comfort zones.
    A church is a place of safety where one needn't fear. It is a place to humbly try to live outside of one's self. It is a place where, to paraphrase Robert Frost, they have to take you in. But there are some who haven't realized that yet, some who may have come from more rigid traditions where a diverse, fluid approach to faith and worship is not appreciated. Or maybe they never thought of that question before, but only know something is gnawing at their core. They have a place with us, and we owe them the opportunity for growth and self-expression.
    Our church is a place where the life of the spirit is taken seriously. It is also a place of content, comfort, and camaraderie. The goal of the Prudential Committee to expand that to include and welcome diverse spiritual experiences will make our church a more personal place, uniquely vital to everyone involved.

    That is why I'm here. That is why I support First Unitarian. Please join me in this important work.

    Saturday, September 24, 2016

    What is a Connections Coordinator?

    "My role is all about developing relationships, which strengthens everything we do.  In addition, I am able to maintain systems which consistently support programs that provide space for relationships to deepen. It is such a vital role." -- Tina Lewis

    Tina Lewis, Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL
    Our new mission statement declares that “connecting with each other” is one of our core aspirations. The Prudential Committee has turned this aspiration into a goal for the coming years: ensure that newcomers, new members and established members report higher levels of welcome and connection.

    A Connections Coordinator is a membership professional. Currently, more than 80 UUA congregations have a membership professional on staff.  They are known by a number of names:  Connections Coordinator,  Congregational Life Director, Coordinator of Member Programs, etc. What all membership professionals share in common is the goal to grow the congregation in terms of numbers, depth of relationship and engagement in congregational life.

    Consider the case of Tina Lewis, the Membership Director at Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.  The membership staff position began as part-time in the year 2000.  At that time, Unity Temple had 350 members.   Tina was hired full-time in 2010. Today, Unity Temple has more than 600 members.

    Tina's accomplishments at Unity Temple are exemplary, but they are not unique.  In 2014 the UUA reported a net growth in membership of over 2000.  Most interesting, nearly all of this increase came from congregations which had a membership professional on staff.  

    This year’s Stewardship Campaign has the ambitious goal of raising $310,000. If we achieve our goal, one of the new expenditures that will be within reach is a part-time Connections Coordinator position.  If those who are able can increase their pledge by 20%, and others can increase by 10%, we should reach all our goals.

    Membership professionals enhance congregational life by more than growing the number of members in the congregation   They also strengthen the depth of engagement by all members.  Here are some of the quantifiable results they have observed:
    • Increase in the average service attendance
    • Increase in the average children’s religious education attendance, and the number of adults that teach
    • Increase in the number of adult religious education classes, attendance numbers of the adult education classes, and diversity of adult facilitators
    • Increase in program involvement such as small group ministry, caring ministry, and hospitality services
    • Increase in shared leaders, which include leadership rotations and succession planning in place
    • Increase in leaders representing the congregation in the wider community

    Monday, September 12, 2016

    Taking Care of What we Love

    Stewardship is about taking care of something that you love. And we offer that care so that our church community will be here long after we are gone.  -- Ellen Foley

    What is Stewardship?  Someone asked me this at the yard sale last Saturday, and my off the cuff answer was, “money!”. But Stewardship isn’t really about money. Stewardship is about taking care of something that you love. And we offer that care so that the thing we cherish, in this case our church community, will be here long after we are gone.

    What will Stewardship look like this year? Those of you who saw the Stewardship skit during the in-gathering lunch on Sept. 11 th learned that we will be organizing stewardship visits with all church members this fall. For everyone else, here’s a brief overview:

    What are Stewardship visits?
    They are a chance for visiting stewards (i.e. other church members) to visit you and talk to you about your connection to the church. We want to visit everyone, and most of what we want to do is listen.

    During Stewardship visits, we will share what we love about the church, and we want to learn more about what you love. What connects you? How are YOU living out our mission to honor the sacred, to connect, to serve justice?

    Finally, we will invite you to think about your role as a steward, and all the ways, including generous giving, that you can help take care of this place that you love. We’ll invite you to think about how your annual Stewardship pledge reflects your sense of connection to First Unitarian.

