Monday, June 20, 2016

Hello, Goodbye

The UUCiA's Holy Pajama Jam Band plays "Hello, Goodbye"
Yesterday was a good, busy Sunday at the UUCiA. It was busy because we honored Father's Day, had our last "formal" worship service until September, and we bid adieu to our beloved Music Director. In honor of our Music Director, our "Holy Pajama Jam Band" led the congregation in singing the Beatles "Hello, Goodbye". We'll miss you, Thom!

We also had lots of rainbow flags in solidarity with the LGBTQ community after the tragic shooting in Orlando. We are determined to stand up to homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia. Together, we must make a better world. Tikkun Olam.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Orlando

West Parish Church in Andover with flag and vigil sign.
Tonight, there was an Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Orlando at West Parish Church in Andover, in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and against Islamophobia as well as homophobia and transphobia...

Originally, West Parish and South Church were planning a joint vigil for the victims of the tragic shooting in Orlando. Several of us in Welcoming Faiths were trying to figure out if we could quickly plan an interfaith prayer vigil for Orlando. When we learned about the vigil being planned at West Parish, we contacted the Rev. Katrina Wuensch, and (along with Rev. Dana Allen Walsh and Rev. Alex Shea Will of South Church) she thought it was a great idea to have an interfaith vigil. Generously, they worked with Welcoming Faiths to invite clergy and leaders from other traditions in town.

Rev. Wuensch is new to town, and she did an amazing job of putting this all together! She and West Parish were amazing hosts.

It was a lovely service. Rev. Wuensch gave the welcome, and Rev. Dana Allen Walsh led the gathering prayer.

There were readings from three traditions: Rabbi Robert Goldstein of Temple Emanuel shared words from the Jewish tradition.

Mary Lahaj, Chaplain of the Islamic Center of Boston, shared words from the Islamic tradition.

Renee Manning (seminarian and member of South Chuch) shared words from the Christian tradition.

We shared the names of the 50 victims of the shooting (49 innocents, plus the shooter himself). The readers of the names were Aldebran Longabaugh-Burg (of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College, as well as a Board member of Welcoming Faiths); Rev. Will Green of Ballard Vale United Church, and myself (of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover).

More important are those names of the victims, which are shown below. Learn more about the beautiful people that we lost at this interactive site.




There was a wonderful turnout for the vigil; the sanctuary was full, and those attending came from many different area congregations, or from no congregation at all.

To the right you can see the list of participants and their organizations as they appeared on the back of the program. (Click on the picture if you wish to see it in a bigger size.)

The Andover Townsman made a live video; it is brief, but it gives some sense of the turnout. You can view that video at this link.

It was so good to be together. There is much healing that needs to happen, and much work that needs to be done. More on that in a later post.

Blessings and love to all the victims and their families and friends. May we become a nation of peace.

Photo: Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Orlando at West Parish Church of Andover. (Courtesy of West Parish.)
The beautiful human beings lost in the tragic Orlando shooting.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

New US Citizens, Please Vote!

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of helping brand new US citizens register to vote.

There was a naturalization ceremony at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. A couple of groups were there to help new citizens register to vote; the League of Women's Voters was there as was the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition. I was volunteering with MIRA, at the invitation of a wonderfully engaged congregant.

What a day! What a thrill to witness! I will never understand anti-immigrant attitudes. These are some of the best citizens in the entire country. We are blessed that they have become citizens and will cast their votes with pride.

Monday, June 6, 2016

35 years at Cape Cod Sea Camps

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover has had an annual retreat at Cape Cod Sea Camps each June for the past 35 years! This was my seventh year along for the wonderful ride.

Many UU congregations in this area go to Ferry Beach; we "lost" our reservation there decades ago, and so started going to CCSC. It's a really wonderful spot for a get away, so no regrets.

In this picture to the left, taken yesterday, I am about to ring the bell to begin our outdoor worship at the "Poop Deck".

One of our traditions is that on Saturday night we have a sing-along. We had yet another great one this year. And, for the first time in many years (including the first time in my experience) we had our "Talent/No Talent" show. It was so much fun to see what people decided to share! And it was a truly all-ages event.

One of the best things about the UUCiA -- let me brag -- is how much we love kids of all ages. We are the most intergenerationally-oriented congregation I have personally experienced. I can take no credit for this -- the UUCiA was like this when I arrived!

And in seven years, you really see kids grow up. It's been such a privilege to be a part of it.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Shooting of a Gorilla

Like so many, I have been touched and saddened by the shooting of Harambe the gorilla. I write this, knowing that his death has gotten lots of attention -- attention that the deaths of factory farm animals don't get... for that matter, his death has gotten more attention that the shooting of most human beings.

Nevertheless, Harambe was a beautiful being who was shot, ultimately, through no real fault of his own. And he was put into a sad and ultimately dangerous situation by virtue of being kept in a zoo by (and for) humans.

The Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry has issued this statement:

"The tragic killing of Harambe, the 17 year-old silverback gorilla, highlights the tensions and contradictions in human relationship with other animals.

"Humans long for interactions with other animals: we seek to understand them, we want to know them, and we have sought to possess them and use them for our own enjoyment and entertainment. More recently, we have come to grasp the intelligence, agency, and emotional lives of other animals. We have been confronting the damage of human activity on the habitats and lives of other animals, and in so doing we are seeking to preserve the species we have brought to the brink of extinction. In the context of all this we reflect on the place of zoos.

"Some will argue that zoos play an important role in the education of humans about other animals and in the conservation of species. While it is true that humans can learn about other animals in zoos, we now have the virtual technology to offer that education. Some will bemoan the loss of pleasure that humans receive from seeing other animals in zoos. Yet, human pleasure does not supersede the rights of other animals to be free from confinement and display. Species conservation is crucial as many species are lost to the effects of human activity. However, the confinement of other animals in zoos – what we call animals in captivity – should be ended, and animals who can no longer survive as free-living beings should be placed in sanctuaries and other settings where they can live their lives as naturally as possible, free from exploitation.

"We call for the continual examination of human relationships with other species and individual animals in the web of life in light of the ongoing evidence of the sentience of other than human beings.

"We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every being."

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day for Peace

Rev. Lara Hoke of Veterans For Peace gives Opening Words
Yesterday I had the honor of sharing opening words at the Memorial Day for Peace in Boston, organized by the local Smedley D. Butler Brigade of VFP.

As part of my remarks, before offering a prayer, I shared the letter of resignation written by my UU ministerial colleague (and former US Army chaplain) Rev. Chris Antal. You can read his letter here.

May we become a nation of peace and loving-kindness.

The picture to the left is by Howard Rotman. See more of his photos of the day here.

An activist who was present made a video of the day's service. Here's the shorter version.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Understanding and Appreciating the Beauty of Sikhism

Unitarian Universalists for Sikh Awareness
Ever since I preached on Sikhism this fall, I have been pulled toward the religion and its traditions in a profound way. I often find myself with a case of "envy" after I preach about another religious tradition; every tradition has such beauty. At Yom Kippur, I have Jewish Envy; after preaching on the occasion of Mahavira's birthday I have Jain Envy, and so on. So it's not surprising that preaching on Sikhism gave me Sikh Envy.

What's been more surprising, to me at least, as that my Sikh Envy has not gone away! In fact, it keeps growing.

Weeks ago, I started a Facebook community called Unitarian Universalists for Sikh Awareness and a Twitter account for the same. Please feel free to like/join! I created the UUFSA logo shown here from the Sikh symbol (inside in orange) and the outer part of the UUA's new logo. I'm unreasonably proud of myself for this. [Addendum: I have since begun work on a website too.]

I find myself wearing a kara and reading all sorts of books on Sikhism. Recently, I attended my first Sikh service (conveniently for me, on a Friday) at the Milford Gurdwara Sahib (home of the New England Sikh Study Circle), and I loved it. Wonderful people; beautiful kirtan; langar (vegetarian food for all)... what's not to love? I also took my first Punjabi lesson. It all feels so good for my spirit. Stay tuned for more on this journey.