This time of year always seems to sneak up on me. Every fall I know it’s coming, but October and then November seem to come and go in the blink of an eye. And suddenly it’s December.
As the days get shorter and shorter and the nights get longer and longer, we enter a season of many holidays and holy days. This year, the Christian holiday of Advent began on November 27, and goes until Christmas Eve on December 24, followed by Christmas Day on December 25. Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, starts at sundown on December 18 and goes until December 26. Pagans observe the Winter Solstice on December 21, and Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration from December 26 to January 1 that lifts up African customs and culture. We Unitarian Universalists even have our very own holiday in this season: Chalica, a weeklong observance and exploration of our seven principles, starts on December 5 and goes through December 11.
Whatever holidays you celebrate, or holy days you observe, I hope that this season brings you hope, peace, joy, and love. May you and your loved ones be blessed, and may your presence be a blessing to all you meet.
In October, we welcomed two new members to the WUUC staff team. Amy Genova is our new Membership Coordinator, and Skylar Hopkins is our new Director of Religious Education. They will both be around on most Sundays, so please take a moment to say hello and welcome them when you see them!
Here is a little about Amy Genova:
Amy Genova grew up at the foot of the Rockies in Denver, Colorado. She has also lived in Arizona, Texas, Indiana, and Missouri. She and her husband, Thomas Perchlik, relocated to Washington state 6 years ago, just in time for their granddaughter, Willow’s, first birthday. Her husband, Thomas, introduced her to Unitarian Universalism when she was 23, and they later were married in the backyard of the Greeley UU fellowship. They have two children, Emily Perchlik, second lead architect of the Northgate Bridge and mother to a small grove of grandchildren: Willow, Olive and Hazel, and Molly Perchlik, a research scientist at the University of Washington. Amy enjoys poetry, reading, cooking, walking, swimming, movies, games, voting rights, a good protest and social justice.
And here is a message from Skylar Hopkins to the WUUC community:
Hi everyone, I’m Skylar. Most of you have probably known me for a large portion of my life as I have been a member at WUUC since 2003. However, if you don’t, here’s a few things about me. I grew up in Woodinville and I currently live in Snohomish with my family, my partner Zach, and my dog Holly – a pomeranian husky mix. One thing you should know about me is that I love music. I play piano, guitar, bass, ukulele, and I sing. It’s likely that you’ve seen me perform a song or two during a service with my family and other members of the church. In the past few years I have found a passion for working with children and returned to school to begin my journey towards a degree in education. Two years ago I combined my love of music and working with children into a job teaching music lessons. I am excited to bring my creativity and experience with kids to this new job. I look forward to getting to know all of your children and helping them on their spiritual journeys.
After a slow and restful summer, we had our Ingathering service back in September. And, although this was when we kicked off our church year officially, I’m really starting to feel the momentum of our community picking up now.
Slowly but surely, more and more people are showing up to the church on Sundays to attend worship services in person. Most who attend stay for coffee hour afterwards, and I’m noticing the conversations there are getting warmer and livelier as the weeks go on. I’m also seeing a steady stream of visitors coming to check out our community and learn more about who we are; and most of these visitors are returning again because they like what they experienced.
Volunteers are coming forward to provide snacks and make coffee, the choir is returning to a version of its pre-pandemic self (and has even added some new members), and we’ve got a whole crew of Zoomkeepers, and camera and sound techs trained and ready to go. And this is just the Sunday morning experience. Circle suppers are back, small group ministries like pondering the big questions and soul matters discussion groups are back to meeting again, and more social offerings are getting added to the calendar each month.
In October, we hired two new people to join our WUUC staff team. And now as I work with Amy Genova, our new Membership Coordinator, and Skylar Hopkins, our new Director of Religious Education, I find myself getting excited about the things we are planning for the coming year. As I write this, we just had our first collaborative event with the Woodinville Country Day School (who shares our space Monday – Friday), a Trunk or Treat prior to Halloween. It was a wonderfully fun event, and it was also an encouraging step toward potentially more collaborative community events in the future. Just having the Day School in our church building through the week brings an energy to our space, and I can feel it. We are doing the things a community should be doing: building human connections, strengthening relationships, and showing why the whole is always more than the sum of its individual parts. We are stronger together, and together we can be a positive force for good in the world. And we start by being a positive force for good right here in Woodinville, by being good neighbors.
I’m feeling the energy, and I hope you do too. Let’s keep it going and see what we can do.
This is quite a time for our community. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, the world looks and feels much different than it did before. The old ways of “doing church” are changing to respond to our changing needs, and we don’t have all the answers yet on what the “new normal” will look like. This 2022-23 church year will be filled with experimentation, trial and error.
There will certainly be challenges.
After two years of virtual-only programming for children and youth (and the departure of our Director of Religious Education this past summer), we are needing to rebuilding our Religious Education program. The job search is underway for a new Director of Religious Education; but when we find that person, they won’t be able to rebuild the program on their own. We will need a team of faithful volunteers (including parents and non-parents) to bring our RE program to life.
