Notes on Two Hundred Years (and More)
by Douglas H. Parkhurst
The past few ‘Notes on 200 Years…’ articles focused on people and events from the first part of the twentieth back to the late eighteenth centuries. This month we will look at more recent happenings at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury (UUCD).
Our monthly newsletter Comment is a staple of UUCD communications and has been so for more than forty years. Both present-day and previous issues contain a wealth of information about people and events in the church. Let’s see what was going on at UUCD fifteen years ago, based largely on Comment for the month of February 2009.
The Congregation was well established at 24 Clapboard Ridge Road, having completed its move to this new facility just over three years earlier. Rev. Dr. Suzanne Spencer [note – now Rev. Dr. Suzanne Redfern-Campbell] began her two-year term as Interim Minister the previous August, following the departure of Rev. Dr. Linda Hansen, who served the UUCD as Settled Minister from 2003 to 2008. Rev. Peggy Block was the UUCD’s endorsed Community Minister, Mary Collins was Director of Religious Education (DRE), and Sherry Kyriacou was Office Manager.
The 2009-2010 Canvass commenced in early January . Rev. Spencer, in her Comment column for February, discussed the act of pledging in ways meaningful to both pledger and recipient. Board President Carl Tichler echoed her thoughts, with emphasis on the personal growth he experienced in his work with the Board of Trustees and Social Action Committee. Canvass Co-Chairs Bruce Buzby and Ross Fenster reviewed canvass results so far. Fifty-six pledges had been received accounting for just under half of the $196,000 goal. The confidentiality of individual pledges was emphasized.
The UUCD welcomed five new members recently. There were ten updates or additions to email address listings. It was noted that Ann Thorpe passed away on January 20. Writer, teacher, friend, Ann came to the congregation in 1974 and later became a most generous benefactor.
Mary Alice Kimball, representing the Denominational Affairs Committee, announced that candidates for the upcoming election to the office of president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) would appear at Community Unitarian Church in White Plains, New York, on February 14. The candidates were Revs. Laurel Hallman and Peter Morales. Carpooling to White Plains would be arranged. [Note – Rev. Peter Morales was elected to two terms and served as president of the UUA from 2009 to 2017.]
Several committees were advertising for “help.” These included the Sunday Service, Religious Education, Finance, and Buildings and Grounds Committees, and the Even Month Scrub Club. An online UUCD Interest and Talents Survey was also underway. Respondents could indicate how they wished to contribute their time and talent to the congregation. Darlene Anderson-Alexander was contact person for anyone interested in getting involved in committee work or looking for additional information.
Finance Committee chair Bruce Buzby and Treasurer Marie Dupree reviewed the UUCD’s church year 2008-2009 institutional income profile. The total budgeted income for that year was $240,000. The three largest sources of budgeted income were pledges at 69% ($166,000), fundraising at 10% ($25,000), and interest and dividends at 6% ($14,000).
Planning for the upcoming 9th Annual Women’s Retreat continued. The Retreat was fully subscribed with a waiting list available. The 2009 gathering would take place the weekend of April 17-19 at Wake Robin Inn in Lakeville, Connecticut. Price per person was $260. Among activities scheduled were bird watching, flower arranging, comedy night, movies, and a book discussion group.
DRE Mary Collins provided a detailed report on religious education matters. The RE Committee was at work evaluating curricula and activities including Neighboring Faiths, Our Whole Lives Sexuality and Values (OWL), Coming of Age, Tapestry of Faith, Jewish and Christian Heritage, World Religions, UU Identity, Small Group Ministry for children, and one or more youth groups. Additional adult helpers were needed for the 11 am RE program [note – religious education activities were conducted at both 9 and 11 am]. A “Love and Appreciation Lunch” was planned for February 7 for religious education volunteers. A weekend youth conference called “CONic Book” was scheduled for later in February at the UU Society in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
The Sunday Service Committee was experimenting with a food offering as part of the Sunday morning order of service. Canned, non-canned, and a variety of non-food items were being accepted for distribution to local shelters and soup kitchens.
The Ministerial Search Committee was starting to build a profile of the congregation to aid in the search process. Gale Alexander had more information. [Note – Rev. Barbara Fast was called and ministered to UUCD from 2010 to 2016. To date she is UUCD’s last Settled Minister, that is, called by the congregation, not interim or consulting.]
The Social Action Committee was busy. In January two members attended the first inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president. Committee members also attended a Martin Luther King remembrance ceremony at Western Connecticut State University. Petitions supporting immigrants’ rights were circulating and letters directed to area congregations with information about the New Sanctuary Movement were being prepared.
The Green Team was looking into the potential and possibility of UUCD becoming a Green Sanctuary. Ann Krieg had further information on this. Finally, thanks were offered to those who made donations to assist after a recent serious fire on New Street in Danbury.
UUCD’s Team #4 was scheduled to work at the soup kitchen of the Dorothy Day House in Danbury on the first Saturday of February. Lisa Austin-Smith was team leader and among the dozen or so volunteers were Randy and Tucker Smith, Joanne Davidson, Cathie Billings, Jackie Alexander, Jane Leff, and Jan Galloway. Duties included preparing meals, making bag lunches, setting up, and serving. By this time the congregation had been providing support to the soup kitchen for more than twenty-five years.
A variety of activities were upcoming at UUCD. These included: five Chalice Circles; the Knitting Ministry; multi-week study sessions on the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle; Comedy Night at the Ridge; a Candlemas Potluck; UUCD Conversations (Nonfiction Book Discussion Group); Movies with a Message; Men out to Breakfast at Windmill Diner; and Women out to Breakfast at Elmer’s Diner. Also, the annual Goods and Services Auction was “right around the corner,” planned for March 28. The theme in 2009 was a Masquerade Ball.
Sunday services were scheduled for both 9 and 11 am. The calendar listed:
February 1 – “A Sense of Mission” by Rev. Sue Spencer.
February 8 – “Lincoln at 200” by Rev. Sue Spencer.
February 15 – “In Celebration of Charles Darwin” by UUCD member Dr. Bob Wallace.
February 22 – “Let’s Celebrate! Appreciation Sunday” featuring a Jazz Quintet with service led by Rev. Sue Spencer, DRE Mary Collins, Ross Fenster, Charlie Schott, and others.
February 2009 was surely a busy month at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury!