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Award Winning All Souls!

I want to deeply thank the Congregation of All Souls for offering me the 2012 Presidents Award at the All Souls Annual Meeting yesterday (Sun, February 5th, 2012). It was surreal, especially since I was sitting up front and when our former board president, Nancy Northup was introducing the award, she was describing someone familiar, and then I realized, “she’s talking about me!” The congregation really surprised me. It was a special moment. A complete surprise! The text of the award reads, “All Souls Church Presidents Award presented to Victor Fidel for Scholarship that inspires the congregation to cherish its history, February 5, 2012.” I also want to thank my wife, Heather, for being my strength in completing book that defined this award, The Quest for Religious & Community Identity: The Story Behind the Architecture and Evolution of All Souls Church, NYC.

2012-02-05VictorAcceptsAwardFromNancy 
Nancy presents the award to me – she has such a lovely, elegant smile.

Award02
The Award. The text reads: “All Souls Church Presidents Award presented to
Victor Fidel
for Scholarship that inspires the congregation to cherish its history,
February 5, 2012.”

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All Souls Book | All Souls

Unitarian Universalist General Assembly 2011: Reflections

I. What GA and governance mean to me

II. Sharing my book with the wider UU world

III. Outside the Charlotte Convention Center


I: What GA and governance mean to me

I participated in the Unitarian Universalist (UU) General Assembly (GA) in Charlotte, North Carolina, for three days, from Friday to Sunday (June 24-26), but in such a small timeframe, I felt the power of transformation and experienced the promise of our faith. This is my second GA. Prior to going to the 2009 GA at the Salt Lake City, I was innocent. I did not really appreciate what it meant to be a Unitarian Universalist. It was there that I learned that our faith demands our full participation – it reaffirmed that we UUs believe and that our denomination keeps us mindful that we are part of something bigger than just All Souls, NYC. This time in Charlotte, I was reminded by our fellow UU friends that as I am a trustee at one of our congregations, I carry serious responsibility. I am a lay leader. As such, my job for the time being on the board of All Souls is to facilitate the ministry of the laity, but it will not end in 2012 when my term expires, for we Unitarian Universalists (UUs) are about Congregational Polity, so my responsibility is to be shared by all our congregants, board members and ministers.

As our Moderator, Gini Courter, explained, there are 3 basic ways religion is organized:

1) Episcopalian – the clergy is vested with authority for ruling everything. It is a top-down approach, whereby the church-goers receive the religious vision of the clergy.

2) Presbyterian – the clergy select clergy-approved laity and they both make the decision. By clergy-approved laity, we mean that the clergy has selected the laity with which to make decisions.

3) Congregational Polity – “There is no higher up. There is only deeper down.” The religious vision comes from the people. This is the model of Unitarian Universalism and what sets us apart from most of the religious movements around the world.

Gini reminded us who makes the vision of where Unitarian Universalim goes, whether at our churches or as a whole UUA. It is us. The authority does not come from the senior minister, nor from the board, but congregational polity is a right that is shared by all of us who attend our churches.

This becomes a tricky issue when we, congregants, church-goers, forget that we have this responsibility, but we let our leaders decide everything without questioning the reasons for their actions by either not going to the annual or budget meetings or throwing up our arms saying “forget about this church.” We must take ownership, all of us. And, congregants not taking ownership do not excuse the leaders for making unilateral decisions, for they must remember that acting without the consent of the governed is not following congregational polity. The best interests of the church cannot be pushed by one leader without the full participation and support of the congregation. In the ideal, the means cannot justify the ends, specifically if the means alienate the congregants. Don’t misunderstand: it’s not so much about pleasing others as much as it is about including everybody on the discussion table, so that our process affirms our fourth principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. 

Everybody should read the by-laws at their congregations. Everybody needs to be involved. There is no special privilege. We are not a corporation. We are a church and not one with a Pope or a Salt Lake City passing down the Way. One leader’s voice, however perfect and seemingly valid it may be, is not the accurate representation of our people. We are individuals, but we are in a community. Let us remember we do religion together, not alone. We are all in the Mothership.

We yearn for diversity, but we will never fully achieve it, if do not drop our heady rhetoric and get down and speak religion with our hearts. A great friend told me that the problem with Unitarian Universalism is that it is up in our heads. She is right. Religion, like UUA President Peter Morales said, is about what we give our hearts to. That being the case, let us embrace the concept fully: Don’t knock down God, but don’t let God be the only One, for we are Many. And let us sing and praise That Mystery in all the forms. I wish we had the ‘Teal’ supplemental hymnal at All Souls (smaller congregations, I envy you). The heady rhetoric doesn’t just stop with music – it also means accepting the one different. Do we really believe we accept diversity or do we prefer to have someone who agrees with us? We forget that diversity goes beyond ethnicity. We will not have rich diversity of ethnicity if we cannot accept differences of perspective, style, class or politics.

