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by Diane Slagle
May 18, 2012 (Santee)--In the heart of Santee, on a small corner of land, some inspiring things are happening — week after week, the whole year ‘round: 



  • Adults who’ve “been there, done that” mentor teens through the tough transitional years in a “Coming of Age” program . . . while seniors get support in a group cheerily called, “I’m Not Done Yet!”
  • The local chapter of Amnesty International meets here monthly in support of human rights, worldwide.
  • People get together in regular meditation groups and hiking groups, writing groups and friendly sit-down dinner groups – often served up with some pretty decent wine!
  • There’s a collection basket for used household batteries, and they’re routinely disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.
  • A committee collects combs and toothbrushes, and other personal items to help homeless families in an East County shelter.
  • Kids learn about helping out, and being kind, fair, and open-minded – and they have fun doing it.
A sign at the corner of Cottonwood and Buena Vista avenues announces Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (SUUF).  This progressive-minded congregation meets Sunday mornings under the leadership of newly settled minister, Frank Placone-Willey. (He was just voted in May 6, with overwhelming support, by the 160-member congregation.)
Dr. Placone-Willey has over 25 years of professional experience in institutional ministry and psychospiritual care (he holds degrees in divinity, marriage and family therapy, and counseling psychology).  A former Presbyterian minister, Placone-Willey says his religious beliefs have evolved, over time, to expand beyond the dictates of mainline Protestantism. “I discovered Unitarian Universalism, finding here a religious community where I belonged.”
As a Unitarian Universalist organization, Summit is a “doctrine-less” church. This means that members may hold very different notions about God and death and other ultimate questions.  “UU’s” tend to believe that religion is more about living your life authentically and ethically than about adherence to particular belief systems.  So you’ll find Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, and questioners of all stripes – who do, however, agree on certain core principles, including these:
  • Each person is worthwhile and deserves respect and fair treatment.
  • Be kind and honest. 
  • Work together for peace, justice, and equality.
  • Take care of the earth.
Members and friends of Summit find a sense of purpose and real community in playing, thinking, feeling, and working together.
Weekly 10 a.m. Sunday services range widely in topic. This month’s Mother’s Day service celebrated women who have helped to shape our world and elevate the status of women in a “man’s world.” 
Summit’s  upcoming May 20 service will look at “the morality of compassion,” drawing on the works of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, his holiness the Dalai Lama, and others.  The May 27 service will feature Summit musicians and choral director Jill Reis in an all-music program. 
Childcare is provided, and coffee and refreshments are served in the Summit salon following services.
Summit UU Fellowship will have a booth at this year’s Santee Street Fair on May 26. East County Magazine readers are welcomed to stop by the booth for a free gift — and warmly invited to attend a service some Sunday morning. You’ll be glad you did! (Get directions.)
The author is a writer and a longtime member of Summit UU Fellowship.


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