Due to time constraints, these questions are being addressed here by Rev. D. Kate Walker:
Q. What is your favorite Unitarian Joke?
A. How many UU’s does it take to change a lightbulb? None, the lightbulb has to want to change itself.
Q. How can you help your family to live a spiritual life when you yourself are not sure what is true?
A. I don’t think truth and the spiritual life are inevitably connected; indeed, relying on “truth” may get in the way of a spiritual life. I have found my spiritual life to be enriched by embracing mystery, inviting questions, exploring life from the molecular to the galaxies. It may help to distinguish what is “rationale” or supported by science and what still remains in the fantastic murky world of the unknown.
Q. In a recent newsletter, you mentioned having been partly on study leave, if I remember correctly. What were you studying?
A. Thank you for asking. I focused on trauma and healing. This is an area in which I’ve been interested and have accumulated a pile of books and resources. I’m still reading and learning a lot. You will be hearing my talk about it in sermons, meetings, and pastoral care. Trauma is an incredibly important part of the human experience that we need to understand in order to have strong bonds as well as individual and collective health.
Q. Will we hear about the connection of Barbie with UU?
A. Yes! First, go see the movie!! And know, while you’re watching it, that Greta Gerwig, Director and co-author, was raised UU in California. I saw and heard signs of her UU faith! It’s a fantastic movie that I really loved.
Q. Can we receive the offering, rather than “take” it?
A. Sure, that makes sense. I can’t control everyone’s language, but I can certainly encourage paying attention to the language that worship leaders use (including myself).
Q. What can First UU do to become a more meaningful hub and explicit safe space for young adults, especially those who come to Pittsburgh from around the US and the world?
A. There are two areas that we are focusing on: Worship and Programming. In worship, we try to offer topics that are relevant to emerging adults, engaging music, and a meaningful worship experience. In programming, we already have a Young Adult Coordinator, Kelly Dugan, who has been hosting events all summer with considerable success. She is funded through one of our endowments. If this community is invested in emerging adults, then we need to make YA Coordinator a staff position.
Q. What’s the one thing you found to be most surprising about serving as minister to this church?
A. How tired and stressed the staff were when I arrived. It was really hard for them over the past few years, leading up to and during the ministerial transition. The pandemic added another significant layer to their stress. They’ve carried a heavy load to help serve members while not always having good supervision or support. They all love this community, and they have stayed because of their love.
Q. Given all the trappings of the “traditional” ones, should not UU call itself a philosophy rather than a “religion?”
A. I appreciate your inquiring mind, yet I have to confess that given the lack of context, I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “trappings of the ’traditional’ ones…” Given our 200 plus year history, changing our UU identity to a philosophy seems a bit late out of the gate, and to do so would require a common understanding of both “philosophy” and “religion.” While we have some philosophical threads, I’m very confident we are a religion. Certainly, the many theists in our membership would like to be ensured they are part of a liberal religious community.
Q. Now that we are in the “post-pandemic” phase, it seems we spend less time gathering in person, whether it be Sunday mornings, presentations, or plain old meetings. I think we lose some of the interpersonal glue that bonds us as a community due to this reorientation. Is anything being done to promote more face-to-face gatherings in our Church? What is the story with other congregations or the Association as a whole?
A. First, I don’t think we are in a “post-pandemic” phase. While we’re not in lockdown, people are still getting sick and dying. This planet has lost 7 million people who were family members and loved. We need to find ways to process the emotional and religious impact of this major event in our history. We can’t just return to “normal.”
But to the core of your question: Yes! I believe we need to gather for in person events where community connections happen in ways that just can’t happen on Zoom or Youtube. The key is to have volunteers who can help organize the events. From what I’ve heard from colleagues, they are finding similar patterns of reliance on Zoom for meetings. Almost everyone is staying with multi-platform worship services. And everyone is saying it’s important to pay attention to what we’re doing with our precious time and energy.
Q. Am I the only one who has to fight my dogs (cats, too) for a place in bed when I have to get up and take a pee in the middle of the night?