TUC Occupies the Progressive Dinner–and Chicago!

Hey TUC:

Good to see almost a packed house at our “Celebration of Life” last weekend, and it was a pleasure to recall four key TUC “living icons” of the 20th Century–Norm Roth, Harry Gaynor, Margaret “Peg” Sering and the Reverend E.T. Buehrer.  The naming ceremony for the latest member of the Bradley clan to join Third Church was also a treat (see the picture below).  I hope you’ve made your plans to attend the annual “Progressive Dinner,” held at the Oak Park homes of Bebe Simon, Mena and David Boulanger, Karla Chew, and Ann and Joe Kransdorf, tomorrow night.  Sunday morning will also be busy, with the Bob Simpson Forum at 10 a.m., the “Celebration of Life” at 11 a.m., both focused on the “Occupy” movement.  Then we’ll decamp for the corner of LaSalle and Jackson downtown next to the Board of Trade to join those who lead the “Occupy” movement here in the city.  We’ll be joined by folks from First Unitarian Church, Second Unitarian Church, Unity Temple UU Congregation, Beverly Unitarian Church on the city’s South Side and the Unitarian Church of Evanston as we offer moral support, bring food and plan next steps for a Chicago UU presence with “Occupy” as we move into winter.

I have to agree with Hendrik Hertzberg, the New Yorker writer, when he says that Occupiers have to learn that “real change” to a “political economy rigged to benefit the rich over the poor” is through politics themselves.  But with a U.S. political system so in the thrall of monied interests, protests and other calls for a change outside this “political economy” must not be minimized.  For indeed, Mr. Hertzberg and others have to remember how demonstrations influenced public policy during the Civil Rights and Vietnam War eras.

See you in church!

Everyone looks at the star of the show last Sunday!

Being Roberta, etc,

Hey TUC:
It’s the end of October, and with it shorter hours of daylight and actual frost on the pumpkin. Before it gets too cold, and you lose heart to visit Grant Park and “Occupy Chicago,” take a look at the pictures of the induction ceremony of the Illinois Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. This event took place on Monday at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, and our own Roberta Wilson was one of four inductees. Barbara Minor and I were on hand for the celebration, and the pictures are below. Enjoy the weekend with the “Day of the Dead” service, and I’ll see you next week,




Beautifying the Grounds, etc., as Autumn Arrives…




Coming Back to ‘Community’

The calendar turns past Labor Day, and with it our attempts to extend the reach of summer: the last good-weather chance to dip the canoe in the Fox River, or to lie on the beaches close to Saugatuck. The familiar rhythms of the school year are on the cusp. And like parents who’ve prepared their charges by shopping for togs and three-ring binders, for the past few weeks the staff and lay leaders at TUC have been preparing for the new church “year.”
The overtures are indeed underway. Our Board, comprised of five members and chaired by incoming President Allen Matthews, already gathered in Oak Park for a retreat a few weeks ago to set goals through the 2012 Annual Meeting, and the roster of major congregational activities has been largely set. The staff also met for its retreat in Evanston to get clear on points of emphasis and to continue planning for our Sunday morning programs.
There’s usually time to express and hear a range of opinions, and bloviating, at retreats. We were mercifully free of either at each meeting. But what struck me was the repetition of the phrase, “community,” among the both board and the staff. It seems something like a trend, for I’ve heard this frequently in the past few years at Third Church, notably in the “pulpit editorials” from our newer members last winter.
And the benefits of “community” have also surfaced in other recent conversations. At a high school reunion in August, a friend bemoaned a missed opportunity to join a local UU congregation. She felt it would’ve given her racially and religiously-mixed family a chance to experience a much-needed sense of “community” in an otherwise homogenous, small New England town. “And my kids,” she added with a sigh, “really needed that kind of support when they were growing up.”
General understandings of “community” come to mind: a group of people with shared values and experiences, one that offers the possibility of forming smaller groups marked by even closer bonds. TUC, like other congregations, offers these: we have the UU small group ministries known as “Chalice Circles,” as well various overlapping and informal collections of long-time friends.
Religious institutions often give much in the way of support of its members and the reinforcement of personal identity. I think it’s why Third tends to matter so much to its members. But we exist not just for ourselves. It’s to extend this sense of belonging to others.
It’s long been argued that churches are not closed social groups. We provide comfort and care to our members, yes, but we also aim to make a difference in the world beyond our walls. We keep our doors open to welcome newcomers, and in particular the stranger, so that our circle of empathy can be expanded. We offer scholarships to college-bound Austin kids, built a community garden and host a Head Start center because they tend first toward the transformation of our corner of the world, and then, as a result, our members can feel better about themselves. If we join our friends, other allies and residents in Austin in acts of local empowerment, TUC is enriched and our sense of “community” is legitimately deepened.
The great African-American theologian Howard Thurman once wrote, “Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers.” Our members come back, and newcomers join TUC again and again because of our sense of “community”–a community that moves beyond itself through service toward others.
See you in church on Opening Sunday and throughout the year, where we’ll lift up this spirit through our “Celebrations of Life.” And if you want to hear more on this topic, come to the September 18th program–it’ll be the focus on the sermon.


