Christmas Letter from Rev. Denise

Dear ones:

As I sit under my Christmas trees, I am thinking of you and all you have endured with Covid shutdowns, our world casting doubt on democracy’s success, climate warming, water being sold like real estate, and the many changes you and your loved ones are navigating. At Countryside, we are aiming to give you a holiday season filled with learning, inspiration, reflection, community building, laughter, joy, and a place to hold your sorrows too.

Saturday at 4:30pm, we have a very special service planned full of song and story. Rev. Matt Aspin, my partner and minister at Prairie UU Society in Madison WI, will be joining me in the pulpit. Charles Vernon, Alison’s spouse, who plays for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will join us on trombone with the choir. Many of you are helping with the scripture reading which also draws from some less told verses. I think it will feel delightful and you might float off into the parking lot drawing energy from the community of kindness glowing in candlelight.

Sunday morning – we have a treat. Stay home in your jammies and sip your coffee while we gather on YouTube at 10am, where we will chat on the live feed. (You can even go there now and subscribe to our channel:, while also asking it to remind you to watch when the CCUU Story Service premieres. (You can watch any time after Sunday at 10am too.) More than 21 congregants, ministers, Board, and staff share stories for the holiday season touching on Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, and Yule. These are timeless and family-oriented. My friend Rev. Joe Cherry helped me find many of the stories. The choir is featured too! Mari Van Meter helped make this a labor of love with incredible video effects and images to add to all the stories. Please thank her when you see her. Stay warm at home with your loved ones this Christmas morning and share it widely. It will spark the spirit of the season whenever you watch it!

Finally, on New Year’s Day we are having another YouTube premiere offering reflections for your new year: Lessons from Gate A-4. In her poem “Gate A-4”, Arab-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye shares an account of distress, compassion, and community as she is called to interpret Arabic for a fearful traveler at an airport. As many of us take to the highways, airways, and railways this November and December, the UUA Pacific Western Region Staff has put together a worship service that touches on the themes of the poem, and questions such as Who are we called to care for? When do we answer the call to serve? Where might we be surprised by grace?

The service includes a “For All Ages” by Annie Scott, Credentialed Religious Educator; the poem “Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye read by Rev. Summer Albayati; and “Lessons from Gate A-4,” a sermon made of reflections from Revs. Sarah Millspaugh, Sarah Schurr, and Carlton E. Smith.

Our own choir is featured in the musical selections. Enjoy this one at 10am on Sunday January 1 or any time after that.

The staff and I will not be in the office between Christmas and New Year’s. We have all been putting in lots of hours for the holiday services. We will be taking a breath. Don’t worry, your Giving Tuesday donations will still be collected and counted. We will announce the total in 2023 and see if we make our goal of $20,000. Thank you to everyone who has donated already.

In 2023, I hope you are ready to build more community. We start off our Interim Community building Sessions on Sunday January 8 after service with Reflecting on CCUU Stories – all members are encouraged to attend, regardless of the length of time you have been a member, to hear and tell stories about the history of Countryside. This is important in our living tradition and provides a foundation for the transitional work the congregation must do before calling their next settled minister.


  • Jan 8
  • Feb 19
  • March 19
  • April 16

More dates to come but those are the first dates that are set. Some meetings will also be offered on Zoom and announced later.

Happy holidays. I send you blessings.

Reverend Denise