President's Perspective

Gary Clark


June 2017

Summer is already here - the time of the family vacations and our Annual Meeting.  The time goes by faster as I am older.  Rev Gordon will be gone part of the summer, and Intern A.J. Blackwell will be stepping more to the fore. 

Last month David Hostetter led us on a UU field trip to Watts Towers.   In the previous 53 years, this famous attraction had not produced enough fame to attract me to visit.  It was David’s initiative that produced a visit by our group of UUs, with a follow-up stop at the art gallery and Watts Coffee House. 

Los Angeles has many areas of where different cultural or other differences are manifested, and as the tentacles of different groups and nations across the world slowly enter into Los Angeles County.  These trips enable a us to realize the greater awareness and interdependence of others, and perhaps to appreciate the myriad ways that people, things, trends, and forces interact.  My personal view is that the creator of the Watts Towers, Simon Rodia, must have been an odd fellow, as least comparing him to my references, yet he nevertheless became famous.  But, so did Albert Einstein.
Rev. Gordon’s theme this month is ‘Living Our Faith.’  As the world become more connected and networked, our awareness grows of that interdependence and related issues.  Now and in the coming years, we have much more awareness of the issues and the policy decisions that they call for.  Social action is one channel of response, targeting areas not otherwise adequately addressed.   I think many public policies might also benefit from having third-party citizens look at therm.  While we may bring an initial ignorance, we also possibly bring an unbiased assessment of all the direct and indirect outcomes.  While it is great to have a lobbyist offer information on a specific topic, it is also good to have outside citizens offer a second look.        

I continue to look to move toward using our physical facilities as a means or tool for enhancing our connections to the community, rather than as an asset which would b expected to generate revenue.   The usefulness of our space to an outside user varies with the time of day and through the week.  Thus, it is difficult to set a single price or rate which dramatically generates revenue, or which greatly increases utilization and UU Verdugo/UUCVH exposure.  Our Congregational Administrator, Nancy Watkins, has some experience doing this other at Throop Unitarian in Pasadena. 

If you have not yet met Nancy, perhaps drop by and meet her.  You could even take her out for breakfast, perhaps. She is generally in our Church office from 8:30-12:30 Mon-Thursday, and plays an important role in keeping the Church moving.  
Respectfully yours,
Gary N Clark
Congregational President


May 2017

Coming to Church is often a happy time for me. Especially when there are a lot of happy new faces along with happy old faces and little kids around.  Our community has evolved over the years. It is due to the work of the many volunteers (such as Betsy and Celia on Hospitality and Cindy on R.E.)  and some staff (Nancy Watkins and Elizabeth Brown), and Rev Gordon, as well as all of those who have gone before us. 

The next field trip organized and coordinated by VP David Hostetter, will be to Watts Towers Saturday, May 6, which will be here very soon.   Like the trip to the Japanese –American Museum in February, this will be a good chance to learn about another part of our community (a place I have never been to), and to share an adventure with friends. 

UUCVH signed up for a booth at the Crescenta Valley Country Fair, held April 29 at a historic local park.  Treasurer Vivienne Payne signed up volunteers, and by the time that you read this, the event may have already occurred.  It was a way to advertise our existence and availability, and also to meet some of the local citizens.
I continue to support efforts to use our facilities to enhance our Community Connection with broader La Crescenta, and surrounding communities.  Our Congregational Administrator, Nancy Watkins, has experience in this area, and I think we could benefit from her abilities.   Our last movie night may have drawn more visitors, and we are or will benefit from Jesse Silver’s matching gift for a new T.V. screen. 

One of our UU principles is the respect for the Interdependence of all things.  I and others are slightly dismayed at efforts to cut government funding for scientific activities which may produce data that might be unappreciated or unwelcome by a current federal administration.  The riposte might be that, don’t worry, we are safer by spending more on the military.   This is an effort, in some areas, to squelch inconvenient data.

Globalization of the last 25 years brought hundreds of million out of poverty, and perhaps created more interaction and more literacy.  I note that in Hungary, Prime Minister Victor Orban is working to expel or eliminate Central European University in Budapest.  This effort fits in with some broader populist trends.   Central European University was established in Budapest with the support of George Soros and the Open Society Foundation.  It is a graduate institution that supports openness and transparency and the democratic process, and had a great number of international students who came to learn, and in the process shared ideas.   Not everyone cares for Mr. Soros to the same degree, but I do not support people, especially governments, shutting down Universities, even odd ones.   We are better off having more places that seek Truth.

