Tag Archives: Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport

Roundup: BMS, Budget Process, BOF …

Matthew Balga — the 54-year-old Norwalk resident killed in a motor vehicle/pedestrian accident Saturday night on Riverside Avenue — worked at The Whelk, not far from where he was struck.

A small memorial honored his life yesterday, near the scene of his death.

(Photo/Jennifer Johnson)


This morning’s “06880” lead story described Bedford Middle School’s 7th grade project: sending letters and artwork to their counterparts in Westport’s sister city of Lyman, Ukraine.

But that’s not the only way BMS engages with the world outside Westport.

Yesterday, 6th graders capped off a 2-month “Walk for Water” fundraiser. It coincided with their social studies Africa unit, featuring the book “A Long Walk to Water” to Linda Sue Park.

Students learned that many people around the globe lack reliable access to clean, fresh water. They walk an average of 3.7 miles — sometimes several times a day — to access potable water.

Over the course of 2 months, each BMS 6th grader and member completed a 3.7- mile walk, to understand the struggles that come with fresh water insecurity, and raise awareness and funds for the cause.

Bedford’s 6th grade students and associated community raised over $10,000 to support the “Iron Giraffe Challenge 2023.” The non-profit organization provides safe, fresh water and hygiene to villages in South Sudan.

The cost to build a new well is $15,000. As thanks, a plaque will be placed next to a new well in the village when it is built.

Yesterday, BMS 6th graders participated in a virtual meeting with Elissa Rowley from the Water for South Sudan organization. She described their work, and answered questions.

Then the 6th graders, teachers and staff walked to the Staples High School track, to recreate their Walk for Water.

Contributions are still being accepted. To give, and learn more, click here.

6th graders meet with Elissa Rowley yesterday.


It’s budget season. Buckle up!

Whether you’re an old-timer or newcomer; whether you know Westport’s budget process, or don’t have a clue, this week’s “Westport … What’s Happening” podcast is for you.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker explains the budget season, step by step. She also introduces the proposed 2023-24 budget, explaining how it was developed and where the money goes. (Or hopes to go.)

Click below, for this very informative Y’s Men of Westport and Weston feature:


Speaking of the budget (spoiler alert): The Board of Finance plays a crucial role.

Who are they? How do they operate?

The League of Women Voters pull back the curtain on March 15 (7 p.m., Westport Library). Chair Lee Caney and others will explain everything you need to know, at this free event.


“Free Renty” is a documentary about Tamara Lanier, an African American woman now living in Norwich, Connecticut, who was determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, Renty Taylor — an enslaved man — and his daughter Delia.

The images were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to prove the superiority of the white race. The film tracks Lanier’s lawsuit against Harvard, and features attorney Benjamin Crump and author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The documentary will be screen on March 18 (6 p.m.), at The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport — followed by a discussion led by Lanier herself.

Admission is free. A potluck dinner is served before the viewing, at 5. For more information, email events@uuwestport.org.

Tamara Lanier


VersoFest 2023’s concert pass is now on sale. It includes 3 shows at the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum:

  • Friday, March 10 fundraiser with supergroup Blue Coupe (members of Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult)
  • Thursday, March 30: Sunflower Bean and DJ Hysterica
  • Friday, March 31: The Smithereens, Amilia K. Spicer, DJ Miriam Linna.

The $90 pass is a 22% discount from the $115 face value. Only 150 are available; click here to purchase. For more information on VersoFest, click here.


Speaking of entertainment:

Brian Marsella headlines this week’s Jazz at the Post (Thursday, March 9, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. shows; dinner at 7 p.m.; VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399).

Called “a psychedelic Art Tatum,” Marsella recently finished a world tour. He’s joined by bassist Reid Taylor and drummer Brian Floody — returning after a fall appearance at The Post — and series curator/saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.

Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Brian Marsella


New to Westport: Vanessa Lewis’ latest iteration of her Penfield Collective retail concept, in Sconset Square. She brings the physical store from Fairfield, and a customer base from far and wide.

Penfield Collective is a “highly edited collection of must-have apparel and accessories.” That fits in well, with many of its design and lifestyle neighbors in the recently renovated shopping center on Myrtle Avenue.

Click here to learn more.

Vanessa Lewis


Large houses now line the banks of Sherwood Mill Pond. But there is still room for nature, as shown in this “Westport … Naturally” photo by Rick Benson:

(Photo/Rick Benson)


And finally … Gary Rossington, a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd — and their last surviving original member — died Sunday at 71.

The guitarist survived both a bad car accident in 1976 (which inspired the song “That Smell”), and the 1977 plane crash that killed 3 band members. Rossington suffered 2 broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured stomach and liver.

He had quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, suffered a heart attack in 2015, and underwent several heart surgeries later. Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

(From Westport’s budget process to VersoFest — and on to Lynyrd Skynrd — the “06880” daily Roundup is your place for news and information. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Westport Welcomes “New” Congregation

After 74 years, the Unitarian Church in Westport is no more.

But the diverse, welcoming community on Lyons Plains Road is not going anywhere.

The new name is “The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport.”

The simple change was years in the making. And it speaks to a recognition of changes in the congregation itself, and American life.

The local church was founded in 1949, as The First Unitarian Fellowship of Fairfield County. It became The Unitarian Church in Westport in 1964 — a year before their move to the modernistic building in the woods, designed by Victor Lundy.

Noted architect Victor Lundy designed the striking building.

Three years earlier, the Unitarian and Universalist sects had formally joined. (“Unitarian” means rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. “Universalism” refers to the belief that all will eventually be saved.) The Westport congregation is part of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The local mission statement says the church is “free of creed and dogma, and open to people of all backgrounds and beliefs.”

The Westport church has 350 members. Another 150 people participate in their programs. Among the best known: Our Whole Lives (OWL) sexuality education for various ages; social justice work, and outreach to singles and the LGBTQ community.

For quite a while, there was discussion about including “Universalist” in the name. More recently, another issue arose: the word “church.”

Some members were raised Jewish; to them, a church is a gathering of Chrsitians. Others are former Catholics; they associate “church” with Catholicism.

Though Unitarians are known for addressing hot-button issues, a name change was put on the back burner. During COVID, however, they began addressing it.

The longtime logo

According to board member Beth Cliff, a name is “an invaluable part of our identity as a spiritual and religious home. it creates a sense of who we are, of our community in which we belong, and our place in the world.”

It also identifies the community to others who know nothing about them, and distinguishes it from other religious institutions.

In February 2021, the board of trustees discussed whether the name “The Unitarian Church in Westport” limited its reach to newcomers, and if it was “as diverse, inclusive and open as we are in practice, as a non-creedal, non-dogmatic congregation that is welcoming to everyone from all faith traditions.”

Dozens of people participated in virtual meetings, discussing pros and cons of possible names. A November 2021 meeting sparked plenty of energy, questions and concerns.

A Naming Committee was formed. The goal was to oversee a process that was “inclusive, transparent, neutral, democratic, and designed to empower and give voice and vote to the congregation.”

Members — not the committee — were to come up with options.

Ultimately, 85 different names were offered. They included not changing at all, incorporating words like “sanctuary,” “fellowship” and “association,” plus references to the ship-like roofline, and locations near Silver Brook and the Aspetuck River.

The sanctuary on Lyons Plains Road.

Another discussion involved Westport itself. Should it be “in” Westport? “Of” Westport? With members coming from as far as Greenwich and West Haven, should there be no reference to the town at all?

The process played out in Zoom meetings, services and a town hall. The 3-step selection process culminated in ranked voting. 232 members participated.

The final choice — The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport — incorporates both branches of the faith. And “in” Westport is a descriptor, for those who may not know where it’s located — without limiting it to one town, the way “of” Westport might.

The name change passed with an 87% majority in a December vote. It was ratified late last month, almost unanimously.

Rev. John Morehouse

Rev. John Morehouse — who served 2 previous congregations that changed their names while he was there — says:

Our new name embraces the full depth of our religious identity, Unitarians known for their fearless questioning and the Universalists known for their radical welcome of all people.

We decided to drop the word “church” and replace it with “congregation” to recognize that we are as diverse theologically as we are culturally. This name invites all who are spiritually searching into the midst of our beloved community.

In a congregation that honors the worth and dignity of all, it is a hard process to come to consensus on such an important issue; we worked hard and got to know each other better, and came out stronger. This new name may open new doors for us as we connect with new groups of people in our neighborhoods who seek a spiritual home where they can be accepted simply for who they are: a “judgment-free zone” for themselves and their children.

It’s difficult to make sense of so much in our world that seems off-balance. Getting strength and solace with one another helps keep us all moving in a direction that feels right and purposeful, in the spirit of peace, love and justice. We hope our new name will signal to many what we’re about as a spiritual community.

So let us welcome our “new” friends: The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport.

Just as they welcome us all.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport.