Bodies in Rooms

In an age where communication has become so disembodied–where communication can happen so easily without you being in the same place as me–I have been struck by the advice of political insiders who say that if you want to influence your representatives, you should show up as embodied as possible.  Phone calls are betters than emails or petitions.  Showing up in person (like a small crew of UUFSCers are doing every Tuesday morning at 10:30 at Jeff Denham’s office) is the most effective and persuasive means of communication.   No matter how “easy” communication gets, there is power in bodies showing up together in the same room.   Like we do on Sunday mornings for worship. Like some of us did on Wednesday night at College Ave Congregational for a town hall on the Affordable Care Act.   Power=bodies being together.

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Modesto Townhall Wednesday Night

David Frum, a writer for the Atlantic and former George W. Bush speechwriter, said in an interview this week “Democrats are powerless and Republicans are complicit. Change that. Republicans will change when they get scared of losing their seats. Democrats will change when they feel empowered. So be an active citizen. What’s happening at town halls I find tremendously encouraging. This is politics happening… Meetings are what make democracy go. But meetings may be tedious. Protests are fun, but protests are effective to the extent they motivate people to attend the meetings.”

I think all of us have complained about meetings, particularly if you have ever been involved in leadership in a congregation!  Indeed, meetings can be tedious. But it is bringing our bodies together that something special can happen, where power can be realized.  Sometimes, I think religious community is so important because it’s based on the simple idea that people should gather together regularly and sing together.  Where does your body spend time and with whom?  Where else do you want your body to go?

This Sunday, Sharon Arpoika and Sue Cotter lead worship: Trusting the Journey–Sometimes a journey is not just about where you go – it’s about being open to the insights you gain along the way. Sue Cotter will share some reflections on her experiences traveling around the country in a campervan.

Board Appreciation of Volunteers After Worship
Growing Beloved Community requires the work and generosity of many of us, each contributing our diverse gifts. The UUFSC Board will offer up some appreciation of our many volunteers in the form of chocolate after worship in the Johnson building. Please make sure to stop by!
FYI: Next week, I will be taking a week of study leave, spending some time with some other UU ministers thinking deep thoughts in the Redwoods of Sonoma County.  I’ll be back online Tuesday February 28th.  For pastoral emergencies, call the church office or Pat Egenberger.
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We are entering a time of such beauty (and allergies) in the Valley!

 

No Spiritual Surrender

When I saw this sign when I was in Standing Rock in November, I loved it and posted it on facebook page, saying something like “A good message for all of us.”  A Muslim friend

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A sign from Camp Oceti Sakowin/Standing Rock November 2016

pointed out to me that this is not a message for “all of us” in his opinion. Surrender/Submission is a key concept in Islam and according to one interpretation, it was surrendering to something greater than ourselves that brought me and other clergy to Standing Rock in the first place.

 

The sign wasn’t the issue– it was my little phrase “all of us.”  To be honest, I find it to be a constant discipline to remember that human beings are not just replicas of Darcy Baxter, to be curious about people’s behaviors and actions rather than assuming I know what they mean.  You could take the very same action I take but have different motivations.  We could have the same motivations and very different actions.  Remaining curious, particularly in stressful times, take effort and intention, something my morning meditation and prayer practice really help me with.  And dancing– lots and lots of dancing.

In your life right now, do you need to resist?  Do you need to surrender?  Maybe we all need to do a little bit of both and remember some people’s surrender looks like another’s resistance.  And another’s resistance will be someone else’s surrender.  I thanked my friend for his perspective and deleted “all of us” and said instead “a powerful message.” If only all communication and issues of meaning were so easy to resolve!

This Sunday, join me, Rabbi Shalom Bochner, and musician Sue Cotter: Deep Roots, Beautiful Blossoms–Rabbi Shalom Bochner of Congregation Beth Shalom joins Rev. Darcy and shares with us about the wisdom of Tu Bishvat–celebrated this year on February 10th, and called by some the “Jewish Earth Day.”

 

 

 

Possibility of Paradise in Hell

I experienced such joy when I participated in the Women’s March in Modesto two week ago– yelling and waving signs of love, getting cars to honk as they zoomed by on McHenry. The crowd was so much larger than we expected and SO many cars honked in support.  I felt hopeful, energized, and purposeful.