    Stewardship is about all of us and we will need your help.  In the coming weeks you’ll be hearing more from us about how to get involved. But for now, thank you, each and every one of you, for being you, for being here part of this community, and for the gifts that you bring.

    Saturday, April 30, 2016

    Stewardship: a Bridge to Belonging

    It doesn't matter what brought you here.  What matters is that you are here now.  That you live the covenant. That you pray, that you sing, that you are of service.  -- Jay Lavelle

    I am a Unitarian.  I am not a Unitarian-Universalist, or  —  God forbid —  a "UU".  I was in the church before the merger and was thankfully grandfathered in so I wouldn't have to deal with the music requirement.  

    I would like to able to say that my church childhood was idyllic, walking down the tree-lined streets to the white wood church facing the town common. However, most of my childhood memories are blurred, blended, or blocked.  Or just wrong.  What I do know is that an interest in spirituality attempted to surface in my adulthood.  It was not a review of my past and current lives that brought me back to the fold of Unitarianism, but something far more subtle than that.  

    On a cold New Year's Eve I was at Worcester's First Night celebrations, and seeking some relief, I went to the dining room of this church where the youth group was selling hot chocolate.  Trying to stay inside as long as possible I began to read the innumerable announcement and sign-up sheets on the bulletin boards.  There was a sign-up sheet for a women's retreat and I saw the name of someone I knew.  "Wow," I thought, "She goes to this church."  

    So, a week later I was sitting in the back of the church listening to Barbara.  I was very impressed.   I had flashbacks to being in the church of my youth - a lively but constrained service in a lovely, austere setting.  Afterwards,  I decided to get a coffee -- it was still winter, after all.  I made my ways through the crowds in the Bancroft Room to the dining room.  This was back in the day when we still used the silver tea services and had people assigned to "pour."  I was surprised to see my friend from the bulletin board was pouring.  I thought, "Great - I'll say hi to her, get a coffee, and make a good day of it." I waited in line.  As I got close. before I could say anything, she looked up, saw me, and said in a loud voice, "Oh my God.  This is, like, so weird!"  And those were the first words anyone spoke to me in this church.  I did come back the next week.  And the week after that.  And in April, when the weather was turning, I decided to sign the membership book in the Bancroft room.  I tried to do this as inconspicuously as possible, but when I finished, I heard a voice -- you know who’s -- from across the room and filling it, yelling "Attaboy Jay !"

    I later told all this to a psychiatrist, saying that it was interesting that my friend popped up these three times.  The psychiatrist looked at me and she said in a calm, straightforward way as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "Don't you know what that was? Your friend drew you to church, she showed surprise that you actually showed up, and she celebrated your decision.  If that isn't the voice of God, then what is?"

    It doesn't matter what brought you here.  Whether you were running away from another church, or accompanying a friend whose judgement you valued and trusted.  Whether you grew up here and never left, or you wandered so far it took God speaking through a very cute woman to get your attention. What matters is that you are here now.  That you live the covenant. That you pray, that you sing, that you are of service.  Don't try to understand why you are here - that's not the point.  You don't have to explain.

    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Stewardship: a Bridge to Belonging

    I feel my giving has little to do with ‘business’ and all to do with the sacred work of transforming our world to become more just and fair. I give joyfully and look forward to working with others to do the same.  -- Laurie Ross

    My daughter Zoe always loved to read. When she was six or seven, we were both looking for something a little more challenging than typical first-grade fare. A friend suggested Harry Potter—and we were hooked! All of the Harry Potter books were out by that time and we devoured all seven over the next few years.  When she was in third grade, we went to a StArt on the Street festival. Paul Ropp was there with flyers for the First Unitarian Church of Worcester’s own Hogwart’s[1] style summer program. We were very interested, but the dates didn’t work for us that summer. I kept my eye out for more Harry Potter themed activities. The following spring, the church held a Hogwarts event. I signed my kids up. When I picked them up, I asked them how it went. While I don’t remember anything specific about the activities, I do remember Zoe saying that all of the other children were really nice and she felt welcomed.

