Minister’s Musings (January 2021)
Happy New Year WUUC!
I know 2020 was a tough year. And, certainly, it was harder for some than for others. The pandemic exposed the inequality in our systems, as we saw those who were already marginalized being disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the economic recession. These are realities we cannot ignore. What we already knew, and was made even clearer by the circumstances of 2020, is that we have work to do if we truly believe what we say about beloved community.
That said, I hope that closing the book on 2020 can begin to give us the space and the distance to reflect on our experiences of the past year. I hope (and believe) that we will find that there were gems of joy; moments of beauty; fleeting instances when laughter snuck in and made us forget (for just a second) that the world was in a state of chaos and upheaval.
Look for those moments. Remember them, too, as part of this year. Because nothing is entirely good, nor entirely bad. Everything, every year, everybody, has the capacity (and the realization) of “goodness” and “badness.”
So as we gain some distance from the year that will go down in infamy, let’s be careful how we tell our story of the past year. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was painful. But try to remember those redemptive moments too, so we can tell the whole story. May we find the sweet among the bitter.
Looking forward to a better 2021!
Peace and Blessings,
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,
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.”
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,
 Adams, James Luther. On Being Human Religiously. Ed M. Stackhouse, Beacon Press, 1976, p 19.
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,
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
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,
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
Love and Blessings,