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UUA Top Stories

President's Perspective

Ann Kleinsasser

Wednesday
Apr012015

April is shaping up to be an exciting and festive month for our congregation.  I hope you will be able to participate in all that we have in store!

I always look forward to our Easter service which promises, again this year, to feature the “Flower Communion” ceremony.  Started in 1923 by the founder of the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia, Norbert Capek, this ceremony provided a symbolic ritual that would bind people more closely together, without alienating anyone who had forsaken other religious traditions.  I love this part of our UU faith that honors and welcomes people from diverse religious backgrounds.  I hope you will be able to celebrate with us on Easter Sunday.  And I’m sure there will be some special activities for the children in our midst as well.

A little later in the month you will be invited to a fun and festive “Canvass Dinner”.  What is the Canvass you may ask?  Come to this party and find out!  This will be a time to enjoy some great food and entertainment while learning about your financial role in supporting our church and all the wonderful things is provides for us and the larger community.  Our canvass chair, Cindy Lopez (aka “party planner extraordinaire”) has a magnificent Mexican-themed evening planned.  Watch for further details, and I hope to see you all there!

We have a special outreach opportunity on Saturday, April 25, when UUCVH will have a booth at the Crescenta Valley “Hometown Country Fair” at Crescenta Valley Park.  This is an all day event featuring carnival rides, a car show, live entertainment, a dog parade, pie-eating contest, a wide variety of vendor booths and much more.  Our booth will be an opportunity to let people know about our church while providing some fun activities for children and families.  The Sidewalk Astronomers group has agreed to set up their telescope as an attraction for our booth.  What we will need from you is ideas for activities and displays, and volunteers to take shifts at the booth throughout the day.  Watch for sign-ups and please let me know your brilliant ideas for our booth!

I love the sense of community in our congregation, and this month will give us multiple opportunities to celebrate our connections with one another and the larger world.

Ann Kleinsasser

Sunday
Mar012015

What do Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and Herman Melville have in common…besides being noted writers?  What about William Howard Taft, Adlai Stevenson, and Thomas Jefferson?  Or Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Frost?  Aside from the obvious connections, all were Unitarians or had Unitarian roots or sympathies!  It is always affirming to learn that people we admire have religious or philosophical leanings similar to our own.  To find out about more historical figures who have Unitarian connections, take a look at our display case window in the upstairs hallway.

I’d like to share a few words here, attributed to some of these fellow travelers:

Robert Frost:

“The kind of Unitarian
Who having by elimination got
From many gods to Three, and Three to One,
Thinks why not taper off to none at all.”

William Howard Taft:

“I am a Unitarian. I believe in God. I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.”

Thomas Jefferson:

“I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its conscience to neither kings or priests, the genuine doctrine of only one God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.” (meaning, at least, that they would not be a “Trinitarian”)

Adlai Stevenson:

“I think that one of our most important tasks is to convince others that there's nothing to fear in difference; that difference, in fact, is one of the healthiest and most invigorating of human characteristics without which life would become meaningless. Here lies the power of the liberal way: not in making the whole world Unitarian [Universalist], but in helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one's own; in encouraging the free interchange of ideas; in welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; in urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination.”

Ann Kleinsasser

Sunday
Feb012015

Over the years, one of my favorite “non-Sunday” UUCVH activities has been attending Friendship Dinners.  I still remember the first dinner we attended after joining the congregation, hosted by the Phinney's.  It was a lovely sit-down affair complete with a little chocolate turkey “favor” at each place (it was November).  This was the first of many great memories of dinners we have attended or hosted. 

One dinner we hosted in balmy spring weather was out on the patio with children running everywhere—others were dinner by candlelight at our dining table with adults only.   On one of those evenings a few of the guests even stayed to help us do dishes and take the dog for his evening walk.  We once had a memorable dinner at Paula Hallowell’s home, where her flair for decorating with nature items, candles and antiques was on full display.  Linda Hunt hosts relaxed gatherings indoors and out, with buffet table, fun music and gracious hospitality.  I remember lovely evenings at the artistic and welcoming homes of Edith Young and Yvonne-Brossus Fisher.  Friendship dinners traditionally have guests bringing the different courses, but it’s always a treat to share an evening at the Berberian’s home where gourmet cook, Halina, treats guests to a wonderful meal.  Our former member Julianne Spillman wanted to host a dinner after she had moved to an assisted living facility, so we had the dinner in our Fellowship Hall and she brought decorations and special foods.

No matter whether the group is large or small, the setting formal or informal, indoors or out, these gatherings are a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other better.  I hope you will plan to attend our next dinner coming up on February 21, either as a host or a guest.  A sign-up sheet will be available in the Fellowship Hall on Sundays after the service.  Guests who sign up will be divided among the host homes and hosts will call their guests to arrange what dishes to bring.  Enjoy! 

