Kate Gridley

When Donald Trump got elected President, I said I would build a bigger table.

When I think of CVUUS, I dream that we will build a bigger tent, a bigger roof, a bigger something that we will shelter beneath and from which we will welcome new folks in…

The roof is metaphorical, but what we do now beneath the roof we already have is not.

We just fell short on our annual canvass. There are all kinds of possible reasons for this, which I am not going to parse – that is for others to do.

Here’s what I know: the shortfall says to me that the need to build out our lower level now is more critical than ever.  We are changing. Our church community is changing. Life in Vermont is changing. The culture in America is changing. CVUUS ten years or twenty years from now will not resemble CVUUS today.

Will we have Sunday services? Will we have a latch key program for afterschool kids, or a soup kitchen, or a shelter for asylum seekers? Will we offer adult education classes to the community, provide the location for a UU singles group, or support a family choir for folks of all ages with childcare? Will we be cooking for HOPE, running a lunch program, running a nursery school, running a care center for the elderly, or hosting a meditation center?

Who knows?

To respond to what might be the needs of the future – and there are going to be needs – we must be flexible, nimble, smart, and open minded NOW. To stay relevant in the future CVUUS needs to have a space that is nimble, smart, and open ended – one that gives us options.

I have been working on both the capital campaign and also on details of the design and construction of the build-out. Part of our work has been to cut costs wherever possible while maintaining potential for spaces that will function in multiple ways: including hopefully a kitchen for feeding large groups of people; a fellowship hall; bathrooms and a shower for housing people if need be; a multipurpose room for meetings or classrooms; increased handicap accessibility; an elevator; a more developed audio-visual system.  And so on.

Some of the work – the parts you can’t see but which are necessary – are what my friend Steve – who has been leading us — calls “boring”.

My word, however, for all the hidden parts is not “boring,” it’s “unsexy”….

Unsexy things are things like wiring, pipes, drains, air filters, each thing up to the latest code and so on – you know, the hidden systems inside walls, ceilings and floors. It’s important they are there, and that they are done right and it costs a lot to do them right (and for some folks, the hidden parts actually are “sexy,” just not for me).

AND they have to be done first so in the end, by and large, you can’t see them.

Things like beautiful windows, good lighting, LED screens, hot showers, a dishwasher that can actually handle meals for 120 people, walls for children’s artwork – those things are sexy! Right?

So all this talk about sex in our construction meetings led me to a thought that I want to try out on you.

I used to teach OWL here – with John and Margy and Jordan and others.

For those of you who do not know it, OWL – Our Whole Lives – is a sex- ed curriculum and it is actually the reason that John and I joined CVUUS. That’s right, we joined a faith community for sex-ed.

We wanted our boys to have access to this healthy down to earth reproductive health curriculum that is primarily about relationships, good communication, listening skills, media literacy…. (and plumbing).

OWL not only focuses on our first principle: To affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person,

But also our second principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

Plus it teaches communications skills and principals such as we have in our communications covenant when we ask:

Are my words true, are they kind, are they necessary?

OWL is a life span curriculum, with courses starting in nursery school all the way up to courses for folks over fifty. Let’s face it: people grow and change, bodies grow and change, needs grow and change, societies grow and change and we all need ways to get to the heart of the matter which is: what does it mean to be in right relationship with ourselves and each other — and our community and the world.  What are our beliefs, our values – and are we free to declare them — and, more important, how do we LIVE them?

How do we show love?

So… I have found myself calling the phase of completing the lower level

O W L L.

Our Whole Lower Level.

It’s about building more love and more space, literal and metaphorical. It’s about CVUUS staying relevant to all kinds of people at all kinds of ages.

Here’s one example of a newish program of ours that I think of as a multi-age program, a life span program as it were.

Thursday Night Out.

During the dark months of the year, on the first and third Thursday nights of each month, a group of 60-somethings (who all have grandparent envy, I think) cares for the young children of the under 45-somethings (many of whom find that today’s wages, and the complexities of holding multiple jobs and juggling diverse schedules, make a simple evening out prohibitively expensive and complicated).

