“Let It Be a Dance: UUCA Senior Reflections” by Frank and Karen Lindauer, Ruth Gogel, and Walter Dowdle
introduction (Rev. Anthony David)
It is often the fate of that which is not right in front of our noses, or right in the center of our present concern, to be forgotten. Forgotten: all the efforts and enterprises, all the laughter and tears, that have made this spiritual community what it is today. All the stories.
Yet as a congregation which seeks to envision its future—as a congregation right in the midst of developing a five-year long-range plan—it is absolutely appropriate that we remember. Always, for institutions as well as for individuals, the process of growth and rejuvenation has a weaving pattern. Back and forth, back and forth. We grow forward because we’ve found a place to grow from. We see the love that has carried us this far hence, so we can go farther yet.
Love is what carries you, for it is always there,
even in the dark, or most in the dark,
but shining out at times
like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. (Wendell Berry)
This morning, we’re going to hear from some of the voices of people who have been part of this place for a long time. People whose gold stitches are in the very fabric and embroidery of our community, and if we but direct even a little light on them, they shine. My request to our seniors was to hear stories that are important to them—about being a part of this congregation, or about being Unitarian Universalist. What, I asked, are your most inspiring memories? Your most important lessons? What are the stories you want to share?
This morning, our speakers are Frank and Karen Lindauer, Ruth Gogel, and Walter Dowdle. Before I introduce them, though, let me share out of the many other letters and notes I received. Just a few of the things that I heard….
One has to do with incredible leadership and volunteerism. Offices and responsibilities held which, to list them all, would take days. A letter from Alice Young, for example, who joined this congregation in 1960, that went on and on. Just amazing.
But now, 51 years later, she says this: “Now as an elderly member I am unable to attend church regularly. When I do attend I cannot ascend or descend the sanctuary chairs. It makes me very sad.” I heard something like this from several of our seniors. These are people who helped make us who we are, and we cannot afford to forget them. Something important to think about, as we envision how we want to grow over the next five years.
Then there is a letter from Elizabeth Carter, who became a Unitarian Universalist in 1956, and joined this congregation in 1968. Over and over again, she writes about the lifelong friends she’s made. How the main activities of her life have been centered in this faith community. “Sunday services,” she says, “were an event we simply didn’t miss. My brother-in-law’s memorial service. My husband’s memorial service. My son was married here. Another son’s wedding party was here after an out-of-town wedding. Paul Gann and I were married here. These events,” she says, “were attended by family and many UUCA friends.” All this reminds me that the community we build together with our time and energy and money is not something outside us. It’s extended family. It’s home. We go to it to celebrate all the transitions in our lives, and when we die—the last transition—it will receive us gently and with honor.
We are part of a larger family of faith, a community of memory and hope. Love carries us.
And now: to our speakers. First up are Karen and Frank Lindauer. Karen started coming here around 1975, Frank around nine years later—and in 1985 they were married by Associate Minister Don Jacobson.
Following Karen and Frank will be Ruth Gogel, who first visited UUCA with a friend in 1962. “I was amazed,” she says, “to see so many people from the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women there in the congregation. I felt right at home!! I joined a few months later. This means I have been a member for 48 years!!”
Our final speaker is Walter Dowdle. With his wife Mabel, and their two young children, they joined this congregation in 1960. A special note about Walter: he was recently awarded the 2010 Fries Prize for Improving Health—awarded by the CDC Foundation. This is a major award. And, in true UU fashion, he donated the full $60,000 of the prize money to a scholarship fund established in memory of a CDC scientist, Louise Martin, who tragically died in the bombing of the Kenyan embassy about 12 years ago. Our warmest congratulations to you, Walter.
Now let me turn things over to Frank and Karen….
Reflection (Frank and Karen Lindauer)
I began coming to UUCA in 1983. When I retired in 1988, I thought I had to continue to be “productive” as I had been in my working career. Because I had always been a “words person” I thought that others would pay for my services as an editor and rewrite person. Not so!
