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The Newsletter of First Unitarian Church of Omaha

The Flame March 2013

REV. ELATIONS Anne and I feel blessed to be here. I laugh even as I write that sentence. Had you asked me earlier in my life about the possibility of serving a church in Omaha, Nebraska, “blessed” would not have been the first word that came to mind. Blessing, however, is always a surprise. The building and music program are indeed part of the blessing, but the core of the blessing is the people, who have genuine affection for one another. Yes, there are the conflicts that all healthy congregations have: how to set priorities with limited resources (limited time, limited space, limited energy, limited finances). Only a defunct institution would not have such struggles. If we focus too much on these struggles, we risk losing sight of the big picture. This month, as we conduct our stewardship campaign, I want to ask again the foundational question, “Whom do we serve?” It’s a permutation of the question that plays a key role in the Grail legend. We must ask the question over and over. We must find the courage to articulate the answer that is in our hearts. Blessings and love, Frank

Sunday Services

At 9:30 am and 11:15 am

March 3 | Rev. Frank Rivas | Whom Do We Serve? An exploration of the mission of the liberal church... and the mission of our own church. March10 | TBA March 17 | Rev. Frank Rivas | Dayenu Passover doesn’t begin until the 26th, but I want to reflect on Passover without confusing it with Easter. “Dayenu,” Hebrew for “It would have been sufficient,” refers to a prayer that models gratitude. March 24 | TBA March 31 | Rev. Frank Rivas | Anastasis Emerson wrote that Jesus “spoke of miracles; for he felt that man’s life was a miracle, and all that man doth… But the word Miracle, as pronounced by Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is Monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain.” One Easter we examine the miracle that diminishes all others.

First Thoughts on Our Pledge Campaign: Weaving Our Journeys by Ron and Diane Withem, co-chairs Please join us March 3 for the “kickoff” or as a previous campaign dubbed it, “Generosity Sunday” of “Weaving Our Journeys” for our 2013-14 Pledge Drive. There is more information in this issue of The Flame, but let us be the first to invite you to join us in pledging to build the future of our church and to take part in the all-church celebration to be held Saturday, March 30 at The Elmwood Towers. This fund drive will be filled with heart-felt words and an artistic endeavor in which pledging persons will be asked to take part (see Judith Wright’s article on page 10 ). There will once again be an All-Church party (complete with talent show) which will serve as the culmination of what we hope will be the First UU’s most successful pledge campaign of the 21st century! Joining us in this is the most wonderful group of volunteers anyone could ask for—all of whom have offered us their knowledge, support, and creativity. Jaime Alexander is our honorary chair. We benefit from his inspiration to all church members from the care he puts into greeting visitors to his smoothing the way for those interested in learning about our church through UUs and You. Our steering committee includes Tony and Sandy Host, Louise Jeffrey, Lois Norris, Kim Dunovan, Carolyn McNamara, Anne Rivas, Barb Ross, and Judith Wright. Judith has offered not only this year’s party location, but her artistic talents to create the beautiful tapestry that we will each take part in weaving as we turn in our pledges! Each and every member of this committee has offered invaluable input toward getting this project under way. When you see these people, remember to thank them for the hard work they put in to the project. Additionally, we have had counsel and input from board president Kate Godfrey. Walt Jesteadt has offered budget information, and Megan Gustafson and Dave Richardson of the Religious Services Committee have offered help along with Reverend Frank who has encouraged us and offered his input and vision. As co-chairpersons of this year’s pledge/generosity campaign, we have discovered why past campaigns have been so successful—each person we have approached is more than willing to help. It is being a part of this larger community—one woven together with a diverse set of members and friends—held together by the common thread of our belief in UU principles—which makes our church and congregation so special. Join with us in pledging generously this year to help grow our church! Ron and Diane Withem

Women’s Alliance The Women’s Alliance will hold its next meeting on Monday, March 11 at 6:30pm in the Common Room at First Unitarian Church. Our speaker for the March meeting is Emiliano Lerda, Esq., Director of JFON (Justice For Our Neighbors). Originally from Argentina and now a U. S. citizen, Emiliano knows the immigrant experience firsthand. He says that he was drawn to America’s Midwest because its agricultural environment reminded him of his native Cordoba province in Argentina. Mr. Lerda earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Northern Iowa where he was the first international student elected as student body president. After earning his law degree from Drake University in Des Moines¸ he worked as government relations manager for the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Emiliano is passionate about public service and is completing his studies toward an LL.M degree from the University of Arkansas. He joined JFON as executive director in January 2011. Our dinner ($12) will be corned beef and cabbage catered by Eddy’s and chick pea stew for our vegetarians. If this is your first time, please be our guest. Reservations must be made no later than Friday, March 8 to Janet West: 402-553-3162 or We hope to see you at 2 the meeting.

