Intern Insights: Together as UUs

Last week I lost a very important person in my life. I was not the only one to suffer this loss. One of our sister churches lost their minister and the members of that congregation lost their leader and friend. Rev. Georgette Wonders had been the minister at Bradford Community Church UU in Kenosha, WI, for ten years and had recently announced her retirement. The congregation was already dealing with the grief of having to replace her when she was killed in a freak accident. Bradford is my home congregation.


Rev. Georgette Wonders

When I first thought about entering seminary I went to Georgette and asked her thousands of questions, all of which she answered in her kind and gentle manner, even when I asked the same questions over and over to make sure that I understood the answers. When I finally made the decision to attend Meadville Lombard Theological School, it was required that I have a letter from my minister to gain acceptance and Georgette wrote that letter. The seminary journey required that I complete a two-year part time internship in a congregation and I was unable to find a congregation in the area that could take me. Georgette opened her heart and her pulpit and took me on. Several months into that internship, Georgette became ill and was on sick leave for about 10 months during which time she felt comfortable allowing me to run her church. In this past year, while at Tree of Life, I would still go back to my mentor and friend for guidance and conversation and when she would tell me that I did something well or referred to me as her colleague; it would make my heart sing knowing that I was doing this job of ministry well.

When I heard the news of her accident, I went to the hospital to see her and my heart was heavy knowing that she would not be coming back to the congregation that she loved so much. I knew that she would want only the best for them and I knew that I would do all I could to help. However, I am just one small person in this great big world and I wasn’t sure exactly what I could do.

I got home that night and turned on my computer and the Central Midwest District Facebook page came alive right before my eyes. Ministers from all over the District were signing up to fill the pulpit; they were not asking for the usual honorarium, they were willing to do this simply because there was a UU congregation that was in crisis and they were willing to help in any way they could. Our Mid-America Region offered to pay travel expenses for anyone that preached in the congregation. LREDA, the Liberal Religious Educators Association had an outpouring of help for the Director of Religious Education at Bradford helping her not only to deal with her grief but also begin to help the children of the congregation make sense of this loss. The Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Team has sent members to the congregation to help those who are grieving and need a place to take that grief. I watched that night as our association came together in a beautiful way with an outpouring of support, love and comfort. The Regional staff helped plan and attended a candlelight vigil and Dori Thexton, the Mid-America Staff Liaison, met in an emergency meeting with the Board to give them support and direction on what to do next. Everyone came together with help and support and most importantly, they did it with care and love.

At Tree of Life, we have received support from the region and our denomination and with our current budget shortfall, we are unable to pay our fair share. After seeing the outpouring of love Bradford has received from them I believe this is something we should reconsider. They are there for us and we need to support that.

Bradford will be fine, they will grieve, they will, with the help of the Regional Staff, find someone to fill the pulpit and carry on the work of the congregation. We need to help the region and our association, so that they are able to continue to offer this type of support.

Rummage Sale Information

Dear Members and Friends of Tree of Life,

As our Rummage Sale draws near, the Rummage Queen has additional information for her subjects. First and foremost, it has been declared that 10% of the proceeds will be donated to WACM which has been struggling to meet the needs of families in the Woodstock area. Their funds have gotten so low that they are on the verge or turning away folks looking for direct assistance and will benefit greatly from our financial help.

Remember to bring your donations to the church on Sunday April 27 12:45 to 5pm. There are still lots of slots open on the signup sheet. Without your help we will be unable to hold the Rummage Sale. Please see the Queen on Sunday to sign up or call (815)893-0232 or email . We especially need people on Sunday the 27th to stay and help bring in donations and then take them to their proper places. Kids are more than welcome to help. Remember if you put in 4 hours of work you can pick out an item to purchase before the sale. We will feed everybody lunch who stays to work on Sunday.

Make sure you put Wednesday April 30 7pm-9pm on your calendar. That night we will kick off the sale with a Tree of Life Members and Friends Only night. Everything will be on sale for double price (kids pay regular price) and we will have ice cream (made by Randy Meyer) and refreshments on sale.

In my previous letter I listed what we cannot accept. To avoid confusion, here is a list of what we want.

