Dear UU Casper Congregation,
The flaming chalice symbol of Unitarian Universalism was inspired by the holy oil burning chalices that the Greeks and Romans put on their altars. The holy oil burning inside the chalice represents helpfulness and sacrifice. The symbol originated as a seal that was created in 1941 by Hans Deutsch for travel documents issued by the Unitarian Service Committee during WWII. The purpose of these documents was to certify refugees fleeing the Nazis as “politically safe and sound.” The practice of lighting a chalice in Unitarian Universalist sanctuaries started in the 1980’s. It has taken on a variety of symbolic meanings, a few of which include: the warmth of human community, the divine spark within each human soul, the light of truth, the fire of commitment, helpfulness and sacrifice, and more. Currently, there are many variations of the UU Flaming Chalice symbols, each of which carry their own piece of history and meaning.
What a lovely symbol to remind us that service to others is a path through which meaning can be found. It is one of the threads that joins us to each other. This month UU Casper’s theme for Sunday services is “Justice.” There will be events around town celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of service and the beloved community this January. On Saturday, January 15th at 1 PM, our own Social Justice Committee will be getting together to volunteer and stuff bags with fruit, chips, and water for those who need them. We will also be collecting hygiene items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, soaps, socks or gloves. There will be a table in the foyer Sunday, January 9th to collect the hygiene items. You may also contact Erich Frankland or Janet deVries for more information.
One of the things I find wonderful about UU Casper is our hospitality. Starting in December, we started serving coffee and tea again after over a year of abstaining from this unofficial UU sacrement. I think this has brought a little life back in our “coffee hour” and will give us something to do while we visit with one another and get to know our visitors. I first heard of Unitarian Universalism from some friendly UU’s that were visiting Ashland, Oregon while I lived there. They were asking for directions and told me they always visited UU churches while they traveled. They told me a lot about UUism including that one of the consistent features, their favorite part, was the coffee hour. Let’s continue to give our visitors friendly greetings. If you can take a moment to ask visitors about their story or about what brought them to us, it might just go a little further toward extending the same warm welcome I was fortunate enough to receive from our community a few years ago. Another helpful way to approach a visitor might be to offer to give them a tour of the building or show them where our pamphlets are kept in the cloak room.
This fiscal year (July 2021 – June 2022), the board of trustees set two goals for our community. They are (1) Casper Community Outreach and (2) Maintain and Build Spiritual and Community Connections with Members and Friends. How can we, as individual members and friends of UU Casper, help to work toward these goals?
Ours is a lay-led congregation. That means that although we minister-led services twice each month, we all have the opportunity to help lead a service or provide content for a service. The first service I ever led was a discussion forum. It was so fun to put together questions about a topic and let people share their ideas and insight. Our discussion forums are so engaging. They truly reflect who we are.
If you would like to try helping with a service, whether that be by reading a selection someone provides for you, bringing something you have created, sharing a reading found at the UU WorshipWeb (https://www.uua.org/worship), or even singing a song, please contact the Programming Committee. The current chairperson of the Programming Committee is Elizabeth Otto (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are extra brave and would like to try leading a service, the Programming Committee will help you! There are many pieces to putting together our services, but nobody has to do it alone! The more diverse our voices at the pulpit are, the more we can represent the diverse modes of thought among us. Here are the upcoming themes of the month. These can serve as starting points for inspiration.
|December 2021||What Does Love Demand of Us?|
|February 2022||Myth & Storytelling|
In the name of service, which we UU’s hold dear, I would like to make an appeal to our long-time members. The last two years, with the stress of the pandemic, have been very hard on the Board of Trustees. At the end of the fiscal year in June 2022 it will be a very good time for one or two of our long-time members, including those who have served on the Board in previous years, to consider volunteering to serve on the Board again. Please, if any of you are interested or would like to ask questions, contact me or any other current Board member (https://uucasper.org/about/governance/leadership_team/). The Nominating Committee, which recruits able members to serve on the board, will become active in March.
In the larger UU world, our national organization, the Unitarian Universalist Association has been undergoing a process called Regionalization. It has been slowly underway since 2011. What is going on now that relates to us is that the support staff and administrative processes that used to be organized under the separate districts Pacific Northwest District, the Pacific Central District, the Pacific Southwest District, and the Mountain Desert District will now unite further in an administrative sense under the Pacific Western Region. As far as the running of our congregation and the support UUA provides to our leadership team goes, we won’t see any difference. Support was already being provided by the Pacific Western Region staff and our contact person will still be Sarah Shurr who specializes in small congregations and has been a great help to us through the years. For more information about the Regionalization process, please visit this website: https://www.uua.org/pacific-western/regional-collaboration.
As we continue to navigate changes in our society at large and the COVID19 pandemic, we can continue to serve our communities and each other in order to pull through stronger, more resilient, and with compassion for one another. Compassion does not require completely understanding another person’s struggle, but it does help to listen and ask questions. If any of you are struggling and could use more support please, please, please reach out to your community at UU Casper and do not suffer alone.
The UU Casper board and Minister, Rev. Leslie Kee, are here for you. Please contact us if you’d like to explore new ways to serve your community or if you would like a listening ear. There are many opportunities to pitch in besides what I have named in this letter. Each person’s abilities and resources are unique and we cherish all of you. We have a new year, 2022, ahead of us and it is full of possibilities.
President of the UU Casper Board of Trustees