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Q&A with Patricia Frevert

Patricia Frevert, editor of Welcome: A Unitarian Universalist Primer, has served as publishing director for the UUA since 1986. Here she talks about how she chose what to include, the look of the book, and being a newcomer to a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church herself once.

How did you conceive of Welcome: A Unitarian Universalist Primer?
When I was first introduced to Unitarian Universalism (UUism) more than 20 years ago, I was sometimes confused by the vocabulary and the acronyms. Over time, I discovered that many other denominations had a wider range of introductory resources than we did. Then, one day about a year ago I was having lunch with a couple members of the Skinner Board. We agreed that there was a need for a new introduction for newcomers, and we talked about what it should be: small, attractive, inexpensive and totally transparent, something you would understand even if you had no other knowledge of UUism. Welcome came out of that luncheon conversation.

How did you decide what exactly should be included? Were there aspects of the faith that ended up on the cutting room floor?
I imagined the reader as a first-time visitor to a UU church, and tried to answer the questions they might ask. The table of contents grew organically. I decided to favor prayers and readings from Singing the Living Tradition, knowing that these were in wide use. I hoped to strike a balance between the historic and the contemporary, between the spiritual and the humanistic, the inspirational and the factual. The book went though many drafts as we debated the number of essays and the variety of worship readings. The only texts that ended up on the cutting room floor were ones we couldn’t find the source or obtain permission for. On the other hand, a last-minute surprise was finding a way to include the hymns “Spirit of Life,” and “We Gather Together.” We were working on Come Sing a Song with Me at the time, so we knew which songs were widely used and how to best simplify them for this small format.

Did you have input from ministers or congregational growth experts? If so, what kinds of things did they have to say?
The history essay, “The Story of Unitarian Universalism,” went through several revisions as it was reviewed and corrected by ministers and UU history buffs. The articles on religious education and social justice were also reviewed and revised by Skinner Board members and UUA staff with expertise and experience in those areas.

Did you learn anything new about Unitarian Universalism from your work editing this volume?
Unitarian Universalism, like many faith traditions, honors language—both spoken and written. I can’t say this was a new idea to me, but putting this little book together certainly confirmed it. We have always treasured words, not only to share our story but also to express our religious beliefs. There was no shortage of material.

Which of the quotable quotes is your favorite?
I don’t have a single favorite, but as soon as I knew we were going to have a “Quotable Quotes” section in the primer, I knew we would include Forrest Church’s words: “Religion is our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die.”

How do you anticipate congregations will use Welcome?
In new-member classes, as recognition gifts for Coming-of-Agers and others, in church foyers for visitors, and even in the pews.

How do you anticipate individuals will use it?
I’m not sure I know yet. Perhaps for gifts, or as an information resource—the glossary at the back is particularly useful.

Tell us about the design of the book.
I wanted something that looked like a prayer book or poetry, and something durable that would last.

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Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

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