Please click on the name tabs below for personal statements about giving.
- Judy and Marky
- Diana Forrest
- Beth & Bridget Lemur
- Illya Kowalchuk
- Wayne & Chris
My point here is that in a faith community like this Fellowship, giving and receiving are not separate; you know that it’s a boon to feel that you’ve done something that was needed or that enhanced living or sustained hope even the tiniest bit. Remember how you put it as a kid: “Please, Mom, can I help? Please, can I?!” Think about it: Are you giving or getting when you put in some time and effort at choir practice, when you work together with others to beautify our surroundings or protest an injustice, when you make coffee or something for a potluck?
Here—in this community—I find that as we help the Fellowship grow and change and thrive, I grow and change and thrive in ways not even conceivable if I were living simply to take care of number one.
Marky: One especially vivid instance of our experience of community occurred this winter when we both participated in an Adult Religious Education course based on the book, A House for Hope, co-authored by Rebecca Parker and John Buehrens. (And thanks to Julie Dufford for providing us with this opportunity.)
Our class experience sparked a number of “awakenings,” but the most important of these was gaining a greater appreciation of belonging to a spiritual or religious community and the many ways community can nurture the spirit.
As it happened, our class was a microcosm of our larger spiritual community, where we are called to be our best selves and to see the best in others. Thus, we were able to give each other space and safety to explore and clarify our diverse spiritual beliefs. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance and rarity of this kind of opportunity. To create such a space, it takes open-minded people committed to careful listening and to honest, thoughtful, and caring responses. We are grateful that our BVUUF community can create these very important “safe spaces” for spiritual reflection and growth.
In our class, we were also reminded of the importance of religious institutions in “speaking truth to power.” Most of us have a strong moral sense and a desire to do “the right thing.” But finding a way to make our single voices heard is a challenge. It is so much better to be in community, where we can support one another, divide the labor, pool our energies and resources, speak with a more effective voice, and sustain our hope—especially when things are looking bleak.
Thus, we’re grateful that we both have some time, energy, and treasure to give to the needs of the Fellowship, and we’re happy that each of us can increase our pledge this year by almost 14%.
Judy: I’m particularly glad I can up my pledge by more than 10% because of a new law that allows me to avoid income tax on a required distribution from my IRAs if I send it as a charitable contribution directly to the Fellowship. That is, all those dollars I’d have had to send to the IRS I can now add to painlessly to my BVUUF pledge. I’ll be glad to share what information I have if some of you seniors haven’t heard about this.
I give because this is the place and you are the ones.
This is the place I come to meet my friends.
You are the ones whose company provides me with shared meals, laughter and fun activities.
This is the place I learn how to be a better person.
You are the ones whose spiritual guidance and generosity shows me the way.
This is the place I come to live my values.
You are the ones who provide the service projects, discussions and actions that support our seven principles.
This is the place I am able to give to others through leadership, committee work, and joining the web of care.
You are the ones who give me the opportunity.
This is the place where my daughter’s memorial service was celebrated.
You are the ones who comforted me.
This place is a home. You are family.
As parents of 4 children, we continue to be impressed with the types of things our children are exposed to via the RE program. Everything from the O.W.L. program to summer camp to coming of age has had a positive effect on our children, and the way they perceive the world. I love that there are people we respect willing to mentor our children and teens. Through this fellowship, we’ve connected with people who have inspired us and encouraged us in our parenting journey.
Secondly, I continue to be impressed with what this fellowship accomplishes on its relatively small budget. A couple of years ago, I was asked to engage in some work with the budget committee. My professional work is with the City of Boulder, as a financial manager. I viewed this request with a certain amount of angst, since finances are typically a stressful matter. Accustomed to managing a multi-million dollar budget, I was astounded to discover what a modest amount the fellowship operated on.
Despite the shift in the economy requiring all of us to tighten our belts, our family has continued to increase our pledge by a modest amount every year; for example this year by $10 per month to bring us to Supporter level. It’s not much, but we have absolute confidence that any money we are able to give will be invested strategically in the things that matter the most to the fellowship, and its members. The change in the economy has forced all of us to find ways to do more with less. That same shift has affected the fellowship. But we believe the challenge has been met with an impressive amount of determination and creativity.
We find this fellowship to be an inspiration to living simply, and investing in the things that matter most.
Greetings, my name is Illya Kowalchuk and I’ve been asked to tell you why my family gives its’ fair share.
Each week, it is amazingly difficult for me to pay attention to our speakers for an entire hour. And I will confess – there have been times when I’ve sat up here as a worship associate, and my mind wanders off to faraway lands until I snap it back to the present. It’s just the way my mind works. I hear something that reminds me of a wonderful day at the beach and then I’m just gone… Some of you may have noticed that I like to draw in a sketchbook during services. I have found that I am able to attend to all the speakers if I busy my hands by drawing my interpretations of the speaker’s words.
