Keepers of the Flame
This is the fifth 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, Pam Whistler, who joined Piedmont UU Church in 2008, shares her wisdom. Pam has contributed to our beloved community in many ways e.g. Member-at-Large of the Board of Trustees (2012 – 2015), Membership Team, Social Justice Team, and Social Justice Action Group. In 2017, Pam agreed to serve as Chair of the Fundraising Committee which oversees the Yard Sale, June 10th, and the FUNdraising auction.
Lee Elliott Carnes: What was your first experience with Unitarian Universalism?
Pam Whistler: On a cold morning in Jan. 1985, my mother, my daughter in her wheelchair, and I struck out for the UU Fellowship of Raleigh, in a light snow. My mother was a UU and I thought that if I ever decided to go to church it would be a UU one, given our many discussions about her UU church. UUFR was welcoming of us and curious about these visitors. I felt I would like it there and this community would offer me support and care after the recent death of my son. This turned out to be true and I got involved very quickly in social events, membership, and fundraising. Jeff and I met at a non-UU party and he began attending UUFR. He helped organize a singles group. I would get tickled when women began to flirt with him not knowing about our relationship. Later in 1990, we married at UUFR before leaving North Carolina to live in different states but always connected with an area UU community wherever we went. It is very comforting to know there usually are UU gatherings wherever you go. A ready-made circle of friends.
Lee: What does it take to have a successful Yard Sale?
Pam: A FUNdraising Yard Sale shows the heart of our church community. It takes many hands donating, setting up, and selling all the items. The church community comes together to earn money for our church, for our ministries to continue to do good work, for a charitable organization receiving our unsold items, and to provide low cost alternative goods to the public. We welcome our guest customers and thank them for supporting our church. This is an opportunity to share our faith and tell them a bit about our church activities. Success comes in many ways and it takes all of us.
Lee: What were a few memorable experiences from past Piedmont UU Church events?
Pam: I loved being a part of the Piedmont UU Church “Cats” production a few years ago. It allowed me to be a ham on a small stage with a fun cast. Our music director at that time said this was a very UU themed play. So, I studied the plot and found it spoke about acceptance and honoring individuality, very UU beliefs. UUs live those beliefs by supporting everyone through their spiritual search. Another occasion was the Cakes for the Queen of Heaven women’s spirituality class, which opened my eyes to the power of women in history/herstory. Marching, demonstrating, and protesting the inequities imposed on people by society or by the various governments have allowed me to express my frustration, anger, and beliefs. These activities which build upon our UU heritage make me feel proud to be a UU.
Lee: What was the question you had hoped that I asked?
Pam: I was hoping you would ask if it was comfortable being a liberal UU in today’s complex, quickly changing, outwardly conservative society. The answer would be no. There are many times I do not speak up when with people who have very different beliefs from me. That is probably why I enjoy demonstrating my beliefs when in a supportive group, whether UUs or not. Each of us probably has family occasions where declaring your UU ideals would not be received favorably, so the subject is avoided. I choose to play it safe supposedly for the sake of not hurting others. But in our caring, open UU community you do not have to be guarded. However, I do feel like I have a responsibility to step out of my UU closet, to be true to myself in front of others. I am mustering the courage to do so.