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.

Live Gently

This morning, driving up Prescott to church, right before Pelandale, traffic was backed up. I craned my head around trying to see what was going on. I felt annoyed.  And then I saw why we were stopped:

WP_20150514_002bA family of geese were crossing the road. I watched the baby geese waddling in between the grown-ups.  A big sigh left my body….then I realized my breathing had been shallow, so I took a big breath as I watched the goose family cross the road, all the traffic stopped, seemingly patiently waiting in middle of the morning rush.  Our world can be brutal and rushed.  And sometimes, there is a moment of grace when everything slows down.  Where is your moment of grace and slowness?

I am looking forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday at 10:00am, as we begin our summer schedule: Being a Serpent and A Dove–“Be as wise as serpents, innocent as doves,” said Jesus to his disciples. How can we be wise, yet not cynical? Innocent, yet not naive?

Moving to Music Not Yet Written

“Our mothers and grandmothers, some of them: moving to music not yet written. And they waited.They waited for a day when the unknown thing that was in them would be made known”  – Alice Walker

In preparing for our Mother’s Day worship, I have been reading parts of Alice Walker’s “In

One of the many pieces of art available for Mamas Day e-cards!

One of the many pieces of art available for Mamas Day e-cards! http://www.mamasday.org

Search of our Mother’s Gardens.”  I must admit that Mother’s Day for me is a sad and grittier ‘holiday’ than what is portrayed in stores and television. My relationship to motherhood is complex and brings up all kind of feelings, as I think it does for so many of us.  How can we honor the full messy complexity that is motherhood? The Strong Families’ Mamas’ Day celebration has helped do what they have rebranded as “Mama’s Day.”  Just scrolling through the artwork they offer for their Mamas’ Day ‘e-cards’ makes me feel more at peace– this is a way I can do Mother’s Day that feels authentic, spiritually grounded, and real.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday for our “All Kinds of Mamas” service, where we will create a space honoring the fullness and diversity of motherhood, recognizing the magic and heartbreak of being a mama.

Untitled3

One of the many pieces of art available for Mamas Day e-cards! http://www.mamasday.org

Standing, Marching, Resisting and Fighting FOR and ON the Side of LOVE

The title of my post comes today from the just released “Statement from UU Religious Professionals of Color RE: Baltimore.”  Part of the letter is posing the question to the UUA about why can we use our resources for things like the 50th anniversary of Selma but not devote more resources to what I will call BlackLivesMatter organizing?  As our hearts are

Baltimore by Devin Allen #dvnlln  https://instagram.com/bydvnlln/

by Devin Allen #dvnlln https://instagram.com/bydvnlln/

torn open again and again by Baltimore, Ferguson,  Staten Island, Cleveland, Oakland…by Modesto (last year Modesto was ranked the fifth most violent or dangerous city in California), who will we be? What will we do? And how should we invest our resources? These are indeed the questions to be asking.  In some places, one may be able to avoid the reality of the struggle.  In middle of the Central Valley, in middle of the drought, in middle of our own violence, we are blessed not to be able to so easily deny reality.  We are blessed with so much wisdom and compassion in a place that needs our gifts.

Baltimore by Devin Allen #dvnlln  https://instagram.com/bydvnlln/

by Devin Allen #dvnlln https://instagram.com/bydvnlln/

Struggling with whiteness, struggling with racism…our Beloved Conversations group had an emotional evening together working through this curriculum designed to engage us spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually in the work of anti-racism.  (interested in doing this work too? You can join in next January!)  At the end of our gathering, we each wrote a closing statement to share with the group– here was mine (all the feeling words are what participants named as their feelings):

“This is what the work is: awkward, messy, emotional, confused, scattered, overwhelming, silenced, alert, frustrating, fearful, angry, sad, and apprehensive. Let’s continue on to find out what comes next.  You rock!”

My dear UU’s of Stanislaus County– you continue to impress me and bust my heart open. I am blessed to be figuring out what comes next with you all!

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday 5/3, where we are blessed with special music from beloved cellist Ira Lehn:  I’m Gonna Learn–UUs are known for deeply valuing education and learning– but are we sure we are keeping our minds open enough? What does it take for us to keep on learning?

Bump Up Your Pledge? Because of your generosity and commitment, each of us giving according to our gifts and resources, we are ALMOST to our pledge drive goal. We are down to the wire (the Finance Committee is assembling the budget as we speak!) and are currently $10,000 short. Would you consider bumping up your pledge one more percentage point? $100? $250 $500? With your bump, we can do even more loving the hell out of Stanislaus County! Please email Brenda at admin@stanuu.org to bump up your pledge.
-Stewardship Team: John Patton, Mary Lee, and Todd Whiteley

All these photos I shared with you are from Baltimore amateur photographer Devin Allen– check out his incredible capturing of the multidimensional humanness in Baltimore right now: https://instagram.com/bydvnlln/

Baltimore by Devin Allen #dvnlln  https://instagram.com/bydvnlln/

by Devin Allen #dvnlln https://instagram.com/bydvnlln/

Fallacies of Self

I have been on study leave this week and one of the books I have been reading is Rabbi Edwin Friedman’s Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. Like many of the thinkers and doers I tend to favor, Friedman always looks at the world through the lens of relationships and systems– always looking at the organicism of our living.  We are not discrete individuals connected in mechanistic ways. We are inherently interconnected, full of relationality and embedded in a complicated web of relationship and becoming. For a

Some of our younger "cells" in action at our Easter Egg hunt a few weeks back.

Some of our younger “cells” in action at our Easter Egg hunt a few weeks back.

tradition like UUism, so predicated on the values of the individualism, how do we reconcile our cherished beliefs and adapt to a world now revealed to be far more relational and connected than our ancestors imagined?   For me, Friedman helps address some of these tensions between individual and community.

Bold, healthy communities are not created or nurtured by the elimination of self–  members are not self-less people or selfish people.  Instead, these communities are filled with self-full people. Like the different, differentiated cells of our body that cooperate to maintain our complex human body, the health of a community requires healthy “cells’ that are what they are, fulfilling their function and maintaining their cell walls again infections and viruses.   There is even is a 6 minute video using stick-figures explaining some of Friedman’s theories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgdcljNV-Ew

How is your “self” doing? How’s your nucleus feeling?  Are your cell walls okay, too rigid, too porous? What help do you need to maintain your boundaries? What help do you need to let love in?

This Sunday, Avonelle Tomlinson and Natures’ Compass, our pagan group, lead worship,  performing a Beltane Ritual, honoring Mother Earth as She explodes into fertility! Join in as UUFSC shares the joyful exuberance of this season! If you like, wear some flowers in your hair…

There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken

I just returned from the regional UU ministers’ spring meeting and this poem was used in our closing worship- written by the poet Rashani.

There is a brokenness

From our UU ministers worship altar

From our UU ministers worship altar

out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

If I think about the work of a spiritual community, it is summed up pretty nicely in this excerpt.  We create the transformative space and relationships that allow us to find the kind of joy and strength of which Rashani speaks.  It takes labor, sweat, and tears to keep up a community doing this work. And a lot of love and laughter.   One of the things I love about UUFSC is that you know how to do this work of loving through the brokenness.

It also takes money (yes, here is another shameless plug): If you have not already, please turn in your pledge cards! Our finance committee must do the hard work of creating our budget for next year and we can only do it once we have all of your pledge cards! Questions?  Please contact John Patton, Mary Lee, or Todd Whiteley.

Another shot of the altar, with part of  crucifixion scene caught in the shadows--appropriate for us UUs! (we were meeting in a Franciscan chapel)

Another shot of the altar, with part of crucifixion scene caught in the shadows–appropriate for us UUs! (we were meeting in a Franciscan chapel)

In worship on Sunday, UU seminarian Jessica Clay will return to our pulpit to lead worship with Avonelle Tomlinson on Translations of Cheer: Sometimes faith feels like the telephone game. We each have our own experience, but when we try to convey it to another we end up getting lost in translation. Throughout our rich history there are stories of our elders reaching to find their truth and translating it for us. Come let us worship together as we explore the past and let it inform the present to guide each of us on our spiritual journeys.

Love is the strongest force

There are many things I did not know about Ted H, our beloved member who passed away recently.  Sitting down, with his family, I got to learn a little more about him. One of which was that a one point in his career, he was one of the top experts on gravity.  Gravity– that turned me to this excerpt from poet and writer Joy Harjo:

“I understood love to be the very gravity holding each leaf, each cell, this earthy star together.  I believe love is the strongest force in this world, though it doesn’t often appear to be so at the ragged end of this century. And its appearance in places of drought from lovelessness is always startling. Being in love can make the connections between all life apparent—whereas lovelessness emphasizes the absence of relativity.”
WP_20150401_011

Scene out my car window on my ways to Greens.

If love is gravity, Ted H. had one heck of a gravitational pull.   In this moment, when videos of the shooting of Walter Scott are saturating the news, indeed this is a ragged moment when love does not appear to be so strong.   In our own lives, how can we make our own gravitational pulls even stronger?  Who do we need to pull into our orbits of radical, justice producing love? Ted H. faced hardship in his life and through it he was able make love his strongest force.  May we all find and live out such wisdom.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Never Port or Harbor Have You Known. Amidst all the risks of living, the peril, tragedy, and betrayal, are there any safe harbors?

Practicing Being Human

This week, during the gathering of our spirituality and anti-racism group meeting (Beloved Conversations), we talked about the concept of microaggressions.  Microaggressions refer to the constant and continuing everyday reality of slights, insults, invalidations, and

Feeding our souls (and stomachs) at Beloved Conversations

Feeding our souls (and stomachs) at Beloved Conversations

indignities experienced by folks with marginalized identities and/or experiences.  The Beloved Conversations program asks us to focus specifically on racism, but it also highlights the ways so many of us get hurt when a part of who we are gets denied or slighted by ‘dominant culture.’  Maybe it’s ageism, sexism, able-ism, classism, being single….comments are made, often with good intentions, that somehow dehumanize another.  It’s death by a thousand papercuts.

WP_20150325_004

Lenten crosses at St. Stanislaus Church

For me, church is about deepening and growing our awareness. Not to be perfect or perfectly politically correct, but to minimize the harm we both experience and that we often, unintentionally, do to others.  All of these “papercuts” diminish our ability to respond to life with an open heart.  I think at church, what we are striving to be is a place where we don’t experience so many papercuts, where fewer and fewer people feel dehumanized.  In the words of UU theologian James Luther Adams, our religion is a place where we actually “practice what it means to be human,”  perfectly imperfectly.