A Peek into the past of UUFN Variety programming

by Marcia Jacobs

In 2001 when my daughter died, the Sunday after her memorial service was Humor Sunday. Some people thought that it should be postponed, but the minister said that she would be one of the first to say that it should go on as scheduled. The next two years UUFN had a Humor Sunday when we poked fun at ourselves and religion in general. Some of the quotes from those are included here.

“How can you tell a Unitarian Universalist? You can’t; they already know it all”. And “you can’t argue with a UU because they know both sides of the story.” (These are quotes from our Humor Sundays.)

That’s what the original members of UUFN must have been going for. At the beginning of our fellowship, the meetings looked and sounded more like seminars or a discussion group. Each member was responsible for a program on a rotating basis. Topics were social, political, secular, spiritual, literary, and were chosen according to the person’s interests or area of expertise. It was a meeting of minds. There were also outside speakers like Erling Jorstad, a St. Olaf professor, and Rev. Mondale (the brother of Fritz Mondale a congressman). There were other meetings, like on Easter morning; the Child residence hosted an outdoor meeting because they lived next to the Carleton Arboretum, and so did the Molenaars.. And early on there was a soup and bread Sunday.

By 1975, the group was talking about more ‘ritual’ or a more ‘standard format’ for Sunday meetings. The group visited other churches: The Hanska UU (noted at a ‘real church’ which even included a smorgasbord), First Universalist in Mpls. (and others in the twin city area), the Mankato UU, the Quakers, the Northfield Congregational or UCC. But for 20-25 years the group was lay led.

Even when there was some ritual, it changed quite often. “A UU meeting must seem strange to outsiders; a person will speak and say nothing. Nobody appears to be listing; and then everybody disagrees during discussion”. But a quote in the 2000 minutes may have been the beginning of more alternative programs on Sunday: “We have to remember that all work and worship and no play can make for a dull fellowship.” Some families asked for a “family service” so the children could be included. Some years, this service was on the fifth Sunday of the month. Then more ideas came to light to celebrate our seven principles.

We started to present Solstice and Equinox programs using some old stories and plays. Then we had to have the flower communion begun by one of our UU ancestors. But why not have another communion; a water communion. We have even had an apple communion and bread and wine communion. Of course these rituals were mostly about creating community, not the usual religious meanings. Ted Tollefson was such an animal person, that he had a blessing of the animals when people were invited to bring their pets. In 2002 and 2003 we had a Humor Sunday. We even visited Mairi Doerr’s goats and everyone loved the kids.

We have celebrated and learned about other ethnic groups and religions by having a Day of the Dead, drumming like our indigenous friends, having a Seder dinner and food for Hanukah. We have learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and other religions with speakers and activities. We learned about and practiced meditation, including walking the labyrinth.

More alternatives began to appear. We had soup and bread in lieu of a Thanksgiving feast. There are sleigh rides and chili potluck at the Topp’s farm. Earth day service projects (The UU holy trinity of reduce, reuse, recycle.) The UUA program called Standing on the Side of Love presented us with ways to celebrate diversity and encourage equity in all aspects of our lives. Our sharing of special days with Carleton College has become regular events, two or three times a year. In the spring we end one of them with a lively Maypole dance. We even celebrated the “Treasures of the Tuna Fairy Ship”. (Ask about that at coffee hour.)

In the beginning there wasn’t much music. No piano; no guitar; singing only occasionally. But as the fellowship grew and we discovered that music was so meaningful that it had to be part of the service. We have had music Sundays with talent from our own group as well as guest musicians. And, not necessarily on Sunday, we have had Church of the Cabaret, and Inner Light Circus celebrating our creative spirits. Although it could be said that UU’s are not the best at singing because they are always looking ahead to see if they agree with the words, we have become lovers of singing.

And what about summer? We have been in the habit of not having regular services during the summer. But that wasn’t the best idea for some members. So we started to have an activity once a month during the summer. We enjoy reading poetry in a nature setting, canoeing and kayaking on a local river or stream, bike rides on local trails, visiting local parks, and pilgrimages to places like Cold Water Spring (an indigenous site). Of course all of these included food of some kind – the UU communion.

Of course there have been many more events and activities that are not the usual service. Many activities might be considered social justice work and not on Sundays. Another “peek” will talk about these.

If a UU is a Quaker with attention deficit disorder, that must be why we like variety in our lives and want to celebrate life in many ways. May we continue to do so.