December 7, 2023

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This Sunday at VUU


Sunday, December 10, 2023

Annual Holiday Pageant

Join us as the children and youth of Valley UU remind us how and why we celebrate Christmas. In addition to a fabulous story about the true meaning of Christmas, we will be conducting a clothing drive during the pageant. 

We will be supporting documented asylum seekers who come to the valley. Please plan to bring new or slightly used outwear for kids and adults:

   All children's sizes - sweat shirts and jackets 

   Adult sizes small, medium & large - jackets

You will want to join us in person - everyone in the sanctuary will receive an "audience participation" bag!



All children in the Sanctuary for the Pageant.

  • Preschool (3/4 yr olds)
  • Kind/1st Grade
  • 2nd/3rd Grade
  • 4th/5th Grade
  • Middle School (6-8th)
  • High School (9-12th)

Haven't registered yet this year? Use this link

See 2023-2024 Curriculum Here


8:30 am Meditation

9:00 am Discussion  

In person: Board Room

Via Zoom here

Join Us on YouTube 10:30 Sunday
Join the Zoom discussion after service here

SAVE the DATES for UU Christmas services and activities:

December 10, 2023 Annual Holiday Pageant, featuring VUU kids!

December 17 “Opening the Gifts of the Season: Mystery Package Service,” led by Rev. Sarah and Ken St. John. Join us as we unwrap the gifts of our shared time together to reveal the mystery of…what will we do next?? Who will do it? Unwrap the gifts that will lead us through the service with surprise reflection questions, songs, stories and more!

December 24, 2023 Christmas EVE ****NO MORNING SERVICE******

3:00 pm Family Friendly Christmas Eve service - “Stories, Songs and Santa!” Hosted by the Seiferth, Oglesby-Dunegan, and Beaudoin families. An intergenerational early service oriented toward families with younger children who have earlier bedtimes, shorter attention spans, and whose theology is one of cookies, Santa and stories about Santa, and fun songs. Wear your “holiday funware”–holiday pajamas or special outfits. Bring some cookies to share. We’ll have Santa and a beautiful spot to take a family photo (with or without Santa!) after the service. We’ll also have an exchange of stuffed animals for your child to choose a lovey to take home (bring one, take one and of course we’ll have extras in case someone forgets!)

7:00 pm Service. Led by Rev. Sarah and an ensemble of singers, directed by Beth Wyman. A service oriented around adults and older children celebrating the beauty and magic of this season through classic music and messages that remind us of the connections between liberal Christianity and Unitarian Universalism through the traditional Christmas story. Of course, we also share a theology of pretty lights, cookies, and hot drinks (coffee/hot chocolate).  

Sneak Peak at Upcoming Services

December 31–online-only service led by Barbara Face. Details TBA.

January 7–VUU Board starts the new year by hosting Listening Sessions to learn more about what VUU members care about, are concerned about, and wonder about.  There will be three time slots to sign up for: 9:00 -10:00 am, 10:30-11:30 am, (priority for parents with kids in faith formation), and 12:45-1:45 pm (priority for parents with kids in OWL and online participants). Sign-up and more information soon! Sanctuary is closed for renovations, no online worship offered this day.

January 14MLK day Sunday. Sanctuary closed for renovations. Online and In-Person offerings, details TBA.

In case you like homework–we’ll learn together from this book: “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee. 

In case you don’t have time to read but do have time for a video (Ted Talk) or audio lecture (University lecture).

January 21”Stories from the Front Porch.” A Storytelling service featuring VUU storytellers telling their own stories from the heart.  If the sanctuary isn’t ready yet we’ll meet on the patio and pull up a chair.

SAVE the DATES:  January 26-28 we will have Rev. Dr. Sam Wilson on campus again to work with us on the topics of resolving conflict and restoring relationships.  She’ll offer a workshop for anyone who wants to attend and lead worship on January 28. More details TBA! In the meantime, please fill out this survey if you haven’t already. 

Cookies! Cookies! Cookies!

It wouldn’t be Christmas without COOKIES! You can help make Christmas Eve at VUU extra special! Contribute a dozen of your favorite Homemade or Purchased Christmas Cookies for after the 3:00 PM or 7:00 PM Service on December 24.

We also need help preparing hot cocoa and cider before each service and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. To volunteer to bring cookies and /or to help that afternoon or evening, go to our special Christmas Eve Hospitality Sign Up here. Questions? Contact Barb.

Submitted by Barb Quijada

To help with Sunday morning hospitality, click here.

