Julie Haden

The time I have spent at TVUUC has been brief or long depending on my life’s needs.

I joined TVUUC to find a liberal community for my family. Soon after joining I started teaching Sunday school classes which taught me more about Unitarian Universalism than I could have ever gleaned from a book.

My greatest experience of TVUUC as my “home” was when my brother Michael died tragically a year ago due to suicide. I was devastated and lost. My brother and I were estranged from our parents for years – so my support came from my husband Joel, a few friends, and the love from my daughter Bella.

Immediately, the church community reached out. Chris Buice listened to me talk and offered good advice and help. Jenny Arthur listened and offered suggestions and her kindness. Finally, Kim Mason sent my daughter Bella a beautiful book that explained death in such a lovely way. After years of negative experiences with my own family when I needed support over the years, this kind of interaction was foreign to me. It was like the family and home I always wanted.

Although a year might go by and I haven’t attended church, TVUUC is always there – open arms and without judgment. That’s what family is all about in my book! I appreciate all the love this beautiful TVUUC family provides to me and my husband and daughter.

Roddy Biggs

“I’ve spent most of my life living in a very conservative Christian household, but I am nothing like my family. I’ve never been able to subscribe to only Christian ideas or the ideas of the Republican party. I probably am the only liberal in my family, and that has led to some very interesting conversations and controversy in and of itself over the years, then you add the fact that I’m gay and you begin to understand my life.

I knew at a very young age that I was not like other boys. I never liked the typical ‘boy toys.’ I would always rather play with dolls and other toys typically associated with girls. When I was 12 years old, I told the first person I was gay, and it was a huge relief.

After coming out to all those in my life, some supported me – others, not so much. I was bullied for several years to follow, to the point that I attempted suicide several times. Fellow students and even some family told me that I would never amount to anything, that I was worthless and should just die. I started to believe all of these things people were telling me and went through a very difficult time in my life. Looking back on my past I’m glad that I was never successful in killing myself, because it does get better.

Being a member of the LGBTQ community in today’s society can be very difficult, but there is hope out there. When I was younger I found my strength and hope in Ellen DeGeneres. Her bravery and will to help others is what helped pull me out of the darkness, but as I got older that was not always enough.

My whole life I have longed for a sense of greater belonging and self-validation in my ever changing identity, and have found that here at TVUUC!

Just a few short weeks ago I attended worship here for the first time, and have never felt so welcomed and loved by such a large group of people. That Sunday as I sat in worship I found myself being drawn to what was said. It was the Jan 1st service, and the topic was on ‘Holy Discomfort.’ Something that I had come to know and understand very well from the Christian church. I could tell from the very open worship that it was not going to be like anything I had known before and that I had found a place where I could grow in my faith be it Christian or not.

I leave you today with the words of our Affirmation that I now, like so many of you, have taken to heart in my everyday life! But before I do I would like to thank you all for giving me a moment to speak to you and share just a little bit more about myself, and for being such a welcoming, loving, and accepting congregation of all people – no matter who they are, what they believe, or where they come from.

I invite you all to join me in our Affirmation: Love it the spirit of this churh, and service is its’ law. To dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another, this is our great covenant.”

Judy Gibson

I first discovered Unitarianism when I joined a high school liberal religious youth group, and that was before the Unitarians and Universalists merged.  So I guess that means I have been a UU for more than 50 years, and have been involved with one congregation or another all during that time.

When Gordon retired and we first considered moving south eight years ago, we knew that we wanted to be part of a Unitarian Universalist community.  We sampled neighborhoods and looked at homes, but we also visited UU churches before we chose where to live.  Chris Buice and the Tennessee Valley UU Church extended a warm welcome!

Even before we relocated to Knoxville, while we were sorting our belongings for the move and trekking back and forth during renovations of our condo, we started sharing our “treasure” with TVUUC – in the form of donations to a special sale called “Treasures from the Attic.”  This was an ideal chance to find a home for those old wedding presents and family “heirlooms” – like silver-plate trays, bowls and tableware – that we never used.

When we settled here, we started getting acquainted by signing up for the retreat to Pickett State Park, going on church hikes, attending holiday open houses, and going to potlucks – but there were so many names to learn!.  I volunteered to be a greeter, made coffee, worked on several committees, and joined the choir, and gradually got to know more people.

All these are important ways to contribute to the community, but I know there would be no coffee, no retreat, no choir, no worship services without our financial support of the church as well.  So Gordon and I have been fair share givers ever since we connected with TVUUC, and we increase our pledge at least a bit every year to help the church grow.

Mark Mohundro

Hi, my name is Mark Mohundro and I have been a member here for several years and a UU for the past 16 years, but I haven’t been around a lot until this year. Until recently, I was very busy with two jobs, and one of the sacrifices I chose was to give up my time here at TVUUC. I was still a Member and I pledged annually, but I just wasn’t around that much.

So, why is TVUUC so important to me and why do I support it? For those of you who don’t know my story yet, a little background: last year I was diagnosed with Liver Disease and my liver was failing. I ended up having a transplant, but there were some complications and I nearly died. I got cards from this congregation that meant so much to me during that time. As I was recovering in the ICU, one thing I vowed to do when I was well enough was to spend more time at TVUUC.

It has not been an easy recovery but I have made it very far in a very short period of time. I’ve been asked by some of you in this Congregation how I have done it so quickly. There are several answers I could give to that, but one of them is most definitely: “because of the support, love, and kindness that I have received from this Congregation.” I knew some of you over the years, but now know a lot more of you, and I look forward to getting to know even more of you. I love this community.

