Throughout my ministry in Provincetown I edited the newsletter, and wrote most of it. When I first arrived at Provincetown, the only functioning committee was the Board itself, and I wanted to make sure that the newsletter reflected both our values and quality. The church has a subscription program called “Friends of the Meeting House,” who get the newsletter and one inserted sermon every month. It also goes to members, colleagues, neighbors and press, so it’s important to set the right tone and standards. I also guide my decisions based on an excellent article on church newsletters written by UU Consultant Dan Hotchkiss.
When the congregation became better structured, I solicited submissions from most of our committee chairs, the pastoral care committee, and a rotating member of the Board. However, I still maintained editorial control and wrote up many of the events and announcements, as well as my own monthly bylines. In my last year we began emailing the newsletters and I formatted them to read on the computer.
Our newsletters were not put on our website, which was then a fairly static tool. That was changed in my last months, as the website was upgraded and revamped. The new church newlstter is now online and beautifully formatted.
A random few newsletter articles from Provincetown and Wilmington are excerpted below.
April 2000 A Message from the Minister:
I still haven’t figured out how things work in Provincetown. But somehow, I’ve noticed, they do. Evidence of this is our recent and successful pancake brunch. I came in one Sunday morning to find myself dodging people carrying tables, rolling out tablecloths, and mixing batter. Soon AB Hall was fully set and waiting. During the service, the smell of warm maple syrup wafted upstairs. As the choir sang an Old Irish Blessing and we held hands, some of us were secretly thinking about the food we were about to eat, and being truly thankful.
It was a lively occasion. The place looked great and the food was terrific, from the sausages and fluffy pancakes to the fresh strawberry topping, and Rus Hamm’s fresh maple syrup. Almost as many people were helping as there were to eat, and soon visitors volunteered, staying to clean up and put away tables. All too soon it was over.
This was the Meeting House at its best, full of warmth and celebration and team effort. And every one had a good time.
Pretty soon (I’ve been told) signs of spring will appear all over town. Paint brushes will sprout by magic in everyone’s hands, shutters will be opened, and the windows will start to shine. New colors will appear in the Spring Fashion Collection. And the sound of delivery trucks will be heard in the land.
The Season of Tourists is almost upon us.
There is something almost timeless about the scene. For Provincetown has attracted tourists for at least 100 years. Some of them settled here and added to the life of this congregation. And many more took something of our spirit with them in their hearts.
On May 7th at 5 pm, the Meeting House will welcome the Reverend Kim Crawford-Harvie back to our pulpit. Kim was the minister here from 1985-1989, and she is also one of my early mentors and role models. Years before I considered the ministry, Kim inspired me with her warmth. So I am especially pleased that Kim has agreed to preach at the service of installation. For just as she helped to shape this congregation and keep it going, so too did the Meeting House influence her. Like so many people, she left the MH, but it has never entirely left her heart.
The installation committee is making plans for the weekend, inviting former members and friends to come help us celebrate the next era in the life of the Meeting House. We hope to make it a memorable event, rich with reminiscence and reunion. But most importantly, I hope that all our current members and kindred spirits will affirm my ministry among you by attending this formal act of installation. I have been here working with you since September. Now, in the service of installation, you, the congregation, and I covenant to care for this community and each other. If I have a calling, it is because you give it voice. I need your support truly to serve.
For the Meeting House to fulfill its promise, we must all work together. And when we do, the results are wonderful – magical – inspiring! And sometimes, just plain delicious.
December 2001 A Message from the Minister:
Some of us are always depressed in the winter. The days are short and dank and dreary; the cold gnaws to the bone. F for some the holidays bring deep feelings of loss, while others are reminded of horrible family scenes of disappointment and shame layered over with a forced cheer. We struggle to find appropriate presents and wind up substituting cost for content. It’s easier to grab what’s on display than to search for the right gift. Nothing seems natural.
But this year that grief has been magnified. No longer can we think of our troubles as isolated and unique. We have all experienced something of the force of hatred and witnessed this country’s swift and troubling response. We’ve been obliged to examine our beliefs about violence and justice and freedom more deeply than before, and think about who we are as Americans. At the same time, the recession has deepened. Many of us on the Cape are suffering from business losses and lay-offs. It’s a sad and scary time.
And yet if anything, winter is about hope: hope that creativity is stronger than fear and that life is tenacious and strong. Somewhere underneath the hard, suffocating crust there is something fertile and nurturing and warm where seeds of renewal generate and grow. Within our hearts, love prevails. No matter how much we may ignore and batter our impulses, we still long to belong. We want to make an impact on the world.
Maybe for you that impulse has been frustrated by derision or disdain or failure. But don’t give up. Regardless of age or income or mood, we can each give the gift of kindness, tolerance, sympathy, courage, humor, or perception. And that is what the holidays are about: finding the best that is within you and offering it up to a sad and incomplete world. Adding just that extra bit of help. That is all that anyone needs.
The nights are long, but you can make them shine.
