Dear Search Committee Member:
I am pleased to have the opportunity to write a letter of reference for the Rev Audette Fulbright. Over the last four years I have had the good fortune of knowing Rev Fulbright as a community organizer, committee and task force member, and as a minister for all people. I have experienced her ministry and leadership on an individual and community level. She represents to me a vision of many hopes and wishes for this world. Two things especially come to mind as I write this letter. First, Rev Fulbright has the skills to help people feel like they matter and secondly, she has a strong ministry rooted in doing justice. She has strong organization skills that are rooted in Unitarian Universalist values. Her skills in bridging communities and cultures are excellent and I have personally observed her ministry on the Southeastern District Task Force for Revisioning Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression work in our district. She gave our committee the gift of a strong ministerial presence that always called us back to our principles and purposes. Rev Fulbright is an excellent listener. She has the ability to challenge and support others yet helping them to feel a sense on mattering. This last year I also observed Rev Fulbright as a worship leader at the East Coast Gathering of People of Color. One of the many gifts Rev Fulbright brought to the experience was her ability to create a worshipful climate where people could share there joys and concerns as Unitarian Universalist People of Color and allies. She was central in bringing to life the spiritual dimensions of Social justice work.
As a layperson it was with a sense of sadness I once made a statement to a group of seminarians that I wasn’t sure that they could minister to me as an aging person of color. My statement was based on my frustration and doubts as to whether they would be able to witness and hear my testifying from my location in life as a person of color. I wasn’t sure that I mattered. Years later I find myself I celebrate the fact that I know I can be ministered to in Unitarian Universalism. Rev Fulbright has been one of a number of ministers who has helped me to know that this is a religion for all people whatever there location in life might be.
I support and celebrate Audette’s ministry and recommend her without reservations. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Leon E. Spencer
Phone: (912) 604-4195
747 Brookwood Dr
Statesboro, GA 30461
Dear Search Committee Members:
I am writing to describe my observations of Audette Fulson’s performance as a minister and to encourage you to interview and call her to be your minister.
Like many UUs, my religious background is eclectic. I was raised Episcopalian, attended a Baptist military high school, and spent most of my adult life looking for a church where I was comfortable. That search took on an additional layer of complexity when I moved back to Roanoke with my then four year old daughter. After sampling several local houses of worship by myself, it was only when I met Audette that I finally felt comfortable exposing my daughter (now 10) to a congregation and religious tradition in Roanoke.
The first time I met Audette was early in my relationship with my then girlfriend (and now wife), Margie Garber, a lifelong UU, at a fund raising event for the church. Audette was about to take maternity leave when I first attended services there, and the difference between the services she led and the messages delivered while she was on leavewas marked. The homogeneous opinions repeated from one member to another via microphone during ‘talk back’ sessions in Audette’s absence seemed no different from the pep rallies at other houses of worship I observed years ago. While Margie and her family have always been tolerant of my views, which are more conservative than most UUs, I did not have the impression others at UUCR would be. After a couple of months, I was prepared to make excuses not to come, thinking UUCR was just the liberal version of the several churches I had tried but found to be not for me (or for my daughter, Ally).
When Audette returned, however, my impression of the church quickly changed. Though our opinions differ on nearly every significant issue, she was always willing to hear what I thought and always asked why I believe in what I believe. I remember, and appreciate, a discussion she, her husband, Rob, and I had around healthcare on the day Margie and I were married. I certainly was not convincing enough to win any converts to my point of view, but she and Rob patiently listened to an opinion different from their own. Her sermons have helped me understand a much broader range of viewpoints than I might have considered otherwise. Were it not for Audette’s acceptance and leadership, I never would have exposed myself or my daughter to the idea of Unitarian Universalism.
Over the last four years, Ally and I have met wonderful people at the church. We were remarkably fortunate that Audette was our minister at UUCR. If she were not, neither Ally nor I would have the level of involvement with the many remarkable people at the church today-even people with whom I disagree on many issues. Ever since I stopped regularly attending mass at the Episcopal Church in 1990, I have attended services at dozens of churches searching for someplace where I felt comfortable re-committing myself. Those two decades of religious sampling provided the opportunity to see more than 50 ministers and priests, several of whom have been in the ministry since before I was born, both in the pulpit and interacting with their congregations. In my observation, none of them could hold a candle (or chalice) to Audette’s performance over the last four years. Audette is the best minister I have ever met, both at the podium and in the community, and she has done more for Margie, Ally, and me than we could ever repay.
