In recent days, there are so many things going on. There is the virus. There are riots. There are deaths of too many people at the hands of our government. There is food scarcity, and budgets all around are being cut for the impending recession. People are still in cages; families are still separated.
The economy is reopening, and I find myself longing for face-to-face meetings, for coffee hour, and to hear our ‘Joys and Concerns’ from your lips and not the comment box on Facebook–to see the joy in your face, to hug during passing the peace and to connect.
Wynton Marsalis said in his book, Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life
I noticed that religion gave some people a way to escape dealing with the world: ‘Things will be better when you die,’ the people of my grandma’s generation said as they worked themselves to death. ‘God wants you to forgive and love those who do you wrong,’ some people said to shake off the shame of being unable to respond to the abuse they endured. The holier-than thou faction found comfort in believing, ‘The rest of y’all are lost because you don’t have a personal relationship with God—our God’… But art teaches and engages you in the world, not just the world around you but the big world, and not just the big world of Tokyo and Sydney and Johannesburg, but the bigger world of ideas and concepts and feelings of history and humanity… In learning about a person, you learn something about the world and about yourself, and if you can handle what you learn, you can get closer, much closer to them. Jazz shows us how to find a groove with other people, how to hold on to it, and how to develop it.
We can’t escape from dealing with the world, but we can be safe and help each other. There are problems in this world. If we are who we say we are, then it behooves us to show up, ‘to find a groove’ with others and solve real problems together. Showing up is difficult when it means being virtual.
The UUA has recommended not having face-to-face services until May 2021. Our board is still deciding how we are to proceed. We have to weigh the health and well being of each of us while sticking to our values of inclusivity and respecting diversity.
The question before us is the question that is always before us. As we decide who we are becoming, both as individuals but also as one church body: Who are we as a congregation called to be right now? Who are we?
Acknowledging that every person is unique, with unique circumstances and has contact with more-less-and-different people, who is part of the “we” we are considering in our decision-making? What would be the social/emotional/spiritual costs of gathering, of protesting, of advocacy work, of having online services? Who would we exclude? How would this fit with our mission and identity?
I believe that we are the same people who stand up for the inherent worth of all people. We rally around those in need, listening to each other and acting with both passion and rationality. We are the respite of old friends at coffee hour. We are the excitement of new friends who see the world differently than us. We are the candle lit at joys and concerns and the flame of the burning chalice.
But, it does look differently now. It does feel different. And, we are who we are choosing to become. Walking together is a choice each of us makes. Each of us can connect. We can interact over the phone, over Facebook, Facetime, in Zoom meetings and in hand written letters and in happy little post cards. We can go to protests and write letters to the editor. We can advocate locally by talking with local officials and speaking truth to power—on any of our advocacy points—Racial Justice, Climate Change, LGBTQ+ Rights, Immigrant Justice, and Women’s Rights.
I am convinced, more now than ever, that we can make a difference—and it begins in the choices we make—loving the hell out of the world.
This May feels different than the others. Yes, May is a time when the weather opens. It is a time when flowers bud and leaves open. It is a time when, as it seems, our economies are opening too. A time for graduation parties and ceremonies with all the pomp and circumstance of clicking to end the Zoom meeting and going back to folding laundry or walking the dog.
One of my favorite quotes…”It is a curse to live in interesting times.” It is, indeed, interesting times.
The demands of time are so different now. The rat race of running here and there seems to be paused: More like a NASCAR race with the green–white–checkered flag sequence. We are cautioned, the finish line is near, but we are waiting for more warning—a yellow flag, or for the green flag for go, or even a white flag that ends the race.
At the same time, we can pause and see the world around us. We can
stop and see the flowers budding. We can pause and reflect inwardly.
We can work on our own spiritual practices.
Brene Brown wrote, “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
As we caution, as we rev our engines, as we get to know ourselves a
little better, we know that in all of this we have each other. Our church is here. Church is more a verb to me than a noun. While it is the network of people who care for one another—the emphasis is on caring—the sharing and the sacredness of being together while being your true self.
I pray that you are healthy, connected to others, and that you
With warm regards, I greet you in this newsletter. For some, this is the first interaction we’ve had in some time. I do miss our face-to-face services. I miss our coffee hours and potlucks. I miss our laughter–the jabs we put to one another, the jokes, and the commonality with you all.
I hope you all are doing well, despite these difficult times. There are many things to be concerned about: our advocacy issues of racial, environmental, and economic justice, LGBTQ+ Rights, Immigrant justice, but adding to the intersectionality are health care, access, the spread of COVID 19, and the impending recession.
One of my favorite sayings–actually a curse: May you live in interesting times… This was adapted in 1923 from the 1836 English translations of Yaoqin of the Shen family, a 12 year old girl–a respected poet and artist–from the Ming Dynasty.
They hurried like frighten dogs,
They pressed like fish escaping the net
They bore all sorts of hardships
They prayed to heaven, earth, and their ancestors,
Let us not run into our enemies…
Truly, better be a dog in days of peace
Than a human in times of war!
Through the game of telephone that is translation over the centuries… it turned into ‘A curse to live in interesting times.’
These interesting times are the stuff that challenges our principles. This is the source that stories are told of. I am recalling Apollo 13… Flight Director Gene Kranz overhears two NASA directors discussing the low survival chances for the crippled spacecraft. “I know what the problems are, Henry,” one of them says. “This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced.”
“With all due respect, Sir,” Kranz intervenes, “I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”
I believe this. I hear the stories of hope and generosity: two themes ever present in my theology. People are connecting in more ways than ever. But, it takes the courage to do it. It takes the tenacity to overcome whatever might be preventing connection.
I hope that you reach out to others. Call old friends. Buy pizza delivery for EMS workers. Sew up some face masks. Help kids with their homework. Pick up trash and debris while hiking. Do something generous.
Peace and well being for all of you,
— Rev. Will
“True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the
fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands–
whether of individuals or entire peoples–need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become
human hands which work and, working, transform the world.”
― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Love is a powerful thing. As stated in Corinthians 13:13, “Three things will last forever — Faith, Hope and Love — and the greatest of these is love.”
Love can take many forms. Agape (Koine Greek) Love is a love beyond, a spiritual love. Mudita (Pali) Love is sympathetic joyous love, a love for others and a higher level of empathy. We call into action The Spirit of Expectancy.
In a deep way, we love when we expect the world to get better. We expect love to triumph. That we can help individuals experiencing poverty, that we can build bridges between those who are excluded by means of White Supremacy and Racism and those benefiting from it. This Spirit is the hope that we ignite by doing the uncomfortable things by looking both inward at ourselves and our psyches, and looking outward at the stumbling blocks in front of our siblings.
We love when we listen to one another. There are so many ways to do this. We expect love to triumph politically, by helping one another vote: helping our neighbors register, offering rides to the polls, volunteering at polling stations, etc. We manifest the spirit of expectancy socially, when we are there for one another, listening to hear, imbuing empathy and chipping in to help.
The Spirit of Expectancy manifests when I don’t have to explain what “Love is Love” means. The Spirit of Expectancy is invoking and evoking the Beloved Community… not just checking privilege, but wielding it, within the intersectionality to speak and to hear the pain and joy happening, to tell the stories of hope and love.
Paul Massari said, “Love means that we are called to nurture health in one another…to nurture community with one another, to nurture the wholeness and vitality of every person, and to lift one another up. It can’t be reconciled with putting children in cages, with erasing transgender people, with racism, or with poverty. It means we are connected with one another. In this way, God is a powerful form of love.”
Let us work together to democratize our community as an embodiment of Love.
Winter can be hard: The pounding winds, the cold weather, the accessibility inhibited, the extra money burnt up as heat. Winter can make us feel alone and isolated, making us long for warmer days, for old friends, for old times, or safe times. From the Buddhist traditions, we can cultivate a sense of renunciation. Buddhist nun, Rev. Pema Chödrön, says that this means to realize
“our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane…Once you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for experiencing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation. When we sit in meditation, we feel our breath as it goes out, and we have some sense of willingness just to be open to the present moment. Then our minds wander off into all kinds of stories and fabrications and manufactured realities, and we say to ourselves, ’It’s thinking.’ We say that with a lot of gentleness and a lot of precision. Every time we are willing to let the story line go, and every time we are willing to let go at the end of the out breath, that’s fundamental renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back.”
In the spring, the trees will flow with sap, but if we allow ourselves to stay frozen, like the trees now, like some of us feel, then we’ll remain in this frozen state, like a dam ready to burst. But if we remember to have right-intentions, to cultivate presence with one another, to see the joyous things around us, then we can let go and experience a type of freedom, a type of Love.
We look at February in many ways: as a time for romance, as a time for Justice, as a time for cold and winter. In each of these let us love more deeply than yesterday.
On Love ~ Thomas à Kempis
Love is a mighty power, a great and complete good. Love alone lightens every burden, and makes rough places smooth. It bears every hardship as though it were nothing, and renders all bitterness sweet and acceptable. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth; for love is born of God. Love flies, runs and leaps for joy. It is free and unrestrained. Love knows no limits, but ardently transcends all bounds. Love feels no burden, takes no account of toil, attempts things beyond its strength. Love sees nothing as impossible, for it feels able to achieve all things. It is strange and effective, while those who lack love faint and fail. Love is not fickle and sentimental,
nor is it intent on vanities. Like a living flame and a burning torch, it surges upward and surely surmounts every obstacle.
January brings a new year and many challenges. We have a dialectic—hope and fear. We are hopeful, yet we know situations are coming that challenge us to advocate for those without a voice—ending genocides around the world, bringing reconciliation to rivalries, extending rights to more and more people, and comforting those experiencing a loss. Let us ring in the New Year, by sharing our church and community as a safe place; for those who are weary we are sanctuary, for those without a voice we are sanctuary, for those in need we are sanctuary.
All Souls is needing to build a team to celebrate our bicentennial in 2022, as well as members to serve on our justice teams.
There are a great number of initiatives seeking ‘feet on the ground.’ The UUJO is advocating local Ohio issues. The UUA is putting out the “UU the Vote” for advocating democratic response to the issues of the next election.
The #LoveResists campaign continues to work against hatred-fueled policy.
Happy 5th day of Chalica!
Today we honor our 5th principle: the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
Use your voice. Make yourself heard.
Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus risk, we are cancelling our normal weekly services and streaming a modified service on our Facebook page at the usual date and time. For more information, please visit our Facebook page.https://www.facebook.com/AllSoulsUUBellville/