First Universalist Lyons Experiencing Revival

The First Universalist Church (UU) of Lyons, OH is experiencing a revival in northwest Ohio.  This small village (pop. 562) is just west of Greater Toledo, and the suburbs are steadily stretching out closer and closer to Lyons. The congregation’s new “G.O.D.” (Growth, Outreach, and Deeds) team has been a big part of the congregation’s recent revival, forming partnerships with local service organizations and engaged in intentional efforts of community outreach and service.  The congregation has made quite a few changes to its Sunday service, with updates to worship and music.  This revival also has a lot to do with the dedication of the congregation’s minister Rev. Larry Hutchison.  The congregation could only afford to bring him on as a part-time minister, yet he does so much more on a volunteer basis.  Things have been looking up for this very small but now growing congregation.

Then, all of a sudden, the congregation’s focus was jerked back to financial struggles and the basic operation of the church.  A recent wind storm hit the aging and worn sanctuary roof with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. This was followed by heavy rains that led to a large ominous dripping wet spot with ceiling tiles stained and loosened. To keep the 149 year old church home from sustaining any more damage the members have had to scramble to raise the money to get the work underway as quickly as possible.  The most economical bid for the replacement of the main part of the roof, just over the sanctuary, is $13,500.00.  The insurance company has pledged $6000.00 to cover only what was damaged by wind, not the entire section of aging and compromised roofing.

The congregation now has a Faithify campaign to raise $5000.00, which leaves $2500.00 for them to cover with an unplanned and hurried capital campaign and from their modest financial safety net.  Failure, however, is not an option.  Failing to secure a roof on our beautiful yet fragile church home could result in not only ending this amazing revival but the closure of the church.  After surviving the Great Depression, World Wars, a lightning strike, and a beam falling through the sanctuary ceiling, it would unthinkable that a worn roof would be the end.

Little Free Library
Poetry, Music and Tacos
Dresses for Malawi
Guest Speakers
Christmas Parade Lit Float
Adopt a Highway Program

In the last year alone, the congregation…:

  • Started a “little free library” in our modest village that no longer has a public library.
  • Have marked out an area for our new community garden.
  • Sponsored 3 “Christmas families,” with a house full of gifts and household necessities, when they would only have taken on one in prior years.
  • Partnered with Sunnyside Peace and Justice Center in Adrian, Michigan to host a night of “Poetry, Tacos, and Music”.
  • Sent durable church-made dresses to Malawi so that girls there can meet the sole requirement for enrolling in school, having a dress.
  • Brought in quite a few guest speakers to bring insights about topics as diverse as solidarity with standing rock, NAACP, living as a Muslim-American, and overcoming addiction, to name a few.
  • Handed out treats at the village’s Trick-or-treat night, which facilitated a lot of community questions about Unitarian Universalism, including one child, to the dismay of his parents, asking, “What kind of church passes out candy at Halloween?”
  • Passed out free food and refreshments during the 120 mile yard sale on route 120.
  • Entered a lit float into the village Christmas parade.
  • Hosted movie nights. Some had a deep or intense message, others were just fun and for all ages.
  • Continued an adopt-a-highway portion of route 120.
  • Lots more…
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Singing Our ‘Broken Hallelujahs’: The Prophetic imperative in a Messy World

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has done more than upset the political world. For Unitarians and Universalists—and many others—it has challenged the soul. Its meaning is far more than political. There are also moral, spiritual and religious meanings in what has happened and is happening. What are those meanings and what are we to do with them? Leonard Cohen has caught the spirit of the age in his phrase ‘broken Hallelujahs.’ While we may wonder what he meant, it is more important what that phrase may mean for us.”   The Rev. Richard Gilbert.

On April 1, 2017, the Rev. Richard Gilbert offered the 2017 Gould Lecture, titled: “Singing Our Broken Hallelujahs: The Prophetic Imperative in a Messy World,” at the May Memorial UU Society, Syracuse NY.    This was part of the St Lawrence 2017 Spring Gathering, which also included the UUA Presidential Candidates’ Forum, livestreamed from Bethesda MD.

The lecture was a no-pulled-punches analysis of the presidential election and the current political state of our nation.  Rev. Gilbert examined the rise of the President’s personality cult and the expansion of misinformation in society.  Reason and truth, he said,  are no longer dominant in the American culture and compassion is out of vogue.   “The enlightenment for so many is dead.”  In its place, he said, a “survival of the fittest ethic “has been set loose upon the land.

In this address, Rev. Gilbert challenges us to honestly discern what is happening around us but not to despair, because “despair is a luxury beyond our means.”  Instead, he calls us to become the conscience of the community, learn to suffer through this time, and rise to the call to repair a broken world.  Our current political situation, he noted, has “awakened from slumber those who took politics as rhetoric rather than challenge.”   And we must remember that democracy is not a spectator sport.  Rather, it is a messy work in progress that challenges us to the core.

Watch it below:

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Thoughts in a Turbulent Time

Rev. Megan Foley
Rev. Megan Foley

Sometimes you sit across from people you know well, even people you love, and you just cannot believe how far apart from them you feel. You can’t believe how much you disagree. In between you is so much pain. So much misunderstanding. So much … distance. It’s tempting to turn away and move towards those who seem more compatible, to whom you feel closer in spirit, or in story.  To create an enclave of other people who look like you, who think like you, and who agree with you.

But our Unitarian Universalist theology is always, in all cases, that all human beings belong to one and the same family. This past week I’ve been really struck by the words of Rev. Theresa Ines Soto, who wrote: All of us need all of us to make it. Thanks, Theresa.

Let that soak in. All of us need all of us to make it.

So if there are some of us who feel they’re perennially excluded, then we need to change until that’s not so. All of us need all of us to make it. And if there’s someone you’re particularly upset with, you’re still bound up with that person. Their future is also your future. UUs at our best don’t pick and choose. We’re all “all in”.

All of us need all of us to make it, even when we can’t see how. This is our Unitarian Universalist faith statement, the thing to lean into when we don’t know what else to do.  To believe otherwise puts us at a disconnect that keeps us from our true potential at best, and proves dangerous at worst.

I hope you’re also feeling a lot of complex emotions about Unitarian Universalism and about the UUA, because to feel otherwise wouldn’t be honoring the full story. I hope you’re feeling sad, because there’s been a lot of hurt and pain. And, in the midst of that, I hope you’re feeling that your call, as ever, is to heal the disconnections that you encounter, within our denomination, and beyond. To do less is to do our faith a disservice. And to create connection where connection never existed before—that is holy work—the work of shared Unitarian Universalist ministry in all of its fullness.

Rev. Megan Foley
Central East Regional Lead

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Watch the UUA Presidential Candidates Forum

For those of you who missed the forum on Saturday, April 1, or those of you who did watch it but want to review some of the things said, here is your opportunity.

You can watch it on YouTube:

We want to thank Cedar Lane UU Church for their hosting this event and for their AV team’s work.

To learn more about the UUA Presidential Election, please visit the UUA page on Presidential Elections

Or read this PDF with basic information about the current election.

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