Notes on 200 Years (and More) October 2022

by Douglas H. Parkhurst 

So far this year Notes has looked at some old history of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury (UUCD) and some not so old. This month let’s look again at more recent happenings. We’ll see what was going on during October 2000, courtesy of the UUCD newsletter Comment. A generation ago Comment was printed on paper and distributed by U.S. mail; this writer’s vintage copy from October 2000 carries a 33 cent first class stamp. 

The UUCD was still called Unitarian Universalist Society of Northern Fairfield County (UUSNFC) in October 2000 and was known as “the Barn” to members and friends. The Society was meeting in a converted and remodeled barn (sanctuary, kitchen, and storage) and farmhouse (named Founders House and containing classrooms, offices, kitchens, and meeting space) at 9 Picketts Ridge Road, West Redding, just east of route 7, near the Ridgefield town line. Rev. Dr. Daniel Simer O’Connell had been UUSNFC minister since 1996 and was starting a four month sabbatical. Cheryl Kunst was secretary/office manager. Rev. David Bryce, then of First Unitarian Society of Westchester, New York, was acting as minister-of-the-month. Rev. Bryce was well-known to many Society members. Some ten years earlier he had been a ministerial intern at UUSNFC under the guidance of Rev. Barbara Pescan. The theme of David’s front page essay in the October 2000 Comment was the varied meanings of “coming home.” 

Michael Searing, who with wife Barbara were long-time active members of UUSNFC, was President of the Board of Trustees. In his monthly column Mike touched upon the upcoming Every-Member/Friend Canvass including preliminary efforts by John Miglietta and Bob Bollinger. A Comprehensive Planning Committee was being re-formed to investigate in depth the possibility of the Society moving back to Danbury. Mike also recognized Kathleen Green for her efforts over two years in organizing and implementing a summer religious education program at the Barn. [Note – Kathleen Green is now Rev. Dr. Kathleen Rudoff, consulting minister of UUCD.] 

A round-robin potluck dinner, an ever popular social activity among members and friends, was announced for Saturday evening, October 21st, at the home of Judy and Joe Teagarden. A short piece appeared in Comment about becoming a member of the Society. Paul Lacombe wrote about a Men’s Retreat later that month at Camp Sloane in Lakeville, Connecticut, and Sky Kimball was collecting the $100 fee from those planning to attend. Bob Weston put out a call for the loan or donation of a VHS format video projector needed for the 4th annual diversity film series sponsored by the Open Door Alliance. “Wheel of Life” milestones were shared by about a dozen people, including Joanne Davidson, Bill McWilliams, Jackie Alexander, Mary Collins, and Marcia Brooker. 

Karen Judd, Director of Religious Education, announced RE Open Houses to be held on Sunday, October 15th, after each service. [Note – At that time worship services and religious education classes were held at both 9 and 11 AM on most Sundays.] Karen was looking for two teachers needed for pre-first grade classes. The first Children’s Chapel of the church year was planned for Sunday, October 29th, to include the pre-first through sixth grade age groups. And, on the last weekend of the month the Senior High Youth Group would be heading for Summit, New Jersey, to participate in a “Spooky CON.” 

Adult RE classes were scheduled for fall, including a Reiki Workshop by Karen Judd. Joanne Wells was offering Fun With the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; Jean Renjilian would lead Your Passionate Path; and Bob Bollinger was doing UU History and the Barn. A Retirement Investment Strategies class was also offered. These programs were planned for a variety of days and evenings so those interested could participate in more than one. Starting in the early 1960s what is now the UUCD was part of the Metropolitan New York District of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). [Note – UUA districts have mostly been abolished over the past decade.] A Fall Leadership Conference sponsored by the District was scheduled for October 14th at Community Church of New York and on November 4th a “hands-on, nuts and bolts” follow-up workshop on developing a Stewardship Plan was being offered in Plainfield, New Jersey. 

The Society calendar showed meetings of the Membership, Religious Education, and Finance Committees, and the Open Door Alliance. A Women’s Retreat Planning Session was scheduled as was the monthly meeting of the Board of Trustees. On the last Friday of the month volunteers from UUSNFC would man the Homeless Shelter in Danbury. 

The Comment for October 2000 included two inserts. One advertised the Goods & Services Auction to be held at the Barn on Saturday evening, November 4th. Admission for adult members and friends was $3.00 each and child care would be available. Donations of various kinds were solicited; refreshments and a silent auction would begin at 7:00 with the main auction running from 8:45 to 10:00. The second insert announced two activities planned at Green Chimneys in Brewster, New York. The first was “Little Folk Days” on October 4th and 5th and the second was “City & Country Family Farm Day” on October 28th. 

Upcoming Sunday services were listed on the back page of the newsletter. They were as follows: 

October 1st Confidence & Leadership. By Marcia Brooker and the Sunday Service Committee. The congregation was asked to bring short readings to share on these two topics. 

October 8th Dorothy Day – A Revolutionary. By Bob Weston, Mary Collins, Ross Fenster, and Donna Lawrence. Paul Hines, co-founder and board member of Dorothy Day shelter in Danbury would also speak. 

October 15th A Faith that Sustains. Sermon and service by Rev. Susan Davison Archer, UU District of Metropolitan New York. 

October 22nd Life Changes. Sermon and service by Rev. David Bryce, First Unitarian Society of Westchester. 

October 29th Beyond the Barn. An update on activities of the UU Service Committee; UN Office; Youth Groups; and the UUA General Assembly. By Doris Henderson and the Denominational Affairs Network. 

For some readers this article is a trip down memory lane. For others it is a series of snapshots of a busy month almost a quarter-century ago of what we know today as the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury. For all of us it is a reminder of how important, how critical, the involvement and commitment of each lay-person is in the on-going life of the church. I trust this was both enjoyable and informative!