by Rev. Robert Francis Murphy

Every day, there are new challenges to face.

The opioid epidemic, human rights abuses, and the loss of government programs for public education, health care, and social services. October started with a mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas, and after that there were more problems. We're concerned about what has happened during recent days; but we still move forward, to comfort people who need comfort.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs is a community church. Our church works with other religious groups and with several agencies for the good of the whole community. We want all people to enjoy a healthy, safe, and resilient community with justice for all. We affirm human worth and dignity, and we encourage neighbors to care for each other.

During recent days, members of the congregation have been involved in a variety of good projects. Two success stories deserve some special mention. During the first week of October, the Senior Information Center was opened at the public library in Tarpon Springs. Seniors work with seniors to help solve a variety of problems. Volunteers from our church met with other volunteers to create the program. It's a self-help project that may become a model for future self-help programs in our region.

"Are there drug rehabilitation programs near Tarpon Springs?" "What's the deadline for applying for FEMA benefits?" "How many community meals programs do we have in our area?" Those are some of the questions that I've heard during the past month.

Community gardening continues to develop in Tarpon Springs and in other towns. Unitarian Universalists aren't the only people involved, but members of our Social Justice Council have provided significant support. One of our goals is to bring people of different races, different age groups, and different faith traditions, together. We're concerned about the whole community, not just a fortunate few. Community gardening is helpful for a bunch of reasons.

Here's a story about comfort food: For this year in Tarpon Springs, cactus plants and other succulents were the major crop for the community garden. What's the best thing to do when confronted with this kind of situation? Volunteers responded by creating a recipe for Florida-style cactus chili. Our congregation served cactus chili at two harvest meals in October and it was popular with our guests. We'll try it again for our Thanksgiving Day celebration. We'll share the recipe with others

When you look around, you'll see a variety of projects that our church supports.

In November, we'll begin the annual stewardship pledge drive. We'll ask for your financial assistance. The bricks and mortar work of our church is important, but it's the mission of liberal religion that deserves special recognition. In today's world, bringing different groups together for the good of the whole community is needed. We can feed the hungry and we can create a sense of community. We can honor our church's mission statement.

Your financial gifts will help to make it happen. Everybody will benefit.