I came to First UU per the invitation of a member, who happened to be my Uber driver one January day this year. By the time he brought me home we were fast friends so when he invited me I asked "Is that the church with the Black Lives Matter" banner? You see, in a city like Richmond something like that stands out. I came to visit and on May 18, 2017 I happily and gratefully signed my name to the member register.
Rev. Jeanne was present for both sessions of Pathways--this within itself moved me. Here you have the lead minister, with two zillion things going on---yet being there with people seeking to learn more about the faith and the church figured high on her list of priorities. She said so many things that resonated with me during this time yet what stays with me most is her passion and commitment to First UU, to the UU mission overall. She is straight, direct, compassionate and adamant we CAN make a difference, starting with caring for each other and our world, one community at a time. Just before the actual ceremony where folks make the decision whether or not they will join, Rev. Jeanne began to speak and posed questions to ask one's self.
As I sat there listening to this woman, this non-person of color who I had no doubt understood every struggle I have had as a person of color and a woman, tears began to form in my eyes. She was speaking from her heart, from a place of deep truth because in the end, with Rev. Jeanne, we truly do belong to each other.
I've heard many ministers in my lifetime, of different cultural backgrounds and been to many places to worship, often feeling like a nomad. Yet from the moment I came into First UU, it felt like home. And for all of the wonderful people who make this happen, I am astute to know what I experienced is from the top down--the loving and solid influence of Rev. Jeanne is everywhere.
If the UU faith truly wants a leader that can bring all people together, that instinctively understands the struggles of people who may physically be different but inside share similar hopes, fears and dreams, a leader of fire and faith, of right and reason, of love and loyalty, of all the amazing ideals this liberal faith was built on and live by to this very day, there is no question for me that it is Rev. Jeanne Pupke.
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond