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The Steeple
First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont
February 2015 Newsletter
Message from Martha
When I was in my late teens, one day my mom came home from the
grocery store excited about a new food product she’d discovered. I don’t
remember who or what put her onto it, but it was unlike anything we’d
ever had before. This stuff was called “tofu,” and with curiosity, mom
prepared some of it for my sisters and me to try as a snack. She cut the pale block into
cubes and fried it up in a pan with some oil.
“Bleh,” we flatly commented. The stuff had no flavor.
“I have an idea,” mom replied, eagerly pulling a package of bologna from the fridge. This
time, mom mixed the little cubes of tofu with diced bologna and then fried them up
together…. YUM! It was so tasty we had her make another batch. Thus I was introduced
to a new vegetarian protein.
Besides being utterly comical upon recollection, this story metaphorically illustrates the
way in which we can be inclined to hybridize intriguing beliefs or ideas we may encounter
from other traditions. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical
and spiritual lives is, after all, one of Unitarian Universalism’s sources. It’s natural to want
to blend what’s new with what’s familiar to us; indeed, that’s how religions grow and
change. A study of religious history reveals the influence of various beliefs and practices
on one another over the millennia and centuries. If we rush to try out the new with little
thought, however, we risk failing to grasp and respect its true essence. We risk cultural, or
religious misappropriation if we don’t take the time and care to fully learn the context and
meaning of other beliefs or practices. Ultimately, our spiritual venturing and creating must
be responsibly mindful and careful, so as to be authentic.
These days, I eat tofu on a pretty regular basis. Bologna, not so much. I like both, but each
has its own place and purpose in my culinary repertoire. And truthfully, no doubt there is
more I could learn about preparing tofu. My culinary heights in the tofu department are not
fully explored. But for now, what I do know about preparing it both matches my cooking
skills and suits my appetite. In other words, it works for me.
Inside this issue:
Seek and Inspire Theme
Input on April’s Theme
February Worship Services 3
Prayer Shawl Ministry
Rev. Mara J. Dowdall
Senior Minister
Martha Dallas
Religious Education
Christina Fulton
Director of Administration
Bob Furrer
Facilities Manager
Lisa Wolff
Music Director
Martha Dallas, Director of Religious Education
Chip Patullo
Board of Trustees
Seek and Inspire Theme: Creativity
If asked to imagine a typical “creative” person, many of us would call to mind someone who has made the arts a
centerpiece of their life. We might think of a musician, a painter, an actor, a writer, a weaver, a sculptor, a quilter, a chef,
or a dancer. In our UU community, many of us wear at least one of those hats, or perhaps we self-identify as “creative”
in some other way. One of our small group ministries is called “Creative Spirits,” and we are blessed to count among our
members a bounty of talented artists, whether by profession or avocation. We enjoy the fruits of our creative members’
efforts when we spend time in the upstairs art gallery, when we enjoy choral anthems, musical solos, and dramas during
Sunday services, when we explore the craft tables at the Holiday Bazaar, when we partake of an art project in RE class,
when we dine on an Auction feast, or when we admire an extraordinary floral arrangement in the Sanctuary.
This month, our spiritual theme of “creativity” invites us to celebrate the rich gifts that the most “creative” among us offer.
At the same time, this month invites all of us – whether you are a devoted artist or someone who has never felt very
“good at art” – to connect with our own internal “creative type.” We will consider “creativity” as a spiritual practice and
way of being that is open to all of us as humans, but which manifests uniquely in each of us. How do we create in the
course of our daily lives and in the midst of our relationships? How can we deepen and grow our capacity for creativity in
the face of life’s challenges, both our particular struggles and the common problems we grapple with in our
The connection between creativity and spirituality is ancient and seemingly universal. Many traditions and cultures have
some version of a creation story; in the realm of theistic religions, a key way of defining “God” is as “the Creator of the
universe.” The priest and activist Matthew Fox calls creativity “the longest standing habit of the universe.” And the late
theologian and Mennonite Gordon Kaufman, in his book “In the Beginning . . . Creativity,” suggests the creative process
is our best way of understanding “divinity.”
Our February worship services will engage the idea of creativity in a variety of ways. We’ll kick off the month by hearing
from an athlete, a visual artist, and a composer about the connection between spirituality and their respective
experiences with rugby, painting, and jazz music. The following week, as a worshipping community of all ages, we’ll
explore how it is we “create” sacred space. Rev. Mara’s sermon on the 15 th will consider the unlikely connection
between boredom and creativity, and the ways in which fallow spaces can encourage our creative thinking. Finally, we’ll
practice creating music together in a second annual hymn sing service. We look forward to exploring this abundant
theme with you in the month ahead! Rev. Mara
Seeking Your Input on upcoming “Seek and Theme”: Identity
We are now seeking resources and ideas to help us develop April’s “seek and inspire” theme of Identity.
- What is “identity”?
- What are your “identities”? How did you develop your own sense of identity? How has it shifted or changed through
- How does your own sense of “identity” align with or depart from how others see you?
- How would you describe your religious or spiritual “identity”?
We welcome quotes; personal experiences/reflections; stories from books, media, or mythology; poems; music; and/or
favorite hymns. If you send in a personal story, please indicate if it’s okay to attach your name when it’s shared. Please
send your submissions to [email protected] by the Third Monday of the month (February 17). If you are not
on email, you can drop of paper submissions to the church office.
Thank you in advance for your contributions to our shared worship ministry!
