a poem by Mary-Elizabeth Cotton
Rev. Andrew writes:
Not long after I arrived at the Fellowship, a little over nine years ago, I was talking to Bob Smith about our Fellowship Circles program and he told me that our Nursery Attendant, Mary-Elizabeth Cotton, had written a wonderful poem that got to the true heart of what Fellowship Circles are all about. I asked Mary if she’d send me a copy of it, which she did, and I saw for myself that Bob was spot on. I have since used that poem as a reading in services and as a text for meditation and sharing. It has also been shared by the UU Small Group Ministry Network, helping Unitarian Universalists everywhere to embrace listening as a spiritual practice.
Let us listen…
Just for a while
Let us silence our minds
And open our hearts.
Just for a while
Let us listen from within.
Not to gain knowledge,
Not to formulate questions,
Rather to chance upon
Sacred bonds and
Just for a while
Let us not seek information
Let us not rouse the intellect
But embrace the spirit.
If thoughts cloud the brain
May we let them pass.
If replies tingle on the tongue.
Let us breathe them away silently.
Return to them later
Here in this precious time of sharing
Let us listen…
Let the words wash over us
And seep into a still, quiet pool.
Let us listen.
Really, I had already known for at least a year or so that the Unitarian Universalists were “my people” — mostly “old” people (it was Southwest Florida, after all). But the first UU sermon that I ever heard was preached by the Rev. Josiah Reed Bartlett — past president of the Starr King UU seminary, and essentially the founder of the UUA’s interim minister program. He preached with a humility, humor, and grace that revealed to me a truth about how a person might choose to be in this world. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, I barely remember what he said, but I’ll never forget how he made me feel. I wanted to choose to be like him.
But the rest of the story is that I went off to boot camp, graduated, and was moved around to various naval communities in the USA, visiting UU churches whenever I could. I spent the most time, almost a year, at First Unitarian Universalist in Orlando, Florida, listening to another UU celebrity minister, the Rev. Marni Harmony. And then I moved overseas, and was a Unitarian Universalist only through our “correspondence church,” the Church of the Larger Fellowship. I was “in community” only via an email list-serve group (something rarely done these days). The result is that I mostly learned how a UU community works via the written word. I’d like to say I spent the entire fifteen years overseas in that community — but I eventually stopped reading the emails as my career and relationship concerns took over.
Then five years ago, a family crisis brought me to Virginia, where I joined UUFP. Slowly, with the gentle encouragement of some long time members, I began to become more involved. I facilitated a Sunday Morning Forum, and I began working with the youth. And I began seeing what in-person UU “congregational life” was all about — with all the little dramas, triumphs, and tragedies. Eventually, somebody thought it would be a good idea to send me to UU leadership school, known as SUULE (Southern Region Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experience). I went in 2017 — a full twenty years after I first signed the book in Florida. It changed everything.
They call it a “Leadership Experience” because if you let it, it has the power to transform the way you see the world. This is what I let happen to me. My partner from UUFP in this experience was our beloved and recently passed Sarah Pierce-Davis. She and I, in moments of quiet conversation, had what I can only describe as “moments of clarity,” where we suddenly understood some of the social and psychological processes that underlie the community of UUFP. We could identify the “pockets of health” and some of the areas of anxiety at work. We were introduced to what they call the “balcony view” of our Fellowship, rather than the more familiar “dance floor” view. After twenty years of being a Unitarian Universalist, I suddenly felt as though I had “levelled up” in the game — perhaps akin to the sort of religious initiation experience that Joseph Campbell often wrote about: In a sense, I could now see the “faces” that were previously hidden behind masks. I’m not a better UU now. But I am a very different UU.
Starting this spring, the UUA’s Southern Region is offering a version of the Leadership Experience for our Tidewater Cluster of congregations: The Tidewater Cluster Extended Leadership Experience (TExLE). I would encourage every UUFP member that is able to attend to sign up. It will require four Saturdays of your time: The first Saturdays of March, April, May, and June. The cost is $120 for the whole series — but if you find that is out of your budget, let me (or the Rev. Andrew, or Henry Chambers) know and we will try to find an accommodation for you. We will also likely car-pool to the sites:
Session One: March 7, 2020, Williamsburg
Session Two: April 4, 2020, Glen Allen
Session Three: May 2, 2020, Richmond
Session Four: June 6, 2020, Newport News, here at UUFP
I would urge you to consider it not as a “leadership/motivational seminar”, but rather as a path in your Unitarian Universalist faith development. The more people among us who can identify the patterns that move us, the more powerful we will be as a community and as individuals. Register at this link, and then let us know that you did: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/extended-leadership-experience-tidewater-cluster-registration-53689713378
AND IT IS IMPORTANT FOR 10 YEARS AFTER THAT EVERYONE BE COUNTED. BE AWARE. DO YOUR PART.
