Archive for May, 2013

May 30 2013

Building on what’s bright

Published by under Minister's Musings

What moments from the past nine months stand out for you in bright relief, as though backlit or perhaps even lit from within? In what moments, small or large, have you felt a sense of rightness, of comfort, contentment, passion, or joy? When have you met a challenge that brought out the best in you? When you have achieved something that makes you feel grateful and proud?

Shining star
Appreciative Inquiry asks us to look for such “sparkling moments” on our journey toward a goal, and then to build on the qualities of those moments in order to grow. The paradigm shift from solving a problem, which keeps us focused on what’s broken, to building on what’s healthy and bright releases energies we didn’t know we had.
Let’s say our goal is to live true to our values, to “make Love visible in word and deed,” as FUCSJ’s mission and vision put it. What bright moments from our life together this year at First Unitarian point us toward how we can grow next?
On a recent Thursday morning, Rev. Geoff and I sat down to list our sparkling moments for the 2012-13 church year. Here are just a few of mine – a deeply personal and very partial list of moments when I feel that you and I have been at our best.
Caring for each other: Like love itself, sometimes our brightest moments mingle joy with sorrow. Walking with long-time members Gene Martin and Anne Gunn in the last months of their lives, and then celebrating those beautiful lives with you, have been transformative for me this year. Now I see the ways in which we carry forward our love for them and their legacies to us. I am grateful, and I think of them every day.
These are just two of the losses we have suffered in our church family and extended family this year. What loves and legacies are you carrying forward? How have you been changed by the dear ones you have lost?
Sharing the ministries of this congregation: All our partnerships have grown stronger and deeper this year. My list of sparkling moments includes every single gathering with Worship Associates, Pastoral Associates, Small-Group Ministry Leaders and Content Team and the small groups themselves. Right now, the intense holy moments with our Search teams for our new Choir Director and for Office Manager (and the amazing pools of candidates we have had for both—such a sign of our health!) shine especially brightly. I love working with our strong, creative, dedicated officers and other elected/appointed leaders. I love all the ways in which you and I collaborate, making good ideas even better by working on them together. Who knew that meetings could satisfy the mind, heart, and spirit so deeply?
Every member has a ministry to offer to this spiritual cooperative. So tell me: What is your ministry within this congregation, and with whom do you share it? What bright moments have lit up your ministry this year? What inklings of discernment have you had about what you’d like to contribute? How will each of us grow in these ministries in the year to come?
Embracing 21st-Century Ways of Doing “Church”: The Pacific Western Regional Assembly, along with Rev. Geoff’s and my workshops and collegial conversations, offers exciting, urgent visions of how to be a spiritual community in the Media Age. Ministering with UUs beyond the walls of our congregation; “curating” on-line resources that people can access anywhere anytime for making meaning and making a difference; creating virtual connections through social media – these are the waves that we must catch and ride. The Program and Operations Council, including the ministers, are diving into the recreation of our website, with professional help. And I love my growing on-line ministries and the fresh possibilities for sharing Unitarian Universalist ways of living.
Have you “liked” FUCSJ’s Facebook page yet? It’s a great way to stay in touch. Feel free to “friend” me on Facebook, and at the same time, send me a message letting me know who is making that friend request.
The 21st-century congregation is not so much about bringing people into membership as it is about sending people out into the world to make a difference – that’s how the Rev. Christine Robinson puts it. So tell me: How are you expressing Unitarian Universalism beyond the walls of our beloved church? What is your “UU mission” in the world?
Working for Justice: No list of sparkling moments could be complete without mention of our powerful work to make this world a better place. Working for compassionate immigration reform, including the Teddy Bear Campaign, and passing a congregational resolution on the Rights of Nature, stand out for me here.
Weathering Life’s Storms: Not every transformative moment “sparkles,” of course. When we manage to learn and grow from life’s biggest challenges, we have so much to celebrate! On my list of “bright moments” is the difficult but important experience of ministering with you during my divorce in 2012. A divorce is never an easy passage, even when it is amicable, and I feel grateful and awed by how much support I have received and by how sustaining our ministries together have been through this tough life transition. Thank you, Beloved Community, for all your love!
There are so many bright moments I long to lift up; this list is partial, indeed. I would love to hear your lists, too. May you find time this summer—as I surely will—to reflect on the year just past so that in the year to come we can continue to build on our strengths, both personally and in community.
With much affection,
Rev. Nancy

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May 06 2013

Try Something Different!

Published by under Minister's Musings

You and I have spoken all these words, but as for the way
we have to go, words
are no preparation.
So begins a beautiful poem called “A Necessary Autumn Inside Each,” by the Sufi poet Rumi, found in The Soul of Rumi in Coleman Barks’s translation.
Something in me stirs whenever I hear a poet, prophet, or philosopher speak about the limits of our knowing. At that edge of what we know, we must step forward into the unknown or else turn back to the familiar and risk stagnation, a kind of death. As my friend Dr. Mark Hicks says, this limit of our knowing is where we “dance at the edge of meaning.” It is where we must learn something new. There, we have the choice to let go of old ways of living and being that no longer bring health, happiness, and wholeness to us and others. It’s where we dare to “try something different.”
Perhaps you are experiencing this edge of knowing in your own struggles to make sense of life.
Rumi’s poem concludes with this urging:
Very little grows on jagged
rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are. You’ve been
stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.
Photo of autumn leaf

I have included the term “surrender” among our transformational themes because of this mystical understanding of it: that when we “crumble,” wildflowers can grow up through us. This kind of surrender invites us to be humble yet open—to be “right-sized.” When we human beings are right-sized, we do not allow ourselves to feel puny or helpless, as though we have no agency to make ourselves and this world a better place. But neither do we see ourselves as all-knowing and all-powerful, as superior to or more important than other creatures. When we are right-sized, we find our true place in the interdependent web of all existence, and then, using our own best gifts and capacities, we participate in tikkun olam – the Hebrew term for healing the world – knowing that we can do much, yet that we always, always have more to learn.
As I write this essay, we have experienced a horrible week: explosions in Boston, a violent manhunt that continues even as I type; more explosions in Texas, more deaths and destruction; Congress turning down anti-violence bills that 90 percent of us support; and news from my colleagues ministering in the face of violence and loss in their local communities. It breaks my heart. An attitude of “letting go”
and “surrender” seems too passive in the face of so much that needs healing, changing, repairing.
And yet … Sometimes we are called to be still. To let go of our need to fix or control, which is so often driven by fear. We need instead to sit with our sadness, in community, recognizing how tragedy can bind us even closer into kinship. Kinship with all who endure violence daily; with all who cannot fathom how to heal their own suffering except through a violent lashing out; with all who generously weave webs of relative safety, comfort, care, and compassion; with all who mourn and with all who help us find ways to laugh and to rejoice in life and love once again.
Another poem speaks to this moment, and to our theme, too. In “The Real Work,” by Wendell Berry (Collected Poems), Berry says,
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work.
If we are not at least a little baffled by all that life presents to us, then we are not really showing up, this poet suggests. This is when our true journey begins. May this poet’s vision, like Rumi’s, help us move beyond the edge of our knowing into a new and softer place where we can be of use.
With love for the journey and for each of you,
Rev. Nancy

P.S. You can read the full poems on-line:
Rumi, “A Necessary Autumn Inside Each,” http://108zenbooks.com/2010/03/29/necessary-autumn/
Berry, “The Real Work,” http://www.panhala.net/archive/the_real_work.html

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