Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Eve Candle Light Service.... and more

First, I am SO glad about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" coming to an end!  I will post more on this later.

Second... Please join us at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover on December 24 at 7 p.m. for a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.  There will be beautiful musical performances, readings, caroling, and fun.  And of course there will be candlelight! 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Words to ponder

A colleague of mine recently reminded me of a thoughtful quotation by Susan B. Anthony (who attended a Unitarian church as an adult, though she was raised Quaker).

These are the words:

"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences."

These words strike me as wise and true beyond the context that (I imagine) Anthony was addressing.  They are just as true today, in modern struggles for meaningful reform.  Of course, this being Advent, I note that these words could also apply to Jesus.

As I type this post, carefully and cautiously, it gives me a lot to ponder.

It makes me think also of this brave man, and the price he paid:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Conference ~ "Immigration Matters: From Phoenix to 495"

Immigration is an important issue in the USA.  In fact, "Immigration as a Moral Issue" is the current "Congregational Study/Action Issue" of the UUA.  
UU Mass Action has organized a conference, "Immigration Matters: From Phoenix to 495", that will help you learn more, including ways to do more in your own congregation.

When - Saturday, December 4th from 9:30 to 2:00 

Where - First Parish in Needham, 23 Dedham St.

Agenda -

9:30 - Coffee and Networking
10:00 - Worship with Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo
10:45 - Who are we?
11:00 - Hot Topics in MA - MA Immigration and Refugee Association Coalition (MIRA)
11:45 - LUNCH
12:30 - Workshops
1:30 - Tools to Take Home

Workshops include “Bringing Immigration into your Faith Development program”; and “Tools for Engaging your Congregation”. Cost is $15.00 and includes coffee and lunch. RSVP to Nancy Banks at this email or call 617.835.5426.  (To learn more, visit:

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah begins at sundown today.  Here's a video showing the traditional way to kindle the lights.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Tomorrow, November 20, is the 12th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

According to the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition , "The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) memorializes individuals who have been killed throughout the world in the previous year because of anti-transgender hatred. Between 2008 and 2009, at least 163 people were murdered because of their gender identity or gender expression.  Unfortunately, we do not have good numbers for 2009-2010."

Learn more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) at this link.

The Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, has issued a statement on the TDOR at this link.

May we always have the courage and compassion to stand on the side of love with our transgender sisters and brothers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day for Night

We had a marvelous fundraising concert on November 13 -- a "jazz ball" -- put on by Day for Night, a local jazz ensemble that includes a singer, keyboards, guitar, sax/flute/clarinet, guitar, bass, and drums.  They were so excellent.  The talent level is unbelievable to me.  They are fronted by UUCiA member Patty Brayden (vocals, pictured, left) and her husband John Finbury on keyboards.

Something like 70 folks showed up -- a wonderful turnout. We also had some very nice refreshments, thanks to the Congregational Family Committee.

Below you will find some videos I took -- just snippets I filmed with my camera, so the quality of filming/recording isn't good.  These videos do not do the band justice, believe me!  But just to give a little sense of the flavor, I'm including the videos here.

Here are the videos ....  The electric guitar is distorted in my sound.

This final video is an instrumental, "Freddie Freeloader".  The guitar chords are distorted, but listen at about 58 seconds in and the recording sound is better!

If you ever get the chance, don't miss out on seeing them perform!  We hope that they will perform at UUCiA for years to come. 

To the right:  A picture of the instrumentalists in the band.  (Click on the picture to see it larger.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Veterans (Armistice) Day for Peace

Photo:  I am at the microphone, offering "Words of Peace" at the start of the "Veterans (Armistice) Day for Peace" of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace, held on November 11, 2010 at Sam Adams Plaza, Faneuil Hall, Boston.  (Photo by Nate Goldshlag.)

This past Thursday was Veterans Day (formerly known as Armistice Day).  As some may know, I am a US Navy veteran (active duty from '90-'94).  Over the past few years, I have become increasingly involved with Veterans for Peace. 

Veterans for Peace is a non-profit organization made up of veterans who (according to its mission statement) recognize their “greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace”; VFP is an “educational and humanitarian organization dedicated to the abolishment of war”.  The local chapter, the Smedley D. Butler Brigade, is named after Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, who won two Congressional Medals of Honor but then went on to write War is a Racket as he came to see that he had spent his career fighting for the interests of rich people and corporations. 

For the past several years, the Smedley Butler Chapter of VFP has marched after the Veterans Day Parade in Boston.  We're not part of the official parade because the organizers of the official parade do not want groups to march with more than one banner, nor do they want groups to march calling out cadences.  Since VFP wants to spread its message with multiple banners, signs, and cadences for peace, we march after the main parade, after the street sweepers and ambulance and so on.

After the parade, we had our special event, "Veterans (Armistice) Day for Peace" (pictured above).  There were many wonderful speakers and performers.  I'm going to share three videos I took.  The first two are partial performances by the Leftist Marching Band, and the third is a mime peace, "War through the Ages" (about 6 minutes).  I hope you will enjoy them.

I have found my involvement with the "Smedleys" to be very moving.  Some of the members have been peace activists for as long as I've been alive!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jazz Concert Party this Saturday night! (November 13)

Enjoy an evening with friends and wonderful LIVE music – Saturday, November 13 at 7 pm. The featured band is “Day For Night” with Patty Brayden on vocals and John Finbury on keyboard.

Beverages, snacks and desserts will be available. Suggested donation $10.00 – proceeds to benefit UUCiA.  Please join us!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Merrimack Valley PFLAG Chapter -- kick-off event tonight

This evening, I will be one of the panelists at a Merrimack Valley PFLAG Chapter kick-off event....  Here's the announcement from Greater Boston PFLAG:

Greater Boston Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays invites you to an event to talk about what can be done to make Andover, Methuen, Haverhill and Lawrence safe, welcoming and inclusive communities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.


 An Evening of Dialogue on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People

Tuesday, November 9
7:00 to 8:30 pm
Memorial Hall Library - 3rd Floor
2 North Main Street
Andover, MA 01810

Free and open to the public

Light Refreshments

Event highlights:

·        An extraordinary new film, "Always My Son"

  • Panel of speakers including parents and youth

  • Learn the latest research on the importance of Family Acceptance

    Who should attend? Anyone who wants to learn about how to be an ally to LGBT people, parents of LGBT people, LGBTQ people, Gay Straight Alliance Advisors, Teachers - Anyone and Everyone!


    For more information, contact: or visit or call (781) 891-5966

    Greater Boston PFLAG is a group of parents, families, friends, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We help change attitudes and create an environment of understanding so that our gay family members and friends can live in a world that is safe and inclusive. We accomplish this through support, education, and advocacy. Greater Boston PFLAG offers:

    · Monthly group support meetings - New monthly meeting at South Church, Andover, 4th Tuesday . Go to: for a complete list of meetings in Greater Boston.
    · Confidential telephone support and information
    · Parent-to-parent support
    · Safe Schools Program teacher and student training
    · Elsie Frank Scholarship Program
    · Gay straight alliance assistance

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010


    Don't take your right to vote for granted...

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Another "It gets better" video...

    Here's another "It gets better" video, this one by UU minister Rev. Meg Riley. I really love her message:

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Remembering Rev. Mary J. Harrington

    I have just learned of the passing of the Rev. Mary J. Harrington after a long battle with ALS ("Lou Gehrig's Disease").

    I did not know her personally, but I will always remember hearing her sermon ("A Lifetime Isn't Long Enough") at the 2009 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly's Service of the Living Tradition.  It was one of my favorite SLT sermons ever! 

    Here's a link to that sermon: LINK

    (The picture is from the UUA website.)

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Full Moon Drumming Circle

    It's that time again.... The Full (or Fool) Moon Drum Circle meets this Wednesday, October 27, from 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the UUCiA (6 Locke Street, Andover).

    Bring a drum, water, a friend and your rhythmic energy. Join Jane and Sherry as we drum and dance to celebrate the full moon. No problem if you don't have a drum, we have extras! Also lots of fun rhythm instruments. Suggested donation: $15

    So much fun! Don't miss it!

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Standing with our immigrant sisters and brothers

    This past Thursday, I attended a Boston New Sanctuary Movement clergy breakfast. It was a very good event, featuring (among other speakers) the Rev. Peter Morales, President of the UUA. Here's a write-up of the event: link. It made me feel even more committed to working for immigrant rights and justice. (The picture shows the view from the back, where I was sitting. It was a "SRO" event!)

    This congregation does some great social justice work through the Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM). I'm very thankful to the congregants who do so much work with RIM. They inspire me!

    One of the handouts at the New Sanctuary Movement clergy breakfast was about the term "illegal immigrants". I have long stopped using the terms "aliens" or "illegal aliens" or "illegals" to describe immigrants who are in this country without documentation. These terms are clearly de-humanizing. But the handout I received also pointed out that the term "illegal immigrants" is also troubling. There's a campaign called "Drop the I-Word" -- click on the link to learn more. I was grateful for this wake-up.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    It Gets Better....

    This is a very moving 13 minute video... Joel Burns tells his story. Worth watching!

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    National Coming Out Day!

    Today is National Coming Out Day -- Happy Coming Out!

    I came out about 15-16 years ago as a lesbian. I have been very lucky to have a family and faith community that supports me.

    But before I came out, I went through years of internal struggle. Adolescence and young adulthood can be a very tough time when you're struggling with your sexuality.

    Here's a video made by a UU minister and a UCC minister, talking about their own stories -- and spreading the good news: It does get better!

    Addendum: Interesting article about UUs Standing on the Side of Love with GLBT community...

    Getting to know Islam

    This past Sunday, I preached about my own appreciation of Islam, the second-largest religion in the world. Soon, that sermon will be up on the UUCiA website.

    For anyone with Q & A about Islam, with basic questions or fears, I recommend watching this episode of 20/20 LINK for a good start.

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Tell your senators...

    Want to see an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Want to see the DREAM act passed, helping many immigrants to realize their American dream?

    Click on THIS LINK to Stand on the Side of Love....

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Standing on the side of love with our Muslim sisters and brothers on this day

    In the past few months, we have witnessed a surge in anti-Muslim sentiment in this country. We saw the fear and furor around the discussion of an Islamic Community Center and Mosque being built in New York City two blocks from “Ground Zero”. More recently, we learned that a small congregation in Gainesville, Florida, threatened to burn copies of the Qur’an (the Holy Scripture of Islam) on this day, September 11.

    I believe that people of faith -- and certainly Unitarian Universalists -- should consider it their calling to speak against bigotry and to speak out for religious tolerance and interfaith understanding. People of faith should consider it their calling to stand on the side of love with our Muslim sisters and brothers who are now being persecuted, scapegoated, and targeted for hatred.

    At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (and along with many other UU congregations), we will do our small part to counter the hateful threatened act of burning copies of the Qur’an by reading a verse from it during our worship service on September 12, showing our respect and regard for the Islamic Scripture and tradition. We will go deeper in strengthening our understandings of Islam on October 10, when the sermon title will be “Surrender to Peace: An Appreciation of Islam”. May we all stand on the side of love with Muslims this September 11, and in the days to come. With our love, let us continue to work toward a more beautiful and peaceful world.

    I encourage all people of faith to read and sign the “To Bigotry No Sanction, to Persecution No Assistance” petition.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Benefit concert for UU Mass Action

    There is SO much to update you on since my last post.... But for now, I want to let you know about an upcoming folk concert to benefit the UU Mass Action:

    Come one, come all, to the UU Mass Action Benefit Concert on Friday, September 24 at 8 p.m. in the First Parish in Framingham (UU)! Don’t miss this folk concert featuring five wonderful UU performers, sure to be one of the best folk line-ups you’ve heard in years!

    Jim Scott, Fred Small, Dean Arvidson, Justine Sullivan, and Matt Meyer will all perform. Jim Scott was a member of the Paul Winter Consort for many years, and he has a long connection with Unitarian Universalism. His hymn "Gather the Spirit" has become one of the most widely sung in our UU hymnal. Fred Small, known by many for his song “Everything Possible”, has toured internationally as a folksinger and songwriter, releasing seven albums over two decades. He is currently the senior minister of First Parish Cambridge, UU. Dean Arvidson, Justine Sullivan, and Matt Meyer round out the performers for the evening.

    All proceeds from the concert benefit UU Mass Action, a statewide network of ministers and lay members representing Massachusetts Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships. The mission of Mass Action is to mobilize UUs individually and congregationally to take action in support of UU principles for a more just, equitable and compassionate Commonwealth. See to learn or to get involved. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

    Adult Tickets are $15 if purchased in advance; $20 if purchased at the door. Tickets for children are $5. Artist CDs and refreshments will be available at the event. Tickets can be purchased in advance through me (Rev. Lara Hoke - a new member of the UU Mass Action Board) – email Lara to get an advance ticket. OR... you can purchase an advance ticket online by clicking on this link; tickets are purchased by clicking on "donation". A confirmation that this is a ticket purchase will be emailed to you.

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Plenary, plenary, plenary... and Ware Lecture!

    Left: A picture I took of Winona LaDuke, signing books after giving the Ware Lecture at the 2010 UU General Assembly.

    These last few days, I have been in 5 Plenary sessions (where we vote and do the actual business of GA) for a total of at least 11 or 12 hours. When I am home and have more energy, I will write a post on the highlights of what we voted on... what passed, and what failed. It's pretty interesting stuff. A quick recap (with no detail):

    We voted that the 2012 GA in Phoenix will be a "Justice GA", not a business-as-usual GA. We passed the Peacemaking Statement of Conscience. As for Actions of Immediate Witness, we passed three: A) Oppose Anti-Immigration Measures at the State Level... and Hasten Federal Immigration Reform; B) Gulf Coast Environmental and Economic Justice; C) Clean Up the Clean Energy Bill. We did NOT pass: D) End Blockade of Gaza and Growth of Israeli Settlements on Palestinian Territory, nor E) End the War in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (In light of the new Statement of Conscience I find the failure of what I'm labeling "D" and "E" above to be quite interesting... more on that in a later post.)

    Earlier during Plenary, local Congressman Keith Ellison spoke to us. He was very inspiring. See the video:

    Today was the last day of Plenary. And we had a surprise guest in the final Plenary: Senator Al Franken from MN. He was very funny and very poignant, talking about his father and his Jewish roots. He said, "You guys are so cool, I'm going to talk about religion." Great speaker. Here's his talk, broken into two videos:

    There was even a marriage proposal from the procedural microphone during the final Plenary (I guess we were gettin' slap-happy). It was very sweet.

