Thoughts from Rev. Scott Rudolph
Last year, my family went to New York City for a few days. We saw the Statue of Liberty, ate breakfast in a New York diner and lunch in Chinatown, enjoyed a picnic in Central Park, walked through Times Square, had a daily intake of New York pizza, and, of course, rode the subway — which, if you ask our kids, was the highlight of the trip.
For me, a highlight of our trip was worshiping with the Unitarian Church of All Souls one Sunday morning. It is one of our most historically significant congregations, both for its people and its actions. For me, visiting that church was a pilgrimage of sorts. Founded in 1819, All Souls was the first Unitarian congregation organized in New York.
At that time, William Ellery Channing, now known as the father of American Unitarianism, was the minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston. In 1819, Channing delivered a sermon in Baltimore titled, “Unitarian Christianity.” With this address, he codified a way of being Christian that rejected the trinitarian structure of God and instead proclaimed the unity of God. He also declared the absolute necessity of using reason to interpret biblical scripture. Channing arrived in New York with his message boiling over. His sister, Lucy Channing Russell, gathered people into her home in Manhattan to listen to the ideas of her brother. And a church was born. It is because these people before us lived and spread their values that we gather together today as a religious community in the way we do. Our congregations look and feel very different today.
All Souls Unitarian Church is in the middle of Manhattan, a few blocks east of Central Park. The church is old and formal. The organ fills the cavernous space, and statues and plaques adorn the halls with lofty names from our history. In that New York church, my 5-year-old daughter reached out to the back of the pew in front of us and pulled out the hymnal. She said with amazement, “They have the same one here that we do at our church!” The chalice was lit. We sang familiar hymns. We gathered around shared values. It was the children’s first experience of a UU congregation that wasn’t their home church.
This summer, when the kids came to UUFCO for the first time, my daughter again noticed that we have the very same hymnals we used in Pittsburgh! Each Unitarian Universalist congregation is a unique expression of its history, its current actions, and its dreams for the future. And every congregation is also connected to our larger tradition.
Getting to know this congregation over the past three months has been an absolute joy. It is so exciting to be here as we continue to create the life of this fellowship together.
Ever wonder when or why you might reach out to your minister? You are probably not alone. Many years ago a Unitarian Universalist minister named Peter Lee Scott wrote a column called "When to Call the Minister." The column has been passed along and adapted many times over for many years. The following list should be read with the lens that as a minister, I am not a “fixer,” but I am a source of care and perspective. Here’s my take on it:
- When you don’t know me but would like to or you would like to know me better.
- When you’re planning to be married.
- When you are going through marital difficulties, separation, or divorce.
- When you are having difficulties in health.
- When you have given birth to a child or adopted. Or wish to have a dedication ceremony.
- When something in your life is going wonderfully and you would like to share that with someone.
- When you have problems or concerns you’d like to discuss — problems with your job, children, partner, health, wellbeing, or anything else where a listening ear might be help. I do not do ongoing counseling or therapy but can usually provide referrals when it is needed.
- When someone close to you has died, is suicidal, or is critically ill.
- When you’d like to plan or make advance plans for a funeral or memorial service.
- When you are pregnant and glad you are or you’re pregnant but wish you weren’t.
- When you want to know more about Unitarian Universalism or have a friend who is curious.
- When you’re considering joining the church, but you still have some questions.
- When you have decided you would like to join the church.
- When you’d like to get involved in church but are not sure how.
- When you would like to offer your time, talent, or treasure to our fellowship.
- When you’re upset with me or have concerns and would like to talk about it. Or if you’re appreciative and would like to share.
- When you need help, but you’re not sure who to call.
- When you have questions you don’t know what to do with.
- When you’d like to talk about religion, theology, or spirituality.
This list is, of course, incomplete. There are many other reasons that you might be in touch. But you get the idea. The point is – be in touch. I like to remind people to share good news as well as trials. Joy loves company just as much as misery. In time, I plan to establish a Pastoral Care Team here to expand how we care for one another. And there are always the good people next to you in church, friends established or new, to whom you can reach out.
We are a caring community. We are a place where we hold, nurture, and lift one another up. To do so, we must be willing to offer help and ask for it as well. Talk to you soon.
Occasionally in life there are times when we find ourselves overwhelmed at being the recipients of great kindness and generosity. Words do little to capture those feelings of deep gratitude swirling inside. At times such as these, I find that there is little to do but offer a heartfelt and sincere “thank you.” (But I am a minister, so I will continue on with more words when a few might have sufficed.)
The congregation of UUFCO has invited Rebecca, Simon, Tessa Jane, and me into this community with an abundance of warmth, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness. We have been greeted with friendly smiles and open hearts. People have been generous with hugs and handshakes. We received a welcome basket with a museum membership to learn, stuffed otters to snuggle, books on Bend to read, eclipse glasses to view celestial events, and water bottles to hydrate. In short, we have been made to feel welcome, and there is no greater feeling when arriving in a new place and a new home. So “thank you.” A feeling of intense gratitude swirls inside of me. Kindness transforms the recipient (as well as the giver). Please know that we have been forever changed by the kindness we have been shown upon arriving at UUFCO.
Part of my beginning here (the largest and most important part) is getting to know you. There is no substitute for sitting down for a conversation. During September, I will be hosting some informal gatherings here at the fellowship called Histories and Hopes. I’ll meet with groups of eight people or so to answer any questions, to talk about the life of the church, to hear your stories, and to understand your hopes for the future of this congregation. There will be sign up sheets on the kiosk offering different times and dates. Or you can email the office (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) and sign up that way. If a substantial group self-forms around a particular time and date not listed, let me know and we will try to make it work.
HISTORIES & HOPES—Location, dates, and times
Bend - UUFCO: Wednesday, September 6 at 2 p.m.
Bend - Jackson’s Corner (Eastside): Thursday, September 7 at 10 a.m.
Bend – UUFCO: Wednesday, September 13 at 6 p.m.
Bend - Deschutes Brewery: Tuesday, September 19 at 7 p.m.
Sisters – TBD with group
Redmond – TBD with group
Here we go!
With Gratitude and Excitement, Scott