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.

How Big Is Our Tent

This week, I joined a small team of clergy in convening a “big tent” meeting of clergy around Modesto for relationship building.  We organized the gathering to address the growing divides in our country that the election revealed.  There was no agenda other than getting to know each other and speaking across the political, religious, and ethnic divides.  18 total clergy showed up: Liberal Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and of course Unitarian Universalist.  We were 14 men, 4 women. 2/3  of the clergy were White, 1/3 were Brown or Black.  I sat in the meeting and was aware how reserved I was being– this was a group where I’m not sure where everyone stands on the legitimacy of women’s ordination for example, let alone a queer woman.   Who else was feeling tightly reserved?  Who else wondered how others would judge their humanity if we weren’t keeping our full selves so constrained?  How was the one Black pastor in the meeting feeling?

As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that our differences should be valued and embraced in community. We also believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. As the adage goes, “we need not think alike to love alike.”   But, there are limits to how much difference a community or meeting can hold.  Whose humanity is affirmed and valued? And whose is not?    In an ideal world, I would never need to choose whose humanity to support or affirm.  But in these strange post-Election days, I feel like I am being asked to choose.  For example, to be frank, I am far more concerned about the humanity and well-being of Mexican immigrants than I am about White Evangelical Christians

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Remember to look up so you can see colors like these along our streets!

I am more concerned not because I think a Mexican immigrant is somehow better or more worthy than a White Evangelic Christian but because the humanity of the Mexican immigrant is far more threatened and un-affirmed by our broader culture.   Even a big tent ends somewhere.

I find myself wondering: are smaller tents the places where I/we should invest our energy?  The tents where gays, lesbians, Black folks, Brown folks, immigrants, and the White working class can enter, not needing to wonder if their/our humanity will be affirmed and respected? Maybe that’s not a smaller tent after all– maybe that “tent” is the biggest tent of all.

This Sunday: Waiting in Uncertainty
We humans struggle so much with uncertainty, even though uncertainty is the reality of every one of our days. In the moments when we feel the uncertainty, to what can we turn to soothe our anxious minds?  Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy, Matthew Mason, and guest musician Sydney Gorham

 

 

 

Yes, Gratitude, Now More Than Ever

Thanksgiving has always been a complicated holiday.  For me, Thanksgiving has been a day of food and family and football.  There is a way I can relax and get to practice gratitude with my extended family in a way I don’t get to do most other times of the year.   And I love that. The experience of joy and connection has usually overridden my inclinations to try to incorporate the complicated politics behind the holiday.  Like so many of our stories and histories, the popular myth of Native people welcoming and supporting European settlers is a “feel-good narrative that rationalizes and justifies the uninvited settlement of a foreign people by painting a picture of an organic friendship. A more accurate telling of the story, however, describes the forming of political alliances built on a mutual need for survival and an Indigenous struggle for power in the vacuum left by a destructive century of foreign settlement.”

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Drawn during worship by one of our 9 year olds

Ug. Particularly after going to Standing Rock and in the context of our presidential election, I want to find a way to engage the messiness better than I have in previous years.  And, I will make sure to offer gratitude and enjoy my family.  This Thanksgiving “messiness” really represents the messiness of our American lives, period.  Thanksgiving is just another struggle to find joy and gratitude even as we acknowledge the violence upon which our current realities are founded.   And I am not going to give up on joy and gratitude, for lord knows we are going to need it more than ever.  Lord knows we need each other more than ever.

 

If you want support in navigating Thanksgiving tomorrow, Showing Up For Racial Justice has both a hotline and guide to help you.

UU minister and executive director of the Public Conversations Project, Parisa Parsa, offers a great guide for meaningful, real conversation here, suggesting that our “holiday sojourns give us a critical moment to see if we can stitch together a better understanding of just what in the world is going on. A chance to risk seeing and understanding our kin in greater dimensions, and sharing more of ourselves than we normally would.”

And regardless of what you do or do not say tomorrow, however you do or do not feel, know this: you are loved, you are so VERY, VERY LOVED.  And I am so grateful to be in this time with you all.

This Sunday, Sharon Aproika, Leroy Egenberger, and Sabine Klein will lead worship: Creating and Sustaining the Beloved Community— What are the basic elements of the
Beloved Community? How do we, in our UU congregations go about doing that?

 

 

The Trouble with Our First Principle

“The inherent worth and dignity of every person” is the first principle of Unitarian Universalism.  So yes, I have to say it, though I am personally wrestling with this myself: we UUs are asked affirm the inherent worth and dignity of Donald Trump.  We need to affirm the worth and dignity of those who voted for Trump (just about 50% of Stanislaus County voters).  But affirming the worth and dignity does not mean supporting, normalizing, or glossing over the real and violent impact Trump’s election and his leadership has already had or will have. It is possible to both love and resist.  That is what I believed we UUs are called to do in the days ahead.

