Remember Beauty

Remember Beauty.  That’s all I really want to say this week.  Remember to pay attention to beauty, kindness, and generosity.  Because it is there, despite the sparse coverage it gets in the news media. I am not one to encourage us to look away from hard a


Sunset in the Valley- taken on my driveway!

nd painful stuff–some of us do that too often, choosing to live in denial of the suffering all around us.  But it is also possible to become so inundated by the injustices that we forget to notice the good.  Living a “spiritual life” for me means doing the things (meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection, dance, and community) that help me to strike this delicate balance between witnessing and working for justice and compassion, while not forgetting to find joy, beauty, and fun in the world.

This week I found joy in the feminist solidarity sprouting up in response to the misogyny being espoused in our politics–women proudly reclaiming the “nasty woman” epithet as their own.  I felt joy when I heard the congregational meeting went well last Sunday and that we are getting a new piano!  And I found beauty in the cool crispness settling into the Valley at night.  Autumn is here, I can feel the retreat of the sun and my own self turning a bit more inward.   Beauty is here– don’t forget to see it!

I look forward to seeing many of you at our annual church auction this Saturday evening  and worshiping with you this Sunday:  Witnessing Stories of the Other–Witnessing means truly seeing– seeing what is real and authentic, even if such seeing brings up feelings of discomfort.  We explore the stories of people who  feel like “the other” rather than like part of an “us.”   Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy and Tina Godsey

When It All Comes Out

“Coming out”….this phrase has been on my mind this week.  First, Tuesday was National Coming Out Day for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer folks.  Second, since the video of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s lewd and vulgar comments came out on Friday, women all across social media have been sharing stories and experiences of sexual assault.  Writer Kelly Oxford shared about the first time she was sexually assaulted in a tweet and then invited others to share their stories.  Her tweet got thousands of responses– on Sunday and Monday alone, 13,000 women responded.

Social media has allowed us to witness things we haven’t necessarily been able to see img_20161013_111430099before.  And while it feels overwhelming (at least for me) to witness all the stories pouring out,  in some way it feels like a relief.  What has been repressed and kept secret is coming out.  But the key to any kind of “coming out” is to have a supportive community that will hold and receive you–that will have your back.   Something and someone needs to hold the “coming out.”

When we put out the rainbow flag (the only one I know of flying in Stanislaus County) last year, when we put out the “I Love Our Muslim Neighbor” sign on Sunday, what we are broadcasting to the broader world  is that “you can come out to US–we have your back.”  In a way, in the past few years, UUFSC has been in a process of coming out– coming out about who and how we love.  And like with all “coming outs,” there has been some risk, fear, and apprehension.   But hopefully, with our own “coming outs,” there has been and will continue to be some liberation, freedom, and healing as well.

This Sunday in worship:  Have You Got Humanity Fatigue? Learn what it means to “take your turn in the Channel” when bringing the human race safely to the shore. Worship associates Todd Whiteley and John Patton will lead worship, with Sabine Klein providing music.

Reminder: Congregational Meeting This Sunday to Approve Funds for A New Piano Immediately After Worship!




Love that Transcends Fear

A few months ago, I started doing a particular loving-kindness meditation in the morning. Previously, I had rotated through some different kinds of meditation each morning.  But starting my day with love was just so calming and grounding.  So I have just continued and most mornings, I start my day with this one lovingkindness meditation.


After-church sky last Sunday

I think the neuroscientists would talk about how this kind of meditation releases oxytocin or some such thing– but what I know is that even in the mornings when I am feeling more on the anxious-side, starting the day with love calms and soothes.  And given our Universalist heritage of proclaiming radical divine love, I find this particular spiritual practice quite fitting. Of course I should start my day with love!

Fear fuels fear.  Despite our heartbroken and justifiably angry responses to the call of some of our political leaders to ban Muslims and build walls between the U.S. and Mexico, Dr. Omid Safi, Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center writes:

“We need something loftier, more difficult, more grounded, more luminous, more… love-based. We need the love that is gritty and tough, grounded, messy, and real. We need a love that starts out in tenderness, and moves outward until it manifests as justice.”