Our Mission:
“We gather to inspire spiritual growth, care for each other and our community,
seek truth, and act for justice.”
February Worship
*Upcoming sermon titles and service descriptions are also published in the weekly Enews Blast and
posted on the Society website, as they become available.
February 1, 9am & 11am - “The Spirituality of Art, Music and Sport”
Worship Leaders: Rev. Mara Dowdall, and Tom Cleary, Kristin Kany, and Katharine Montstream
Worship Associate: Kristin Kany
We will explore these various realms– art, music, and sport – with the help of renowned Vermont artist Katharine
Montstream; jazz musician, composer, and teacher Tom Cleary; and USA National Team and World Cup rugby
player Kristin Kany. (Rev. Mara will help lead the beginning of the service, then turn it over to Kristin, Tom, and
Katharine when she departs to spend the rest of the morning visiting RE classes.)
February 8, 9am & 11am - “Creating Sacred Space”
Worship Leader: Martha Dallas
Worship Associate: Stephen Rainville
Children’s Choir, 9am; Adult Choir, 11am.
Today’s worship will be multigenerational, with all ages present for the whole service. Together, we will reflect on what
imbues spaces with a sacred quality. We will also explore ways of creating sacred spaces of our own, to help us
cultivate grounding, meaning, and intention in our UU lives outside this meetinghouse.
February 15, 9am & 11am - “Bored to Create”
Worship Leader: Rev. Mara Dowdall
Worship Associate: Maeve McBride
Recent social science research suggests that being bored actually increases our creative capacity. If this is the case,
how does our contemporary culture, including our increasingly plugged-in world, shape (or impede) our ability to create
and be creative? Rev. Mara’s sermon will connect the rich questions that this science poses with ancient stories of
creation and spiritual practices around stillness and silence.
February 22, 9am & 11am - Hymn Sing
Worship Leaders: Stephen Rainville and Lisa Wolff
Worship Associate: Stephen Rainville
Adult Choir, 11am
Come ready to feed your soul and create music through singing together. Led by our fine First UU music staff, the
service will offer a rare chance to request beloved hymns and sing a wide variety of favorites. Is there a hymn you’ve
been hankering for? This is a chance to sing it.
Prayer Shawl Ministry
Several years ago I found myself at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I was choosing Homespun yarn for my next shawl; the colors are
beautiful and the yarn is soft. A woman appeared at my elbow, asking if I made 'prayer shawls'. Her husband had been
very ill the year before and she spent the many months before his death driving daily to the Medical Center. Each night,
she drove home alone, made tea and wrapped herself in a 'prayer shawl' that someone from her home
congregation had lovingly made. She and I were quietly wiping away the tears that honored both her struggle, and the
comfort of a soft, warm shawl - a tangible reminder of the loving hands and hearts of her congregation that lifted her up
in her hard times.
Our own Care Ministry 'shops' in our AV closet for shawls lovingly crafted by knitters/crocheters in this congregation (do
you see us knitting during the services?). Each gifted shawl could tell its own story of comfort and love.
We would love to have you join the cadre of knitters/crocheters who keep the shelves full in our Shawl Ministry section
of the AV closet.
For more information, contact Lynn Douglas [email protected]; for patterns, try
Blessed be, Lynn Douglas
First Unitarian Universalist Society
of Burlington, Vermont
152 Pearl Street
Burlington, Vermont 05401
Phone: 802-862-5630 ext. 21
Staff Transitions: Saying Goodbye to Kathleen Kemp
After more than a decade on our First UU Society staff, we say goodbye to Kathleen Kemp, whose last
day in the office was Tuesday, January 27. In addition to her current position as Administrative Assistant,
Kathleen previously served as our RE Assistant, starting out during Lisa Rubin’s tenure. Prior to joining
the professional staff, for many years, Kathleen was an active RE parent and contributed as a volunteer to
the Society in many other ways.
After much discernment, and as part of an overall look at our professional staffing configuration, we will
be embarking on a reorganization of our administrative staff in the next fiscal year, which begins in July.
As long-time members may be aware, the Society has been served by our current administrative
arrangement since the turn of the millennium. While some titles and hour allotments have shifted in those
fifteen years, the essential structure of job duties has remained largely the same. In that same period of time, however, our Society
has grown and developed, and our world has shifted, too, especially in the area of technology use and social media. In light of these
changes, and in order to minister most effectively in this next chapter of First UU’s life, we believe an office reorganization is
needed to realign our staffing with our mission, vision and dreams. To that end, we will be creating two new part-time
administrative positions—one focused on communications and IT, and another focused on welcoming and reception.
As part of this reorganization, the current position of Administrative Assistant will be ending at the close of this fiscal year. While
the restructuring is slated for next fiscal year, Kathleen has chosen to depart now so that she can begin her own new journey. We
wish her well as she leaves to explore new professional directions, and we express our deep appreciation for her many years of
dedicated service at First UU. Christina will have a basket in the office this Sunday to collect cards of thanks and appreciation for
Kathleen, should you wish to contribute one.
We look forward to sharing more with you about these new directions in administration, as well as related exciting plans for
growing our program staff, in the next few months, as we develop next year’s budget and embark on our annual stewardship
campaign. If you have any questions or want to discuss any of this further, please be in touch with Rev. Mara, our Senior Minister
and Chief of Staff ([email protected]), who along with Christina Fulton, our Director of Administration, has worked on these
staffing plans, in consultation with our Personnel Chair, Bill West, and the Board of Trustees.