First Universalist Church
December 18, 2014
Issue No. 12, Volume 1
In This Issue
Sunday Worship for December 21, 2014

Senior Minister Rev. Justin Schroeder, will be preaching "Slow Church 2.0" at both services. To view the Order of Service online, click here.


Service is at 9:30 and 11:15 AM

As we enter the Advent season, it is a time of waiting and slowing down. What gifts might we discover as we move in a slower rhythm, paying attention to ourselves, the past, and others, in new ways. What insights emerge? What can be redeemed when we slow down?

Upcoming Worship

Single Service Singing Sunday: December 28, 2014

This Sunday is ONE multigenerational service at 
10:00 AM

Join us as we fill the sanctuary with song and stories! Worship led by Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink
Did You Miss Last Sunday's Service?

We have podcasts available online of all of our sermons!  

Here is a snapshot from Rev. Ruth MacKenzie's sermon this past Sunday, "Your Name is Light":

"Living out of balance, does not mean piling one more thing on, or consuming one more thing in order to feel satisfied. Living out of balance, living off center means allowing events, circumstances, strangers and friends to crack me open, so that the light can come more fully into my confusion, to let every part of me, this candle that is my name, be illuminated: the flesh of my wick, the light of my flame, the aura of my heat."

To listen to Rev. Ruth's sermon in its entirety, click here.

December Worship Theme:

"Slow Church"

In our commodified society, we are told over and over again that what we own is what we're worth, that "buying" some thing will bring happiness. In the ancient world, a form of "buying" meant buying back life, delivering a life from slavery based on the payment of a price by the redeemer. This form of buying was called redemption.  This month we will focus our attention on buying back our lives, of practicing redemption for our own lives and others. The first step in this exchange is slowing down. We will practice mindfulness, listening, and opening to the spirit. 


We will practice slow church.

Worship Resources

Resource list compiled and reviewed by Rev. Ruth MacKenzie

Braiding Sweetgrass:


By Robin Wall Kimmerer


Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings--asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass--offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return. This is a book about slowing down, listening, and developing a posture of gratitude.


Psalms for Praying: 
An invitation to Wholeness

By Nan C Merrill


Every commentary on the Book of Psalms has had to face the issue that many of these prayers commemorate and celebrate wrath and vengeance. What is needed is not ingenious exegetical rationalization of ancient texts, but the kind of transformation into a work of piety and art that is provided here.Addressed are the needs of a world seeking to counter individual and societal injustices by a global peace born of personal peace through prayer and practice. In short, here is the Book of Psalms recast in the light of the continuing revelation and evolution of the authentic religious spirit of the scriptures.


Pastoral Care
Let Us Keep You in Our Thoughts and Prayers

If you are experiencing a crisis or transition, or celebrating a joy - please let us know. If you'd like to be included in our Cycle of Life each Sunday in worship, please contact Sandy DiNanni at ( or (612) 825-1701. If you would like support, please contact Rev. Jen Crow ( or 825-1701) or any member of our Pastoral Care Team.

Upcoming Events

Thursday, 12/18
Board of Trustees Meeting
6:30 PM, Cummins Room

Friday, 12/19
Winter Solstice Ritual
7:00 PM, Sanctuary

Sunday, 12/21
Christmas Pageant
4:00 PM, Sanctuary

Wednesday, 12/24
Christmas Pageant
4:00 PM, Sanctuary

Wednesday, 12/24
Candlelight Service
9:30 PM, Sanctuary

For more information about events at First Universalist, check out our website by clicking here! 

Augsburg Fairview Academy
We did it! Thanks to all who contributed to the Target gift card drive for AFA students! You helped us achieve the goal of having a gift card for each student! We know there will be some very happy students when the cards are distributed this week at AFA! Extra cards will be given to the social work staff to use for student emergencies and other student needs. Thank you for your generosity!

Donations for the Hope Food and Clothing Closets can be brought to the Hub on Sundays or left in the AFA storage area in the Welcome Center at any time. Pick up shopping lists at the Hub on Sundays for a list of needed items. Clothing needs include hooded sweat shirts, knit hats, warm scarves, black knit gloves, winter ski-type jackets and lined warm up jackets - black and dark colors preferred.
Do you have news, information, an announcement, a photo, or an article that you would like to see published in The Weekly Liberal?

Click here to fill out our online submission form!  Please note that edits for length and/or content may occur.

The deadline for submission is always Tuesday at 10:00 AM.  The Weekly Liberal is published Thursday afternoon.

Would you like to join our mailing list?

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2014-15 Annual Events

Our 2014-2015 schedule of Annual Events is available online!  

Winter Worship Schedule
The 2014-2015 Winter worship schedule is now included in this document. Click here to view.

Connect With First U


Church Office Hours
8:00 AM-1:00 PM

8:30 AM-8:00 PM

8:30 AM-8:00 PM

8:30 AM-8:00 PM

8:30 AM-8:00 PM

The church office is closed Fridays and Saturdays.  You can reach the office by dialing: 612-825-1701.


In December, the office will be closed from December 22 - January 3.  It will reopen for regular hours Sunday, January 4.

The building will be closed on December 25, December 26, half of December 31 and all of January 1.
Senior Minister
Rev. Justin Schroeder

Minister of Program Life
Rev. Jen Crow

Minister of Worship Arts and Coming of Age
Rev. Ruth MacKenzie

Minister of Membership and Adult Ministries 
Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink

Director of Operations
Diane Gavere

Director of Children, Youth, & Family Ministries
Lauren Wyeth

For additional staff contact information, click here.

The Weekly Liberal is compiled and edited by Communications Manager Heidi Johnson. To submit an article or announcement for publication in The Weekly Liberal, please fill out the online submission form here

Please note that edits for content and/or length may occur. Additional information about publication deadlines, submission requirements, and policies can be found in the communications section of our website.  

Any questions, comments, or concerns about The Weekly Liberal or church communications in general can be directed to:  
Next Up For 
The Weekly Liberal
As you might have noticed, we rotate news and feature articles in and out of the Weekly Liberal via one week, two week, and one month cycles, depending on the content.  While we always provide new & updated content in every edition, we also cycle in important pieces that run multiple times (usually twice) to ensure that members and friends of First Universalist have the opportunity to view this information.

Please note that The Weekly Liberal is on holiday break until January 2015!  The next edition will be published on January 8th, 2014.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS, from all the staff at First Universalist Church!

Entering the Darkness
A Message From Rev. Justin Schroeder


Torture. The ongoing murder of unarmed black youth and men. Global climate change and disruption. The overwhelming list of nightmares goes on and on. How are we to be in such a world?

As people of faith, our work this season is to travel into the darkness, trusting that in the encounter with our hopelessness, despair, fear, and uncertainty, something redeeming and hopeful will emerge. The invitation of this season is not to avoid the darkness, but rather to rest in it, to wait there, to stay awake to new possibilities in the face of the impossible, to catch a glimpse of something new being born into the world. This cycle is part of the rhythm of being human and this season is the time we practice surrendering to darkness. Only in surrender is new hope - hope born of tears and pain - possible.

The interfaith #Blacklivesmatter Vigil we held last Thursday followed this arc; we rested in hopelessness before we caught a thread of new hope, and were stitched back together again. Tomorrow (Friday), in our Annual Solstice Service, we will sit together in silence and darkness, before we lift our voices in song and welcome the returning of the light. Whether it's the candles of Hanukkah, Advent, or Winter Solstice, these rituals hold unnamable power. Our task is to surrender to their power, to relinquish control, to submit. Only then can new hope catch a hold of us, calling us back to life, love, and justice. 

I'll see you in church,

Rev. Justin 


P.S. You're invited to join us at church this Saturday, Dec. 20, at 11:30 AM, for a training before the #BlackLivesMatter direct action at the Mall of America at 2pm. Please email church member, Lena K. Gardner at, if you'll be attending, have questions, or interested in carpooling.  


News & Announcements
34th Annual Winter Solstice

By Pam Vincent
Once again, the earth turns in her orbit, shortening the days and lengthening the nights. During this time of darkness, we gather again to reflect on what gifts come to us in times of darkness. 

What lies waiting for you? Come join us on Friday, Dec 19 as we sing, tell stories, and spend time in the dark. 

