The Prairie State
After a long journey getting 2017 rolling (and traveling to New York in March only to miss services to care for Austin during his unfortunate flu-ridden weekend), I was able to take a quick mid-week drive up to Chicago, Illinois. Having been stationed at Naval Air Station Glenview in the mid-1980s, it was a look back at my past while making an honest inquiry into my future attending seminary.
I was visiting Meadville Lombard Theological School for their 25 Hours @ Meadville Lombard – Prospective Student Conference. The conference included time with current seminarians, staff, faculty, and the school president, while also enjoying the company of other prospective students from around the country.
Highlights of my visit:
Architecture: Just the modern Spertus Building itself is a reason to tour. With the views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, one tucks themselves among the stacks of historical leather-bound books in the Wiggin Library.
Fahs Collaborative: The Fahs Collaborative is a “laboratory that brings people together to explore and create innovative ways to deepen faith through educational encounters” (a Meadville Lombard program).
Vespers: Wednesday evening service on “Covenant,” prepared and led by Meadville Lombard seminarians attending spring intensives.
President’s Dinner: Excerpt viewing of the film, “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War,” followed by open discussion with President Lee Barker, Provost Dr. Sharon Welch, and Historian/Meadville Lombard Archivist John Leeker.
Lecture: As prospective students, we were warmly welcomed into Dr. Mike Hogue’s class, “Cosmos & Ethos – Climate Justice & Theology,” joining in discussion and group thought on questions about systematic and constructive theology.
Congress Hotel: Although the weather wasn’t cooperating on the rainy Wednesday, the stay at the Congress Hotel, with direct views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, were nonetheless amazing and inviting.
But, with all the glamour and intellect, it was the spirit of the people that brought kinship to us all in our endevour to learn about becoming Unitarian Universalist leaders through lay leadership and ministry. Atherton, a shared space with a view, brought safety, warmth, and the belonging feeling that one relishes in a place of acceptance and diversity.
— Special thanks to Jim Proctor, Officer of Recruitment, for the relentless planning and warm welcome, and to Seminarian Jon Coffee, Meadville Lombard Regional Coordinator & Interim Chaplain of Pastoral Care at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee. Jon was the first to greet us and the last to hug us as we left on our separate ways.
Still with the goal of seminary swishing around in my thoughts, I decided to take some graduate courses in literature. With my bachelor’s degree in English, I chose a liberal studies program focusing on gender, religion and social issues, while also working to improve my writing skills.
Needing to write about an epiphany in my life, I was facing a deadline and had settled on something plain-Jane to get the job done. But when I began writing, the story was not so plain at all.
What fell onto the page was my early steps to finding my own religion, or even so, finding Unitarian Universalism.
From my early years as a veritable latchkey kid, spending more time tromping between school and (insert name of the latest-independent-fundamental-Baptist-church here) than I did getting my ass home.
It all spilled out, bouts of brimstone by greased old men in cheap suits, missed Sunday evenings with Mickey and The Wonderful World of Disney, and years of over-involvement, prayers for heathens, and groups of righteous people joining to discuss the second coming while eating ambrosia salad with tater tot casseroles, always ending our prayers with the name of Jesus because only heathens prayed only to God.
It was the awareness of an awakening. A growth that I hadn’t acknowledged. The discovery of my faith in the joining of words, in poetry, in writing, in essays and speeches, and my transcendence beyond the faith of my fathers.
I was 16-years-old, and I had taken the first step to my own freedom of religion.
There are never enough pictures to share the awesome creation that Hawai’i is!
Maps, beaches and a bucket list
As we continue to work our way to even more UU communities, I can’t help but take joy in the loving and accepting people our faith attracts! Our growth from your shared knowledge is immense and will be with us always.
2015 ended with my 14-year-old son, Austin, marking his 43rd state visited! As a homeschooling mom, I can’t imagine a better life experience for him than physically seeing the many places in our history books.
I’ve also now visited all but one state, and I can’t wait to take that trip to Alaska to complete my map. (Still on my bucket list!) But with 2016, comes a move to Hawai’i. Of course it won’t be so simple, but we plan to keep our summers busy with mainland travel. The motorhome will still be waiting us each time we set foot on the lower-48.
Here’s to a wondrous 2016!
The Gem State
Pulling into Boise, Idaho, we found a true gem settled in a green valley, the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. While Boise is the state capital, it is also home to the largest UU church in the state, and to an ecologically forward thinking community full of bike trails and green spaces. BUUF itself does not let one down either, its park space is full of hidden surprises and peaceful walkways fitting for all ages.
At the pulpit was the Rev. Sara LaWall, offering her first full service to the members of BUUF as their newly seated minister. With honesty and compassion, Rev. LaWall presented herself to the congregation as an imperfect leader in an imperfect world. A person with love, knowledge, and the desire to give of herself to the fellowship but also holding the modesty of a true learned scholar. A message wonderfully balanced with the soulful sounds and music of Hans York.
Rev. LaWall referenced Irish writer John O’Donohue’s book, “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.” In it, O’Donohue teaches that not only are blessings needed and desired, but that anyone can give a blessing. LaWall continued to explain that our lives hold these special moments, these times “often crying out for a blessing.” But, most important within her message, was that we as individuals, we can be the ones to bring the special blessings into our everyday lives and into simple, everyday moments.
At a time of beginning, Rev. LaWall asked that she and the congregation, together, “make risk [their] greatest ally,” and give change a warm welcome, knowing that “this moment is bigger than any individual self.”
I felt this sentiment strongly within because with this stop, with Boise, and with Rev. LaWall, Austin and I are again on our trail and on our path to explore the true identity of modern Unitarian Universalism.
For more information on the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, visit: www.boiseUU.org
To hear the music of Hans York, check out www.hansyork.com
Enjoy a photo mosaic of the beautiful BUUF campus at https://travelingtuusome.com/2015/09/21/boise-uu-fellowship-in-pictures/
Boise UU Fellowship in Pictures
Such a beautiful location and mini-park on the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship campus.
Here are a few of the things we loved!
After spending the last week in Elko & on the Shoshone-Paiute Tribal Lands, Nevada, enjoying the local cuisine and time with family, we are now at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, and will be attending services at the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Garden City, Idaho, this coming Sunday.
Omaha’s The Old Market
Under a beautiful night sky filled with the mixed clouds of converging fronts, Austin and I met up with an old friend and toured the vibrant Omaha downtown known as The Old Market. After steak dinners and local brew at Upstream Brewing Company, we walked about and then found the unique and fun Hollywood Candy store, an old-fashioned candy and antique basement store. The night ended with a cruise downtown enjoying the wonderful architecture of the city.
It’s a world of trees!
Spending the night in Nebraska City, Nebraska. We are just next to the Missouri River and the Arbor Day Farm!
Fall 2015 Route = Heading west!
Our route is locked in. Didn’t plan on the extra miles for Oregon and Washington this trip but just couldn’t see going all the way to Berkeley and not hitting them! Taking it easy as we go, so we’ll announce actual visits as they come.
See you on the road!