Note: this and the previous chapter describe Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church (NSUU) in Danvers, up through our building’s semicentennial in 2017. The story was created by many hands, so we tell it here in many voices. See the end of the chapters for the contributors’ names.
The strategy of NSUU has been to guard its endowment and strive not to dip into it for unexpected or overdue expenditures. Consequently, pledges and other income always have to be supplemented with fundraising events to make the budget balance. One annual event targeted mainly at members was the People-to-People auction, where we would offer services, prized possessions or vacation retreats to each other. Small-plane or sailboat tours of the North Shore were favorite listings.
At the other end of the scale was October Fair (originally called the “Octoberfest”), which was widely announced and well attended by the community. It became the largest “church bazaar” in the area with a live auction, varieties of food and children’s events. Marj Lynn was the chairperson of the Octoberfest and Barbara Haight was a frequent chairperson in subsequent years. The Fair became famous with publicity for Ray Haight’s apple pies; one year, he cooked 150 pies! In recent years this autumn event became the Harvest Festival craft fair led by Marcia Lassar.
Dona McDuff at Octoberfest, 1981; Jennifer Revill at Harvest Festival, 2014
Serving the spectrum from social events to fundraisers were the many music programs offered in the Northshore UU Church Meeting Room. Excellent acoustics for small groups made it an ideal venue for our guest musicians in Sunday services, as well as for our fundraising “Music in the Woods” concert series initiated by Andrea Kaiser and continued for several years by a committee led by Brian Orr.
A popular Coffeehouse was organized in the ’90’s. From outside the congregation, pianists rented the space for recitals, and the North Shore’s “Music at Eden’s Edge” concert series offered free afternoon concerts here.
To enhance the Meeting Room, art exhibits were added; Alberta Sampson coordinated this effort for many years, and was followed by Shirley Guerriero as coordinator. The Meeting Room is one of the finest gallery spaces in the area. Joy Block tapestries were added in the Christmas season to decorate the walls in the church; members were invited to create a 12×12-inch square, and the squares were then combined for each tapestry. An annual Quilt Exhibit and a “Members and Friends” exhibit are very popular.
The church has long had a good balance of programs for members and outreach into the community. In the 1970s, Northshore Friends, a monthly dinner and social for former patients of the Danvers State Hospital, was very active; Jean Harriott coordinated the event for many years. In this tradition, the church created a Christmas Dinner With Friends, which has been active for 36 years. Bob Ferris has coordinated this event for many of these years.
At one time the church also provided a Refugee Furniture Clearing Program to assist those in need of housing goods. Over the years members have volunteered to participate in providing meals to Danvers, Lynn and Salem people coordinating with other North Shore churches. The Open Door Society was active within the church.
The Social Concerns Committee, for years led by Tom Gale, provided discussions of social importance as well as various forms of action. Recent social concern activities have included serving dinners at Lifebridge homeless shelter in Salem, tutoring at the Extended Stay shelter in Danvers, helping to sponsor refugee families, marching in Gay Pride parades, studying the effects of racism and income inequality, membership in the interfaith Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), collecting items to Support Our Troops, and selling fair trade merchandise.
This program was less vigorous for several years, and revived in the new millennium by Lois Markham.
Recognizing that many members were involved in the community on an individual basis, the Frank Farnham Award was established to honor these efforts. A few years later, the Ann Milender Award was created to honor church members making a significant contribution to the life of the Northshore UU Church.
The Isaac Munroe Foundation for Children
Written by Leonard Swanson.
The Foundation is named for Isaac Munroe, who in 1891 left in his will his homestead and money to be used to establish a “Home for Orphan and Needy Children.” He was a member of the First Unitarian Society of Peabody that later united with the First Universalist Church of Peabody. They in turn united with the Danvers Unitarian-Universalist Church, thus forming in 1966 the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church. The Foundation by-laws, as specified in Isaac Munroe’s will, require that five men and five women, members of the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church, comprise the board. The board generally meets at least twice a year to monitor investments for income and to choose recipients of the grants to help children and their families. The Foundation is a significant complement to the service mission of our church. Its monies are derived from a separate investment fund.
please see the separate chapter on Isaac Munroe’s life.
How NSUU Became a Welcoming Congregation
By Marty Langlois and Jim Lynch, Church members since 1976.
Written by Marty Langlois.
When one of our daughters identified as Gay in 1994 Jim and I felt compelled to act on our UU principal of The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Being. Both our girls were loved unconditionally by us and by our church community. We had strong role models of gay couples at church. The ‘about your sexuality’ program that the girls attended at church as young teens was invaluable to them. They learned about the importance of relationships and values as it related to sexuality. Their sexual orientation did not factor in at all to who they were to us. On the other hand, we could not ignore prejudice aimed at LGBT persons. So we immersed ourselves in LGBT advocacy and the ‘coming out’ process. As a family we were ALL coming out.
We became involved in PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of LGBT) and the Greater Boston LGBT Teen support group. We went to our first PFLAG meeting and wow, we were no longer alone. The teen support group was also a lifeline as well for our daughters. We met regularly at PFLAG meetings in Arlington, we attended PFLAG speakers’ training. We were then in many speaking engagements at high schools and colleges to tell our story. At the same time schools were starting peer support groups for gay teens. We marched in many Gay Pride parades proudly behind the PFLAG banner. The crowd appreciation of support from family and friends was overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. Some folks just rushed up to us to get a hug of acceptance and love, something that was sorely missing in their lives.
