Upcoming Services

11 am (unless
otherwise indicated)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

"The True Dream"
the Rev. Daniel Budd

Sunday, June 5, 2016

In All the Universe, This
the Rev. Daniel Budd

Religious Education



CLICK HERE TO REGISTER for 2015-2016 Youth Religious Education Classes!

YRE Video

Lights, camera, 'Catch the Spirit'! Volunteer recruitment for the Youth Religious Education Program has begun. You don't want to miss this feature!


Click here to Sign Up for Weekly Forum E-News

Community Forum returns this Fall, 2016

Watch videos of the previous Community Forums



One Corner of the Borough

click here for Daniel Budd's Blog



Religious Education at First Unitarian now has a blog! You can follow the entire depth and breadth of our Lifespan RE program at firstuclere.wordpress.com.  Consider this new blog to now be your one-stop-shop for all things RE. Find out about events, classes, workshops, worship, volunteering,  and more ways to be engaged with the faith tradition of UUism.  We want your comments on posts! We’re so excited to have this new way of communicating with you.  See you online!

Morning Forum 9:30am


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First Unitarian Church of Cleveland
21600 Shaker Blvd
Shaker Heights, OH 44122
(216) 751-2320
F: (216) 751-2322

Sunday Worship Service
11:00 am  year round

Everyone begins in the Sanctuary at 11 am. Religious Education students and teachers are dismissed for class around 11:15/11:20 am.  Child care for infants and toddlers is available.

Church Office Hours (Labor Day through mid-June):

Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Building Hours:  Monday - Friday, 9 am - 9 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9 am - 3 pm

Summer Hours (mid-June through Labor Day): Office: 8:30 am - 3:30 pm

Building: Monday and Weds, 9 am to 9 pm; Tues, Thurs, Fri, 9 am - 5 pm;

Sunday, 9:00 am - 2 pm.  Closed Saturdays (except for special events).


Please note that per church policy, when the Shaker Schools are closed due to bad weather, the church is also officially closed. 




Welcome to First Unitarian!

It is time for our spring fundraising drive,


First UU!

Chapter One

Once upon a time there was a beautiful church in a peaceful suburb that was known far and wide for it's congregation of dedicated members, insightful minister and loyal leaders. This congregation is real, this congregation is ours, and we need your support! 

Chapter Two


Some people heeded our call and sent their pledge cards in quickly and that was helpful. Others took a little longer and we wanted to encourage those people to send in their pledges so our Board can set a budget for next year. If you can increase your pledge, our congregation would greatly appreciate it so the salaries and other expenses can then be met - and our story will have a happy ending.

Footnote: we will be selecting someone at random from the pledges received each week for a Spirit Box. Debbie Wright and Bob Horan are the winners of the Spirit Box for the week ended 4/9.
Thanks for all your support of our wonderful church community.


Click here to make a pledge to the 2016-2017 Stewardship Drive


Make a secure monetary donation directly online HERE



Read our weekly eblast HERE



GCC Congregational Conversation June 5 at 12:30pm.

On February 21, we had 50 people engage in conversation about "What people at First U would choose to address if you knew that 1000 people would show up to support you?" The top 4 issues were: Institutional Racism, Voter Registration and turn out, Gun Control, and Education. Your GCC Core team has been working to identify possible actions to address these issues. Please join us for another conversation with Khalilah Worley, your Core Team, and other First U leaders, to learn how to move to action, and determine what action(s) we may engage in together. Light lunch provided by your Core Team.


Sunday June 12 immediately following the Worship Service in the Sanctuary
All those who have been members of First Unitarian Church in good standing for at least six months are urged to participate in the democratic process of our congregation's Annual Meeting. This meeting is where a quorum of members reviews our budget for the coming year and the nominees for the Board and the Nominating Committee. This is an important process. This year, we will be hearing brief required reports, voting on the budget and the nomination of Board and Nominating Committee members. Please plan to participate in this annual ritual of congregational polity.



Annual End-of-Year Picnic

Sunday, June 12th

What is a picnic celebration without Fun, Food, UU Friends and our Families. Harry's Kitchen Crew will be offering a picnic menu that ants and uncles will be licking their lips. Stay tune for more weekly updates and flyers located around the church...mark the noted date on your family calendar.




Summer Social Justice Book Discussion:
The New Jim Crow


Valerie Freseman, our Killam Intern, will be facilitating a 3-part discussion of the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, on three Wednesdays in July: July 13th, 20th, and 27th. This important book by noted Civil Rights Activist Michelle Alexander was chosen as the 2012 UUA Common Read.


Please RSVP toValerie@firstunitariancleveland.org, and indicate whether you want us to purchase the book for you. (3 copies are available in the library, cost of the book roughly $12.00)


The deadline to RSVP is June 15th.



