Goodbyes

Goodbyes

Dear Ones,

Each person and thing we have loved leaves its mark on us, and we on it. We forever become part of one another, affecting each other in ways that often continue to unfold for years. Even when we will not see each other anymore, this remains. As does the truth that each goodbye, each loss, stirs up memories and feelings of goodbyes and losses that have gone before. Sadness is a natural part of goodbyes of all kinds.

And so, as the calendar turns to June, the time for me to leave WUUC has come. This is the nature of interim ministry, and this goodbye that we are sharing creates space for the hello you will share in a couple months with Minister Dan. Yet, while this leave-taking is part of the nature of interim ministry, it is made harder by Covid-19. I feel this powerfully. We don’t get to say goodbye with the hugs and pats on the arm that are so meaningful to us.

I’ve been working with WUUC’s Transitions Team and Board of Trustees on what our goodbyes can look like. The article below this gives some options that I hope you’ll engage with so we can say our goodbyes in the ways that feel right for each of you. In addition, I’m creating a reverse offering of blessing cards. From June 6-28 these will be available outside WUUC’s front doors. If you come to pick one up, please only touch the one you take, not others, to limit the chance of spreading Covid-19.

My final worship service with you will be on June 14. During that service we’ll engage in a ritual of parting. After that I’ll be on call from June 15-28 while I take vacation to pack and attend General Assembly and Ministry Days. My goodbye party, which will include Zoom and drive-by elements, will be on June 28.

On June 28, I’ll also be “unfriending” any of you who have friended me on Facebook and discontinuing my WUUC email address. As part of my ministerial agreements it’s important that I not have contact with the congregation for two years. This doesn’t mean that if you see me at General Assembly or on the street that you’ll need to ignore me, but it does mean that I’ll be out of touch unless Minister Dan and I explicitly agree otherwise. My absence will be important to allow WUUC to build a relationship with your next minister. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still love you, think about you, and hold you in my heart and prayers. I do and I will.

As I take leave, and as we move through this leave-taking process together, how we each do this and how we create space for what comes next for you is my final blessing for you as your minister. You have done deep, loving, remarkable work these past two years. And in doing so you’ve created space for new opportunities to take root and flourish for your congregation and strength to move through the challenges of this pandemic caring for each other and those in the broader community.

May you live Love ever more fully and fiercely into the world.

Love and Blessings,

Rev. Diana

In the Interim: Cultivating Gratitude for What Went Before

In the Interim: Cultivating Gratitude for What Went Before

Dear Ones,

Our theme for the month of May is Thresholds. Thresholds are powerful places where we cross from one thing to another. We have thresholds in our homes, in our congregations, and in our lives. At WUUC you’re at one threshold as you begin to say goodbye to one minister and develop your readiness and your relationship with another. We’re also at a threshold with covid-19, moving out into small increases in freedom of movement but uncertain what will happen if the virus begins to spread again. And we’re at the threshold of graduations and other changes in different members’ and families’ lives.

On May 10 we’ll also celebrate another threshold. The butterflies that we’ve been caring for throughout April are ready to move out into the world. These are the same caterpillars that taught us so much about trust, courage, strength, growth, and (when they didn’t transform when we thought they would) patience. Our butterflies are ready to move into this next phase of their lives, but it still may be difficult for some of them to cross this threshold.

What thresholds have you crossed in your life? When you’ve crossed a threshold, what are the things that have helped you, either as you’ve been in that liminal space of the threshold itself or as you’ve prepared yourself to cross it?

One of the things that often helps us move into and through thresholds is to notice and attend to all the feelings they stir up. To notice the grief that may be there along with the joy, the anxiety along with the excitement, the fear along with the anticipation.

Another thing that helps us with thresholds is cultivating gratitude for what went before, for what we’re leaving, as well as anticipation for what’s coming. Cultivating gratitude is a way of honoring the changes. And as we recognize the things we’re grateful for, we may also notice things that we need to lay down or that we still need to take with us through the threshold and attend to on the other side. Thresholds don’t mean leaving everything behind.

As we prepare to cross these next thresholds in ways that are different than almost any we’ve crossed before since we can’t gather in person, I invite you to enter with me with wonder into the question of what thresholds mean and what helps us navigate them. If you have thoughts about thresholds that you’d like to share, please send them to me. And know that your Transitions Team, Board, and I are spending time during May discerning how WUUC and I will say our goodbyes in June.

Blessed be,

Rev. Diana

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.