Birthdays (May 2014)

Many Happy Returns to our UUFP members and friends who will be celebrating their birthdays in May!  They are:


Photographed by Andrew Millard

Roy Schilling 
Richard Hudgins 
Valerie Gecowets 
Joe Wilson 
Caroline Fureymoore 
Jerry Dingus, Sr. 
Dennis Shaw 
Dana Hamilton 
Cornell Burcher 
Bill Cotton
Janet Gecowets
Nickie Hirlinger Saylor

Brad Garbus
Gregory van der Veen
Sandra Engelhardt 
Ken Haggard 
John Bright 
Catherine van der Veen

If you have an April birthday that we’ve overlooked, please get in touch with UUFP Membership Chair Bobbie Schilling at:

Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_ca1857_retouchedRalph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1821, he took over as director of his brother’s school for girls. In 1823, he wrote the poem “Good-Bye.” In 1832, he became a Transcendentalist, leading to the later essays “Self-Reliance” and “The American Scholar.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose original profession and calling was as a Unitarian minister, left the ministry to pursue a career in writing and public speaking. Emerson became one of America’s best known and best loved 19th century figures.


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Special Announcement: Annual Membership Meeting

Submitted by UUFP Office Administrator, Mary-Elizabeth

2014 Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula
Annual Membership Meeting:

MAY 18, 2014
After second service
UUFP Sanctuary
415 Young’s Mill Lane
Newport News VA 23602

Dear UUFP Members:
Working together we made the past year at the UUFP a year to remember. With Andrew continuing as our settled
minister, the new Office building in full operation, several new members and new programs, the coming year looks just as exciting.
We need your participation at the 2014 UUFP Annual Membership Meeting on May 18th to finalize our leadership and budget for this coming year.

 The agenda for this meeting is as follows:

 1. Nominations and elections
 2. Budget for the upcoming fiscal year
 3. Trustee Report

The Fellowship Annual Report will be available at the UUFP website as reports from Committees become available.
One hard copy will be produced and available in the Office.

Please plan to attend this critical meeting and use your privilege as a member to vote on important issues. See you there.

Alan Sheeler
UUFP President
by mec/FA

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Be a Part of Change You Can See!

Want to know how you can get involved in the local, healthy food movement in response to global climate change?  Want to enjoy one of our great potluck lunches?  What to learn more about the Earth’s most valuable and under-appreciated resource?  Then come to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula on Saturday, May 3rd and you can do just that!

Interfaith Power and LightBased on the Interfaith Power and Light resource, “Sow a Cool Harvest”, our Multigenerational Earth Day Project is a fun program for all ages that runs from 10am until 2pm and includes lunch and a movie!

Sow a Cool HarvestIn the morning (10am until noon), you’ll have a chance to visit various stations on a variety of topics: local plants; raised-bed gardening; composting and worm composting; beneficial insects; and more. Many thanks to Navigators USA, Chapter 58 and other dedicated volunteers for running these stations!

At noon we’ll begin our potluck lunch — please sign up here to let us know what you plan to bring — and we’ll continue learning about the wonder beneath our feet with Dirt! The Movie.

Dirt! The MovieDirt! takes a humorous and substantial look into the history and current state of the living organic matter from which we come and to which we shall return. It tells the story of Earth’s fertility — from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation, from the emerging appreciation of its beauty, power and wisdom to the mutually beneficial relationship we can have with soil.

We’ll wrap up our day (by 2pm) with a discussion of the movie and letters asking our legislators to promote sustainable farming, healthy food and good stewardship of the natural world on which we all depend.

Green SanctuaryIf you’re on Facebook, you can let us know you’re attending here and you can also contact Andrew or Joanne with questions.  Our thanks go to the UUFP’s Green Sanctuary Committee for their support of this Multigenerational Earth Day Project!

See you on May 3rd for a fun day of gardening, food and dirt!

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Alexander French: A Biography

Compiled by Steve Kadar, and edited by Alice Smith, from information provided by Al French himself.

picture courtesy of Al’s family

picture courtesy of
Al’s family

Rev. Andrew writes, “I’m told that, some years ago, Al French was once interviewed for a UUFP member biography that was to be run in The Flame.  It appears that the final version of the article may not have been published, however, and so, having remembered and celebrated Al’s life last Sunday, and with his family’s go-ahead, we’re posting it here now.”

~ ~

I was born on September 16, 1922 in a hospital on the lower east side of Manhattan.

My mother was acquainted with Margaret Sanger and was a member of her group of activists.  I sometimes speculated on the fact that the first Family Planning clinic was established in New York less than a year after I was born!