All your clean, working household items and clothing including:

Baby items such as toys, high chairs (if newer and not recalled), yard toys that can be lifted by one person, clothing, feeding items.

Bedding/Draperies including sheets, bedspreads, quilts, comforters, blankets, chair or sofa covers, curtains, rods, and drapes. It is helpful if you label dimensions or bed size with masking tape. We cannot take mattresses or bedsprings.

Books/Toys like Fisher Price kids, bicycles in good working order, board games (labeled if all parts are there), books (hardback and paperback), games, stuffed animals, all toys, puzzles (all pieces must be included), Little Tyke Toys (that one person can lift) and strollers (fairly new and not recalled).

Clothing if you put it on your body we want it. This includes hats, purses and shoes. Please be sure what you are donating is clean, has no stains or tears and the elastic is in good shape. You must label all clothing except purses with a size tag. Due to time constraints, if you donate clothing without the size label we are unlikely to be able to use it in our sale. If you can put it on a hanger that will be a big help. We also need hangers donated.

Electronics such as T.V. (27inches or less and portable), DVDs, tapes, VCRs, DVD players, cameras and video equipment. We cannot accept pianos or organs. Please label all electronics as to their working order.

Furniture including chests, coffee tables, desks, end tables, kitchen table and chairs, folding lawn furniture, love seats, night stands, office furniture, overstuffed chairs, patio furniture (no glass or marble), decorative pillows (please put these in a clear plastic bag), wood rocking chairs, trunks, wicker furniture, wooden chairs and couches (not sleeper sofas).

Household Goods like antiques, artificial flowers and plants, artificial Christmas trees (please have in original box with all its parts), card table and chairs, clocks, box fans, fireplace sets, floor lamps, ironing boards, lamps and shades, light fixtures, tools, pictures and paintings, rugs, picture frames, stereo cabinets that can be lifted by one person, suitcases, throw rugs, unopened toiletries, towels, stainless steel vanity/sink sets, wall decorations, and window blinds/shades.

We want our sales to be known for offering good, clean items so please keep that in mind as you go through your closets, basement and garage. We will have a special boutique area for those truly exceptional high quality items.

Questions? Suggestions? See Judy Stettner (the crazy lady wearing the crown on Sunday).

Many thanks for your servitude,

The Queen of Rummage aka Judy Stettner

To download a donation receipt for your tax purposes, please click here…  donorreceipt

Minister’s Mind: Commitment to Action

This month we continue our exploration of our Statement of Purpose with a focus on the next phrase: “Commitment to Action.” This is where the rubber hits the road; where ideals are made real; where what we believe begins to matter. Without a Commitment to Action, our values have little effect, to believe without doing is one definition of hypocrisy.

It became clear in our Pledge dinners that what people most value about Tree of Life is the sense of welcoming community. One of the reasons people become part of a congregation is to build real relationships. Tree of Life is a place where people can celebrate together, grieve together, and grow together. In a world that separates and isolates, that’s a real joy.

But it’s not enough. If a congregation is ONLY about community, it’s no different from a social club.  This is where Commitment to Action comes in.  Tree of Life does not exist for ourselves alone. We have a mission and purpose that goes beyond those who are currently a part of our community.  We express this in our two-part motto: Rooted in Love, Reaching for Justice.

This month I hope that we will find ways to embody our statement of purpose through action that reaches beyond ourselves and beyond the walls of our congregation. I hope that we will recommit ourselves to justice for all people, peace in the world, and an end to the waste and greed that is destroying this Earth we share.  I hope we will give ourselves generously to a mission that extends well beyond the walls of our building.  After all, our community can only be enriched when we work side by side, transforming ourselves in service to our Purpose.



sUUmmer Camp

We at the Tree Of Life are pleased to be able to offer this wonderful summer camp program for the second year in a row for children and youth from Kindergarten to 8th grade (7th and 8th graders are “Junior Counselors”.  You do not need to be a member to register, in fact, we encourage community participation.  Each day is filled with fun and meaningful activities that teach one of our 7 Unitarian Universalist Principles.  Sign up early, there will be a limit to the number of campers we can host.

bifold sUUmmer Camp brochure-1

sUUmmer Camp registration form