My family and I have been truly blessed to have Audette in our lives over the last several years. Were it not for Audette’s leadership, understanding, compassion, and guidance, my daughter and I would have missed the opportunity to experience the enlightenment and tolerance Unitarian Universalism has to offer.
Having heard Audette’s sermons on Sundays, seen her activity in our community, and having watched her demonstrate compassion to those in need, it is my observation that Audette is an excellent minister. I believe she will be a remarkable spiritual leader for your congregation spanning the generations at your church and the wide spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds Unitarian Universalism attracts, and I recommend her wholeheartedly.
If I can provide any further information or context, please feel free to contact me at (540) 556-2559 or at email@example.com .
from Degra Nofsinger, Sr. High Youth Advisor:
November 28, 2011
To whom it may concern,
I am writing in reference to Reverend Audette Fulbright Fulson. I have known Rev. Fulson for 3 years. For the past 2 years, Rev. Fulson has been my coworker at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke, where she was the pastor, and I am the paid Youth Adviser.
Rev. Fulson has been a pleasure to work with and an excellent supervisor. Early in my employment as Youth Adviser, Rev. Fulson guided me extensively. She suggested resources, listened to and counseled me, and gave me many ideas which proved fruitful to the youth group. It was Rev. Fulson’s idea for the youth group to go on a Service Mission trip. We have gone on 2 such trips, and these trips have profoundly impacted the youth individually and in their sense of community with one another. She accompanied us on our last Service trip, which was the highlight of many of the youth’s experience. Throughout my time as an employee of UUCR, she continued to have open ears, solid advice, and to create a safe, intimate, supportive, and cohesive work environment.
Rev. Fulson has always been supportive of the youth and of me. She had already built a wonderful rapport with them before I ever came to UUCR. She took the time to check in with them on an individual and group basis. She made it a priority to get to know each youth, to speak to them on Sundays, to give them her contact information, and to make herself available to them when needed. The youth felt connected to her, I never heard any of them make a single negative comment about her. They always lift her up when they speak of her. They decided to go to the service one Sunday a month to hear her preach instead of having youth group, because they value her sermons. Simply put, the youth love and look up to her.
Rev. Fulson is an excellent role model. She exudes integrity. She stand for her truth, her actions reflect her words and her beliefs. She is a strong and compassionate leader. She is approachable. She has the unique ability to make all feel welcome, valued, and valuable. Rev. Fulson is committed to incorporating members of all ages into church life; in worship, in social justice work, and in social events.
Any church would be fortunate to have Rev. Fulson as a pastor. Our church has been very blessed to have her for the past 12 years.
Please contact me with any questions,
Degra Duane Nofsinger, BA
Youth Adviser, UUCR
Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge
A Christian Community Making God’s Love Real to All People
806 Jamison Ave SE, Roanoke, VA 24013 + 540-344-4444 + www.mccblueridge.com
November 29, 2011
RE: Letter of Recommendation for Rev. Audette Fulbright Fulson
Rev. Audette Fulbright Fulson is a wise, thoughtful and compassionate pastor and leader. I have known Audette for nine years and am honored to recommend her to you.
Building on years of experience in pastoral ministry, Audette is able to create a space for healthy communication, shared vision, and empowered ministry. Audette has a keen ability to help others identify their gifts for ministry and put them to effective use within the life of the church and in the community.
Audette is an advocate for social justice and ecumenical ministry and works to create a broad sense of community development and collaboration with both clergy and laity. She knows and embodies the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism and shares these in ways that strengthen the greater good.
Audette models radical hospitality in her approach to life and ministry. As Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge, I’ve had the honor of working with Audette on a number of community projects designed to create a fully inclusive welcome for all people. Audette’s inclusive spirit makes a way for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to know they are beloved.
