Testimonials included in the service March 12
In 1989 we began attending First Unitarian Church. Our son, Todd, was off to his freshman year in college and our daughter, Paige, was eight years old. After attending for several Sundays, we discussed if we should continue our attendance. Paige enthusiastically said, “Yes, because there they let you think.” So, we have continued being a part of First Unitarian. Members of the congregation have become our neighbors both literally and figuratively. We are appreciative that members “walk their talk” demonstrating that they are not just receiving the Sunday message and going on with their lives.
Whether it is AMOS, the Pride Parade, Family Promise, the book works at Planned Parenthood, Pastoral Care, reproductive rights protest at the Capitol, Compassion and Choices or dozens of activities and affinity groups, the members of First Unitarian will show up. We are proud to support the church financially to keep the idea of our liberal religious heritage alive.
As we see the challenges in the world around us, that work has never been more important. Thank you for being our church family and “walking the talk” with us.
– Steve and Karen Herwig
Testimonials included in the service on March 5
Sarah: We are up here today because Sally asked us to and we felt obligated. We feel obligated because we love this church. It is a unique space in our world where everyone has the opportunity to grow spiritually in their own way and that is important to us. We didn’t expect to find a church where both of us would feel spiritually at home, since we come from very different religious backgrounds. I was raised Catholic, and Natalie was raised Atheist. When it comes to stewardship, we were also brought up with different, but perhaps complimentary attitudes.
In the Catholic church I grew up in, religion was about ritual. For my family we even had an unofficial ritual for tithing. Every week before we left for Mass, Mom would write a check to give to Dad who would then put it in the pre-printed tithe envelope, fold it in half, and put it in the front pocket of his shirt. When I was little, if I was lucky, Dad would let me put the envelope in the basket as the ushers came by. It wasn’t as flashy as the part with the standing and kneeling and singing and ringing bells, but it was never skipped and I felt proud when I got to participate.
Natalie: Growing up atheist, we didn’t have tithing… but we did have a ritual around paying taxes. Back in the days before e-filing when you had to mail in paper tax forms postmarked before midnight on April 15th, the post office stayed open late on tax night and every year my parents hosted a “Tax Night” party at the post office. Our whole community gathered and there was music and dancing and general revelry. At 11:50 everyone gathered outside the doors to form a gauntlet, and the band played “the William Tell Overture” while we all cheered on the (often surprised and confused) late filers rushing in with their returns. It was awesome! And it instilled in me a sense of celebration around fulfilling one’s civic duty. Not gonna lie, it’s difficult to recapture that joy e-filing from my couch.
Contributing financially to this church we love is much easier to get excited about because there is so much here to celebrate. So this year we invite you to join us as we participate in the stewardship ritual of pledging with a spirit of celebration.
Testimonials included in the service handout from February 26, 2023
Adrian: Good morning, I’m Adrian Stamper and this is my daughter Isabelle. My wife and I and our five children have been members here at First Unitarian since 2013.
Isabelle: Hello, I’m Isabelle Stamper and I’m standing up here today for my Mom. She’s skipping church this morning . . . on a medical mission trip with other nurses and doctors from central Iowa. She’s been volunteering for free clinics of Iowa since moving back to Des Moines after college. This week she’s in Honduras working in a maternity ward in the capital while also travelling to rural area clinics. It sounds like real serious work, but I think she enjoys the warm weather, the food, perhaps a break from her children, and of course babies . . . if you hadn’t noticed.
My parents volunteer their time in many ways. My dad has coached all five kids in sports and NO, it’s not fun to have your dad as a coach. First Unitarian is where my parent focus much of their time. Among many things, my mom instructs OWL and my dad works with Stewardship, thus the reason I was volunteered to “participate” in today’s testimonial. Next, he’s going to ask me how much I’ll be pledging . . .
Adrian: We joined First Unitarian focused on an inclusive environment where we could teach our kids about community, spirituality, and ethical principles. To us, Unitarianism is uniquely respectful of the diversity of religious thought in our world. This is one of the positive messages we strive to communicate to our children. First Unitarian is a welcoming environment for many who are rejected by other churches and communities and that is also very important to us as parents. This church matters to us because we feel in community with the church’s mission and the efforts required to accomplish it. It takes a village to raise healthy children, we embrace that approach, and we choose First Unitarian as our spiritual village.
For me, religion has always carried a message of how we as individuals can strive to be more compassionate human beings in this world. First Unitarian reminds me weekly of the blessings in my life and the challenges that our world faces as both a small and a large community.
My wife and I make a generous financial pledge to this community because First Unitarian aligns with our priorities and our beliefs. We’ve increased our pledge many times over the last ten years, and we are thankful that we can continue to do so.
The people and programs at First Unitarian Church have enhanced my life and that of my family in many ways over 20 years of membership. The fellowship and friendships with fellow liberal religious thinkers is something of value many of us probably share.
However, I want to highlight something more personal. When I came here, I was attracted by the idea of a church where you didn’t have to conform to a specific doctrine or rituals. I did not care for such requirements found elsewhere.
The enhanced value of the learning and discernment opportunities this church and its’ people provided me has fostered turning the “what I don’t believe” into clarity around who I am and what I DO believe. I find great satisfaction and comfort in that.
Today I can confidently say I am a proud Unitarian Universalist religious humanist—and know what that does and doesn’t mean. Without this church and its’ people my journey of spiritual self-discovery might not have yet occurred. I support UCDSM with both time and treasure out of gratitude and a desire to ensure this church is here for those seekers who follow us here on their own journeys in the years to come.
– Greg Nichols
First Unitarian Church has enriched my life which is why I cherish our members and staff. When I first moved to Iowa in October 2011, I was whole heartedly welcomed by this community. I found the small groups I was part of to be both enriching and a gateway to developing friendships and an enduring community. I have been a member of many committees and a participant in several classes. Without exception, I found, that all the participants I was involved with had one overall objective- to ensure that the life of this church is enduring, that this is a place of caring and welcome for all. This last year has been one of upheaval for all- members and staff. I’m encouraged by the resilience of so many of our members and our staff to move forward and work through this fraught time in a positive and caring manner.
– Margaret Schultz
I’ve been a member of our church for almost 25 years. When I first came in the doors in 1997, I was a searching secular single mom, with no history of church life beyond a few years of high school connection to my Christian friends and adult friendship to two eventual seminarians.
For 25 years, I have found a home here. It is a home like all homes, filled with laughter and tears, with hope and disappointment, with endings and beginnings. I know in my heart that it is a home to my growing and searching mind, and to the growing and searching people who surround me on Sunday.
That sense of home continues to call me to pledge generously to our church, to believe that my share helps to create a home for others. It is for my current Coming of Age class: for Dom, Laila, Gustav, Jaida and Henry. It is for new members who’ve become friends, and for long-time members and friends who continue to inspire me to lead with a joyful heart. It’s for those who will walk through the door in 2023-24, and beyond. This church was my sanctuary in 1997. It is still my sanctuary today, and I give so it will be that sanctuary to the people of Central Iowa for many years to come.
– Sally Boeckholt