It is important to us that the children be present for a part of the service and we look forward to Sunday mornings when they join the larger group. The Coming of Age Service and the Youth Service are highly anticipated celebrations of transition and growth bringing the entire congregation together.
Music is an important part of the Sunday service. We have songs that we have become familiar with and sing with gusto. We mix traditional and modern hymns including those written by our own members. Music is provided by the Choir and Bell Choir as well as by talented members of the congregation including some of our youth.
Silent meditation is an important part of each service. We value readings from the worlds’ religious traditions and many other sources of wisdom and inspiration. We look forward to the sermon and to reaffirming a feeling of community and shared values.
This year we are using the Tapestry of Faith curriculum from the UUA. The other main topics we rotate through are World Religions, Peace & Social Justice, Unitarian Universalism, Our Jewish and Christian Heritage (1/2 year program) and the Interdependent Web of Life (1/2 year program). The seven Unitarian Universalist Principles are woven throughout our program, in addition to our core values of freedom, reason, acceptance of diversity, loving kindness and compassion.
Our youth religious education program also includes many additional enrichment programs such as our annual Peace and Nature summer camp and our 8th & 9th grade Coming of Age program. We host elementary, middle school, and high school sleepovers, and our middle school and high school youth participate in district CONS, including hosting them at our church. We also offer life span OWL (Our Whole Lives) comprehensive sexual education. Our high school YRUU program is involved in regional work through HYAC (Heartland Area Youth Council). Our Young Adult group (ages 18-35) proudly hosts the popular KUULS (Kalamazoo UU Liberal Students) CON held annually on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend each January. Since 2003, young people from around the country have gathered together for worship, workshops, fun and fellowship at this conference.
In the area of adult religious education, our interim minister has been offering a series on process/relational theology one evening a week, another series on vision and growth midday on a weekday, and another longer series on Monday mornings using fables and discussion that is attracting many older members. He regularly offers discussion groups after services that he has presided at as well. They are generally well attended. Offerings from previous ministers and other groups have included topics such as Building Your Own Theology and The Four Faiths.
We are proud of the leadership that we have in our Director of Religious Education, Diane Melvin, who has been with us in this role for 13 years. Diane is a Credentialed Religious Educator through the Unitarian Universalist Association and has a Master’s degree in Environmental Science. She is an adjunct professor at WMU and former educator with the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Diane is passionate about helping people connect with nature as well as encouraging them to honor and nurture their own spiritual lives.
Adults come together to build relationships and share their interests and ideas in a variety of ways. A discussion group meets twice a month to explore current events. People who love fiction meet with the Book Discussion Group once a month. A Study Group also meets monthly to discuss a different non-fiction book for that month. The Facing Life; Facing Death Group provides support to those facing end-of-life and grief issues. The Women’s Retreat has become a source of spiritual and social connection for a significant number of women from People’s Church and other congregations. Their retreat usually takes place over a weekend in mid-Winter. A meditation group meets quarterly. Several Chalice Circles help people explore their personal beliefs. Every summer many families and singles gather at a state park on Lake Michigan for a weekend campout. People of similar interest often get together to socialize and share their talent – the auto-harp group (meets monthly); a sing-along group focuses on old folk and protest songs. And there is always good conversation and laughter during the coffee hour after church. Second Sunday lunches are wonderful times to get acquainted and enjoy good food. Committees take turns making food for this post Sunday Service experience.
Art & Music
Components of both art and music are incorporated throughout the church in different ways. In addition to Sunday services, music is supported and promoted through concerts, sing-alongs, and fundraising entertainment.
We have a paid, part-time music coordinator who assists with weekly service arrangements and we are presently in need of a long-term choir director. We house a fully operational system of Audio/Visual equipment to enhance performances. This technical area is operated by a small crew of volunteers.
Our church also supports visual artists within the church and local community. We maintain an art wall featuring a new artist each month and partner yearly with local artists for our popular Fine Arts Sale and Holiday Bazaar.
Two committees oversee the direction of art and music within our church. The Music Committee governs our musical programs and the Aesthetics Committee guides all visual aspects of our space including art and overall decor.
People’s Church is a place where music and art are ever-evolving components of our identity. We hold to our creative roots as we reach for more expressive ways of celebrating life and diversity.
Our Staff, Board of Trustees, and Committees work to keep things running smoothly. Volunteers help to keep the building repaired and clean through periodic workdays. A group of dedicated volunteers meet every Tuesday morning to pool their skills for special jobs. A large group teaches our children and youth every Sunday. Others help the RE Director in a variety of ways. If you happen to be in the church on the second Tuesday of the month, you will smell delicious aromas coming from the kitchen. “Talking Pots” is preparing a meal for one of the shelters for homeless people. A dedicated group sells fair-trade coffee and chocolate every Sunday to help us live our values through what we eat and drink. Our two annual fundraisers, the Service Auction and the Fine Arts Sale and Holiday Bazaar are “whole church events,” involving many volunteers who develop new relationships and work hard to make these events successful and fun for all involved.
Expanding Our Horizons
In 2009 the church sponsored an introductory workshop on “Understanding and Analyzing Racism” presented by ERAC/CE (Eliminating Racism and Claiming/Celebrating Equality, a regional partner of Crossroads Organizing and Training. Ten people were motivated to attend the full, 2.5 day ERAC/CE training and grant was obtained to enable the entire church staff to attend this training. An ARAOMC committee was formed. This group has sponsored a number of films with discussion, and several trainings and educational events including the UUA “Examining Our Whiteness”, “Constructing a New White Identity in the 21st Century” and a “Beloved Conversations” retreat. They provided training to greeters and other church members on “micro aggressions” and facilitated a book discussion on “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West. Recently they learned that the Kalamazoo Community Foundation has granted them $10,000. This will be used to provide a six hour introductory anti-racism training for 30 people and will allow 14 more congregational members to attend the 2.5 ERAC/CE training. We look forward to continuing this important work.
During the 2011-2012 church year, we prepared and submitted the application for accreditation of People’s Church as a Green Sanctuary congregation by the UUA Ministry for Earth. We developed and are implementing a scope of projects required for accreditation which include: inclusion of environmental themes in sermons, integration of environmental ethics into the World Religion curriculum for children’s religious education, present an adult education series on World Religions and Ecology (i.e., how people draw on each faith tradition to motivate environmental actions), conduct an Environmental Film Series with discussions, continue to use and to sell fair trade, organic and shade grown products, reinstitute the “Green Spot” column in the newsletter to inform congregation about timely environmental topics, educate kitchen users and improve our composting practices, continue Adopt-A-Highway program, and develop information channels using the kiosk in the foyer and the website.
We obtained our official recognition as a welcoming congregation this year. The application letter is viewable here . People’s Church has a long and proud history of supporting the LBGTQ community, as this letter explains.
We actively partner with the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center on LGBTQ issues. Young leaders and long-time activists are visible in our church life and educate the congregation through relationships formed in fellowship activities and through words spoken in various parts of the service (Joys and Concerns, Readings, Sermons, books chosen for children’s moment (e.g., 10,000 Dresses), etc.). A recent sermon featured the director of the KGLRC speaking about the importance of visibility for LGBTQ equality, and how allies can best help in this fight.
We have a large bulletin board that is solely dedicated to LGBTQ information, articles and resources, both local and national/international. Articles found here are frequently used by parents as a discussion starter for broaching these topics with their children, as well as serving as a congregational resource.