Our History

Each of us who would tell our history has their own wonderful story to tell and their own style of telling it. Rather than merging the stories together and losing something in the retelling, we present each of the different stories here. We have two stories now, and more to come. When the church building flooded we lost many documents, but in time we hope to recover copies of many items from members’ homes. For a history of Unitarian Universalism in New Orleans prior to the founding of CCUU, we refer you to the History page of the First UU Church of New Orleans’ web site .

Our History – An Overview

(multiple authors over time) Community Church, Unitarian Universalist was formed when two fellowships (congregations without ministerial leadership) which had left First Unitarian Universalist Church, New Orleans, merged in 1969. The new group called its first Unitarian Universalist minister, the Rev. James L. Jones, in 1970.

The church met in several locations before finding a permanent home and building the present building in 1973, at the same time they called a new minister, the Rev. Matthew McNaught.

As with most congregations, it took some time to get a sense of who they were and their purpose, but during the tenure of their third minister, the Rev. Donald Beaudreault, they spawned an offshoot, North Shore Unitarian Universalist Society in Lacombe, LA, which is still thriving.

The Rev. Kathleen Damewood Korb was called in 1986 and served as minister for fifteen years until 2001. She was then called to a congregation in Florida, a locale where she intends to eventually retire.

In the fall of 2001, the Rev. William Murchison came to us to serve as our Interim Minister for a one year period. His task completed, he moved on to another interim position in Reno, Nevada on June 30. His Interim Ministry provided a period of time for the congregation to evaluate its goals and prepare for a new permanent ministry.

On April 21, 2002 the congregation voted unanimously to call the Rev. James (“Jim”) VanderWeele to serve as its next called minister. Jim accepted and began his ministry with us on August 1, 2002.

Although the church is still small it has gained a sense of itself as a center for free religion in the New Orleans area, valuing the integrity of the mind and spirit, and preaching and practicing freedom of belief and conscience, the inherent worth and dignity of each individual and the importance of ethical living.

Certainly hurricane Katrina and the associated breaking of the levees in September 2005 is a historical event to note. The resulting waters, which not only came but stayed for several weeks destroyed our Church building and the homes of many of our members.

We live in the present though, and the present is about rebuilding and restoring. Some day it will be nice for us to write the “history” of the flood and our subsequent rising again as a congregation. For now this is still considered “current events” and as the rest of our web site shows we are busy unfolding that future history.

CCUU – Into the Millenium

(Excerpted from CCUU—The Last 30 Years, by Douglas Trotter—edited and added to by Elizabeth Trotter.)

CCUU slipped into the year 2000 – not the millennium of most of the country, since Rev. Kathleen Korb explained that the millennium was not entered until the end of the year 2000.

There were a number of parties, budget problems were easing, thanks to a $25,000 gift of stock from Avis Ogilvy, there was a joint work party with First Church to clean up the tomb of patriarch Parson Clapp, and Rev. Korb was given the Russell Lockwood Award for “service to the Southwest District.” The next year there was even a joint three-day retreat for all area UU’s at a campground in Covington.

One area in which Rev. Korb was consistently active was the music program supporting her Sunday services. She secured on two occasions paid, highly-qualified pianists, and when they in turn departed, Rocile Muller and the ever-ready Burt Brunson would accompany hymns and collections.

The apex of the sometimes erratic music program came when Mignon Kolp was hired as music director. An electronic piano-organ was purchased and she quickly enlisted a full-fledged choir whose numbers would at times exceed ten or 12. They performed major selections programmed by Mignon and boosted the output of the congregation when singing hymns.

The hymnals were acquired when the UU Association produced a revised one and bookplates can be found in many of them, dedicated to the memory of some member; this went far to defray the cost of replacing the old hymnals. There is also a plaque of honor in the sanctuary to which names of the departed are placed in recognition of a $1,000 gift.

By 2001 there was a proposed budget of $104,000 and assets were at a record $348,000.

The death of Inside Mardi Gras was quietly observed and replaced with an ongoing program of Bed and Breakfasts by a small cadre of hosts. No parties.

Bang! In quick order, the minister announced that she was candidating for the pulpit in Naples, FL. Then she resigned effective Sept. 1.

Many remembered the difficulties of doing without a minister during periods of transition, so it was decided to go with the stricture from Boston that we seek an interim minister for a year. Rev. Crump was named our Ministerial Settlement Representative to steer CCUU efforts to attract a permanent spiritual leader.

There was a packed farewell dinner party for Katy, and she was given a book of CCUU memories just as Rev. Bill Murchison signed on as the interim, his term to run not a day longer than a year into 2002.

The search committee was set up and funded and in time the focus narrowed to Rev. Jim VanderWeele. It was no handicap to our attractiveness that CCUU was designated a “Fair Compensation” Church, which meant we met the salary guidelines from UU headquarters. He was called unanimously.

At the same time, the church was nudged into the cyber age by David Wadleigh, who set up our first website (currently with 68 members and friends on the Internet), the directory for the first time contained photos of these worthies, the biweekly Newsletter repaired to monthly, and it was felt that the roof needed more than patching, it needed professional help. Alas, the original roofer was out of business.

The stage was set for a major upgrade of the entire plant.

A Long Range Planning Committee was formed and put together a wonderful five-year plan for growth. It was approved by the Board and presented to the congregation at the 2005 annual congregational meeting in June.

An Endowment Fund was established in the bylaws. It has been in existence about four years. We have 12 members who have named the fund in their wills and have four people who are giving annual gifts over a ten year period. We established February as “Endowment Fund Month” in 2005, with good return on the solicitations. (It was cancelled in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina. We hope to have it again in 2007.)

We conducted a drive to purchase new hymnals and supplements. For the first time, anyone who wished to purchase a hymnal could download the donation form directly from our internet website.

By the summer of 2005, and after a successful capital fund drive, CCUU had finally fixed its longstanding problem with the leak in the roof, had been completely repainted and upgraded on the inside, new thermostats were installed, new siding was hung on the outside, membership was up, and prospects for the future were bright.

(Excerpted from CCUU—The Last 30 Years, by Douglas Trotter—edited and added to by Elizabeth Trotter.)

Community Church History Post-Katrina

When Katrina struck on August 29, 2005, our church and our minister’s home, located within blocks of the breached floodwall, were inundated with 8 feet of floodwater.  Many of our members lost their homes, jobs, and schools, and we all experienced exile and an enormous sense of loss.  Within days, our webmaster David Wadleigh and Rev. VanderWeele had established a CCUU e-mail group which for many of us was our first connection with home.  Rev. VanderWeele returned to Baton Rouge very soon after the storm and began to minister to our diaspora, meeting with members who were in Baton Rouge and contacting the rest of us through e-mail and phone.

By October, 2005, enough members of CCUU and First UU had returned to the City that the churches were able to begin holding joint worship services at Jefferson Presbyterian Church at 2:30 p.m.  Thanks to financial support from the UUA, our ministers were paid and our rental expenses covered.  Rev. Jim rented office space in a downtown office building, where we could hold small meetings.  Board members who had returned gathered there to meet with others by conference call.

