News & Updates
9/18/2020: Pledge Update
Thank you to everyone who considered what you can do to close our $33,000 pledging gap for this pandemic year, and who has let us know your updated pledge commitment. So far we have received $17,270 in increased and new pledges. We can do it! Every pledge counts -- if you haven't responded yet, please go here to share what you can do. This supplemental pledge campaign will help us know where we stand so leadership can plan responsibly to sustain our mission. We will be reaching out individually to those we do not hear from. We know that many are doing the best you can to get through each day, with attention pulled in many directions. Thank you for taking a few minutes to let us know what you can do to keep the fire of our liberal religious values burning bright. You can do that at this simple web form or by emailing Cat Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9/18/2020: A Message from the MTC (Ministry Team Council)
We want to remind everyone that the church building is still closed. We hope to return to in-person services in the summer of 2021, at the earliest. Church leadership will assess the situation every month and will keep the congregation informed of any changes. Starting this month, leadership has agreed to allow volunteers (who are doing the work of the church) into the building for limited visits. Entrance to the building will be handled case by case and visiting the church will require scheduling time with the church office. There are special protocols to keep other volunteers and church staff safe. Please email the church office at email@example.com with questions.
9/17/2020: This Sunday service information
Sunday, September 20 at 10:30am online
“Who Is My Neighbor?” with Sr. Kathleen Erickson, member of the OTOC Immigrant and Refugee Action Team
Our response is both personal and communal. In this time of what seems like extreme racism, xenophobia, and polarization, we will explore the extreme of human beings recognizing that we are one. Scientific discoveries and contemplative recognition related to this truth are complex, and challenge the structures which have benefited some and resulted in terrible suffering for many. Our spirituality is also challenged, as we let go of certainties determined in another time and strive to welcome a new consciousness of what we may be called to as human beings in the 21st century.
About the guest speaker: Kathleen Erickson, RSM has been involved in immigration ministry since 1991, working at the US/Mexico border with immigrant women. She has provided spiritual support to detained immigrants in Federal Detention Centers and county jails and spent weeks volunteering in El Paso as 2,000 immigrants a week were being released by ICE with a need for shelter and support.
To submit a joy or concern to be shared during the Sunday service, click here.
Time: September 20, 2020 10:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join the Zoom Meeting (same link we use every Sunday):
Meeting ID: 994 8692 9188
9/17/2020: A Note Regarding KIOS Bundled Donations
For several years First Unitarian Church has promoted the KIOS bundled donations drive in the month of October. This campaign raised money for church advertising on Nebraska Public Radio’s Omaha broadcasting station, KIOS, 91.5 FM. Due to the pandemic and other church fundraising efforts, the fundraising team along with KIOS coordinator Lois Norris have decided to postpone the KIOS campaign until June 2021. Of course, you are free to donate to KIOS as individuals any time or you can wait until the June campaign at church as those bundled donations given through First Unitarian Church help pay for our radio advertising. If you have questions, please contact Lois or the church office. We want to thank those who have given past support to the First Unitarian Church KIOS Bundled Drive and we look forward to 2021!
9/16/2020: Morning Reflections will begin Sept. 21.
Join church members Kim Dunovan and Sharon Conlon Monday-Friday 8:15am to 8:45am for a period of reflection and silent meditation/prayer on Zoom. Whether you’re seeking a regular spiritual practice, or just wake-up some mornings needing a little extra support and connection to our church community. This is an informal drop-in and all are welcome! Click here for more information.
9/13/2020: The Tree of Life and Our Fire Burning Bright: A Message from Rev. Shari Woodbury
A few days ago I stepped out of my church office for a breath of fresh air between meetings. As I wandered over the church grounds, a flash of bright green caught my eye. An acorn, tender and new, attested to the drive for life and growth inherent in each one of us. This embryonic seed is much like my relationship with you, in the early stage of developing. I held the shiny fruit of the oak in my hand, pondering the possibilities of this next phase for the church. What good things, in time, will grow?
Of course, even the mightiest tree is vulnerable to the forces of nature. Last month, when the derecho blew through our area, several large limbs of a towering tree in my backyard broke off. Sad as this was, I felt lucky that the silver maple had not fallen into our home, but merely to the ground. Before the debris was carted away, I grabbed a piece of wood. This timber, remnant of a larger tree that survived, evokes the resilience of life. While I mourn what was lost, I am also watching for the new growth that will come to this tree, and waiting to find a new use for the downed piece that I set aside.
