“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
(This is the last of a series of articles about my sabbatical plans. You can read the introduction here, the article on Congregation-Based Spiritual Direction here, and the article on Moral Injury and Soul Repair here.)
Well, it’s my last day before my sabbatical begins, and I’m in the final stages of planning to be away from my office during September and October. I’ve packed a tub with some books I want to read, a binder of notes I want to review, and my stole for the March for Racial Justice on September 30th. My regular responsibilities are in good hands, thanks to the Sunday Services Committee, the Rev. Cynthia Snavely, UUFP President Jim Sanderson, our Office Assistant Katie Horton, and many more capable people. All that remains now is to finish describing what I plan to do over the next two months.
I’ve previously described two major pieces of professional development during my sabbatical that I hope will also benefit the Fellowship in due course. A third, smaller project is to continue my studies in musical composition, particularly hymnody and small choral pieces. While two months isn’t long enough to take a full college course, for instance, there are some on-line resources that look promising. Music has been a passion of mine since an early age, and I’d love to be able to create it at even a tiny fraction of my appreciation of it. I also recognize its power in worship for both good and ill, as this article makes clear.
I also have a major personal project, and that’s thanks to the coincidence of my sabbatical with the start of the school year. Specifically, my daughter will be starting kindergarten next week, and that represents a significant transition for her and for her parents! Much of this week has already been taken up with back-to-school events and organizing, and that will continue for at least another month. Furthermore, now that our daughter will be in a public school, she won’t receive the Jewish cultural education she had been receiving in pre-school, so I plan to help her continue to develop that part of her identity.
Finally, to answer a question regarding my sabbatical that I’ve been asked more than any other, I don’t plan on being away from home other than for the Soul Repair conference and the March for Racial Justice. However, I do plan to do more regular walking outdoors, perhaps even finding some safe trails for riding my bicycle — all weather permitting, of course!
I wish you all well during the next two months. The Fellowship has a full and rich church year ahead, and I’ll miss being with you as you dive into that this Fall, but I look forward to being with you again and hearing lots of wonderful stories of growing in wonder, connecting in love, engaging in service and inspiring generosity. Be kind to one another, make a difference in the world, and see you in November!
Happy Birthday wishes go out to our members born in September!
Mary Faia Morales
If you are a member and have a birthday in July that we overlooked, please contact Bobbie Schilling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UUFP Minister, Rev. Andrew Clive Millard, is on sabbatical this month.
September 3rd: “Economic Justice”
To increase the GDP it is suggested that labor needs to produce more. But do we want our countryside to be dotted with waste collection pools from factory farms? Do we want doctors required to see a patient every fifteen minutes Economic justice may not mean a bigger GDP: a just wealth is one that can be sustained and enjoyed for generations to come.
Rev. Cynthia Snavely, lives in Hayes with her son-in-law, who is currently stationed at Fort Eustis, her daughter, and her four grandsons. She serves the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on New Bern, North Carolina part-time, spending eight days a month on site and working remotely at other times in the month. Cynthia is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College and Drew Theological School.
September 10th: “The Importance of Staying Grounded”
Lee Anne will invite us to explore how we can sustain our connection to the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. For instance, did you know that recent scientific and medical research indicates that going barefoot in the park has more benefits than previously imagined?
Lee Anne Washington has been an attorney, advocate, author, and educator for more than twenty-five years. Now she is a Unitarian Universalist candidate for the ministry and a ministerial intern at the First Unitarian Universalist church of Richmond Virginia. Lee Anne and her teen-aged daughter live in the Northern Neck of Virginia.
September 17th: “Together We Can Save the City Farm”
As President of Citizens for Riverview Farm Park, Adrian Whitcomb is working with other citizens to build a broad base of public support to see that Riverview Farm Park becomes the park that it was designed to be twenty-six years ago, a park that includes all of the Newport News City Farm and the City owned portion of the Deep Creek Marina. He will discuss what he has learned from other citizen efforts that have influenced his approach.
Adrian Whitcomb, Newport News native, began his interest in photography while he was part of a mission to renovate a church building in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Having lived most of his life in crowded urban areas, Adrian has grown to appreciate the value of parks and open space, and his eleven-year connection with Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park continues even as he leads the City Farm effort.
September 24th: “Trust and Transformation”
When congregations thrive, we find a strong foundation of trust at work. Members experience a deep sense of covenant: A living process which transforms their interactions, feeds their mission, and comprises their faith. But it takes work and courage to get there. Are we ready for it?
Scott Kasmire has been a Unitarian Universalist since the mid-1990s and a K-12 educator since the early 2000s. He serves our congregation as Youth Advisor, Communications chair, Fellowship Circle facilitator, and member of the Leadership Development Committee. Scott’s interests include philosophy, world theologies, Star Trek, and caffeine delivery systems. He lives in Norge.
By Maria Cory
Do the summer months make you long for vacation? Well, if "Laughter is an instant vacation" (Milton Berle), then this past Sunday, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula attendees did not have to travel far to experience a ready respite from the routine.
Record numbers of people gathered eagerly at Sunday Morning Forum, as "Team Moseley & Moseley" returned to the podium to guide us on an animated trip encompassing "Life's Lessons from the Newspaper Comics." With Punny Patricia leading the merry excursion through the newspaper funnies, and amusing sidekick Mirthful Mason assisting with the tour, laughter filled the room!
Patricia's early explorations in the comics inspired a desire to be a cartoonist. While winning a fifth grade contest for her creative flair did not give rise to pursuing a comic artist's career, she gleaned wisely from this world of witticisms.
“Ever since I could read, I found comics a great source for pop culture news, amusement, and easy to understand political commentary," notes this cartoon enthusiast. "I still read the comics before facing daily life." By illustrating a variety of comedic styles with storylines portraying the signs of our times, Patricia applied the cartoon themes and anecdotal lessons to the UU Seven Principles.
Quoting Rabindranath Tagore for the chalice reading, Patricia affirmed, "You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water." In this life full of Mystery, our funny Forum facilitator embodies how a spirit of Wonder is a gateway to Wisdom…and Wisdom leads to more Wonder. So while we are on the road together, why not delight in the joy of the journey?
Laughter—t'is good for the soul!
This captures only a portion of the light and lively group energized by Patricia Moseley's upbeat presentation! Surely, many a sage would agree with this Wisdom Literature excerpt: "A cheerful heart is good medicine." (Prov. 17:22a NIV). Let all of us experience a healthy dose of joy and laughter to share with each other and brighten our world! (Click to enlarge.)
“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
In services this morning, our “Blessing of the Backpacks” prepared our students of all ages for the year ahead, sending them into the days and weeks ahead with hope, with courage, and most of all with our love. For many children, a new year of school is about to begin, in some cases at a new school with new teachers and some new friends, too. For children who are home-schooled, there’s a new season of classes and new subjects at home. Many of our young adult students are already in their college classes, and, of course, education is life-long, with grown-ups of all ages taking courses whether that’s to further their own careers or simply for the love of learning.
Offering our blessing on all of our students — recognizing their bags and backpacks not as mere tools for carrying books and papers and pens but as visible reminders that we are thinking of them, that we believe in them, that we have faith in their future — seems an appropriate way to mark the end of the Summer, given the impact of the start of the school year on our society. And it’s a marked improvement over how Unitarian Universalist congregations all across the country used to do it...
Not long after I’d moved to Connecticut in early 2001, I learned that there was a Unitarian Universalist congregation just up the road from me. The first service I attended there was on Easter Sunday, and not long after that I went to an orientation and became a member. Then something very strange happened.
Services came to an end for the Summer.
It turned out that, for the months of July and August, this congregation and the UU church in the next town had an arrangement where they would share services. Anybody coming to one congregation, assuming there’d be a service, would be greeted by a hand-scribbled note taped to the door saying that services were being held at the other congregation. Oh, and since the two congregations held their services at different times, well, there was no way to actually make the other service anyway.
I asked someone about this curious arrangement and was told that it was because “everyone goes to Cape Cod for the Summer.” And “everyone” was said as if it literally meant everyone, except that the person saying it didn’t go to Cape Cod — not even for a week, let alone for two whole months — and I never met more than a handful of people who did much more than take trips to see family while their children were out of school for the Summer. Certainly anybody who had a job was expected to continue working at that job regardless of the time of year.
Since then I’ve learned more about this imaginary tradition. For many decades it was customary for Unitarian Universalist ministers to take all of their vacation and study-leave time during July and August. I think that’s a ridiculous custom. It makes not a single jot of sense for ministers to be entirely absent from their congregations precisely when we get many visitors, particularly families who are taking advantage of their children being out of school to do some “church shopping”.
So strike one: not everyone goes away to a vacation home during the Summer. And strike two: it’s a bad idea for ministers to be gone for the Summer, too. Here’s strike three.
Back before the advent of modern sanitation — including the single most important idea in the history of medicine that washing one’s hands after going to the toilet is a wise thing to do — outbreaks of diseases like cholera were common in big cities. And in old New England, it was simply a matter of survival that if you could get out of Boston during the Summer when the incidence of such diseases spiked, then you did. Now the Unitarians tended to be well to do, and families like the Channings and the Longfellows had the wherewithal to escape East to the Cape or West to the Berkshires. The Universalists, by contrast, tended to be spread out in the countryside and their ministers were also practiced circuit-riders.
(While I may be exaggerating a few points here for effect, the fact remains that the UU “tradition” of taking the Summer off has more to do with classist privilege than anything else.)
So how does that affect us today? Well, it doesn’t. Or, at least, it shouldn’t. Strike three is that we know about washing our hands and about not dumping raw sewage into our supply of drinking water.
When I first experienced the uniquely Unitarian Universalist ritual known as the Water Communion, for example, it was part of an end-of-Summer service at the UU church in the next town. My congregation never did Water Communion because they didn’t have services in August. What we did do was an “Ingathering” service, so named because there was apparently an idea that the church had somehow disintegrated over the Summer and needed to be put back together.
Thankfully, many Unitarian Universalist congregations no longer have an “Ingathering” service — or if they do, it’s about the start of the school year, which in states that are not beholden to the needs of amusement parks might be in mid-August or even earlier. It’s not because the congregation ceased to be for a few weeks.
Our mission to grow in wonder, connect in love, engage in service and inspire generosity does not get put on hold just because it’s the Summer. Life continues to challenge us regardless of the time of year, and we need the comfort of being part of a community of the like-hearted just as much — and sometimes even more — during July and August. We continue to have questions that need good answers — as well as answers that lead us to better questions — and we continue to seek ways to grow the Beloved Community and bring into being a more just and equitable and compassionate world. This is what we do, seven days a week and all twelve months each year.
May we remember that, regardless of the Season, we continually strive for the best of creation, of humanity, of ourselves. For it is in us and through us that our tradition comes to life, liberating minds and souls from lifeless creeds and moving forward together in the spirit of love that gladdens the hearts of all people.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula will be celebrating the Water Communion on October 1st, with the Rev. Cynthia Snavely officiating.
By Maria Cory
Magnificent! Astonishing! Overwhelming! Magical! The cosmos and all of Creation surely lived up to its reputation this week, as those experiencing the solar eclipse (particularly in the path of totality) were awestruck by Monday's spectacular show.
Meanwhile, this week, another sensational event was occurring at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula. While vacationing with family is treasured, I am greatly disappointed to have missed April Kelsey's Sunday Morning Forum entitled "Understanding Evangelicals." Although I was not present for this interactive class, it was no surprise to hear participants describing the exchange as stellar.
Coming to know April over the last several months, I can understand how she would have facilitated a keenly informational, participatory presentation. Of greater significance than instructional value is April's courage and transparency in relating her poignant, deeply personal testimonial about her formative years and introduction to evangelicalism. Indeed, I celebrate that our UUFP family affords the security of inclusive, respectful community that encourages this kind of forthright sharing, deep listening and meaningful connection.
Spirit - Intellect - Community--these are the introductory words describing Sunday Morning Forum found on UUFP's website. When I first visited UUFP 22 months ago, I was dazzled by the unexpected! It is no overstatement how extraordinarily mind, spirit and relationship-expanding I continue to find the Forum and worship experiences. With present day relevance demonstrated throughout these and other diverse ministry opportunities, I remain convinced that the Fellowship has a priceless gift to share with each other and the community at large!