The budget for next year will soon be created, so if you are a committee chair, please submit budget requests to the Finance Committee.  The Annual Meeting is also approaching, so please submit annual committee reports for the Annual Report. Our support of Ascencia continues, and summer is fast approaching.

Respectfully yours,
Gary N. Clark
Congregational President


April 2017

At UUCVH, April is a month to consider Human Ecology  Human Ecology.  I anticipate that Rev Gordon will be inviting us to consider the interdependence of everything.  I suspect that much of the current political turmoil is caused on one side by failing to recognize this, and on the other by not recognizing the world as it is.  Economically, there is a great deal of interdependence in the world.

Our Canvass kicks off, led by our indubitable Howard Richman, an individual  who makes a real contribution.  I am personally gratified that the Church continues to exist, and to move forward.  Please think about the role the Church plays in your life, and about the role that the Church does and can play in the community.

Our current Congregational Administrator, Nancy Watkins, is the important and valued connector that holds many of our processes together and advances the Church in the community, and delivers and improves its services to our members.  She also is experienced and knowledgeable in all aspects of our operations, and also has expertise in Quickbooks Online, our accounting program.  The progress that we have made in the past year would not have been possible without her contributions.  She plays a similar role at Throop Unitarian in Pasadena, where she increased Throop’s presence in the community and community awareness of Throop Unitarian by increasing community utilization of Throop Unitarian’s building facilities.  She has suggested a similar avenue for UUCVH.  I think it is a great idea.   I hope she and her husband are invited to a Friendship Dinner so more of us can get to know her. 

Our previous Administrators, Jeannie  Akerley and Terresa Carson-Jones, did much to bring modern progress to our Internet presence and social media presence.  J. Blackwood, Intern, has been with us this past year. He has done many things, including many that I do not know about.  And, he has rationalized or systematized our computer and our IT infrastructure.  This will make a longer-run contribution to our electronic communications and the dissemination of our messages.   He may not be around a lot longer, so find him and thank him when you have the chance.

We will be having, and perhaps have already had, a field trip to Watts Towers, led by VP David Hostetter.   I found the trip last month to the Japanese-American Museum very impactful.  I have since learned that the U.S.  Government not only rounded up and interred Japanese American citizens, but we also rounded up and interred Japanese in Latin America at the beginning or WW II (which of course, was not under our official jurisdiction).  A trip to Watts Towers is a good chance to learn about another part of our community, and spend time with our friends. 

We have a nice physical building, and I am hoping that we can use it for more events that interface with our community in the months ahead. 
Respectfully yours,
Gary N. Clark



March 2017

We are moving into spring.  As the seasons evolve, so does the Church.

Last Month, VP David Hostetter lead the effort, and a group of UUCVH-ers to a visit to the Japanese American National Museum, in Little Tokyo, downtown.  The Museum uses memorial space to bring attention to the detention during World War II of Japanese-American citizens in “relocation camps” (from which they were not relocated for 3-4 years), while their homes, businesses, and bank accounts were seized. The impact on Japanese-Americans of FDR’s Executive Order 9066 is akin to what was done to the Jews in Germany in 1936-38 and other efforts at ethnic cleansing.  The trip proved to be an enriching experience.  Thanks to the social Action Committee for organizing the trip.  I hope we do something like it sometime soon.

Plans to begin tutoring people in English as a Second Language (ESL) are moving forward led by Terry Richman, who is already involved in these efforts at Glendale Public Library.  This may be a way to make fuller use of our facilities and increase interaction with the surrounding community.

Kudos to the kids, led by Elizabeth, who made the Friendship Salad.  I know it is a lot healthier than yummy chocolate cake.   Max Silver is serving as co-chair of the Social Action Circle, and great things are in the future.  May we all have a great Spring going forward.  Enjoy spring!

Respectfully yours,
Gary N Clark, Congregational President  


December 2016 

The UUCVH Board adopted a slightly revised Mission Statement at the November Board meeting.   It continues our efforts toward our own health, development of Religious Education, and enhancement of spiritual growth.  Rev. Gordon noted that a Mission Statement should be consistent with s strategic plan that goes along with it.  Our strategic plan is being developed and revised.  How do we translate this into specific actions, noting that we are a voluntary organization with many different individuals?  And of course, it includes continuation of our normal activities. 

November was a month of an election whose outcome was surprising to many people on the West Coast, but less so for people who reside in Eastern Idaho or West Texas.   I think the recommended approach is to keep our eyes on our objectives, and undertake or support actions which manifest those objectives and values.  Many of our Congregational objectives and goals are internal, yet some may be external (such as community outreach).   A step toward accomplishing our goals is to make them more specific and concrete.

Some recent trends, in the context of election results, evoke recollections of past similar constellations of similar trends and forces.   William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich comes to mind.  I think it is a good book, and it may seem more timely during this period.  And every period has its opportunities for creative engagement and response.  

Sociologists have a concept called “memorial space.”   Roughly, it is the common or community space allocated to memorials, statues, or monuments. Who owns it and how is it occupied?   And who decides?   So who do we memorialize in Two Strikes Park?  Should there be space for opponents of the Vietnam War, or people that went to Canada?   I was disappointed and displeased to see the County work to erase the name of Hindenburg Park from Hindenburg Park, as were many non-anti-Semitic local citizens who felt a shared ethnic and cultural heritage.   Should there be a plaque at Verdugo Hills Golf Course to note its role in Japanese internment during WW II?   Or anything else dealing with local “memorial space”?  Influencing or initiating allocations of community memorial space is one way UUs can manifest and communicate their principles locally.

At UUCVH, R.E is growing, under the leadership of Elizabeth and Rev Gordon, and the future looks bright.   Howard is doing well organizing children’s Christmas gifts.  I regret that I missed the most recent movie night, and look forward to the next one.   UUCVH will continue as a place of change and growth as we continue into the holiday season. 


Gary N Clark

Congregational President                                                                                      




An important election is occurring this month.   Democracy and elections are a timely topic this year.

Unitarian-Universalists support the principle of democracy, and elections are an important component of the democratic process.   In some places, this may be an issue.  Some tactics may seem to transparently favor or suppress one group or another.   Are the votes counted honestly?  There have certainly been instances of miscounting or additional magical votes since LBJ’s Senate election victory in 1948, when 20,000 votes magically appeared.  Fake ballots were in existence long before 1948, and they probably did not end in 2012.  Are there longer lines in some precincts rather than others, and is the distribution of long lines random?   The study of statistics, including clustered sampling, has advanced a lot in the past fifty years.   Many Unitarians have professional or other experience applying their analytical abilities.  Election results would be a good place to apply those abilities, and I believe UUs should support the scrutiny of election results.   Many think voting machines are great.  Others think that, just because they are electronic does not mean they cannot be altered.  Can electronic voting both 1)  be anonymous and 2) produce an audit trail?   Can a central processing unit be changed a couple of days before an election?  Do voting results seem to be close to predicted results in precincts that use voting machines, compared to precincts that count ballots optically, when statistically corrected for other factors?  Are there close ties between management of a firm that produces voting machines and one of the candidates, or their backers?

A new mission statement is in under consideration.  Rev Gordon noted that it is good for the vision statement and mission statement to be congruent – that is, to point us in the same general direction.  So I invite all to look at the proposed statement in Fellowship Hall. 

As we think about all of the things that are wrong with the world, this is traditionally a good month to think about all of the things that we can be grateful for. 



Gary N Clark

Congregation President



Our Minister is back from the summer, and we are officially into Fall.    As we began the new year and completed our first Fall Board meeting, I am grateful to all the volunteers who participate, which, at our church is practically everyone other than visitors.  I am personally thankful to the Board.  Paula, Celia, and Betsy also merit special recognition and thanks.  While the numbers still are not large, R/E has increased by large percentages, and it continues to grow under Elizabeth’s guidance.  

I recall a history of UUCVH that Deane Phinney presented a few years ago.  There were great people who played a role in the issues of the time (like the 1960s and forward).  Those issues have evolved, and so has technology.  There are many newer member here now, and more newcomers who may become future members. Perhaps our two most visible current efforts are Black Lives Matter and associated social justice concerns, and Ascensia.    We are not a large group.  I am wondering if the is some effort or process  that would leverage our capabilities to have a larger regional or national impact? Twitter and Google were started by smaller groups of individuals.  I think a moderate amount of knowledge about startups and spinoffs has been accumulated.   At the UU General Assembly two years ago there was a session on entrepreneurial efforts fostered by UU congregations.   We already use technologies to accomplish many of our tasks.  Google Calendar aids with Church communication among the congregation, for example.   What else could possibly exist? What would leverage our capabilities?   How would we combine leverage and focus?

