Thursday, March 31, 2016

Transgender Day of Visibility

Did you know that today is the Transgender Day of Visibility? Learn more here.

Another group to know about is Freedom Massachusetts. Their website link is here. They are working to fully protect transgender Bay Staters. As they say on their website:

"Under Massachusetts law, there are no explicit protections ensuring that transgender people cannot be turned away from a hotel or denied service at a restaurant—simply because of who they are. That's not who we are. But we can fix this by passing a commonsense bill that protects our transgender friends and neighbors from unwarranted discrimination."

Get involved! Let's work for full equality for our transgender friends and neighbors! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A sad day... after many sad days. Terrorism, and a wish for peace and love.

To the left is a message from the Unitarian Universalist Association about today's horrific attacks in Brussels. This follows on violence in Istanbul... Ankara... Paris... Beirut... and many other cities around the world in the past year.

The message, from Rev. Eric Cherry (Director of the UUA's International Office) is: "On this day of extreme violence in Brussels, which follows brutal events in many countries in recent months, the UUA adds its voice to the interreligious witness for healing and peace in Belgium and throughout the world. We reach out to all those who suffer and recommit to faithful solidarity with all peacemakers." 

To that I add, amen. And blessed be.

I also pray that this terrorist incident isn't used to further to hatred directed toward immigrants, refugees, and Muslims in the United States.

To the right is a picture from the fall taken in Portsmouth, NH. I am with UUCiA congregants, speaking out to ugly anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has become so prominent in this country in recent times.

During this Holy Week in the Christian tradition, may we indeed remember the message of Jesus to love our neighbor, and even our perceived enemy, as we love ourselves. May we remember Jesus's messages of peace and inclusive love for all. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Bobby Socks and the Bomb, and Maundy Thursday

This past Sunday, we considered some of the spiritual and theological messages of the 1950s. You can listen to the sermon ("Bobby Socks and the Bomb: Diggin' that 1950s Spirituality") here.

Several of us dressed in 1950s costumes. I sported Bill Haley-like hair and Buddy Holly-like glasses. I'm not so sure about those... but the atomic blue bowling shirt is a keeper!

We are entering into a busy time of the year. There are lots of great events coming up in April and May, when the weather becomes more reliable in these parts. Stay tuned! I'll post information here!


Last night we had a UU Vespers service where we thought about Celtic spirituality and mysticism together. Now, we turn our attention to upcoming holidays such as Easter and Passover.

This coming Thursday, March 24, we will hold our second annual Maundy Thursday Service. Maundy Thursday (sometimes called “Holy Thursday”) is a Christian commemoration of the Last Supper and the mandate (“maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum) of Jesus to his disciples, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” We will have an intimate communion service, combining elements of the humanistic “Unitarian Universalist Eucharist” created by Rev. Chuck Freeman as well as elements from the liberal Christian tradition. There will be wine as well as juice available. This service is open to all. Please join us! Directions here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Kirtan, Kripalu, and Krishna Das

I'm with my pal, Krishna Das at Kripalu
The last weekend of February, I went to Kripalu in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for a kirtan workshop with Krishna Das. It was a wonderful experience!

I'm teaching myself harmonium and loving it. But the workshop was more about singing, and doing kirtan as a spiritual practice.

I found that it made me feel a little more confident in my singing. One of my goals is to become a more competent leader of hymn-singing at the UUCiA. This was a good place to start!

My front-row view!
I lined up early for the Friday night concert, and I got a front row seat. I've seen KD perform before, but never from the front row. It was amazing to be so close.

KD is such a good story teller. During the workshop, there was a lot of time for Q&A, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak. The only thing better is to hear him sing.

Most of KD's chants are to Hanuman, Ram, Sita, Krishna, Durga, Shiva... Someone asked why he never does chants for Ganesh. Good question! His answer amounted to this: he never felt like it. Well there you go!

Oh, and while I'm posting...

Happy Shivratri!

