Paint Branch UU Church 50th Anniversary:
Founders Day Service - October 24, 2004

SETTING: After the previous evening's very festive and celebratory 50th Anniversary Dinner and Party with upwards of 200 attendees (at nearby Riderwood Village), many of the same folk came to church ready to continue the good energy and fond reminiscences, despite the drizzly weather.

The Meeting House filled up earlier than usual, with a dozen or so people sitting in the choir section (even though the choir was not to perform) and another dozen participants and spouses seated on the opposite side up front. There were only a few isolated seats left unclaimed in the entire room, and numerous people moved about, preparing for the reception, ushering, etc.

The members' art exhibit continued to glow on the walls and outstanding scrapbooks of the church's history inspired all who perused them in the lobby. The service started right on time (10 am), but the program unfolded into fully an hour and 45 minutes, which most attendees seemed willing and able to endure, given the diversity of fun, interesting and moving presentations.

May this house truly be a place of Meeting-meeting one with another in warmth
and joy and openness; meeting one with another in courage, love and trust.
-The Rev. Eileen Karpeles, retired UU minister and former Paint Brancher

PRELUDE Nocturne in C# minor F. Chopin
Deni Foster, pianist [who played for the whole service, often with Jeri Holloway, clarinet]

WELCOME & ANNOUNCEMENTS Nancy Boardman, worship associate

OPENING WORDS Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten Hove, co-ministers

BARBARA: Good Morning and welcome. Today's service is the second of four services celebrating the 50th anniversary of this wonderful church. Last Sunday we celebrated the Artistic Spirit of Paint Branch with gusto. Next Sunday will focus on Social Action. And on Nov. 7, Bill Sinkford, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, will be in our pulpit for the Finale.
This service is called "Founders Day Goldmine" for today we recognize and celebrate the movers and shakers who, over the past fifty years, have helped shape this "golden" congregation into what it is today.

JACO: We are particularly excited that three former ministers could join us to participate this morning. Since its founding in 1954, this church has had seven ministers, and all but two are here. John Burciaga, who was interim minister from 1998-99, just ahead of our arrival, currently serves a UU Church in Phoenix and has recently married. He sends best wishes and regrets that he could not be with us today.

BARBARA: On a sadder note, the first called and settled minister of this congregation, David Osborn, died this past summer. His wife Janet Osborn has been visited recently by Paint Branch friends and she sends her love and greetings. A short statement about David and his ministry is printed in your bulletin today [and follows at the end of this text]. I hope you will read it and remember him for his important work not only as the first minister of this church, but also his service to other congregations and to Unitarian Universalism.

JACO: We felt it important to honor David Osborn in a memorable way this morning. There is only one first minister called to a church, and David served here in that capacity honorably and well. And so we will light a special candle in his memory that will stay lit throughout this service, to remind us of his presence even in death. (Barbara lights the candle in silence)

BARBARA: As we enter into worship this morning, may we be reminded that congregational life is always a mixture of joy and triumph, sadness and wonder, life and death. It is good to be together in celebration, memory, and worship.

Speaking of memory, since we're looking back in time on this Founders Day, let us pause now to non-verbally intone a couple of Golden Oldies some of you might remember

 

INTONATION [JACO on guitar, plucking out melodies to "Pipeline" and "Secret Agent Man."]

FLAMING CHALICE DEDICATION Kathleen Davis, worship associate

Thank you Jaco for some nice nostalgia. I'm going to ask you to get a little more nostalgic.Let's go back to 1954.

In 1954 everybody Loved Lucy, the computer language Fortran was invented, Brown vs. the Board of Education changed the country, Joseph McCarthy was finally censored by the Senate, and the NY Giants won the World Series.

In October of 1954, a group of Unitarians made the decision to form the College Park Unitarian Center. This was one of several churches which sprang from All Souls Church in Washington DC. Two months later, in December of that year, I was born in Washington DC.

In 1960 the name of the church became Paint Branch Unitarian Church. Just as my parents provided shelter for me in our home during my childhood, the newly formed congregation provided a building for this fledgling church to grow into in 1965. We were 10 years old.

The church building filled each week with congregants eager to think, ask questions and grow in community. I was also asking questions, although not so much of a spiritual nature at that point. But my parents lovingly answered them and provided me with the tools to be inquisitive and to grow strong in mind, body and spirit.

As the years passed and we aged, the congregation of this church cared for their beloved building. Years of maintenance, cleaning, sprucing up for the holidays. I wish I had a congregation to spruce me up for the holidays. Recently the sanctuary was looking a little wan. A group of volunteers painted it shiny and new. Lately I've been feeling a little wan. I wish I had a congregation to make me shiny and new.

