Angie Drake

Over the course of my time here at AUUC, I have taught Religious Exploration, sung with the Principle Singers, served as chair of RE and of the Membership Committee, and been on the Board of Trustees as Member-at-Large, Secretary, President-Elect and President. I’ve also served on various ad hoc committees like Strategic Planning, the Committee on Ministry and the Mission Statement Task Force.

I have grown so much in my faith by being a contributing member of my congregation. The training I received developed me as a person, not just as a congregational volunteer. As a volunteer, you are living your faith, not simply showing up and listening to a sermon on Sundays, like the church attendance of my youth. In every act of service to my congregation, I received validation that my voice was appreciated, and I truly believe that I gained much more than I gave.

This congregation has been a real gift to me. The members here have been a real source of support during some of the most difficult periods of my adult life. Several years ago, when my husband Thomas was laid off, we had three foster kids and one broken down refrigerator. Members of the church brought fully prepared meals and milk daily to keep us going until a replacement was up and running.

For me, this church has been a transformation. I have experienced validation, made lifelong friendships, and refined my value system, and by supporting the mission of this church, I invest in my own development.

Angie Drake

My story is like so many others that I’ve met here.  I was not a church member for over 45 years of my life. In fact, I came to this church weary and apprehensive of the term church. Many of us know, the first thing you are asked around here is, “What church do you go to?” Today I have an answer. Aiken Unitarian Universalists.

There are many reasons I belong here. My sister converted to Judaism, an ex-boyfriend was Muslim, I grew up with Catholics and Protestants, and many of my friends are Atheists. Under this roof, they would be all welcome – equally. That is the kind of world I want to live in and be a part of. Under this roof, I am.

By happy accident, I discovered AUUC by accepting an invitation to attend the church’s Sisterhood group. Then, in what was a very big step for me, I decided I would go to a bonafide church service one Sunday. It was unlike any church service I had been to before — an overwhelming aura of sincere joy hung in the sanctuary like a nectar. Leaving lighthearted and energized, I ended up coming every weekend. Now, I also participate in our book club, journaling, drumming and so many other wonderful social and community gatherings offered through the AUUC. This community, every week, either by attending services or one of the socials, brings me great happiness. Where else can you meet people so greatly diversified, and yet so strongly united, under one roof in this town? I can’t think of one other place.

Julie Evonna

Why do I belong to AUUC? It’s really simple for me, because our covenant with each other begins and ends with: Love is the doctrine of this church.

You are my chosen community, my village. In this church, we love with courage, with strength, with screw ups and mistakes, and we continue to love. We show up. We matter. I will remain forever grateful for you and to you.

Twelve years ago, when we moved here, Ann and I consciously sought to build a community where we could share our gifts and talents and where we could share in yours. As lesbians, this is church and church community is the only true safe space for us in Aiken. I know the importance of this space, this energy, this sanctuary, and of liberal thought. Remember, even though SC has legally recognized same sex marriage since November 20, 2014, we are still the only church in Aiken who will marry lesbians and gays openly.

Together we grow spiritually. We build community. We care for each other, providing support in times of need, and connecting in our shared community.

Julie Evonna
Sandy Shochel

I have been a member of this church since 2013. Before this I was a member of the Augusta UU church for about 30 years so I have been a UU for quite a while. Being a Unitarian Universalist is something that I consider central to who I am. I am so proud of this faith and what it stands for.
The faith is important to me, but it is this particular church that is an integral part of my life. I am here most Sundays unless I am sick or out of town. I keep coming on Sunday mornings, and, no, I do not think that I have something left over from my Baptist roots that makes me a serial church goer. No, I keep coming because of what I get.
This faith community has brought me comfort, joy, friendship, love. It nurtures my soul. It challenges me to continue to grow as a human being. Seeing examples of people here striving hard for their ideals inspires me. I need this.
This church serves as my sanctuary at times. In a world that, in my opinion, is one frenzied with insanity, this community gives me hope and helps me from giving into despair. I also know that my daily world can become frenzied by the mundane, and this faith community brings me back to what has ultimate value in life.
Finally I keep coming because I do not think that one can receive the wonderful benefits of having a church community if church is a spectator sport for you. What I mean is that participating and contributing in whatever way is possible given your life circumstance allows you to have a depth of connection and build meaningful relationships that are not possible otherwise. This allows you to have a sense of belonging and ownership, and these are powerful feelings.

Sandy Hochel
Janeth Welch

I always search out a UU community when re-locating to a new place and I have found salvation, deep friendships, welcoming hearts, and spiritual comfort in all the varied communities I have been a part of. This community here in Aiken has been one of the most friendly and surprising ones. Despite its size it manages to do almost everything that bigger churches do and in some ways does it better. The quality of the programs that are provided by members, outside speakers, and now our own Minister never cease to amaze me. The help that I have received in recent months while going through Chemo treatment has been overwhelming. I don’t know what I would have done without all of you.

I was one of the members who truly believed that our congregation was ready for and needed a Minister to continue to grow and thrive. This year we have been blessed with such a wonderful match with Debra and we all need to step up and be counted in supporting her and all the things this church does for us, week after week. It is not just Sunday morning, but all the small group offerings, the availability of our building to support local social action groups like PFLAG and Sierra Club, as well as offering a welcoming place for those seeking a more liberal and self-directed approach to religion. Aiken needs and deserves a vibrant and growing UU church and it is up to us to be sure that continues.

Janeth Welch
joya jimenez distefano

If you want to BE the world you want to live in, I cannot imagine a better community to wrap yourself in while you become your gift to God!

Joya Jimenez DiStefano