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.

A Flower, A Fruit, A Death

I know my heart has been heavy with the losses and changes going on, within our congregation and in the broader world.   It feels like we are saying so many goodbyes.  While striving to be gentle with my heavy heart, I also am trying  to remind myself of the wisdom Italian poet Diego Valeri shares in this poem:

You who have an eye for miracles

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Amidst wildflowers, baby cows with parents lounging.

Regard the bud appearing
on the bare branch of the fragile young tree.
It’s a mere dot,
A nothing.
But already it’s a flower,
already a fruit,
already its own death and resurrection. 

In each bud is already a death and in each death there is a birth.   In this cycle of mere dot to flower to fruit to death, where is your heart these days?   Wherever you are in this cycle, I hope you are being gentle with yourself and are taking the risk to reach out so that wherever you are (dot, flower, fruit, or death), you know (and feel) that you are not alone.

This Sunday, I look forward to worshiping with you: Power of Goodbye: Within our UU community it feels like we have been saying a lot of goodbyes; not to mention what we are saying goodbye to as we live into our newish political reality. How do we find power in these goodbyes? Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy Baxter, Sharon Arpoika and guest musician Jorge Torrez.

Tea Time with the Minister: Join Rev. Darcy on the following Wednesdays 3pm-4:30pm for some tea, casual conversation, and reflecting with one another on the state of your spirit and the world.  Rev. Darcy will offer a reading or prompt to guide our conversations.  Wednesday May 3rd, Wednesday May 17th, Wednesday May 31st, and Wednesday June 14th.  No need to RSVP– just show up! And if there is a particular issue/topic you want to address, please send me an email at revdarcybaxter@gmail.com.

Also, next week I will be taking a week of vacation, so will be “offline” from Monday April 24th and returning Tuesday morning May 2nd.  For pastoral care emergencies, you can reach me on my cell-phone or contact Pat E.  For other issues, please contact Brenda our church administrator or a Board member.

It’s Okay Not To Know

Unitarian Universalist generally are not big fans of the Christian Crucifixion story– so many interpretations of it have condoned legacies of violence.  Humanity is saved through God sacrificing “his” only child?  No, that is not how UU’s do salvation, thank you very much! And yet, we know the crucifixion is happening every single day.  Every single day brutal forces of racism, white supremacy, misogyny, greed, and economic exploitation sacrifice the lives of someone’s child– for we are all someone’s child.   I do not like the Cross and it’s violence legacy.  And yet, there is a truth in the sacrifice of which it tells.

When Jesus was crucified, his followers did not know there would or could be a resurrection.  All they knew was that their beloved leader, the person that represented hope and salvation, was crucified by the ruling powers of the day.  Sometimes, we find ourselves sitting at the foot of the Cross, only knowing of the loss, not knowing what comes next, what could come next.

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Clouds Over Kiernan Ave

I don’t like sitting in the unknowing– I don’t think many humans do.  But our great religious stories have survived because there is life saving wisdom in them.  And today, as I approach Good Friday (and my Good Friday Reflection for Clinton Chapel AME Zion’s Good Friday Worship Service– please join me!), I am comforted by this part of the Crucifixion Story:  sometimes, you are faced with an unbearable loss and you don’t know what comes next.  And that is okay– resurrection happens without you knowing or planning for it.  It is okay not to know.

This Friday, UUFSC has been invited again to join with the (predominantly Black and African-American) Clinton Chapel AME Zion congregation, to celebrate Good Friday I will be offering a brief reflection as part of the service. The service will start at 7 pm, will likely go for two hours.  Clinton Chapel is located at 1024 4th St– be careful using your phone map program– when you search for Clinton Chapel on google maps, it takes you to the wrong location.  Type in the address instead!

And after Good Friday, comes Easter, even when we don’t know it… this Sunday:  How We Rise–Multigenerational Flower Communion. From despair, hopelessness, and stuckness, we can rise. On Easter, we honor the Christian wisdom of the resurrection story, celebrating with our multigenerational Flower Communion. Please bring a flower for our Flower Communion Ritual! Worship Leaders this week are: Rev. Darcy Baxter, Todd Whiteley, and Sabine Klein.

And next Thursday, April 20th at 6pm, please join me in advocating Modesto’s city officials to support becoming a Sanctuary City.  Our local, Latino-lead community organizing group, Faith in the Valley (formerly Congregations Building Community), has asked us to show up in support of making our community as safe as possible for our Latino and immigrant brothers, sisters, and siblings. We will hear testimonies from local youth and respectfully encourage our public officials to make Modesto an official sanctuary city. Thursday, April 20th, 6 p m – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1528 Oakdale Rd.