Ann Kleinsasser

Thursday
Jan012015

Happy New Year!  Have you made any resolutions yet?  Our UUCVH Board is way ahead of the game on this front. At our retreat back in August we updated a “vision” and “strategic plan” of things we would like to work toward or accomplish this year.  I’d like to summarize and share these goals with you here and invite your comments and feedback.

During 2014-2015 the UUCVH Board would like to:

  • Be welcoming—see growth in membership
  • Be progressive
  • Be committed to social justice
  • Be active in the local community
  • Be visible
  • Be strongly supported by a large and healthy congregation
  • Have strong and vital Religious Education for all ages

How do we plan to accomplish these goals?  Several steps have been taken already!  You may have noticed our new banner hanging outside to make us more visible to our neighbors and passersby.  Also, take a look at the religion page of the Crescenta Valley Weekly to see our ad.  With Terresa’s help we are increasing our presence on social media.  We are looking into ways to increase our presence at community events, and working to find outside speakers other than Sunday mornings on political and social justice topics.  And we have hired Elizabeth Brown who is energetically and capably creating a vital RE program for our youngest members.

Please share your comments and ideas with me or any member of our UUCVH Board:  Linda Hunt, Vice President—Cindy Lopez, Secretary—Gary Clark, Treasurer—Pat Berberian, Trustee—Celia Eiben, Trustee—Howard Richman, Trustee.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Ann Kleinsasser

Monday
Dec012014

The Christmas spirit is in the air, with several special events and activities happening this month around our church!

One of my favorite activities at UUCVH is our annual gift-giving to foster children within the system of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.  Even though it is only once a year, it is a good feeling to know we may help Christmas to be a little brighter for these children.  Our Social Action Circle sponsors this project along with several others.  In fact, December is a month with five Mondays, which means we will be serving dinner at Ascencia homeless shelter on December 29.  Please talk to Jerry Buchanan if you are interested in helping.

It will be “deck the hall” after church on December 7, when we get out all of our greenery and tinsel to get ready for the holiday season and our Holiday Party on Saturday, December 13.  After you enjoy the salad luncheon, get in the holiday spirit and help decorate the “hall”!  And please join us for much fun and merriment at the party/potluck dinner!

Winter Solstice will be celebrated in verse and song on Sunday morning, December 21.  Let this morning be a respite from the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and a time to feel centered in celebrating the beauty of nature in this season.

Christmas Eve is always a special and lovely time at our church.  I hope you will join us on this special evening for the short service and festive refreshments in our warm and cozy Friendship Hall!  If you have family or friends visiting, consider bringing them along join in the festivities.

Wishing you a warm and enjoyable holiday season!

Ann Kleinsasser

Saturday
Nov012014

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to give thanks to a few people in our midst whose good works may go unnoticed. 

As you may know, our church is responsible for serving dinner to residents of Ascencia homeless shelter each month that has a “fifth Monday”.  A small group of helpers has been faithfully doing the shopping, preparing the dinner in our church kitchen, and transporting and serving the food to Ascencia residents.  THANK YOU to Celia Eiben, Frances Kuraoka and Jerry Buchanan for their commitment and energy!  Thanks also to Howard Richman who often joins them at Ascencia to help serve the dinner.  If you are interested in helping too, please contact one of these special people! 

We take many things for granted around our church building.  Light bulbs burn out and get replaced.  The plumber is called to clean out the drain.  Paint gets touched up.  Things break and get repaired.  Special facilities requests are handled.  Who is doing all this work and more?  THANK YOU to Paula Hallowell for patiently and tirelessly keeping our building beautiful and operational!  Not to mention, all the set-up and beautiful exotic décor and lighting she provided for Summer’s Ordination!

Speaking of the Ordination ceremony, I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to Celia Eiben for coordinating the reception buffet and clean-up, ably aided by Vickie Guagliardo.  Did we really serve dinner to over 150 people in our little kitchen?  What a party it was!

I am certainly thankful for our wonderful church community, and I hope you will find many things to be thankful for during this season.

Ann Kleinsasser

Wednesday
Oct012014

“Where do we come from?  What are we?  Where are we going?”  Do you recognize these words from our September song of the month?  It was brought to my attention (by a scientist I know) that they come from an interesting and unusual source:  a painting by Paul Gaugin.  Try googling the words and check out the Wikipedia entry to see the symbolic painting and its background.  Knowing the source adds an extra dimension to the haunting melody and thought provoking words.

So…Where do we come from? (i.e.:  what’s been happening around UUCVH)

It was wonderful to have such a good turnout for our guest speaker, Sam Morris, on Sunday, August 31.  And those who attended his full presentation in September enjoyed an educational and inspiring evening!  Thanks to Terresa Carson-Jones for arranging for these presentations and getting the word out.  It was also good to be together at our ingathering service and water ceremony, and to share stories of summer times.  At this writing plans are taking shape for the Ordination ceremony of Summer Albayati-Krikeche.  We are excited to welcome her back to our church as she becomes a full-fledged minister.

