We just received an email from our previous church that one of the ministers that served there when we first began attending UUCF has died.
Rev. Bill Welch was a huge factor in us choosing to attend UUCF.
The first time we visited there, for some reason I went with the children by myself. I had never attended a Unitarian Universalist church before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. The kids were 1,3, and 4 or 5 at the time, so I didn’t have a huge amount of focus on the homily, but was certainly noticing how folks acted toward a person and her three children.
At one point in the service, Monkey stepped out into the center aisle to spin and dance. We had chosen seats toward the very back, so it didn’t feel like we were disturbing anyone, and I let her spin.
It’s a large, beautiful sanctuary, so the view from the pulpit would have shown her clearly, but since she was silent, other folks wouldn’t have known.
After the service, I quickly bundled up the children and we began our trek out to the van. I eventually noticed a white man trotting behind us trying to get my attention. “Miss, excuse me, Miss!”
“Oh, shoot,” I thought. I must have broken some UU rule during the service and he’s coming to tell me not to come back.
I slowly turned, carrying Yessa, clutching Buster’s hand, and counting on Monkey not to take off. (Keeping hold of Buster’s hand was always the wise decision because he would take off.)
“Yes?” I said.
And thus began my relationship with Rev. Bill.
He had zoomed out of the service, leaving behind other folks who I’m sure wanted to visit with him, to follow me to the parking lot.
“I noticed your daughter dancing in the aisle during the service, and it made me so happy to know she felt safe and comfortable to do that. I hope you will come back.”
The feeling of welcome and gratitude I felt…I’ve never forgotten.
Another time I remember was when I was co-chairing the RE Committee with Mia and we had a member (that I recommended we invite onto the committee, not realizing the insanity I was inviting) who was a huge pain in the keister. Rev. Bill had left UUCF, but on one of his return visits, he found me working in one of the offices and took time to reassure me that this person had been a pain long before we joined the RE committee, and she would continue to be a pain long after she left the committee. His loving reassurance was such a balm during a difficult time.
He also gave an eloquent sermon I’ve never forgotten about choosing to drive 55 mph as a means of meditation. Saving both gas and anxiety, enjoying the more meandering pace, truly seeing things along the drive. Though I was only able to practice the art of mindful driving a few times, I still think of his vision and message when I’m out driving around.
There are people who change our lives even though we may not have deep, personal, long-term relationships with them. Rev. Bill changed our life by opening the door to UUCF, and I’ll forever be grateful.
I was only able to find one picture of Rev. Bill online from here: https://twitter.com/fgexbill
And here’s the picture I have of him.
His is the blue arm in the front right of the photograph. He “presided” over the Child Dedication service for our kids and K + P’s girls all those many years ago.
Rest well, Rev. Bill. You gave us an example of a life well lived.