    The way she said ‘nice’ sounded as if these children were uniquely nice in some way; more so than children she was encountering elsewhere. That both made me sad and also intrigued. When the dates
    for Hogwarts were announced I quickly signed up both Zoe and Eli. They were immediately swept away by the magic of the experience—the dedication and creativity of the adults; the quality and meaningfulness of the activities; and the relationships they formed with other children of varying ages. I decided to go to the Sunday service between the two weeks of camp. And then I was swept away. I found the service to be exhilarating and liberating.

    Hogwarts ended. We finished our summer activities and the kids went back to Muggle school. But I found myself wanting to go back to First Unitarian for Sunday services. I started to read about the seven UU principles. I was amazed that there was a religious tradition based on core beliefs that I held. When services started in the fall, I brought the kids back. I couldn’t believe how welcoming and friendly everyone was. People went out of their way to greet us and get to know us. I started to understand what Zoe meant when she said the children were so ‘nice’. Over that first year, I fell in love with the music and the ways the values of Unitarian Universalism were expressed. I got involved in the Social Justice committee and my children enthusiastically participated in the Faith Development program.

    Although I have never done anything like this before, getting involved in Stewardship this year made a great deal of sense to me. Reflecting on my few years at the church, I realized I was eager to give to the collection each week. I wanted to support the mission of the church in ways I could. But giving in a sanctuary was new for me. I grew up Jewish. While “tzedakah”,  the forms of charity that support justice and fairness, is deeply engrained in Jewish tradition, one cannot handle money on Shabbat. The reason for this is complex, but largely based in the idea weekday activities of commerce should not be conducted on Shabbat; therefore money is to be avoided. But at First U, I feel my giving has little to do with ‘business’ and all to do with the sacred work of transforming our world to become more just and fair. I give joyfully and look forward to working with others to do the same.

    I am so glad Paul Ropp handed us that flyer years ago. That small entrance into the First Unitarian Church of Worcester has opened up a whole new world for me and my family…a little like when Harry received his invitation to Hogwarts.

    [1] First U’s Hogwart’s Program is now called Wiagora

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    Stewardship: a Bridge to Belonging

    Stewardship—protecting, tending, caring—is at the core of what it means to live out my faith, of building and nourishing the beloved community. It is a call to bring my best self to the mission and life of the church. --Ellen Foley

    What calls me to First Unitarian Church?  In many ways I can’t take credit for my Unitarian faith.  I grew up in the Unitarian church of Flint, Michigan; my grandparents were all Unitarian.  Religion did not occupy my conscious thoughts during my childhood and early adulthood.

    And yet I have always had a strong moral compass and a certainty about my own spiritual values: justice, interdependence, the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings.  In my adulthood I have found, unsurprisingly, that Unitarian churches are the places where I find those who share this moral compass.  I find people I want to know.  People I admire.  People who I hope will shape my son’s sense of his place in the world and his responsibilities to it.

    But how does that connect with stewardship? Merriam-Webster tells us that stewardship is the activity of protecting and being responsible for something; it is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.  For me the work of stewardship—protecting, tending, caring—is at the core of what it means to live out my faith.  Stewardship is a way of doing the necessary work of the world, of building the beloved community, and of protecting and nourishing that community for those who will follow in our footsteps.

    I am passionate about the work of stewardship because it provides the path for church members to connect their own spiritual needs, values, and practices to the longevity, vitality, and joy and promise of church and church life.  What calls me to stewardship is the sense that I am answering a call: a call to expect the best of myself and others, a call to bring my best self to the mission and life of the church, and a call to take responsibility for the present and future of this precious community.   

    Stewardship: a Bridge to Belonging

    The message of inclusiveness [is] central in this spiritual community of diverse thinkers and believers.  [Yet] I can partake only as much as I am willing to give of myself – of my love, of my time, of my skills, of my resources. -- Carol Gregory

    How wonderfully unexpected! My experience here at First Unitarian during the last four years has been just that – wonderful and unexpected. Sitting in the pew with Wendy during the first service I attended, I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t attending a great concert listening to gifted musicians and vocalists in a magnificent venue. Enchanting as that experience was, I didn’t expect the music to draw me in so powerfully and so often.