Monday, February 15, 2016

It's all about that bass... and Bowie... and Pajamas?

I'm going to make an effort to catch up with some news today, on my "day off", since I have fallen behind in my 2016 blogging (as mentioned in my last post).

One of my very favorite hobbies is music. I am a (VERY!) amateur musician. I play some guitar, bass, trumpet, clarinet... and am trying to learn sitar and harmonium. For me, playing music is a spiritual practice.

Playing bass at the David Bowie tribute in Boston.
I recently had the chance to play some bass at a David Bowie tribute show. A group of eastern-Massachusetts based musicians came together -- rehearsing only about three times, mind you, and never all of us at once -- to create a fun and loving tribute to the artist. That happened Saturday night, February 13, at the Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain. It was just so. Much. Fun.

In the picture to the left, I am dressed as a clown, inspired by Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" video (I will embed that video below). It's not necessarily my most flattering look, but it seemed appropriate!

After David Bowie's death, which came as a surprise to most of us, I was very struck by how much his music and androgynous and gender queer persona had meant to me in my lifetime. Like many others in the LGBTQ community, he was one of the first people that made it seem not so horrible to be queer in this world. And the more I listen to his music, the more I realize how much I love it. Basically all of it. We lost a truly gifted artist.

And so, it felt really good to be a small part of such a fitting local tribute to the man. I am grateful that I got to do this.

Here, as promised, is the "Ashes to Ashes" video. I love the song, and the video is one of the trippy-est ones from that golden MTV era.

The timing of this opportunity to play bass is interesting for me. Back about a month ago, we had a "Church of the Holy Pajamas"-themed service, leading into our Mid-Year Congregational Meeting and Brunch served up by our wonderful Board. The "Church of the Holy Pajamas" is a term that I learned from a colleague, and it was apparently coined by students at the Andover Newton Theological School about ten years ago or so. It refers to that place where many people worship when they either don't have a faith community, or when they just can't make themselves leave the comforts of home to get to church. We had a lot of fun in our very-casual service, where many of us (including myself) wore pajamas.

At the "Church of the Holy Pajamas" service.
We ended with our own "Holy Pajama Jam Band" playing "With a Little Help from My Friends". And, that (back on January 10) was the first time I played bass in public for a couple of years. (One of my all-time favorite bass lines, by the way.)

Since this is a post of unflattering photos, I'll add the image to the right. Here I'm in my holy pajamas (with fluffy Chewbacca slippers). In the inset photo, I'm playing bass that day. I'd share other photos of that day, but not many folks love to have pictures of themselves in pajamas on the Internet. (Just me?)

In any case, after that service, I realized how much I love playing bass with other musicians. And very shortly thereafter, the Bowie gig opportunity came up. It felt like a message from the universe.

Does anyone need a bass player for their band? Email me. ;-)

For bass nerds only: The bass up top is a Reverend Mercalli 4. The bass in the inset below is a Saint Blues "King Blues" bass. Yes, I like "holy basses".

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Standing on the Side of Love in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

The UU Congregation in Andover with flags.
I have been slow in posting here in 2016! Apologies. I have been fighting a mega-cold that just doesn't quit, and so things like blogging have fallen behind.

This Sunday, February 14, is "Standing on the Side of Love Sunday", marking the end of #30DaysOfLove (learn more at the SSL website).

We will be focused on the Black Lives Matter movement and what we can do, further, to show solidarity. The service will end with a congregational reflection.

To the left is the UUCiA and our own Black Lives Matter flag, which we put up with a brief ceremony during a worship service in November 2015. You can read about UU congregations displaying BLM banners here. You can see the (getting more crowded!) map of where UU congregations have displayed a BLM banner or flag here.

Addendum: You can listen to my reflection here.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from "Star Wars"

At the UUCiA on December 13, 2015
NOTE: This post is a slightly adapted excerpt from my December 13, 2015 Sermon, "All I Really Need to Know about Theology I Learned from 'Star Wars'". You can listen to the full sermon here. The picture to the left is from the "story for all ages" skit that we did that Sunday. I am in the Darth Vader costume.

I was just a kid when the original Star Wars movie came out. I was 8 ½-years-old, to be precise. It was my oldest sibling – who was a senior in high school at the time – who convinced our mom to take all of us kids to see it. Believe it or not, I was not enthusiastic, at all. First of all, my generation wasn’t as versed at sitting still in front of a screen; the prospect of sitting still for two hours wasn’t that appealing. The other reason I wasn’t too psyched to go was that, frankly, I wasn’t too wild about my sister’s taste in TV and movies. Her idea of good TV was Lost in Space and My Favorite Martian. I couldn’t imagine sitting through two hours of either of those. But I did tag along reluctantly with my mother and siblings to see Star Wars not long after it was released.

I sat down, daydreaming during the previews about being outside playing baseball. Then, after the previews were over, these words appeared on the screen: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Then the amazing, majestic music of the Star Wars Main Theme! Then, against a backdrop of mostly empty space, words started to scroll from the bottom of the screen to the top, making it look like they were floating off into the great beyond. And darned if they didn’t pull me right along with them like a tractor beam. I was hooked – a little kid, hooked! – by orchestral music and written words. If that isn’t an amazing achievement in cinema, I don’t know what is.

I have seen the original Star Wars movie so many times that I lost count back in, oh, 1978. I know that I saw it in the theaters at least 30 times. My older brother and I would regularly save up our weekly allowance to see it again and again (movies were cheaper then, even adjusted for inflation). More often than not we’d walk down and across the highway to get to the theater – free range kids, and no one called the police!

The special effects in the original Star Wars trilogy were astounding. Whereas the Star Trek Enterprise was so obviously a model that I kind of giggled at it even as a kid, the Star Wars spacecraft were pretty spectacularly convincing. But it wasn’t the special effects that kept me coming back. I kept coming back for what might as well have been, for an 8 ½-year-old, the Greatest Story Ever Told.

I was raised as a humanistic Unitarian Universalist kid by atheist parents, and to be completely honest, I think Star Wars filled some void I was feeling. Yes, I learned the most famous biblical stories in my UU “Sunday School” (as we called it then). But they felt like someone else’s stories to me, at the time. Star Wars felt like my story… my grand tale of fighting the good fight not because you necessarily expect to win, but because it is the right thing to do. And don’t forget magic. I do believe in intellectual integrity and love that aspect of Unitarian Universalism. But there is something – dare I say it? – good for the soul about suspending your disbelief occasionally, even if just for two hours in the dark theater, and feeling connected to things beyond your immediate world and understanding. So I do think that was the deeper appeal for me. The Force. Mystery. Magic. The triumph of good over evil.

In fact, with apologies to Robert Fulghum, all I really need to know I learned from Star Wars. Among other things, I learned:

Do, or do not, there is no try.
Judge by one’s size, do not.
Patience you must have.
Don’t blast the controls before jumping into a trash compactor.
Beware the Dark Side.
Let go of your hate.
Stay on target.
Let the Wookie win.

In the words of Fulghum, “Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.”

There’s even wisdom for the United States of America as the year 2015 comes to a close. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” We would do well to heed these words today. Fear to anger to hate to suffering. This is not the path we want to follow. I also watch the news lately and sometimes think of the words of Senator Naboo in Revenge of the Sith, the final prequel movie, as the Republic is being taken over by dark forces, becoming the Galactic Empire. She says, “So this is how liberty dies – by thunderous applause”. The Dark Side, giving in to fear and base impulses, sometimes seems easier than the Light Side with all of its ambiguities and sometimes thankless work. And when charismatic leaders are promoting fear… anger… hate… we are in danger of letting the dark forces take over, to thunderous applause. It is up to us. Be a Jedi for justice! Don’t give in to hate. Don’t give in to fear. As Yoda said, “luminous beings are we”. May we let our light shine in these times. May the Force be with us.