Keeper of the Flame: M.J. Lieberman
This is the fourth article of 2017 in a series where I, Lee Elliott Carnes, President-Board of Trustees, ask questions to the Leaders of our gatherings. This month, M.J. Lieberman shares her wisdom. M.J. has contributed to our beloved community in many ways; she is a lay leader of the Chalice Circle program, volunteer to the children and youth program, and has organized past Summer and Winter Solstices.
Lee Elliott Carnes: What was your first experience with Unitarian Universalism?
M.J. Lieberman: My first experience with the Unitarian Universalist Church was when my husband and I were looking for a church in which to raise our son Alex. He was five. We loved that the instruction for children in the Unitarian faith was to expose them to many other religions.
Lee: How would you describe the Chalice Circle Program?
[Editor’s note: For both new and longtime Piedmont UU Church members, Chalice Circles offer a way to participate in the congregation in a more meaningful way. Members enhance caring for each other by sharing thoughts and listening, and support one another on their life journey.
A Chalice Circle consists of 7-9 members who commit to meet once a month from September through June to explore the monthly worship themes and discuss connections between our theology and our daily lives. The current session has 40 members who are in 6 groups. Chalice Circles also complete a service project sometime during the year.]
M.J.: I knew about small group ministry from being a member of a large Unitarian Universalist Church in the past and the importance of it. So when the chalice circle program began at the Piedmont UU Church, I was really looking forward to sharing with other people, connecting on a deeper level, and making friends. I think this has been a great addition to our church and congregation.
Lee: Tell us how you create community by working with the children and youth of Piedmont UU Church?
M.J.: I mentored nearly 20 young children for nearly 13 years when my son and daughter grew up in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte. When my friend, Heidi Magi, a member of our church, found out I had created this program she asked me to start one at Piedmont UU Church. And with her help, we gather in circle with the children and create ritual that helps develop self-esteem and self-empowerment. Through song, having respect for each other, and laughter we build on creating community for our youth.
At the end of each four-week session we plan an outing for the girls, to be able to spend some free time together. For example at the end of this last session, we had the girls attend a Twyla Tharp dance performance with a sleepover. Coming soon this spring we will be going camping.
Lee: What were a few memorable experiences from past solstices events?
M.J.: When I learned about earth based spirituality; it really spoke to me, so it was only natural to create and develop a service around it, and to share it with others.
One memory that stands out in my mind was when Dudley the great horned owl from the Raptor center was visiting us during the solstice service. During the guided meditation Dudley hooted just at the perfect moment. Weeks after a spring equinox service, a woman approached me to thank me for the spring service, and said it had really spoken to her and that was why she had joined the church. That meant a lot to me knowing that some people have been moved and touched by the Sabat services.