VUU Happenings

Love is our doctrine · Service is our prayer · Justice is our calling

See Articles Below For

Desert Notes

UUA Update

VUU Updates

Faith Formation

Fellowship and Social Activities



Music Ministries

Children/Youth Faith Formation

Adult Faith Formation

Caring Ministries

Social and Environmental Justice

Sunday Morning Teams



UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association)

Submit to the Happenings

Prior Weeks' Newsletters

Partner Organizations

UU Justice Arizona

Valley Interfaith Project

Adams Elementary


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Thursday, December 7

  • Spirit of Life Reading Circle 7p

Friday, December 8

  • Paz de Cristo Meal Prep 4p

Saturday, December 9

  • GenX/Millennial Event 1:30p

Sunday, December 10

  • Dalai Lama and Friends 8:30a
  • Sunday Worship Service 10:30a
  • NO Faith Formation Classes
  • Immigration Action 11:45a
  • Voices Lifted 12:15p

Monday, December 11

  • Pastoral Care Team 6:30p

Tuesday, December 12

  • EastVUU Women's Group 1p
  • Men's Group 7p

Wednesday, December 13

  • Choir Rehearsal 6p
  • Special Funds 6p

Thursday, December 14

  • Longest Night Service 6p
  • East VUU Gathering 6:30p
  • Page Turners Event 7p

Friday, December 15

Saturday, December 16

  • Singles Holiday Party 5:30p

Sunday, December 17

  • Dalai Lama and Friends 8:30a
  • Sunday Worship Service 10:30a
  • Faith Formation Classes 10:30a
  • VUU The Vote 12p
  • VUUJAZ Coffee Conversation 12p

Click here for the most current calendar, to view locations, contact information details for above events

Desert Notes from Rev. Sarah

I’ve heard many stories about the Sunday after Thanksgiving when about 80 of you participated in person an a dozen online with our “Flip the Church: Improvising a Shared Future” experience (see photos below). You were invited to respond to a homily in small group conversations in these questions: 

  1. Rev. Jonalu Johnstone says we come to faith communities because we want "the prophetic stance, the comfort and the hope" for our shared future. What brings you to this faith community, and what do you need from it? 
  2. Rev. JJ talks about decline in faith community participation, including our own UU communities. What can we do/are we doing in our UU congregations to survive and thrive in the face of this decline in faith community engagement? If we can't go back in time, what can we do instead? 
  3. How or why is it important for Unitarian Universalism to evolve to serve people other than us/the people currently here? Where do you find hope for our shared future as a congregation and as a community?
  4. Rev. JJ talks about the importance of developing our capacity for collaboration. How can we work more with other UU congregations and communities of faith to be more collaborative? What are we doing now and what more could we be doing? (And what difference would it make?)

Many of you shared with me your experience of this as an energizing, hopeful and connecting experience. My goal was to invite you into a space where you might talk to people you haven’t talked to before in this deeper way about what it means to you to be engaged in building community together and investing in a shared future. It was an experiment. I believe congregational life on Sundays can be more interactive and make space for building relationships with new people. This doesn’t mean we’re going to change everything all the time, but it does mean we are going to try out some new ways of being together and learning together. If you weren’t able to be with us that Sunday (I was on vacation myself!) I hope you’ll take some time to think about your own answers to these questions. As we move into a new year, complete some projects in the sanctuary and contemplate how we will continue to fund this shared work, I wonder what will support each of you in both building deeper relationships with each other and engaging your own spiritual development and sustenance? What do we need to improvise a shared future together? What do we need to let go of? I look forward to the conversations ahead of us and the bridges we will build together.   

–Rev. Sarah

VUU Updates


FUUNd Update

Here are two very recent pictures from the FUUNd “Cut Your Own Christmas Tree” event sold on last year’s auction.

NOW is the time to get your donations in for the 2024 Let’s Have FUUNd Together Auction. Donations can be made via the auction website or by picking up a donation

form at the FUUNd table on Sunday mornings.

Not sure what to donate? Click here for an inspiring list of last year’s auction items.

Need more information? Stop by the FUUNd table this Sunday or email

Submitted by Debbe Simpkins, FUUNd Coordinator


Caring Ministries Program

"Coping with Grief During the Holidays"

December 11 - 6:30-7:30p

Join us in the Board Room for a talk provided by a Hospice of the Valley speaker. The holidays can be very difficult. Hospice of the Valley shares strategies for grieving families who are trying to move through the holiday season. 

“Coping with Grief During the Holidays” recognizes why grief is so important, helps us understand how grief affects us, discusses ways to survive the holidays, and learn ways to create new memories.

The program will be live-streamed; details to come.

Engage with VUU's Social Media

VUU’s Communications Team has been working hard to improve and add to our sources of communication, including a reboot of our social media accounts. The secret to getting social media postings seen by more people, is to have good “engagement.” If you would visit our Facebook and Instagram pages, and engage, we’d be thrilled! Liking a post is engagement. Using one of the other (love, wow, hugs, etc.) emoticons is better engagement. The BEST engagement is commenting on a post. Feel free to engage like crazy so we can help ensure that the most people get to see our posts.


Visit our Facebook page here.  Instagram here.

2024 VUU Pledge Drive

VUU typically runs our annual pledge drive starting in December. The pledge drive is an important piece of the budgeting process as it allows our Board, Staff, and the Finance Committee to make decisions about programming and efforts we can support throughout the coming year.

For 2024 we are trying a few new things, and Rev. Sarah is preparing a video to promote the coming pledge drive and provide information on the process. This will help connect our pledges to the important work that VUU can accomplish.

The pledge drive will occur during March and April, after FUUNd ends on February 28. Please continue/increase the pledge you made for 2023 for the beginning months of 2024.These adjustments will allow us to provide clear details about the budget and our vision for the coming fiscal year as we collect pledges.

We are organizing a new team for this year's pledge drive. Let your Board know if you have fund-raising skills you would be willing to share with VUU! We look forward to another year of fine programming with/for the VUU congregation!

This week you should have received a statement of your 2023 pledge and giving. To date, we have received $385,000 of the $428,000 pledged to the Operating Fund this year. If you can, please get your year-end contributions in to the office before the holidays, so we end the year whole!

Thank you for your support!  

VUU Board of Trustees and Finance Team

Sanctuary Will Be Closed After Christmas

The Sanctuary Transformation Team is happy to let you know that the Phase II renovations of the sanctuary are ready to start!


Our contractors will begin right after Christmas, and we look forward to our grand reopening January 21 (give or take a week). When you join us then, you’ll see even more transformation including a full interior paint, some new furnishings on the stage, new signage, and a fully remodeled kitchen. There will be accessible doors to the sanctuary and men’s room, and a beautiful refresh in the restrooms! The kitchen will have new doors, new cabinets, new appliances and more! 


Thank you to everyone who has contributed with your funds and your talents to making this happen!


Quick reminder that the capital campaign ends December 31, and we appreciate everyone sending your final contributions by the month’s end to make sure we can pay for all we’ve planned!


Thanks from the Sanctuary Transformation Team!

Lost and Found

We are amassing quite a collection of unclaimed items in the VUU kitchen. See pictures to right. These items need to be claimed ASAP, as we will be starting the second kitchen renovation right after Christmas. Thanks!

Submitted by Laura Rohlfing

January 7 Listening Sessions

At the October 22 Congregational Conversation, the Board informed the congregation of the correspondence we received regarding the UUA's efforts to replace Article 2 and a request to take action. The Board outlined our plan to address these concerns which included listening sessions and engagement with the congregation at multiple levels. The Board continues to research this topic and gather feedback. Our next step is to hold a series of small group listening sessions with various stakeholders on January 7, 2024. We look forward to sharing more information on this effort as it becomes available. Thank you for your patience and support in this process.

VUU Board of Trustees

Music Ministries

The VUU Voices Choir

Rehearsals are Wednesdays in the Sanctuary from 6:00-7:30 pm. To see the 2023-2024 schedule please click here. To access sheet music and vocal tracks for songs we are working on, click here. Contact with any questions.

Kids' choir "Angel Choir"

December 10

The Angel choir will be taking the place of the 1-hour kids' choir for the month of December. The kid's choir will be singing for the pageant on December 10. All kids are welcome to sing in the Angel choir. Your kids can also be a different character than an angel AND still sing in the Angel choir. Contact Katie for more information such as videos of the songs and lyric sheets that the Angel choir will sing:


East VUU Monthly Meeting

Thursday, December 14 at 6:30 pm

Our 2024 planning meeting to decide how our EastVUU group can grow and prosper will be on December 14. Suggestions welcome before our meetup. Email us and we will compile a listing to present and discuss. Suggestions also welcome the night of meeting!

Join Zoom Meeting

Stay Updated: Click here for the EastVUU Facebook group.

East VUU After Christmas Party

Thursday, December 28 at 6:30 pm

Barbara Peter's Home, 2114 Leisure World, Mesa

To be let in at the gate: Ask for Barb Peters, 2114. Mention Church Potluck.

Plenty of inside room and outdoor fire pit area to enjoy fellowship and/or games after a busy Holiday Season! A relaxed get together, so feel free to rove around with drinks, appetizers or desserts you choose to bring to share. 

