Members Share Their First Unitarian Connection

Members and Friends recently began sharing “Why I Am Here” stories during Sunday services.  Beginning with this issue, we will highlight these heartfelt, compelling “testimonials.”   As you read, 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 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