From the Minister – January 2024

ministers message of the new year

Welcome back, for those returning!
Welcome in, for those seeking!
Welcome to all!

When I returned from my study abroad in Russia, I entered our graduate program for Russian Translation at Kent State University and committed myself to living with our Russian students who were also entering the program if they were interested.

Living with people who are different from you is as profound an experience as living abroad can be. I knew that during the Soviet era, religion had been discouraged (they had tried to abolish it, but I'm sure it's hard to tell your grandma she can't go to church anymore). Instead, secular holidays were given great importance -- for example, New Year's Eve.

Every year I lived with my Russian and then also Uzbek roommates, and we celebrated NYE with a party. Special food was made, drinks were served, they made toasts, even exchanged gifts, everyone dressed up, and there was lots of talking, music, and dancing. There was a pause when the ball dropped, and then the celebrating resumed.

My family tradition had been trying to keep awake until midnight and then wishing everyone a good night.

I enjoy the quiet, but I long ago became disenchanted with our American culture of resolution-making. What about celebrating our accomplishments and honoring our losses? What about letting go of what's been holding us back and making space for what's yet to come? What possibilities are we looking forward to? What commitment will you make to helping build a more just, more beautiful, more peaceful world?

Some changes we plan for, others we hope will be revealed to us, and yet others will catch us completely by surprise. In 2024, may we all do as the wise men have taught us and find a new way to make our lives, this congregation, and the wider world better than we found them.

If you'd like to reach out:  You can reach me through email at

In faith and service, Rev. Kristina Spaude (She/her)

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