But still wanting to write and edit, I began volunteering at “Youth at Risk,” an organization whose mission was to turn around the lives of at-risk teenagers, primarily inner-city kids. My thanks to fellow congregants Joy Borra and Michael Halpern for that connection. But I wasn’t working with the kids, only acting as an organization staff person.
At this point I should mention that I hadn’t been active in my own two children’s lives due to divorce when they were young. So, perhaps it will make sense that I craved the adult-child relationships I found later. Considering my self-perceived failure as a parent, this might be a way of giving back, if not to my own children, then to the children of others.
In 1994, about the time I left Youth at Risk, UUCA began its partnership with an inner-city school, Fowler Elementary. I owe early mentoring for my work there as a classroom assistant to long-time UUCA’ers Nancy Bartlett and Walter and Alicia Hodges. Eventually, UUCA left Fowler school and partnered with John Hope Elementary (now known as Hope-Hill Elementary), near the King Center. UUCA has been their partner for close to 20 years. That partnership, originally known as UUCA’s “all-church project,” has survived because of the devotion of many volunteers over the years and the financial generosity of our members and friends.
I remained a classroom assistant at Hope for about 14 years before “retiring” some years back. I learned many new words like ”manipulatives,” “ebonics,“ “Media Center,” and “RIF”and worked with many gifted kids and some super teachers from second grade up to 5th. My primary contributions were still with words, helping the kids with their reading and writing. Time doesn’t allow me to tell all my stories about working at and with John Hope Elementary. I must admit that if I hadn’t gotten something back from that volunteering, I wouldn’t have continued doing it. Those of you who have volunteered working with less fortunate folks than yourselves have some idea what I’m talking about!
Later, wondering if there was life after John Hope, I found RE at UUCA about two years ago. I knew that I couldn’t jump and run like Laura Jones and David Yamashita, my teachers, but I’ve remained a classroom assistant with the kindergarten and first graders in that room next to Sunday bread sales (and the men’s room!).
And yes, thanks to the volunteer opportunities at UUCA, this 76-year-old is having fun.
Care to join me?
I moved to Atlanta in 1970 from Gainesville, Florida, where I had been attending a very liberal Methodist church. Jerry and Issy Moskowitz were among the first people I met in Atlanta. After trying a few Methodist churches in Atlanta and then being unchurched for awhile, Issy and Jerry urged me to try UUCA, where they had been married and found a church home.
Many Sundays I came to the service to enjoy the classical music and to listen to Gene Pickett’s interesting sermons. But, I left quickly after the service and didn’t become involved in any UUCA activities.
The sermons and music spoke to me, but I wondered what it would be like in a crisis. Well, I didn’t have to wait long to find out. When my husband left me and our young daughter in 1976, I was terrified. But, in the words of one of my favorite hymns, I found “something here to which I could belong” and I joined in 1977. Since then, I’ve been involved in a number of UUCA activities—from counting money on Sunday mornings to serving as a Lay Minister.
After Frank and I married, we became very active. As we tried to recruit volunteers for various UUCA activities, many people told us that they had experienced a life crisis and never heard from anyone at UUCA. We were shocked. Part of the problem was that back then UU’s considered themselves to be “rugged individualists” who didn’t need emotional support. So, people weren’t letting their needs be known. How could we change the culture so that our congregation gave and received much-needed care and compassion.
Thus began the most powerful experience of my membership at UUCA. First, I joined the Pastoral Care Committee headed by John Spaulding and Carol Silver under the direction of Rev. John Mackey. Then, in 1996, Rev. Edward Frost started a Lay Ministry Program under the direction of Rev. Diana Jorgan. Along with Marti Keller, Jeff Jones, Jane Monahan, and Carol Anderson, I entered the first class of Lay Ministers. We had an intensive 5-month training program, including comprehensive training in pastoral care, Unitarian and Universalist history, and the structure and value of ritual.
My focus in Lay Ministry was pastoral care. As rewarding as pastoral care was, the challenge of organizing and conducting vespers services and weddings pushed me well beyond my comfort zone. In fact, I was determined to avoid conducting vespers at all cost. However, Diana prevailed. While my homilies were somewhat sparse, the experience helped me grow and contributed to my ease in public speaking today. Conducting weddings for non-UU’s was a great privilege and honor and I cherish the memories of helping several couples make their ceremony meaningful.
