“We Say Yes, And”

Written to accompany the Sunday service on Improvisation

One of the tenants of improvisation is to say yes to another’s statement and then to add to what was already said. We have practice in this activity. Our generous benefactors and UUFD leadership proposed we consider restoring our church building. We listened, thought, and said YES to the project. We also said, “and”, that is, “and” we’d help with:

  • Learning about this project “inside and out” and then share with the fellowship
  • Envisioning the project
  • Providing project updates
  • Funding the project


  • Enlisting the community in our efforts
  • Legal assistance


  • Using professionals for restoration ideas, architectural ideas, grants and on and on
  • Applying for grants and tax credits
  • Cleaning and moving items from the church


  • Ongoing everyday work for the fellowship – services, assistance to others, financial work to ensure our fellowship meets its expenses.


  • Upkeep on the Emerson Home
  • Other activities needed, but initially missed
  • Encouraging each other as it took much time and talent and perseverance
  • Celebrating with each other.


Instead of saying no to an almost unbelievable project for a fellowship our size we said YES, YES, Yes, And.

-Wendy Woodhouse, UUFD member


I gave because I am so excited for this opportunity to grow our fellowship in every sense. First, I think that by ​increasing the functionality of our space, it will make gatherings easier, which in turn will enable us to do more together – expand our spiritual and religious knowledge, take on more social justice work, and grow closer together as a group.

Second, the replication of the belfry will not only beautify our building, but it will attract attention and make us more visible. This increased visibility will bring us new members. I just know that there are others in the community who, like me, are Unitarian Universalist in their views, but are completely unaware of our existence.

Finally, I think the fundraising for this project has already helped us to grow even more into our values. We have had to think about what we bring to our community of Dubuque, and to our Jackson Park neighborhood in particular, and I hope this self-reflection will continue past this project. Through our fundraising work to date, I think we have already shown to others and to ourselves that we are small but mighty. What amazing things might we accomplish in the future with this investment in ourselves?

-Katie Heil, UUFD member


I grew up in an old house that had once been a schoolhouse – and got to help with its repair and upgrading. As an adult, I’ve chosen to live in homes in need of repair and restoration – investing my time, energy and money to bring them back to life. I’m happy to do the same with my church home.

Many people, when they walk through the doors of our church, say they feel “at home” in the warm and welcoming space where we gather. Much of that is due to who we are as people, in our congregation. But it’s also because of the simple, unassuming architecture of our meeting house.

Our building has housed congregations for 135 years; we’ve been here for 16 of those years. Many Fellowship members and friends have invested time, energy and money in maintaining it – and it shows we have cared for it with love. But there’s much more work to be done, to give our church home new life.

I believe our church has “good bones” and deserves to be restored – not just for us, but for our neighbors and our community. This project gives us the chance to show we care – not just for the past and present, but for the future.

-Merilyn Tommaro, UUFD member


So much work has gone into this project — so much time and care and outreach and conversation to be sure the fellowship’s members and friends are all on the same page as we create this ambitious plan. We know this is not just about how a building looks. It’s about ensuring a future for a church community that is as vibrant, strong, and welcoming as the building we are helping to design. It is essential that we have a place, a physical presence, where we can continue to meet for years to come. It needs to be safe, weatherproof, accessible to all, and accommodating to everything we intend to do there. It deserves to be beautiful, too. Aesthetics matter — an attractive, historically preserved building will instill pride, attract visitors, and uplift our historic downtown neighborhood immeasurably.

This is why Bob and I have pledged to the capital campaign to restore and improve our building, outside and in. This is why it is imperative that every member and friend of the UUFD make their own contribution, no matter how large or small. The astonishingly generous 2:1 match will triple the gift Bob and I have pledged. Isn’t that amazing? Every donation is tripled! It is heartening to know so many others, including members and friends of the UUFD, as well as people in the community who know little about our unique faith and fellowship, are buying into this restoration project. That kind of giving will make this restored building yours, ours, and theirs, together. I am sure you all agree that it feels good to give, especially for a cause so dear to all of our hearts and spirits.

-Pam Kress-Dunn, UUFD member


I’m one of the youngest members of the congregation, and my goal in 40 years is to become the next Tam and Frank – the member who has been around the longest and is telling the next generation of YoungUUns stories of our Fellowship. One of the stories I plan to tell is how our itty bitty congregation, with an annual budget of $38,000, pulled off a $1.5 million dollar restoration project.  That’s not something we can do in a normal year.

The friends offering the 2:1 challenge match have generously given us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in our congregation and our community, and I hope we can take advantage of that because this project doesn’t just support our Fellowship right now, it’s supporting the next generation of UUs in Dubuque.  As a young person I don’t have the resources to pull off a project of this magnitude by myself, so I am asking for help.  Help me, help the other YoungUUns, help future UUs you haven’t even met yet. Because reaching our goal helps us continue what we do as a Fellowship – offering a place for spiritual growth and serving our community.  Please support our congregation, support the things you love about UUFD, and support the next generation of UUs.

-Alyssa Zasada, UUFD member


I’m glad to be able to make a contribution to something related to the UU Fellowship having its own church. I’d set it as a “hopeful or wishful intention” back about 20 years ago – to contribute towards the UUFD having a building, when that day came to pass.

Along with giving support to the Fellowship, I’m glad to be able to help with improvements for one of the “good anchors” in that neighborhood through this historic restoration of that structure. 

I remember that church structure quite well back in the 1990s when I’d go on my lunch break walks from my job at the previous City of Dubuque Housing Services office – practically just around the corner in the old fire house building at 18th & Central Ave. The church building always seemed unused, but was architecturally interesting looking as I passed by it (and the funeral home, and others, and Jackson Park, itself). Plus, I had many clients living in some of the subsidized, affordable housing apartments sprinkled within that neighborhood. Having good historical sites in a neighborhood is so good for adding stability for residents all around it.   

Best of luck on this great project – good for the Fellowship, good for the neighborhood and city, too.

-Beth Schmidt & Dave Pesch, former UUFD members