This Path We Walk
– Rev. Jim VanderWeele, Interim Minister
No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.
After I returned from a General Assembly focused on “The Power of We,” it seemed fitting to consider the multitude of places where our “We” might be helpful. Within the first week after the Spokane General Assembly a call came out to hold a “Close the Camps” rally. The camps are holding people who have fled the difficulties in their homelands along the border, and there have been a number of recent stories about the separation of children from families, cramped quarters (cells holding ten times the recommended level), lack of medical support, illness, and the “less-than-of value” attitude toward those being held in captivity by the guards of the camps.
The detention of those seeking asylum is a major area of concern. In addition:
- Northlake recently connected with native efforts to save our Earth.
- Some of our members stepped forward to march in the Seattle Pride Parade.
- Others participated as Congregation Kol Ami carried the Torah from Woodinville to Kirkland.
- And, I was delighted to see the Northlake Contingent marching with Fostering Interfaith with Relations on the Eastside (FIRE) in the Kirkland 4th of July parade.
I also noticed that several Kirkland churches had white supremacist manifestos posted on their property during the past week. This is a deep concern for a liberal religious community. Our world includes those who favor divisiveness and hatred over the power of love. An ongoing support of one another, and careful attention to our response, will be needed as we continue to walk a path that will lead toward justice, equity, and compassion for all.
This is not a time when Unitarian Universalists can be pleased with their comforts. We are, once again, called to the power of love. Life, and the love of life, and the love for each other are most desperately needed right now.
During this coming month, where our theme is “story,” the July 21st lesson for life will feature a story for all filled with concern (perhaps even rage) about the blanket of injustice the surrounds us. This service will include a short dramatic presentation and Q&A following the service. You are invited, if possible, to attend the service and the post-service session on July 21st.
Together, we can make a difference. We can set out (and then pursue) a “world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.” May we be there, wholly there, as the force of Love here on this Earth continues in its effort to build a Beloved Community.
Notes from General Assembly 2019
– Margaret Rogers, DLRE
The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations held its General Assembly in Spokane in June 19-23rd. Several Northlakers went to Spokane for the Assembly–attending workshops, worship services, lectures, and meeting Unitarian Universalists from across the country. I went the day before the General Assembly began to attend a professional development workshop and meeting of LREDA, the Liberal Religious Educators Association.
Some of the highlights of the General Assembly programming are available on video. The UUA has a page listing all of the videos open to the public.
I personally recommend taking time to listen to the Ware Lecture, given this year by Richard Blanco. Blanco was selected by President Obama to be the fifth Inaugural poet. He is the author of the newly published book How to Love a Country. [Intro slides run to approximately minute 12, when Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray introduces and welcomes Richard Blanco. The lecture runs a little over an hour.]
I’d also like to recommend the Closing Ceremony, or at least the presentations of the Award for Distinguished Service to Unitarian Universalism to Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed and the Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education, presented to CB Beal. CB Beal will be offering our congregation and Woodinville UU a workshop on Preemptive Radical Inclusion Saturday, September 7th. Mark your calendars and save the date!
Another highlight of the General Assembly programming was the Theme Program & Conversations II: The Heart of our Faith. In this second conversation, we are presented with three questions:
- When is a time that you felt “the power of we” in Unitarian Universalism?
- What is so important in Unitarian Universalism that you would be willing to sacrifice for it?
- What will it take for Unitarian Universalism to fully embody “the power of we?
This fall Northlake will offer a workshop to address these questions within our congregation. The video introducing the conversation is here. The video is worth watching more than once—the answers to these questions are moving and powerful testimony to what we can aspire to be and do together.
Northlake’s Theme for July: Story
– Margaret Rogers, DLRE
“Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”
― Neil Gaiman
Our Soul Matters theme for July is Story. From the wisdom stories that we tell in our classrooms and our worship services, to the personal and community stories that we tell to create and re-create an understanding of who we are, we know that stories are an integral part of our identity and learning. In the General Assembly Exhibit Hall in Spokane, I stumbled upon a poster session with Erin Popelka of Must Read Fiction. She posed the question, “What novel helped you understand the experiences of someone very different from you?” I thought of Neil Gaiman’s quote about empathy, and read through the many books that people had written on the poster, offering a glimpse of the stories, experiences, and feelings of people across time, cultures, and identities.