    I began attending our church during a transition. When The Reverend Tom Shade moved on, both The Reverend Tracey Robinson-Harris and The Reverend Gary Kowalski helped us rise to the challenging work of refocusing ourselves to call M12, The Reverend Sarah Stewart, to be our minister. What a wonderful time for me to become acquainted with who we are. Even in the struggle to speak from a place of love when people didn’t necessarily agree with a decision and even when the work yet to do looked larger than the group’s ability to get it done, the message of inclusiveness remained central in this spiritual community of diverse thinkers and believers. I could find a spiritual message playing out almost everywhere I looked. I didn’t expect that spiritual experience to stay with me so well or bring me back so often. I didn’t expect the people of this community to be so welcoming and inclusive while struggling to navigate such a substantial change.

    Maybe you’re like me.  The music drew you in. The message brought you back.  The community welcomed you and invited you to stay.  I’m now part of this community, this gana, in both my heart and soul.  You are my spiritual family, and I welcome my role as a part of you.  As with my family of origin, I know I can partake of my life only as much as I am willing to give of myself – of my love, of my time, of my skills, of my resources.  Partnering with longer-term members and our new minister on the Mission and Values Committee, becoming a member of the Stewardship Committee, learning to play bridge with the sisters of the church, speaking with a young person I’m just getting to know, adding to the brunch options after the service, and fulfilling my annual pledge have become both welcome opportunities and welcome responsibilities. My experience at First Unitarian has truly been wonderful and unexpected. For me, these acts of stewardship are the price I gladly pay to realize my place in this spiritual community.

    Carol Gregory

    Monday, April 4, 2016

    Stewardship: a Bridge to Belonging

    Every year Lee and I have given generously of ourselves and our money, and in return we have experienced church life as focal to our family life. We have developed relationships that are worth far more than we can fully express. --Steve Knox

    Lee and I feel so very fortunate to belong to the same church community as our daughters.  It was at First Unitarian where they received their religious education, then participated in the youth groups, and now also belong as members.  And we are filled with delight to see our grandson starting in the same programs our children started in.

    What a gift First Unitarian continues to be for our family.  From the start we have never been shy about getting involved.  A sense of belonging is a basic human need and getting involved is how we fulfill it.  Lee and I signed the book right after our second Sunday service.  Not too long after that, we were participating as volunteers in the Sunday School, and also in a pre-service adult faith development  group called “Transformations”.  It is through participation in the community that we have made a wide circle of friendships, some of which are the most meaningful and enduring relationships we have.   The same is true of our daughters, as friendships formed as children in the Religious Education programs are among the deepest relationships they have as young adults.

    On the Stewardship committee this year, we have been  talking about stewardship as  a “ticket to belonging”.  How do we experience belonging as members of First Unitarian?  Surely each experience of belonging is different (otherwise we would not be Unitarians), yet still, we recognize belonging is more encompassing than giving an annual pledge:  it is also a call to participate in the community.  We each have gifts and talents that enrich our community life.   And in sharing those through various church programs and in governance we build new relationships with a wide diversity of congregants.  At First Unitarian there is no lack of opportunities to become involved in our community, to contribute to the congregational life which nurtures us all, to experience the sense of belonging that comes from being a good steward.  The avenues are numerous:  welcoming members and visitors into our sanctuary, lighting the chalice, singing in the choir, teaching in the sunday school, attending gatherings of the sisterhood or the men’s group, sharing your spiritual perspectives in adult religious education, supporting the fundraising events throughout the church year.  

    And pledging generously.  Every year Lee and I have given generously of ourselves and our money, and in return we have experienced church life as focal to our family life.  Over the last 3 decades, we have developed relationships that are worth far more than we can fully express.  We anticipate with excitement the new relationships we will form over the next many years to come.  

    Monday, September 21, 2015

    Pledge Day and Our UU Values

    This year, the Stewardship Committee defined for itself a new mission:

    --to grow generosity as a core value within our congregation;
    --to communicate the full meaning and impact of stewardship in enhancing congregational life;
    --and to help the congregation align our UU values with our financial values.

    We believe that Pledge Day helps support our mission and also meets another objective we had:  come up with a means to shorten the pledge campaign and make it more fun!

    The activities of Pledge Day reflect in microcosm many of our UU values: 

    We believe that we should help those less fortunate. Pledge Day gives you an opportunity to practice that belief by helping to make hygiene packs for refugees. 

    We believe that we should protect our environment. Come Pledge Day and recycle your old electronics so they don’t end up in a land fill.

    We believe that we should slow down and experience the here and now.  Come for a shiatsu massage or spend time coloring, and relax and relieve your tensions.

    We believe that science is important. Come for the Organ tour, and unleash the mysteries of sound production. Or take the steeple tour, and explore an example of structural engineering. 

    More seriously, and perhaps most important, we believe in the significance of community and intergenerational experiences.  Come, sit with old friends, make new friends, and enjoy the food and entertainment.

    So, as you experience this full range of activities, please reflect on the “worth” of these experiences, and on the importance of this community in your life. Consider how this importance is reflected in the financial commitment you make.  Be generous, use the handy giving guide we have provided, and make your pledge a true reflection of how your UU values align with your financial values.

    Friday, September 4, 2015

    Pledge Day: So, what is this all about?

    The spirit of generosity is foundational to our vision of community where love is abundant and joy is in the heart.

    You are accepted for who you are.  Not for being your best self, nor your less than perfect self, but simply for being yourself.  It is you who makes community happen, through the connections you create with others like you and still more who are not like you at all.  These are relationships deep in spirit and true in the love of neighbor.

    Your Pledge Day Committee.
    From the left: Diane Mandile, Lee Reid, Lee Bona,
    Seth Popinchalk, Steve Knox, Ellen Foley,
    Ken Mandile, Rick Silva and Rev. Sarah Stewart.
    You are generous in your acceptance of the many who are different than you, because you are bound together in the same aspirations:  caring for those within the church community and for the many within the greater community in which our church resides;  seeking justice for those denied equal opportunity;  providing shelter for families who are homeless, and refuge for the marginalized;  teaching strategies of non-violent conflict resolution to our youth;  giving your talents to organizations dedicated to making a better world.  It is your generosity that makes these aspirations realized.

    The spirit of generosity is foundational to the experience of First Unitarian, to our vision of community where love is abundant and joy is in the heart.  It is out of that vision that your Stewardship Committee worked through the summer to plan for our first ever Pledge Day, filled with generous contributions from every quarter, a day filled with fun, fellowship and the joy of giving freely to each other.

    Come for breakfast, brunch or dinner.  Drop by to recycle your obsolete electronics, pack a Hygiene Kit for a third world child, or give a First U dignitary a bath in the Dunking Booth.  Our children will play Quidditch, and our older youth will present a multi-generational (non) Talent Show.   Relax with a chair message and then have your photo taken dressed in a wild costume.

    And make your 2016 pledge at your entrance to this Pledge Day celebration.  Be generous in your giving, for it enables the many ministries of our church to do the work of bringing our vision of abundant love and caring community to the many who long for that experience.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2015


    Your Stewardship Team is busily working to plan for our first ever Pledge Day. It is scheduled for Saturday, October 3 from 8 AM to 8 PM.  All you need to enjoy any of the events is a completed pledge card.  Come for breakfast if you have a busy day planned.  Drop by for brunch. Come in the evening to enjoy dinner and the talent show.  Come anytime to participate in a wide range of meaningful and fun events. They will include a service project to make hygiene kits for refugee children, a place to drop off your old computer equipment for recycling, shiatsu, a photo fun booth, games for kids, and more!

    Saturday, May 16, 2015

    Giving Time and Talent: The Festival Choir

    Cathy Levine

    I value the opportunity to learn wonderful music from a variety of sources.  Especially challenging are the requiems that we perform for All Souls Day.  It is thrilling to sing these beautiful works accompanied by talented members of the orchestra.  We learn so much musically from Will Sherwood and he makes it fun.  I also appreciate the camaraderie of the choir members.

