News – September 22, 2023

Cover September 24, 2023
Dear Friends and Members,

This week I received notification from the First Christian Church of Pleasant Grove, Texas, that they will hold a 100-year anniversary celebration this spring. I am sure I received this notice because my father was on the Building Committee when the building was built, or perhaps it was because I was baptized there. When I say I was baptized, I am not talking about a sprinkle of water on my head. This was a full-immersion baptism. The preacher was Rev. Harmon. From my 9-year-old perspective, he was ancient. Thinking back, I realize he was probably only 40 or so. He was a small man. I worried if after he put me under water he would be able to bring me up before I drowned. When the Sunday came for my baptism, I was not at all sure that Jesus needed me among his disciples, but clearly knew my parents expected me to be brave. Walking into the baptismal font, my first reaction was that the water was very cold. Rev. Harmon put one hand at the small of my back, mumbled some high-sounding words, put his other hand over my nose and mouth, and plunged me into the depths. I do not know if he got distracted by reciting a very long passage from the Bible or what, but he held me under the water for a very long time. In retrospect, I suspect he thought that because of my behavior during services I needed an extra dose of cleansing water. Fortunately, just before I was sure I was doing to die, he lifted me out of the water and removed his hand from my mouth and nose. Gasping for breath, I knew I was “saved”. Whether Jesus had anything to do with it is an open question.

Needless to say, for me, this place my father helped build some 75 years ago is dear to me. The fact it is still there and ministering to the community where I grew up is reassuring. I imagine the founders of our First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston may have had some sense of the future impact the faith community they were creating would have when they founded this church well over 100 years ago. Over the years, members have sustained our congregation. In October, we will conduct a Capital Campaign designed to sustain our ability to project our values not only now but also into the future. Mary and I will dig deep to do our part because we believe that in a world where the worth and dignity of human beings are being diminished, the values of our congregation are more needed now than ever. At least for me, I will also support the campaign because I believe that it is my opportunity to contribute to a legacy that will continue after I am gone. I encourage each of you to contribute what you can to the campaign as we continue to build a legacy for the future.

As a part of our effort to go green the building, you will notice installation of solar panels has begun. This part of the capital improvements is part of the PACE program loan. I suspect with electrical cost rates going up, many of you may be interested in considering energy alternatives for your own homes. With the available tax credits, now is a good time to consider the possibility of a solar alternative. If you are interested, I would recommend a not-for-profit organization called Solar United Neighbors Their website, Going Solar On Your Own, is particularly helpful.

One of the remarkable things about First UU Houston is how many of us engage with projects and activities associated with the congregation. I have commented before that most churches get by with very few people engaging to do the work. Thanks to Lauri Zuchlewski and Margrita Arevalo, we have documented that over 75% of us are engaged at one leadership level or another. Therefore, I want to commend you to the Leadership Training scheduled for Saturday, September 30. This is shaping up to be outstanding training. Please consider registering for HERE.

Have you noticed the number of new people visiting the church on Sundays? The Welcome Team, under the leadership of Leslie Morrison and Michael Morrison, has interacted with one hundred fifty-one (151) new visitors to the church since July 1. The remarkable friendliness felt when visiting our congregation is consistently reported by new members as one of the reasons they joined. Thank you for being so welcoming and I encourage each of you to continue to make that part of your practice. You make a difference.

There is much more content in this newsletter and I encourage you to read all of it. Therefore, let me end my effort to share information about First UU where the preachers are eloquent, the music is wonderful, the beloved community is growing, and the children are all above average.

Ron Cookston
President of the Board