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
10 to 10:45 am Religious Education for Adults and Children
10:45 to 11 Coffee
11am to 12pm Worship Service
Members volunteer to lead the service; it can include readings or a short talk, music, activities, structured or informal responses. We sometimes have a guest minister.
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 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, some form of 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 and a song “Go Now in Peace”.
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 don’t always have discussions in the service, but when we do, 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 are made immediately following the end of the service (and emailed to the group or put on the calendar, as appropriate.)
Clothing: We are informal; jeans or sports clothes are fine.
The children’s group is designed for all ages since it is small. Visiting children are welcome.
We use these sharing and listening guidelines. Visitors are always welcome to the adult group, but it is an ongoing class, so you may not be prepared to participate fully in the discussion.
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.