April 24 (Final Forum of the season)

Muslim Families in NEO: An Awakening Conversation How do local Muslim families handle or counteract the reporting on activities associated with violent extremists here and abroad? Is progress being made locally on cultural and religious discrimination against Muslims in employment, education, travel, or law enforcement? Moderator: Julia Shearson, Director, Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Ohio), Cleveland Chapter. Panelists: Akrum Jamal, President, Islamic Center of Cleveland and Sarah Mohammed, Vice-President, Muslim Student Association, CSU.


What You Missed, April 24 

Muslim Families in NEO

Watch the full Forum video HERE








Don’t miss these exciting musical events at First Church during the month of June!


On Sunday, June 5th, Mike will be joined by our own John Gibbon on cello for special music during the service. Music of Frederic Chopin will be featured.


You only have two more chances to enjoy our Chancel Choir before they go on summer hiatus until the ingathering service in September. The choir will sing during the Sunday services on June 5th and June 12th.


If you missed their evening concert in our sanctuary a few weeks ago, you can still catch The Greater Cleveland Flute Society, as they will be performing during our service on Sunday, June 26th.


Save the date: we will have a special guest musician on Sunday, July 10th. Shen Lu, who will be one of the participants in this year’s Cleveland International Piano Competition, will be playing as our guest musician during the service that morning and then will present a free concert in our sanctuary at 1:00 that same afternoon. Tell your friends and be sure to join us for this special event!



Heart Land: Where Faiths Connect
JUNE 22-26
Columbus, OHIO

The religious landscape is increasingly multifaith. Across the globe, people are crossing borders of religion and spiritual practice to create wholeness in their lives individually and collectively. The labels—Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, humanist, theist and non-theist—are no longer the primary way we define how religion, spirituality, faith, and practice come together. In our quest to bring more love and justice into the world, we find ourselves in partnership with people following different religious and spiritual paths. The richness of those encounters deepens our faith, strengthens our work for justice, and encourages connections with those who are “spiritual but not religious.” General Assembly 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, will invite us to explore how to be in authentic and fruitful interfaith partnerships, both within and beyond the congregation. We’ll assemble leaders and communities of many faiths to worship together and learn from one another. We will explore what grounding and vision we share across faith traditions, and what particularities of each tradition lend creativity and depth to our work across faith borders. Together, we will move toward a new interdependent vision of faith that responds to the needs of our own time and points us toward the future.



Hey UU: What's Cooking #6
Lentil Soup with Greens and Lemon

This soup is my go-to recipe when I need a delicious soup and have some greens on hand. It is easy, hearty and especially good with a hunk of brown bread and a bottle of beer.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed and picked over
7-8 cups veggie stock (or water)
1 potato, diced
1 big bunch chard (or spinach or kale)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or less, to taste)
juice of 1/2 lemon (or more, to taste)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Garnish: Regular or vegan sour cream or plain yogurt Directions:
1. In large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat oil and sauté onions until golden.
2. Add garlic and lentils and sauté just until garlic releases its fragrance, about 30 seconds.
3. Add stock or water and potato. Simmer 20 minutes,
4. Then add greens.
5. Meanwhile, toast spices in a dry skillet until they release their fragrance.
6. After lentils are tender -- about 45 minutes to an hour -- then add spices, salt, lemon juice and cilantro and serve topped with sour cream or yogurt (or not).


Nancy King-Smith







We Thank you for joining us, and hope you take some time to enjoy our site and learn more about how:

...adult and youth education espouse our 400+ years of liberal religious faith and tradition
(see Faith Development tab above).

...we unite with other congregations and organizations through
Greater Cleveland Congregations
to take a stand against gun violence (see To Search & To Serve/Service & Justice,
and Spotlight On).

...our open policy about weddings - for members, non-members, and same-sex couples alike

(go to Members tab, and click on Ceremonies in drop down menu) 

...our Forums that Matter newsletter keeps in you in the loop about our speaker series

...folks just like you are finding First Unitarian . . . and why they stay
(click on Why I'm Here tab below).

Also, we invite you to catch the RE spirit and volunteer! Watch this video about our Religious Education program AND

click on Spotlight On below to meet our incoming Music Director! 

Unitarian Universalists were in the media last week honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by renewing their call to justice, continuing a dialogue on race, and more. Read the latest from UU World.


First Unitarian Church of Cleveland: To Search and Serve

'To Search' our website, click through the tabs below. 


Join Our Email List

Follow us on tumblr

Spiritual Conversations


The exploration of our spiritual nature continues 
this Wednesday . We will enhance our understanding of ourselves, our relationships to others and to the universe on a deeper, more profound level. Spiritual Conversations examine questions at the center of our lives: what does it mean to be human, how can we live a rich life, what deepens our appreciation of the magnitude and mystery of life?

Everyone is welcome!

Questions? Please contact Katarina Cerny at  katarinac@wowway.com or 216-862-2303  or Sandy Wilson at  sandyw58@gmail.com or  216-785-6318



GCC Congregational Conversation

June 5 at 12:30pm. 

