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The Newsletter of First Unitarian Church of Omaha

The Flame December 2012

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The deadline to sign up for our December 15th Holiday dinner is December 7th! Be sure to RSVP by contacting the church office.

REV. ELATIONS I’ve heard from a couple of members who are uncomfortable with the use of religious language and passages from the Bible. The concerns are deep and heartfelt. The individuals wonder where they will continue to have a place in our congregation, and they wonder about the future of our denomination. These are authentic concerns, and they need to be addressed. As always, I make the assumption that a couple of voices represent a broader anxiety. Centuries before atheism or humanism became associated with our denomination, we were (continued on next page)

Sunday Services

At 9:30 am and 11:15 am

December 2 | Rev. Frank Rivas | Of Darkness and Light The story of Chanukah underscores the complexity of ethical choice. Complexity did not start in our time. December 9 | Rev. Cari Frus | Good Samaritan She will speak on the grace to be found in the kindness of strangers. December 16 | Rev. Frank Rivas | Seeds from the Pomegranate Along with Kate and Bruce Godfrey, Anne Wilder, Kevin Mark and Kerry Case, Rev. Frank explores a seasonal earth–centered narrative and how it forms our lives. December 23 | Rev. Frank Rivas | A Child Is Born With children and youth, we will explore layers of meaning in a story that has moved people for centuries. December 24 | Annual Christmas Eve Service (7pm) Join us for this service which is a seasonal favorite. The choir will be featured. This is an excellent service to invite family and friends. December 30 | The Art of Giving (10:30am service only) The Religious Services Team will present a worship experience about giving and receiving. Please come prepared by bringing a small gift of some sentimental value, even though you won’t know who might be receiving it.



firmly established as religious liberals. As I mentioned in the Thanksgiving sermon, the Mayflower Compact set the tone; noncreedal, it required only that each respects the faith of the other. So, yes, you will always have a place. Each of us will have a place, as each will be free to challenge and to learn from the faith of others. As for the future, there will be change, but our foundation in religious liberalism will stay the same. All of this leads me to my plans for January, which I’m going to call Boxing Month. I hope to invite full and open voice to similar concerns for our church and our denomination. In the first two sermons, I will draft out some positions, and I we will invite response. Only through open, respectful dialogue do we grow. But this month, December, we focus on darkness and light. We explore Chanukah, Solstice, and Christmas, three very different approaches to the changing of the seasons. May we each find something to celebrate.

Blessings and love, Frank

Coffee Hour We are in need of Coffee Hour hosts for the next few months. If you are interested in helping host a coffee hour after the 9:30am or 11:15am service or if you have questions about what is involved, please contact Ben Wallace at You may also go to this link to sign up online: go/10C0D44A9AE29A02-coffee


President’s Letter December Before I get out the Christmas decorations, I have to put away those of autumn. The sunflower wreath on the door will be replaced with evergreens, and I suppose Edgar (the stuffed raven who lives on the secretary) either needs a winter break or a little Santa hat. At the moment, I'm favoring the hat: a transition, rather than complete change. I would have very few things in my house if I cleared away everything to start anew each season. It has been a year since I inherited the presidency of this church. Looking back, (and waxing philosophical), I wonder whether my work has been to clumsily try to sweep away our past or work towards transitioning to a better future. Some of each, I think. And it is time to examine where we are and where we need to go—together. The Board of Trustees is setting aside preconceived notions and looking at our church and its processes with new eyes: governance, two services, volunteerism, growth. We are beginning the process of selfexamination—and we will be calling on you in the new year to join us. And please do let me know if you spot a tiny Santa hat suitable for a raven. Yours, Kate Godfrey

Hand-Made Book Workshop—make a special gift for the holidays. Saturday, December 1 from 10am-noon in the Common Room. Taught by Eddith Buis, this is a Heart & Hand Auction event with open seats, proceeds to the church budget. $10/person at the door—materials supplied. Contact Eddith to register at


Volunteer for Community Meals

Women’s Alliance

Holiday Community Meals

The Women’s Alliance will meet on Monday, December 10 at 6:30pm for social time; 7pm for dinner followed by gift exchange all held in the Common Room. The meeting will feature a “ReGift/Recycle” Gift Exchange. Check around your home for something that you no longer want or need that may surprise, amuse, or delight someone else. The holiday gift exchanges are an evening of fun, surprises and lots of laughter! Wrap it up and bring it with you. For this meeting, each of us will also bring an appetizer or dessert to share. Please indicate what you will bring when signing up.