The Annual UUCVH Board and Committee Retreat was recently held.  Our current state and direction was reviewed and discussed.  One of the topics discussed was our mission statement.  A proposed slightly revised version appears in Fellowship Hall. Please take a moment to note and consider it, and form a view on whether we should adopt the revision or modify it.  The mission statement forms a basis for our specific UUCVH vision(s). 

May you enjoy a wonderful Autumn. 

Respectfully yours,

Gary N. Clark



Aug. 2016



Gary Clark


August is the serious part of the La Crescenta summer, as the hot winds from the desert are more likely to flow over the mountains and down upon our gardens, yards, and homes.   August is the month that we could celebrate or note the Assumption of Mary, or Tisha B’Av, the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple of Jerusalem.  Many will go on vacation, and it is a challenging month to stay and work in your garden.  I think it would be a good time of year for Unitarians to read Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson.  I know that Unitarians have wide-ranging reading interests. 


As the fall season approaches, it may be a good time to think about the various ways that we currently reach out to the community.  We lost one of our leaders in the Social Action area, Jerry Buchanan, this past year.  Jerry provided much drive, inspiration, and motivation in this area.  This would be a good time to think about what we would like to do in the coming year. 


Ours services tend to be lay-led during August, while our called Minister, Rev Gordon, is back in New York.  Rev Gordon returns in September.  I wish all of us the best during the coming month.




Gary N. Clark

Congregation President


July - This month begins a new Church year for Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills, and it begins a term as President for me.   I believe that we will continue to evolve in a more meaningful way.  The UUCVH is comprised of a unique group of generally outstanding individuals,  I have often felt pleased, even somewhat proud, to be a part of it, and always intrigued and impressed by the variety of people here, and by what they have done in various aspects of their lives, by their life stories, and by what they have become.  When my wife (Vickie Guagliardo) first brought me here around 2002 or so, I felt at home, perhaps because there were so many other people here who had also traveled through the 1960s, and who shared that nascent idealism of the time, blended with the residual existential reaffirmations of America from World War II.   There are many who helped bring us here, and I have enjoyed knowing some of them. 

So we have a new full-time Minister, who I believe that we have gotten to know over the past year, and will now strongly move forward, leading us into this coming year when he returns in September.   In recent years, I have been grateful to have our membership stable, while I do not expect to convert the entire community to UUs, our membership is growing, and we will be doing new things.   There are many potential paths to have an impact in the community, and I believe we will have more of an impact on the broader community.  And, our Church will be a place that fosters the personal growth of its members.  

Have a good summer, and a good vacation,   some of the next few services will be in the round in Fellowship Hall.  I hope we see each other on Sunday mornings, and enjoy your thoughts and mountain climbing during the summer.  


 Gary N Clark


Ann Kleinsasser (2015-2016)

As my term as President draws to a close, I’m thinking back on a busy and meaningful year.  I thought I would share a few of the highlights that come to mind.      


Last September we welcomed Rev.Gordon and his lovely wife Lisa who have brought energy and good cheer to our congregation!  With their guidance, we are continuing and deepening our commitment to social justice.  We have enjoyed Rev. Gordon’s lively presence in the pulpit each Sunday.  And what a celebration we had as he was formally installed as our called minister!


Members of the congregation have connected and engaged in many discussion groups and adult RE throughout this past year—we may not have solved all the world’s problems yet, but the process has been enriching and thought provoking.


I am delighted that we have also welcomed seven new members this year. And it is wonderful to see our RE program thriving and growing. 


We celebrated Charlotte’s 100th birthday in December!  We treasure her cheerful presence in our congregation and it was wonderful to honor her on her special day. 


We suffered the loss of Jerry Buchanan in March.  His wit and deep commitment to making the world a better place will be remembered and greatly missed.  I was moved by the coming together of our congregation and Jerry’s friends and family to celebrate his life.