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UUFSCers at the Women’s March

There is a funny thing about disasters  (yes, I am calling the Trump administration a disaster): it is not unusual for people to describe the aftermath of the disaster (assuming they survive it) with a sense of nostalgia and joy.  In Rebecca Solnit’s book “Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster,” she shares numerous stories of people coming together to take care of elders, rescue pets, feed each other, diaper children. In fact, decades of sociological research reveals that “in the wake of earthquakes, bombings, and major storms, people act altruistically, urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them, strangers and neighbors, as well as friends and loved ones.”

Solnit says:

When all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up—not all, but the great preponderance—to become their brothers’ keepers. And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amid death, chaos, fear, and loss. Were we to know and believe this, our sense of what is possible at any time might change. We speak of self-fulfilling prophesies, but any belief that is acted on makes the world in its image. Beliefs matter. And so do the facts behind them. The astonishing gap between common beliefs and actualities about disaster behavior limits the possibilities, and changing beliefs could fundamentally change much more. Horrible in itself, disaster is sometimes a door back into paradise, the paradise at least in which we are who we hope to be, do the work we desire, and are each our sister’s and brother’s keeper.

While marching down McHenry Ave, I carried a “I Love My Muslim Neighbor” sign and a “Black Lives Matter” sign.  A man jogged out of a store front, asking if he could take a picture with me.  I didn’t know why– maybe it was the clerical collar?  As he put his arm around my shoulder, he said “I’m Muslim.”  In that moment, I was exactly who I most wanted to be.

Friends, we are in middle of a disaster.  Already some of our UUFSC members have been threatened with hate and violence. Our bodies, voices, and spirits are needed–in marches, on phone calls to your representatives, cooking meals for meetings, taking care of children…..let us not waste this disaster to be exactly who we most want to be.

This Sunday: Resistance and Resilience–These words have been circulating around a lot but what do they mean for us, as we go through our daily lives, in a time that is both new and not new? What are our spiritual tools in these times of resilience and resistance? Worship leaders this week are Rev Darcy, Avonelle Tomlinson, and Sabine Klein.

 

 

 

What You Don’t See

 

I love these words from my friend Ruth McFarlane, who spoke at the women’s march in San Francisco and works at the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

“Some of us will grieve, some of us will hope. And some of us will make the food. And some of us will raise the children. And some of us will teach the children. And some of us will negotiate in the Board room. And some will argue in the courts. And some will fight fires. And some will heal bodies. And some will compromise. And some will refuse to compromise. And some will make signs. And some will dance, and make poetry and tell stories and draft legislation and invent new technologies. And gather us together to pray. And gather us together to walk off the job. We will sit in silence, we will raise our voices in resistance.”

It has been a full and scary week–the pace and kind of change occurring in the federal government is as bad as many feared.  When we are afraid, our lizard brains fire up and it can feel like we have to fix everything, save something QUICK QUICK QUICK.   Of course we need to do some stuff.  But YOU do not have to do EVERYTHING.  All you got to do is SOMETHING.  And there are so many different kinds of things to do.

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What justice work looks like once in awhile

I felt both excited and conflicted after a photo of me at the Solidarity Vigil was featured on the front page of the Modesto Bee.  Part of me was like “wahooo!”  But then I thought about all that WAS NOT in the picture.  You didn’t see Rev. Joshua Trautmann from Geneva Presbyterian circulating in the crowd, keeping an eye out for an safety/security issues.  You didn’t see Rev. Erin Matteson and Rabbi Shalom Bochner rehearsing the songs we sang.  And the photo didn’t feature Imam Kayello or AME Zion pastor Rev. Wayne Taylor or community organizer Homero Meija, or president of the NAACP Frank Johnson. Or Tina G. making the promotional flyer.

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What justice work looks like most of the time!

It is cliche to say “it takes a village” but friends, it takes a village. Unfortunately, our cameras don’t capture “the village” as easily as they capture “the individual.”  If you are already doing your part in the village by cleaning carpets and moving furniture; sitting on the finance committee, teaching an RE class, singing in choir, leading worship, organizing protests, asking for pledges, GREAT.  And if you realize you should be pitching into the village a bit more? Great, the UUFSC village welcomes you.

