Journeying Together
Worship Services
Special Events and Announcements
Humanist Connections
Personal Theology
Re-Opening Task Force
Family Ministry
Nominating Committee
Stewardship Committee
Chalice Leadership Team
Partner Church Committee
From the Treasurer
Social Justice
From the Executive Director
Music Matters

Journeying Together

Dr. Rev. Michelle Collins

Welcome to 2021! A new year and the end of 2020! We made it!!!

Not only did we make it through this past year, but we’ve shifted and pivoted and gotten through challenge after challenge after challenge, in our own personal lives, in the life of our church, and in our nation and world. Our lives and world have all been shaken up in many ways that previously would have been unimaginable.

Imagination though is an interesting thing. It’s our monthly theme for January, the start of a three-month mini-series of Imagination, Beloved Community, and Commitment. First, we hone and stoke our imaginations for the world as we wish it would be, then we linger with the idea of Beloved Community, both as Dr. King described it about our communities that we form. Finally, we take a dive into commitment and ask ourselves to what do we commit ourselves. Where are the rings that we throw our hats into, and our hearts.

During this first month of a decidedly new year, I’d like us to turn to our imaginations, both singular and collective, in a few different ways. First, I invite you to invite your own imagination out to play. Whether it is something totally full expression like cosplay or LARPing (cosplay is essentially dress-up for grown-ups and LARPing is an acronym for live action role playing, i.e. make believe for grown-ups) or just curling up with a favorite fiction book or poetry, or maybe even writing some of your own. We all need rejuvenation time, especially as we’re facing challenges from the outside.

I’d also like to invite us all into some collective imagining. Our world has changed dramatically in the past year, although some of those changes were trends that were already in the making and just got sped up a bit. We’ve been forced to change a lot. But there’s a trap inherent in that – we can get attached to thinking about when “normal” will return, even a new version of normal. Let’s not get trapped that way. Given the changes that we’ve been through, what are some possibilities and opportunities that we can imagine for our faith community? What are the new needs people might have? What are the new directions we might be able to go? Let’s use the “new year” energy to jump start our imagining and our dreaming. Who knows what we might be able to dream up!

Worship Services in January

Facebook Live and YouTube Live

Theme for January: Imagination

January 3, 11am – Letting Go and Starting Anew: Welcome to 2021! Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Karen Elliott. Guest Reflection from Helen Tinsley-Jones. There are often themes that come up at the new year, and as we exit 2020, there are likely a litany of additional ones as well. What are you carrying that may be weighing you down? What could you let go of to be transformed as we move into this new year? Let’s ready ourselves to begin this year’s journey, together.

January 10, 11am – Seeking Happiness. Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Karen Elliott. There are lots of different answers to the big questions, and today we’re going to dig into a classic Universalist answer to one of these. The purpose of life? Happification! The seeking and spreading of happiness! What do you think? We’ll explore this together.

January 17, 11am – Why Bother Dreaming? A Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday Service 
Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Melissa Rosales. Folks have had dreams about our communities and our world as we wish they might be throughout all of history. We have hopes and dreams and aspirations, but how much do we end up actually changing? And more importantly, what keeps us going? Why bother dreaming? The short answer is yes.  For more, join us this Sunday.

January 20, 7pm – Inauguration Day. Vespers by Worship Associates Cynthia Asprodites & Andrea Brown on Zoom.

January 24, 11am – Let’s Play! Joy Cometh in the Morning. Rev. Catherine Boyle preaching. Worship Associate Bob Adams. The pandemic reshaped the way we are to be together through technology- including how we play together. This multigenerational service focuses on connecting with each other through improv, laughter, and tech.

January 31, 11am – Our Great Big Tent. Rev. Michelle Collins, preaching. Worship Associate Cynthia Asprodites. Unitarian Universalists congregations are diverse places where we welcome lots of different beliefs and folks from lots of different walks of life and with lots of different identities. We seek to be a great big tent, a place of welcoming and acceptance. For this service we’ll explore some of the ways that we do this as well as some of the challenges that we face.

Virtual Coffee Hour immediately following worship on Sundays
After worship we invite you to switch over to Zoom for a time to connect “face to face.” The link to Virtual Coffee Hour is listed below, but we will also share it in the comments on the Facebook Live feed during worship.

