About dbaxter81

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County. 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.

No shaming, even about screen time

I came across this article that reminded me how insidious the anxiety around parenting is in our culture.   Of course we should minimize our children’s screen time right?  This may be the case but when we begin judging and shaming other people’s parenting, that is a sign something is off in my point of view. Life is always more complex than “just don’t thing that unhealthy thing!”  Whenever the emotional energy around a particular aspect of parenting (or anything else quite frankly) feels very intense,  that intensity, in and of itself,  is an indication that more is at play than just the issue we are talking about.

After sharing the article on facebook, a colleague and mother responded that:

Literally last night I was glared at for handing my toddler a smartphone! The choice was, two parents see their first grader in his first play singing a solo or hand the three year old a smartphone! For me there was no question.

I also offer a different perspective, I have three kids with special needs. We get many stares for various reasons, their needs are invisible to most. Technology actually keeps all of us safe and allows us to attend multiple appointments.

After my years of reproductive justice activism, there is one thing I have learned– do not judge.  Even in our progressive circles, we can get into the shaming game.  Whose kid watches more or less TV or video games.  Who is eating greens, organic greens, or greens grown in their own garden, etc etc.

A corollary to Universalism’s doctrine of radical love is a doctrine of no judging, no shaming. No shame, no judgment no matter what, whether it’s parenting or otherwise.

Blessings on this mother’s day, with all of it’s complexity.  UU Church of Berkeley’s intern minister, Zackrie Vinczen is leading worship this Sunday with Tina Godsey: Teach them to Love–From one generation to the next we pass the mantle of leadership. There is perhaps nothing that can fully prepare those who take on his garment. Nothing but love that is. But who bears the responsibility of teaching love?

Please note: I am taking a week of vacation leave, beginning this Saturday 5/7.  I’ll be back online Saturday 5/14.  For any pastoral emergencies, please contact our administrator, Brenda and our Board President, Seren.  They will be able to reach me.



A Princeton professor, in order to counter the culture of perfectionism, published his “Resume of Failures.”   I love this idea, this honoring that within achievement and success are contained so many invisible “failures.”  Maybe we should do a church workshop where we create our own resume of failures!

Last night, the Board of Trustees and Finance Committee held a joint meeting to finalize the budget that will be presented at our annual meeting on May 15th.  I showed up 30 minutes late (had the time wrong), but fortunately brought sherbet, so I was easily forgiven. Success, failure….what really matters is love.  Messy, imperfect, real, tangible caring for one another.  That is what church is about for me–doing what we can to cultivate love love love..with or without sherbet.


What beauty! Take just down the road from the church on Morrow Rd.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Labor of Tenderness–in midst of a callous presidential primary and divisive politicking more broadly, we will explore and honor the labor it takes to risk taking a robust and tender stance towards one another and the world. Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy and Tina Godsey.



Waking Up From the Trance of Assumption Making and Overgeneralizing

IMG_20160406_161520938Standing in line at Starbucks, waiting for a Tango-Passion sparkling tea before I sit down with a congregant, I notice this on the bulletin board: The Rich Gray Memorial Shoot.  It’s a fundraiser for the Community Hospice Foundation.

Now, I must confess that at first I felt a bit of cognitive dissonance.  “Guns” and “Hospice” aren’t concepts that have intersected in my life or in my brain.

I guess hospice lives in the liberal, crunchy, granola part of my brain, while “guns” generally lives in the conservative, NRA, machismo part of my brain.   But why wouldn’t gun enthusiasts support hospice?

It’s so easy to fall into a trance of assumption-making and over-generalizing.  It’s so easy to forget that as we skim over the surface of people and events, there is so much more fascinating depth and complexity to who we are as people.  So thanks for the reminder Rich Gray and Community Hospice!

This Sunday, Matthew Mason and I will lead worship: How Not To Be Hypocritical–UUs are known for honoring rituals and holidays from many traditions.  When we showed up to Clinton Chapel, one person asked how we could worship there without being hypocritical. Why do we do this and how are we not being hypocritical?



Risking Radical Love

This past week, since Good Friday and Easter, I have been thinking about what some of the Black ministers said to me after the Good Friday Service at Clinton Chapel AME Zion. “Thank you for your message– not enough churches are speaking out against the rising violence against Black and Brown people.”  These Black ministers were not just talking about any church– they were talking about predominantly White churches.    In Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail, King wrote this haunting passage:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom…Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

UUFSC has really shown up in some powerful way this past year– and we need to continue to show up.  A small but powerful statement UUFSC could make would be to display these lawn signs from the national group Showing Up for Racial Justice:

I would love to hear from you how you feel and what you think about displaying these signs.  Please feel free to email or set-up a time to chat with me.  I know it may feel a little risky but if we are to live out our UU tradition of radical and transformative love,  I think this is an important step for us to take.   And no matter what risk we take, we must remember it is far less than the risks our Black and Brown brothers and sisters are taking every day.

This Sunday:  Matthew Mason and guest preacher, UU seminarian K.C. Slack will lead worship– Giving Birth At The End Of The World  In hard times, where do we find hope? Can we move beyond fear and into creation as one world becomes the next? Join us in an exploration of these questions and the beauty beyond the end of the world.

K.C. Slack’s Bio: KC is a writer, artist, activist, final semester MDiv student at Starr King School for the Ministry, and a Candidate for fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. Originally from Cleveland, she currently lives in Berkeley where she can be found reading constantly, doing full faces of makeup in order to stay inside her house, dancing, and hanging out with her cats.



This morning, I had a deep and rich conversation with a congregant. We talked about how


Speaking of curious, I found this Elmo is just hanging out on the side of Target!

entrenched people can become in their worldview, how easy it is to dismiss others.  Even for those of us who define ourselves as open-minded, close-mindedness sinks in. Our curiosity wanes.

I think about how many liberals are struggling with the Republican race right now — many of us are shocked at the values and rhetoric professed by the leading candidate.  How can anyone support those values we say?  And yet, clearly many people do.  Do we just dismiss those people as silly or stupid?  Or do we strive to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person?  Man, sometimes it is hard to be a Unitarian Universalist…. I wonder if we could have some curiosity about those we see as so different from “us” and listen to the stories they have to tell.  Curiosity may have killed the cat but it won’t kill us!

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Power of Inquiry–Humans create much of reality through the stories we tell.  What kinds of inquiry help us create new stories and new realities? Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy and Sharon Arpoika

Mark your calendars: Friday March 25th, 7pm.  We have been invited to join with the (predominantly Black and African-American) Clinton Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church  to celebrate Good Friday, March 25th.  I will be offering a brief reflection as part of the service.  Though Good Friday is not traditionally a ‘high holiday’ for UUs, it would be quite meaningful to have a strong UU presence at this service.  Please email Rev. Darcy to let her know if you are joining her!


Loving the Hell Out of Stanislaus County

IMG_20160301_145347069I really appreciated Jeff Jardine’s recent column in the Modesto Bee,   where he gives a thumbnail sketch of the KKK’s activities here in the Valley.  Organized white supremacy activity petered out in the mid-1990’s but a recent social media survey found that Modesto ranked third among U.S. cities for anti-Latino tweets and seventh in the nation for the most anti-gay tweets on Adobo’s  Most Prejudiced Places in America list.

Ug, you say.  And boy do I hear you.  But this kind of stuff also makes our congregation all the more special and important.  I am sure glad we decided to fly that rainbow flag!   Because Stanislaus County is a place that really needs Unitarian Universalism to love the hell out of it!   What other ways do we feel called to love the hell out of Stanislaus County?

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Promise Making-Breaking-ReMaking–We humans are promise-making-breaking-remaking creatures. Let us explore the messiness of promises. Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy and Tina Godsey



Here I am, accidentally taking a photo as I stumble over a rock as I try to take a picture of our rainbow flag…kinda neat, huh?


The earth laughs in flowers

IMG_20160217_141115186_Fotor“The earth laughs in flowers” writes 19th century Unitarian Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson in his poem Hamatreya.  With the Valley in bloom and my dog making sure I am spending time each day in the orchards, I’ve been thinking a lot about our Transcendentalist ancestors.  They were annoyed and fed-up with “cold, rational” Unitarianism and encouraged people to experience life first hand, rather than take someone else’s word for it.  They were the first ones in our tradition to look outside of Christianity to Eastern religions (particularly Hinduism and Buddhism) for wisdom.  And they believed if  we spent time in nature, studied and understood it through careful and intentional reflection, we could discover enduring lessons about what it means to be human. 

IMG_20160216_173212323_HDR_FotorWhat does the blossoming valley teach you about 7our human being-ness (besides to make sure to stock up on antihistamines?)

This Sunday in worship, we will be activating our Transcendentalist roots and spending time amidst the Almond Tree Blossomings.  Congregants will be invited to take a 10 minute contemplative walk through the almond orchard next to the church or to sit with me in our yard, behind the Johnson Building, to appreciate the blossoms.

Speaking of blossoming, at the end of worship, our congregation will take a courageous step in proclaiming our Universalist radical love and fly a rainbow flag in front of our church.  Just one more way we can “love the hell” out of Stanislaus County!

Next week, I will be taking a week of study leave, where I am presenting a paper to a group of colleagues entitled “Finding our Loss– Resources for a Novel, Beautiful Future” In this paper, I pull together insights from process theology and trauma theory to suggest another avenue for understanding why  Unitarian Universalists struggle to describe who and what we are.  If you’d like a copy of the paper, just send me an email!