HONORING THE SPIRIT OF ST. JOHN’S
We acknowledge those who practice acts of unselfish support in the service of our church and community.
April 2021: John Kachuba is recognized with the Spirit Award, for his smooth and well-organized facilitation of the Social Action meeting in January, where all of the Social Justice groups reported on their 2020 work and their aims for 2021. Being the UUers we are, the meeting could have lasted for hours; under his management, not a minute was wasted, and all were heard. This is not the only occasion that his organizational wizardry has supported us. He is a force behind many-valued undertakings at St. John’s. He leads the Outreach team, deciding who and how we allocate money in Split-the-Plate and grants. He is on the board of UU Justice Ohio and in the thick of issues dealing with voter advocacy, harmful Ohio legislation, and several other racial and environmental justice issues. He works with our partner church group, sings in the choir, is part of the men’s group and is a former Board member.
His skills have a decidedly fun side, too, as evidenced by the legendary Halloween parties that he and Mary host every year to which all are invited. Spooky decorations beckon from both inside and outside the house and even the ghosts from the many books he’s written swoop low to sniff the amazing abundance of delectable treats on offer. We are thankful for the many benefits of John’s unmitigated spirit.
March 2021: The Spirit Team Award is special because it is one of the ways our community organizes itself to be ‘community’ for St. John’s, especially for those who might feel isolated during the pandemic. We’re recognizing The CommUUnity Connections Facilitators Joetta Prost, Martha McLeod, Nancy Henry, Marty Harrington, Lyn O’Brien, Charles Spencer, Emily Hodges, and Nat Kutcher for facilitating CommUUnity Group Calls each week. In July, Joetta and Nat launched the program on Signup Genius. Members can choose a time and day that works best to Zoom with other congregants. Joetta looks after the groups, offering optional topics along with tips on how to manage so that everyone gets a chance to talk.
The calls are an opportunity to chat with church friends and get to know new friends. We discuss a myriad variety of topics such as current events, fond memories, crafts, jokes, music – whatever we choose! Participants report they enjoy getting to know each other at a deeper level both old friends and people they hadn’t met before. Some love the informality, the chance to talk about anything. Others relish being connected to discuss important topics. But no matter what, they appreciate the human interaction outside of work and home – having a chance to speak and be heard whether the conversation is serious or mundane, whether it is personal or about vital issues. We thank these generous facilitators who make it happen week after week. It’s community!
February 2021: As the snowflakes drift, our thoughts turn to spring and the promise of the beautiful garden at St. John’s that lies sleeping under a white coverlet. We are lucky to have many dedicated green thumbers who work to make our grounds blossom and we appreciate them all. This first green Spirit Award, however, goes David Terry whose extensive knowledge of horticulture and bright smiles are always given freely. Even though we weren’t there to enjoy the splendor this year, he meticulously maintained our green sanctuary all summer long. His talent for growing isn’t limited by the season either; we’ve heard that lemon and orange trees thrive inside his apartment all year round. What touched us most is that when it came time for the pet blessing this year, he asked Rev. Mitra to bless the butterflies. Bless all the creatures who grace our gardens, and all the people who work to make them feel welcome, but especially, bless our very own butterfly man. Thank you, David.
January 2021: Many nominated Claire Wagner for a Spirit Award because it’s easy to see the results she delivers as head of the Communication & Marketing team. Her efforts and those of her team affect nearly every part of our connection as a congregation. But did you know that the current gift she is to St. John’s was wrapped up in a silver-lining bow when the black pandemic-closure cloud blew in? She and her husband retired a hair’s breadth before the March 2020 national crisis which disrupted their travel plans as well as many of the Church communication pathways she already had in place. Luckily for us the storm did not stop her, it only revved her up.
Her years as Director of Communication for Miami University might not have prepared her to instantly meet the need for online lifelines to replace the mooring we’d lost. The technicalities of the various media vehicles that could connect us and fulfill our spiritual and social needs must have been overwhelming. But Claire only went faster. Some of the platforms we needed her team knew how to use, some she had to teach herself, but all had to be mastered quickly. She tapped the technical talents of many congregants and reached out to outside experts. She welcomed the help of volunteers and staff, collaborated and coordinated their efforts to produce the beautiful product that we call Church. Can you picture her doing that week after week while dealing with the inevitable overhauling required to turn breakdowns into solutions in real-time? And yet, in her spare time, she managed to mentor other team leaders and members in new ways to frame material, to make it more exciting and yet easy to read, to entice people further with links to additional information, all so they could carry out their commitments. No wonder so many people appreciate and want to thank her!
December 2020: Our finger-in-almost-every-pie Spirit Award goes to Sarah Loar Seibert. For the last 28 years her ‘finger’ has sweetened too many ventures fulfilling St. John’s covenant to fit here! Her generous spirit reflects her love of people. She believes that every person is important and every person has something to contribute which fuels her passion for St. John’s and for Social Justice. In her work on the Membership team, her hope is that in enhancing people’s experience of St. John’s they will see a clear path here for spiritual growth and fulfillment. She sends the welcome letter to visitors, connects new people with others of similar interests, and many other things to generate our community. The beautifully written and printed brochures, the welcome table material, many activity posters, and with Bill Surber’s beautiful pictures, the Membership wall (to mention just a few) are Sarah’s contribution in time and expense to our congregation.
As our representative to IJPC, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, Sarah keeps us updated on community activities and events in the greater community. One of the brightest moments in Sarah’s work for Social Justice happened in December of 2019. As coordinator of SIT, the Sanctuary & Immigration Team, she and her team and as many other volunteers as they could muster, put on a dinner for 80 entitled “Guests at St. John’s Table”. They cooked, decorated, translated and transported people to the event and from (and sent food home). The speakers, many immigrants, shared their experiences to a touched and sometimes tearful audience. It was truly diversity melding. The feedback was marvelous, even from contributors who had already worked themselves silly. For Sarah, it was bliss.Thank you for all we see and all we don’t, Sarah; we couldn’t do without you
November 2020: A dynamic duo award goes to Charles Seibert and Mike Steiner for taking on the leadership of the Thursday evening Theology Group. They have kept the discussion interesting and vital by providing readings, topics, and even speakers about Unitarian and Universalist history, thought, and theology. Thanks goes to them for volunteering, inspiring us to expand our minds, and allowing us to get to know each other better amid great discussions and laugh out loud moments.
November 2020: It is Chalice Group season. The opportunity to experience spiritual growth in an open and supportive atmosphere is well worth the time spent, but last year’s groups had a bonus session. Ken Cunningham invited participants and their spouses/significant others to dinner at their home for relaxation and fun. Ken was a member of the Chalice Group but his husband, John, jumped in to help make the event a delight. Thank you to the dynamic duo. We hope it becomes a tradition.
October 2020: We honor Emily Hodges who was awarded the 2020 Steward of Partnership Award from UU’s Partner Church Council of Canada and the US. She has spent over 25 years supporting St. John’s partner church in Romania. Whether organizing dinner or overseeing the kitchen for our Soup and Bread lunches, whether funding schools or other projects in the Transylvanian community, Emily goes far beyond just answering requests, she’s out in front. On one of her visits there, she spied an outdated world map on a school wall and quietly had a new one shipped. Thank you, Emily, for making a difference in so many ways.
September: If we had an Above and Beyond spirit award, it would go to Greg Franseth. Most of us think of him as the minister’s spouse but he is so much more to St. John’s. As our chief technical guru, such things as software quirks, password review, reboots, Wi-Fi connection, website platform, and PayPal code click through the air with ease thanks to him. Most of all, we appreciate his infinite patience as we each ask, “How do I?” time and time again.
August 2020: A ‘dancing’ spirit award goes to Nat Kutcher who didn’t wait until their actual book signing to jump into full participation at St. John’s. Coffee hour helper, co-organizer of CommUUnity Connections, participant in Time with the Hymnal, choir, chalice group, and more, there seems to be no end to their contribution. We are lucky to have them!
July 2020: Lovingly planned in the spirit of generosity and vision, this year’s Pledge campaign was shut down after only two weeks. Joetta Prost and her team bravely redesigned the project and taking the precarious financial climate in their stride, met 100% of the goal and exceeded it by $20,000.
While they thank our members gracious monetary support, we thank them for allowing our community to thrive for another year. Joetta’s dedicated team includes: Carol Fencl, Charles Spencer, Cliff Shisler, Emily Hodges, Erin Zoller, Greg Terhune, Kathy Rentz, Linda Heath, and Nancy Henry.
We also appreciate those who offered to host and/or facilitate the cottage meetings that couldn’t happen because of Covid19.
June 2020: A spirited thank you to David Roth, Matthew Cowperthwait, and Monica Pellman who braved the virtual management of our congregational meeting despite the peculiarities of Zooming and persevered to make sure we were all served. You are much appreciated!