New Members Welcomed with Radical Applause

Community Treet
Membership Committee co-chairs Norm Richey and Sarah Robson led us in a simple, heartfelt ceremony on June 16 to welcome six new members.  The response from the pews to this introduction was smiles, laughter, and radical applause.  The message is this:  We deeply thank you all for enriching our congregational life and for joining us in our important mission.  
New Members Ceremony 6-16-19A
(L-R) Erik and Kirin Paesel, Shona Gupta, Suzanne Rainey, John Oliver, Sharon Harrel, Norm Richey, and Sarah Robson.

Erik Paesel is thrilled to join the church. Born overseas, in Munich, he grew up as a “military brat” in Germany and England. He is essentially a Midwest transplant – a diehard baseball fan of the Chicago Cubs; in fact, all his sports allegiances are with Chicago teams. He is a filmmaker still writing scripts and pilots and hoping for his big break. But for now, he teaches editing to university and high school students at the New York Film Academy. He wants you to know that he’s generally game for anything, especially camping, board games, softball, and craft beer. He’s the coach/manager of the UUSM softball team, the Waldos. Erik is also excited that his wife Shona and their son Kiran participate in the church and Religious Exploration (RE), and he’s very interested in helping both the church and the RE program grow. Kiran is very interested in taking OWL and enjoys Cub Scouts, Dungeons and Dragons, chess, soccer, and Minecraft whenever possible. Kiran hopes that he forms lifelong friends here in the RE program.

Shona Gupta has enjoyed her experience with the UU philosophy. She was struck by the kind and inclusive attitude of the UUSM community. She was born into a Hindu family that respects all religions, believing that “Truth is one but we call it by many names.” Her family is from India originally and immigrated to the US when she was a toddler. She moved Canada and spent many years there as well. She loves the outdoors and thus was delighted to participate in our 2018 church weekend at Camp de Benneville Pines – she even made the poster for archery. Shona has worked in publishing and technology for several years. When not managing tech projects, she’s working on her own entrepreneurial initiatives. She’s also an active member of the Culver City Arts District. Her hobbies include travel, tennis, art-gallery-hopping, piano, photography, and camping and hiking with her family!

Suzanne Rainey is a Southern California native, born in San Gabriel. She grew up Mormon and stopped practicing the religion in her 20s. She’s explored Buddhism, studied Judaism, and married Mark Barshop in a Jewish ceremony two years ago and comments, “I guess this makes me a ‘MobujuUU.’ I’m delighted to be joining this congregation.” Her teenage daughter Dagny recently participated in the OWL program.

Sharon Harrel and John Oliver are natives of Virginia and longtime UUs who found each other almost 20 years ago at camp – the Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI). They and married six years ago in the Unitarian Church of Norfolk. This April they sold their Virginia home and most of their possessions and moved to Santa Monica to help with the raising of their first grandchild, Robin Harrell Lee, born in May. Sharon is a retired school psychologist who worked for many years with teens diagnosed with serious emotional disabilities. She also taught psychology as an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Virginia Wesleyan College. She has a son here and a daughter in Olympia, WA.

John Oliver was a local government attorney in Virginia for over 30 years and currently works part-time on mental health legal issues for the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. He has a son in Virginia.

Leo Forester moved to LA from NY in September to pursue his passions of music and staying warm. He previously attended First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn and found it to be a haven for young people finding themselves and their way in the world, and the community has become a key piece of his social life. Leo has been really excited to find this congregation as he settles into life in LA.


We’re gonna keep on moving forward
Keep on moving forward
Keep on moving forward
Never turning back
Never turning back

– Pat Humphries’ song



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