Sugarloaf Friending

Helen Popenoe
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 10/20/2013

Part One

When I “friend” someone on Facebook, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am “filled with wondrous love” as Hymn 18 claims. That’s not the level of friendship Al Carlson and I want to talk about with you all in the talkback, later. Al is from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston. He’s here as our GWA historian for the that segment which will follow my introduction We are addressing the pragmatic teamwork friendship we knew and strongly value from belonging to GWA (the Greater Washington Association of Unitarian Universalist Congregations.)

What was GWA? This was an association comprised of more than two dozen UU congregations in this area. This collaborative endeavor included congregations in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia. GWA enabled these congregations to establish close relations with each other, offering support and congeniality. There were so many benefits from the work of GWA that we feel inspired to bring back a key activity that served our congregations so well in the days when GWA was in its prime.

We had a good thing going and are awakening GWA in a new, more focused form. The initial awakening is right now, for this service, and then, again, in November, at our workshop for the UU History Convocation. Please, dear friends, when we have talkback, Al and I need your helpful criticism of our retreat idea and our approach to this big-deal effort. It’s going to take all the courage we can muster and a lot of help from our friends. Al’s and my Sugarloaf vision is for GWA to host retreats, here, for UU adult groups. It’s a “pie in the sky” dream that needs shaping and grant money and our congregational engagement to come to fruition.

Each Sunday when I am here in this green sanctuary, it’s a beautifully silent, restorative oasis for me, an experience I yearn to share. Our UU Sources of Inspiration says (for the last one) that we draw inspiration from “spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.” I translate the sacred circle of life as one of receiving and giving. It says, “Here, I have plenty; let me share some with you!” It comes from feeling gratitude. As I recall, having been to all 26 churches, our land has the most true retreat qualities. Let’s facilitate Sugarloaf joining the sacred circle of having received our gifts of nature by sharing our oasis and giving of ourselves in service to other UU’s and, maybe, in the future, for other groups. Here we have plenty of land basking in silence, fresh smells and beauty away from the harsh sounds of technology. When we start charging rent, our pitch could be, “Come retreat here and savor the blessings of nature we offer.”

(All sing Hymn #207)

Part Two

Al and I propose Sugarloaf host GWA Roundtables, probably beginning in early April or May. The first one will be free and for all the D.C. area’s UU Board presidents and president-elects. The focus of the Presidents’ Roundtable is for them to obtain guidance on how best to perform their duties and to share experiences. To set that up, initial announcements will be made by Al and me at the November History Convocation. Anyone know how to make a flier for us to hand out? Then we’ll ask Megan and we’ll ask Al’s Reston minister, Barbara Coeyman, to pitch it when attending ministers’ meetings. Al will meet with the Virginia churches’ board presidents and ministers and I will meet with the Maryland ones, in their home churches. We’ll split the two in D.C. proper. If our retreat dream is “a go”, I’ll give a proposal to our Board to “get the ball rolling” to structure this unfolding project into a successful effort.

Al’s and my sales pitch is:

Friends do matter for one’s well-being. In GWA, it’s being friends with the other local congregations on the lay persons’ level. Proven over the 50+ years GWA existed, it’s a fact that congregations learn from each other when meaningful exchange lights the verve of supportive concern for the good of all. This kind of friendship can become a steadfast spiral of strength, motivated from the empowerment of knowing we belong to the UU movement to make a better world. That mission carries on what was begun by Dr. Davies and his wife, a founding member and Sugarloaf pillar in our beginning years, Muriel Davies.
The Reverend Dr. A. Powell Davies acted on this mission with “his GWA Big Bang” (more than a decade before the merger with Universalism.) Dr. Davies initiated the verve Al and I plan to reconstitute like a packet of delicious dried French onion soup. A good idea is a story that lives on and on. GWA will live for our local congregations again! Let the movement’s motto be “GWA – a renewable resource!”

Al and I remember GWA as an action-oriented, grassroots forum to share and learn from our churchwork problems, successful practices and to appreciate mutual support for achieving goals. Those goals were ones of joint volunteer effort to help such local UU enterprises as the provision of affordable housing for low-income residents in our area. Or a goal could be specifically about what a particular congregation needs to accomplish for itself. The group process experience was one of truth telling, while, discreetly loyal to our own congregations, but not candy-coating challenges to be solved.
To ask for help, either in the large meeting (usually 40 representatives when I was President and for Al who was President after my term ended) or to get help in one to one conversation over dinner. To ask for help was naturally built into the exchanges. We didn’t necessarily give answers for problems or unfulfilled needs. Through descriptions of congregations’ similar situations, the discussion could bring beneficial new thinking to the participants.

Al and I “caught the spirit” from Dr. Davies’ GWA verve! To end, I quote Jim Wyckoff when he closed his sermon honoring Dr. Davies,

“After his untimely death from a pulmonary embolism in 1957 at the age of 55, a number of his recorded sermons were broadcast around the world by The Voice of America with these words of introduction: ‘From Washington, D.C., The Best of A. Powell Davies, a man often called the greatest minister of our time! During his lifetime, Davies was thought by many to be the voice of reason. It is our wish to keep that voice and that reason alive.’”

(Contemplation then Talkback)

End Talkback with the “We are keepers of the dream” adjusted words of #674.