Message From The Minister

Friends,

It used to be that the new year was marked by Spring. Once winter is over and happy times are here again… There have been many ways to mark the passing of time.

Right now, I often find myself saying things like, “in the before times” as a pre pandemic reference. And it is a real and interesting thing, to collectively live when a seemingly natural bookend occurs. We’ve all fundamentally shifted the ways we do things, the ambition we may have had slighted toward something else, visions recast.

Our church will be returning to in-person services on May 30th: the natural book end. But the pandemic isn’t over. We will continue to be inclusive. Our services will be outdoors when possible; we continue to stream our services to be available to folx who can’t be with us in person. When the weather prevents us from being outside, then in our church building we can gather masked.

This has been a difficult year for all of us, and each of us in varying degrees. The pandemic, systemic racism, discrimination, homophobia and transphobia, classism, ability: all of these point toward the intersections of privilege and hardship of life today. I look forward to our return in person!

There is a prayer that has been giving me life:

All That We Share Is Sacred
[written in honor of two Unitarians, Martha and Waitstill
Sharp, who during WWII dared to risk their own comfort in
order to help save the lives of those in desperate need.]
By Andrée Mol

As we gather together,
May we remember
When you share with me what is most important to you,
That is where listening begins.
When I show you that I hear you,
When I say your life matters,
That is where compassion begins.
When I open the door to greet you,
That is where hospitality begins.
When I venture out to bring you to shelter,
That is where love begins.
When I risk my comfort to ease your suffering,
When I act against hatred, violence, and injustice,
That is where courage begins.
When we experience the full presence of each other,
Because of our shared humanity,
Because of our differences,
That is where holy gratitude begins.
May this space be a table
that is not complete
until all are welcome.
May this table be a space of beauty
where together
we create a series of miracles, and
where all that we share is sacred.

May it be so.

Peace be with you,

–Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

Friends,

We use the metaphor of rebirth with spring, but the flowers were there before. They sat there in their winter slumber. Some of them were bulbs that we planted in the fall, laboring for spring beauty. Some of them blew in, seemingly by happenstance, the happenstance of a million years of evolution.

The trees stood tall, and bare all winter and the sap flowed.

The grasses we cut back, regrow—This is their resiliency.

As we confront the issues we have in ourselves and society: white supremacy culture and perfectionism, a pandemic, the partisan divide, homophobia and transphobia: We work for peace.

As we feel liberation from the virus that put all of us into isolation, let us remember to connect in meaningful ways and to keep the gains we’ve made: We work for peace.

As we begin prioritizing mental health along with physical, social and spiritual health: We work for peace.

Spring is about growth. The sap has to run before the tree can blossom. The bulbs needed planting before the daffodils and lilies can flower. There is peace in the work; there is peace in the journey as well as the destination.

Happy Easter! Spring is here!

Peace be with you,

–Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

Friends,

Happy March! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Happy Springtime. The rainy days serve as a reminder for reflection, introspection and discovery. Spring rains always remind me of the tradition of baptism and ritual washing. It’s the Month of Worms, as the Shawnee referred to early spring. With spring around the bend and vaccinations all around, it feels like hope is returning. For churches like ours, it is so vital to keep connected. With masked precautions
let us revitalize our small groups.

Dear March- Come in

Dear March – Come in –
How glad I am –
I hoped for you before –
Put down your Hat –
You must have walked –
How out of Breath you are –
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –
Did you leave Nature well –
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –
I have so much to tell –
I got your Letter, and the Birds –
The Maples never knew that you
were coming –
I declare – how Red their Faces grew –
But March, forgive me –
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –
There was no Purple suitable –
You took it all with you –
Who knocks? That April –
Lock the Door –
I will not be pursued –
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied –
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come
That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame –
~Emily Dickinson

Peace,

— Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

Friends,

Winter can be hard: The pounding winds, the cold weather, the accessibility inhibited, the extra money burnt up as heat. Winter can make us feel alone and isolated, making us long for warmer days, for old friends, for old times, or safe times. COVID and politics can leave us feeling all the colder, ever more isolated. Buddhist nun, Rev. Pema Chödrön, says that this means to realize

our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane… Once you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for experiencing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation. When we sit in meditation, we feel our breath as it goes out, and we have some sense of willingness just to be open to the present moment. Then our minds wander off into all kinds of stories and fabrications and manufactured realities, and we say to ourselves, “It’s thinking.” We say that with a lot of gentleness and a lot of precision. Every time we are willing to let the story line go, and every time we are willing to let go at the end of the out breath, that’s fundamental renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back.

In the spring, the trees will flow with sap, but if we allow ourselves to stay frozen, like the trees now, like some of us feel, then we’ll remain in this frozen state, like a dam ready to burst. But if we remember to have right intentions, to cultivate presence with one another, to see the joyous things around us, then we can let go and experience a type of freedom, a type of Love.

We look at February in many ways: as a time for romance, as a time for Justice, as a time for cold and winter, in each of these let us love more deeply than yesterday. Thinking of February in these diverse ways, I recall the famous Cornel West quote, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

Master Shinran Shonin, twelfth century teacher and Zen Master wrote, “There is no separation between self and other, and my life exists only because of others. It is the power of others, the power-beyond-myself, that sustains my entire existence. This is the path to beloved Community, this is the path to peace, this is the path to Justice.”

May it be so.

Peace,

— Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

As we welcome a new year, new possibilities, hope and support, connection, acknowledging that we may never quite go back to the way things were, as Tom Petty sang in “Learning to Fly”:

…Well, the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
Well, some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out for God-knows-where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

Happy New Year! This past year has been full of rocks melting and sea burning. But holding to our values along with our connection to others is how we move forward. I am reassured by the daily reading from DailyTao:

Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.
Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country and your country will
be an example to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the universe
and the universe will sing.
How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.
—Tao Te Ching, Chapter 54

Regardless of deities, or source traditions, we are a faith that believes in democracy, in each other. This is in the ways that we value each other, even when we disagree. Unified in the notions of our worth, we do social justice work as a function of our faith. This is the anti-racism role that we take in our community. This is the involvement that we have within Pride. It is in helping our neighbors, the children in our communities, in the volunteer work that we do in schools and youth centers, and shelters. It is in our clothing drives and food drives. It is in our work to help others make meaning in their lives, or to promote oneness of all things.

Who are you helping? Kids in a school? Folx as they discover their identities and abilities? Institutions? What experiences are you cultivating, and curating to yourself? What attitude are you choosing?

I am choosing an attitude of both hopeful optimism and gratitude for 2021. I am filled with the spirit that I can make a difference. I know that each of us can and do, and I am excited to see what we can do with this new year!

Happy New Year, Peace!

— Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

December 2020… A pandemic that will keep masks on long after this year. December 2020… Calls for Justice, calls for connection. December 2020… A time to reflect on the ways we have changed and the ways we are changing. Advent is a time we do this religiously and spiritually.

Advent is here. Christmas is coming! Trim the tree, buy the presents, make the plans—are we staying in this year? There are many ways to take Advent: The shopping, the planning, the cooking, the time thinking of Christmas Past, Christmas Future…

Advent in the UU tradition is diverse: Our Christian sources have us preparing for the annual birth of Jesus. Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means arrival. St. Jerome who translated the bible into Latin used adventus, as the translation of the Greek word, parousia (πάρειμι), which is usually translated as arrival or re-arrival.

We are preparing for the arrival of Christmas.

“On Christmas, Humanists celebrate family, community, and universal themes like peace on earth and good will to all people. We tell stories of mythic characters (like Scrooge, the Grinch, and many others) who, for a time, were lost to family and community but had powerful experiences that turned them around and brought them home again (UU World 12/2018).”

Our Earth based sources ask us to look at our planet, to look at the daylight and notice what is happening. The longest night is coming. The solstice marks a time when the nighttime is at abundance. This affects us, as creatures that are part of our ecosystems—we are part of this—the sun, the earth, the light, the cold… We see this in the rituals of Yule from Northern Europe, in the hot baths of Japan, and in the countless traditions world wide.

Our holiday events begin with the Yule Lighting in Bellville on Thursday 12/3. Chalica begins on 12/7—look for Facebook posts. We will also have an outdoor Christmas Eve service on the village green; we’ll socially distance and wear masks with a candlelight service.

I pray your Advent season is safe and maintains your health in all aspects: Physical, Mental, Social, and Spiritual. Merry Christmas Everyone! Happy Holidays!

— Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

Friends,

There is so much to be thankful. And, there is so much work to do. Colder weather is settling in. It is time to prepare for winter. Let us remember each other as we prepare. There is an opportunity here to help our friends and neighbors. Let’s remember to help each other. Sometimes that is physically splitting and stacking wood for someone on the mend, or sometimes it is making a pot of soup and dropping it off to someone you haven’t seen in a while. It could be letters or emails, or phone calls.

In our racial justice RE, we have learned that perfectionism can be a piece of white supremacy culture. Perfectionism and making everything fit into boxes or explanations get in the way of shared experiences. Our shared experiences open us up to our principles. Wherever your conscience takes you, I pray voter turnout is substantially higher than our usual 33%.

While we rush around, bemoaning the coming winter, and the scarcity that seems to follow: Please remember community. There are too many of us that don’t quite have enough food to eat or warm clothes to wear. There are too many struggling to make ends meet. There are too many of us that are lonely, seeking something bigger.

Whatever is waiting for us, each step can be for Beloved Community. Let’s use fall as a vehicle for change. Let’s pay our gratitude forward by making choices that help individuals, families and groups. Deeds not creeds. Let’s help!

In Peace,

–Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

Friends,

A morning sunrise with a sky blown-up in pinks and purples, the trees on fire with vibrant leaves of red, orange and yellow, the marigolds. The sky turns grey, the cold wind blowing over the lake, so powerful it almost takes my breath: the creation teems with beauty, and in reciprocity I offer presence. Feeling a part of the creation, feeling connection to the environment, I pray: no words, no concepts, just the spiritual practice breathing in Peace.

My prayer finishes, and I’m pushed into society. I drive to the office through my rural landscape. I see confederate flags. I see political signs, harkening to our divisions. I see signs of climate change: storm damage and ecological exploitation. I see Black Lives Matter signs, too. And, I know the truth: that those who exploit the environment are likely to exploit my siblings as well; those who benefit from exploitation are likely less connected to other people.

I pray my breathing prayer and I’m reminded of our connection. Our siblings hurting need our empathy and our compassion. Our siblings doing the harm need both empathy and correction.

I pray that our connection becomes ever so clear to everyone, and share this Affirmation of Hope by Loretta Williams:

We, bearers of the dream, affirm that a new
vision of hope is emerging.
We pledge to work for that community in which
justice will be actively present.
We affirm that there is struggle yet ahead.
Yet we know that in the struggle is the hope for
the future.
We affirm that we are co-creators of the future,
not passive pawns.
And we stand united in affirmation of our hope
and vision of a just and inclusive society.
We affirm the unity of all persons:
We affirm brotherhood and sisterhood that allows
us to touch upon each other’s humanity.
We affirm a unity that opens our eyes, ears, and
hearts to see the different but common forms of
oppression, suffering, and pain.
Yet we are one in the image of God, and we
celebrate our hopes for human unity.
Within ourselves and within the gathered
community, we will discover the strength not to
hide in indifference.
Affirming that hope, publicly expressed, energizes
and enables us to move forward. Together we
pledge action to transcend barriers — be they
racial, political, economic, social, or religious.
We pledge to make our tomorrows become our
todays.

Let Peace be with you,
and remember to vote!

— Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

Friends,

I want to say something clear and direct: we are connected. Our seventh principle is clearly visible; our principles are alive and well, spreading like microbial fungus, sharing resources and gifts of hope, faith, and Love.