First Unitarian provides lunch at Community Meals on Saturday, December 22. Last year’s Christmas Eve Community Meal was an important part of many families’ holiday celebrations, so we are back by virtue of the request of many First U congregants. Needed are holiday baked treats for dessert, and volunteers to serve the meal. We’ll be serving Domino’s pizza, salad, and fresh fruit, so the food prep will be minimal, allowing us to spend more time with our guests. School-aged children and youth are welcome, but please remember that they must be closely supervised. We serve at First Baptist Church Saturdays between 11:30am-1pm. Volunteers are needed by 10am until 1:30pm. You can work a partial shift. Sign-up at this link:

We will be collecting hygiene products for our neighbors who come to the Community Meals so we can give them holiday gift bags. Please bring as many of the following items as you can: Toothpaste/toothbrush, bar of soap, facecloth/ towel, deodorant, small comb, men: disposable razor/shaving cream, women: sanitary products

The cost of $12 per person will go entirely to the Merritt Scholarship Fund. If you are joining us for the first time, please be our guest. Reservations must be made no later than Friday, December 7 to Janet West (402-553-3162) or We hope to see you at the meeting. go/10C0D44A9AE29A02-community.

Or email Louise at or Kay Lynn at .


Annual Holiday Dinner Saturday, December 15 Social hour at 5:30pm — Dinner at 6:30pm in the Common Room Another fabulous, delectable menu prepared by Attitudes on Food (vegetarian and vegan selections included) Cost is $21 per person Please make your reservations by sending your check to the church. The check needs to arrive in the office by December 7. Please put your check and this form in the offering plate or mail both to the church office. Your check is your reservation. Please circle what you are able to bring: Wine



Name(s): ___________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ Please make your childcare reservation when you RSVP for dinner. Pizza and all the fixings will be provided. Yes, I will need childcare ___ # of children ____ Ages and names ______________________________________________________ Please note: We want everyone to be able to come and celebrate. However, if confidential financial assistance would make it possible for you to attend, please contact Rev. Frank Rivas.

Menu for Holiday Dinner Whiskey-Marinated Sirloin Steak Farfalle Pasta w/ Roasted Red Peppers, Mushrooms & White Beans in Marinara Roasted Baby Red Potatoes Seasonal SautĂŠed Vegetables Mixed Greens w/ Seasonal Berries & Mandarin Oranges 5

At Church This Month The deadline to sign up for our December 15th Holiday dinner is December 7th! Be sure to RSVP by contacting the church office.

Creative Art Night Need some quiet time to paint, write, crochet, sew, or need to feed your artistic soul? Join us on the second Sunday of the month. This month we meet at 7pm, Sunday, Dec. 9 in the Whitney Young Classroom.

Bridge Group The Bridge Group meets each second and fourth Sunday at 1pm in the Whitney Young Classroom. This month the Bridge Group will meet on December 9 and 23. If you want to learn, teach or play bridge, you are welcome to attend. The more, the merrier!

Share the Plate The First Unitarian Church of Omaha's Share-the-Plate program selects an organization each month and donates half of the weekly nonpledged offering plate proceeds with them. Our Senior Ministry Team selects the monthly recipients based on 2 two requirements: 1. That the recipient is a non-profit organization with a local presence. 2. The organization's official efforts have a direct impact in our local community. Our Share-the-Plate recipient for December is Partner Church. See pages 10-11 for more details.


Witches’ Tea Whatever your interest in earth-centered spirituality, whether Native American (or other) Shamanism, Celtic Druidism, African Diaspora, Wicca and Witchcraft or other tradition or path, come and enjoy conversation, fellowship, and the occasional earth-centered experience with others who resonate with the UU's Sixth Source of Spirituality. This meeting is held on the first Sunday of each month.

Please Drop off Donations Until December 22, we will be collecting hygiene products for our friends at Community Meals. Please drop off items in the church foyer.

We also accept non-perishable food items in the foyer for Community Meals.

Thanks for your help!

Joseph Campbell Mythological RoundTable The Omaha Mythological RoundTable is an “emerging” chapter of the Joseph Campbell Foundation's ( program to promote the study of mythology and the works of Joseph Campbell. We gather on the fourth Sunday of every month at First Unitarian Church of Omaha from 5 to 7pm for a one-hour video plus a one-hour discussion. Topics include the structure of myth, sacred stories, Jungian psychology, dream interpretation, comparative religion, and more. Contact details. This month we meet on December 23 in the Whitney Young Room.


Sunday School Update by Donna Neff First, a plug for more parents and adults to join Religious Education (RE) Council. RE Council partners with our fabulous—but part-time!—Director of RE (DRE) Meka Tate, to support our children and youth. For more information on the RE program and how you might get involved, email, or contact Meka Tate (, 402-345-3039), Kate Wiig (402-677-8697) or Donna Neff (402-393-5390). Now, back to our Sunday morning RE program for children/youth. We currently have classes for three age groups: Preschoolers, K-5th, and Teens. Children/youth bypass the sanctuary and go directly to their classrooms, which are staffed by an adult 15 minutes before each service. There is an intergenerational service once a month (and hence no RE— nursery open). Guest teachers sharing their talents are welcomed for special classes—could this be you?! Preschoolers and K-5th grades: Preschoolers meet in the nursery (lower level by the elevator), and K-5th grade meets in the classroom next door to the nursery. The curriculum focuses on a monthly theme: November— GRATITUDE; December—SERVICE; January—NEW BEGINNINGS; February—LOVE. DRE Meka Tate plans and leads the K-5th grade class at both services. The Nursery Aide and an adult assistant staff the nursery both services. Preschoolers at early service join the K-5th class if interested, and have their own age-appropriate class at 11:15. Most children/ youth currently attend the later service. Teens (6th-12th grade) meet at 11:15 in the Common Room or Merritt Lounge, alternating weeks for “Popcorn Theology” (movies segments with discussion) and Teen Coffeehouse (guided discussion)—and snacks. At the early service, teens are encouraged to join the adults or may attend the multi-age class if they prefer. Kate Wiig currently organizes this class with other adult volunteers. Two services presents challenges to RE, as attendance shifts between the two. Luckily, our RE program is flexible and can change as attendance patterns change. If you have children/youth who haven’t been to Sunday RE in awhile, come check out our lively group of inquisitive, caring young UUs! They are our future.

Women’s Group The group meets every Thursday from 1pm to 2:30pm in the Merritt Lounge. Come join us! An ancient gnarled tree: Too fibrous for a logger’s saw, Too twisted to fit a carpenter’s square, Outlasts the whole forest. —365 Tao, Deng Ming Dao


YRUU Update YRUU teens and advisors have been doing a great job recently of taking the time to have some deep discussions about what we value as UUs and how we can make those values better known to those we interact with. More visits with folks from local congregations are still being planned for the next few months as we continue to learn about our spiritual and religious neighbors in Omaha.

Remember, YRUU is open to any teen in grades 7 through 12 who is free on Wednesday evenings from 6:45-8:30 for camaraderie, purposely spiritual games & discussions, and free-thinking UU worship. Contact Naomi Solomon at for details.

This month we will continue a great YRUU tradition with the white elephant gift exchange planned for December 12. We also would like to welcome back any former YRUU members for a grand reunion on December 19!



Partner Church—Making a Difference First Unitarian Church’s Support of Our Partner Unitarian Church in Transylvania is Making a Difference—You can make a continuing difference by financially supporting the Partner Church Committee Fund. The members and friends of 1st Unitarian Church have been partnering and supporting the Unitarian Church in Firtosmartonos, Transylvanian, Romania since the 1990s. Church members and friends have visited and sent money to this small, agricultural Unitarian village. Have we made a difference? Absolutely, yes.

well as to provide an area for the village women’s groups to meet. The renovation included rebuilding the space beneath the room that had been damaged by floods in 2010 and extensive remodeling of the room to make better use of the space. Rev. Katalin applied for funds from an international UU source, Harvest Hope, for a grant to rebuild and renovate the room. A member of First Unitarian Church donated $1,500 as a matching contribution for the grant. Rev. Katalin received the grant and the room is stabilized and renovated and it is being used for village/church activities. This renovation could not have been completed without funds from First Unitarian, Harvest Hope, and lots of sweat labor from members of the village congregation.

