The MDD “Walk the Talk” Award is given to a Unitarian Universalist lay person for living a life which best exemplifies Unitarian Universalist principles. For 2018, the award goes to Heide Cottam of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, Utah.
The award honors those who have lived a life that exemplifies Unitarian Universalist values. Heide has lived such a life and continues to give her time and energy to her local church and the larger community.
Nine years ago, Heide Cottam came to her first service at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden (UUCO), with her husband and their four children. Heide has shared with us that she was eager to find a spiritual home for her family, and although UUCO didn’t seem right (before she visited), she says that as soon as she walked through our doors, she knew she was home.
Although she hasn’t lived her life as a “certified” UU, Heide lived a UU life before she even knew what Unitarian Universalism was.
Spiritually awake her whole life, Heide grew up questioning and searching. Growing up in a military family, Heide was exposed to a variety of cultures and people, and she learned to love the beauty of diverse cultures, people, landscapes, and beliefs. Eventually landing in Utah, Heide experienced the challenge oflife in a relatively singular-faith place. Living in such a place can be hard for an outsider but the seed of Unitarian Universalism was germinating in her, and she didn’t even know it.
By the time we came to know Heide, she had come to feel she needed to find a faith community for herself and her family. Quickly becoming UUCO members, Heide and her husband jumped into church life with both feet and put their energy of action to work. They worked with the youth and various committees. They quickly become active, significant members in our church who could be counted on when needed. We were privileged to love Heide and her family for about five years before her marriage dissolved, and for a variety of reasons, Heide had to pull back from us. She continued(s) to steadfastly nurture, protect and encourage her four stepchildren, and before long she came back to her “home” at UUCO.
She became an advisor to the YRUU youth group and was invited to join the board. She learned to work with a new minister and became a champion of the growth and change promoted by the new minister.
A year and a half ago Heide became the president of our UUCO Board of Trustees. As president, she has instituted changes to bring greater uniformity to documentation and procedures and to streamline record keeping. She is incredibly organized and hands on, often taking on responsibility for preparing documents, creating posters or mailings, and designing online communications and surveys. She seems to have endless energy. When no one in the church would volunteer to manage our Stewardship Campaign for the past two years Heide jumped in and very effectively prepared the written releases used in the campaign.
Heide is passionately committed to racial justice issues in our congregation and the wider world. She keeps racial justice action initiatives a priority for our congregation and has worked with the local Black Lives Matter Ogden Chapter to give them a place to meet in our church.
Heide took on the board presidency in a time when it was becoming clear to the church leadership that our solvency was at risk. She worked hard to try to find a solution apart from losing our fulltime minister, but at last acceded to the truth that becoming lay-led was the best way to keep the church financially solvent and keep the mission going until we can afford part-time ministry. She has managed the transition with remarkable intention, committing herself to many hours of professional training online, working tirelessly with regional staff for consultation, and researching the best practices for a congregation without a minister. As a human relations master, Heide seeks to create cooperation, collaboration and win/win solutions if it is humanly possible.
Her motivation has always been to pursue what is best for our congregation and our faith. She successfully led us to a positive resolution to a divisive conflict that was threatening the future of our congregation and she is doing remarkable work to help heal the hurt within us. She has worked long hours with all of our church leadership, meeting three to four times a week with different committees to make sure they feel supported and to shepherd them through the transition time. She has maintained a strong commitment to leadership development in our congregation and promotes ways to fund the leadership development of others. To support the Worship Team and the congregation as a whole, she has committed to speaking during a Sunday service once a month. Her sermons are always articulate, meaningful and heartfelt, and few congregants have any idea about the huge fear of public speaking she surmounts each time she speaks to us from the pulpit.
We really don’t think there is anything Heide wouldn’t be willing to do for our church. She laughingly calls her full-time job her paid job, as opposed to the hours and hours she lovingly puts in to her work as our president.
We love her so much, and we are so proud of her. She has the largest, best heart, and she works tirelessly for her church home and her faith.
We thank you for considering her for recognition as a UU who definitely walks the talk and exemplifies respect, concern, and love for all people and the world we live in.