About dbaxter81

I'm a candidate for Unitarian Universalist Ministry and have most recently served as Intern Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley and as adjunct faculty at The Starr King School teaching theology. Reproductive justice has been the soil of my theological work, starting from the human suffering that is revealed and addressed (or not addressed) through abortion provision. Prior to pursuing liberal religious ministry, Darcy worked at the National Abortion Federation and Howard University. I currently serve on the advisory board of Backline and on the board of directors of the Abortion Conversation Project. I present frequently on topics of morality, reproductive justice, spirituality, and liberal religion to diverse groups, including doctors, medical staff, activists, church members, and lawyers.


WP_20141112_007A member shared with me their concern that in the midst of our dreaming and planning, how can we make sure to appreciate what we have right now?  In our excitement for the future, are we forgetting to stop and look at those beautiful roses that Kathryn takes care of every Sunday?  The Pomegranate tree that is bursting with fruit?  It is hard to balance being present with the abundance of today and not get caught up in the future.  But today is the day we have. Now is the moment.  Next time you are at church, I invite you to check out the pomegranate tree, the roses, or the new landscaping planted around the church and the Block building.  In other words, literally stop and smell the roses and the drought resistant plants!

I look forward to worshiping with many of you this Sunday, where we will do a shared practice of gratitude for the abundance in our lives right now!  Also, please check your email inboxes for an invitation to the special Installation Worship Service on January 25th!

I know this rose will open

“I know this rose will open. I know my fears will burn away. I know my soul will unfurl its WP_20141113_005wings. I know this rose will open.”

Last night, at the Installation Planning Team* meeting, we were discussing the theme for this special service on January 25th, which the team decided would be “Courage.”  We had a lively discussion and one of the questions someone asked is “If our theme is courage, does that suggest we are afraid of something?”

We are all afraid of something. And in many UU congregations, there can be a fear of feelings– a fear of sharing feelings, of feeling feelings! We tend to be a heady people, fearful of where our hearts and bodies may lead us.   In our Start-Up Workshop back in October, one of our leaders said that she realized, for the health of the congregation, “I need to share how I feel…and I’d rather get a root canal.”

The question I am sitting with is how can we find the courage to share our feelings in appropriate, direct, and healthy ways?  And, I know this rose will open….



Yonder Come Day


The inside of a 1932 Ford being rebuilt by a friend of mine in Modesto.

This month’s worship theme is Yonder Come Day, a song coming from the Gullah culture of the Georgia Sea Islands. (We will learn sing the song in worship on Nov 16th with Bernadette!). “Yonder Come Day” has a variety of meanings. One is to simply be glad for the day that is upon us. But also, this is a song that had been sung by enslaved people, who might have found new meaning in the song once their freedom was won. In this month of November, we have an opportunity to look more carefully around us at where there are struggles that need our attention.

What are we glad for? And what struggles need more of our attention?  After election day I heard many folks expressing discouragement, sadness, and fear.   In these moments, I really try to take the long view.  A country, an institution, a congregation– building and sustaining it requires the long view.   I think about the people who have sung Yonder Come Day…and before them, the ancient Hebrew rabbis sharing with their people that “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”

Here is to incompleteness and refusing to desist! And to the singing and dancing we should do along the way….

I will be off this Sunday. Please offer a warm welcome to UU seminarian Jessica Clay who will be leading worship with worship associate Mary Randall on “The Spaces In Between.”

Where to draw the line

WP_20141029_010Speaking of boundaries, the universe was conspiring to embody my message of “boundaries are the trickiest things” from the sermon on Sunday.  The Board voted last month to re-stripe the parking lot because we were out of compliance and concerns had been expressed about liability issues.  So, Building and Grounds Committee got on it, got some bids, and contracted with a guy to do it.  This Tuesday morning Brenda rushes out to stop them from striping the wrong parking lot– the lot in front of the education building,the lot that already has lines!!!! Where to draw the line is a question we are asking ourselves, whether we are raising a child or re-striping our church parking lot!