When I was about twelve, I got a job as a carpenter’s helper.  By the time I was sixteen I was taking flying lessons.  I graduated from high-school in 1941 and started the aeronautical engineering curriculum at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn that September.  I spent weekends visiting airports that I could get to by subway and bus.  Less than three months later the United States was at war…

picture courtesy of Al’s family

picture courtesy of
Al’s family

I applied for immediate induction into the Army Air Corps ground crew.  About two months later I was in the 133rd Engineer Combat Regiment in Ft. Lewis, Washington.  In Sicily I was in the weapons squad assigned to a machine gun set up for anti-aircraft fire.  What we thought was a German Dornier I recognized as a U.S. DC-3.  When I shouted “DC-3s, American planes, cease fire!” the captain told me to keep shooting or I would face courts martial charged with inciting mutiny and cowardice in the face of the enemy.  It turned out to be the “All American” division, the 82nd Airborne arriving to advance the attack.  I never received a pat on the back, an apology, or any recognition.

In 1949, I received my degree in Civil Engineering and was hired as an engineer trainee by the Bureau of Public Roads.  By the time I retired in 1980, it was the Federal Highway Administration in the Department of Transportation.  During those thirty years I had received a few awards for doing my job and contributing toward the Interstate Highway System.

I met Cynthia square dancing.  On one of our first dates I was intrigued and relieved to discover that Cynthia sometimes attended the Unitarian church where A. Powell Davies delivered his sermons.  The Washington Post often quoted Davies’ statements opposing “McCarthyism”.

picture courtesy of Al’s family

picture courtesy of
Al’s family

Cynthia and I built our first house in Fairfax County.  That was quite an engineering operation.  After retirement I researched family genealogy and the WWII records of our outfit.  I published History of the 40th Engineer Combat Regiment in WWII for the 40th Engineer National Association.  I also tried to establish a 40th Engineer website, which our son helped to get running.

~ ~

Rev. Andrew writes, “Here’s one more story that Al himself shared with me.  When Cynthia lived in Washington DC, her apartment was within walking distance of All Souls Church, Unitarian, where at the time the legendary A. Powell Davies was minister.  Cynthia would sometimes attend, and occasionally Al would go with her.  After settling in Annandale, she went to the UU Church of Arlington, later taking their children to Religious Education classes there, too.  Sometimes Al would help with events like yard sales.  After moving here to Newport News, both of them joined the Fellowship, becoming members in 2002, and so Al credits Cynthia with bringing him, at long last, to Unitarian Universalism.”

You can read Al’s obituary as published in the Daily Press here.

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Reconnecting, Remembering, Recommitting

For all that is our life! by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard

Hinei mah tov umah nayim, shevet achim gam yahad!
How rare it is, how lovely, this fellowship of those who meet together!
— Psalm 133

The house was alive with activity, from elders catching up on their news to children chasing one another through the doorways.  Those not assisting in the preparations would be shooed out of the kitchen, where the cooks were in a state of frenzy getting everything ready.  There were bowls of appetizers everywhere, to try to delay some of the impatience of hunger; olives were particularly popular.  And in what was otherwise the living room, every table and chair in the house had been gathered to make a long dining table with enough space for the whole family to sit down together.  It was Passover at my grandmother-in-law’s house in Philadelphia.

Soon after Allison and I were dating, she explained that my main introduction to her extended family would be in the Spring, at Passover.  We’d make the four hour drive, converging with others coming from New York and Massachusetts, from North Carolina and California.  There were aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, making the trip for this annual event that had been a family tradition for generations.  It reminded me of the best of the holidays I’d enjoyed as a child, with a house full of life and love.  It even featured horseradish!

I’d first experienced a Passover seder at the Unitarian Society of Hartford, using a Unitarian Universalist version of the Haggadah, the text that is read to retell the story of the Hebrew’s liberation from Egypt.  The seder includes a communal meal, but specific foods are part of the ritual that accompanies the reading of the text, too: matzah, a cracker-like unleavened bread; hard-boiled eggs; green herbs like parsley; horseradish; and charoset, a chutney-like mixture of chopped fruits and nuts.  All of these have symbolic meanings that are drawn upon as the story is related, from the bread that the Hebrews didn’t have time to finish as they fled Egypt, to the clay they were forced in slavery to make into bricks.  Candles are lit and wine or grape juice is sipped in recognition of our blessings; songs are sung in both Hebrew and English; and children ask questions to find out the meaning of the seder.  Toward the end of the seder, the children play a game in which they try to find a hidden piece of matzah, and are then rewarded with dessert.

In an orthodox household, of course, there are many strict requirements to prepare for and observe Passover.  The house itself is to be cleaned thoroughly, which some suggest is the origin of “Spring cleaning”, and all leavened bread is to be removed.  Dietary rules go beyond the usual laws of kashrut, which is why you’ll see some products in the supermarket at this time of year specifically labeled as “kosher for Passover”.  Most non-orthodox Jewish households do not go to such lengths, but the seder is still important, not only as a chance to reconnect with loved ones, but as a way to remember an ancient story of liberation and hope and to recommit to a future of freedom, justice and peace for all.

We’ll observe Passover with a seder at the Fellowship this month.  It takes place the afternoon of Sunday, April 20th, starting at 4pm.  (We’ll begin reading the Haggadah, Oranges and Olives by UU Nancy Cronk, around five, with the meal itself about six, finishing everything by seven.)  We’ll provide the traditional Seder plate items, including matzoh, charoset and grape juice, but the meal itself is potluck, so please sign up at to let us know what you plan to bring or otherwise get in touch with me.  (We also need RSVPs to know how big a table to set for the communal meal!)  This is a family-friendly event, and everyone is welcome, so come be a part of this modern celebration of an ancient tradition!

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What We Do Here Is Important

Daniel Moore

picture by Brandy Bergenstock

Daniel Moore presented this testimonial as part of Sunday services on March 9th 2014 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula.

I’ve been a member of the UUFP since right around 2004.  Currently, I am the Finance Director.

My path to finding this place is similar to many others’.  I was raised here in Newport News.  I grew up attending Tabernacle Baptist Church on the corner of Colony and Lucas Creek Road, where, at the age of ten or so, I was baptized.  I felt strongly that I should be with the rest of my family in the afterlife.  I received my first Bible from the Royal Ambassadors, an all-boys group dedicated to studying scripture and spreading the faith through mission work.

About the same time I came into adolescence, my family changed churches.  We moved from the Southern Baptist denomination to an interdenominational church, the Williamsburg Community Chapel, founded by Pastor Dick Woodward, who was Pastor Emeritus for the last two decades of his life.  Pastor Woodward was an extremely kind gentleman whose sermons spoke of the love of God and its power in transforming us as individuals and the larger community.  I especially appreciated the time he took on a busy Sunday, after delivering the sermon, to try and answer my searching questions about what exactly would happen to those of God’s children who hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ.

Despite Pastor Woodward’s attempts to comfort me and assure me that God had a plan, I remained skeptical.  And my skepticism over matters of theology and culture wars of the nineties led me to become further estranged from the faith of my parents.  By the time I went to college, I was what you would call a “none”, a person with no religious affiliation.  I remained that way throughout school and into early parenthood.  As an atheist, I was certain that there was no place for me in any church.  I couldn’t join an organization that I didn’t believe in, and with a ton of family in this area, I am not lacking for community.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love this community.  I’m very happy and proud to consider you as an extension of my family.  But that’s not why I’m here.  It helps that you’re all nice people and easy to get along with, but it’s not why I’m active and involved with the Hospitality Teams and the Policy Board.

I’m here today and every Sunday because I believe that what we do here is important.  This is something I’m certain of.  I believe that we have an obligation to the community outside these walls to grow, to continue to work for equality for all in our society, and to spread our message of tolerance and human dignity to those who like myself were not fulfilled by the more conservative faiths.  We are sitting on the franchise of liberal religion in this area, and, to borrow a phrase from the Reverend Bill Sinkford, and we must either improve the property or vacate the premise.

I am now a proud member of this church, this Fellowship, this religion.  This is why I’m a UUFPer.

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Sunday Services (April 2014)

Services for April 2014 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula

theme: Awakening

April 6th: “Choosing the Better Part?”

Have you ever been so caught up in an ordinary task that you failed to notice something extraordinary that was right in front of you?  When stress, anxiety or looming deadlines are involved, it’s easy to be even more distracted from being mindful, from being present, from simply being aware of being alive.  And yet being alive involves so many ordinary tasks, how do we choose?

April 13th: “And We Shall Be Changed!”

Generations of MacPhersons at GA 2011

At the 2011 UUA General Assembly banner parade
with daughter Dianna and grand-daughter Erin.
Courtesy of Rev. MacPherson.

As Easter nears, it seems like a very important issue to ask, how does religion change us, and the world?

Rev. David Hicks MacPherson is a retired Unitarian Universalist minister.  He helped to build congregations and their buildings in Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.  A fifth-generation Universalist, his book Reclaiming Universal Salvation: Universalism Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was published in 2011.

April 20th: “Rocking the Boat: The Plight of the Pharisees”

The Pharisees get a bum rap for plotting against Jesus — as reported, it should be noted, by Jesus’ followers!  But they were in the tough spot of trying to preserve their religion and culture in the midst of an all-powerful empire (that nonetheless gave the Jews special dispensation to practice monotheism) by “going along to get along” when this radical upstart from Nazareth comes along and threatens to ruin everything.

Special music will be provided by the UUFP’s ChorUUs!

Special Service!
4pm on April 20th: a Passover Seder

This social justice liturgy dates back thousands of years and is performed annually by millions of Jews and people of other faiths.  The modern seder allows us to bring its meaning alive in terms of contemporary themes, while continuing to celebrate the ancient story of liberation and hope.

Since the seder combines worship with a potluck meal, please sign up at:

April 27th: “Discipleship to Advancing Truth”

In 1944, the American Unitarian Association proposed “A Statement of Unitarian Working Principles” in terms of “individual freedom of belief, discipleship to advancing truth, the democratic process in human relations, universal brotherhood undivided by nation, race or creed, and allegiance to the cause of a united world community.”  That language is now found in the UUFP’s By-Laws to describe our Fellowship’s purpose, but what does it mean to us, seventy years after it was written?

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