Foothills Unitarian Universalist welcomes minister
By Deborah Ince | Daily Times Correspondent
Foothills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Maryville welcomes its first minister Laura Bogle to its congregation on Oct. 7.
Bogle is a native of Maryville and a 1993 graduate of William Blount High School. She comes to FUUF from Berkeley, Calif., where she studied most recently at Starr King School for Ministry.
Bogle said taking the ministerial position at FUUF is a way to reconnect with her Maryville past.
“I always had in mind that I would like to end up back in the Southeast closer to my roots,” Bogle said. “It is sort of like a homecoming for me.
“I’m really excited to work with the congregation,” she added. “It’s full of dedicated, risk-taking leaders. They said, ‘We want to create something new,’ and they did it. They really built something within this community.”
History of FUUF
Foothills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was formed in 2008 in Maryville after several members of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville decided to form a separate congregation to geographically accommodate Blount County church members.
Before the addition of a ministerial position, the fellowship’s services had been lay-led by guest speakers and individuals from its relatively small 70-member congregation. Now, FUUF meets every Sunday at the Everett Senior Center in Maryville.
Rob Spirko, president of FUUF’s board of trustees, said he is looking forward to Bogle beginning her work in the congregation.
“We’re hopeful she’s going to bring energy and some different approaches to the congregation,” Spirko said.
He also hopes the addition of a minister will make the congregation a little more visible to the public.
“A lot of people don’t think you’re a real church until you have a minister, so it’s sort of a natural growth for us,” he said. “We’re hoping that it will make us a little more visible so people will know, and for people looking for a more flexible church home, that there’s some place to go Blount County.”
Unitarian Universalism is a theology that encourages individuals to pursue their own spiritual paths. Spirko said the goal of UU is to promote acceptance, diversity and social justice.
“Essentially I guess what it boils down to is, we look for truth wherever we can find it, so we’re open to a lot of different paths up the mountain,” Spirko said. “And so we do have certain things we sort of agree on, which is respect for human dignity, accepting people and encouraging them in their spiritual growth ... respect for the environment and nature and things like that ... social justice, too. You know, kind of working to make the world a better place. And then our inward spiritual stuff is mirrored by our outward helping other people.
“And so if you can agree to that, it doesn’t matter what you believe specifically about the ultimate nature of salvation and all that stuff. I mean, it’s kind of a matter of individual conscience, and so we want to respect that in people, sort of each individual’s right to make decisions for themselves.”
Bogle added Unitarian Universalism is about exploration.
“We try to affirm the inherent dignity and worth of every single person,” Bogle said. “We worship, explore and play together. There’s a strong emphasis on seeking truth. What keeps us together is that we realize we’re all interdependent, that whatever I do is going to impact you. But overall, it’s a worshipping community for many different beliefs.”
Spirko said after the addition of Bogle to the congregation, FUUF’s next step is to find a more permanent location for church services.
“I think Laura will help us get to the point where we can do that,” he said. “We’re working on becoming a welcoming community, and we need to be public witnesses for equality and a larger sort of acceptance.”
Bogle said the focus of her inaugural sermon will be on making a connection with FUUF members.
“I feel so privileged to come in and work with them,” Bogle said about the FUUF congregation. “I’m going to describe what it’s like for me coming in and will be asking the congregation to help me. I hope we can do that together. They have clearly invested time and treasure into building all of this. It’s about how do we want to impact the community and help it grow?”