Message from the Minister

Dear Beloved Community,

As we step into the month of February, a time traditionally associated with expressions of love, I can’t help but think about the legacy of Hosea Ballou–we can explore the profound concept of love that is at the heart of our Unitarian Universalist faith.

     Love Beyond Boundaries

Hosea Ballou’s philosophy of Universalism was centered in and through boundless love. Let us reflect on how we, as a community, can extend our love beyond the confines of our immediate circles, embracing all beings with compassion.

Love as a Guiding Light

We form a community, special each week, with the ideal of personal spiritual growth. We grow when we engage one another, when we reflect on the privileges we might have and the ways to use those privileges to help others, and we act in ways that build solidarity.

Acts of Love in Action

Each Sunday, we light candles and shine a light on the various acts of love happening within our congregation–supporting one another in times of need, and times of joy– let’s celebrate the many ways we embody love in action.

Spiritual Growth: Love-centered Practices

Whether it’s meditation, prayer, or mindful living, let’s come together to explore how these practices can deepen our connection to the universal love that unites us all.

Get Involved: Share Your Love Stories

We invite you to share your personal stories of love – moments that have touched your heart, acts of kindness that have inspired you, or reflections on how love has transformed your life. If you’re willing, your stories could be featured in our upcoming newsletters, creating a tapestry of love within our community.

As we navigate through the month of February, let us embody the spirit of Hosea Ballou and make love the cornerstone of our interactions, both within our beloved community and beyond.

Peace, Love and Understanding,

Rev. Will

 

Message from the Minister

As we step into the fresh canvas of the new year, I am filled with gratitude for the warmth and light that each of you brings to our church, our spiritual community. January not only marks the beginning of a new calendar year, but it is also a time for reflection, renewal, and setting intentions for the journey ahead–a journey that is perilous and adventurous, filled with the spectrum of joy and concern.

As I read the legislative updates and look for democracy in our society, I can’t help but feel the call to justice. The words, “Freedom isn’t free,” seem to ring in my ears, although the tone of that notion is very different than the typical use in our communities. There is a vital role we play in nurturing and protecting our democracy. Our faith encourages us to actively engage with the world around us, advocating for justice, equity, and the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. Active engagement is what got us noticed by the UUA as a Breakthrough congregation in 2017 and then by the UCCs in 2018. Our engagement with social justice and social action is imperative.

This month, I am reminded of the words of civil rights leader John Lewis, who stated, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.” As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to be active participants in the ongoing work of democracy. Whether it be through voting, engaging in civil discourse, or advocating for policies that align with our values, each action we take contributes to the flourishing of a just and inclusive society.

As we embark on this new chapter, let us take a moment to set intentions for our personal and collective growth. What dreams do we wish to manifest in the coming months? How can we deepen our commitment to justice and compassion in both our personal and communal lives?

Throughout the state and nation there are UU groups and committees focused on social justice, environmental stewardship, and community outreach. Consider engaging beyond the congregation level. These spaces provide opportunities for us to connect with like-minded individuals, share ideas, and work together towards positive change.

Our church is a sacred space where we come together to nurture our spirits and support one another on life’s journey. It’s that warm feeling we get in the sanctuary and the familiarity with coffee in the basement. Could we commit to deepening our connections as we aspire to Beloved Community? These shared experiences strengthen the bonds that make All Souls UU Church a beacon of love and acceptance.

As we step into the unknown of 2024, let us do so with open hearts, courageous spirits, and a commitment to justice that knows no bounds. Together, we can make a meaningful impact, not only within the walls of our church but in the wider world we are called to serve.

May this new year be one of growth, connection, and the realization of our shared dreams.

Rev. Will

Message from the Minister

Friends,

As December unfolds, we find ourselves entering the sacred season of Advent—for UUs it is a time of reflection, anticipation, and preparation for the arrival of light in the midst of darkness. It’s a moment of hope, a time to embrace the spirit of unity and love that binds us together as a community.

Advent has us explore the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love—inviting us to reflect on these core values that enrich our lives. In the spirit of the season, let’s come together to spread warmth and kindness during this festive time.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”~ Emily Dickinson

“Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.”~ John Lennon

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”~ Christopher McCandless

“Love is the ultimate expression of the will to live, the life force, the power that drives us to protect the ones we love.”~ Sophia Lyon Fahs

In the spirit of the UU principles and values, let us come together in love and understanding, embracing our differences and celebrating our shared values.

May this season of Advent remind us of the importance of compassion, empathy, and unity. Happy Holidays to you all–Happy Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Solstice, Mawlid al-Nabi, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years.

As we journey through this sacred time together, let’s hold each other close in heart and spirit. May the blessings of hope, peace, joy, and love fill your homes and hearts abundantly.

Blessings and Warm Wishes,

-Rev. Will

Message from the Minister

Friends,

The trees are at peak right now. The vibrant hues of autumn paint our world with breathtaking beauty, yet we read the headlines and see so much strife, war, disconnection. I pray for safety in Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia, Mexico, Haiti, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Congo. I don’t know if there is more war now, or it seems I’m looking more at our world neighbors. We pray for peace (acknowledging that there is so much nuance lost in just praying for peace). Sometimes I am led to prayer while discerning action.

There is an election this November. Please remember to vote, and to vote your conscience and values.

The wisdom of Mary Oliver offers a balm to the sadness…
“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

These words invite us to pause and embrace the gift of each day, to cherish the ordinary miracles that surround us, and to share our wonder with one another. It is connection that we accomplish the seemingly impossible.

In this season of reflection and gratitude, I am equally moved by Jericho Brown’s powerful assertion that “Love is an action, never simply a feeling.”

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is essential to recognize that true thankfulness extends beyond mere sentiment. It requires us to transform our appreciation into action, to live out our gratitude in ways that positively impact our lives and the lives of those we encounter.

These two remarkable poets offer us profound insights into the essence of transcendence and thanksgiving. It is a celebration not only of abundance but also of connection, both to the natural world and to one another. When we pay attention to the intricate tapestry of existence and allow ourselves to be
astonished by its complexity and beauty, we are drawn into a deeper sense of wonder and gratitude. We recognize that life itself is a gift, one that we have the power to enhance and share.

Our Unitarian Universalist community embodies the spirit of transcendent thanksgiving, where love and gratitude manifest as action. We come together to celebrate diversity, to support one another in times of need, and to uplift our shared values. It is in this community that we find the strength to act on our love, to manifest our gratitude through service and compassion.

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, ‘friends-givings,’ and family gathering and as we reflect on the blessings in our lives, let us not forget the call to action that gratitude entails. Let us share our love, our compassion, and our resources with those who may be in need. Let us pay attention to the world around us and be astonished by its wonders. In doing so, we transform the act of thanksgiving into a transcendent experience that uplifts our spirits and strengthens our bonds as a beloved community.

May this November be a month of reflection, gratitude, and action. May we, like Mary Oliver and Jericho Brown, find inspiration in the beauty and love that surround us, and may we use this inspiration to make the world a more just and compassionate place.

May it ever be so,
-Rev. Will

Message from the Minister

Dear Friends,

As the vibrant colors of autumn surround us and the days grow shorter, I’m filled with a sense of awe and gratitude for the journey we’ve embarked upon together as a congregation. October is upon us, and it marks a time of change and reflection.

Embracing Change:
Change is an ever-present force in our lives, much like the changing seasons. Just as the leaves gracefully transform from green to brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold, our congregation continues to evolve. We have welcomed new faces and celebrated milestones together. As we embrace change, let us remember the core values that bind us: the commitment to justice, compassion, and the free search for truth.

Gratitude:
Amidst change, it is essential to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I’m profoundly grateful for the resilience and dedication I see in each of you. Your commitment to building a more just and compassionate world is truly inspiring. As we move through October, let’s take a moment to reflect on the blessings in our lives, the beauty of our surroundings, and the strength of our community.

Share Your Thoughts:
I value your input and feedback. If you have ideas, concerns, or suggestions for our congregation’s future, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Your voice matters, and it helps us shape our shared journey.

In closing, let us embrace the changes that October brings and hold gratitude close to our hearts. Together, we can continue to be a beacon of love and justice in our community.

With warmth and blessings,
-Rev. Will

Message from the Minister

Friends,

Today’s brisk morning is a reminder of summer turning to fall. Kids and grandkids are back to school, Friday night lights illuminate the field for our communities, and we find ourselves returning to a life that seems almost forgotten—talk of football, colder mornings and anticipating the end of gardens and crops, the button bucks losing their fuzziness and fawns losing their spots…

All the while, the demands of everyday life are still upon us: the political divides in our communities, loan forgiveness, the spiritual practices of generosity, and the fear of missing out—and an upcoming November referendum on reproductive rights and individual liberty. There are campaigns and images that seek to motivate but too often it seems that they divide.

Recently I found myself at a gathering, music was playing: Brats, burgers, and a beat. In the center, a maternal figure was dancing, alone. She’s a mentor to me. She was dancing the electric slide, living her best life. I join in, a little boy joins in—we’re teaching him, before long nearly everyone joins in.

