Archive for October, 2018

Oct 24 2018

November Journal – Taking It Home: Re-Membering Who We Are

Published by under Minister's Musings

Taking It Home: Re-Membering Who We Are

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones


All that we have ever loved

And all that we have ever been

Stands with us on the edge

Of all that we aspire to create:

A deeper peace,

A larger love,

A more embracing hope,

A deeper joy in this life we share.

Rev. Leslie Takahashi


           “What does it mean to be a people of Memory?” asks our November theme. With pressing worries and urgent calls to action demanding our attention at home and in the world, and with midterm elections and important propositions on the November 6 ballot, it may seem odd to turn our attention to memory this month. Do we have time for this? More specifically, who has time for this? Isn’t rummaging through the past a spiritual practice that only well-off folks can do?

           Our annual Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead celebration teaches us that the act of remembering can bring wholeness and strength to everyone. On Sunday, November 4, we bring to worship photos and mementos of our loved ones who have died—relatives, pets, and other important people who have had an influence on our lives. We place these symbols on our big bright altar, and we share memories about those lives. The spirits of those we love draw close, and we have a chance to learn from them once again.

           We bring the past into the present in order to know that we are not alone. As the Rev. Leslie Takahashi says in her poem, “all that we have ever loved and all that we have ever been stands with us”—right now. When we reach down to touch our deepest roots, when we call on the strength of our ancestors, we remember what makes us who we are today. We lift up the messy and painful memories as well as the joyful and encouraging ones. Because, as one of our Soul Matters friends says, “it is in the space of memory that we are somehow held together, and also re-assembled. As we remember, we are re-membered.” Naming where we come, and from whom, puts us back together again … better than before. With the practice of re-membering, we wake up to who we are now, to what we need to do, and to who we want to be as we do it.

           So here is the invitation to this month’s spiritual practice:

           Make a list of all the people and creatures you have loved, all the people and creatures who have made a difference in your life. Living or dead, these are beloveds who dwell in the spaces of our memory.

           Just jot down their names, or a brief description when you don’t know their names. Sometimes a chance encounter with a stranger can make a big difference in our lives, too.

           This doesn’t have to be a perfect, or complete, or even a very long list. Just let each beloved appear in your memory’s eye and ear for a moment, and make a note of them.

           As you add each name, let a specific memory or quality rise up about that beloved. Let it be the first thing or two that pops into your mind. Jot that down, too.

          For example, my list begins like this:

  • My mother Jane: Generosity. Books.
  • Rastus, our first dog: Companion. Softness.
  • Ellen: Laughter. Trust.

           Keep coming back to your list. Notice the gifts that each beloved has given you. Notice how they are part of who you are now, especially when you re-member them—when you bring them again into your awareness, when you let the accumulation of these gifts build and build into the complex, strong, shining person you are now.

            You can weave this practice into your life first thing in the morning or last thing at night. You can share it with family and friends of all ages over a meal. You can ponder it on your way to work or school. You can add to it every day, every week this month. Notice what changes for you through this practice of mindful memory. Notice how connecting with your roots gives you an anchor strong enough to keep you solidly planted, even when outside events might shake us all.

             “What does it mean to be a people of Memory?” Awake, alive, strong, ready to create a “larger love, a more embracing hope, a deeper joy in this life we share.” Come, let us re-member ourselves.


With love for who we are and all we bring,


Rev. Nancy

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Oct 24 2018

November Journal – In Our Own Voices: What does it mean to be a People of Memory?

Published by under Minister's Musings

In Our Own Voices

November 2018: What does it mean to be a People of Memory?

The Practice of Honest Remembrance

and Honoring All Our Ancestors and Predecessors

on Whose Shoulders We Rest

“In Our Own Voices” captures congregants’ thoughts and feelings on the theme of the month. This year, our Worship Associates offer their first responses to each theme. May these words inspire you, too, to ask:

  • How does this theme relate to my life?
  • What does it inspire in me?
  • How does it trouble or perplex me?
  • How can it help us to live our Unitarian Universalist faith?

Memory as Central to Our Being

  • Memory defines us and how we view others. It structures the patterns for our day.
  • Honest remembrance is a foundation for learning how to be, to love, and to exist.
  • The more honestly we seek to remember, the more honor we give to the remembered.
  • Let us use honest remembrance to support ourselves. When we made decisions that turned out to be bad ones, let us remember what we knew at the time. We may have been confused. We may have not had all the facts. We are human.

Changing Memories and Revisionist History

  • The process of remembering changes the memory. Is that a bad thing? Could we think of this process of remembering like alchemy transforming it into something more meaningful (gold)? That same process of change could produce lead—a memory that is self-serving, editing out the bad and keeping only what keeps us static and self-satisfied.
  • Revisionist history: how people mis-remember and how each person has a different set of memories of the same event
  • Was there an “honest” remembrance of Fr. Junipero Serra when he was canonized?
  • In our personal lives: changing the story depending on what happened later
  • When people die, people often tend to put them on a pedestal so high they are not recognizable! Or people focus on the good and tend to forget the less pleasant aspects of the lives and personalities of the deceased.

Learning from the Past

  • The African concept of Sankofa—moving forward while simultaneously returning to the past to bring forward valuable lessons. The concept of Sankofa is illustrated by a bird who flies forward while looking backwards, holding a precious egg in its mouth.
  • The New York Times offers obituaries of women who were all but forgotten and ignored.
  • What do we gain from working to remember? Bringing to consciousness, fresh air and sunlight … Getting rid of leftovers in the back of the fridge …

Unitarian Universalist History

  • I would like to hear more about Unitarian Universalist forbears on a regular basis (and not just the ones we hear about so often—Emerson, Thoreau, etc.). It would be so wonderful if everyone could hear about our history from Rev. Cat Cox, who did a fascinating series of presentations on UU history at the Leadership School I attended.
  • Focusing on the history of our past Unitarian Universalist leaders would be inspirational. What is “honest” remembering anyway? Why is this word used? I am guessing that it’s because some of our Unitarian Universalist history and other history have been whitewashed over time and no longer reflect the reality of the times.
  • Why does it matter that we acknowledge and share the truth about our religion’s (and our congregation’s) past injustices to people and communities of color? What do we learn now from looking at the past?

Memory as Healing—and as Traumatic

  • This is a loaded topic for many of us who have very negative childhood memories. Looking at our own pasts through the lens of age and experience could be very healing. And it could be a minefield for some folks and would need careful handling. Some shoulders are hard to acknowledge even if they did exist. Much pastoral input would be needed.
  • Looking back at early sources of feelings in our lives. For example, what is the youngest I can remember feeling shame?

The Science of Memory

  • It might be interesting to look into the science of memory. Much work has been done on this subject.
  • The amazing function of the mind. How does it possibly work?

Muscle Memory and Intentionality

  • How have I gotten by without intentionality? It’s like proprioception—“the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself” ( We do something without conscious thought but with muscle memory.
  • In music lessons, I had very little conscious thought about the instruction I was being given, but it must have gotten through to my memory anyway, because I improved and people seemed to think I was doing well. It’s perplexing how that can be. For example, I don’t remember ever thinking, “Okay, I’m coming close to the frog of the bow, so I need to lighten up the pressure.” Nor did I ever think, “This needs to be louder, so I need to press more with my index finger and bring the bow closer to the bridge.” I just learned to do it. Did that actually set up a pattern in me that worked well in the violin/ viola setting but not so well in others? Did I come to believe I didn’t have to work consciously to learn?

Losing Memory

  • Losing memory for those of us that are approaching or have reached our senior years is scary. Could our companions on our journey care for us by remembering that which we don’t want to forget?

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