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UUFSCers at Standing Rock Solidarity Event 11/15/16

I turned to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1957 sermon “Loving Your Enemies,” where he writes: “You should love your enemies because hate distorts the personality of the hater…the way to be integrated with yourself is be sure that you meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses…  I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed….”

Thinking about these words in the context of the actions of King may help us remember that the kind of love King was talking about was not mushy, gushy, sentimental, and submissive. The kind of love which King speaks fueled powerful resistance.  And loving our enemy does not mean prioritizing the enemy over those most victimized by the enemy.

The local liberal clergy group has extended an invitation to the larger, more conservative clergy group in Modesto to have a “big tent” meeting, just to try and build relationships.  This election has made clear how distant we have become from one another. Like our broader country, there is a great divide here in Modesto.  Almost 50% of voters supported Trump and almost 50% supported Clinton.  And while I wholeheartedly support such a meeting, I will attend it knowing that many of the more conservative clergy do not believe that women should be ordained.  That many of these clergy likely believe I live in sin or am going to hell because I am gay.  The crux of our spiritual struggle is this:  humanizing “the other” even when they dehumanize you; humanizing “the other” even as we fiercely resist the behaviors and systems that oppress and marginalize too many of us.   The first principle should not be construed to dampen our resolve or resistance, but rather to humanize all people even in the midst of struggle.

So yes Mr. Trump, I affirm your inherent worth and dignity.  And because I also affirm the inherent worth and dignity of immigrants, Muslims, women, Brown folks, and Black folks, I will work on loving you (not liking you) and resisting your oppressive policies at every turn.

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Photo by C.L. Everett, Standing Rock Solidarity Event at Knight’s Ferry Tuesday 11/15/16

Making A Way Out of No Way

Today, I sit in a reality that I feel has fundamentally changed.  Or my perception of reality and what is possible has fundamentally changed.  Because like so many of our liberal, and particularly White liberal, friends, I did not think it was possible we would elect a person who explicitly and blatantly expresses such racist, sexist, misogynist, xenophobic opinions.  So I am in a state of grief, in a state of profound loss of what I thought was reality.  “It feels like I lost a love one,” “I feel like I felt after 9/11,” “I feel so hopeless” are some of the common sentiments I have heard expressed.  Today and in the weeks to come, I beg us all to be gentle and tender with ourselves and one another. Our emotions may be all over the place, focus will be difficult, we may sleep more or sleep much less than usual.  Do what you need to do to take care of yourself– for me, that’s eating regular meals, walking, listening to music, dancing (here is a video of me Thursday morning), talking and reaching out to loved ones, praying and meditating.  Take care now more than ever.

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Open Doors from Wednesday evening, right before our Post Election Sing and Share Service

And if you feel hopeless, that’s okay.  Just because you feel hopeless, just because you cannot see the way forward does not mean a way does not exist.  We UU’s may be a smart kind of people, but just because we cannot figure it out does not mean there is a way to be figured.  Black, womanist theologian Delores Williams calls this a theology of “making a way out of no way.”  Williams remember sitting in her (Black) church, listening to women testify to how far they had come by faith– witnessing them survive struggles they did not know how to make there way through.    I know I have made it through times I did not think I could– times where my world has crumbled and I truly wondered whether survival was worth it or possible.  You have too.

White supremacy not only brutalizes the bodies of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters– it poisons White folks like myself into thinking we are weak and have to figure it all out on our own– that if I as an individual do not feel or know something, than it cannot be true.  White folks too easily get robbed of connecting to that which is greater than themselves, that which is outside of themselves– some people may call this God, most UU’s are more likely to refer to it as community, friends, family, the Universe, Spirit of Life.  But we all know what it is like to get carried by someone or something else.  In these days to come, we will be both need to carry and be carried.  UUFSC will be called on in many ways in the day to come and we will answer the call.

So, be tender. Grieve the loss of the reality we thought we knew.  Sob, rage, sleep, dance, pray.  Most importantly, love.  Love yourself, love your friends, love your family.  Love the Syrian family down the street.  Love the Black woman in the grocery store.  Love the Mexican family on the sidewalk.  Because we are just beginning to embark on making a way out of no way.

This Sunday:  Making a Way Out of No Way – Special Music Sunday.  We welcome special guest folk singer Xanthe Alexis to help us connect to our sources of strength, courage, and power.  Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy, Sharon Arpoika, and Xanthe Alexis.

 

Persimmons and Pomegranates

I bought my first persimmons and pomegranates of the season at the farmstand by my house.  I have never bought persimmons or pomegranates before, but there is an amazing poem by UU minister Nancy Shaffer called “Were I To Teach A Course On God” that is all about persimmon, pomegranates and pears (come to church oimg_20161023_151952960n Nov 20th to hear it!).  Shaffer grew up in the San Joaquin valley and if there is a place to find “God”, then I think our farm stands are a good place to start.  We live a land of plenty and we live in a land of scarcity–on my way home to the farmstand, I drive by folks who look so very hard-up.

This week, I’ve attended the fall UU ministers meeting and part of the time we have spent time in workshops led by Spirit Rock meditation teacher Larry Yang.  One of his specialties is around building multicultural spiritual communities and how spiritual practice can support us in the work of building beloved community.   Because if you are doing the work of building beloved community, you are going to experience tension and discomfort–so you need something that grounds and nourishes you.  I found myself feeling extra grateful for Lori Wong and IMCV– if UU’s adopt a personal spiritual practice, Buddhist ones seem to be the easiest fit for many of us.  Hence why we UU ministers spent a few days with Larry Yang!   It can seem like a big task to take on a “spiritual practice.”  But maybe, if you don’t yet have a regular spiritual practice, you can start by taking an intentional and mindful moment to eat a persimmon, to munch on some pomegranate seeds.

This Sunday, Bernadette Burns and Avonelle Tomlinson will lead worship: We honor this in-between time of Samhain, when the veil between life and death is said to be thin and we are closest to those who have died.  Please bring photos of beloveds of yours who have passed away.

 

Remember Beauty

Remember Beauty.  That’s all I really want to say this week.  Remember to pay attention to beauty, kindness, and generosity.  Because it is there, despite the sparse coverage it gets in the news media. I am not one to encourage us to look away from hard a

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Sunset in the Valley- taken on my driveway!

nd painful stuff–some of us do that too often, choosing to live in denial of the suffering all around us.  But it is also possible to become so inundated by the injustices that we forget to notice the good.  Living a “spiritual life” for me means doing the things (meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection, dance, and community) that help me to strike this delicate balance between witnessing and working for justice and compassion, while not forgetting to find joy, beauty, and fun in the world.

This week I found joy in the feminist solidarity sprouting up in response to the misogyny being espoused in our politics–women proudly reclaiming the “nasty woman” epithet as their own.  I felt joy when I heard the congregational meeting went well last Sunday and that we are getting a new piano!  And I found beauty in the cool crispness settling into the Valley at night.  Autumn is here, I can feel the retreat of the sun and my own self turning a bit more inward.   Beauty is here– don’t forget to see it!

I look forward to seeing many of you at our annual church auction this Saturday evening  and worshiping with you this Sunday:  Witnessing Stories of the Other–Witnessing means truly seeing– seeing what is real and authentic, even if such seeing brings up feelings of discomfort.  We explore the stories of people who  feel like “the other” rather than like part of an “us.”   Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy and Tina Godsey

When It All Comes Out

“Coming out”….this phrase has been on my mind this week.  First, Tuesday was National Coming Out Day for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer folks.  Second, since the video of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s lewd and vulgar comments came out on Friday, women all across social media have been sharing stories and experiences of sexual assault.  Writer Kelly Oxford shared about the first time she was sexually assaulted in a tweet and then invited others to share their stories.  Her tweet got thousands of responses– on Sunday and Monday alone, 13,000 women responded.

Social media has allowed us to witness things we haven’t necessarily been able to see img_20161013_111430099before.  And while it feels overwhelming (at least for me) to witness all the stories pouring out,  in some way it feels like a relief.  What has been repressed and kept secret is coming out.  But the key to any kind of “coming out” is to have a supportive community that will hold and receive you–that will have your back.   Something and someone needs to hold the “coming out.”

When we put out the rainbow flag (the only one I know of flying in Stanislaus County) last year, when we put out the “I Love Our Muslim Neighbor” sign on Sunday, what we are broadcasting to the broader world  is that “you can come out to US–we have your back.”  In a way, in the past few years, UUFSC has been in a process of coming out– coming out about who and how we love.  And like with all “coming outs,” there has been some risk, fear, and apprehension.   But hopefully, with our own “coming outs,” there has been and will continue to be some liberation, freedom, and healing as well.

This Sunday in worship:  Have You Got Humanity Fatigue? Learn what it means to “take your turn in the Channel” when bringing the human race safely to the shore. Worship associates Todd Whiteley and John Patton will lead worship, with Sabine Klein providing music.

Reminder: Congregational Meeting This Sunday to Approve Funds for A New Piano Immediately After Worship!