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.

Trusting and Changing

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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:

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 Sacred Cows of the Congregation

WP_20141016_011Unspoken Truths About the Congregation:

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Labor of Loving….

labor

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!

Weekly Reflection: Blowing in the Air Conditioning

After years of sweating in our sanctuary during the hot months (at least, that’s what you all tell me!), we finally have more air conditioning in the sanctuary.  The labor and special donations of some church members made this possible.  Hallelujah!  Joyous celebrat

UUFSC Chalice + Air Conditioner

ion? Song! Dance?  Or, rather, maybe not.  How the heck do you turn them on? On no, they are blowing out the candles and chalice! It is easy to think that we are feeling stressed, concerned, or uncomfortable because of a particular circumstance.  But it never ceases to amaze me that as soon as I get the thing I think I want, I can immediately take that dynamic of discomfort or complaint and bring it to the new situation.  It reminds me of Jon Kabat Zinn’s book on meditation entitled “Wherever you go, there you are.”  Frankly, this is why I pray and meditate regularly– because where ever I go, there I am.

I am so amazed by all the labor that members devote to this congregation, whether it’s installing new air conditioners or showing up early on Sunday to make sure we have enough candles that the new air conditioner will blow on.   Given the hopes and dreams you all have for this place, all the messages you wrote down on index cards in worship a few weeks back, you all sound ready to continue loving and laboring.  And with that love and labor,  we will again get to a time of installing the proverbial air conditioners, and we will again encounter the proverbial moment of figuring out how to use the dang new thing and how we can adjust the blowers so they do not blow out the candles.  We will change, grow, and adapt (in a newly climate controlled sanctuary at that!) And you know what? That sounds just fabulous to me, proverbially and otherwise!

Looking forward to seeing many of you this Sunday as we worship together and dig around the soul of liberal religion: religious liberty!

Weekly Reflection: Returning Again….??!!!!

Helen Million's Return Again piece from the UUFSC Friday afternoon art group.

Helen Million’s Return Again piece from the UUFSC Friday afternoon art group.

“Return again, Return to the home of your soul. Return to who you are, Return to what you are, Return to where you are born and reborn a gain” are the words to that UU hymn that has served as our spiritual theme this month.   And as I listen to the news stories about airstrikes in Syria, I grimace…..here we are again, in indeed returning, returning to a cradle of civilization, returning to complicated histories, and returning again to military intervention. Mary Randall reflected on Sunday that  “The Hebrew Bible, the Chinese sages, the eastern religious philosophers, Jesus and the early Christians all spoke of the idealistic yearning for peace, the effort to achieve and maintain it, ever with a shadow of futility.”    As we face the shadow of futility once again, coping with another American military intervention (what to do in the face of the bloodshed in Syria?), the work of faith is even more important. We humans are always faced with the shadow of futility and join together so that that shadow does not creep quite so closely.

My wife Katherine and I look forward to seeing many of you Friday night at PFLAG’s MoFest 8MoPride in Graceada Park on Saturday (I have been invited to offer the opening prayer!), and in worship on Sunday morning, where we explore Forgiveness and Beauty.

Weekly Reflection: Starting-Up

pinwheelMost years, right around the beginning of September, my father usually writes me an email talking about how the new year really begins around September 1st, not around January 1st.  That’s what is feels like to him.  I then say something like “well, the Jewish New Year begins September-ish.”  And he says “well, then, they got it right.”

Regardless of ‘who got it right,’  there is a lot of newness right now and our congregation is certainly at a re-beginning point!  I am excited to share that our UUA District Executive will be coming to our congregation to help us start-off our shared ministry together.  Josh Searle-While will facilitate our rescheduled Church Council meeting on Saturday October 11th, from 1-4pm (thank you for your flexibility!)  He will then join us in worship on Sunday October 12th and facilitate a ministry-start-up workshop for all members after worship services, 12:30-2:30pm, where we will focus on clarifying hopes, expectations, healthy boundaries, and healthy communication for our shared ministry.

To (re)beginnings!  This Sunday, worship will be led by Mary Randall, honoring the International Day of Peace. I will be back with you all next Sunday and hope to see you at MoPride as well!

Weekly Reflection: Love, Cookies, Coffee, Justice

love justiceI am sitting here in my office, sorting through the awesome leopard print bag stocked full of gifts you all gave to me on Sunday, my first day leading worship as your called minister.  And I got a little teary.  I was just talking to someone about needing to get some local honey because I have started getting allergies and what do I pull out of the leopard print bag? Beekman Honey! (I’ve heard if you eat local honey, it helps your body adjust to the local allergens). A letter sharing your favorite places and stores, homemade jam, cookies, maps, guides, movie tickets, local roasted coffee, a subscription to the Modesto Bee (to name a few)….  So much caring and invitation that, yes, tears well up.

One of the reasons I felt we could be a good fit together in a shared ministry is how much caring, love, and labor came into and out of this congregation.  “Justice is what love looks like in public” says Rev. Dr Cornel West.  Without love, there is no true justice.  My job as your minister is to help you use all this love and caring to more fully live out your mission to be a transformative,healing, justice-making faith community.  On this 13th anniversary of September 11th, 2001, may we never forget how much this world needs UUFSC kind-of love.

I look forward to seeing many of you in worship this Sunday, where we will explore “Stumbling is Just Another Way of Moving Forward.”    And if you are interested in more ways to get involved at UUFSC, I hope to see you at the Committees Fair after the 11am worship!

Weekly Reflection: Off Road Church

under constructionAnybody who has been to UUFSC recently knows that our church as become “off-road.”  With all the construction on Kiernan Ave, transforming it into a four lane split highway, you will have a bit of a bumpy ride driving into the church driveway.

But, there is a way I kinda like those 10 seconds of bumpiness.  It’s easy to think that “spiritual” stuff should be light, happy, smooth, and peaceful.  But in fact, I know I have seen my spirit grow the most when times were bumpy.   Church is a place that nurtures spirituality, not a place that guarantees easiness.  Church is a place where we are all “under construction.”

off road churchThis Sunday is my first leading worship as the newly settled minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County.  As many Unitarian Unviersalist congregations do, we kick off the start of our official church year with a Water Communion Ritual.  You are invited to bring a little water from a special place, from your kitchen sink, or to bring none at all in honor of the drought.  And if you want to support our children for their special blessing part of the ritual, please bring blue, green, or purple ribbon, string, or fabric– anything that you can wave and twirl!