What a picnic! What a welcome! Thank you to the organizers, especially Jeni Ptacek and Karinn Kelly, and to all those who attended the picnic welcoming me and my family to the UU congregation of the Roaring Fork Valley. The ranch location gave me a sense of how important the land is to people in the valley, how it literally grounds the community, elicits a healthy respect for nature. The view (and the geological facts shared by Garry Zabel) of Mount Sopris was magnificent and provided a long term context for our expectations. There was a wonderful variety of food and of people; all were interesting and nourishing. It was a pleasure to start to get to know the members of TRUU; I recommend them to you.
The community assembled for the service the following Sunday confirmed my belief that TRUU is a dynamic and caring community that embodies UU principles in its very being. Individuality and honesty were evident in the words shared in the water communion as was community support in the service, the coffee hour, and I trust in the days ahead.
In the old days using their hands parents would amuse children saying: “Here is the church (fingers clasped); here is the steeple (first fingers up together); look inside; here are the people (palms up with tips of fingers wiggling). What is the church? It’s the people.
UU ministers sometimes debate what people get from joining a UU congregation: Religious freedom, certainly, but you can claim that on your own; compatriots in the work of social justice; you can get that elsewhere; other organizations offer pieces of a liberal education and of spiritual and ethical development, but not with the moral imprimatur of religion, nor in such a holistic, intentional, and caring way. We bring all these varied aspects of life together in an honest, religious community with a spiritual, a moral purpose. What do you get? Really what it comes down to is our people, our members; they are unique, interesting, nourishing, willing to learn and to love; they make a commitment to this UU community, to you.
I have attended enough TRUU events now to be certain that the welcome I have received is not just a function of my being the new minister, but a real indication of how welcoming the TRUU community is to everyone. So why join? Not just to be welcomed; you are already, but to deepen the relationship, which will have a positive effect on the community, and on your own development. The more connected you become the more fulfilling and meaningful your relationship becomes, and the more you grow spiritually.
If you are interested in developing spiritually, in religious education, in the beauty of the arts, in preserving the earth, and creating a more caring community and just society, I recommend joining a Unitarian Universalist congregation like Two Rivers.
Rev. Stephan Papa