I tell you this for two reasons. First, I don’t have to feel guilty about a wandering mind or drawing during services, because I know that whenever and however I come, I am accepted here. Perhaps your mind never wanders, or perhaps it does. Perhaps you listen to sermons and always agree; perhaps you are listening right now, and think I’m as loony as a vegetarian vampire. No matter what, you are accepted here.
Secondly, in preparation for writing these words, I flipped back through my book and noticed that there are quite a few trees in my sketchbook. I do so love this metaphor: our fellowship as a tree. I see our community tree built upon roots of diversity. Diverse religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, gender identity and sexual orientation, economic situations, and age. These roots all start in their own place, but ultimately weave together to create the great trunk, our congregational power and vision, which then throws its leaf-covered branches of social activism up into the universe, both gorging on the warm light of the sun and returning life-giving oxygen.
So my wife and I give our fair share because we know that not just our family, but all families that come here will be treated with inherent worth and dignity rooted in a respect for, and service to, the interdependent web of all existence.
Click on the sections below for each of their stories.
I won’t dwell on how much we give, but for some years, we have given over 5% of our income to the Fellowship and over 5% to other charities.
The real question is not, why do we give, but why do we belong.
Could it just be habit? I was raised UU. I’ve been UU around 50 years. We have been members of this particular Fellowship for over 22 years.
But habit isn’t enough. For 15 years, after leaving home for college, I was content to stay home on Sundays and read the New York Times.
What brought me back was the feeling that the UU RE that I had had was so important that I had to have it for my kids.
Now, my kids are grown, and done with RE. The youngest left home for college 8 years ago. So why do I keep coming?
The conventional answer is Community, but that requires some explanation. If you know me, you know I’m not all that social.
Left to myself, I’d be home, reading the Sunday New York Times, or maybe out running, training for my next marathon.
What the Fellowship gives me is opportunities to give back, much more than I could ever take advantage of.
Like helping at the Homeless Shelter, like teaching RE.
Another example. You may not know that I was the first, and for years the only, male in the Fellowship trained to teach the OWL human sexuality classes. I taught the junior high curriculum twice and the elementary curriculum twice.
Believe me, it didnâ€™t come naturally, and it wasn’t easy, especially with the junior high school kids.
But it had its rewards. In public, the kids would complain that they were only coming because their parents were making them. But I found out that, secretly, they actually looked forward to it. Doing something for a junior high school kid and feeling appreciated. Thatâ€™s quite a reward.
So I continue to belong because the Fellowship brings me back, to community, in spite of myself.
After my parents moved to California 40 years ago, they never joined another religious community. I wish they had. I think they missed out on a lot. Now my father is dying. He entered hospice care a week ago. If a minister presides over his funeral, he or she will be a stranger, who never knew him when his body and mind were well. And that makes me sad.
So, to conclude, you all have your reasons for belonging, or you wouldn’t be here, and if you belong, you should give. Thank you.
Where else in Boulder is it possible to find a group of people whose lives are a testament to these goals? I began to think about the incredible people from this fellowship and the lives that they shared with my children. Unfortunately many of them are no longer alive. Larry Senesh shared with them his personal experiences of the Holocaust and his escape from Hungary and his lifelong commitment to peace and to education. Frank Abbott who was the brainchild behind the Auraria Campus and WICHE (Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education) allowing students from the western states to cross state lines in certain disciplines not offered in their states with in-state tuition, and who as a white male created a powerful national program to promote students of color in the professoriate for higher education which I relied upon in my role as Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity. Lois Abbott, now retired as faculty in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology mentored my daughter Michelle in molecular biology when she was a high school student and she is now completing her dissertation in the area of biophysics with an emphasis in viruses and immunology. She wants to determine how virus attack and enter healthy cells and learn how to prevent that from happening. Nicole had Marlies West as the Gifted and Talented coordinator at University Hill where both her son and daughter taught, as did Mariane Balassa’s daughter. Nicole is an international correspondent and has written a book about the impact of AIDS on women and children in sub-Saharan Africa, No Place Left to Bury the Dead. She learned from Dorothy Rupert, a Unitarian and interned with her.
I give these examples because my children not only learned about Unitarians and their lives in RE, Thomas Jefferson, Susan B Anthony, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Emerson and Thoreau, but they learned it by interacting with the heroes they met and interacted with through this fellowship: the Nachmans, the Smiths, the Sidles, the Stepaneks, the Winstons, the Maldes, the Colwells, the Nichols, the Bulthaups; the list is endless. My daughter Nicole is contemplating a job offer but is conflicted because she’s not sure that in this job, she can have the impact she has had in fighting for social issues, such as the plight of immigrants throughout Europe, AIDS, racial discrimination and other issues about which she is extremely passionate. There is no monetary value for the contributions and influence that members of this fellowship have had on the lives of my children. We can never repay the benefits we have reaped and we hope that future generations of children and adults continue to be profoundly influenced by the incredible lives and people in this fellowship.