Click here to join us:
Meeting ID: 332 046 821
Password: 810131


669 900 6833

Vespers in January

Wednesdays 6:00pm Social Time, 6:20 pm Start Time

Join us for our mid-week online vespers services. The 30-minute Wednesday evening service will provide a time for us to gather together to experience moments of reflection, prayer and song, grounded in our UU faith. The January 20 (Inauguration Day) vespers service will be offered by current Worship Associates Cynthia Asprodites & Andrea Brown.

Click this link to join us
Meeting ID: 830 5378 2422
Passcode: chalice

Good Neighbor for January:  

Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is a youth education program that bridges artistic expression with activism to advocate for social justice. Through a series of hands-on workshops in schools, prisons and community centers across the country, SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion and become agents of social change.

Special Events and Announcements

  • Spiritual Practice Partner Families Sign-Up Open Until January 3rd 2021.
    In October, UUCB put out a call for Spiritual Practice Partners Families which aims  to connect church members of the congregation of every generation by connecting households with folks following a program which explores and develops spiritual practices through weekly Zoom meetings. As Winter is coming and the pandemic stretches onwards, we are opening it up again. This is a good option to connect to people outside of your social cluster and you can cheer each other on in developing a daily spiritual practice habit. Click here for more information. Please fill out this sheet to sign up. Email Catherine at with any questions. January 3 2021 is the last day to apply. 
  • Literature, Film and Drama Contingent
    • January 3 at 12:30pm: The LFDC will discuss the principles & symbols involved with the six days of Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan.1). Prepare by viewing The Black Candle with your family on Dec. 26; it’s a wonderful documentary –free, with commercials: Then, if you are so inclined, follow through with the activities each day thru New Year’s Day, and join our discussion on January 3, 2021.Click here to join on Zoom on Jan. 3, 2021.
    • January 17 at 12:30pm: The LFDC and Personal Theology present: Professor James Taylor – The Last Sermon of Martin Luther King and How We Are Living In It. Click here to join on Zoom on Jan. 17, 2021
  • Diverse Books to At Need Richmond Elementary Schools
    Judy Sam and Helen Toy still need donors to complete our buy of 50 second grade school books for another Richmond Elementary school. Contact Judy Sam, or Helen Toy, for more information on how to contribute.
  • History of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley
    Dorothy Herzberg would like to write, with help from the congregation, a booklet on the History of UUCB as a fundraiser. The booklet will showcase how wisdom, humor, resilience, compassion and commitment have held UUCB together for more than 130 years. If you have any anecdotes, history of programs, events, etc. that have held together this remarkable congregation, please send them to or mail them to: Dorothy Herzberg, 1006 Richmond St. El Cerrito, CA 9530. Dorothy’s recent book, Through the Writer’s Eye, includes 10 UUCBers among its 17 authors, and it is available on Amazon.

Humanist Connections

Sundays, 1:00 pm, Zoom

A discussion group to explore our humanity, values, ideas. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” (Fourth principle of Unitarian Universalism.)

January 3 – Misinformation and disinformation. Paul Ulbrich.

January 10 – Topic selection for February plus discussion of short topics raised at the meeting. Ray Westergard.

January 17 – What will happen next with the Republican Party? Lee Lawrence.

January 24 – Reading and discussion of poems selected by Bob Hall

January 31 – Best picture of any type that you have seen (photo, film, art work. etc.) Paul Ulbrich.

For additional information and to receive Zoom link at start of meeting contact Marcia Bates, Group managers: Susan Singh, Ray Westergard, Al Kueffner, Lee Lawrence, Kris Homme, Anne Fitzmaurice.

Personal Theology

Sundays 9:20-10:30am, Zoom

As we say good-bye to the year 2020 in our rear-view mirror, I hope that we all have a better year in 2021. To help get things off to a positive start, the monthly theme for January at UUCB is ‘Imagination’.  With that idea in mind, Personal Theology will be having 2 programs plus a third one co-sponsored by Personal Theology and the Literature, Film, and Drama Contingent (LFDC). Information is below. Please note that if you have any ideas, speaker suggestions, comments, or thoughts, you may submit them to For the Zoom link to Personal Theology sessions, see ‘The Week Ahead’ or the UUCB website calendar.

January 10, 2021 – Imagination, Creativity, and Spirituality
We will host a trio of talented women to discuss how imagination, creativity, and spirituality have been entwined-or not-throughout their lives.

Lynn Hammond grew up loving literature, sometimes reading surreptitiously under her blanket when she was supposed to be sleeping. Since earning her Ph.D. from USC in English in 1974, she’s devised creative techniques to help others find joy in writing and literature. This led to her co-creating the Bard Writing and Thinking Institute, which trains English teachers around the country to make their classes more creative, more effective, and, well, fun.

Deborah Schmidt- A UUCB member since 2004, award-winning poet Deborah Bachels Schmidt has a chapbook, Stumbling into Grace, forthcoming from Orchard Street Press. Other publication credits include Blue Unicorn, California Quarterly, The Ekphrastic Review, The Lyric, and The Poeming Pigeon. Deborah is also a member of the choir at UUCB, plays the flute, and is a past President of the Board of Trustees.

Evelie Delfino Posch Sales is a sacred singer/writer; recording artist; drummer, dancer; Pranic and Certified Sound Healer and Therapist; choral director; storyteller; actress; and music educator. Many of us have had the pleasure of hearing Evelie’s beautiful voice as she has sung at several services at UUCB, including at the Winter Solstice service in December 2020.

January 17, 2021 – ‘The Last Sermon of Martin Luther King:  And How We Are Living in It’ by Professor James L. Taylor 

This program is co-sponsored by LFDC and Personal Theology in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  See the announcements section elsewhere in the Beacon on the Hill and The Week Ahead for details.  Please note the start time of 12:30pm. We are delighted to host Dr. Taylor for a return visit to UUCB.

January 24, 2021 – Photography as a Spiritual Practice/Finding the Light 
Carol Carlisle is a UUCB member and volunteer, astrologer, and member of the UUCB Moon Circle.  Carol will share some of her photos and discuss her spiritual practice as a photographer.

I hope to see you all at these Personal Theology Seminars.

Anne Wardell/Personal Theology

Re-Opening Task Force

By the time you read this column, we hope that many have continued to comply with public health recommendations of masking, social distancing and washing of hands to combat the deadly spread of COVID-19. And we hope that in combination with the beginning of vaccines for first responders – thanks for your critical service – and the eventual vaccination of other priority groups, we will begin to project the end of the necessary limitations on social activity and can envision with some positivity the return to “normal” life.

Obviously the December COVID restrictions impacted UUCB’s plans for an orderly return to usual church operations. The Opening Task Force (OTF) continues its work on the best protocols and timing for the safest reopening of UUCB.

Congregational Poll Results
Congregational responses to the poll about concerns, needs and preferences for reopening UUCB have been most valuable. Thank you. For more detail on your poll responses, please click this link.

Pastoral Care Responses
Your responses not only are informing the work of the task force. They also are helping the pastoral care team, the ministers, and the many who volunteered their services to help other congregants navigate this challenging period in our lives. To learn more about their efforts or to add your talents to their services, send a note to

There is still a demanding path to travel as we navigate to usual UUCB operations. Thank you for your support and for your opinions. At any time, feel free to contact the Opening Task Force at

OTF Members: Patrick Cullinane (Chair), Sheldon Jones, Greg Lemieux, Lisa Maynard, Rev. Catherine Boyle, Tess O’Riva, ED, and Rev. Michelle Collins.

Family Ministry

Catherine BoyleCatherine Boyle, Director of Family Ministry

New Classroom Model for Religions Education (RE) in 2021

Happy New Year!

In the face of COVID, we are learning new ways of being until the vaccine rolls out. We are learning what works and doesn’t work in terms of keeping kids connected with their spirualities and friends when we cannot meet in person.

This past Fall, our religious education numbers were down. This was expected and follows the trend of religious education classes with our faith community in the wake of COVID. Through feedback and discussion with parents and teachers, we found the reasons for this were Zoom burn-out and pandemic fatigue. This is completely understandable in the wake of our new reality.

So we are trying something new!

This Winter and Spring we will continue to have RE classes but the model will be different. We are implementing a one room schoolhouse for K-5 with two teachers. This is to help keep kids connected with their entire cohort rather than just one or two students in their grade. It also frees up our RE volunteers’ time. Parents are always welcome to watch and participate in class.

