Sacred Places

The fire-fueled destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral this week (and the rapid raising of


Stained Glass Portrayal of the Valley, made by church members Walt Lab, Dolores Niemi and others.  They were dedicated on Easter Sunday 1981.

1.3 million dollars to repair it) has me thinking about the importance of “sacred places” in an increasingly secular world.  Write Sarah Smarsh shares this about her childhood Kansas prairie church:

Even on a humble patch of flat grassland, there’s a recognizable energy field inside a place designated for speaking with God. How could there not be in a building that has contained so many prayers and songs, so many tears over dead farmers in open caskets, so many smiles at crying babies with holy water running down their cheeks?

I’m of the mind that, if some mysterious force can hear what’s in our hearts, it can do so whether we’re kneeling at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City or pumping unleaded gas at a convenience store in Duluth. But historically it’s been churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques where we meet others making their own vulnerable attempts at faith — and let them witness ours. As society becomes decreasingly religious but no less concerned with the big questions of existence, where will we find those shared spaces of reverence?

I bet a lot of UU’s would echo Smarshes beliefs that the Sacred can be accessed at “St. Peter’s Basilica or pumping unleaded gas at a convenience store in Duluth.”  But there IS something special about a physical place that has been the site for so many people in


Our kitchen in progress!

their vulnerable attempts at faith, at being the best version of themselves, at coping with tragedy and transition; the site of so many songs, tears, funerals, and smiles at crying babies.   I think this is why over the past decade or so, this congregation has put so much energy into preserving and beautifying our church campus; it’s why so many of you have shared generously to get a new roof for the sanctuary and build a kitchen for our community.


In this times of political polarization, climate catastrophe, growing wealth inequality, we need shared spaces of reverence more than ever– places that call us to our best selves, welcome our whole selves, and build a “we” out of the “me’s” so emphasized by consumer culture.

I look forward to worshiping with you this Easter Sunday: The Usual and the Profound–It was in going to perform the usual burial rituals that women myrrh-bearers discovered Jesus’ empty tomb. On this Easter, we honor the profound encounters we can have in midst of the usual. We will do our annual Flower Communion ritual, so please bring a flower to church!  Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Sharon Arpoika, and musician Jorge Torrez with guest musician Firefly Walters.

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Blossoms and Allergies

I am a lucky person that I have not (yet?) developed serious allergies.   But in the Valley, many, many people cannot say the same.  When we first started doing a contemplative img_20190407_092308250_46837123914_owalk through the almond orchard in a February Sunday service, I remember so well a member telling me there was no way they were coming to church for that– their allergies were just too bad.  In fact, some folks stay away from church for those weeks of almond blossomings!

There is such incredible beauty in all the blossoming around us right now– but that blossoming is a kind of curse for some.  The beautiful wisteria in our backyard?  Well, it sets off quite a few sneezes as well.  Yet again, we have to hold complexity and diversity even with something as seemingly simple as Spring blossoms.

This Sunday: Reassembling the Broken Pieces–Wholeness is not perfection, so can we achieve a sense of wholeness by accepting our imperfections? Or by reassembling our broken pieces? Yes, we can! Worship Leaders: Sharon Arpoika, Todd Whiteley, and Jorge Torrez.

P.S.  We have a new roof, thanks to the generosity of you all and the leadership and labor of Bob S. in particular! Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 9.24.46 AM copy

Shame and Abundance

When the church was getting ready for our special installation worship service, celebrating the beginning of our ministry together back in January of 2015, I remember discussions about how to deal with kitchen.  How could it be spruced up so the dinge and broken lights would be least noticed by all of our guests?   The kitchen was a source of embarrassment, if not shame.  It was something we wanted to hide about our church, rather than something we wanted others to see.    And when I think about the demolition

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Thank you Marcia G for this photo!

work being done, I think about all the people who would love to swing a sledgehammer into some of those old cabinets– how cathartic it could feel to tear down the ceiling.  Usually, that which we are ashamed about is not no so easily deconstructed.   So take a moment and imagining swinging a sledgehammer into one of those cabinets…imagine what it feels like to break down and get rid of something in your life that brings up feelings of badness.

Because of strong leadership and committed members, not only has enough money been raised for the kitchen remodel project, but MORE than enough has been raised.   I wish more of us lived from a sense of abundance instead of scarcity, but alas our consumerist economy does not turn profits on people who feel like they have enough.   Not only do we get to experience the catharsis of the demolition work but we also get to experience a sense of abundance– we have enough, more than enough, to do the kitchen project.  Let us remember these feelings and experiences, so that even when the kitchen project is all said and done, we can help each other demolish shame and live in a spirit of abundance.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday, where we will welcome drummer and song leader Amy Pennock!  That Which Cannot Remain Silent– “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” wrote French playwright and poet Victor Hugo. To honor the parts of ourselves which we struggle to articulate, join us for this special music filled worship. Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Todd Whiteley, guest musician Amy Pennock.