By April of 2006, we had regrouped and established the Post Katrina Planning Committee which met bi-weekly, usually for supper at Ann Duffy’s home, solving immediate problems and planning for the future.  With four of our seven board members having relocated out of town, Ann had agreed to serve as president-elect and taken the a leadership role in the City. President Cathy Larimer and other relocated officers kept in touch by e-mail and phone from their new homes.  The congregation held frequent meetings, usually combined with after-service coffee hour or pot luck suppers, to stay updated and make decisions.

We were also very fortunate to have partner churches around the country who were supporting us in many ways, and in April 2006 they all sent representatives to New Orleans for a partner church weekend.  We combined social events, a tour of the devastation, and planning sessions which allowed us to get to know each other and plan for ways in which we could work together toward recovery and rebuilding.

The UUA was also assisting, sending leaders to New Orleans regularly for meetings of a strategic planning group which included the minister and a lay leader from each of our three metro area UU congregations – First UU, CCUU, and North Shore. During those meetings a strategic plan for creating a strong, vital UU presence in New Orleans was created.  At CCUU, we merged that plan with our own long range plan, which had been completed prior to the storm, and our congregation adopted it in November, 2006.  As an outgrowth of those meetings, we three congregations joined together to form GNOUU – the Greater New Orleans Unitarian Universalists.

Susan Smith, District Executive, has also provided valuable counsel and support, visiting frequently in New Orleans and staying in touch by phone and e-mail.

Meanwhile, adaptations to our new situation continued to evolve.  In the summer of 2006, the two congregations moved to First Presbyterian, across the street from the First UU location, and continued joint services until the Sunday after Labor Day when CCUU re-established our presence on the Lakefront and our individual worship services by moving to Chapel of the Holy Comforter for a 12:30 p.m. service.  We had hired a choir director and pianist who were both at UNO, so we were able to hold choir practice in their choir room.  Jazz Music by the Cindy Scott trio welcomed us to our new location, and we signed our new membership book, a gift from the Church of the River in Memphis.

Realizing that planning for and financing a new church building would be a long process, and having become comfortable that Lakeview could once again become a safe and viable neighborhood, we purchased the small house adjacent to our church building.  Our indefatigable building committee went to work on renovations, and by July of 2007, after having moved once more – this time to Congregation Gates of Prayer, a synagogue in Metairie – we held a triumphant, tearful, celebratory first worship service at 316 38th St., which remains our home.  It combines a worship space, a fine new kitchen, office space for the minister and for the GNOUU capital campaign administrator, and a space for children.  We have housed UUSC volunteers when the volunteer center at 1st Church is over-full and we plan to become both a tutoring site and a polling place in the fall of 2008.

A selection of other notable events during our 2.5 years of post-storm life together:

We attracted a few visitors at our Metairie site and many more when we returned to Lakeview, which is beginning to repopulate. We now have increased from our post storm low of 53 members to 68.

The UUA funded an intern minister for our three churches for the 2007-2008 church year.  Erik David Carlson was a godsend, adding immeasurably to the quality of our ministry, both for our own three churches and to the larger community.  He was an invaluable member of the GNOUU leadership team as that group evolved.

Leigh Henderson, a leadership training consultant from Community Church New York, led a congregational planning session and the organizational meeting for GNOUU as well as providing regular telephone consultations with Rev. Jim.

Rev. Aaron Payson, from the UUA trauma response ministry, came immediately after the storm and accompanied Rev. Jim on his first trip (by boat) back to his flooded church building and home.  He’s been twice since, bringing volunteers from his congregation on his third trip, and has provided support and valuable context for our post-traumatic emotional recovery.

Our Community Outreach Ministry has worked with Rev. Jim to begin our ministry in the larger community.  Jim is on the board of All Congregations Together and CCUU has been the site for monthly lectures on ethics, sponsored by the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, the nonprofit arm of GNOUU.

The Building Committee retained architect Brian Gille, who created plans for renovation of the church building, and our representatives to GNOUU have worked on their leadership team to develop a three-church national capital campaign.  We have solicited our members, friends and alumni for pledges to the campaign, and their response has been all we could have hoped for.

Our partner churches continue to walk with us, holding fund raisers, sending volunteers, and keeping in touch by e-mail and phone.  We are working with them now to determine how they will assist us with the national capital campaign.

A member of the Tallahassee, FL, church, remembering the tapestry tree which had hung in our sanctuary, offered to restore it through the fabric restoration department at the University of Florida.  It hangs again now in our worship space, beautiful and inspiring, making the space feel like home.

In May, we celebrated our 50th anniversary with a special worship service and a party on the lawn afterward at which neighbors joined us.  Long time members shared memories of critical times in our history; Cindy Scott’s jazz quartet provided wonderful music; we had champagne; and an artist member created a memory book covered in gold.

With energetic leadership from Rev. VanderWeele, a strong new board beginning their work on June 1st, the combined strength of our GNOUU congregations, and continued support from our partner churches, we look to the future with hope and confidence.  (May 26, 2008 – Suzy Mague)

September, 2008:  In August, we evacuated for Gustav, a storm which did some damage locally. The gates at the 17th St. and London Avenue Canals worked well and did not cause rainwater flooding.  The evacuation of those who needed assistance, including medical patients, went smoothly and was completed ahead of the bad weather, and I think all of them have now returned to the City. Power is restored here, although not in the rest of the state, and the broken tree limbs are piled at curbsides throughout the city waiting for pickup.  We do need Ike to go somewhere else so we have time to clean up – we don’t need clogged storm drains for the next heavy rain.  We’ve known all along that we wouldn’t really be safe from a 100 year storm until 2011 – the repairs needed will take that long – so we are very grateful that Gustav’s force diminished before he arrived here

We held services at CCUU on Sunday morning, Sept. 7, with 40 people present.  It is SO important to be able to return to that loving, supportive community after the anxiety and stress of evacuation.  We are very much indebted to Rev. Jim, who had evacuated to Baton Rouge and had been without power there for several days, for leading a meaningful and joyful service.  My priority this year is the children, so I spent the hour with adorable Luke, age 2.  The congregation heard his merry laughter (it’s a small place, the Annex) as he played peek-a-boo with the door to the RE room.  I heard several bursts of laughter and applause during the adult service, and the atmosphere at coffee hour was warm and welcoming to all.  I noticed, after about 6 weeks away, that our congregation bears less resemblance to a mushroom patch (a member’s 2005 description of all the white hair) as younger people become involved and active.  We did postpone our jazz funeral, originally scheduled for Sept. 6th to commemorate the demolition of our building.

The representatives of our three GNOUU congregations will be back to work on our national capital campaign in the near future and we look forward to hearing from those congregations who are now considering their involvement with us.  Meanwhile, thanks to all for your good wishes during our recent upheaval – they mean a lot.