On February 21, we had 50 people engage in conversation about "What people at First U would choose to address if you knew that 1000 people would show up to support you?" The top 4 issues were: Institutional Racism, Voter Registration and turn out, Gun Control, and Education. Your GCC Core team has been working to identify possible actions to address these issues. Please join us for another conversation with Khalilah Worley, your Core Team, and other First U leaders, to learn how to move to action, and determine what action(s) we may engage in together. Light lunch provided by your Core Team.



Sunday June 12th

What is a picnic celebration without Fun, Food, UU Friends and our Families. Harry's Kitchen Crew will be offering a picnic menu that ants and uncles will be licking their lips. Stay tune for more weekly updates and flyers located around the church...mark the noted date on your family calendar.



Valerie Freseman, our Killam Intern, will be facilitating a 3-part discussion of the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by, on three Wednesdays in July: July 13th, 20th, and 27th. This important book by noted Civil Rights Activist Michelle Alexander was chosen as the 2012 UUA Common Read.

RSVPS will go out in May, and June, and at that time you will have a chance to order the book as well.
For more information, please email  Valerie@firstunitariancleveland.org





Dear members and friends of First Unitarian Church,

I am so very excited to be coming to First Church as your new music director! It is a true honor for me to have the opportunity to continue the outstanding tradition of music at First Church, and I recognize and am grateful for the challenge of stepping into the shoes of Fern Jennings. Some of you know me already, as I am a lifelong UU who has served as the music director of Olmsted UU Congregation for the past 16 years. I am also an adjunct music instructor at Walsh University and I teach a thriving studio of private voice and piano students. I live in Lakewood with my wife Lucy, and we have two wonderful children, Erin and Wesley. Although I am classically trained with music degrees from Baldwin Wallace and Kent State Universities, my musical tastes as a performer and listener are wide-ranging and eclectic, as you will soon discover. Please call, email or stop to say hello - I am excited to be a part of congregational life and I am eager to meet each of you. Most of all, I am looking forward to providing avenues for everyone – regardless of age or experience – to take part in making music at First Church!

  Mike Carney,  Incoming Music Director

GCC News - First Unitarian at Public Action


13 members from First Unitarian participated in the Criminal Justice Action organized by Greater Cleveland Congregations in response to the Brelo verdict on Tuesday, May 26th.




Religious Education at the First Unitarian now has a blog! You can follow the entire depth and breadth of our Lifespan RE program at  firstuclere.wordpress.com .  Consider this new blog to now be your one-stop-shop for all things RE. Find out about events, classes, workshops, worship, volunteering,  and more ways to be engaged with the faith tradition of UUism.  We want your comments on posts! We’re so excited to have this new way of communicating with you.  See you online!




Attending UU events at the District, regional and national level is a wonderful way to learn more about what our movement is doing and to get energized for how we can be engaged in our own congregation.  The annual General Assembly of congregations is the annual meeting of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).  Attendees worship, witness, learn, connect, and make policy for the Association through democratic process. Anyone may attend—there are typically 4,000-5,000 attendees -- but voting delegates must be approved by our congregation's Board of Trustees (we may send up to eight).  Many of the GA events from this past summer's gathering can be accessed online.  Go to, http://uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/index.shtml  to find out how.  The 2015 GA will be in Portland OR in June.


Recognizing – And Thanking - Our Fifty-Year+ Members

Three years ago, the stewardship committee began recognizing members who had been with the church for 50 years or more by inviting them to the annual Major Givers reception and presenting them with a gift to acknowledge their commitment to the church and Unitarian Universalism. These members - and those who have passed away - are an inspiration to us all!

 Member                                      Signed the Book In:

 Debbie Adler                             1938

 Carrol Gensert                          1949

 Wally Adler                               1951

 Jim Wickert                              1953

 Nancy Wild                               1955

 Mildred Hathaway                   1957

 Gloria Reske                             1957

 Kathie Kitchingham                1959

 Esther Bockhoff                       1960

 Marge Miller                            1960

 Ann Calkins                             1960

 Ann Siebert                              1962

 Gail Broughton

 Muriel Black

 Katie Martin

 Frank Miller                           1963

 Heidi Spencer

 Pete Spencer

 Joyce Wallace                        1964

 Stuart Wallace

 Joan Orr

 Jackie Stimpert


“All That Jazz” All That and More!

This year's auction drew a crowd of nearly 60 flappers, gangsters, mols and swells, and the word is a good time was had by all! Kudos to Auction Committee members Ken Kuehm, Greg Nosan, Erin Holmes, Mark Bradbourne and Brian Larson for transforming Fellowship Hall into a 1920's speakeasy, and to “Our Guys in the Kitchen” for once again putting out unique and tasty “heavy” hors d' ouerves. ...Read more.

Why I’m STILL Here

As a Peace Corps volunteer in my mid-twenties, I was in Nepal teaching English as a second language for two years. When my Peace Corps term ended, I received a one-way ticket home, and was allowed as much travel time as I wanted . . . I took six months travelling through India on third class trains, the Middle East, and Europe. ...Read more.

