Faith Forward Comes to Tree of Life

Faith Forward: From Visitor to Leader is a guided path for Unitarian Universalists to follow in their congregations, helping them navigate from building connections early on, to finding their sense of belonging as a member, to serving as a leader and boldly living their faith. It was developed by First Unitarian Church of Dallas, and is now available to Unitarian Universalist congregations everywhere.

Faith Forward is made up of three paths: CORE, Advanced, and Leadership.


OBJECTIVE To shorten the visitor to member cycle; to help new and existing church members understand and explain our faith with confidence, to strengthen UU identity, and to encourage members to engage in daily practice, weekly worship, monthly service, annual retreat, and once-in-lifetime pilgrimage.

  • Inquirers Series (9 weeks)
  • Roots (1 class)
  • Beyond Inquirers (5 weeks)
  • Spiritual Practice (12 weeks)
  • UU History 101 (7 weeks)
  • UU Elevator Speech (3 weeks)


OBJECTIVE To deepen understanding of our faith, connection to the church, and continued spiritual development.

  • UU Theology (6 weeks)
  • Coming of Age for Adults (6 weeks)
  • Turning Points in UU History (6 weeks)
  • Deepening Spiritual Practice (8 weeks)
  • Biblical Literacy for Unitarian Universalists

LEADERSHIP Path (Not available yet)

OBJECTIVE To develop well-rounded church leadership knowledgeable in discernment, governance, and all aspects of congregational life.

Offering will include UU Leadership, UU Discipleship/Eldership, Polity/Governance, UU Evangelism, Mentorship, Theological Reflection

Tree of Life is now offering Inquirers and will be scheduling Roots and Beyond Inquirers soon. We hope to add many other offerings Fall 2020. The Inquirers Series is offered every Sunday to welcome newcomers into the congregation. Nine topics are covered, one per session, and then repeated throughout the year. They may be taken in any order.

The goals of the Inquirers Series are as follows:

  • Make our church values and culture transparent and known to newcomers, so that they may make an informed decision about membership in our church
  • Introduce newcomers to church staff, ministers, and lay leaders
  • Establish a space for newcomers to learn more about the church in the form of a regularly scheduled small group designed for their needs


11:45   Meet & Greet / Coffee for Visitors

12:00   Gather Inquirers & Check-In Newcomers

12:05   Chalice Lighting & Opening Reading  

12:10   Check-in/Intro Question(s) (related to the day’s topic)

1:35   Guest Speaker Presents Topic   

1:00  Extinguish Chalice & Closing Words

If you have questions about Inquirers or Faith Forward in general, please contact Marc Stettner or Judy Stettner

An Update from Our Interns

From Misha Sanders:

After spending all of January commuting to and from downtown Chicago, I can tell you that I am very excited to welcome Spring!  I have been happy to get back into the groove of life here at ToL, after having been mostly absent from worship and office time for a month.  It seemed very long.

My learning time at Meadville Lombard was wonderful, deep, and at times exhausting.  And I loved every minute of it.  Well, almost.

The first class I attended was taught by our Meadville President, Rev.Dr. Lee Barker, and it was called, “Ministry in a Post-Denominational Age’.  It addressed many questions with which Unitarian Universalism, among other faiths and denominations, is struggling.  How will we grow?  Does church still matter?  How can we attract youth?  How will we fund our programs?  How relevant is our message in a world where other faiths are becoming more liberal? What can we try differently to infuse new energy and commitment?  As is the UU way, you won’t be surprised, we came up with far more questions than answers.  It was interesting and exciting to brainstorm possibilities and learn from what is being done successfully already in our faith movement, and in the wider religious world.

Then came Unitarian Universalist History and Polity.  And a lot of knowing nods and smiles from those of us who had just come from the class I described above.  I learned that Unitarians, Universalists, and UUs have wrestled with the same questions for as long as we have existed.  And the take-away?  We’ve always figured it out.  We have survived and thrived.  New generations of religious liberals have continued to emerge and grow in faith, and change the world for peace and justice.  I am so inspired and honored to be among THIS moment’s UU torch-bearers.

I continue my school work for Spring semester, and am focusing on co-leading our awesome Coming of Age group here at ToL, as well as preaching here and in a few other pulpits around the region.  I am eager to keep growing and learning with you all.  Thank you for letting me!