October 2008:  Our new church year at CCUU is off to a very good start.  We have several people who’ve begun attending over the summer and are coming regularly, and our little worship space is well filled for the 11 a.m. service.  We’ve organized volunteers to teach Sunday school, for which we’ve had one or two children each week, and we’ve hired a new choir director/pianist who will start next Sunday.

We’ve received a very special and heartwarming gift from Verna Arroyo, an older member who is sight impaired and uses a walker.  She asked all the members of her extended family to make a gift to CCUU’s rebuilding – what a morale boost, as well as a financial one!

The adult discussion group on “The Four Spiritualities” finished their book last Wednesday evening, and a new discussion group, to be held jointly with First UU, will begin on Wednesday, October 15th.  Afternoon and evening sessions will be offered for four consecutive weeks, discussing “City of Refuge” by Tom Piazza, the book selected for the citywide “One Book, One New Orleans” program this fall.

Our stewardship campaign will kick off on Saturday evening the 18th with music by our jazz singer Cindy Scott and entertainment by the “Not Ready for Prime Time CCUU Players”.  We anticipate a fun evening, despite the potential impact of the current financial crisis on people’s capacity to give.  Another type of storm to weather, which I’m sure will affect all of us.

Leigh Henderson, our volunteer leadership training consultant from Community Church New York was in town a couple of weekends ago.  She led two workshops for GNOUU, one on worship and the other on community outreach.  Those who attended found them inspirational and helpful, and concrete plans were made to move forward with joint, mutually supportive activities for our congregations.  Our CCUU Community Outreach ministry will canvass the Lakeview neighborhood this coming Saturday, distributing information about CCUU and circulating a petition to City Government to restart the citywide recycling program.  Meanwhile, we continue to collect recyclables once a month at CCUU, which our wonderful volunteer Clint Kauffman takes to the drop-off center.

The Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (CEL) now has a Board and a mission statement, and grant applications are being written by a UU minister who is spending her sabbatical here helping with our rebuilding.  The Rebirth Volunteer Center continues to welcome volunteers, now under the auspices of the CEL.  However, they report that the number of volunteers is significantly lower than in previous years.

Under the auspices of the CEL, CCUU has hosted a series of monthly lectures on “Ethical Living in NOLA”.  The fall series will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 14, with a lecture by Rev. Jim on “Ethics, the Markets, and the Polls”.  Jim was a political activist in a previous life and I’m very much looking forward to his thoughts.

I think you are all already aware that our church building was demolished last month – the slab is gone too and the lot filled and graded – a big area of river sand where grass and our building once stood.  An opportunity for a new, beautiful church one day, with WINDOWS!

Our GNOUU national capital campaign is getting up to speed again, after our summer hiatus.  Rev. Kim Crawford-Harvie, Rev. John Buehrens, and Rev. Mike McGee are serving as clergy co-chairs, with Jerri Moulder from Santa Barbara as our lay co-chair.  They will be working with us to identify new partners and to help us gather the funds we all need to rebuild and repair.

Lakeview seems to be more populated with each passing month, though there are still rows of three or four abandoned houses in many areas.  Our opera, chamber music, and orchestra seasons are beginning – I had tears in my eyes when the symphony played the “Star Spangled Banner” at their first concert.  One of the effects of our experience is that I don’t take such wonderful things for granted any more.  We’re still here, three years later, and although we still have a long way to go, we’ve come a long way too, and for me the glass is definitely half full – maybe even a little more than that now.

Thanksgiving 2008:  Our little religious community has a lot to be thankful for in this season of reflection and giving thanks.  First, our ever-energetic minister, who is providing wonderful, sensitive and compassionate leadership.  He creates an atmosphere of welcome which enfolds newcomers and entices them back – we welcomed six new members at our new member service in November.

Next on our list of thankfulness – our long time, loyal members who continue to be there, month after month, doing what it takes, giving generously of time and treasure to keep us moving forward.  From lay led programs, which will be especially important during Jim’s January 15 through April 15 sabbatical, to Sunday School provided every Sunday for children, to community outreach, for which we are gathering gifts for our Christmas family, we continue to be able to offer a full church program because we all keep hangin’ in there.  We have also been the beneficiaries of some generous financial gifts, which enable us to supplement our annual income with small amounts from operating reserves while we grow into financial viability.

We long-timers are delighted to welcome the energy and enthusiasm of our new members and friends, who are already participating in choir, Sunday school, community outreach, and other activities.  For me, one of the most important aspects of our ministry is offering a warm, supportive liberal religious community for the many people who are moving here to participate in our rebuilding.  We had three first time visitors last Sunday, one newly arrived from Massachusetts, one from Florida, and one from Turkey.  We hope they’ll all return and will find what they’re looking for among us.

We have a new choir director/pianist – a senior from Loyola University.  She’ll be with us three Sundays a month, and she’s doing a nice job.  We also have a new, very part time office administrator working six hours per week assisting Jim in keeping things together.  We are completing our annual stewardship campaign and the congregation will meet on the first Sunday in December to adopt our 2009 budget.  And our GNOUU stewardship consultant will be here for a meeting with GNOUU leadership on December 2nd, assessing our rebuilding campaign.  We have a lot of reason for Thanksgiving.

January 2009 (from Rev. Jim’s column in our January newsletter): But, some may ask, what has happened to CCUU during 2008? Here are a few highlights:  Seventeen (17) new members signed our membership book.  Our rebuilding reserves have neared a half a million dollars ($500,000.00).  The interest from our savings will be at (or above) $22,195.00.  Our members and friends have pledged $300,000.00 to our capital campaign—to be collected over 3 years.  We have already received $109,000 for the capital campaign—some from our members and friends, some from GNOUU or Partner  churches or memorial funds.  When we moved into our annex, on July 15th, 2007, we were the first completed home on the 24 lots of this block. Eight others are now occupied. A ninth is nearly ready.

Our Community Outreach chair, after listing all the gifts we made to the community in 2008, added the following paragraph:  Every year it is a joy to think of the happy faces of our adopted families when they open their Christmas presents. Once again, CCUU was very generous, and we were able to brighten up the holiday for George and Tabatha, and their 3 sons: Dante (10), Evan (6), and Vincent (22 months). We donated approximately $800 in toys, sports equipment, clothes, shoes, cleaning supplies, toiletries, food, and gift cards. Thank you so much to all of you who gave from the heart and participated in the true meaning of giving at Christmas.

February 2009:  We’ve had a busy six weeks since New Years, immeasurably enriched by our relationships with other UU’s.  Jim began his sabbatical in mid-January, and for our first two services after his departure, we were blessed with the ministry of Rev. Charles Ortman from our partner congregation in Montclair, NJ.  Then last weekend, Sunday February 15, a group of youth and adults from the Westport, CT, congregation led our service.  Having over 20 young folks with their leaders among us gave us a wonderful infusion of energy and enthusiasm and must have lowered the average age of attendees by about 30 years.  Unfortunately our CCUU numbers were reduced because of its being the first weekend of Mardi Gras, but the warmth of our welcome was unimpaired.  We’ve loved having everyone and look forward to more visits from UU congregations in coming weeks.