-- Check out the interview at Cool Cleveland with Dr. Elizabeth Meacham of Ursuline College and Rev. Daniel Budd which was done in our Permaculture Garden and features First U as a leader in sustainability practices!


-- Rev. Budd's sermon, "The New Jim Crow", which draws from Michelle Alexander's book of the same name, is posted at the Puncture the Silence website: 

-- Letter to the Editor on the Plain Dealer web site re: racism from NE Ohio UU ministers:


-- Recent articles on Unitarian Universalist Growth may be found at:




-- Read Daniel Budd's Messages of Faith columns:

-- First Unitarian Church Installs High-tech Solar Array

-- Great LBGT Welcoming comment at end of review of Omer Quartet concert May 5th:


We encourage you to share any of the links here that catch your eye or interest within your own networks. Oh, and please send a note if you spot First Unitarian in the news and aren't sure that we already know. Thanks! 

Why I'm Here 

Members Share Their First Unitarian Connection


Members and Friends recently began sharing “Why I Am Here” stories during Sunday services.  As you read these heartfelt "testimonials," please reflect on what our church means to you and reach out to Daniel or David Kantor if you'd like to share your own story at an upcoming service!  As well, we urge you to share these stories with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.  Shouldn't everyone know what this wonderful place could one day mean to them?

Why I am here

 Many of you know me, I’m Laurie Albright, and I’ve been attending here about 30 years, beginning when I was pregnant with our first son. I joined the church about 20 years ago. It was in the search for a place where I could support myself and my young family in asking the big questions, even if the answers seem somewhat elusive, that I found myself here. Making ritual space for the questions is important to me. 

Simply, the reason I am here is: I love this community that embraces the principles of Unitarian Universalism, and specifically how “we are” in relationship to each other here. I want to go a bit deeper into why I love you all.

 Many of you know I was trained as a school psychologist, and so studied Freud, among many other psychologists and their theories. While I was more drawn to Jung, Gestalt and behaviorism (how’s that for disparate package!), I remember Freud referring to two realms that you need some success in to have a satisfying life- love and work.  

Well, when I came here, I largely had some pretty good things going in both those departments, yet I found myself yearning for more. To me, satisfaction in love and work is similar to getting the minimum support to avoid, say scurvy or rickets, but it does not necessarily lead to what is needed for a rich, fulfilling life. 

 Ah Ha! You’ve already figured out what I am about to say. Being a part of this community has given me SO many opportunities, experiences, and relationships with others, all in the context of a religious purpose. I feel I have hit the mother lode! In the many circles of community here, I can engage in social justice, nurture next generations, grapple with practices for things such as “How DO people, who come together on a completely voluntary basis, figure out how to govern themselves, make decisions, support each other, and bring out our “best angels”?”. And engage in this in the context of you, who accept both my “heresy” and my attempt to understand my own yearning to “understand the mystery”, without having to put it in a neat box.

 You helped us raise our sons in a culture we sometimes felt we had to fight- you are a sanctuary. 

 Here’s what you do for me: Buckminster Fuller said, “I seem to be a verb.” You help me be a verb: to wonder, to contemplate, to connect, to consider, to feel, to work, to learn, to stretch, to strive to “grow” my better self.

 And so, for me, a rich rewarding, challenging life means attention to work, love, and my beloved community. Thank you for being here for me and my family.

Laurie Albright

Why I am here….

One big reason I’m here is that I don’t have to hear or recite words that make no sense to me or that I strongly disagree with. I don’t worry about that here. I can be authentic here and that’s important to me.

I like the fact that we have many sources of wisdom, rather than one source written for a different time and place long ago. I love so many of the people that I know here.  I like being able to learn from you. You enrich my world.

Beyond  these reasons, which are genuine and which echo what many others have said,  there was also a special moment many years ago that had a huge impact on me.    

Some of you may remember  Dorothy Baroush, who was a member here and later in life became a UU minister(which I also thought was pretty neat).  In the early 70’s, she was a delegate to our General Assembly and was instructed, either by a congregational vote or the board, (I don’t know which) how to vote on one of the resolutions at our national meeting.  I haven’t been able to track down the exact wording of the resolution, but it was something in the nature of  supporting the full acceptance of gays and lesbians in our congregations and she was told to oppose that resolution.   Remember, it was the early 70’s –in Ohio.

After returning from GA, she stood right up there in the pulpit and told us that she did NOT vote as instructed.  My first reaction was,  “What?  You went against our specific instructions to you?  How could you do that?”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  A moment or so later, I thought, “Wow!!     Holy Toledo!!”  This is a place where principles and soul-searching are more important than rules. Let me repeat that. This is a place where principles and soul-searching are more important than rules.

And then she explained. She told us that before going to GA, she’d discussed the resolution and her instructions with her son, whom she then learned was gay himself. (That seemed to be a surprise to her, but I don’t have the details on that either.)   Having learned more, she couldn’t, in good conscience, vote as instructed. Instead, she was free and courageous enough to trust her own judgment based on a better understanding of the issue, the consequences of that vote, and our values as Unitarian Universalists.  I would guess that she struggled mightily over her responsibility to represent us  - and to do the right thing.  It could not have been easy. In the end, she had the courage to act according to her own greater understanding    - and to stand up for a higher principle against probable criticism back here.    Although our banner over the back door came much later, to me, she embodies its words, “To Search and to Serve.”  I’m sure she searched long and hard to figure out the right thing to do and to serve us well.

She not only acted as she believed was right, she had the courage to stand up there and tell us.  She didn’t have to do that. No one would ever have known she had voted as she did. But she told us    - and taught us that, based on new information and her sense of who we ought to be, we were wrong and needed to look more carefully to our roots.

I’m here (in this denomination and at this lectern) because I do believe in courage. Since we don’t have absolute rules to follow, we need to search carefully for our own understanding of justice, compassion, and ways to live with integrity.  I’ve heard people say that Unitarians can believe whatever they want. But that really does us a great disservice. It’s true that we don’t impose rules and beliefs, but I think it means we hold ourselves responsible and accountable for leading a principled life – and figuring out what that means and how to do it.  

I believe in us as a denomination. I also believe in us as a congregation. But, for me, church is more than a comfortable community of like-minded individuals.  It’s more than the benefits I receive by being a member.  It’s also a place where I can give.


What keeps me here is that there is opportunity to contribute – to join with others to try to grow in understanding, in caring, in making a difference. I can use my own head and whatever skills I have to try to make a difference, where I can, for individuals, for programs, and for the congregation. Sometimes, what I do, what I give, does make a real difference.  I can see the impact of that.  Not all of my incredibly brilliant ideas bear fruit, of course, but that’s OK. It’s the trying that matters. If I can contribute something that is needed or help shape an idea, I feel valuable, worthwhile, and a part of you – and that’s very rewarding. It makes me want to give more!  It binds me closer to you.

So.   After all these years , I still remember Dorothy Baroush and her gift of integrity and courage. She, in her own way, was able to “Search and Serve”. Now it’s our turn.  That’s a very important part of why I am here – and still her
Karen Grochau

Why I'm Here

Like many of you I've come to The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland from a different religious background. I was raised catholic, I was very devout and I said my prayers. Then, I became a teenager. I started to question why, if there even was a God, would he want everyone to fear him. The Catholic God started to sound like a bully to me. Over time I became a closet atheist but even though I didn't believe in God I was sure I'd go to hell for it. I started to have trouble with words like blessed, faith, God and church. Just saying those words felt wrong. So, I let it go. I let all religion go for a long time. 

    In my 20's, I came across Carl Jung. My exploration into Jung's philosophies, the idea of the collective unconscious and how we are all connected resonated deeply in me and that became my new religion. Jung often found his divine spark through creativity and drawing beautiful mandalas. I found mine through drawing and painting images that I called tree spirits. 
    Regardless of my beliefs, when my son Gabe was born I wanted him to have a religious education so that he could at least make an informed choice about religion. I had had a wonderful experience visiting a Unitarian church with a friend many years prior so when Gabe was three years old I signed the membership book here at First Unitarian without hesitation. I think I was one of Kathie Kitchingham's easiest sign-ups. That was in 2005.
    Alright, so that's how I got here but why have I stayed? Why am I here now? Why have I fallen in love with this church and the people who make it up? 
    That started on a personal level when I became a volunteer teacher in the Youth Religious Education program. The first class that I ever taught are the youth that are in this years Coming of Age Program. Back then, they were in the first grade. The curriculum was called "Stories about God". I remember struggling with whether or not I could be a good teacher since I wasn't even comfortable saying the word God. One lesson plan ended with us asking the children to share how they imagined God, what would they draw if they had to draw God. All of the children's answers were perfect, there was no wrong answer. But when one child said "I see God as a tree"  I experienced, in that small classroom in the basement of this church, a feeling of connectedness and freedom that went beyond words. Looking back now I guess you could call it transcendence. After that I no longer felt uncomfortable saying the word God. 
    Right now I'm finishing up my third year on the Youth Religious Education Committee. My first year on the committee was also Bethany's first year. Bethany could have easily come in and told the committee what we needed to do to improve the program. Instead, she took the time to help us shine a light on our selves so that we could become better equipped to do this work ourselves. She gently guided us to the notion that this committee is OUR committee and that we were charged with the responsibility to give our children the best UU education possible. I wish I could recount for you the long passionate discussions where we aligned our intentions with the hope to design a program that could offer growth for all involved, the children, the volunteers and the parents. Because it was somewhere in these meetings, in this work, with these people, in community ... that I started to feel a new meaning of the word church. 
    I truly love and savor the church we experience in this Sanctuary. But through these volunteer experiences I've begun to feel church happening in other places. Those experiences have challenged me let go of my old religious definitions, so that I could get closer to my true self and through this process to honor that beauty in others. That's why I'm here. Because I know that there is no way I'm experiencing this alone. 