Middle School and High School Youth will continue to meet in their own group. We are planning more social, more Gen Z connection opportunities with games and movies on Sunday morning and beyond.

This plague is hard. Lockdowns are necessary but I do not deny the effect this pandemic has had on children and youth’s spiritual development. We humans are social creatures who need each other, even in seemingly individual spiritual practices. Children need their peers to learn how to exist in this world and be resilient. They need friendships and connections to build empathy and learn and live compassion, truth, peace, and justice. Religious Education is not just learning about world religions: It is being educated on how to be a moral human being who seeks to expand the Beloved Community.

The thing about religious education is that it sticks with you. Kids remember these lessons. The details will fade with time but the lessons will remain and continue. Religious education is lifelong. With a good foundation in RE, kids have more resources and tools when faced with difficult situations in the future and most importantly, have a community to look out for them and celebrate life’s milestones with them.

We hope to see you in RE class in the new year!

With faith,

Rev. Catherine

Nominating Committee

The UUCB Nominating Committee is pleased to announce its list of candidates for the Board of Trustees:

Three-year terms (three seats): Bill Brown, Cordell Sloan (incumbent), and Randall Hudson
One-year term (one seat): Ariel Smith-Iyer

Many thanks to these dedicated members for stepping up to serve our community! And gratitude to departing Board members Jack Duggan, Kathryn Jay, and Logan Stump-Vernon.

Nomination by Petition 

As outlined by UUCB’s bylaws, candidates for election to the Board of Trustees shall be nominated by the Nominating Committee, or nominated by written petition. Nominating petitions must be signed by at least 2% of the certified membership of the Church (i.e. at least seven signatures) and delivered to Board Vice President Beth Pollard by December 27th at

Important Upcoming Dates:

January 31: 12:30-1:30 pm: Candidate’s Forum
February 14: Congregational meeting/Final date for voting for Board candidates

Candidate’s Forum 

A Candidates Forum will be held on Sunday January 31 at 12:30pm via Zoom. The forum is an opportunity for the UUCB community to learn more about the candidates, beyond their written candidate statements. Each of the candidates will share their ideas on why they want to join the Board and what they see as some of the Board’s current priorities. There will also be an opportunity for those in attendance to ask questions of the candidates.

For more information, contact the Nominating Committee at, or by calling its convener, Beth Pollard (510) 812-6284.

Stewardship Committee

Care – Compassion – Community
Supporting and Sustaining UUCB

In this challenging time of COVID, we have rediscovered how invaluable our spiritual community is in caring for ourselves, each other, our church home, and the larger community. So much has changed and so much remains to be nurtured and prepared for a new day.

We are a welcoming and vibrant congregation. We have the resilience to walk together into an unknown future and continue our commitment to create loving community, inspire spiritual growth, and encourage lives of integrity, and service. We know to do so requires our talents, time, and treasure more than ever.

Our Canopy of Compassion       

Our canopy of compassion is reflected in internal and external commitments. We care for each other through Pastoral Care and chalice circles, our church in Sunday services, Worship Associates and Work Parties and our larger community in our Social Justice efforts. Our support for UUCB helps us sustain these commitments and makes our lives richer.

Our Challenge 

We know that some of us face serious financial challenges with loss of jobs and diminished income. Others more fortunate who are still working or have reliable fixed incomes are invited to make a deeper commitment to help UUCB navigate these troubling financial waters.

With the church’s loss of rental income and COVID-related decline in pledges and other financial contributions, we are challenged to think carefully about how we manage our more limited financial resources. What is essential? What are our priorities? What do we want in church life and what value do we want to support with our treasure?

Our personal valuing for UUCB and our thoughtful generosity will determine our ability to support and sustain our canopy of compassion in the next fiscal year. Community means strength. We are never alone. We believe by May of 2021, we will continue to be able to say yes to life, yes to truth, and yes to love.

Key Stewardship Campaign Dates 

Feb. 13 – Advance Pledge Gathering

March 7-28 – Stewardship Campaign

March 28 – Celebration Sunday

Stewardship Committee: Michael Armstrong and Patrick Cullinane, Co-Chairs, Lynne Cahoon, Don Klose, Lenore Ralston, Deborah Schmidt, Grace Ulp, and  David Roberts, Board Liaison. Committee members welcome your thoughts at 

My Journey

by the Chalice Leadership Team

Lenore Ralston

Someone asked me why I am so involved with Chalice Circles and why I persist.

