I’m back! And it is good to be here. I missed you.
Before I begin to tell you of my adventures with UUA and UUMA conferences, let’s get an update on the Mid-Year Congregational Meeting. Lots of updates and information were shared to keep everyone informed. And, two items were up for vote and both passed. We can proceed with the non-profit status application and YEAH!, we strongly endorsed Kelli McNeal by voting to ordain her. Congratulations to Kelli and everyone!
The general message of the meeting was that the church, our church, is in good shape coming out of the pandemic. That said, we are being careful to not take things for granted but we are also very excited about coming back and re-building on the best of what we are together. We are coming back strong. Together.
And now for what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks. Not wanting to take two separate trips by plane so close together when the pandemic is still out there, I took a much needed break and drove first to San Diego and then over to Phoenix. I love to drive and chose to avoid snow-covered mountains and took the southern route. On the way, I stopped in Maysfield, KY where the tornados touched down, obliterating wide parts of the city. I drove block after block of total destruction with wrecking crews piling homes, businesses, cars, trees, and more into huge debris piles. I spoke with a few people who were still on the verge of tears weeks later. I got gas at a convenience store on the edge of the chaos. The cashier was barely holding it together. I gave her extra money and asked her to cover chicken dinners (they specialized in this) or gas for anyone who needs it.
Next I drove toward Texas and from El Paso to California, I drove as close to the border as possible. The wall is forever present. Rural poverty is inescapable. Border patrol is thick, punctuated by homemade militia watch towers looming from the beds of pick-up trucks. I have no idea how people cross the border and survive in the vast desert.
San Diego itself was lovely. And the conference was well-attended by colleagues, both virtually and on-site. I learned a lot! Over the next weeks and months, I will invite us to experiment with a few things and will work with staff and everyone to imagine new ways we can be together.
In the days between San Diego and Phoenix, I visited the zoo (amazing!), dipped my toes in the Pacific, and did some work. I knew the meeting in Phoenix would be overshadowed by the tragic death of Rev. Jeanne Pupke a few days earlier. A much beloved colleague, Rev. Jeanne was a strong leader who balanced fierce spirit and dedication with empathy, generosity, and love. One of the programs we will be starting soon is Living the Pledge, which Rev. Jeanne’s Richmond congregation helped fine-tune and lead. (Side note: Kelli did her internship with Rev. Jeanne.)
The group that gathered in Phoenix was SMOLUUC – gotta love those acronyms! The Sr. Ministers of Large UU Churches have met every year since its founding in 1981 when First UU minister Carl Whittier helped convene the group in Baltimore. It has been a strong presence ever since. At that meeting too, I learned and brought home ideas. Fair warning! 🙂
Even though I was far away, Ohio was with me. In San Diego I parked behind a car whose crimson red license plate frame read “Proud OSU Alumni”. At another stop, as I was purchasing a pass at the Petrified Forest National Park, the ranger looked at my driver’s license and asked, “Is Young’s Dairy still in business?” Wow. It’s a small world.
I look forward to sharing pictures (a few are below), stories, and ideas as we begin to come back together.
See you Sunday!
🙂 Rev. Marian