With regret (and no small amount of panic) we accepted Terresa’s resignation as Congregational Administrator.  She handled all church matters, large and small, with such capability and grace.  We were fortunate (and relieved) to find someone almost immediately who has experience as a UU congregational administrator!  Nancy Watkins filled in seamlessly, with orientation from Terresa, and has settled in comfortably.


I am looking forward to our Annual Meeting during Salad Luncheon this month.  In addition to our usual business, we will celebrate our 25th year as UUCVH with pictures and memories of all those who have helped create this beloved community! 


I thank each of you for your commitment to our congregation and look forward to our continued connections and work together! 


Caring Hands

Have you ever noticed the small stitch of red thread at the corner of the rectangular white table cloths used for special occasions in our Fellowship Hall?  They were carefully sewn on long ago by one of our members to distinguish these tablecloths from the square ones without having to unfold them.


Do you ever remark on the beautiful large stones in our succulent garden along the sidewalk on Dunsmore Ave.?  Have you noticed the nasturtiums that occasionally pop up amid the other plants there?  The stones were chosen from a quarry, and their delivery was arranged, by an artist in our midst.  And the flowers are descendants of seeds planted with a former minister and showered with water from our flower communion ceremony. 


Where have you seen these words: “service, peace, truth, help, reverence”?  This banner along with the tapestry depicting our garden area and our beautifully quilted UUCVH banner, all hanging in our sanctuary, were lovingly created by our members over the years.


Each Sunday morning we enjoy the beauty of the stained glass window in our sanctuary, donated in memory of one of our congregants.  We also enjoy the comfort of soft seat covers knitted or stitched by some of our talented members.  And when you open your hymnal you may see a name plate for someone who donated funds to purchase the hymnal.


So many hands have touched our church with love.  Signs of caring are all around us--books and toys donated to our classrooms, decorated walls, flower arrangements for Sunday services, paintings, holiday decorations…It is good to feel the legacy of all these caring people and to be in community with all of you.



Ann Kleinsasser

President of the Board of Trustees



April Outlook

President’s Column


          It has been nearly two years since Terresa Jones rescued us from a sudden vacancy in our church office.  Jumping in without even a job description, she has since created a Congressional Administrator position, with the added responsibilities of Bookkeeper, which she has filled with aplomb, efficiency and good cheer!  Terresa not only fulfills the duties of her job, but often takes initiative beyond her assignments to keep things running smoothly and beautifully.  I don’t think any of us can fully appreciate all of the “behind the scenes” details Terresa has attended to so graciously.  This year has been especially busy as she played a large part in helping Rev. Gordon and Lisa relocate to California, and facilitating all that was involved in our change from “contract” ministry to “settled” ministry.  So it was with much sadness that we accepted her resignation last month, and she will be truly missed!  We offer many thanks, hugs and good wishes!!  We do look forward to her continued presence as a treasured member of our congregation.


          I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the person who will be taking Terresa’s place.  We were fortunate to find Nancy Watkins, who was able to begin immediately after Terresa’s last day.  Nancy has worked as part-time Office Administrator for the past five years at Throop Church in Pasadena, and will continue in her position there while working part-time for us.  She has also worked as administrator and bookkeeper at a counseling center in Pasadena.  Nancy was born and raised in Pasadena and graduated from USC.  She has been married 26 years and has four children and a four-year-old granddaughter.  She was a stay-at-home mom until her children were in school and then scheduled her work while they were in school.  Her family enjoys outdoor activities and spends most of their free time outdoors.  She is very excited about beginning her journey with us--please welcome Nancy and introduce yourself if you happen to stop by when she is in the office.




What do you find at UUCVH?  Does it feed your soul?  Stimulate your mind?  Bring you peace?  Provide companionship?  Spiritual fulfillment?   The experience is different for each of us, but we all find meaning and inspiration here. 

Whether it is sitting in our beautiful sanctuary on Sunday mornings, rolling up your sleeves in a social action project, bringing gifts for children, donating food for those in need, meeting with others to find ways to make our world a better place, or simply helping with tasks around our church, I hope that your connections here bring you fulfillment. 

The beginning of a new year may be an opportune time to reflect on how we choose to spend our time.  In our increasingly complex and busy world, let’s seek to spend time on meaningful activities that bring us joy and inspiration.  Being and working with all of you brings joy to my life.  I look forward to our continued fellowship, and send best wishes for much happiness in the coming year!

Ann Kleinsasser

President of the Board of Trustees