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In the Season of Giving UUs Show Generosity to the World

It is the season of generosity, of giving and receiving, sometimes in unexpected ways. For generations, people have "lit candles in the evergreens to drive the dark away," and sought the love and support of friends and family at this time of year when the day fades early and night can stretch on for an eternity. And within our larger Unitarian Universalist family, the acts of individuals and congregations have lit candles in the lives of those they have touched. The year 2005, while marked by tragedy, has also been a year marked by magnificent generosity.

In Nantucket, Massachusetts, the Rev. Jennifer Brooks  ministers to a congregation of 100. She was touched by a message received from the Rev. Lyn Oglesby, minister of the All Souls UU Congregation in Shreveport, Louisiana. Oglesby knew that many children had come into her area following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. So many of those children were from families who'd lost their homes, their possessions – and for the children, it was beginning to look like Christmas was not going to be merry at all. Oglesby set out to try and help the children, asking her UU minister colleagues if they might be able to suggest their congregants provide $50 gift cards to the children. Jennifer Brooks' congregation, which had partnered with the Shreveport congregation to provide other types of hurricane-related aid, was one of those responding. Brooks wrote, "We are zeroing out our hurricane fundraising account by sending Lyn Oglesby an additional $2,538.80. The total we've sent to Shreveport is $5,538.80, plus $500 to the UUA-UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Fund. Altogether, a net of $6038.80!" Oglesby wrote back that, thanks to the generosity of the Nantucket congregation, "Fifty additional kids are getting Christmas presents from your gift!"

Rev. Frank Schulman

The Rev. Frank Schulman's life has been marked by his deep love of Unitarian Universalism. An author, parish minister and historian who holds an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Meadville/Lombard Theological School, Schulman is dying of brain cancer. Schulman, aged 78, is joined by his wife Alice in making a donation of $4.5 million from their estate to the UUA.

Schulman said, "We wanted to contribute as much money as we could to the Unitarian movement because we believe in its principles so strongly. Being Unitarian has literally changed our lives for the better, and what better way to say thank you than giving back what was given to you?"

He retains his zest for living even as life slips away: "I hope my life goes on as long as it can," he said. "But when I go, I am ready. I have made peace with myself and others. I have lived my life to its fullest and have enjoyed every minute of it."

Schulman, who is also an author and teacher, has blessed the future of Unitarian Universalism with his generosity and his love. His legacy will ensure a bright future for seminarians and our congregations.

Transylvania

When flash floods devastated parts of Transylvania in the late summer, Unitarians and Universalists around the globe responded. Transylvania, the historic seat of Unitarianism, is the site of many Unitarian churches which are connected to UU congregations in the US. Those congregations and concerned individuals around the world responded to the disaster with more than $152,000 in aid. Funds were directed to the congregations and villages damaged, and were significant enough to meet many needs in the affected areas.

At the time, a Unitarian from Great Britain visiting in Translyvania reported, "the area of the Nyiko Valley of Transylvania was hit with an 8-foot wall of water in a flash flood that swept through the Unitarian villages of Simenfalva, Kobatfalva and Kadacs" (located today in Romania).

Partner Church Council Director Cathy Cordes, who recently returned from Transylvania said, "I want you to know how thankful the people of the villages affected are – those whose houses were replaced and repaired as well as those who replaced livestock, heating wood for the winter and household goods. I cannot begin to express in words what I saw in the faces of those who came to the worship service two weeks ago to give thanks to all who helped. It is wonderful to work with you all – clearly you live the principles of our UU faith daily as you work."

Gulf Coast

When hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast, the UU Trauma Response Ministry Team flew the Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, Interim Assistant Minister to Families and Children of the Winchester (MA) Unitarian Society, to Lacombe, LA. Von Zirpolo was to provide the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Society (in Lacombe) with a worship leader and pastoral care provider for the weekend of October 23rd while the congregation's minister took a much-needed break.

It was at the Sunday service in Lacombe that a school band teacher got up to light a candle of concern. The teacher asked congregants to donate any old band instruments they had to help her supply her students – many of whom had come into her school following the hurricane – with instruments. Von Zirpolo wrote, "Unbeknownst to her, I was in the early stages of planning a road trip [to return to the area]. I came home and put the word out to folks in the Winchester congregation that in addition to pots, pans, towels and bed linens they were gathering, they could add band instruments. I also let [UU social worker] Annette Marquis know that we'd be trying to provide this [additional form of] aid when we went to Louisiana. Annette wisely sent along the request to those at the UUA involved in music ministry. When all was said and done, we were able to deliver two trombones, one trumpet, two keyboards, one French horn, one saxophone and a dozen clarinets into that band teacher's classroom."

The teacher, Charmain DeMoruelle wrote, "That large shipment of musical instruments was the nicest thing that ever happened to me! The students at my school are returning every day. Students are coming from all over Jefferson Parish, Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. Most students come with nothing – their parents have nothing. They are seeking new employment (their job washed away), and trying to figure a way to rebuild a house with no income. The two music stores located within 1/2 mile of our school were flooded."

She continued, "One young man at our school was quite depressed. His great-grandmother had passed away after the hurricane. He had been attending an affluent private school all his life, and this was his first time in a public school. His father's job had been lost, as well as their very nice home. I had issued one of the very old, ugly, nasty trombones to him, and found out that he played very well. I promised his mother that as soon as I could get a better instrument, I would. In your shipment was a new trombone. I issued the instrument to the boy, and he has been smiling a lot more since. Thank you so very much."

In so many ways, Unitarian Universalists have lived the generosity that the seasons lift up. On behalf of UUA President William G. Sinkford, Moderator Gini Courter, and the staff of the UUA, a blessed and peaceful holiday season!

December 2005

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, June 17, 2011.

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