A Message from President Dave Feil – March 3, 2019
What does UUCW mean to me? Well, our Soul Matters theme for this month is “We are a people who Journey.” And when I think about my Journey in life I have to say I never would have imagined that a religion could have such an impact on me. Twenty years ago I would have guaranteed that I would NEVER be the president of a church! I guess there is truth to the saying “never say never.”
My wife Shawn and I moved to Wisconsin in 2001. Shortly after that, we found out Shawn was pregnant – we were expecting our oldest, Kathryn. Two months later came September 11, yes that September 11. So in short order our stable world became a bowl of jiggly Jello. After years of Sunday morning being coffee, newspaper and NPR, we decided we needed to find a church. Shawn was raised without religion and I was raised Presbyterian but had become a devout atheist. So we came to UUCW.
That first Sunday changed our journey forever. We woke up to the news that the US had started bombing Afghanistan. At UUCW, the special music that day was John Lennon’s Imagine, can you imagine a better song for that day? I don’t recall much of the sermon except Rev. Sam Schaal, the interim minister, saying that Eve’s eating of the apple was not “man’s fall FROM humanity, but man’s fall TO humanity”. A strange perspective compared to my religious experience as a youth. And then he ended the service by saying, “you haven’t just been to church you are the church”.
That day our family’s journey took a new direction. Like many of your journeys, I imagine, ours was not a direct path. After several years and life getting in our way we pulled back from church, only attending sporadically. But a few years ago, when we got the holiday letter Rev. Suzelle sends every year, we said, “it’s time to go back.” And the welcoming nature of UUCW was quite helpful as our youngest, Alex, came out as non-binary. The close friendships Shawn and I have made and the close knit nature of YRUU provided soulful nurturing for Alex and for all of us. And the joy we get from serving UUCW has offered a fulfilling a sense of purpose in our lives.
But you all have stories like this. You don’t become part of a “diverse community of adults and children seeking their own spiritual path”, I mean our church, without having your own Journey story. Long time members can see how their relationship with the church has changed over time, perhaps from a place to raise their children with UU values, to a place to focus their volunteer time and effort, to friendly place to go each weekend to continue friendships crafted over the decades. This changing relationship is their Journey. Newer members realize that their current relationship with the church will change over time as well, helping shape their own Journey. Think for a minute about your own Journey…
But as you know, I am not simply here to tell you my story. I’m here to ask you to pledge your financial support to this amazing community. Our Stewardship theme for this year is “Bold Vision-Bright Future”. The founders of UUCW had a bold vision, one we continue to live out today. Through the work of the church and all of our members, we also can see a bright future; one where there is true equity, justice and peace for every person — a future in which we respect the interdependent web of all existence, and cherish our planet Earth. But note: the Journey between our Bold Vision and the Bright Future we seek requires resources.
Let me start by making it clear, we are financially solvent and fiscally well-managed. To achieve the Bright Future of a renovated building, we recently raised over a million dollars, and we expect work to start in the summer. You made that happen, and we are grateful for your generosity! But we also have to keep the church running day to day. There is snow to be plowed and salt to be put down (more so this past month), we need heat and lights. And there are the wonderful staff and our beloved Suzelle. We need all of you who ‘are the church’ to help the church do all it does. UUCW asks each family to aspire to giving 3-5% of your income. Shawn and I have regularly increased our pledge, and last year we increased it even more just before we turned in our pledge card.
For each of you, all I ask is that you make a pledge that feels generous to you. Each of you knows what that is in your life! I also invite you to think back to a few minutes ago when I asked you to consider your Journey, about how UUCW helps you on that path and about what the Bold Vision of this community means to you. Think about the Bright Future you would like to see, be it for all of our children and society at large.
UUCW, the Board, and I personally thank you for all that you give. Together, we are the church!