With Darwin’s 200th birthday in February, and living as we do in the land of intelligent design, we planned a birthday party for old Charles, complete with a carrot cake with his picture on top, for our coffee hour on February 8th.  As luck would have it, the evolutionary evangelists Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd were here to present our church service on February 1st and his “Thank God for Evolution” program on February 2nd, and on February 8th I gave a talk on Darwin’s life, based on a biography I’d read.  The “Times Picayune” ran our press release about our week-long celebration of Darwin and we did attract some visitors and gain some visibility.

On another track, we’re moving ahead with plans for worship space, since our little house is almost full every Sunday and we must have room to grow.  Planning took an unexpected turn when several members learned of a pretty little Lutheran church listed for sale in the Faubourg St. John neighborhood on the other side of City Park.  Several people toured it and felt it was worth evaluating because it would offer a location in a well populated neighborhood and an existing building which could be used right away.  Others were very much concerned about its age (over 100 years), the lack of parking, and the fact that the sanctuary was a free-standing structure; all other facilities are in a second building which did not appear to be in good condition, and there are no restrooms, just two privies.

The Board responded by structuring a congregational conversation intended to identify the criteria by which we would evaluate the two options presented – staying and building at our current site or buying an existing building – and any other options which might be identified in the near future.  We distributed a survey listing all of the criteria the Board could think of, asking members to rank the criteria by importance to them, and held small group conversations after service to discuss questions carefully formulated to be positive rather than critical:  what advantages does each site have; what challenges does it present. 23 surveys were returned and we had excellent attendance and participation in the conversation.  I was very pleased by the tone of the conversations which was respectful and constructive and also by the clear consensus among us about what criteria are most important – good accessibility from all parts of the area; a safe neighborhood;  maintenance costs of the building; suitability of the space; and the most effective use of our limited funds.

Having completed that preparation, we recruited three men with good backgrounds in construction to visit the buildings for sale to evaluate their condition and what would be required to adapt them for our use…only to learn upon contacting the realtor that the property was under contract for sale.

Meanwhile, the building committee continues working with the architect to develop plans for our vacant site.  A preliminary proposal will be ready for presentation to the congregation on March 8th.  It envisions a raised sanctuary with restrooms and a crying room to be built in phase one, with all other functions housed in our current building.  We want to make it as green a building as possible, and we will need to negotiate with the city about the number of improved parking spaces they will require, since parking spaces are amazingly expensive to build, especially with an environmentally sensitive permeable surface.  After the need to regroup caused by having to demolish the building, it feels good to see tangible evidence of progress.

Despite the generosity of our own members and the wonderful lead gift from Pacific Unitarian, we do not yet have sufficient funds pledged to support phase 1. However we are very hopeful that the efforts of our partner congregations and the national GNOUU campaign will result in a building fund adequate to the dream of a sanctuary which will allow us to continue to grow and to provide a space for community gatherings in our recovering Lakeview.  We are also exploring whether there is some potential to receive grants for using green technology or to partner with other groups to create a prototype green structure which could be used to educate others about green construction.

March, 2009:   Since my last update, we’ve made enormous strides toward our rebuilding.  After we learned that the property in Faubourg St. John had been sold, the board and building ministry met for a long and careful discussion, to develop the process by which we would keep the congregation informed of building plans and gather their input.  It was a good meeting and we all left feeling that we had successfully balanced the goals of giving the ministry the authority to move ahead efficiently and effectively while keeping the congregation involved.  The following Sunday, we had a congregational meeting at which we presented the architect’s preliminary plans and received authorization to move forward with an application for an increase in our existing SBA loan.

As you can imagine, the SBA loan application process is onerous at best, and it will be very much to our advantage to extend and increase our existing loan, rather than paying it off and starting over with a new application.  We borrowed $10,000 initially, in 2006, partially because back in those days interest earned on our investments was higher than the interest cost from SBA, and we wanted to have access to larger amounts when we needed them to rebuild.  That loan is almost repaid, so a timely application for extension is important.  We plan to borrow only against the pledges we’re received from our members and through the GNOUU campaign and to pay off the loan as the pledge payments come in, so that we don’t incur long term debt.

The architect has developed plans which will provide a sanctuary now, which we badly need, with adjacent restrooms and a crying room.  The shell of the rest of the building will remain unfinished until funds can be raised for finishing those rooms, and we’ll continue to use the kitchen, office, and RE spaces in our little Annex in the meantime.  Pilings will be driven to support an extension of the sanctuary, which we hope to grow enough to need in the next few years.  We’re applying to the City Council for a parking waiver, so that we don’t have to use precious dollars to provide improved parking spaces on-site.  We hope to be able to continue to park on grass-covered shells and on the street, as we have always done.  We’ve canvassed the neighbors and they have all indicated that they have no objection to the waiver, so we’re hopeful that it will be approved.

We continue our active involvement in the larger community.  From the donations collected at our Second Sunday plate collection in February, we were able to purchase two brand new trumpets and one trombone, complete with cases, oil, gloves and tuners, for The Porch, a Seventh Ward community center which provides after school services for at-risk and underprivileged youth.  A group from CCUU will go to The Porch on Saturday, March 28th to present the instruments and visit the center; our chair Elizabeth showed the congregation one of the trumpets during our service yesterday.

On March 18th, as part of the lecture series held at CCUU called “Ethical Living in NOLA ,” sponsored by the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, the non-profit organization created by GNOUU since Katrina , we had the privilege of hearing New Orleans Councilmember Shelley Midura speak to us on ethics in local government.  She was our tenth speaker since the series began.

Throughout the month of March, CCUU is collecting Mardi Gras beads to donate to STRIVE, Inc., a non-profit organization that offers opportunities for work and development to the mentally handicapped.  Finally, we continue to collect recyclables at the church once a month to take to our city’s only monthly recycle drop off location.

Our members have filled the pulpit on Sundays in recent weeks.  Our president, Mary An, spoke on moral hazard and the distinction between morals and ethics last Sunday – a thought provoking and informative message.  Our Sunday School continues to have only one child, unfortunately, but two new people have signed on to teach, replacing two who have accepted other responsibilities, so the program continues to be offered.  It won’t take much to double the size of the class, which we hope will happen soon.

CCUU and GNOUU have had some lovely contacts with our partner churches recently.  I spent a lovely afternoon with Ruth Hagan from Pacific Unitarian, and we received a warm letter and gift from Montclair.  Members from Fox Valley are expected for a work trip over Easter.  GNOUU received a generous gift from White Bear congregation in Minnesota, from their Mardi Gras fundraiser in February and another gift, a “down payment on a partnership” from West Shore UU in Rocky River, Ohio.  Rev. Jim preached at Williamsburg UU this month, and GNOUU will receive a nice gift from their collection as well.  We hope other UUs will come to visit and keep in touch as summer approaches.