In 2010, when Dave Olson and Janet West visited the village, Rev. Katalin Szasz-Cserey showed them a room in the parsonage which needed to be renovated so that she would have space to hold Sunday School classes as 10

Partner Church (continued)

For the last three summers, Rev. Katalin has held a summer camp for the children in her village as well as the neighboring villages. Rev. Katalin’s goals are to teach the kids the history and theology of Transylvanian Unitarianism and to have a good time. Our church has provided some of the funds for these summer camps. The Partner Church Committee has sent $1,200 each year to help the older village teens pay for room and board at the Unitarian high school in Kerstur and tuition and fees at the local colleges. The money for the scholarships has come from congregational donations and a contribution from the Women’s Alliance. Over a decade ago, First Unitarian made a financial commitment to provide $1,320 annually to our Partner Church. This subsidy helps to physically maintain the parsonage and the over 100-year-old church building.

of First Unitarian Church visited them in the early 1990s, most of the villagers are still subsistence farmers and/or elderly. They are so welcoming when we visit from Omaha. Those of us who have visited Firtosmartonos and other historic Unitarian sites in Transylvania have learned about and participated in the Transylvania Unitarian services. Rev. Katalin and the villagers in Firtosmartonos are truly our Unitarian cousins. A special envelope will be available in the pews during December for your special donation and support of the Partner Church projects. You can also send a check to directly to the church office; indicate that the donation is for the Partner Church Committee Fund. The donated funds are never used to subsidize pilgrimages of First Unitarian Church congregants to Transylvania. The Partner Church Committee: Janet West, chair, Nadine Keith, Dave Olson, Anne Knapp, Bob Hess, Ken Deffenbacher, Joan Benzinger, and Dean Christensen.

If each pledging unit at our church would donate $25 per year, our church would be able to pay the $1,320 pledge and $1,200 for scholarships ($400 is being paid by the Women’s Alliance), and help with other projects proposed by the Rev. Katalin and approved by the Partner Church Committee. Members of the Partner Church Committee and First Unitarian Church have visited Firtosmartonos six times since 1993. Those who have visited recently can attest to how important the partnership relationship is to the Rev. Katalin and the villagers. Although the residents of the village are better off now than when members 11


The “Old Church” Our current church holds an important place in our community and in our hearts. It is beloved by members and friends alike and has earned a place on the National Registry of Historical Buildings. Did you know that it is the “first” Unitarian Church of Omaha?

As membership declined, the building was sold in 1913 and eventually became a rental meeting hall for musical recitals, weddings, dinners and “fellowship events.” Longtime Omahans may remember the building which survived until the early 1970’s under the name Musik Verein.

The photo shows the original edifice constructed in 1871, two years after the founding of our church. The following is a brief glimpse into the early years of the church building and some of the key people who occupied the pews and the pulpit. Longtime church archivist, Marie Helms provides us the following information about the founding of the church:

The story of how the Women’s Alliance managed to hold the congregation together is a fascinating episode in our history and will be the subject of a future installment. Thanks to Marie Helms for the material on the church’s early years and the photo from the collection of the Omaha Public Library is courtesy of Nathan Kramer.

2019: Two

Important Events

The articles of incorporation of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha were signed on August 22, 1869, by twenty-six men and women prominently identified with the early life of Omaha. Its first settled minister was the Rev. Henry E. Bond. A small brick chapel was built at 17th and Cass and dedicated in 1871. The Rev. Newton M. Mann (see last month’s feature on Reverend Mann) was called in the fall of 1889, and during his twenty years the church experienced a powerful growth. A large addition was joined to the chapel The church was a brick building with several wings. Two entrances are visible in the photo, with a set of stairs leading to each. Two chimneys can be seen on the roof, and there is a steeple on the far side of the building.

