March 18, 2009 - The following article appeared on Dayton Daily News.com:
Fabric art filled with natural beauty
By Pam Ferris-Olson, Contributing Writer
WASHINGTON TWP., Montgomery County � Diane Dover doesn't like to make a quick study of things.
It took her 15 years to complete her undergraduate degree, repeated an ornithology class six times, and before she gets to work on her nature-inspired quilts she spends a good deal of time observing the creatures she'll include on her fabric canvas.
"I have been known to spend a couple of hours on my back in my backyard with my binoculars spying on migrating warblers who have stopped in my black locust trees to eat lunch," Dover said.
"My interest in nature springs from wanting to be close to something that is real, not commercial or human made, and quiet."
Dover, who has fond memories of playing in her grandmother's button box, was a fitness trainer for almost 20 years while she studied art.
The Beavercreek High School graduate decided to take up fabric art because it seemed a safe, portable medium for a mother with a lively two-year-old.
At Sinclair and then Wright State, Dover discovered she was drawn to artists whose work made statements about injustice. Dover considered incorporating such messages in her art.
"If I do make statements, I want to convey them by capturing the beauty of nature, for example, the glimmer of feathers on a rose-breasted grosbeak, the velvety scales on a cecropia moth's wings, or the fragrant pink blossoms on a common milkweed plant," she said.
Although her quilts appear to be only about nature, the threads that bind her pieces are highly personal.
Dover stitches by machine and by hand bits of herself into each of them. Her dream project would be to make a 6 foot square silk and cotton quilt with hand embroidered bird, insect and plant motifs.
"I would need a year's time to create it," Dover said. "A huge part of being an artist is having the time and money to execute what you want to do."
Eleven of her quilts can be seen through March at the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 8690 Yankee St. in Washington Twp. and six pieces will be on display April 19-May 10 as part of the What on Earth is Missing? at Gallery St. John Bergamo Education Center, 4400 Shakertown Road, Beavercreek.
March 8, 2009 - The following video appeared on Dayton Daily News.com:
The following article appeared in the 8-Mar 2009 Dayton Daily News as the first in a series called Focus on Faith:
For Unitarians, spirituality an individual pursuit
In tough times, many people turn to their faith, their houses of worship, their clergy. The Miami Valley offers a rich variety of religious options.
This is the first in a series of periodic articles that examine the major religions represented in our area and the ways in which they are affecting the daily lives of their members.
In addition to chatting with a devoted member of each congregation, we're inviting clergy to take us for a video tour of their respective houses of worship. This week, you'll meet the Rev. Amy Russell by watching the above video.
"Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal faith which honors all other religions and belief systems. Our members are encouraged to develop their own spiritual paths as well as share their spiritual journeys within our community. We welcome people of every faith, race, gender, sexual orientation, and political affiliation. In 2008, there were 158,000 UU's in 1,018 U.S. churches. In a Pew Forum study, .03 percent of Americans identified themselves as Unitarian. Our local church has 250 members."
� Rev. Amy Russell, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Miami Valley
A conversation with Kate Halpin
Q How did you come to your religion?
A I was raised Unitarian Universalist. There aren't very many of us. UU tends to be a religion that people find. We are growing (the raised UU's) more and more � people are becoming UU's and raising their children UU because they want their children to be raised in an environment where they can find their spirituality themselves.
Q What do you think sets your religion apart and makes it special?
A The acceptance of everyone � we are a Welcoming Congregation, which means we have gone through several programs which make us accepting of everyone.
Our Social Action Committee is very active: we do a lot of community outreach and I'm proud to be a part of that. We've marched in the Gay Pride parade, we provide lunch to St. Vincent De Paul, we donate money to food banks, we recently raised quite a lot of money for the Peace Museum.
Q How does your religion help you get through hard times, such as the current economic crisis?
A I think any kind of community is helpful in hard times � a church is a community and communities care for their members.
Q What is a Unitarian's view of God?
A This is a hard question to answer. The easy answer is: You can believe or not believe in a God, a Goddess, a being, a presence. We don't have a creed. Historically, Unitarians did believe in God and Jesus and some UU churches are still Christian. Rather than following a religious creed, we follow principles on how we want to live our lives. Personally, I believe that Jesus was an amazing prophet and that he taught many wonderful things. But I also think that Moses was a great prophet, and Confucius and others. I can't believe in the divinity of Jesus myself when there were so many other prophets who preached basically very similar ideals all over the world. But ... that is not what all UU's believe, so you can't take my belief and proscribe it to all Unitarian Universalists.
Q What do you love about your religion?