    Moderator Gini Courter was amazing as she always is.

    I took a little time off during GA, just to see my surroundings. I walked down to the Mississippi River and then rented a bike (there are places all over Minneapolis where you can rent them, and drop them off at another site, all automated). Great system. I even hopped on the Light Rail and went to see the Mall of America. I've heard so much about it. I suspected there would be a sermon in it... there WILL BE! I will say nothing more about the Mall of America on this blog because I want to save it for my sermon!

    One of the highlights for me, as is often the case at GA, was the Ware Lecture. This year, it was given by Winona LaDuke (pictured at the top of this post). She was just so inspiring, and really fun. I enjoyed her sense of humor. Her talk is about an hour long, and I highly encourage you to watch the video, because I can't do it justice by describing it. Watch it on this page: LINK.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    GA Days 1, 2 and 3

    Left: The Opening Ceremony, ending Day 1 of General Assembly (just a partial day).

    First, I must apologize. I thought I would be posting each and every day from GA, but this has not been possible. So I'll do a summary now, and will come back with details later. I am sorry!

    Wednesday afternoon was a day for registering, getting delegate credentials, and the Opening Celebration and Plenary 1.

    The first Plenary (where business is done) actually has very little business other than to officially start GA. Gini Courter, the Moderator of the UUA, is always fun and funny and smart.

    The Opening Celebration includes the customary banner parade, which seemed bigger and more spirited than it has in years. The highlight of the service for me was the music. There was some great music by both Ann Reed and Peter Mayer. I was particularly taken with "Holy Now", a Peter Mayer original that he performed. Here's a video of him performing it a couple of years ago at a different location:

    Thursday, Day 2 of GA, was particularly packed. I went to three different workshops and one lecture, each excellent. The first program I went to was "Our Journey Stories: Creating Multiracial and Multicultural Congregations". It was a panel led by Rev. Dr. Qiyamah Rahman of Meadville Lombard, a UU seminary in Chicago. Panelists included Rev. Marlin Lavanhar (Tulsa, OK), Rev. Rob Hardies (Washington, D.C.), and Rev. Dr. Fred Muir (Annapolis, MD), all of whom are senior ministers of multiracial, multicultural congregations. I will blog on their insights some time after I return home from GA.

    Next, I went to "Leadership in Small Congregations", led by Janine Larsen and Tandi Rogers Koerger. I always enjoy these small congregation workshops and try to go to one each GA to learn from others facing similar challenges, and to make connections. Once again, it was useful, fun and encouraging to talk with ministers and lay leaders who are in the same boat!

    Next, I went to a workshop that was much more enlightening than I had even hoped: "Future Generations of UUs: What Will They Value?" This was a panel of three young adults, Chris Wulff, Julia Angley, and Andrew Mertz, who did a truly great job of unpacking the "Millennial" generation, and what they might (and might not) be looking for from a congregation in terms of worship and programming. I will also blog on their insights some time after I return home from GA. It was fascinating.

    After that, I went to a lecture, the "John Murray Distinguished Lecture". This is an annual lecture series featuring scholarly thought on Universalism or a Universalist. This year Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker gave the lecture; she is the President of the Starr King School for Ministry, a UU seminary in California. Her talk was entitled "Connecting Beauty and Justice". What a great talk! Again, I will blog on her insights some time after I return home.

    The day ended with the Service of the Living Tradition, a service that honors the professional ministry, professional religious educators, and professional musicians of our tradition. I will link to the video of the service at a later date.

    The next day, Friday, was a Plenary Day for me. I will post about the plenary sessions all together at a later time. I'm running late for something -- it never ends at GA!

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    UU Ministry Days ends, GA begins

    Picture: There is a skywalk that connects practically everything downtown. It goes on for something like 8 miles! This is on the way from my hotel to the Convention Center. I'm inside the skywalk, looking out at another part of the skywalk. Came in handy today when I got caught in the rain without an umbrella.

    Today started off with worship at UU Ministry Days. It's the annual "25/50 Year Worship." This service honors those ministers who were ordained 25 years ago and 50 years ago. Each of these cohorts elects from among its members one person to deliver a homily at this service. Now, these elected sermonizers are the cream of the crop. Surviving 25 or 50 years in successful ministry is an accomplishment in its own right, and so the selected speaker from each group is the cream of the cream of the crop. Not surprisingly, these sermons are consistently excellent. This year was no exception. From the 25 year class, the Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove was selected. From the 50 year class, the Rev. Kenneth Torquil MacLean was selected. Both sermons touched me deeply, each moving me to tears at different moments. I'll have to post links to their sermons when they're available.

