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Stuffed Animal Sleepover Builds Congregational Connections

By Jenni Papp

Two stuffed mice sitting on a lecturn holding a sign saying "Come to StUUfieCON"

Mx. & Zr. Church Mouse, two very responsible long-time members of SWUU hosted.

Although humans can’t gather at church, stuffed animals still can! Inspired by a similar event hosted by Dan Harper at the UU Church of Palo Alto, Jenni Papp planned a StUUfieCON, held over a weekend in August. Hosted and chaperoned by Mx. & Zr. Church Mouse, the event attracted many participants, including a few stuffies from children in the congregation.

Another Stuffie, Evan Porter Wilson, served as photographer and reporter for the events and shared updates on Facebook:

Stuffed animals enjoying a breakfast of granola.

Granola for breakfast!

Today is pretty rainy so we will be hanging out inside and have a game of hide & seek planned as well as raiding the RE supply closet to see what arts & crafts we can do. We also need to get our acts for the Talent Show ready.

After introductions, our chaperones brought out breakfast. It was yummy! We helped to clean up so that we could be ready for a tour of the church and grounds.

It was then time to go out for an adventure. As they were leaving the building,

Stuffed animals in a wagon by the LGBTQ+ welcoming sign on the front door of the church.

LGBTQ+ Stuffies are welcome here!

Rasperry, a pink sparkly platypus who identifies as LGBTQ+ wanted her picture by the rainbow sign on the front door of the church

Evan continued his reporting:

I’m back! We had WowButter and jelly sandwiches for snack. We could have as many as we wanted. I am STUFFED! LOL! Get it?

So any way, back to the grounds tour yesterday. I was really glad everyone was in the wagon because when we walked on the sidewalk in front of the church we were really close to the street!

Stuffed animals sitting on rocks in the front garden of Southwest UU Church.

Exploring the gardens.

We spent some time exploring the garden in front of the church. The stones are actually a pathway and there is a bench at the top.

Back in the wagon! We asked Lil to park us in the VISITOR parking spot because most of us are visitors. Fuzzie asked why there was a special parking spot for visitors. Zr. Church Mouse explained that everyone wanted to make sure that it was very easy and welcoming for new people to come in to meet us. We don’t have a lot of parking right at the church and we don’t want new people to leave before we can meet them and find out how great they are! 

The rest of the day Saturday was filled with games, play, and a talent show -- all documented with photographs and more updates from Evan. The evening ended with Vespers:

Stuffed animals in a circle around a flaming chalice in a darkened room.

Saturday night vespers

After we got ready for bed, we quieted down for worship. We sang the Breathing Meditation song and those stuffies who wanted to share a gratitude were invited to do that. Then we went around the circle and shared what this community meant to us. There were a few tears and lots of hugs for those who wanted them. 

After that, each person quietly left the worship circle when they were ready and got into bed.

Sunday morning finally came and the conference drew to a close.

Stuffed Animals in church pews.

Ready for Sunday morning worship!

Good Morning! We were up early this morning and putting the church back in order so things
will look good for Rev. Meg when she gets here. Everyone is looking forward to meeting her! It was an awesome weekend!

Time to go, off to Sunday worship! Remember, stuffie pick up is from 1-3pm today. P.S. Don’t expect much from your stuffie today. They will likely only sleep and eat. They will share their stories next week.

Thank you to Mx. and Zr. Church Mouse for making sure this could happen and to all the caregivers who made sure we got here!

About the Author

Jenni Papp

Jenni Papp is the Director of Religious Education at SouthWest UU in North Royalton, Ohio and at the UU Fellowship of Wayne County, Ohio. She has been a UU for over 20 years.

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