New fellowship seeks status as official congregation
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Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011

New fellowship seeks status as official congregation

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Lake Norman has hired its first part-time pastor.

After almost two years of regular meetings, a small Unitarian Universalist group in the Lake Norman area is taking steps toward becoming an official congregation.

Last summer, the UU Fellowship of Lake Norman officially registered 22 people as members. This month, the Rev. Amy Brooks started as the fellowship's part-time pastor.

The group hopes to be recognized as an official UU congregation, the first in the Lake Norman area, when the UU Association of Congregations General Assembly meets in Charlotte this summer.

Jeff Pender founded the group in 2009 because he wanted his young daughter to grow up in a UU setting. He said Brooks is helping the group follow through on its mission. The fellowship saw a jump in attendance after she arrived, he said.

"She's been wonderful," Pender said. "She provides stability, consistency and credibility."

After earning a master of divinity degree from Harvard University, Brooks moved to Charlotte in 1993 to work as a hospital chaplain. She felt called to social action work more than to parish ministry, so she took at job at Regional AIDS Interfaith Network in Charlotte, where she worked for 15 years.

She married a Davidson College associate professor and moved to the Lake Norman area six years ago. They have been active in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, but Brooks said they will now become part of the UUFLN.

Brooks said much of her work has been with people who are scattered or who come and go from a hospital.

"I'm excited about grounding myself in a group of people and being able to grow together," she said. "It's a great group with a lot of energy."

The fellowship meets twice a month, and Brooks will preach at one of those meetings. She also will meet with committees to implement programs and talk about "what we need to do to really thrive."

The fellowship began with six or seven people talking about starting a UU group. Now average attendance is about 25 adults and 10 to 12 children. The group has invited speakers ranging from Davidson religion professors to a Buddhist to a United Church of Christ leader.

The group has also focused on social action, a key component of Unitarian Universalism, and they regularly pick up trash along a section of Davidson Concord Road and volunteer at the Ada Jenkins Center, and they plan to get involved with Room in the Inn, a ministry to homeless people.

Pender said the fellowship has grown close. "We think of ourselves as a big family, and we want to support one another," he said.

This year the group, which now has 28 official members, hopes to add two more to reach 30, the minimum number required to become an associate member of the UU Association, Pender said.

That will give the fellowship a connection to the larger church and allow it to apply for grants, which Pender said could be used to pay a minister or run a faith development plan.

The UUFLN meets at 11 a.m. on the first and third Sundays of each month at in the Tomlinson Hall conference room at Davidson College. The next meeting is next Sunday, and yoga master Kristine Kaoverii Weber will speak.

For more information visit uulakenorman.wordpress.com.

Freelance writer Marty Minchin writes about faith and ministry for the Observer. E-mail her at martyminchin@gmail.com.

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