PHIL ANDERSON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, 4775 S.W. 21st, has reinstituted a weekly forum series on topics revolving around social justice, the humanities and the environment at 9 a.m. Sundays. During a recent session, Mike Calwell, left front, and Laura Calwell, right front, of the Friends of the Kaw organization, make a presentation on the health of the Kansas River.
If you stick around a certain place long enough, you are liable to see things come full circle.
Such is the case with several longtime members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, 4775 S.W. 21st.
When the fellowship began meeting in 1961 in a ranch-style house in west Topeka, it was geared around a series of discussions that soon came to be known as UU Forums.
Bill Lucero, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, said there was no paid clergy in the congregation’s early days. Thus, it was left to the members to organize programs each Sunday.
Over time, the congregation hired part-time, then, more recently, full-time clergy. During the past decade or so, the UU Forums disappeared.
But in the past few months, with some program changes on Sundays at the fellowship, the UU Forums have made a return.
This time, the forums are being held at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, making it possible both for members of the congregation and visitors from other houses of worship to attend.
Lucero said the forums center on such themes as the humanities, social justice, the environment and human rights — topics that may not be broached as much during the 11 a.m. service.
Speakers who specialize in a particular discipline lead the forums, which are punctuated by questions and comments from audience members.
Lucero said the forums were brought back because “people were missing the information” that they provided.
Recent forums have featured Washburn University English professor Tom Averill; Friends of the Kaw leaders Laura and Mike Calwell, on the health of the Kansas River; and Bobbie and Skylar Schaeffer, on living with a disability.
Sunday’s forum speaker will be student minister Shawna Foster on the state of racism in the nation.
After her recent presentation on the Kansas River, Laura Calwell said she enjoyed being the guest speaker for the forum, despite only about 15 people in the audience.
“There weren’t a lot of people, but they had some very good questions and brought up some very good points,” she said. “It showed me they understood the topic.”
Bob McDaneld, a fellowship member and an organizer of the forums, said the programs serve a purpose beyond informing attendees — they allow people to gather and hear each other’s thoughts.
After the end of the hourlong program, attendees gather for coffee and continue discussions.
“I see any church as essentially providing a real community for the people who choose to be a part of it,” McDaneld said. “This one offers people more room to explore things than a lot of church congregations would do.”