Finally, Audette is a careful and compassionate listener. In my unique ministry of working with persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, I value Audette’s full support as a colleague and confidant. She has blessed me with her kindness, her presence, and her encouragement – rare and wonderful gifts.
I am honored to work with Audette and find her gifts as a colleague a genuine blessing.
Rev. Joe Cobb
Henry L. Woodward
330 N. Broad Street
Salem, Virginia 24153-3730
November 13, 2011
REFERENCE FOR REVEREND AUDETTE FULBRIGHT
I am pleased to write in recommendation of Reverend Audette Fulbright, who has served as settled minister for the 200+ members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke from 2001 to 2011. I joined the congregation shortly before Audette’s coming, and have since worked with her frequently as board president for a three-year cycle, and as a member of the committee on ministry and other committees in the church. I have always found her to be an insightful, creative, reliable, and respectful leader and collaborator in the work of the church.
From the outset I have been impressed by Audette’s many ministerial gifts. Her sermons creatively integrate readings from religious traditions, history, and philosophy with video clips, poetry, music, current events and her own experience. The sermons are regularly grounded in serious research, well crafted, and often move me and others to tears. Her range extends seamlessly from intellectual abstraction to the stuff of everyday life, appealing at different points to the variety of interests, spiritual foundations, and learning styles any UU congregation includes.
From my own experience and feedback from the congregation I know that pastoral care and counseling skills are among Audette’s greatest strengths. She’s a good listener and has a remarkable memory for the details of people’s concerns and situations. She is particularly effective with the older youth and young couples in the church, who will especially miss her.
Two other areas in which Audette has served us particularly well are social action and vision. She has set a powerful model of social concern by her own community involvements, such as anti-racism work, peace coalitions, volunteering as a child advocate, and the Occupy Movement. We struggle to respond adequately to her prophetic calls from the pulpit. This is but one area in which Audette has given us insightful vision about where we should be heading as a congregation of our size and place. I believe that overcoming UUCR’s lethargy has been one of her frustrations, but I see a progression in her patience and technique in helping us come to congregational maturity since she joined us as her first settled ministry.
I’d be pleased to respond by email or phone to any further inquiry about Audette’s qualifications and ministry with UUCR.
Henry L. Woodward
Henry L. Woodward
PO Box 9542
Roanoke VA 24020
November 23, 2011
RECOMMENDATION FOR AUDETTE FULBRIGHT FULSON
I’ll begin this whole-hearted, flat-out-rave letter by assuring you that this is exactly what I would have written had Rev. Fulson’s rights to read it been waived. She really is this good.
I commend her to you as a smart, caring, energetic, articulate woman with a wise and thoughtful eye for the complex dynamics of any community.
I’ve known Audette since the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Roanoke called her some ten years ago. We’ve served on committees together and have met when I asked for two hours of pastoral counseling a few years back, as well as informally for lunch or coffee a couple times. I’m also her daughter’s academic advisor at Hollins, as it happens, so I have that additional window on the fruits of Audette’s good work. So I feel I know her well.
Audette started off strong here and never faltered. I want to offer specific praise for her sermons—as a teacher and writer with an undergraduate major in Religion, I have consistently admired their craft, and as a member of the congregation, I’ve benefited in deeper ways. She knows how to say important things, offering a winning mix of tones and perspectives. Her language is clear and interesting, the blend of anecdote and fact and skillful exhortation quite effective, and the delivery hits the right notes: after hearing her speak from the pulpit, I’ve always felt inspired, challenged, and a little closer both to my pastor and, well, my better self.
Last month, I was asked to speak on Audette’s passion for social justice for a recent (and full-to-overflowing) service honoring her work at UUCR. Below are at lightly-edited portions of what I wrote:
Audette genuinely lives her deep commitment to social justice—and she is an inspiration Her dedication to using her quick intelligence, glittering energy, and absolutely first-rate verbal skills goes back well before the happy day when she arrived at UUCR. As an undergrad, she served as a rape crisis counselor. While on her path to ordination, she did stints as prison chaplain and hospital chaplain and after that, even by standards of Asheville North Carolina, she’s got a truly impressive number of good-cause-activist vita-hits.
But let me remind you of some of her more recent work on behalf of making this world in which we find ourselves a better place. A year ago August, she went to Arizona to represent the TJ District in standing in solidarity against some amazingly strict “anti-illegal immigration” legislation. She also worked on the district’s Anti-Racism Re-Envisioning Task Force, developing a thought-provoking report with tangible recommendations in support of furthering multi-culturalism and against racism and other forms of oppression.
I also found that she was quoted, speaking (of course!) in smart, sensible language, in a 2009 Roanoke Times article after a group of citizens stood outside Senator Jim Webb’s office in support of making decent health care available to all Americans.
And I haven’t even uttered the phrase “environmental work”—but time is short. My point is that so far the digital evidence shows that in what we call the real world, Audette has made quite a mark.
Now for Facebook. I’m sure you all know at least a little bit about the Occupy Roanoke movement and its peaceable, inspiring presence in Elmwood Park. But if you look at the right Facebook pages, you’ll see that Audette (like others in her fabulous family) has been doing really crucial things to call attention to our burning need for a more just society.
She has made huge pots of soup. She has posted lucid, savvy posts that radiate hope and tact and genuine wisdom, perhaps soothing ruffled feathers so skillfully that the ruffled ones never exactly notice. She has though concrete action shown the way.
As you can see, I recommend her to you most highly and absolutely without reservation. If there are any questions I can answer for you, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. My home phone is 540.265.7979 and my office, 540.362.6276. Either number, any time.
Jeanne Larsen, Ph.D.
Professor of English and Susan Gager Jackson Professor of Creative Writing
Kerry Morgiewicz, UUCR Music Director
It is a pleasure for me to write this recommendation on behalf of Reverend Audette Fulbright (Audette). I am currently the music director of the Unitarian Universalist Church and worked with Audette for seven years. During that time I came to know her better each year. She has an ease and a natural way about her as she stands at the pulpit which makes services flow smoothly. On those occasions when things didn’t go according to plan, Audette was easily able to laugh, say a witty remark, offer some words of encouragement, and help the congregation feel comfortable. After services, she was ready and eager to speak with visitors and welcome new folks into the congregation by helping them find their niche. On more than one occasion, she steered people in my direction as prospective choir members or musicians.
It was very important to Audette that she have a close and unified staff to work with. She scheduled regular monthly staff meetings and was sure to allow “check-in” time before the business part of the meeting. She followed up on concerns and joys that came up and was always ready with a card or an email to let us know she was thinking about us. She also made sure that we had one fun outing a year, whether at Christmas time or at the end of the year to ensure that the staff felt comfortable and at ease with one another.
During her time at UUCR Audette worked tirelessly to find times for the church to celebrate as a community through different planned events. She began holding Wednesday night programs monthly that included dinner and discussions for families, created fun events at the church for game playing and socializing, and she regularly joined in with youth activities including the youth mission trip to West Virginia. Audette attended special choir events and supported us with her thanks and her presence. She made sure to thank volunteers and staff personally from the pulpit, a gesture which made me feel appreciated and valued.
Audette is very active socially in our local community. She loves to wear her bright yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” t-shirt. I know she participates in several ministerial groups and serves at the local soup kitchen. Most recently she made food for the Occupy movement events in Roanoke. On her Sundays “off” she was often serving at another church, or working as an activist in some capacity. In essence, she lived her commitment to Unitarian Universalism.
Margaret K. (“Margie”) Garber
6352 Fairway Forest Drive
Roanoke, VA 24018
Dear Search Committee Members,
I am writing to encourage you to interview, candidate and settle Reverend Audette Fulbright Fulson.
When Rev. Fulson first arrived at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke, I was (and am) a life-long member of the UUCR. I was also, admittedly, a non-participant in church leadership and a lackadaisical participant in church social events. I was perfectly content to arrive each and every Sunday be spiritually enlightened and intellectually challenged by Audette’s sermons and then drift away for another seven days. Through Audette’s encouragements and well-phrased and well-timed prodding, I have been, now for many years, a fully engaged member of the congregation.
While the strength of Audette’s sermons is likely well known to you, her gift for fostering leadership, participation and ownership within the congregation may be less obvious. During her tenure, our church leadership has strengthened and grown. Myself, like many other faces new to leadership, have found our way into leadership positions. As a result of an increasing number of folks becoming stakeholders in the congregation, our commitment to the continued success and vitality of the UUCR has more than redoubled during Audette’s time with us. Audette’s outreach spanned across the generations and across years of membership within the UUCR. I offer myself and my mother, also a long term member of the UUCR, as examples. Prior to Audette’s arrival, we regularly attended church, sent our pledges and did little more. In the last ten years, between my mother and me we have four years of service on the Board, six years of service on the Shared Ministry Committee and its predecessor, two years on the Committee on Harmonious Relations and led several New UU classes. Audette’s ability is not in simply identifying folks willing to take on responsibilities, it is her recognition that through participation commitment to the success of the church community becomes engrained.
Audette has strength and confidence in her convictions which allows her to appreciate, tolerate and respect contrary opinions. While I could see this in all of her actions, I felt it in her interaction with my husband, Mike Weneta. Mike was raised in the Episcopal faith and is, in all likelihood, the most politically conservative member of the UUCR. Given my years in the tradition and all of those New UU classes I taught, I was able to reassure him that the UUCR would be a good place for him. It was only with Audette’s assistance, acceptance and respectful understanding that Mike was reassured that the UUCR was right place for my step-daughter, Ally. While this was a great boon to my family, it was a greater benefit to the UUCR and potentially to your congregation to have as your called minister someone who lives her beliefs and convictions with patience and understanding for those who believe otherwise.
As a trial attorney, I value other’s abilities to approach conflict with honor and integrity as well as a resoluteness which does not foreclose compromise. In the potential minefield that are church communities, Audette excels at graciously managing and, more importantly, resolving conflict.
Audette is my friend. After one’s college years, I do not believe deep and abiding friendships are formed readily. I am fortunate to count Audette in my own post-collegiate number of friends. In becoming friends, Audette was mindful of making sure that as her friend, I would still have a mechanism for reaching out to her in times of pastoral needs. After many years of merry friendship, Audette’s deliberateness was necessary when my first marriage abruptly ended. As I am told happened with others in times of pastoral need, Audette was with me in a flash. Together, we determined what her role would be in my recovery. In retrospect, I acknowledge that it takes someone who is both wise and humble to not immediately assume the full burden.
No one shares joy better than Audette. When I remarried several years, I cleared dates on Audette’s calendar before I did anything else. Her ceremonies are comforting, encouraging and uplifting. Everyone from my Methodist minister sister-in-law to my atheist brother-in-law found meaning to carry beyond the day and the moment in our wedding ceremony.
I would encourage you to interview, candidate and settle Reverend Audette Fulbright Fulson.
Very truly yours,
Margaret K. Garber
From Ami Trowell, Director of Lifespan Faith Development at the UU Church of Roanoke:
Dear sir or madam,
It has been my great pleasure to work with Audette for the last 6 years. I worked first as a member of the congregation,later as a transitional RE administrator and most recently as the Director of Lifespan Faith Development. Audette has been an inspirational leader in moving our congregation forward and creating pathways for growth and change. She was instrumental in expanding our Religious Education program into the Lifespan Program.
I have had the opportunity to work with Audette on many projects. She has consistently been a joy to collaborate with, always showing ultimate respect and support for those with whom she works. Her flair for the dramatic, her fearlessness in trying new ideas and her vast knowledge have been a treasure. Together we were able to plan a variety of services and opportunities for fellowship.
Audette has always been remarkable at sharing her vision while including space for other people’s ideas. She has shown herself to be efficient and effective both personally and professionally. Audette always took time to engage all people involved in the work of the congregation. She is genuine and kind always exhibiting amazing balance between being personally sensitive and professionally aware. She seems to understand the importance of compassion as a foundation for productivity.
Audette will be an amazing, high energy, warm addition wherever she goes.
Director of Lifespan Faith Development
Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke