We occasionally receive comments from members and newcomers about their experience at OUUC. Here is a selection…
Surely every church wants to promote the loving community, but how you go about it matters. What stifles love?
Rigid rules where mercy and caring would better serve; an arrogance that pretends to certain knowledge of things we cannot and do not know; an imperious, top-down hierarchy, disdainful of the views and desires of the people; an inability to tolerate differing points of view; and the ages-old human vices of anger, greed, and jealousy.
At age 17, after sending inquiries requesting written information from dozens of different faith traditions, I began attending the Unitarian church in Yonkers, later in Chicago, New Haven and Arlington, Massachusetts. I found each of them to be welcoming, caring, and eager to harness the talents and energies of newcomers. With no formal, written creed to enforce or defend, Unitarian Universalists have been free to focus on social justice issues and helping one another instead of arguing over or defending the minutiae of dogma and doctrine. Organized for bottom-up, democratic decision-making at the congregational level, this most American of churches puts the members themselves in control of congregational affairs.
Fumiko and I were married by a Unitarian Universalist minister at a Quaker Meeting House in lower Manhattan. In 1977, we moved to Olympia, became regular attendees and participants of the Unitarian Fellowship of Olympia, and joined soon thereafter. With lots of careful planning and hard work, the Fellowship has transformed over the intervening years into our present, growing congregation, ministered yet lay-led, compassionate yet thoughtful, prudent yet willing to take on challenges when others held back, rambunctious yet serious, irreverent and yet reverent in the ways that count. I am at home.
– Brian Coyne
When I was in college in Japan, I became a member of AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), and participated in various programs such as work camps for physically challenged people and international seminars for prevention of violence. I met many Quakers, Japanese and American, and learned their outlook in life and their belief in serving humanity through promotion of peace and justice.
In 1961, I came to the U.S. to go to graduate school, and started attending the Quaker Meeting. Brian and I got married in the Quaker church officiated by a Unitarian minister as I was not an official member of the church. For the next ten years we lived in three different university towns attending sometimes Unitarian and sometimes Quaker churches, and we finally decided to join the Unitarian Universalists in 1976. We were very happy to find OUUC as soon as we moved to Olympia in 1977.
As I have grown up in the Buddhist/Shinto tradition in the first 22 years of my life, any faith based on sin or monotheistic entities is alien to my way of understanding of life in the vast universe, not to mention my part in it. I feel Unitarian Universalism is and has been in my blood. I sometimes wonder whether most of my contemporaries in Japan are UUs without knowing it.
As I am approaching the final phase of my own growth as a human being, I want to live each day as fully as possible. I look forward to Arthur’s stimulating and thought-provoking sermon every week. I have made many dear friends through Small Group Ministries, Dinners with Eight, Greeters, Plant Sales, Coffee Duty, and arranging flowers for many occasions. My husband and I have grown old together with many other families whom we met over the years, and watched ours as well as their children turn into beautiful human beings. We feel very blessed to have found our home.
– Fumiko Coyne
I first came to OUUC about 12 years ago after a very long absence from organized religion and church. I didn’t know anything about Unitarian Universalism but had heard this was a liberal religious community. I was looking for a place where I would be accepted as I am and a place that would help meet my spiritual needs.
What I found is a welcoming, religious community and a place where I feel encouraged to question, explore, and develop my own spirituality. Here, I have the freedom, the challenge, and with that, my responsibility for discovering and growing in my spiritual life.
I find that I feel more fulfilled and that my week is off to a better start by attending the Sunday worship service. Our worship service helps give meaning and depth to my day-to-day life. The readings, reflections and sermons expand my awareness and can help deepen my understanding of a wide spectrum of topics and issues.
As part of my exploration, I have come to understand more about my belief in what is often referred to here as “that mystery that some call God”. Much of my spiritual growth and a true sense of enrichment come from being involved in the church and interacting with members and friends. I have been a greeter, a religious education teacher, a member of the Worship Arts Committee, and am presently a member of the board of trustees.
OUUC is my spiritual home and I feel blessed to have found this faith community.
– Myra Barker
I have been a member of OUUC for 10 years. I have been attending Unitarian Universalist Churches since 1968 when I was 11 years old and my mother pointed our family to UU.
I had been a member of Eastshore UU and University UU when I lived in Seattle during the 1980’s and 1990’s. When I moved to Olympia in 1998 to finish my BA degree at The Evergreen State College, I started attending services at OUUC. I became a member in December, 2001.
Of all the UU Churches I have attended, including others not listed above, OUUC has been by far the most welcoming. It became easy to get to know people and make friends through functions such as small group ministry/circles of spirit and dinners for eight. While a member of the Worship Arts committee, (2003-2005), I delivered a ‘This I Believe’ service to the congregation in 2005, something I consider to be a significant achievement in my life. I also served as a celebrant.
During my brief tenure on the Out of the Woods board, (2007), I produced a radio piece on the Homeless for community radio station KAOS, where I serve as a volunteer programmer. I currently serve on the Church Audio Tech and Addiction Ministries
All of these represent significant benchmarks in my personal spiritual growth. I also feel privileged to know, to have worked with, and have been moved by the Sunday messages of the Reverend Arthur Vaeni, whose insightful, subtle and eloquent services function as a reminder of what is good about life and love, to reach outside of myself and consider the larger community.
It is for all these reasons that I value my OUUC experience and the people who provided those opportunities to me.
I joined the Unitarian church in the mid-1980s at a time when my life did not make sense; wrong job, wrong man, wrong faith. Unitarian Universalism rang true for me. It has provided a faith community without dogma, a place to live out my values with integrity, a community of committed, caring people and a place where my husband Fritz and I have been able to exemplify our values to our son. OUUC has provided me a community of life-long valued friends and a place to be my true self, to live out my values through my actions.
– Gail Gosney
We have lived in Olympia for twenty-one years. After I retired I realized I had lost a community of people I cared about and could count on seeing on a daily basis. I began to look around for some new, liberal, kindred spirits. Because we had attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation briefly in the mid-west, I went to the OUUC website. There I found many potential opportunities for involvement and decided to visit. Within minutes I knew I was in the right place. The combination of a stimulating and thought-provoking sermon, music that fed the soul, and an immediate feeling of community was far more than I had expected and an emotional experience repeated many times since. My motivation for attending was to find a new group of friends and that has certainly been the case. I joined the weekly coffee group ( PUGS – Powerful Unitarian Gals ), book club, Circles of Spirit, two committees, and have taken several adult education classes. I signed the membership book this past year. Throughout I have found friendship and lots of laughter. But my actual benefit has been much greater and deeper. I have an appreciation for our Congregation’s commitment to social justice and to involvement in the greater community. And I like that we are encouraged to decided for ourselves what our Truth is and that we are supported in that search. I feel I am just beginning along that path.
– Nancy Brickell
Over a period of years I became disheartened with the religion I grew up in due to so many of its narrow-minded dogmas and doctrines, its patriarchal entrenchment and exclusive nature. So I began a search for a new and better “home” and visited a number of churches – none of which touched me as deeply as OUUC. I always found a lively, spirited congregation and the music, readings, reflections and meditation time really helped fill that void I had been experiencing for a very long time.
After attending for a while, I took the hour long “Intro” session OUUC regularly offers and that gave me a really good overview of what UU is all about. I followed that up with a wonderful membership class that was very informative and, following that, I became a member in 2010.
There are so many opportunities to become involved at OUUC in so many different ways. I serve on the Adult Education Committee and volunteer at some of the many other functions/events sponsored by OUUC.
I am especially gratified by the continued strong emphasis OUUC puts on children and youth programs and on issues such as social justice, homelessness and the environment. In these areas, as well as many others, our minister is an inspiration to us all.
So much of what happens at OUUC just seems to make the world a better place – whether it’s for me as an individual, or for the congregation, or for the community at large. And….here everyone is welcome!
– Roger Nielsen
We both were “cradle Catholics” for more than seven decades. We appreciated a good part of that life—especially the educational system and many of the church’s social teachings. But growing issues over the years within the institutional church revealed ever more clearly that our religious and spiritual needs were no longer met.
Our introduction to OUUC came in 2005 through the sensitive, but passionate reports of Lorrie and Harmon Eaton about their newly found experiences here. We began attending service here in mid-2007 and signed the membership book in early 2009.
For us, a litany of distinctive and treasured experiences would be long, indeed! But it would certainly include many elements for which we had earlier hungered: ethical principles, rather than doctrine and dogma; a democratic process within a congregational polity; an attention to wisdom from all major religions, spiritualities and philosophies; unbounded inclusivity; persistent pursuit of social and earth justice, both locally and globally; extensive offerings of adult education classes that help one another to grow spiritually and intellectually. And above all, this is a place where love prevails, where compassion is outwardly expressed in our support of a homeless shelter and our support and hosting of Camp Quixote.