I have been in more than 15 Chalice Circles since coming to UUCB in 2011. Chalice was my avenue to finding meaningful connections within the church; making new friends! I also discovered that Small Group Ministry called to me. I became more deeply involved in church leadership and reaching out to others who could benefit from the practice of deep listening and full acceptance.

One outstanding experience I had during a Chalice Circle focused on Forgiveness. Each one of us offered our recollections and feelings of when forgiveness was an essential part of a single or ongoing experience for us… Forgiveness. Haven’t we all sought forgiveness? Or given it at some point in our lives?

It came round to my turn, and instead of embracing the overall good and efficacy of forgiveness, I allowed as how there were just some things I couldn’t forgive: Cruelty to animals, to children, and I couldn’t forgive the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Another member of the group offered a different point of view: that even Hitler could have redeeming qualities. She believed in universal forgiveness for all, as something to be worked towards. As I sat quietly and the circle continued to move on to others, I felt stunned. I could not forgive Hitler or any other of his henchmen, nor did I wish to. I am from a Jewish background. I was stopped cold… I was set – hardened. No yield. No forgiveness within me.

The person whose opinion differed from mine? Was someone I really respected; I liked. And here we were in opposing positions – enough so that the tension in the circle was palpable, even without cross-talk.

I have never forgotten this Chalice moment. She will always be an integral part of me, always raising the question, always challenging my unyielding ways… A teacher… While I still hold to my position, I “hear” another position. And I am a stronger person for it.

Partner Church Committee

Church in HomorodujfaluStephanie Ann Blythe

Boldog Karácsonyt!

Boldog új évet!

Those are Christmas and New Year’s greetings in Hungarian. We send these wishes to everyone here at UUCB and to our partners in Homorόdύjfalu. To help brighten the holidays in the village we recently sent $1500 by wire transfer, with $1200 earmarked for scholarships and $300 for gifts. We give many thanks to all who have contributed to the Village Education Fund during 2020. Nagyon szépen köszönöm!

What does 2021 bring? Will we be able to travel to Transylvania? While that remains to be seen, there are things we can do right here at home. We would like to see a revival of interest in our partnership. Some of the things other congregations are doing are Zoom meetings with their Transylvanian partners. Others are engaging their youth by arranging email pen pals with their Romanian cohort. And, oh yes, coming up with fundraising ideas even when we’re all still staying home. Got any ideas? Let us know!

Contact Stephanie Ann Blythe at or Anne Greenwood at We’re eager to hear from you!

From the Treasurer

Larry NagelLarry Nagel

Happy New Year! The UUCB Finance team, consisting of Tess O’Riva, Diana Steinbach, Monte Meyer of Shining Star Consulting, and me, has finally begun the financial review of the books for FY 2020-21 with the audit firm Healey and Associates. The last audit was done for FY 2015-16, so we are way overdue.

This article describes the UUCB financial results through October 2020. Year to Date Total Revenue was $255,086, which is $55,624 less than budgeted. A large portion of this shortage is because $ 33,415 in prepaid pledges were not credited at the beginning of the fiscal year. This error will be corrected in the next report. Year-to-Date Expenses were $266,066, which is $38,842 less than budgeted.

The bottom line is that, as of October 31, we are running a deficit of $10,980, while the budget calls for a surplus of $5,801.

As of October 31, the Mechanics Checking account was $543,790, which includes the Cope Ministerial Housing Fund which totals $382,572. The balance of the Mechanics Savings account was $152,7867. Hence, our cash reserves at the end of October were $314,004. The UUA Board Designated Endowment balance was $820,541. 

If you have any questions, please contact me at or call me at (510) 558-0842.

Social Justice Council

Anyone who attends a SJC meeting becomes a member of the council. Membership does not require attending every meeting, rather we would like to let you know about the exciting things that the council is doing, and when you see a committee of interest, we hope that you consider contacting the organizer to participate or attend the next meeting to learn more.

The UUCB Food Drive for 2020 raised $4221 for the Richmond Emergency Food Pantry as well as delivered several hundred pounds of food and toiletries.  Thank you to our congregation, the wider community and the work of our families, Family Ministry and Social Justice Council for making this possible.

January’s Social Justice Council (SJC) monthly meeting (Jan. 13) will focus on finances in the best of ways. Because of the diligent work of the Endowment Committee and the generosity of Nancy Kelly, our past chairperson who passed away in 2018, along with our considerate and dedicated members, Lenore Ralston and Dick Sherman, the SJC has additional resources to do social justice work on the behalf of UUCB. At our January meeting we will start the process of setting goals, methods, and governance to carry out this expanded responsibility.

We want to thank the people who joined our postcard writing effort to get out the vote.

Good Neighbor Recipients Chosen for 2012

UUCB’s Good Neighbor program has been in existence for over a decade, and congregants have donated  $120,000 to Good Neighbor. Each month, we invite a representative from a local non profit to come and speak about their organization. We hear about how the non-profit helps people in our community, and how we, as a congregation can help them. Half of  the offering plates that month will be donated to the one organization.

Many years, there are more organizations nominated than there are months in a year! This year, we had 17 organizations whom we heard from at the December 9 Social Justice Council meeting. After listening to what they had to say, reading over their mission statements, and looking at their websites, UUCB congregation members voted for  the non-profits we will support next year. UUCB’s 2021 Good Neighbor Organizations are as follows:

January – Social Justice Sewing Academy

February – Collaborising

March – Read Aloud Volunteer Program

April – Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP)

May – The Berkeley Food Pantry

June – Ya – NEEMA

July – Lavender Seniors of the East Bay

August – Diablo Valley College START program for Foster youth

September – Developing Indigenous Resources (DIR)

October – Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP)

November – Sagorea Te’ Land Trust

December – Emeryville Citizen’s Assistance Program (ECAP)

UUCB Social Justice Sponsored Projects

YEAH’s Tiny House Project
The creation of housing and community for homeless youth has moved ahead in leaps and bounds, with wonderful participation by UUCB members: many painted fence planks; Randall Hudson and Jim Acock have completed sanding and varnishing Murphy beds for each house; Lenore Ralston’s Chalice Circle have contributed to the purchase of two mattresses and personal toiletry baskets for two of the houses; and Ariel Smith-Iyer has begun interior finishes for a house. Jim Acock ( is asking if any family or COVID pod would like to become a welcoming move-in team and/or a mentoring team for the house as everyone becomes settled. Move-in has been set back till mid-January. And some day we will all join Yeah for a big party!

Confronting Racism and Oppression
Helen Tinsley-Jones,  and Julie Rogers, along with the UU Anti-Racist Task Force, Sheldon Jones, continue to educate themselves and address systemic racism in our history and culture.

Literature Film and Drama Contingent
Neither the glitches of Zoom, nor the extraction of wisdom teeth kept the LFDC from presenting a play-reading of The White Card, by MacArthur Genius Grant winner Claudia Rankine on December 6. The play tries to answer the question: “Can American society progress if whiteness remains invisible?” This event marked the end of our fifth year, and was made possible by a wonderfully dedicated cast and crew!

To kick off 2021, on January 17 beginning at 12:30pm, the LFDC and Personal Theology will co-sponsor an appearance by Professor James L. Taylor! He will be with us to celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You may refer to the announcements section for the title of Dr. Taylor’s talk and the Zoom-link. Season’s Greetings! (

Diverse Books to At Need Richmond Elementary Schools
Contributing to Diverse Literature in At-Need Schools still needs donors to complete our current buy of 50 books with stories about children of color for Highland Elementary School. Please help us complete our second school commitment. Contact if you wish to purchase a book. Thank you for participating in this worthy program.

Defending Democracy
With the help of many in the congregation, we did what we could to encourage participation in our civic duty to vote in November. Some are continuing in this effort for the Georgia run-off. As urged by Reverend Michelle, we are trying to focus our efforts on the first hundred days of the incoming administration to push legislation for social justice. With this focus, Norie Clarke plans to pull together a broad spectrum of UUs to support congressional bills that will solidify a nationwide law to ensure all American citizens the ability to easily vote. In the new digital age, paper (mail-in ballots) can be easily tracked. Such a proposal now might garner bi-partisan support in light of this past election. If you are interested in helping, please contact Norie Clarke to engage with this time sensitive project.