    The UU Ministers Association (UUMA) then had its official Annual Meeting. The UUMA is the professional organization for UU ministers. It was somewhat less inspiring than the worship service, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I appreciate the efforts of the UUMA Exec! There was an interesting discussion about the upcoming 2012 GA in Arizona, and whether boycotting is the right route to take, or whether we should go there and protest. I'm actually quite torn between the two strategies. The important thing is, Unitarian Universalists should speak out on the racist immigration laws and work to keep other states from passing similar legislation. I personally think the most important things we can do are between now and the 2012 GA, not at the 2012 GA. But the interesting conversation will continue into GA and plenary.

    Finally, the UU Ministry Days ended with the Berry Street Lecture (a tradition that dates back many years). The lecturer this year was the Rev. Gary Kowalski. His talk was (to my surprise) about poetry. I was expecting animal rights or ethical eating or something like that. But Rev. Kowalski is more than an animal rights activist and vegetarian! He gave a very enlightening talk on the importance of poetry and its connection to religion and ministry. The response was by the Rev. Lynn Ungar, minister for lifespan learning of the Church of the Larger Fellowship and a poet herself. She said that poetry and religion both connect the little things to the big things. I never thought of it that way... and she ended with "metaphors be with you". I love puns. Well, good ones.

    Tonight is the Opening Celebration and the official start of the UU General Assembly. I'll tell you about it tomorrow!

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    You're gonna make it after all....

    To left: Statue of Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis, as I saw this afternoon. She can turn the world on with her smile, you know.

    Today was mostly a travel day, flying from Boston to Minneapolis. But this afternoon and evening were the start of UUMA (UU Ministers Association) Ministry Days. Ministry Days always come right before UU General Assembly. We had an opening worship service at 7 p.m., followed by a talk with (and Q&A with) UUA President Peter Morales.

    Tomorrow is the main "Ministry Day". There will be the 25/50 Worship Service (I'll explain in tomorrow's post); the Berry Street Lecture (I'll explain in tomorrow's post); and the UUMA Annual Meeting. I'll be back tomorrow to tell you how it all goes... Should be a full day!

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    The Sweet June Days Are Come Again....

    What a wonderful June it has been so far.

    My partner and I went to our first retreat at Cape Cod, long a tradition of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (UUCiA) in the summer. Everything about it was even nicer than we had imagined! What a beautiful camp, and a great get-away. What a great chance to get to know folks a little better, too!

    To the left: "The Infirmary", the building where many stayed during the retreat.

    This past Sunday was New Member Sunday, and we welcomed four new members to the UUCiA. Each of the four new members is already a bright light in our community. We're so lucky to have them, and so happy they found us!

    It's hard to believe, but next week I will be in Minneapolis for the annual UU General Assembly. I will be posting here regularly from GA, so check back to see what I'm up to... to see what the Association is up to... and to hear what I'm learning.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Past UUA Presidents and such

    To the left: Rev. John Buehrens at the UU Church of Haverhill, May 18, 2010.

    I just had the pleasure of seeing two former UUA presidents in three days. On Tuesday evening, I went to the UU Church of Haverhill and saw the Rev. John Buehrens talk about his new book, A House for Hope (co-written with UU theologian the Rev. Rebecca Parker). Rev. Buehrens (President of the UUA from 1993-2001) gave a wonderful talk, completely extemporaneous. I wish I could do that! Rev. Buehrens is currently the senior minister of the First Parish in Needham, UU.

    If you'd like to order A House for Hope (and help the UUCiA), buy it on Amazon at this link.

    Today, I had the pleasure of going to the Annual Meeting of the UU Urban Ministry. The UU Congregation in Andover is a member congregation of the UUUM, and I went to the meeting as a delegate. It was a great opportunity to hear about the good work that the UUUM does. The most touching part of the meeting was hearing some of the people served by the programs tell their stories. The UUUM is really changing lives, an amazing ministry. (Read about the UUUM's programs at this link.)

    To the right: Rev. Bill Sinkford at the UU Urban Ministry Annual Meeting in Roxbury, May 20, 2010.

    At the meeting, we had a chance to give thanks to the Rev. Bill Sinkford, another former President of the UUA (from 2001-2009). Rev. Sinkford served as Senior Minister and Advisor of the UUUM this past year, just after ending his two terms as president. We will miss having him around in Boston... he leaves this summer to become the new senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland (Oregon).

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    John Buehrens book reading/signing event

    This Tuesday, May 18th at 7 p.m., members are friends of the UUCiA are invited to join UUs from Haverhill, Newburyport, and North Andover for a book reading and signing with the Rev. John Buehrens, former president of the UUA. Rev. Buehren’s new book (co-written with UU theologian Rebecca Parker) is A House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the 21st Century. The reading will take place at the UU Church of Haverhill, 16 Ashland Street. This book gives UUs tools "to spark deeper reflection and reflection within faith communities". The authors contend that this "is how we can create a liberal religious renaissance." Come for the fellowship and thought-provoking discussion. All are welcome! Hope to see you there!

