The Madison Unitarian | December 2022

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THE 2022
NOVEMBER 2022 2 NOVEMBER 2022 2 IN THIS ISSUE Stars 3 From the Editor 4 From the Ministers 5 From the Board 6-7 Taking Care of Business 8-9 Spotlight On: Mind, Body, & Soul 10-11 Autumnfest Cabaret 12-13 Holiday Services 14 Community Info 15 A Month of Services 16-17 Winter Solstice Spiral 18 Contact Us 19 December's theme is: Wonder 2 THE MADISON UNITARIAN


Now in the West the slender moon lies low, And now Orion glimmers through the trees, Clearing the earth with even pace and slow, And now the stately-moving Pleiades, In that soft infinite darkness overhead Hang jewel-wise upon a silver thread.

And all the lonelier stars that have their place, Calm lamps within the distant southern sky, And planet-dust upon the edge of space, Look down upon the fretful world, and I Look up to outer vastness unafraid And see the stars which sang when earth was made.

Marjorie Pickthall

In grad school, I got into a lot of arguments about magical realism. Or rather, I got into the same argument many times. Someone in my creative writing program would suggest that something seemingly fantastical in a work of magical realism—a ghost, the inexplicable scent of oranges, a very old man with enormous wings— should be interpreted as a metaphor for something else, and I would argue that they were wrong. In the magical realism genre of literature, magic isn’t a metaphor but rather a realistic depiction of the character’s actual experience in the world, and to read it through our Western, Euro-American, “science or bust” lens is to do it a disservice.

My friend Ana told me that in her native Spanish, el realismo mágico is more accurately translated as “realistic magic.” This simple rephrase turned my entire understanding of the genre inside out. In the great works of magical realism, much of what Euro-Americans would consider fantasti cal, surreal, or magical are experienced by the characters—and handled by the author—as ordi nary. The magic is realistic.

Take Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hun dred Years of Solitude, one of the masterpieces of the genre. In one scene, a woman walks into the garden to hang the laundry on the line and unex pectedly flies away. In another, a man who died in Singapore arrives in town to visit, and tells people that death was simply too lonely. A third character sees yellow butterflies whenever her lover walks into the room. All of these events are conveyed with a matter-of-fact tone that helps the reader understand that these moments aren’t metaphor: they’re real. Meanwhile, elements of


the world that Westerners often take for grant ed—ice, magnets, trains—are treated as fantastic. What sets a room full of yellow butterflies apart from a chest full of ice in the tropics? Only point of view. On a hot day, an ice cube against your skin is the best kind of miracle.

It wasn’t until I found myself in regular arguments about what we should read as realistic versus fantastical that I realized I might have a higher tolerance for realistic magic than the average Euro-American. I credit my pagan UU upbring ing (and, of course, my pagan slash UU parents). Growing up at FUS, I learned about nature-based religions and spiritualities, attended ceremonies and celebrations out at Circle Sanctuary, and discovered that some people think it’s perfectly normal to befriend trees. Our worship services were peppered with words from Thoreau and Emerson, Carson and Oliver, Leopold and Muir. In CRE, we sang songs and heard stories about the relationships people from other cultures had with the earth and its many citizens, and I inter nalized the idea that each of us is a part of the interdependent web of all existence.

Our world is filled with ordinary magic, if we are open to it. Einstein is often quoted as saying, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is,” and while he probably didn’t actu ally say it, it’s still a great line. As we enter into our month of wonder, let’s dwell in the possibility that even the most mundane moments might contain magic, and relish the commonplace mir acles in our lives.



In the predawn hours last week, these words of Rachel Carson’s came to me as I stood outside in the cold staring at the lunar eclipse. I couldn’t remember seeing this before and I had no idea if I would ever see it again. It was a moment of realization of how easily we go numb. Our eyes adjust to the wondrous world around us and it all becomes “ordinary.” Yet, we know there is no such thing as “the ordinary.” As the Hindu guru Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “The other world is this world rightly seen.” In other words, there is nothing that can’t be experienced as wonderful or “other-worldly,” if only we have the eyes to see it.

This month's theme, wonder, gives us the chance to pay attention to how we are looking as much as what we’re looking at. Yes, this month is about finding wonder out there in the world, but may be the equally important work is rediscovering our ability to reorient our sight, to cultivate won der-filled eyes. When was the last time you were caught by wonder?

