Another Kind of Virus

Just thinking about my experience of this virus these last three months and how it’s everywhere out there, and maybe it will let me pass by unharmed, or maybe it will f me up a little or a lot, or maybe it will f me up a little but cause lasting damage to my heart or lungs, or maybe it will kill me. And I have no idea which it will be and so I have to be constantly on guard and it’s exhausting and terrifying. And no matter what the virus visits on my body it has already terrorized me, stolen my economic stability, and impacted my mental health and that of my children.

Wait, did I say virus, toward me, for three months?

I meant whiteness, toward black folk, for three hundred years…

-Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, in response to the death of George Floyd

Navigating this pandemic is a version of what a lot of Black and Brown people feel navigating daily “normal” life amidst White people. This is the thought I have had while taking in the news about the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Tony McDade in Tallahassee. Or the white woman calling the police on a Black man when he asked her to leash her dog. Rev. Housh Gordon’s words perfectly articulate my own thoughts. There is an old saying that goes something like “when white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.” I have heard it used mostly in reference to economic troubles…but in midst of a global pandemic, it actually might be much more literal.

I am writing this shortly after it was announced that the officer that kneeled on George Floyd’s neck has been charged with murder, that ashes are still smoldering from buildings that burned last night in South Minneapolis. And I recall these words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:

…it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro [sic] poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

-1967 “The Other America” speech at Stanford University

I believe that Unitarian-Universalism unequivocally calls on us to do whatever we can to fight oppression in our midst and in ourselves. What can we do in this moment? One of the most concrete actions I have seen suggested is to commit themselves to NOT calling the police or at least to be super mindful of the consequences it may unleash. In fact, the Unitarian Universalist Association has a guide called “Alternatives to Calling the Police.”

While we are all doing our best to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, let us not forget the pandemic of white supremacy that has been plaguing us for over 500 years.

I encourage you to read these words of UU Minister Rev. Ashley Horan, who lives in the same neighborhood as where George Floyd was killed: https://www.facebook.com/ashley.a.p.horan/posts/10111959455232641

And if you are one of the many UU’s who is White, you can watch this UU lead virtual gathering that happened yesterday evening “In the Name of Love: white folks – deepen anti-racist commitment”

Catching My Breath

The next two Sundays,  Dee, Brian, and Rev. Erin Matteson (read more about Rev. Erin here) are going to be leading worship.  And what will I be doing?  Well, catching my breath.  Or trying to.  For these next two weeks, my goal is to take more time and space for, well, breathing. (How blessed I am to have a safe home to shelter in and presumably safe air to breath).  I have felt the adrenaline draining out of me the past few weeks and now there is the non-adrenalined pandemic world to cope with–and the persistent uncertainty.  Now that I have a grasp on doing worship via Zoom, and we got the Payroll Protection loan, and all the other pandemic related tasks that came along, I am forced  (or am forcing myself) to just be present with these new and unfolding realities.  It’s as if all the sermons I have preached these past two months are unpacking themselves inside me.

I have been able to attend a few sessions of the Festival of Homiletics, which like so much of our lives now, has been on-line.  I joined a few other UU ministers in watching particular sessions and we wrote each other messages as we watched–it felt good to be ‘in the pews.’  Rev. Anna Carter Florence preached a really moving sermon on the book of Ezekiel and the story of God bringing Ezekiel to the Valley of Dry Bones and telling him to ‘prophesize’ or preach to the bones. And Ezekiel does. And as he does, God reassembles the bones into bodies and breathes life into them.

Ezekiel is one of those books that’s particularly strange. It tells of Prophet Ezekiel’s visions and is considered to be highly allegorical. Scholars believe that Ezekiel’s teachings take place after the Israelites have been exiled from their homeland and are feeling disoriented being so far away from their homes and their temple. How do they practice their traditions if they can’t be at their temple?

This feels just about right at this moment– preaching into a computer screen probably doesn’t feel nearly as odd as preaching to a valley of dry bones.  Fortunately, you are all alive and enfleshed, at least for now.  And while most Unitarian Universalists do not consider the church building “their temple,” many of us feel deep affection for our buildings and grounds. Rev. Carter Florence reminded us preachers that so much is out of our control– our job is not to be God, but to be Ezekiel– befuddled, confused, and perplexed but continuing on doing the next right thing. I think that is true for all of us. Our job right now is to embrace the weirdness of this time, be clear about what is in our power and what is beyond it, and stay committed to our Unitarian Universalist values in the face of all that challenges them.

This Sunday May 24th: Stepping back 6 feet (at least) … A Case for Physical Distancing How are you doing with physical distancing? How are you experiencing others when out and about? Putting this into practice may help us avoid more than a virus. Come explore more about what this new social practice invites. Worship Leaders: Dee H, Rev. Erin Matteson, and Jorge Torrez.

Angry at the Screen

 

 

Perhaps you have seen one of the many articles going around discussing video-conferencing fatigue– like this one: (click here).

“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting.”

Another word I could use is haunting.  Whether it’s worship, a meeting, or a dance class via video-conference,  getting to engage with people ONLY via screen has begun to remind me more of your absence than your presence.  Your face on my screen just reminds me of your presence that is getting further and further away.  Don’t get me wrong– I’m terribly grateful for all the tech that allows us to stay connected while being physically distanced.  And there is no escaping the fact how much I miss you– how much I miss gathering–how much I miss lightly placing my palm on your upper-back as you walk into the sanctuary.  I even miss the awkward moments when I try to discern whether you want some kind of touch or whether you prefer physical space as you enter the sanctuary (hint: I always try to follow your lead!)

Perhaps this is why I found myself angry during one of my video-conference dance classes.  Like a tantrum my 2.5 year is throwing, I just want to stop my feet and say “I DON’T LIKE THIS-NO NO NO NO!”

At our worship team meeting this week, we discussed this balancing act, a dance if you will, we all have to do right now– expressing gratitude for the many blessings in our lives (including all the tech) and at the same time extending compassion to ourselves and others when feelings like anger and sadness come up.  We don’t want to repress the grief nor do we want to get overwhelmed by it.  It’s a balancing act, a delicate dance.

I hope you will do some of this dance with me online this Sunday, at 10:30am.  Join us for worship on Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/976539809. The meeting ID is 976-539-809. To get the password you will need to join, please send a private message to our public facebook page (click here) and you will get a very quick reply with the password! (sadly, because of ‘zoombombings’, we are needing to take some precautions but are services are open to all with non-hacking intentions!)

That Discomfort Is Grief

Here is my weekly reflection via video!  Click here to watch the video

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You can read the article I reference here: https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief.

This Sunday: We are currently broadcasting Sunday morning worship on the online communication tool, Zoom.  The link to join Sunday Service is: https://zoom.us/j/976539809.   If you want to call in on your phone, rather than video-in on your computer, then dial +1 669 900 9128  and enter this meeting ID when prompted: 976 539 809.   We will open the meeting at 10:15am to give people a chance to log-in and hopefully work out any kinks.

Click here to download the order of service, including hymn lyrics so you can sing along.

 

Luscious Intimacy Without Touch

One of my good friends wrote this article for the NY Times (click here to read: My Life Is More ‘Disposable’ During This Pandemic ).  It is about his experience as a rabbi with chronic health conditions and his experience of a lot of the language used regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This is a redrawn version of a Vox graphic, posted on Twitter by epidemiologist Anne Marie Darling https://twitter.com/amdar1ing/status/1237880129575157760

Before we were in middle of a pandemic, I was thinking a lot about the climate crisis and how there was a bitter irony that many of the groups most oppressed and exploited by our late stage capitalism society are the ones who might have the most wisdom about how to survive it.   It is a bitter irony because I say this as a white able-bodied (for now) woman in the U.S.  who has many unearned privileges and blessings bestowed upon her– privileges that have come at others expense regardless of whether I wanted them to or not.   And now those who are considered “disabled” might have the wisdom those of us not (yet) in that category need to survive.

