“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
(This is part of a series of articles about my sabbatical plans. You can read the previous article here.)
We’re familiar with the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) that can develop after someone has been harmed or threatened with harm. Recognized by psychiatrists, there are therapies that successfully address traumatic memories and their neurological and physiological effects. In some cases where PTSD might be diagnosed, particularly for veterans of military combat, it has become evident, however, that an individual’s continued suffering is not necessarily a result of physical harm or threat of harm; rather, it is a result of what has been termed “moral injury”, which may take place when a soldier participates (or otherwise witnesses) an action that profoundly violates their own sense of right and wrong.
Furthermore, treatments for PTSD are not necessarily effective for moral injury. Though both are “hidden wounds of war”, one is a fear of physical danger from the outside world resulting from a trauma of the body, while the other is a breaking of one’s internal, moral identity resulting from a trauma of the conscience. Thus, it has been argued, moral injury needs to be treated not as a conventional neuro-psychological disorder, but as a spiritual disorder. Rather than psychiatrists and group therapy, it calls for pastoral counselors and religious communities.
I have preached about the subject of moral injury, and the “soul repair” that is needed to address it, and I refer you to that sermon for further background. (I have also told the story of Philoctetes, according to the tragedy by Sophocles, given the modern use of the ancient play to draw attention to the seen and the unseen wounds of warfare.) In short, I am interested in this subject as it relates to our presence as a religious community in an area with many military facilities and hence many military personnel and veterans.
As part of my sabbatical, then, I plan to attend in September a three-day conference on the subject of “Moral Injury and Collective Healing”. A joint effort involving the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, the conference “provides advanced training for helpers and healers responding to moral injury, placing a special focus on supporting veterans and the formerly incarcerated. It will emphasize spiritual practices, the arts and ritual in community healing.” While my own research and reading on the subject is all well and good, there is nothing like being in a room full of experts to gain a much deeper perspective on a subject! My own understanding and ability will benefit from training, but I also hope that the emphasis on soul repair in practice will show how this could become an important congregational ministry.
By Maria Cory
"Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?" poses author Brian McLaren. "To get to 'the other.'"
And that is what was accomplished—in body, mind and spirit—when people of different faiths gathered recently in quest of education and mutual appreciation.
Reciprocal invitations to each other's spiritual home resulted in 40-plus Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula members and friends visiting the Mosque and Islamic Center of Hampton Roads on July 23.
Islamic Center Trustee Dr. Ahmed Noor delivered a comprehensive presentation on Islam, coupled by a tour of the worship area. In welcoming and open fashion, this previous UUFP Sunday Morning Forum guest speaker encouraged and deftly addressed questions from the keenly interested group.
When we are willing to open our minds and extend ourselves to people of spiritual (and life) paths unlike our own, we "cross the road" into critical conversations able to foster good will, wisdom and a willingness to work together for the common good.
By Lois Winter
Lately I’ve been feeling alienated and disoriented, confused and disappointed. I’ve always known that my neighbors and I disagree, but we’ve still shared a mutual respect. Now that seems to be gone.
Since we base our opinions on different sets of facts, there are some things we are unable to discuss. I have to limit what I say. Conversation shuts down. We’re missing a common vision.
It makes me wonder who we are as a people. As a country. Who have we become?
I have always believed in the promises made by the United States of America.
* We are welcoming. The Statue of Liberty is our symbol. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But now we have a travel ban, based on where you’re from, not who you are.
* Cultural diversity - “E pluribus unum” is on our coins. "Out of many, one." You can find a restaurant from every country in the world in New York City. But now we’re a country of discrimination and deportations.
* Champion of human rights - “With liberty and justice for all.” But now we have a dysfunctional, underfunded criminal justice system that provides much better justice for those who are able to pay for it.
* Equal opportunity - Horatio Alger. Anyone can rise to the top. All our ancestors were immigrants who were able to move into the middle class because they took advantage of free public education. Now that is threatened by a voucher system that allows parents to choose their school. If only all children had parent advocates able or willing to make that decision. Since so many do not, opportunity is no longer equal.