    Church happens when Membership greets us at the door. It happens in our covenant groups, in committees, through social justice work, in our gardens, on the board and in our classrooms. Church happens when we all come together in community and work together toward a shared goal. How beautiful is that? 

Sherry Griswold

Why I’m Here

 When my husband, Kevin Ortner and I began coming to First Unitarian, I was Light Auburn #110. Our girls were 6 months and 2 1/2 years old and I was still in my 30 s. The girls are now 15 and almost 13 and I ve gone from Light Auburn to Golden Blond to Iced Meringue to Toasted Coconut to what I m now calling undecided. I ll leave my age to your math skills.

We came here as a family looking for a spiritual community. We wanted a place where we could find support  to raise our children with the values we held dear - the values we found in the 7 Principles. We had done our research before we walked in the door- but you d expect that from a lawyer and a project manager.

What we found when we came here was much more than a church community. Over the years, we have found friends who have become family to us and we found a spiritual home.

We were one of the families that started what is now called the We are Families Covenant group, way back when it was still young families. Betsy and Anna have grown up alongside the other youth in this congregation, who are like cousins to them.  They have gone from being the little ones to being the big kids.

Many of you have taught them in Sunday school: you know them as well as their aunts and uncles do, and you certainly see them more often! We are so grateful to have had your caring wisdom guiding them along the way.

 I have taught so many of your children - from preschool right on up through Coming of Age. I feel privileged to have been a witness to their blossoming.

We have ingathered, Halloweened, shared bread communion, made gingerbread houses, hung the greens, downed the browns, Christmas tableaued, potlucked, auctioned and flower-communioned with all of you. We have watched more than a decade of youth come of age and graduate and even come back to visit.

But these 12 or so years we have been here have not been all sweetness and light: there have been career changes and losses: Kevin s father and both of my parents; moves, job changes and other major and minor disasters. But through all of that, this beloved community - this home - has been a constant for us.

Its where we come to be lifted up, to be encouraged and supported and then to turn right around and do the same for you, for our friends who have become family.

 Because, really, the 7 principles might have been the key that unlocked the door to this church for us, but it s the people: our church family, who are the reason why we are here.

Meg Pauken


Why I’m STILL Here

 As a Peace Corps volunteer in my mid-twenties, I was in Nepal teaching English as a second language for two years.  When my Peace Corps term ended, I received a one-way ticket home, and was allowed as much travel time as I wanted . . . I took six months travelling through India on third class trains, the Middle East, and Europe.  I encountered other religious and spiritual paths to climb up Life’s mountain, in addition to the one I had climbed in my Lutheran Church:

Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal and India

Islam in Iran

Judaism in Israel

Eastern Orthodox Catholicism in Greece

Roman Catholicism in Italy and Spain

 When I got home, I returned to my family’s Lutheran Church where Gary and I were married 44 years ago.  We both had discovered Unitarianism when we were in college.  Gary would drive from Bowling Green to the Unitarian Church in Toledo to hear Waldermar Argo, the minister from the late 50’s to early 70’s.  I would take the bus up High Street from Ohio State to the Unitarian Church in Worthington.  So soon after we were married we decided to visit First Unitarian Church of Cleveland.

Like many new members, we attended service regularly and became very involved in church activities.  Susan and Jack were born in 1972 and 1974.  They began in the crib room and participated in the RE program.  When they were three and five, I returned to my life as a high school counselor and eventually became a school psychologist.

But I still SHOWED UP regularly on Sunday mornings for the INSPIRATION of the Worship Services, attended other church events and our family celebrated holidays with our First Unitarian friends in each other’s homes.

I now want to share with you “Why I’m STILL here?”  When I was working in schools, they were my primary communities, but I always knew that when I retired, OUR CHURCH would be MY BELOVED COMMUNITY, which it has been and will continue to be.  That is why I am wearing a t-shirt that SAYS SO instead of being dressed in my Sunday best.  I got the t-shirt this past July when Gary and I attended the Southeastern Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI) with 1300 other UUs at Radford University in Radford, VA.

BELOVED COMMUNITY was the theme of this year’s SUUSI.  BELOVED COMMUNITY makes me think of our church’s “Ingathering” Worship Service this year.  Daniel’s and Bethany’s homilies contained precious words:


What I treasure most in our “BELOVED COMMUNITY” are the FRIENDSHIPS I have had, the ones I have now, and the new ones that occur by attending SUNDAY SERVICES, being a member of the Lay Pastoral Care Team, belonging to the “What Next” and “Poetry” Covenant Groups, and participating in our congregation’s projects, events and celebrations.

Since we Unitarian Universalists are free to develop our individual concepts of God in the context of our UU core values, the brick I contributed to the border of the Perma-Culture Garden says “God is Love”.  That is why I’m STILL here!  I’m free to be who I am and share what I believe.

Lee Sherck

Why am I here?
Good question... the simple answer is "My wife made me" ...but let me explain.

