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.

Power is the capacity generated by our relationships.

To live in a quantum world, to weave here and there with ease and grace, we need to change what we do. We need fewer descriptions of tasks and instead learn how to facilitate process. We need to become savvy about how to foster relationships, how to nurture growth and development. All of us need to become better at listening, conversing, respecting one another’s uniqueness, because these are essential for strong relationships…Power is the capacity generated by our relationships, so we need to be attending to the quality of those relationships. We would do well to ponder the realization that love is the most potent source of power.- Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World

Power is the capacity generated by our relationships.  I have been mulling over this for the past few days.  When we think about ‘getting things done,’ it’s easy to become very task oriented.  But when it comes to the most meaningful parts of our lives, when we seek power that is deep, real, and impactful, we need to think differently. Before anything gets done, relationships must be tended to.

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Orange Tree at Congregation Beth Shalom

Rabbi Shalom Bochner of Congregation Beth Shalom and I spent Wednesday afternoon together, giving one another tours of our congregations, getting to know one another and our congregations.  He wanted to know more about Unitarian Universalism, so I told him my usual lines- “we are kicked out Protestants who now live on the border between liberal Protestantism, Liberal Judaism, Liberal Catholicism, Secularism, and Humanism.  We are a people who live on the border.” And borders are all about relationships–borders are literally the place of connection.

And that place of connection, where relationship happens, is a powerful place.

Where in your life do you want more power?  And how could tending to the quality of your relationships help build power?

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday:  Right Relationship–Unitarian Universalists often invoke this phrase of “right relationship.” What does it mean exactly and how do we live in right relationship to ourselves, one another, and the world? Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy and Sharon Arpoika

This is what growing looks like

IMG_20160120_085229580 copy Muddy browns, cool greys…chunks of squishy mud.  Kind of yucky on one level.  And kinda of beautiful on another. And I bet those little baby trees (I’m sure there is a more technical term?) are LOVING it.

Because this is what growing looks like: sometimes you are a little twig in middle of a muddy, swampy soup of….well…mud.  And that is probably the best kind of environment for baby trees. (As I write this, I am thinking “wow, I hope this is good for the baby trees. Otherwise, I will be sending out a reflection on drowning baby trees….)

So today, I am giving thanks for for grey skies bringing us the delicious rain that create swampy soups of mud that feed our roots.

Sharon Arpoika and Matthew Mason lead worship this Sunday, as I take my monthly Sabbath weekend:  A Time for Wondering; A Time for Looking Forward–Each New Year is a time for wondering, a time for looking forward. Some of us have traditions or rituals tied to this holiday. Members are invited to reflect on “your tradition” and share either what your ritual is or what you look forward to in 2016.



If only life could be a little more tender….

“If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.” -Alan Rickman

“I don’t know where I am going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

This week, we lost two artists whose work many people felt connected to and enriched by.  As one friend put it “screw cancer.”

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Bill Greer’s Straw Mat Garden in Winter


Of the various quotes people have been sharing from Bowie and Rickman, these two above are my favorite.  In the past few months, as part of my spiritual practice, I’ve been  begun practicing more mindfulness and self-compassion.  My toes squinch as I write this– self-compassion, that sounds so mushy gushy. I want to be cool, intellectual, and tough….but actually, not really.   And I don’t want you to be either!  Fortunately, for my “cool and intellectual side”, there are researchers like Brene Brown and Kristin Neff, who offer us science to confirm that , indeed, it is a good and empirically valid idea to be compassionate to others AND ourselves.

I want life to be a little more tender–perhaps our church could be a slice of the world where we practice being more tender with ourselves and one another, a place where we are okay not knowing where we are going but are excited because we know it won’t be boring.

I look forward to worshiping with you call this Sunday: Falling Apart, Coming Back Together–Many times in our lives, things just fall apart. It can be scary, overwhelming.  And yet, we humans also figure out how to piece things back together.  Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy and Sharon Arpoika

First Session of “Gifts of Imperfection” Book Study This Sunday

I will be leading a book-study on Brene Brown’s book “Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” We will meet after church, 12:15pm- 1:45pm, on these Sundays: January 17th, January 31st, February 21st, and March 6th. RSVPs are appreciated, drop-ins are welcome.

You should purchase your own copy of the book and come to the January 17th meeting having read up until page 49.   Please bring snacks and sandwiches to share!





There was a rainbow

I don’t know what else I really want to say beyond this: there was a rainbow over the orchards as I pulled out of the church parking lot yesterday.  A giant rainbow.

I watched my rear-view mirror, making sure no one was pulling up behind IMG_20160106_164459830 copyme in the turn lane.

And I sat there for a few moments and watched the rainbow.

I could see both ends of the rainbow planting itself somewhere.  There was that nostalgic pull to try to find the end of it– wouldn’t it be cool if I chased this rainbow down and stood in the middle of it wherever it ends?   And I liked that image– of me standing in middle of some orchard, surrounded in rainbow light and raindrops.

Then a car pulled up and I left the rainbow behind me.  I’ll take wonder and whimsy wherever I can get it.

This Sunday: Awakening the Force– Star Wars has evoked a sense of wonder in many of us. Where and how can we tap into wonder and imagination? How can we awaken the force?  Worship leaders: Rev.Darcy and Sharon Arpoika.  SPOILER ALERT:  Details from the Force Awakens will be revealed!

Join Me in “Gifts of Imperfection” Book Study
Sunday January 17th, January 31st, February 21st, and March 6th.
I will be leading a book-study on Brene Brown’s book “Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.”

We will meet after church, 12:15pm- 1:45pm, on these Sundays: January 17th, January 31st, February 21st, and March 6th.

RSVPs are appreciated, drop-ins are welcome.  Please email Rev. Darcy with the subject heading “I’m in for Imperfection book study!” You should purchase your own copy of the book and come to the January 17th meeting having read up until page 49.   Please bring snacks and sandwiches to share!



You are kidding me-that’s the way gratitude works?

I got in my car, let out a big sigh.  I was feeling a bit stressed, so I asked myself “what am I grateful for?”  And I thought about how I hadn’t gotten a nail in my tire for awhile.  Last Autumn, in my first months with you all, I had gotten three or four nails in my tires, requiring a number of visits to the tire shop.  So I said to myself “I am really grateful I haven’t had any tire issues for awhile now.”

Then I turned on my car.


Brrrr! Modesto Frost

Wouldn’t you know it– the low tire pressure warning light flashed on.

All I could do was bust out laughing.  If there is something like what we mean with this word God, I bet s/he/it was laughing too.

Gratitude and laughter.  In midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, I hope you will join me in carving out a little more space for gratitude and laughter in our lives together.

This Sunday in worship, as we approach the longest night of the year, as the darkness literally slows our bodies and minds down,  we will try to appreciate slowness, even though so many of us can’t stand sitting still! Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy and Sharon Arpoika

Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship Service 6:30pm    Join us for music, meaning, singing and celebration. This year, we will hear the Jesus birth story as told in the Quran’s Maryam Surah.

Reminder: The church office will be closed starting Thursday Dec 24th and will re-open on Tuesday January 5th.   These weekly reflections will be on hiatus until the week of January 5th, as will the church’s weekly e-blast announcements.  For pastoral emergencies, please call Rev. Darcy’s cell phone.


Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

In the past few weeks, I have used this excerpt from Henry Nouwen’s ‘Waiting for God’ to open a number of meetings– it really strikes a chord for me in this season of Advent and week of Chanukah, both of which focus our attention, in different ways, on waiting:

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Some what I think are weeds dressing up in Christmas colors

“Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something…

In our particular historical situation, waiting is even more difficult because we are so fearful. One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear. People are afraid—afraid of inner feelings, afraid of other people, and also afraid of the future. Fearful people have a hard time waiting, because when we are afraid we want to get away from where we are.  People who live in a world of fear are more likely to make aggressive, hostile, destructive responses than people who are not so frightened. The more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes. That is why waiting is such an unpopular attitude for many people.”

As we listen to Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from our country, as we face mass shootings, and threats of terrorism (much more so from White Christian extremists than Brown Muslim extremists),  one of the things I think our UU church is called to do is focus on ways we bring calm and peace to ourselves and to each other, within our church walls and beyond.  In other words, don’t just do something, stand there!

This Sunday in our multigenerational worship, we will embody this message of peace and community: in the 9:30 am service, we will do a participatory reading of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. At the 11am service, we will do a pageant of Margaret Brown’s Christmas in the Barn.

Tenderness Revolution

Perhaps it is a bit heretical for a Unitarian Universalist to say this, but I loved the Pope’s message he gave on Wednesday, where he called for a “revolution of tenderness.”


Beauty in the Broken on I Street in Downtown Modesto

This is not about being “nice” for the sake of politeness. Pope Francis says we need a revolution of tenderness because, “from here, justice and all the rest derives.”  I couldn’t agree more.   Plus, it didn’t hurt that he took his Church to task for falling “into the temptation to take a hard line.”

When we are feeling hurt or disrespected, when we are afraid, our first defense response is often to harden our hearts, to take a hard line.  And boy, are we in a time when the news is inundating us with messages of fear.

And in some situations in our past, hardening our hearts is what we needed to do to survive.

But church should not be a place where you have to harden your heart to survive.  I believe church should be a place where we practice a revolution of tenderness, towards ourselves and towards others.   A place to slow down, be curious about what is going on in the lives of others, and risk assuming good intentions.  A place to try out tenderness, even in the most mundane interaction, even in the most transactional email message.

Because from this radical place of tenderness, justice and all the rest derives.