Mary Oliver beautifully captures this work of orienting ourselves toward wonder. She writes, “Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be Astonished…”

Rachel Carson’s work was grounded in a sense of wonder. She wrote, “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the

christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccu pation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

What Carson points out to us is that the world children inhabit is the same world you and I in habit. Catching wonder was never about time. Wonder is always about being present and aware.

For instance, who falls to their knees with awe in the presence of dandelions? Or a common shell on the beach? Or the sound of rain? Or the smile of one you love? Rachel Carson’s words offer us a path to wake us up—again—to the wonder of such ordinary objects. For her, it’s all in the look ing.

For the month of December, we invite you to hon or the wondrously ordinary things in your life. In stead, look at the world around you through the questions Carson suggests: “What if I had never seen this before? And what if I knew I would nev er see it again?” If you would like, please share photos of your wonder on our Facebook FUS Community Virtual Gathering Space (www.face Take a moment to show one another all those times when you are caught by wonder, when you took a moment to stand still and be astonished.

“What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”

This fall, the FUS Board of Trustees participated in Justified Anger's Black History for a New Day course. An initiative of the Nehemiah Community Development Corporation, led by Nehemiah staff, and taught by UW-Madison history professors, the class is designed as an opportunity for non-Black people to come together and critically examine the history that has shaped our view of the world.

The Rev. Dr. Alex Gee is the founder of Nehemiah and pastor of Fountain of Life Church. The course grew in part out of Rev. Gee’s experience as a Black middle class, educated communi ty leader being repeatedly stopped or detained simply because of the color of his skin. In 2013, Rev. Gee was asked to write a cover story for the Cap Times. The article, entitled “Justified Anger,” birthed the movement that led to the formation of this course and many other initiatives.

Each year, the FUS Board of Trustees sets or reaffirms strategic priorities to focus our work. This year’s strategic priorities are:

1. Consistent with our Relational Covenant, create an atmosphere of trust and respect that encourages dialogue and healthy relationships.

2. As individuals and a congregation, recognize our accountability for and commitment to dismantling racism and other forms of systemic oppression.

3. Show up as authentic partners in collabo ration within our local community and denomination.


Each lecture begins with a reflection on Rev. Gee’s experience living as an African American male in Madison. Artist, entrepreneur, and activ ist Rev. Lilada Gee also offers her perspective on the lived experience of generational trauma for Black women. Facilitated discussion groups fol low. This fall, our discussion groups were com prised of members of both FUS and James Reeb congregations.

What have we learned?

Regardless of the region or generation we hail from, we have learned the extent to which our American history lessons largely excluded first person historical accounts of people of color, and rarely did justice to the devastating impact of slavery on the bodies and souls of enslaved people. We learned to appreciate the multitude of ways the African American culture has evolved and survived, despite brutality, through

resistance, struggle, community, and resilience. Yet even today, this rich history of people—their names, courageous acts, and contributions— still is routinely left out of our children’s history books.

Many of the lessons have hit very close, both to our personal pasts and in the present day. The words were not always easy to hear. We were challenged to explore unexamined assumptions, experiences, and beliefs in a process of learning and unlearning; to listen with humility, and to not back away from our discomfort.

What Next?

We are determined that our collective involve ment will challenge us to continue the work, rather than put it on a shelf once the class has ended. (con’t on page 7)



(con’t from page 6) In taking this class, our primary focus was on our second strategic priority, our accountability for and commitment to disman tling racism and other forms of systemic oppression. However, the first priority—living into our relational covenant—has proven foundational. While holding space and witnessing moments of vulnerability, ignorance, denial, and pain with each other, our relationships have deepened.

Along with the personal work will come our or ganizational work. This will require developing our critical consciousness of systemic racism: the ability to recognize, analyze and critique sys tems of inequity in our work within FUS and in the community outside our doors. What will that look like? Just a few examples:

• To evaluate organizational policies and proce dures that communicate, overtly or more subtly, that people who don’t look like us aren’t wel come here.

• To be intentional in engaging in tough conver sations with each other.

• To consider how we might act courageously to identify and name the unintentional micro-ag gressions that BIPOC people may experience in our midst, and further strive to foster inclu sion, listening, comfort and support for people who may feel unwelcome or invisible in this faith community.

• To support ministers and staff in discovering how to incorporate anti-racist work into our ministries: Child and Adult Religious Exploration, pastoral counseling, spiritual practices, music, social and environmental justice efforts, hospi tality, and facilities use.

• To seek opportunities to join with other Unitar ian Universalists in our community and denomi nation to build connections, trust, relationships, and partnerships.

In comparing the modern Civil Rights movement to the realities of Black people living in Wiscon sin today, Rev. Gee challenges us to move out of our comfort zone and get to the hard work of change:

“Pseudoliberalism in progressive and oppressive Wisconsin has choked out true progress because we’re so nice, we don’t think we have anything to work on. So we don’t.”

You may agree or disagree with these strong words, but of this there is no question: There is much to be done as we seek to live our princi ples and seek to be a force for good in the world. Being effective leaders, allies and would-be change makers requires us to have a deeper understanding, both in the present and in the past.

To learn about future opportunities to take this class, go to Nehemiah’s Justified Anger web page: our-work/justified-anger/


According to our “Statement of Financial Position” report, as of June 30, 2021 we had a total of $319,000 in cash and cash equivalents. This includes money in the Operating, Designated and Capital Funds and is approximately $189,000 less than last year at this time, as we continue to draw on our cash reserves to balance our budgets. Our fixed assets (for things such as our land, building, furniture, equipment, etc.) have an estimated value of $10.26 million, for a combined total of $10.58 million in assets.

Designated & Restricted Funds

In our Designated & Restricted Fund account, we ended the year with nearly $47,000 across eleven funds. The two largest - Wartmann Lecture Series (with approx. $16,000) and Arnie and Sam Clay Fund (with approx. $9,000) - are the cumulative distributions from the FUS Foundation, which we will aim to fully spend down each year.

Operating Fund

Last fiscal year in the Operating Fund we anticipated roughly $1,831,000 in income and expenses, projecting a tiny six-dollar surplus. Though our actual income fell short of its budgeted goal by 6% with $1,721,000 received, we also saw major savings and were 10% under budgeted expenses, therefore completing the year with a $58,000 operating budget surplus. That surplus would not have been possible without this community’s generosity – with $931,000 in pledge payments, member contributions remain our largest source of income. Though we continue to watch our communities’ decline in pledges and pledge payments with concern, we know that we will continue to find ways of enacting our vision and mission within our means.


Though all of our traditional income sectors fell short of their annual budgeted goals, the “Government Assistance” line played a critical role in another successful fiscal year, with $207,000 in Paycheck Protection Program funds fully forgiven and attributed on last year’s reports. Across three fiscal years, we’re grateful for the half million dollars that we’ve received in government assistance, with the last of which from the Employee Retention Credit landing in July of 2022.

On the expense side of the Operating Fund, we spent a whopping $169,000 less than budgeted, a testament to staff’s frugal and creative methods for implementing meaningful programs and services with minimal impact on the budget.

I hope you’ll take a minute to review the Statement of Financial Activities included. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to myself or the Finance Committee if you have questions about our financial state. You can reach me at or our Finance Committee Chairperson, Adam Simcock at



Mind, Body and Soul (MBS) is offered to 8th graders at FUS and focuses on relationship and sexuality education. It celebrates responsible and developmentally appropriate expressions of one’s sexuality. It used to be comprised of a blend of lessons from several curricula, but now primarily includes lessons from the UUA’s Our Whole Lives curriculum, a lifespan sexuality series.

MBS is immensely important to our youth’s development. It is perhaps one of the most comprehensive, progressive, inclusive curricula of its kind. MBS facilitator John Rider notes: “There is a lot going on at this age and puberty presents many challenges for young people. Their bodies are going through changes, there is lots of incomplete and wrong information being shared by peers and oth ers, and the consequences of social and sexual behaviors can have lasting and negative repercussions. Our youth that go through the Mind, Body, Soul cur riculum are much better prepared to go through this life phase since they have lots more factual infor mation about these changes and how their physical bodies work. They will also have a good grounding on what emotions and pressures to expect and have had the opportunity to explore strategies to manage these pressures in social situations.”