    Music touches the spirit and moves us.  It provides comfort and beauty and soothes the soul.  The music we sing enhances and reinforces the other aspects of the church service.  The Music Program is an additional source of excellence in our very special church.
    --Cathy Levine

    Steve Knox

    I value the choir for the deep and lasting friendships I have made over many years.  The creative act of readying new music for performance is a bonding experience.  Each vocal part is a range of sound colors, and only by listening to each other is the full texture of the music realized.  It is then that Will interprets and shapes the music into an expression that is rich with meaning.

    Music has been an integral part of the worship experience in all religions from the very earliest days.  It is the universal language of the human spirit, a language which brings the listeners and performers into a communal experience.  First Unitarian has long been recognized within the Worcester music community as a special place to perform, and our many musical offerings are our cultural contribution to the city.  --Steve Knox

    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    Giving Time and Talent: Welcoming and Hospitality

    Sunday Greeters

    Lee Reid
    When someone catches your eyes with a smile, a connection is made.  You are changed almost without being aware of it.  This small, light act is deeply affirming and inclusive.  When someone reaches out to you with a warm greeting, it is a connection so basic, so human, that we give little thought to it.  We just know that it leaves us feeling recognized.  Call it being welcomed, call it being valued.  This is hospitality at its most basic level.  It is a spiritual gift.  It touches and changes us.

    What do I value in my work with welcoming and hospitality?  An easy answer.  I enjoy the connection I have with others.  I enjoy introducing new and ‘been around’ people to others and to the life of the church.  I know that I’ve been around a long time and still much is continually new.

    How does the church and the congregation benefit from the work of the Welcoming and Hospitality team?  Maybe we benefit more because we enjoy what we do.  Maybe in that enjoyment and commitment to the church we are able to offer a smile and a reaching hand.  Maybe we can help others discover the gifts of this church. --Lee Reid & Team, Sue Shaw, Linda Carney, Fran Morrier, Bonnie Prescott

    UU Sisterhood

    Gini Johnson
    What I have valued in my leadership role and participation with the Sisterhood has been the opportunity to help facilitate the spiritual lives of sisters through reinstituting annual retreats and various other activities, such as caroling to nursing homes.  It has been great fun to have our monthly gatherings and potlucks with themes which have fostered creativity, getting to know one another better and emotional intimacy which leads to awareness of the needs of others in our midst. 

    The entire community benefits from the increased connectivity of the women which then deepens our church family ties. --Gini  Johnson

    Madeline Silva
    The original intention of the Sisterhood was to have fun with other women of the church; doing things together to create bonds of shared experience and joy. That happened for me and continues as I and others strengthen the ties of friendship and caring.

    The Sisterhood welcomes all adult women who are willing to share in this communal experience. At the monthly Sisterhood gatherings we find supportive, caring, accepting women with individual and interesting personalities and lives. --  
    Madeline Silva


    Ken Mandile
    As an usher, I enjoy greeting people as they arrive on Sunday morning and I also enjoy participating in the services though the offertory.  Our team of head ushers (me, Bob Ritchie, David Blodgett, and Jay Lavelle) recruit volunteers each week.  It’s a nice way to allow church members who don’t have an opportunity to help in other ways to participate in a small, but important part of the service. 

    Being the procrastinator that I am, I’m often recruiting ushers at the last moment, but it’s very rare that someone say “no” to my request for help.  Sometimes there’s a hint of trepidation, but once they’re done, they realize how easy it is.  For those of us who can’t sing, it’s a good chance to participate in the service.

    I’m always fascinated by the many small things that make our church function.  There’s a role for anyone and everyone that wants to help.  The ushers are one small piece of a wonderfully functioning church and I’m happy to be part of it. --  Ken Mandile

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    Giving Time and Talent: Community Outreach Part 2

    Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN)

    Liz Gustavson

    The Interfaith Hospitality Network is a shelter for families who have become homeless.  I have helped out with the program for over ten years.  Being the "go-to" person at church for coordinating volunteers, raising money for supplies, and in organizing "just in time" donations as families graduate from the program gives me great satisfaction. As the coordinator at First Unitarian, I also have the opportunity to develop relationships with the guests of the program because during the weeks we cover, I am there daily.

