Year of Courage

Year of Courage

Hello, friends. 

Many of you have reached out to me over the past couple of weeks to offer your support as I transition into the Executive Director position here at UUCC. Your kind and thoughtful words have meant so much to me. It feels an honor to care for this congregation in which you have invested so much of yourselves — the congregation that raised your kids, nurtured your spiritual identities, and shaped how you see yourself in the world. 

Some of you have congratulated me on the “promotion.” But I don’t think of this new role in those terms. This was an intentional decision to bring more of myself into service of this community. It’s a decision that reflects my commitment to this congregation and my belief in its future.

Over the past two years, I’ve met newcomers who come to UUCC who are processing and making sense of past religious experiences. All around us, people are searching for spiritual healing, and as a religious community, we are privileged to walk with them on that journey. When we meet people where they are, we help them take the first steps toward rebuilding trust in religious community. When we create safe spaces for reflection and honest questioning, we invite healing to begin. I choose to serve UUCC because I believe in our potential to create these spaces for those who need it most. 

In my experiences as a community organizer and here at UUCC, I’ve seen and felt the hunger that people have for connection and belonging. We yearn to connect with others over shared values and to express those values together in the world. Life is fuller and richer when we care for others and are cared for by others, and when we work toward common goals. I’ve found this community in political campaigns and book clubs, and I’ve heard others find it in yoga studios, gay bars, and community choruses. For those still searching for a place of belonging, religious congregations like UUCC are a place to begin. I choose to serve UUCC because I want to build community for those seeking it and foster connections that inspire meaning, purpose, and active expression of shared values. 

I choose to serve this Unitarian Universalist congregation because I see Unitarian Universalism as a gift to the world. In contrast to the individualism and self-determinism that permeates systems around us, Unitarian Universalism invites us into interdependent thinking and being. The world is broken by humans elevating capital and self; Unitarian Universalism is meant to break this world apart. It affirms your inherent worth and dignity. It promotes our free and responsible and interlocked journeys to make meaning and find beauty in the ugliness around us. It celebrates the interdependent web that inextricably links you and me and every living thing. I haven’t seen this Unitarian Universalism in practice, and maybe it can’t ever exist in American society, but I yearn for it, and I want to do my small part to bring it into being. 

On Tuesday, 1.5 billion people around the world observed the Lunar New Year and rang in the year of the tiger. Many see the tiger as a symbol of bravery, resilience, and strength. 

Maybe this is the year of courage. May we will tap into our strength as a community and become more of the best parts of who we are. Maybe we develop a resilient commitment to love and care for each other through times of hurt and regret, believing that the bonds of our covenant are stronger than the pain of disappointment.

This year, I choose to step forward with whatever courage it takes to build this community to become all it can be but is not yet. 

I hope you join me. 

Happy new year,



  1. Alice Pham

    What a lovely message from you, Valerie! I look forward to your being even more active in our UUCC community!

  2. Liz and Bryan Barrett

    Wow, Valerie. Thanks for your wise words. We have been so impressed with all that you do for the church and feel so lucky to have the blessing of your talents. I just wish we lived closer to Columbia!

  3. Norman D. Hazzard

    Valerie, when I heard that you were chosen to be our new Executive Director, I immediately said to myself, “Yes!” You express yourself so well, and you echo my reasons for being a long-time member of UUCC. We are so fortunate to have you with us. Thank you for sharing this post.

  4. Karyn B Marsh

    This sums up beautifully what I’ve tried to preach over the last few years. Thank you for your commitment. I look forward to working with you.

  5. Kathy Parker

    Valerie — Thank you so much for offering these words that speak so well to the purposes we all bring to UUCC. I look forward to working with you in your new role as Executive Director and I wish you the very best in fulfilling that role. Kathy

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