Our Diamond JUUbilee: A Time for Memories

As we celebrate sixty years of acting together to build a religious community that reaches out to forward social justice, members and friends are also thinking back to moments that hold special significance for them. Following the memories is the text of “In Gratitude,” Virginia Carver’s comments to the congregation on October 11, 2014.


Founding member Ethel Foster recalls:

Jack and I moved back to Athens after spending 10 years in Atlanta and found the small but active group we had left in a small house on Lumpkin was now housed in a real church building and was thriving with many new members. We loved meeting all the new members and getting together with all our old friends.

It was a delightful surprise when the choir showed up to entertain us at our fiftieth anniversary party. They sang several songs with words suitably altered to fit the occasion, and Elizabeth Bishop-Martin and Larry Dendy sang several songs from Oklahoma, our home state. I have a DVD recording the occasion if the choir or anyone else would like to see it.


George Koch, a member since 1970, considers UUFA “my only community” and remembers: 

The outpouring of love and affection by an overflow congregation after terrorists murdered my long-time stepdaughter Leslie Whittington, her husband, and their two small children on 9/11.

Treatment of me with love and affection at a congregational meeting on the First Gulf War. I may have been the only member who thought President George H.W. Bush did the right thing in bringing our country into the war. I thought then because we’d put the arms into Iraq, it was our responsibility to take them out.


Nancy MacNair cherishes our support of justice:

When UUFA joined in workshops and procedures to become an official Welcoming Congregation, I was never so proud of UUFA! We also voted almost unanimously in a called official Congregational Meeting to oppose the proposed Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Georgia in 2004. (There was one abstention.)


Dan Everett recalls:

My fondest UUFA memories are the choir music, the special music such as the Palms of Fire at the Human Rights Festival and interacting with the founders (the original generation).


Kate Blane remembers:

My fondest memories are the potlucks at the old UUFA building on Prince Ave and all the people who I have known for years and continue to draw inspiration from.


Larry Petroff enjoys each Sunday:

I usher and help at the visitor’s table. It is a pleasure to see the sparkle in the eyes of so many people as they come through the front door on Sunday mornings. This speaks volumes for UUFA, its programs, its leadership and its community.


Joy Carrell shares her memory with Lisa Brown:

​What is our fondest memory now and will most likely be for all time is our wedding, officiated by Rev. Alison and witnessed by family and so many of our UU friends.

Devoted pair acting, singing
laughing tears of love celebrated
blessed UUnion


Marguerite Holmes recalls her most recent peak experience at UUFA:

Five UU friends and I met to explore something new: Improvisational Singing. We were not in church. It was not Sunday. We were not out in nature. Our intent was not focused on being spiritual. We were in a dining room, having fun, exploring in the safety of friendship.

We quieted body and mind, focusing on our breath. In improvisational singing, person one is the “motor” and introduces a short foundation tune. Person two adds other sounds that play among the motor’s tune. Person three harmonizes with the motor’s tune. Person four finds a song that is folded within this mix. We rotated these roles until we all had done each role.

Old monkey-mind tapes screeched: “I can’t do this! Give me details on how to DO this! (And worst of all) – I will fail this group because I’m not good enough!” Courage and firm determination not to fail the group kept the monkeys at bay.

“Relax and ALLOW it to come,” I was told. “Don’t THINK it, just DO it!” Eyes closed, I surrendered to the moment. Like a boat cut loose from its moorings, I floated aimlessly in our sounds. To my utter astonishment, music from the soup of Creation that has waited for all eternity to be born came, not from my mind, but THROUGH me. In our shared focus we aligned with the Spirit of Life Itself and Something Beautiful emerged! This hallowed moment was equal to being present for the birth of my grandchild.


Penny Oldfather shares a solstice blessing for Jean Bryan:

In December of 2011 UUFA had a deeply memorable Solstice Service. Amber began the choir’s preparations in August at our annual choir retreat with incredibly lovely musical selections. By December, that music was “in our bones” and we felt supremely prepared. That was the year that our UUFA member and friend, Jean Bryan, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Many of us, including quite a number of choir members, were active in organizing and providing extensive support for her through a Share the Care group. Jean loved music. She had sung in the choir with us and at one time had been the UUFA pianist/accompanist.

On the evening of the Solstice celebration, Jean was very ill and weak and as it turned out, she would meet her death within a few weeks. Nevertheless, she attended the service and sat in the very front pew. I vividly remember the expressions of ecstasy on her face as we sang. The music seemed like a magical blessing for her life and in turn, a blessing for our Beloved Community.


Barbara Schell offers her unforgettable memories:

One of my first memories of coming to the UUFA had to do with both the quality of the service discussions and the people I met. I recall hearing Mary Jean Hartel read the children’s story, and I thought that any religious service that routinely involves having someone read me a story is my kind of service. I also distinctly remember that after one particularly thought provoking service I joined this small group of folks who were standing around after the service (Margaret Holt, Heather Kleiner, and one other person..not sure who..Jude Preissle perhaps?). We had such a great conversation and I remember thinking, I love these strong women.

