These words are powerful. They provide comfort, support, motivation, and above all: validation. When said by a love one, they are words of those who are closest to you. This doesn't weaken the strength of these words, but makes them more likely to be heard.
However, there is another place that we strive to hear these three words: Our Community. All of us spend the majority of our time in our communities. Kids spend most of their days at schools, adults spend most of the day at work, some spend their free time with their sports communities, hobby communities, and here, in our religious community. We strive, constantly, not only to be recognized by those closest to us, but from those we live near, where we work, and where we play. In the phrase "I See You" we find the absolute necessity of community, to build us up, to recognize our good works, to talk with us, to learn with us, to teach us, and ultimately, to see us, at our very core.
This community has taught me that, and I am now striving to put that into action with my military community. Though our interactions have been brief, I am honored by the time I have spent with all of you, even those I haven't met yet. We spend time here, learning and worshipping together.
I see this Community, and I hope to be seen in return.
Inclusiveness, Diversity and Equality
My name is Tom Gaskin and I want to spend a minute or two explaining a few of the reasons I like our church. A sort of Yelp review.
I am more comfortable with principles than commandments. Rather than a church that divides people into categories of us and them, the believers and non believers, I like our church which believes them is us. Other churches may have more imposing edifices, but within our walls we have the edifying messages of inclusiveness, diversity, and equality. Ideas matter to me more than mortar.
Our church is replete with activists like Mike and Marilyn Mallory and Jon Witte who worked incessantly on the I-1631 carbon tax campaign and Kelli Sparks who spent pre-election time calling voters reminding them to vote. Their efforts and those of other congregants are inspiring.
I take great joy in the children’s story part of the service. It is hard not too feel warmth in my heart as the children spontaneously respond to questions about the story and then march off to class under the human arch of hands and arms. Joys and Concerns remind me that we are all part of the human family with our successes, failures, triumphs and tragedies. We rejoice and at times commiserate together.
Not being a singer, I am elated when the choir sings or as occurred last week when Jenny Vining sat next to me and with her beautiful voice demonstrated how our hymns can be sung.
I am also proud to be in an erudite congregation that allows a speaker to use words like “edifying,” “replete,” “incessantly,” “commiserate,” and “erudite” in a talk without dozing.
I guess if I had to sum it up, I like this church because I like you.
Supporting My Community
Why do I willingly contribute some of my time and treasure to Evergreen?
I like to feel as if I am doing some good in the world while enjoying the comradeship of like minded friends with similar values. The Evergreen community fulfills that need for me but it requires both human energy and financial resources to thrive. My wife Barbara and I contribute a growing percentage of our income annually to support the programs and facilities of the fellowship. In addition, since I spent much of my adult life as a commercial bank mid level asset manager my skill set is mostly in finance and management. Thus, much of my volunteer work for Evergreen is helping to manage the fellowship finances. We need to remember this building in which we gather together with its heat and light, the minister who inspires us, materials for the RE program and the staff that supports us—none of these come free.
My Spiritual Home
Many years ago in the late 1990's, I was visiting friends in Tacoma on a weekend and they asked me if I would like to attend church with them. I agreed to go hesitantly and was preparing myself for a very dull and possibly boring sermon. We arrived at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Tacoma; imagine my surprise and delight when the speaker was a woman from the University of Washington Women's Studies program talking about famous women in history. This was especially meaningful to me because I had graduated from this University in Women's Studies and Communications.
From that very moment , I knew I had found the church where I belonged and when I returned home I began to look for a UU Church. I found Evergreen UU Fellowship in Marysville. It is here I learned about other religions and have come to respect them. I learned that people here are welcoming and kind and tolerant of my mistakes and my tears. I have learned about the principles of the UU religion and how to incorporate them into my daily life. I have made friends here and have experienced an increased spirituality, mediation, ecstatic dance, auctions, poetry slams, games, picnics and other social activities.
From that first talk in Tacoma, I have enjoyed the services of Evergreen - the sermons, the music , the choir, the rituals of the water ceremony, the blessing of the pets, the Easter flower communion, candle light service at Christmas and the decorating of the Sanctuary and the lightening of the challis every Sunday. I have enjoyed going to the convent circles and still do. Evergreen UU Fellowship has been a blessing in my life since I first walked through the doors of my spiritual home - a place I belong and am grateful for the people who make this possible. I know I don't say this often enough , but thank you for taking me in and making feel welcome and giving me a sense of belonging in what I know will be my spiritual home for the rest of my life.
Yours in faith, Anna Conus
Hi. My name is Raelyn.
About 3 years ago we went to the Woodinville UU church for 10 weeks because my brother was in the OWL class there. All the people were very friendly and welcoming, and kind, and I enjoyed being in class, but I really missed Evergreen. I remember saying to my mom that I missed my people, I missed my adults. Because it's different talking to people you don't know than to people you have known for a while and developed relationships with.
We had been coming to Evergreen since before I can remember, and I had had so many different kinds of experiences getting to know people--I had done things like planting trees, sharing meals at potlucks, meeting different teachers in my class, decorating during the Greening of Evergreen, and cleaning the stair railings during Spring Clean-up.
These experiences give me meaningful opportunities to interact with people of all ages and they give me confidence for meeting new people. I enjoy being part of something bigger than myself and I look forward to giving my time and energy to our community.
Whenever I meet newcomers at coffee hour, I tell them that if they really want to get to know Evergreen and feel like a part of it, they should join a covenant group.
Coffee hour is great, and the snacks are always delicious, but the conversations are necessarily superficial. “How is your new house?” “How is your daughter doing at WAZoo?” You won’t ask anyone about their deepest feelings, and the setting is not right for them to ask about yours.
In a covenant group however, you will sit within a group of 10 or so and publicly answer questions such as, “What is your favorite childhood memory?” “How did you feel about it then, and how do you feel about it now?” “What has been your worst disappointment in life, and how did you cope with it, if in fact you were able to cope with it.”
These are the kinds of questions that lead people to seek out a religious community such as ours, and they won’t be addressed at coffee hour. Our minister may address them during a sermon, perhaps even sharing his or her own answers, but he or she usually won’t ask for your personal response in public. Covenant group members will ask for it, although you aren’t obligated to bare all if you aren’t comfortable.
When I was a newbee here in 2007, I joined the Mallorys’ covenant group in South Everett. That has now become the Gaskins’ covenant group in the same area. The dear friends I have made there know most, but not all, of my deepest, darkest secrets. I love them all tenderly, and I am privileged to call them my friends.
Some years ago, a friend loaned me a Unitarian Universalist hymnal. I was pleasantly surprised to see the meaning, depth and beauty in the songs and readings. That got me interested in coming to a service.
I was circumspect for many Sundays before I knew this was the right place for me. I had been wanting to find a church that reflected my values and inspired my spiritual experience and growth, and that would be a trustworthy religious environment for our young daughter, but I hadn’t been sure if what I was looking for even existed!
I was very happy to find Evergreen, and I continue to be greatly appreciative of it. Looking back, I remember how when I first came here, I would be sitting in a service and feeling emotionally moved to the point of crying at times. It felt like I was kind of “calibrating” myself to a shared place of spiritual depth and acceptance, releasing the old and making room for the new.
Every Sunday I am here, one of the many things I enjoy is simply this lovely sanctuary – its spaciousness, artwork, colors, light pouring in through the windows.
And I am moved each time I come here by you – “us” – at the gathering of so many deep, growing, multi-faceted people, who care for each other and our fellowship and the world, and give of their time and abilities to make it thrive.
I was born and raised overseas. I have a special interest in perspectives which include world cultures and traditions, and that is another reason Unitarian Universalism appeals to me.
I value the centuries of UU’s development, and UU’s Six Sources – the first of which is:
“Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder,
affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and
an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.”
And our Seven Principles are so right-on that it’s worth stating them right here and now:
1 – The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2 – Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
3 – Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4 – A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5 – The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6 – The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all; and
7 – Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
It’s interesting for me to look back at my gradually deepening involvement in our fellowship over the years. I noticed early on the freedom here – freedom from dogma and coercion of any kind, and the freedom to get involved as you are inspired to, or not.
My first involvement was the bliss of singing in the choir, which led to additional fun and varied musical expression such as being an occasional accompanist and performer.
Next, I became a volunteer teacher in the Religious Exploration program with Evergreen’s amazing children – a fulfilling experience which continues to evoke creativity and deep thought.
I have become a member of various committees and task forces, and attend workshops and groups occasions, which continue to offer enjoyment and personal growth.
And, nearly three years ago, I joined our team of worship associates, which is a deep honor for me. It is wonderful to have a new perspective of this spiritual community when I’m a worship associate, and every Sunday I come away more awed by, and thankful for, you – “us.”
I feel that Evergreen is, true to its name, ever growing and evolving in its vitality and meaning. I am so excited about each new church year, and I can’t wait to continue being a part of this fellowship which I value so much!