Sponsored by the UUFP Social Justice Committee
The NAACP, Hampton Branch, and the United Way hosted a meeting with community leaders to kick-off awareness of the upcoming decennial census. Politicians led with the importance of getting people counted, as federal funding is based on census data. As well, apportionment of State Legislatures and the House of Representatives are census dependent. Traci DeShazor, Virginia’s Deputy Secretary of State, explained the existence and workings of the Virginia Complete Count Commission, who will be in the forefront of alerting and educating citizens. Ron Brown of the U. S. Census Bureau also echoed concerns brought up and took questions. There will be the ability to submit census information online for those able to do that. The census form will be in English and Spanish. Online and telephone callers will have access to 13 languages. Glossaries and other information will expand the languages to 59.
A group of speakers offered tips on dealing with distinct populations: Seniors, Hispanics/Latinx, those experiencing homelessness, Asians, and low-income residents. The census count depends on overcoming: fear of government, fear of loss of children or housing, privacy concerns, illiteracy by a respondent, and difficulty understanding English, which led to a major point of the gathering—those being counted hearing from people they trust about the importance an accurate count will have on them. One source being “counted” on will be school children bringing news of the census home to their parents/guardians.
The specifics show the importance. Children, five years old and younger are the most undercounted. Two million children were not counted in the 2010 census. Census data is used to advocate for children and others. Each uncounted person represents the loss of $2,000.00 in Federal revenue. In the State’s 95th District, Marcia Price’s in Newport News, 23% of residents have been designated “hard-to-count.”
The public information campaign, local, state, and national will start this fall. Census Day is April 1, 2020.
Virginia Complete Count Commission:
Census Jobs: https://2020census.gov/en/jobs
This year, we are taking our monthly themes from “Soul Matters”, a network of Unitarian Universalist congregations who follow the same themes for the purpose of sharing worship, music, religious education and small group resources.
Unless otherwise noted, services include sermons preached by the Rev. Andrew Clive Millard and take place at 9:30am and 11:15am on Sundays.
September 1st: “Living for Each Other”
For all of the cook-outs, car sales and consumerism, Labor Day was intended as a celebration of workers and their contributions to the prosperity, sustainability and well-being of our society. This year, Labor Day brings into focus the relationship between the two “pillar” Principles: the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Services will include a Blessing of the Backpacks for the new school year!
September 8th: “What Do We Expect of One Another?”
Unitarian Universalism is a covenantal faith in that we define ourselves as part of a UU community not by claiming that we hold to a certain set of beliefs, a creed, but rather by actively engaging in a process of making promises about how we intend to treat one another, a covenant. When it comes to what is expected of us and what we expect of one another, it’s best not to assume!
We’ll offer our Blessing to our Religious Educators for the new season of RE classes!
September 15th: “A Mending Grace”
If you tell a group of Unitarian Universalists that the “Grace of God” will “heal” them, in the best case scenario you’ll be asked to clarify your terms. Even our UU theists tend not to expect God’s grace to work without any human help. Is “healing” even a useful paradigm? If not, what should we expect from our faith and from each other when we feel the need to restore our souls?
Scott Kasmire officially joined Unitarian Universalism on Groundhog Day of 1997 for the purpose of having a religious preference embossed on his Navy dog tags. He has since been a member of UU churches in Florida, the Church of the Larger Fellowship and the UUFP. He currently serves the UUFP’s Mission as a member of the Committee on Ministry.
September 22nd: “Warts and All”
According to the ancient Greek writer Pausanias, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi offered the advice “know thyself” to seekers of wisdom. In his Poor Richard’s Almanack, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one's self.” And yet, we cannot really understand other people and the world we share unless we understand who we are.
September 29th: “Fruits of the Spirit”
This year, our Wednesday evenings have included workshops from the Tapestry of Faith program “Spirit of Life”, focusing on various aspects of spirituality as framed by the lyrics of the Carolyn McDade that we sing every Sunday. Now that these workshops have concluded, let’s reflect on the gifts of our shared journey, including what we have learned about ourselves and one another.
Special music will be provided by the fabulous ChorUUs!