Saturday, December 26, 2009

... sick...

Picture: Our dog Xena felt better on Christmas than I did...

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've had a horrible cold, and have been somewhat out of commission. I was sick all through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day -- and counting. And I realized, it's the first time I've ever been sick on Christmas! So I'm retroactively grateful for the 40 prior Christmas Eves and Christmas Days when I felt just fine. May I never take it for granted again!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Eve Service

There will be a Christmas Eve Service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (6 Locke Street) on Thursday, December 24, 7:00 p.m.

Plan now to join us for our traditional candlelight Christmas Eve service. We will have beautiful music, traditional readings, and lots of singing of the favorite carols. There will be refreshments following the service, a special time to greet new and old friends.

All are welcome! Please join us!

Friday, December 18, 2009

I am not amused. (Warning: rant.)

Picture: from Wikipedia Commons/Prairie Home Companion's website (

I just read Garrison Keillor's latest piece on You can read it at this link.

I was not amused.

I have been told for years that when Garrison Keillor does his "bits" on "Unitarians" (as he calls us), he's not laughing with us; he's laughing at us. And yet, I thought the pieces were mostly amusing, pointing out some truths about our tradition in a way that was mostly funny.

But I find his latest editorial downright offensive. There's anti-Semitism, for one thing. It has me so shocked, I'm not even sure what to say about it just yet.

And as for his comments on "Unitarians"... first, let me say that I don't always like the tinkering we do with the lyrics to traditionally Christian hymns, either. We should be mindful when we change the words of these sacred songs.

Having said that... Both the Unitarians and the Universalists come out of the liberal Protestant tradition. Christmas is as much a part of our own heritage as anyone else's. I believe we have the right to celebrate Christmas in our own way, just as various Christian denominations have slightly different ways of doing things. In our religious tradition, using language that is not gender inclusive (to give one example) is offensive; and so we have the right to change lyrics to make them in alignment with our religious beliefs. That's my opinion.

If he doesn't like the lyrics of our Unitarian Universalist tradition, he has every right to worship in a place that uses the original lyrics. There are many such places. I just wonder if he realizes that the lyrics were written by fallible human beings, not by God. The lyrics were not written by Jesus, either. They were written by people, just like you and me, from another era. In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, it is accepted practice to make the lyrics match our present times. In fact, we have even changed the lyrics to "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", which was written by a Unitarian (and yes, Edmund Sears was a Unitarian, before the Unitarian Universalist merger).

And that reminds me. I'm tired of Keillor calling us "Unitarians". I'm not a Unitarian. I was born in 1968, after the 1961 merger of the Unitarians and Universalists. I know it's a mouthful -- and I know he constantly makes fun of how many "U's" are in our name -- but I wish he'd get our name right. I've been a Unitarian Universalist all my life. Actually, I feel closer to the Universalist part of our tradition most days.

I wouldn't normally complain about something petty like that, but Keillor's piece put me in a foul mood. If we can't change lyrics, he can't change our name.

And if we Unitarian Universalists don't have the right to choose our own lyrics out of respect for the original Christian lyrics, then what right does Keillor (a non-UU, clearly) have to mock us constantly?

He has lost me as a fan. It's true: he's not laughing with us; he's laughing at us. But I'm no longer laughing at all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chalica: Day 7

Here we are at the final day of Chalica. This is the day to think about our seventh Unitarian Universalist principle and how to affirm and promote "the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part".

Since the UUA adopted the seven principles in the 80s, the first principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person) has been central to our identity. It still is. But I would say that in the past 5 to 10 years, there has been a shift toward the seventh principle as our central identity. (There's even been talk by some of making the seventh principle the first one.) I think this is a healthy shift. The seventh principle is the one most often associated with ecological concerns. But it's so much more than that, to me. For me, the seventh principle points to Divinity.

This was my first year to celebrate Chalica (I did this at home, not at church). I have to say, even if the holiday is a bit tongue-in-cheek, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cheery Chalica!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chalica: Day 6

Today is Day 6 of Chalica (see posts below for a basic explanation, especially "Chalica: Day 1"). On this day, we think of our sixth Unitarian Universalist principle, that we will affirm and promote "the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all". That's a pretty lofty goal.

When I hear "liberty and justice for all", I think of the last line of our U.S. "Pledge of Allegiance" (I'm guessing most U.S. residents do, too). So the sixth principle notably talks about "world community and peace" as an ideal in addition to our U.S. cultural tradition of talking about "liberty and justice for all" as an ideal.

So on this day, and at this time in history, I think it's important for Unitarian Universalists to think about world community and peace in particular. How can we work toward this in our congregations? What can you do to promote world community and peace today?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah! And Chalica: Day 5

This picture of a menorah on the first night of Hanukkah comes from, which seems to be a sweet blog...

At sundown tonight, Hanukkah began. Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish sisters and brothers and to all who celebrate this holiday!

Continuing in my "Chalica" series, this is Day 5 of Chalica. On this day, we think about how to affirm and promote our fifth Unitarian Universalist principle, "the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large."

I must confess, it is late as I type this, and I find that the words are not coming. So I'll take the easy way out tonight and link to this piece on congregational governance in light of the fifth principle.

Jazz Concert Party!

Enjoy an evening with friends and wonderful music... there is a Jazz Concert party this Saturday, December 12, at 7 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, 6 Locke Street.

The featured band is “Day For Night” with Patty Brayden on vocals and John Finbury on keyboard.

Snacks and desserts will be available. Drinks available for sale. Suggested donation $10.00 – proceeds to benefit UUCiA.

I have heard wonderful things about Day for Night and am personally looking forward to this very much! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chalica: Day 4

Above: Last summer at the UU General Assembly in Salt Lake City, I took a break and caught the "Ultimate Universe" show. At first, I thought "UU Matinee" was a nice gesture to all the visiting UUs in town... then later I realized - d'oh! - it stands for "Ultimate Universe", not Unitarian Universalists!

This is Day 4 of Chalica -- the "hump day" of Chalica, if you will. (Learn more about Chalica in the posts below, particularly "Chalica: Day 1".) Today, we light the chalice and think of our fourth Unitarian Universalist principle. Namely, we affirm and promote "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning".

I once heard Unitarian Universalism described as "being open to truth and meaning wherever it may be found, and working compassionately for social justice". Many of our principles speak to "working compassionately for social justice", but our fourth principle speaks directly to "being open to truth and meaning wherever it may be found". Ours is a creedless tradition, which is an aspect I cherish. But "creedless" shouldn't mean "believing in nothing".

We UUs have a great freedom to decide what for us is truth, and what for us has meaning. But as always, with great freedom comes great responsibility. As UUs, our faith will only be as deep as we make it with our "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". On Day 4 of Chalica, may we remember the importance of this quest.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chalica: Day 3

Above: Interesting abstract chalice found on website.

It's Day 3 of Chalica... See posts below, "Chalica: Day 2" and especially "Chalica: Day 1", for a basic explanation.

Today, we light the chalice and affirm and promote our third Unitarian Universalist principle, "acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations".

You can learn more about Chalica at the Facebook page: click this link

Interestingly, I have seen debates about Chalica among Unitarian Univeraslists on the Internet. Some UUs love the idea of having our own holiday, others think it's a little silly to invent a holiday out of the blue. Some (like me) think the whole thing is a little playful, and take it lightly -- enjoying it for what it's worth. Some think that a light attitude toward Chalica is insulting to UUism, sort of implying that we are to be taken lightly in general.

We UUs all have different ways of looking at things. And on the 3rd Day of Chalica, we can accept one another and our differences of opinion (and other differences). This sort of debate, hopefully, will encourage us toward spiritual growth! May it be so.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chalica: Day 2

Above: YouTube video #2... a second version of the "Chalica" song, with some new lyrics... recorded just this past Sunday, in fact.