April's instruction helps us transform the unfamiliar and unexpected into something positive. Her topic reminds us of the importance of taking the time to relate to and communicate with people perceived differently from ourselves. In doing so, in building the Beloved Community, the "eclipse of the heart" will pass. No longer will impediments exist between us and them...between us and the celestial. No longer will darkness obscure the Light!
“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
They say that life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans. I had planned to continue the series of articles about my sabbatical — and I still hope to complete that before I go on sabbatical! — but this week I need to write about recent events and what to do about them. (Of course, there’s so much to say, that I can only address a piece of it here. I’ll also address pieces of it in my two remaining sermons this month.)
Last Sunday evening, I took part in a gathering of about a hundred people at Port Warwick in Newport News. This was just one of a large number of vigils, protests and other witness events that have happened all over the country since last Saturday’s display of humanity at its worst in Charlottesville. Now we also saw examples of humanity at its best, in the people who resisted white supremacy, who met hatred with unyielding love, who took care of those who were hurt in body or in soul. So the gatherings in Newport News and other places were both deploring the evil we had witnessed and also lifting up the good.
This was hardly a teary-eyed indulgence of hand-wringing, though, of impotently bewailing the state of the world. Rather, as people stepped forward from the group to speak, we heard resolve and a recommitment to action. Yes, there was sadness, but determination was stronger. Yes, there was fear, but courage was louder. Yes, there was uncertainty, but faith was greater.
We heard from people of color and white people alike, speaking from experience of their own challenges to keep their children safe, of their awareness of their own prejudice, of their struggles to do the right thing in a system that punishes the bodies of some and damages the souls of others simply because that’s what it was designed to do. From everyone who spoke, we heard an honest, earnest desire to be part of the movement to dismantle white supremacy and anti-semitism, to build the society that this nation has always claimed but repeatedly failed to be. There were no expressions of shock, of suddenly realizing that this was the sorry state of our world, as if such hatred and violence was only now on display. Rather, there was faith and courage and determination that we do much more to fight it.
Barely a week ago, I wrote here in the e-Flame about “Continuing the Conversation” following May’s White Supremacy Teach-In and our display of Black Lives Matter banners since February. Even as I was writing that article, though, I was struck by the insufficiency of merely talking about the issues. Yes, we need to learn. If we’re white, we need to educate ourselves and one another, to overcome the privilege of our own skin color to understand what it is like to live in our society without that privilege, but conversation is not enough. It is past time to take a much more active role, to become demonstrably anti-racist as a congregation, to dismantle bigotry and oppression both beyond our walls and within them, and to actually move toward the Beloved Community about which we love to talk.
We do not need to figure out how to do this all by ourselves, of course. Following Charlottesville, and the resulting demand for accountability, there are new and renewed calls from across the demographic spectrum to act at a national level. We can work to support the existing goals of Black Lives Matter and similar reform movements. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we can join with those who have already been doing a lot of this work.
There is, for example, the March for Racial Justice in Washington DC on Saturday September 30th. (I’m sure there will be “sister” marches in other locations, as well as on other dates given that September 30th is Yom Kippur.) As we did for the Women’s March and the Climate March, the Social Justice Committee has chartered a bus from Newport News that morning, so please contact Carey or Pam about reserving your seat.
Another example is Safety Pin Box. Run by black women to benefit projects led by black women, this is a subscription program intended for white would-be allies “who want to consistently contribute to Black liberation financially while doing measurable support work for the movement and learning what it takes to dismantle white supremacy.” I recently subscribed as one small way in which I can put my money where my mouth is.
In liberation theology, there is an essential tool known as praxis. Rather than learning from any book) in isolation from the real world and then attempting to apply what has been learned, the liberation theologian learns by acting in the world first, by experiencing the needs of the people directly and then reflecting upon that experience. As Unitarian Universalists, we know that faith is only meaningful if it is put into action, if it is making a difference not only in the world but also in ourselves. Let’s join the growing movement that is asking us to do just that.
