UUCOC announces upcoming programs

Mark Walz

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff has announced its upcoming programs, and all events at the church are LGBT inclusive.

Ethicurian potluck

An ethicurian is a person who enjoys good food and at the same time makes ethical food choices. The term comes from two ideas — epicurian: one who has a discriminating palate for the enjoyment of good food and drink and ethical eating, choosing foods and processing methods that are healthy and do not negatively impact others.

Over a three-month period last fall, an ethical eating forerunner course explored how food modifications and chemical additions affected those eating the food. The class investigated the environmental impact on the land and the social impact of laborers used in producing various food products. The group looked at how difficult it was to obtain healthy and tasty food in Oak Cliff and other food desert areas of Dallas. Finally, budgetary considerations were discussed.

The Oak Cliff Ethicurians will continue to explore these topics while considering possible solutions. Members will test ethical recipes with an eye to the accessibility and the budget. The group will look into community gardening, locally grown food sources, community supported agriculture shares, and other options. Potluck lunches will be enjoyed during the meetings.

The first meeting of the Oak Cliff Ethicurians will be Sunday, Jan. 15 at noon and will be held the third Sunday of the month. There is no charge.

Benefit concert

Jim Scott will play a benefit concert for UUCOC on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

In concerts and Sunday services, he speaks with passion on ecology, justice and peace. Among his work is eco-anthem ”A Song for the Earth,” recorded at the United Nations. On his new CD Gather the Spirit, Scott is featured leading choral arrangements of his songs from the UU hymnbooks and other new creations.

Contact

All events at UUCOC, 3839 W. Kiest Blvd. For more information contact Mark Walz, minister. 214-337-2429.

—  David Taffet

Marking 50 years of inclusiveness

‘DOING EQUALITY’ | Inclusiveness has been a tenant of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff for all of its 50 years. Church members, from left, Kelley O’Conan, Kimberlyn Crowe, the Rev. Mark Walz, Michael Cipollo and the Rev. Marcia Shannon stand in front of a banner in the UUCOC sanctuary that reads “Marriage is a civil right.” (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Oak Cliff Unitarian church has moved beyond tolerance and acceptance and has been doing equality for a long time, leaders say

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff, the LGBT community isn’t just accepted. LGBT members are an integral part of the church.

The church is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The Rev. Mark Walz said that his church was the first in the country that was chartered after the merger of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations in 1961. He said that actually 15 churches were admitted that day, six of which are still in existence. But in the records, the Oak Cliff church was first.

Board member Michael Cipolla has been a member of UUCOC for two years. He was raised in the Catholic Church and tried a number of other faiths, including Mormonism. But then he and his partner found UUCOC.

“For the first time, I feel incredibly normal,” he said.

Cipolla is not the first gay board member and he doesn’t know who was. He said the church has just been “doing equality” for a long time.

Walz said that the first time he presided over a same-sex wedding was in 2004. He was almost embarrassed that his first took place so late because the denomination had embraced marriage equality long ago.

“That was the first time I was asked,” he said.

The denomination was one of the first to welcome gays and lesbians and one of the earliest to openly welcome LGBT clergy.

Walz said he has mixed feelings about denominations that finally get it and open their ordination to everyone. He said he’s glad that they’re finally doing the right thing, but what’s different now than 15 minutes ago?

Like Cipollo, congregation president Kimberlyn Crowe was also not raised Unitarian but has been a member for about 10 years. She said that at UUCOC she can put her values in action.

“I can only be enriched by supporting someone else’s journey,” she said.

Member Kelley O’Conan said, “I was afraid to come to this church because I didn’t think I would fit in.”

The group laughed at that idea but agreed that she was different from most of the church’s members — she’s fairly conservative.

Crowe said one issue that the congregation is dealing with now is immigration. O’Conan said her views on immigration might not be the same as many other members. But at UUCOC, differences are not just tolerated, they’re embraced.

Walz said that it was so freeing to be in a congregation where he can let everything go. He called all the prejudice that so many people live with a burden.

Because the Unitarian Church is liberal in a conservative area, Walz said he gets hate calls. One recent caller asked if he required every member to be baptized. He said that while most were, it wasn’t a requirement to come to his church.

“You’re going to burn in hell,” the caller told him.

Walz was amused that someone who probably considered himself religious would call another church with that message.

The Rev. Marcia Shannon was ordained a Methodist minister and is the church’s director of religious education.

“It’s freeing not to have to worry about prejudice of people around you,” she said.

She is surprised that more people do not know more about the denomination.

Universalist churches across the South were integral parts of the Underground Railroad and Unitarian churches in New England and across the north worked to abolish slavery.

Walz said that a misunderstanding of history leads fundamentalists to claim that the country was based on their right-wing Christian values. At least five presidents were UUs including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. More signers of the Declaration of Independence were associated with their faith and other founders like Paul Revere and Ben Franklin were also Unitarians.

But part of the Universalist belief was that God doesn’t play favorites.

Each of the members of the Oak Cliff church just wanted others to know how welcoming their church is — even if you’re conservative.

O’Conan said, “And it’s the only church I’ve ever been in where you can bring your dog into the sanctuary.”

—  John Wright