I have never been a person who needed organized religion in my life. I was christened in an Episcopal church, but my family never attended services, not even at holidays. Both my parents were members of the Church of England, but I honestly can't think of a time when they discussed religion in the house. When my brother was in high school, he started going to a Baptist church that some of his friends went to... I tagged along maybe a dozen times, sitting in the Sunday school class, but it didn't resonate with me... then again, I was 7. Once he went to college, my church attendance ended until I was in high school. I was staying at a friend's house over a weekend because my parents were out of town and on Sunday they said they were driving an hour to Columbus to go to church and asked if I wanted to go. I had nothing better to do, so I tagged along. 

This was my chance introduction to the Unitarian Universalist church. I really enjoyed the high school youth group, and felt comfortable in the service, so I kept tagging along for a few months. Then the parents of my friends divorced, things got awkward and once again, my attendance to church stopped. 

Fast forward to the year 2000, and my then fiancée now wife, said that we needed to find a church. She was raised as a military brat, so non-denominational churches were the norm, but her mother was Catholic and Rose had gone through 1st communion and had mainly Catholic leanings. I was not going to become Catholic... so we had to find a solution so we could get married (she kept saying that a Vegas wedding with Elvis was out of the question, but her dad kept offering me $50 and a ladder so we could elope. I was conflicted). She wanted a place where we could religiously raise the kids. I said, "Whoa! What kids?" but that's another story for another time. 

We considered a few options, and then I had a flashback to high school and my UU experience. If I had to go to church regularly, that was my one and only option (at least in my head). So we did some Internet searching (this was before google was a verb) and found a UU church on the other side of town (we lived in Parma, but knew we were moving to the east side eventually) and we ended up here. 

This was the summer, so a Killam Fellow was in place, maybe you remember her as Natalie. The first Sunday we were there Rose was hooked thanks to the sermon... she was moved to tears (the good kind). The second Sunday was more of the same... so it was settled, we had found our church. In the fall we signed the book, and the rest as they say is history. Since then Rose has spent time in the choir, and in the RE wing as a teacher. I've spent time working on the website, and the auction, and even played some drums for the choir. I've found my church, but I don't think I've found my place yet... as in, where can I give back to the church with my time and talents... but I'm still looking. 

We were married here. My daughters have been dedicated here... and after a few years of spotty attendance due to their nap schedules I can say even some friendships are starting to be made here. This is a special place... If you remember I started this with saying that I was never a person who needed organized religion in their life, but this church makes me want it in my life... and that's saying a lot. 

So for the wife who "Made me do it"... thanks.

Mark Bradbourne


Why am I here?  There are so many reasons, but the simplest way I can say it is this: Love.

 I am here to show my children different faces of love. Here, love is a welcome smile, a warm meal, and a safe place for a family to sleep.  Here, love is a garden that endures, and a building that needs less.  Here, love says ‘how are you?’ and ‘good to see you again’ and ‘stick around’.

 I am here because sometimes I need to be reminded how to love. How do I love my neighbor? How do I love that coworker who seems determined to tear down everything I try to build up?  How do I love those who seem to lash out against their fellow man with fear and hate?  Coming here reminds me that love always helps, and when it can’t fix the problem at least it heals the pain.

I am here because sometimes - despite all of the blessings in my life - I feel a little empty, and a little lost, and I need something that feels just out of reach. Here, the circle of care and concern embraces me as I am. When I didn’t want to come, when I can’t stay focused, when I need to cry just a bit - Here there is always a loving heart. 

I am here because I need to make the world a better place, and the only way I know to do that, is with love - one smile, one helping hand, one embrace at a time.

 I am here because of love.

 Paul Brietzmann

Good morning.  For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Chuck Segall.  My wife is Tracy Segall, and we have two daughters, Maggie and Shelby.  Tracy and I joined the church in January of 2001, a few weeks before Maggie was born.  We were looking for a place that would provide us with a religious community and a place for our soon to be born child to receive a religious education.  What “complicated” things, so to speak, was that I was raised Jewish and Tracy was raised Catholic but neither of us really identified with or practiced either faith.  While we both agreed that religion was important to us and to our children, we weren’t sure how to proceed together as a whole.  After a few visits here, and drawing on the times we attended the UU church in Farmington Hills, MI, while Tracy and I were still college, we “discovered” First Unitarian was right for all of us.  We met with Reverend Budd, and signed the membership book that same night.

We have been thrilled with our decision.  Within this community, we have found friends and a steady and stable religious environment that meets our needs for spirituality and education.  The topics for sermons and discussions never cease to amaze us.  We look forward to the special services such as Rites of Passage and Senior Sunday and cannot wait for our children to participate in them.  Tracy and I were founding members of the Young Families Covenant Group, and I have chaired the YRE Committee, served on the Board of Trustees, and also served on the Committee on the Ministry.  I just continue to be awestruck as to how special this place is.

