Olean UU Community
We are a UU Covenanting Community. Covenanting communities are a new kind of Unitarian Universalist (UU) group. They claim a UU identity and advance UU values, but they look and feel different from a traditional congregation. Covenanting communities include small meeting groups, missional communities, intentional living cooperatives, national networks, and more. Recognized by the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenanting communities are helping people imagine new ways of living out their UU faith and values while staying officially connected to the wider UU family.
OUR MISSION: The Olean UU Community provides an open, nurturing, spiritual environment made visible by the joy of our actions for peace and justice in the world.
OUR VISION: We recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person and promote peace in our community and the world at large.
We gather on the the first and third Sunday of each month starting with the third Sunday in September though the third Sunday in June at 11:00 AM. During the summer we have picnics. See the calendar for specific dates, topics, and speakers.
What are UU gatherings like?
The examples given are from the service "Love Beyond Valentine's Day."
We begin with Announcements and then we have Opening Words and the Chalice Lighting.
We give thanks for the needs of our community
that remind us of our common humanity.
We give thanks for the needs of humanity
that help us grow into the compassion of the Buddha,
the love of Jesus, and the charity of Mohammed.
We give thanks for the needs of our hearts
that foster our commitment to share our lives & goods.
Our concern, our companionship, our material goods--
to serve a good greater than any we can accomplish on our own.
May we be a blessing to friends & strangers—neighbors, all.
by Claudia A. Ramisch
Next, we sing "Morning has Broken," followed by Sharing of Joys and Concerns. This is where anyone present is invited to come forward, light a candle, and share a joy or concern. Once everyone has come forward who wants to, we light a candle for those thoughts that went unspoken.
The UU standard "Spirit of Life" is sung, followed by Children's Time and singing the children off. Once the children have left we have a reading.
Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible - it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment & offer you more joy than any material possession could. by Barbara de Angelis
After the reading is the Program or Service. Sometimes we have a minister and many times we are lay led. The program or service may be done as a presentation, a discussion, or both.
I'm going to share a brief presentation on some thoughts, followed by some discussion as a group. The topic I've chosen is: 'Love Beyond Valentine's Day'
Now, with Valentine's Day fast approaching, our thoughts may stream to cards & flowers & the like, all of which are well & good for the short term, meeting a one-day' commitment' that leaves us with a good feeling for the moment. Am I suggesting that we need to eliminate Valentine's Day? No....
But, in reviewing a few of our UU principles, namely:' recognizing the inherent worth & dignity of every person, respect & acceptance of one another, & compassion in human relations', I'd like to expand these principles to 'love for humankind' beyond the usual, narrower Valentine's Day sentiment.
There are endless sources of quotes pertaining to love, caring & compassion, & here are but a few:
Taking a quote from The Bible: the Book of Hebrews, chapter 13, verses 1-2 'Let brotherly love continue; do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers & to those in need.'
Leo Buscaglia said 'Love is life, & if you miss sharing love, you miss life. Love is always bestowed as a gift - freely & without expectation. We don't love to be loved; we love to love, with compassion'.
Mahatma Gandhi, of course, had many pearls of wisdom worth mentioning regarding his thoughts on love & compassion:
'To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.'
Also: 'A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.'
And: 'A man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.'
And finally, from Gandhi: 'The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.'
With all of those quotes, you may be visualizing the proverbial Boy Scout dragging the poor little old lady at the intersection across the street, whether she wanted to cross there or not. Just kidding.
When I attended a high school class reunion a couple of years ago (& no, I'm not going to reveal how many years I'm out of high school), I overheard a few of my former classmates commenting about how much free time they have now that they're retired & that they spend endless hours daily sitting idly in front of their computers. Yikes!
So, I mentioned to them that they might want to consider volunteering some of that free time instead. They said that they didn't think they had anything to offer, so I suggested a few things like: delivering Meals on Wheels; volunteering in libraries or elementary schools to read to kids; offering to do crafts at Senior Centers; working at Soup Kitchens or food pantries; mentoring at Boys & Girls Clubs; being a scout leader; helping with Habitat For Humanity, Hospice, Homeless Shelters; volunteering at hospitals & nursing homes; singing in a community chorus, buying annual Hospice fundraising flowers to give to a shut-in neighbor, & many other similar activities.
It hadn't dawned on them that they had something valuable to give or share - themselves & their time.
Too often, we get stuck in our own comfortable rut. I know, our lives are busy with families, jobs, errands, home tasks & the like; but it feels SOOO good to roll up your sleeves & get involved, to really make a difference in someone's life. Good for both the giver & for the recipient!
That is REAL love for humankind,' Love Beyond Valentine's Day'.
You don't have to wait to be retired or have a college degree to be able to make a real difference in someone's life. We can each find our own special way of reaching out & sharing love & compassion.
I repeat Gandhi's quote: 'To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.'