Thank you all – that is why I support TVUUC, and will continue to.

Jen Hamilton

Why do I love TVUUC?  It is one of the few places where I truly feel “myself,” accepted as I am, without judgment. Being surrounded by passionate people who care about equality, freedom and the environment makes my soul sing.  The music touches me so deeply it moves me to tears every time.  With each sermon I gain insight into religion (and not just spirituality) that opens my heart.  I never thought I would attend a church regularly, let alone love it as much as I do.  TVUUC gives me so much that I am humbled to give back in any way I can.  Good thing UU’s like to eat!

 

Anne Whitney

Hi, my name is Anne Whitney, and I’ve been attending this church since 1996.  Unlike many, I did not find my way to Unitarian-Universalism to escape a negative religious experience.  I grew up in a liberal Protestant church.  My Dad was the church treasurer and a deacon.  My Mom directed the bell and children’s choirs.  My sibs and I participated in many things, and sometimes wished we weren’t at church quite so much.

In college, I joined a conservative Christian fellowship and simultaneously took classes in World Religions and The Quest for the Historical Jesus as part of my Religion and Psychology majors.  Talk about cognitive dissonance!  I experienced a new mystical connection to the divine in that fellowship, but railed inwardly on the emphasis on Christ as the only way, evangelism, and subservience of women to men.  Upon graduation, I did not accept an offered job as a campus “minister” and lived my young adult years with little spiritual or religious involvement.

In my late thirties, I entered a time of personal upheaval and spiritual and psychological growth.  I discovered feminine spirituality, read about pre-patriarchal goddess cultures, found a Jungian feminist therapist, joined women’s groups, and began to understand the profound effects living in a patriarchal culture had had on my identity and life choices.  And synchronistically (as Carl Jung would say), through two women friends I came to TVUUC.

Here I have found a friendly, welcoming community where I am not an oddity as a single woman.  Here, many paths to the divine are honored and women are seen as equals. I have met people from different races, religious traditions, sexual orientations, and have been enriched by our diverse congregation.  I have enjoyed participating in a rich and diverse musical program.  Through this community’s example, I have gradually become more socially conscious, making more conscious choices about what I eat, how to recycle, understanding more about racism and LGBT issues, and even, as an introvert, inching my way into social protest actions.  My daughter, Lauren Hulse, through RE and this community, has become aware and practices all of the above at a much younger age than myself.  And I am happy that my grandson, Joseph, is experiencing the enfolding love here.

After being present at the tragedy that occurred here in 2008, I made the conscious decision to more actively engage in this community, initiate conversations with people I didn’t know, volunteer more. I have increased my pledge to reflect the importance of this community in my life. I have offered and participated in auction events, getting to know members in new ways.  It is wonderful to see many new faces in our midst recently.  I encourage everyone to reach out and talk to people you don’t know.  Get involved.  All are welcome here and we are the church.

 

Yvonne Rogers

I moved to Knoxville for work in July 2012, and first found out about TVUUC by reading the Metro Pulse.

I’d left the Roman Catholic Church I grew up in in 2000. I will always cherish the Catholic schoolgirl roots bestowed on me by me mother, grandfather and teachers, but as I became older, I felt more and more certain that that nice carpenter fellow who went out of his way to love everybody did not approve of everything coming out of Rome. I believed He, if He was even up there at all, was calling me to seek my spiritual wings in another church, so I decided to listen to Him and go.
So, one night, a neighbor offered me a glass of wine, and the subject of my spirituality somehow came around. “Is there a church around here where it’s OK to like gay people?” I asked. She smiled. “I think I know the place, ” she said.

And so it was that one September Sunday morning I walked up Kingston Pike to TVUUC for the Sunday service.

I had no idea what Unitarian Universalism was. None. I hadn’t even known it even existed. I blundered into the Fellowship Hall and sat down across from Alan Moore and Dick Trowbridge.

In that conversation, Alan in particular awoke me to the openness of the church, to this being a place for everybody whether you believe in God or not. He let me know that I had found the place I’d been looking for, a place that doesn’t discriminate and wouldn’t stand for one strong viewpoint dominating the rest.

I went to the service, where I remember enjoying “Spirit of Life,” and went back to the Fellowship Hall for more coffee, because if there’s one UU talent I’ve had all along, it’s drinking coffee.

I also met Ben Pounds that day, and he agreed to go to UU Conversations with me, where he helped the speaker explain our faith. Five months later, Ben and I started dating, and we have been a couple ever since.

In the past three years, I have come to think of Sundays as my “Church Day.” My day is built around coming here. I have made friends and tried to obey our law of service and the principles that define our faith, although I can’t always say that I’m good at it. In addition to morning service, Ben and I are regulars at Centering Prayer, and it is amazing.

I think the thing about this place is that you give me hope. I am not a hopeful person. I am a cranky person. You don’t see that because when I’m here, I’m happy.

You’re here — you never quit!
You have been given so many reasons to quit, more reasons than I’ve ever been given, but you never, never quit!

I get the feeling that if the apocalypse strikes and the zombies start clambering up Kingston Pike, you’ll just shelter the survivors and plant your tomatoes, every now and then pausing to move the undead aside with your hoes. And because you’ll all be out there doing that, I’ll eventually crawl out from underneath the piano to join you. If anybody could raise zombie-fighting plants, it’d be you people, and I love you for it.

I still don’t know if there’s anyone up there; I’ve settled upon identifying as a UU Christian Agnostic thing. However, I do collect evidence of someone being up there, and that that being is a loving one, and you all are some of the best evidence in favor of that that I’ve ever found.

Thank You,
Yvonne Rogers