We received encouraging news for the City last week, when a population of over 300,000 was affirmed for New Orleans.   People are still returning steadily, and we were pleased to see that the slab next door to our annex has been removed in preparation for rebuilding.  Our little street is slowly repopulating.  It also sounds as if some funds are being made available for affordable rental housing, which remains a critical concern, and work has begun on closing the infamous Miss. River Gulf Outlet, known here as Mr. GO, which has been so destructive to our wetlands.

Rev. Jim returns from his sabbatical on Easter Sunday, and it will be good to have him back among us.  Our little congregation has fared well in his absence, but there’s no substitute for good professional leadership.

September 2009:  Our church year has begun with energy and enthusiasm.  We’ve had several visitors who are coming regularly, so Jim has scheduled an orientation session with them for October 10th – we are hopeful several will join.  My particular joy is that we now have two more girls in our Sunday School – that’s 3 now, including Therese, who came last year – ages 5 through 10.  And we have a toddler in the nursery, so we put up the play yard in Jim’s study every Sunday morning and wheel in the bins of toys and books.  Now we need some little boys…

With this report, I’m also sending a copy of Jim’s article for our October newsletter.  We are all aware that the ministry of UU clergy extends beyond his/her congregation, and Jim has been a blessing to many.  The activities he describes make me so proud to be a UU and supporting his ministry, and you will share that pride, I’m sure – your steadfast support has helped make it possible.

GNOUU also continues to thrive, finding new ways to give mutual support.  First Church dedicated some new stained glass windows last Sunday and several of our members went to participate and bring our best wishes. North Shore continues to grow, under the part-time leadership of Jim and Melanie, and the joint “Hot Art in a Cool Space” service held there in August brought many of our south shore UU’s to their congregation for the first time.  The service was well attended by all three congregations.  The next one will be the jazz funeral for the old year at 1st UU on January 4, 2010.

The three churches combined their own funds with some of the funds remaining in the Gulf Coast relief fund to bring in Larry Wheeler to advise all three congregations on their annual budget drive.  Ours has begun quite successfully – Joel and I will meet with our visiting steward for lunch tomorrow, and I’m in touch with those I am to visit with.  We hope to continue to bring in consultants over the next few years to help us all grow toward more effective ministry.

The Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (CELSJR) now has their 501©3 designation and has hired a grant writer.  We hope she will identify sources for the AIDS kitchen 1st Church is working to build and for green technology for CCUU’s new building.  Meanwhile, the Center continues to operate the volunteer center and volunteers continue to come, helping the City in its continuing recovery.

July 2010:  Things are going well for CCUU this summer.  We have good new members on our Board and new people signing up to work with the children this fall.  Our new music director, Bennett Britt, brings a wealth of experience with choirs and a depth of musical talent which has transformed our Sunday morning music – despite reading ahead to see if we agree with the words, we find these UU’s really CAN sing!  Rev. Jim is at Meadville Lombard this week attending a course on sermons taught by Rev.  Dr. Bill Schulz.  He has also just moved into his newly purchased home – a big step forward for a man who lost everything just five years ago, when his apartment, as well as his church, took on 8 feet of water.  He is very pleased.

Our summer services are being well attended, and the GNOUU tri-church poetry service, held at CCUU, was a particular pleasure.  We go to Northshore in August for the “Hot Art in a Cool Space” service, which will also be a fine sharing among our congregations.  As you recall, we had an intern serving all our GNOUU congregations this past church year, which was a good experience for us all.

Our fundraising for our new building got a major boost last month when a long-time member made the second most generous gift received so far and brought us much closer to our goal (Pacific Unitarian’s generous three-year gift remains our largest one, for which we are so very grateful).  The building committee and the finance committee are evaluating options and the building committee is performing their due diligence on the two contractors selected by the Board for further consideration.

Two of our members are receiving publicity for their contributions to the community.  Howard Mielke, our president-elect, has just published research showing that lead content in the soil in New Orleans has decreased significantly since the flood, with the result that lead levels in children’s blood has decreased. Apparently sediment deposited by floodwaters provided some mitigation.  Howard, a Tulane research professor, is the lead researcher on the project and an expert on lead contamination in soil.  So even Katrina has had at least one good effect.   Howard also serves on an EPA advisory panel; we value his input enormously.

Cindy Scott, our jazz singer, is organizing a major fundraiser on July 31st for Gulf Coast Oil Spill relief, following the disastrous BP oil spill.  The area at large, of course, is very much under siege, with the oil spill putting our fishers out of work and fouling our environment and the moratorium on deep water drilling eliminating more thousands of jobs.  Whatever you feel the proper balance is between keeping the oil industry alive in the Gulf and protecting against another disaster, there is no denying that the effect of the moratorium is adding to the devastation of our local economy.  And now there is news that the Navy’s cutback on the type of ship built at our local Avondale Shipyard puts another 5000 jobs at risk.  It is a hard time for our economy.

November 2010:  Our BIG news is that our property at 6690 Fleur de Lis is now a construction site.  After the ground breaking, several weeks went by while Board members worked with the architect and contractor to be sure that EVERY possible green technique was incorporated into the building.  We anticipate applying for Energy Star status and, though there were things like solar panels that were beyond our financial capability, we feel confident that we have done all we reasonably could to minimize our footprint.  We anticipate completion of the building sometime next spring, and members are beginning to evaluate furniture, sound system, and other needs.  We will need to raise funds for those items and landscaping; assuming all capital pledges are paid, we have the funds to pay in full the architect and contractor.  THAT is a lot to be thankful for indeed!

The church service on November 21 was one of the most meaningful in recent memory for me.  As I’m sure you’re aware, a major theme of Rev. Jim’s ministry is “We Are All Family and We All Have Value”, a statement found on our stationery and web site.  He has been sharing information and his commitment with the congregation as the UUA’s  “Standing on the Side of Love”  campaign proceeds, using e-mail and pulpit messages.  On the 21st, having attended the Remembrance Service for Transgendered People on Saturday night, Jim preached on acceptance of those who are transgendered.  During his message a person who has attended our services with his family for some time reintroduced himself to us as Leila and shared some of her experiences as a transgendered person.  She had talked with Jim and our president, Elyce, beforehand and they had advised the Board and choir members that she would be participating in the service.  The congregation’s response was warm and supportive, and the Thanksgiving potluck we shared afterward was a particularly happy one.  Leila and her family seemed very happy to be among us, and she circulated among the group encouraging folks to sample the pumpkin pie she and her wife had made with a cushaw pumpkin they had baked.  It was flavored with cardamom, unusual and delicious.  I feel so grateful and proud to be part of this UU community.

