Speaker: Rev. Jennifer Brooks

Beginning Again


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In Rev. Jennifer’s final Sunday as Interim Senior Minister, the ending is in fact a beginning—yet another beginning, as is the way of life. Rev. Jennifer reflects on the life lessons she’ll be taking with her from her time among us. After the service, we’ll celebrate our journey together with a special farewell (which will include cake).

The Beauty of Resilience

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Resilience is the ability to adapt in the face of adversity. Beginning with the studies of “adverse childhood experiences” in the mid-1990s, Center for Disease Control has been able to link the number of childhood traumas a person experiences to serious health problems during adulthood. Although one response has been preventative interventions with children at risk, there’s also been a marvelous and heartening discovery: even as adults, people can become resilient and heal from childhood trauma, especially if they have the encouragement of a supportive faith community. The we explore today is how to become a “Resilience-Engaged, Aware & Loving” (REAL) community. As the researchers put it, “The relationship is the healing intervention.”

The Beauty of Community


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In this service that precedes our annual congregational meeting, we celebrate the beauty of community. Members here aspire to make our First Unitarian community warm and welcoming and to make a positive difference in the world. To paraphrase the draft mission statement, we’re here to inspire spiritual and ethical growth; to prepare ourselves for service within and outside our walls; and (beginning with ourselves) to heal the world. This mission encapsulates the beautiful community we aspire to be. Today we celebrate the ways that as a community we are living into our aspirations—despite, and sometimes because of, the bumps and glitches we experience along the way.

Beginner Mind


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This month’s theme of Curiosity invites us to explore life with the mind of a beginner. In this service, we consider how we might greet life with the freshness of beginners—how do we open the doors to our minds and souls? How do we lean out into the new? How do we listen to others with the expectation that we’re about to discover something fascinating? Each moment centered in the spirit of “beginner mind” keeps us curious and alert to what we might learn and the ways we might grow.

Awaken to Life



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Every flower is beautiful and whole unto itself. Today is Easter in the Christian tradition The Easter story features a tomb with the stone rolled away. Less well-known is that the earliest versions of the gospel according to Mark ended the story with the discovery of the empty tomb. Christian or not, what meaning might people of the 21st century take from a story with that ending? Today’s service features poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer, T.S. Elliot, Alice Berry, and Langston Hughes; music by the Bell Ave. Ringers; and the UU Flower Communion. Bring in a flower to share—leave with a different one. Children will be in the service at the beginning and for the Flower Communion at the end.

Not a Lightbulb


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On this Sunday as we begin the month’s theme, Wholeness, let’s think about light bulbs. We know how they work: if one burns out, we remove it and insert a new one. Maybe one that’s brighter, or dimmer, or more climate-friendly. But it’s a simple act of replacement. People are not replaced so readily. To adjust to a new person in a familiar role—whether it’s the new manager at work or a prospective new settled Senior Minister—it’s important to get to know the whole of that previously unknown human being. What are the bumps in the road ahead? How do we cope?

The Perfect Heart

Service at 9:15 and 11:00 am

Celebrant, Birch Spick

On this Sunday, the last day in our exploration of the theme Journey, David Witke shares his “Religious Journey” during Our Life Together; the Search Committee reveals the conclusion of their journey in the search for a candidate to be our next settled Senior Minister; and children who participated in the Kids Celebrate! class help tell the Paulo Coelho story, “The Perfect Heart”—about a village that learns what special trait the “perfect” leader really needs. Through story and song, we explore the ways our journey together is one of love and trust. This is a service for all ages.

Service for All Ages/ Child Dedication; Note: this is the service from the Sunday we were closed due to snow.

Special Music: Small choral group to sing When Jelly Beans are Criminal

Justice Journey

Service at 9:15 and 11:00 am

Celebrant, Katie Allen

Who are our prophets today? Can we learn to hear marginalized voices as prophetic voices and follow their lead? Yolo Akili says that “for us as a world to end economic inequality, we have to do both the inner work in our hearts, and the outer work in our societies.” This service invites us to embark on a justice journey, internal and external, that isn’t merely “in support of the margins” but is “because of the margins.”

Special Music: Bell Ave. Ringers

It’s All About the Journey

Service at 9:15 and 11:00 am

The youth of First Unitarian share their perspectives on the journey through high school and into the rest of their lives. In this service, they anticipate all that life has to offer and the myriad of ways their futures might unfold.

