Why We Give 2017
As some of you may know I picked Peter up at First Unitarian Church in Houston, Texas - almost 40 years ago. We were both brought there by our common values and interests, and we've remained connected to Unitarian churches and fellowships ever since because Unitarian Universalism supports those same values that remain extremely important to us both: love, tolerance, justice, and inclusion along with a reverence for life, stewardship of the environment, and a continuous search for truth. In the mid-80's, about a year after we moved to Salida, CO where we were subjected to petty discrimination as foreign, liberal outsiders, I got up early one Sunday morning and drove 2 hours to the All Souls Unitarian in Colorado Springs. I had not realized the toll conservative hostility had taken upon me until I walked up the front steps of All Soulsand began uncontrollably weeping ... after months of feeling isolated and rejected, I knew I'd reached a place where I would be welcomed, a warm, nurturing, non-judgmental place where I'd find acceptance and friendship among like-minded people. That has always been true of Unitarian organizations, regardless of where we've lived, and it has been exceptionally true here at Columbine where we've made numerous, wonderful friends with whom we share so much in common. As atheists, we don't believe in a personal caring god. Yet at the same time, we are in awe of the creative forces of the universe, believe our lives have purpose, and feel a responsibility to promote emotional and intellectual evolution and to help make the world a better place. In sum, we find Unitarian values most closely align with ours and are values that foster a smarter, kinder, and more peaceful society and world. We try to live our values and to spend our money where those values lie. Thus, we whole-heartedly support Columbine, its mission, programs, leadership, and expansion plans with our time, talents, and treasure as much as we possibly can. We believe resources invested in Columbine UU Church, are resources wisely invested toward the betterment of our community, our nation, and the world.
Scott: It's rather ironic that when I was in high school I worked part time at the local UU church in Franklin, NH. My family was grudgingly Catholic, and would occasionally drag us to church, so I didn't really pay a whole lot of attention to what the UU church was about, or have a whole lot of interest in church in general. I just swept the floors, helped the soup kitchen volunteers find things, and shared corny jokes with the minister. (Some things never change!) But I picked up little tidbits here & there that stuck in the back of my mind. After high school I did some soul searching and came to the conclusion that I did not fit in the Catholic world, or any other version of Christianity. Having a skeptical & evidence based mindset I just couldn't accept that an all-powerful being took an interest in every aspect of our existence. I still consider myself agnostic but I lean more towards the possibility of a civilization advanced far beyond our own. Credit my sci-fi / nerd side for that. I came across a magazine called Free Inquiry among my science magazines, which contained thought provoking articles from noted atheists & philosophers. I decided the term Humanist fit me well, and that was what I had on my dog tags! I got ordained through the Universal Life Church, and felt satisfied enough about my spiritual identity. Fast forward a few years, I got married, we lived in Oklahoma, and our first kid was learning to talk. We felt the need to find a church for the kids, but the typical Christian church didn't really appeal to us. Heather grew up in the Baptist church, but didn't really feel an attachment there and we never went to church, despite the constant pressure to do so in Oklahoma. We mentioned it to our "non-conformist" friends and they invited us to their UU church. Thinking back to my high school days, I told Heather if she was going to drag me to church she could drag me to a UU church. With only a week to go before moving to Colorado we accepted their offer. We felt an immediate kinship with that community, and it only took one visit to realize we had found what we were looking for! As soon as we got to Colorado we got on Google and found the nearest UU church, which turned out to be Columbine. We showed up on Sunday and immediately felt at home. We pledge to Columbine because this is our family. Heather: Before ever going to a UU church I had an idea in my mind for if I were to create my own church. Then after going to the UU church in Oklahoma I realized that is exactly what I would have created! From the day we got here Columbine has felt like family, and with our world turned completely upside-down due to unexpectedly getting out of the Air Force, we felt more support from the congregation than from the actual family we moved here to be near. Over the past 5 years we have worked hard to get our careers back on track, establish a home in Colorado, and raise our kids in a manner that fits our own personal values. Columbine has helped with that more than you can possibly imagine, and being members here has become an integral part of our identity. We try to give back as much as we can, by not just being present but being actively involved. We give what we can financially, but being a small congregation means it can be difficult to get volunteers to fill the many functions that keep the community together, so we volunteer our time & energy as much as we can. We pledge to Columbine because we may never fully repay the spiritual and emotional support Columbine has provided us, but we are eternally grateful for having found a community where we can explore our spiritual needs, share our values with like-minded people, help others that felt isolated like we did, and work together to make the world a better place.