Earlier this year, our Seekers (middle and high school youth) class explored the question of what books they would recommend to our congregation. In this month when we explore Story together, I offer you a sample of titles with a paraphrased description from the recommenders. For more titles, please come down to Adams Hall to see our Recommendations board from our youth, which we are developing throughout the month of July.
Refugee, by Alan Gratz. Refugee was a Battle of the Books book for middle school youth this year. It is the story of three youth, set in three different eras, with a common theme—the need to escape from violence and unrest in their homeland to find refuge in a new country.
Cherub, by Robert Muchamore. Cherub is an interesting book, and though it does contain violence and near-death encounters (it’s a spy novel for teens), it shows that teens can accomplish a lot. There are currently 18 books in the series.
Harry Potter by JK Rowling. The Harry Potter series was recommended by several youth. It is about a boy who leaves an average world and goes into a magical one. Through the series, so many issues come up—how people react when faced with evil, what bravery looks like, and how our perceptions of one another change if we are open to new information. Note from Margaret: There’s also a great podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text that is interesting to follow if you are re-reading the series.
Upcoming Sunday Services
July 14, 2019
“Who Are Our Friends? Our Companions?” Rev. Jim shares a story of a night when the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process were challenged, suborned, and beaten back—and he was there to see it happen. Shocked! Surprised! Forever changed! The values that UUs cherish are still scorned by many, which makes the support of these values a critical step for all of us.
July 21, 2019
“Improvising: Setting a New Course for Life.” Justice, Equity, and Compassion offer the opportunity for growth and change. Looking back at this brief chapter at Northlake, Rev. Jim is reminded of the journey of life: to live, reflect, learn, and point forward, always doing the best you can do. Join in for a reflection on setting a new course for life here in this changing time.
July 28, 2019
“Engaging: Charting Our Hopes for a Better Life.” We welcome Aly Sharp, the program manager for Commit2Respond, to the Northlake pulpit. She will help us chart a course to direct this Beloved Community toward a better world (including the continuation of human life on this planet) for ourselves and for those around us.
August 4, 2019
“Singing Our Way Through: Practices for Transformational Loving.” “We sang our way through how difficult this is.” -Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley, Willow Tree Flowers, It Is Time Now. Join in worship that celebrates and practices our ability to love beyond our known skill for loving, to co-create that which has not yet become. Together let us live into the promise of collective liberation.
Join Us at the Labor Day Campout
– Cyndy J.
Northlake has been camping out together on Labor Day weekend for a long, long time. I fondly remember my first campout with Northlake that Judith S. organized in 2002 when we first moved here. Sitting around the campfire swapping stories, I learned a lot about the people I would soon call my church family. In later years there’s been singing and guitar playing. We sometimes have a Northlake flag to retire, which we do with a solemn ceremony.
One of our traditions is to have a Saturday dinner potluck with a Tex-Mex theme: the battle of the guacamole, or the salsa, or the fajitas. Lots of great food and fun! If you can only come over the Dosewallips for the day, make sure to stay for the dinner.
This year’s campout will be at one our favorite spots. I’ve reserved the Riverside group site at Dosewallips State Park. And no kidding, the river is right there although it is typically only a few inches deep. One year several youth found a leaky row boat in the woods a bit upstream of the campsite. They got some duct tape at the local camp store and mostly fixed the leaks, then “took ‘er down the river” with sticks to pole along and hands to paddle when it got deeper. They beached the boat at the Hood Canal and walked back to camp—a story they’ll long remember. Another year, several of us took a tour of the nearby cideries. Yum! There’s a great gravel bank to play out fantasies, there are trails to walk, there’s biking within the park, plus there’s nearby hiking in Olympic National Park.
There is no agenda except dinner on Saturday and hanging out, kids playing, reading. Some really good conversations get going sometimes. Time to chill!
Hope you can join us. I’ll help with advice and perhaps some equipment lending, as needed!
During this past month:
It was super, absolutely wonderful, to welcome Congregation Kol Ami to Northlake UU. Our sanctuary was filled with a buzz of excitement at the Welcoming Celebration on Saturday night. In my view, their move to Kirkland will be good for Congregation Kol Ami, good for Northlake UU, and good for Kirkland. State Representative Roger Goodman, Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet, and Kirkland Councilperson Toby Nixon shared words of welcome to Congregation Kol Ami.
Anne R. has completed her book sale. She recognized that her sales were not up to her expectations (and thanked me for pointing that out beforehand). I note that she did reduce the size of her library and was able to share several of her books with Northlake members. I even bought a few myself.
