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.

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.”
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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.

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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.

May the Clay Dance to Balance You

“May the Clay Dance To Balance You” is a line from John O’Donahue’s poem Beannacht/Blessing: “On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you.”   This was a poem I used to open a number of meetings this week, meetings with members doing the labor of tending to our organization, it’s finances, it’s staffing.  I thought a poem from an Irish poet seemed appropriate the week of St. Patrick’s Day.

Sunrise at UUFSC

Sunrise at UUFSC

Organizational development.  Finances.  Budgeting.  Personnel. Human Resources.  These are not the words people first think about when they thing of “church” or “spiritual community.”   Yet these are the terms that point to the existential foundation and scaffolding of a religious community.  The “we” of our congregation can exist not only because of our love, our spirit, and our feelings– but also because of the labor, sweat, money, resources, and time of many people that makes a community possible.

Unitarians and Universalists are known for challenging highfalutin, flowery talk of spirituality with the gritty reality of human bodies and suffering.  Don’t talk to us about an afterlife and heaven before you can talk to us about the suffering and struggle of our neighbors and children.  You say that suffering from injustice is okay because heaven awaits? We don’t think so.  Heaven and hell are not ethereal things of the afterlife– heaven and hell are right here and now.  And it is through our imperfect, dirty human hands that we can create more heaven or more hell.

We Unitarian Universalists claim that spirituality is not just something airy-fairy–spirituality is us, our bodies, our labor, our relationships.  It is in our tears and in the dirt.  It is the clay that may dance to meet our feet when we stumble.

This Sunday, we will be worshiping together, honoring our gritty religious tradition and what it takes to make our dreams and values a true, living reality.

Becoming Love’s People

I spent part of my study leave this week meeting with a small group of colleagues for two days of spiritual and theological reflection on Emerging Theologies in Unitarian Universalism.  We gathered in a Episcopal retreat center in Sonoma County that was founded as a convalescent home for children living with chronic illnesses.  We stayed in my favorite building– the Lydia House, which was built to house mothers seeking respite from care-taking responsibilities.  A place built for reproductive justice!

When we had a break, we drove to the ocean and passed by this oddly New England,WP_20150311_008  looking Catholic church.  Apparently, as a sign informed us, this was the church Alfred Hitchcock used in his film “The Birds!”

Church. Fellowship. Congregation.  Our buildings look all kinds of different ways, but what we are doing is being a church.  We are trying to be a place that is different than what is outside of our walls.  We are trying to be a sanctuary that cares and nurtures, as well as a community that transforms those within and outside of our walls.  How has our congregation nurtured you? How has it transformed you?   And a religious community is not all about you– it is about US.  So how do you want to nurture UUFSC? And how do you want to transform us?

This Sunday, Janice Goodloe and guest preacher Rev. Meghan Cefalu will lead worship: Becoming Love’s People.  Rev. Cefalu writes that “the heart of our faith, the central claim of Universalism, is that we are all worthy of God’s love. But for many of us the Christian theological language and imagery does not resonate. Imagine if new language and new ways of thinking about the Holy could open your heart and renew your spirit.”

Rev. Meghan Conrad Cefalu is a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry. She has served as a UU parish minister in Kansas, Missouri, Grass Valley, CA and Newton, Massachusetts. Currently between congregations she is enjoying the opportunity to lead services at UU congregations all over northern California – her beloved home state.

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At the end of our first day together, my colleagues and I sat around chatting about our ministries– what was going on, the joys and challenges. This is what the table looked like right before we went to bed. Notice the abundant La Croix cans and the Rolling Stone magazine with Madonna on the cover- a magazine a colleague brought for me!

Blossom to Leaf

I walked into the education building last week and walked into this: WP_20150225_010“YEAH” I exclaimed.  I peaked into the office to find Debbie S. busy at work, sorting, clearing out, and tidying up the Religious Education office.  Make sure to peak your head in to check it out!

To make room for the new, we must clean, sort, discard, and rearrange. The Spring season is upon us– this Saturday night/Sunday morning is already Daylight Savings!  Do you have plans to do some Spring cleaning?  What new energy do you need to make room for by cleaning up and out?  This congregation has been engaging in a lot of cleaning up and out these past couple of years– though it has been quite challenging at times, there is much to be proud of.

This Sunday, we will celebrate freshness and newness– Nurturing Our Blossomings. We honor the ways we are all blossoming and dedicate ourselves to the families and children of the congregation who have joined in the past couple of years.  The 11am service will be mulitgenerational!

Also, I will be taking study leave next week.  If you have a pastoral emergency, please call me on my cell phone! Otherwise, I will return emails and phone messages when I return on Tuesday March 17th.

Blossom to Leaf

Blossom to Leaf