Our RE program is growing – a source of joy for us all.  When we had two new families come in September, we separated the children into two groups for a month or so, but they expressed a strong preference to stay together.  So, we’re a one-room school again, with three adults in the classroom so that the three year olds and the ten year olds can have the activities and attention they need.  We’ll be learning “O Christmas Tree” to sing for the congregation on Dec. 19th and making decorations to hang on the handlebars of the new bikes we hope to provide for the children in our adopted Christmas family.

Our adopted family this year is parents and three children – the family are shrimpers and have been very hard hit by the oil spill and its aftermath.  Problems from the oil spill continue to trouble fishing communities, and those who depend upon the Gulf are having a very difficult time.

The rest of our congregational life is pretty normal – the Annual Budget Drive is underway; the Board has adopted a budget for the coming year; the lay led services ministry is leading interesting services; the Committee on ministry is defining the scope of their work in the coming year.  I must say, it gives me great pleasure to type that paragraph – we’re not there yet, but we have indeed come a long way.

March 2011:  The dedication of our new building is scheduled for April 10th,  and we are BUSY getting everything done.  A committee is meeting weekly to plan for the dedication service and the social events associated with it.   We look forward to having several members from our partner churches here for the occasion, and the service will include all three of our GNOUU congregations who will gather to celebrate with us.  The message will be delivered by Rev. Morehouse from Pacific Unitarian, from whom we received our lead partner church gift.  Jim is providing leadership on all fronts, keeping us together and focused and inspired.  Some of us are organizing the potluck supper for Saturday night.  It will feature dishes from the cookbooks we have published over the years, particularly recipes we remember from members who are no longer with us.  Others are planning activities for an open house after the service on Sunday. Some are soliciting donations and pledges to pay for the furniture, landscaping, and other needs which must be met.  We are very excited to have received a grant of $51,000 toward installation of solar panels on the church.  Part of the fundraising is for the match for the grant.  We’ll be the first solar church in the state!  I’m glad to report that we’ve received several very generous gifts and are optimistic that the critical needs will all be met.  Now if only the furniture will arrive on time…

Our building committee chair is ordering phone lines, getting costs for extending the sidewalk to the Annex, arranging for the landscaping so we can get our use and occupancy permit, and generally doing whatever needs doing – he is so knowledgeable and committed, and we are so lucky to have him.  And our president likewise seems to pick up whatever balls are most urgent at the moment – another great blessing to our congregation.

With the move to the new building imminent, we’re exploring the best use of the Annex.  We’ll need to rent it for a time – we need the income stream to balance our operating budget while we grow – and we’re now talking to the operator of a senior center who needs new space.  It would be an ideal use – a service to the community and income for us.  We’re in a very restrictive zoning category, in a residential area, so options are limited.

Our RE program is attracting a small group of children pretty regularly – the age range is wide, so we’re being as creative as we can manage to keep them all engaged.  I taught Sunday and we explored how it feels to be blind (with blindfolds) or deaf (working together without speaking).  We did a little American Sign Language and read a lovely little book “Through Grandpa’s Eyes”.  It was a lesson from the “Treasure Hunting – Take Two” curriculum.

Our services are well attended, almost filling the little space we have available, and our choir of 10 singers attends two rehearsals a week very faithfully.  We need more men, in case you have a couple you could loan us, but we’re improving.

Jim will begin a course on Islam next week – taught in the afternoon and evening and including members of the North Shore congregation as well as from CCUU.  This will be the third this year – we did Buddhism in the late fall and Tao de Ching in the winter.  He continues to serve the North Shore congregation 1/8th time, as does Rev. Melanie from First Church.

GNOUU and the Center for Ethical Living are both moving into new phases now that the national fundraising campaign is complete.  We held a retreat last month, led by Southwest District Executive Rev. Susan Smith.  Leaders from all three congregations, GNOUU, and the Center all participated, exploring how we can continue to strengthen our UU presence in this region.  We will hold a fundraiser Friday night for the Center, featuring the Wellesley College choir and our own jazz singer Cindy Scott.  We hope for good publicity and a good turnout.

September 2011:  as we begin our first full church year in our new building.  Rev. Jim returned to the pulpit on August 14, and RE classes for children resumed, responding to the fact that many newcomers to the city are arriving and exploring in August.  5 new members were welcomed on August 21, and the choir will begin regular rehearsals on September 4.

The September newsletter (available at www.communitychurchuu.org) includes plans for an ice cream social after church on September 11, ingathering Sunday.  It is being well publicized, and a magician and several other fun activities for children are included. We hope young families with children will be enticed to visit.

A new men’s group is beginning.  Our community ministry includes an October GNOUU work day at Habitat on the North Shore and volunteers to assist with the monthly Harrison Ave. Marketplace in Lakeview.  The UUA has selected GNOUU congregations to field test a new adult RE curriculum; class locations will rotate among the three churches.  We’ll also have our first GNOUU music Sunday in November.  We’re proposing to GNOUU leaders that we design a new t-shirt that will be specific to each congregation on the front, with all three GNOUU churches and their web sites on the back.

The Board held a retreat in August and set two themes for the year – environmental stewardship and enhancing right relations in the congregation.  The solar panels, supported by a grant with matching funds from our members, are being installed now on the roof of our Energy Star building – we’re the first solar church in the state!

The Shepherd Center, the senior center now renting our Annex, is thriving, and we continue to use two rooms in the building for our RE classes on Sunday, which is a major benefit of the cooperation between us.   They also have volunteers lined up to build a garden at the site in September, which will be a fine addition to the property and to their program.  They plan to grow vegetables in a raised bed.

November 2011:  The installation of the solar panels was completed and inspected in early September, and we are so pleased and proud to be a solar, energy star congregation.   The building is functioning very well for us.  John and Joyce Harmon from our West Hartford partner church visited in November – in town to play with their adorable 3 month old grandson – and we were proud to show them the building and have a good visit.

We are in the midst of our annual budget drive, which was begun with an elegant dinner in our new sanctuary.  Members of the other two GNOUU churches served for us, and we will do the same for them when their turn comes – a nice new cooperative venture.  At this point, we have raised 80% of the amount needed in pledges, and follow up with non-respondents is under way.

GNOUU had our usual tri-church poetry and art services during the summer, and on November 13 inaugurated a new all-music service.  The choirs of all three churches participated; the service was well attended and very much enjoyed.  Rev. Melanie observed in her welcoming remarks that GNOUU is a really outstanding benefit of the disaster we experienced – in that and so many ways, we are better than we were before.

Our CCUU choir is excited about our upcoming presentation of Saint Saens “Christmas Oratorio”.  Our choir director’s wife is also a church choir director, in a nearby Episcopal congregation, so the two choirs are joining together for the occasion.  Together we are large enough to sound quite good, and we can afford a chamber orchestra to accompany us.  Our choir held a silent auction after church on November 20th, during our pre-Thanksgiving pot luck lunch, and raised over $1100 to pay our share of the musicians and cover some of our costs in the coming year.  We were delighted and grateful for the generous donations of items and services and the many purchases made.  It was our first CCUU fundraiser since Katrina.

We continue our community outreach work, with monthly offerings donated to community groups with whom we partner.  We have adopted a family for Christmas – this year a single mom with four boys.  And for the second year since K, we are distributing the “Guest at your table” boxes.

Rev. Jim and I provide traffic control at the monthly Harrison Ave. Marketplace in Lakeview as part of our partnership with Beacon of Hope.  And Rev. Jim is chair of the Interfaith Worker Justice local chapter, which is working hard on the problem of unpaid wages, a particular issue with restaurant and construction workers.

We are attracting visitors, and some return regularly.  We welcomed five new members in September and hope others will join early in the new year.  Our RE program remains distressingly small, with only two young children in the preschool class and one 12-year-old in a class by himself.  We’re using two of the “Tapestry of Faith” curricula for them.  Our RE volunteers presented the children’s activities at the Harrison Avenue Marketplace in October, hoping to attract more young families, but so far, no luck.  We have a dedicated group of teachers and helpers, so classes are offered every Sunday, and we’ve begun singing with the kids at the end of every class.  The kids who are coming enjoy it, so we’ll keep on keeping on, and one day we’ll be bigger.

We have a successful monthly “Dinners for 8” program, as well as occasional all-church pot luck lunches.  Members of our congregation are participating in the GNOUU field testing of a new UUA adult education curriculum “Resistance and Transformation”.  We have begun the process of developing a Covenant of Right Relations:  we have had two sessions with the congregation so far, with a third scheduled after church on Nov. 27th.  So far, participation has been good.  And Rev. Jim has begun a monthly men’s group.  Rev. Crump from Baton Rouge recommends that we establish a continuing small group ministry – a proposal which is under consideration by our Board.

April 2012:  At CCUU, we are completing our first year in our new building, with many reasons for celebration and hope.  Our current president, who has been the force behind our obtaining solar panels, has led his family to donate the funds for a new roof and solar panels for our little annex building, in honor of his brother-in-law, an avid environmentalist.  So now both our buildings are solar.  On April 22nd we will hold our annual tri-church Earth Day service – this year it will be in the park across the street from CCUU and will include the dedication of the solar panels.  The combined choirs will sing; representatives of green organizations in town will be involved.  It will be a great day for us all.

We continue to attract visitors regularly, many of them young adults, and most of them return.  Rev. Jim has begun a series of three sessions especially for newcomers, and the response has been good.  Unfortunately, we have only one 6th grader in RE right now, but we continue to schedule teachers and helpers for three age groups for each Sunday and are prepared to teach appropriate “Tapestry of Faith” curricula when the children do come.  One day, they will.

Our community outreach program has expanded to include members who volunteer with several of our partner organizations, in addition to the financial support we provide.  It was especially meaningful at Mardi Gras, when the children from the 7th Ward Red Flame Hunters completed their Indian suits and marched on Mardi Gras day.  Two of our members worked with them to make their outfits and several were there to cheer them on as they hit the streets.  Rev. Jim has accepted a board position with the Interfaith Health Alliance, and several of our medically trained members and friends volunteer with their clinic.  We are definitely growing in our ability to make a difference in the larger community.

Within the congregation, we have completed a series of after-service discussions on the kinds of relationships we hope to foster as we build our beloved community.  On April 14th, we will hold a two-hour workshop to review the ideas from those sessions and begin to develop a Covenant of Right Relations.  We hope to have one ready for consideration at the June congregational meeting.  The women’s book group has attracted enthusiastic participants, and the choir is developing a good sound and more musicianship.  Rev. Jim is leading weekly Taoist yoga and meditation sessions which are open to the larger community.

At our service on April 1st, Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger from First UU preached a particularly meaningful  sermon titled ‘The Story of Us”, which she is preaching at all three churches.  As some of you may know, the early history of relationships between 1st UU and CCUU was haunted by misunderstandings and hostility.  That history, although many years behind us and countered by our cooperation since Katrina, resurfaced in the draft curriculum for “Resistance and Transformation” which the GNOUU congregations are field-testing.  Long-time CCUU members responded to the curriculum materials, told from the point of view of the First Church minister,  with a carefully drafted compilation of their memories, which were quite different.  In her sermon, Rev. Melanie went beyond the two versions of “the TRUTH” to bring a greater understanding of what the underlying emotions and problems may have been during the stressful years of the civil rights movement.  It was clearly a difficult emotional experience for her and a presentation deeply appreciated by the members of CCUU.  I believe it has greatly facilitated the healing process among us.

July 2013:  Community Church has had a very good year – visitors are frequent; we have some new members; and there is a lot of energy for beginning new initiatives.  We have an active worship team working with Jim; the choir has gained two new members and continues to improve under Bennett’s expert direction; we have a few young families and are upgrading our RE program for the children; and Jim continues to offer adult RE opportunities which are well received.

Our new board is strong and has already held their planning retreat, and we have four active members who will attend the Dwight Brown Leadership School in August, something Jim has long hoped for.  We have begun planning to establish small group ministry in the fall and have commitments from enough people to have co-facilitators for three or four groups, depending upon how many sign up.  Jim plans to use the “Soul Matters” curriculum, which will provide materials for the small groups as well as themes for worship.

Our community outreach continues to expand; Jim was pleased to be invited to an Urban League national meeting last week, which was held in conjunction with the huge Essence Festival which was in town.  We have a tremendously serious problem with gun violence, and churches are coming together to try to address that.  We continue to have a second Sunday collection for the groups we support – the 7th Ward club that works with kids; Second Harvest food bank; Beacon of Hope; Unity for the Homeless; Center for Ethical Living (our GNOUU secular arm).  We have a monthly craft group that meets to make things – for a while they made pillowcases for homeless people moving into apartments; now they’re making things for the RE kids to use.  I don’t sew, so I’m knitting hats for people taking chemo, which one of our crafters takes to her oncologist.  We put tags in everything which say “made for you by the members of Community Church Unitarian Universalist”.  And we finally have new t-shirts with the church logo to wear when we’re doing a service project – I’ll wear mine Thursday when I go to do interviews for Second Harvest.  We also just have fun, with Dinners for Eight held monthly in people’s homes.

The building is also proving to be a major asset.  We’ve had several excellent music programs, including one by a chamber group composed of Symphony musicians; all have been well attended.  We now have an acting class renting fellowship hall two evenings a week, and the Shepherd Center, the Lakeview program for the elderly, has renewed their lease at the Annex building.  Audubon Society meets at the church, and we hope to continue attracting similar groups to our space.

November 2013:  Our church year has begun with a lot of energy, and the response is good.  We held a worship service in late September at which we divided into small groups and had an abbreviated small group ministry session.  Following that service, we had enough interest to establish four chalice circles, one meeting in the afternoon and three on different evenings.  Each circle has co-facilitators, and we’re using the topics from “Soul Matters”.  Our October sessions considered awe, and this month we consider rootedness.  We hope the circles lead to strengthened ties among our members; deep listening to each other; and spiritual growth.

