Lakewood UCC presence at 2018 students’ MARCH FOR OUR LIVES, St. Pete

2018 March for our Lives LUCC folks & banner

2018 March for our Lives LUCC folks & banner

Banner was designed and constructed by Yoko Nogami, using salvaged materials from shed cleaning.

2018 March for our Lives panorama

2018 March for our Lives panorama

Below is a gallery of candid shots by Sue Sherwood of some of the sites plus pics of UCC folk actually marching!


Ash Wednesday

Imposition of Ashes at the Ash Wednesday service.

Tora Alexander is playing “Ashokan Farewell” on the violin. It was a beautiful beginning to the Lenten season. Many thanks to Chip and Dana Cosper for hosting the service and continuing the vision of Jean Johnson of an Ash Wednesday service around a fire at the waterfront. With the warmer weather this year there were many more people at the service. Yes, there were s’mores afterwards! Lenten blessings to all!

(video also available at


Lakewood youth in the news

Below is a repost of a press release announcing the The Power of Song Music Contest 2018 winners. The contest coincides with the Sounds of the Civil Rights Movement: The Power of Song at the Palladium Theater on Jan. 7-8 as the kick-off for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. It concerns an award, Lakewood UCC youth, Zach Blair-Andrews received  and a concert that he will be performing in at the Palladium.


Lakewood High Jazz Ensemble to perform at the Apollo Theater

The Lakewood High Jazz Ensemble was invited to participate in the 2018 New York City Jazz Festival, where the band will perform at the Apollo Theater. The festival, which will take place in April 2018, is designed to give jazz ensembles the opportunity to perform as part of a ticketed daytime performance. The ensemble was also featured recently on WFLA’s Daytime. The students have produced a CD, “Swinging on 54th,” and the Spartan Band Boosters are promoting the album to raise funds for the trip. See Zach Blair-Andrews to buy your CD and promote this excellent educational and music adventure!


Fran Whitney gives children’s sermon

Today, Fran Whitney gave the children’s sermon and it was full of memories for everyone: “here’s the church, and here’s the steeple, open the door and there’s the people!” It was a sermon beyond beautiful
Photos by Yoko Nogami


Lakewood UCC youth in Japan as Student Ambassador for City of St. Pete

Lakewood UCC member Zach Blair-Andrews was selected as a Student Ambassador for the City of St Pete and is currently visiting our sister city, Takamatsu, Japan. This cultural exchange program provides 2-3 students from each city the opportunity to live with host families and explore each other’s world. During his 11 day visit, Zach will give a presentation on St Pete to the Mayor of Takamatsu and once he returns, he will educate us about life in our sister city across the globe.

Below is a video Zach made of St Pete with an original soundtrack of his own that he is playing for the Mayor in Takamatsu tomorrow–he loves our city!


World Refugee Day Commemoration

Each year the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force hosts a local event to commemorate World Refugee Day.
This is one day set aside internationally to recognize the courage and resilience of refugees.

This year’s local event will be held on June 16th at 1:00pm at Pinellas Technical College located at 901 34th Street South in St. Petersburg.

The event will begin at 1:00pm with a networking time in the lobby area featuring heavy hors d’oeuvres from the PTC Culinary Arts Department and live music from Lakewood High School’s 54th Ave Jazz Combo.

At 2:00pm a short program will be held in the main auditorium featuring Al Ruechel of Bay News 9 as the Master of Ceremonies, Mayor Kriseman of St Petersburg providing opening remarks and a Dance of Hope by refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A brief awards ceremony will also recognize 5 former refugees/immigrants who have distinguished themselves by giving back to our refugee population in our community through our “Making a World of Difference” awards. These awards highlight the fact that our community is stronger and more welcoming because of the former refugees/immigrants who invest their time and resources here by giving back.