I attended three of the four Tokitae Totem Pole stops in Washington, learning much about the Lummi (and other native Washington tribe’s) concerns for the environment. Some of this information has been passed along to Northlake in newsletter articles and other tidbits were shared in the June 30 service. In addition, an Arizona jury decided that Scott Warren was not guilty of the charges brought against him. Yea!!!
We completed discussions about Ijeoma Oluo’s “So you want to talk about race,” a great preparation for events at the General Assembly.
One of the big surprises at GA was a three-essay text written and shared by the Rev. Todd Eckhoff, minister of the UU congregation in Spokane. This book slams the UUA, sides with a white, male mindset (those he feels are uncomfortable), and asks for a divorce from our association. Margaret was aware of this text early, brought it to me, and offered me as a participant with the Right Relations team as they discussed this volume with the author. My role was, as it is, to be terribly hurt by Eckhoff’s accusations, in part because they ignore the systemic oppression of people of color and the G, L, B, T, Q community in America and also due to the significant efforts at normalizing racial equity I witnessed in New Orleans prior to my arrival in Washington. Most grateful to Margaret for being there, sizing up the situation, and knowing that I might be an appropriate older, white male who disagreed sharply with the views shared by Eckhoff. (I note that this minister has already withdrawn from the UU Minister’s Association and was unwilling to enter into further discussions with representatives from the UUA.)
It was great to see so many Northlake members at the General Assembly. We had Margaret R. Minette L., Robin B., Cathleen B., Dave T., Lauren S., Melissa A., Carolyn H., Steve R., Judith S. and Janet and Art K. at GA. (I hope I did not miss anyone.) All attended workshops and, I do believe, have brought home some useful information that will be available at Northlake in upcoming months.
When Aly Tharp, Programs Coordinator for the UU Ministry for the Earth, said she would be in Seattle in late July I asked her to lead a service. Aly has been in the area recently (in part for the Tokitae Totem Pole Journey). Margaret, France, and I recently saw her at Woodinville. Aly is the chief voice of our faith on climate justice, a message required for all UUs at this time.
I continue to work with the music team, human relations team, search team, and Rev. Nancy as we step toward the upcoming transformation at Northlake. I truly appreciate the words of thanks I have received from many of Northlake’s members. I am preparing to step aside as gracefully as I can to let a new approach, with new leadership, commence at Northlake. And, I wish you well; for years to come, wish you well.
If it is okay with the Board, I would like to draw 2 or 3 days of vacation after August 12 (not having used my time during this time), closing my service to you with the service on the 12th. (That said, there may be some items I still have to remove from the church from the 13th to the 15th.) I am still willing to assist, if needed, in any transitional matter that could use my support, involvement, etc. up until the 15th but know that Rev. Nancy is already in town, and I suspect she would love to get started as soon as she can.
– Rev. Jim VanderWeele
DIRECTOR OF LIFESPAN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION REPORT
RE Attendance numbers general trends:
We are seeing numbers for children and youth in the 20s since “summer schedule” began. We have a few new families visiting (averaging one every two weeks) and some of those families showing up with consistency over the spring-summer period.
Summary of Activities:
- Continued support of Adult RE covenant group.
- Attended monthly professional development meeting (LREDA); and PNWD LREDA monthly board meetings.
- Monthly update of bulletin board for Soul Matters Family Resource Packet “Soulful Home”
- Prepared Resource Packet for Soul Matters Small Groups and facilitated monthly meeting.
- Continued work with Rentals team and Sandy N. regarding space sharing options with Congregation Kol Ami; with Mary Ellen O.’s help we have cleared out Mabel Bennett Room for Kol Ami to bring in furniture (for future shared space for small groups/classes) and we cleared out 2 sections of storage space in the Utility Room for Kol Ami exclusive usage.
- Supported Rev. Jim’s ARE course on “So You Want to Talk About Race.”
- Organized and led Multigenerational Flower Communion June 9th.
- Worked with Rev. Jim and Sandy on recognition of all volunteers for Volunteer Recognition Sunday, creating a small token of our community’s appreciation.
- Attended LREDA Professional Day and General Assembly in Spokane.