* A collective vision - “We the people….” But now individual rights seem to triumph over group interests. “My way” over “our way”, threats and violence to those who disagree, bullying.
* Empowerment - We can make a difference. “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Now we spend hours talking to automated machines instead of people. We are disempowered.
* Civility and courtesy seem to be a thing of the past. Now, there are anonymous posts in social media, aggression, vicious responses, ridicule.
I just returned from two weeks in Spain, where there are outdoor cafes everywhere, where people converse with each other well into the night.
The first thing I saw in the passport line reentering the United States was someone wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a huge squirrel holding an assault rifle. The shirt said, “Defend your nuts.” That’s how I knew I was home.
These changes in the society, I thought we were, make me mourn for the loss of collective goals and give me a feeling of isolation and a lack of empowerment. It seems we’re not who I thought we were.
So I have a helpful solution for this malaise: Fellowship Circles!
No, they don’t solve any of the problems I’ve listed. But there are three reasons why they help me feel so much better!
Examples of discussion topics include: self-discovery, pivot points—before and after, leisure time, change, friendships, family, accepting diverse viewpoints, aging, shredding, acceptance and challenges, the work of justice, and giving away our gifts.
So Fellowship Circles are an antidote to the daily assault of our society. We feel the connection to others; we reveal our true selves, and we challenge ourselves to grow. These intangibles are priceless.
A description of the connections we make in Fellowship Circles can be understood through a quote by [Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian] Henry Nouwen:
“When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
Services include sermons preached by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard unless otherwise noted.
August 6th: “A Thousand Congregations in Search of a Mission”
Having identified the “transcendent” values that define us as a faith community, we are now trying on a new statement of our Fellowship’s mission: grow in wonder; connect in love; engage in service; inspire generosity. But what does it mean to “try on” this mission? And how will it help us articulate a vision that gets us from where we are to where we want to be?
We’ll also recognize our Hospitality Teams that have served on Sunday mornings for the last four years: Web, Bee and Chalice!
August 13th: “Are You Missing a Mission? Some Thoughts on Burning for Causes, Bridging Causeways, and the Causality of Being”
The Seven Principles provide a broad base for a wide diversity of people, but the work of finding meaning and mission is on each individual and congregation. We may acknowledge ourselves as part of the “interdependent web” of life or even Zen-like Oneness, yet how do we locate our immediate mission, especially when that “web” and social circumstances are in constant movement? How do we flow with the flux? What might “Zen activism” look like?
Anthony Fiscella, born and raised in Newport News and also a frequent visitor of the UUFP, currently lives in Sweden and is a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.
August 20th: “Less Ego, More Love”
We’ve long known of IQ, the cognitive intelligence related to verbal and mathematical ability. In recent years, we’ve learned about emotional intelligence or EQ, relating to interpersonal skills. Gaining acceptance now is SQ, or spiritual intelligence, defined as “the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of circumstances.” Given this worthy goal, how do we develop SQ? And how do we measure our progress?
The choice of topic for this service was won in last Fall’s Auction by Alice Smith.
August 27th: “What Will You Do on Your Sabbatical? and Other Questions”
One of our hymns reminds us that even to question is an answer. It’s important to ask good questions, but sometimes it’s nice to have answers, too! So send Rev. Andrew your questions — by e-mail, on Facebook, by telephone, in person, via pony express — and he’ll devote his last sermon before going on sabbatical to offering some answers! (Your mileage may vary.)
We’ll also help our students of all ages prepare for the new school year with a Blessing of the Backpacks!
By Maria Cory
Sunday Morning Forum, in content and scope, continues to give the royal treatment to its participants. UUFP Member Steve King was no exception in the transparency and authenticity with which he delivered his story: "From the Mind of Steve: the King's Way."
From a place of deep introspection and sincerity, Steve shared about challenges in his personal journey, spanning childhood to present. Motivated by a lifelong "strong desire to improve myself," this forthright facilitator spoke of the tools and truths he developed along the way.
Tailored fit to this "King" were values which helped him build a positive self-image and make an intentional choice of being happy. "Choosing happiness," Steve relates, includes releasing regrets and trusting that broken relationships can be healed.
Steve's personal illustrations convey that it is never too late to learn a new way of thinking and doing. "Think with your heart, not just your mind," says Steve.
May this King's persevering proclamation revitalize our own commitment to self-awareness and care, in that we may, in turn, value and treat all people like royalty!
By Parker Stokes
I’ve always felt that my religious views are out of the American mainstream, and I’ve been looking my whole life for connection with people like you who share a similar view of the world and religion. I like this place so much I have joined it twice.
Fellowship Circles provide me the opportunity to share and grow and to get to know some of you in more depth than is available in the few minutes of Sunday’s coffee hour.
Over the last ten years, I’ve been in five Circles with at least twenty-five new people to get to know. At my Circle meetings I’m engaged with a series of new questions, which in order to answer, require me to look deeper inside myself than I am normally prone to do.
Our meetings are special to me and I cherish them by keeping most of the agendas in my Circle notebook. To provide some examples, here are a few of the questions we have used recently to focus our discussions:
I know this introspection is good for me, and when others in my circle also share their look inside; the whole Circle is drawn closer and grows in depth, understanding and friendship. This is such a positive experience, that I keep coming back, even when other competing activities may sometimes beckon for my attention.
Most of the Fellowship Circles meet every two weeks, sometimes at the Fellowship and occasionally in each other’s homes. We frequently volunteer to create our own topics and presentations, and for those volunteers who wish to do this, the growth and experience is even greater.
I hope you will consider joining me in a Fellowship Circle so we can share our journey of spiritual and self-understanding.
By Maria Cory
Astonishing heroes in history—the pioneers; the creative geniuses; courageous risk-takers of all ages, backgrounds and experiences who have made an impact on the world! No doubt each of us could name several, as did Sunday Morning Forum* Facilitator Rich Glenn-Albiez when he spoke about the "Heroes I Have Known."
Some heroic feats have been so awe-inspiring that achieving them was "like climbing Mount Everest with no legs!" declares Rich.
While a debt of gratitude is owed to many legendary champions who have blazed the trail and preserved and enhanced life for us, Rich's diverse testimonies also included the significance of the "everyday heroes" in his life. These are the people who grant intentional acts of kindness in our day to day lives—sometimes simple, sometimes subtle; but deeply meaningful nonetheless. These are the seed sowers of graciousness, of which we are the beneficiaries.
From the most famous to most obscure accounts of innovation, perseverance, self-sacrifice and kindness, we learn from history's heroes in that we may better prepare for the future. Our brave forum facilitator describes the heroes in his life as the "saving grace for fighting the cynicism that goodness doesn't exist." Let us gather from the well of personal and collective strength, as we join each other in reaching for the hero that is within…so that our world will not go without!
[*11:15 – 12:15, UUFP Office Bldg.]
“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
A recent article in UU World made a rather astonishing claim. For congregations to engage in social issues, such as by lobbying for laws that would promote equality and justice and against laws that would permit discrimination and prejudice, they need to be able to demonstrate a consistent history of such advocacy in order to comply with IRS guidelines on political activities by churches. In other words, the article explains, “some congregations might actually need to do more lobbying and issue advocacy in between elections”, rather than just getting active at election time when the stakes seem highest.
Since there’s quite an amount of confusion over what religious communities can and cannot do when it comes to political engagement, the Unitarian Universalist Association maintains a handbook, The Real Rules, that “is intended to clarify Internal Revenue Service guidelines as they relate to religious organizations in the hope that more congregations will (1) choose to become involved in working for justice; and (2) know when it is important to seek legal advice.” If you are not familiar with this document, it is well worth reading, particularly if you have any concerns about what our (or any other) congregation is permitted to do. There’s even a helpful summary in terms of the limits imposed by IRS regulations on three types of activities, which I’ll further summarize as follows:
Of course, when it comes to what we are permitted to do, we can ask the question that just because something is allowed, does that mean we should do it? Well, think about it this way:
Should we get involved in political issues? How can we not and still call ourselves Unitarian Universalists?