THANKS to all who participated in the MASKS of COLOR fundraiser project! For cutting the acrylic templates of the mask pattern, purchasing a mask, gifting them to others, wearing one, contributing fabric or your mother’s VERA tablecloth, THANK you. Wrapping it up by the end of 2020, 335 masks brought in $6500.00. Funds went to East Bay folks impacted by COVID-19; UUCB grads; derecho refugees (Iowa); Herd & Flock Fundraiser; Richmond and Berkeley food pantries; Youth Spirit Artworks.

Tess O'RivaFrom the Executive Director

Tess Snook O’Riva, Executive Director

It’s official! The Coordinating Team (CT) has been officially renamed and redesigned. Introducing… EAT! Yep, the Executive Advisory Team is made up of representatives from multiple programs and departments within UUCB and are charged with advising the Executive Director (um, me) on all things operational. And I get to make tons of bad jokes about the acronym. My emails now say, “EAT this morning!” We all find amusement where we can.

There are a lot of concerns to balance in administering a church, so it’s important to not sit in isolation when making decisions. One of the things the CT, and now EAT, has been consistently working on since I arrived is identifying and removing barriers between the so-called “silos” within the church. Every single one of these “divisions” is made up. They’re in our heads.

One of the reasons silos persist is lack of trust. There is a perception that programs and departments are in competition for resources, encouraging an “us/them” mentality. Here are some examples from my experience:

  • Consistent references to individual or groups of “informal leaders” that “try and run the church their own way.”
  • Statements about failures of “The Board” going back decades.
  • Concerns about the “influence” or “power” some people have versus others.
  • General feeling that church finances are some exclusive club.

That’s a lot of words in quotations. Let me take a moment to lift up one of my roles – as Truth-Teller. As an outsider, I honestly find the majority of these sentiments to be humorous. Why? The people who say them are often in one of the other categories.

The main point I’m making is this: It is consistent with our 7 principles and our Covenant of Right Relations to assume good intentions, accept one another, seek and grant forgiveness, and a bunch of other parts that apply here. Aren’t we, as dedicated UUs, trying to remove the divisions throughout our country? Question the illusion of separation? Seems we should start at home.

Wow. I didn’t expect to write all that. I intended to focus on the January worship theme of Imagination. Although it is true that our imaginations produce both helpful and not helpful thoughts and constructs. These perceived divisions, and your personal inability to affect them, are figments. We are one church. Let us come together, every one.

Email or attend EAT meetings for more info (see for details)!

Music Matters

Greetings Dear Congregation,

After 17 years as your Director of Music, I requested and have been granted a sabbatical. We have had quite a bit of change over the last seven years, and it seems I’ve been working a little extra over and again to try to help smooth the transitions. It definitely feels like I need a little time to rest and reflect and refresh. So for three months, beginning in the middle of January, I will take a break.

The music making will continue! Our wonderful organist Katya Kolesnikova, whose skills are many and varied, will coordinate music for services. Our excellent team of section leaders will join with our musician-at-large, Susan Mashiyama in leading the adult choir, and the youth and children will still have Katie Lipka’s wonderful musical guidance.

Katya has been Music Director at a number of churches. She is, of course, a brilliant organist, and also remarkably adept at structuring and organizing. More important even than that, she has a beautiful way with people and a deep sense of awareness and spirituality. Our section leaders, in addition to being exceptional singers, have many other impressive abilities. Two of them have been music directors of choirs and are voice teachers of high repute. You’ve heard Susan’s lovely harp playing in service. She has also served as the choir director at another of our congregations, and is working on her UU Minister of Music credential. Katie Lipka has plenty of experience working with young folk, teaching music and creativity and fostering growth, and will carry on that work with the Youth and Children’s Choir. I am grateful beyond words to be able to leave things in the hands of such a fantastic team of musicians and people.

While I am on break, I will spend time meditating on things that mean more and more to me with passing years. Along with a good bit of time in nature, I will think on developing musical experiences that encourage a greater sense of self-exploration and connection with UU values. I will have more time to explore music that is often not well represented in the choral world, particularly music by people of color.

Yours and harmony,


Mailing address: 1 Lawson Road, Kensington, CA 94707
Telephone: 510-525-0302