Congregational Treasure. May 21, 2018.

“In our gardens, we learn the deepest of spiritual lessons.”
– Barbara Davenport, “Everyday Spiritual Practice”

Barb Dutchak loves to garden. In the long winter months, she plans and maps. As the darkness recedes, she clears away winter’s debris and prepares the ground. Sowing, watering and deadheading throughout spring and summer, she watches in wonder as blossoms open and leaves unfurl. Autumn is for putting her plants to bed with the hope that some will overwinter and return again when the ground thaws.

A gardener to the core, Barb has a gift for making things bloom. Her green thumb works its magic well beyond one patch of earth. Since joining UUCF in 2007, Barb has cultivated reflection, connection and joy in all of her projects within the congregation. Her natural warmth at the Welcome Table has eased the way for many visitors to our congregation. She carries that same generosity of spirit to her work on the Membership Committee. A regular facilitator of Newcomer Orientations, Barb offers relaxed, delighted attention as she invites those new to UUCF to embrace their spiritual journey as they find their way. She carries this invitation well beyond first introductions. A supporter of Wellspring, Barb helps members explore meaningful questions while deepening their experience of Unitarian Universalism.

Barb sows lushness and color in many corners of our congregation. For many years, Barb has attended – and now leads – the UUCF Poetry Club. The club meets throughout the year, including summer. One Sunday afternoon a month, UUCF congregants and neighbors from the community come together to immerse themselves in the written word. Barb guides the meetings with care, inviting attendees to expand their engagement with the poems. She leads her fellow poetry lovers across a varied landscape of experiences, resulting in wonder, belly laughs, mindful discussion, tears.

With that same magical gardener’s touch, Barb helps cultivate the sacred during the monthly Vespers. She has served on the Vespers coordinating team for the last 3 years, leading and collaborating on the creation of these lay-led worship services. Barb also supports others to help create meaningful and transformative Vespers.

Indeed, almost no corner of the UUCF garden escapes Barb’s magic touch. By selling holiday cards and other items in the Commons, she has supported the UU Service Committee. On three occasions, she has served as delegate to General Assembly. She brings bright flower arrangements she has crafted by hand to adorn tables at the Membership Committee’s Anniversary Dinners. She shows up at UUCF’s Hypothermia Shelter, Rebuilding Together and a number of other service opportunities with healthy, delicious snacks for guests and volunteers.

If something blooms bright at UUCF, there’s a good chance Barb Dutchak has put her hands to it.

In “Everyday Spiritual Practice,” Barbara Davenport writes, “Through gardening, we learn that we constitute, with all growing things, a single community of life.” Year after year, Barb Dutchak does the rigorous, hopeful work of bringing her own garden to life. She can discern what lives under the surface of things, what simply needs care and light in order to bloom. She draws out those possibilities with her skilled, loving touch. We are blessed to have a gifted gardener like Barb Dutchak among us, offering this congregation so many ways to flourish.

Written by Shannon Williams, Lay Minister for Membership and Outreach