By Mason Moseley
In these chaotic times, taking action can be an antidote; so, consider reaching out to others of faith within our community.
The Adult Religious Education Committee and the Social Justice committee are sponsoring a visit to the Mosque and Islamic Center of Hampton Roads (hamptonmosque.com/).
Dr. Noor, Trustee, extended the invitation following our visit to Friday prayers in February. Dr. Noor has spoken at the Fellowship several times. He looks forward to speaking about Islam, giving a tour of the Mosque, and taking our questions as part of the Center’s outreach to other faith communities.
Recognizing and honoring our hosts traditions, please dress modestly with no open-toed shoes or sandals. Women may consider a head covering scarf.
He has asked for a count of those coming the week of our visit. Please contact Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org unless you have already signed up on the sheet at the Social Justice (Carey's) table in the Sanctuary building, or via the online Sign Up form. This event is open to all ages.
Please Note: FRIDAY PRAYERS at the mosque are every week, 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.
MOSQUE AND ISLAMIC CENTER OF HAMPTON ROADS
SUNDAY, JULY 23 AT 2 PM
22 Tide Mill Lane
Report on the General Assembly in New Orleans 2017 -Part 1
By Sandra Engelhardt
The 56th General Assembly (GA) of the UUA was held in New Orleans, LA, from June 21-25, 2017. This annual meeting of Unitarian Universalists had over 4000 delegates representing more than 500 congregations. This includes over 490 off-site participants, which included Wayne Dawkins. On-site UUFP delegates were: Jamie Dingus, Sandra Engelhardt and Barbara Linde. Pat Sloan attended GA and the two day program on racism prior to GA. The theme of this GA was “Resist and Rejoice."
This GA was the most intense of my 17 GAs, as so many of the issues were difficult and uncomfortable. One issue was the selection of our new president. When we voted, we had to mark our choices with a 1, 2, or 3. Susan Frederick-Gray received 40% of the vote in the first round, to 33% for Rev. Jeanne Pupke, and 28% for Rev. Alison Miller. When second place votes were apportioned, Fredrick-Gray finished with 57% to Pupke’s 43%.
Another issue was the proposed changes to the Principles. The change of men and women to people was passed. The change of every person to every being was not passed.
A third issue was the Statement of Conscience (SOC) Escalating Economic Inequality (Click the red link to read the drafted version). After numerous changes were made at the mini-assembly and a long discussion at plenary, the SOC was passed overwhelming.
Perhaps the largest issue was the future role of our association in dealing with race. During a “Co-Presidents’ Reflection,” Interim Co-president Sofia Betancourt declared the moment is now for Unitarian Universalism “to be on the forward moving edge again on racial justice.” This was displayed throughout the entire GA with many of the remarks and workshops focused on this topic.
Some other highlights:
Part 2 will discuss: UUSC, Sunday morning worship and the three Responsive Resolutions, as well as various workshops attended.
“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
(This is part of a series of articles about my sabbatical plans. You can read the previous article here.)
During the 2015-16 church year, I participated in a Clergy Seminar in Congregation-Based Spiritual Direction. Taking place three times during the year, each time for three days at First UU in Richmond, it was offered by UU ministers Phil Lund and Sue Sinnamon. (You might know Sue from her time as Director of Faith Development for the UUA’s Southeast District; as well as co-leading the Center for Congregational Spirituality, she’s now an assistant minister at First UU.) The seminar was designed for parish ministers and other religious professionals who are interested in bringing into congregational life a well-established practice common to many faith traditions but generally known as spiritual direction.
Teresa Blythe, author of “Spiritual Direction 101”, explains that this is “an exploration of your spiritual path with a person trained in listening, deep reflection and discernment.” Typically this happens with one other person*, as a form of individual counseling, but in a congregational setting, as promoted by Sue and Phil, it’s a form of small group ministry. As such, there are some similarities with the form of small group ministry we practice at the UUFP known as Fellowship Circles.
