The Laymen’s League (2017 Annual Report)

Updated: Oct 13

The revitalized All Souls Laymen’s League had an exciting year of continuing renewal in 2017. We started up again in 2016, after being defunct since the 1950s. Interest in bringing back the Laymen’s League was sparked by Bicentennial excitement as we look toward the 200th Anniversary of our congregation. President Taft founded the Unitarian Laymen’s League in 1900, and he was the keynote speaker at the Centennial Celebration of our congregation in 1919.

We defined a Mission Statement in 2017:

To enjoy comaradery, share common interests, and explore ways to help each other and our All Souls community.

We meet once or twice a month, plan events and create special interest groups for our members. We aspire to embody the All Souls Church values of: Transformation, Connection and Possibility, and to support the mission by providing an encouraging way, especially for men, to experience All Souls as an open and welcoming religious community that nurtures possibilities and builds connections to forge redemptive change in ourselves, our city and our community. Leaders for the 2017 year were John Conti, Bill Bechman and Allyn Keiser.

We had a number of social gatherings throughout the year at the church, at Tom Blum’s rooftop, and at a restaurant. We volunteered as servers for the April congregational lunch and the December Capital Campaign Rally. Allyn Keiser created a survey to collect suggestions for events and activities.

We co-sponsored with the Historical Society a reception for the Bellows Lecture, as part of the All Souls Anniversary weekend of events. There was a screening of the film, “From Mechanic to Millionaire, the Peter Cooper Story” with the film producer and director, Janet Gardner who delivered the Bellows Lecture. It was preceded by a JELL-O contest, judged by Rev. Dick Leonard. Peter Cooper, a prominent member of our congregation in the 1800s, was an astonishing inventor, and he held the first patent for gelatin and is known as the father of JELL-O among all his other accomplishments.

In September, Rev. Dick Leonard celebrated his 90th Birthday, and introduced his new book “Wet Cement” with a reading in the All Souls Sanctuary. His stories from the book were fascinating. The Laymen’s League helped to organize this special event.

We were delighted to host a luncheon for the All Souls Church Music department, congratulating Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez on his third year with us, and welcoming Bryan McNamera, Trent Johnson and James Backmon to the music team. We purchased a new video camera for the church to help capture special performances. It was used at Musica Viva NY’s performance of Seymour Benstein’s “Song of Nature” and the Brahms Requiem; and at their 40th Anniversary Season kickoff party. It was also used at the December Capital Campaign Rally.

We have more than 70 names on our email invitation list; and we post announcements in the weekly Orders of Service and the monthly Bulletins.

For more information, email: LaymensLeague@AllSoulsNYC.org

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Unitarian Church of All Souls

1157 Lexington Ave.

New York, NY 10075

212-535-5530