Hearts and Homes: A Bequest to Help Congregations
from the Legacy Newsletter
"We feel strongly that the world needs the loving, forward-looking and rational message of Unitarian Universalism," said Jan and Stu Sendell of Morristown, NJ, when asked why two Unitarian Universalist (UU) organizations are named to receive financial support from their estates after they die.
Like many UUs, the Sendells hope for a time when more people will find supportive spiritual homes within our denomination. They also dream of a time when UUs will give back generously to our cherished liberal religion to help it grow and flourish. Jan and Stu looked to their estate plans to help this dream of a vibrant Unitarian Universalist future become a reality.
Though only in their late fifties, the Sendells wanted to prepare carefully for their retirement years and provide for the needs of their family. It was also important, they felt, for their estate plans to be representative of their values as Unitarian Universalists. For them, the estate planning process has been a time of reflection - a chance to acknowledge the people, places and ideas that have had the greatest impact on their lives. With three grown daughters and several grandchildren, Jan and Stu decided to create an estate plan that would assist these loved ones and support the organizations for which they care deeply.
To meet these goals, they have divided their combined life estates into four equal shares: one share to each daughter, and the fourth split between the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship in their hometown and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
"The UU movement is our fourth child," they explain, "and we want it to be all that it can be." Their words echo those of many others who value their UU home congregations and fellowships not only for themselves and their immediate families, but also for the difference they make in the community at large.
"The Morristown Unitarian Fellowship and the Central Unitarian Church in Paramus, NJ, before it, played a vital role in the formation of our values and the values of our children. [These congregations] also provided needed havens for community groups that weren't welcome anywhere else. Both housed gay and lesbian support groups over 30 years ago, and they continue to this day to be in relationship with those organizations."
Many of us find our primary spiritual homes in a particular fellowship or congregation, but Unitarian Universalism extends far beyond the doors of any single church or UU gathering. The Sendells feel a commitment to this larger movement, too. "The UUA, in our opinion, has the opportunity and the responsibility to nurture existing congregations, ministers, and lay leaders, and to grow our religious movement and expand its impact on society." To help the UUA fulfill this mission, they have designated the UUA's share of their generous bequest to add financial resources to a permanent Properties, Loans and Grants Fund. Administered by the Association, this fund assists congregations with capital building projects, be it the first building a congregation calls home or the expansion of existing facilities for a growing congregation.
Theirs is a gift of great vision, expressing their belief that the UUA - at its best - is a resource from which congregations at every stage of development may draw strength.
Jan and Stu are members of the UUA Legacy Society which recognizes and thanks those who have included a charitable gift to the Association in their estate plans - a gift by will or trust, life insurance benefits, IRA benefits, and the like. Each of the more than 300 gift provisions represented in the UUA Legacy Society, including the Sendells', is a unique statement of hope for the future of our liberal religion and its treasured principles.