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.

What hurts?

This was a very different kind of General Assembly for me.  Susan Frederick Grey, one of the 3 candidates for the UUA presidency, asked me to join her core campaign team.  So often GA for me is about receiving and connecting– receiving wisdom and perspective in worship and workshops; connecting with colleagues.   This time around, my energy was shaping and building what I hope is the future of Unitarian Universalism.

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Snapshot of Worship at General Assembly from @UUWorld

Shaping, building, persuading…its easy when in “campaign/persuade mode” to distance yourself from those who are on the “other” side.  Which is why I was so grateful for Krista Tippet’s Ware lecture on Saturday evening.  Tippet, host of the NPR show “On Being,” gave UUs three encouragements: to listen, to question with generosity, and to endure in love.   Tippet believes in the power of generous questions.  And one of my favorite questions she suggested we ask others, particularly those we disagree with, is “what hurts?”  When we are struggling in our lives together, I want to remember to pause and ask “what hurts?”

Some highlights from GA that I recommend:

  • Rev Bill Sinkford’s Love Calls Us On Sermon (begins at around 1h 30 min mark)–former UUA President speaks to the  history and legacy of Unitarians and Universalists between the mid-1960s and today regarding racial justice work, saying said, “Our faith looked away. We did not ‘stay woke.’ There is no innocence left for any of us.” He reminds us that “Resistance is what love looks like in the face of hate. Resistance is what love looks like in the face of violence.

 

As of Tuesday June 28th,  I will be “offline” for four weeks of vacation and study leave.  My weekly reflections will be on hiatus until I return!  For pastoral emergencies, you can reach me on my cell phone.   I will be back in the office on Tuesday July 26th.

Blessings!

Rev. Darcy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.

These past weeks have been hard, violence filled weeks.  Our local planned parenthood

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Untangling our rainbow flag

was arsoned a few weeks ago. Last week, the news was filled with headlines about the Standford rape case.  In both person and professional contexts, I witnessed so many people struggling with how such news triggered their own sexual assault experiences. Then early Sunday morning, the news of the shooting in Orlando and a week of the aftermath, of photos, of tributes.  And Friday June 17th is the one year anniversary of the shootings at the AME Zion Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston.

We Unitarian Universalists ground ourselves in a theology of radical, robust love. Remember, in these times when violence seems to bring us to a breaking point, you are loved.  We are loved.  LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.

This love is not just expressed in prayers and vigils– it is a love that makes a concrete difference.  As Cornell West so wisely puts its “Justice is what love looks like in public.” And we can express this love, make this concrete difference, even more effectively when we build relationships with one another and other faith communities.  That’s why a small group of us joined Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church on Sunday afternoon in their special 114th year anniversary worship.  That’s why today,  I’m participating in a statewide meeting of clergy, organized by PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) that want our congregations to work together to make that kind of concrete difference.

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Getting Outside–it’s Summer and hot though it may be, let’s not forget to get outside. Outside of our houses, outside of our routines, outside of our usual ways of thinking. We will also take time to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting.  Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy Baxter and Avonelle Tomlinson.

FYI: This is my last Sunday worshiping with you all before I head to our national general assembly in Columbus Ohio and then take 4 weeks of vacation and study leave, returning on Tuesday July 26th.  During this time, please contact the Board President regarding urgent matters.  For pastoral emergencies, you can reach me on my cell phone.

Bam, that’s spiritual growth…

A few weeks ago, our religious educator JeKaren offered the story “And Tango Makes Three” in worship.  It’s about a penguin family with two dads.  She started off by asking our children “what is a family?”   And without missing a beat, one of our children piped up and said “A family is a group of people who love and take care of each other.”

Take a moment and let this soak in…in a broader culture, in this Valley, where so much of

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A moment of laughter at the Vigil for Planned Parenthood– because joy and laughter are an essential part of justice!

the imagery they see of families is a one mom, one dad and kids, somehow they have learned what I would like to name as a UU definition of family.

The concept of spiritual formation can see vague and loosey-goosey. It’s hard to pin-point. But I can point to it when I see it– and the moment one of our children responded with “A family is a group of people who love and take care of each other,” I said to myself “Bam, that’s spiritual formation in action!”

In the past few weeks, is there a time when you can look back on and say “bam, that’s a moment of spiritual formation, of spiritual growth?”  A time when you can say “I was standing on the side of love?”

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday, as we honor the spiritual formation of our children!  Forming and Formation: Bridging Our Youth–Our early years are a precious period, where the spiritual lessons we learn shape us for the rest of our lives. Join us in celebrating the faith formation of our children, of which we are all a part. Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy Baxter, Jekaren Taylor, and Tina Godsey.

We UUs got some great press coverage as we stood on the side of love for Planned Parenthood this week.  Here are all the links in one place:

FYI:  I leave for our General Assembly in Columbus Ohio on Monday June 20th and then will be on summer leave, returning Tuesday July 26th.  For pastoral emergencies, you can reach me on my cell phone.

 

 

 

The power of relationship

I sat in a community organizing meeting this week, facilitated by our local PICO affiliate, Congregations Building Community (CBC). It was me the UU minister, three Catholic priests, and a Evangelical Baptist minister.  We were all their because we want to do something about the root causes of poverty and suffering we see all around us here in Stanislaus County.  And despite some obvious theological/philosophical differences, there is much we agree upon: we agree on the destructive power of racism, corporate greed, and pollution in our valley. But it was still awkward!  And I realized that what this group needs to do first have some meals and just relate, get to know each other.  Yes, we want to “do” something– but action is most effective when it born from real relationship.

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New Bike Rack Outside of the Queen Bean

Some Planned Parenthood staff were pretty skeptical when they heard a minister wanted to organize a vigil in the wake of the recent arson.  But a staff member who I had worked with before, advocated for it.   One person said “but many of our folks aren’t religious, don’t even believe in G-d.”  The staff member said “I’ve been in UU churches, at least half of them don’t believe in G-d either!”   They made the case that their staff had spiritual and emotional needs, regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation and that this vigil could really help folks cope with the trauma.

The reason the staff member advocated for the vigil was because she knew us UUs–she had relationships with us.  And out of that relationship, the vigil this Sunday is born.

How might slowing down and spending time in relationship provide you with unexpected answers and insights?

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday, where we welcome New Horizons Jazz Band for a special Jazz Sunday service!   And afterwards, I hope many of you will join me at the prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood, which got some coverage in the Modesto Bee!

 

Singing and Laughing

Man, did we struggle singing that one hymn, #149 One Voice, on Sunday!  And boy did we laugh and just kept on trekking through it.  For me, that was one of the most “worshipful” moments on Sunday morning.  Because we kept on laughing and kept on trying, together.  If there is something that feels like a true spiritual accomplishment, it is the ability to 1)laugh and 2)keep on going together.   To me, it felt really good to be up there, failing to ‘successfully’ lead that song.  Or rather, maybe the song was outrageously successful!

Also, our prayers go out to Modesto Planned Parenthood’s staff and patients– an arson

attack early Wednesday morning means the clinic will be closed for weeks.  I’m in touch with PP staff and will keep you all posted if there is support they need!

This Sunday, join Avonelle Tomlinson and Tina Godsey in worship: May’s theme is ‘sing the sky’ and in that spirit, all are invited to attend, focused on mindful reflection and thoughtful interaction.

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.

 

Sherbet

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.

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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.