By Maria Cory
Lee Anne Washington has been an attorney, author, and educator for more than 25 years. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia and the University of Virginia Law School. In June 2017, she received her Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, and is presently interning at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond. In her book, "The Human Life Equation," Lee Anne has combined her legal research skills and her love of the Bible.
When White Stone, Virginia, attorney and Town Council member Lee Anne Washington served as a candidate in a 2008 Virginia special election, the recurring issue of abortion propelled her into in-depth research. Being questioned about her position on abortion and hearing constituents assert their biblical pro-life rationale, Lee Anne decided to examine more closely what that sacred text reveals on this controversial topic.
Sunday Morning Forum welcomed this Unitarian Universalist ministerial intern and longtime legal counselor as she capsulized her conclusions defined in her book, “The Human Life Equation: A Biblical Case for Choice." Describing herself as "pro-family," Lee Anne elucidates the Hebrew translations and how these accounts of antiquity do not preclude present day women from making responsible reproductive choices.
With Christianity and Judaism being significant parts of her spiritual journey, Lee Ann's biblical studies open doors to pivotal questions, such as: "When does human life begin?"; "Is abortion murder?"; “Are there any instances of abortion recorded in the Bible?”; and "Is abortion prohibited anywhere in the Bible?”
For Christians, the Bible describes God’s extraordinary creation of humans. “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7, New International Version). This and other scriptures give witness to God's "Ruach"--the breath and source of life that is infused in the body at birth, thereby creating first life when the two are joined. Lee Anne finds that this theology is not necessarily incompatible with modern medicine.
It is fortunate to have the Adult Sunday Morning Forum as an educational and spiritual platform to share diverse perspectives on a broad range of topics. We appreciate learning about this social justice activist’s: “passion to lighten the burden of guilt and confusion felt by women about abortion.”* We look forward to welcoming Lee Ann back to our pulpit for worship services on September 10!
*Excerpted from book cover
“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
On the first Sunday of May, our Sanctuary was at capacity for the “White Supremacy Teach-In”. Like a majority of Unitarian Universalist congregations in late April or early May, we changed our regularly scheduled Sunday morning services to respond to a call to action from a growing network of UU religious professionals and and lay leaders, led by UUs of color and white UUs working together. As Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism put it,
“White supremacy” is a provocative phrase, as it conjures up images of hoods and mobs. Yet in 2017, actual “white supremacists” are not required in order to uphold white supremacy culture. Building a faith full of people who understand that key distinction is essential as we work toward a more just society in difficult political times.”
Following a homily by UU seminarian, Jaimie Dingus, the greater part of each service was devoted to small group sharing and deep listening. After all, like anything else good and important, the work to dismantle white supremacy requires us to show up with our hearts and ears open. We hoped that our collective vulnerability would be transformative and powerful, welcoming everyone to participate to the extent that they were able. Whether practicing empathy, sitting with discomfort, or feeling affirmed in any decision to pass or step out for self-care, the teach-in was intended to be one of many steps in work that will bring us into wholeness with the values of our faith.
As part of the service, we invited participants to write their answers to some prompts and questions on papers that we handed out: Here’s something I’m wondering about white supremacy. Here are my questions about white supremacy. What else do I want to learn about dismantling white supremacy? In their answers, many people expressed a desire to continue the conversation, to learn more about white supremacy and how to dismantle it, to take steps to become anti-racist, and to transform ourselves and our society according to our principles of justice, equity and compassion.
Over the last few years, especially since the protests following the August 9th 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson MO, I have preached on these topics a number of times. Sermons have also been offered by our DRE, Joanne Dingus, our former interns, Christina Hockman and Walter Clark, and others. In February, we hung a Black Lives Matter banner on our building, and UUFP members have participated in Black Lives Matter events around Hampton Roads. This is an urgent and important matter and we have both the need and the desire to continue the conversation.
