A Religious Community in Motion

Though I frequently write about “community” and its importance in our spiritual lives I don’t write much about my religious communities. But today I want to write about a huge milestone for my spiritual home, the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

In our Winter Congregational Meeting today we approved the largest budget in the 62 year history of the Fellowship, which for the first time will include a full time minister. This budget is 86% larger than last year’s budget and it is balanced. This budget increase is possible because pledges are almost double what they were last year.

The numbers tell the dramatic story, but what’s important is what this means for Unitarian Universalism in Denton.

It means our congregation is growing. Sunday attendance used to be in the 50-60 range, now it’s more like 90-100, with some Sundays going over 120. This means more people are participating in free religion, more people are learning their religious options are wider than Baptist or Catholic, more people can come to church and sit next to a Buddhist or a Humanist or a Pagan or a Christian and learn from them as well as learning from the minister.

It means a Youth Religious Education program that used to have 6 or 8 kids per week now is pushing 30. That means more kids growing up learning to respect all religions. These kids will be able to explore their religious paths at ages 6 and 8 and 10 and not have to wait till they get to college. These kids will never have to worry they might burn in hell forever because they might not be “saved.” These kids will learn they’re OK whether they’re gay or straight or somewhere in between.

It means all the programs we’ve started in the past year can continue to grow and continue to offer the inclusive, welcoming message of Unitarian Universalism for those who need to hear it.

It means that our members have increased their commitment to the Fellowship and to Unitarian Universalism. A lot of people have moved from being casual givers to being committed givers. And a small but significant number have moved from being committed givers to being sacrificial givers.

When I was elected Congregational President in 2005 I thought we’d see this within a year or two. It didn’t work out that way. We had a “transitional” minister who was a poor fit with the congregation and all our energy was focused on him and not on our mission. There were times I thought about leaving, thought it wasn’t worth the trouble. I stayed, in part because of my spiritual practice with CUUPS, but mainly because I thought the goal was worth the work. There was a lot we had to go through as a congregation, a lot we had to learn, before we could become what we are today.

I hesitate to name names because I know I’ll overlook some people who should be thanked, but I’m going to do it anyway.

To the Presidents who held things together in tough times and led us to where we are now: Dennis Wood, Cindy Breeding, Dolores Nabors, Mark Davis, and our current President, Jim Progar – thank you!

To Linda Tucker, Jake Jacobson, Cindy Jacobson, and all the volunteers who have made our Youth RE program a wonderful, educational, spiritual experience for the kids (and a magnet for their parents) – thank you!

To Genevieve Scott (whose generous bequest paid for much of our building renovations), Barney Cosimo (who did most of the work) and everyone who contributed their time and treasure toward enlarging our sanctuary and making our building more welcoming – thank you!

To Mark Davis, Mary Curtis, Bob Snyder, Theresa Page, Herb Newton, Abby Bonard, Kati Trice and all the other folks who have raised funds and managed our money – thank you!

To Gerry Veeder, Barb Rodman, Judy Smith, Kelly Taylor, Linda Brown, Dolores Nabors, Bruce Jarstfer, Cathy Sassen, Jackie Gibbons and all the others who served with me on our Worship Committee and who have kept our pulpit filled with meaningful worship services, whether by our minister, a guest minister, an outside speaker or a lay leader – thank you!

And finally, to our soon-to-be-full-time minister Rev. Pam Wat, who is an inspiring presence in our pulpit, a voice for inclusiveness and a beacon for justice in our community, and a calming presence in our lives – thank you! It is popular in some circles to claim that ministers don’t matter. If anyone at DUUF still thought that when you got here, they don’t any more.

A budget is a plan and a commitment. We still have to follow through and do the things we voted to do today. But we couldn’t have gotten to this point without a lot of good work by a lot of people. And it stands to reason that work and the commitment behind it will continue and we will be the religious community we all want to be.

Good things are happening at Denton UU. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

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  • What great news that your community congregation is growing. I am not involved in UU, but it is a wonderful tradition and we could use more Americans involved in it!

  • Pam

    Okay, make me cry, why don't ya? Thanks for sharing this perspective John.

    I am so happy and honored to serve as the minister of Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. We are going to have a great time together in 2012!

  • You all are inspiring. I have fond memories of my time at DUUF back at the turn of the century, and you all paved the way for my own dedication to UU principles. Denton needs the message you all stand for, and I am glad that more people are finding it. You've got a lot to be proud of!

    And Congratulations, Rev. Wat. That's a huge move for DUUF, and it says a lot about their faith in you and respect for what you've brought to the congregation.

  • Argh! I was in DFW for four years! Why didn't I find your blog before I moved!!! :*(
    Oh well, glad I did so eventually… /|

  • We are a small congregation in Lawton, OK, and we are hoping to do the same thing. Very inspiring. Thank you!