So, today is Day 2 of Chalica. (See the post below, "Chalica: Day 1", for a basic explanation). Today, we light the chalice and think about our second Unitarian Universalist principle, how to affirm and promote "justice, equity and compassion in human relations".

For those who live in Massachusetts (including the Merrimack Valley), ONE good thing to do would be to VOTE today for the candidate that you believe promotes justice, equity and compassion....

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chalica: Day 1

Above: A YouTube video of "The Chalica Song"...

There is so much happening right now that is hard. The war in Afghanistan is escalating, which is making me personally feel quite sad. The economy is still trying to recover. There are many more things that I could list, of course.

But this week, I am trying to focus on the light. I am celebrating Chalica, and I will post each day of Chalica.

What is Chalica, you ask? It's a vintage 2005 Unitarian Universalist holiday, seven days long. Each day we focus on one of our seven Unitarian Universalist principles. You can read more about Chalica at this link. (It's just a touch tongue-in-cheek, and so it can take some of the "holiday season" pressure off. If Chalica is adding pressure to your life, you're not celebrating it correctly!)

Today is Day 1, and so we light a chalice and think about "the inherent worth and dignity of every person". What could you do today to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember the transgender people around the world who were killed in the past year.

This video honors these people, who died for being themselves:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance website has a list of those who have been killed, along with other information.

The Rev. Sean Parker Dennison writes, "Acknowledging this day is not easy, but it is important to me. It reminds me that, as a transgender Unitarian Universalist minister, I am very lucky. I've been able to live and work and worship in supportive and caring communities. I've been accepted for who I am and even celebrated for living with integrity. Hearing the names of transgender people who were killed by hatred and fear reminds me that luck is not enough.

"Standing on the side of love means facing the truth that transgender people are still fighting for their lives every day. Honoring those who died this year is a small but powerful way for us to remind the world that Love does not discriminate and that all people deserve to be safe from hatred, violence, and fear. Taking a moment to remember is a way to strengthen our resolve to build welcoming communities for transgender people and to work for transgender equality under the law."

In the meantime -- if you haven't already done so, why not sign the (UUA-sponsored Standing on the Side of Love) Petition for Full Equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people? Click on this link to sign it now.

Local event today for Transgender Day of Remembrance:

Boston, Massachusetts
Friday, November 20, 2009
7:00-9:30 PM
St. Luke’s & St. Margaret’s in Allston
5 St Lukes Rd, Allston, MA‎ (Near corner of Brighton Ave)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Charter for Compassion

Have you heard about the Charter for Compassion? I think it's pretty exciting, and I have signed on as an "affirmer". In a world where all the major religious traditions affirm some version of the "Golden Rule", why is it that there is so much hatred and harsh judgment -- especially in the name of religion? The Charter for Compassion calls us back to our better selves, and to the heart of compassion that is in each major religious tradition.

Above is a video made by Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Nate Walker. Click here to learn more about the Charter!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"We are a gentle, angry people...

... and we are singing, singing for our lives." -- Holly Near

Above: The top of my own wedding cake, June 5, 2004, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

It made me so very sad this past week when a small majority of voters in Maine voted to end marriage equality – they voted to take away the existing right that their GLBT sisters and brothers had to get married. When they voted “Yes” on 1, they said “yes” to unacceptable discrimination. They said “yes” to unequal civil rights.

It’s hard for me not to take this issue personally, of course, since if it weren’t for same sex marriage, I wouldn’t have a marriage at all. And so, I’m not just sad. I’m also angry.

And I’m losing my patience for half-way measures and strategies of compromise. I’m tired of politicians who want “civil unions” for same sex couples, but who want to reserve the word “marriage” for heterosexual couples. Yes, I understand that this is politically expedient. But separate but equal is never equal. I don’t want a separate institution for same sex couples. It’s inherently unequal, and it’s inherently immoral.

Honestly, as a lesbian, I have felt very sad ever since Proposition 8 passed in California. It’s hard to know that “the people” – the voting public – are not standing up for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights. In fact, over the years all 31 state-based ballot initiatives on same sex marriage went against it. I can’t help but feel that not only are my GLBT brothers and sisters apparently expendable in the eyes of politicians and their strategists, but also that we are apparently not worthy of equal rights in the eyes of the majority of Americans. And no, it doesn’t cheer me up that the recent vote in Maine was a close vote. It does not cheer me up that almost half the people in Maine voted against taking away civil rights. And why do we continue to put civil rights up for a popular vote? Didn’t the “Founding Fathers” – the ones we say we revere – want to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority?

But I do have hope. For me, religion is all about connections – the connections between us and all other living things and the universe itself – and religion is about transformations. I do have hope in me today; I have hope that transformation is possible. People’s attitudes can change. People’s attitudes do change. Don’t let anyone tell you they don’t.

My own mother – who isn’t even 70 yet – grew up in Tennessee. She was a white woman who experienced the Jim Crow South first-hand. She grew up with “separate but equal” – separate water fountains, separate schools, separate seating sections in the bus, you name it. In her wildest dreams, she never would have thought a black person would be elected President of the United States in her lifetime. And the thing is, she’s not that old! Think of how much things have changed in just this one lifetime! It’s amazing, and it’s hopeful. And my mother reminded me of something else. When she was growing up, not so long ago, police routinely raided gay establishments and arrested people. Police routinely harassed gay men (who were more visible than lesbians, I suppose). She reminded me that one of her pop idols, Johnny Ray, had his career forever ruined because it was discovered that he was gay, and it was just understood that no one would ever buy a record by a known gay man. She reminded me that when she was growing up, it would have seemed incomprehensible that one day people could be openly gay and lesbian without facing constant threats and harassment and even arrest. That any state would even dream of allowing same sex marriage? – too incredible even to entertain such an idea forty or fifty years ago. Things are changing, and there is hope.

I just don’t want us to settle for scraps when we should settle for nothing less than equal rights.

But this kind of change doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen just by waiting for it passively. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” King is right. Change comes from our continuous struggle. It comes when we refuse to let anyone be a second class citizen, when we refuse to settle for anything less than affirming “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” (our 1st Unitarian Universalist Principle). You can make the world you want; change and transformation does happen. You’re more powerful than you know.

There’s something else King said, words that are much more famous. He said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” You better believe it. And we better live it.

One thing you can do right now to stand up for your gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers is to click on this link and sign the Petition for Full Equality, part of the UUA-sponsored “Standing on the Side of Love” campaign. Why not sign the petition right now?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

350 International Day of Climate Action at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover

We did it! This past Sunday, October 25, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover participated in the International Day of Climate Action. See for more details. After our worship service, which had an environmental/earth-centered theme, we made 350 sacred sounds (our own "Joyful Noise") together. Our event was just one of more than 5200 actions in 181 nations in every time zone. We were a part of "a people's history" in the making!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

350 Day of Climate Action at the UUCiA

Above: Just the first 13 (lucky?) noisemakers I've found around the house to bring to the UUCiA on October 25.... Three recorders, an Irish tin whistle, a samba whistle, a little gong, castanets, three shakers, a kazoo, and two harmonicas.

This Saturday, October 24, is the International Day of Climate Action (see for more details, including a list of local actions that you might join). If you live in Andover, you will hear the bell of South Church toll 350 times at 3:30 p.m. If you are in North Andover, you will hear the historic bell of First Parish toll 350 times at noon. All of this is to draw attention to our dramatically changing climate. (We want to "decrease carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere to below 350 parts per million, the stable and safe upper limit". That's the significance of 350.)

