by Dave Wiemer, UUCF Generosity Team member

from the Nov. 14, 2016, Faith Matters blog

Like many of you, I am still struggling to process the results of Tuesday’s presidential election. In discussing the outcome with our children, my wife, Heather, and I assured them that they were safe and loved. We assured them that we would fight injustice and find ways to serve the most vulnerable members of our community. We promised them that as a family we would stand on the side of love.

A few days removed from that conversation, I continue to find reassurance knowing that I belong to a faith community that shares my values. UUCF is a place where my family and I know that we will find love and compassion in a world that sometimes seems incapable of either. UUCF is our spiritual home where our children will grow, connect and serve. I am more confident than ever in our decision to invest in the future of this wonderful place.

A few weeks before the election, my family made a three-year pledge to the Within Reach campaign. Though we were not part of the congregation during the original Reach campaign, we reap the benefits of the congregation’s generosity. When we first started attending services in early 2013 the parking lot was a gravel pit, not the beautiful, eco-friendly spot it is today. We witnessed its transformation firsthand, and want to make sure other important infrastructure investments that are within reach can go forward.

The Within Reach campaign’s goal of retiring debt is far from the most glamorous of projects; yet, it is essential to the congregation’s financial health. This will allow us to lower our operating expenses by nearly $55,000 per year – enabling us to use that money to finance some social justice projects that will be essential in the coming 4 years.

Our pledge is an investment in the future of UUCF. We are proud to help ensure the financial stability of the congregation because our family gets so much more in return. Now, more than ever, our support of the loving message and work of this congregation is vitally important.

I hope that you will join us by making a pledge to the Within Reach campaign today.

by former Board President David Addis and current President Karen Wolf

from the Oct. 9, 2016, worship services

“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community.”
– Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

David Addis

I am here today to talk briefly about the Reach campaign.  This comes almost exactly four years from the first time I spoke about the Reach campaign from this pulpit, when I was President of the Board and the Reach campaign was just getting started.  I thought that day, and I think today, about all the many people who have devoted their time, talent and treasure for more than fifty years to build and nurture this congregation.  Like you, those who came before us loved this congregation and they loved each other — and it is very clear that they also loved each of you sitting here today, whether they ever met you or not.  Because they dedicated themselves to make sure that UUCF would be here when you got here, with the resources it needs to be strong and carry out its mission.  That seems like love to me.

The Reach campaign gave us all an opportunity to join in that expression of love and to join with those who’ve come before to build strong the foundations of our community.

Karen Wolf

I was here when we started the Reach campaign, but not at all in the capacity I am now. I wasn’t the President of the congregation. I wasn’t on the Board. I didn’t really have any kind of leadership role in the congregation, unless you counted singing alto kind of loudly.

I didn’t entirely understand the concept of a capital campaign, and how it different from operating expenses. I understood that a church needed the time, talent, and treasure of the congregation in order to function, but the larger picture was a little lost on me. But the people I met through the Reach campaign helped me see that this was about more than just a parking lot or a sewer hookup, as necessary as those things are. It was about the kind of place, and by extension, the kind of world, that we envisioned together as a community.


Fast forward four years, and we have accomplished a great deal:  We built a new, welcoming, safe and eco-friendly parking lot — not just a big paved square, but a parking lot that represents a sophisticated state-of-the-art, environmentally responsible design that aligns with our values.  We have new technology tools to enhance our worship and programs and expand our capabilities and reach, and more attractive, more functional and more comfortable furniture and meeting spaces.  And we set aside 10% of the funds collected for social justice projects.

We haven’t quite finished; but some of our goals are just “Within Reach” right now.

  • Strengthen our financial foundation by paying off half the mortgage and save more the $50,000 a year in mortgage payments that we can spend on other programs;
  • Reduce our carbon footprint with energy-saving improvements; and
  • Address a looming environmental problem and potential emergency expense by connecting to the public sewer and retire our aging septic fields.

And we can continue our commitment to devote 10% of whatever is raised to social justice and community outreach.


So we ask three things:

  • If you’ve made a pledge, please consider what you can do to accelerate payment so that you complete your pledge, or pay as much as you can, before December 15 this year.
  • For those who were here, and for whatever reason didn’t feel called or weren’t able to contribute to the campaign, please consider whether you are able to participate with a pledge now.
  • And for all of you who weren’t here when the Reach campaign was launched, and didn’t have the chance to participate, we’re asking you to add your support — and love — to the foundation and future of this congregation.  You will be getting more information and a request for a visit with a member of the Within Reach team to explain what has been accomplished, all that we still have to do, and what is Within Reach.  Please say “YES” to a visit — this is a chance to spend some time with a fellow congregant, getting to know one another better while talking about the beloved community we share — what we love, what could be better, and what we can do together.  Even if you have made up your mind about the financial side of things, we still have things to discuss: a vision for the future of this congregation. One in which we live our values of respect for the interconnected web of existence. One in which we love and care for one another, in part by preparing our financial situation for the future. One in which we build a world filled with justice, equity, and compassion through our social justice ministry. And by contributing to this place, this institution, you’re helping to build this future.


I started by talking about the previous generations who loved us by planting these trees, digging these wells, laying these foundations.  Now is our chance to show our love to those who come after us.  You might not have thought that connecting to the public sewer is an act of love — but I think it is, and I hope that now you do too.  So show some love!  It is Within Reach if we all do our pa

Digging deep for the community that has supported us

by Craig Bennett
delivered at services on Mar. 24, 2013

I first came to Unitarian Universalism when my daughter Natalie was a toddler. She was, if I might say, a bit precocious. As soon as she could talk she asked, “Where did we come from?” “Who made the world?” “Why am I here?” And, while she might not have said it, I could tell she was thinking, “Daddy, why don’t you know all the answers?” So my wife and I began to look for a church community that shared our values. If you know my wife, Susan, that wasn’t easy. “God the father” quickly eliminated all of the faith traditions I was familiar with.

By grace or serendipity, we found a UU church in Seattle and a community we both felt comfortable in. Natalie, and then our son, AJ, when he came along, both enjoyed Religious Exploration and we felt good knowing we had found a place where we could all ask questions and be ourselves. And then came our first annual giving campaign. A very nice man came to our house and scared the heck out of us. I was a young Coast Guard officer with two kids and my wife was a stay-at-home mother. Not a lot of extra money in the budget. And yet, we found a way to make a pledge to the church because we knew we had found a place that would help us raise our children, and what was more important than that? Over time, regular giving to our faith community moved from discretionary spending to the fixed expense part of our family budget.

Flash forward 20 years, my kids are mostly grown and Susan and I are still in a Unitarian Universalist community. We pledge generously to UUCF’s annual operating campaign every year, and will continue to do so this year.

When the Reach Campaign came along we thought, “Hey we gave to the last capital campaign, maybe we should sit this one out.” Then I was asked to join the Reach steering committee. I immediately said “yes” because I knew from my time on the board that this was a vital next step for us to take as a congregation. Then I remembered the most basic rule of happily married life. Don’t make a major commitment without talking to your partner …

We had our visit last November. We were impressed with the thoroughness of the plan and the bold vision for the future. We wanted to be part of it. We were amazed by what we didn’t know. I’d spent three years on the board and didn’t know we were on a septic system! But honestly, the amount that we were asked to contribute literally took my breath away. The dollar amount we had envisioned was much less. While I was trying to catch my breath, Susan made clear our intentions. Our visitor was gracious and thanked us for our generous gift. But in the weeks afterward we began to ask ourselves, was this really a generous gift, was it a stretch for us, was it a sacrifice for us? And did our pledge reflect our sense of responsibility to a community that had given us so much over the last 12 years? A community that supported us through our daughter’s teenage depression. A community that supported us as we cared for my live in father-in-law as he struggled with dementia. Not to mention the community that accepted us during our son’s pirate teen years? We had to admit that it did not. I realized that over the last decade we had come to consider ourselves stewards of this congregation. Stewardship is defined as taking care of something that does not belong to you. This community does not belong to us, we belong to this community and we are called to do our part to maintain it, expand it and leave it behind better than we found it. So Susan and I looked at our budget, and began identifying things we could give up. It forced us to examine what was really important to us and how we could adjust our spending to better reflect our values. We called our visitor back in January and doubled our pledge. I don’t say this to point out how wonderful I am; we are not the only household that has called their visitor and increased their pledge, and I want you to understand that there are many people in this congregation who are giving at a sacrificial level, giving more than they thought they could and who are volunteering innumerable hours of their time on this campaign to help UUCF fulfill it’s potential – it’s potential as a shining beacon of liberal religion on the footsteps of our nation’s capital.