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Movie Night: No Impact Man

    This Saturday, May 15 at 7 p.m. at the UUCiA (6 Locke St, Andover, MA) : MOVIE NIGHT! (Free)

    This month, come and watch No Impact Man. Description:

    "It’s a true story: Colin Beavan decides to completely eliminate his personal impact on the environment for the next year. It means eating vegetarian, buying only local food, and turning off the refrigerator. It also means no elevators, no television, no cars, busses, or airplanes, no toxic cleaning products, no electricity, no material consumption, and no garbage.

    "No problem – at least for Colin – but he and his family live in Manhattan. So when his espresso guzzling, retail-worshipping wife Michelle and their two-year-old daughter are dragged into the fray, the No Impact Project has an unforeseen impact of its own.

    "Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s film provides an intriguing inside look into the experiment that became a national fascination and media sensation, while examining the familial strains and strengthened bonds that result from Colin and Michelle’s struggle with their radical lifestyle change."

    Bring a friend, beach chair to sit on, and something to drink. We will provide the movie and popcorn!

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Recent happenings....

    Picture to the left: The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover on the evening of April 24, 2010.

    Lots of interesting happenings lately at the UUCiA -- and at the UUA, with UUCiA folks participating...

    First, last Saturday night on April 24, we had "An Evening of Irish Literature and Music", featuring UUCiA friend Thomas Rice doing readings from his memoir, Far from the Land. Readings from the book were interspersed with musical performances by Rose Clancy (of the Clancy family tradition, on fiddle and mandolin) accompanied by Stuart Pete (on guitar and tin whistle).

    Above, Picture to the Left: Thomas Rice starts his reading... Picture to the Right: Rose Clancy and Stuart Peet begin to play...

    It was truly a wonderful evening, lots of fun... One of my favorite moments was when Thomas surprised us all by jamming (playing harmonica) with Rose and Stuart. They sounded great together!

    To purchase Thomas Rice's book, Far from the Land -- and to benefit the UUCiA in the process -- click this link.

    Yesterday, April 28, was also a big day. It started out with three of us (two adults and one youth) participating in the UU Mass Action Network's Advocacy Day. The day began at the UUA "headquarters" at 25 Beacon Street, with some training and education. Speakers included State Senator Susan Tucker (a member of the UUCiA, as a matter of fact) and State Representative Byron Rushing.

    Picture to the left: Nancy Banks, Executive Director of the UU Mass Action Network, introduces State Rep. Byron Rushing.

    All three of us UUCiA participants learned a lot and had a meaningful day. The fifth principle of Unitarian Universalism is "The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large", and Advocacy Day fit into this quite nicely.

    We had a chance to speak up for homeless prevention programs, climate change prevention programs, health equity programs, and transgender rights.

    It was a full and inspiring day!

    Then, later yesterday evening, it was back to the UUCiA and the "Full Moon Drumming Circle". These drumming circles are so much fun -- so healing and uplifting. Don't miss the next one, on May 26. All are welcome!

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Another Full Moon Drumming Circle!

    Join us Wednesday, April 28, at 7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (UUCiA) to celebrate the full moon with drums and rhythm instruments. All are welcome, no experience necessary. Drums/instruments provided. UUCiA address: 6 Locke Street, Andover, MA. It's FUN!

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Irish Literature and Music

    Please join us at the UUCiA, 6 Locke Street, Andover
    this Saturday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. for

    "An Evening of Irish Literature and Music"

    This program features local author Thomas Rice. Rice will be reading excerpts from his new book Far from the Land, a fascinating memoir describing growing up in rural Ireland in the 40’s and 50’s.

    In addition, Rosemary Clancy will play fiddle, mandolin and banjo, alternating with the reading. Rosemary Clancy’s father belonged to the famous Clancy tradition band, The Irish Ramblers.

    Books will be available for purchase, and the author will be signing. Proceeds from the book sale will go Haitian Relief. Admission is free, but donations to Haitian Relief accepted at the door.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Great weekend at the UUCiA!

    Picture to left: The big screen at the UUCiA -- very nice for showing a movie!

    This past weekend at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover was a great one....

    On Saturday night, we had our first "movie night". (Free of charge -- bring your own beverage, we supply popcorn!) We showed Capitalism: A Love Story, which was just as thought-provoking as we had hoped it would be.

    The turn-out was wonderful -- something like 20 people came. Not bad!

    We asked everyone to bring a lawn chair (or other comfortable chair) to sit in, and that worked out well. It was cute to see our sanctuary filled up with lawn and beach chairs -- maybe next time we'll have to have a beach ball!

    The very next evening, Sunday night, we had another strong turnout for a special program of the 15th Annual Women's Spirituality Series: "Female Spiritual Heritages of Crete, Greece, & the Aegean". Scholar Max Dashu gave a wonderful PowerPoint presentation and talk... fascinating stuff!