2019 may seem a long way off; however, that year is the convergence of two such important dates: the 150th anniversary of the Founding of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha and the 100th birthday of our building, which was completed in 1919. 12

Camp StarTrail Join us July 28 - August 2, 2013 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Camp StarTrail. Located on the Platte River, midway between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, Camp StarTrail is the premier summer event for Unitarian Universalists in the Midwest. Less camp and more retreat, Camp StarTrail is a refreshing and rejuvenating multi-generational experience. Theme speaker for 2013 will be Rev. Meg Riley, a Huffington Post blogger and Senior Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a 3500 member UU 'Church Without Walls.' Register for Camp StarTrail BEFORE January 1, 2013 and receive a $20 per person discount. Online registration begins December 1, 2012. More information at

Annual PSD Conference Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 5-7, 2013 "Inspire the Future We Envision" is the theme for our annual conference because planning for our congregations' future is just as important for the health of our spiritual communities and ourselves. More information about the conference is at

Save the date: Our Annual Chili Cook-off is always a hit. Mark your calendars for Saturday, January 19.


Board President

New Member News By Carolyn McNamara

Kate Godfrey President-Elect Tony Host Board Members Dean Christensen, Lana Hammel, Barb Herring, Louise Jeffrey, John Wagner, Ron Withem

Trustees of the Capital Trust Tim Duggan (2013), Steve Hutchinson (2014), Sandy Host (2015)

Our newest member is actually a returning member. Michelle Haley first joined First Unitarian in July 2008 when her search for a spiritual community led her to us. She loved the people she met and wanted to share what she had found with others who were searching for a religious home—minus the usual dogma. Michelle was very active in the Caring Committee and, while serving as Chair, she worked to grow the committee and to make sure that all who needed assistance received it. Rev. Rivas was serving as temporary minister at that time and she enjoyed his sermons and her interactions with him. Upon her recent return, she was pleased to find that Rev. Rivas had returned also.

Senior Ministry Team Jack Perry, Walt Jesteadt, Carolyn McNamara, Ben Wallace, Rev. Frank Rivas

Submit items for publication to Word limit is 200; deadline is the 15th of the month. Board meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month and are open to all members.

Michelle is a native of Elkhorn, Nebraska and is employed in the sales department of O’Daniel Honda where she puts in long hours. She has two children, Aidan, 9, and Mackenzie, 5, Nielson, and is engaged to Jeremy Bishop, a local photographer. She is passionate about marketing, promotion and attention to detail and, because of Jeremy’s photography business, she has found a love of photo editing. Michelle looks forward to being of service at First Unitarian wherever needed. Hmmm. Did she say she loves the details? I think we can find a place for her!

Please say “Hello” and welcome her back.


Ministry Team Leaders Adult R.E. Crystal DiGiorgi Archives Dave Richardson Building (short-term) Dave Rosser Caring Douglas Lee-Regier Chalice Guild Kay Lynn Goldner Community Meals Louise Jeffery Fellowship Nadine Keith & Judith Wright Finance Walt Jesteadt Fundraising Donna Neff Garden Sharon Conlon Governance Alex Nather Membership Barb Ross Office Carolyn McNamara Partner Church Council Janet West R.E. Team Donna Neff & Kate Wiig Religious Services Megan Gustafson UU Class Yvonne Price & Jaime Alexander Women’s Alliance Vanessa Timberlake Young Adult Group Maria Wilson YRUU Ben Wallace & Shawne Coonfare

Contact Phone: (402) 345-3039 Fax: (402) 346-2662 Staff Minister Rev. Frank Rivas Director of Religious Education Meka Tate Office Administrator Catharine Dixon Organist Pat Will Choir Director Bob McMeen Choir Accompanist Patricia Allender Nursery Aide Justin Deffenbacher Custodian Bobby Medrano Minister Emeritus Ronald Knapp The Flame Editor Catharine Dixon Proofreaders Scott Kemper, Lana Hammel, Cyndi Nather The Flame Mailing Team Anne Massoud, Evelyn Whitehill, Howard Bolton, Jeanette Ryan, Shelton Hendricks


The Flame 3114 Harney Street Omaha NE 68131

Collection for Community Meals On December 22 we plan to give bags with hygiene supplies to our neighbors at Community Meals. Please bring the following items and leave them in the basket in the church foyer: Toothpaste/toothbrush | Bars of soap | Facecloth/towel | Deodorant | Small comb Men: disposable razors/ shaving cream Women: sanitary products

Thank you for your generosity this holiday season!

December 2012 eFlame  

The monthly newsletter of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha

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