    For our congregation, I think (I hope!) there is a sense of pride about being a significant part of the financial support for the shelter.  There are about 30 religious congregations that are in the network; each is asked to try to make an annual contribution of at least $2000 a year; our annual Christmas Eve donation is usually three times that amount.   I think that IHN is a significant mission of the church.

    There are about a dozen members of the congregation who are regular volunteers for the evening and overnight shifts, including Lesa McWalters and the youth group, which has frequently come to play with the children.  Having a hands-on way of helping others who are in need feels good!  For each of the three weeks we are typically scheduled, we are also asked to provide support for food and supplies that week, about $250-$300.  Many folks in our congregation, who are perhaps unable to volunteer at the June St. site, have been generous in donating money. 

    I think  this quote from John Wesley sums up for me my belief in being involved:

    Do all the good you can,                          
    By all the means you can,
    In all the ways you can,
    In all the places you can,
    At all the times you can,
    To all the people you can,
    As long as ever you can

    Helping out at IHN is a way for me, and for our congregation, to do good. -- Liz Gustavson

    John Henry's Hammer Open Mic

    “There is joy!”  so many of our UU hymns resound.  That’s what I
    Linda Wyatt
    believe we bring to the community through the John Henry’s Hammer Open Mic.  I am so glad to be part of it.  Musicians, Lydia Fortune, Phil Nigro, and Sten Gustavson and Rick Levine, who assist in operating it, have helped me grow as a singer and musician.  Bob and Sue Shaw, our refreshments coordinators, provide moral support to all, too.

    The people who attend the open mic are welcoming to seasoned, novice, and in-between performers. They affirm the First Principle of our faith denomination:  “We honor the inherent worth and dignity of every person”.  We learn from each other! They provide “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth” (UU’s Third Principle).  I believe the JHH Open Mic is a valuable extension of our church’s outreach and music ministry. --  Linda Wyatt

    Giving Time and Talent: Community Outreach Part 1

    Jericho Road

    Jeanine Beratta
    About eight years ago, Barbara Merritt asked me to attend a presentation about The Jericho Road Project that began in the First Parish Unitarian Church in Concord MA. Based on what I heard that day I began to think differently about volunteering. I realized that small to mid-sized nonprofits didn't have the resources, financial or staffing, to increase their capacity. But, I did know that many members of our congregation had the professional skills to provide expertise to help nonprofits focus on what they do best; program delivery. As a Unitarian I feel an obligation to work to create a better world; a world where all people matter. The challenge is finding meaningful ways to do that. I am grateful for the time I have had on the Jericho Road Worcester Board. I was able to see nonprofits expand the quality and scope of their outreach and I was able to see skills based volunteers make a difference in our community, sometimes in ways they never imagined. First Unitarian's support of Jericho Road Worcester has directly impacted our Worcester community. We have not simply supported one organization, we have increased the capacity of many Worcester nonprofits. -- Jeanine Beratta

    The Center for Nonviolent Solutions (CNVS)

    Marj Ropp
    Being involved in the Center for Nonviolent Solutions is just one of the ways I try to live as a compassionate, responsible citizen of the World, giving back from the abundance that I’ve been dealt in this life.  Peace, harmony and understanding are personal values that I can help promote in my involvement in the CNVS.  It’s wonderful seeing young people learn to identify conflict among their peers and learn skills to resolve it in nonviolent ways.  In the past I’ve volunteered as a mediator with Worcester Community Mediation Services and as the Peer Mediation Coordinator at Burncoat High School.   It is gratifying to work now with the dedicated and competent Board, staff and volunteers of CNVS, helping people in Worcester to understand peacemaking as a way of life.

    Being involved helps to raise awareness of peacemaking activities in the Worcester community and provides concrete opportunities for the congregation to learn about and be involved in conflict resolution.  -- Marj Ropp