Love Is the Spirit of This Church

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

Valentine’s day is upon us. It evokes memories of little pieces of candy adorned with short expressions of love, greeting cards which relate our feelings of love for one another and chocolates in large heart-shaped boxes. Our church is also an endless expression of the love we feel for our fellow parishioners and the world around us. It is not restricted to a single day of the year but is spread over the entire year and often reveals itself in acts of kindness because LOVE IS THE SPIRIT OF THIS CHURCH. A quick review of old Heirlooms and records reveals multiple examples of that love.

In the fall of 2006, members of our church participated in the Walk to Stop Aids, trekking the 5 K route through downtown and raising $1,175 for the cause. In that same issue of the Heirloom, thanks was given to those who donated underwear, socks, diapers, towels and other items for Undie Sunday. These were then presented to House of Peace and Prospect House.

These acts of love can occur at any time of year and in any year. In the fall of 2001 with memories of crashing airplanes and tumbling skyscrapers, Tracy Jo Small conducted walks through our labyrinth on three successive Wednesday evenings. These were held to ease the mind and calm the strife of souls who had witnessed a terrible tragedy. Our national service committee sent out a message of tolerance in the wake of the 9/11 attack. “As the facts surrounding these attacks begin to unfold over the next few days and weeks, we must be diligent and urge our nation’s leaders not to seek retribution against individuals, groups or nations for the sake of proving our might. Instead, we must focus first on caring for those who have been hurt in the attack and on providing support to family members who have lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy.”

Our church has a long history of service to those in need. The church’s Women’s Service Committee for decades maintained a supportive and helping relationship with patients at Longview Hospital and conducted an annual Christmas party for those residents. Alice Holabird, the woman who carved our altar table, was knitting socks and scarves for World War II refugees several weeks before she died at age 105.

In 2012, a horrific hate shooting caused the death of six Sikhs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The local Sikh temple invited members of the Cincinnati community to join them in a remembrance ceremony which also served as an opportunity for all to learn more about the Sikh faith. Led by Reverend Bill Gupton, a number of Heritage people attended this ceremony to express their sorrow but also to give their support to members of the local temple.

Our national Universalist governing body for nearly 40 years supported a missionary effort in Japan. Unlike many missionary efforts, this was not to convert the Japanese to our faith but rather to rescue young women who were being sold into the Geisha system by their own families. As World War II loomed and Japanese aggression became more evident, Universalist volunteers remained in Japan at great risk to their own well-being. Eventually, they were forced to abandon the effort. One of our own ministers, Samuel Ayres, left our ministry to later become head of the missionary effort in Japan.

There is not enough space in this newsletter to make even scant mention of the long history of Heritage UU’s and our Universalist forebearers handing out those little candies in the form of acts of kindness and love. And it will continue.

In the troubled times in which we now live, there are many opportunities to express our love for our fellow human beings. We are handing out food packets to families in need. We have supported Inter Parish Ministry as it continues to provide food to thousands of local families. During COVID restrictions, they kept food products flowing with little volunteer help and heroic effort from their paid staff. Interfaith Hospitality Network has been supported by our church for a number of years and currently their needs are on the increase as too many have lost their housing due to COVID-caused financial constraints. We have regularly participated in the Pride Parade and other related events. These are only a few of the many ways in which Heritage folks show that LOVE IS TRULY THE SPIRIT OF THIS CHURCH. Watch for e-mails, Heirloom notices and announcements about how you can continue to spread that love and make the world a better place.

Image: Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church logo