Homemade Chocolate Sauce

When I first came to serve UUFSC almost five years ago, I did not cook much.  And then, as part of a health kick, I began cooking a couple years ago.  On Monday afternoons, I would cook two dishes,  which I would then have for basically the whole week.  Now, as a parent of a kiddo who is a very good eater (so far) I am cooking a lot more.  His nutrition raises the stakes and so I am in the kitchen more than I have ever been.  I made my first Thai curry dish this week and next week I have on deck a lentil peanut sauce stew.  Alas, do not read that my toddler eats all these dishes–he tries them and then usually opts for the plain chicken and sweet potato.

This week,  I found myself making homemade chocolate sauce.  And here is the thing about homemade things, particular homemade treats: I feel more entitled to eat them and to invite others to join.  Now, homemade chocolate sauce is not exactly rocketIMG_20190329_092624265 science– it requires you to boil water and mix in cocoa, sugar, vanilla and a dash of salt.   Despite the simplicity, it is special enough to invite my neighbor over for ice cream with my “homemade chocolate sauce.”   That little bit of effort I put into chocolate sauce makes me want to share it.  Or, I just like a good justification (and company) for eating chocolate.  Either way, there is something simple, human, and ancient in making some food and sharing with others.  For me, this is the crux of ministry in our tech-filled world: simple, human, and shared.

I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday, where we will share food with each other: Fuel for the Journey- No matter what kind of journey we find ourselves on, we need fuel for the journey! Please bring food to share, as the service will end with a “communion potluck,” where we will offer gratitude, spend some moments in mindful eating, and share about trips we have taken. Rev. Darcy, Sharon Arpoika, and Haruko DeArth.

No More Vigils

How I wish we did not need to have vigils like the one a number of UUFSCers attended Monday night at the Islamic Center of Modesto.   In the wake of the New Zealand mosque shootings, a visual meme began to recirculate around social media– it is a photo of a drag queen sitting next to a woman in full niqab on the New York City Subway. They are just sitting there, being commuters.  Conservatives began circulating the photo in an alarmist way, saying “look at what liberals want to do to our country–how awful!”   And then some liberals responded by saying “yes, actually this is actually the future we want–civil, broad inclusivity on a robust public transit system!”

If there is a future Unitarian Universalism dreams of, it’s the possibility glimpsed at in this photo: religious freedom, racial/ethnic diversity,  and free gender expression.  And the way to live into this dream is to continue to show up for each other in all kinds of ways, doing things that won’t ever show up in a social media meme.   Acts of solidarity, humility, and looking out for each other, over and over again,  as author Nadiah Mohajir describes.

I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday: Where Does Your Body Take You?
Our bodies, when they are healthy and when they are not, offer us profound experiences ripe for meaningful reflection. What kind of journey has your body taken you? Rev. Darcy, Brian Wise, and Jorge Torrez



It has been a long time since I felt Spring like I have been feeling Spring this past week.  Growing up in upstate NY, I have vivid memories of what it felt like to see green on the trees.  There was one tree line street where the tree canopied over and I knew it was spring when we drove down it and overhead was what felt like the most brilliant green I had ever seen.   Ever time the sun hits my skin this week, I feel like a plant opening to 33512777548_60c13c34fa_odrink it in.  Boy, am I grateful that for the first time in nearly a decade, California has enough rain for the year.  And, boy, am I grateful to be coming out of the rainy season.  We are creatures, deeply in tune to the seasons and cycles of the earth, even though we can live so divorced from this relationship.  I hope this week, even if you are midst of hustle and bustle, you can appreciate the sunshine and the opening up that Spring represents.

This Sunday, come worship: Journeys of Justice “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” stated nineteenth century Unitarian Minister Theodore Parker. Unitarian Universalists are called to take justice journeys to promote fairness and kindness. What form does your justice journey take? In this service, congregants will be invited to share and reflect with another congregant in a guided process of deep listening. Leading worship this week are, Sharon Arpoika, Dee Hawksworth, and Sue Cotter.

What is Your Path

From poet and philosopher David Whyte:

“If we can see the path laid out for us there is a good chance it is not our path–is is probably someone else’s we have substituted for our own. Our own path must be deciphered every step of the way”

I think there is real truth in this.  This is the kind of sentiment that, when I started studying religious wisdom, sounded so foreign.  What I was used to was making plans and executing them. Period. But various traditions teach that we must practice getting quiet and listening and growing in awareness because we can too easily follow illusions.-Some say we are listening to God, or wisdom, or our most authentic selves. Wisdom traditions teach us a different way of being and approaching the world.  Frankly, sometimes, I wish I didn’t buy-in to religious wisdom– to the insight that our worlds and lives are fragile and we humans are (and must be) resilient;  that our paths are not so clearly laid out before us.   A clearly laid out path would be so nice and comforting!  But what is also comforting, and always has been, is who I am traveling with.  When I was in my early 20’s and had the good fortune to get to travel to foreign countries, a few times I got separated from my travel partners.  It was then that I realized that I didn’t mind being in a strange place or getting lost, as long as I was with my people.   We might need to decipher our path every step (or roll) of the way, but fortunately we get to have really good company.