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



Loving Labor

At the Board retreat a few weeks ago, we read a poem that had the line “joy of struggle” in it.  A few different Board members commented on that


My neighbors let me pilfer some of the fruits of their labor….mmmm…sungolds…

line: “the joy of struggle.”   No one wants to “struggle,” just like no one wants to ‘work’– wouldn’t it be nice if we could lay around all day and eat grapes?  But, for anyone who has been unemployed knows,  labor provides structure and meaning to our life.  And sometimes the stuff that is hard, that is a struggle, can provide the most meaning of all.

What labor are you doing in your life that is providing meaning, even when you don’t like it?

This Sunday: The Labors of Love
We gather to honor all the labor that has brought us to where we are today, to remember the work, the love, the struggle, the care.  Rev. Darcy will lead members in an extended meditation and then members will share about the labor they would like to honor.  Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy and Todd Whiteley

The Joy Of Struggle

We opened the annual board retreat on Saturday with the poem Gates of Hope by UU minister Rev. Victoria Safford. And at the end of the retreat, I re-read the poem and asked the Board members to pick a word a phrase that stuck out to them.   And the most popular phrase was “joy of struggle.”  The Board didn’t waste anytime getting right to the real issues, many of which centered around how to professionalize some of our


The altar Board members created, including special mementos from their own home.

business, financial, and professional practices to better protect and nurture our community; how to build up a culture of confidence and trust when it comes to money.


What was great to see, and what I was so proud of, was how kind, respectful, and even funny the Board could be while addressing issues that were stressful or serious.  There can be joy in the struggle– when you have the right group of people surrounding you.

And that is what church SHOULD be — the right people surrounding you as you struggle.  Because maybe, just maybe, you can find some joy in the roughest of places.  May UUFSC be such a place!

Gates of Hope by Rev. Victoria Safford

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of
“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;29078151376_7ba56a5b0e_z
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.

This SundayThe Force is With Us– Matthew Mason will lead worship with guest speaker Lauren Way, a seminarian from Starr King. She is passionately dedicated to helping those who are frequently ‘othered’ to be heard, valued, appreciated, and empowered. This Sunday she will be speaking to community, trust, and imperfection. Worship Associate Matthew Mason.

Also, this Sunday Aug. 28 is the LAST DAY to submit live auction donations!
Please complete the form and email it, text it, mail it, or hand deliver it to Sarah Beekman or Marcia Gilbert. Thank-you for your participation!, or feel free to snap a clear picture of it and text it to Sarah at  209-324-7193.  And remember, this year, a portion of our proceeds are going to be donated to support Syrian refugees being resettled in the Modesto area– your donation will let us Love the Hell out of Stanislaus County!


The Power of Drastically Reduced Ambitions

I take hope wherever I can find it.  This week, I was reading about how the demands of modern life easily put us humans in a constant state of “fight or flight.”  Our nervous systems are chronically amped, pumping cortisol through our bodies.   And sociologist Dr. Christine Carter puts it “I was living in a constant state of flight or flight, created by a pernicious and unrelenting sense that I was not getting it all done.”


Orchard cat, Goof, inviting me to pause and pet!

I think when people come to church, one of the things they can be looking for are tangible ways of dealing with this constant state of fight or flight.   Changing something about our lives can simply feel overwhelming.  But I was reminded (as I often need to be) of the power of the small things, the small shifts.  Particularly when it comes to soothing our overly amped nervous systems.   And hearing that some fancy Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley, who specializes in happiness and productivity (and former marathon runner), runs for 9 minutes most days while her children pressed snooze…. Right! the power of doing a little bit, a lot.   As Carter puts it:

For a former marathon runner, slowly jogging for less than a mile a few days a week seems pathetically unambitious. But here’s the thing: I’m now consistently running twenty miles more per month than before I drastically reduced my ambitions.  This is because before I started just a little bit of exercise each weekday morning, I was spending a lot of time planning my exercise but very little time actually exercising. What working single mom can work out for an hour before getting her kids off to school? – Dr. Christine Carter, “The Sweet Spot.”

We can find hope in a kinds of places.  What small thing, what drastically reduced ambition might open up some hope for you this week?

I look forward to worshiping with you all this week: Planting Trees in the Apocalypse-
When asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, Martin Luther is said to have responded, “I would plant a tree today.” We explore why we should plant trees. Our worship leaders are Rev. Darcy Baxter, Avonelle Tomlinson, and Bernadette Burn