A I do like the way we look at other religions and cultures and learn from them. We look at Christian and Jewish teachings as one of the bases of our religion, but we also look to Native American beliefs, Buddhism, Taoism, Muslim and pagan teachings as well. Part of being a UU is the search for spirituality. I love the community � there are so many vibrant, caring, passionate people, it's comforting and energizing at the same time.
Q How does your faith affect your day-to-day life?
A I try to be open to experience. I try to accept people and what they believe without judging them ... it's not easy. I think that human nature is competitive and many of us have a compulsion to be "right." But I have learned over time that I can be friends with people who have different politics, faith and backgrounds than I have because I can accept what they believe. I may not agree with them, but I can accept them.
Q What holidays or traditions do you especially enjoy?
A We have a big community dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We also have a candlelight Christmas Eve service that is very spiritual.
Q What is a particular observance that has special meaning to you?
A We have a water ceremony in the fall where we come together and reconnect after being apart for the summer. We all bring water from where we were and we share what we did and pool the water together. This ceremony is a wonderful way to reconnect with other members of the Fellowship.
Q What do you think is the most important thing you've learned from your religion?
A Our first principle is the inherent worth and dignity of all people. This is really easy to say, but very hard to live up to. There are people who have done terrible things. While I can really hate what they have done, I believe that they do have worth and dignity.
To learn more: The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Miami Valley is located at 8690 Yankee St. in Washington Twp. Services are at 11 a.m. on Sundays, with children's religious services at the same time. Web site: mvuuf.org
The following article appeared in the February 19, 2009 Dayton Daily News.
Hereabouts: Retiree busier now than ever
By Sandra Baer, Contributing Writer
Carol Vincent of Centerville is amazed at how busy she is � considering that she is retired.
The former teacher is busy writing her memoirs, organizing scrapbooks, traveling and, most recently, displaying a collection of her watercolors at the Kettering Government Center.
"I can't believe how busy I am," said Vincent, who attends a writing class at St. Leonard under the direction of retired University of Dayton instructor Mary Sikora. "I'm busier now than I've ever been."
Vincent was born in Hillsdale, Mich., but moved to central Illinois with her family at the age of 2.
"I grew up on three or four different farms near Bloomington," said Vincent, who helped her mother with her four younger siblings and with the family garden that provided fresh and canned fruits and vegetables throughout the year.
"I graduated from Cooksville Community High School in 1940 in a class of 13 and I was the valedictorian. It's not there anymore. The schools have been consolidated, because you don't have all the small family farms anymore. The farms just got bigger and bigger."
Vincent attended Illinois Normal School, now called Illinois State University, where she earned a degree in education. After teaching for a year in central Illinois, she accepted a position in publishing in Chicago. While there, she studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.
"I wanted adventure," said Vincent, who met her husband at a church bowling party in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. "Neither of us went to that church. We just met there."
The couple and their three children moved to Kettering for one year in 1960, where their fourth child was born. In 1961, they moved to Centerville where Vincent, whose married name was LaGue, tutored and substitute taught until a divorce propelled her back into the work place as a Centerville elementary school teacher and the first teacher for learning disabled students in the district.
"I needed more income, so in 1974 I took a job as the special education supervisor in Montgomery County," said Vincent, who worked for 2� years in Greenville and finally in Warren County before retiring in 1989.
Her children all graduated from Centerville High School and include: Jean LaGue, a married special education teacher near Columbus; Ross LaGue, an electrical engineer in the Columbus area; Ken LaGue Vincent, a teacher in Cincinnati; and Warren LaGue Vincent, an electrical engineer in St. Louis.
In 1991, Vincent signed up for watercolor classes at Hithergreen Senior Center. Using photos from her numerous trips to exciting locales such as Australia, Europe, Indonesia and Alaska, and her interest in landscapes and flowers, Vincent has created a collection of paintings focused on nature.
"I love nature and walking on the paths at St. Leonard's," said Vincent, a grandmother of five, who moved to the St. Leonard senior living community in 2005. In addition to her award-winning artwork, Vincent recently was awarded first-place for adult nonfiction writing in a Sinclair Community College competition.
Vincent's artwork can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays during the month of February at The Kettering Government Center, 3600 Shroyer Road, Kettering. For more information, call (937) 296-2400.
The following article appeared in the 9-Aug 2008 Dayton Daily News:
Local Unitarian official reacts to violence against church
The Rev. Amy Russell and members of Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, were "shocked and saddened" by the deadly assault by a lone gunman at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., on July 27.
"Our churches are safe havens where everyone is welcome," said Russell, who assumed her duties last October.
"To have this kind of hatred unleashed in one of our congregations is tragic. But it only strengthens our resolve to stand for the equal rights of all, including those hurting and alone in the world, as this shooter seemed to be."
Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 8690 Yankee St., Washington Twp., is the spiritual home for more than 240 congregants.
Like the other 1,040 congregations in the Unitarian Universalist constellation, Miami Valley has a compassionate concern for issues of justice, equality and human rights.
"Unitarian Universalism is non-credo," Russell said. "We stand for an open, accepting, liberal religion. We encourage diversity and work to ensure social justice."
The Unitarian Universalist Association combines two faith traditions: the Universalists, formed in 1793, and the Unitarians, founded in 1825. They consolidated into the UUA in 1961. Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has been certified by the UUA as a "Welcoming Congregation."
"Our church has Buddhists, Christians, Jews, pagans, atheists and agnostics," Russell said. "They come from many different paths. But we agree on one thing. We agree that all people are welcome and accepted as equals in our congregation."
The following article originally appeared in the 3-January-2008 Dayton Daily News:
The following article originally appeared in the 22-August 2007 Dayton Daily News:
Church Plants 3,700 Flags, Calls for Prayers of Peace
Each hand-painted cotton flag represents a prayer for peace to honor those who have died in the Iraq war.
By Joanne Glodfelter Contributing Writer
CENTERVILLE - Members of the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Centerville are creating a focal point for peace on their church property.
Members are creating 3,700 hand-painted peace flags, which will be placed near the labyrinth on the south side of the church grounds. A labyrinth is a path offering space where individuals can quietly walk, reflect, meditate and pray.
"We wanted to come up with a way to make a powerful public statement to ask our community to pray for peace in the world," Gail Cyan, a member of the church, said. "The collective intention of the group is putting out that energy in a very powerful way to make things happen."
The 7- by 9-inch cotton flags were decorated by children and adults in the church. The flags will hang from 13 posts, ranging from 6 to 13 feet high, next to the labyrinth. The flag-making culminates a summer program of peace studies by the children of the church.
"Each person painted a mantra on a flag," Cyan said.
She defined a mantra as a prayer, which could be any word, symbol or picture related to the concept of peace.
"The wind and the rain on the flags will slowly dissolve them. They'll fade into the universe, and the mantra fully releases itself over time." After hanging for one year, the remains of the flags will be burned in a Buddhist ceremony.
According to Cyan, each flag represents one U.S. soldier who has died since 2003 in the Iraq war, and each flag represents between 20 and 120 civilians killed in Iraq during the same time. Each flag also represents a prayer for peace to honor those who have died, with hope that strong people will unite and build a peaceful world.
"These flags draw the community together in a way that we can all see the effects of the war," Cyan said.
"We've gotten the kids involved, and the public will be involved when they walk the labyrinth and meditate."
The church will hold a peace service led by the children of the congregation on Sunday at 11 a.m.
The church also will hold a public reception and a peace walk in the labyrinth on Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m., followed at 7:30 by the movie, "I Know I Am Not Alone," about a musician's travels in the Middle East, and the universal desire for peace he encountered.
The labyrinth is open to the public and takes about 20 minutes to walk. The church is at 8690 Yankee St. in Centerville.
The following article appeared in the 21-Mar 2007 Oakwood Register:|
Former Oakwood resident now Unitarian minister
Twelve years ago, when Amy MacMillan lost her 45 year old husband to cancer, she was extremely grateful to the members of her church, Miami Valley Unitarian Fellowship, for their love and support. This experience led her to a decision to train for the ministry. A ministry that has proven successful so far�the membership of her previous church in the Washington D.C. area more than doubled in her time there.
The members of Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship recently completed an almost two year process of searching for a minister. That search found Reverend Amy (MacMillan) Russell and brings her back to her religious roots. �I�m glad to be back in the Dayton area where I have so many fond memories� Amy says.
Reverend Russell, who spent 14 years at NCR in counseling and training, graduated from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Her first service with Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was Aug. 19 with an Oct. 21 installation date.
The following article about long-time MVUUF member Jamie McQuinn originally appeared in the 18-Mar 2007Dayton Daily News:
Indoor football, city a good fit, fan says
By Kyle Nagel, Staff Writer
In the past eight years, as teams have come and gone, the one constant in the local indoor football scene has been Jamie McQuinn. The 47-year-old manager of the magazine and special collections division of the Dayton Metro Library, McQuinn is the sport's local super fan.
From the two-year stay of the Dayton Skyhawks in 1999 and 2000 through the Dayton Warbirds and Dayton Bulldogs to the current Miami Valley Silverbacks and Dayton Marshals, McQuinn has headed fan clubs, run Web sites and done whatever he could to encourage support for the sport. He operates the Web site ohioindoorfootball.com, which concentrates on message boards for teams and leagues throughout Ohio.
In his words
"My first game? It was the last regular-season game of Dayton Skyhawks in 1999. What I remember about it was the excitement of being so close to the action and the ability to interact with the players as a fan."
"I'll tell you a story. I had gone on a lark to see what this was about. I splurged and bought a front-row seat, and the Skyhawks were playing the Lincoln Lightning. The player waiting for kickoffs each time was dancing, and we were razzing him. Well, he got hurt, and another guy came in. We yelled at him and asked if he was going to dance for us. He pointed and said, 'I'm going to score a touchdown.' And he did. That's what got me hooked, the ability to relate with the players is such fun."
"I think people see that it's indoor and on a smaller field and think it's not real football. But it's real players playing real football. They run as hard, hit as hard and win and lose just as hard."
"My Skyhawks fan Web site was the first. I got hooked and was learning more about them, and I discovered they didn't have a fan Web site. They had an official Web site with no information, but I wanted a Web site where the fans could talk and have a community."
"The leagues recognize that Dayton is one of the largest markets out there for indoor football, and it's clearly a market that if it could ever be done right could be very successful, could be lucrative. It has proven it can support minor-league sports."
"Oh, absolutely. I think if a league and a team owner comes in with, first of all, adequate funding to start off right and then be willing to work fairly and ethically and honestly with the fans, with the sponsors and with the media, I think this could and should be very successful here."
The following article originally appeared in the 12-Aug 2006 Dayton Daily News:
Same-sex marriage nothing new for Unitarian faithful
'Our congregation considers this a human right,' Miami Valley pastor says.
By Khalid Moss, Staff Writer
WASHINGTON TWP. � The white banner waving lazily in the hot August wind at Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 8690 Yankee St., read, "People of Faith for Marriage Equality."
The wedding ceremony taking place inside the church bore witness to that affirmation.
For Miami Valley's interim pastor, Martha Hodges, this union wasn't an attempt to fuel a national debate about same-sex marriage. It was, simply, the first time she had ever led a lesbian couple into holy matrimony. And she hopes it won't be her last.
"It was wonderful and very moving," Hodges said. "It was great to know our congregation was supporting this couple in the choice they made to commit their lives to each other."
Despite polls that say 70 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriages, the Unitarian Universalist Church, locally and nationwide, remains firm in its conviction that same sex couples must have the legal right to marry and enjoy the same benefits and privileges as heterosexual couples.
"We have a long history of calling for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage," Hodges said. "We were the first denomination to do so. UU minsters have been performing same-sex religious weddings for 35 years, so this isn't a new thing for us. I performed one on Aug. 5, and those two women are recognized as married by Unitarian Universalists everywhere. Our congregation considers this a human right, and we are deeply committed to human rights."
In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. They were quickly followed by Belgium, Canada, Spain and South Africa. In the United States, Massachusetts is the only state where gay and lesbian couples can legally marry. and from May 2004 to May 2005 more than 6,000 gay couples got hitched in Massachusetts.
Locally, churches such as Eternal Joy Metropolitan Community Church, 2382 Kennedy St. in Dayton; Cross Creek Community Church, 667 Miamisburg-Centerville Road in Washington Twp.; and several others celebrate Christ to gay, lesbian and transgender people of faith.
Gary Courts, Miami Valley Unitarian's public information director, said while same-sex marriages in Ohio have no legal standing, Unitarian Universalists are working hard to change that.
"At the 1996 Unitarian Universalist Association general assembly, delegates voted overwhelmingly to call for the legalization of same-sex marriage," Courts said. "The UUA has a long-standing and deeply held commitment to support full equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender folks."
At the opposite end of the debate sits Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. In his Eleven Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage, Dobson argues that "legalization of homosexual marriage will quickly destroy the traditional family. Among other things, same-sex unions reduce marriage to something of a partnership that provides attractive benefits and sexual convenience without an understanding of lifelong commitment."
Hodges doesn't buy Dobson's argument.
"My explanation is that at heart we are still a very homophobic society," she said. "Unitarians believe homophobia is the problem, not homosexuality. We welcome LGBT people into our church and affirm them as full participants. We have LGBT ordained ministers and we recognize the many blessings they bring to our congregation."
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2167 or kmoss@DaytonDailyNews.com.
The following article originally appeared in the 7-Aug 2006 Dayton Daily News:
Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims Welcome
The newly opened Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church in Washington Twp. boasts a welcoming spirit toward people of all denominations. The church encourages a diverse congregation and promotes "liberal religious principles." Services are held at 11 a.m. Sundays, officiated by Martha Hodges. The church also organizes social events for its congregation. MVUUF is located at 8690 Yankee St. For more information, go online to www.mvuuf.org.
written by Kevin Lamb