For better or for worse (depending upon who you ask), the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover does not have bells to toll. However, we will honor the occasion in our own way. On October 25, I will preach a sermon entitled “Save Your Planet, Save Your Soul”, talking about the spiritual nature of the current ecological crisis. At the end of the service, in lieu of tolling a church bell, I will invite you to join me in making our own holy noise. I will bring various drums and shakers and horns (see photo above, for a start), and I invite you to bring your own if you have them. If we have 35 people present, and everyone makes 10 sacred sounds, we will have created our own 350. But the more the merrier, truly. Let us make a joyful noise!

After the sacred sounds, during our fellowship hour, there will be a petition for your consideration. This petition will ask Senator John Kerry “to continue to fight for a fair, ambitious and binding global deal” on the climate change crisis (a petition of the Mass Council of Churches, of which the UUA is a member denomination). We will also have a laptop available for people to sign the interfaith call to action petition online. (Or, sign it RIGHT NOW by clicking this link.)

Click on this link to see our event listed on the website and to RSVP online.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wonderful events on October 18!

This coming Sunday, October 18, is a big day....

At 10:30 a.m., come to the UUCiA and hear Harvard Divinity School seminarian Erik Resly preach his sermon "Befriend Thyself". That's treat number one. (Click here to see Erik's blog.)

In the afternoon, there are two amazing talks... sadly, they are happening at the same time, so you will have to choose.

One of these is the "Climate Convocation", featuring best-selling author of The End of Nature Bill McKibben. This talk will be a "warm up" of sorts for the International Day of Climate Action. It will be on the 18th at 2:00 p.m. in the Memorial Church of Harvard University. The Rev. Peter Morales, President of the UUA, will deliver the interfaith prayer. Click here to download a flyer. Go to to learn more. (McKibben is pictured to the left in this post.)

The other amazing talk that afternoon is by UU minister and theologian Thandeka, who will speak at the UU Urban Ministry headquarters in Roxbury on the 18th at 2:30 p.m. This is a Jack Mendelsohn Forum Special Event. Thandeka will give an interactive presentation on Unitarian Universalism and social justice. Click here to see more details. (Thandeka is pictured to the right in this post.)

Finally, end your day back where the day started, at 6 Locke Street in Andover (back at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover). The 15th Annual Women's Spirituality Series presents "Unveiling the Mystery of Divine Birth", featuring Marguerite Rigoglioso, Ph.D, author of The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece. The presentation starts at 7:00 p.m., and admission is $15 (though no one will be turned away). (Rigoglioso is pictured to the left in this post.)

From the event flyer:

"Join us this year to expand our understanding of women's mysteries to include the ultimate female priestly power: miraculous conception. Marguerite Rigoglioso will present her groundbreaking new book The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece, exploring the "rape by gods"and supernatural conception stories from Greek history and myth in a startling new way that places virgin priestesses at the core of Western civilization.

"Her careful research makes the case that divine birth was something deliberately attempted by holy women -- an elevated form of spiritual practice considered the only means of bringing avatars and true leaders to incarnation. This serious scholarly study has tremendous implications for world religions with divine birth claims, including Christianity. It also helps reframe and reclaim the Virgin Mary as a deliberate agent in the conception of Jesus."

Sounds like a great day, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Habitat, Sukkot, and Gratitude

Above: Habitat for Humanity volunteers from the UUCiA.

This past Saturday, I participated in a Habitat for Humanity “build day” along with several members of the UUCiA (I was there for a half day; the others for the entire day). It was my very first Habitat for Humanity experience, and I was very impressed. In addition to being impressed by the skills and generosity of the volunteers (our own, and the others there that day), I continue to be impressed by the organization itself.

The site for the “build day” this past Saturday was a site that had been destroyed in a January 2008 fire. The Habitat volunteers are rebuilding it, hopefully to be finished by the end of this year. No structure is permanent, no matter how well-built...

Of course, we are in the midst of the Jewish holiday known as Sukkot. A sukkah (singular of sukkot) is a temporary structure, a kind of a tent or “booth”. During the holiday of Sukkot, our observant Jewish sisters and brothers build these temporary structures. This is to remind them of the time when the Jewish people were wandering in the desert for forty years after leaving Egypt. As a colleague recently reminded me, the fragility and impermanence of a sukkah is meant to remind us of the fragility and impermanence of our very lives.