This Sunday at then end of worship, we will be putting out the “I Love My Muslim Neighbor” yard signs.  The vast majority of folks I have heard from are very supportive– a few are not, mostly because of how it brings more attention to us.  Putting out the sign is not without risk.   Though, statistically speaking, the most dangerous thing most of us do is drive a car (as my insurance-man father always said) and we take that risk all the time.   Still, it’s not without risk.  “We have good insurance, right?” a sign-supporter asked me last Sunday. Yes, we have good insurance.  But in this world so strangled with fear, I think that’s why so many of us want to put the sign up- we either live in fear or risk love.  So let us see what happens when we risk expressing love in this small yet visible way.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday:  Beyond Genies, Flying Carpets, and Terrorists.  In a time of great anxiety about Muslim people, we explore the wisdom and celebrate what can be considered the the most pervasive Islamic influence on Western culture: Arabian Nights. Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy and Tina Godsey



Caution- Low Visibility

We are in the middle of the annual “shake and sweep” of the almonds…I just need to say I really think we need to develop a dance that we can call the Modesto shake and img_20160920_171248432bsweep…but I digress.  Like many of our fellow Americans, I watched the Presidential debate on Monday and have been checking Nate Silver’s prediction’s about who will win the presidential election,even as I have read that polling these days is incredibly inaccurate.   It’s not just here in the Central Valley that people are experiencing low visibility.

Years ago, Katherine and I planned to meet up in NYC.  I got the train station and tried to find her, but couldn’t (this was before cell phones).  I got a little panicked….but fortunately we found each other.  And it was then that I realized a fundamental truth about myself– I don’t mind getting lost as long as I am with my people.

These weeks leading up to the election will be nail-biting ones for sure.  But no matter the outcome, we here at UUFSC have the same work to do– to grow Beloved Community, to build a broader group of individuals who we count as our people.   So no matter if we get lost,  we are with our people.

This Sunday, I lead worship with Tina Godsey: Children of the Same God
Drawing on history that suggests European Unitarians understood themselves to be part of the same religious family as Jewish and Muslim people, we explore and affirm the wisdom that “within one, there is many.”  Also, as part of worship, the congregation will doing a brief “commissioning” of our elected Board leaders. Islamophobia_final_version

Oct 9th, at the end of worship, we will be putting up “We Love Our Muslim Neighbor” signs in front of the church.  Please let me know what you think and feel about this!

Oct 16th: Brief Congregational Meeting Called to Approve Funds for A New Piano
The Board requests the attendance of UUFSC members at a brief meeting for the purpose of approving the funds to purchase a new piano, as our current one is no longer functional. According to our bylaws, the Board must seek congregational approval for any unbudgeted expense that exceeds 2 percent of the annual budget. The meeting will take place immediately following our October 16th service in the sanctuary. The Board will ask the congregation to approve $8,000 to be drawn from our Memorial Fund (money bequested by members of the congregation). Any unspent funds will be returned to the Memorial Fund. In order to meet quorum, we need a minimum of 36 members to attend.



A Request for Courage

Over the course of this past year, we at UUFSC have been doing some experiments in courage.  I think it was last February when we decided to fly our rainbow flag, though some expressed concern about what might happen to us if we did–vandalism? theft?  And then, when the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando happened,  we were grateful and proud that we had taken a stand–that we were doing our part to Stand on the Side of Love in Stanislaus County.  Well, in a few weeks, on Oct 9th, I would like UUFSC to continue our experiment in courage and put a “I Love My Muslim Neighbor” yard sign out front of the church, an idea we first started talking about last Spring.