The windows have been cleaned over the last few months and are much easier to see through now. My eyes have been getting fuzzier lately. I wish I had a congregation to make my eyes easier to see through. Maybe to pay for Lasik surgery. The deck was sagging at one point, but the congregation replaced boards, firmed up the underpinnings and stained it for a more even color. I've noticed parts of me are sagging as well and I have some uneven spotting on my hands. I wish I had a congregation to firm up my underpinnings and even out my color.

In times of joy and sorrow, through the devastation of fire, for weddings and memorials, the congregation came together to celebrate, to support, to grieve, to mend. In my life I have had occasion to celebrate, to grieve, to need mending. I have been devastated. I wish I had a congregation to-

But wait, I do. I do have a congregation. Well sister, here we are at 50, with our congregation, and we're doin' pretty well.

I light our chalice today for the church that is a building and so much more. For the congregation that cares for this church and for each other. For the church that is Paint Branch.

 

HYMN #358 Rank by Rank Again We Stand

OUR STORY: 1954-71
[Script and Intro by JACO:]

"From the four winds [we have indeed] gathered hither"-with some of you returning to this property and seeing this building for the first time, perhaps, even as the older space next door undergoes a radical and exciting renovation.

"Honored days and names we reckonlives that speak and deeds that beckon"-lives of ours and those of friends now gone-all have helped establish a strong congregational community that now steps toward its second half century.

Some years ago, Paint Branch pillar Marj Donn wrote these words, also appropriate today:
"A church is a storehouse of everyone's stories.
Each person's life cycle moves at its own pace;
Yet milestones were meant to be shared with each other:
We need other people to help celebrate."

And that's certainly what we're about in this month of gatherings to recall, renew and rejoice together. Held within the five, golden decades of this congregation's life-cycle are many stirring stories of the human community that animated first the College Park Unitarian Center and later Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. Your Bulletin contains a Timeline overview of this group's movement from then to now, as we come eagerly to this significant milestone, which we began to celebrate last weekend, exactly 50 years after its first service on Oct. 17, 1954.

In their first months together, the College Park Unitarians included three charter members who are still active with us, and we honor them by name. We acknowledge fondly your continuous dedication to local liberal religion over the past five decades: Clarence Newell, known to most as Jince, and Forest and Agnes Williams. Thank you, Jince, Forest and Agnes.

Other returning charter members, visiting from their current UU congregations, are also with for last night's gala affair and this morning: Almeda and Randall Wrenn, of the UU Congregation of the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk, NC and Mary Bailey, of the nearby Leisure World Community. It's wonderful to have you with us as well. And now, I'd like to recognize any offspring of the first generation of members who are among us today. You most likely spent some formative years connected to this congregation and we welcome you back heartily.

The centerpiece of our service today will briefly-and rapidly-outline, in turn, four eras of this congregation's journey so far, and then invite representative players to offer more personal snapshots of each period's story. The short historical summaries come largely from a fuller treatment that has been compiled in two books, covering the first 40 years, which are in the process of being combined and updated into one Golden volume by Patty Daukantis.

But today we get to relish some of the stories that anchor that history in lives that speak to us personally.

[Part 1, NANCY:]

Jince, Forest and Agnes and the other early College Park Unitarians probably remember sitting in rented quarters at the University of Maryland, listening to Sunday sermons by A. Powell Davies, the great minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in the District. By technological methods that were ambitious for that day, his addresses were piped in via telephone wire to stimulate the early years of this congregation. Forest was one of the group's first trustees.

Also attending during that first fall of the College Park Unitarian Center were a couple of young adults, Ruth Dawson, a student at the University, and David Phillips, a recent graduate. (Ruth's parents, Emily and Walker Dawson were charter members and later would write the 25 year history of the congregation.) Ruth and David hit it off and were married the next June by A. Powell Davies at All Souls Church, so their relationship is also 50 years old now.

They fondly recall Al and Frances Herling, who were also charter members and longtime pillars. Especially vivid for Ruth is the memory of Al playing the Center's portable pump organ. Ruth and David have been long time members at our neighboring congregation, Davies Memorial UU Church in Camp Springs, and are not only with us today, but also made a further name for themselves on the dance floor last night!

After a couple of years the Unitarian Center incorporated to become the College Park Unitarian Church, and the Annual Meeting of 1956 recorded 133 members, plus 128 students in the "School of Religion," with 20 babies on the "cradle roll." They impressively managed this large a religious education program in rented space for 10 years, led first by Betty Larson, whose memory is the focus of a ceremony after today's service, and then Marge Owens, who turned it over to Lillian Lee in 1964.

The group also wanted a minister of their own. Forest was on the search committee that brought David Osborn here with his wife Janet in 1957. David served well during times of energy and turmoil through the 1960s. He was well loved and well known for his stimulating sermons and a commitment to social action. His career took him elsewhere in 1971 and we were saddened to learn of his death this past August. Please refer to a panel in your Bulletin that honors him and Janet.

Buoyed by the new ministry among them, the congregation built a parsonage for the Osborns and bought the land we are on right now, both during the 1958-59 church year. They had evidently learned some important lessons about how to fund-raise from earlier, smaller projects, such as the campaign to pay for a large coffee urn that would brew fresh java on Sunday mornings. (This was desired to replace a dedicated but far inferior thermos brigade.) The coffee urn was successfully financed by sales of vanilla, of all things, but, as you might imagine, pushing this product was a bit of a challenge, and quite a lot of it was left over. So they held a contest to invent creative new uses for vanilla, some of which included "shampooing, washing socks, and anointing pigs."

In the early 1960s, anticipating their own church home in the woods by the flowing Paint Branch creek, the congregation voted to change names, and adopted its current association with our natural watery neighbor, as suggested by Almeda Wrenn. The building next door, first inhabited in February, 1965, won an architectural award soon thereafter and is now almost completely re-modeled following a nasty furnace fire last December. In early 2005, exactly 40 years after it first opened, we expect to have a rededication ceremony and probably rename it as well.

In the late 1960s, to be honest, there were also financial struggles. The new and growing capital fund-that would have built an already-designed companion building-had to be used for operating and emergency expenses. As that fund was dwindling, the congregation also voted ambitiously to invest about half of it, $10,000, in a wider UU project-Black Affairs Council bonds, which were collected from many sources to support "black business ventures that also had a liberal social thrust." The culmination of these economic factors was a realization that further building plans would have to be indefinitely deferred.

Many other important things happened in this first era, notably the growth of music, arts, and social action programs, about which we'll hear more shortly. Those were heady times, in American culture and in the early life of our church. We honor all of who joined or served or grew up here between 1954-1971 and helped blazed a trail for this congregation in its important early years!

Now, let us hear from one of the College Park Unitarians, Lowell Owens, who still sustains so much of our congregational life, from mowing the lawn, to overseeing the current construction next door, to leading the weekly Religious Quest discussion group. Thank you, Lowell, for your steadfast dedication to this community

 

REFLECTIONS Lowell Owens, member since 1958

When Marge [Owens] and I moved to this area in 1958 we looked in the Yellow Pages for the nearest Unitarian church and found the College Park Unitarian Church. "Building Double E" was harder to find, but when we did we were pleased to find a thriving congregation of about 75 people-with a full RE program and a nursery. The latter was important to us because we had two small babies.

Betty Larson, the RE Director, immediately recruited Marj to teach the 6th grade class. I joined the choir, a small but spirited group of about 10 voices, which included Janet Osborn, Brinley Lewis and Vanner Larson, husband of Betty. We rehearsed in the home of Dorothy and Brin Lewis because they had a piano. In Building EE there was only a little portable pump organ that you pumped with your feet, not an electronic one. Brin alternated with Al Herling and Jay Conant as accompanist and managed to give a little direction to the choir as well. It would be another two years, 1960, before the congregation saw fit to purchase an upright piano and to hire a full-time accompanist.

A major thrust of the congregation in the late 50s and throughout the 60s was social action. The Fellowship for Social Action had been organized a few months before we arrived, and Marj and I both joined. Roy Hart was Chair, and we met in the Royal Hart Photography Studio in Riverdale.

I still remember the project then underway. It concerned the Prince George's County Hospital. You see, the hospital had two maternity wards, one for white mothers and another for black mothers-some distance away. The nursery was near the white mothers' ward, and every few hours their babies were brought to them for nursing. Black babies, however, were not brought to their mothers-the black maternity ward was too far away! That meant that black mothers did not have the choice of whether to nurse their babies. Yes, this really was the Dark Ages.

As in all our projects, the Fellowship for Social Action notified the hospital administrator of our concerns and asked for a meeting, face to face. And as would be the case in other projects, the policy makers assured us that their egregious policy was not racist-but rather dictated by such practical considerations as distance, in this case, or economics, or whatever. Nevertheless, we asked that they change their policy and let them know that whatever decision they arrived at would be widely publicized. They shortly decided to change their policy.

This approach proved to be surprisingly successful with other projects we took on. On one occasion we threatened an area-wide Unitarian boycott of giving to the area-wide United Givers Fund-because they funded charities that discriminated on the basis of race. This brought a heated response from one of our members, Al Herling, who was on the United Givers board and who felt we were taking the wrong approach. But a short while later, United Givers Fund saw fit to change their policy.