Just as no structure stands forever, no one lives forever. But to my way of thinking, acts of generosity and loving-kindness are eternal. Acts of generosity and loving-kindness live forever in the memories of those who experienced them, and passed on that love in their own way. My Habitat for Humanity experience was inspiring.... I am grateful for the kindness of people all around me who continue to pass on the love.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why ACT Matters ... and Habitat "build day"

This (October 4) Sunday's service is "Why ACT (Andover Community Trust) Matters".

Please join us!

A link for the Andover Community Trust: click here


This Saturday, October the 3rd, the UUCiA will have its "build day" for Habitat for Humanity. The link for the Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity: click here

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Shofar, shogood?*

We are blessed at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover to have a shofar.

And just what is a shofar? A shofar is a horn, usually made out of a ram's horn, used in some Jewish worship services. The shofar is used particularly for the "Days of Awe" -- the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Joshua famously makes the walls of Jericho come tumbling down by blowing the shofar.

This Sunday, September 27, my sermon will be about Yom Kippur from a Unitarian Universalist perspective. I am especially looking forward to blowing the shofar. I have no special training in this, mind you, but as an enthusiastic (but very amateurish!) trumpeter, I'm able to get a decent sound out of it. Let's hope I manage to do this Sunday under pressure!

I have noticed that the shofar has a rather unpleasant smell. It turns out that this is common, and it's apparently due to the rotting flesh of the ram. It's a real horn, after all. Some refer to this smell as "shofaritis". On my list of things to do this week is to clean the shofar the best I can, because let me tell you... the smell can nearly knock you out!

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a wonderful and inspiring holiday indeed. To quote Robert Eller-Isaacs, "We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love." May it be so.

Visit the website for Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness, (according the the website) "an organization committed to addressing the Jewish dimension of Unitarian Universalism’s multicultural challenge." Among other things, UUJA works "to help people deepen their understanding of Judaism and the ways it has impacted, and can continue to develop, our Unitarian Universalist faith."

*I thought I had invented "shofar, shogood" when I first thought of it, but a Google search reveals that many, many people before me thought of this! I guess everyone loves a pun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Full Equality

It was so wonderful to see you on September 13 for our Opening Sunday and Water Communion! I particularly enjoyed hearing your stories of the summer, and of what the water you brought meant to you.

The UUA's Standing on the Side of Love campaign (link here) is something that I will follow closely this year. One of the issues that the SSL campaign is addressing now is full equality under the law for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

This is something that I believe in strongly. Recently, the Rev. Bill Sinkford, former President of the UUA, spoke out on over-turning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). See him speak on this YouTube video:

You can do your part to "stand on the side of love" too. Click here to sign the UUA-sponsored "Standing on the Side of Love" petition for full equality.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

article in today's Andover Townsman

There is a very nice article about the UUCiA and "the new minister" in today's Andover Townsman. To read it, click this link.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New sign, and Water Communion coming!

Above: Our newly painted sign. Click on the image to see it enlarged.

Thanks to our wonderful congregants, we have a newly painted sign. It is much easier to read from the street. That's a good thing, because we really want people to come and join us!

Our first Sunday worship service of the 2009-2010 year "congregational year" will be on September 13, starting at 10:30 a.m.: "Water Communion", a gathering ceremony often used in Unitarian Universalist congregations on "homecoming" Sundays. All are invited to bring a small quantity of water to the service, sharing why the water is special or representative of the summer. It will be wonderful to be together again, and to meet new friends! (The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover is located at 6 Locke Street in downtown Andover.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Remembering Senator Kennedy

Above: November 1999. Left to right, that is I (then Development Coordinator of the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester), the Executive Director of the B&GC, and Senator Ted Kennedy.

Yesterday, I went to pay my respects to Senator Edward Kennedy at the JFK Library in Boston. I got on the very last shuttle bus to the wake, but we just missed out on actually getting inside. The family needed time to get ready for the evening's memorial service (and no doubt they were exhausted). Those of us on the shuttle bus did get to sign the guest book and pay our respects that way. I'm certainly glad I went, and ultimately I'm glad there was an overflow crowd.

I will always have great admiration for Ted Kennedy. To me, in addition to being -- by all accounts -- one of the most successful and important legislators in the history of the United States -- he will always be a reminder of at least a few important things:

1. It is possible to be born a wealthy white man, straight, privileged in every way, and still care about the oppressed and fight for them with all your energy.
2. It is possible to love and be beloved to those who disagree with you on important matters.
3. It is possible to go on in spite of one's foibles and even after tragic mistakes and lead a meaningful, full life.
4. It is possible to have joy doing difficult work. It is possible to be joyful in the day-to-day tasks. It is possible to be joyful after tough times in life, some of your own making.

My (very, very limited) personal experiences with Ted Kennedy go in 10 year gaps. In 1989, I was an intern for a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. (I was then a junior in college). Wandering around the hallway of the Russell Building, I passed Senator Kennedy a few times. He always made eye contact, smiled, and said, "Good morning" or the like. Very polite, very friendly. (Many less prominent senators ignored my existence completely.)

Jumping ahead a decade... In 1999, I worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester. Senator Kennedy took time out of his very busy schedule to come and present the city some funding toward a project in Main South (including a new Boys & Girls Club facility, badly needed). It really jump-started the capital campaign. Today, there is a beautiful new Boys & Girls Club Building in Worcester. (The picture at the top of this post is from that day.)

Jump ahead another decade... and yesterday I was part of a massive crowd of people who never knew Ted Kennedy personally, but who were immensely grateful for all his incredibly hard work -- "tireless" is the only word for it -- on our behalf. We all flocked to the JFK Library to pay our respects.

There will never be another Ted Kennedy. I am very sad and sorry that he is gone.

You can read (current President of the Unitarian Universalist Association) Rev. Peter Morales's reflection on Ted Kennedy at this link. You can read (former President of the UUA) Rev. Bill Schulz's reflection on Ted Kennedy at this link.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just what IS that poster?

Above: my reflection can be seen in the glass, as I try to take a photo of the poster.... A link to a better picture (and the site where I purchased the poster) is here.

I continue to decorate the minister's study. I put up a poster that I like... It might be a bit too dark, I'm afraid, but I still like it. It's a poster of a piece called "Skywatcher", by Susan Seddon Boulet.

Rather than make you guess what it is I like about this piece, I'll just tell you!

I feel more connected spiritually to the “interdependent web of all existence” when I think cosmologically. Because of this, I also try to spend time under the stars in the night sky a few times a month. Some months, I don't get there. Sometimes it's too cold. Sometimes the sky is too overcast when I try. But usually once or twice a month, I'm a "skywatcher" myself. Looking up at the night sky brings me a deep feeling of connectedness and peace.

My partner Emily gave me a telescope for our anniversary. I have yet to master it, but I hope to. I wonder how magnification will change the experience....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care Reform Debate and Love

Above: Video of Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, talking (about 1 minute) about loving each other in the depths of our disagreements about health care reform.

The UUA has a new campaign, called Standing on the Side of Love. According the the UUA's website, Standing on the Side of Love "(SSL, pronounced 'Sizzle') is a public advocacy campaign, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association ... promoting respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We believe that no one should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence because of their identities." You can read more at this link.

The way I think about SSL is very simplified, but helpful -- at least to me! To me, SSL can be for UUs what WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) is for some Christians. That is, UUs can ask ourselves, when making important decisions or thinking about our actions, "What should I do in this moment to stand on the side of love?"

When I think about health care, I think Standing on the Side of Love means ensuring that all Americans have access to health care. I want health care for my partner, and my daughter, and my father, and for everyone that I love. Why shouldn't all humans, with their inherent worth and dignity, be entitled to health care?