And…Where are we going? (i.e.: what’s coming up)

As you may know, our UUCVH board and committee chairs met for a “retreat” toward the end of the summer to make plans and discuss our visions for the coming year.  The giant chart paper and markers came out and we brainstormed ways to continue to inspire members of our congregation, and also to make UUCVH more visible and accessible to the surrounding community.  The result was a long “wish list” which we have tried to prioritize and narrow down to several doable goals.  What are they?  To find out, be sure to join us at the Salad Luncheon after the service on Sunday, October 5. 

We’d love to share our goals with you and get your ideas and feedback.  I look forward to seeing you all there!

Ann Kleinsasser

Monday
Sep012014

There are many ways to be involved at UUCVH, beyond our Sunday morning services.  As we begin a new church year, I hope you will find fulfillment in participating with other congregation members in ways that enrich not only your life, but also the life of our congregation and our community. 

I thought that this time of year would be a good opportunity to highlight several groups that play important roles at UUCVH.  In thinking about each of these groups, I was struck by the many opportunities for creativity they provide. Please talk to me or other congregation members to find out more about these groups, and let us know if you are interested in becoming involved—we welcome fresh faces and ideas!

The Worship Committee plans Sunday morning services for dates when Rev. Betty will not be in the pulpit.  Work includes finding outside speakers or planning “in-house” programs, and providing a Lay Leader/Worship Associate who prepares the elements of the service.  Our Ministerial Intern, Debbie Rice, will be providing a brief training/orientation for congregation members interested in serving as a Lay Leader.

The Membership Committee greets and follows up with visitors, helps interested visitors along the path to membership, participates in New Member Welcoming Ceremonies, keeps track of membership numbers and directory information, and supports congregation members with notes and cards.

The Religious Education Committee supports the RE Coordinator; assists as needed with RE planning and programs, and provides classroom volunteers when necessary.

The Outreach Committee helps increase our visibility and exposure in the surrounding community.  This is a perfect opportunity for “think-outside-the-box” UUs (what other kind are there?).

The Social Action Circle organizes and supports projects to help others in need in our community and beyond, and works to increase social justice locally and globally.

I look forward to seeing all of you at our Ingathering/Water Ceremony service on September 7!

Ann Kleinsasser

Friday
Aug012014

I usually think of the summer months as a quiet time at church, but plenty has been happening around UUCVH.  Our interior spaces have received a beautiful new coat of paint thanks to Paula Hallowell, our Aesthetics Committee, and all of the volunteers who helped move wall décor and furniture in preparation for the painters (and put everything back!).  We are welcoming Elizabeth Schenck as our new RE Coordinator--if you haven’t met her yet, please introduce yourself and find out what plans are in store for our children!  And July finished with a bang with our annual summer picnic, sponsored by the GNU UUs, party-planners extraordinaire.

As we move into August I hope you are all making plans to come to the Roy Zimmerman concert on Tuesday evening, August 5.   Get ready for a fun-filled evening of political satire and great folk music--and please invite friends, neighbors, and anyone else you think would enjoy the evening!  Later in the month we will have an inspirational guest speaker, Sam Morris—watch for notice of his special presentation.  Also in August, the board and committee chairs hold their annual “retreat” to vision and plan for the coming year.  If you have any ideas for us to consider, please contact me or one of our board members.

Last, but not least, remember to be collecting a small amount of water from your summer activities or travels for our Water Ceremony in September.  It is always wonderful to witness how effectively the simple act of sharing of water and stories from our separate summer adventures brings us together as a community at our “in-gathering” service. 

Ann Kleinsasser

Tuesday
Jul012014

How did you become a Unitarian Universalist?  Are there others who may find us in the same way you did?

I was lucky enough to be brought up as a Unitarian, so I did not need to “discover” this faith as many of our members have done.  But no matter how we each found our way here, I think it feels like “home” to all of us.  As I begin my first term as President of our congregation I would like for us to think about ways to help potential UUs in our community find us.  How can we be more visible to neighbors, to people searching for a spiritual home, to families looking for a unique religious foundation for their children?  Think about your own path to our door—how can we make that path available to others in our community?  Let me know your thoughts!

Looking ahead on our calendar, I’d like to encourage all of you to plan on attending Roy Zimmerman’s concert on the evening of Tuesday, August 12!  And be thinking of friends who would enjoy a wonderfully entertaining evening of his clever and humorous satire and fabulous music.  If we each brought just two or three friends we’d have the full house he deserves!

I hope summer finds you doing enjoyable and fulfilling things, whether it is traveling to exotic places, pursuing a favorite hobby, volunteering or simply enjoying our beautiful Southern California weather in your own backyard or garden.  Whatever your plans, I hope to see you on Sunday mornings (when you are in town) as we gather in community and fellowship for spiritual inspiration and growth.

Ann Kleinsasser