There are a number of general resources to continue our individual learning, to foster group discussion, and to motivate commitments to act. First and foremost are the national Black Lives Matter organization and Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. The Unitarian Universalist Association and UU World magazine have also published many writings and articles, including the 2015 Action of Immediate Witness, “Support the Black Lives Matter Movement”. These and other resources to which I would draw your attention include:
I would encourage you to spend some time with these and discuss them with others within and beyond the Fellowship. Some of them will challenge you — I know that there’s much that challenges me. They will stretch us and require us to engage in self-care, but most important is that we stay in the conversation, work on our way forward, and put our faith into action.
By Maria Cory
Ardith and Ken? Man and Machine? Returning Sunday Morning Forum Facilitators Ardith Chambers and Ken Goodrich delivered double the benefit via their tandem presentation: "Cybernetics: The Interface between Man and Machine."
This terrific twosome led us in quite the excursion through "the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine," so defined by cybernetics inventor Norbert Weiner in 1948. Throughout the ensuing decades, individuals inspired by this child prodigy and professor continue to seek computer technology as a means of augmenting human capability.
Describing the evolution of cybernetics and its individual and global impact, Ardith and Ken aptly presented both a personal and professional view of this complex, transdisciplinary field.
"I look to Unitarians to help make transitions because we're open to exploring," comments Ardith, from her early years in the faith. "We make a better world because we are here; we do our part while we are here." And cybernetics helps her with these transitions and goals in our ever-changing world, this sociology enthusiast expresses.
"Observe; Orient; Decide; Act," explains Ken, regarding the OODA Loop's circular causality and feedback strategy. Our resident NASA Research Engineer stepped us through technical applications that affect mechanical, physical, biological, cognitive and social systems. Affirming his teammate's illustrations, he notes: "For cybernetics, you need to think in terms of outcome or purpose. So, as you mentioned…this applies to leaving the world a better place" in that cybernetics helps us develop a language by which we may better understand and modify our world.
Man + Machine…in Tandem or Tension? We've only scratched the surface in this odyssey of discovery. So as humanity and technology voyage forward, let's put on our travelin' shoes (or maybe our spacesuits!) and continue in our quest of creating the Beloved Community and (shall we say) "heaven on [a new] earth"!
Happy Birthday to all our members born in August!
by Sandra Engelhardt
This is a continuation of my report on the UUA General Assembly 2017 held in New Orleans.
Tom Andrew, new president of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), said the difference with UUSC is that they ask communities what is needed rather than just give aid. He stressed that many of the things “we care about are deeply endangered”. Later at the UUSC Gala, the UUSC’s Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Leadership Award was awarded to Linda Sarsour. She is a Palestinian-Muslim-American born in Brooklyn, NY and one of the four national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington. As an award winning racial and civil rights activist, she has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world.
The Sunday Morning Worship sermon and program was about “The Shared World” which incorporated music, readings and videos that focused on connecting with one another in and through differences. The Rev. Mara Dowall, of the Burlington, VT congregation, gave a powerful sermon. The GA’s service project, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) collected $105,000.
The General Assembly passed three responsive resolutions:
The first was “Combating Escalating Inequality”, related to the Statement of Conscience (SOC) which was also passed by this GA. The resolution calls on the board and UUA staff “to help coordinate, strategize and advise congregations on how to address effectively these deep-seated cultural issues.
The second resolution was “Making the ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ Campaign More Inclusive” which calls upon the leaders of the UUA’s “Standing on the Side of Love” campaign to create a vision that better includes and reflects the needs and contributions of disabled people.
The remaining resolution was the “Appointment of a Study Commission to Consider Adding an 8th Principle to Article ii, Principles and Purposes, Section C-2.1”. The new principal might read as: We the member congregations of the UUA covenant to affirm and promote ‘Journeying toward spiritual wholeness’ by building a diverse, multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
The memorial service for Jim Key, our former UUA moderator and Chief Governance officer since 2013, was well done and attended by over 300 people.
I attended the third annual conference of the Coalition of UU State Action Networks. This conference represents 23 states, at this time. In Virginia the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Virginia (UULM-VA) is working to bring the 26 Virginia UU congregations together to deal with the state General Assembly on issues of interest to UU’s.
The seven workshops that I attended were of varied topics and most interesting. “UU Prison Ministry and Justice Beginning Today” was presented by the Church of the Larger Fellowship. The UU Humanist Association presented “Humanist Worship Service: Resist and Renew”. I also attended the UU Humanist Association's annual meeting and heard one of the best presentations by the Religious Humanist of the Year, Dr. Anthony Pinn, on the intersections of African –American religion, constructive theology and humanist thought. My third workshop was “Living Downstream: The Mississippi River and New Orleans”. This was presented by the UU Church of Baton Rouge and featured several professors. On Friday, I attended “Sing a New Song: How Do We Celebrate?” with famed UU musician Jim Scott. I bought two of his CDs. Then I attended “Resist in Solidarity Against Our Top-Heavy Economic System”, and bought Chuck Collins' book “Born on Third Base”. On Saturday my sixth workshop was “Taking Action to Make Democracy Work” by the Commission on Social Witness. My last workshop was “Lessons of Culture, Power, and Trauma Response”. This featured remarks from families after homicide as well as representatives from the UU Trauma Response Ministry.
Future GA’s are scheduled for:
June 20-24, 2018 in Kansas City, MO;
June 19-23, 2019 in Spokane, WA; and
June 24-28, 2020 in Providence, RI
This was a very busy GA which set the stage for Unitarian Universalism’s future. The atmosphere was intensely focused and the music was wonderful. We will be doing a presentation about this GA on October 1, 2017 at the UUFP Sunday Morning Forum.
By Dan Luke
Good morning. How are you doing? Do you think it’s going to rain? How’s your mother doing? We say and hear phrases like these every day. But do we listen to the reply? Small talk is the grease that keeps relationships going, but while it is essential to not being a social pariah, it does not nourish the soul.
I have been in six Fellowship Circles over many years and haven’t come away from a single one where I had not learned something wondrous or awful but always real and from the heart. I have always felt safe and able to express myself. But by far the best part of Fellowship Circles is the listening. When I first started going I found it very hard to listen without thinking about my response. I still find it hard, but I am getting better. We call it compassionate listening.
I have been to some Fellowship Circle meetings with the same or similar topics, but they all turn out different in fascinating ways.
As a facilitator I have found that I cannot judge easily which topics will go well. I did a topic about the kitchen table that I thought would be too simple, and it worked wonderfully with a lot of memories of earlier times, Formica, and chrome. I have led and participated in topics as deep as dying and as light as humor. I never am sorry I came.
I don’t go to Fellowship Circles for small talk, a discussion group, or therapy session. I go to them to get to know members in a safe, intimate, and loving way without judgment. I go to them to know people more deeply than small talk. I go to them to nourish my soul with friends.
By Maria Cory
This week, Sunday Morning Forum* friends were in good company with Facilitator Lois Winter, Rumi and the ponderings of a myriad of other sagacious souls. Sharing her story: "Physics and Mystics, or How I Found Rumi," Lois provided a fountain of information on a fascinating, spirit-connecting topic!
"In the '80s and '90s, I was going through some personal stuff and trying to reinvent myself from the inside out," Lois shares candidly. This passionate seeker's "pilgrimage within" tapped into something far beyond one's "self."
"Can consciousness exist on a cellular level?" "Every cell in our body dies and is continually replaced. Where is the [or is there a] master builder?" "Is there a mind/matter connection, and can thoughts affect the external world?" "How is energy/consciousness related to the physical world?" These are just snippets of the many profound questions and world-changing discoveries considered by the group.
"We are explorers…and the most compelling frontier of our time is human consciousness. Our quest is a vision for humanity which integrates science and spirituality, and in so doing reminds us of our connectedness to the inner self, to each other, and to the Earth," states the Institute of Noetic Sciences (one of Lois' favored resources).
Along similar lines, Friar Richard Rohr, Christian Mystic, writes: "We are now told that the atoms we breathe are physically the same as the stardust from the original Big Bang. Oneness is no longer a vague mystical notion, but a scientific fact."
While we travel here in our "earth-suits," may our "star stuff" and the spark within each of us shine from the inside out to the world. By respecting the interdependent web of all existence, we acknowledge a certain "Oneness." And, oh…how much more brilliantly our Collective Light brings dawn for the benefit all!
*[Weekly, 11:15 - 12:15, UUFP Office Bldg.]