At that time, I had the perception that LGBT issues were not in the open so to speak. As I reached out and found support in the greater Boston Community, I found there was much being done at the time all around me. I was just not aware. I leapt at every opportunity to learn more. I began to wonder could this be awareness and education be something to bring to NSUU? One thing I learned about was a National Coming Out day on October 11th. I recall one Sunday stepping forward during Cares and Celebrations and with albeit a shaking voice, I celebrated National Coming Out Day. Just that, no details. What followed were many folks who sought me out during coffee hour to share their LGBT stories. That felt good. It was now a time to build on that awareness.
How did all this social action Jim and I were involved in manifest at NSUU? Jim and I suggested that we have PFLAG come and bring speakers to do a service. From our participation in speaking engagements we knew how powerful it was. We organized a service and it was very well received. So much so we collectively became aware there was a learning opportunity for NSUU. We could become a Welcoming Congregation.
The UUA had developed a Welcoming Congregation program. LGBT awareness was growing nationwide, so to reflect this the UUA developed a workbook with a curriculum for congregations to learn about LGBT issues and concerns. The lesson plans were designed for 6-8 week sessions. We had a large group attend those sessions. The UUA also had specific activities to be completed by the church over a 2- or 3-year time frame. So a committee of 6-8 folks began our work. We met regularly to implement many programs of outreach and education supporting the LGBT community at NSUU and the greater North Shore. We proudly had an LGBT art fair.
It was so rewarding to offer the greater North Shore community as a vehicle to express themselves in art displayed in our meeting room. Teens through adults shared their work. We had special hours for public viewing as well and a local news write up. At the end of this programming NSUU would be eligible for being recognized by the UUA as a Welcoming Congregation. WE DID IT ! Wedid it all. NSUU is a Welcoming Congregation. Jim and I are proud of NSUU ushering all of us into a Welcoming Congregation.
History of Black Lives Matter Banner at NSUU
Written by Lois Markham.
In the spring of 2016, Reverend Julie Lombard suggested that the Social Action Committee propose putting up a Black Lives Matter banner at NSUU. After some discussion, the committee agreed to put a motion before the annual meeting in May 2016. The proposal stated:
Many UU congregations have erected banners stating “Black Lives Matter” as a public statement against racism. It has been proposed that NSUU create and display such a banner, which could also be displayed at marches or other outside events in which Northshore Church participates. The Social Action Committee therefore proposes a vote by the congregation at the Annual Meeting on the following resolution: “Resolved that Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church create and display a banner with the wording “Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church believes Black Lives Matter.” If the resolution passes, the Social Action Committee would like to form an ad hoc committee, open to all members of the congregation, to decide on the design of the banner and where it should be displayed.”
There was much debate at the annual meeting. Several members of the congregation expressed the sentiment that they did not know enough about the issue to vote. Therefore, the Social Action Committee withdrew the proposal with the understanding that the congregation would spend the next year studying the issue. To that end, the Social Action Committee instituted monthly Soul Work Forums, in which the topic of racism was explored in various ways. The same proposal was presented to the annual meeting in May 2017. It passed on a paper ballot.
During the summer of 2017, an ad hoc committee designed a banner and considered where to put it. The banner was blessed on September 10, 2017, by Reverend Lombard. It was placed in front of the church on October 28, 2017, with the plan that it could be moved to various locations on church property.
A Green Sanctuary
Written by Iain Goddard.
The Green Sanctuary Subcommittee was begun in 2014 as an offshoot of the Social Action Committee. Our mission statement is to lead the congregation and the community in living our Seventh UU Principle: “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” One long-term goal of our efforts is to obtain certification for the church, from the Unitarian Universalist Association, as a Green Sanctuary. This program requires years of planning and work by the whole congregation to make our practices more environmentally friendly and to further the cause of environmental justice.
During 2015 we conducted a professional Energy Audit of the church to identify ways we can save on our electric bill and carbon footprint. Also, we resolved to take a look at our recycling habits and try to improve them. This proved to be a surprisingly challenging educational process for the congregation.
The Green Sanctuary Team sponsored several annual events beginning about this time. We developed an inter-generational Earth Day service for a Sunday in April; we presented an environmental information booth at the annual Danvers Family Festival; and we participated with Massachusetts Audubon in a summertime “Pepperweed Pull” to rid the Ipswich marshes of an invasive plant.
In 2018 we passed the huge milestone of having our application approved for our church’s candidacy in the Green Sanctuary Program of the Unitarian Universalist Association. This application was the result of two years of planning and education, and is characterized by the church’s selection of 19 projects to complete over the next few years. At least half of these projects are well under way.
In general, we strive to include events for young people as much as possible, and to form collaborations with other local church and justice groups. The collaborations also including financial support for the Danvers Rail Trail, which runs along the back, wooded portion of our property, and for the Ipswich River Watershed Association that protects the waters of Essex County.
Rev. Julie Lombard, commenting on the 50th Anniversary Celebration and our bright future ahead, wrote,
“This vibrant church swept me off my feet when I first arrived as a newcomer a few years ago. It is a great honor to serve this church as its minister especially as it celebrates this historical benchmark. We have been a sanctuary in the woods for many folks over the years, a safe place to raise your children, and a creative place that sparks the soul of any age. It is my aim to keep this a sacred place where people feel warmly welcome to live out our shared Unitarian Universalist values no matter your race, your origins, your challenge, your religious background, or absence of one, and your lifestyle or sexual orientation.
We are here to serve the needs of the wider world and since the world is always in need, we are secure that our service will always be in need. The desire to develop and explore spirituality through worship, art, music, and nature has continued to inspire us through the ages. We believe it will continue to inspire us for many more years to come.
Deep in the woods of Danvers is a special faith community that is like no other- one that cares about you, one that is not afraid to question in its search for the truth, and one that will warmly greet you in a homecoming that can sooth your soul. Bring yourself, bring your families, bring whatever you have to share and we will share ourselves with you. The gifts that are here are endless.”
from notes and memories of:
and many more