To reach our goal of $3.2 million, we need pledges that reflect our sense of being stewards of this community. We have visited 258 households over the last five months. You have been very generous, and I thank those of you who have had a visit for your consideration. We have had 50 pledges of $15,000 or more, eleven of these pledges are $50,000 or more. Your gift – no matter what the size – is crucial to the success of this campaign. A pledge of $5,000 payable over five years is $83 per month. A $2,500 pledge over five years is $1.37 per day – less than a cup of coffee. Whatever the size of your gift, it will be crucial to our ability to achieve our goal! The campaign goal tracker in the lobby indicates we’ve raised more than $2.2 million. That’s terrific, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Of the 258 visits that have been made, we still have 70 pledges pending Please … please, contact your visitor if you’ve had a visit and finalize your pledge if you can. We are fast approaching the end of the campaign. In addition to the money raised, your gift is important because it symbolizes your stake in the future of our congregation. It is an act of solidarity with the congregation and with future generations. That’s why having a visit is just as important as making your pledge. It is in these visits – in living rooms, coffee shops or here at church – where that solidarity is nurtured. In fact, being a visitor has been the highlight of my volunteer service in this community. I feel blessed to have been able to sit down with so many of you and get to know you better.

So please, accept the call for a visit, make a pledge if you can and if you’ve already pledged consider making it a sacrificial pledge if it is not already. Join together in reaching for the future and enabling those who come after us to accomplish things we can’t even imagine. Thank you.

Making sure UUCF is a spiritual home for future generations

by Kathy Smerke Hochberg
delivered at services on Mar. 16-17, 2013

People who know me well, especially those who have met me during football or baseball season, know that I’m from Philadelphia. In my family, being a huge Philadelphia sports fan is the baseline expectation – there’s just no other way to be. If it’s a fall Sunday and you’re not rooting for the Eagles, you’re not getting fed dinner. I’m not kidding.

In my large extended family, of predominently Irish decent with some German and Slovenian thrown in, there’s also no way to be other than Catholic. That’s just the way it is, the way everyone is. Though my mother is loathe to admit it, there were some signs, early on, that I didn’t quite fit the mold like most of my cousins. Sign number one was the tantrum I threw at the age of 8 or 9 when I realized I couldn’t be an altar boy. The archdiocese of Philadelphia happened to be one of the last in the country to allow girls to serve. Sign number two was my senior thesis. For some reason, even though I attended an all girl’s Catholic high school, I thought it would be a good idea to center my thesis around debunking each of the theological arguments that popes have made to deny women the priesthood.

When living on my own, both in college and afterwards when I moved to Virginia to teach, I didn’t feel compelled to go to church and I reveled in this newly discovered autonomy. In June 2005, Ian and I got married and by the following winter, I was thinking ahead to having kids and trying to figure out if there was some sort of faith community where Ian, who was raised primarily unchurched, and I could find some common ground. At some point in college I had heard of UUs and after a quick Google search, discovered UUCF. At my first visit, I heard Mary Katherine [Morn, UUCF’s former parish minister] speak about the need for connection, community and play as the congregation raised money to build the playground. A few weeks later, I convinced Ian to come and we heard Mary Katherine speak about Legacy. By then, we were hooked; we celebrated our first wedding anniversary by signing the book and becoming members.

