Testimony & Commitment

Four diverse members share why they think ESUC has a bright future…. and what they’re doing to ensure it does.

John Chmaj (9:00 a.m.)

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy, the wine which inspires one to new generative processes…music is [an] entrance into a higher world of knowledge which comprehends [humankind] but which humankind cannot comprehend”. – Beethoven

Music is indeed magic – it can weave any number of spells and changes in consciousness over its audience. It is the vast, inherent, common language of our humanity. With such deep and subtle power to invoke meaning, music is a natural, integral fit to any form of spiritual ceremony. For music captures, renders and shapes EXPERIENCE. It IS the thing it represents, and as such connects immediately and inherently with any receptive audience.

And so it is no surprise that the health of our spiritual communities and of our spiritual practice is reflected in and nurtured by the music it invokes. In community, music helps us express our common purpose, inspire us to action, or sometimes just helps share our simple humanity together through our voices and songs. In spiritual practice music can inspire a deeper, higher order of consciousness, express the inexpressible, and help to complete our understanding and experience of deeper truths.

Unitarian Universalists have the advantage as well of incorporating any of the musical styles of world history into our worship and musical vocabulary, as we can do with written materials. On any given Sunday you can – and usually will – hear an eclectic mix of music weaving through the theme of the service. Music itself serves and furthers our aims of inclusiveness, sharing of spiritual truths as well as our multi-cultural history and interconnection.

East Shore proudly boasts a long tradition of musical excellence. The Kechley musical family inspired and guided our congregation for 57 years. We’ve been fortunate to attract many talented performers within our congregation to share their gifts with us and help us all grow through their music. Hundreds of musicians and musical events have graced our sanctuary and community. And we had the luck and wisdom to bring onboard a creative and passionate new musical director just this year.

As a professionally trained musician raised as a Unitarian East Shore has been both a haven and an opportunity to serve since I walked in the doors in fall of 2004. I clearly remember that first ‘shopping trip’, sitting in the middle, in the back, with my 5 year old son Adam, looking for two things: the MESSAGE and the MUSIC. To the right Peter Luton was dealing out a clear and compelling vision of liberal religion. To the left Bob Kechley and the choir were putting out music with passion and purpose. I was IN – the music sold me on the church as much as the message, and as you may suspect I have a pretty high bar.

The music here has been varied and robust. We’ve funded Hurricane and Tsunami relief through benefit events. In 2006 we had multi-cultural youth concerts here featuring groups from SEVENTEEN different faith and musical traditions – all in the same day! The church has had dances, jazz concerts, open mic nights, coffee houses, special plays and shows by the congregation, and always the choir and meaningful music in service. I’m proud of the five year run we’re having with our East Shore Live concert series. We should not take any of this for granted.

It’s hard to imagine East Shore, or even one of our services, without some form of music included. So the next time you hear music you like here, or feel yourself lifted or touched in some way, reflect on the precious, powerful gift of music our congregation, and our faith tradition, gives to us.

I’ve also benefited from participation in multiple church visioning activities, helping to hone my personal understanding of my own core values, My participation in the Partner Church ministry to the Khasi Hills, and on the Climate Action committee, and teaching in RE have broadened my understanding of the world we live in, as well as enabling me to give service in the world.

Our past minister Peter Luton once said something I’ve never forgotten – essentially that ‘we fund the church for the privilege of participating in this community. The church enables us to give our gifts and share our lives in productive and spiritual ways. We invest together to contribute together.’ What I took from that is that our contributions are a privilege of membership, one sustained through our direct financial support. We can each choose our own path to faith, our own ways to engage in the UU community, our own points of view. Financial support of this institution is not a random choice, however – it is a prerequisite to sustaining and evolving this precious liberal spiritual community.

At this years’ congregational budget meeting the math was simple – to me: if each member of the congregation upped their pledge by $250 a year we could meet ALL our budgetary goals. I’ve upped my pledge accordingly and hope others will consider doing so as well.

As Beethoven reminds us, music IS ‘the wine’ which can regenerate enlighten, and inspire. Let’s do all we can to honor, nurture and expand this shared heritage, by supporting East Shore and pledging our continued and growing support for this precious and crucial community institution.

