Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We Believe in Life

Last Sunday I preached my first full-length sermon. I know that in many congregations its common practice to have the religious educator preach a number of times a year, but not in the congregation I serve. Last summer I asked to have a sermon slot this fall. I thought we'd probably be growing pretty significantly with a new building and more visibility in the community, and I thought parents might want to know a little more about the theology and educational philosophy of their religious educator.

It's funny, because this fall I was hardly ever in front of the congregation. I schedule the weekly storyteller, so could choose not schedule myself, a good plan because I had to deal with week after week of new and unexpected RE needs. I used to introduce the RE program and the story teller each week, but in the new space that didn't seem to make sense. It was really just a marketing ploy anyway, so that parents who were visiting would know who to ask if they had questions. We're screaming almost directly from a family sized church to program sized, skipping right past pastoral sized, so people need to know to ask teachers, RE council members and not just me, anyway.

But being out of the eye of the congregation had other effects, people asked me why my name was on the sign on the building and they asked me what my regular job was, as if this was some little part time thing I did on the side. Being out of the eye of the congregation just wasn't a good idea.

So, timing for a service lead by the DRE was good, and even though it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the house was pretty full. And it wasn't just full of parents and teachers, we had a huge turn out of people who have no children in the program at all. This was published in the newsletter and online as a service about RE--about the spiritual growth of children, a friend who came to hear me preach mentioned that broad attendance is not what would happen in most congregations. Peter Bowden's recent blog about publishing sermon titles reinforced my friend's observation.

I enjoyed the service a great deal. Picking the hymns and even the prelude was really fun. Offering prayers and meditation was deeply satisfying. But I've done those pieces before in multi gen worship. The sermon was really just a long story I shared with a little Fowler thrown in, so was a lovely and simple pleasure for me. And shhh.....don't tell the ministers, but leading a service and offering a sermon was much easier than what I usually do on Sunday morning! Much!

What did I learn from this experience?

You can't have a microphone, even one that's turned off, anywhere near the main podium.

A board member/tech guy coming up to take down offending microphones is better than feedback

14 point is almost too small to read, even with tri-focals. 12 point italics-- ridiculous.

Having a contingency section of the sermon (in case something goes long and you have to wrap up fast) is a good idea

Travel clocks work better than cell phones for keeping time (at LREDA GA Professional day I had to keep checking my cell phone for the time, how crass!!)

You need a whole glass of water behind the podium, maybe two if it's dry.

Making 200 people laugh is a great pleasure

Crying in front of 200 people is also a great pleasure

And the final thing I learned........true stuff; loving is the answer.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mr. Jule Sugarman, Unitarian Universalist, and an amazing man

We lost a treasure of our church community this week. Mr. Jule Sugarman died on Wednesday afternoon. At the end he was surrounded by people who loved him and kept vigil that last day, holding him in love and care.

This lovely church community that I serve will miss him, dearly. He lived a long and wonderful life. He was a man who lived to serve. He was profiled by the Washington Post and the New York Times and given much of the credit for getting Head Start off the ground as well as running it for most of its first five years.

But here's what I know about Jule. He never gave up. I was a brand new Religious Educator when Jule and his wife Candy first came to our church. I met them at a picnic down by Puget Sound. They were kind and full of energy, lovely folks. After a few years Jule became the president of our congregation. I attend monthly board meetings and offer reports about the children and youth programs. During Jule's presidency my reports were often peppered with mention of the inadequate space for classes and the difficulty of holding classes in foyer outside a restroom or behind a felt partition in the gym-like hall at the Masonic Temple we rented.

Jule listened. But he didn't just take it in. He made a plan. And....he never gave up. Never. I had long since decided that perhaps we just needed to use yurts or portable classrooms perched in the Mason's parking lot. Or perhaps nothing would ever really happen to give us the space we needed to provide a great religious education for our kids.

But Jule continued to host "New Home" committee meetings, he continued to look for creative options. He never gave up. I very distinctly remember him showing me plans he'd drawn up for one creative option and saying "look at that, Kari, think about what you can do in those spaces!"

Jule was absolutely convinced that there was a way. Somehow, that we would have a church home of our own. He was even mentioned in the Seattle Times article this fall.

And here we are, in our new church building. Two weeks ago Jule came to the dedication of our new building. I believe it was his last outing. Thank God that he was here.

Jule's spirit and dedication live on in every child touched by Head Start, in every person he helped through the programs and social action he championed. And his spirit lives here in the Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation, in the reality that came from the dream he wouldn't let die.

Blessings, Jule. We are deeply thankful for all you gave us. And, we really miss you.