There is, for example, an emphasis on listening, and the rule of “no judging, no fixing, no telling someone what to do” applies. However, there are also differences. While the sharing in Fellowship Circles is to be met only with wordless compassion, the sharing in congregation-based spiritual direction is part of a process of discernment: the other people in the group ask gently curious questions intended to explore the issue (which is often a personal challenge) as shared and encourage deeper reflection. However, this is still not “telling someone what to do.” As Blythe explains, “We explore with you. We don’t tell you what you need to know, do or have in order to be spiritual. [...] It is your path we are exploring. No one else’s.”
While I brought back some of what I learned at the seminar to the UUFP — resulting in services on such topics as silence, spirituality and safety as well as our offering of the “Spirit in Practice” workshop series — for my own satisfaction, as well as for the possible benefits to the congregation, I plan to return to the seminar’s materials and readings during my sabbatical and make a deeper study of congregation-based spiritual direction. We shall see if this is a form of small group ministry that might complement our existing programs of faith development here at the UUFP!
* That person is generally known as a spiritual director, which is something of an unfortunate title because they don’t do any directing! Rather, it is “the spirit” that is offering direction — and the goal of the practice is to learn how to listen.
This religious community is a place
where we can know each other and be known,
not only in terms of who we have been and what we have done,
but in terms of what we might become and what we might yet do,
both individually and together.
When we recognize new members in Sunday services a few times each year, I explain that “a member accepts responsibility for continuing and sharing the faith journey that brought them to this place and also covenants to live in community with others whose journeys may be different.” This time last year, then, we began a program to do just that, offering the “Spirit in Practice” workshop series, facilitated by our then-intern, Walter Clark, our Community Minister, the Rev. Jennifer Ryu, and myself.
“Spirit in Practice” is a series of ten workshops developed by our colleague, Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom, who currently serves the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville. Written in response to many UU adults’ requests for deeper spirituality, Erik introduces the series as follows:
“Spirit in Practice” was created to help Unitarian Universalists develop regular practices that help them connect with the sacred ground of their being, however they understand it. “Spirit in Practice” affirms religious diversity while seeking unity in our communal quest for meaning and wholeness. Whether participants follow a path they identify as Humanist, Jewish, Christian, Pagan, Theist, Atheist, Agnostic, Mystic, and/or any of the other paths we follow in our diverse congregations, the “Spirit in Practice” workshops offer a forum for learning, sharing and growth that can enrich their faith journeys.
Weaving together our UU Principles and Sources with the four developmental threads of spirituality, ethics, UU identity, and faith, the workshops began with an overall introduction last July, and concluded with a review and commitments to further exploration in April. During the months in between, we considered in turn each of the “eight spheres of spiritual growth”:
Knowing the challenges that modern life presents to many people when it comes to participating in an extended program, we offered each workshop twice each month, and this did seem to make it easier for more people to be able to attend. (If you’re curious, third Tuesdays were usually more popular than second Wednesdays, but that varied from month to month!) We also encouraged people to “drop in” for individual sessions, given topics that caught their interest.
Personally, I appreciated the chance in these workshops to explore for myself some spiritual practices with which I wasn’t very familiar, and I enjoyed hearing the experiences and the wisdom shared by my co-facilitators and our workshop participants. Our discussions ranged from light-hearted to deeply meaningful, making for a great example of what it means to continue and share our faith journeys. My thanks go to the nearly fifty people who participated in these workshops throughout the series, and particular thanks to Jennifer and Walter for helping to bring “Spirit in Practice” to the Fellowship!
I put my hand in your hand,
so that we can do together
what we cannot do alone.
Happy Birthday to all our members born in July!
Welch Robertson, Brittany
van Tine, Lucy
If you are a member and have a birthday in July that we overlooked, please contact Bobbie Schilling at email@example.com.