Make sure your legacy reflects your values by including First Unitarian Church in your estate plans. And, let your endowment committee know so you can be listed as a member of our Emerson Society. Our church's endowment fund is also the perfect place for memorial and other special contributions. The fund is managed to support both present and future needs, so a contribution is truly a gift that endures. For more information on the endowment fund, find the brochure at the congregational life table in Eliot Hall. 

As surely as the snow begins to melt in March and the crocus and daffodil bravely defy the odds, First Unitarian Church launches its Pledge Drive right on schedule. You can count on it as reliably as the seasons changing and birds flying north. 

Our theme this year is “Rise to the Challenge.” It echoes what we aspire to every Pledge Drive, maintaining a progressive church community in increasingly challenging times. Immigration issues have revealed the worst of our nation’s xenophobic tendencies, but our church has opened its doors to provide sanctuary. Refugees arrive with only the clothes or their backs, and our church furnishes their apartments and accommodates them with furniture, appliances, bikes, toys, and love. Homelessness grows in alarming proportions, but our church provides four meals a month at the Teen Homeless Shelter. We also partner with The Inn Between, a hospice for the homeless.  Our nation notoriously lags behind in efforts to reverse global warming, but our Environmental Ministry team tirelessly lift their voices in protest and tell the truth to a reluctant population. 

Our church meets these challenges and more with deep commitments to endless volunteer hours. The annual Pledge Drive reminds us that meeting these challenges also requires funding for our programs, staff, and building. Providing decent health care for the staff is a continuing challenge. Keeping up with technology to run our operations is a challenge. Maintenance is a challenge, from utilities, to snow removal to the wear and tear on the building.  We are never short of challenges.

For First Unitarian Church to meet these challenges we rely completely on your generosity. We are more powerful and influential together than we are alone. Our church is a gift, providing us the opportunity to engage more effectively in a world that has lost its moral compass.

To rise to this challenge we need $580,000 in pledge income, the same as last year’s goal which we nearly met. Please consider whether you can help us meet this goal. The times demand that our church move forward as a progressive community that dares to change the world. 

With deep gratitude,

Rev. Tom Goldsmith              Rev. Monica Dobbins            Pledge Chair: Rebecca Heal

Join Us In Worship!

Our upper school youth need to attend service. There, I just said it out loud, plain as day. As a RE team, we've built in several Sundays throughout the year for our upper school youth to attend. You may have noticed on announcements or on the bulletin board the phrase, "Please join your families in service." This isn't an accident. And it's also not because there's nothing planned that day. Setting aside one(ish) service a month for our upper school youth, and saying out loud that upper school youth in service are welcome and valued, is an intentional shift in our thinking at First Church. 

Our goal in RE is not to keep the youth "busy." Our goal is to foster a community that learns, grows, and develops a spiritual life. Attending worship is one way we as a community do this! Our youth should have the opportunity to sit in service to hear the choir. They can take a quiet minute of mediation with Rev. Monica. They should listen to Rev. Tom preach on the idea of a just world. There is space for religious education classes and worship. It's not one or the other. 

We cannot expect our youth to want to continue to be lifelong UU's if they have no connection with the larger community. We cannot expect them to lead worship services such as Coming of Age and High School services if they never get to see a worship service. Bring your youth with you into service. Stand with them as we sing. Go to brunch to discuss the sermon. The youth at First Church are intellectual, curious, and engaging. I cannot wait to ask them what they think.

In Peace,

Amanda Esko

Director of Religious Education 


Family Fun Night

Family Fun Night returns February 4th at 6:15 pm! (Note that we're trying 6:15 pm again!) We'll be joined by Rev. Monica Dobbins.

"So, yeah, we go to church on Sunday. But it's not like regular church, and the people are great, and I love the youth programs. And summers are off, but amazing speakers from the community come in. It's just not CHURCH church." Raise your hand if you have had this conversation! How do we, as UU's, speak about our faith to others in a way that feels authentic? Rev. Monica will help facilitate this conversation so we can all be a little more eloquent in expressing our faith.

While the adults are busy talking, the youth will be working with Lissa Lander on an art project!



UU of The Week

Each week in Children’s Chapel we learn about important UU’s throughout history. 

Meet Francis Ellen Watkins Harper(1825-1911), our UU of the week! Francis Harper was an African American abolitionist, writer, lecturer, and activist who promoted civil rights, women's rights, and temperance. She was a popular speaker and traveled across the United States before the Civil War. Harper's short story, "The Two Offers", was the first short story to be published by an African American author. Most of the earnings from her writing went to help free slaves with her work on the Underground Railroad. 

After the Civil War, Harper focused her efforts on the rights of women, working with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In contrast to Anthony and Stanton however, Harper supported the immediate passage of the 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution. The immediate threats of violence to people of color, and the promise of legal protections these amendments offered, swayed her to support the passage of these amendments before voting rights for women.

Harper split her spiritual life between her two faiths, the AME church of her youth, and the Unitarian Church. The AME church provided her community, while her Christology and political leanings lead her to the Unitarian Church. Francis Ellen Watkins Harper died on February 22, 1911. Her funeral was at the Unitarian Church on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. 

Sandwich Sunday

Sandwich Sunday is right around the corner! If you're able, signup to bring something OR take the lunches to the VOA!


RE Calendar

Feb. 3: Sanctuary Sunday
Sandwich Sunday
Jr Choir Sings
Feb. 4: Family Fun Night

Chalice Lighting Family

Each month we invite a family from our Religious Education community to light our chalice. 

Meet the Fetter-Bond’s!

Who's in your family?
Cassius Fetter-Bond, Jonquille Fetter-Bond and Melissa Bond


How long have you been attending First Church? 
We’ve been attending First Church for about 5 years now. 


Why is First Church and RE important to your family?
First Church and RE are important to us because we believe in the inherent worth of all beings. Additionally, we want a community that has social justice and action as a prevalent force behind the spirituality. Beyond that, we love making friends that share our values and sense of fun!

FAMILY FUN NIGHT: Monday, February 4th, 6:15 pm Eliot Hall

YOUNG ADULTS: A community of people in their 20's, 30's, or young at heart. 
Discussion with Tom in The Haven, Thursday February 7th 7:30-9:30 pm on the topic of Romance.  See all of our upcoming events on Facebook: First Unitarian SLC Young Adults, or email us to receive notifications via email: , or you can reach out to Heather Drenckhahn.

ENVIRONMENTAL MINISTRY: Did you miss Jen Farrell of the Salt Lake City Waste and Recycling Division when she presented here last winter? Do you have questions about what can be recycled in Salt Lake City and County and what can’t – and why? Are you curious about what happens to the materials after they’re taken away?  Jen will be here again on Friday, February 15, at 7:00pm. This is your chance to learn everything you need to know about recycling!

UU Open Minds Book Club: Thursday, February 21 at 7:00pm in the Haven.  February book is “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking" by Susan Cain

Artists Discussing Art: Last Monday of every month Artists gather in the Haven at 7 pm to discuss each others art. This discussion is open to all visual artist, watercolor, acrylic oil, mixed media, fused glass, and clay. Bring work to discuss or just come to listen. Bring a light refreshment to share. Please contact Bill Reed at with questions.

Dinner and Dialogue:  Meet other UUs on a more personal level over a potluck dinner.  Sign up at the Congregational Life table in Eliot Hall to host or Join a group.  Contact with questions

Meditation Walks:  Nature Walks along the Jordan River, every Tuesday 10am to Noon. Meet at Arrowhead Park, 550 W 4800 So. Friendly dogs on leash welcome, 1 to 3 miles.

Mindfulness Group: 

  • Weekly meditation is held on Sundays at 10 am upstairs in the Parlor. We discuss mindfulness in daily living, meditate silently for 20 minutes and close with loving kindness. All are welcome, come and meet others who meditate. 
  • An evening of Buddhist teachings investigating the foundations of mindfulness meditation. What is mindfulness and how might it be of benefit in our personal lives, alone and together as a community? We will consider how to cultivate a daily practice of mindfulness as taught by the Buddha and is practiced today. All are welcome. Come to the Parlor on the third Wednesday at 6:30pm. For more information

SANCTUARY: SANCTUARY QUESTIONS?  Want to learn more about our Sanctuary effort?   Stop by the Sanctuary table in Eliot Hall after each service.   