On the second Sunday in November, CCUU hosted the annual GNOUU music Sunday.  The sanctuary was full to overflowing, and the service was marvelous.  Choirs from all three churches sang, and individual musicians performed as well.  Our choir continues to grow – we’re up to 13 now, equally divided among men and women, and we’re preparing a Gregorian chant for Sunday, Dec. 15, which we will sing in Latin.  It is beautiful, as is all of the music Bennett selects for us.

We had a lovely Fellowship Dinner in early October, and our annual budget drive has been successful, so we will be able to continue to provide a small stipend to a member who is serving very capably as RE director for the children. We’re also hoping to budget for at least three people to attend GA and leadership training during the coming year.  We sent four people last year, and it has made a real difference in their participation.  We have also re-established our committee on ministry and our worship ministry is active with Rev. Jim in planning services.

Our congregation was asked by Rev. Darcy Roake and agreed to sponsor her three-year preliminary fellowship as a new UU minister.  Darcy also works as a fundraiser for the UUA, and she has already provided valuable insight and ideas on finances and fundraising.  We are also sponsoring a ministerial intern, Sky Stewart, who is currently studying at the Meadville Lombard Theological School, a school that recently changed from a 1-year to a 3-year program in which they ask students to become much more deeply involved in the work Beyond the Four Walls of the church.   Sky has relocated and is now living in New Orleans while studying at Meadville Lombard (mostly online classes), working with the local Edible Schoolyards, and completing his internship with our congregation during the next three years.

Community Outreach continues, with work days at Second Harvest Food Bank and the Edible School Yard, and continued support for the Seventh Ward Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s Red Flame Hunters, the Center for Ethical Living, and Unity for the Homeless.  We collected funds for a public school uniform drive in September, and we will be distributing Guest at Your Table materials this Sunday.  For Christmas, CCUU is in the process of “adopting” 25 disabled service recipients from the Volunteers of America’s Supportive Living Services Program.  We will provide a holiday gift for each of them, based upon their wishes and sizes.  And we will continue to provide financial support where disaster strikes, as it has so terribly in the Philippines.

Finally, on Saturday, November 16, thanks to our new buildings and grounds chair, we held a WORK DAY, and the results are very satisfying.  The storage shed is cleaned out; the overstuffed closets cleaned out; the rose bushes dead-headed; and one of our members paid day laborers to clean up the badly overgrown gardens.  Very satisfying and very much needed.

It is May, 2015, and we are preparing for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – remembering the collapse of the floodwalls and terrible flooding which followed; the dreadful experience of loss; the wondering whether we had a home to come back to; and then the long, often uncertain recovery.  When we sing “Wo Ya Ya” – “…it will be hard we know, and the road will be muddy and rough, but we’ll get there…heaven knows how we will get there…” I always feel drawn back to that time – that’s exactly how we felt.  But Rev. Jim stayed with us, providing unfailing leadership and vision in spite of his own terrible loses, and we who returned were determined – “we know we will” was our mantra.

But now we know how we “got there”, and it was with Jim’s leadership, some strong lay leaders, the faithful help of our members and friends, and the enormous support we received from our partner churches.  A very partial list of our memories includes receiving a gift toward rebuilding from Community Church New York that arrived even before many of us had been able to return home; Target gift cards from Fox Valley for everyone in the congregation at Christmas, 2005; a big gift of fun stuff for a party, also from Fox Valley; guidance from consultant Leigh Henderson, who was available by phone and also made several trips to NOLA; a fund raiser by the Universalist Church of West Hartford that featured our own Cindy Scott; and an enormous financial boost from Pacific Unitarian, who gave us our lead gift.  We had visitors too – from the UU church in Montclair; from Fox Valley and Pacific Unitarian; from the UU Society of Greater Springfield, MA; from West Hartford, CT,  and Williamsburg, VA and from other places too numerous to count.  Dave Banks from Williamsburg continues as our web master, providing an invaluable service.

We are thriving, with a beautiful new solar church, and, of course, regular, meaningful Sunday worship. Our congregation includes about 17 children on many Sundays, so we are growing in the right direction.  We participate in four GNOUU church services each year with our two sister churches, and we support the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, GNOUU’s secular nonprofit that works in the larger community toward justice and compassion.  We have a community outreach collection monthly, which is given to a nonprofit with which we partner; we have an excellent music program, with an experienced and talented music director, a choir, and jazz on a regular basis.  We have a small group ministry with three groups meeting monthly, exploring spiritual topics and forging strong personal friendships, a women’s book group that meets monthly, and other occasional sessions on UU history, immigration, and other topics we need to know more about.

2017 brought many changes.  Rev. Jim retired at the end of July and was given a going away party deserving of his dedication and service to CCUU, including formally presenting him with a letter and plaque from the congregation who voted and bestowed upon Jim the status of CCUU Minister Emeritus.

The Reverend Darcy Roake signed a Covenant with the Board of Trustees as a two-year consulting minister, with a discernment toward a called ministry.  Rev. Darcy is a Unitarian Universalist Minister who was supporting the UUA’s stewardship work through the UUA Society for Stewardship, as well as preaching, teaching and connecting UU Congregants across the United States.  Rev. Darcy received a B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University and graduated with a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School.  Rev. Darcy now lives in New Orleans with her husband Adrian and son Sebastian.  She has a wide background in social justice and pastoral care in workplaces as varied as Oxfam America, Amnesty International, the United Nations, the Navajo Nation Public Defender’s Office, and Massachusetts General Hospital.  Rev. Darcy is currently a member of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Clergy Advocacy Board, the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition, and the East Jefferson Interfaith Clergy Association.

She began her tenure in August with much excitement and a celebratory swim party.  She immediately got busy scheduling one-on-one meetings with all of our staff, ministry chairs and committee chairs, as well as individual new and long-term members.  The changes have brought new visitors, new members are signing on, and our ministry teams are being reviewed and organized and welcoming new members.  Our community outreach is expanding – the congregation passed two resolutions in June:  1) to declare CCUU a sanctuary church; and 2) to sign the UUA-UUSC Declaration of Conscience as a congregation.  The Worship Arts Ministry, Caring Ministry, Membership, and Building and Grounds have been infused with new members and energy, and ground should be breaking soon on an outside play area for the children.

The Transitional Ministry Team of Jolie Bonck, Bruce Blenkern, Howard Mielke, and Alan Malone deserves kudos for their work in developing and implementing a congregational survey, putting together CCUU ’ s informational packet, and working with Cathy Larimer, the board liaison.  In addition, these four have agreed to continue to serve as Rev. Darcy’s Committee on Ministry.

Our Katrina Story–Ten Year Anniversary (2015)–PPT 28Mb

Our Katrina Story–Ten Year Anniversary (2015)–PDF 4.5Mb