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  • Writer's picturedanaevankaplan

Finding a Gifted Mezuzah: Reverend Samuel Schaal of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Surprise

I was able to visit with the Reverend Samuel Schaal of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Surprise, Arizona. The Reverend Schaal is a transition minister, similar to an interim rabbi. Originally from Lubbock, Texas, he plans to return to the Lone Star State soon. The reverend is an expert in church financial stewardship, an area of critical importance for the survival of religious institutions in an era of declining affiliation in almost all American religions.

I was so surprised when I walked into his office and he showed me a mezuzah framed on the wall. It turns out our 2 congregations have had a long and deep friendship going back a long way. So how did the mezuzah get to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Surprise?

Reverend Samuel Schaal checked and emailed me:


I scanned some written histories we have. From 1975 to 1990 the UU congregation met in a series of various rental spaces. Around 1980, they met for meetings other than Sunday worship at Temple Beth Shalom, as whatever Sunday rental they had was too small for major meetings and potlucks.

In 1989 they purchased what was then a bank building at the corner of 99th and Union Hills (today administrative offices for the fire department) which turned out to be too small and couldn't accommodate their growth. They sold this in 1997 to purchase our current land. Between then and when they moved into their new building they met at Beth Shalom. Their first service in the new building was on Oct. 10, 1999. It was around that time that Beth Shalom’s president Dusty Rhodes (there’s a picture of him in the printed history) sent a letter to our then minister Rev. Walt Wieder inviting his congregation for a Friday night Sabbath services. Here’s what the history says of that service: “His (Dusty Rhodes) gracious invitation included the words: ‘Your members have become part of our extended family.’ We were touched. At the service, Rev. Wieder expressed our gratitude and our hosts presented us with a mezuzah. A mezuzah (literally meaning ‘door post’) holds a parchment containing words from Deuteronomy.” I guess that’s the plaque you saw? So, turns out your congregation was helpful and instrumental to my congregation! It was a pleasure meeting you and hopefully rekindling that relationship. Great meeting you, Dana. Sam Rev. Samuel Schaal

Their website explains the 7 principles of their congregation, all of which i think most Reform Jews would also accept---

  • We believe that each and every person is important.

  • We believe that all people should be treated fairly and kindly.

  • We believe that we should accept one another and keep on learning together.

  • We believe that each person must be free to search for what is true and right in life.

  • We believe that all persons should have a vote about the things that concern them.

  • We believe in working for a peaceful, fair, and free world.

  • We believe in caring for our planet Earth, the home we share with all living things.

We are non-creedal: there are no required beliefs about God, the after-life, or other religious questions, but we do learn from other religious. We all have a common approach to life in our on-going search for meaning.

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