Keely Cofrin Allen

I’ve been an outspoken atheist for almost 20 years. My friend, both religious and non-religious, have asked me what on earth someone like me is doing at a church. I tell them that being here, for me, isn’t about connecting with a divine entity. Being here is about connecting with people. It’s about being in community. It’s about having a way to express my best self and to be uplifted by others.

I joined ECUC the Sunday after the 2016 election – my first act of resistance. I call it resistance because this place stands for everything that this administration does not. It stands for love, for acceptance, for peace. I love coming here and seeing Black Lives Matter pins, I love seeing the banner that says, “Standing on the Side of Love”. It reminds me that there is good in the world. When I’m here, I can heal from the ugliness that is going on right now. Not that we don’t have our own struggles, there is always more we can to do grow. But our hearts are in the right place.

Giving a monthly pledge to East Shore is my expression of my values. Yes, I give my talents. I sing in the choir, and last week’s work on the auction catalog felt like a part time job! Those things, however, don’t pay the mortgage or keep the lights on or pay for the staff that keeps this place up and running. Where we put our hard-earned money is a reflection of our values. There is no shortage of places to put money. After all, we have our own mortgages to pay and our own lights to keep on. The way I see it, this mortgage is also my mortgage, these lights are my lights, the people who work here are my people.

I increased my pledge this year – yet another act of resistance in the face of the divisive darkness that some days threatens to overwhelm me with anxiety and fear. Unlike posting on FB, or writing to candidates, or complaining to my husband, or arguing with internet trolls this is something real and tangible I can do to make the world a better place. I love it here. And I want to make sure that “here” is actively and vibrantly growing.

Dennis Fleck

I grew up in a Unitarian Church in Park Forest, IL. During that time frame, I learned that Unitarians were active in social action. I have memories of discussions about refusing to pay the taxes on phone bills, as those taxes were to support the federal government and the military actions in Vietnam.

In the 1970’s, my wife, Jan, and I joined the Unitarian church in Mesa, AZ – called Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. That’s the same church that Carolyn Haessly and Paul Fussell later joined. While members of the Valley UU Church, we learned that church is about more than social action. We enjoyed the tremendous community of friends who shared similar values, and learned about stewardship. We learned that the church is our church, and it is up to us to provide the financial foundation that supports both the current programs and the home for future church seekers to find. We learned that each of us has the ability to give at different levels and that we must individually determine what is right for each of us. We left the Valley UU church in 1981 when we were transferred to Seattle for my new job. But, when we left Arizona in 1981, we learned that we were one of the highest pledgers at $1,000 a year – a stretch for us with two small children, but a level that was then right for us.

When we moved to Seattle in 1981, we knew we would join a UU church – it was just a matter of which one. We showed up at East Shore on a sunny Sunday in July, only to find that there was no summer program for our one and three year old children. As we returned to the parking lot, Barbara Elliott stopped us, asked us to come back in the fall when there would be child care, and tore off a deposit slip from her check book saying “here’s my phone number – please call if you have any questions”. We’ll never forget Barbara’s friendly and welcoming outreach effort.
We have supported East Shore with our time and talents ever since. This is our church home where we have grown and our two children have grown. RE and the Youth Group were important as our children grew up. We painted and remodeled classrooms in the old yellow RE buildings and in Holly House. We taught Sunday School, we tended the grounds, we served on various committees (now ministry teams) and we both served on the Board at various times.

And, along the way, we have always financially support our church. During the late 1980’s East Shore hired a Congregationalist, Minister named John Gibson, to help us with fundraising as we moved to tear down our 1950 vintage RE buildings to build the beautiful RE buildings and Administration building that still serve us today. John taught us to challenge ourselves to give until it feels good. In other words, our church is not PBS or NPR, but a community that deserves significantly more as it enriches us, teaches our children and needs to thrive for those who have yet to find us. For each of us, giving until it feels good is different. We are each at different points in our lives and have different financial capabilities.

Jan and I are currently giving our church (amount included at church but deleted for the web posting) a year. When I was working, we could and did give more. We are now living off our savings (which could also be viewed as our kids future inheritance [if any is left]) and this is a level that feels good for us. For those who haven’t pledged, yet, I invite you to join us and give at a level that feels good for you.