What’s in a Nametag? Some of you may have noticed the snazzy new blue nametags that some members have been wearing for the last few months. The membership team did a pilot of the new nametag design and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. So, you might be asking yourself what you can do to get one of these snazzy new name tags. 1. Be a member. If you are already a member you have the option of replacing your nametag using the steps below. If you want to become a member, talk with Rev. Frank or anyone on the membership team. If you recently became a member and haven’t received your nametag yet or are planning to become a member in the very near future, a nametag will be ordered for you by our office admin. The first nametag for new member for new members is still at no cost. 2. Let us know what name should be on the nametag. You can either send an email to or you can fill out one of the name tag cards in the pews and put it into the collection plate. 3. Put your goodwill donation into the offering plate or bring it into the office. The name tags have a cost of $12 to First U. However, we want to be sensitive to individual situations so instead of requiring everyone to pay $12, we are asking for a goodwill donation to cover the cost. If you can afford $12 to cover the cost, great. If you can only afford less, great. If you love the idea and want to pay $20 for your nametag, great. In any case, you can put “Name tag” in your check’s memo line or simply put money in an envelope and label the front with “Name tag.” We want this to be a positive thing for our community 4. You do NOT have to change. While many people like the new nametags, there is NO requirement to change. If you prefer the standard black and white nametags or want to forgo a new name tag for any other reason, no problem at all. This is an option, not a requirement, and we want to respect everyone’s desires. If you have any questions about this process, you can contact the church office or Ben Wallace at Example of the new name tag:

Would you like to host Coffee Hour? Please see our online sign-up by going to this link: Thank you!



Program Council Reforming welcome to observe and time will be made available for public comment.

Rev. John Buehrens, President of UUA from 1993 to 2001, said: “To be human is to be religious. To be religious is to make connections. To lead a meaningful life among the many competing forces of the 21st century, each of us needs support in making meaningful re-connections to the best in our global heritage, the best in others, and the best in ourselves.”

This should help the Board on communication with the congregation and provide a forum for discussion of major church issues. The Board wants transparency in discussions and deliberations of the church’s mission and plans. And we want a strong, vibrant church community.

After a two-year trial and changes that have occurred during that time period, the Board has determined that the Senior Ministry Team is not the preferable administrative structure for our church. It is the Board’s intention to strengthen the committee structure of the church. There is no “machine” in a church; it is people doing things and making connections. At its best, committees are minicommunities within the church. Only by making a commitment to a community can we hope to build a community.

In faith, Tony Host President

Program Council is not a new idea to our church. It is the Board’s intent that this Council be structured to help manage day-to-day issues of the church through appropriate committees. And that there be an executive board consisting of the President-Elect, Minister (ex-officio), and two members at large, one selected by the Board and one by the Program Council. We hope to have an initial meeting scheduled for March. Committee chairs will be notified in the near future. Representation is open to all committee chairs or their designated representatives. As with all church meetings, all are 4

President’s Letter March By now you know that this if my last president’s letter. It has been an honor to serve you these last two years. I step aside due to family health concerns, confident that this congregation will be led by an excellent new president. Resigning in the heat of a Stewardship Campaign does make me feel a bit of a heel. Rest assured, this remains our church, and we intend to continue supporting it. Mission is the one thing I feel I’ve really left undone. We have a lovely mission: First Unitarian of Omaha strives to be a diverse, liberal religious community with a tradition of open-mindedness and tolerance. We promote spiritual growth, social justice, and service to those in need in order to affect positive change in our society and in ourselves. Though I would choose to phrase it differently: Seed, Leaf, Flower, Fruit. Seed: We plant, fostering the future through strong Child and Adult RE, strategic planning, and honoring our dreams. Leaf: We grow. Our faith calls us to challenge ourselves, to be open, and to engage in personal evolution. Flower: We share. We offer our support through community outreach, pledging, and sharing UU with others. We plant, we grow, we bloom, we share. Yours, Kate Godfrey


At Church This Month Check out our calendar at our website:

UU & You UU & You classes provide an introduction to Unitarian Universalism and our church, along with an opportunity to share our religious journeys. Visitors, newcomers, and the just curious are cordially invited to attend on Sunday, March 3. The class will convene in the Whitney Young Room 15 minutes after the ending of the 11:15 service. That usually works out to a 12:30 starting time. A light lunch will be served to bolster the always interesting conversation. Ending time will be 2pm. If you need childcare, please let us know by the Friday before. RSVPs or questions can be addressed to or call the church office at 402-3453039.

The Book Club The Book Club will meet on Monday, March 25 at 7pm to discuss the book Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katharine Boo. Please contact Dave Richardson for more info at


Share the Plate In March we are sharing the plate with OTOC (Omaha Together One Community). OTOC is a local interfaith organization of which First Unitarian is a founding member. We encourage you to learn more about OTOC by visiting their website:

Spirit Circle What used to be known as Witches’ Tea is now The Spirit Circle. This year, The Spirit Circle will be taking a journey through the Wheel of the Year. This is an exploration of the major holidays that most Pagan or Wiccan traditions follow. Come out on Sunday, March 3 at 7pm for our discussion on Moon Phases.

Metro Equality Rally

Women’s Religious Studies Group

The Metro Equality Rally is happening Monday, March 25 at 6pm in front of First Unitarian Church.

We meet every Thursday in the Merritt Lounge from 1-2:30pm.

On the eve of the US Supreme Court hearing two national equality cases, we gather in one community to be informed, share resources, and dialogue with our leaders to promote equality locally, and throughout the US.

We have begun a discussion of the Gnostic Book of Thomas.

Town Hall Meeting at 7pm that night in the Common Room. Check out their Facebook page for more information: events/528732523824373/


Join us! We have a great time!

YRUU by Naomi Solomon In February, YRUU teens enjoyed an overnight event with BeanBoozled, Sardines, Dungeons & Dragons, JayBall, and more. We recently began some great discussions with lesson plans from the Virtue Ethics curricula set from the Unitarian Universalist Association. Upcoming topics include Integrity, Compassion, and Courage. A few teens have been stepping up to lead worship activities during the last twenty minutes of each week's meeting. Some of the favorites so far included music as worship and guided meditations. Spring is here early, it seems, so we also hope to be enjoying a few activities outside in the coming months. We are looking for all teens and parents to join us for an important discussion on March 6 at 7pm. The ministers of Omaha’s two UU churches will be there and we hope you can join us for this discussion!

We Honor by Meka Tate, DRE We honored Black History Month in the U.S. by choosing Lewis Latimer as our person of the month from UU history. The son of escaped slaves, Latimer became one of the first African American inventors and helped found the Unitarian Church in Flushing, New York. Latimer grew up in Boson. His family moved from house to house to escape from slave catchers, and he attended only grammar school before going to work in his father’s barbershop. At 16, Latimer enlisted in the Navy to fight for the Union in the Civil War, lying about his age. On his return, he landed a job as an office boy with a patent law firm. Latimer eagerly studied the draftsmen who turned clients’ sketches into drawings for their patent claims. He bought his own tools and practiced at night. In eleven years at the firm, he rose to head draftsmen—but was paid less than white draftsmen. We learned about Lewis Latimer and his many accomplishments on Sunday, February 24.

Project Interfaith Tour Presents On Sunday, March 10 The Interfaith Architecture Tour Made in America Featuring First U Church will happen at our church. Check-in is at 1pm. Tour is 1:30 to 5pm. Embark on an afternoon exploring the architectural styles of our own First Unitarian Church and the Mormon Trail Center (3215 State Street). The afternoon will conclude with a community reception hosted by the Mormon Trail Center. This program is open to the public: $5/students and $10/non-students. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged as space is limited. To register go to This program is open to the public and intended for educational purposes only.

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CommUUnity Night in March We will meet in the Common Room on Friday, March 1 at 5:30pm. If you haven't participated before, CommUUnity Nights are a fun, laid-back all-church event. We gather together for a potluck of side items (the main dish will be provided by RE) and we don't worry about who is bringing what; we may get KFC chicken nuggets, sushi, and guacamole, but we'll have fun. We eat together as a group and then just chill. Kids are free to roam and play and run and take ownership of their church. We will give the teens the Merritt Lounge as a fortress of solitude against the chaos of family life. The adults chill, talk, play games, and just enjoy each other’s company. If you can't bring anything or you are feeling too rushed to grab or make something last minute, COME ANYWAY! There is always plenty of food and what we really want is YOUU!"



Weaving Our Journeys A wildly wonderful idea maybe, hopefully it could really be possible to artistically reach our ENTIRE next year’s budget if while we all were pledging we would help create a joyously beautiful “I PLEDGED WEAVING” Just think of it every week more and more of us would be pledging so that every week the weaving could be growing more and more too. So that by the time the all-church dinner came about EVERYONE PLEDGED and our weaving would be joyously complete!


Weaving Our Journeys How will this weaving evolve?   

Turn in your pledge Pick up your “I Pledged” sticker on Sunday mornings in the Common Room Bring a length of something weave-able and wonderful from your life, no longer than 50 inches and up to 4 inches wide. Ideas of things to bring: a scarf, jewelry, a man’s tie, a glove, fabric from your dress that’s too small, suspenders, a stripe of your favorite tablecloth, a lovely handkerchief, ribbon, or yarn. These are just suggestions. We welcome your own selections for this weaving. If weaving doesn’t tickle your fancy and you have pledged and you want to send something to weave, you can call the office and it will be picked up. We will have weaving materials for you to choose from if you do not have something weave-able.

Wanted: Singers, Actors, Musicians, Dancers, and Poets To shine in the Tapestry of Talent at the All Church Dinner on March 30. We need 10 fiveminute performances to showcase the richness and scope of the talent in our community. Sing, play or read a favorite piece. Or compose something that enhances our Stewardship theme, Weaving Our Journeys. Or, if the muses of Unitar are so inclined, there may be a ditty or two about some of the highlights of the church year. Please share your gifts as only you can. Contact Barb Ross at by March 7.



There are numerous current and past members of First Unitarian Church who have distinguished themselves in service to the community, the region, and the country. The list includes scholars, public servants, theologians and a US Senator. But none has had more of a positive and wide-reaching impact than Whitney Young. The noted Civil Rights figure Rev. Andrew Young said of him, “He knew the high art of how to get power from the powerful and share it with the powerless.”

Whitney Young Jr. — Part I

In 1960 Young was appointed the chairman of The National Urban League after serving for a time as Dean of the School of Social Work at Clark College in Atlanta. It was during this period that he became a powerful force in the Civil Rights Movement.

Whitney Moore Young Jr. was born in Kentucky in 1921. He graduated from Kentucky State University at the age of 20 and shortly thereafter served in WWII. It was here as a young lieutenant that he first experienced how to deal with racial injustice.

In Part II of this series, we will look at his work during the tumultuous times of the 1960s. This month the PBS series Independent Lens will be showing the documentary on Whiney Young titled “The Powerbroker.” As they say, check your local listings.

In 1950 he and his wife Margaret moved to Omaha when he took the job as director of The Urban League of Nebraska. Young’s biographer, Jordan Wankoff, noted: “Young worked hard in Omaha and achieved a series of successes. He increased placements in skilled and semiskilled professions by tripling visits to Omaha businesses. With a local interracial group, the De Porres Club, he brought a new awareness of race. During his time in Omaha, black teachers began to teach white as well as black children; minstrel shows and racial incidents common in 1950 almost completely disappeared; the Omaha Housing Authority ended racial segregation in federal housing; and downtown hotels and restaurants began serving blacks.”

2019: Two

Important Events

In addition to their tireless work in the community, he and his wife also signed the membership book at First Unitarian Church. During his time as our minister in the late ‘90s, Rev. Dick Benner contacted Mrs. Young, the widow of Whiney. She spoke of their days in Omaha and at First Unitarian noting that she was probably more active in church work than her husband because he felt the need to maintain relations with African-American congregations which he often visited on Sunday mornings as part of his work in strengthening community ties.

2019 may seem a long way off; however, that year is the convergence of two 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.


Cowperson Chili Cook-Off By Carolyn McNamara This year’s Annual Cowperson Chili Cook-Off did not disappoint. The Common Room was crowded with all sorts of western lookin’ folks who were interested in some serious chili tastin’ and eatin’. Marshall Elaine Wells got things started by explaining the rules of votin’ for the best chili in both the vegetarian and carnivorous categories. Again this year there were so many chili recipes to choose from that a cowpoke could hardly make a decision much less taste them all. But taste ‘em we did and here’s how things turned out.