I know sometimes it is hard to see the connections, like the mycelium on the forest floor sharing glucose from a maple to an oak. I have received post cards, checking in on me, offering me a little shot of hope at a time when it is truly needed. I see some of you at the Pride Rally, at the Black Lives Matter events, delivering food at Senior High (through Matthew 25 Pantry)—each of these live our Faith—breathing life in the lungs of our church. And, when I talk to you in phone calls, emails, through Facebook and FaceTime, and when I see our services I feel the love of our church, I experience again the warmth of our embraces, and the joy of our laughter together.

There are a great many things happening right now. I’ve been struggling with the notions of where to place my faith, especially when the systems I’ve placed them seem to be disposed, dispossessed, and displaced. I am left with the notions of connection: The joyous post of a grandmother and her grandbabies, the hard phone call from a friend needing a shoulder to carry burden, the feeling of dirt between my toes, the light of a campfire and the embers.

Perhaps I’ve read just enough Mary Oliver to force my eye toward nature. It is what I’ve needed. I cannot say what is to come. But I know the sun will come up. I know my absurd-optimism is nestled right next to the despair in my shirt pocket (I’ve been reading just enough Camus and Kierkegaard, too).

And, I’d like to encourage you to reach out with postcards. (Thank you for starting this ministry.) It is amazing how much more lovely the hand-written word is. Perhaps write a letter? Emails and texts work, too.

Peace in all of Its forms and beauty be with you!

— Rev. Will

Message From The Minister

Friends,

August  is  here.  My  normal  beginnings  of  newsletters  including  naming  the times  of  the  season  and  as  I  do,  I  want  to  acknowledge the  grief  and  the  sadness.

August  is  here,  and  kids  return  to  school,  and  our  community  divisions  show  themselves:  the  role  of  science  in  our  lives;  racism  and the  work  of  an ‐racism;  gay  rights  and  bigotry;  women’s  rights,  reproductive  rights;  immigrant  justice,  environmental  justice,  the rights  of  refugees…  and  the  list  of  ‘the  least  of  these’  continue.

This  morning  I  was  drinking  my  coffee  and  Peter,  Paul  and  Mary’s  ‘Blowin’  in  the  Wind’  played  in  the  background.  All  I  could  do  is cry.

I  checked  my  email  to  see  the  Order  of  Service  from  our  sibling  UU  congregation  in  San  Miguel,  Mexico,  and  this  was  their  reading. It  spoke  to  me:

#662  Strange  and  Foolish  Walls  

The  years  of  all  of  us  are  short,  our  lives  precarious.
Our  days  and  nights  go  hurrying
on  and  there  is  scarcely me  to
do  the  little  that  we  might.
Yet  we  find me for bitterness,  for
petty treason  and  evasion.
What can  we do to stretch  our
hearts  enough  to  lose  their  littleness?
Here  we  are  ‐  all  of  us  ‐  all  upon
this  planet,  bound  together  in  a  common  destiny,
Living  our  lives  between  the  briefness  of  the  daylight  and  the  dark.
Kindred  in  this,  each  lighted  by  the  same  precarious,  flickering  flame  of  life,
how does  it  happen  that  we  are  not  indeed  in  all  things  else?
How strange  and  foolish  are  these  walls  of  separation  that  divide  us!

Indeed,  how  strange  and  foolish  are  these  walls  that  divide  us.  It  is  on  each  of  us  to  reach  out,  to  stand  up,  to  speak  up,  to  draw one  another  closer.  This  brief  life,  this  even  shorter  bout  of  ableness,  we  have  to  declare  to  our  neighbors  what  is  right  and  what  is true:

You  belong  and  you’re  enough.  You  are  beautiful.  There  are  systems  and  institutions  designed  to  spread  the  lies  counter  to  this gospel.  And,  if  we  work  together  we  can  dismantle  those  institutions  piece  by  piece.  And,  together  we  can  love  each  other,  cherishing  our  uniqueness,  loving  both  our  similarities  and  our  differences.

I  pray  each  of  you  know  that  you  belong  with  us,  even  though  we  are  separated  physically  we  are  united  in  Love.  Wear  your  masks, fight  for  justice  and  be  a  friend…

Peace,  — Rev. Will

On-Site Services Have Resumed.
Masks Are Requested.