I grew up in the small town of Eden, NC near Greensboro. I studied piano beginning at age 10. I was raised from birth in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (“LDS”). Because our church was small, I had the opportunity to start playing piano for services at age 12 and have been playing in worship services ever since.
I loved the LDS church and its community. But I doubted its truth claims and by age 25 couldn’t honestly meet the church’s requirements to affirm those claims. I finally left the church at age 28. Soon after I met the love of my life, Amy Jo Wiggins while teaching in the same community music school. By 2005 we married and moved to Winchester, VA where Amy obtained Masters’ degrees in Arts Administration and Vocal Pedagogy. Our life together has always revolved around making and teaching music together. In Winchester I was blessed with a full time job accompanying choral programs in public schools, tutoring choral skills and managing a choral library. I also played 3-4 Masses a week for the Catholic Church for 15 years and taught Introduction to Music at a community College alongside Amy. We moved to Oliver Springs to be closer to family in 2020 and I began looking for a job. I saw the opening at TVUUC and was intrigued. Unitarian-Universalism resonated with my personal values in a way that no other church had. When I was hired to the TVUUC music program I was honored to work with Chaz Barber and the whole digital production team of the pandemic. I’m very thankful for all the new skills that came from that experience.
What church activities are you involved in now?
I am now the Music Director at TVUUC, leading the choir, performing for worship services, and coordinating the efforts of volunteer musicians.
What do you like about UU and TVUUC?
Primarily the commitment to service and acceptance. I benefit personally from working on a daily basis with a team of excellent musicians volunteering many hours a week to prepare the wide variety of music we have our services. This commitment to exploring a full spectrum of styles, instruments, and cultural sources strongly contrasts with my previous worship experiences and has been liberating.
I love that UU churches don’t require a declaration of faith or specific religious beliefs. There is room for such a declaration but it is not required of anyone. I like it that we are accepting of differences in others and different faiths. “Love thy neighbor” is the most important guiding principle I retain from my LDS background but there were many constraints on that love. All those constraints seem to fall away in a Unitarian context.
What difference has TVUUC made in your life?
I now have an extended community of people to whom I can talk about my beliefs and values. I am in a service-based community again, something I had lost when I left my first church. I have missed that and I am so glad to have found a community again.
What else are you up to these days?
Besides being the Music Director here, I teach private piano lessons via Zoom. I sing with the Knoxville Choral Society. Prior to the pandemic I was learning to play the organ on my own, sporadically when time permitted but now with regular access to a wonderful organ and expert advice and support from the TVUUC community I obtained a grant for formal organ lessons. This is covering the cost of studying and testing for a formal certification from the American Guild of Organists to play the organ for church worship services. I look forward to the continued personal and musical growth this community fosters.