We also lobbied for legislation, at the county and state levels, that would ban discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. We met with legislators and testified at hearings. All these efforts were remarkably successful. Of course, a part of it was the times. Change was sweeping the country-it was the 60s-but we definitely felt that our little group was one of the movers.

Leaders of the Social Action group after Roy Hart, included Marj Owens, Betty Allen, myself and Ken Stevens, who I think is here with us this morning.

I have many wonderful memories of this congregation in the 60s, but the most powerful ones are associated with the Fellowship for Social Action. Thank you.

 

SPECIAL MUSIC

OUR STORY: 1971-91
[Part 2, KATHLEEN:]

Lowell was on the search committee that helped PBUC call its second minister, Rick Kelley, who will be our next speaker. He came to us in the fall of 1971 and retired 20 years later. In-between, the church thrived in many ways, in program and administration.

A financial rebound led to paying off the mortgages on the Parsonage and the RE/Office Building, which set the stage for another run at eventually constructing a second facility on this site. Ken Lee first led the creation of a M.O.R.E. Committee (which stood for Maintenance, Ongoing Renovation and Expansion), and later there were more explicit teams that paved the way, as it were, for the Meeting House.

The 70s were a time of increasing gender consciousness, and church life reflected that, for both men and women. In particular, the first Women's Center of its kind in the entire state was established in Room 9 next door, the first room off the deck. This resource center was led from the beginning by Mary Ann Kelley, and the room was ultimately named for her, now fondly know as the MAK Room, which will very soon become our new main office.

Also in the consciousness of Paint Branchers those days were state legislative activism, sponsored by an effective advocacy group called LegiCUUM, and the possibilities of intentional community, stirred by Nightwinds. This was the name of a loose but significant grouping that provided room for both societal explorations and mutual support, lasting until late in the 70s.

Many other notable beginnings in this era included the following institutions that are still among us today:
a ministerial internship program,
Sunday services all summer,
the Montessori School rental; the Poetry Group,
the "We Care" Committee (led by Lillian Lee),
our connection with the Prince Georges County Community Ministry,
the all-church weekend retreat,
the Auction; the addition of "Universalist" to our church name,
the Daytimers group,
what became known as Capital Area Interweave, and
the Third Wednesday Hyattsville Unitarian Luncheon Klub (affectionately known as TWedHULK).

Meanwhile, Marj Donn was Director of Religious Education for most of these two decades and Bob Holloway was Music Director for all of them. Church Administrators Emily Nutku and then Meribel Blanchard expanded that role during this era, which coincided with the advent of more accessible computer technology. Lots of good lay leadership continued to keep things hopping.

We honor all staff and members, who sustained this congregation during a couple of dynamic decades between 1971­91!

Rick Kelley helped numerous ministerial interns improve their craft, and he deserves credit for beginning the Christmas Eve service here. He also helped Paint Branch celebrate its 25-year Silver Jubilee Anniversary in 1979. In his sermons, Rick discussed a wide range of topics, religious and otherwise, including personal problems, social issues, and our religious heritage. He held meetings on marriage issues and seminars on death and dying. He became acquainted with the young people of the congregation and got involved with the wider UU movement in this region.

His last months before retirement also brought the completion of the Meeting House, with a stirring week of Dedication events just before summer, 1991. Rick was honored with the title of Minister Emeritus and the large room next door where he had conducted services for 20 years was named after him, the Kelley Room.

Of course, this brief intro hardly does justice to the fullness of his long ministry among us, but let it serve nonetheless to prepare the way for his reflections from this 50th anniversary angle. Thank you for your service to our community, Rick

 

REFLECTIONS Richard Kelley, minister emeritus

Paint Branch is 50! Gone through 50 years of permutations and perturbations, even conflagrations!-ever evolving and still going strong! With many of you founders still active and enthusiastic and committed! It's wonderful to celebrate this 50th anniversary with you. It's a tribute to the power of religious commitment. It demonstrates just what liberal religious people can create and sustain-when they are determined!

I have an anniversary, too, that I should mention. This coming January, it will be 50 years since I was "fellowshipped" as a Unitarian minister and began my service in its ministry. And I want you to know that of those 50 years, the 20 years I spent here-as your minister, serving you, living amongst you-those were the richest, most satisfying years of my ministry. The experience of being your minister far exceeded any of my expectations for ministry. For that, I shall be forever grateful to you as a congregation.

Listening to that summary of the events and high-lights of those 20 years sort of amazes me. We undertook so much in those years, initiated so many different activities and avenues and experiences, some of which endured, and others that fulfilled the needs of the time and then passed away. We explored so much of what a church community can achieve when it opens itself to life's possibilities.

I came here at a time of great turmoil-turmoil in the society, turmoil in my personal life, and turmoil in this congregation, too. A great many lives here were in transition and in upheaval, in terrible need of a sustaining, nurturing spiritual community. And we sought to fulfill that need, to provide that essential community-through a variety of ways. I remember a series of Friday evenings when I was first here, when we initiated a whole series of discussions exploring ways in which people could meet the deep needs of their lives.

I remember those evenings when there were people meeting in virtually every room of the Education building, seeking together for answers to the problems of their lives, exploring all kinds of different possibilities, talking of everything from "How to Fight Fair-With Your Spouse" to the potential of Communal Living. And believe me, for a minister, trying to keep on top of all that ferment could be terribly hectic! Yet, those were also exhilarating, exciting times for all of us-times when many found potentials in their living that they'd not known before, new directions in their existence.

And out of that turmoil, I think the Paint Branch community found itself, found a deeper sharing of spiritual life together than they'd had before. So there was a period of years there that followed, as I characterized in my own mind, a period when the church seemed to kind of "lay back," you might say, to lay back and enjoy what they had found together. A quiet time of sharing and fulfillment.

And then, in the latter part of those two decades, things here kind of "came alive" again. People started saying: "Let's do something with this church!" "Let's have something more." And as you heard, that's when the M.O.R.E. Committee came into existence, seeking ways to have just that. And out of that came the thrust to build this Meeting House, and so complete the vision of a total church facility-the vision undertaken so very many years ago. And through a gigantic effort on everyone's part, we actually achieved it! We actually got it up and finished-even though we had to leave the lower floor incomplete.

And I am honored that you had me as your minister throughout those rich and wonderful decades. I'm gratified, too, to see others come and take up the work of the church, to lead it into new and satisfying ways, to find fresh and exciting avenues of accomplishment for this vital community.

I hope, too, that we are celebrating here a Beginning, the Beginning of another 50 years of spiritual growth and community service for Paint Branch. I know you hold the potential for so much more, and that you will fulfill it. So, I'll watch you from afar, and delight in your ever growing greatness, and marvel at your successes. May the next 50 years be wondrous ones for you all.

 

OUR STORY: 1991-98
[Part 3, NANCY:]

After Rick retired in 1991, Virginia Knowles provided good ministerial leadership during the interim year. She decided to complete her full time career with that term and soon returned to Paint Branch to be a member ever since. Rod Thompson was called to serve as the next settled minister, and he will offer his reflections in a moment. He and his wife Mary [Thompson] settled into the parsonage and helped this next era of congregational activity unfold.

The first half of the 90s were certainly a period of significant transition, not only adding a new minister and this whole new building, but all other program staff positions changed as well. Marj Donn finished 16 important years as Director of Religious Education and passed the reins to the latest member to step into that position, Abby Crowley. Music Director Bob Holloway and Accompanist Judy Olson completed 26 and 18 years of talented service, respectively. So Abby and Rod were joined by new Music Director Dan Abraham and pianist Thomas Pandolfi to continue exploring the possibilities for worship in this space.

Meanwhile, we began participating in the Warm Night homeless shelter program each winter, and started a long relationship of support with Beacon House, a neighborhood center in DC. Also, we started the tradition of monthly Special Collections for worthy causes, such as today's for the UU-United Nations Office. For a few Januaries there was a fruitful collaboration with Sojourner Truth UU Congregation in DC and UUs in Bowie that produced inspiring commemorations of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Centered at Paint Branch was the region's leading chapter of UUs for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (later called Capital Area Interweave), notably organized by Ed Kobee and Al Usack. So the church hosted a continental Convocation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and friends, and soon became an official "Welcoming Congregation." We also hosted an annual UU Joseph Priestley District meeting. National Public Radio even discovered Paint Branch and interviewed church members for an "All Things Considered" piece on Earth-centered spirituality.

During this era, Paint Branch happily held its first ordination, of member Thea Nietfield, who is with us today from her current ministry with the UUs in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Rod Thompson and a strong group of lay leaders organized a concerted series of workshops called "Decisions for Growth," which helped clarify a set of goals for the congregation to aim at, including a successful debt-reduction campaign and the regular inclusion of children in the early portion of Sunday services.

We honor the first generation of Meeting House Paint Branchers, who strode with this congregation into the 90s!

In 1998, Rod was called away to a different kind of ministry, to be part of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Field Staff, as Consultant for the Ohio-Meadville District, a position he continues to enjoy. As they prepared to move from here, the Thompsons donated a sizable portion of their home library to the church, indicative of their generosity and good will. Thank you for your service to this community, Rod

 

REFLECTIONS Rod Thompson, former minister

(I started by looking up at the ceiling and commenting that in spite of the rain outside it was not raining inside, and those who remember our struggle with the leaky roof laughed wonderfully.)

