Long-time First Unitarian Members
Pat Moyer and Steve Bottorff
One in a series of profiles commemorating our 150th anniversary
Pat: I grew up in the Detroit area. My mother was sort of Presbyterian, while my father’s side of the family was Christian Scientist. While still young, I reacted against the Christian idea of a fearful god because Christian Science taught that god is love. My parents encouraged me to attend other churches with my friends. My first husband was Methodist, I was still Presbyterian. We went to each other’s church once and couldn’t stand either; the Methodists proselytized, the Presbyterians were too formal and uptight, so we attended a Unitarian church.
Steve: I was born in Ann Arbor but raised in southern Indiana and attended Purdue. I was raised Methodist but was checking the NONE box by the time I was in high school. In my early 30’s I returned to Ann Arbor which is where I discovered the Unitarians primarily because they had the best singles group in the area. Pat and I met at an adult church retreat. We both became affiliated with the congregation there before coming to Cleveland.
We both have engineering degrees. In 1977 Pat also got an MBA and landed a job with the Booz-Allen consulting firm in Cleveland. Steve found a position shortly after with Keithley Instruments. Prior to coming to Cleveland we gathered information about the three East side Unitarian churches and settled on First U. This was at the start of Dwight Brown’s ministry.
It was not an easy entry into First Church. Back then it was a bit staid and not welcoming. It took a while to get connected. We did this mostly through neighborhood groups, the “Circle of Suppers” dinners, and family retreats.
From our early days we have fond memories of the music and dinners, especially when Anita McDonald catered church dinners. This was in the late ‘70’s-early ‘80’s. She would serve excellent dishes that took some work and we helped in the kitchen. There would be art shows and music – especially the Bach concerts – with themed dinners.
We both traveled internationally as part of our jobs, Steve to Japan, Pat to Germany. In 1987 Steve was assigned to open Keithley’s Far East Office and we ended up spending 3 years in Japan. Pat worked for a market research firm while in Japan. We developed a “survival” level of proficiency in Japanese. While we were away, Dwight Brown’s tenure ended and Bettye Doty had become interim minister.
Pat: I’d been on the board before our time away, and had served as president. After our return I got involved with the Finance and Investment Committees. Steve got involved with the board in the mid-90’s and also served as president. Both of us have been active in the church auctions since their beginnings.
In the early 90’s we taught AYS (About Your Sexuality) the UU sex education course for 7th graders. The students, particularly the boys, seemed quite young and were reticent initially, but by 8th grade it was clear it would be too late to teach this material. We learned a lot, too, from the students.
Pat: Other fond memories of early years at First U include the women’s weekends at Punderson, held in February, with cross-country skiing and other activities.
Steve: I want to put a plug in for regional and national UU involvement. Unitarian summer camps and General Assembly are great ways to meet other UUs and get new perspectives, as is attending UU churches when you travel.
Pat: I stay at First U because of the community and friendships. I love my Women’s Covenant Groups. I’ve been in the choir since the mid-1980’s; it’s a tight-knit community. But I miss the smaller social events. The dinners offered for the annual auction help fill the need, but we’d like to see the neighborhood groups and small dinners revived. Community is important. First U is really a place of generally common values, where you don’t have to explain yourself and you can have meaningful conversations because of the shared values. We are still making new friends. Basically, we stay at First U for friendships and community. Ministers come and go but it’s our church.
Steve: I am not as active as before but I value the Wisdom Seekers men’s’ group. We stay at First U but not exclusively. For three months every year we’re active in the Mountain Vista UU Congregation in Tucson, AZ. It’s a smaller congregation than First U, about 150, but with the snowbirds they can have 100 attend on Sundays. They don’t have a worship service, as such, but “practice” – practicing our spirituality. There’s a message but it’s called a “reflection,” not a sermon. It’s a lot more participatory, a sharing time. They ask newcomers to introduce themselves.
What future generations need to about First U is that it’s a place for searching, a place that gives voice to values and concerns about social justice, education, and progressive values for the planet. A place that works for diversity, for peace, justice, and equality.