Even with all the challenges we face as a religion, GA is the event that re-charges my UU-batteries, and I am grateful to take part.

II. Sharing my book with the wider UU worldIMG_4308

During GA, the UUA Bookstore sold my book about the architectural history of All Souls, NYC! The head of the bookstore offered a book signing table for me. I was happy to accept. I had a successful day, selling over 50% of my inventory – this helped greatly when it came time to pack our suitcases on our way from Charlotte! It is rewarding to know your book is appreciated and is being read by folks even outside of All Souls! Yay!

III. Outside the Charlotte Convention Center

Being at GA is very time-consuming. It’s a day that starts at 7am with a loaded schedule that ends around 10pm, and after that you have your choice to go partying with your UU buddies at the local bars and restaurants. For any first-timers, my advice is you have to manage your time and be judicious about which workshops you attend because you will not be able to do everything, so you have to pace yourself.

In addition, a trip outside the convention center is most warranted: You gotta see the surroundings, or at least try. One event that invites your participation to engage with the world outside the convention center is the action Public Witness. This time, in Charlotte, our event was the rally Standing on the Side of Love with LGBT People Everywhere! 

IMG_4144RallyVHWe marched from the Convention Center to Marshall Park, on East Third Street. There we joined together to profess our support for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people, not just for heterosexuals (if happiness can mean marriage, as one quirky reverend reminded me). We were protesting the current state of affairs in North Carolina. The state’s legislature has introduced proposals to ban marriage equality—as well as civil unions or any legal relationship between same-sex couples—and could reach the ballot in November. In addition, we bore witness to members of the UU Church of Kampala, Uganda, who are leading efforts to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from violence. IMG_4147

We were so full of energy as we gathered and marched on with our gold shirts and banners, Standing on the Side of Love. We made the cover of The Charlotte Observer, as the headline read “Liberal denomination stands up for its causes.” It was a success.

That was on Saturday afternoon (June 25, 2011, a great date for New York).

On our way to Marshal Park, as we marched on East 3rd Street, we passed the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The next day, I went. It was one of the best things I did, while in Charlotte. NASCAR stands for The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

The NASCAR story is authentic American. In the olden days of prohibition, alcohol was a hot underground commodity. Did you ever wonder how the Appalachian bootleggers got IMG_4182their moonshine across the United States? Drivers would take their whiskey in small, fast cars. The cars had to be light and fast to outrun the police that were behind their trail. After Prohibition, what else to do with all these fast cars…in American reuse fashion…let’s race them… The story of NASCAR is embedded in the roots of the evolving story of America...

I took plenty of pictures. Here’s the 1939 Ford Coupe as driven by Red Byron - this '39 coupe won NASCAR's first
race on February 15, 1948. It has a flathead V-8 engine. Prewar Fords were
popular with early NASCAR drivers.

The Hall of Fame was impressive. It’s got plenty exhibits that are interactive. It culminates with a simulated drive, which I took part in, and even if I didn’t win, it sure was fun!

To conclude, here are a few photographs:

IMG_4156Celebrating with our All Souls Friends! The dinner & drinks!
IMG_4155

IMG_4332
Chillin’ inside “Cat” by Niki De Saint Phalle, 1999,
at the plaza in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

IMG_5331
In front of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wilmington, NC

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All Souls Book | Reflections | All Souls

I am performing tomorrow!!

When: Sunday, April 3rd, 2011, 10AM EST
Where: Reidy Friendship Hall, All Souls Church, E 80th & Lexington Avenue
Who: Victor Fidel is speaking and will thrill!

Details:
Come and learn about the historic architectural journey of All Souls Church: All Souls is the oldest Unitarian congregation in New York City, having been founded in 1819. During its long tenure the congregation has moved three times, been housed in four different buildings, and been known by three different names. What happened to those previous buildings? What kind of architecture did they represent? How did All Souls move throughout some of Manhattan’s historic neighborhoods? What does it say about New York and this congregation? All Souls’ gradual uptown migration merit’s a fresh investigation as a part of urban architectural history.

For other events, check out the All Souls Bulletin!

About the book: http://www.victorfidel.com/page/allsoulsbook.aspx

Thank you so much for your love & support!

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All Souls Book | Events | All Souls

The Book Launch Party Was A Success! Thank You For Coming!

Dear Friends, I would like to thank you so much for your support. My first ever book launch party was a success thanks to you. I just wanted to share some photos (Thank you Rubin for bringing your camera and shooting!). Here’s a mini-pictography:

Victor about to sign

Getting ready to sign the first Autograph of the evening. It’s a rush!

02 Derek, Heather, food

Look at one of our food tables; Heather and I got the goods from Pathmark on E 125th St! Grapes, shrimp, delectable cold-cuts and more…

03 Girls having fun

Smiles, beauty, happy times…and chilled wine on the cups!

01 Victor signs

Back to signing! And with my signature Teal marker!

Discussion ensued

Discussion ensued on some of the controversial topics of this masterpiece.

Forrest presides over food

The Great Forrest Church presides over the victuals; he always knows a good party.
The corned beef was a big hit as was the pepper-jack cheese!

Victor signing

Victor back to signing, this time for Valorie Dawson, a fellow author,
always a pleasure to sign for another author.

We got a good crowd

We had a good turn-out!
There was a moment when there was a line out the door, I was told!

Discussion of book

Sitting, dining and flipping the pages!!

09 Maria

With Maria and Dave. Say cheese!

10 VictorMelaneyRubin

A classic picture. Here we are: The distinguished Melaney Mashburn smiles in the middle. The famed musician Rubin Ben holds my book. And I am holding Rubin Ben’s CD album, It’s All In My Head, that he just released. We produced our works of art at the same time, so I consider him, my artful brother.

I will be doing a talk on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011, 10am, All Souls Church, E 80th & Lexington Avenue, part of All Souls Adult Education, where I will discuss the book. Feel free to come! For more information on this work of love, please feel free to click here: http://www.victorfidel.com/page/allsoulsbook.aspx

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Events

Book Launch Party

Come join me in celebrating the launch of my new book: The Quest for Religious and Community Identity: The Story Behind the Architecture and Evolution of All Souls Church, New York City. Books will be available for purchase with proceeds benefiting All Souls Church. Light refreshments. Bring your book for signing.

Details:
Time/Date: Thursday, March 3, 2011, 6:15pm and onwards
Location: All Souls Church, The Ware Room
Address: East 80th & Lexington Avenue, New York, NY

About the book: http://www.victorfidel.com/page/allsoulsbook.aspx

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Events

Special Book Soirée Party

Should you make me a blessed soul by purchasing my book by February 28, 2011, you will be invited to a special soirée at my home in Manhattan. For those of you who have purchased a copy prior to today, you are invited automatically – I am not greedy!

You may purchase the book at: http://www.victorfidel.com/page/allsoulsbook.aspx

Of course, you will have to have proof that you bought my book. Here’s how you can prove that:

1) You can show it to me. The benefit of which being that I will autograph it, should you allow me the pleasure.

OR

2) You can send me a copy of your email receipt.

I am looking forward to hosting you in our hut in New York City.

Remember, the deadline for this special invitation is February 28, 2011. So buy now!!

Blessed be.

-VF

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Events

11/11 Make a wish

It’s Veteran’s Day and I’m glad I’m off. Many things to celebrate. No. 1, I am grateful for all our veterans who have sacrificed themselves so that others can live in peace. While war is a complex issue, sacrificing one’s self is, I find, truly admirable. I am in awe.

So, I am utilizing the day to scan pictures that I’ll use for my first published work. I’m finally going to publish my first book! I’m doing it Walt Whitman style, in the sense that I’m doing it on my own. No publishing company to spoil it – the ones I contacted didn’t want to do it, so I’m just going to go solo on this one. I have to tell you, I was a bit saddened when the publishing companies didn’t want to lend a hand, but now I feel better. I’m empowering myself. Well, now that I’m writing about this, I better put this book out there. It’s coming soon – I promise.

Photoshop here we come! I’m scanning at 400 dpi. It may seem small but Amazon requires 300 dpi. I’m scanning 100 more for me to keep higher-res copies, but I will use the 300 ones in the work, and since the pictures will be smaller size than what I’m scanning, all will show fine. Trust me.

While Photoshop does its processing, I’m doing this typing. It’s rather relaxing to do. Even if I have to break while a picture is done. At this point I’m almost doing a paragraph during each picture scan. Up, there goes another one.

Now it’s time to play with my 4x4x4 Rubik’s Cube.

Ok time to scan again…

11/11 make a wish I finish this soon!

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Reflections