  • VOLUNTEER:  To volunteer to become a Sanctuary Host, sign up at:    
  • DONATE:  Online donations to the Sanctuary Family Fund may be made at: To donate by check, make check payable to:  First Unitarian Church of SLC, and write: Sanctuary Family Fund in the note.

WALK:  Walks along the Jordan River with Mary, every Thursday 10am to Noon. Meet at Arrowhead Park, 550 W 4800 S. Friendly dogs on leash welcome, 1 to 2 miles. 

When asked to describe the relationship between religion and sports, we might be inclined to draw a blank. I always assumed that God, as a symbol of love and justice, would never favor an individual or team. We are, after all, God’s children; every one of us. Yet some athletes seek a little extra attention by flashing a signal to God with the sign of the cross right before stepping into the batter’s box. It’s as if to say: “Reward your loyal follower with a homerun.” 

Football players also feel uninhibited to show their faith publicly, often crossing themselves after a touch down, indicating they could not have achieved the score without God’s help. Indeed, they were somehow chosen. And in basketball, a long (lucky) shot at a basket that falls in often ends with a sign of the cross as though to say, “Jesus loves me.” 

You would think that with all the tumult in the world today, Jesus and God would have more important events in which to interfere. But on the other hand, perhaps the world is in such a mess today because God prefers to intervene in sporting events. 

We may soon become a lot clearer on whether or not there’s a connection between athletes and the Divine. The Vatican has recently assembled a track team that will compete internationally. The Italian Olympic Committee has agreed to terms for the Holy See to join the International Association of Athletics Association. The Holy See, which always had its own flag, will now be among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Will there be atheists in the Olympics?

It sure gives me second thoughts about liberal theology. I would not feel comfortable competing against athletes who represent the Holy See with its apostolic succession going back to the first century where St. Peter and St. Paul got this papal thing rolling in the first place. It makes athletes on steroids pale in comparison to athletes representing the saints we read about in the Bible. Is it fair?

The 60 athletes representing the Holy See in international competition include priests, nuns, and members of the Swiss Guard, their secret service men who protect the safety of the pope. The team also has a 62-year old professor who works in the Apostolic Library. The head of their sports department, Monsignor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda predicted that his team would make it to the Olympic podium. I am not betting against him. Although I have never seen a nun run track, I assume they have a lot of pent-up energy ready to break loose in the 100-meter race.

Suddenly it feels like there may be an imbalance in competition. It used to be that the best athlete won, but if a 62-year professor wins an Olympic medal, there will be no other accounting for that than divine intervention. Suddenly liberal theology doesn’t feel all that secure. I would not intentionally cheer against the Vatican team, but may have no choice if I want to remain a Unitarian minister. TRG

A young man in a red MAGA hat…

A tribal elder drumming and singing… 

Maybe you’ve already heard this story. It made the rounds on social media last week: as a busload of young white men from a Catholic prep school in Kentucky clashed with a band of Black Israelites at the Lincoln Memorial, a Native American man stepped in between the two groups and began to drum and sing. And one young man, wearing the signature Trump hat, faced off against the drumming man, with a familiar sneer on his face. 

We saw the viral video, and we made up our minds within a few seconds which side we were on. 

And then, the news media stepped in, to analyze the deterioration of our national dialogue. We are so quick to rush to judgment, they proclaimed, as a longer video was released showing the black protesters seeming aggressive, the absent chaperones, all the details that might have changed our minds if we had just stopped to think for a moment. 

I observed all this with a mix of feelings. I, too, had perhaps made a quick judgment; I hadn’t known all the facts. And yet, I didn’t like the way the media wrapped the story up and tied it with a bow. The only thing that worries me more than people jumping to conclusions is people jumping back from those conclusions, deciding, “well, we can’t ever really know what was in anyone’s mind, so we should just stay out of it.”

In one discussion of the video, I saw a white male commenter say, “I honestly don’t know how I would have reacted” – if he had been that young man, a teenager from a privileged family, who claimed to have been standing calmly and trying to defuse the situation. 

Two things came to my mind when I read that: white people rarely do think ahead about how we will behave when we find ourselves face to face with racist hatred; and we are rarely aware (or aware enough) of what we are bringing into the situation with us, that might affect how other people see us. 

This young man was wearing a hat that represents anger, hatred, and power; he was with a large group of other men wearing those hats, who were taunting and jeering; though he was young, he was not being supervised by adults; and after it was all over, his family was wealthy enough to hire a public relations firm to rescue his reputation. He was interviewed by the Today Show, and invited to the White House. But the people of color in this situation had none of those advantages and we never got to hear their stories. 

How often do we see this same series of events play out in our public life? How often are young white men given the benefit of the doubt, while young men of color are jailed (or worse) without a second thought? And how often do we think, if only I’d been there, if only I’d known what to say…

My hope is that more white people will take the time to really think through what we’re going to say to interrupt racism and stand up for people of color. We also need to instruct our children, especially our boys, on how the way that they look, dress, talk, stand, and show up in the world matters. It may seem innocuous, but if it isn’t actively, intentionally anti-racist, it can end up hurting the people that we wanted to protect. 

The good news is, our kids are way out in front of us on this. They are already learning much more about racism than my generation ever learned in school. If you talk to them about it, they will listen. So let’s talk about it! I’m happy to help if you need help getting the conversation started.

Chalice Lighting Family

Each month we invite a family from our Religious Education community to light our chalice. 

Meet the Diller’s!

How long have you been attending First Church? 

Almost six years

Why is First Church and RE important to your family?

First Church and RE is important to us as a place of community and shared values with opportunities to participate in activities that help us grow, learn, and help others.

Who’s in your family?

John, Jamie, Alex, Max, Lucy (dog), Snowflake (cat), Ben (cat), and Blaze (fish).

When Hope is Hard to Find

Note: this piece appears in this month’s edition of Quest, the monthly magazine of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (a Unitarian Universalist online community serving thousands of UUs around the world).

How can we find hope in circumstances such as these we live in today? Would it help to ask what it is we are even looking for? If hope is a thing, what is it? Is it like the family Bible or the inherited china dishes, beautiful to look at but never used? Is it wrapped up and locked down, protected like Fort Knox, the key shoved deep in our pockets? Has it been overused and beaten up, thrown out back to rust and decay? Or worse, is it a myth, a dream, a thing forgotten or abandoned, a wisp of a memory that escapes our grasping fingers and blows away? 

We humans, with our acquisitive nature, are always searching for a thing to hold onto. Yet I have learned that we feel less hopeful if we are uncertain of what to do next. By contrast, we often feel a little more hopeful if we can think of something to do to help. So what will happen if we let go of hope as a thing to find, acquire, or achieve, and instead consider hope as a way of living? 

As a lifelong music lover and former professional musician, I have a fondness for Russian composers, who have known something about hope and despair. My favorite composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, wrote his Seventh Symphony, the Leningrad Symphony, for the Soviet people while Leningrad was under siege during the second World War. It is a relentlessly desperate piece of work, yet the story behind it is one of unshakeable hope. 

Leningrad of the early 20th century was a jewel in the Russian crown, a thriving, trendy city full of artists, writers, and thinkers. Dmitri Shostakovich was one of these artists, already a well known Russian celebrity, with a doting wife and two adorable children and a comfortable teaching position. He was a musician with an anti-authoritarian streak, yet his political grumbling had been tolerated by the Soviet regime in favor of his formidable talent. 

In 1939, Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa. He had managed to convince Joseph Stalin that they were on the same side, and Stalin had cooperated with the invasion of his own country by selling Germany munitions and supplies and by allowing the Germans to conduct reconnaissance and build up troops in Soviet-occupied territory. The invasion was swift and merciless; twelve hundred Soviet aircraft were destroyed in the first few hours of the operation. 

The response in Leningrad, the city of artists and thinkers, was overwhelming. Biographer M.T. Anderson says, “Leningraders were so intent on responding to the Nazi threat that on the first day of the assault, a hundred thousand of them volunteered to take up arms.” Shostakovich was one of these volunteers, but he was turned away at the recruiting office because of his poor eyesight. In the following days of the invasion, the teachers at the Conservatory would instead be enlisted to dig trenches. Shostakovich was a terrible trench digger, as were most of the music teachers, who took frequent breaks to read a few pages of a book or pound out a few notes on a piano. 

