Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We Believe in the Separation of Church and Hate ...

A little earlier this March our Board of Trustees wrote a letter to Attorney General Mark Herring, offering our encouragement for and solidarity with his stand in favor of marriage equality in the Commonwealth.  Copies of the letter were also sent to Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph S. Northam, Delegate David Toscano, and Senator Creigh Deeds (whom we encouraged to reconsider his position).  This is the letter our President Amy Wissekerke wrote on our behalf.
Our Unitarian Universalist faith leads us to take political action when people’s rights are denied.  One of the guiding Principles of Unitarian Universalism is “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  One of the covenant statements for our congregation is that we “covenant to promote social justice within our congregation and the larger community.” This is such a time when we must act.   
As elected representatives of our faith community, we write to let you know that:  
We endorse Attorney General Mark Herring’s decision not to defend in court the Virginia constitutional ban on marriage equality, which denies same-sex couples the right to marry.
We stand on the side of love. We hope you will continue to do so. 
Amy Wissekerke, President
Board of Trustees,
Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church – Unitarian Universalist
I wrote my own letter to the same public officials, with slight modifications for each.  This is the iteration that went to the Attorney General:
I am writing as an individual, as a person of faith, and as a religious leader in the Commonwealth to commend you for your courageous stand regarding marriage equality.  I am sure that you have no doubt heard from a number of people who would similarly identify themselves yet who are condemning your actions.  I want you to know that there are religious people who agree with you that the issue of marriage equality – not only in Virginia but throughout the United States – is a moral issue and, as you have said, Virginia has been standing on the wrong side.  
I came to Virginia from Massachusetts three years ago to serve a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Charlottesville.  Two of the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case were members of the congregation I served there, so the issue of marriage equality was a very personal one.  I have had the honor of officiating at a number of same gender union ceremonies, and I can personally attest that the love and commitment of these couples is in no way different than that which I’ve experienced in heterosexual unions, and certainly in no way “less than.”  
Several years ago the congregation I now serve engaged in a lengthy and lively conversation about whether and how to come out in favor of marriage equality.  To their great credit they did so, and we now proudly display a large banner on the front of our church proclaiming our support for this issue.  At a recent meeting of our Board of Trustees it was unanimously voted to send you a letter on behalf of our congregation, offering you our faith community’s gratitude and affirmation.  
I want to write to you personally.  I understand how truly difficult it can be a leader with a constituency that does not always agree with each other, much less you.  Courageous stands can be dangerous, and there are certainly much safer choices in most situations.  Yet safer does not necessarily equate with correct, and avoiding danger is not always good leadership.
Here you have chosen not only to take a stand that you know will be viewed negatively by a great number of people, but also one that is in direct contrast with your own previous position on the matter.  “Flip-flopping” has become such a condemnation that it is immensely profound when someone acknowledges that their principles and their convictions have led them to a new perspective.  I commend you, and I am truly grateful. 
By taking this stand you have done a great service for all Virginians and, I hope and pray, your action will help Virginia become an inspiration for the rest of the country.  If there is anything I can do to be of service to you, please don’t hesitate to ask.  In the meantime, I will hold you in grateful prayer.  
Pax Tecum,  
Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom 
I recently received this reply from Delegate Toscano:
Thank you for your recent letter in support of marriage equality and my efforts to bring it about.  While in the General Assembly, I voted many times against the so-called "Marriage Ammendment" offered by Bob Marshall and Steve Newman that became part of the Virginia Constitution.  I am very proud to have taken such a position.  I appreciate your efforts and the efforts of your congregation to educate citizens about this issue and share with you the  belief that we are on the right side of history.
David J. Toscano  
Several years ago TJMC took what at the time was a courageous stance by hoisting the banner of equality so publicly on our building.  It still is, in some ways.  Yet we know that it has had an impact in the Chartlottesville community -- I've heard new members say that they choose this church, and even choose Charlotesville over other areas to relocate, because of that banner.  Know that we continue to take a stand.

Monday, March 17, 2014

TJMC Is My "Landing Place"

When I was in the fifth grade, I remember learning in Catholic school religion class about the vocations that God calls people to pursue in life.  There were three options:
1.  Ordained religious ministry (and the celibacy that comes with it)
2.  Marriage 
3.  "the single life" 

I think the lesson that day was supposed to be inspiring, but on the inside I was flipping out.  I remember thinking, Oh my god, I think God is calling me to be a priest.  I was as worried and afraid as we can expect of any 10 year old discerning a commitment to a lifetime of celibacy.  What's worse, even the fact that I was considering being called to be a priest would mean being weird and different from my classmates, and they already made fun of me for getting good grades and enjoying school.  

So I resolved that I could never ever talk about this to anyone.

When I finally did, I was a junior in high school.  At a school spiritual retreat, I divulged in confession that God was calling me to be a priest, but I didn't want to be one.  The priest's response was: "Well, you know, Tyler, God doesn't call people to do things they don't want to do."

Such a simple answer!  And good enough for me to bury the hatchet with God on the whole vocation thing and move on with my life.  Feeling rebellious in the way that 17 year olds tend to, I found myself looking more and more for a new direction to follow spiritually, so when it came time to choose a university I broke with the plan I'd had in mind my whole life to go to a Catholic university and headed south to Mr. Jefferson's bastion of secular liberalism.

For the next four or five years, I stopped thinking much about God, or faith, or spirituality, and was content to live without a religious community in my life.  When you're in college, I think you can be content to live without a religious community because you're surrounded by other 18-22 year olds and you're all together at the same place in life.

But a year after graduating, my friends had moved away and I was living in Charlottesville feeling very anxious about my post-graduate life and career, and really just very lonely.  I began to feel the need to reconnect with religion, because even despite all of the anxiety about vocations, I'd experienced joy and a sense of purpose growing up as part of a tight-knit community.

I googled some churches in town but the one that really caught my attention was the one I'd driven past countless times on Rugby Road, which had a big rainbow-adorned sign on its front facade that announced "This Church supports Marriage Rights!"  

I thought... Those people seem like a good bunch of hell-raisers...why don't I see what they're all about?  I visited the next Sunday and I've been coming ever since.

Now, if you think the first part of my story - about Catholic school religion class - sounds familiar, it's probably because you were here for a service in July when Cathy Derecki shared her experience with the vocations lesson as a Sunday schooler, and what she's learned about commitment throughout her life following that episode.

Her sermon was about a month after I'd started coming to church at TJMC and while I'd been content up to that time to come and sit in the back and talk to people at social hour, I quickly found that people were asking me to join small groups and committees and usher and volunteer and I was a little resistant to this - I was rather guarded and uncomfortable and reluctant to take on a deeper commitment.

But I felt a deep connection to Cathy's story because of our similar childhood experiences, and found more inspiration later that day at the Young Adults luncheon.  A young man with experiences very similar to my own came to lunch on his very first day visiting TJMC and opened up to the group about his joys, concerns, hopes and fears for his new life in Charlottesville - and the group responded with overwhelming support and encouragement for him.  

Inspired by what I'd seen and heard that day, I resolved to embrace a deep commitment to my relationships and responsibilities inside and outside of church, and I've never been happier or more myself than I am as an active participant in the life of this community.

I met a gentleman last week who said that any church worth its salt is transformative.  I was transformed that Sunday in July, and I continue to be transformed every Sunday.  I'm transformed every time somebody shares their personal story during a Sunday worship, or stands up during joys and sorrows or checks in at Young Adults luncheon and has the courage to say that things are rough right now, and I don't have it all figured out, and I'm reaching out to this congregation for support.  

I pledge because I found a landing place here at TJMC, and I see others find a landing place here on a weekly basis, whether they are confident in their life's purpose or are in need of some inspiration to pull the pieces together, and I think it's so special that a place like this exists where all are welcome to come as they are and be fully themselves - a place that celebrates each person's journey and the questions that motivate them without presuming to have all of the answers.

This is why I pledge.  I'm not going to tell you I think you should pledge, because I'm sure a lot of you don't like being told what to do - I know I certainly don't.  But I hope that my story will inspire any of you who share a common experience to consider a pledge of commitment to TJMC.  Thank you!
Tyler Frankenberg

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What's Been Happening With The COM?

The Talk of TJMC pauses in its sharing of the moving testimonials we've been hearing during Sunday services throughout our pledge drive to share the report of the great work of our Committee on the Ministry.

The Committee on Ministry (COM) has been happy to meet with members of the congregation to discuss different ministries of the church. Our first meeting was on an icy December Sunday morning, and several congregants came to express their thoughts on worship. Then we met the first Sunday in February to discuss pastoral care and worship. We’ll continue the conversation three more Sundays this church year. This month, we’ll be meeting on the 16th, when our focus will be on ministries focused on encouraging spiritual growth (including Lifespan Faith Development) and then again on the 30th, when our focus will be on ministries focused on Witnesses to Social Justice. April is a busy month, so we’ll have to wait until May 4th to focus our discussion on Administration. We meet immediately after each of the services, most of the time in the Sanctuary.
We heard from people that they want to hear more and longer sermons from Rev. Wik, a concern that we had discussed before and that Erik and the worship weavers have been addressing. In addition to these concerns, we also had several comments about the difficulty some folks have with hearing. Although they appreciate having children in the sanctuary, people who have hearing issues cannot hear the sermon when little ones make noise. The COM discussed this problem and learned that there may be some “dead” zones where the sound just isn’t as good. We will be looking into getting an “audio assessment” to help identify these zones and how to remediate the problem. In the meantime, we encourage parents of children to take advantage of the comfort room if their little ones are making so much noise that it interferes with others’ hearing the sermon. At the same time, if you are having difficulty hearing, you might consider trying to move one or two pews back or forward to see if the acoustics are better.
We also discussed issues around pastoral care. Several people discussed missing knowing about fellow congregants who are experiencing difficulties. We used to have a section of the printed bulletin that listed members who were experiencing sorrows and joys, but that isn’t as possible on an electronic newsletter (given privacy concerns). The COM discussed this issue and learned that staff is already looking to other churches to find out how they navigate the desire to keep communication open but also respect privacy. Several people expressed gratitude for the care they have received from professional staff and fellow congregants (including from covenant groups and pastoral visitors).
In other news, we have begun the process of soliciting feedback for our annual evaluation of the lead minister. We have constructed a survey using the areas of ministry outlined in the UUA publication Fulfilling the Call. We sent this survey out to a limited number of congregants who represent a broad swath of our community--people who are involved in worship, religious education, social justice, administration, pastoral care, music, governance, personnel, etc. If you did not receive a survey, rest assured that you may be called on next year, as this will be an on-going process. Their feedback is due back to us by mid-month, when we will collate the results and hand them on to a subcommittee of the board and Rev. Wik, who will use that information to inform their annual evaluation.

Finally, at the request of the board of trustees, we have also been busy collating the results of the pulse survey that was conducted on-line in November. Over 137 congregants participated in this survey, so you can imagine how many comments were generated. We will report the results of this survey at the May board meeting. The pulse survey is a “snapshot in time” that we will be able to compare to future pulse surveys to get a sense of how well we think we are fulfilling the mission of our church. It’s been fascinating to see how divergent people’s perspectives are on different aspects of our church life, with people liking and disliking the very same elements. Proof that being in community is not always easy but certainly interesting.
 We always welcome feedback, either in person or by email at We are committed to open communication and transparency yet understand that some people might want an opportunity to process their feelings, so email sent to the COM does not go to Reverend Wikstrom but only to the committee. The COM meets monthly with him to discuss issues that have been raised. If you have feedback or questions about the ministries of our church, please let any or all of us know. (As a reminder, the Committee on Ministry includes Donna Baker, Pam Philips, Al Reynolds, Deborah Rose, and Ann Salamini).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Surrounded By All This Church Means ...

A few years ago, in one of those Charlottesville moments, I ran into my former psychotherapist while saying Kaddish for my neighbor’s father. Kaddish is the Jewish prayer of mourning, and for a non-Jew, it consists of listening to a lot of chanting and chiming in when everyone else says “Amen.” Every once in a while, there’s a phrase in English, but if you can’t read the Hebrew text, you don’t even know what page you’re on. It’s awkward, kind of like running into your psychotherapist is awkward, but it was an honor to be invited, and there was food afterwards, so there I was. 

And she gave me that vague, professional smile, as if she hadn’t spent years hearing me pour out my deepest thoughts, and said, “How are you doing?” which was something I’d heard from her many times, but even I knew in this context it was not an invitation to start talking. I just said, “Good, really good,” and I meant it. This was something she didn’t hear very often from me.

Afterwards, I calculated that it had been almost 20 years since I’d first seen her, and I thought about how my life was then and how it is now. That’s a dangerous exercise for me, because when I start taking stock, my inner critic takes over, and I started ticking off all the things that hadn’t changed since I got into therapy. Still depressed, still single, still overweight. No discipline, no plan for change. So what had happened that allowed me to say honestly that things were good?

Now this is a pledge testimonial, so you can surely guess the answer. The big change in my life was this church. I first came here an angry, lonely, and very defensive person, twelve years ago. But right from the first service, people made a point of telling me how glad they were to see me here, how wonderful this church was, and how much they thought I’d like it. 

Very quickly I signed up for an RE class, and then I wound up teaching RE, and joining a covenant group, and becoming one of the UUppity women -- @and making friends along the way. To my great surprise, church became the center of my life. TJMC became my home. While I had never before felt as if I fit in—even in my own family—here I was welcomed, valued, loved. Every time I walked through these doors, I was at home. And all that other stuff really didn’t matter so much. Other folks have given you a lot of examples of how they’ve grown and changed. I just want to share one little moment.

Last month, my own father died. I was with him on his last day, as he slipped away from life. I left his apartment carrying the letters he wrote to his children, to be opened after his death. We’d known about them for a long time, and we were pretty curious about what he’d said. About halfway home from Maryland I got a phone call telling me he was gone.  My first feeling was some relief, because his last few years had been miserable, and now we could both have some peace. And about 5 minutes later, I thought, “Well, now I can open that letter.”

My relationship with my dad was not always an easy one, and I was a little spooked by the idea of a last letter from him. My harsh inner critic comes directly from my dad, and my history with him includes a lot of ambushes where an invitation turned into an object lesson. So there was definitely a possibility this was his last “for crying out loud, Lynn, pull yourself together” message.

Part of me wanted to be alone when I read it, and part of me wanted to reach out for support. At home, my son, his wife, and their baby were staying with me, and I wasn’t ready to face that joyous energy. 

So I came to church. And let me add here that if you are going to make TJMC into your private meditation retreat, it helps to have a key to the place, because you cannot count on all your crises being during office hours. And this is in no way an ambush or an object lesson, but it is a sales pitch for getting involved here, because it will pay off in a lot of ways. (My dad was a salesman. Incentive sales. Learned a lot from him.) Although there is also the labyrinth, and the playground, and the memorial garden…

I came here, to this sanctuary, this holy place. I turned on the first light switch, which, as an usher, I know is for the balcony lights, and I had just enough light to read the letter.  And I sat here for a little while, crying for my dad, who –one final time –  came through for me with loving support when the going was really, really tough.

But I knew that if he hadn’t, I had all of you. I was alone, that night, but I was surrounded by all that this church means to me. That love supports me, and that is why I support this church.

Lynn Heath

PS -- and if you haven't yet pledged, it's so easy to do online!  Thanks to all who have made a financial pledge for 2014-2015.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Belong Here

I discovered Unitarian Universalism a few years before I moved to C’ville, and having a UU church nearby was one of my criteria for a place to live.  That was 30 years ago!! 

This has been my church home and family for far longer than any other. 

So what does that mean? 

It’s a place I belong

and what does belonging really mean to me?

Well, let’s start with theologically.  We’re the only place in town (that I know of) where I -- over the years --  could reject the fundamentalist Christianity of my high schools,
practice a bit of various eclectic meditation paths,
and then combine a practice of T’ai chi with re-capturing an appreciation of the Jesus (that I threw out with the bathwater long ago). Here I didn’t need to accept a creed that didn’t fit me.  This church has supported me through all of this.

So I belong here theologically, and I also belong here in terms of my relationships – even as ministers have changed and members have come and gone.
Long ago I brought my then boyfriend – Frank_ to this church and we were active participants in a before-church book discussion group. 

We were married right here by Rev. Wayne Arnason with Jesse (Frank’s son) participating in some of our vows. 

Our daughter Lenore (Noni to some of you) was dedicated right here also by Wayne.

When our kids were young, I was a member of a mom’s group – back in the parlor – where we shared the joys and problems of being parents within a spiritual context.

For most of these years – including now – my belonging to this church has shown up in connection to Leia Durland-Jones --I’ve taught Religious Education classes from the two/three year olds through high school. (locations)  Watching our own children and so many others grow and develop spiritually and emotionally has given me the most sense of belonging to this church of all.  Frank and I have been especially privileged to teach Our Whole Lives (OWL) – the relationships and sexuality classes for our youth that have positive repercussions for them years down the road.

For a few years I worked with a team headed by Rev. Leslie Takahashi-Morris to plan a women’s retreat while deepening our own relationships with each other.  I also took an Adult Faith Development class that Leslie and her husband and co-minister, David, taught about the Bible. 

Just last spring Rev. Erik Wikstrom officiated at our daughter’s wedding – not right here—but in the nearby mountains – using a ceremony the couple created, partly based on our TJMC water ceremony. 

The times I’ve felt less connected to the church, I now realize, are those when I’ve been less involved in it.  There are many times when I long for a deeper connection with people and leave here feeling lonely.  I know it’s because I don’t authentically engage anyone.  Even last spring when I was retiring and not at all certain what I wanted to do next, I didn’t feel a calling at church.  Somehow last fall, though, I agreed to teach RE (talk with Leia about how that happens), and then in December to be on the Pledge Drive committee, working especially on next week’s potluck dinner.

What do you know . . . now I feel like I totally belong again, like I’m making a 

So I’ve figured out that it’s not any one particular minister or one stage in life’s journey, my belonging here is about how I respond to the myriad of opportunities this church presents to me and how I create (or don’t) what I need here.

I’ve decided that I DO belong here AND I want these opportunities for all of us and for those like-hearted souls in Cville who don’t even know about TJMC yet.

So, if I want this church I love to continue and to thrive, I need to help pay for it, it’s that simple.  Nobody else is going to keep us going but US.

Linda Dukes

PS -- Remember, if you haven't yet pledged, it's easy to do online!  (And thanks)

Friday, March 7, 2014

We Can Really Be Somebody ...

Another moving testimony to the power of this community, not just on individual lives but on the wider world, comes to us from Laura Horn:

Hi. I love being part of a church that invites me into this pulpit (once in a while, for a couple of minutes) even though I didn’t trouble myself with divinity school.
Our inspirational reading this morning comes from Lily Tomlin, who says that when she was a little girl, she wanted to really be somebody when she grew up. She realized later that she should have been more specific. That’s me, too. 
Because what I’ve found is that even though I might long to make a Jimmy Carter-like difference in the world, it’s not so easy to have a big reach and big impact. It isn’t always clear what financial contributions, what work in service of others, are the most powerful. My gifts of time and treasure and even talent can seem small.  
That’s where my church comes in. It focuses and greatly amplifies my reach and my impact, by adding my pledge and my work to yours. Money that I give to my church lets me share in the pride of having a home for Soup Kitchen Teams and PACEM and Impact; for those who put food in bags and mittens on cold hands; for those who speak for our environment, for peace, for fairness and justice; for those who host recovery programs, and scouts, and a hundred other good things.  
The money I give to this church, with yours, helps us gather here, to renew and strengthen, to adjust our path. And here, I know and love and trust the professionals who are the stewards of my pledge money. I want them to be paid fairly. I know that they use every penny more wisely than even I could. 
Now those who know me are wondering: Can she talk for two minutes and not mention the youth of this church? Um, no. Our middle school OWL teens were in this sacred space last night, playing sardines, and Capture the Flag. Our children and youth this morning are downstairs and next door, seeing what we do, learning to be their best. The money I give teaches and supports and nurtures our children. And THEY go around the world, with more courage and purpose than I could ever have, changing it for the better in the way they work and serve and love.  
This church lets me take the money and talent I have, and multiply it with yours, to make a big impact. So we can really Be Somebody.

Thanks, Laura.  And thanks to all who have made TJMC the kind of community that could inspire such experiences.  Thanks, too, to everyone who has already pledged (which some have done online!).


Thursday, March 6, 2014

There's a Lot Going On In This Lively Place ...

It's been a while, but there's been A LOT going on!

Last night our own Environmental Justice group hosted an interfaith gathering of folks who care about the fate of our planet (including our own!) and who see the faith community as the perfect place to raise awareness and raise up activists.  Our parlor was filled (!) and those of us present were treated to some signing with the "Green Grannies," a talk about how to communicate "the message" and an introduction to Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.  Sharon and Johanna showed off what
"activist tabling" can look like, and the group talked together about how our various communities can work together to increase our connections and expand our impact.

People often think that the designation "a teaching church" applies when a congregation provides internship opportunities for seminarians.  Yet when we share with others what we have found successful, and when we encourage others to succeed in their own contexts, then we are a teaching church indeed!

And if that weren't enough to be excited about, our pledge campaign -- "Supporting What We Love" -- is in full gear.  We still have another week or so for folks to pledge (which, by the way, you can do online now!), yet we have reached a little over 70% of our financial goal.  That's incredible!  To all who've pledged, THANK YOU.  (And to those who have yet to do so ... we're hoping to get to 100% participation.  Please make a pledge to this community we love -- which hopefully you love, too.  Your financial pledge -- of whatever amount, no matter how small it has to be -- is a symbol of the pledge of commitment you make to TJMC.)

On Sundays during the pledge campaign we've had testimonials during the service -- opportunities for individuals to speak to their experiences of what this community means to them.  Since not everyone can get to every service, I'm going to post their comments to this blog, starting with Frank Dukes:
When I stand up here and look out on this beautiful congregation, I see so many people whose company I am thrilled to keep. People who I served on committees with, people I have played music with, people I have taught religious education with, people I have sung “Silent Night” and so many other songs with. 
But as I look out, I don’t just see the hundred or so individuals sitting in the pews today. I see this community reaching back to those with the vision and the daring to buy this land and build this building, not knowing who their beneficiaries would be, but knowing that there would be a need, and that those beneficiaries would be grateful. I see some still here, and others who are gone, who Linda and I joined in continuing to invest in our growth - in U-House and Summit House and the Social Hall - so that we, and our children, and our community, would have space to become who we seek to be.
And as I look out on this congregation, I FEEL the memories of so many joys and sorrows, laughter and tears. Where else in this community could a family share the devastation of a son sentenced to 8 years in prison, as well as the joy of his release? Where else in this community could we bring teenage mothers, or LGBTQIA young adults - sitting right here – to share with our youth their experiences, so that our youth grow up with healthy conceptions of sexuality and relationships and themselves? Where else can I come to hear, not what God is going to do, but what WE are called to do in the name of love?
I look to the back row and recall sitting in what we called “baby alley”, a pew against the back wall, with our preemie, and again returning from major surgery. I recall sharing joys of birth and sorrows of deaths, and knowing that you care about my life.
I see our wedding, and child dedication, and bridgings, and youth-led services. And, as I look into the future, we hope, our memorial services (I want joyful singing by the way, in case any of you are around. And bread. And dessert – any kind). And I also look out and see our future – our children, and their children, and the children of so many people we don’t yet know, who will find their needs met by one of the many blessings that this congregation offers, if we fulfill our pledge to them.When I first came to church, I was so anti-religion – I thought – that I would not even come to the services. Linda brought me to the group known as “Sunday Morning Early,” a group that would read and then discuss books of wide-ranging interest, spiritual and otherwise. To my surprise – really, my astonishment – within a few months not only had I come to a service, but I had entered my name as a member of this church community.
And no, I had not joined this church because I realized that U-U is not a real religion, as some might say. I joined because I had come to learn that I was not anti-religion. Religion is the name we give our attempts to answer the great questions that our human condition brings: Why are we here? What happens when we are gone? What is right, and what is wrong? And OUR religion denies that those answers can be fixed in time or given by any one book or one authority, however wise or saintly. For our great truth is that we must struggle together to answer those questions. And what relief, and joy, and, yes, often enough, even pain, it brings to seek those answers. And what a blessing to find others willing to lead me, to join me, and sometimes to follow me, in that quest. 
I started writing this reflection thinking that I pledge because I am so overwhelmingly grateful for the guidance and love my children have received here. And that would be enough, if it were the case. But I realize now that I also pledge because I would be so much smaller without you, and others like you. I pledge because in a world that is so often broken I can find others right here picking up the pieces. I pledge because not only do our children, our community, our world need this church; I need this church.

And, finally, I pledge as much as I do because there are people who need this church as much as I do who have less financially to offer than I do, and I need to pay it forward.

Thanks, Frank, and thanks to everyone else who's offered their testimony to the power of this community.  And thanks to each and every person who calls TJMC "home" and who makes it the community that it is.