Minister’s Musings: A Season of Love and Peace

Minister’s Musings: A Season of Love and Peace

Warm Greetings to you, WUUC Community!

It is December. We’re past Thanksgiving, which means we are officially in the holiday season. And while I think it is fair to say that nothing about this year has been normal, I suspect that this holiday time of long-standing traditions and gathering with loved ones will feel especially different.

This year, you probably won’t be seeing your loved ones. (Please don’t if they live outside of your household!) You probably won’t be baking as many holiday treats, or going to parties or fun holiday gatherings. You probably won’t be singing carols.

But even in these not-normal times, some things about the holidays don’t change: this is still a season that is (or at least, should be) about love and peace. And so, this is just your friendly ministerial reminder that you are worthy of love and deserving of peace. Even if you don’t find the perfect present for everyone on your list. Even if you don’t host your annual holiday party this year. Even if you don’t put up a tree, or light the Menorah. You are worthy of love and deserving of peace, and there is nothing you can do about it. You are sacred and worthy.

I wish this for you:

May you be connected to your loved ones; if not in the same place, then through phone calls, greeting cards, and Zoom gatherings. May this time and distance apart offer you spaciousness. May you find joy in simplicity.

In this holiday season (a much simpler holiday season), may love and peace find you in abundance.

Peace and Blessings,

Dan

Minister’s Musings Nov: We Can Choose Goodness

Minister’s Musings Nov: We Can Choose Goodness

Hello WUUC Community,

I keep hearing (and only halfway in jest) that folks are done with 2020; that we’ve already faced more than a year’s worth of corruption, destruction, oppression, depression, cancellation, and frustration. And not only have we been dealt a horrible set of circumstances (a pandemic, social isolation, economic turmoil, hurricanes, fires, etc.), but I am finding that perhaps more than the circumstances themselves, I am disappointed by the unbelievable responses to these conditions that some people have chosen: not wearing masks, or refusing to follow other common-sense (and very easy) health practices; believing baseless conspiracy theories; and generally rejecting basic truths and demonstrable facts. And much of this is to justify hateful and dehumanizing attitudes and behaviors.

How did we get here?

When studying the Holocaust in middle school, I wondered how so many people could be convinced to participate in or go along with something so obviously evil. I couldn’t understand how an overwhelming majority of folks at the time didn’t just stop it from happening.

Well now, as we face our current circumstances, I find myself in a dark moment of reckoning with my beliefs about the nature of us humans. I long ago rejected the Calvinist theology of human depravity and original sin; instead, I leaned more in the direction of original blessing, a term coined by Episcopal priest Matthew Fox, and a belief in the inherent goodness of humans. But this current moment has me reconsidering our human capacity for good and evil. Our goodness is certainly not a given. The agency we possess as humans, our free will, means that we have the ability to choose evil. To choose hate. And sometimes, we do.

But while this is true, so is the opposite: any human goodness in the world is because humans choose goodness. In difficult times (such as these), my optimism comes not from believing that we will always do good over evil because we are predisposed to do so, but that good is an option for us to choose. We have that option. We can choose goodness over evil. We can choose compassion, justice, and love. All of these are resources that, in the words of pre-eminent 20th century theologian and Unitarian minister James Luther Adams, “are available for the achievement of meaningful change [and] justify an attitude of ultimate optimism.”[1]

We have what we need to make the world better. Now we must decide to do it. After all, we have other options.

But even now, when many seem ready to give up on 2020, I will choose to do everything I can to ensure it ends better than it started. My Unitarian Universalist faith tells me it is possible.

Will you join me?

Peace and Blessings,

Dan


[1] Adams, James Luther. On Being Human Religiously. Ed M. Stackhouse, Beacon Press, 1976, p 19.

Minister’s Musings: The Heart of Community

Minister’s Musings: The Heart of Community

Greetings, WUUC,

Time is playing tricks on me. In some ways, I can hardly believe another month has gone by, and October is already upon us. But when I look back at September, some of what occurred early in the month seems so long ago, because so much has happened since!

In the past month, I’ve had many meetings, phone calls, and Zoom chats. I’ve met with the board, the Ministry Council, the Worship Team, the Lay Pastoral Associates, the Finance Committee, and many other groups, teams, committees, and task forces. As I’ve been getting to know you better as a community, I’m learning some important things:

First, my initial impression is continuing to prove true. You are a warm, caring bunch; not without disagreements and differences in perspective, but no community agrees on everything. What’s important is that you love and care about each other.

Second, you seem thirsty. Thirsty for engagement. Thirsty for connection. Thirsty for spiritual depth. I imagine this thirst started back in March, with the onset of the pandemic, and has only gotten worse with each passing month of social isolation. And now, you are ready to drink deeply from the well.

But before we quench our thirst, we need to decide:

How are we going to be with one another?

This is the question at the heart of every community built on covenant. And the only way to answer it is to meet each other where we are, and listen deeply. Deep listening is how we will know one another, and how we will know what we need our community to be.

Once we agree about how we are going to be with one another, once we covenant to be in relationship, and to accept and affirm each other, then we’ve created a space where we can trust and be vulnerable. And this is how we engage, connect, and go deeper. This is how we quench our thirst.

If I were to lift this up in the spirit of prayer, it would sound like this:

May we continue to be the loving, caring community that we already are.

May we listen deeply.

May we trust and be vulnerable.

May we accept and affirm each other.

May we connect, engage, and go deeper.

May our thirst be quenched.

Amen. Blessed be.

Peace and Blessings,

Dan

Minister’s Musings: Where Do You Find Renewal?

Minister’s Musings: Where Do You Find Renewal?

Hello Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church! It is so good to (finally!) be here with you all!

It has been quite a transition for my family and me over the last few months. Since being called as your settled minister back in May, we have been packing our house, making moving arrangements, and saying our goodbyes to our family and community in Albuquerque. Then we hit the road, traveling almost 2,000 miles in a car filled with two adult humans, one tiny human, and two dogs. And once we arrived, we immediately began the search for our Washington home. It has been a physically- and emotionally-draining process.

How appropriate that our worship theme for the month of September is Renewal. Amidst all of this transitioning, I’m finding what is sustaining me is the constant feeling of gratitude I have. Gratitude for everyone in Albuquerque who helped us in so many ways and wished us well on our way; gratitude for all of the kind people that supported us during our trip to make our journey as safe and comfortable as possible; and gratitude for you, the WUUC community, and the warm welcome we received from you. From the custom paint color in my new office, to the welcome gifts on my desk, to the meals waiting for us in the fridge and freezer, to the greeting cards I’ve received in the mail, I’ve been met at every turn with kindness, warmth, and generosity. For all of these things, I’m filled with a feeling of gratitude that makes my heart happy; and this gratitude renews and sustains me.

I’m certainly not the only one to face energy-draining circumstances. All of us have challenges, obstacles, and stressors that wear us down, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet throughout my life, I have found community (and gratitude for those in it) has been a source of renewal for me, time and time again.

I wonder, where do you find renewal? What makes your heart happy?

I invite you to take some time to consider these questions. Perhaps meditate or pray about them.

As you reflect, I’ll leave you with one more thing I’m grateful for: that our journey together has officially begun. We are now on our way, as congregation and minister. May we be faithful companions as we serve, learn, and grow together.

Peace and Blessings,

Dan