January 2004 A Message from the Minister:
Everyone needs someone to look up to, who can demonstrate that humans are capable of great personal and moral achievements. We need the encouragement to dream and to take risks for our ideals. Without such examples, we may become passive and hopelessly accept harmful conditions or lies. We limit our potential.
In a quote I can’t find, someone remarks that most cultures believe they are descended from Gods, while Westerners believe we have evolved from the apes. He believes this concept is demoralizing. How can we behave nobly if we think we are beasts?
Religions offer up prophets and saints, like Kwan Yin, Jesus, and Lord Ganesh. They model noble attributes and inspire us with their compassion. Some followers worship them and pray to them for help, but others need attainable goals and human role models. We can’t be god. But we can be good.
People like Christopher Reeves and Martin Luther King, Jr, show us how to combine action and introspection. Vincent Van Gogh or Judy Garland inspire some people to face their demons, while others admire Oprah Winfrey’s vision and drive. But whomever you esteem – Shirley Chisolm, Dorothy Day, Charles M. Schulz – they are all imperfect. Each one has flaws, weaknesses, and scars that limit their abilities and cause pain. This doesn’t make them bad or unworthy, just human. Like us.
Our freedom is in our common humanity. If we want to be allowed to strive and grow and stumble, to experience the whole range of experience, we must also extend this consideration to others. Instead of assuming a hurt or slight, we have to give people the benefit of the doubt; ask for explanations instead of making assumptions. We have to talk to people, not about them.
Over the next few months, we will need these skills as we discuss our mission as a congregation. We will not come to a consensus of agreement; we are too different in our interests and traits. But we can respect each others’ strengths and the visions of splendor we hold for our future. And that will make dreams come true. Or so I believe.
May, 2007 A Message from the Minister – Rev. Alison Hyder
“It’s About Time, it’s about space,
It’s about time for the human race…”
Thus went the theme song to a TV show from my youth. The premise was that two astronauts somehow traveled time and found themselves stuck with our prehistoric ancestors, Gronk and Shad (played by Imogene Coco). You can just imagine all the hilarious misunderstandings and frustrations the scriptwriters had to invent every week. Or at least, for 26 episodes.
I understand the pressure. Every month, I have to decide whether this article should reflect my immediate feelings (grumpy with the flu), discuss some recent Meeting House event or issue, or try to reflect our needs for a month we haven’t yet begun.
I don’t know about you, but my feelings aren’t static. My concerns and therefore my moods change with the events. Who could have anticipated the cruelty of April, and how it would temper our lives? We can’t even predict a cold. I feel – and react – differently in sunshine than under a cloud. And I am sure that my actions reflect this – to my periodic dismay.
We are preparing for a future we can’t predict. What tools shall we take? Laptops, or coloring books, or wading boots? A mirror, maybe, and some powder and flint? None of it will help if we aren’t present now, cultivating relationships, learning from our experiences and moving past our mistakes.
Salman Rushdie said, “Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems — but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible.” I’m with him. Life continues to surprise me with odd, mysterious opportunities. Just imagine what will happen tomorrow! I can’t.
In the Spirit,
“Perspectives” September 2011 First Unitarian CHurch of Wilmington
Change is always humbling. Sometimes when we have been doing the same work for a long time we think that we know it all and understand what the job entails. We begin to feel some expertise.
Life is seldom that easy. While there are some things that translate from the Universalist Church of Provincetown to First Unitarian Church, the difference is in more than size. Provincetown is a year-round church that caters to large amounts of tourists. From May through October – and any three-day weekend – at least half of the pews hold visitors or part-time residents. Some are brand-new to Unitarian Universalism, there for the architecture or because it is “the gay church” in the center of town. Some of them are regular summer visitors, who make a point to come during their week or two every year. Many of these people go on to join UU congregations at home. They’re proud to come back and tell us about it. This is a big part of the mission of that church, but it doesn’t really help the members cohere. In fact, for half the year, the members focus outward. It is hard to address pastoral issues, governance, and development when the members are working 2-3 jobs. Sermons become more general too. On the other hand, with its Universalist roots and first-time UUs, Provincetown was much more open to spiritual themes and tones. Some members felt that I wasn’t spiritual enough!
So I come to you with both humility and gratitude for the chance to widen my experience of ministry. Fortunately, my skills can translate to your needs. Over the next months I will be here to meet with you in your needs and sorrows, counseling you in your questions, and helping you explore your beliefs and values through Open Circles and Adult Religious Exploration. We have some wonderful (and experienced) team leaders to help maintain continuity of knowledge and structure. I rely on all of you to tell me what you want to see.
In October, I plan to offer three classes.
• Building Your Own Theology is an 8-week curriculum that covers fundamentals of belief and values toward the goal of a personal credo.
• Our Unitarian Universalist Story is a 5-week class that explores Unitarian and Universalist beliefs through the history of our movement. I have taught it in several congregations and like it a lot.
• Art as Meditation is in the process of development. I will plan for weeks but see where the participants go from there.
If you are interested in any of these classes, please drop me a line stating when you can and wish to attend. I will try to use your responses to schedule each class.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you! Let’s grow together.