(Jim Sanderson offered this member testimonial on February 3, 2013.)
Since it is now the month of February and Valentine’s Day is approaching, I am very tempted to start off with “How do I love thee?” It’s really not a bad place to start because love is at the heart of what makes this Fellowship so special to me. Here and among you I feel both loved and loving. Since love is the essence of the sacred then this is a place I come to meet the sacred.
This is true in several different ways. As some of you who have been around long enough will remember, I first came to the UUFP as a guest speaker, not a member. I was serving as the locally ordained minister of the Jenkins Fellowship in Petersburg, although I lived here in Newport News and worked at the Grissom Library. I immediately felt welcomed and comfortable here. When the Jenkins Fellowship dissolved it was a natural move to join the UUFP.
Love sometimes demands sacrifice, however, and as a member I no longer get paid to speak here. You were worth the sacrifice.
So what I first loved here was the lively intellectual life of the congregation. I truly enjoy theology and religious history, and here I can share and explore these with people who will engage with me in give and take and do not find it odd when I bring ancient Egyptian religious stories, Christian theology and Hindu mythology all into one discussion. There is great joy in the intellectual freedom I find here.
Then there is the opportunity to serve, to do meaningful work and use what talents I may have.
Currently I serve on the Policy Board as UUFP Vice-President and I facilitate a Fellowship Circle, too. I have served on several Ministerial Search Committees and perhaps most significantly as a member and chair of the Sunday Services Committee. Each of these have been treasured experiences because of the trust I felt had been given me, because I felt valued and useful. I won’t pretend that every moment was full of beer and skittles; there were challenges, how could there not be? Yet all have been affirming experiences. All have allowed me to get to know many of you more deeply and to be known more deeply by you. I have also felt that my contributions have been appreciated and that is another thing I love about us: we appreciate one another and we let each other know it.
Then there is the reason inherent in our very name “Fellowship”. I feel a great sense of fellowship here. We find joy in being together, here in the service, in our Fellowship Circles, at social events or just hanging out over coffee. Among other things we laugh a lot together. I love that about us too.
On a more serious level we come together to support each other when we are hurting. I cannot tell you how much the support and love I felt from so many of you, very much including Rev. Andrew, not so long ago when my youngest brother, Donald, died meant to me. So many offered sympathy and expressed concern and caring. It helped so much to have a place where I was simply listened to and where I did not have to be strong.
All of this brings me to the heart of the matter: this Fellowship is where I find community. It is where I feel I belong and it is where I want to be. By nature I am an introvert and do not readily feel part of groups and yet I need to feel a sense of belonging. It is only through one another that we can really know ourselves. It is only through the love and caring of others that we can be loving and caring individuals. That is what I find here: I find all of you and I find myself. Thank you.