When I was growing up Catholic in Philadelphia, people here at UUCF were raising their kids as Unitarian Universalists. People like Becky and Carlos Perez, raising their children Karen and Rob. People like David Addis and Rebecca Lieser raising their children Erin, Colin and Julia. They, and dozens of other current UUCF families, gave both their guidance and their financial support to build our beautiful Sanctuary in the early 80s and, a decade ago, to renovate the Administration Building and create the Program Building as it is today. I love to think that I’ll be like Becky Perez and get to attend church regularly with my grown children and walk my grandchildren to their RE classes. But it’s likely that, like David and Rebecca, my children’s passions and pursuits will take them far afield. That likely reality, however, isn’t stopping me and my family from giving generously to the Reach Campaign. Sure, we’re giving money now so that Whitney, Hailey and Nathan will have a financially stable, welcoming spiritual home as they grow. But we are also trying to ensure that UUCF will be here to welcome youth, young adults and young families, next month, next year and in the next decade, who maybe haven’t even heard of Unitarian Universalism yet. My family wants to ensure that UUCF will be here for those unnamed people, just as it was here to welcome me. To help make this possible, I hope that you will join me and my family in pledging generously to the Reach Campaign.

A better beacon in today’s spiritual desert

by Davin Hutchins
delivered at services on Mar. 9-10, 2013

When my wife, Elizabeth, and I had a visit from our Reach Campaign visitor, a phrase in the pledge materials jumped out at me: To welcome “other seekers to our open-minded faith through the use of cutting-edge technologies.”

Elizabeth and I first became acquainted with [former parish minister] Mary Katherine Morn when we were wandering the Arabian Desert – literally. Even though we joined our first UU congregation in San Francisco, we had left it behind after 9/11 to spend time in the Muslim world. Six years later, she and I were waiting to give birth to a new son. We were eager to move back home but had to wait. In those hot summer months – enduring the arid, materialistic metropolis of Dubai – our impoverished souls needed spiritual nourishment.

We found a spiritual beacon – in the form of several mp3 audio files of UU sermons we found online. We often drove out of the city into the desert listening to Mary Katherine on our car radio talk about life’s hidden meaning. Those words reminded me of something I knew as a child and had forgotten. “You cannot live on bread alone.” For five years, we had starved ourselves of something. Perhaps on those trips, I subconsciously became a “virtual” UU congregant.

Now, after officially joining UUCF in 2008 and meeting Mary Katherine in person, my wife and I both find ourselves immersed in technology professionally – harnessing Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones and other social media to converse with Arabs aspiring for more democracy or enabling African farmers to strive for better agricultural livelihoods.

When you work in social media daily, you realize that technology reflects and amplifies your real connections and builds new ones. It shifts time and physical space so greater connections can be made. The architects of the Reach Campaign realize this. A portion of this campaign goes to creating a stronger beacon of who we are and what we represent through Facebook, streaming video, Tweets – using technology to reach out to a virtual congregation, if you will – not just our current members.

For those of you whose eyes glaze over when I say Tweet or Facebook, imagine being able to put one of those many profound messages from Mary Katherine or Laura in 140 characters, sending it out like a message in a bottle and magically, five new guests show up at the next service. It can happen with technology.
Imagine video snippets of our diverse members reaching people on their mobile phones or iPads and they say to themselves, “Hey that’s me. I’m just like them.” It can happen.

The Pew Research Center recently reported that 20% of Americans are unaffiliated religiously, agnostic or atheist. I have many friends in this group. Friends living on only bread. Getting by but perhaps wholly unprepared when a job loss, family illness or spiritual crisis erupts. People living in a desert that may one day suddenly dry up. So I feel I have to build a better beacon. I look across this congregation and I see vividly what I barely perceived many years ago in that desert. An oasis.

This is why we showed our support by pledging to the Reach Campaign. I encourage you to please help build a better beacon at UUCF by also pledging to the Reach Campaign.

Reach – A visitor’s tale

by Deborah Kennedy
delivered at services on Feb. 24, 2013

Last October I had time. After years of very long work weeks, growing kids and no breathing space, I had time and was going to have time open for at least a few months.

I volunteered to “staff” the Reach Campaign. I told Co-hairs Nancy Rooney and Dave Anderson that I wanted to work on everything, wanted to learn the entire process and ultimately would put together documentation so that when we, inevitably, decided to do another campaign in the future, we would have institutional knowledge. It’s just process design … something I can do.

I worked on the brochure, filled in at the kick-off, managed volunteer lists, took meeting minutes, etc. … and then we came to visits. How could I possibly say I’d learned the whole campaign process unless I did at least a couple of visits? But really, talking to people about money? I said I would do a couple. Then I got assigned five … five!