    Picture to left: Scholar Max Dashu (with shadow!) explaining some history with a map of the region.

    We learned quite a bit about goddesses, priestesses, and women’s rituals from 6000 BCE to 200 CE.

    Max had some wonderful images of female figurines, Cycladic marbles, Cretan frescos... She also had some images I had never seen before of bee seeresses, snake women, bear girls, shamanic dancers and crone masks.

    The visuals were wonderful!

    I learned a lot about patriarchy’s impact on the goddess traditions over time.

    Picture to the left: Just one of many images shown on the UUCiA screen.

    We saw many rare images from the legendary Suppressed Histories Archives collection.

    For more information visit

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    Female Spiritual Heritages of Crete, Greece, & the Aegean

    The 15th Annual Women’s Spirituality Series presents

    Female Spiritual Heritages of Crete, Greece, & the Aegean
    a visual presentation by Max Dashú
    Sunday April 18, 2010 7:00pm Suggested Donation: $15 Unitarian Universalist Congregation 6 Locke Street, Andover, MA 01810

    Ancestors, goddesses, priestesses, and women’s ritual, 6000 BCE to 200 CE. Female figurines, Cycladic marbles, Cretan frescos and seals; bee seeresses, snake women, bear girls, shamanic dancers and crone masks; archaic Hera and Artemis, the Mistress of Animals, Hekate, Gorgons, the Furies, Medea—and patriarchy’s impact on mythology. This isn’t the Greece we were taught!

    Rare images from the legendary Suppressed Histories Archives collection. For more information visit

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    a "found poem" of sorts

    At a recent Veterans for Peace meeting, a member shared this poem... It touched me, so I wanted to share it here:

    Directions to the Armorer
    by Elder Olson

    All right, armorer,
    Make me a sword-
    Not too sharp,
    A bit hard to draw,
    And of cardboard, preferably.
    On second thought, stick
    An eraser on the handle.
    Somehow I always
    Clobber the wrong guy.

    Make me a shield with
    Insignia. I'm often
    A little vague
    As to which side I'm on,
    What battle I'm in.
    And listen, make it
    A trifle flimsy,
    Not too hard to pierce.
    I'm not absolutely sure
    I want to win.

    Make the armor itself
    As tough as possible,
    But on a reverse
    Principle: don't
    Worry about its
    Saving my hide;
    Just fix it to give me
    Some sort of protection-
    Any sort of protection-
    From a possible enemy

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Easter, and a clean, new look

    Left: Our spring quilt and Easter flowers on the altar.

    This Saturday, we had a spring clean-up at the UUCiA. Our wonderful volunteers cleaned up our building and grounds in all sorts of ways. The plants and grounds look so much better, as do the floors and walls. The kitchen is looking great. Really, a big, big improvement. Thank you to all who came and helped!

    Saturday evening we had a wonderful potluck dinner for the Rev. Peter Richardson, the congregation's minister emeritus, and Eleanor Richardson, the congregation's former music director (Peter and Eleanor are married). It was a fun homecoming, with long-time congregants clearly happy and touched to see Eleanor and Peter again (and Peter and Eleanor happy and touched, too).

    Peter and Eleanor were in town because Peter delivered the Easter Sunday sermon, and led the service. I wish I could have been there to hear it! (See a blurb on Peter and Eleanor's return in the Andover Townsman at this link. See Peter's website at this link.)

    Below are more improvements from our spring clean-up:

    Above: We added a flaming chalice poster, for some color in the sanctuary.

    Above: The bulletin board was re-covered, and looks so much better! It blends with our banner, too.

    Above: Now our entryway is more colorful with these two hangings.

    Above: Detail of the new hanging. I love it!

    Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    Full Moon Drumming Circle

    Join us tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (UUCiA) to celebrate the full moon with drums and rhythm instruments. All are welcome, no experience necessary. UUCiA address: 6 Locke Street, Andover, MA.

    Addendum: Below is a picture of some of the drums we used tonight. It was great fun, very uplifting.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010


    From Earth Circle CUUPS:

    "Earth Circle CUUPS invites you to join us on Sunday, March 21 at 5:00 PM at 6 Locke St. Andover, MA (at the UUCiA) as we celebrate Ostara, the time of the Spring's return. The Equinox is a time of balance, when night and day, light and dark are equal, and we open our hearts to the warmth and abundance to come. We will be celebrating with a potluck feast afterwards."

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    New look at UUCiA

    We're starting to "re-decorate" at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover. We want our space to be more colorful, and to better reflect who we are.

    To start off, we worked on the sign outside of the UUCiA.

    In the summer, our sign looked like it does above... then, just below that, you can see the new lighter, easier-to read paint job (with my name and our website address added). This was an improvement, for sure!

    But then we realized that our sign should indicate that we're a Welcoming Congregation.

