A community of connection
Anyone in our community may seek care, confidentially and free of charge. Our concept of care comes from our Unitarian Universalist values that each person deserves emotional and spiritual support, and that accessing it in a community can be especially helpful and healing. Here at the Fellowship, it means that individuals can access a listening presence with someone who represents the nurture of the whole community, so that their pain and gladness might be witnessed.
Congregational care (sometimes called pastoral care) is not a substitute for mental health care, legal counsel, family mediation, social work, or even professional therapy. It is a purposeful, low-pressure way to connect with others and yourself, spiritually and practically, for the purpose of sacred peace, emotional growth, or problem solving about a variety of life issues.
Examples of why someone might desire care could include:
*interest in deepening meaning in life *arrival of new family member *domestic violence *homelessness *personal evolution *promotion at work *gender transition *partner’s terminal diagnosis *family conflict *aging *religious growth *suicidal thoughts *illness *graduation *death of a parent *divorce or break-up *caregiver concerns *trauma and recovery *parenting challenges *discerning a new call (to justice work, a different career, or something else) *and more!
Providers of Care
Assistant minister Ali Peters is the lead person for care. Together, she, senior minister Rev. Christina Leone-Tracy, other staff, and the Care Team (CT) work to support members and friends in times of need.
CT members are lay leaders whose talents, experience, and special training enable them to meaningfully respond to those in times of joy and sorrow. They practice a ministry of presence and quiet listening, and are available for one-time or ongoing connection. CT members are carefully vetted and complete training that includes guidelines about open-mindedness, ethics, and confidentiality. Ministers provide ongoing accountability and support.
Fellowship members and friends may always:
-Connect with a minister to access modest and occasional financial help swiftly and confidentially from the donation-supported Ministers’ Discretionary Fund.
-Ask director of congregational life Marie Luna to have our Meal Ministry offer you a home cooked dinner to help get you through a sad, busy or difficult stretch and/or connect you with someone who might be able to offer some limited kinds of practical support.
-Request that a care team member or minister get you a grief kit, which is a small bag of items that can help you create a ritual for sorrow at home. This can be a meaningful symbolic reminder that you are always held in the loving embrace of community. You can read more about grief kits and their contents here.
-Collaborate with a minister to create a private ceremony, whether for a wedding or funeral/memorial service; a blessing for an occasion such as transitioning genders, moving to a new home, returning to civilian life after service in the armed forces, or retiring from the workforce; or a ritual to commemorate divorce, entering hospice care for the final life stage, offering a child up for adoption, or having an abortion.
Important Contacts outside of the Fellowship
Ministers are always happy to work with members to find supportive resources such a professional therapist specializing in an issue or experience you might be facing, online NA group, local grief support meeting, and more. Please contact them directly!
Calling 2-1-1 (or visiting 211wisconsin.org) will put you in touch with information, referrals, advocacy, crisis intervention, and more. This is a 24/7 statewide resource.
If you are afraid for your own safety or the safety of others, please call 911 immediately and then let a minister know afterward.
Together, we create the caring community we desire.
Meet the current members of our Care Team:
Dana Johnson (he/him)
Dana is a social worker who is passionate about serving children and families, our community and enhancing social justice. Dana wants all in the Fellowship to feel a sense of belonging. He and his husband live in Appleton with their two dogs (Harlow & Alfie) and cat (Yikes!).
Debbie Wagner (she/her)
Debbie has been a member of the fellowship since 2001. She lives with her spouse Veronica in Appleton. A retired social worker and therapist, Debbie has chosen to redirect her energies by offering a supportive presence to those in her faith community.
Chris Wales (she/her)
I’ve been a member of the Fellowship for over 10 years. 10 years ago I was in an emotionally difficult place in my life and the Fellowship was there for me. Being a member of the Care Team gives me the opportunity to pay that kindness forward. I’m so grateful to be a part of this team of caring and compassionate people who want to serve!
Mary K Knox (she/her)
I have been in the fellowship for about 12 years. I am enjoying retirement after 44 yrs of teaching. My four children and six grandchildren keep me busy with their news and entertainment. The Fellowship has meant so much to me for the continuous education, friendships, and hope for this world we are living in. Being a member of the Care Team is important to me as I love connecting with people and getting to know so many new people in the fellowship.
Deb Andrews (she/her)
I’m a longtime Fellowship member, retired children’s librarian, writer, and avid reader. I’m married to Gerry, have two grown sons and two wonderful daughters-in-law. I’m presently in training with a new knee and hope to be taking long walks again soon. I love my work as a lay minister at the Fellowship, as part of the Care Team.
Merrisa Touray (she/her/hers)
By heart, I am someone who values relationships and the value of our shared humanity. I found the UU faith in college many, many years ago now, and became a member of the Fellowship on August 19, 2018.
I have many interests that keep this life enjoyable and balanced for me- my favorites are dancing, cooking, meditation, and being with the people in my life who make me feel seen and heard.
By profession, I am a Master’s level Social Worker, licensed by the State of Wisconsin. I have spent my entire career dedicated to children and families in the Child Welfare system. Currently, my role is focused on training leaders in Child Welfare.
It is my honor to be able to have the opportunity to serve as part of the care team and provide support to others in their time of need.
Michael Yonkers (he/him)
I am a retired healthcare sales and marketing executive. I am also a husband (I met my wife, Julie, at the Fellowship 20+ years ago), a father/stepfather of three grown children, and the grandfather of 3. My background includes professional training for the ministry and ordination in another church tradition. As a Humanist and a UU, I have always considered providing service and care to others as the highest and best expression of my worldview and beliefs – an aspiration to live out, in practical terms, our first principle about the inherent worth and dignity of every person. My wife and I live in Neenah where we work as staff for two very pampered cats.