UUFC President’s Letter June 25, 2024

President’s Letter June 25, 2024  

Happy July to everyone, and thank you for being a guest, friend, and especially a member of our UU Fellowship.  I invite you to offer your thoughtful suggestions and your attendance as we work to create a safe space to share and to grow.

At our last Board Meeting on June 18, Bill Turman announced that the project to evaluate UUFC committees is nearly finished.  Judy Barnett has agreed to head up the new “Emergency Response” Committee.  Expect more news on this soon.

We also discussed some of the ways that members and friends can contribute to the programs that our Fellowship offers.  We need an Adult Education volunteer to coordinate this important opportunity to explore our own paths to what we might call “spirituality” and to learn about faith, and non-faith paths of others.  This is an important way to build our community and to offer a connection with people that a Sunday service can’t always do except in singing, readings, and sharing joys and concerns, and comments and discussion afterwards.  “Thank you” to those who are bringing Sunday program ideas to Bill Harlan’s attention.

As our only voting delegate for the 2024 UU General Assembly (GA), I voted your June 9 ballot decision not to accept the proposed changes to Article II of the UUA Bylaws. (The previous Article II includes our familiar Seven Principles.) The Proposed Article II passed by a large margin.  This past year we have discussed this in Adult RE, during conversations, and after several Sunday programs on the subject. I know there is a lot to digest, not just regarding the new Article II, but also about the process that led to the new values, covenants and graphics involved. 

Prior to Saturday’s passage of this proposal, there was still much debate among GA attendees. I will present a Sunday service soon on that process and on some of the points made by supporters, as well as some of the objections to the proposed Article II of UUA Bylaws. There were other initiatives being decided at the GA that I’ll cover in a different Sunday program.   I’ll try to tailor the program(s) through your comments and concerns.

No matter how the values and covenants approved at GA 2024 affect UUA at large, we will, of course, keep our beautiful stained-glass window and frequently refer back to the Seven Principles because our Fellowship is rooted in them.  We do know, however, that changes in the national UUA Bylaws will urge us to focus on more activism in areas defined by the new values and covenants and will guide development of materials for religious education as well as outreach initiatives.  The ideas are already being promoted at the national UUA website.  It’s what people will find when they search for “Unitarian Universalism.”  I also find these changes toward greater activism in a more liberal/social action direction when I read the sermons many ministers post on their church websites as well.

What won’t change here at UUFC is our Fellowship of volunteers who help and value each other and our unique community of liberal religion in a unique location—a river city of crossroads with our own culture, long influenced by factors specific to us.  With our local university, our technical college, a nearby Army base, and many venues for performing arts and entertainment as well as outdoor adventures and activities, we are in a remarkable place at a great time in the region’s history. UUFC feels right at home here.   As we welcome new members, I find that they are searching for the same values that Ron and I sought over twenty years ago.  The newly adopted Article II won’t change that search for freedom of thought and expression in our community that brings new members to us. 

Not everyone finds their home here.  We have had many people visit a few times, and we have had some who, after months or even years with us, found a path in a different direction.  We cannot always meet everyone’s needs, but we do offer everyone a space to explore those needs without judgement or censure, as long as we treat every single person with love and compassion—a lesson the UUA Care Team had to reiterate throughout the virtual business meetings as biases led to volatile situations.

So, we can’t have all aspects of our Fellowship “in perfect harmony” like one of my favorite songs suggests.  Still, we have a long tradition of support for each other through Sunday services, through associated groups and activities and concerted efforts to bring us together to socialize and to celebrate.  I have long appreciated my UUFC teachers, from mindful cycling rides to discussions on philosophy to trading jokes. More recently, I’ve been learning about being in the moment on a morning walk with a gentle breeze.  I’m seeing your methods for creating a serene space in sometimes challenging circumstances.

Most importantly, the lessons you bring to our Sunday services inspire more conversation and thought.  Bill Harlan, despite family issues that take him out of town, was able to pack this month of June with speakers who leave us thinking and talking long afterward the closing words. 

Author Melissa Pritchard described the moment that God first spoke to Florence Nightingale directly, what she called her “spiritual calling.” Healing the sick and teaching others better practices in medical care were her ways of answering. There were many cultural and social issues that might have made her achievements go unnoticed, but Nightingale knew how to garner support for her cause without seeking praise or even recognition for herself.  This was her way to have influence as a woman in a world dominated by Victorian mores and the men who guarded them. She didn’t affiliate herself with any organized religion and even mused in her letters about starting her own church.  Melissa pointed out the UU values that drove Nightingale’s accomplishments. She left a legacy of love and service—deeds without creeds.

On a Sunday earlier in the month, Amanda Jones shared many once well-hidden primary sources about the antebellum house where she lived until recently.  They led her on a quest to learn about the families who lived there throughout the past two centuries and the people who had occupied the land before western settlers arrived.  She traced the history of her home through plantation era slavery, the Civil War, and the changes that followed.  The story of the house is the story of the South itself and our somewhat haunted past; but it’s also a story of ancestry as it relates to families today.   Amanda connected the pluralism and privilege in our regional history with the new values and new ways of relating to our cultural history that are influencing the changes in Article II of our UUA Bylaws.  As she read the letters and interviews and news accounts, she demonstrated with her own conclusions how those changes will affect our programs and our conversations.

So, I invite you to join us as you can.  Don’t forget First Sunday luncheon on July 7, when we will also welcome new member, Adele Pudner, to our Fellowship.

Despite a busy summer, we have many returning visitors and friends. I hope you all find your community of liberal religion among us.


Connie Ussery, President

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, GA