Back to pastoral care, from which I gained far more than I gave. I learned that:
Many people are lonely
Many people need someone simply to listen—they need to be heard.
Ours is a frenetic society and a non-anxious presence is often the greatest gift we can offer
One of my favorite hymns is “From you I receive, to you I give, together we share, and from this we live.”
Each one of us can be lay ministers who give and receive with great blessings.
UUCA is my community—a place where to paraphrase Gene Pickett:
I give thanks for sacred rites,
for opportunities to change and grow,
for faith without fanaticism
for understanding views not shared,
and most of all for the joy of human life.
REFLECTION (Ruth Gogel)
REFLECTION (Walter Dowdle)
I became a Unitarian when I was 11 years old, studying for my obligatory confirmation into the Episcopal Church. I had real problems with the Apostle’s creed. I didn’t have a clue what the Holy Ghost was.
But I didn’t know I was a Unitarian, or that there was such a thing. The first time I ever heard the word was after I had enrolled in the University of Alabama as a returning Korean War veteran, somewhat older, a bit wiser, but still didn’t know what the Holy Ghost was. This was the early 1950’s, a time of increasing political rhetoric and threats of violence in response to the early NAACP efforts to integrate the University by enrolling Autherine Lucy, as a young black graduate student. At some point In the midst of all this, a pamphlet was circulated petitioning the University to revoke the campus permit of the communist, anti-Christian, integrationist group, calling themselves the Unitarian Fellowship. So now I knew. Unitarianism was sort of a Klu Klux Klan, in reverse, with members even among some of my fellow graduate students. In Feb 1956, Autherine Lucy was admitted under court orders, only to be expelled three days later because of uncontrolled riots and acts of violence. The mob won.
Later that year, Mabel and I, and now two children, moved to the University of Maryland and eagerly sought out the nearest Unitarian cell. To our surprise, it turned out not to be a cell at all, but All Souls Unitarian Church, a respectable, integrated, historic landmark in Washington, DC, with a famous pastor, E. Powell Davies. We later joined a suburban Maryland UU church, primarily for the church school. It was inspiring, intellectual, tranquil, just a wonderful experience. We can still hear the birds singing.
In 1960, we moved to Atlanta and the United Liberal Church. We soon discovered we weren’t in Maryland anymore. We were back to Alabama. Even four members of the church had been student activists from those years at the University. However, there was one important difference, Martin Luther King had now assumed leadership. And what a difference that was. As we look back over our early years in this congregation, it was an extraordinary, but humbling, privilege to have witnessed so many in this congregation with the incredible courage to stand up for social justice and what they believed.
But that was then. This is now. Why are Mabel and I still here 50 years later?
As a virologist, I have spent my entire career seeing life from the vantage point of its most basic component, the living cell. Incredibly beautiful, thousands of complex chemical reactions in nanoseconds; signals given, switches turned on and off, proteins being built up and torn down—all done with the genetic information accumulating and evolving over millions of years—ragtag bits and pieces of RNA and DNA from here and there, even from viruses and bacteria and shared with frogs and house flies and all forms of life.
Even the source of all of our energy, life itself, comes not from our genetic information at all, but extraneous DNA from an ancient synergistic bacterium that is passed only through our mother’s egg. There is no watchmaker at this level. The cell just is. The cell survives because it evolves. It doesn’t evolve to survive, a vital distinction.
In the grand natural experiment of life, we as human beings, the cumulative sum of all those cells, are unique in having the capacity to consciously change our social and physical environment to assure survival of those who come after us. That’s it. Just us. No other forms of life as we know it have that capacity. Not just “good enough”, to quote Charles Darwin, but something better. This is an awesome responsibility.
Mabel and I are pleased to celebrate our 50th year in a congregation that continues to take that responsibility seriously. Thank you.
Many Journeys/One People Immigration Story by Christine Ristaino