In faith,


From Michelle Lattanzio:

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to you all with an update on my internship activities and my seminary work over this winter. I am excited to share insights gleaned from my class work and to explore my formation process with the congregation. I am, as ever, grateful for the support of everyone here as I grow into ministry, and I thank the congregation for your sponsorship of me as a candidate.

January was a very busy month for me. I completed my second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplain intern at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove) and that same day drove downtown to meet in person for my winter classes. I took two classes, Preaching As If You Mean It, and Religious Education in a Changing World, and learned a great deal of practical and theoretical information from both courses. The preaching course was taught by Bill Schulz, and we were asked to each write and preach two sermons in front of our class. The sermons were video recorded for our later review, and afterwards Bill and our classmates gave us feedback on our preaching style and content. I received great feedback in class and really appreciate having the sermons on video to review. The second class, Religious Education, was taught by Mark Hicks, and focused on Unitarian Universalist faith formation over a lifetime, not just during youth and adolescence. We learned about the various types of resources available through the UUA (Tapestry of Faith, OWL and COA, and others), and additional formats for faith formation (like Spirit Play). We focused on collaborative learning models and ways to engage people at all ages in our congregations, including seeing the work in action in a field trip to observe Unity Temple’s religious education classes. Since my return, I have been involved in the Coming of Age program here at Tree of Life and have been enjoying putting my learning into practice!

I co-led a Vespers service at Meadville during our January term with two other seminarians that was pagan oriented. Our service focused on the pagan holiday of Imbolc and the significance of the goddess figure Brigid. This holiday is also known as Candlemas in Christian traditions, and in our service we recognized both versions of the holiday, including Brigid’s dual nature as a goddess in pagan traditions and a saint in the Christian tradition. My fellow worship leaders and I formed a new student organization on campus that officially began with our vespers service: Meadville Pagans and Allies, which supports pagan-identified students, faculty and staff and their allies within the Meadville community through various means, including pastoral support during intensives, worship services, and other modalities.

My next round of intensives is in April for spring semester, for which I am busy studying now. I look forward to writing another update after the spring term ends.

Thanks again for all of your kind support, and I’ll see you at church!


Peace be with you,


Minister’s Mind–Integrity

Integrity comes from the same root as the word “wholeness.” I once heard a friend of mine, a gay man who was closeted because he feared losing his job as a public school teacher, say, “I don’t want a double life. I think everyone deserves to have a single life.” For me, that is the definition of integrity–the ability to have a single, whole, integrated life–not having to pretend or hide any part of yourself. I think, down deep, we all yearn for that kind of integrity.

There are many forces in our lives that push us away from that kind of wholeness, but I think the most powerful one may be perfectionism. To be whole is not the same as to be perfect. It’s when we feel the pressure to be perfect instead of whole that we begin to try to hide parts of ourselves that don’t seem good enough. And the more we push things down, the more likely they are to resurface in dramatic ways. Psychologists can describe and predict this phenomena and yet, it still happens again.

People are unique and wonderful and one ideal of perfection just can’t hold us all and can’t hold us all the time. If youth is perfection, then we’re all destined to fail at it eventually–we all get older. If straightness is “right” and gayness is “wrong,” then we consign a good number of people to lives painfully hiding in the closet. If whiteness is seen as “normal” and blackness as a deviation, we end up in a world steeped in both subtle and obvious racism and prejudice.

The goal of Unitarian Universalism isn’t perfection. We don’t have to pass a doctrinal test to prove we believe all the right things. We don’t have to all dress alike or look alike or think alike to be a community. We don’t believe that the human race needs to achieve some kind of perfection. In fact, we’ve seen the horrors that come from that kind of thinking. Instead, we value wholeness. Be wholly who you are. Learn to love and value what makes you unique. Let go of perfectionism and replace it with a goal of wholeness–of integrity–that allows you to bring all of who you are to this community.

We say at Tree of Life that we are “Rooted in Love and Reaching for Justice”–both of those things are about integrity. To be loved is to be known and valued for who you are. And for justice to prevail, our human community must come to believe that all are welcome, all are needed for us to be whole.  Love and justice are not two separate things, but like roots and branches, two important parts of one whole and healthy Tree of Life.

This month, be sure to check out some of the ways that you can explore your gifts and bring them to our community:

Join a class on the philosophy of Hannah Arendt

Attend Liberating Words: A Poetry-Writing Workshop for Everyone

Attend Beyond the Expected: A Worship Arts Conference

And here is the link to this month’s Soul Matters packet, which is on Integrity.

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.