Something Special to Offer

Many of us are so inundated with information, requests, and demands.   We may feel like we want to shut out or shut down, not open ourselves up.   Some of us may indeed need to shut down for awhile in order not to burn out.  Others of us need to be challenged to open ourselves further.   With the help of trusted friends, we discern which season of the

At the UU Ministers Fall Meeting last weekend, I passed by this tree stump.

At the UU Ministers Fall Meeting last weekend, I passed by this tree stump.

soul we are in.

Regardless of where we are as individuals, our Unitarian Universalist faith is always asking us, as a church, where can we be louder and prouder in our ministry in the larger world.  What ministry in Stanislaus County are we called to?  Where in our community could Unitarian Universalism make a difference in way no other religious community could? Friends, our world is hurting and UUFSC has something special to offer.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Welcoming Ourselves, Welcoming the Other–how we can welcome all parts of ourselves and discover that we are better able to welcome others. Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Janice Goodloe, and Matthew Mason.

Our bodies are sacred and life is messy

As I listen to all the news recently about Planned Parenthood, as I listened to excerpts from Cecile Richards’ hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I thought about this photo that the senior minister of the UU Church in Dallas, TX shared this week:  he is welcoming Cecile Richards into their worship.

Minister welcomes Cecile Richards into worship at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas.

Minister welcomes Cecile Richards into worship at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas.

UU’s believe that the human body is good. We believe that our bodies are sacred and that life is messy.  We believe that each person is endowed with the authority to make the difficult ethical decisions we need to make in our lives and families–with support and help of their community of course.  Our values lead the vast majority of UUs (though not all) to support women’s access to reproductive health care services, including abortion-care.  The conversation does not end there, at least it shouldn’t.   UU congregations are some of the few spaces equipped to wrestle with the ethical and spiritual messiness that comes up when we begin truly sharing about our bodies, birth, and death–we want to deal with the realities of our lives without being shamed and blamed.

The people of Stanislaus County need a bold Unitarian Universalism that shares our unique wisdom, compassion, and spirituality.  Who is the “Cecile Richards” of Stanislaus County that we could welcome into our worship?

Speaking of social justice, today I am headed to Stanislaus County’s Summit on Homelessness!

This Sunday, Cathy Adams and Lori Wong will lead worship, as I am away attending the Fall Regional Meeting of UU Ministers. Their service is: Compassion is the Essential Ingredient. Hearing the cries of the world: Compassion is necessary to transform ourselves and our world

See Their Faces, Listen to Their Stories


Thursday Morning Sunrise

“We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation” instructed Pope Francis at his speech to a special join session of congress.  He was speaking about migrants to the U.S. from Central and South America.  There are many things I agreed with in Pope Francis’ speech– and a few things I definitely didn’t.  But what struck me most was the simple fact that the Pope WAS addressing Congress.

We UUs have generally been staunch supporters of ‘separation of church and state.’  But as we have come to understand power more complexly, as we grapple with the fact that our deeply held convictions cannot so easily be removed from our professional lives, ‘separation of church and state’ fails to address so much of the messiness of power in our lives.   Who has power? How do they use it?  There is formal authority and informal authority– which is more effective and when?   And as anxiety-inducing as the topic of authority is for UUs, we must have authority and use it in order to live out our faith.   If we want to co-create a world where all people are treated with dignity and respect, where we do indeed “see their faces and listen to their stories,” we must have authority and use our power.   Where can you claim more power in your life today?

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday (TWO Sunday Services 9:30am and 11am): Below Us, A Foundation of Loss.  “Loss has made a tenous ‘we’ of us all” says philosopher Judith Butler.  If there is one commonality among all humans, it is that we all experience loss.  Worship leaders: Rev Darcy, Janice Goodloe, and Angel Holmes

Mystery and Church

I chuckled as I drove into church today. Because this is what I found:

ChairA chair, sitting in the parking lot.  And I wondered how and why it got there.  Life is full of mystery, big and small.  We go through our daily lives, focusing on our task lists and getting stuff done– it is easy to forget about the mystery and wonder that surrounds us.  Being part of a church community like ours is so that we take the time to be reminded of the mysteries of life.  Yes, bigger mysteries than just why and how the chair got out in the parking lot.  Mysteries and miracles like birth, death, and survival.  The mystery of how we survive grief and trauma.  In these senses, mystery is not about ‘not understanding.  ‘mystery.’  You may understand grief as a concept, but those who go through it will describe it as a strange, kind of mysterious process.  We may understand evolution, but how incredible is it that you exist, in this moment, in a universe where so much is non-living? What mystery can you experience today?