Much later on (maybe 10 years or so) Mary Jean Hartel and I attended a fund raising slumber party held by Kay Fors. As part of this event, we were to bring an old keepsake such as a wedding album or high school yearbook. I will never forget Mary Jean looking at my yearbook as I brought it out and saying “that’s MY yearbook.” We discovered that we had gone to the same military dependent’s school in London, England. We were in Honor’s English and the high school choir together. Since only 120 kids were in that class, we rarely if ever run into each other after graduation. What a treat, as Mary Jean and I sat up all night (drinking progressively cheaper brands of wine) and caught up on about 30+ years. I had been thinking about joining the choir and that was the impetus for me to actualize that plan.

A most moving event for me was when the choir sang after the events of 9 11…the song that was written after Kristelnacht in WWII seemed an equally powerful response to that tragedy…Enough, I say enough.

Some of my most fun memories involve my husband John, Helen “Cookie” Kabat and me singing irreverent holiday lyrics as we prepared for the children coming to Nifty Gifty. It was always fun to help the kids, but even more fun for me was to try and help those parents who had such a tough time letting their kid do the activity themselves…I often offered the parent the opportunity to make one of their own!


Herb West values music:

I can’t narrow my “memories of UUFA” down to just one single event. But what I am most fond of at UUFA is the overall music program. Myrna & I joined UUFA in July 2001, the same time Amber was hired as Music Director. The first group I joined was the choir, with my first rehearsal also being Amber’s first. I was warmly greeted by other choir members (I especially remember sitting in rehearsal next to Ange Kahn) as we sat near the piano in the pre-stage sanctuary. Over the 13+ years since, I’ve enjoyed every opportunity to sing with the choir—not only during worship services, but at special events such as the interfaith service following the tragic events on 9/11, the Holiday Benevolence Markets, EJC’s Justice Fest, and Christmas caroling. Although I’ve been singing in church and school choirs since my high school days, I have grown tremendously as a singer and musician under Amber’s leadership.

Other parts of the music program are special, too. I’ve enjoyed playing in the Palms of Fire drum circle since Amber started it in January 2002, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to share my folk music background in BlUUgrass Folks and at Hootlucks. Music is very important to me spiritually, and it is through music that I find the most meaning in life and the most meaning in my involvement at UUFA.


In Gratitude

Virginia Carver 

The year was 1978. I was at a crossroads…I had just finalized my divorce after 20 years of marriage and my mother had just died. My Indiana roots were completely severed and my family was no longer together, my children now almost grown at 16 and 18


I walked into a small brick building on Prince Avenue, a former Baptist Church, with metal folding chairs filled with strangers. I was confused and somewhat lost…at the mid-point of my life and traveling new territory without a map or a guidebook. At the podium was an imposing, warm and intelligent minister whom I later came to know and love…Clif Hoffman.

That was the beginning of a journey that has led me into the maze that is Unitarian-Universalism and finally to my true home.

Was it intuition? serendipity? I prefer to believe it was grace.

It has been 36 years now…36 years of amazing discoveries and wonderful friendships, not without some disillusionment and disenchantment along the way, but I became convinced some time ago that: You are my tribe! You are my family of choice! You are my people!

In avid seeking mode I began to learn about UUism. Early on I was shocked, even a bit angry, when I discovered that this religion was not going to give me any answers!!! I came seeking answers only to learn that it was my responsibility to find those answers within…and to eventually understand that this is an on-going fluid process.

But YOU would give me the means to do that. This community provided the challenge, the questions, the support and the nurturing to take that trip. You dared me to go there and gave me the guidance, the love and the encouragement to re-examine all that I had once believed.

It was not long before I was actively involved and becoming immersed in this new community where I slowly began to feel at home and to make my own contributions, and that was because it was a house where there was caring and sharing, joy and laughter, a keen diversity of ideas and opportunities for growth. What more could one want from a family?!!

My understanding of what it meant to be a UU grew through not only this community, but then extended to the larger communities of SUUSI – the Southeastern Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute held in Radford, VA where 1200 UU’s played and prayed (in their unique fashion) with such spirit that I felt a whole new breakthrough in my life, – and also Womenspirit and other events held at The Mountain, much like the one we attended in October, the natural world the setting for being together, sharing, playing, eating, singing, laughing, listening and respecting one another.

It seems fitting that I met my partner, Hank, at the The Mountain in 1988 at a Labor Day week-end. It seems fitting that I share this with you on our 60th anniversary so that you will know what you have meant to me. I am who I am today because of you.

You are my tribe! You are my people!


To add your memories, please email them to Susan Curtis: sbcurtis70 at gmail dot com.