Our Stories: Jeff Van Cleve & Janine Reed
by Irene Faivre
I think of members Janine Reed and Jeff Van Cleve as the Fellowship’s Star Couple — not because they are flashy or famous, but because they both love sky gazing. You may know them from their auctioned Planet Parties where Jeff talks about planets seen through his telescope, and Janine talks about the astrology of those planets.
Jeff and Janine met in 2009, in their 50s, in Mountain View, CA, where they lived in the same apartment complex. Janine was a psychotherapist in training, and Jeff was an astronomer at NASA. They met as Janine was walking her dog across a bridge. Jeff greeted her on the other side, asking the usual get-to-know you questions. When Janine asked “What do you do for a living?” Jeff responded, “I look for earth-sized planets around other stars.” Wow! Janine wondered what this astronomer would think of her astrological interests. When she eventually asked, he noted that the first astronomers were astrologers, and that he himself finds astrology intriguing. This began a dialogue that continues to this day.
Janine and Jeff joined Boulder Valley UU Fellowship when they moved to Longmont in fall of 2016. Both had been UU members in CA. Janine, formerly Catholic, discovered Unitarian Universalism in1996 when she was looking for a religious foundation for her daughter. Over years of career moves, she joined 5 different congregations, singing in choirs and serving on committees and Boards.
Jeff grew up attending Catholic schools and later studied Zen Buddhism, but he hadn’t joined a church until he met Janine. They had been churchless together for about a year when they heard independently from work colleagues that the Sunnyvale UU had interesting speakers and a congregation of free thinkers. They joined, and as new members, contributed in varous ways–Janine as a worship associate and as a Delegate to GA, Jeff as a lay speaker, and both as Pledge drive stewards and as teachers in Lifespan RE. After Janine reflected about meditation at a service, congregants expressed an interest in learning more. This led to Janine teaching a meditation class through Lifespan RE, and then leading a weekly meditation group for several years. Together, Jeff and Janine started a Social Action book group that intersected with social action initiatives at the church and offered “Star Parties” through the service auction. They have continued their involvement at BVUUF by hosting a LUUP meditation group in their home in Longmont, being stewards, and by offering Planet Parties through the auction.
Jeff especially appreciates the non-credal nature of Unitarian Universalism. He noted that instead of “political creeds that require unthinking acceptance,” society should embrace “freedom from religious creeds.” He is interested in the early history of the UU movement, noting that instead of a religion that was “revealed” to someone by some “all-powerful deity,” UU has evolved over time. Of course, this evolution has led to missteps along the way; Janine noting in particular the flawed history of UU with African Americans and our need to recognize this fallibility and make sincere efforts to learn and change.
As we closed our interview, the conversation circled back to the couple’s complementary views of the stars. I asked Janine how serious she is about astrology, and she responded that she introduces it into therapy to help clients see their issues from a larger perspective. “In the astrology that I practice, there are no bad planets–it’s all part of who you are. Astrology is not predictive, it’s about working with the energies that come into one’s life… Incorporating astrology can help clients know their unconscious selves, heal their wounds, and fulfill their purpose as human beings.” I asked Jeff how serious he is about his efforts to invent an “extraterrestrial astrology” based on how the motion of the planets would affect, say, a colony on Mars. He replied that the mathematics are fun and intriguing for an astronomer with an open mind. Inspired by a book that showed Neil Armstrong’s horoscope at the moment he stepped on the moon, Jeff says, “I thought, Wow! The earth is a planet in the sky, and as seen from another planet, has a meaning that is awaiting