Another challenge: before the pandemic, we knew how to do in-person worship. During the pandemic, we learned how to do virtual worship. Now, we are learning how to do hybrid worship, where both in-person and virtual attendance are possible. This is far more difficult than either in-person or virtual is alone. Not only are we adapting to new technology, but hybrid worship services require more volunteer roles to make them happen. We will need more people to greet and welcome, make coffee and provide snacks, run the camera and sound board, and help set up and clean up the church before and after services.
These are just the first two challenge areas that come to mind.
And, there will also be opportunities.
The fact that so many of our programs went into hibernation during the pandemic means we can be intentional about which ones to bring back, and when we choose to do so. This kind of intentional reflection and discernment can help us become a more focused church community, where we can go deeper because we are not spread so thin.
It also allows us to re-imagine the ways we have done things in the past. Do we really need so many committees with years-long terms of commitment? Or is there a way to operate with shorter-term projects and goals that allow people to show up and pitch in without being on a committee for years?
Another opportunity: can we address the shortages in our congregational resources (volunteers, money, etc.) by partnering with other UU congregations in the area to do some collaborative activities and programming? What new things might come to fruition when we let go of old things that are no longer serving us?
It will be a year of challenges and opportunities. We will try new things; some we will keep, and others we will not. The way we “do church” will certainly continue to change. But the reason for church remains: to be a place of acceptance, affirmation, and belonging; a place of healing, growth, and transformation; a place to love and support each other as we journey together, and know that we are not alone.
As I prepare to take a study leave to plan the 2022-23 church year, I am excited about the opportunities that are possible as we continue to emerge slowly and cautiously from the pandemic. For the first time since I arrived two years ago, I am able to consider putting in-person activities on the calendar. Adult RE classes, social gatherings, postponed celebrations. Meetings over coffee instead of Zoom. And with so many possibilities, I know I will have to fight the temptation to put too much on my calendar (and the church’s calendar) too quickly. At a week-long community organizing training I attended years ago, the lead organizer asked a question on the last day of the training: what did you learn here that you are excited to take back and implement in your community? Many people raised their hands to share their answers. Then he asked a follow-up question: what is going to come off your plate to make room for the new thing you want to do? The hands didn’t go up as quickly to answer that question.
It is easy to get excited and want to dive right in to new and inspiring projects and plans. But before we do, it is worth reflecting on what we are letting go of to make room in our lives for the new. It can be tempting to think, “I’ll just squeeze this one more thing in. I can make it all fit in my life.” And that may be true; but we’ll only know if we ask the question of ourselves and reflect on the answer. And it is definitely true that this can’t be the answer every time, to just squeeze in one more thing. Eventually, something will have to give in order to make room for something else.
There are so many things I want to see and make happen here at WUUC. And, I know that ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. If we are doing it right, we will have many years together to plan, gather, and build; to connect, learn, and transform ourselves, our community, and our world. There is time for all of it, as long as we take it a little at a time.
I’m so glad to be on this journey with all of you.
As the 2021-22 church year came to a close in June, it would seem like a natural next step to turn our attention to the coming year, and focus on getting the 2022-23 church year started. But before we do that, just wait a second. Pause. Breathe. I know it’s tempting to want to jump from one thing right into the next; but when we do that, we skip a very important part of the rhythm of life: the part where we rest.
Rest is essential to our well-being. And not just physically, but emotionally, socially, and spiritually as well. When I decided to become a Unitarian Universalist minister, I had to finish my undergraduate degree before going to seminary. It took me two years of coursework to finish a degree I had started nearly a decade earlier. I graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in December of 2013, and three weeks later I started my Master of Divinity program at Iliff School of Theology. I had barely finished my BA before beginning the next phase in my ministerial formation path. I was excited and motivated, and because of this I didn’t rest. I didn’t think I needed it. And I did fine in seminary, so this is not a cautionary tale of how wrong things can go if we don’t rest. But I do regret not slowing down a bit. It took me more than a decade to finish my college degree, a significant milestone in my life. And I just jumped right into the next thing. I wish I had taken some time to reflect and process what I had been through; what I had accomplished; how I felt about it. I wish I had taken the time to mark and celebrate that achievement. Ironically, I went on quickly to the next thing because I didn’t want to miss out on the next part of my path; but in doing so, I actually missed out on the appreciation and reflection part that would have enhanced the whole experience. I missed out on the resting part, and the spaciousness that resting creates. I missed out on the emotional and spiritual growth I might have gained if I had
So now, as we end our church year (one in which we returned to in-person services, gatherings, and activities), I know there is a desire to launch ourselves fully back into a version of community we have been missing for the last 2+ years. And. This is a significant milestone in the life of our church community. We’ve been through a lot. Rather than rush into the next thing, let’s pause. Breathe. Rest. Let’s reflect on what we’ve just been through together, and how it has affected us. Let’s share our stories, and listen to each other. And let’s give ourselves an opportunity in the spaciousness to grow emotionally and spiritually as individuals, and as a community.