Anyone can participate to bring a wrapped white elephant gift. If you do, you will draw a number and all gifts are in a pile so when your number comes you select. (There might be a twist in the rules at game time!) Anyone wanting, can share their New Year's Resolution(s).

VUU Christmas Pageant on December 10 is spotlighting how Joseph and Mary had to leave their country for safety. Tied into this is asking for donation of new or slightly used winter outer clothing for the Asylum Seekers also on a journey for safety. You can participate, as able, to bring to the December 10 service or bring to our Christmas Party.

Faith Formation

A Unitarian Universalist Christmas Pageant

Join us on December 10 as the children and youth of Valley UU remind us how and why we celebrate Christmas. In addition to a fabulous story about the true meaning of Christmas we will be conducting a clothing drive during the pageant. 

We will be supporting documented asylum seekers who come to the valley. Please plan to bring new or slightly used outwear for kids and adults:

   All children's sizes - sweat shirts and jackets 

   Adult sizes small, medium & large - jackets

You will want to join us in person - everyone in the sanctuary will receive an "audience participation" bag!

Faith Formation Holiday Class Schedule:

  • Dec 10 - NO classes, everyone attends Pageant, 10:30 am. OWL classes do NOT meet
  • Dec. 17 - ALL classes meet, OWL classes do NOT meet
  • Jan. 7 - Everything is back!! All classes and OWL meet.
  • Jan. 14 - ALL classes meet, OWL classes do NOT meet

Spirit of Life December 7 Meeting

Hello, Friends, Our next meeting of Spirit of Life Reading Circle is Thursday, December 7 at 7:00p on Zoom. In addition to the readings, we'd also like to encourage you to listen to this song, which was written for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and which I personally love.

We hope this reflects our new year as well and we hope to see you on Zoom on the 7th!

Love, Mary, Anne, and Rebecca

Join Zoom Meeting Here

Anti-Racism Workshop Interest Survey

Rev. Joan Crawford has offered to lead VUU members in some anti-racism learning opportunities and we'd like to see who is interested and how much time you could commit to this shared learning. Please let us know your willingness to participate, contribute funds to support this work, and potential availability for this work. This will help us decide if this is a viable offering.

Anti-Racism Workshop Interest survey

Click Here for Winter Camp Registration

Fellowship and Social Activities

VUU Gen X and Millennials Winter Cookie Exchange! (With childcare!)

Get festive and join us on Saturday, December 9, from 1:30 to 4:00 pm for the VUU Gen X/Millennial cookie exchange party hosted by Mary Kate Eckles. Bring a tray of your favorite cookies and take home a variety of everyone else's!

Holiday sweaters are encouraged. There will be a contest with a prize! Children are invited to a scavenger hunt, cookie decorating, and read comic books on the patio with our babysitter.

More Details and RSVP here

Singles Holiday Party

Saturday, December 16, 5:30 pm 

ANNUAL HOLIDAY PARTY at the home of Gloria (2227 W Ironwood Drive, Chandler, 716-819-7622). This is a Potluck so bring a dish to share as well as a holiday gift for the gift exchange. Item should be $15 or less in value. Goodwill White Elephants are a welcome part of this tradition. RSVP to Claudette at 973-768-6047 (texts preferred) or send an email to declare your dish and intentions.  

The Page Turners' 2024 Book Selection Party

Thursday, December 14 at 7:00 pm

Please note this is the second Thursday in December. The meeting will be held at Pat & Amy Monahan's house near the 101 & Ray Rd. We ask that everyone bring a snack to share. Amy & Pat will provide beverages.

If you have suggestions for books for the group to read in 2024, please come with 3 book suggestions. Be prepared to give a very brief introduction to each book. We will vote on the 3 options and select 1 for next year. Please keep in mind the following:

  • Books should be readily available at the public library. Please don't suggest books that came out in the last year that will have long wait lists at the library.
  • Books should be of moderate length. They can be biography, fiction, or non-fiction.
  • You can bring a spouse, partner, or guest with you to the party if you choose to do so.  

For the meeting/party address or questions, email Amy.

Volunteering and Giving

VUU Immigration Team Holiday Gift Tree

December 10 and 17

Who benefits: Immigrant Families being helped by VUU. They are three families from Columbia with children and one adult couple from Afghanistan. We are also gifting two VUU member families.

Ways you you help:

  1. Choose a GIFT TAG from the Gift Tree on the patio December 10. Go online and order the gift on your tag. Check the box to have it shipped to the Cherington address. We’ll wrap and deliver the gift. (Or you can purchase the gift and bring it to VUU by December 17.)
  2. Purchase a grocery / retail / gas GIFT CARD from Fry’s, Safeway, Food City, Target or Walmart. Bring it to the Gift Tree table December 10 or 17.
  3. Donate CASH for the Immigration team to distribute to families to help pay monthly rent.
  • Bring your $ or check to VUU and put it in the Immigration Team Gift Tree Donations box at the Gift Tree Table December 10 or 17.
  • Donate $ online at Scroll down from “Give to Operating” to the “Give to Refugee Assistance” link.Gift Card and Cash donations will be matched by a VUU Special Funds grant!

Border Support beyond the Gift Tree: Place donations in the Refugee Aid bin in the Sanctuary. December needs include lightly used or new winter clothing, especially sweatshirts, sweaters and coats for men and women (S/M/L) and children to teens (all sizes).

Immigration Team Meeting: Sunday, December 10 in the Sanctuary after the service. All are welcome!

Submitted by Barb Quijada

Valley Interfaith Project Delegates Assembly

Tuesday, December 12 at 6:30 pm

at Shepherd of the Hills UCC, Phoenix.

Thanks to all who answered the call for a VIP Rapid Response to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, supporting the Sonoran

Landings affordable housing for seniors and veterans in Chandler. Stay tuned for more requests to respond rapidly.

We will be celebrating VIP’s 2023 successes and setting our agenda for 2024. Be part of the conversation and decision making for organizing for sustainable economic and social improvement in Maricopa County.

Carpools from the East Valley, VUU, and central Tempe are forming now. Contact Barb Quijada if you are interested in sharing a ride to the VIP Delegates Assembly

Submitted by Barb Quijada

VIP Community Outreach

VIP has been supporting the work of Chandler Unified School District as they work to meet the mental health needs of students in their District in new ways and with more resources. One of the ways you can be involved is to contribute to the Annual Giving Tree. Schools send wishlists for 1 or 2 families and CUSD works with the community to fulfill them. While they have a physical tree located at Bottle & Bean in Downtown Ocotillo (2577 W. Queen Creek Rd.) the tree is also digital! Community members can sign up here to purchase gifts for those families that are needing additional support this Holiday Season. 

This is separate from the Refugee Gift Tree.

Paz de Cristo December Donation of the Month

The December donation of the month is a contribution check to Paz de Cristo. The donation qualifies for an Arizona tax credit, which reduces state income taxes by the entire amount contributed! For more information visit the State of Arizona web site.

Gift cards for groceries and gas are very appreciated and will continue to be collected throughout the year. They can be placed in the lock box on the wall above the collection box. Fry’s gift cards are especially appreciated because they give Paz the flexibility to get either gas or groceries. They use the gas for their delivery truck, or they buy fresh food and other groceries that they need. 

Paz de Cristo - Volunteers needed this month!

Continuing the Tradition… Keeping the Commitment… Living our Principles

2nd Friday, December 8, 4:00-7:00p

Location: 424 W Broadway Rd, Mesa, AZ

Click here for the sign up link

Families welcome!

Volunteers are urgently needed this month as we are a bit short of the number of helpers needed. Please consider joining us so we can easily meet VUU’s commitment at Paz de Cristo in December.

Please join us as we keep VUU’s 34-year tradition with Paz de Cristo on the second Friday of each month to serve the evening meal to Paz guests. Volunteers gather at the Paz kitchen/dining room from 4:00-7:00 pm to prepare then serve the evening meal. Additional tasks include cleanup of dishes, sweeping and mopping of floors. If you are joining us for the first time, don’t worry, Paz staff and experienced VUU

volunteers make the work easy and the evening goes fast. Seventeen volunteers are needed and can range in age from 12 on up. (As of this writing, we need nine more folks!) Volunteers must be able to stand and participate in all tasks during the entire evening.

Have questions? Contact Joanne at 602-620-3100. Please sign up for this rewarding experience at

I-Help Success!

Once again, VUU hosted and served a memorable meal of ham with all the trimmings to our I-HELP guests! As we near this year's end, I find myself once again awestruck by the outpouring of goodwill and generosity that creates this monthly miracle for our I-HELP. guests. I would like to give a particular shout out to Nancy Landeryou, Jodi Cicirello, and Pat Flahart, along with Bethany and Theo Bastert, our intrepid I-HELP serving team. I was particularly grateful this month, as their combined efforts and skill allowed me to slip out early to be home with my husband who is currently recovering from surgery.

Our next I-HELP meal service will be on Monday, December 25. Tamales, anyone?

If you have any questions or would like to be placed on the I-HELP email sign up list, please contact Laura Rohlfing at

Submitted by Laura Rohlfing, I-HELP Coordinator

Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation |