All Souls is recognizing the 97th anniversary of our founding on Heritage Sunday service, Sunday, March 25, 10:30 a.m. CST. We wanted to look back at where we’ve come from and a look forward to our future. To do this, we sat down with Marilyn Snedden, a member of the Liberal Religious Youth program from the early days of All Souls, and with Mya Rogers, a Senior in our Youth Program today.
Marilyn, tell us a little about your history at All Souls.
Marilyn Snedden (MS): My parents brought me and my sister to church around 1948, but then it was the building downtown, which is now Fitzgerald’s Funeral Home. I remember the minister at the time, Rev. Sonen, lived upstairs with his three kids. Our church started meeting at Elliot Elementary while they were building this church on Peoria. Being a part of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), we got to be a part of decorating and figuring out what the LRY room would be. It was such a fun time, LRY was a big part of my life. I was here when Rev. John Wolf became our new minister. He married me and my husband and christened our three children. Our family has a long history, with all the services, christenings, weddings, and memorials. My husband’s ashes are in our Memorial Garden.
Maya, what were some of your early memories here at All Souls?
Maya Rogers (MR): My mom always joked that she was going to create her own religion until she found All Souls, so I’ve been coming here since I was a baby. I went to Kids Day Out and Travelers, which was one of my favorite memories ever. I went to pre-K and Kindergarten at Channing, I still remember all the people in my kindergarten class. Rev. Marlin Lavanhar came to All Souls the same time I did. I was one of the first children that he dedicated. I have an auto immune disorder and was hospitalized in 2008. For my birthday, the church gave me the first generation iPod touch and a prayer shawl. It was so cool and meant a lot. Since I was in Coming of Age in 9th grade, I still wear the necklace I had gotten from my Coming of Age class every day. All Souls is a big part of my life.
How would you describe Unitarian Universalism to someone who isn’t familiar with UU?
MS: Growing up there weren’t that many people that knew of UU and when I’d say I was Unitarian, they’d just look at me with this blank stare. Because people have different beliefs it’s a hard concept to explain. I basically say it’s not a “pick and choose” yet it is. With Unitarian Universalism, you learn what speaks to you—whether you believe in God or not, or what form of God, or if you’re spiritual and not religious. Really for me, a lot of it, especially now, is the community of people who respect each other’s differences. We may not be the same in our beliefs, but I feel very comfortable. I am accepted here. I think we, especially young people, should spread the word of UU. Not to make people feel uncomfortable but to let people know that there might be just the place for them at All Souls.
So Maya, how would you explain UU to a friend in school?
MR: I would say it’s about the inherent worth and dignity of every person. That’s something I use to describe UU to people. It’s just a very important aspect of how I see the world. I try to see the humanity and dignity of every person, no matter who they are or what they’re been through. Here, you’re not explicitly told what to believe or what to do. I’ve been able to take the good parts from different places and combine them into something that feels right for me. A lot of my friends are atheist or agnostic, so what Marilyn is talking about with community is important because many of my friends generally don’t go to anything and don’t really have that community. I think there are a lot of people who come to All Souls and really enjoy it because it’s about connection. The open-mindedness and acceptance is important too. Because I grew up without a religion forced upon me, I have the belief that there is no wrong religion. So, I feel like that has helped shape how I interact with the world.
What would you want Marilyn and others from previous generations to know about your generation of teens now?
MR: Teens are really fired up about wanting to make change and make a difference in something, especially right now. I feel like Marilyn’s generation laid the ground work for us with the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement, among others. We have that guidance and support from older generations about how we, as young people, can go about channeling our feelings into action. These struggles we are facing are necessary and important and because of the work done before us, it shows us that we’re not alone.
Marilyn, how did your involvement in LRY, in the youth group, shape your life?
MS: I went to Edison and, at the time, it was a little bit of a snobby school with lots of social clubs I didn’t quite fit into. I was very shy. Being in LRY let me feel like I could be open. I had this gathering of people where I could be myself and not be judged. It really saved me, and it was fun! Because of that closeness and those friendships we developed, we’ve had five LRY reunions since 2008. It all started with someone saying, I don’t want to go to my high school reunion but I would go to a LRY reunion! It’s funny how I hadn’t seen some of those people in 50 years but we immediately reconnected. Some of them have continued being Unitarian and some have not, but everyone felt comfortable coming back. And, we’ve all been really pleased to see the very active youth group today.
Marilyn, what would you say is the most important UU value that is at the core of your faith and your experiences here?
MS: It would be inclusiveness. I’m extremely proud of my Unitarian faith because it is inclusive and accepting of all people. That means quite a bit to me. I have an adopted grandson who is from Ghana. One of my daughters-in-law is half-Vietnamese. So the issue of acceptance and inclusion has come to the forefront more than it used to be for me. Just letting people know that there is this inclusive place for everyone—no matter what, no matter what your beliefs are, no matter your race, your gender, any of that, it doesn’t matter. You’ll be loved!
What is an important UU value for you Maya?
MR: With the youth group, I’ve become even more interested in social justice. It all started with my mom. I’ve always learned a lot from her, she and I are like best friends. She studied Women’s Studies, so learning about that social movement made me realize that what is happening now has happened before on different levels. It was through Tanner (Youth Director) that I was introduced to Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice (OCCJ) and I went to Camp Anytown and that was a life-changing experience for me.
What do you think about our upcoming Heritage Sunday celebrating 97 years and our centennial in 2021?
MS: I think the fact that we’re still around and that we’re one of the largest congregations in the United States—especially with where we are located—is pretty amazing. We’ve been able to stick around and grow. We will be around for another 100 years! I encourage people to take the All Souls History Tour. I thought I knew almost everything about the history of All Souls, but I learned there were a lot of gaps in my understanding. The tour filled in those gaps and I enjoyed that.
What does it mean to be a part of this church that will be turning 100 years old in 2021?
MR: Seeing how All Souls’ has changed reflects the changes in society. This year, in youth group, we have more people of color. We have a lot of LGBTQ+ people. The numbers keep growing every year. That reflects the growing acceptance in our society, even though there is a lot more to go through. That’s one reason All Souls has been able to stay so prevalent for so long. It’s able to adapt and that’s one of the best things about UUism and Unitarian Universalists. Our faith can adapt, change, and expand our world views and our view points on things without ruining our central identities.
We want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments what UU value or All Souls experience you cherish.
Celebrate 97 years of All Souls with us on Sunday, March 25, 10:30 a.m. CST. You can join us in-person or via live stream at allsoulschurch.org/live!
Learn more about our Children’s and Youth program, and our upcoming Camp EvolUUtion at allsoulschurch.org.
Register for our next History Tour on Sunday, April 8 at 2:00 p.m.
Two opportunities to be inspired by the Youth of All Souls!
Coming of Age | The Best Services of the Year!
Sunday, April 8 | 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. CST
Throughout the year in their Coming of Age program, our 9th grade youth learn to identify their values, understand their beliefs and learn more about themselves. The Coming of Age class culminates in the youth delivering their credo–their own, personal statement of belief that they want to share with the world. Be a part of this experience and support our youth in taking authority of their own spirituality and theology.
Sunday, April 22 | One service only | 10:30 a.m. CST
Every year, the high school youth are given the honor and privilege to take over the sanctuary, the chancel and the pulpit. With this responsibility, they are able to show All Souls and the world what they are about, what matters to them and to share their considerable wisdom. The youth will create, select and perform every bit of the service.