While contemporary culture frequently shows sexual behaviors outside of an emotional con text, MBS tries to firmly place sexuality within one’s emotional development, exploring how our emotional needs inform our sexual decisions, and how our sexual decisions inform our emotional realities.

Some topics explored include:

• Healthy/unhealthy relationships

• The importance of consent

• Stages of intimacy and their potential emo tional impacts

• Gender identity

• Sexual orientation

• Body image

• Communication skills

• Sexually transmitted infections

During the year, youth will also meet with someone from Planned Parenthood to learn about pregnancy prevention; and someone from the Rape Crisis Center to learn about sexual violence.

Conversations with former MBS participants reveal that the benefits of the program are not always felt at the time. Many of our MBS youth have not been in partnered relationships yet and have not participated in shared sexual experiences. But what they’ve learned and explored in MBS is hugely beneficial down the road. It helps them to define and communicate their bounda ries and to nurture relationships that are defined by respect and mutuality. It encourages them to continue to grow in ways that are physically and emotionally healthy. Former participant Zadie Brown describes her experience in this way: “I am thankful that I had a safe space to talk about ‘taboo’ topics, that also made it fun! I got to learn everything about my mind, body, and soul in the funnest way a teenager can—surrounded by friends and getting to know them while also getting to know myself.” (continued on page 11)



(con’t from page 10) In a culture that constantly magnifies the worst in relationships and sexual ity, MBS provides a safe haven where accurate information, positive sexuality, and emotional caretaking are illuminated. Facilitator Rachel Bennett shares: “This is my third year teaching the class and it still energizes me for the week to spend time with this age group discussing such important content. As a physician, I’ve seen firsthand how be ing knowledgeable about one’s body and its func tions can result in better health outcomes. More over, I think we all know how valuable it is to have healthy and satisfying relationships. The idea that we’re giving students the tools to develop those re lationships in their future is highly satisfying.”

The goal of nurturing the next generation of so cially conscious, environmentally responsible, justice-oriented leaders hangs over all we do in CRE. Mind, Body and Soul is an excellent example of how we are helping to create a future that exemplifies the inherent worth of all people, in cluding ourselves!

DECEMBER 2022 11
Most of our MBS participants and leaders (sorry to miss those who were absent!)




DECEMBER 2022 13



Each year we gather to share sacred space with kindred spirits as we acknowledge and honor our feelings of loss, grief, anger, regret, or pain during this season. Loved ones missing from the table, pressure to live up to expectations, challenges of living in an ongoing pandemic—all can make us feel blue rather than jolly this season. If this most wonderful time of the year is bittersweet and complex for you, please join us as we find peace in being with one another and find authentic ways of marking the holidays with rituals that honor the realities of our lives.



Our Christmas Eve Services begin with our Christmas Eve Nativity Pagent. This service is gentle, warm, and full of wonder and love--a favorite of families with little ones. We ask each family to bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to a local food pantry. Those who choose to dress up may participate as an angel, a shepherd, a wise one, or an innkeeper. Please join us for this participatory and joyous celebration of the Christmas story.


Gather for a celebration of the spirit that infuses this season with hope and joy and holy light. Through stories, music, carols, and poetry, we will honor the blessings and gifts of Christmas and celebrate holiday wonder old and new. We will end with the warm glow of candles and the soft choruses of Silent Night. The choir will sing at the 4:30 service.


Enter together into the sacred space of Christmas Eve with this service of music, candlelight, and story. Join us as we welcome the spirit of Christmas into our world and into our hearts. We will also partake in a Christmas communion, sharing in the bread of community and the light of hope.



Gail Bliss has been awarded the Swarsensky Humanitarian Award from the Rotary Club of Mad ison.

This award identifies individuals who have, through their voluntary efforts, made a particularly outstanding contribution to the humanitarian service in the greater Madison community. Gail was recognized for her many years of work to promote civic engagement and voting access for everyone including our homeless population, senior citizens, and hospitalized voters. A most deserved recognition. Congratulations, Gail!

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In-person worship services: Saturdays @ 4:30 pm & Sundays @ 9 & 11 am

Online worship service: Sundays @ 9 am



Rev. Kelly Asprooth-Jackson, Co-Senior Minister

The stars in the night sky have been a source of wonder and awe for human beings since long before the written word, and perhaps even before language itself. As we as a species have come to better understand the universe around us, some of that wonder has been changed—but not necessarily lost. In this service we will explore the possibilities of cosmic awe. The Solstice Harp Ensemble will play arrangements by Linda Warren.

DECEMBER 10 & 11



WEEKEND with FUS Music Staff and Choirs



We will sing carols and hymns both familiar and new for Solstice, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Winter, interspersed with history, stories, and reflections. We will even take requests from the congre gation!


Music and readings alternate as our five choirs, music staff, and guest instrumentalists help usher in the holiday season! This year’s theme is “Morning Star So Radiant.” Music of Harmouris, Bolcom, Holst, Ebel-Sabo, Elgar, Willan, and more. Plus readings, congregational songs, and a few more surprises. After ward, sip some warm wassail punch in the Commons.

DECEMBER 17 @ 4:30 PM



Revs. Kelly Crocker and Kelly Asprooth-Jackson, Co-Senior Ministers

The longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice is the time when the light returns, and our days slowly begin to lengthen. It is a time to remember, in story and song, the hope that lives within this dark and fertile time and within each of us, as we recall the true light of our lives: the love that lives within, and the power we hold when we shine our light into the world and partake in the miracle of renewal. The FUS Teen Choir will sing.


DECEMBER 18 @ 9 & 11 AM


Revs. Kelly Crocker and Kelly Asprooth-Jackson, Co-Senior Ministers

The hours of daylight are quickly being eclipsed by the hours of darkness as we approach the solstice on December 21. These are the days when we are quick to light candles and welcome the brightness they provide. Yet we are wise to pause for a moment in the darkness and explore the mysteries we can find there before setting off into the wonders of the growing light. Join us as we let the light and darkness bless each other and us. Flutist Marilyn Chohaney will play Syrinx by Debussy, as well as carols from England, France, and Germany.


See page 15 for a full list of Christmas Eve services.



Revs. Kelly Crocker and Kelly Asprooth-Jackson, Co-Senior Ministers

In this special Sunday morning service for Christmas Day, we will celebrate and share the wonder of gifts given and received—the awe wrapped up with tinsel, bows, and heartfelt generosity. Heather Thorpe will sing Schubert’s Ave Maria, and Linda Warren will play solos for piano and harp. This service will be entirely virtual--there will be no in-person service on this day.



Rev. Kelly Asprooth-Jackson, Co-Senior Minister

Awake, arise, and greet a new beginning! The start of anything new benefits from letting go of (some of) what came before and setting an intention for the work ahead. On this New Year’s Day, join us for a ritual of releasing the year now past as we look toward the one to come.

DECEMBER 2022 17



Rev. Kelly J. Crocker, Co-Senior Minister x.112

Rev. Kelly Asprooth-Jackson, Co-Senior Minister x.113

Monica Nolan, Executive Director x.115


Janet Swanson, Director Membership & Adult Programs x.124

Leslie Ross, Director Children’s Religious Exploration x.119

Kristi Sprague, Social Justice Coordinator x.125

Xan Hendrick, Program Assistant x.116


Dr. Drew Collins, Music Director x.121

Heather Thorpe, Children & Youth Choir Director

Linda Warren, Assistant Music Director


Molly Backes, Communications Coordinator x. 117

Cheryll Mellenthin, Project Coordinator x. 130

Tom Miskelly, Facilities Manager x. 120

Dan Carnes, A/V & Event Specialist

Steven Gregorius, Event Specialist


Alyssa Ryanjoy, President

Lorna Aaronson

Annelise Alvin

Jennifer Seeker Conroy (President Elect)

Joy Stieglitz Gottschalk

Emily Cusic Putnam

Finn Hill-Gorman

John McGevna, Secretary

Ann Schaffer


Our lay ministers provide a confidential, caring presence to congregants undergoing stressful life challenges or joyous occasions. Under the guidance of our called ministers, they promote the spirit of community through direct service in visiting the ill and healing, facilitating support groups, and more. Contact a lay minister at 608.233.9774 x. 126


900 University Bay Drive Madison, WI 53705 608.233.9774 @fusmadison

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