Carol Schimke

When I started attending the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, I hadn’t realized that I had been missing a spiritual home. And over the first few months of my regular attendance, as I came to think of the Fellowship as a place that was helping to fulfill me spiritually, I remember a distinct thought: I want to just exist in the spiritual safety net of this place. I didn’t want to “do” anything.

Having directed the development of a small nonprofit I learned that I could easily over commit, easily diving into to “fix” what wasn’t effective while aspiring to a big dream of what it could be. But at the time I was, quite frankly, needing or wanting to receive more than I was needing or wanting to give, and so I came here and stayed at arm’s length.

But there was also a small voice in me that knew that compartmentalizing my spirituality was not sustainable.
Over my first year, I discovered that spiritual nurturing wasn’t only the music, the readings, and the wisdom from the pulpit. For me I discovered that to be spiritually whole meant joining fully into a community. My challenge was to define what “joining fully” meant to me. After 7 years, I’ve decided that that is a dynamic concept.

My first involvement seemed like a “safe” place to start. I had begun bringing my then 6 year old daughter, Olivia. There was really only one other regularly attending family at the time, so the absence of other families was a concern and something that I was motivated to fix. I can’t remember if I was asked or it just came up naturally, but I joined the Children’s Religious Exploration team (there may have been 3 or 4 of us only), and helped to advance the work of what is now becoming a full-on family ministry.

I stayed in only that role for nearly 4 years. It felt productive, tangible, and it fit with a vision I had for my family: that my daughter could also have a spiritual home.

But then came an invitation to join a different effort, an opportunity for me to be involved with individuals in the fellowship hadn’t yet engaged with much. It was an intensive and purposely temporary effort, but the intensity meant I had to know my limits and be honest with the myself and the RE team and say I had to step back. In doing so, I actually created space for others to rise up.
The involvement with the task force helped me prepare as a board member, and I am now in my 2nd year in that role. Again, I have continued to strive for balance in how much and in which ways I contribute to this community.

What makes this easy is that I trust that this community understands the ebbs and flows of a person’s life; that giving to the life of this community may be a full-on effort today but tomorrow I may give less, or in fact be only able to receive.

I give a lot of credit to Rev. Russ for this. He has helped foster a no-guilt culture, to accept that we all have limits, to give ourselves permission to not strive for perfection. And in so doing, our fellowship has created BHAGs — BIG HAIRY AUDICIOUS GOALS — that are inspiring more members to get involved and more individuals and families to discover our fellowship as a spiritual-fulfilling home.

Like every home, we know it takes effort to keep up. Sometimes, we have the highly focused “spring cleaning” days and other days we decide its fine to leave the dirty dishes in the sink. But for most of us, we want a home where we’re comfortable, where we can replenish our energies, and so the inspiration of having clean dishes drives us to make the effort.

Individually, here at the UU, I cannot always “do the housework” this is needed. Yet while I may not be able to give of myself today, there is a trust, a two-way trust, where I am supported in my need to step back because others have faith that I will step in again.
This is community trust. And as long as there is something about this community that inspires you, we know that you will find the balance of giving and receiving that is right for you, and so doing it is right for us.