The best vegetarian chili award went to Nancy Scott, while second and third places went to Abby Cape and Patricia Soto. The top prize for chili with meat went, once again, to Diane Withem (I keep warning folks about that gal, but nobody listens) while newcomer Julia Thompson took second place. This year there were so many chili recipes tied for third place that the judges just shook their heads and decided they couldn’t decide.

In addition to chili votin’, folks were asked to choose their favorite cowboy and cowgirl costumes. Well, that was a little easier. The prize for best cowgirl(s) went to the Witches of the West, alias Chloe Coonfare and her pal Anne Gallagher, two of the cutest little gals the Common Room has ever laid eyes on. The best lookin’ cowboy was really a bull by the name of Erik Martin who brought some of his friends from back East to cheer him on. (They dressed like city slickers, but we let ‘em in anyway!)

Folks were treated to toe-tappin’ music by Anne Wilder and Dave Olson and even joined in on some sing-a-long tunes. Folks were also entertained by “spur” of the moment melodies by singers, Elaine Wells, Mary Bort, Dave Rosser and Joe Schaaf. Thanks to all who made this year’s shindig a success: Cook-Off Committee members Nadine Keith, Judith Wright, Nellie Chenoweth, Dean Christensen, Shawne Coonfare, Dave Olson and Dave Richardson; bartenders Dean, Shawne, Judith and John Hruska; cashiers Walt Jesteadt and John Wagner; helpers Steve Rice and Roger and Julie Nicholaisen; sign and ballot printer Bill Ross; and the many folks who baked cornbread or who stepped in to help with set up and clean up.


We’re On a Roll! By Jackie Anderegg Board Tony Host, President 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)

Submit items for publication to Word limit is 200; deadline is the 15th of the month.

Have you noticed the happy surge at First Unitarian? We want to spread it around. So, we want to invite all members to become intrigued and involved with our guests and visitors. Here are some ideas: Wear your name tag for sure, as it gives members and new people a way to talk with you and identify you as a member. We are ordering new name tags in a happy blue color that are magnetized, and you may have one by filing out forms that will be available soon and by making a good-will donation to cover the costs. You may also choose to keep your old name tag (we all get attached) if you want. Stay tuned for more info about that. If you see someone with a temporary name tag, assume they are a new, or a frequent visitor, and make eye contact, introduce yourself, volunteer to get them coffee, ask them if they have been here before and how they came to visit. No one shows up here because they want to be more alone. Be an ambassador! Sign up at our website or contact Bill Ross. We will also be handing out Ambassador sign-up cards at coffee hour. Be a greeter! Just contact Janet West and she will take care of that for you! It is simple and fun.

Board meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month and are open to all members.

At coffee hour or in church, or in the foyer, just look around for new faces. “No one should be standing alone.” That has to be the name of a poem somewhere. Look at Judith Wright and Jaime Alexander for inspiration about connection with strangers. Bring relatives and friends to services, social activities, and any other function you enjoy. Exposure to this community tells people what they need to know.


Give anyone on the Membership Team your ideas about what we can do to invite people more fully into our community here. Team members: Barb Ross, Bill Ross, Ben Wallace, Carolyn McNamara, Janet West, Jaime Alexander, Judith Wright, Lana Hammel, Ron Withem, Stephen Meister, and Jackie Anderegg.

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 Jackie Anderegg Office Carolyn McNamara Partner Church Council Janet West CY-RE 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

Church 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 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, Shelton Hendricks


The Flame 3114 Harney Street Omaha NE 68131

Religion and Film Discussion Group Religion & Film Discussion Group: Will meet on Second Sunday of the month to watch a movie with discussion afterwards try to find the religious/mythological meaning in the movie. For example: Slumdog Millionaire could be a retelling of the Ramayana or One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest could be a retelling of the Passion of Jesus. Meeting place in Common Room at 7pm. Childcare will be provided as some movies may not be appropriate for children. Dates: March 10 with an Introduction and History Channel Special: Star Wars, A Legacy Revealed April 14: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 12: Batman Begins June 9: Jacob’s Ladder July 14 – Slumdog Millionaire August 11 – Up (kids welcome for movie but will be moved to nursery for their own discussion) Bring own snacks (or something to share). As usual coffee/tea pots will be on.

March eFlame  

This is the monthly newsletter of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha