Archive for August, 2008

Photos from Bismarck visit

August 18, 2008

In the right side bar are the photos I took during my visit to the Bismarck-Mandan UU Fellowship over the weekend. The fellowship owns the building, which is across the street from the North Dakota state capitol grounds.  They share their space on Sundays with a Quaker group which meets at another time.


Sun and Moon and 180 Degrees of Sky

August 18, 2008

Over the weekend I was in Bismarck, North Dakota, leading a start-up process for their new consulting minister. I was invited to a concert on Saturday night, and I’m so very happy that I went!

The concert was in the yard of the Bohemian Hall, eight miles south of Mandan ND. If you do an internet search for “Bohemian Hall,” you’ll get multiple references for the Bohemian Hall and beer garden in Astoria NY. It’s described as “an old time Central European bar with a massive outdoor beer garden.”

That’s not an accurate description of the Bohemian Hall near Mandan. This Bohemian Hall is a small white building, shaped somewhat like a church, with a big wooden floor that would have been great for dancing. The building is 101 years old and is a gathering place for people in the area. Outhouses marked “His” and “Hers” are out back.

The concert was by local musician Chuck Suchy and his family. Mr. Suchy is a farmer and singer/songwriter. His son Ben played a blues set, and his daughter Andra, part of a Minneapolis group called the Dollies, sang some original numbers and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” Mr. Suchy came on stage at dusk and played several numbers, which were received with enthusiasm by the crowd.

The crowd included about 400 people on lawn chairs, drinking coffee and eating pie and kolaches for sale in the Hall. There were people in their 80’s as well as young families with babies and toddlers — men in seed caps and women in denim and turquoise; older fellows discussing the state of their corn crops and women hugging and greeting their friends; a few drinking beer or perhaps something stronger from their coffee thermoses.

The evening was wonderful. To the east, we could see a little white church in a grove of trees up on a hill. To the west, a cornfield. And 180 degrees of sky around us, with wispy clouds, a slight breeze to cool us and to keep the mosquitoes away.

As the sun went down in the west, a full moon rose in the east. It was a lovely, lovely night and one I shall remember for a long, long time. One of my personal goals for this summer was to have more fun. This magical night surely qualifies!

Standing on the Side of Love

August 7, 2008

Unitarian Universalist congregations around the country responded with caring and compassion in the wake of the news of the attack on Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville, TN.  The news went out to members, and people gathered quickly to support each other and to send their support to those affected in Knoxville.

Here’s just one example, from the newsletter of the Unitarian Fellowship in Lawrence, KS.

Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence Shows Solidarity with Knoxville UU Congregations

In a moving candlelight vigil on July 30, members and friends of the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence expressed caring for the Knoxville congregations affected by the July 27 shooting, showed compassion for the troubled soul who fired the shots, and reaffirmed our values of welcoming all people. We stood in solidarity with the Knoxville churches, with 83 other UU congregations holding services that night, and with 321 UU congregations that have held services since that fateful Sunday. Participants from Lawrence, Topeka, and Shawnee, Kansas joined our service. A soloist sang a beautifully touching a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Our consulting minister gave a meditation roll call, naming those who had been killed or wounded and conveying a bit about their lives. Our children lit candles from the memorial candles at the front table, and passed the candlelight to our candles. Participants, including our architect whose home church is the Tennessee Valley UU Church, shared their reflections. We closed by singing “Standing on the Side of Love.”

One of our ministers had a piece published in the local newspaper. Rev. Thom Belote [Shawnee Mission UU Church, Overland Park, KS] wrote this for the Kansas City Star; it can be seen here:

Thanks to all who are speaking out about our values and standing firm against those whose hate and bigotry lead them to do terrible things. For ongoing updates, see the many articles and resources available at