Finally, a citizenship ceremony will be held with 30 former refugees becoming U.S. citizens. The keynote speaker will be Sandra Grudic, a Pinellas County high school teacher, former refugee from Bosnia and current volunteer for refugees in our community.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Doug Haskitt at

World Refugee Day Celebration:

“Yesterday, Refugees–

Today, Americans”

When:   June 16, 2017, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Where: Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th Street South, St. Petersburg, FL, 33711. From 34th Street South, go westbound on 11th Ave. S. (across from Gibb’s High School), go past the Commercial Trucking Training Area on your right, and take your 2nd right into our Main Parking Lot. The Main Entrance and Reception Area will be on the north side of the Main Parking Lot in the center of the building.



OCTOBER 19, 2016
Take a stand against bullying!
Tomorrow is Spirit Day——– when millions are “going purple” to show support for LGBTQ youth, especially youth threatened by bullying and suicide. Is your ONA congregation advocating for LGBTQ youth in your community? The resources in this special issue of RIPPLES will help. Click on the image above for memes and other great resources from GLAAD, and use theLEARN MORE button below to check out the ONA Coalition’s resource page on bullying and suicide.
Bullying prevention: ‘What Can We Do?’

These resources from the Human Rights Campaign helps teachers create a safe environment for all children and teens. The Human Rights Campaign’s “Welcoming Schools” project is a must for public and charter schools in your community! Using these materials and offering them to local schools is one way your ONA church can make a difference.

How families and churches can support trans* children

Every day we hear stories about trans kids whose parents love and support them. Where can churches and families go for help? This new resource from the Human Rights Campaign, “Supporting & Caring for Transgender Children,” explains how families and healthcare professionals are helping transgender children thrive. Produced in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP), it reflects the experiences of expert clinicians, including pediatricians and mental health professionals, and features the families of transgender children from across the United States.

ONA 201 webinars: what’s next for your ONA church?

Join Coalition executive director Andy Lang for this church-transforming webinar. Has your ONA congregation ever asked, “what’s next for our church?” Andy’s webinar will share best practices from thriving ONA churches——– churches that are active in mission, ministry, evangelism and advocacy. ONA churches that are visible in their communities are also growing churches, and often the growth results from young Millennial couples who identify with ONA values. The webinar will repeat on three dates: Oct. 25, Nov. 15 and Dec. 6. The cost is $30, but there’s no additional charge if two or more persons are sharing the same computer.

LGBTQ seminary scholarship applications open Dec. 1!
Named in honor of the first openly gay man ordained by a church, the William R. Johnson Scholarship Fund supports openly LGBTQ students for ministry in the United Church of Christ. The ONA Coalition is grateful to the UCC’s national setting for faithfully administering this scholarship fund since it was established in 1999. Applications open on Dec. 1.
Help the ONA movement grow to 100%!

The ONA Coalition serves the largest and fastest-growing LGBTQ-affirming church movement in the world! But this mission depends on financial support from ONA churches and individuals. The Coalition is an independent non-profit: we’re not part of the UCC’s national office, and national funding accounts for just five percent of our budget. Will you help us reach our goal: a church that isn’t just 26% but 100% Open and Affirming? Help us help the ONA movement grow! Yoursafe online contribution is tax-deductible.


We’re the fastest-growing LGBTQ-affirming church movement in the world! Click on he Facebook logo to join the party! Every time you post a message of appreciation for the newest members of our growing ONA family, you strengthen our movement and help build relationships. Here are the churches we’ve welcomed in the past week.

ONA Church #1334
Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church
Westbook, ME

ONA Church #1335
Philippus United Church of Christ
Cincinnati, OH

ONA Church #1336
Trinity Church of Austin
Austin, TX

ONA Church #1337
Congregational United Church of Christ
Canton, OH

ONA Church #1338
Huntington Congregational Church
Shelton, CT

Has your Conference, Association or Congregation scheduled a regional ONA event?Share the news with us, and we’ll publicize it here! Click on each title for more information.