My husband, John, and I have been Unitarian Universalists since 1981. We both come from Catholic families and went to Catholic schools through high school. I enjoyed church and all the trappings that went with it. I deeply appreciated the emphasis on good works and the support of evolution and science that I was taught in school. But there came a time in my early 20's when I could no longer pretend to believe the dogma of the Catholic Church or say the prayers without feeling like a hypocrite. One day John and I saw a sign at First Universalist Church on Colorado Blvd advertising a Sunday service that featured a physicist as the speaker. We were intrigued and attended our first UU church service. We became members soon after. We had found a spiritual home where we could be our authentic, full selves and a place where our values were supported. Our daughters attended religious education classes at First Universalist and John and I taught classes two months every year as part of our commitment to the church. I probably learned more about being a UU through my teaching experiences than I could have in any other way. We were living in South Jefferson County at the time and our daughters were exposed to fundamentalist Christianity at every turn. It was important to us that they develop strong thinking skills and an ability to see the world in other ways. Our attendance at church was important for their growth and development. In 2007 I had an experience that changed how I saw my commitment to Unitarian Universalism. While on a trip to California, we attended a Sunday service at Palomar UU Fellowship near the astronomical research center at Mount Palomar. Speaking that day was a UU minister servicing with the US Navy as a chaplain for all faiths. She spoke about her job and she spoke about why being the only UU chaplain in the Armed Services at that time was so important. As she talked about our UU ancestors and the role of liberal thought in the development of our democracy, I understood better how important our faith is to democracy and how we help to safeguard freedom and justice in our country. I formed a deeper commitment to support the health of the Columbine UU congregation and to work for the growth of this spiritual practice. These are some of the reasons John and I give as generously as we can to Columbine UU Church to sustain its work and presence. I know we are supporting a visible community example of our beliefs in free thought, science, and justice. And I believe it is critically important to humanity and to our democratic way of life that UU churches, and Columbine, remain active, vibrant, visible reminders to all community members that freedom, responsibility, and justice requires our time, effort, and money to remain alive and well. To me, this is what democracy looks like!
Lay Testimonials 2016
When Rev. Julia quoted from the book "The Impossible Will Take A Little While" several times lately, I was inspired to do my soul a favor and reread it. Sonya Vetra Tinsley, an African-American singer, songwriter and activist wrote one of the essays in the book titled, "You Have to Pick Your Team". I believe that when I found this church I found my team. Ms. Tinsley writes that there are two teams in this word, the cynics that tell you why what you're doing doesn't matter and that nothing will change. Then there's the other group of people, the people on my team. They have chosen to be anti-racist and proclaim it on a banner on their church and in their advocacy. They have decided that kids need tutors, backpacks, stories, Christmas presents and food, and Faith Development, good teachers and adult role models. These people insist on equality for everyone and march in PrideFest to prove it. They deliver dinners, plan services, sing their little hearts out and make incredible financial gifts. With these pledges and incredible love, this team of mine, YOU, are changing the world. Yet we have bigger plans, strategic plans so to speak, to make our mark on our community and the world. We have places to go and major things to do. We don't know how it will all turn out, but unlike the cynics, our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all compels us to keep trying. My Columbine team makes me believe that nothing is impossible. At this church I see the incredible power of individuals and the multiplication of that power for good as we come together right now and into our future.