“Closing Sunday,” Father’s Day, and the TUC Construction boom…

Hey TUC:
I hope you can join us for “Closing Sunday” this coming Sunday at 11 a.m., when we’ll recognize Flower Communion and offer our thanks to a variety of folks, notably our outgoing Interim Director of Music Scott Aaseng! Scoot has been terrific in his role over the past two years, and he’ll be dearly missed.

Also, our summer work projects are in full gear at the moment, with the “old” iron fence having been installed in the Community Garden this morning. The new five-foot fence will be in place later next week, along with a new retaining wall next to the Robeson Room south windows. I’m also pleased at our record of hiring minority contractors for these projects, with Davis and Sons Iron Work, Inc. being an example. Pictured on break from their labors below are Eugene and Tim Davis, respectively, and in honor of Father’s Day, I’ve also included a picture of the Orono, ME, High School varsity baseball coaching staff–my brother-in-law Donnie Joseph on the left, and my dad Wally Covell on the right.

See you in church!




The Passing of a “Peaceful Warrior,” and RE Sunday…

Hey TUC:
By now many of you have likely heard on the news of Ron Chew’s death this past Tuesday. At the time of his passing, Ron was 78, and while hampered by myriad health issues, he was a passionate advocate of many peace and social justice causes. Trained as an economist, he turned against a type and worked against “laissez-faire” capitalism, arguing instead for a more humane and just economic system than we what we live in at the moment. Active in Veterans for Peace, both on the local and national levels, he was also a near-constant figure at protests across the city during the height of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I could count on seeing him-in even extreme weather–waving his anti-war placards as I drove off the Austin Boulevard exit ramp at the Eisenhower Expressway. Ron and his friends at TUC and elsewhere seemed then like lonely sentinels against increasing militarism throughout the course of the Bush Administration. But public opinion, witnessed in part through the election of Barack Obama, turned in their direction by the end of the decade. At TUC, he was active in the Social Action, Forums and Austin Scholarship Committees, playing pivotal roles in each for many years. This is a great loss for Third, for his family, and for the progressive community in the Midwest, and what we know at the moment is that we’ll hold a memorial service at TUC by the end of June. In the meantime, send Karla and her family all the love you can generate…

Meanwhile, it’s RE Sunday at Third this weekend, and RE Director Kate Wilford will lead a ceremony recognizing our many RE volunteers in the middle of the service. We’ll also be graced by the presence of Dr. Victoria Holland, an operatic soprano and member of the music faculty of Loyola University here in the city, as she offers three pieces during the program. If you haven’t heard Dr. Williams sing, you’re in for a treat!

The pictures below are of Connie Toebe, our Office Administrator, as she sits on the stump of what used to be the large mulberry tree right outside the Sanctuary windows. The tree was removed to allow for landscaping improvements on the south grounds of the campus, and more work on this area will continue next week. The other two pictures from First Unitarian Church in New Orleans are from Dr. Dan Covell as he works with students from Massachusetts this week on continuing clean-up efforts in the aftermath–some six years later–of Hurricane Katrina.

See you in church!




Austin Scholarship, Earl’s Wisdom, in 13.1 miles or less

Hey TUC:
You might feel like the church “year” is over, what with the summery climes this weekend. One U. of C. wag once said Chicago was a “Southern city with a Northern climate,” and while that might be in some ways true, it can still feel like Atlanta from June to September around here. In any case, we’ll have fifteen scholarship award recipients and their families in the Sanctuary this Sunday, and it’s one of the highlights on our calendar. Former Austin High School principal Earl Williams, a product of the Chicago Public School system, and a long-time educator, will have an insightful message to share with the students about perseverance and commitment to advancement. He should know; his life and leadership in the city’s school is a testament to both. And he might share his recollections of the Scholarship program’s early days, which would be of particular interest to those of us who’ve come to TUC in the last decade. If you plan to be with us this Sunday, get here early–seating will be at a premium.

Our Board of Trustees will meet for their end-of-the-year gathering at the Zacny/ Barcroft home tomorrow. They’ll both assess the past year and get ready for the new one, all while thanking the out-going members and welcoming the incoming class. I’ll join them after running in the Chicago “13.1” half-marathon, which starts and ends at the South Shore Cultural Center in the morning. With temps expected to be in the 80’s, I hope to have something left in the tank for the rest of the weekend. Stay tuned, and a picture of some of the Austin Outreach “movers and shakers” is below.

See you in church!