Time for All Ages and services:
June 2 – Volunteer Appreciation ceremony
June 9 – History of the Flower Ceremony
June 16 – “Celebrating the Summer Solstice” excerpts from Wendy Pfeffer’s book June 23 – GA service, broadcast from Spokane
June 30 – “The Everything Seed” by Carole Martignacco
June is a time of great professional development opportunities (alongside our local PNWD LREDA summer workshop and retreat, and the LREDA Fall Con in November). Northlake’s budget reflects our commitment to ongoing professional development for staff, which I greatly appreciate. I’d like to share some of the learning that I engaged in during the Spokane Professional Day for LREDA, as well as General Assembly workshops.
This year’s LREDA (Liberal Religious Educator’s Association) Professional Day before General Assembly was presented by Mark Hicks and Joy Berry of the Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard. Joy Berry shared the following graphic about faith formation:
Berry has written about faith formation here:
I found this part most interesting:
Wrought is an old word that means worked. I [Berry] use it because it rhymes with the common shorthand versions for Fowler’s stages. But also because wrought is a good old word: it describes something strong but flexible, able to be forged, changed, and strengthened, through active work. It’s resilient and malleable: it’s meant to be shaped with tools, by human hands. Its final form is determined by how it is worked.
I appreciate the idea that part of our faith formation focus needs to be that we develop faith in community, not strictly as individuals. And, that our faith formation has the potential to create a resilience, strength, and flexibility that allows us to more deeply live our values together.
Our General Assembly also had excellent content. I am writing an article for the Northlake Lighthouse to highlight some offerings that are available via online video, and will be creating an Adult Religious Education offering using some of the content for discussion.
In addition, I brought back a few books from the UU bookstore to share with the congregation. The first is Spilling the Light, a book of meditations by Rev. Theresa Soto, and the updated edition of the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, edited by Susan Frederick-Gray. These will both be in the lending library in Adams Hall shortly.
– Margaret R.
MUSIC TEAM REPORT
The choir ended the year strong with an all music service to which we received a lot of really good feedback. We also enjoyed celebrating our friendships with our annual end of season party.
The music team has been working on fine tuning the music program at Northlake to appeal to the most congregants. To that end a survey was sent out. We received over 50 responses which gave good feedback on what was working well and what improvements would be the most helpful. Overall the congregation quite enjoys having the choir perform.
During the summer several small groups have been organized to keep music as a part of our worship while the choir is on hiatus.
– Cathleen B., Music Team Leader
PS I loved seeing “our cash position continues to be robust” in Wess’ report.
HUMAN RESOURCES TEAM
The HR Team had a productive month as we review policies and prepare for change-over in several staff positions. The major tasks that we’ve made progress on include:
- Employee handbook policy review and update
- Onboarding new minister – relocation expenses and insurance choices
- Job description update for the office administrator position
- Advertisement posting and screening potential candidates for office administrator
We have much to accomplish in July including interviewing and onboarding a new office administrator.
– Mary Ellen O.
The Membership Team is on summer break, preparing for starting up with classes and onboarding members in the fall. The mentorship program has been tabled until after Rev. Nancy gets established, as recommended by Rev. Jim.
We would like to nominate Earle C. for membership. He is a long time UU, a friend of the Jessops, and is the quiet attendee with the adorable dog. Please approve his membership.
– Cyndy J.
- The contract with Kol Ami has been signed and they are now with us full-time
- We are looking forward to contributing to the administrator job description
- After 4 years as rental chair I’m handing the reins to Dave T. (thanks, Dave!)
- Next meeting is Tuesday, July 9 at 2:00pm
– Peter D.
The worship team is focused on business as usual: making sure the pulpit is filled each Sunday and that we have enough volunteers to support our speakers. We’ll also be thinking ahead to how the worship team supports the transition plan, including giving Rev. Jim a warm send-off and welcoming Rev. Nancy.
– Chelsea W.
We have scheduled a cider-tasting event and cidery tour from 2:00-4:00pm on Saturday, Sept 7, in Woodinville. More details later. Our regular 4th Monday meetings from 6:30 to 8:30pm begin in September.
– Carolyn H.
Burgess hosted the June 8 outing, and, despite our original site closing for the weekend and needing to announce a new location on short notice, we had respectable attendance and a lovely time at the park. We thank Burgess for her service to the team.
July will feature a party celebrating Rev. Jim and Shirley (organized by Mary Ellen and members of the Worship Team) as well as the annual Summer Fest.
In August look for a hosted fUUn event as well as a final send-off for Rev. Jim after his last service and a welcome for Rev. Nancy.
Thank you to the committees who continue to make coffee hour a success, as well as the Activities volunteers who have been assisting Robin with oversight duties.