Community UCC Fresno

No matter who you are, or where you are on your journey, you are welcome here.

Meet Our Members

We have introduced a new recurring feature in eNews, “Meet Our Members.” Doug Hoagland, a longtime Fresno Bee reporter, will interview members of our congregation so we can get to know each other better. New profiles should run at least once a month. (Depending on the preference of the person being featured, not all profiles will appear on this webpage.)

Meet Our Members - Amy Kilburn

Meet Amy Kilburn, member since 2015

Published in eNews on March 28, 2019

Tell us about yourself:

I teach literature and history to eighth-graders at Reyburn Intermediate School in Clovis Unified. I also teach a peer counseling class at Reyburn, and I’m the vice president of the Faculty Senate in Clovis Unified. Teachers elect the Senate’s officers, and we’re in charge of committees that deal with topics like salaries and benefits.

What about family?

I live with my mom, Carol, and we’re within five minutes of my brother, Andy, and his wife, Barbara. They have four children, Ellie, Arthur, Abbie and Maddie. They come over a lot, and we have a good time. I also have two dogs – Poe and Dixie – that I love a lot.

How did you come to attend Community UCC?

My grandparents, Art and Barbara Drolette, were founding members. My grandmother was a social justice activist, and my grandfather was the guiding light in our lives. We lived with my grandparents when I was growing up, and my grandpa would listen to my frustrations and then say, ‘You need to remember to love everyone.’ He had tough times in his life. His mother didn’t like kids, and his father was an alcoholic. He grew up during the Depression, and he served in World War II. But he had joy. After he passed away, Pastor Chris was very kind to us. I remember thinking: ‘He doesn’t even know us, but he’s coming to our house and taking care of us.’ My mom and I started attending soon after Grandpa died. I feel his presence here.

What church activities are you involved with?

I’m on the pastor search team, and I help with worship planning. I’ve also emceed special events like Bingo Night. In the past, I served as interim moderator and vice moderator.

What do you find special about Community UCC?

I appreciate that Community is a church where people can question their relationship with God, and they’re still welcome to worship here. During Lent, the congregation made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for folks who are homeless. That’s an example of what Christianity looks like to me. I know people who can quote Scripture and go to Bible studies all the time, but they’re not inclusive. It’s like ‘if you don’t pray the way I pray, I’m not going to be friends with you.’ That never attracted me.
Complete this sentence: “God is calling this congregation to be …”

I believe God is challenging us to truly be open and welcoming. Sometimes, there are people who want to serve, and their personalities rub some people wrong. We don’t find a spot for them, and they don’t come back. That bothers me. I would say God is challenging us to look at some of our practices and decide what we need to keep and what we need to change. We have a great opportunity to do this with a new pastor coming in.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you:

I started to travel as a teenager, and I walked on the Great Wall of China when I was 16. I’ve also been to England, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Russia, the Caribbean, and most of the states in this country.

What’s your favorite movie?

“Sense and Sensibility.” It’s a very “heart” movie, and all of my favorites are like that. My favorite TV show is “This Is Us,” and my favorite book is “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett.

How would people have described you in high school?

I graduated from Buchanan in the first graduating class – Class of ’95. I was very quiet. I was into studying and working on the yearbook. It’s still a little hard for me to get up and talk in front of adults. I’m a little shyer than people would think. But if there’s a need, I don’t mind doing it.

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Meet Our Members - John Donaldson
Meet John Donaldson, member since 1956

Published in eNews, March 7, 2019

Tell us about yourself:

I grew up in Houston and graduated from Rice University, where my mother had earned her degree in 1922. After receiving a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Rice, I earned another master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Yale. In 1956, I came to Fresno to teach physics at Fresno State. I also had offers from San Diego State and North Texas State, but my wife, Shirley, and I loved Yosemite and the Sierra. I never hiked as a kid, but Shirley loved to so we learned to backpack and camp out. Shirley and I had four children: Nancy, Dorothy and twins, Jack and Jane. They’re adopted. I have five grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too. (Shirley died in 2006.)

What brought you to Community UCC?

I’d been the choir director at a Methodist Church in Maryland while in the Army, and I was looking for something like that in Fresno. I had just started at Fresno State when I saw an article in the campus newspaper. Henry Hayden was looking for a choir director for this new church (then known as College Community Congregational). Henry and I got together, and we stayed together for many years. I was the director for 40 years, and I still sing in the choir.

What other church activities have you been involved in?

I’ve been on trustees (now called the Finance Team) probably 10 times, and I headed the stewardship drive on several occasions.

What do you find special or different about Community UCC?

It’s one church I can belong to because it’s progressive and has been all along. I’m an atheist, actually. I had a marvelous course at Rice on the philosophy of religion, and I was embarrassed early in the class that I didn’t realize Genesis has two separate creation stories, and they differ considerably. It opened my eyes. But I can happily sing about things I don’t believe in. Somehow, in music it’s different. I know it’s a strange conflict, but I’ve learned to live with it.

What’s your vision for the church?

We are called to be a church of love, not hate; not discriminating against any sex, race or orientation.

What’s something about you most people wouldn’t know?

A lot of people have no idea how important sports were to me when I was younger. Baseball was my favorite growing up, and I thought I was going to be a ball player. But I never got in a game in high school. Then the track coach asked me to come out and throw the discus. I continued with it at Rice, and I was national discus champion my senior year. I kept throwing at Fresno State, and I competed several times in the West Coast Relays in Fresno. I forget whether I placed there, but by then, my best days were over. I also played volleyball after college, and I was an AAU All-American in 1951.

Is there anything else people might not know about you?

I was elected in 1972 and 1976 to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, serving for eight years. I’m also interested in astronomy. For many years, I hosted dinners for church members and then we went stargazing.

How would classmates in high school have described you?

Someone who loved to study and was unaware of what was going on in the world at that time. They also might say I was pleasant. I got my dad’s temperament.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I’m really impressed with our interim pastor, Ara. He’s come to visit me at San Joaquin Gardens since I broke my leg and had surgery. The first time he came, we must have talked for two hours. He’s a great guy.

How is your leg?

I’m doing well. I’m in physical therapy and improving rapidly. I hope to go home soon and start driving again.