In the Interim: When Plans Fall Apart

In the Interim: When Plans Fall Apart

By Reverend Diana L. Smith
Dear Ones,
The last few days of February and first days of March brought new plan after new plan and change after change. As soon as we thought we had a plan that would be protective we’d find we needed a new plan – sometimes a couple times a day.
I know that even as this was happening at WUUC, it was happening in the rest of your lives and workplaces, too. Our minds and hearts have been swamped and struggling to keep floating and swimming for a month. I’ve been amazed, over and over again, by how people are keeping each
other afloat and together across distances. This gives me hope.
Many of us like to have plans and stability. They give our life frameworks and comfort. Much of what we have known and planned for has been swept away, even as much still remains. We’ve experienced grief, fear, and chaos. And in the midst of this we’ve been forced to be loving,
flexible, and creative in ways we’d never have imagined. This is a gift, but it also takes a toll as our minds and hearts are numbed and tired, which makes it hard to tap into stores of creativity, flexibility, love, generosity, and dynamism.
In the midst of this, I’ve been reminded, over and over again, of several questions:
Where am I/we drawing from?
In the midst of all this, it’s been tempting to draw from my own self, rely on myself and my planning and flexibility, my own resources. But when I do that, I start to sink. I can’t do this alone, and I certainly can’t find the creativity, flexibility, laughter, and love that I need to do this by myself. But as soon as I start reaching out and working with others, those things have a
chance of beginning to appear.
I’ve also found this to be a useful question as I look at my spiritual resources. Early on, I wondered if I needed to drop the worship series we were doing on Unitarian Universalism’s Sources. But over the past few weeks I’ve been ever more grateful that we were doing this series. It’s challenged me to look at our sources anew and discern how they can help us in these times I’d never envisioned – at least not in this way. Being able to delve into the different Sources, each in their turn, has been extremely valuable for me, and I hope for you. It’s helped me appreciate, again, why we as a faith movement have many Sources – not just one or two – and are invited to engage deeply with them.
Why am I/we doing this?

It’s been tempting to recreate everything we were doing before, just online. But these times call for new and different things. So asking why we’re doing something, what our goal is, and how it will create more resilience in multiple ways is crucial.
What do I/we need to keep the same?
At the same time, in times of chaos keeping some things the same is crucial. We need a sense of stability and comfort in our lives. Humans are incredibly good at creating these things, and we feel even more lost when we can’t.
What is this liminal space teaching me/us?
The answers to this change each day, each week, and sometimes each hour. Sometimes they’re about patience, listening to my body, why I need to do spiritual practices each day, how to reach out for help, something new about love, or how to lean into learning new things about technology and being patient with myself and others as we learn.
Where am I/we being called?
The language of calling isn’t used much outside of religious settings, but it’s important language. It speaks to a heart- and spirit-centered sense, combined with the mind and intellectual sense, of being drawn to some work, some ministry, that is greater than yourself.
Calling grounds us, centers us, inspires us, and connects us. It beckons us.
As you know, I’m here at WUUC as your Interim Minister. I will be moving on in June and you will have a new minister, with whom you will co-create your next chapter. Only a month ago I had all sort of plans for how we’d navigate this transition together. Now those plans have disappeared and I’m beginning to imagine – with partners both within this congregation and in the wider Unitarian Universalist faith – how we will navigate this transition differently.
During April much more will become clear to me and to us as we create new plans, have them messed up, learn again to be flexible and adapt, and make and live more new plans. As we do this, may we all lean into new ways of doing things, together, and listen carefully and with an open heart for what our hearts, bodies, minds and spirits need, and for where we’re being called.

Love and Blessings,

Rev. Diana

In the Interim: Creating Meaning Together

In the Interim: Creating Meaning Together

By Rev. Diana L. Smith

Dear Ones,

Do your eyes glaze over when you hear the word “theology”? While I can really geek out on theology and deeply love it, there are also times I’ve started losing focus when conversations about it become too abstract or esoteric. (And yes, your minister just said that.)

However, theology is, at its core, about how we understand the world, Mystery, what is of worth, and how we make meaning. Sometimes discussions of it can become dense or confusing. But spending time reflecting on how we understand the world individually and as a congregation is really important.

Reflecting in these ways can help us more deeply explore how we understand our relationship with the world and what is ultimately important. It can also give us a foundation and tools when difficult things happen in our lives. And it can be an opportunity to deepen our engagement with people, ideas, belief systems, and cultures in a very meaningful way.

A lot of the time we think about what we believe individually. Our individual beliefs reflect what religion and practices we were raised with (if any), our culture, our life experiences, and many other things. This reflection is very important, and it’s also important that as congregations we reflect together on how we create meaning or theology as a congregation. The whole of all of our beliefs, how our beliefs interact, and how we interact and communicate about our beliefs and our meaning-making are important parts of how we create community – and a faith, a religious community.

As you may have read or experienced, in February we began our exploration of Unitarian Universalism’s six Sources. In February we explored our religious backgrounds and the Source of our direct experiences of transcending mystery and wonder. In March we’ll be exploring more sources:

  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic people, which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

We’ll finish our series in April as we explore Jewish and Christian teachings. I hope you’ll join us in these worship services and that you’ll bring what you’re learning and how you’re making meaning back into community as you listen for how others are doing this, too – whether it’s similar to or different from how you’re making meaning.

Love and Blessings,

Rev. Diana

Our Six Sources

Our Six Sources

Dear Ones,

What inspiration do you draw from as you seek to live out your Unitarian Universalist values and engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning? What language and ideas make sense to you and speak to your spirit as you think about your spiritual journey? Is it the same as the language and ideas that make sense to and speak to the soul of your loved ones, your friends, or the children in your life?

During my time as your interim minister one of the things I’ve loved is exploring with you is the many shapes of our Unitarian Universalist faith. We so often talk about the seven Principles that we as Unitarian Universalists covenant to affirm and promote. We hold these principles as our values and moral guides.

But did you know that these Principles are part of a “living tradition” of wisdom that we draw from? Unitarian Universalism has six Sources that give us our Principles, our inspiration, and guidance. These are the six Sources Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic people, which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

In February, I’ll begin a series of worship services to help us reflect on our six Sources and how they inform our faith. Our series will begin on Feb. 16. Then though April we’ll explore the Sources, with a few breaks for other types of services.

I hope you’ll join us for this series and use it as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of how your religious background influences you, what religious language and ideas speak to you at this point, and what religious language and ideas speak to others in this congregation and in your life. As we explored recently, sometimes we sing your song, sometimes we sing my song, and sometimes we sing her song, his song, or their song. So, too, our songs draw from many places and change over time. Our Sources are an important part of our songs.

I hope to see you in the coming months as we explore our living tradition of wisdom and inspiration.

Love and Blessings,

Rev. Diana


 

Questions for Reflection in the New Year

Questions for Reflection in the New Year

Dear Ones,

It has been a rich, full month. The busyness of early and mid-December, with its holiday parties and gift finding and giving, its many pulls that stretch our minds and hearts thin, is coming to an end. We’ve passed the longest night of the year, taking from it what we could, whether deepening and meditation, comaraderie and fun, joy, stillness, or the grief that sometimes comes to us at such times.

We are moving into the quieter, liminal space between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Throughout my life I’ve particularly valued this time. I’ve usually managed to be scheduled out of work or to be on a school break, so after the immediate busyness of Christmas passes, I’ve blessedly been able to relax and rest from the exhaustion of the work or school year, play, reflect, and find some renewed energy and spirit for the beginning of the new year. The years I’ve needed to work during this liminal time of the year, I’ve enjoyed the slower, quieter pace. It’s also allowed me to reflect, connect, relax, and find renewed energy in its own way.

This time of the year, like many of the liminal times in our lives and in our congregations, invites us to reflect in a deeper way on what has happened in this past year and what we wish to carry forward in the next year. Here are some questions I’ve found useful in this work:

  • Where, for what, and for whom have I felt gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation this year? Where haven’t I felt it? What does that tell me and how can I grow in this practice?
  • Where are connections showing up that are strengthening and challenging me?
  • Whose stories have I listened to this year? Whose voices are missing? Who told those stories?
  • How have our Soul Matters themes showed up in my life and changed me? (They’ve been Possibility, Trust, Journey, Wholeness, Curiosity, Beauty, Expectation, Belonging, Attention, and Awe.)
  • How have I lived love into the world with courage? How have I lived my values?
  • What has my spiritual practice been this year? How is it feeding my spirit? What are the things I want to continue and what are the things I want to change?

I ask myself these questions with humility, grace, and courage, wishing to be transformed by them. If what I, or you, find is difficult, as I talked about in worship a couple weeks ago, by entering the dark places, the places of fear, anger, shame, sorrow, and pain in our spirits, and doing the deep work of grappling with these feelings and what they tell us about ourselves, humanity, and our relationship with the world; by bringing love, humility, and deepening connection into those spaces; by finding the lessons of these times and spaces and where they and our love and values ask us to change; by doing this work we grow. We grow, too, by letting Love, a deep, courageous Love, come into our hearts and lives, and following it.

In January we’ll begin 2020 by reflecting on the theme of Integrity. I’ll be bringing my own work from these coming weeks into that. I hope you will, too.

May this liminal space bless you and all with its gifts. May you and all be perturbed. May you and all find peace. Go in Peace, Love, and Justice, always.

Love and Blessings,

Rev. Diana

P.S.: I’ll be on vacation from Dec. 25 – Jan. 6. I look forward to beginning to catch up on voicemails and emails on Jan. 7. If you have a pastoral emergency before Jan. 7, please leave a voicemail on my cell phone or contact the lay pastoral associates at lpa@wuuc.org or (425) 483-6476.

Attentiveness, Anticipation, and Awe

Attentiveness, Anticipation, and Awe

Dear Ones,

As we move into December, into the darkness, we find ourselves in spaces of tension.

There’s the excitement and hubbub of all the things that happen around the holidays, combined with commercial and consumerist messages that bombard us.

There’s the tension and anxiety that come with the end of the year, work deadlines and financial demands, and, for some of us, with gathering with family and friends, the invitations or lack of invitations to holiday and year-end festivities. And this year tension is higher for many because of events in the country and world, which are amping up anxiety more.

And there’s the quietness, lovely stillness, and sluggishness that come with lengthening nights and short days.

We’re going into the darkness, and as we go many faiths invite us into attentiveness to it or into anticipation of something coming.

We can feel all this as a tug-of-war, where we feel caught in the swirl of the season. And so this call to deepen and cultivate the gifts of the spirit is all the more valuable, as it is whenever we find ourselves in places that are in-between, in tension, changing, busy, anxious.

The holidays of light and darkness at this time of year invite us into wonder and patience. They do invite us to exuberance and delight, but to make it to the great celebration we need patience, hope, faith, love, courage, and the ability to cultivate joy in our daily lives, whether that celebration is for Jesus’ birth, Hanukhah, Solstice, Watch Night, or something else. These holy days invite us to anticipation, to reaffirm the power of the spirit and the value of religious community and spiritual life, to explore what a miracle is, and to celebrate freedom, justice, and community.

As we move into December, into the darkness, and our reflections on Awe, may we hold the pull of connection and the pull of quiet stillness in delicate and creative tension. May you, may we find ways of being together that help us deepen and connect even as we allow ourselves to be nourished by the quiet darkness. May we deepen in our relationship with awe as the darkness grows. May we find in the deep stillness what our spirits need, individually and as a congregation.

Love and Blessings,
Rev. Diana

What does our story tell?

What does our story tell?

How do we reclaim our narrative? What story do we want to tell about our lives?

I’m here in St. Paul, MN deeply grateful to be at BLUU’s Harper-Jordan Memorial Symposium (https://www.blacklivesuu.com/about). Well, enjoying and being humbled and awed by it… Here I’m surrounded by beloveds, all of whom are having their own amazing experiences of the pure fire that is Unitarian Universalism’s first symposium focused specifically on proclaiming a Black UU theology. And I’m immersed in deep theological discussions the likes of which I haven’t enjoyed since before I finished seminary. And we’ve only finished day one…!

I’m excited to share some of what’s happened here and my reflections on it when I return to WUUC’s pulpit on Nov. 10. But in the meantime, I’ll share with you a few of the questions that are coming to me here and that relate to WUUC’s monthly theme for November: Attention.

Some of those questions are:

How do we reclaim our narrative? What story do we want to tell about our lives, our faith, our communities? Sometimes we take questions like these to mean something like “How do we focus on the good stuff we want others to know about us/our communities/our country/our faith?” But a way of viewing this question that pushes us to do deep work and to grow in all sorts of ways asks us to reflect on how we honor the deep, difficult, complicated happy and unhappy, joyful and sad, loving and evil things that have happened to us, our faith(s), and our communities.

What does deeply grappling with these things tell us about ourselves, our institutions, our world, and who and what we want to be in it for ourselves and others? It’s when we grapple with these difficult questions and try to find answers that center and grow Love that we are more often able to become more expansive and more inclusive. This grappling helps us spiritually deepen, too.

People are meaning-making beings. When we go through difficulty, loss, grief, or other challenges or changes – and particularly when we or institutions we’re part of treat people in ways that don’t uphold our values – it can be tempting to try to move through those times and put those stories aside. We’ve done this so often as a country, in our communities, and in our individual lives. But then how do we make meaning from that? What does that mean for us and for all those hurt or harmed? And how does that help us move toward more Love, liberation, compassion, and care for ourselves and others?

These are hard questions, and they’re ones I hope to keep grappling with throughout my life. They’re ones I hope we grapple with as a country, a faith, and in our communities.
This month, as we reflect on what it means to be a people of attention, may we all be present in the midst of the struggle, learn the ever-unfolding lessons it teaches us, and work to incorporate those into our own narratives and the narratives of our communities.

Love and Blessings,
Rev. Diana