By our second or third week meeting together, we were joking about “traditions” we had developed. All groups develop ways of doing things, intentional and unintentional. All of us started here as complete strangers seeking a place where we could find our spiritual home and community – some from other denominations, some hadn’t attended church since we were children, some had long UU backgrounds. We hope this will give newcomers an idea of how we are together, serve as a reminder to older members, and be a living document for how we work together to build our community.
Our brief history is here: How We Came About
We have an informal gathering-in and socializing from 5 to 6, supper from 6 to 7, and service at 7, with a simple dessert after, so that people can come just for the service and “coffee hour” after, come for supper and fellowship, come early and visit, or any combination, as they wish and their schedules suit. We often talk about organizational issues over supper, besides getting to know each other. It’s good if you can be there, but any decisions will be run by everyone, in email discussions or a formal meeting.
Supper: A vegetarian soup is provided. People are encouraged to bring snacks for socializing that can be eaten while standing, bread or salads that can easily be served buffet-style, or hand-held desserts for after the service. We have outgrown the dining table, and people are encouraged to eat in smaller groups at the various smaller tables. We don’t use paper or plastic dinnerware. We say grace, currently the one on the Sharing and Fellowship page.
Who’s Bringing What for Supper
Click on the Who’s Bringing What link above for the supper list page to see who is bringing what; use the members’ password.
Use the Edit button if you want to add something you are bringing.
If it is Monday or later and the previous week is still there, please change the date and delete the old list.
Visitors need not bring anything; there is generally more than enough.
Clothing: We are informal; jeans or sports clothes are fine. We try to conserve, so the temperature can vary from 63 to 80, depending on the weather.
We are using a small group, known in some UU congregations as covenant group, format. The blog posts after each service give you an idea of the themes and the order of service. Members volunteer to lead the service; it can include readings or a short talk, music, activities, structured or informal responses. We try to schedule themes and service leaders several weeks ahead.
Von Ogden Vogt, for many years minister of the First Unitarian Society in Chicago, used the phrase “celebration of life” to describe the worship experience. Vogt was a liturgist who believed that form, far from restricting freedom in worship, actually made freedom possible. For him, worship was celebration, essentially aesthetic experience, but with strong social and ethical overtones as well. He believed that both the religious and aesthetic consciousness of human beings alternate between inner and outer, a sense of the many and the one, the ideal and the actual.
Vogt held that worship begins with some commanding vision or ideal, before which the worshiper feels humble, awe-struck, or otherwise moved. The focus moves within as one relates oneself to the vision. Very quickly one is empowered and is ready to be challenged. The challenge having been given, the worshiper responds with new dedication and commitment.
We light the chalice at the beginning of our service to mark the beginning of worship. We have an affirmation, currently reading the UU Principles, to remind ourselves of our purpose. We have inspiring or enlightening readings or music, and sometimes share what those evoked, free form or as part of an activity. We close with a benediction or song.
Sharing and Listening: We often refer to responses to readings or talks during the service as “discussion,” but it is more intentional than a free-flowing discussion. We follow these guidelines.
Joys and Concerns: There will be a time in the service to share joys and concerns. In the words of Rev. Judy Welles “If you woke this morning with a sorrow so heavy that you need the help of this community to carry it; or if you woke with a joy so great that it simply must be shared, now is the time for you to speak.”
Announcements should be made immediately following the end of the service (and emailed to the group or put on the calendar, as appropriate.)
The front page of our website always has our meeting schedule. A summary of each service is posted a day or two after the service, with however much of the service the service leader wanted to share on the web.
There are links to our calendar, which always has the service schedule, with topics and leaders if they are already scheduled. Clicking gives a summary, and there may be more details. Sometimes there will be documents attached to an entry; double-click to see the full entry and links to any attachments. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to have events added to the calendar.
We have a Google Groups email list for announcements and discussions among members. Because we sometimes share personal information and have discussions, it is a private group and not publicized. Only members can post; the address is email@example.com. The postings are archived, so you can go back and see previous emails on the web. They are only available to group members. Official emails are sent from the West Fork UU account; any group member can also send emails to the group. To join the group, Sign in and apply for membership. The list moderator will send you an invitation, which you must accept before you start receiving emails, and before you can see the email archives.
Here are guidelines on email use.
Members is a protected area of the website; there is a member directory, and members have shared their religious journeys. Ask for the password after you have come to at least two meetings and are ready to commit to the group.
Please share your own religious journey with the group by sending two or three paragraphs to the group; it will be copied onto the web page.
West Fork for the West Fork of the Monongahela River, to connect us to nature, and because it doesn’t associate us with one town. “Unitarian Universalists” to emphasize the people gathered rather than the organization. Maybe someday we will decide to call ourselves a church, fellowship, congregation, society or something else. All of those have layers of historic meaning for many people, so it is a decision for the community.
We are organized as an unincorporated non-profit. Our bylaws are here, and officers here. We began formal planning and organizing in January 2012. The Unitarian Universalist Association has recognized us as an “emerging congregation” which essentially only requires that we identify as UU, are meeting regularly, and our District recommended us. Membership of the congregation in UUA, which is a choice up to us, requires 30 adult members and incorporation, among other things.
Budget and Contributions
We have no budget and have been financing our current small needs individually.
We are currently having house meetings, and not publicizing the group to the general public. The only publicity is through the UUA and District websites, and of course our own. This is so we can build up a core of people who are already committed UUs, have some experience of Unitarian Universalism, or know they are in tune with UU principles, and build a community which is ready to welcome and support those who don’t have any experience of UUism but think this might be the place for them. Please do bring friends who have UU experience or values, but please don’t invite acquaintances who you think just might be interested.
Accessibility: Not much. We wish there were. There are two steps up to a landing at the front door, and a step up from there. A ten-foot portable ramp may work. Once you are in the house, the bathroom is accessible, but there are no grab-bars and the toilet is standard height.
Parking: Park going the correct direction (even though there may be cars parked the wrong way) and observe the yellow curbs. There are a couple of spaces across the street; no parking on our side of the street. Further down past the alley on the left, there is apparently no parking across the street, but there is on our side. Parking in the driveway is currently used for people who have the most difficulty getting up the hill from the street.
Backdoor: There is a path from the back gate to stairs up to the back door, which may be more convenient if you are parked down the hill.
Bathrooms: One between the library and downstairs bedroom. One at the top of the stairs on the second floor.
Cats: There are three. They can go in and out; two of them are lapsitters. Let us know if you are allergic or averse.
Smoking: If you must, and at least one of us still does; on the patio or back porch.