    So, we've added a rainbow to it. It looks that much better, in my opinion!

    Below is the new sign:

    Ah, that's better!

    The next thing we wanted to change was the entryway. In the past, you would walk in the front door of the UUCiA and see a blank wall. It looked like this:

    We wanted to make the entryway more colorful, and reflect some of the sources of our Unitarian Universalist tradition.

    So, we have added these flags, representing some of the world religions that are sources for our tradition:

    Much better, right?

    We're not done re-decorating, but we're off to a great start!

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Standing on the Side of Love for Valentine's Day

    This coming Sunday is Valentine’s Day, February 14. During our worship at the UU Congregation in Andover, we will celebrate our real Valentines – our “funny” Valentines, which are not necessarily lovers in the romantic sense.

    But Sunday won’t be just about thinking about the different loves in our lives. That’s because this February the 14th is also “National Standing on the Side of Love Day.” In case you haven’t heard of it before, “Standing on the Side of Love “(SSL, pronounced ‘Sizzle’) is a new public advocacy campaign, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association ... promoting respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” According to SSL, “We believe that no one should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence because of their identities.” (Quotation from the UUA’s website,

    National Standing on the Side of Love Day is a chance to “celebrate a Valentine’s Day re-imagined,” says the website of the UU Mass Action Network. It goes on: “Love is about more than romance, greeting cards and chocolates. We want to celebrate love’s power to transform communities! As part of our celebration we will send messages of love in support of immigrant families.”

    Though our worship service will be focused primarily on love in our personal lives, during our Fellowship Hour you will have a chance to act on behalf of love in the public arena. We will have pre-written postcards from the UU Mass Action Network that we can sign and send as “messages of love” to our Congresspersons and Senators asking them to support the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for American Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (H.R. 4321). The postcards read, “In honor of Valentine’s Day, I stand on the side of love with immigrant families. I honor the love that binds families together. Any system that breaks families apart is itself broken. We as Unitarian Universalists ask for your leadership to support ... Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (H.R. 4321). Thank you for your help.” You will also have a chance to see a summary of H.R. 4321.

    I hope you'll join us!

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Let's get Lost....

    There are so many important things happening in the world about which I could blog. Instead, I'm going to make a brief post about Lost.

    I love this show.

    I waited and waited for the premiere episode(s) of the final season to come... and finally it came, last night, at the end of Groundhog Day (appropriate, I'd say). I believe this final season is off to a promising start. Instead of flashing back in time (like they did for a while), or flashing forward in time (like they did for a while), they now seem to be "flashing sideways" (as some are calling it). That is, there are now two simultaneous timelines.

    I won't try to explain Lost. It's far too complicated for me to explain, even if I could. Why do I love it? In addition to the amazing quality of the acting, writing, filming, etc., the show focuses on the BIG questions. There's the matter of time and space... and "reality". There are allusions to western and eastern religious traditions, and to ancient Egyptian traditions. There are questions of "good versus evil" and all sorts of ethical quandaries.

    I can't wait for next Tuesday night!

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Jews, Christians and Muslims: Together in Prayer

    Announcing a very special event by the Merrimack Valley People for Peace:

    "Please come together with the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations to pray for Shalom, Peace, Salaam. As children of Abraham, we will celebrate the richness of our life and faith - the washing of hands and the blessing and sharing of bread.

    Date: Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Time: 7:00pm - 8:00pm

    Cascia Hall, Merrimack College; 315 Turnpike Street; North Andover, MA


    Welcome: Sister Mary Ellen Dow, S.N.D., Director of Campus Ministry
    Adhan – Call to Prayer: Mr. Tarek El Heneidy
    Prayer of Nourishment and Rebirth: Sharing of Bread and Water
    Rabbi Dawn Rose, Temple Emanuel of the Merrimack Valley, Lowell
    Rev. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., V.P. of Mission & Ministry, Merrimack College
    The Rev. Marsha Heydenreich, Faith Lutheran Church, Andover
    Mr. Tarek El Heneidy, North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice
    Musical Offering
    Mr. Christopher Wood, Liturgical Music Minister, Directing the Merrimack College Music Ministry

    This event is free and open to the public

    Cascia Hall is wheelchair accessible

    Light refreshments will be served

    Made possible in part by a grant from the Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Help Haiti

    Would you like to do something to help the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake?

    You can give through the joint UUA/UUSC Haiti Earthquake relief fund at this link.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    That 5th Principle...

    Photo: A picture I took at the 2009 GA in Salt Lake City.

    I just preached on the 5th Principle of the UUA yesterday (affirm and promote the "right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large") and today I see this article in UU World on major changes being proposed to the UUA's General Assembly by the "5th Principle Task Force". I think most of the recommendations are right on the money. We shall see what happens!

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Service cancelled

    This Sunday (January 3), the 10:30 a.m. worship service has been CANCELLED due to poor driving conditions.

    See you on January 10th!