October 6–Some of the Stories We Tell Ourselves with Rev. Dr. Nicole Kirk

We are honored to host the Rev. Dr. Nicole Kirk,  who serves as the Rev. Dr. J. Frank and Alice Schulman professor in Unitarian Universalist History at Meadville Lombard Seminary in Chicago.  As we launch our October focus on “Roots,” Dr. Kirk will join Rev. Sean and reflect on our Unitarian Universalist stories. Here is how she describes the service:

“Storytelling is a powerful way to shape individual and community identity.  And like other groups, Unitarian Universalists have a set of stories that help shape our self-understanding. What is puzzling is how some stories are not based in our history.This Sunday come explore the story of Jenkin Lloyd Jones and other spirited Unitarians who lived the story of outreach and missionary work—and how their story is a part of our story.”

Personnel Committee

A Personnel Committee is being formed. Do you have experience working with personnel issues? Members needed!

Personnel Committee: The mission of the Personnel Committee is to support the hired personnel, Board of Trustees, and membership by providing consistent and fair definition and implementation of personnel policies. The Personnel Committee develops and recommends to the Board policies and procedures governing employment relationships between the Congregation and its paid personnel (except for the Minister). It reviews and maintains the policy handbook, acts as a review board for personnel matters, advises management on hiring and personnel practices, facilitates yearly performance evaluations and recommends a compensation/benefits structure that is guided by Unitarian Universalist Association Guidelines.

The Leadership Development / Nominating Committee will have forms available on Sunday mornings for nominating qualified persons. They can also be picked up in the office during the week or downloaded here.

Intern Insights

Greetings from your Intern

I am very excited to be here and am looking forward to meeting and getting to know this wonderful congregation.

So what is it that an Intern does and what is it that I will be doing? Well, during my time in seminary I learned all of the academic things that one needs to learn to prepare for ministry and although I believe that I received a good foundation there is nothing that can prepare you for the real life challenges of working with a congregation. During this next year, I will be working with Rev Dennison to learn to understand the heartbeat of a congregation and how to nurture that heartbeat to create a strong and vibrant community. I feel that I have been blessed to be able to learn from such an amazing minister and I hope to learn as much as I can so that when I walk into the doors of my first congregation I will be well prepared.

I will begin with one of my passions, which is Social Justice and will be meeting with that team to understand what they are working on and to offer any knowledge that will be of help to them. I will also be dropping in on other committees just to get to know you and to understand how you do the work that you do. My hope is that by the end of the year I can understand how each committee works and how they fit into the puzzle that supports the work of the congregation.

Throughout the year, I will be preaching at least one time a month and I welcome any comments that you may have about my style and presentation or any other comments that you might have. I take criticism easily and find in every critical remark a chance to learn and to grow. I take compliments just as well.

I am thankful that I have a small office area and I invite you to drop by and visit any time so that we may get to know each other.

Thank you for having me as your intern for this year.

The Minister’s Mind: Power


Does the word make you shudder? Make you anxious? Secretly thrill you? Make you wish you had more of it? What is power, anyway, and why do so many of us think it’s a bad thing?  Does all power corrupt? Should we all avoid having or using power?

This month at Tree of Life, we’ll be exploring the concept and experience of power. We’ll look at the possibilities of power and the dangers of it. We’ll think about its sources and whether some kinds of power can be used ethically. We’ll talk about forms of empowerment and the possibility of healthy power.

I think power is confusing because we describe several things using the same word.  Sometimes we are describing an inner force like the one described by Serbian poet and writer, Dejan Stojanovic, who says:

 I recreate myself; that is my only power.

This kind of power, which I would call “empowerment” is healthy and positive. It resides equally in everyone and is the kind of power that we, as Unitarian Universalists, rely on when we encourage every person to search for truth and meaning, trusting their own mind and heart. Democracy rests on this individual power to know, to choose, to create one’s own way.

But there is another kind of power—the kind that we fear will always corrupt –and that we see causing all sorts of injustice and pain in the world.  This is kind of power, which I would call “domination;” happens in politics, in business, even in families, when one person insists that they are more important or more valuable than others. This is a kind of power that should make us anxious and we are wise to create ways to limit it and hold the people who wield it accountable.

There is also power that is neither personal nor domineering, but a power that is given by a community, which I would call “covenantal power.” This is the power, for instance, that the congregation gives to the Board or Minister when they elect or call them.  This power is granted on the basis of trust and relationship, and it can sometimes be tricky to balance and maintain. It takes an abundance of honesty and communication, some patience and forgiveness, and ongoing and intentional trust to make sure that this kind of power doesn’t accidently begin to rely on impersonal rules and habits.

This kind of power is like a living thing that must be nourished and nurtured by everyone who is a part of it. To keep it healthy requires each person to know themselves (be self-aware and differentiated) and nurture healthy, direct connection with each other. Because covenantal power relies on trust, it is endangered by indirect forms of communication like gossip, complaints, and rumors.  Because it relies on relationship, covenantal power is strongest when people are most engaged, committed, and invested in the community.

This month at Tree of Life, we will explore the ways that power is a part of us, our lives, our congregation, and the world and envision ways that it can be used in service to health, justice, and love.

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. ~Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Haystacks Presents Namoli Brennet with RUNE

Friday, September 20th, 7:00 pm


We are excited to welcome songwriter Namoli Brennet back to Tree of Life UU Congregation for a wonderful night of live music, along with local favorites RUNE.

Namoli  has been touring the country with her own brand of moody and inspiring folk music since releasing her first CD in 2002. Since then she’s played over 900 shows and logged over 250,000 miles on the road. Touching on often poignant themes, her music and lyrics ultimately paint a vivid and redemptive portrait. She’s a breathtaking and moving performer, and her sweet, road-weary voice is as quick to deliver her wit and humor as it is a turn of phrase. She’s been described as a cross between Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin and Sheryl Crow, and Zocalo magazine called her music, “gorgeous and introspective.”

A 4-time Outmusic award nominee, Namoli has also won the Tucson Folk Festival Songwriting Award and was a finalist in the ISC songwriting competition. Her recent release ‘Black Crow’ garnered critical acclaim and was named one of KXCI FM’s top albums of 2010. Her music has been featured on NPR, PBS and in films including the Emmy-award winning documentary “Out in the Silence”, which details the struggle of a gay teen growing up in rural Pennsylvania.sum2013-4

Joining Namoli for this amazing night is RUNE, who have graced the stage of the Haystacks Coffee House several times and have quickly become a crowd favorite. RUNE is a new Powerfolk Rock band out of Chicago’s western suburbs. The band’s soulful sounds are born out of Allison Joy’s drumming and vocals with Dan Bieri’s guitar. RUNE is influenced by groups such as Florence and the Machine, Tegan and Sara, Brandi Carlile, Shovels & Rope and many more.

This event is open to the public and free. In the tradition of centuries of live music, we will pass the hat to support these amazing musicians. CDs and other merchandise will also be available at the concert.