I started with my friends, Ann and Steve Simon. They told me about the thunderous storm the day and night of (their daughter) Stephanie’s wedding, watching the show from these windows during the ceremony. I met Kathy Matay and her three boys. She grew up close to our house and we figured out I already knew her mom; I regularly talk to her while walking dogs. Then there were Lori Weiss and Adam Resnick who are relatively new, Kim and Steve Condas who’ve been coming about seven years, and Misti McCloud who has been coming here since she was 12 – and her son graduated from high school last year – basically her whole life.

Ellie Fusaro gave me a campaign brochure from the 70s; she’s been here forever too. We talked well beyond the official visit – about senior living homes, and my mother-in-law who recently passed away, and then she wanted to talk about what I wanted to do over the next 15 years … a talk I needed.

Marie Ann Leyko and Jerry Poje – she negotiated the Program Building mortgage that’s being paid down in the campaign and he helped my daughter get her first internship. Then g and Steve Ordun, and (their daughter) Emily stopped in – Emily whom I had helped get a job. G is teaching RE and has Hayden French in her class, and I had just talked to Mia and Chris French the night before, whose daughter Chloe had met us at the door in footie pajamas. And all I could think is I bet I’m going to see her in the 6th grade service five years from now, and maybe in the Sr. high service in another five years and I am going to remember her 7-year-old self, in footie pajamas.

There’s my dear friend Barb Dutchak; then Jennifer and Tae Yi (and Devon, their teenage daughter, who wanted to sit in); Rebecca Benner – we met during nap time – and Joanne Schneider whose understanding of all things financial just made my heart glad.

You might notice, that’s more than five. I’ve asked for more, a couple of times, and I’m going to again.

You see, I signed up to serve the church, and in the process I’ve connected with people in a way I never would have standing outside with a coffee cup in my hand.

Yes, in the visits we do talk about money, but that’s what makes it a serious conversation, and we connect most deeply when there’s something serious on the line. There it is – Serve, Connect and I’ve Grown. We don’t use the word much, but filling that mission – Grow, Connect, Serve – having these visits with these amazing people, has been one of the most Sacred experiences I’ve ever had. A Sacred experience … It’s a gift of time, and self, that we give each other. I’m not sure there’s anything more important than that.

So, I challenge you, consider that there might be something more to these visits than you expect right now. You guys are Fascinating; you are so interesting to get to know. Please, when the call comes, accept the invitation, have your visit. Please join me in supporting this campaign.

And, if you’re willing to take just one more step of faith – seize this opportunity – be a visitor. You can talk with me after this service in the commons area about being a visitor. I would love to talk with you.

Enabling UUCF to serve the community’s needs

by Jeff Snyder
delivered at services on Feb., 16-17, 2013

Connections – that’s why I’m here. Here at UUCF and here speaking to you today.

As a visitor in the Reach Campaign I share the powerful opportunity we have to build a future on the scale that our founders and those who came before us did. They dreamed big, and those dreams not only inspired us, they enabled us.

We have been enabled in so many ways, but our work with FACETS and the homeless right here in Fairfax County, is an important one to me personally. Previous campaigns have built this wonderful campus, this welcoming, safe and caring place. For eight years now we have opened our doors and provided temporary shelter in the Program Building for our guests in need through the Hypothermia Shelter program. When the campaign that built the Program Building was undertaken, the leaders here then had no idea it would enable us to do that. Now we take for granted that it is something we just do every year and it has helped us serve and grow. Each year, after serving overnight, as I carry trash to the dumpster and drive home – yes to my home, I see it in new ways – I don’t take it for granted as much as I usually do. And I have renewed appreciation for this home, our spiritual home, that is so big hearted, generous and strong.

In my visits for the Reach Campaign I share the visioning work we did on the Board, and I share my own ideas – access to the Program Building -wow, wouldn’t that be great? – there are so many reasons for this, but my reason is that the guests and all the volunteers would be more able to shelter effectively. It’s not part of phase 1 (there are too many other steps to take care of first – connecting to the public sewer system, remediation of the septic fields, and other things) but is part of the future.

To reach for the future we will enable those who come after us to do things we can’t even imagine now. I for one hope that among the things that UUCF in 2020 need not worry about is homelessness. Can we dream that we will eventually end homelessness? Either way, I want to enable the future UUCF to address the compelling needs of our community, whatever they may be.

I came to UUCF because it connects me to my better me. Participating in the preventing hypothermia project is what pulled me in so strongly, and being a part of the Reach Campaign has made it possible to connect with even more of you.

There is a reason why you are here – whatever that reason is, someone else made it possible for you to find it here. Please enable the future of UUCF.

Connecting the past to the future … through the Parking Lot

by Kathy Birnbaum
delivered at services on Feb. 9-10, 2013

In his sermon at our Reach celebration three weeks ago, Rev. Don Southworth teased about being asked to write a sermon about a parking lot. He said when he talked with staff and congregants he finally understood and he was sold.

I am pledging to the Reach Campaign because of the parking lot. My late husband Bruce and our three girls and I came to UUCF in 1979. Even then there was discussion about the parking lot. We needed more space, but we liked the rustic woodland look and feel. We did not want a sea of barren concrete like a shopping center. We believed the gravel lot was more environmentally sound because concrete would shed rain water into a ditch, eroding the landscape.

My husband Bruce was a chemical engineer by profession and a Rube Goldberg by avocation. For those of you who are too young to know: Rube Goldberg was a man who solved mechanical problems in unusual ways. Maybe some of you have played the Mousetrap game where the trap is sprung by a series of rolling balls, chutes, a foot kicking a bucket, etc. That is a “Rube Goldberg” type of project.

Bruce loved to tinker and fix things. He could fix anything although sometimes the finished product looked a little odd with wires and solder and clips and wooden supports. You should see the imaginative fixes in my basement! The way Bruce donated his time to UUCF was fixing things. He put up those clunky lights on the tall poles in the parking lot and replaced the bulbs when they burned out. One time the ladder slipped out from under him and he slid down the pole like a fireman. So I have a sentimental attachment to the parking lot and its issues.

Now 34 years later, technology and talent have given us a beautiful parking lot solution. A solution that will give us a parking lot that is much more environmentally sound, and with all the plantings included in the plan, may just retain some of that rustic look. I hope you all will take a good look at the parking lot design in the Reach folder when you have your visit. This will be the first phase of our parking solution. Later we will be presented with a design for bringing safe accessible parking down to the Program Building.

I like the way I am going to be able to fund my pledge to the Reach campaign. With small quarterly payments over five years this will be very doable for me. I will be contributing when the money is needed up front, and I will still be contributing when the second parking lot is needing money for construction. I know Bruce would be pleased we are doing this campaign and improving the parking lot. I hope you will join me in supporting Reach.

From early skeptic to supporter

by Nancy Smith
delivered at service on Jan. 26-27, 2013

I was an early skeptic of the Reach Campaign. I felt the monetary goal was unrealistic, the initiatives to be funded too sketchy, and their attainment uncertain. Aspects of the campaign were no-brainers: The parking lot, sewer hook-up, parking for the Program Building, financial reserves and debt retirement. I had no problems with any of these. However, some of the rest – for example, technology upgrades and major community outreach initiatives – were not yet sufficiently well-developed for this Meyers-Briggs “J.”

I’ve been a member of UUCF for nearly 20 years. I love this congregation and Unitarian Universalism. When I think about what is important to me and what gives meaning to my life, my involvement here is a pervasive theme. I have given the matter of supporting the Reach Campaign a great deal of thought. As my thinking has evolved, I have come to see supporting the campaign as a matter of faith: Faith in the potential of Unitarian Universalism¬ to transform the world and faith in UUCF to be part of that change. The bold vision our leadership has outlined will challenge us to work together in community to grow our infrastructure and strengthen our financial foundation so that we may better serve our own needs and engage in new efforts to bring more love and justice to the world.

Yes, I still have some reservations about aspects of the Reach Campaign. This is a very ambitious endeavor; we may not accomplish the goals that most engage me personally; and the direction some of the initiatives will take is not yet clear. But I have chosen to put my faith in UUCF and the collective wisdom and good will of its members and leaders. The prospects are exciting. There will be joys – and plenty of challenges – along the way; and I want to be on board. I will support the campaign – with my financial resources, my time and whatever talents I can bring to bear. I urge you all to give careful consideration to how you can contribute. This is, after all, our moment.