The pandemic was a derecho through all our lives over this last half a year. Precious limbs are lost from our tree of life, and the landscape of our society is forever changed. The church began immediately to adapt to these new conditions. The caring networks of this congregation were activated, worship and many small groups continue apace online, and soon we’ll even be bringing church to the doorsteps of many families with at-home religious education kits. Natural history teaches us that those who survive divergence and disaster are those who evolve. And so we are.
Outside the church, it was the gleaming young acorn that drew my attention. Inside, I often find myself pausing on the chancel steps to gaze at the beautiful banner that hangs in the sanctuary. It displays a flaming chalice and was part of the congregation’s pledge campaign last spring. Lovingly painted by hand, the flames represent all that members are grateful for in the work of the church. More flames were to be added as the congregation grew closer and closer to reaching the pledge campaign goal. Alas, as our Treasurer, Walt Jesteadt, described last Sunday, the campaign was cut short by the pandemic – and the congregation remains $33,000 short of the funds we need to raise through pledges to sustain our work.
While the banner has been static since the pandemic began, this church is not frozen in its mission.
As Board President Sharon Piehler described earlier this week, this community rallied to support each other, and continues to reach up and out with an eye toward the future. With each small group gathering and worship service, we rekindle relationships, spark new insights, and break through the isolation of these times. With each food delivery or card or phone call to a member or friend in need, we add another flame to the fire of caring community. With each neighborhood care package handed out at the church door… with each donation to our sister church’s food pantry… and with each call to mobilize voters at this unprecedented moment, we add another flame to the fire of commitment that warms and transforms all that is cold and stuck in the world around us.
Whether you have remained engaged with the church community, or are plugging back in now – or are simply glad that we are still here as a beacon of liberal religious values in greater Omaha – we need your support to keep these flames burning brightly. We are asking every person or family that was unable to pledge last spring to reassess what you can do now, and let us know. If you already pledged, I invite you to consider whether you are able to increase your pledge by 10 or 20 percent to ensure that we continue to thrive and to evolve in our mission. Simply click here to record your updated or new pledge for the 2020-2021 church year. Leaders will be reaching out individually to those we do not hear from, so that we know where we stand and can plan responsibly.
I am here and eager to connect with you, as we grow and evolve together. Thank you for doing what you can to tend the flames of our mission, and help plant seeds for the future.
With love and gratitude,
Rev. Shari Woodbury
9/11/2020: This Sunday service information
Sunday, September 13 at 10:30am online
“Water In-Gathering” with Rev. Shari Woodbury
At this Water In-gathering service, we’ll mark the ending of summer and celebrate our interdependence with the earth and with each other. Join us for virtual ritual with our combined waters, sharing of the smiles and heartfelt hopes of our members and friends, murmuring music and more. Come renew your connection to the church community!
Note: Waters and wishes for this service will be collected at the Community Caravan [click here for details] on Sat., Sept. 12, 11am to 1pm in the church parking lot. If you can’t participate then but would like to share your own hope for the church community this year, you can cut out your own water-drop-shaped paper, write on it your hope or wish for the church community this year, and send a selfie of yourself holding the drop to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Sept. 12. (All ages are welcome to participate! Feel free to send multiple pictures.) Pictures will be incorporated into a slide show for the in-gathering.
We will also continue honoring our interconnection in worship through Joys & Concerns. You can share yours in the chat, or submit one via the web form [click here to submit your joys and concerns] to have your joy or concern lifted up in worship.
Time: September 13, 2020 10:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join the Zoom Meeting (same link we use every Sunday):
Meeting ID: 994 8692 9188
9/10/2020: Reminder: Come to the Community Caravan THIS Saturday!
You're invited to an an all-ages drive-through event starting the church year with welcome, water, and distanced connection. Come take part in the activities and help us welcome Rev. Shari to First Unitarian Church! Learn more at our Facebook event page: www.facebook.com/events/241132553866248
9/9/2020: Beyond 2020: A Message from the Church Board President
Many of us are eager for this year to be in the rear-view mirror. We have been forced to learn so much this year. We learned new words such as COVID-19 and novel coronavirus. We learned how to make a mask, social distance, use Zoom, and grocery shop in the early hours when the stores are empty.
We have had friends and family members become sick or pass without the ability to touch or hold each other close. A generation of eager teens lost their chance to celebrate an important milestone as they graduated from high school. Careers were lost or put on hold. We have been assaulted by a pandemic and now endless political ads as we try to sort fact from fiction, truth from lies.
Through all these trials we have done our best. We learned to bake bread, hiked in the beauty of nature, enjoyed blooming flowers, and figured out how to be there for each other. Overall, we have done a great job of caring for each other in these trying times. We shared food and transportation, found time to make phone calls and mailed cards and letters. I can attest that, in a state of grief and panic, receiving cards with loving messages and phone calls from church members just asking, “are you ok?” is a gift like no other. I could never assign a value to what our church community has given to us.
We are now tasked with mapping out what our future looks like.
How do we navigate this election season and stay solid and grounded? One of the ways is centered in the work our UUTheVote team is doing. We CAN make a difference.
We can continue our amazing RE classes, enabling our children to stay in touch and keep learning the valuable lessons we can gift them with. Our kids are the future and are our finest resource. They must be nurtured and protected.
Our two-year wait is over, and we have our settled minister! Rev. Shari Woodbury will be with us for years to come. It is time to plan and set goals. Your board will be spending several weekends in planning sessions with Rev. Shari and Phil Lund, a great UUA resource, kicking off our short and long-term planning to assure our success and sustainability.
One of the keys to a successful future is financial stability.
In reading Walt’s email you know now that we came up very short on our pledge campaign. We have over 230 members and received pledges from only 126 pledge units (some of these are family units). We are $33,000 short to balance a budget that already includes us drawing against our reserves. Our reserves need to be protected to assure that when we are ready, we have startup funds for future needs and growth. We need funds now to pay the bills to maintain our building, pay employees, and honor our obligations to the community. We will not be able to honor these financial obligations through the remainder of the church year without further drawing down our reserves unless we close the gap.
Our ask is that you think deeply about what our church means to you and your loved ones. We can all protect and nourish our church through donations, large and small. Any pledge amount helps. Five dollars per week is as important as large endowment bequests.
We are hoping you will recognize the value of what we have: our historic building, friendly faces ready to help each other, a bright future with our new minister, and a community of education and faith grounded in our values and principles.
Please help us sustain this amazing gift by clicking here to record your updated pledge.
If we don't hear from church members regarding your pledge (whether you can increase your pledge or not), board members and finance team members will be reaching out by phone to make sure we touch base with all church members.
President, Board of Trustees
9/6/2020: Treasurer's Update on Church Finances
Our spring stewardship campaign was rudely interrupted by a pandemic. After many phone calls and other efforts to obtain pledges during the lockdown, we ended up with about $217,000 from 126 pledges, well short of the $280,000 required to balance our church budget. We have had fewer expenses during the pandemic, but we still have to maintain the building. It continues to support our staff’s work, and we all want our beautiful building to be ready for us when we can resume gathering in person.
We are maintaining our programs as well. Zoom services have been successful and have allowed us to reconnect with members and friends who had been unable to come to regular services. Most of our church groups have sustained vital connections by shifting online, too. We were even able to call a new settled minister! We all look forward to the time when the pandemic will be over and we can get back together and meet Shari Woodbury in person.
At the time that we made pledge phone calls in the spring, some people were concerned about their jobs or their investment income. Hopefully there is less uncertainty now. Other people told me last spring that they were doing fine and had just received an additional $1200 from the government.
We adopted a revised budget at the Zoom congregational meeting in May that assumed $250,000 in pledge income and used money from the federal PPP program to make up the difference. We will not have income from renting the church for weddings and will still need to use some of our reserves, but we can make it work – if we receive an additional $33,000 in pledges to get to $250,000. We are launching a supplemental stewardship campaign via email, to ask those who have not been financially impacted by the pandemic to pledge or to increase their existing pledge. Every pledge counts, and whatever you can do, we appreciate your response.
In the coming week, you will receive additional messages about the campaign from Sharon Piehler, our Board President, and Rev. Shari Woodbury along with a simple pledge form that you can return via email. Phone calls will then be made to members and friends we have still not heard from. Please give some thought to what you can contribute to sustain our First Unitarian community, and stay safe.
~Walt Jesteadt, Treasurer
9/4/2020: This Sunday service information
Sunday, September 6 at 10:30am online
“Nodes of Renewal” by Rev. Shari Woodbury
“Live a life you can endure,” writes poet Marge Piercy. She encourages us to “Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.” As we delve into our September theme of Renewal this week, Rev. Woodbury and friends invite you to consider how small groups – including those at the church – may serve as nodes of renewal in your life.
Would you like to share a story of how participation in a small group has renewed you? What has the "real node" of a small group meant in your life? Drop a note to Rev. Shari at email@example.com and she just might incorporate it into the Sept. 6 service. (Please let her know if it's okay to quote you by name, or anonymously.)
We are also trying out a new way of weaving connections in worship. You'll have the chance to share Joys & Concerns in the Zoom chat during the service. Another option is to submit your joy or concern on the website. Click here to submit your joy or concern. Whether it's via chat or submission on the website, Rev. Shari will briefly lift up personal joys and concerns from the congregation during worship.
The Zoom event link is the same one we use every Sunday:
Meeting ID: 994 8692 9188
9/2/2020: Come to the Community Caravan
Save the Date: Saturday, Sept. 12, 11am to 1pm
An all-ages drive-through event starting the church year with welcome, water, and distanced connection.
Come take part in the activities and help us welcome Rev. Shari to First Unitarian Church! Please remain in your car and follow the path outlined here: https://mailchi.mp/firstuuomaha/communitycaravan
Volunteers and staff will be masked and will handle sanitizing. Note: You don't have to stop at every station but please wave hello!
We will have multiple stations:
1.The Stuffed Animal Sleepover Drop Off Station with Christina:
You are invited to bring one of your inanimate fuzzy household members to participate in a Back-to-Church Stuffed Animal Sleepover. Note to the Stuffed Animals: This is a sacred mission to reconnect your human companion to the building, community, and traditions they have been missing during the pandemic. Click here for more information and to register.
2. The Engagement Station with Carrie:
While we're welcoming back members and friends, we'd also like to offer a chance for visitors and newcomers to stop by, say hello, and ask questions. Visit Carrie at the "engagement table" to pick up your welcome packet! Not new but considering how you want to plug into the church this year? Carrie will have handy info for you too, on current ways to participate.
3. The Water Deposit Station with Rev. Shari:
Say hello to our new minister and pour water from your local watershed (from a stream, creek, pond, lake) into the provided container in the church garden. The combined waters will be incorporated into our virtual Water In-gathering worship service the next day. Please bring one water deposit per car. If you cannot venture out, feel free to bring tap water.
4. The Wish Water Droplet Station with Mary Kay Peters:
Share your hope or wish for the coming church year on the paper water droplet cutouts you'll be given and then have your photo taken with your water droplet. We'll have enough clipboards and paper for everyone in the car to take part and all ages should share. Consider writing just a word or phrase on your water droplet.
5. The Sister Church Food Pantry Drop Off Station with Cat and Carol Ramsey:
Each month our sister church Claire Memorial hosts a food pantry. Bring canned food/nonperishable goods and leave them here. Our Sister Church Team will deliver these donations to the food pantry. Click here for a list of suggested food donations. Thank you!
If you didn't get a chance to mail your welcome card to Rev. Shari or you have a small gift, please leave it at this table with Cat as well.
We look forward to seeing everyone on Saturday, September 12th in the church parking lot!
Questions? Email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8/30/2020: UU the Vote Follow Up
Check out the links and resources we shared in the August 30th service at this link (along with some elements of the service):
8/27/2020: This Sunday service information
Sunday, August 30 at 10:30am online
"UUtheVote: Democracy and Participation in 2020"
Presented by the UUtheVote Task Force
People of faith can take a meaningful role in elections without being partisan. In this critical election year, the UUtheVote Task Force is working on a number of projects designed to provide voter education and increase voter participation. All projects are grounded in UU principles. There will be limited time for some people in the service to share short stories about their voting experiences. Please consider sharing this Sunday.
The Zoom event link is the same one we use every Sunday:
8/25/2020: Call for submissions for Chalice Connection, a magazine of First Unitarian Church
Do you have an idea for an article for this new quarterly publication? Do you take photos at church and want a place to share them? Are you interested in interviewing church members or staff? Do you write poetry? Do you have an amazing recipe that people keep asking about? Do you have an important issue that you’re passionate about? If so, please submit your items to email@example.com. Word count limit: 1,000 words. If your plan involves a longer piece, please contact the office. Notes: 1. Articles will be approved by the Editor, the Office Team, and in some cases in conjunction with the staff and MTC. 2. All articles will be subject to editing.
3. Articles must comply with the First Unitarian Communications Policy.
More information can be obtained by emailing the church office.
Deadline for the October 2020 issue is Sept. 1st.
Fall issue theme: Solidarity
8/23/2020: Soul Matters Forum Coming Up on Sunday, August 30 @ 9:30am on Zoom (50 minutes)
We have room for new members and we want YOU. Learn what Soul Matters is and find out how connecting in small Zoom groups can help you get through 2020. Join us! The Zoom meeting link will be sent in the church enews. Or you can email the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our 4 existing groups will begin meeting again in September. We have room in those groups for new members and will add more groups as needed. Maybe you would like to form your own group? We can make that happen too!
To sign up and for more information, go to www.firstuuomaha.org/soulmatters and join us via Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83596809394 ) for a Soul Matters forum Sunday August 30th at 9:30am.
8/21/2020: ATTENTION ALL PARENTS OF CHILDREN NEWBORN to 12th GRADE!
It's time to register for Religious Education. Please fill out the registration form even if your child is an infant or you don't expect to participate in remote Sunday School this year. It's important for our record-keeping and future program planning! This year's registration includes questions about how our community can best meet your family's Religious Education needs while social distancing during the pandemic. Form link: https://forms.gle/gtAMLp1btRSn9XGu9
8/20/2020: Outside Opportunity: Virtual Midwest Leadership School 2020
The Extended Virtual Leadership Experience, a 4-part series, will be running Sept to Nov.
(The meetings will happen on Saturdays, 9am-12pm).
They are encouraging congregations to send teams and each person registering needs a letter of support from the minister or board president. Cost is $150. Please review the information at the link and if you are interested, email: email@example.com by Sept 1st.
8/18/2020: This Sunday service information
Sunday, August 23 at 10:30am online
"The Problem with Moral Perfectionism" with Ryan Cook, Church member
How analyzing our own experiences can lead to greater acceptance of others. Ryan will talk about some of his own experiences and how they lead him to become a more moral individual.
8/12/2020: Signals - A Note from Rev. Shari
Thank you to all of you who have welcomed me and my family to Omaha with chalk art at the church, a continuing card shower, smiles and kind words. We feel your warmth and we are so happy to be here!
As I write this from my home office, between one Zoom meeting and the next, communication methods are much on my mind. People have a proliferation of tools – like this e-blast – to help us connect with each other. We use them in a wide variety of ways and they are always evolving.
While I expect to return to Zoom often in the weeks and months ahead, I revert happily to older forms of communication. Someday we will enjoy again the most time-honored way of connecting: face to face. Until then, you can connect with me by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org; note that you may have to update your Contacts to get it to display my name rather than Rev. Michelle’s. I also have a local cell number I’ll use for the church, including pastoral care and working with groups. That number is 531-600-8313. And if you are on Facebook or LinkedIn, feel free to connect with me there. I don’t manage to keep up with everything on social media (who could?!) but I do occasionally share articles or pictures.
Of course, communication is a two-way street. I look forward to hearing from 1st UU’s members and friends and getting to know you. Please stay tuned for structured opportunities to connect with me, individually or in small groups, in coming weeks and months.
During this first month, like most new settled ministers, I’m setting myself up in the church and community, beginning to connect with key groups in the congregation, and starting to plan for the church year. We will begin at a measured pace and take the time to get to know each other. For now, I will attend and experience the service, getting a sense of what it’s like for a member or visitor to join this community in worship. I will start preaching and leading full worship services in September.
At a recent hike at Fontenelle Forest, I heard some of my favorite signals: birdsong floating down from the trees, and frog calls echoing out from the streams. I witness the calls many of *you* have been making, too. You are communicating your desire to stay connected with your church community, to follow your curiosity and make meaning, to embrace a spirit of creativity and new possibility, and to make a difference in some of the great social movements and challenges of our time. These calls are as musical to my ears as those of our Fontenelle friends.
Whether you communicate by Morse code, smoke signals, letter, texting, Zoom or social media, I look forward to connecting further with you. If you made it all the way to the end of this special e-blast, you can help me with church communications by dropping me an email at email@example.com to let me know that you did so. I may not respond to these messages, but the number I get will tell me something about how many people are reading the digital words coming from the church these days.
See you soon!
Rev. Shari Woodbury