Let us continue to do the work of learning to see and feel what the cameras will never show us!

This Sunday, Todd Whiteley, Elaine Arnold, and Sabine Klein will lead worship: Waiting for the Light–Hope as an action verb. It informs us that even as we wait, we need not be immobile. We can prepare our world and ourselves to receive the thing we hope for, and sometimes achieve that very thing we hope for, through our communal efforts.

Also this Sunday, if you haven’t already participated, please join in the second Mission Statement Feedback Session.  The mission guides and offers direction to congregational leaders as we face decisions about how to best use our precious resources.

On Tuesday, please consider joining and spread the word about the opening meeting for Exploring Whiteness, Showing Up for Racial Justice on Tuesday evening January 31st. More details here: http://www.stanuu.org/exploring-whiteness-showing-racial-justice

 

 

 

 

The Floom Was My Favorite Ride

While slightly scary especially when you don’t seem them, driving through the large puddles of Modesto reminds me of my favorite amusement park ride: the floom. It’s the one where you sit in a long “log” and then essentially take a kind of roller coster ride on water. And at the very end, there is a particularly long drop where water sprays up everywhere.  If you were an experienced floom rider, you knew exactly where to sit either to stay the driest or get the most wet.  What I recall is that the person in the very back got the most wet– the very front seat of the log was the driest.img_20170119_104356675_31565265864_o

I shared this with a friend of mine who rides his bike around Modesto as a primary mode of transportation– including in the rain.  “Hmmm, I’m going to remember that…it may make it more fun, particularly when I get doused by a passing car!” If you are gonna drive through puddles, if you are gonna get doused by passing cars, then at least try to have some fun with it.

We are all on quite the ride right now as we approach the Inauguration and the incoming administration.  There are gonna be some big puddles (perhaps rivers and oceans) we are gonna have to drive through.  But whatever we do, we must not give up joy, not give up our ability to find the fun because there is going to be plenty of fear, sadness, and anger to go around.  But fear and anger only can take us so far– love, laughter, and play must come along for the ride as well.   As I have prepared for the various vigils and protests coming up (I hope you will join me!), I realize that I have been able to build relationships, been more motivated to reach out to folks I might not usually reach out to.  As I shared last week, I came out to a Pentecostal minister!   And, when I reflect on this, I realize do feel some real joy through these connections I’m making.   If you have to ride through a puddle, you might as well pretend it’s a floom.

This Sunday in Worship: Becoming a Deeply Disciplined Half-A**–Perfectionism can paralyze us from taking important action; sometimes our spiritual work may be to cultivate habits of imperfection and just half-a**ing it. Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy, Todd Whiteley, and Sabine Klein.

Join UUs in Showing Up For Love at these Upcoming Inauguration Events:

1) Tonight (Thursday) 6pm: Interfaith Prayer Vigil hosted by Congregations Building Community: This evening, Congregations Building Community, a local community organizing group that works with primarily Latino and Spanish speaking immigrant communities, is holding a vigil at 6pm. I will be there, offering a prayer. This is a chance to show up and support our Latino and immigrant brothers, sisters, and siblings! Saint Stanislaus Church, 709 J street, Modesto ca 95351. If you have yellow Standing on the Side of Love Shirts, please wear them!

2) Saturday Jan 21st, Join UUs at the Modesto Women’s March.  Marcia G and I are definitely going. We are meeting at 9:45am in front of CVS on the corner of Briggsmore and McHenry, to march as group. You can also join us at Graceada Park for the Unity Gathering at 11am. Feel free to call/text me to find us.  More info about the march here: https://www.facebook.com/events/325281294538821/

3)Sunday at 2pm, Vigil for Compassion and Solidarity, 10th Street Plaza. Join faith leaders and community members from around our region as we gather to celebrate the values of compassion, solidarity, and hospitality. Rain or shine– bring umbrellas! https://www.facebook.com/events/234456930342655/

 

I Came Out To A Pentecostal

Doing worthwhile things in our lives often require taking some kind of risk.  When emotions run high, when anxiety is swirling around, it can be definitely difficult to assess what IS risky versus what feels risky.