As members and friends, we are behind on where we need to be with our pledges. Even though Jan and I feel good about the amount we have already pledged, we are going to give another $500 to do our share to help get the pledge income to a level that will sustain the programming we want at East Shore.

For those who are pledging, I thank you for your support and ask that you ask yourself if you are giving at a level that feels good for you. If you are – awesome. If you feel you are not or if you can do more, please ask yourself if you might feel better if you were.

In closing….we give to our church, but we also take from our church. As our East Shore President, Tom Doe says, “church is about changing souls”. But, church can also be a source for learning for us. To that end….the federal tax laws have had significant changes that went into effect beginning this past January. So, I invite you to attend a seminar that Laurie Adams is helping lead at 7:00 PM on October 30, where we will have an opportunity to learn how the tax laws have changed, how those changes may impact each of us, and what we might do differently so that we can keep more of our money. (You can register here!)

Thank you for your support of East Shore and willingness to give until it feels good.

Sara Brannman

I was raised by a father who grew up in the Unitarian Church and, though he didn’t attend as an adult and probably doesn’t identify as a Unitarian today, he and my mother instilled in me and my older sister all of the values that I see reflected in this place. We were raised to be compassionate toward others, mindful of the natural world around us, and to always be – even when it proved to be a nuisance to mom and dad – relentlessly inquisitive.

I found these same values in my husband, Josh, who sadly had to fly to Colorado for work today. Josh had this wonderful friend whom I quickly came to adore; her name was Kathy Roche-Zjuko. Within the first few hours of meeting Kathy, she encouraged both of us to attend East Shore. “You two would absolutely love it,” she said. Some time later, we decided that we should check it out (especially if someone as awesome as Kathy was recommending it).

Josh and I came to our first service in the early summer of 2017 and were immediately infatuated. We were warmly welcomed by others. We saw our values reflected in the activities of the many teams, programs, and committees. And since attending East Shore, the two of us have been able to explore meaningful questions, find comfort during hard times, build relationships, and ultimately grow closer to one another through the things we have done, seen, heard, and felt here at East Shore. And this is, in part, what makes me so enthusiastic about this church: it is a place where I can nourish my spirit and stretch my mind and know that others are doing the same.

That is why I hope that I am still coming here fifteen years from now. Or thirty years from now. And that is why I pledge.

I have been learning more and more about this church through involvement with the Operational Fund Drive, the Outreach Team, and by sitting on the board. Because I want this church to be here for me and because I want it to be here for more and more people of all ages in the future, I feel a sense of obligation toward this church; one that I am happy to fulfill.

And, me? I am a 25 year old woman who lives in an apartment in Bellevue. In the last three years, my wages have gone up by 5%. In August, Josh and I were served with a rent increase of 18% – thank goodness, we were able to fight it down to “only” 12%. Like so many other young adults, I just don’t trust that I will ever be able to own a home if I want to stay here. I don’t trust that I will see retirement. I don’t trust that I will be able to ever afford the law degree I so badly desire. (And I’m saying this as a white woman with a whole host of past and present privileges!)

I tell you this not to make you feel sorry for me and not to guilt you into raising your pledge…but simply to demonstrate that I view my monthly pledge to this church as much an investment in my own future as an investment in the greater community. I couldn’t afford it otherwise.

I get so much from attending East Shore. I get the opportunity to exercise creative problem solving with other people, to attend discussions, to engage in advocacy, to strengthen my marriage, and even to practice my public speaking. These are the things that so many young people like myself want and need out of a community and out of a precious financial investment, and I want to get those people here and engaged. But in order to do that, we have to be able to reach out to more people like me (and, hopefully, unlike me as well). We have to be able to accommodate them. We have to demonstrate to them that this is a place where their voices can be heard and their ideas embraced. And that means that we have to fund our church according to our means, understand our obligations to one another and future members, get as much as we can out of our time here, and always – always – be open to change.

I have faith that this community is up to that challenge because I already see examples of it. But I want to see more. And I look forward to watching this church grow and evolve as long as I have the privilege of being here. I encourage you to meditate on what you want East Shore to look like in the future, maybe even after your lifetime, and then consider what you can do today to ensure that future is possible. Thank you.

Marcy Langrock

My name is Marcy Langrock. I am your current Treasurer. Don’t worry, I’m not here to talk to you about the boring money stuff, exactly. I was asked to speak to you about financial responsibility and what this church means to me. But I really would like to do it as a member, not the Treasurer. For me, as a member of East Shore, this is about putting my money behind my beliefs and my values.

I would like to share with you why my husband and I have increased our pledge every year. As we become more and more involved, we derive greater benefit from this community. Not only do we get a lot out of this community but so do our sons.

We have three teenagers in our family. Yes, as you can imagine, there is never a dull moment in our house. They have very different personalities and needs, yet East Shore enriches each of their lives. And any place where all three teenagers want to go on a non-school morning is a very special place.

One way I think of our annual pledge is as an investment in the next generation. First, let’s talk about, Our Whole Lives aka OWL, one of the most comprehensive up to date and scientifically-informed sex ed programs available anywhere. My sons have all been through multiple years of OWL at East Shore. And thank goodness that was available. In this day and age where something as fundamental to responsible sexual behavior as consent is apparently still up for debate in our larger society, OWL is a necessity. East Shore invests in training facilitators and opening our doors to children of non-members so that the youth in our community are able to have a space to ask questions and gain perspective about a core aspect of being human. How amazing is it to have trusted adults and peers to help navigate life’s confusing times.

The coming of age program is another program for the youth I absolutely love. My oldest son developed his credo with a special mentor. He shared that credo with the church in a speech that really stuck with me. He told us how the UU ministers never tell us to “shut up and listen,” like so many other religions do. My son’s appreciation for UUs came from his being encouraged to think for himself. As he sees it, the adults can be guides, but ultimately the youth are challenged to decide what they believe. I wish I had been in an environment like that when I was young. I am thoroughly grateful that my children have this space to grow, change and become loving adults.

I also am thankful for the community here that listens to our youth. I asked my middle son what he liked most about the church. He said he likes how welcoming it is. He feels like he can talk to any adult and they will engage with him. Remember the water bottle project? The middle school youth learned about how destructive plastic water bottles are to the environment and wanted to make a difference. They educated the church about it by performing a play and then they sold reusable water bottles to earn money. That paid for retrofits to our current water fountains, making them easier to fill up those reusable bottles. Now, every time they walk by those, they see the example of how they can make a difference. And they also know they have the support of the community behind them.

I came here originally for my kids. But I have stayed and have become more involved because of what I am gaining. We used to have RE, religious education. But we changed the name, and I love it. It is now called Lifelong Learning. It is so important to me to be part of a community where I continue to be challenged, grow and learn throughout my life. My awareness has expanded in ways that are sometimes very uncomfortable but incredibly important. I also realize how much work I have to do. I have learned to sit with that discomfort and learn from it. I appreciate having people here fighting for Earth and Social Justice. We all have seen the latest UN report on climate change. How scary is that? Well, we have people here doing things about it, educating and showing up to hold our representatives accountable. Racial Justice is another area of growth that I need. I know I have a lot of work to do there. I read something the UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray with respect to racial justice. She states, “that this no time for a casual faith and no time to be in this alone. We need to protect and love each other.” And I appreciate the patience and education happening. We have some very courageous members and staff that have spoken out against the injustice. I want to be part of a community that is radically inclusive.

There are so many other important works going on in the church. I cannot participate in everything that the church has to offer. But I am so glad those things are happening and want to support it with my donations.

We are the community of open minds, helping hands and loving hearts. We continue to learn, grow, and be nurtured our entire lives. This is a place where we are encouraged to bring our whole selves.

It is a place of progressive thought, where we love our youth and adults for every radical, unconventional thought. What a stark contrast to the rest of the world, where we are expected to conform!

East Shore is a beacon for hope. I want it to continue to be that beacon for years to come.

They say it takes a village to raise up a child. I also think it takes a village to truly nurture an adult. This is my village! This is where I choose to commit my time and my resources. Please join me in supporting this work and this community.