I bring you greetings and congratulations from your 5400 brothers and sisters in the Ohio-Meadville District, 46 congregations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and one in New York, where for the past 6 and half years I have served as their District Consultant. I'm sure by now they are getting tired of hearing about you and this church in my stories and examples.

My first memory of this congregation was actually during my Pre-Candidating Week. I remember sitting around the Lee's living room (I think) and having to interrupt the Search Committee in order to answer their questions. They did love to talk to each other. They had put Announcements on the Congregational Survey in the hopes that it would come out low on the list and they could be minimized. The Announcements came in at Number 3! I see you still have lots of Announcements!

As I looked at the calendar, this would be just about the time at Abby [Crowley] would bring out her caldron and high pointy hat and we'd talk about Halloween. Of course, the CUUPS [Covenant of UU Pagans] group would then remind us that the real holiday at this time of the year is Samhain.

And later we'd celebrate Thanksgiving together as we passed the ceremonial pipe around the circle and we shared what we were each thankful for that year. Especially this year I would be thankful for this congregation and its people.

The December holiday highlight for me was always the Christmas Candle-light Service. That is the thing I miss the most in my present position, seeing your faces a-glow with candlelight. It made my holiday for me. Then there would be the Easter Flower Communion, culminating in sending off our bubbles into the universe.

I remember very clearly the Decisions for Growth sessions that were mentioned and the work that went into the creation of your Mission Statement, which still appears on the Order of Service. Although that is reassuring and brings back great memories, the Consultant in me wants to suggest that the time has probably come to revisit it some time soon.

And finally, I'd like to thank you for the privilege of being invited into your lives, in times of both joy and sorrow. There is no greater honor for a minister than to be welcomed in. Thank you for being who you are. Please don't change.

(Although I forgot it at the end, I had intended to invite everyone to say with me the African word that we learned from the Sojourner Truth Congregation and became a part of all of our serves together: Ashe'.)

 

HYMN #368 Now Let Us Sing

OUR STORY: 1998-2004
[Part 4, KATHLEEN:]

Rod passed the flame of Paint Branch ministry to an interim colleague, John Burciaga, who ably assisted a year's worth of growth and adjustment. Near the end of that time, active lay leader-turned-minister, Mark Hayes, was ordained here and went on to serve the UUs in State College, PA, a ministry that continues to blossom.

Then, in 1999, we called as Co-ministers Jaco ten Hove and Barbara Wells (who has since taken "ten Hove" as her last name). This was the first "clergy couple" to ever serve here and Barbara became the first settled woman minister. Their arrival and worship style sparked an important conversation about theological diversity.

Abby Crowley, who served our church so well as Director of Religious Education, chose to move on in new, full-time directions in her education career (and we will hear her reflections on this latest era in a moment). So Natalie Fenimore joined us as Director of what we now call "Religious Education and Exploration," with a commitment to bringing the children and youth more deeply into the life of the church.

We also said a fond good-bye to Music Director Daniel Abraham, who left to teach full time elsewhere, so Kerry Krebill served a memorable year as interim choir director. Pianist Thomas Pandolfi also left us, and rather suddenly. But fortunately, an excellent pianist named David Chapman came in during the transition and proved to be multi-talented. David took on both the Pianist and Music Director positions, although you won't see him in action this morning, since we have other wonderful musicians performing today. (He was very much featured last weekend, however!)

This latest era included more than its share of trauma, too. We held onto each other in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, also helping to host a huge memorial service for a local family of four killed in the Pentagon crash. Two Septembers later, Hurricane Isabel canceled our All-Church retreat and left the RE/Office Building without power for eight days.

Three months after that, the infamous furnace fire really put our venerable building out of commission. Now, almost 11 very inconvenient months later, after outstanding leadership and response from the congregation, we are preparing to move back in next month, to enjoy extensive-and exciting-renovations next door. Among other changes, the remodeled building will have church offices upstairs and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system throughout. Meanwhile, ongoing repairs to the deck and steeple, while short of traumatic, perhaps, have been nonetheless demanding.

Along the way in this era, Barbara and Jaco launched important programs that trained Worship Associates and Pastoral Care Associates to take on significant lay leadership roles. We went to a single Sunday service in order to have small group programming afterwards, called Enrichment Hour. We started holding Festive First Friday dinners and social time for all ages. The board of trustees went on annual retreats together and we even received a six-figure bequest from the estate of long-time member Frank Roland.

And many of the aforementioned groups-begun in previous eras-kept on keepin' on, as the Paint Branch spirit and energy has danced into the new millennium and continues to stir us in creative, inclusive and inspirational ways.

