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.

The Joy Of Struggle

We opened the annual board retreat on Saturday with the poem Gates of Hope by UU minister Rev. Victoria Safford. And at the end of the retreat, I re-read the poem and asked the Board members to pick a word a phrase that stuck out to them.   And the most popular phrase was “joy of struggle.”  The Board didn’t waste anytime getting right to the real issues, many of which centered around how to professionalize some of our

28828889180_3b8d242540_z

The altar Board members created, including special mementos from their own home.

business, financial, and professional practices to better protect and nurture our community; how to build up a culture of confidence and trust when it comes to money.

 

What was great to see, and what I was so proud of, was how kind, respectful, and even funny the Board could be while addressing issues that were stressful or serious.  There can be joy in the struggle– when you have the right group of people surrounding you.

And that is what church SHOULD be — the right people surrounding you as you struggle.  Because maybe, just maybe, you can find some joy in the roughest of places.  May UUFSC be such a place!

Gates of Hope by Rev. Victoria Safford

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of
“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;29078151376_7ba56a5b0e_z
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.

This SundayThe Force is With Us– Matthew Mason will lead worship with guest speaker Lauren Way, a seminarian from Starr King. She is passionately dedicated to helping those who are frequently ‘othered’ to be heard, valued, appreciated, and empowered. This Sunday she will be speaking to community, trust, and imperfection. Worship Associate Matthew Mason.

Also, this Sunday Aug. 28 is the LAST DAY to submit live auction donations!
Please complete the form and email it, text it, mail it, or hand deliver it to Sarah Beekman or Marcia Gilbert. Thank-you for your participation!  skbeekman@gmail.com, or feel free to snap a clear picture of it and text it to Sarah at  209-324-7193.  And remember, this year, a portion of our proceeds are going to be donated to support Syrian refugees being resettled in the Modesto area– your donation will let us Love the Hell out of Stanislaus County!

 

The Power of Drastically Reduced Ambitions

I take hope wherever I can find it.  This week, I was reading about how the demands of modern life easily put us humans in a constant state of “fight or flight.”  Our nervous systems are chronically amped, pumping cortisol through our bodies.   And sociologist Dr. Christine Carter puts it “I was living in a constant state of flight or flight, created by a pernicious and unrelenting sense that I was not getting it all done.”

28979333356_d7b6ebd89a_z

Orchard cat, Goof, inviting me to pause and pet!

I think when people come to church, one of the things they can be looking for are tangible ways of dealing with this constant state of fight or flight.   Changing something about our lives can simply feel overwhelming.  But I was reminded (as I often need to be) of the power of the small things, the small shifts.  Particularly when it comes to soothing our overly amped nervous systems.   And hearing that some fancy Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley, who specializes in happiness and productivity (and former marathon runner), runs for 9 minutes most days while her children pressed snooze…. Right! the power of doing a little bit, a lot.   As Carter puts it:

For a former marathon runner, slowly jogging for less than a mile a few days a week seems pathetically unambitious. But here’s the thing: I’m now consistently running twenty miles more per month than before I drastically reduced my ambitions.  This is because before I started just a little bit of exercise each weekday morning, I was spending a lot of time planning my exercise but very little time actually exercising. What working single mom can work out for an hour before getting her kids off to school? – Dr. Christine Carter, “The Sweet Spot.”

We can find hope in a kinds of places.  What small thing, what drastically reduced ambition might open up some hope for you this week?

I look forward to worshiping with you all this week: Planting Trees in the Apocalypse-
When asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, Martin Luther is said to have responded, “I would plant a tree today.” We explore why we should plant trees. Our worship leaders are Rev. Darcy Baxter, Avonelle Tomlinson, and Bernadette Burn

 

Perspective Is Nice to Get

It’s so easy to get caught up.  We all have our day-to-day stuff, our struggles, our joys– so easily our view gets cluttered and filled up.   I always appreciate when I experience something that gives me some perspective.  And this week, what gave me perspective was visiting the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) office in Turlock.   The IRC was founded by Albert Einstein during World War II to aid refugees.  Today, the Turlock office of the IRC is working to resettle 50-80 Syrian refugee families A MONTH.  They are completely overwhelmed, struggling to find housing, transport families, etc.  Sarah B. and I met with the Executive Director and discussed ways we could partner and support them as part of our annual church auction (Saturday October 22nd fyi!)

IMG_20160802_144252851 copy

“Clean and Serene for Ninety Days” keychain found on UUFSC patio

As Sarah and I walked out, about 6 people were sitting in the crowded little office–people I guessed were refugees. I realized they were waiting, at least in part, because Sarah and I had been meeting with some of the staff.  My stomach thudded.

For at least the rest of the day (maybe even into the next) a feeling of gratitude and appreciation was much easier for me to experience.  My troubles just didn’t seem so big.

This Sunday–Connections: Near and Far. We are thrilled to have guest artist and musician Joy Willow from Sonora, CA joining Tina Godsey in leading worship.  Willow will weave poetry and music together with a reflection connecting past with present.  Joy Willow, is a classically trained musician, poet and “abstract naturalist” painter.

 

 

 

 

Biography Not Ideology

I cam across this phrase “Biography not Ideology” through a project called the “Urban Confessional: A Free Listening Project.”   A community of actors started to stand around Los Angeles with signs that said “free listening” and were open to anyone

nut

Almond Ready For Harvest

who needed to laugh, cry, scream, or chat. This project has grown and is now found around the world. According to David Isay, founder of the StoryCorp, “listening is an act of love.”

Part of me totally says “yah! right on!”  The other part of me says “well how do we shift from listening to policy change…we need more than listening”   I go back and forth.   We need more compassion, we need to calm anxious bodies and minds down….and we need to address the real suffering that is going on.   Such mixed emotions…

But where in your life might this phrase “biography not ideology” come in handy?  Where in your life will it NOT come in handy?

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday.  Matthew Mason and I will be leading worship, as we explore the issue of Judgment–Liberal religion got rid of the idea of some final judgment. But maybe some judgment in our lives is exactly what we need.

 

 

The World Breaks Everyone

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”  Joe Biden quoted these words from Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms last night in his speech at the Democratic convention.  Coming from a man who lost his first wife and one year old daughter in a car accident in 1972 and then lost his 46 year old son Beau just last year from brain cancer,  these are not hollow words.  Vice President Biden is all too well acquainted with the fragility and preciousness of life.   After the tragedy in 1972, Biden liked to walk around seedy neighborhoods at night when he thought there was a better chance of finding a fight.  He writes “I had not known I was capable of such rage … I felt God had played a horrible trick on me.” Biden seems to me to be a person who leads from the strength of the broken places.

IMG_20160727_141708908 copy

Tree blossoms stretch to meet Johnson building

Learning to live and lead from the strength of our broken places is a great way I would describe the purpose of church.  And in these days of such violence, anxiety, and fear, where brokenness in our world is abundant and plentiful, learning to live from the strength of the broken places feels like an absolute survival skill.

It is so good to be back– I had a lovely and restful summer leave– though what a month to be away from you all!  So much violence going on in the world: terrorist attacks in Nice, more black people killed at the hands of law enforcement, police officers killed– so much anxiety and fear.  And yet we each go on, paying our bills (or trying to!), taking care of our families, going to the grocery store.

Here is to learning to live and lead from the strength of our broken places.

In faith,

Rev. Darcy

 

 

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.

IMG_20160627_223518

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

IMG_20160612_091058188

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.