Worship associate Janice Goodloe will lead worship this Sunday with guest speaker Brett Dickerson: The Trials and Tribulations of a Backslidin’ Christian.  Brett will reflect about the arduous spiritual journey of those who lacked indoctrination into a certain belief-set at a young age.  How does one reconcile a desire for faith with the manifest implausibility of so much that faith must inevitably be founded upon?

Brett’s Bio:  Brett Dickerson, born in Oakdale graduated from California State College, Stanislaus with a degree in business administration.  He has been an area real estate broker since 1987 and owned a real estate office in the Sierra Foothills being a three-time top producer award winner. He served on the Hetch-Hetchy Board of Realtors and was Chairperson of the Professional Standards Committee.  He graduated from Law school at the University of the Pacific, and McGeorge School of Law; Graduated with Distinction in 1996 and was selected to the Dean’s List all three years. He is a former shareholder in the Law Offices of Gianelli & Associates in Modesto. Brett opened a solo practice in 2012 in Oakdale which focuses on real estate and employment law and business litigation. As a licensed pilot he holds a commercial license. Brett has been married to Diane Dickerson for 31 years and his daughter Rachel is a CSUS alum and has just completed her Master’s Degree in Psychology at CSUS.

Below Us, Mountain and Plains

This year, each month’s spiritual theme is a line from one of our congregation’s favorite hymns, Blue Boat Home: “Below Us, Mountain and Plains.”  This Sunday is Ingathering and Water Communion,  where the congregation gathers again after a summer where some of us traveled and some of us stayed put; where some of us got some down-time and some of us just kept on working.  From all our different paths, we come together to remember.  Remember that we stand on sacred ground, upon Mountains and Plains, that we are here because others were here before us.  There are so many stories that are so easily forgotten. We gather so we do not forget.

This week is the 50th anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike.  Though many of us think

about Cesar Chavez and Mexican farm workers (at least I did), I just learned that it was Filipino grape workers, organized by Larry Itliong, who started the Delano Grape Strike. Cesar Chavez and his farm workers joined it two weeks in.  Filipino workers had been organizing for decades leading up to the now famous 1965 Delano Grape Strike.  It was a historic and inspiring moment when Filipino farm workers joined with Mexican farm workers to form the United Farm Workers union.   Members of this congregation were active in supporting farm workers in the Central Valley and even housed some in the congregation!  There are just so many stories to unearth, remember, and bring into the future.

I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday for our Ingathering and Water Communion service- ONE service at 10am.  (Next Sunday, September 20th, we switch to our two-service Sunday schedule).   Please bring water from somewhere special or someplace mundane, water that represents the literal/spiritual journey of your summer.

And this Saturday, I will see many of you at Modesto Pride at the Park at our UUFSC booth– wear your rainbows!

The Bodies Behinds the Words

We all see so many words in our days….in our emails, in advertisements, in books, on social media.  Words words words.  It’s easy to forget what those words point to–what they really mean, what experience they are trying to convey.  We easily forget the people and the bodies behind the words.  Sometimes, a photo will break through with meaning in a way words do not.  Today, I am thinking about the refugee crisis in Europe and the photo of a dead Syrian toddler washed up on a Turkish beach that headlined many European newspapers this week.  There is proper immigration policy and accountability– and there is the reality of a dead child washed up on the beach.  I am thinking about the Monday morning front page of Butler County OH newspaper and the lead story about an 18 year old who died of a heroin overdose. That person was my cousin, that family my family.   Sometimes, the bodies will break through.  Sometimes, polite distance is simply no longer possible.

Some beauty to help counter the brutality....

Some beauty to help counter the brutality….

In a world that tempts and pushes us towards denial and numbing, towards shopping and sugar, my hope is that church is the place to come when the bodies break through, when polite distance is no longer possible.  A place to find good company as we try to figure out how to be open-hearted and compassionate in a world that can be so brutal.

I look forward to worshiping with you all on Sunday: All The Work They Don’t See.
We gather to honor all the labor that has brought us to where we are today, to remember the work that has been forgotten and to witness the labor we so easily fail to see.  In this service, you will be invited to write down a few sentences about work you would like honored which often is not– labor done by yourself, by family, friends, and/or other members of our community.  You will then be invited to share this with the congregation.

The Quality of Your Approach

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!

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.