Visitors - FAQ's
"What do Unitarian Universalists Believe?"
For us, an inspiring and supportive faith is rooted in spiritual freedom, enlightened reason, a broad compassion, self-reflective character, and unselfish service. We discover the essence of religion in character, conduct, and community rather than in doctrines, dogmas, or creeds. Those who think of religion as a list of theological definitions and statements of belief sometimes have difficulty understanding the liberal religious way.
In our congregations, a variety of people with a diversity of personal beliefs gather each Sunday to explore and to celebrate Life and the wonder of our lives together.
"What would my child learn in your Religious Education Program?"
Our religious education program is based upon the conviction that human nature, rather than being inherently corrupt, is instead inherently good, and that this nature binds us to the universe and all that sustains it. The natural curiosity and spirit of children are the very resources on which our program is built.
A child's religion grows out of their experience. Religion is not something that is given to a child, but something that is nurtured and encouraged in their unfolding life. As the Rev. William Ellery Channing so eloquently put it in the 19th century: "The great end in religious instruction...is not to stamp our minds irresistibly on the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; not to impose religion upon them...but to awaken the conscience, the moral discernment, so they may discern and approve for themselves what is everylastingly right and good...."
"Is your congregation LGBTQ friendly?"
In a word, yes! We are what we call a "Welcoming Congregation," meaning that we warmly welcome and openly encourage the full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of our congregation. If you are interested in the larger LGBTQ organization, Interweave, please visit: http://interweaveuu.org
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’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:
REASON WITH COMPASSION
LOVE OF TRUTH
TRUTH OF LOVE
FULL WEEK FAITH and POWER RELEASED THROUGH ME.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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
UUA Districts Recognize First Unitarian Campaign
Recently, the Ohio Meadville/St. Lawrence Districts posted a blog detailing the 2014 - 2015 stewardship campaign. The post can be found by going to www.ohiomeadville.org/bettertogether, clicking on "Recent Posts" and accessing "Congregations Create Unique Stewardship Plans Part .3" The article is entitled "First Unitarian Cleveland Changes Its Style" and lets folks around the region know how our valued volunteers make a difference as they strive to Search and Serve!