I look forward to celebrating Dia De Los Muertos with you all this Sunday in worship. Please bring a memento of a beloved who has passed to add to our altar during worship. Many thanks to Mary R, Mary M, Mary L, Victoria C, Adlai F, Kathryn S, and Rita R for their decorating and ofrenda-creating labor!

The veil is thin…

Beautiful tree at the EarthRise Center in Petaluma, CA, where I spent the past weekend with UU ministerial colleagues for our bi-annual regional meeting.

Beautiful tree at the EarthRise Center in Petaluma, CA, where I spent the past weekend with UU ministerial colleagues for our bi-annual regional meeting.

We are in that seasonal transition time….this harvest time, this time of approaching winter and darkness that traditions throughout the world have honored.  I have to admit that living amidst vast agricultural land certainly changes my sense of harvest time– finally, I think I have wiped off the last of almond and walnut dust! In just a few weeks (November 2nd), daylight savings time ends and our evenings will be much darker. Ug.  And I as start thinking about holiday rituals, I realize this will be the first time in many years my brother and I will not be balancing on the ends of furniture to put up the Christmas lights because he has moved back to the East Coast.  As the Gaelic and neo-pagan traditions teach us (thank you to Avonelle and her pagan group for their worship leadership this past Sunday!)  this time of year the veil is thin–between past and future, alive and dead. It is a time of harvest and a time for reflection.  And….Go Giants! (though I would have far preferred to be rooting for the Oakland A’s in the series….)

Trusting and Changing


Peach tree leaves are achangin’

This weekend, many of you participated in our Ministry Start-Up workshops this weekend. And the big thing that came up? Trust.  In particular, people voiced hurt they still feel about some board decisions and budgeting process from I think a few years back (I’m still trying to get the stories straight!)  Our facilitator broke participants into small groups, who then were asked to name the unspoken rules of the congregation, the stories we tell about our congregation, the sacred cows of the congregation, and the truths no one wants to say (I took photos of the notes that were taken, see below and feel free to ask what any of it means!)

I was grateful for folks’ honesty and, in particular, the vulnerability of acknowledging not just ‘someone did something wrong’, but rather someone did something that felt hurtful.  Man, it is hard to acknowledge vulnerability. And if we want to be a religious community where lives are transformed, honesty and vulnerability are necessary–as is learning to forgive, let go, and re-build trust.  As one wise and honest person put it in one of the workshops, “I need to share how I feel and I would rather have a root canal.”  Here is to good dental care!

I will be attending a regional meeting of UU ministers this weekend, so worship associate Avonelle Tomlinson and her pagan group will be leading a Samhain ritual, helping us UU’s engage with our 6th source: “Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature”

Unspoke Rules of UUFSC:

WP_20141016_008 The Stories We Tell About Ourselves:



 Sacred Cows of the Congregation

WP_20141016_011Unspoken Truths About the Congregation:


Labor of Loving….


Photographer: Ted Pack, fellow but unphotographed work party laborer

I have been using the word “labor” so much more recently. When I thank someone for doing something, I am not just saying ‘thank you.’ I am saying thank you for your labor.  And yes, some people have been giving me strange looks.  But, what else is new! This whole being human thing takes a lot of work.  This whole doing church thing takes a lot of work!  Since moving here to Modesto, I have started to look at food very very differently.  After living through my first “shake”, can I ever look at a walnut or almond the same way?  (And by the way, I think we should start a dance craze called “the shake”, choreography to be determined).   Every end product is made up of hours of labor and effort that is so easy to NOT see.  When I think about spiritual labor, I think of this as the work we do to make the invisible visible, to bring gratitude and awareness to all the ways we labor, in love or in a variety of other emotions…..

This weekend, UUA Congregational Life Staff Joshua Searle White will be facilitating two workshops focusing on starting off our ministry relationship on the right foot:  On Saturday afternoon, from 1-4pm, all folks who serve on committees or teams are encouraged to attend.  Josh will then join me in the pulpit Sunday morning and facilitate another workshop for all members and friends of the congregation from 12:30-2:30pm after worship.   Come join in so our labors in shared ministry are as fruitful and effective as we dream them of being!