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Makes me think of our UU hymn “I Know This Rose Will Open”

This week, I sat in the second meeting of a Modesto area clergy meeting, a group convened after the election to build relationships in the face of a country and county that seem so polarized.   A group of between 15-20, we broke out into small groups because it was clear after our first meeting that we just needed to spend time getting to know one another.   So I sat in a small group, with a liberal Catholic leader with whom I know reasonably well and with a Pentecostal minister who I did not know at all.   He was a tall, big, bald White guy–someone who I easily make all kinds of assumptions about.  And of course the first thing we start talking about is our families.  I quickly mentioned that I was married and briefly referred to a “spouse” and then moved on. But the emotional energy was awkward because I was holding something back.  We continued talking, I learned that the Pentecostal minister had been journeying with his congregation as they transitioned from predominantly White to a much more diverse and multicultural congregation.  And as we talked, I decided that though I felt nervous, that perhaps my coming out would threaten or politicize this gathering, I decided to do it.  I said “Can I be really honest with you? I have something to share that I don’t know how you will respond to and I’m nervous that it could threaten this chance we have to build relationship. But it’s something really important and basic to me and who I am:  I have a wife.”

And you know what? He was great.  We then proceeded to have a much juicier conversation dialogue and even exchanged cell phone numbers.

Sometimes, when you take a risk, you are rewarded.  And, of course, sometimes you are not.  But I’m gonna give thanks for the hope and possibility this exchange gave to me during this anxious days.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Hope of A Prophet–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is probably the religious “prophet” most trusted by liberals. We will practice deep listening to some of King’s words and how they call to us in this particular historical moment. Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy, Todd Whiteley, and Sabine Klein.

This Sunday, I also hope that you will join in our first Mission Statement Feedback Session.  The mission guides and offers direction to congregational leaders as we face decisions about how to best use our precious resources.

Also, please spread the word about the Compassion and Solidarity Vigil Sunday January 22nd at 2pm at 10th Street Plaza.  I am co-organizing this gathering with a few other clergy.

And just one more thing:  please consider joining and spread the word about the opening meeting for Exploring Whiteness, Showing Up for Racial Justice on Tuesday evening January 31st. More details here: http://www.stanuu.org/exploring-whiteness-showing-racial-justice

 

 

 

 

 

Trees Are So Good At Letting Go

Every single moment of our lives, we are losing something, letting go of something whether we realize it or not.   On Sunday, we heard from all those gathered the many, things they were working on “letting go.”  Fear. Depression. Insecurity. Obama.  Mothers. Fathers. Children.

Political theorist Judith Butler says that it is “possible to appeal to a ‘we’ for all of us have

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Trees are so good at letting go, but even they hang on to a few fruits!

some notion of what it is to have lost somebody. Loss has made a tenuous ‘we’ out of us all.”  In a time of political polarization and divisiveness,  the human experience of loss may be a powerful unifying force.   Sitting in the sanctuary with you all on Sunday was a visceral reminder of how much we have lost, how much we love, and how much we need one another.

 

As we enter the new year, there is much we need to let go of so we can move forward.  In the years to come, UUs are going to be called on to show up in more boldly loving ways. In the new political climate, more people will face more loss and they will need a place where they do not have to do loss alone.

This Sunday, my good friend Rev. Lucas Hergert of the UU church in Livermore will be in the pulpit while I preach in Livermore: Curse Of Blessings–How can we be a blessing to others, especially in a time of uncertainty? Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Lucas Hergert, Todd Whitely, and Sue Cotter

Wondering what to do around the inauguration?  Join UU’s who are attending the Women’s March in Sacramento on Saturday Jan 21st.  Many are taking the Rally Bus .  On Sunday January 22nd, attend the peace and justice rally at the 10th Street Plaza in at 2pm.  Or join me in the opening meeting of :

Exploring Whiteness and Showing Up for Racial Justice

Tuesday January 31st, 7:00 p.m. – location TBD.
Rev. Darcy and Rev. Wayne Bridegroom (retired minister of Central Baptist Church and 2014 winner of MLK Jr. Legacy award) are convening an opening meeting of Showing up for Racial Justice. In order to be of better support to local communities of color, this group will initially focus on building relationships and developing an understanding of the “soul-sickness” of Whiteness.