Events Calendar

LGBT History Month Begins
Oct.1, 2016
Your church and community!

Oct. 20, 2016
Your church and community!
ONA 201 Workshop
October 22, 2016
Albany, NY
Building an Inclusive Church Workshop
Oct. 21-22, 2016
Phoenix, AZ
ONA 201 Webinar
Oct. 25, 2016
Your computer or tablet!

Bible-based Inclusion Conference
October 20-22, 2016
Los Angeles, CA

New Hampshire ONA Gathering
November 5, 2016
Concord, NH
ONA 201 Webinar
Nov. 15, 2016
Your computer or tablet!
Building an Inclusive Church Workshop
Nov. 18-19, 2016
Woodstock, CT

Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20, 2016
Your church and community!

Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20, 2016 at 7 pm
Living Table UCC, Minneapolis, MN
December 1, 2016
Your church and community!
ONA 201 Webinar
Dec. 6, 2016
Your computer or tablet!
Building an Inclusive Church Workshop
Dec. 9-10
Cincinnati, OH
National ONA Gathering
June 27-29, 2017
Baltimore, MD
General Synod ONA Banquet
June 30, 2017
Baltimore, MD
Help us build a movement!

If you’ve subscribed to RIPPLES, you’re already part of a growing movement that is transforming our church, our nation and our world! But you can help us grow:

1. Use the social media buttons at the top of this page to share RIPPLES via email and your favorite social media! Encourage your friends to subscribe!

2. Complete this form on the Coalition website! The information you share about your needs and interests will guide us as we build the resources, training programs and events that will help the ONA movement become even more powerful and relevant!

Open and Affirming Coalition | United Church of Christ | 216-926-6262


Memorable presentations at Sunday service, August 28th, 2016

Click on any picture for a larger image.

Amaiya and Kai’Lyn Washington performing an interpretive dance of R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest”

A women’s quartet comprised of Yvonne Riesen, Yoko Nogami, Grace Lewis, and Claire Stiles, singing “God Who Touchest Earth”

Rev. Wells presenting Children’s Time, assisted by physics teacher husband, Jeff Wells.

Photos by Susan Sherwood, Yoko Nogami, Claire Stiles, Lucille Ruga, and Roxanne McGlashan


Church School Cookout Fun!

On Saturday May 15, Bob and Emily Bell hosted a cookout at their home for the Church School children and families.  The afternoon included swimming, eating, of course, and a boat ride complete with frolicking dolphins!

Church School teacher Patti Cooksey could not be at the cookout but composed this prayer which was offered before the meal:

Dear God,

Thank you for this pretty day – for birds and water and trees.

Thank you for our families, our teachers, and Pastor Kim.

Thank you for our friends and all the children of the world.

Thank you for hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the treats.

And God, thank you for our church, for all the love and peace it brings.

As we now share this food, help us always remember to share that love and peace with each other.


Amaiya Washington, Katie, Dory, and Laura Ness

Amaiya Washington, Katie, Dory, and Laura Ness

The Lewis's - Charlie, Grace, Mary Beth, and Sarah

The Lewis’s – Charlie, Grace, Mary Beth, and Sarah

Emily and Bob Bell

Emily and Bob Bell

Three baby herons nesting near the Bell's dock

Three baby herons nesting near the Bell’s dock

Kim and Jeff Wells with Amaiya Washington

Kim and Jeff Wells with Amaiya Washington







Celebrate Florida for December/January


Here are links to the December/January issue of Celebrate Florida. You will find two versions; one is the standard PDF, and the other is the interactive version, which requires that your computer has a Flash player.

Standard version | Interactive version
We hope you will find this issue informative, including news about the recent Fall Gathering and Youth event on October 24, as well as progress being made at our future Conference office complex at 9300 University Boulevard.

Rick Carson


Empower St. Pete LGBT Youth

Empower St. Pete flier_with new logo

On Saturday, Metro Tampa Bay will be hosting a one-day conference on Empowering LGBT Youth in the area called “Empower St. Pete.” The link to register is HERE.  This conference will have 17 workshops and is for everyone: youth, community members, faith-based organizations, educators, etc. who want to help empower LGBT youth to be successful! Lunch will also be provided (we will have vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options).

Please let me know if you have any questions!
Toli Gintoli (She/Her)
LGBT Program Manager
unnamedMETRO – St. Petersburg Office
3251 3rd Avenue North, Suite 125
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
Phone (727) 321-3854 ext. 245
Fax     (727) 327-7670


Church School Begins with Open House

Welcome to Our Space

It was a day of imagining and sharing God’s love as we came together to celebrate the beginning of a Sunday School year at LUCC and a new space for our children. Readings and activities, based on God’s creation, focused on water. Each child imagined he or she was water and spoke to the others about concerns of pollution, waste, and nurturing and conserving. They also completed the Imagine poster and hung it on the wall board for all to see when entering the Sunday school space for the Open House.

After worship, many came to see the new space that includes a designated activity area. Several items, including a lamp and 2 rugs, were purchased at the Eckerd College sustainability sale. Other items were rescued from the church garage and were given a make-over. Many other items, such as baskets and art supplies, were donated. The stools came from IKEA and were assembled by Grace and her small assistants. As you can imagine, this was a full summer project—and a project that brought much joy to many.

In light of this celebration, we give thanks to all who supported the project with prayers and
contributions of time, supplies, love, and talent. We thank Denise Williams for sharing special music at the open house. Those who entered heard her voice and saw this space, “Our Space,” indeed reflects the warmth and love of the LUCC family. Our children are blessed to be wrapped and united in this spirit.IMG_1337IMG_0562IMG_0553


Zachary Blair sings his original song at Lakewood


Click on picture for a larger image
and then again for a closeup.

On Peace Sunday, September 22, 2013, Zach Blair, one of Lakewood’s youth, performed a song, One Day, for which he had written both words and music. He did a great job and was well received by the congregation.

For more of Zach’s music go to

To listen to Zach sing his song, One Day, at Lakewood, click on the following link.



Team Tampa Bay

Here we go again! Get ready as we look to the summer of 2013 when you can be a part of a trip that will make a difference in the lives of so many people. This adventure will take you to La Romana in the Dominican Republic for one week to work with people in one of the poorest regions in the western hemisphere. We will be primarily conducting medical clinics for the Haitian families who live in the bateys (villages in the middle of the sugar cane fields). Our group will also be involved in building projects at Good Samaritan Hospital .We would love to have you join us! Here are a few answers to the questions you may have as you make your decision.

When? Saturday June 8th to Saturday June 15th, 2013
Leaving out of Tampa International Airport, flying into Santo Domingo.

Where? When we arrive we will be staying in dorm style accommodations sponsored by the Good Samaritan Project in La Romana. They will also take care of all of our meals, transportation, and translators where needed.

Who? The group will be made up of adults and teenagers. A team of medical personnel and myself from All Children’s Hospital will be leading the team from Tampa Bay.

What? The cost of the trip will be $1350. This will cover the cost of airfare, transportation while in La Romana, room and board, as well as medical supplies that we will purchase and bring with us. The cost of airfare on American Airlines is $523.50. We will need a $100.deposit by monday February 11th 2013 to reserve a seat for you. Your deposit will be applied to the total cost of the trip. The balance of the airfare ($423.50) is due March 25th. The remaining balance of $926.50.will be due April 15th, 2013. All payments should be made out to Lakewood UCC and mailed to my address at 491 22nd Ave. S.E. St. Petersburg 33705.

Once you have decided to join us for Project Dominican Republic, we will provide you with all of the specifics necessary to prepare you for a safe and rewarding experience. Take a look at the website, to get a better idea of the world you will be a part of for a week. If you have any questions please feel free to call me at 727-744-7910. I look forward to the possibility of traveling with you on this summer adventure.

Rev. Dr. David R. Pitt
Chaplain, All Children’s Hospital
Member, Lakewood United Church of Christ


22 kids from 74th Street Elementary

IMG_1016The presents under this tree at church this morning are the presents bought for some very needy kids at my school. Thank you to the many Lakewood folks that eagerly helped me out –you came through with abundant giving and thoughtfulness. The generosity of the people of Lakewood UCC is evident all year, but it was especially evident this Christmas season when I came at the last minute with a huge request for help for students at my school.

For Christmas this year another church had planned to adopt 56 kids from 74th Street Elementary, where I teach First Grade. Families were referred by teachers and staff based on known need, and the names and ages of children were collected However, the plans fell through for that church to donate. Our school staff was left in a panic – they did not want to have to tell the families that we could not provide gifts for their children after all. My principal sent an email explaining the dilemma. She immediately had some of the children “adopted” by teachers and staff, and another elementary and church helped out with some too, but 22 of the children were quickly “adopted” by the people of Lakewood United Church of Christ. You didn’t just go buy gifts to fulfill an obligation – you shopped with each child in mind, calling me to find out more about him or her. Thank you so much for doing what you do time and again – giving cheerfully and thoughtfully to those less fortunate. Much love, Melanie


Christmas Caroling

Be part of bringing the Glad Tidings of the season to the members and friends of the church who are homebound through Christmas caroling. All ages are welcome to come and share songs of the season that lift the spirits. Gather at church on Saturday Dec. 14 at 4:00 p.m. and we will carpool to various homes concluding with refreshments and good cheer.


Spirit Day

The Gay & Lesbian Alliane Against Defamation (GLADD) website proudly proclaims that “UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE LARGEST RELIGIOUS GROUP TO GO PURPLE FOR SPIRIT DAY” (see That article is worth reading. Along with other information, it contains “…GLAAD’s Spirit Day resource kit which contains tools to get your place of worship involved.”

Below is the article from the United Church of Christ that it references (

Support our youth – Go Purple on Spirit Day!

Written by Connie Larkman
October 16, 2012

Take a stand against bullying and show your support for young people across America on Friday! Join the millions of people around the country wearing purple on Spirit Day, Oct. 19.

Spirit Day is a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. It’s a day to take a stand, and to speak out against bullying. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by a high school girl as a response to the young LGBT people who had taken their own lives.

Brittany McMillan says she founded Spirit Day as a message all of us can send to LGBT teenagers who feel marginalized. “Show your support for the LGBT community and take a stand against bullying,” she says. “Everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity, is important to someone.”

“We’ve got to be vigilant in making our communities, schools and churches safe for everyone, especially our young people,” says the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s executive for LGBT concerns. “It is important to share the message with LGBTQ youth that it gets better, but it is even more important to make it better and that is what Spirit Day is all about. Across the United Church of Christ there are thousands of churches, pastors, members and friends who are committed to not only showing their purple as a symbol of solidarity and support, but to putting God’s extravagant welcome and radically inclusive love into action.”

Observed annually, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Getting involved is easy –– participants are asked to simply “go purple” on Oct. 19 as we work to create a world in which LGBT teens are celebrated and accepted for who they are. GLADD encourages sharing this message with your friends and family, too.

Brittany McMillan says she believes each one of us can make a difference. “There are quiet struggles happening all around you,” she says. “But please reach out, because no one should feel like they don’t belong or don’t matter, especially not because of who they are.” More from Brittany McMillian. Learn more & go purple!

For more information about Spirit Day go to



Zoe Blair-Andrews and Olivia Gibson Presentation–National Youth Event (podcast)

Zoe Blair-Andrews and Olivia Gibson
Zoe Blair-Andrews and Olivia Gibson Presentation–National Youth Event (podcast)
(click to listen)
The presentation begins with a scripture reading by Olivia, followed by event reports by Zoe and then Olivia, concluding with a responsorial prayer lead by Zoe.
Depending on its length, sometimes it takes a long time for the podcast to load.


Email number seven from Costa Rica

From: Jeanne Haemmelmann
Date: Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Subject: Wednesday & Thursday


We just finished our last day on the worksite. We wrapped up early so that we could finish our devotions and pack to come home tomorrow. All week we have had fabulous weather, but today the skies opened up just as we finished lunch…It feels like a tropical storm! We are so lucky we were not on our sites, but under shelter at our house.

This trip was full of many interesting experiences and incidents… we ran the range of minor bee & spider stings, burns, twisted ankles, a chipped tooth, extreme nausea, a 48 hour case of the flu, 2 people to the ER, one for a CAT scan and one for x rays. I am now very familiar with Costa Rican medical procedures and must say that they are so much more efficient than the US! I hope to never repeat the amount of incidents we’ve had…the good news is that everyone is just fine and returns home in great shape!

Yesterday was Justin’s birthday and we celebrated with 2 cakes. That was a treat for us as we were all craving something sweet.

We have had a great week. The youth loved the experience of visiting the shelter where the children were fed. They come home much more aware of how blessed they are. We spent an hour last evening talking about what it means to be a christian in this world and how they are called to be different. We have been talking about the quote on the back of our shirts… “What does the Lord require of you?”

I will be very curious to see what they do with they have seen. I hope they come home and share with you…just know that they are looking forward to their own beds, sleeping in past 6:30 AM, and home cooked meals.

We all plan on being in church together on Sunday morning to express our thanks to the congregation for their support and hope you will join us as well.

Thank you so much for allowing me to travel with your children…I took care of them as if they were my own.

See you Friday night at 11:20 PM!!!


Email number six from Costa Rica

From: Jeanne Haemmelmann
Date: Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Subject: Tuesday – more work and children finally

Good Morning again!
Tried to send an email last night but the internet was down so couldn’t send anything.

The kids had a wonderful day yesterday. First, those who were digging the trenches and septic system, completed the digging portion and began pouring cement. Work on the church at another site was completed, as was the cement floor. They have muscles hurting that they didn’t even know existed, but there is NO complaining at all. The shovel, dig, carry buckets of dirt nonstop, and then walk a mile each way up and down steep hills to get back and forth to worksite. This is the easiest group to go to bed in years!!!

The food has been plentiful and very good. Every meal there is fresh pineapple and the sweetest watermelon!

Yesterday half the group went to the feeding center for the children. It was indeed an eye opener for them to see the neighborhood and conditions these children live in. First we helped serve lunch, and then spent 3 hours playing games, singing, and just hugging the kids. Needless to say that when we left many of our youth were in tears.

Today the other half is going to the center and tonight we will have discussion around what they saw.

The weather continues to be wonderful…not too humid or hot, and no rain while we are working.

You should all be extremely proud of your youth…I know I am!!! And I LOVE YOUR KIDS!!!


Email number five from Costa Rica

From: Jeanne Haemmelmann
Date: Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 9:34 AM
Subject: First workday

Good Morning!

We had our first workday yesterday and everyone was so excited to finally be at there worksite. We are doing some very hard labor.

We are digging a septic system that is 10 feet deep and a trench and all the dirt has to be hauled up in 5 gallon buckets and then put in wheelbarrows and dumped. We are mixing mortar by hand by sifting the dirt with a screen and then adding water, and then pouring it on a floor where it is spread by hand.

They are sore and tired which makes bedtime come easily. They have been walking up and down steep hills, shoveling, carrying dirt, and using pic axes.

They are excited to see the progress they make at the end of the week. I am So proud of them. there has not been one bit of complaining, despite the hard work and long hours.

More later…