Over the next two years, the invasion would become a terrible siege, one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history. Shostakovich evacuated his family, but refused to leave himself. Consumed with compassion and solidarity, he stayed in the starving city with his comrades, and began work on the Seventh Symphony. Its famous invasion theme, styled to sound at first like annoying toy drums that gradually beat louder and louder until they overwhelm the listener with terror, gives way to a triumphant chorus. It was a rare message of hope and solidarity for the Russian people. 

The most compelling performance of the Seventh was given by the Leningrad Radio Orchestra in August 1942, just a few months after its world premiere. Though the symphony had been scored for over 100 musicians, only 15 of the Leningrad Orchestra remained; the rest had died, or been sent off to fight. “My God, how thin many of them were,” one of the organizers of the performance remembered. “How those people livened up when we started to ferret them out of their dark apartments. We were moved to tears when they brought out their concert clothes, their violins and cellos and flutes, and rehearsals began under the icy canopy of the studio.” 

Shostakovich was a world class composer, but when people are facing the greatest imaginable evil, who needs music? Yet with this work of art, Shostakovich had renewed the Leningraders’ will to live. This composer could be nothing other than what he already was, and so he created hope out of what he had been given. Had he dug a thousand practical and necessary trenches, he could not have done half of what he did with his true gift, the magic of his music and its singular message for the survival of the human heart. 

No one person can save the world all by themselves. The sooner we come to terms with that, the better. And yet, I believe that the world needs more compassionate, selfless ordinary people— more nurses, clerks, mechanics, scientists, insurance adjusters, more teachers, more artists, and more trench diggers—who find ways to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. May we be blessed with the wisdom to discern our gifts, and the courage to use them to create hope out of what we have been given.



Wishing everyone a Happy New Year is sounding awkward. One can wish for anything, of course, and happiness ought to be at the top of the list of wishes. But extending happiness to others these days makes you feel silly or naïve. We are at an impasse on everything, from reversing climate change to shutting down the government. What does happiness for the year ahead supposed to mean?

Perhaps Happy New Year has a more personal connotation; wishing just you all the happiness, luck and good fortune. But how odd is that in this era of deregulation threatening the health of everyone? How odd is that when immigrant children are ripped away from their parents at the border? Why should I be happy while the country plunges into despair about health care, immigration, trade wars, poverty, and gun violence? These are edgy times; only fools would wish someone happiness while the country unravels.

What do we wish for 2019 to be? We’re sitting on a political powder keg about to explode. Everything can fall apart. What do we wish for, really? 

I don’t know what can save us, but it seems obvious that what we are missing in our nation’s leadership is character. Our leaders/decision-makers are drowning in self-righteousness. They are beholden to an ideology that takes precedence over people’s lives. They blindly follow a creed that makes no sense in real life. Instead of Happy New Year, I want to say: “May this be the year of character development.”

Abraham Lincoln thought that most of us could deal with adversity. But the test of character is when people have power. That’s when things go awry. The frightful mix of adversity and power is exactly the problem today. People of character deal with power more humbly. That is certainly not the case thus far in 2019. How a person responds to difficult things is determined by character. We are a nation in search of character.

Which leads me to recall a most delightful Christmas holiday spent with five granddaughters from 9 months old to 7 years, with a four-year old and two five-year olds in between. We sent their parents packing for days in order to have “the girls” to ourselves. I am pleased to report that all the girls are strong-willed; no male will ever shout them down, intimidate, or out smart them. But we also became experts in rebellions and meltdowns. 

Finding myself one afternoon with a four-year old facedown in the snow staging a tantrum, got me thinking about character as pivotal when dealing with adversity. I was trying to build character in this young child, finding a way for her to deal with her perceived adversity in a more positive manner. But then I discovered this was really a test of my character, not hers. Ostensibly I had the power, she created adversity, so how was I going to deal in responding to difficult things. 

We worked it out all right with compromise being the saving grace. But we worked hard at negotiations; she knows how to bargain well for herself.

Why is compromise so difficult in Washington these days? Plenty of tantrums have been thrown, but nothing ever resolved. There’s lots of power in Washington, but no character. Power without character results in the despair we all feel this New Year.

When leadership on both sides develops character and learns compromise, stop having tantrums and work towards peaceful resolutions, then I will wish everybody a Happy New Year. Until then, Good Luck in the New Year. TRG