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.

Sanctuary Means Safety

Because our worship theme for March is Sanctuary, I’ve been thinking about that concept a lot, particularly these past view days since we were asked to be a place of safety for one particular person–not emotional safety, not spiritual safety, but basic physical safety.  In hearing about this person’s circumstance, thinking about what they faced, I realized how relatively lightweight my connotation of the word safety is.   How often when I use the word safety what I actually mean is comfort.  Not so long ago, when images of Syrian refugees filled the news, poet Warsan Shire’ poem ‘Home’ got passed around social media.  It is a gritty, graphic poem:  “no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark…no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land…how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off…the insults are easier to swallow
than rubble, than bone, than your child body in pieces.”

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Freshly picked Oranges from a UUFSCer’s tree.

I’ve heard that when you are having a difficult time, it is actually helpful to think about people who are struggling with even more difficult circumstances– not in a “I shouldn’t feel this way, others have it so much harder” way.  But in a way that gives you perspective and context—that allows you to connect with the strength and resiliency of the human spirit.    Sanctuary means safety…and after the past two days, I am painfully reminded how blessed with safety and sanctuary my life is.

I look forward to worshipping with you all this Sunday: Belonging–A core human need is to belong– we honor our own sense of belonging here at UUFSC and welcome new members as they begin their journey of belonging here.  Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Haruko DeArth, and Sabine Klein.

After church, I hope you will join our Spiritual Formation and Religious Education team  in the Sanctuary- they will be sharing more about the research and exploration they have been doing in re-imagining how the church approaches the moral and spiritual formation of our children (and frankly, of our adults too!).

Also, I will be taking part II of my parental leave beginning tomorrow, Monday March 5th and will be back in the church office Tuesday May 1st.  I’ll start back up with my weekly reflections when I return!

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Pain-in-the-Neck Community

At the New to UU class on Sunday, one of the participants asked about this concept of Beloved Community.  What is it?  I have my little schtick about it (a theological concept created by Josiah Royce, popularized my MLK, a community grounded in non-violence, where we work on expressing radical love for others, ourselves and for the greater world through acts of compassion and justice).  But, like with any of these kinds of “spiritually” words, it still felt vague– a little ooey-gooey.    And then this article came out in the UU World: “We are people who put windows in doors.”

Author Liz James says” I entered a time in my life when community became a lot less “beloved” to me. People failed me. There were power struggles. People were not brave, or compassionate. wasn’t brave, or compassionate. I knew I was supposed to forgive and begin again, but I really didn’t feel like it…”

After reflecting on how and why they installed windows in the minister’s office door (hint: it’s about creating structures of transparency and accountability, no matter who sits in that office!), James goes on to say ”

I am no longer a believer in Beloved Community. Not that safe and sacred space where we are all “woke,” or kind, or even trying our best every single day. But I am still a believer in community—regular community—filled with people who are a mix of incredibly beautiful, profoundly broken, and sometimes just run-of-the-mill pain-in-the-neck.

“Pain-in-the-neck community” has an honesty to it.

For one thing, I can belong there. I can be good enough for that world. I can give it my all, pour myself into it, and I can fail. And when I do, I have more to hold on to than aspiration and a promise to do better. There’s also the promise that I won’t do better—not always.

Frankly, I would say that I’ve always understood “Beloved Community” as “Pain-in-the-neck” community.  My wife and child are beloved to me– and they are also often frustrating and always imperfect.   But I get James’ point– words sound romantic and beautiful and we can often forget the grit and discomfort behind them.  It’s good to remember that Beloved Community IS Pain-in-the-neck community.

I look forward to worship with you this Sunday–Blossomings Come celebrate the glorious beauty we are surrounded by at this time of year (if your allergies allow!) Please wear your boots or sneakers and a coat as you will be invited to take a brief contemplative walk (or do a sitting) into the surrounding almond orchard as part of the worship service! Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Haruko DeArth, and Sabine Klein.

 

Forget Sacrifice

Reading about yet another mass shooting, the line “forget sacrifice” from UU minister Rev. Lynn Ungar‘s poem “Lent” particularly stuck out to me, as many of our Catholic brothers and sisters began their Lenten season of reflection and penance.

What will you give up for this season,
to help life alongIMG_20180214_144616036_HDR in its curious reversals?
As if we had a choice.
As if the world were not
constantly shedding us
like feathers off a duck’s back–
the ground is always
littered with our longings.

You can’t help but wonder
about all the heroes,
the lives and limbs sacrificed
in their compulsion toward the good.
All those who dropped themselves
upon the earth’s hard surface–
weren’t they caught in pure astonishment
in the breath before they shattered?

Forget sacrifice. Nothing
is tied so firmly that the wind
won’t tear it from us at last.
The question is how to remain faithful
to all the impossible,
necessary resurrections.

The truth is, we don’t get a choice about sacrifice.  And too many of us are asked to make too many sacrifices.  Don’t get me wrong– I find that the practice of giving something up to be an incredibly instructive spiritual practice.  But Rev. Ungar’s poem for me is such superb Unitarian Universalist theology– the Divine/Ultimate/God/Ground-of-Being would never want creation to suffer, to sacrifice.  That suffering and sacrifice happens is part of our human reality– but to believe that which some may call “the Ultimate” would require it of us? Well, that just sounds abusive.  “Giving up” is something we have to do all the time in this human life– as the parents and families of those slaughtered in Florida are being forced to do.   As Ungar so beautifully puts it “The question is how to remain faithful to all the impossible, necessary resurrections” that we must go through in the course of our living.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat
In fact, maybe curiosity resurrected the cat! “Resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving” says shame researcher Dr. Brene Brown. Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy and Brian Wise. Musicians: Sue Cotter, April Gutierrez, and Karen O’Dell.

 

Making the Invisible Visible

I can’t remember the name of the trees that are blooming right now– these ones: IMG_20180207_114431119_HDR

And I was going to write something about blossoms. But driving up Dakota Ave, I noticed the bee boxes hanging out in the middle of an almond orchard.  And I realized what I was not noticing– the bees, hard at work, pollinating (at least, I think that is what they are doing right now?).  And it made me think of all the things hard at work that we do not see, all the people hard at work we do not see that make the beautiful possible.IMG_20180207_115715024_BURST007

There are many things that are supposed to happen in spiritual community– on the top of this list for me is making the invisible visible.  We cannot see the interdependent web of existence (principle #7 for UUs), and yet there is not more powerful influence on our lives than our intense and entangled interconnections to one another.  It’s easy to the see the blossoms, it’s harder to see the bees.

 

This Sunday, Bending but not Breaking:  Inner Resources for Weathering Storms-Tending to our inner resources creates the ability to weather the storms of life and bounce back from adversity. Making regular investments in our savings provides for rainy days… have you been making deposits to replenish your inner bank account? Worship Leaders: Rev. Lori Wong, Sharon Arpoika and Sabine Klein.  Rev. Lori Wong is an ordained Theravada Buddhist Minister, Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader, Insight Meditation and Stanford certified Compassion Cultivation Training teacher.  She founded Insight Meditation Central Valley.  She is also a member of of the UU Buddhist Fellowship and UUFSC.

Even When It’s Not Pretty

I’ve been learning some simple songs, the kind meant to be taught and song without looking at sheet music.  I’ve been singing so much because I want little Sam to be filled with music and rhythm. And I came across this simple song by Laurence Cole based on an excerpt from Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s “the Invitation:” “Let us see the beauty every day, and source our lives from its presence.  I want to know if you can see the beauty, even when it’s not pretty every day.” (for more on the song, visit http://www.laurencecole.com/)

This song popped into my head as I saw photos of the super blue blood moon, which I completely forgot to try to catch a glimpse of myself.  But what a thing of wonder and beauty! (photos snagged from my friend!)

The ugliness is so loud– it is such a stretch sometimes to feel connected to anything like “beauty.”  And, it is there.  It is there at 2:51am in the morning, this peculiar beauty that has not happened since 1866.

“Let us see the beauty every day, and source our lives from its presence.  I want to know if you can see the beauty, even when it’s not pretty every day.”

I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday:  Across the Generations–
What would it feel like to build and sustain more connection across the generations within our UUFSC community? Rev. Darcy and members of the religious education & spiritual formation team offer reflections on possibilities and hopes for the future. Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Avonelle Tomlinson, Sabine Klein, and Spiritual Formation Team Members.

 

 

 

 

Holy Cow, New Life Takes Work

I remember during my candidating week with you all, when you were just getting to know me and deciding whether or not you wanted to call me as your minister, that I talked about how I understood ministry as midwifery.  “I cannot birth the baby,” I recall myself saying, “my job is to be here with you,  helping you breathe and focus, as you go through your own birthing process.”  After just coming out of two months of caring for a newborn I have to say I have far more appreciation for all that it takes to both birth and sustain something new.  Holy cow does it take a lot of energy.

IMG_20171204_153509761Katherine and I were reflecting on how there is so much attention on preparing for birth. Which, don’t get me wrong birth, is a really big deal (says the mother who didn’t have to give birth).  But as just a big of a deal (if not more so) is the marathon of parenting that comes after the birth. And yet it feels like there is much less attention paid and less preparation encouraged for the parenting part compared to the birth part.  As one friend put it, there is no epidural for parenting.   Maybe that’s why there can be so much focus on birth– it’s easier and more containable– more manageable than what comes after.  It’s like eating healthier and dieting.  It’s much easier to go on a diet, to change your eating for a week or a month.  It’s much much harder to fundamentally change how you eat on an ongoing basis.

So it has me wondering, what in our lives are we trying to birth? What have we birthed? and what kind of help do we each need to do the marathon labor of sustaining?

I look forward to worshipping with you all again this Sunday. I’m so looking forward to being back with you all!  This Sunday: Trusting Our Gut, Listening to Wisdom–In a world where ‘expert’ advice is so easily available, how can we strike a balance between the wisdom of our experiences and the guidance of experts? Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Matthew Mason, and Sabine Klein.

Baby/Bum Wipes

 

Our community is full of beauty of all kinds.  In recent weeks, I’ve been witnessing and experiencing the beauty of generosity. Whether it’s incredibly successful church auction, all the gestures and gifts of support for Katherine and me as we prepare for the arrival of our son, or all the families who brought their children to the youth roundtable last week to listen to what our kids like and want from church, there is so much beauty to experience.

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If you haven’t gotten a chance, make sure to taste the church pomegranates!

There is one gift that feels particularly special– a kind of gift you only get in a multigenerational community like ours.   A congregant asked me if I had a baby-wipes warmer, a device that warms the wipes you use to wipe a baby’s bum, because they had one they did not need.  We didn’t and I gladly accepted the gift.  And then I asked “if you don’t mind me asking, why do you have a wipe warmer?”  This person did not have a baby in their life that I knew of.   “Well, when I was taking care of one of my parents….”

I know this may sound silly, but there is something incredibly beautiful and powerful in thinking about warming the wipes that I’m going use to wipe my child’s bum at the very beginning of his life with the same warmer that this congregant used to warm the wipes they used to wipe their parent’s bum at the end of life.   Talk about the interdependent web. And we need to rename those wipes– they are not just for babies, they are for any of us when are bodies are in a tender state where yes, we need some help wiping our bums– we start out in that tender state, our bodies enter that tender state after surgeries and illnesses, and we end our lives in that tender state.     And in our age segregated society, this is a beauty our congregation has to offer: the beauty of passing down a wipes-warmer.

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Cleaning up fallen walnuts from the church back yard 

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Pomegranate and Persimmon Communion–“If I were to teach a course on God, I would begin with a plate of persimmons” writes UU minister Nancy Shaffer.  We will give thanks for the abundance of our valley and offer one another a special pomegranate and persimmon communion.  Worship leaders: Rev Darcy and Sharon Arpoika.

 

P.S. I hope to see many of you this Monday evening November 20th at 6:45pm for the 21st Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration Service.  This year, it will be held at The Redeemer church, 820 H Street, Modesto (corner of 9th and H Streets).  I will be offering the invocation.  This is a special time when our community’s diverse faith communities (Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Latter Day Saints, Sikh, Christian, and UU), join together in a service of thanksgiving with words, prayer and song. The Celebration’s host church is new to the event and we welcome The Redeemer Church, the first evangelical church to be host.  As in past years, you may make a donation of canned goods or monetary offerings before and during the service for Inter-Faith Ministries, Stanislaus County’s local food pantry and clothes closet. Sponsored by the Stanislaus County Interfaith Council.