Even if you don't have time for a regular commitment like those I mentioned above, maybe offering to shovel the steps for a shut-in elderly neighbor or offering to get them something at the grocery store when you're on the way there for yourself after work. Donating blood doesn't take long, but saves lives. Kids can be encouraged to share their unwanted clothes &/or toys with less fortunate kids.
Sending a cheery note, visiting or making a 'thinking of you' phone call means the world to someone who is lonely. Just checking in on a neighbor, especially in the winter, to be sure they're safe. Or encourage your child to color them a picture to put up on their fridge, to remind them that someone cares.
We ALL have untapped skills & talents, just waiting to be shared with others; just waiting to show that we have love & compassion beyond our significant others & immediate family; beyond Valentine's Day!
We ALL have enough love to share with others by reaching out to them & showing them their inherent worth & dignity with our compassion & caring.
Just a couple more brief quotes from Gandhi to drive the point home:
'In a gentle way, you can shake the world.'
And finally, 'The difference between what we do & what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems'.
So, let us all resolve to make some time & try to make the world a little bit better place for each of us by extending our hearts & hands to those in need, to let them know that someone cares.
Search in your heart for what skills, time & talents you have that you can share with humankind.
Let's' Love Beyond Valentine's Day'.
Next we have a final song, which for this service was "Lean on Me." There are baskets passed for offeratory and then closing words and closing circle, followed by the extinguishing of the chalice.
Closing Words & Closing Circle
Touch hands, and feel the warmth of another human being.
Touch hands, and help create the physical symbol of a caring community.
Touch hands, & know that this is a place where the deeper issues of life will be faced & shared, & strength to cope with them will be generated, where the wholeness & holiness of life will be affirmed.
So let us go, & let the peace that passes all understanding, the peace of this community, go with you. Amen.
After services, we always have hospitality.
Thank you Facebook! Our story begins there in 2009, if you can believe it. Anna Bush had been thinking about starting a UU in Olean when she was ready to retire, but then her friend Marcia Gallineaux-Hubert took one of those silly Facebook quizzes, "What Religion are You?" Her result: Unitarian Universalist. From there, conversations about UU kept popping up everywhere, a sure sign that now was the time to start a UU. After contacting the UU in Jamestown, and the St. Lawrence District, plans got underway to develop an Olean UU Community. After Brian Lothridge's article in the Olean Times Herald, there were many responses, including a phone call from Daryl Johnson who has just written to UUA (the national organization) to find out how to start a UU in Olean.
With guidance from Tom Chulak, District Executive, the group began to make plans for programs to acquaint the community with UU and to see how much interest there was in starting a congregation. Thus was born the Second Sunday Series, programs to acquaint the public with Unitarian Universalism, which began on October 11th. The program was “A Free-Thinking Faith: What’s in it for UU?.” A lecture by Reverend Tim Bancroft included information about the development of all religions throughout the ages. The lecture was followed by a group discussion led by Daryl Johnson. Around 25 people attended the program and participated in the discussion.
The discussion showed that several of the attendees had a background with Unitarian Universalism while others were new to the faith. Many said that even if they were familiar with UU, Rev. Bancroft gave them new information to think about. Most attending expressed relief to have found what Reverend Bancroft described as “beloved community” in UU. “We may all start out at different points and we may all have different destinations, but as our paths cross in this lifetime, we can have beloved community,” Bancroft said.
Others made comments based on the presentation. One woman, holding back tears, told us that she was so glad to finally have affirmation that she could be a moral person without being a theist.
The November program was, “Ecology, Justice & Compassion: Does the Earth Have Moral Rights? An Exploration of the Interdependent Web.” The speaker was Richard S. Gilbert. Dick Gilbert has been a Unitarian Universalist minister for 45 years, having retired from full time parish ministry in 2005. Currently he is part time Social Justice Coordinator of the St. Lawrence District. He also has taught at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Starr King School for the Ministry and Meadville Lombard Theological School. Gilbert is author of the Building Your Own Theology series, The Prophet Imperative: Social Gospel in Theory and Practice, How Much Do We Deserve? An Inquiry in Distributive Justice, and In the Holy Quiet of this Hour, a book of meditations, among other writings.
Since then we have had other speakers and also had our lay members present programs and activities. In March 2010, we helped host the First Annual Women's Tea at the Bartlett House to celebrate Women's History Month and to honor Linda Witte, Olean's first female mayor.
In June 2010, we were officially recognized as an emerging congregation by the St. Lawrence District. During the summer of 2010, the group worked on forming a vision/mission statement. In September of 2010, the group began holding services.
In January of 2014, we helped organize the first of two Community Conversations on Equity and Compassion. From this effort, a movement to create a Compassionate Community (based on a national movement) was founded.
On July 31, 2017, we became affiliated with the UUA as a Covenanting Community.
Click HERE to learn about UU History in Cattaraugus County