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Last month I shot a maypole dance in my Unitarian Universalist church after the Sunday service on June 3, 2018. It was originally supposed to be held outside but it rained heavily that day so it was moved indoors. Here is my footage.

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This Easter was really different this year. I’m used to having Passover and Easter Sunday falling on the same day but I thought it was really freaky to have those holidays scheduled on the same day as April Fool’s Day.

I basically went to Easter Sunday service at the local Unitarian Universalist Church. There was an all-ages crafting table where people can dye Easter Eggs and make Easter-related crafts.

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

There were a number of eggs that had the contents removed via blowholes so one could decoupage an egg as a permanent keepsake decoration. I tried my hand at making a decoupage Easter egg and here is the result.

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

There was an Easter egg hunt held in the glen of the church after Sunday service ended. The kids really had a blast hunting for those Easter eggs then turning the plastic eggs in for a special Easter goody bag.

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

The adults spent the occasion socializing while some of them wore festive Easter themed clothes and accessories.

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

There was a box of matzohs set out for people to eat since that day was also Passover.

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

Even though the weather was cloudy and cold that day the flowers were in bloom, such as these daffodils.

Easter Sunday at Paint Branch UU Church, April 1, 2018

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Santa Claus

My Unitarian Universalist congregation had its annual Kwanzaa service on New Year’s Eve this year (mainly because New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday in 2017) where lunch was served following the end of the service. Here are my photos of the food and the decorations from that day.

Santa Claus

Since Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year, my church did a special all-ages Christmas pageant for the Sunday morning service where people re-enacted the nativity scene. Here are my photos from that day.

People did some socializing after the service ended.

Here’s a photo of the Christmas tree and poinsettias.

I had volunteered to stay after the service to help with the clean-up chores. While I was in the kitchen I noticed an Ouija board. You know you’re in a Unitarian Universalist church when you see an Ouija board out and no one raises a peep about it. (I can only imagine how a fundamentalist evangelical Christian church would react if one of its members brought an Ouija board to its facilities. LOL!)

I went to the annual Holiday Warm-Up Party at my church where I ate food, socialized with people, helped a little bit with trimming the Christmas tree, and I took a bunch of photos. We had a variety of crafts and activities centering around both Hanukkah and Christmas. I had a blast being with my friends on the first night in December.

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

One of the crafts involved making ornaments using oranges and cloves.

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

People of all ages helped with decorating this year’s Christmas tree.

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

The church served dinner during this party, including pizza as well as a variety of other food.

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

The Director of Religious Exploration lit the chalice, which is a ritual that is usually performed in Unitarian Universalist churches to indicate the start of an event, such as Sunday service or a more social event like this party.

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Puzzles and coloring pages about Christmas and Hanukkah were available for anyone to use.

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

We also had a singalong of various holiday hymns like “Deck the Halls” and “Light One Candle.”

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

Here is what the Christmas tree looked like at the end of the party.


Holiday Warm-Up Party, December 1, 2017

I shot this video of the Chalice Dancers doing a performance to the song “Peace Before Us” during Sunday service at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland on December 3, 2017.

Click here to learn more.

The Sunday before Halloween was jam-packed for me. I spent the bulk of that day at my church. First I attended a special all-ages intergenerational Sunday service that dealt with Halloween/Samhain. Many people in the choir were dressed up in costumes and there were appropriately spooky decorations at the church as well.

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Someone brought this really cool looking Halloween cake that tasted delicious as well.

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

Here is how I decorated my car trunk for Trunk or Treat.

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

The only thing I regret not photographing is what I gave away. I purchased one package containing 24 small boxes that had temporary Halloween tattoos. The other were a bunch of tiny notepads that were shaped like mummies, witches, frankensteins, ghosts, and other Halloween creatures. I purchased them at Target for only $10. They were such a hit at church that I ran out and I ended up having to buy Halloween pretzels so I would have something to give out to the trick or treaters on Halloween itself. Oh well. In any case, here is how other people decorated their trunks.

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Someone brought a portable sandbox for children to play with.

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

There were games and face painting that the kids could participate in. Plus there was plenty of food to munch on.

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

Trunk or Treat at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, October 29, 2017

I also shot a short video that included people dancing the Time Warp (yes, they played the song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and children engaging in a wheel-type race.

If all that weren’t enough, I stayed behind after the party because, this fall, I’ve been serving as a volunteer teacher of English to recent immigrants as part of my church’s social action program. The class runs from 1:15-3:15 p.m. so I was definitely tired by the time I finally returned home.

Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Figurosity.com: Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered Figurosity.com and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

Despite being sick with a cold over the last few days, I’ve done a far better job at keeping up with this Inktober stuff than I did last year when I made my New Year’s resolution to do one new sketch drawing per day.

I attend a Unitarian Universalist church. Today I felt well enough to go to church this morning. I arrived at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church (PBUUC) in Adelphi, Maryland and I found a seat in the front row. I brought my sketch pad, pencils, and pens with me so I was able to sketch PBUUC’s flaming chalice while I was listening to today’s sermon on “Unpacking White Supremacy: Going behind the language to greater understanding.” Yeah, I was multitasking but I managed to successful at achieving both. The service was excellent and emotional, especially when a portion of the service was devoted to those who were brutally murdered in that horrible Las Vegas rampage because today is the one-week anniversary of that horror.

Click here if you want to learn more about the importance of the flaming chalice in Unitarian Universalism.

Not too long ago I attended a Saturday morning networking event that was held at McLean Bible Church, which is located in Northern Virginia. I was hoping to find contacts who could help me land a new day job in order to pay the bills as well as getting any possible new tips on how to refine my search. Plus it gave me the opportunity to actually step foot inside one of those non-denominational Christian megachurches that have been springing up all over the U.S. since the late 1980s.

Before I go any further I want to explain my own religious background so you’ll understand why this post has a “stranger in a strange land” feel. I was raised in the Roman Catholic church. The parish where I attended mass from the time I was a child until I was in college had anywhere from 1,000-2,000 members. The church held mass four times a week (one on early Saturday evening around 6 or 7 p.m. and the other three on Sunday at 9 a.m., 10:15 a.m., and noon). While some people knew who I was growing up, there were times when I felt like I was just a face in the crowd of Catholics. I don’t recall too many efforts to have social events for the parishioners so they could get to know each other. Basically people attended mass then headed out the door the moment the last hymn ended.

I left the Catholic church when I was in college and I spent my college years identifying myself as a “secular Christian” (or a gentile equivalent of a secular Jew). When I was in my senior year of college I saw an ad in the Sunday Washington Post for Unitarian Universalism which read “Instead of having to fit in with a church, I found a church that fit me.” There was something about that ad that resonated with me in a positive way and it was a contrast to all those fundamentalist Christian groups on campus (such as the Campus Crusades for Christ) who were constantly trying to recruit converts among the student body so often that I began to loathe them because they became such a nuisance. I showed the ad to my boyfriend and he was impressed by it as well. I found out that there were no campus UU groups at the time, the nearest UU church was at least three miles away and I had no car plus the Metrobuses tend to run erratic hours on Sundays. So I forgot about the ad and still considered myself to be a secular Christian who was happily unchurched.

My boyfriend and I were engaged soon after I graduated from college and we began to plan our wedding. My fiancee began to express a preference for a religious wedding out of the blue. (I was always surprised by his preference. He told me that his family was basically nonreligious when he was growing up, with the exception of a few years when his family attended a Quaker congregation only to leave it when that congregation went through a nasty congregational split that disgusted his parents so much that they quit.) He remembered that Washington Post ad I showed him and suggested that we try attending a Unitarian Universalist Sunday service. So we went to our first service and we were really impressed by the format of the Sunday service. We were further impressed when they actually served coffee after the Sunday service ended and we found the congregation to be very friendly and upbeat (which was a welcome contrast to my memories of dealing with the members of my old Catholic parish). We learned that the minister who spoke at that service was only a visiting minister and the regular minister would be speaking the following Sunday. So we attended the following Sunday and we were impressed with that minister and the other members were very friendly towards us during the coffee hour.

Basically we kept on attending because we liked the church and its members and we eventually joined that congregation. A few months later, we were married by the UU minister and we remained active members for many years. I continued to attend Sunday services at that UU church after my marriage fell apart. (It helps that my ex-husband only sporadically attends these days.) Compared to my 1,000-2,000 Roman Catholic parish I attended as a child, the UU church I attend has a room where Sunday services are held that can seat a maximum of 500 people. Despite that, we rarely had to deal with the room overflowing on Sunday mornings. Right now my congregation has around 150 members. I know that it’s small but, as an adult, I find that I prefer a smaller congregation. I find it easier to make new friends among the congregation and it’s really a good feeling to go to Sunday services at a place where most people know your name.

I know that there are downsides to having a small congregation, mainly when it comes to what programs we can actually offer to fellow members and the wider community. We don’t have enough people to offer services that larger churches offer, such as a soup kitchen for the homeless or computer lessons to underprivileged persons. But the feeling I get that I’m not being lost in the shuffle (which is how I felt at times in my old Roman Catholic parish) makes up for it.

For years I had heard of people joining megachurches but it seemed like my then-husband and I bucked the trend by joining a small church instead. There were times when I wondered what a megachurch is like but I wasn’t that curious enough to consider visiting a megachurch on a Sunday morning because I really didn’t want to deal with people pressuring me to convert to their church. When I found out about this networking event at McLean Bible Church, I found the perfect opportunity to see what this megachurch is like without feeling pressured into converting. I brought a camera with me so I could take pictures.

According to the Wikipedia, McLean Bible Church is spread out over five separate campuses, which draws a total attendance of 13,000 people each week. I went to the church’s main campus in Vienna. I parked my car in the church’s two-story parking garage (which is definitely the largest parking lot I’ve ever seen for a house of worship). Seeing that building from the outside for the first time was an eye-opener.

I entered the church on the lower level and I felt like I was in the corridor of a very large hotel or a convention center.


The next photo shows the sanctuary where Sunday services are held. Unfortunately the doors were locked when I was there so I was only able to get a quick shot of the doorway windows giving you a glimpse as to how big this church is.

The networking event was held in a lower-level conference room which is about as big as the room in my UU congregation’s Meetinghouse where our Sunday services are held.

Around the corner from that conference room is a full-service coffee bar called Journeys, which was closed when I was there. I got a look at the menu, which offers as many varieties of different coffees as Starbucks. I noticed that Journeys prices its beverages around the same as Starbucks does. This is a far cry from what my congregation serves each Sunday. (We basically offer regular coffee, decaf coffee, and hot water for those who want tea or hot chocolate. It is entirely self-service and we only ask a small donation if you can afford it. It is all wheeled out on a cart after Sunday service ends. I don’t see my congregation ever installing its own full-service coffee bar like McLean Bible Church has.)

The women’s restroom was also an eye-opener as well. When you enter the restroom, you encounter a rack full of brochures that people can take.

Each stall had a Bible quote hanging on the inside door so you get to read something inspirational while you’re doing your personal business.

But that’s not all. The women’s bathroom has a large room off to the side. It is a lounge that has comfortable seats and a large-screen TV. I’ve seen the restrooms in some of the really fancy hotels have something like this but this was the first time I ever seen something like this in a church.

After the morning networking event ended, I stuck around a bit longer because I was really curious about this church. I went up to the second floor where I found this giant lobby area.

There are long desks outside the entrance doors to the second floor of the sanctuary where Sunday services are held. (Those doors were locked just like the lower entrances.) To me the area looks more like a hotel or convention center than a church.

The next photo shows a display table publicizing the church’s latest project: sending cards to members of the U.S. military who are stationed overseas.

The next two photos show one of two or three tables full of American flags encouraging people to send cards to the U.S. troops.

One of the side lobby had literature promoting the various smaller affinity groups that McLean Bible Church has, such as men-only and women-only spirituality groups and an affinity group that is devoted to people who have recently moved to the area.

The last picture I took was a view from a second story window.

Unfortunately the battery on my camera died after I took that last shot. I found a mall-style fast food eatery where people can order meals and eat them at one of the many provided tables. (That fast food place was closed when I was there. I have a feeling that this place, like the coffee bar, is open only on Sundays.) I’ve been to a few larger churches that have kitchens with dining areas but these churches only use them for special occasions (such as this one in a Catholic church, which I went to when that church had an Oktoberfest event that was opened to the general public a few years ago). McLean Bible Church’s facility definitely had the look of a fast food place that’s opened on a regular basis because I saw trays stacked in one area where people grab before getting in line. I saw a full-service menu with prices that were on par with what a typical fast food place charges.

I saw a sign touting a gift shop but I didn’t make much of an effort to search for it because of the dead camera battery and the feeling that the gift shop is probably closed on Saturdays as well.

I have to admit that the church is impressive in terms of the amenities it provides but I still prefer my small 150-member church. It means a lot to me to have a place where people recognize me and know my name and it would be harder for me to adjust to a megachurch. So what if my church doesn’t offer espressos or other types of fancy coffees like the McLean Bible’s coffee stand does. There is a Starbucks located just a short drive away for anyone at my church who feels the urge for a Coconutmilk Moca Macciato.  If you’re looking for something to eat, there are a couple of shopping centers located close by where you can have your choice of various restaurants ranging from fast food to a regular full-service restaurant.

I don’t mean to offend anyone reading this who has long attended a megachurch. I understand that you may find my preference for smaller churches to be off-putting. Just understand that I was not raised in a megachurch (even my childhood Roman Catholic parish would be considered small compared to McLean Bible Church) and I’ve grown used to attending a small church as an adult. If you like your megachurch, I’m not going to tell you to switch to a smaller church. I just personally prefer a smaller church for myself. That’s all.

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