“Welcoming” written and performed by Madeline Echternacht

Passport to Our Future

Service at 9:15 and 11:00 am

Stewardship Celebration Sunday

Today we celebrate 142 years of the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines and the bright future ahead. At this moment, First Unitarian is poised between our proud history and the heritage we are now creating for future generations. In this month when our theme is Journey, we hold the passport in our hands.

UU Singers – Bridge Builder by E. Daly and In Meeting We Are Blessed , Music by Troy Robertson, Words by R. Gatsnahos and Donne

The People Build a Home

Service at 9:15 and 11:00 am

In 1877, a few big-hearted, open-minded people created the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. That act of trust and faith is what led us to this moment. We are the spiritual descendants of those pioneers who, 142 years ago, imagined a future for their hope. We are their future. What is ours? UU minister Eileen B. Karpeles wrote: “Out of wood and stone, out of dreams and sacrifice, the People build a home. Out of the work of their hands and hearts and minds the People fashion a symbol and a reality.” What symbol, what reality, are we building?

The Trust that Love Built

Service at 9:15 and 11:00 am

Celebrant: Ben Spick

On this Sunday soon after Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the power of love to build trust. Through story and song, we explore the ways that love can build trust. This is a service for all ages.

Trust the Web


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Service at 9:15 and 11:00 am

How do we live? Are we, as our UU principles suggest, part of the “interconnected web of existence”? Or do we sometimes act as if we are separate and isolated, as if we have no impact on the web and it does not touch us? In this era of division and narcissism, perhaps we need a touchstone to guide us toward a life of in harmony with all creation. Trust is that touchstone. This is the sermon topic recommended by the winners of the 2018 Food Fair “Sermon Topic” lunch.

Remember the Dark: A Solstice Cantata


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Celebrant: Ben Spick

In “Remember the Dark,” UU musician David Glasgow has written an evocative cantata, part choral performance, part one-act musical, that honors the dark of winter and the opportunity for rest and restoration. Thee UU Singers, under the direction of Karen Kraemer, will share the music and insights of Glasgow’s work during the Sunday service.

A Stone of Hope


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Celebrants: Susan Gross (with support from Martha Shen)

In 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his remarkable “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. Dr. King asserted his faith that our nation could “hew out of a mountain of despair a stone of hope.” In this month when our congregational theme is “Possibility,” and our national political life sometimes feels like a mountain of despair, Dr. King’s words challenge and inspire us to find that stone of hope.

Will the Real Jesus Please Rise?


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On the verge of Christmas Eve, as Christians around the world celebrate a birth that happened more than 2,000 years ago, we Unitarian Universalists seek to discern the true meaning of that birth. As people of diverse theologies, we respect and celebrate a diversity of religious traditions. And we may rightly ask: “What is there in the life of Jesus of Nazareth that invites respect? Who was this Jesus, really?” Two millennia of history aside, what is there about Jesus to celebrate? Answering this question means looking past the assumptions and conventions of the season to discover the real Jesus. This service is suitable for people age 6 and older and is designed to welcome all our diverse theologies.

A Unitarian Christmas


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Anyone who follows the UU Advent Calendar this season may already discovered, with surprise and delight, the unique contributions of Unitarians and Universalists to the celebration of Christmas. As UUs, we make an effort to respect and honor all the world’s religious traditions, not merely the traditions we celebrate as individuals. During the 19th century, our Unitarian and Universalist forebears brought a non-conventional perspective to the celebration of Christmas. This morning the UU Singers and Choir Director Karen Kraemer usher us through “A Unitarian Christmas,” with beautiful music, meaningful readings, and a delightful patina of history.


Special Music, UU Singers & Bell Ave Ringers

Star of Wonder

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On this day before the beginning of Hannukah in the Jewish tradition (Dec. 3-10), and the first Sunday of Advent in the Christian tradition, we pause to contemplate the nature of miracles. Whether it’s the birth of a baby, the Fibonacci numbers that predict the spiral shape of our galaxy, or the ever-renewable light made possible through solar technology, there are miracles (and mysteries) aplenty. Join in the spirit of free inquiry, curiosity, and wonder as Rev. Jennifer Brooks shines a little light on the mysteries and miracles of the season.

Stone Soup

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The old story of Stone Soup tells of two weary travelers who arrive in a small village and unexpectedly bring a community together under the guise of making a delicious soup from stones.To make this story come to life, we’re encouraging everyone who can to bring pre-cut veggies to add to the pot (from which volunteers will make a veggie soup for delivery to home-bound members), as well as non-perishable food to support our children with their food drive to benefit families in need in the Des Moines community. This participatory service will engage young and old alike in this important tale and also offer food to the hungry.

Special music by the UU Singers – I See Colors by PinkZebra