This has been another devastating week: first, a small bomb exploded in New York City, img_20160922_133934740where the suspect identified is a Muslim American.  Then the news and videos about about the police shootings of Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa, OK and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, NC, followed by protests and violence erupting in Charlotte.  This world needs love–radical, transformative, courageous love.

One of the ways UUFSC can fulfill our mission to grow the Beloved Community is to publicly proclaim who it is we love, who in this moment, needs our love the most.   And we know our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, our Muslim brother and sisters, are in need of a whole lot of love right now.

Please share with me your thoughts and feelings about “I Love My Muslim Neighbor” sign in front of the church, either by sending me an email or giving me a call!

Worship This Week: Tina Godsey will lead worship, with Guest Singer Sydney Gorham: In Its Own Time: Forgiveness as a Spiritual Discipline.  A sermon by Rev. Maureen Killoren, delivered by Tina Godsey. “When forgiveness happens, something beyond our understanding is involved. But first we have to believe it is possible. We must believe forgiveness is possible…for us…because forgiveness does more for the one who has been wronged than for the one who has done wrong.”

Please wish me safe travels as I travel to our UU Congregation in Durango, CO this weekend! I will be delivering the Charge to the Congregation in their Installation Worship service for their first ever minister, Rev. Katie Kandarian-Morris.


An article has floated across my facebook feed in recent days about how female staffers in the Obama White House developed a strategy to “amplify” each other’s voices in meetings in order to command more attention.   Early on in Obama’s administration:

“women complained of having to elbow their way into important meetings. And when they got in, their voices were sometimes ignored.  So female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification”: When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author.”


Children watering one of our trees with the water communion water (they wanted to distribute the water evenly, so were circling the tree.)

I think amplification is a great way of thinking about ministry–the ministry I do as a minister and also the shared ministry we all do together.   I try to keep a pulse on what is going on in our community. And when energy pops up around a particular idea, when a person seems interested in doing a particular thing, I try to amplify that energy.  Rather than just focusing on problems and trying to fix them, instead I try to work on amplifying what is working.  This is not to say we should avoid “problems”– I try to deal with problems directly and head-on. But when our only mode of operation is “problem-solving,” sometimes we begin to see only problems.  And our world, our community, is full of so much more than problems to be fixed.   Our world and our lives are full of beauty, joy, and connections waiting to be amplified.   Our community is full of love, possibility, and care.  And our task is ministry is to amplify, amplify, amplify.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday:  Demolition of the Heart-
We explore the wisdom that  “if you wanna fix something, you have to take everything apart and figure out what’s important.”  Worship leaders:  Rev. Darcy and John Patton.


Boldly Going Where…..

Today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek– and yes, I am a Star Trek fan.   I heard economist Paul Krugman comparing and contrasting the economy in Star Trek versus the economy in Star Wars.  Apparently, Star Trek was far more visionary in their portrayal of the future– the Star Trek world is a “post-scarcity” world, where there is enough for everyone.  People’s decisions about work are about a sense of calling,


Water Communion and InGathering This Sunday!

rather than what a job pays.  There is still conflict, but the fundamentals of the Star Trek economy are quite different than today.   Star Wars, on the other hand, imagines a world with lots of technology, but much of the same conflict and economic turmoil as today.

Star Trek was indeed boldly going where no man (or woman) has gone before– portraying a future that I bet most of us would like our children to live in.   Vision is so important–what we believe so often impacts what we actually create in the future.  Believe in big, different possibilities and you are more likely to actualize a big, different future.   I once heard that science-fiction has been more accurate in predicting the future than scientific futurists.  Too often, we imagine the future with the same constraints of today.  Science fictions writers are far better an imagining the novelty we can actual create.

As we begin another church year together, may we boldly go!

This Sunday, I look forward to worshiping with you all: Water Communion: Healing Waters  From all the places we went or didn’t go during the summer, we gather again to recommit ourselves to building Beloved Community, to sharing our healing waters of hope.  Please bring some water from a special or mundane place or none at all in this time of drought.  Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy and Avonelle Tomlinson