We honor the darkness, and celebrate the return of the light. The doors to the sanctuary open at 7 pm, and the Solstice ritual begins at 7:30. Please note that this service includes 12 minutes of complete darkness accompanied by the beat of a drum. This service may not be suitable for children under 7. Musical guests include Dick Hensold and Oasis, an a capella trio led by Mary Bohman. Following the service, please join in the merriment in the Social Hall, with ginger cookies and dancing. 

Open Labyrinth Walk

TONIGHT! Thursday, December 18th 
6:30-8:00 PM

The open walk that was scheduled for December 11th will now be Thursday, December 18th, 6:30-8:00pm. All are welcome.
Please note: there will NOT be an open walk before the Solstice celebration on Friday, December 19th. Happy Solstice!

Circle Registration is Coming!

Community Circles Logo
Online registration for Community Circles, Spiritual Deepening Circles, and Care Circles opens on January 11.  These gatherings of 8-10 people are a great way to get connected at First Universalist and to grow your soul in community. 

For more information, contact Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink at or 612-825-1701 x124

Holiday Decorations 

Each year the Visual Arts Committee collaborates to decorate the church as a gift to the congregation. 

This year, the talented Meredith Sims took inspiration from the French artist Matisse and dreamed up gold stars for the sanctuary.

Happy Holidays!

Newcomers Circle

Are you new to First Universalist? Whether you are a recent visitor or a new member, you're invited to join our upcoming Newcomer Circle. This four-session gathering of 6-10 newcomers offer a chance to explore core Unitarian Universalist values, reflect on our spiritual journeys, and connect with other folks who are new to church. 

The next session meets on Tuesdays, January 6, 13, 20, 27 from 7:00-8:30pm. To register, contact Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink at or 612-825-1701 x124. 

Childcare is available with 7 days advance notice.
An Announcement About the Space Use Calendar

By Bree Mattson,
Office and Events Manager

Early in the new year, we will be introducing a new calendaring system. 
Over the past several months, Chelsea (our intrepid Administrative Assistant) and I have been working to convert our old, inadequate system and we are nearly ready to share the new one with all of you. We are at the point in the conversion process where it is time to say good bye to our old calendaring system, so we will be taking it off the website. You'll still be able to keep up with church events by checking the "highlighted events" section of the website and on the calendars that are always posted by the parking lot and atrium doors. We thank you for your patience during this conversion and are excited to introduce our new system to you in the new year!
A Christmas Blessing


(an email exchange between Tracy Jones and Sandy DiNanni, reprinted by permission of the author)


So, at work one day last week, I mentioned that I was going to buy a couple of McDonalds gift cards for the folks staying at Simpson Shelter. A co-worker heard me, gave me some money, and so it went until I had over $400 contributed by the amazing people that I work with. Now it gets a little crazy.

This morning, I went to a McDonalds to buy 80 $5 gift cards with the thought of taking them to church to have them blessed before I took them to the shelter. So, I waited as the shocked little clerk at McDonalds sold me 80 gift cards and then slid them through a machine to activate them -- each -- one at a time!

I Walked across the street to catch a bus to church, but decided to call to make sure that a minister was available for the blessing. I got Rev. Jen Crow on the phone, but she was on her way to a meeting, and I explained about the blessing.

So we did it. I was on the phone. She was on the phone. I had a bag full of cards. She had a heart full of beautiful words.

She told me to hold my phone above the bag and she blessed the gifts.

Yup, here I was, standing on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis, holding my cell phone above a McDonalds bag as my minister blessed the journey of the gifts.

People made a detour to make sure that they didn't have to walk to close to me.

Merry Christmas all,


Connect With Our Racial Justice Journey:
Adult Learning Opportunities in 2015


By Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink,

Minister of Membership and Adult Ministries

What exactly is our church's "racial justice journey"?


Where did the concept of race even come from?

Where can I go to explore the pain and challenge of recent events in Ferguson and around the country?

This winter and spring, we are offering some great opportunities to dig into racial justice work here at church. Led by an amazing team of leaders trained by our racial justice consultant, Dr. Heather Hackman, you're invited to learn about the realities of racism in America in multiple ways, including:

  • Interactive workshops exploring racism and the spiritual imperative of racial justice work.
  • Circles on Exploring Whiteness and Discussing Race With Kids, which invite reflection through sharing and listening in a group of 8-10 people.
  • Book discussions
  • Movie discussions

This Sunday, we will be distributing a calendar detailing these racial justice learning opportunities. Grab one, stick it on the refrigerator, and grow your soul through participating. You can also click HERE to view the calendar on our website. 


Please contact Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink at: or 

612-825-1701 x124 with questions or for more information. 


See you at church!

Did You Know? 

By Chelsea Bertsch,
Administrative Assistant  

Did you know that there are two Lost & Founds? In addition to the one located in the Dupont entrance coat room, there is a special one in the front office. Please return items such as keys, jewelry, glasses, wallets, phones, iPods, etc. to this location. Feel free to swing by the church office if you are missing any such items.

Project for Pride in Living: Volunteer Opportunities


At Project for Pride Living we strive to empower students from low-income communities to achieve success in school and in life through academic support and hands-on enrichment opportunities. PPL Scholars is a 1:1 tutoring and mentoring program for Pre-K-6th graders living in affordable housing. Volunteers work with students on literacy activities, homework help, and special projects.  Join us! Apply by clicking here, or contact Anna (612-455-5108 or Positions are available at the following locations:
  • PPL Scholars in New HopeMeets Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30-7:30, from early Jan. through mid-May, at the Linden Place Apartments (5501 Boone Ave., New Hope).
  • PPL Scholars in St. Paul: Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-7:30, from mid Jan. through mid-May, at locations in Highland Park (2242 West 7th. St.) and the Summit-University neighborhood (707 Holly Ave).
Get To Know Your First U Staff!  
 Five Questions with Sandy DiNanni

Every few weeks, we will be featuring a staff member in this section answering a few questions about their job (and a few fun questions, too!)

Tell us about your job. What do you do here at First Universalist Church?

I work in the late afternoons through the evenings Monday through Thursday, and from 8 AM to 2 PM on Sundays. On the weeknights, I answer the door, the phone, and members' questions, and provide support to the Minister of Membership, Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink. On Sundays, I prepare the Cycle of Life, support Welcome Teams and Ushers, prepare for First Step classes, and host at the Hub in the Social Hall. Most of my job is paperwork management, but on Sundays I celebrate seeing the members, friends and guests of the church face to face and hug to hug!

What are some things that you enjoy about working at First U?

I love working with this wonderful, creative staff, and especially appreciate the friendships I've made with many kindred spirits in the congregation. First U is a joy-filled, caring place and has become my second family.

Tell us a little known fact about yourself that people might be surprised to learn.

I have Bishop Desmond Tutu's home phone number in South Africa and President Jimmy Carter's home phone number in Georgia (from my days of producing "Religion on the Line" every Sunday morning on KSTP AM 1500.)

If you could attend a dinner party with any six additional people--famous, dead, alive, anyone--who would they be?

My late amazing husband, Tom DiNanni, Pope Francis, Robin Williams, President Obama, Whoopee Goldberg, and the Dali Lama. They all have my sense of both the hard places and silliness of life.

What would you do if you won the $10 million lottery tomorrow?


Build a parking ramp for the church!


Habitat for Humanity Crews Needed for 2015

There are exciting opportunities for new and veteran Habitat for Humanity volunteers in 2015! Don't worry about your skill level--Habitat welcomes all volunteers and will make sure you have meaningful work. 

We need 10-13 people for each of the following dates: January 8, February 12, March 14, April 9, May 14 and a week in August (dates TBD). You can sign up by visiting the information table in the social hall after services or online at the following link:

Pledge Team Update

"Stewardship is acknowledging that we have a shared responsibility toward the Earth - including our lives, our possessions and the communities of which we are a part - and that we are called to express our gratitude by being generous with these blessings." 
- David Potyondy

We express our gratitude by being generous with our blessings. Soon we will have tools on our website to help you explore your own feelings and goals regarding generosity, both here at First Universalist and in the larger world.

It will give you the opportunity to anonymously input why you give, your aspirations of giving and how you wish allocate your giving. You can see how your monthly contributions would change in order to reach your aspirational goal over three years. I hope you enjoy playing with this new generosity tool and we would welcome your feedback.

Look for an announcement that the link to the Generosity Calculator is live in the next couple of weeks.


First Universalist Church
3400 Dupont Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN, 55408