We moved from Houston in 1972 with two young sons, determined to miss our church in Oklahoma. Soon we saw a community calendar in a local paper which said a Unitarian group was meeting on Spring Cypress. We dressed up Sunday evening, eager to connect with people of like faith, and made the drive to a dark and empty building in Klein.
Sadly arriving at home I called the contact person mentioned in the paper and she said they had met a few weeks ago but the notice had continued by mistake.
Several weekends later we were invited to what became a supper club which met for fellowship and sharing ideas.
Yet I felt a vacuum where my children were concerned. So my younger son and I went to the First Unitarian Church in Houston for Sunday School while I continued to foster the formation of a local church. As the years passed we arranged for the minister of First Church to come to a subdivision clubhouse, volunteering on Sunday evenings to give a talk.
Before too long we became a congregation. We met at the original Interfaith location on Woodlands Parkway, long before it went very far west into The Woodlands as it currently exists. We met there for a some time.
Then we began a series of survival moves, a barn in Enchanted Oaks (where I stared our first RE with 17 kids, all ages, in one house!) Then for a while we met at a learning center on Sawdust which I ran, putting up partitions each week before the service and using the peripheral rooms for the children.
Next came The Music Rack in Klein–trading fix-up services for rent and Ponderosa Y. We engaged part time ministers Van Vanstrom and Al Judd. Finally in 1985, building this edifice partially with our own hands. I can’t claim much sweat on that but I was a part of it all, and painted the SW corner RE room alongside Mary Branson when she was pregnant with Amy.
Then I was privileged to lead the 2nd service in this building: A Date With Grief. I was going through a divorce and was writing a Grief Yearbook so I had plenty of original poems and material ready, and of course there were always musicians ready to strum out Song Sung Blue and other expressions of angst which we all go through at some point in our lives.
NUUC thrived off and on, but I found it gratifying to see it was always “there” for folks who needed a church home, or even just an accepting lagoon to rest their souls in for a bit.
One of my passions was the music program. It grew and changed, but always seemed to keep getting better. From a pitch pipe to simple guitar music we managed to include traditional, choral, folk, rock and roll, and even a flute choir! Thanks Judy Middleton, Rusty Rhoad and many others for their tireless efforts!
I also held the RE program dear to my heart and was especially proud when one of our teen gals suggested a Harry Potter-esque summer camp. So many children grew up inside these walls, having fun, sharing both good and bad times, friends, ideas and fun.
For a while I read stories to the children early in the service. Favorites were Tacky the Penguin and Love You Forever. (One of the parents passed tissues around for that last one!)
After Shirley Broussard retired from the newsletter, Larry did it for several years. We enjoyed using our newly-minted Macintosh to print out news of Northwoods. He particularly enjoyed adding graphics to make it interesting.
My hubby, Larry McLoughlin, and I also spent years keeping the kitchen going. Like most groups, people were naturally more aware of the need to eat the goodies than bring them! The crazy ones among us, myself included, loved to belt out the Adjusted Doxology “Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, Lord give us coffee” at moments of mirth here and there. Eventually a fine committee took it over–The Kitchen Angels.
The years moved on, with the Gorilla Chorus honoring the fine men in our congregation with music, mania, and even a live gorilla (the person inside the costume WAS alive:-) Then the corner room saw things made by the Ewe Ewe Knitting ministry, busy making comfort blankets for those in need of such kindness. They were soft and wonderful!
I was especially touched with the Lay Ministry. Sharon Ossowski and a number of others kept it running over the years. When Larry started his series of hospitalizations, I became the recipient of their kindness.. There was a group of Saturday ladies, Maxine DeVries and friends, who had me email a list of needs so they could shop each weekend and keep us in food and friendship.
Larry’s favorite thing was The Lunch Bunch. We visited a wide variety of restaurants for after church chatting and fellowship. Visitors could come there and start the process of making friends and others were “regulars” who showed up regularly for the food and fun.
Such fine memories!
For a number of years we organized a shared Thanksgiving open to all. Since we wanted to include folks with no other easy options as well as those who feast with family, we set it up at 3 p.m. People who ate with others at lunch were welcomed, and people who planned to sup with family could come by and move on when needed. But most of all, people for whom this was their Thanksgiving family could stay as long as desired.
Although signups were dutifully done, there were always extra people, so we had the essentials aplenty and loads of other wonderful stuff to eat. Afterwards there were table games, dishes being done, and of course, I brought out song books for Carols and Cookies (or pies, etc.) It was an event to remember and a touching opportunity for members and friends to build fond memories of food, fun and farfetched stories and songs.
When my good friend Ann Tofft went into hospice, Kate Rhoad and a huge slew of other fine folks jumped in and helped in a million ways. Dr. ____________ even rescued me as I was about to wear out with both Ann and Larry in the hospital at once.
Then there was the Cancer Group, eventually called Chronic Illness group where we met in to rooms. Mary Chimirusti and Marci set it up and made it happen. One room was for patients and across the hall the caregivers met. Such support made me proud to be a Northwoods fan!
Eventually I realized I had my hands more than full and needed to downsize and move near family as Larry’s health demands were ever increasing. ENTER Northwoods friends yet again! Dorothy Kennedy, Cindy Mahony, Kate, Susan Blackmore, Sean Connelly, Lee Anna Loehr all pitched in wholeheartedly along with many other fantastic folks to help me reduce, donate, sell, unload and box up far less stuff to make the trip to Florida.
We’ve been here over 6 years now. Yet Northwoods is still a part of my life. Facebook and phone calls keep me up with happenings there as I hold them in my heart. Friends there continue to uplift, entertain, and yes even grieve with me when needed.
So I guess that’s a peek into a portion of my liberal view of eternal life! Go hug a Northwoodsian, and cherish and maintain that great place in all our hearts for us and others to come.
Hildra Tague, Founder and Fan of Northwoods UU Church, The Woodlands, Texas
Copyright 2017 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.