Member Abby Crowley was a significant part of our movement into the 21st century and will now reflect on this era leading right up to the 50th anniversary. Thank you, Abby, for your service, contributions and comments

 

REFLECTIONS Abby Crowley, member & former director of Religious Education

Every year, one of the most potentially difficult and anxiety provoking jobs for a religious educator is recruiting to fill the many teaching and youth advising positions needed for the program. One mid June, I was getting ready to go away to General Assembly and I had one last teacher position to fill. Being the task oriented individual you know me to be, my impulse was to use the last few days to make a bunch of phone calls to fill the position with a willing warm body. It was for the 4-year-old class-they're adorable! Certainly I could find a twistable arm. Fighting my nature, I told myself, "No. Just go to GA and let the position just sit a while and see what occurs."

I went to GA, and, shortly after my return, was sitting in my office one warm late June day. As was often the case in the summer, I was alone, and had not seen another human being all day. At about 4 pm, as I was packing up to go home, Rene McDonald walked in. We exchanged inquiries about our summer plans, and Rene shared that she had been spending time with her granddaughter and that it had made her become interested in teaching Sunday School. "What age to you want to work with," I asked. "Oh," Rene said, "I thought maybe my granddaughter's age. She's 4!"

This memory sums up Paint Branch during the last 10 years. Whenever there has been a need, someone has stepped forward to meet the challenge. Four interim search committees, one for an interim minister, one that brought us Barbara and Jaco, and two more that brought us Natalie and later David. 30-40 teachers every year, about 85% of who had taught for two or more years and several who have had bonafide teaching careers at Paint Branch. People who could put together a memorial service reception or a few hot meals for someone in need at a moment's notice. Children and adults who would race to sign up to prepare a week's worth of dinners for the Warm Nights shelter. People who provided leadership over the decade for the cause of social justice for those who are lesbian and gay. People who showed up week after week to pull up old rotten deck boards and lay down new ones. People who gave of their time and talents at Beacon House. People who, without pay or much recognition, put together enrichment hours or Festive Fridays or Sunday morning coffee or the newsletter week after week, month after month. People who planned and struggled to respond to the aftermath of the fire and come to consensus on the best course of action for the church. Good people, committed people, generous people. Paint Branch, for me, is about the people.

And every time we experienced the pain and anguish of loss-the retirement of our long time music director Bob Holloway, the resignations of our beloved minister Rod Thompson, music directors Dan Abraham and Kerry Krebill, and pianist Thomas Pandolfi, deaths of the spouses of several of our members, the horror of 9-11, the anxiety of the sniper attacks and later the war, and our devastating fire-we came together to share our strength, love, and hope, and, as Rod used to say, it was good to be together. I remember that on 9/11 we all just wound up at the church that evening-we just knew that we had to be together. It was where we belonged.

It has been decades full of both joy and challenge. For many of us, we have struggled to raise children in a world where the din of negative influences sometimes seems to drown out our voices. We have gotten promotions and lost jobs. Some of us have married and some have separated and divorced. We have cared for aging parents, lost people we love, and welcomed new life into our families. We have faced life on life's terms and, on Sunday mornings, as one of my favorite hymns by Shelley Jackson Denham says,

We laugh, we cry, we live we die, we dance, we sing our song.
We need to feel there's something here to which we can belong.
And we believe in life and in the strength of love and we have found a need to be together.
We have our hearts to give, we have our thoughts to receive,
and we believe that sharing is an answer.

Happy birthday, Paint Branch. Make a wish. It will surely come true in this sacred community.

 

[Outro, BARBARA:]

"This church is a storehouse of everyone's stories.
The highlights of each life are part of us all.
Together we've honored our choices and stages.
Our tears and our laughter have hallowed these walls."

Marj Donn's poem evokes a truth that we might forget as we buzz through our busy lives and wander here and there. These walls-and those walls now repainted next door-are hallowed-holy-because our stories have mingled with the stories of those who came before us, describing 50 years of strengthening liberal religious community so that we can truly know how we are all a part of each other.

But it's not the walls themselves that are sacred. What matters are the many connections we make, the honoring of our life stages together, the content of the intriguing and moving stories we tell about ourselves.

All this adds up to a 50th anniversary that yes, looks backward with love, but also eyes the future with great hope, urging us to renew our spirit, sustain this congregational vessel, and step forth into the next era with gusto and resolve. We hold dearly onto our memories as we go forth for "One More Circle," which is the title of a song by Peter Mayer that fits this occasion, and Jaco and I offer it to you with heartfelt gratitude and affection

SPECIAL MUSIC One More Circle P. Mayer
Jaco and Barbara ten Hove

REMEMBRANCE Virginia Knowles, member and former interim minister

We come now to the time in this service that we have set aside to remember our friends and members who have died-those who shared with us this congregation, who shared with us this life.

"THEY ARE WITH US STILL" adapted from KATHLEEN McTIGUE

In the struggles we choose for ourselves, in the ways we move forward in our lives and bring our world forward with us,
It is right to remember the names of those who gave us strength in the choices of living. It is right to name the power of lives well-lived.
We share a history with those lives. We belong to the same motion.
They too were strengthened by what had gone before. They too were drawn on by the vision of what might come to be.
Those who lived before us, who struggled for justice and suffered injustice before us, have not melted into the dust, and have not disappeared.
They are with us still. The lives they lived hold us steady.
Their words remind us and call us back to ourselves. Their courage and love evoke our own. Their simple presence has imprinted our lives forever.
We, the living, carry them with us: we are their voices, their hands and their hearts.
We take them with us, and with them choose the deeper path of living.

Let us now in these moments of remembrance, call out the names of those friends and members of this congregation who have gone before us into the great beyond

 

SILENCE, REFLECTION OR PRAYER Barbara W. ten Hove

OFFERTORY
Additional Special Collection for the UU-United Nations Office.
During the offertory, many lit silent candles for their personal joys or sorrows.

 

CLOSING WORDS

KATHLEEN: For fifty years, Unitarian Universalists in this area have found in our congregation a home for their spirits. We give thanks for the liberal religious vision lit so many years ago that still shines brightly here today.

BARBARA: For fifty years, talented and courageous lay people have given extraordinary amounts of time, energy, money and love to grow and maintain this precious place. We give thanks for those who came before and for those who still offer their gifts of service to this church. This "Storehouse of Stories" animates our collective life with verve and personality.

NANCY: For fifty years, this church has had ministers, religious educators, musicians, administrators and other professionals who have blessed us with their gifts. To those here and those departed, we say thank you. Your leadership and inspiration have guided us and challenged us to make this church a wonderful and strong community.

JACO: For fifty years this church has touched the lives of its members and friends, and through them the wider community, nation and world. We give thanks for the many movers and shakers who brought their vision, wisdom and love to this place. Thank you for all you have done to create and build a very meaningful congregation. May we all commit ourselves to keep it thriving for future generations. Amen and Blessed Be, and let us sing once more, "Spirit of Life."

RESPONSE #123 Spirit of Life

POSTLUDE

 

In Memoriam - Rev. David Paine Osborn (1925­2004)
FIRST MINISTER OF THIS CONGREGATION, WHO DIED ON AUGUST 4

Edited by JBtH from obituaries and "The First Twenty-Five Years of Paint Branch
Unitarian Church (1954­1979)" by Walker and Emily Dawson

Called to serve the College Park Unitarian Church in 1957, David Osborn was a relatively young man, married to Janet, with no children. He earned degrees from Boston Univ. and Meadville Lombard Theological School, and had served the Unitarian Church of Marblehead, MA, with prior ministerial work for Unitarians in Lewisham and Hackney, England.

Shortly after worship services started that Sept. of 1957, the noted minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in D.C., Dr. A. Powell Davies, died suddenly. The College Park
Unitarians had piped in services from All Souls and felt very close to Dr. Davies.
They were thankful they had David Osborn to help guide them through this sad time.

David's sermons covered a wide range of topics. They were scholarly, timely, and often challenging. His readings were well selected and showed familiarity with literature. He conducted weddings, funerals, memorial services, and dedication services for children and parents. He spent considerable time counseling and called on members in homes and hospitals.

Intra-church activities occupied a great deal of his time. He attended most meetings of the Board of Trustees and the Church Council, as well as numerous committee meetings and programs, particularly with new members. He kept contact with the School of Religion, held marriage seminars, and attended congregational meetings. He was also active in interchurch activities, and chaired the Greater Washington Assoc. of UU Churches (GWA) from 1960­64.

It was through this organization that he became deeply involved in addressing institutional racism, fair housing concerns, the women's movement, and support for the emerging gay and lesbian community. With 40+ members he joined in the 1964 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in an avowal of their commitment to civil rights for all. In March 1965, he joined ten other members in the Freedom March on Montgomery, AL, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Locally, David was very connected with the church's Fellowship for Social Action.

In Jan. 1971, David announced his call to Central Unitarian Church in Paramus, NJ.
Paint Branchers were very sorry to see him go; during 14 years here he had worked hard for church and denomination. They were sad to say goodbye to Janet, also. She had been very active, especially in the choir and the Fellowship for Social Action. David later served 14 years at North Shore Unit. Univ. Society in Manhasset, NY, from whence he retired in 1990.

Just before he left Paint Branch, David Osborn said, "I believe that on the whole this
church has exhibited patience, compassion, intelligence and maturity that are the
marks of great strength of purpose and intention." The feeling was mutual.

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