There’s an active play room, a homework room, a quiet activity room. There’s dinner and snacks, and quiet reading.  And the dinner and snacks  — this is important – the nourishment for ALL participants –is provided by folks who are, in general, 65 and up.

Results? Our youngest members now have friendships of their own  – relationships — with a whole group of older folks at CVUUS. Their parents are getting an occasional needed night off. The caregivers are connecting with each other in new ways in addition to connecting with the kids and the cooks. And the cooks are making the whole thing possible.

That’s under one roof.

There’s so much more we can build by caring for each other and for those of us we haven’t even met yet.

Dare we dream? Dare we build?

Dare we embark on a relationship with the future, a partnership?

I think we must.

 

 

 

 

Caitlin Gildrien

O congregation of sensible shoes.
O buttoned plaid shirts, men in neat beards,
O matriarchs with your practical Judy Dench hair,
O, church parking lot of Prius and Volt. We

are trying. We hung Black Lives Matter
over the door, and that’s not nothing.
Nobody is saying it’s nothing. What
they’re saying is “Keep going”

Or maybe, “What next?”
If we call it Social Justice,
what next? If
we call it Radical Love.

If we call it Anti-Racism.
If we call it Covenant.
If we can say that whatever
we’ve done so far, it may not

be nothing, but it is also
not enough.

Myself, I would not know how
to go to an AME church.
I would not know where to sit
or what to wear or how to sing.

I’m sure I would be welcome, but
I am not sure that I would make it
so far as to find out. And you?
O congregation who actually sings

Kum-ba-yah. Whatever you call light,
we must shine it. Whatever you call faith,
tell it to get ready, and get ready
to lean into it. Lean forward

into the fear, the unease:
Your growing edge.
And ye shall know the fruit
is ripe when the thorns

prick your tender skin. And
it’s okay to hate it
when it makes you bleed, o friends,
o sweet earnest friends. But let us hate it

together, and let us keep going.
Let us keep going.

Barbara Drapelick – Sunday, February 26, 2017

Love is the doctrine of this church, the search for truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer.

I love those words, and to me they capture the essence of CVUUS, what we do here together each week, and what we take with us when we leave and go out in to the greater world.

I believe that everything in this life at its most fundamental level is based on love, and that everything we do in life must have love as its foundation.

I believe that justice, compassion, and respect are all born of love, and I feel that righteous anger, too, springs from love and a passion to make things equitable and just.

I believe that love will always win in the end. Always.

This may all sounds well and good, and I will readily admit that I am an idealist. But am I a PollyAnna? Not by a long shot. I know there are tremendous obstacles and trials on the path of love. It’s something we all deal with every single day.

But I see CVUUS as an incubator of love and hope, as a safe haven in which to envision and build the stepping stones to a more loving and peaceful world. CVUUS is a place where I come precisely because we don’t all look the same, we don’t all think the same way, and we don’t all approach things from the same perspective. That’s the way life is. We respect and value our differences, and even though we may not always be perfect when it comes to bridging our differences, it is something we yearn for and strive to do.

Every time we welcome someone through that door and every time we walk out of it, we are ambassadors of justice, of compassion, and of love. And at CVUUS we are committed ambassadors.

I see it time and again in our readiness to face challenges, in our passion to act, in our fearlessness to confront hatred and violence, in our willingness to admit mistakes and to regroup and go at it again; in our eagerness to reach out and share, I see it when we look in each other’s eyes, clasp hands and honor each other and our work together.

We may be small here at #2 Duane Court in Middlebury,VT, but we are mighty. I know that our efforts and the love we build here together does and will have an impact far beyond our little burg.

So, let’s squirt some WD-40 on the hinges of our hearts and open them even wider. Let’s continue to be resilient and creative in the face of animosity and difficulties; let’s build and share more love in every possible way we can.

Because love in all its manifestations is the only way forward.

Hannah Sessions

As some of you know, I was raised in this community from the age of 9. I vaguely remember the infamous first meeting in the Berninghausen’s, and remember well every stage of our growth leading up to this lovely space. In the early days of planning CVUUS it was my own mother who made the “piss or get off the pot” pronouncement which perhaps prompted the paths of fate which have brought us all together today. I know her bluntness and aforementioned approach to life and decisions has prompted many a move in my own life.

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