In a meeting this week, we started off with this reading from John O’Donohue’s Beauty: The Invisible Embrace:
What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation.
After our slowed down summer time months at UUFSC, we are approaching the time of
Almonds ready to be harvested- the shake and sweep is about to begin!
starting another church year. How are you feeling about it? What are you expecting? What is the quality of your approach? For me, I can only truly answer these questions after I give myself some space for a little prayer, a little meditation, and a little reflection. Then I can get in touch with the true ‘quality of my approach.’ And with a little more prayer and meditation, I might even be able to shift my quality of approach, if that is what I think would be most healthy.
I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday. I will lead worship with Matthew Mason and Angel Holmes: Play With Your Food. Do struggle with what you eat? Do you think you should eat differently? Come join Rev. Darcy as she plays with our food.
Spiritual wisdom often directs us to do things differently. Differently than dominant culture, which tells us to work harder, longer, more seriously. By nature, I am extraordinarily willful–it has taken me time and heartbreak to realize that willpower isn’t always the most effective route to achieving a goal. Often times, taking a big deep breath, maybe even SEVERAL breaths, and asking myself “what is really needed here? What is essential? What is my appropriate role and what do I need to let go of?” And so much of the time, I have discovered that less is more.
Stray, decaying peach on the orchard floor…beauty in odd places
A member asked me what I had learned after one year of being with you all. And I said “that you all DO A LOT.” Given the size of our congregation, we DO more than congregations with more members. You paint more buildings, you run more religious education classes for children, you feed more people, you raise more money, you do more weeding. But all these doings isn’t what makes UUFSC such an inspiring religious community–it’s the deep care the drives this doing. We don’t just do for doings sake– we do because we care. No matter what our activity is, let us not forget that it is this community’s fierce ethic of care that makes us who are. If the doing starts feeling overwhelming– take a deep breath, think about how this community cares, ask what is essential, and remember, sometimes less is more.
This Sunday, Matthew Mason leads worship with Guest Speaker Mark Haskett from Stanislaus County Interfaith Council:
Playing With (Religious) Words. Bringing clarity to our communications is crucial… in personal and social relations, in legal contracts and nuclear arms deals… and especially in religion, where scriptural passages and words are parsed and interpreted as if our salvation depended on it. Author of Boldly Going on Your Inner Voyage – as well as current chair of the Stanislaus County Interfaith Council and long-time friend of the UU Fellowship – Mark Haskett suggests we “lighten up” a bit. Instead of being so serious about religious language, what can we learn by being a little more, well… playful with it?
We closed the Board of Trustee’s retreat on Saturday with a reading of the Board’s covenant, which ends with these words:
“We will consider the consequences of our decisions as they affect the vision, mission, and safety of our entire community, now and for future generations, viewing ourselves as stewards of the Fellowship. Answer the Why, Not the What.”
Congregational life is a delicate balancing of the past, present, and future. We must keep coming back to that question of “Why?” Why does UUFSC exist? What difference in the world does UUFSC make? Could we make more of an impact or a different kind of impact? Unitarian Universalism means something–I have seen that over and over again, particularly in my reproductive justice related work. Yes, UUFSC exists to foster caring and healing for us, the members. And it also exists to do something in the world outside of our church walls.
The altar co-created at the Board retreat, with Board members contributing special objects from their lives.
We cannot do everything, fight for every cause. But we can do something. What should our something be? What are our priorities? What is Unitarian Universalism’s unique gift to offer Stanislaus County? These are the questions your leadership will continue wrestling with and figuring out how to make happen, in ongoing conversation with members.
I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: “Like A Prayer.” Yup, it’s about Madonna! We will also be welcoming Angel Holmes as our new church pianist.
After church on Sunday, I will be participating in Rabbi Shalom Bochner’s installation service at Congregational Beth Shalom. I am thrilled that Rabbi Bochner has been called into full time service at Beth Shalom– UU’s have a long history of partnership with Reform Jewish congregations!
Wow, wow, wow– the scaffolding has come down and we can appreciate all of the labor
Labor of Love
many of you did to bring even more beauty to our church campus. And Bob S. even put in a light in the tower, so when you drive by in the evening, our sanctuary is literally shining!
For me, beauty is not just a superficial nicety– it is essential in my theology. In the words of Rev. Patricia Adams Farmer, “the poet of the world lures us always and forever toward Beauty. The divine poet beckons and persuades and lures us forward with enticing possibilities.” I pay attention to beauty– I notice what is enticing, because that is the path I suspect will lead towards precious and important experiences. What does this new coat of paint say about us? What are we ready for? What possibilities do we find enticing for this religious community?”
And what I love about the all the repair work and painting is that it was does almost entirely with our hands– the love, care, and labor you all provided. Literally, our sanctuary in it’s rejuvenated condition was a labor of love. How beautiful is that? How beautiful are we?
I’m so looking forwarding to worshiping with you all after many weeks away! This Sunday, I will lead worship with Matthew Mason and guest musician Richard and Maureen Hall of Bliss Hippy. It will be a music-filled service, where we explore and experience the wisdom of play.
Also, send good thoughts to our Board members, as I will gather with them for a 24 hour retreat Friday night through Saturday evening at St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista. Rev. Dave Sammons, minister emeritus of our congregation in Walnut Creek, will facilitate as we cultivate leadership skills and plan for the future!
I’m back from my Summer sabbath time! It’s so good to come back to you all. But let me
Watching World Cup Finals with my parents and brothers.
warn you– I’m in a playful mood! “Play is what aliveness looks like” says Rev. Anthony Makar in this Summer’s edition of UU World Magazine. August tends to be a time of planning for me and many of our lay leaders. The Board will going on a 24 hour retreat together to plan for the year. I will be working with our worship team to plan month worship themes. And I find that it is easy, when doing important things like planning, to become very serious, very solemn. Because we are talking about our spirituality, right? We are talking about what this congregation can do and be to heal one another and the world. Isn’t that serious business?
Auntie time on the beach!
In her essay Crib Notes from Bethlehem, theologian Laurel Schneider argues that Christianity, particularly the Christianities evolving out of Puritan Protestantism, tend to suffer from “a sensible lack-an anorexic denial even-of humor and of poetry.” When we laugh, when we play, there is a spaciousness to our thinking and being that we humans need for our creative thinking and survival.
As we begin our second year together in shared ministry, I want to begin with that sense of play, aliveness, and spaciousness. There are indeed very serious things to address in our lives. Do we not continue to watch horrendous news of Black and Brown people being harassed and killed? Sandra Bland’s case is yet ‘unresolved’ as I write this. It is exactly in these moments, when so much is at stake for so many people, that we must make sure not to tighten up our thinking and being, closing out creative possibilities with anxiety and fear. Here is to loosening, lightening, and playing!
Before I begin my summer sabbath time and study leave, I wanted to share with you some
further thoughts on my experience at this General Assembly (GA) and also highlight some of the sermons and presentations from GA that I would encourage all of us to watch.
Many of my ministry colleagues and I commented that it seemed like the “true” theme of this year’s Ministry Days conference and General Assembly was failure, brokenness, and vulnerability. To put it plainly, for us Unitarian Universalists, most of whom (though not all) identify as White liberal folks, this year kicked our behinds. From Ferguson to Charleston, the continuing evils of racism and White supremacy have been put out there in plain sight in ways we simply cannot deny. What I heard from UUs at General Assembly were these questions:
- How can we acknowledge, in compassion, our own shortcomings and failures as a religious community?
- How can we find sources of hope and resiliency?
- How can we continue fighting the hells of this world by building beloved community?
The good news, my dear friends, is that UUFSC already knows the answer to these questions. That’s what I have witnessed in my first year serving you all as your minister. We are willing to face ugly truths and the depths of our suffering. We all are fiercely committed to loving one another and this world. And we know how to find beauty and have fun!
You know what felt awesome for me at General Assembly? The stories I got share with colleagues about UUFSC and what we have done this year: the work on healthy boundaries and staffing; feeding people who are homeless with respect and dignity; participation in the Beloved Conversations curriculum and small group ministry; our concrete support of First Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’s Charleston Vigil. Yes, I was bragging about us. And yes, I enjoyed it :-)
Below, please find the links to what I would recommend you watching from General Assembly.
When I return on July 28th, I look forward to sitting down with many of you and discerning our priorities for our second year of shared ministry. Blessings on us all and the work of Unitarian Universalism in Stanislaus County!
Must-Sees from General Assembly 2015:
- Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar’s sermon ‘For Just Such a Time as This’ at the Service of the Living Tradition. Lavanhar is the Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa OK. http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2015/worship/slt (to skip to the sermon, forward to the 1h 23 minute mark)
- Adoption of Action of Immediate Witness for #BlackLivesMatter in General Session VI–take notice of the confusion in procedure, tensions, and anxieties in this process. http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2015/business/vi (begins approximately at the 47 minute mark of the video).
For great coverage of General Assembly and the highlights and take-aways, check out the UU World: http://www.uuworld.org/ga
I write this from Portland OR at our UU General Assembly. Yesterday we got news of the
Prayer Vigil at First Christian Methodist Episcopal Church last Sunday. Photo by Andy Alfaro at Modesto Bee
SCOTUS decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. Today, on what would have been the 13th birthday of Tamir Rice, we celebrated the SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, just as the memorial for the Charleston 9 began. And at General Assembly this morning, we Unitarian Universalists almost unanimously approved the statement of conscience for reproductive justice, a process I have been working on for 4 years. Talk about being FULL. What a week, what a year.
The opening ceremony of General Assembly is parade of congregational banners. One of
Board President Elaine Arnold in the Banner Parade
our members who is attending General Assembly for the first time spoke about how powerful it was to sit in the convention hall with thousands of UUs watching hundreds and hundreds of banners being carried. She realized we are far bigger than it sometimes feels in our little slice of Unitarian Universalism in Stanislaus County.
Who we are and what we do MATTER. I feel this more than ever, sitting in the middle of thousands of Unitarian Universalists, holding the celebrations of this week, and the lament of Ferguson to Charleston.
Delegates nearly unanimously voting to adopt the Reproductive Justice Statement of Conscience.
My weekly reflections will take a four week hiatus as I take 4 weeks of sabbath and study leave, returning on Tuesday July 28th. Love and blessings to you all!!!