Now, that says nothing of how to arrange for it. And I realize it's not a simple matter. But the other thing I believe about SSL is this: I must treat with love and respect and dignity those who disagree with me. There is no room for hate and disrespect on either side of the debate when thinking in terms of SSL.

My prayer is that we will find a way to ensure that all Americans have health care, and that we will have an intelligent debate. I pray that we will love each other through the debate.

"We need not think alike to love alike." ~ Francis David, founder of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania

The new President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Rev. Peter Morales, has issued a statement on the health care reform debate. You can read it at this link. You can watch a video (if you have Flash Player) of Rev. Morales by clicking on this link.

If you would like to take action through the SSL Campaign toward having an open debate on health care reform, please click here. Open debate, where all feel safe to speak, is the cornerstone of democracy. I encourage you to Stand on the Side of Love.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Leela... you got me on my knees, Leela...

Above: Some of the things on and above my desk. Click on the picture to see it blown-up.

If you drop by to see me, you will see toys on my desk. This is theologically appropriate. Why?

Leela. Or Lila. It's from Hinduism, and in Hindi is written as लीला.

What is Leela? A good explanation can be found on Wikipedia, as is often the case (critics aside). But the idea is, the Divine power within the universe is... playful. The universe is all about inter-play.

August is here. "Summertime... and the livin' is easy...." I hope you're giving in to Leela at least a little every day! It's a holy thing to do.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Why the UUCiA?

Above: I continue to set up the office ... come see it in person some Wednesday!

July has been a wonderful month for me. I have enjoyed beginning to meet many of you at the summer potlucks as well as other venues. In August, I hope to meet even more of you. I will continue to go to as many potlucks as I can (what wonderful food and company!), and I would also be happy to meet you at my Office Hours.

Don't forget: I will have Office Hours in August on Wednesdays from noon until 5 p.m. (with the exception of August 12, when I will be at the UUA for a class). Please drop by! If Wednesday afternoons don’t work for you and you’d still like to meet, please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail me to arrange for a meeting at another time or place. I very much look forward to meeting you and getting to know your stories, hopes, ideas, and more.

As I have been talking to many of you, I am beginning to get a clearer and clearer picture of what makes the UUCiA so special. And now I have a request: please take a few moments to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Why am I part of the UUCiA?” Think about what makes this congregation your chosen one. And when you have answered that for yourself, please share the answer with me (in phone, by e-mail, or in person). This year, we want to build on all the wonderful pieces that are already a part of the UUCiA. Your input is a key part of that process.

I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am. I am still plumb excited to be part of this unique congregation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Minister Emeritus's new book!

Did you know that your Minister Emeritus, the Rev. Peter Richardson, has just published a book, Sunday Meditations for Liberal Religious Worship?

The dedication reads:

To congregations in Kennebunk, Maine, and Andover, Massachusetts, who first listened and responded to most of these meditations."

Click here to see Peter's website and contact information.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Setting up the office...

Today I began to set up my office space. I went in expecting to have no desk. To my surprise, someone(s) from the congregation got one into just the spot I wanted! I felt very touched and supported by this. Thank you, mystery movers!

I will continue to decorate as time goes on, but I wanted to make sure I had at least the basics ready for my first office hours, which are this Wednesday (see bar to the right for more info on my office hours).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Watch UUism online!

Do you know about UU Planet TV ? This is a website that has multiple videos to watch online, all about Unitarian Universalism (in some way). Check it out! And you can use it as a resource to share UUism with people who ask. I'm enjoying it myself.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New blog

I'm starting a blog to share my musings and upcoming events of interest with UU Congregation in Andover (UUCiA) members and friends -- and those who might be interested in coming.

Above is a picture from my recent trip to California (San Francisco and the area). The trees were breath-taking and huge... and what a great city! I was sad to leave, but I'm happy to come home and begin my ministry with the UUCiA.

More soon...