Don’t Waste a Good Crisis

“Don’t Waste a Good Crisis” is a phrase that is attributed to Winston Churchill…and Rahm Emmanuel, but it turns out that researchers can trace it to a relatively unknown physician who wrote an article in the journal Medical Economics journal in 1976– not nearly as inspiring as Winston Churchill or even Rahm Emmanuel, huh?  The title of his article was “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own” and he was addressing how it is in moments of perceived crisis/threat that humans are often most motivated to change.

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Church lilacs planted by Sharon A’s mother 

Most UU’s I know do not pay a lot of attention to what happens at our national denominational office in Boston. But UU ministers certainly do!  Controversy over a recent hiring decision, where a white straight man was selected over a woman of color, surfaced lots of concern and discussion over how much we UU’s are successfully “walking our talk” when it comes to our values of justice and multiculturalism.  Last week, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), Peter Morales (who identifies as Latino), resigned in response to this controversy.  Then this week, it was announced that two other UUA senior leaders (both White men) have tendered their resignation.   Fortunately, this does not have a lot of direct or immediate impact on life in our congregations.  If you want to read the details, you can read more here.

We UU’s having embraced lofty goals that are expressed in our Seven Principles.  There is a proposal to add an Eighth Principle. That we as a religious tradition struggle and wrestle with our culture of Whiteness and the broader culture of White Supremacy, is not new.   That we continue to fall short is also not new– that people experience profound disappointment and hurt is not new.  One of the things I am most proud of is to be part of a religious tradition that is even having these conversations and yes, even having these “crises.”  Most other predominantly White religious traditions are not having these kinds of conversations or “crises.”

If you are a person of color in our congregation, I welcome your insights and feedback. Since I am both White and Human,  I know I got some serious blindspots and need to listen if we are truly going to grow the Beloved Community.  If you are a White person in the congregation and are struggling with all this whiteness stuff, I encourage you to join many of us White UU’s at our next Showing Up for Racial Justice meeting on Tuesday April 25th: at 7pm at Central Grace Hmong Alliance Church, 918 Sierra Dr.  https://www.facebook.com/SURJStanislausCountypage/

For me, I am working on being present to the pain and disappointment UUs of Color are expressing and tempering a (White) emotional culture of shame and blame. Shame shuts us down and cuts us off from our source of power–it shuts us off from Love, it makes us want to turn in on ourselves, instead of reach out.  And friends, this is no time to be turning in.   Sometimes a “crisis” is actually a sign of development and growth– an experience to work through so we can evolve and mature.  And there is no one else I would want to be “evolving and maturing” with than YOU.

This Sunday, Avonelle Tomlinson and pianist Sabine Klein lead worship with guest preacher Rev. Jay Atkinson: Living by Liberal Faith–UU theologian Paul Rasor says that our liberal religious tradition “is not for the faint of heart,” suggesting that Unitarian Universalism offers a challenging pathway not always easy to follow. What does it actually mean to live deeply by liberal faith?  And how do we help one another live up to that ideal?

 

 

 

Radical Hope

“But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What I’m trying to cultivate is not blind optimism but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as “imaginative excellence.” Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.” –Junot Diaz, b. 1968

There is so much beyond my understanding and control– the line about “a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is”  really resonated with me.  Unitarian Universalists have always emphasized the power humans have to address suffering, reluctant to leave issues of justice in the hands of a distant God.  Sometimes, however, I find it helpful to step out of a traditional UU paradigm of “human power” and remember just how limited my human powers are.  There are things that transcend me and my understanding– and quite frankly, sometimes I find that a huge relief.

I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday: Finding Your Power— In the face of fear and uncertainty, how can we stay powerful?  Worship leaders this week are Rev. Darcy Baxter, Matthew Mason, and Sabine Klein.

The Cha-Cha

“Optimist: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha.” – Robert Brault

As many of you know, I am a dancer.  Generally, I spend 3-5 hours a week dancing. So of

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Some church campus color!

course I could really appreciate this Robert Brault quote.  Taking a step back after taking a step forward– it’s not just okay, not a disaster, but this process of learning, adjusting, and even backtracking could be something like a dance.  When I started to dance, it took me a number of months to learn how to learn how to dance– how to pick up the different sections of choreography and then string them together.  I remember really clearly the dance class when all of the sudden, I could do it.  It just clicked after months of fumbling.   I could finally learn and string together all the different pieces of the choreography.  Often times, we have to learn HOW to learn.  And in my experience, this learning how to learn is a clumsy process.  I did not look or feel very elegant or sassy when I was learning how to learn dance.  And the only way I could learn to learn dance was by doing it and fumbling alone.  I couldn’t sit down and learn it abstractly so then I could perfectly execute.

Our congregation is a learning community, where hopefully, we are learning how to learn and can laugh along the way as we are awkward and fumbling.  Cha-cha!!!!

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Adorable Deplorable— Adorable Deplorable were the bumper sticker words plastered on the back of a Toyota Corolla—how can we recognize and care for those whose worldview seem so different from our own? Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy Baxter and Matthew Mason.

Also, as part of worship, we will be doing a child dedication ritual for a few of our children  who are new (ish) to the congregation!

Double Your Pledge Impact–Increased Pledges and New Pledges Will Be Matched! As you probably know, we are in middle of our annual fundraising pledge drive. What you generously donate to UUFSC determines just how powerfully we can Love the Hell out of Stanislaus County.  Thanks to a generous donor, we have $5000 of matching funds for you if you increase your pledge or if you are newly pledging for the first time.  In other words, if you had been pledging $1200 a year, and you up your pledge to $2000, your $800 increase will be matched with another $800.  If you pledge for the first time with a $1200 pledge, then your pledge will be matched with another $1200. Thank you all for your generosity and for growing Beloved Community in Stanislaus County.

 

 

 

What is Possible?

Wednesday was my wife’s birthday, so I sent some flowers to her office.  She sent me a text message, thanking me for the flowers.  I responded “did you like the dog?”

“What?” she wrote back.

“The flowers were supposed to be in the shape of a dog– sounds like maybe not?”

“Wait, hold on.”…”Oh, wow! The bouquet was turned sideways and I didn’t even see the dog!”

As most of you know, we are in middle of our annual pledge drive, so this question of IMG_4088“what is possible” has been on my mind and our leaders’ minds.  As I scroll through spreadsheets, I try to hold onto our congregation’s mission, hold onto the big picture, in my head and heart.  Our human minds are subject to all kinds of evolutionary habits that often do not serve us well in our modern circumstances– like the brain’s negativity bias.  Human brains will pay more attention to danger, threat, and negative experiences than to neutral or positive experiences.  In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behavior and thinking than something equally emotional but negative.

It is so easy to look at circumstances (and  spreadsheets) and “miss the dog” so to speak.  In fact, our brains may be so focused on looking for “lions, tigers, and bears” that we are almost ensured to be missing the opportunities and generosities that may be abundantly surrounding us.  What possibilities are hiding in plain sight?

This Sunday: Possibilities in the Eternity of Now–What are the possibilities created in the eternity of now? Todd Whiteley delivers a sermon written by Rev. Kathleen Ellis. Worship Leaders this week are Avonelle Tomlinson, Todd Whiteley, and Sabine Klein.

 

Flowering of Paradox

“Spring is the season of surprise when we realize once again that despite our perennial doubts, winter’s darkness yields to light and winter’s deaths give rise to new light. So one metaphor for spring is “the flowering of paradox”… The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love. But in the spring we are reminded that human nature, like nature herself, can hold opposites together as paradoxes, resulting in a more capacious and generous life.”  -Quaker author Parker Palmer in A Hidden Wholeness

The “flowering of paradox” captures what I feel strolling or driving through the Valley these days–almond blossom season in the Valley is so stunningly beautiful and magical (and allergy filled).  And as I smile in appreciation of that beauty, I cannot help but also feel a pang of pain as I think about the sweat of the poorly paid immigrant labor that nurtures these orchards just as much as the soil and rain. Or the Valley farmers who overwhelmingly voted for our 45th president and in many ways feel so distant to me, despite being surrounded by their orchards.  Here again I find an experience of beauty intricately interwoven with pain.  “The deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair. The deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring.”

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On the heels of the almond blossoms, here come the peach blossoms!

In the mission statement feedback sessions, one word that got repeated about this congregation was that it was a”refuge,” “haven” and “sanctuary” from dominant and dehumanizing worldviews.   UUFSC is a refuge.  And there are some things, like the flowering of paradox,  which we cannot find a haven from– things that we must confront, preferably in the context of a sanctuary, of community.  What paradoxes are flowering in your life?

This Sunday in worship: Hell is Other People…But So is Heaven– “Hell is Other People” said Jean Paul Sartre in his play No Exit. The trouble is, so is heaven. Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy Baxter, John Patton, and Sabine Klein.

After worship this Sunday, newcomers to UUFSC are encouraged to join me for the first part of a three class New to UU Series: March 12, 26 and April 23.  Each class will last 75 minutes (11:45 am – 1:00 p.m.)  On March 12th, we will explore “Where UUism Comes From, Where We Are Going.”  On March 26th, we will explore “How UUs Believe” and on Apr. 23, we will explore “How UUs Belong.” Please bring snacks to share! In the Education Bldg.