We have found here an exciting and vibrant community of committed members and friends, and gifted ministers, staff and lay leaders. Our pastor consistently brings us to reflection, to laughter, and to tears with his wisdom, eloquence and winning ways. Our inquiry-based religious education program is a gem. Our music director brings impressive teaching skills to the choir and voice class and endearing pleas for more robust sound to the congregation. And our lay leaders bring talent and dedication that is truly stunning.
Clearly, we are madly in love with this place!
– Bernie and Joyce Steckler
I had never heard of Unitarian Universalism. I fell into it by way of the back door when I read a Perspective article in The Olympian by Rev. Arthur Vaeni. He suggested that those with liberal attitudes and ideals needed to stand up against the Christian Right and assert our values. He invited anyone who was interested to come to OUUC to participate in a series of discussions around the book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant” by George Lakeoff, a treatise on how to best frame and articulate liberal political values.
That first night, in December of 2004, Harmon and I were so well-received by so many members of the congregation that we decided to attend the next Sunday service. By the Christmas Eve service we knew we had found our church home. We signed the book in March of 2005.
Initially, I was taken by the warmth and friendliness of everyone we met, especially of Ginny Taylor who introduced us to new people (often other ex-Catholics) every Sunday for weeks. I was moved by the quality of Arthur’s reflections and the many ways in which he interjected humor. I loved the music, and delighted in Troy’s frequent urging for us to smile at each other and sing joyfully. I was impressed by the offerings of the Adult Ed Committee and especially by the dedication of the congregation to Out of the Woods.
Woody Allen said, “Half of life is showing up.” I think what I have come to appreciate most at OUUC is the dedication I see to not just “talking the talk, but walking the walk”. Deeds, not creeds. No matter what the focus, UUs show up! That is evidenced by the high number of volunteers who work the book sale and the auction. It extends to demonstrating for equal rights or against war, or just having fun by participating in events in the life of the larger community like Arts Walk. Everywhere I go, I find my UU compatriots? I am proud to be among people who do so much and do it with such energy and joy!
– Lorrie Eaton
I first found Unitarianism in 1955 when I left active duty in the Navy and moved to Riverside, California. My beliefs, or lack thereof, were and still are Agnostic, although I had grown up in the Methodist church. Since UU accepts me as such, I joined the Unitarian Church in Riverside. Years later I moved to San Diego and joined the UU First Church there. Upon retirement I returned to the Northwest and joined the UFO in Olympia. (Unidentified Flying Object? No, Unitarian Fellowship of Olympia.)
At UFO I soon found myself in the position of Board President for three years. I was also Publicity Chairman and a de facto member of the very busy Building Committee. During that time we changed the name from UFO to OUUC. Subsequently I have served in the Membership Services Committee, Fund Raising Committee, Communications Committee, and act as audio-visual and sound recording technician. I have participated in Dinners for Eight, Small Group Ministries, and recently the Book Group. In each of these I have become acquainted with and friends with many outstanding persons.
Although my first attraction to Unitarian Universalism was the belief system and orientation toward peace and social justice, I have found that my greatest reason for belonging is the association with and loving friendship of so many members. This has been especially true since coming to OUUC. Upon the death of my wife Helen, I was overwhelmed by the caring and love showered upon me. OUUC has become my new family, and for that I am very, very grateful.
– George Lanning
Most of us who grow up in a faith tradition do so in the one we are born into, that our family or our culture practiced. We accept it as a given and don’t question our beliefs or the words we recite, nor do we explore other options until something calls us to do so. As a young adult, I began to recognize my discomfort with saying words that did not ring true for me. I resisted the narrowness and the exclusivity of my mainstream Protestant tradition. I wanted something that allowed me to question and explore and grow – a tradition that was for every minute of every day and not just a Sunday morning exercise. Unitarian Universalism became my chosen faith.
At OUUC I value the thoughtful sermons, the readings from a wide range of sources, the inspiring music, and the nurturing program for our children and youth. I value the precious friendships I have made with people of all ages from pre-schoolers up to nonagenarians. Over the years I have participated in numerous committees and classes, Dinners for Eight, and Small Group Ministry. It is my great joy to sing in the choir. The more we give, the more we receive.
OUUC is a place of learning and growth, of love and support, of joy, hope, laughter, creativity, and endless energy. It’s a place where we care for one another in time of need. It’s a faith tradition that walks the talk – putting our values into action in caring for the earth and in matters of social justice in our larger community and beyond. It is what I was looking for those decades ago, and I am forever grateful to be a part of this liberal religious community that opens minds, fills hearts, and transforms lives.
About 8 years ago I started reading about Wicca (an earth-centered/pagan belief system) on the internet. Many of the sites I visited mentioned that the Unitarian Universalists were tolerant of many diverse faiths, and I became curious if I might like such a church. I looked in the phone book and found the address and phone number for OUUC, and the next time I didn’t have to work on a Sunday, came to a service. It was during the summer and so every Sunday I visited it was a different speaker and message. I loved looking forward to hearing something new every Sunday. And when September rolled around, I saw there was a regular minister that I still looked forward to hearing every Sunday. I agreed with most of what I heard, and I learned when our CUUPs group meets. I attended the CUUPs Samhain (last harvest) Ritual and I loved the way they honored those who had passed away during that year and then welcomed the children who had been born. That was the first ritual I had ever attended and I felt like I really belonged.
My first impression was that here is a group of people who really care about our world and want to be a community that can make a difference. It’s over 7 years later, and I am so happy and proud to belong to this congregation. I help in the youth Religious Education, am a member of the Worship Arts Committee, and help facilitate the CUUPs activities. I’ve been a greeter, served on the board of our shelter, Out of The Woods, and even delivered a “This I Believe” at a Sunday service. I really love this place! There are so many friends I’ve made – people I really like to hang out with – that are amazingly generous and smart and loving and patient. OUUC is the place where I feel completely accepted as I travel my faith journey, and it’s where I have the opportunity to do something tangible to help better our world.
– Karen Jackson
It isn’t often that I take time to write about my beliefs, let alone give testimony about them. I first started attending OUUC a couple of years ago at the urging of my wife, Karen. She said that she found a community that made her feel welcome and didn’t challenge her beliefs. I have always tried to support her, and for years we practiced Christian Science, a belief system that is very rigid and, at best, difficult to practice. At any rate, I figured that it was worth a look. My beliefs have always been a little contrary to the mainstream, I was born a Lutheran and raised a Catholic (I know, they’re practically the same any more). My God was not the same as the Lutherans and certainly not the same as the Catholics and as for the Christian Scientists it was totally different. My first Sunday service was not one given by Art. It was a “This I Believe” by one of the “Building Your Own Theology” graduates. Although I didn’t accept all of the beliefs of the person speaking, I thought to myself, what a great idea – I can believe what I want and be accepted by the congregation. “We don’t have to believe alike to love alike.” This concept was almost unheard of in any of the previous religions I had practiced. I found a home in OUUC. Since I joined in January of 2007 I have made so many new friends and have participated in as many of the meetings and other events as possible, always feeling welcome. Karen and I have visited many other UU’s in our travels, and without exception, are always greeted in a warm and friendly manner. I love this congregation in particular, and UU is my religious inspiration for always.
– Jack Jackson
In December 2000, I found Unitarian Universalism – after 30 years of spiritual wandering. As a young woman, I had drifted away from the Protestant Christianity of my childhood, labeled myself agnostic, and denied any personal need for religion. Yet, as the years passed, I began looking for something else to nourish my spirit. Eventually, old friends suggested that I might find what I was seeking in Unitarian Universalism. Then I read a newspaper notice that the local UU congregation planned a “Greening of the Church” service to honor the non-Christian origins and traditions of today’s Christian midwinter festival. Intrigued, I attended that service, then continued to return every Sunday. A few months later, I signed the membership book and pledged my support.
Here’s what attracted me and kept me: This is a faith community that requires no profession of belief in any dogmatic theology; yet it expects agreement with a list of ethical principles that include respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person and respect for the interdependent web of all existence (in other words, care for one another, care for the environment). Side by side, folks of many different faith backgrounds meet to worship, to celebrate life, and to practically address social-justice issues (for example, by supporting a permanent homeless shelter and a transient tent city on their property). Men and women are co-equal here. Gays and lesbians are equally-valued members of the community. The minister is called by the congregation, not sent by a higher authority. There is a strong tradition of lay leadership. And there is encouragement and support for one another’s ongoing, personal search for truth and meaning.
In more wonderful ways than I can relate here, walking into Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation that Sunday morning eight years ago changed my life.
– Ann Yeo
After growing up in a traditional Christian church, I began to question many of its basic tenets beginning in high school. Ultimately I concluded that I didn’t believe in Christianity, but I did believe that there was SOMETHING ? a great mystery ? that governed the universe. After exploring other religious avenues, I learned about Unitarian Universalism in 1983. Here was a place where the questions are more important than the answers! Equally important as a spiritual home is the fellowship of a like-minded community. When I moved to Olympia six years ago I found a congregation engaged in the social justice activities that had meant so much to me in my former home. Thus I found friends and co-workers in a common cause. I volunteered to work with our emergency shelter for homeless families with young children and became a member of the OUUC Board. Social activities such as Dinners for Eight and Small Group Ministry helped me get to know more people in our congregation. In short , the more I put into this community, the more benefits I reap.
– Mary Walton Cameron
The Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation is a place of welcome and joy, open to all people who desire to be in community with others who care deeply about each other, our world, and the community in which we live. That is what I sensed as soon as I began participating in the OUUC twelve years ago. Through the programs and Sunday services of the church I have enlarged, refined and evolved in my already long journey in seeking a religious path that embraces reason, doubt, and serious inquiries into theology as well as social responsibility. It has also been a place of personal solace where I can be with others who care about me and who allow me to care about them. It is a community that encourages independent thinking while acting in interdependent ways. As a longtime teacher in the children’s religious education program I have learned from the children as well as deepened my own appreciation for the richness of our tradition. I am proud that our Congregation continually tries to reach out to those in our community who are less fortunate, and to those who want to follow non-traditional modes of family and sexual orientation. The church is not limited to serving others only on Sundays. It has been a joy to become an active participant in the work of the Congregation, where everyone can make a contribution. Here we celebrate life!
– Ron Hinson
“True religion is based on spirituality, love, compassion, understanding, and appreciation of each other whatever our beliefs may be – Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Athiests, Agnostics or whatever.” This quote from the book “Grand Theft Jesus” describes exactly what we have felt and sought for most of our lives. We are so happy to have found them all at the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Besides all of the above, this congregation knows how to have fun.
We were not thinking of actually joining OUUC until Camp Quixote (the tent city for homeless people) was in urgent need of a welcome somewhere. The board of directors of OUUC heard about the need that had to be met that day and had an emergency meeting and approved hosting Camp Quixote. The following week there was almost unanimous approval by the congregation. We were so impressed that a group of people would walk their talk with such open heartedness, we wanted to join.
The adult education at OUUC also played a part in the why we joined OUUC. The offerings were so diverse and enticing – there were very few that we did not want to attend. The religious education for children is also a wonderful program for children of all ages. When our grandchildren visit they want to go to OUUC with us because “they are so nice there – it is fun” in their words. One of our regrets is that we did not know about Unitarian Universalism when our four children were young. It would have been a wise and respectful way to help each of them find their own unique spiritual way.
Perhaps the most important aspect of being a Unitarian Universalist is that we are encouraged to discover Truth for ourselves. There are no creeds, no ready made belief systems – one size fits all – that we can plug into. That has never worked for us. We have always felt we have to find our own way to the Truth. To be a part of a religious community that ascribes to that and supports this quest has made all the difference for us.
– Samara and Tom Joldersma
I recognized that church rhymes with ‘lurch’ and ‘perch’ at a young age. That pretty much describes my experiences of it; I would lurch into church and be spoken down to from a perch. But when I entered the sanctuary of OUUC for a wedding, I saw colorful banners that depicted…gasp…more than one religious expression. During that ceremony, Art spoke about our homosexual friends that could not yet legally commit to each other and how the celebration was also a reminder of work to be done. I thought, “What is this place?”
Since then I’ve discovered this place is my social justice community and spiritual home. We have been attending OUUC for four years and have felt a deep sense of pride raising our kids in a place where questions are not only permitted, they are celebrated. My eleven-year-old son, through the OWL program, received a sexuality education far beyond what his school or well-intentioned parents could have offered him. I am thrilled that my girls get to experience puberty with support and understanding as they come of age. There is a quote that goes, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly” and it is true that UUs are known for being thinkers, maybe even over-thinkers, but what I experience on Sundays is mindful fun and laughter. I need that in my weekend to help lighten up my world.
Sometimes people who know me well, wrinkle their noses and say, “You go to church?” and I understand what they are saying. They are thinking of the Lurch Perch Church, but that’s not OUUC, it’s more of a “nurch” (nurturing) church.
– Heather Rader
I value attending OUUC because it is a place where I have deep relationships with people of all ages and experiences. I’ve had opportunities to do Yule Plays and Pirate Themed events with our youth and share meals with the residents of Camp Quixote and also with great world travelers. And when joyful, painful or sad events touch our lives, we are all there together, holding each other up in a community of love.
– Melanie Ransom
I came to the Olympia UU church in 1978 as a long time Unitarian because the beliefs and behavior of Unitarians fit so well for me. What I most value here are the well prepared, thought provoking Sunday services. Because I have moved so often in my life, I never felt that I had a community around me. Even though I’m single and a bit shy, I feel a close bond with other church members . . . when I arrive, I’m “home.”
– Carol Horner