This month's business blog features my home away from home, The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahanock (UUFR)! I’ve had the privilege of teaching in this special place since 2010 and have been a member since 2013. Since UUFR is a lay-led congregation, I’ve asked Bob Weekley, one of the founding members who also happens to be one of my students, to answer my questions. His answers are insightful and telling.
Tell me about UUFR.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock (UUFR for short) is a Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) chartered church in White Stone. The long name comes from the joining together in 1961 of two long-standing American denominations that had gradually grown so close together in spirit that they decided to combine. Many of the U.S. founding fathers were Unitarians or expressed Unitarian views. UUFR, with about 55 members, is officially a UUA “Welcoming Congregation” because we proactively welcome and accept people without regard to their race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other criterion. Membership requirements are to practice the “UU Principles” that include recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person; and practicing justice, compassion and equity in our relations with each other. We do not have a rigid theology but each person is encouraged to pursue her or his own free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
UUFR works to better our communities. 10% of our income goes into community charitable organizations. UUFR has organized a charitable organization of its own, the Kids First Foundation (KFF). KFF’s mission is to eliminate generational poverty through early childhood education and proper nutrition. It has raised the funding and organized Pre-K classes and nutritional support for at-risk children of needy families in Lancaster County and now is expanding the project into Middlesex County.
How long has it been there and when did you first become a part of it?
In 1997 a few people interested in Unitarian Universalism started meeting in homes, then in the county library. By 1999 they were meeting in the White Stone Woman’s Club and UUFR was chartered by the UUA that year. My wife, Elaine, and I joined in 1999 and have been enthusiastic supporters since then.
What ignited your passion for this organization?
I have to get personal on this, and everyone has a different story. Like many people, my life has been a spiritual journey. I became dissatisfied with the religious denomination I was raised in and came to question much of what was being taught to me as truth not to be questioned. I have always been one to ask questions and seek coherent answers. My education taught me to value science and to seek a comprehensive understanding of the world we live in. In Unitarian Universalism I found kindred spirits in my search. While people may come up with different answers, at least we agree on the questions and are not afraid to ask them.
How many employees does the Fellowship have?
UUFR has no employees. Since our founding we are a completely lay-led organization. We all share in the work of the church; our speakers come from our own fellowship as well as invited guest ministers and others who provide a rich variety of talks and perspectives. At this time, however, UUFR is considering hiring a part-time minister to lead us into a deeper spiritual growth, provide ministerial services, and represent the fellowship in our community.
What do you like most about your involvement in the Fellowship?
Going back to the “passion” question, the freedom to explore a wide range of religious and spiritual questions with like-minded people is a joy that many people have never experienced. Typically, in our services, after the talk or sermon we engage in a lively question and answer session. I must add that I have found the members and friends of UUFR to be exceptionally caring of each other. It is a family, but one that welcomes new members.
Excluding yours, what local business/organization do you admire most and why?
I must cite at least two. I have been a strong supporter of the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Neck almost since its beginning. Our young people need organizations like this to teach skills and values above and beyond what they learn in school. Another highly valued organization is the YMCA which provides people of all ages with the opportunity to pursue both physical and mentally healthful growth.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to running a business/organization?
With respect to charitable organizations, be thoughtful and precise about developing a clear mission and keeping it foremost in mind.
What do you do in your non-work time?
I am retired from some 50 years of so-called “work.” But I always enjoyed every type of job. Now I use much of my time to support organizations like those I have mentioned here, and to take time for family and friends. I enjoy outdoor recreation like biking and hiking. I enjoy boating and yard work. Susan’s yoga classes are a must on my schedule.
How do you manage stress?
I don’t think I experience stress. I have pursued vigorous exercise all of my life. The activities I have described here are personally satisfying. When bumps in life come along, I’m usually not surprised or stressed – that’s life.
Please give the Fellowship’s website address and contact details.
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock
366 James Wharf Road
P.O. Box 1266
White Stone, VA 22578