When I was young, one of my father’s favorite “dad jokes” was to look forward to my 10th birthday and talk about how I would turn, “double digits”. When I was 9, the anticipation of “double digits” really grew. At that age, I don’t think that I could fully comprehend the significance of a decade of life, but I instinctively felt that something special was about to happen.
Next summer, I will turn double digits at UUCC. At 51, the significance of a decade is not lost on me. Prior to joining the staff at UUCC (Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia), I spent a large portion of my life as a theatre nomad hopping from theatre to theatre, gig to gig. It was rare that I was with any one community for longer than 3 months. The idea of being anywhere for 10 years never even occurred to me, and, truth be told, when I came to UUCC, I never envisioned that I would stay so long. But now that I’m on the precipice of turning 10, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
It is a privilege to be invited to share in the life of this congregation and in the lives of those who inhabit it. I have been around to witness the birth of congregants, and then, still be around when they lose their first tooth. I have mentored teens along the way and then, years later, been invited to coffee with them to hear about their marriage, their thriving career, and their memories of UUCC. This was the community that I weathered the pandemic with and now, I watch as the congregation comes back reinvigorated, working through challenges and reevaluating the vision. I have worked with multiple iterations of our staff, each one unfailingly dedicated to treating one another with dignity and respect. It has been almost a decade and the work is still challenging, inspiring and full of surprises. I never expected to stay so long but, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun.
At Sunday services when it is my turn to present the Time for All Ages, I begin by introducing myself. There have been a few versions of this introduction over the years, but one Sunday, without thinking, I found my truth and it goes something like this, “My name is Kelli Danaker, my pronouns are she/her, and it is my joy to serve as the Religious Education Assistant at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia.”