Where ever you find yourself, full of passion for the rights of people: trans rights, women’s rights reproductive rights, climate change, decolonization and dismantling supremacy cultures—white supremacy, male supremacy, heteronormative structures, habitat restoration—-remember that our souls are held together by the pain and joys that we experience individually and collectively; remember that there is joy and sorrow in every moment. Remember to dance, have some food at a tailgate, connect.

May this time of the year offer life and love and connection. May you find peace and joy and May you dance when the sweet music plays!

May it ever be so

-Rev. Will

 

Message from the Minister

Dear Friends,

“In the inhalation and exhalation there is an energy and a lively divine spirit, since He, through his spirit supports the breath of life, giving courage to the people who are in the earth and spirit to those who walk on it.” Early Church reformer, Michael Servetus offered those words, describing his unitarian and humanist perspective.

In my pilgrimage of sorts to Geneva, Switzerland–the place where Michael Servetus was burned at the stake in 1553, with a copy of his unitarian book Christianismi Restitutio chained to his leg, I find myself reading and contemplating the world in these ways–the intersection of science and religion and politics. In a world where scientific experts are ignored and forsaken, only to see politicians thrust a tradition and orthodoxy upon our citizens, even ignoring history to perpetuate not responsibility but an ignorance, not repair but disregard.

As we prepare ourselves and our families for back to school time, as children leave their summertime fun and the anxieties fill–the anxieties of dealing with not only those with differing values but those who bully their values upon us, and the tension grows of what conflicts will present themselves in fall time elections [remember to vote in the August election, as well as the November one], as we exist next to and advocate for self and others, remember the words of Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Let us not be indifferent but to love–as hard as that can be.

During this month of warmth and growth, let us explore the lessons we can draw from his journey and how they resonate in our lives today.

Let us remember the importance of intellectual curiosity, the courage to question, and the necessity to embrace diverse perspectives within our community. The new academic year helps to facilitate this, but so too does the August weather, the warmth and the outdoors. August invites us to embrace self-reflection and to delve into the core of our beliefs and values. Just as Michael Servetus dared to challenge the status quo, we too must take the time to introspect and examine our spiritual paths. What do we hold dear in our hearts? How can we foster a more inclusive and compassionate community? Engaging in honest introspection helps us nurture our spiritual growth, leading us to a more profound understanding of ourselves and others.

Servetus’s life exemplifies the impact that an individual can have on the world. He fearlessly stood up for what he believed in, even in the face of adversity. Likewise, each of us possesses the power to create positive change within our community and beyond. Our deeds, no matter how small, can ripple through the lives of others and inspire transformation. As we explore ways to make a difference, let us actively seek opportunities to extend kindness, lend a helping hand, and be agents of positive change in the world–Loving ourselves and others.

As we engage in these events and activities, let us remember the spirit of Michael Servetus and the values he championed. May we use this month to reflect, renew our commitments, and take steps towards creating a more loving, just, and compassionate world.

With gratitude and hope,

– Rev. Will

Message from the Minister

Dear Beloveds and Friends,

As the warm summer breeze graces our days and the sun bathes us in its golden rays, we find ourselves in a season of abundant growth and reflection. July has arrived, bringing with it a cherished opportunity to explore the essence of freedom of belief and deepen our connections within our beloved community. The warm sun reminds us of the promise of abundance, and the climate-change induced smoke in the air reminds us of our responsibility to care for the earth.

July is a time we, Americans, celebrate and reflect upon the promise and responsibilities of Freedom. At the very heart of our Unitarian Universalist faith is this Freedom of Belief. It is principled as encouragement for us to seek our own truths, to question, to challenge, and to constantly grow in our understanding of the world and our place within it, to resist tyranny and to find liberation.

There are many attacks on our freedoms. Bills and proposed laws that restrict rights, and some that even deny medical treatment. Please get active in these political actions. Engage the UUJO–our Ohio based UU Justice Organization. They need some volunteers and I think the people of All Souls could really help them. Freedom requires practice and effort.

This freedom invites us to embark on a lifelong journey of exploration, where our spiritual paths intertwine with the wisdom of diverse traditions and the insights gained from our own personal experiences.

As we engage in the delightful adventures and peaceful respites that summer offers, I encourage each of you to take some time for personal reflection. Allow the beauty of nature, the serenity of quiet moments, and the joy of shared experiences to inspire and nourish your spirit. Embrace the freedom to question and explore, to discover new perspectives and deepen your connection to the divine.

This past week, our denomination (86.3% of Delegates) voted to remain considering changes to the Article 2 of the UUA bylaws–Principles and Purposes. It is written into our tradition to keep searching for meaning, and written into our bylaws to keep our Principles and Purposes relevant for our current times. In the fall, I presented these changes during adult RE. Although we have looked through these changes, we will dive deeper at the proposed shift from Principles to Values, with Love at its center.

We also have a new president of the UUA, the Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt. During her acceptance speech, she shared that she is a Universalist in her UU faith. She is a respected theologian, minister and teacher. With her election and the changes in Article 2, it feels like a discerned pivot toward our Universalist side of the UU family–a return that I welcome and affirm.

In the Spirit of Love, let us also celebrate this season of our congregation. Summer is a time for forging new bonds and strengthening existing relationships. It presents countless opportunities to engage in community-building activities, from picnics and hikes to book clubs. I invite you to reach out to one another, to extend a hand of friendship and understanding, and to engage in conversations that foster empathy, compassion, and growth.

Our church community is a sanctuary where we find solace, support, and inspiration. Together, we create a safe space for authentic exploration of our beliefs and a nurturing environment that encourages each individual to grow into their fullest potential. As we celebrate the freedom of belief, let us also extend that freedom to others, embracing the diversity of perspectives and experiences that enrich our collective journey.

It is certain that it will continue to offer a variety of opportunities for spiritual growth and connection. For the 6th year in a row, I am on the ministry team for Summer Institute. Both at All Souls and within the CER–Region, we have planned exciting events, inspiring worship services, and engaging workshops that cater to the diverse interests and needs of our congregation.

May this summer be a time of deepening connection, self-discovery, and joyous exploration. Together, let us celebrate the freedom of belief that is the cornerstone of our faith, as we weave our individual journeys into a beautiful tapestry of shared experiences.

Blessings and peace,
– Rev. Will

Message from the Minister

Friends,

As we enter the month of June, as we reach out and experience Pride Month, as we begin to enjoy the summer…

I find inspiration from the Tao Te Ching, a timeless text that invites us to cultivate peace, harmony, and balance in our lives.

June means to me, the start of summer and the promise of warmer days ahead. This is a time to celebrate the beauty of nature and the abundance of life around us, as well as to reflect on the teachings of the Tao Te Ching. I think of sunshine on my shoulders and cool breezes.

At the heart of the Tao Te Ching is the idea that we can find peace and harmony by aligning ourselves with the natural flow of the universe–action and inaction. This means letting go of our attachments and judgments, and embracing the present moment with gratitude and openness. More human being and not so fixated on the human doing.

As we enter this new season, we can also think about how we can build peace within ourselves and in our communities. We can start by cultivating a spirit of kindness and compassion, not only towards ourselves, but also towards others. By practicing active listening, seeking to understand different perspectives, and embracing our common humanity, we can build bridges of understanding and create a more peaceful world.

One way to put these teachings into practice is to take time to connect with nature. Whether it’s taking a walk in the park, tending to a garden, or simply spending time outside, we can find inspiration and solace in the beauty of the natural world.

Being Pride Month, we affirm that Love is Love, that we are all whole and holy. Join us with:

Stonewall Columbus Pride on June 16

Knox County Pride on June 25

Mansfield Pride on August 5 (we are building a float!!!)

As we bask in the warmth and joy of this new season, let us hold in our hearts the teachings of the Tao Te Ching and the vision of a world in which peace and harmony reign.

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyful June,
— Rev. Will

Message from the Minister

Friends,

I recently was invited to participate in the Ohio-Meadville District Ministers retreat. One of my takeaways was being present to the deep questions in front of us, just under the surface.

With Passover, with Easter, with Ramadan and Eid—all so recent—it is easy to overlook the deep meaning of these traditions within the Abrahamic branches. There are so many ways to contemplate and reflect on them, and the recurring theme is resistance.

These questions were:
• What good inside of you is resisted by you?
• What obstacles are in your path along your journey that offer resistance to your travels and goals?
• Where do you find love in your self care/what lightens your load?

As you think through these questions, don’t just let a simple answer suffice. There is a tradition that I was taught while studying at Antioch—to ask ‘Why’ five times. Not just harnessing your inner two year old, it is a way to get to the core of an issue.

Words from Rumi to reflect upon:
Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder…

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing
myself…

Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure…

For each of us, I pray that old escapes into new and that we remember our connections to friends and neighbors and strangers, our connections to all life and all material. And that we find newness in life in this changing world. I hope May flowers find you and graduation parties allow you to celebrate accomplishment and to see loved ones.

Peace,
— Rev. Will