 A common theme among countless Senior Sunday speeches, and the “Why I’m Here” speeches we have been hearing for quite some time, is that this place, this church, this congregation, is home.  I completely agree.  In my 13 years here, I have come to view this special place as my second home, and I feel just as comfortable here as I do at my house.  (Granted, there have been occasions for meetings or the like where I have spent so much time here, it begins feeling like home, but that’s a different subject!)  I truly like that my children enjoy coming here, and feel safe and feel at home.

 Tracy and I have also benefited from this church, in that we have a place that we can express ourselves politically, socially and religiously and not have to worry that we are going against the grain or that our opinions will be viewed as “wrong.” 

 On behalf of my family, I would like to thank everyone associated with this church, for welcoming us with open arms and allowing us to be members of this congregation.

Chuck Segall

Why I’m Here

The answer is “YOU”.

 Sounds like that TV game show, Jeopardy, right? The answer is “YOU”, but what’s the question?

 The question, of course, is “Why I’m Here”… and the answer is still “YOU”… and you… and you… and you… and the other members of our church community who are either elsewhere in the building or unable to be with us today…

 Because for me, it IS all about community – the things we do with and for each other – both the fun stuff and the things that are much more serious in nature. It’s not that other things – like being in the sanctuary for a Sunday Service or teaching in the religious education program haven’t been important and meaningful, but for me, it’s all in the context of sharing it with you.

 I’ve been coming to this church for 25 years now… and this is my first true experience as a part of a religious community.  When I started coming, I simply had no idea how much of a “game changer” this community would be for me… how much it would truly change my life.

 Like many other parents with young children, we initially came here for the religious education program for our kids. But then I got involved in other activities… and this community became much more for me.

 You see, for me, this community provides an opportunity to be engaged with a simply amazing group of people with a pretty basic common bond – the desire to support each other in our search for what’s true and real in this life, to be there for each other as we each pursue our paths to define our religious beliefs and live our lives.

 And from that common bond, this community has been built, where so, so much is available. LOTS of images cross my mind from over the years:

  • Teaching in our youth religious education program – from the toddler room through high school
  • Ripping up the old linoleum in Fellowship Hall one evening a long time ago with the rest of the 20s and 30s group and all of our children
  • Spending a social justice Saturday painting a house with a bunch of other folks from First UU so that a family in need would have a home
  • Having someone approach me in coffee hour when he learned that my son Phillip had enlisted in the marine corps and say “I was a marine corp pilot in Vietnam – here are two books that I suggest you read to better understand what happens next. And if you ever need to talk, just let me know”
  • And, most recently, receiving lots and lots of cards, e-mails and visitors to support me upon the death of my eldest sister…

 I could go on and on, but I’m sure by now you get the idea. Over the years, the faces in our community have changed – we’ve gotten older, some folks have moved away, others have passed away, and a whole bunch of other people – young and older – have joined us. But regardless of the changes, make no mistake about it – YOU ARE my community, and this place is my second home. As in any community with larger numbers, it’s a given that I’ll know some of you much better than others, and that’s ok. Because the important thing to know is that we’re in this community together, and, over time, our paths will cross, and we’ll get to know each other better. And then, as now, I’ll be blessed.

Thank you.

David Kantor

When I was asked to do a Why I’m Here – I thought, this will be easy

I’ve been coming here most weeks for 26 years, what’s the big deal with talking about it.

Then, the blank piece of paper.  Not so easy.

The difference between thinking about what to say and my feelings about my church were causing me a brain freeze.

So, I’m going with the feelings

I feel like this church is my second home.  We raised our children here, many of my friends are here, much of my volunteer work is here, my covenant group is here, my Sunday school class is here, many of our discussions at home are about something we heard here, celebrations are here, and on and on.  So, my body and soul are in a good place when I’m here.

I like the intellectual challenge I get from some of the sermons and events I go to here.  But, no offense to Daniel and other speakers – I can go somewhere else for that.  What I can’t get elsewhere is the feeling I get when sitting in a service listening to Daniel and Bethany, or in my Sunday School class with my kids, or in my covenant group knitting and talking.

I’ve been here through really good times in my life, not so good times, and some in the middle.  Through coming of age, senior speeches, son off to war, daughter coming back to this church as an adult, my own depression, son back from war, illness, deaths, births – and all other stuff life has to offer.  And, through it all, I felt better when I came through the doors of this church.

My feelings of peace, contentment, and the most important one - belonging.  People take care of me here without always knowing they are doing it – that’s what a family does.

And, you are my family.

Mary Ellen McNulty





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Welcome to the website of the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland! We are glad you stopped by. And we encourage you to explore the pages and information here. Please know that this website is for all of us. So feel free to send a noteif you want to add information or make suggestions for content. 

The tab labeled Spotlight On highlights a program or other aspect of our community as well as District and UU Association events.  If you are involved with a group, effort or program anchored at First Unitarian that you want others to know more about, suggest that it be explored as a Spotlight On topic. (Just be ready to write the copy to submit!)

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