Members Speak Out
Here are stories of why the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington is important to us, what brought us here, and what we have found.
Jon and Maria Nielsen
JON: We committed to coming regularly after Maria had to flee the Empire State Building on 9/11. Since that time, the Fellowship has given so much to us. We dedicated our beloved baby goddaughter Leanna here in 2004 and we have memorialized beloved friends here. It’s been a spiritual home, an intellectual forum, a place where we can support social justice, and a place that educates and entertains us.
MARIA: It is a place where we have gained some of our dearest friends, of all ages. The Fellowship has helped support us through difficult times, and helped us celebrate so many good moments. During the months after my difficult knee surgery, I was blessed with more support than I can recount – phone calls, cards, meals, rides to the doctor and physical therapy, and even a lot of laughs. And so we’ve tried to give back, donating our time, talent and treasure to support our beloved religious home.
What the Fellowship Means to Me
I’ve been a member of the Fellowship since 1994 and before that a member at the UU Church in Garden City since 1986. The Fellowship has given me so much. I’ve found the sermons to be both thought-provoking and uplifting. I like the idea of people having varied religious backgrounds and that we are encouraged to seek our own spiritual paths. I’ve enjoyed being an RE teacher and a member the Committee on Congregational Ministry. I also very much like the monthly book club, which meets at my house. There is so much here from Not Necessarily Seniors, Hi-Hi, interesting courses, great religious education for children, and of course wonderful Last Licks. It’s been a joy being in the choir. I love the music and Richard, our director, is truly amazing. Let me also say how good so many have been to me. I thank those who give me rides to and from the Fellowship and who genuinely reach out to help when needed. I am so grateful to be here and thank so many for their kindness and generosity.
I’m supposed to tell you a little bit about why I’m sharing a testimonial which is easy,–because people I like very much asked me to—and really, really hard because I have to follow the stories told recently by the Nielsens, and Gerard Neber and other people, and by Liza Burby, who told us that she and her husband Steve met here, did everything else here and actually relocated to live near the Fellowship!
I’ve not done anything nearly so extraordinary.
But I will tell you that this Fellowship—the people here–together—change lives, indeed, they save lives, and that I have witnessed that fact. I have witnessed connections that have had profound and positive impacts on individuals and families and ultimately, our communities. I’m talking about impacts that as are diverse as suicide prevention and building a library in Burundi.
How cool is it to be able to be a part of this Fellowship where we care about each other and care about the world! How cool is it to be counted among this wonderful and talented collection of people who bring their diverse gifts together—truly together—so that our Joys and Concerns are shared, so that our intellects are stretched, our souls are entertained and our spirits enriched. How cool is it that we can be together like this?! How cool is it that we can be together to openly address meaning in our lives?!
I came here in 1994 for my kids but I am here today for myself. I know that I would not be who I am today had it not been for this Fellowship.
I grew up in this Fellowship. I was just 22 when I first came here in the fall of 1986. At the Fellowship I gained a better understanding of the social issues that impact us all and developed a new path to spirituality.
I gained self-confidence here. I had always been too reserved to perform, but in 1987 I joined the choir for the first time and discovered the joy of shared voices. I learned my public speaking skills here. It was at this very podium in 1989, that I first spoke into a microphone before an audience. These experiences launched what is a significant part of my career, both public speaking and media appearances.
This congregation gave me my voice and the confidence to go out into the larger community and use my writing to help others. Through sermons and committee meetings, I discovered my passion for women’s and family issues, which have been the main focus of my writing and editing career for over 25 years.
Over the years, with the support of all of our ministers, I have been able to deepen my spirituality. And above all, here I learned about a type of home that isn’t based on the family you are born into. Rather, this is a home I chose, a place where I have always been accepted, where I have felt your support through our pains and joys. How could I be anything but grateful to a community that loves my children and has championed their many milestones over the years?
I became a new mother here, as well as a middle-aged woman who sent two daughters off to college. I grew into myself here, guided by this community’s friendship and compassion. I don’t think I have yet finished growing, and because I want to continue to do so at this Fellowship, how can I do anything but support what has helped to shape who I am today?
From 1948-1984 I was an Atheist. When my daughter Royal begged to be allowed to go to church, I suggested the Unitarians. The UUFH has been a comfortable haven for me since 1984.
I became active in Sunday Program Committee, Renaissance Faire, a senior’s club and other Fellowship activities and made new friends who did not find my Atheism an obstacle to true friendship.
Over the years, I have witnessed the UUFH become more spiritual, take an active role in LGBT matters and develop connections to interfaith programs. Now as I reach my nineties, I find our religion sensible and most helpful in making ethical decisions. “Standing on the Side of Love” is a wonderful summation of who we are. Unitarians do this well, even if we occasionally disagree.
The Fellowship is important to me because it is my religious home, the place that gives me inspiration and support on my personal journey, along with new thoughts and experiences. I have been continuously inspired by the people of the fellowship who are strong and consistent in their efforts to bring justice to our world, who constantly support one another and give aid and sustenance both personally and in the greater community. They are tireless in their caring and living their faith, and that continues to be a source of inspiration. I see that somewhere there is a place where people are caring for one another and are living their beliefs, not just talking but acting. I am personally grateful to the UUFH for always being there for me and for the constant support of all my efforts. The fellowship fills me with gratitude for what I have been given and hope for a promising future.
I joined the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington in the early “70’s,”. My children were enrolled in Religious Education and I became an active member. The Fellowship provided not only a spiritual home for me, but a place where I could have my children experience a group of people with similar values and beliefs. As my children became adults and moved away, the Fellowship remains as a place where I have so many ties, a caring community, an extension of family, a place to share what I can give, and a place to grow personally. Sunday mornings provide a moment in time for me to reflect on whatever is going on in my life and come away refreshed.
“I come to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington to be with the people here–to be part of this community. The essence of community is to give and to receive. At this Fellowship we do it with care and purpose. ”
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington has truly shaped me as a person. Learning about the UU way of life in such a unique, nurturing community influences everything I do every day. I have been attending the UUFH for over 10 years, and I have made lifelong friends from a multitude of generations.
“Organized Religion” was a naughty word when I was growing up. My family rejected religion – and spirituality was not a topic we discussed. The only times I ever entered a house of worship were for someone else – a christening, a bar mitzvah, a wedding or a funeral.
As the years went by, I would visit temples and churches and holy sights and in spite of my upbringing, I’d feel a buzz, a power, some kind of connection. I recognized that within me there existed a strong spiritual force. I realized that my spirituality longed for a community. That longing led me to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington.
So in January of 2009, on my own and for the first time in my life, I chose to bring myself to a religious home – for me. The moment that I walked through the doors I felt welcomed. I feel deeply connected to this congregation – and to this remarkable building where we gather together.
This Fellowship provides a part of life that was missing for me. That longing has now been filled.
We started coming to the UUFH because we wanted our children to have a forum to explore their spiritual growth and to develop compassion and an awareness of social issues.
We stayed because we found a community of amazing people that we feel very fortunate to know, people that we have enjoyed working with and growing with. We cannot imagine a life without our Fellowship family.
Being involved in Religious Exploration, going to events such as the Talent Show and the Services Auction, participating with the kids in Social Action Sundays and HIHI (Huntington Interfaith Housing Initiative), even making coffee and being a greeter, have all enriched our lives in ways we did not expect when we started coming. One of our new favorites is Neighborhoodies. We had no idea how much we would get back by giving so little.
I care about the Fellowship because it cared about me when I was going through a very difficult time in my life. The Fellowship gave me the emotional support I needed when my first wife left me to raise our three young children without any help from her. The Fellowship provided me with a spiritual community in which I had the opportunity to serve on committees and make long-term, caring friends.
I care about the Fellowship because this is the place where I was able to meet, fall in love with and marry my second wife, Marilyn. Marilyn and I have five grown children today, all of whom were positively influenced by being part of the Religious Exploration program here.
I care about the Fellowship because, in my retirement, the Fellowship is providing me with a fun-filled and educational senior’s group. In this group we share with each other the unique challenges of a stage of life most of the rest of American society seems to not want to acknowledge.
Twenty-seven years ago this fall, I picked up the phone and changed my life. I had just graduated from Stony Brook and was living in somebody’s garage on the South Shore. All of my friends from college were off in other directions, and I wanted to find a spiritual home. I had given up on my Catholic roots in my early teens, and while I was a fan of the teachings of Jesus, organized Christianity left me cold. An older friend for whom I had a great deal of respect had told me about Unitarian Universalism. I did some research and got the numbers of a few UU congregations.
It was pure dumb luck that I called Huntington first. I had a long conversation with the Rev. Dr. Bruce Marshall, who became my first true minister, my mentor, and my friend. He arranged for me to get the Beacon in the mail, which I read eagerly for several weeks before getting up the nerve to finally visit. Dot was the first person to greet me that Sunday morning. Little did I know that these strangers would soon become dear friends and family.
I joined the Not Necessarily Young Adults and through a good friend in the NNYA, I met my best friend of all, my wife Liza. We were married in October of 1987. In the ensuing twenty-five years, I found my vocation and career as a high school English teacher, became a radical activist, sang in the choir, played guitar and presented many services, participating in many more. Our two girls grew up in the Fellowship, and are now young women with strong UU values. We have welcomed many new friends and sadly said farewell to too many. I would never have had this wonderful life without my dear Fellowship family.
Nowadays I sing in the choir and am a Pastoral Care Associate. I help with the overnights at HIHI (Huntington Interfaith Housing Initiative). But I could never give back to the Fellowship a value equal to what I have received from it. All with absolutely no strings attached—except the heartstrings.
If you’ve read this far and you’re looking for a spiritual home, come on up to Brown’s Road. Tell them Steve sent you.