Mandy says: I stumbled across Columbine UU Church when I was looking for a new home for my La Leche League group. I wanted someplace where people would feel safe and comfortable. I didn't know much about Unitarian Universalism, but seeing the rainbow flag encouraged me tremendously when I came to see the space. Everyone was welcoming, but the first person I really talked to was Martin Blue-Norton. We chatted about parenthood and he told me about the OWL program, and I was hooked. I went home utterly enthused to tell Chris all about it. We took some time to read up on Unitarian Universalism, but every time I came for a meeting I felt like I was entering a much-loved home. Once we took the plunge, we were so thrilled at how happy our kids were with the Youth Faith Development program. We realized, though, that the real way to become part of a community like this one was to pitch in and serve. We've both been lucky enough to find places to help, but for me, I've found the reason I came was my kids, but the reason I can't stay away is the choir. (Come sing with us!) Singing with these amazing people brings me so much joy, and fills my cup so I can go out there and do the best I can in all the other areas of my life. Chris says: Like Mandy said, we didn't know anything about Unitarian Universalism, but did like what we read about its principles, so we made a leap of faith to try something new. I, like my dad, enjoy working with kids and having fun together, so I felt drawn to help out with Youth Faith Development. I'm still learning and developing my own inner voice and inner faith, and by teaching the kids I am learning so much as we explore together. Don't get me wrong, I, like my middle schoolers, don't like waking up on Sunday mornings and would like to sleep in. But I would like to thank my students' parents, because when they wake up and come to church we learn so much from each other. I'd like to encourage everyone to take their own leap of faith and pitch in to help out with Youth Faith Development, or in some area you haven't before. It's only by working together that we all really find our places and perfect fit in this community.
In the spring each year at Columbine UU Church, we focus on stewardship - which means, building our dreams with people that we love. We have discovered that we enjoy hearing from one another about our individual connections to this beloved community. Sharing our stories helps us to articulate our common values and supports each of us in clarifying our contributions of time, talent, and treasure. Stewardship is about how we each want to personally grow and expand. It is about living our lives in such a way that we can make positive change in our families, our communities, and our society. It is about supporting the new strategic plan that we all created together so that we can make it a reality! Today Columbine member, Jo Gall, will share her story of building the world she dreams about. Please join us on Giving Sunday, April 10th for worship where guest UU singer/songwriter, Judy Fjell, will help us to sing our way into FUNding our ministry. Please plan to stay after worship for brunch served by your staff to celebrate our accomplishments. RSVP HERE Erik Wikstrom writes in his book, "SERVING WITH GRACE", that people come through those doors "for a sense of belonging", a desire for community. But he believes that there is an even deeper reason we come through those doors. He believes we come to have our lives transformed. When I came through those doors, I would not have said, nor even consciously known, that transformation was what I was seeking. I wasn't expecting the flame to ignite my soul or set fire to my spirit. It began with community; connecting with others through invites to lunch or coffee, hikes or snowshoeing, biking. Those connections grew into bonds as I stepped into Geography of Grace, food for thought, book club, Native American flute group, storytelling, Pride marches, circle dinners, auction events, WUULF camp in New Mexico,.........the Suupremes. Very quickly, though, those bonds grew into loving gifts of spirit and grace as I began to be moved into a trusting space of meaningfulness that awakened me to my own potential. Gifts of grace and spirit from people like Wes, who got me out on a hike to feel nature's salve and breathe in her healing tonics shortly after I had lost my mother. Or from John and Dennis,, who took a day to freely help me make the biggest move of my life. The wisdom circle, where trusted journeymen share their soul's stories, enabling me to hear my own soul's voice more clearly. Our church leaders, who have taken me into a deeper realm of UU, patiently and lovingly guiding me into a greater confidence and understanding of not only our church's workings, but of our CUUC family history. Or the gifts of my dear and beautiful wise women friends, creating a space of trust where, as Nepo writes, "we are not only experiencing life in all of its vitality, but quite innocently and without design, we are helping each other to be more thoroughly ourselves." I was seeking transformation after all, but I am a work in progress. As a seed planted here 4 years ago, I have sprouted because of your loving care, your light, your belief and trust in me. And as I grow and bloom here, I send shoots out there........into the world. So........how could I not love this church? How could I not feel the energy and passion of our vision? How could I not serve to nurtur e and be a part of its growth? How could I not give back in whatever way or means possible? How could I not want to be part of the bigger transformation; the change that is taking us in a new direction and an entirely different level of effectiveness? The great Christian mystic, Eckhart, said that if you could pray only one prayer in your lifetime and it was thank you.........it would suffice. Thank you, my dear friends.
When I was growing up on a dairy farm in New York, spring time was a time for optimism. As a kid, I simply wanted to know which fields my dad was going to plow for corn. That gave us a few weeks we can tear them up on our dirt bikes before he did. But for my dad, it was a time to plan how to manage our resources for the next year. He was always looking for new and better ways to get more and more out of what we had. Sometimes that involved taking big risks like trying new planting methods or strategies to manage our dairy herd. There were times that it was also necessary to invest in new equipment for the growth of the farm. Now that I am older and with children of my own, I now find myself in a position to use my available resources to raise my children . Alicia and I had talked for a long time about what we were going to do for a religious home for Avery and Sydney. We do not have family here in Colorado and neither one of us had a strong connection to our own religious upbringing. As our kid's got older, we began to realize that we needed to find a place for our kid's spiritual development. What was important for me is that it needed to be a place in which we can be comfortable with the message they are receiving. Our first exposure to spirituality was that we had gone to a few Christmas services with a coworker of Alicia's. The services were nice, but I could not see myself committing to that type of environment, and I knew it was not how I wanted my children to be taught. Another co-worker friend of Alicia's suggested that we try the church she had been going to since they had some common outloo ks of the world. It turned out she went to the Boulder UU church. We did some searching and found that Columbine UU Church was right in our neighborhood. We first came to Columbine 7 years ago as part of our New Year's resolution. My first impression was how nice and welcoming everyone was. We were steady for a few months and summer camping season took over and we stopped attending. We started again with a new New Year's resolution the following year to come to church 2 times a month. A few things had changed, the previous minister was no longer here, and they had brought in a interim minister. The one thing that did not change for us was how we felt welcome and how compelled we were to get involved. In the time that we have been coming to Columbine Church, I have seen Avery and Sydney growing into the thoughtful and caring children we had hoped they would become. Avery has got a great love of animals; Sydney really likes to help others. They both have developed a sense of helping the environment and are very conscious of how we treat nature and other people. I know that these are behaviors that have developed more by participating in the Columbine Faith Development program. Not only did we find a place for Avery and Sydney to develop spiritually, we found a home that we can commit to that helps us live our values. It is especially helpful for me since I work in an environment that can be very conservative and I often find myself biting my tongue for fear of alienation based upon what I would call my hippie outlook on the world. At Columbine Church, I can express my beliefs more freely, and have even altered and strengthened my beliefs by being involved in the church. I am proud to have served as Treasurer, on the Finance Team, Auction Team and Installation team. Alicia has been on the Worship and Membership Team, and flute circle. All of these combined experiences have allowed us to develop skills that not only do we u se to help Columbine, but also in our daily lives. As Columbine moves into a period of implementing our strategic plan, I stand here amazed at all the changes that have occurred. Going from a minister, to lay leadership services, interim minister and finally a called minister. The strategic plan that we are implementing is a next step in the evolution of Columbine Church. It makes me reflective on the hopes and dreams my dad had all those years ago. I remember my mom telling me on the day that he died, he came home from the morning milking excited about the cows high productivity that day, a clear sign that the investments he was making into the farm was paying off. I often wonder what the next 30 years of results would have been like if he had not died, I am sure with his calculated risk taking, he would have been one of the largest farms in our county. I like to draw a parallel to Columbine Church and wonder what we can become if we take calculated risks to move us to the next level.
Testimonial from Carol: We had just moved here from Indiana in July 2015 and were beginning to think about how to construct our social lives here. We'd been in Indiana for six years and had never seemed to fit, which left us feeling a little wounded and with a significant void in that department. Add to that, we'd just had a very difficult year medically. So we were a little anxious about what kind of social life might evolve here. One day early in our time here, I said to Bob, "Other people go to church to find interesting people. Maybe we should go to church." Mind you, we had been unchurched for 23+ years. My last experience with organized religion was as a converted Jew in the decade plus before meeting Bob. And Bob, well, Bob had long ago left the Catholic Church. Add to that, long ago I had said, rather smugly, that I wouldn't be interested in joining a church unless I had some emotional connection, that I felt something, related to the spiritual life there. But, we agreed, going to church was worth a try. Next we had to figure out which church to go to. It would definitely have to be some progressive sect, to go with our left-leaning views. We immediately thought, "We'll try the Unitarians." We found Columbine UU Churh close by and decided to give it a try. So it was with little expectation that we came to Columbine. Our first memory is that during the greeting of our neighbors in the service, we turned around to meet Bob Pinkham. He introduced himself, said he was an aerospace engineer, and the reason he came here was to be able to better express himself about social issues, issues that were important to him, to others who might not share his same point of view. Interesting, I thought. Then, as the service progressed and we got to the sermon, Rev. Julia took her place at the podium. Sheesh! I don't remember what she preached about that day, but I was blown away. After the service, at coffee, people sought us out and chatted with us. Everyone was so friendly. This progressed for a few Sundays, and on one ride home, I said to Bob, "Hmmmm. No one here is trying to shove any religious beliefs down our throats. That feels most comfortable." And that's when it hit me that a fundamental piece of this religion is that we are to work to find our own spiritual path. How refreshing - and how challenging. I also noticed and was very stimulated by the social justice bent of this religion. Who was this Maureen Flanigan and her band of activists? I needed to get to know these people better! And so it went. The whole experience was easy and there were not feelings of, well, I like this part, but not this other part so much. The approach to spirituality just fit like a glove. And, might we be wondering, did I then and do I now feel anything when participating in the service? I can only say that when we get to the part when we begin to sing, "And we believe in life, and in the strength of love, and we have found a need to be together...." it is often the case that I feel a little teary, I have a lump in my chest, and I feel totally satisfied. I didn't think that was possible and now it's a regular event. The last year and a half has been a whirlwind of experiences here at Columbine - formally becoming a member of our beloved community, joining the Meditation group, reading to the children, partnering with Bob to start Food for Thought, participating in our annual supper and church auction, attending and hosting Circle Suppers, attending Women's Group, having a phenomenal experience in Geography of Grace, participating in various congregational conversations, and eventually becoming a member of the Strategic Planning Team. Add to that, opportunities to work with Just Act, which included visiting Arturo when he was in Sanctuary. Who would have known that Arturo would eventually lay the tile in our basement, give us back our home, and forge an unforgettable relationship? I often say about life, "It's all about relationships." I have surely grown in my relationship to my own spiritual journey. And I've grown in relationships with so many people here in our church. I so look forward to our growing old together and progressing on this most marvelous journey. Testimonial from Bob Steele: Carol has said it so well. Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church has been quite meaningful to us on many levels - feeding our spirituality and sparking our intellectual curiosity; connecting us to so many interesting people and helping us to create good friendships; offering us opportunities to keep learning and prompting us to step forward in leadership. I only hope that we can give back to Columbine Unitarian as much as we receive. There is a good bit of synchronicity in our Columbine Unitarian connection. For about a century ago - it was 1903 to be exact - my great grandfather Horace McKay was a founding father of the All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He bought the land for the first church building and he recruited the first minister. I have known of that historical detail for a long time, but it wasn't until we decided to come to Columbine Unitarian two years ago that I truly reflected on this family thread. I am partly named for my great grandfather - my middle name is McKay. And I am fortunate to have learned much about him - he died in 1914 - from what has been written about him and from letters he wrote to others including my father. He was a n officer in the Union Troops in the Civil War. Then a land developer, a member of the Indianapolis City Council, a federal government official and a very involved community citizen. As a liberal and progressive thinker, he championed abolition and the Women's Suffragette Movement. When he died, among the tributes was this from Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones in Unity, a magazine about spirituality. "Mr. McKay was a man with a woman's heart, and he recognized the needs of the 'eternally-womanly' in the affairs of the state as in the affairs of home and church, and was content with a co-partnership in these affairs. He lived largely in that human realm where sex, sect, race and class lines are but superficial scratches. He believed in the profound realm of soul, in which men and women are joint partakers." Doesn't that so und like a man whose values and actions would fit the modern-day principles of Unitarianism. I'm not sure reincarnation exists, yet I find Horace McKay's life as a model for my aspirations. Thus, now, here at Columbine Unitarian in 2016, I am grateful for the opportunity to carry on my great grandfather's spiritual and humanistic quest. To be one of the stewards of our service to congregation and community, to join with the love and the learning and the leadership as we move forward. To give of my time, my talent and my treasure in support of Columbine Unitarian.