Monday, September 25, 2006

Why we rock

Sometimes, having grown up Unitarian Universalist, swimming in this water daily, I forget why we rock.

This Sunday, there were many newcomers to our church saying things like
"I want a community but I'm skeptical of organized religion"
"I"m from an interfaith family and I don't feel like I belong anywhere"
"My kids are starting to ask hard questions but I don't know what to tell them"
"I don't know if I believe in God or not"
"I feel like people need to come together across religions if there is ever going to be peace"

Imagine if you will, you are behind the counter of a coffee shop and someone says to you with tears in her eyes "What I really want is a warm beverage with some caffeine, but I just don't know where to look."

What can you say but "you've come to the right place"

I mean, who knows if these folks will decide that they want to join our community for the long term, but "for this morning while you are questioning and wondering, I want you to know this is your place. Welcome home."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hard Things

When I went into ministry, I knew there would be hard things, like speaking truth to power or accompanying people through their pain. Day to day though there are some lesser obstacles that still trip me up.

I remember standing in a friend's back yard watching a slide show on the side of her neighbor's house at a rockin party late one Saturday night talking with a buddy from seminary.

He: Did you ever realize that ministers don't get to chose where they want to live? We are going to have to move every few years our whole lives?

Me: Did you ever think that once we get ordained we give up Saturday nights?

I half hoped that once we got settled in our first churches these things would kind of make sense. Truth is, these really are two of the hard things about life in the ministry. Now don't get me wrong, there are many amazing things about ministry, but hard thing number 3 is:

If you serve a west-coast congregation you will never see the early football game. This is especially hard if you are the fan of an East coast team, because they ALWAYS play at 10:30. Really, the best you can hope for is to make it home before the end of the 1st quarter of the afternoon game. Tape the game for later? Not if you have other football fans in your home. One look at their faces and you KNOW what happened in your team's game.

This was my hardest minister/football fan moment: when the Eagles were in the 2005 Championship game against Atlanta, and I was in the pulpit. My sweet mom crocheted me an Eagles stole and fedexed it to me. (I love my mom. Sometimes moms KNOW.) I proudly delivered my sermon draped in my green and white and bolted home after a few polite goodbyes and managed to catch last moments of the Eagle's Victory.

It could be worse- our church sexton (die hard Giants fan- I like him anyway) never gets off on Sundays until after 4:00. I should count my blessings.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Crash Landing

For me personally, this summer has crash landed into fall, I mean I hope it's landed. Yoinks.

You know, every year about this time (usually a few weeks further into the season) I feel this same energy- scattered and with the motion of a blustery wind.

Last year I even wrote myself a note:
Do you feel like you are surrounded by a sea/wind of fluttering
Particles- leaves- tasks- urgencies...

Don't Panic
Slow Down,
Step outside the flow

There are only 4 things you really need to do

Shed your leaves
Remember the Sabbath
Make a Choice
Set your intention

There's really only one thing you need to do

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Union Maid

I was listening to a new album by "Old Crow Medicine Show" on the way to work today, and when they started to sing:
"Oh, you can't scare me,
I'm sticking with the Union
I'm sticking with the Union
I'm sticking with the Union"
I flashed back to all those stories told by Utah Phillips and Howard Zinn about the history of the Union movement. Remembering that people died to bring us the 40 hour week.

I was so riled up I wanted to go into the office and talk animatedly to... to...

oh. I wanted to talk to (B) our church administrator, who died an untimely death less than 3 years ago.

It was a sad moment.

Thank you (B) for always sticking with the Union.

Thank you to all those men and women who fought and struggled and sometimes died for humane working conditions.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My hero

Yesterday I had the incredible privilege of watching my nephew's birth. All I can say is- my sister is my hero.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fall begins at Lammas

My seminary (and sabbatical) professor Jeremy Taylor pointed out that it's a little strange to say a season begins with the equinox or the solstice. By the time it gets to winter solstice, it is well and truly winter. Fall is not about arriving anywhere, it is about transition. Fall is Winter and Summer trying to sort themselves out.

So I wasn't really paying attention when Lammas passed this August. (Lammas is the holiday that comes halfway between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox). But gradually the signs of fall have begun to emerge even though my desktop calendar says we have 2 weeks to go:

The children have returned to school, and on Sunday morning are twice as intense, and report being twice as tired.

My family and I just cannot seem to get up in the morning- that hazy morning light has my body convinced I need at least another hour.

I'm starting to stuff a sweater in my bag whenever I leave the house.

The peaches and nectarines are looking tired, and the produce guys are getting all excited about their pears.

For me this time of year is also the time of Burning Man. And though my friends and I camped on the side of a foggy sand dune this Labor Day weekend instead of in the blazing sun of the playa, I was struck as I stared in to the fire by how much I had to let go of, that I imagined burning to ashes in that fire. I think about the Jewish ritual of dropping bread into a stream each fall at the new year so that the bread might carry with it regrets, mistakes, omissions and hurts. Perhaps this is organically part of the early fall, like the waning sunlight. But how does the soul's calendar work, that even when I am miles from the desert I feel the need to burn? I am constantly amazed to remember I am part of cycles so much larger than my own life.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Favorite line from the new Ani DiFranco album:

"Privilege is a headache that you don't know you don't have."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

SpiritPlay- The Right Religion

Last Sunday we told the story of King John Sigismund and the Edict of Tolerance. The story is told with wooden blocks, some that represent the city walls, some that represent King John and Francis David (The Unitarian Minister) And 5 that represent the different religious traditions practiced in Transylvania during his reign. The king asks the minister of each religion the cities in his kingdom should look. The first minister includes only his own religion within the walls of the city. The second includes his own, but 2 others are allowed at the perimeter of the city. Then our hero Francis David suggests that 4 religions be allowed to practice within the city. (The observant will notice that even in this most progressive of 16th century cities, not all religions are equal- our modern understanding of religious tolerance is still centuries away). At the end of our story I asked a bunch of questions, including this one, which gave me pause even while I was preparing the lesson.

"I wonder which religion is the right religion?"

All the children who spoke up answered "Unitarian"

I replied "I wondering if that's what you really think, or if that's what you think I want to hear."

A couple of other answers emerged with little enthusiasm.

Then the answers began to reference the different shaped wood blocks that represented the different faiths.

"The Round one"

"No the stair step one"

"No, this one" says a child picking up a third piece.

Now the children are reaching for different pieces and speaking all at once.
At the top of the crescendo, two children hit their competing blocks together.

I say something like "that's enough, everyone back to your seats"

I was a little un-nerved by the chaos, but the authenticity of their response was clear.

"I guess that's what happens when you ask which religion is the right religion,” I offer.

I am amazed that the question had the same effect on this class of mostly 5 to 6 year olds, that it did in Transylvania, that it does in the world today.