“I have spent years of my life rarely leaving home. Being stuck at home due to illness often sucks, but sometimes it is other things, too. Calm. The kinds of connection that can only come from profound slowness, from borrowing down instead of stretching out. Even as we withdraw physically, our emotional and spiritual need for others has never been more visible. I already knew that we needed one another in intimate ways that go beyond the capacity of our bodies to connect. Disabled people are experts in deep, luscious intimacy without touch. We are used to being creative.” Rabbi Elliot Kukla,

That line about disabled people being “experts in deep, luscious intimacy without touch.”   YES.  That is what we all need to be reminded of right now–that we can still have powerful connection, even “luscious intimacy” without physical proximity.

This Sunday:  Online Worship at 10:30am–  We are currently broadcasting/posting Sunday morning worship in the church’s private facebook group (hoping to go more public soon!) If you are not already a member of the facebook group, please visit
https://www.facebook.com/groups/stanuu/ and ask to join!

Joys and Sorrows: If you would like us to read a joy and/or sorrow
for you and light a candle, please email Rev. Darcy at revdarcybaxter@gmail.com by 8pm Friday evening

Zoom Video Conference Coffee Hour and Connect & Reflect: After worship, we are going to try and connect via Zoom video conference for the first time this Sunday! (Zoom allows me to break people into groups, so there can smaller group talking with each other.)

To join this Zoom Meeting, click here: https://zoom.us/j/976539809  (it may prompt you to install software, which you should do!)

Meeting ID: 976 539 809

If you want to call in on your phone, rather than video-in on your computer, then dial +1 669 900 9128 and enter this meeting ID when prompted: 976 539 809

P.S. Will you help me and join a “test” zoom video call at 1:30pm this Saturday 3/21? Just follow the instructions above, except do it at 1:30pm on this Saturday!  Thank you

 

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A Time for Creativity

Fear. Anxiety….these are totally normal responses to the pandemic we find ourselves in.  Our “lizard brains” go into overdrive– sometimes in helpful ways, sometimes not.  That’s why I made this video, because laughter is great for helping us get out of our ruminating and anxious ruts:  Out-Takes of Minister Trying to Connect with Congregation During COVID-19 Pandemic

But in all seriousness, this is a time for creativity.  We may need to take physical space from groups in order to care for one another, but we do not need to isolate or be disconnected.  You all know I have mixed feelings about social media and the various ways technology is impacting human relationships. And I have no doubt that at this moment, social media and other technologies are a blessing– ways to connect even as we take physical space.  How quickly our opinions change!

A church member has created a special facebook group for church members and friends to post brief video check-ins.  If you are not familiar with the video-taking technology on your phone, use this time to try to learn!  The church is going to be trying to use our Zoom video-conferencing program for meetings and maybe even worship, so start experimenting with Zoom as well.

I know these are strange, scary times.  Now that we have to suspend so much of our usual patterns of living, we also have an opportunity to invite new ways of beings into our lives.

This Sunday– ONLINE WORSHIP ONLY! (details to come).  Effective as of Friday morning 3/13/20, UUFSC is temporarily suspending all in-person gatherings over 10 people until further notice, including Sunday morning worship and youth spiritual formation. We are following new guidelines put out by California Department of Public Health on Wednesday evening March 11th 2020. You can read these guidelines by clicking here. We are going to try to do a Facebook LiveStream on the church’s facebook page. More details to come on this– please check your email and/or the church Facebook page Saturday afternoon for details on how to access the online experience.  This will NOT be a polished production but an adventure in learning how we can connect even when we are farther apart. 

We Are Not As Smart As We Thought
Wisdom is different than knowledge or information– it offers guidance about
 how to live, often in ways we strive and/or struggle to fulfill.  When was a
 time when you thought something was true, but then later gained a deeper understanding?  Worship leaders:  Brian Wise, Todd Whiteley, Rev. Darcy and Sue Cotter.