Our Member Stories
I was introduced to UUCL by Worship Director Ricky Keech in 1990, right after graduating from George Washington University with a B.A. in Music. The church needed a new music director, and I’ve been here ever since. I hadn’t been part of a UU church before taking the position, but the welcoming spirit and commitment to social justice aligned with my own beliefs. Music is a strong aspect of my identity. I believe it is a cornerstone in the complete education of an individual, young or old. It helps a person develop critical thinking and other key traits needed to become the best human they can be.
A lifelong Jew, I started attending UUCL almost a decade ago with my then partner, now wife, Sandy Shihadeh. I found the warmth of community extremely inviting, and happily attended for several years as a friend. Then one particular Sunday, Sandy had to stay for a congregational meeting to approve the budget. I looked over the numbers and started whispering questions for her to ask. She told me that if I was that interested, I should become a member so I could ask my own questions. I had thought that “joining” meant converting to a new religion – which I did not wish to do. After a Rabbi reassured me I would not need to forfeit my Judaism to become a UU, I happily signed the book!
UUCL is my fourth UU congregation. I first joined a UU church when I was living in New York City in the mid 1980s. My wife, Carol, and I met at the UU church in Reston in 1990, and we joined UUCL when we moved to Western Loudoun County in 2000. The UU faith is part of our family life together, and wherever we are, we want to be part of the local UU community.
I live down the street from UUCL and passed by the historic church for many years before venturing in. When I finally did, the 7th Principle really impressed me. At the beginning, I was not active and always ducked out as soon as service was over. It wasn’t until Ricky Keech cornered me to help with the Caring Committee. It’s next to impossible to say “No” to Ricky, so I started with Caring Committee and stayed with it for many years. A few years ago I directed my energy to reviving the UUCL Green Team. We’ve been going strong ever since.
Ann Marie Morreale
Hurricane Sandy convinced me that continuing to live on the shoreline of Long Island, NY, would require more energy in my retirement than I was willing to give. So, in 2013, I decided to move to the mainland (Leesburg, VA) and give a bit of that energy to my grandkids and a UU congregation. I had found UU in the 1990’s through like-minded friends. As soon as I walked through the doors of UUCL and was warmly welcomed by so many people, I knew this was going to be a good fit.
Raised as a Methodist, my family members began to explore different Christian faiths. Then, through friendships, meeting my husband, and exploring my career, I was exposed to many other religious beliefs, including Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, and Agnostic notions. I became a Unitarian in spirit prior to even knowing the faith existed. Then, when my family moved to Leesburg, I began looking for a supportive church environment. I found UUCL in 2015.