Mar 24 2017

April Theme: The Boundaries That Heal and That Harm Us

Published by under Minister's Musings

The Door in the Wall
by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

Did you see the ad that Lumber 84 created for February’s Super Bowl this year? Not the edited version that the Fox television network aired. Fox asked the company to cut out the “controversial parts.” The aired ad is titled “The Journey Begins.”
No, I want you to see the original version, called “The Entire Journey.” I hope you will watch it as a form of spiritual practice—a way of engaging with our April theme: The Boundaries That Heal and That Harm Us.
Super Bowl ads reach millions of people. This year, some companies’ ads use their visuals and casting to make a timely statement about who’s included and who’s not in the midst of a rising national rhetoric of disrespect and exclusion. The tools that ads use may be bold and blunt or subtle and shaded. But the choices the companies make mirror or challenge our current cultural climate. Paying attention to these social commentaries makes us smarter about how we fulfill our mission at First Unitarian—to Make Love Visible in all that we say and do.
So, please take a moment to center yourself, to breathe and open your mind and heart to what the senses may receive. Set aside what you may have heard about this ad or what you have felt when you watched it before. Set aside even what you feel about rampant, expensive commercialism. Just pay attention to the story, as you would to a movie or to a fable.
You can find the full ad here: Let me describe what I see:
A mother and daughter wake at first light in a Latin American country. “Are you ready?” Mom asks. “Yes!” says the little girl. The mom slips snapshots of a missing loved one into her backpack. They kiss a grandfather goodbye. “Take care of yourself,” he says tenderly, and offers the girl a sweet treat to savor later on her journey. The leavetaking is poignant. Mother and daughter are migrants, seeking to unite their family on the other side of the border.
Mother and daughter pay to climb aboard a truck for the first part of the journey. Then they walk through long stretches of arid landscapes, follow train tracks, get hauled up into moving boxcars. They cross fields, move through canyons, ford creeks, run from the rain, sit at makeshift campfires. The girl collects scraps of plastic, woven material, stray buttons. They ask for precious sips of water from other migrants’ dusty bottles. The journey is long, hard, often lonely.
Interspersed with their trek we see images of workmen with clean cold water bottles in hand, transporting lumber, stapling materials together, pausing to admire their work. What are they building? Could it be a wall?
Sure enough, mother and daughter come over a rise and look down. Disappointment streaks their faces. The border wall snakes through the desert—a tall, slick boundary that stops them in their tracks. The little girl, seeing her mother’s tears, offers her the scraggly United States flag that she has pieced together from the scraps.
And then they notice a beam of light coming from a place in the wall that they can’t yet see. When they move toward it, they find a giant door in the wall. The workmen were building a door, not a wall! Mother and daughter push, and—amazingly—the door swings open, unlocked. They step forward into the dusty sunlit landscape on the other side. “The will to succeed is always welcome here” flashes across the screen.
What do you feel? If this ad is our theological text, what messages do you take away?
Company spokespeople have said that they did not intend to make a “political statement” with this ad. But the story has a life of its own. We see—we are meant to see—mother and daughter as members of our own family. The wall is a boundary that harms not just them, but us. We want them to arrive. If there’s a wall, it’s up to us to ensure that the door is huge and that it swings open, unlocked. We have work to do.
This month we acknowledge the boundaries that we do indeed need in order to stay safe and healthy—personal and communal boundaries that say no to abuse of all sorts. We also look at those boundaries that we need to tear down—in our hearts and minds, and in our culture. I hope you will join us!

Grateful to be with you for the Entire Journey,

Rev. Nancy

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Feb 17 2017

March Theme: Empathy

Published by under Minister's Musings

Empathy: Bridging the Impossible Chasms

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

It’s May 2016, and First Unitarian’s Worship Associates and I stand in front of a flipchart sheet fluttering with sticky notes and scribbled over with words. We have taped flipchart paper to every door, wall, and window in the Fireside Room—one for each month in this congregational year. (Pro tip: The thematic year runs from September 2016 through May 2017; we usually fly free-form in the summers.)

Some of the other pages around the room read “Change,” “Earth,” “Kinship and Friendship.” They too draw lots of input as we brainstorm what these concepts mean for us human beings, trying to make sense of life and struggling with the challenges of these very times.

But at least on those flipchart sheets, the titles don’t take up much room.

On the one for March 2017, though, a line of words scrolls across the top of the page:

Understanding the Other; Understanding “the Other”(?); Civility; Dialogue

That’s why we stand there pondering …

What’s the impulse, and where’s the pain, behind these words? Why do we worship leaders intuitively cluster them together? What do we humans long to heal and what do we hope to understand when we touch the tender spots pointed to by these words?

Already in May 2016, the psychic pain of our sense of separation from each other, and the actual physical and emotional hurt of the distances between us, feel almost unbearable. The situation is both personal and communal. Here at First Unitarian we have awakened to the impact of injustices rooted in centuries of social hierarchies ascribing better-than and less-than status to people and creatures based on differing identities or attributes. The legacy of those injustices, and the ways in which they are perpetuated, come home through our own and our friends’ experiences every day. And the news—oh, the news confirms that all too often we are drifting or racing, apart.

So we worship leaders feel the hunger of the congregation: Can we humans understand each other across our differences? Can we figure out why and how we create a sense of “otherness”? Is this an immutable habit of human nature? And is there actually something to celebrate, rather than bemoan or dis, about being “other”?

Then, can we restore a common sense of citizenship (the root of civility) across all borders? Can we develop our capacity for real dialogue—that exchange of words among two or more people conversing, changing directions back and forth—so that we all really grow and change as a result?

Today, in March 2017, the chasms we sense almost a year ago seem even more apparent, more destructive, and perhaps less bridgeable.

But here’s the good news: we humans have the capacity for empathy. We can vicariously feel another’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Please note: like love, empathy is not a soft and squishy feel-good exercise. It takes courage, stamina, humility, and broken-openheartedness. It’s a muscle we must build. But empathy gives us a new place to stand in relation to each other. We don’t have to remain separate. We can bridge those chasms.

You see what we worship leaders did there? We took that long string of words—those aching hungers—and transformed them into one affirmation of what we can actually do and how we can really grow.

Are you ready, Beloved Community?

With vast readiness to be learning and growing with you once more,


Rev. Nancy

Returning from sabbatical on March 15!

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Sep 26 2016

Frequently Asked Questions About Rev. Nancy’s Sabbatical!

Published by under Minister's Musings

When can we talk with Rev. Nancy about this sabbatical?
Please join Rev. Nancy for a free-flowing conversation about her sabbatical, following worship on Sunday, October 9, at 12:30 p.m. in the Ramsden Fireside Room. In worship that morning, Rev. Nancy will offer her wishes for the congregation during this time apart. Come to the Fireside Room after worship with your questions, curiosities, and good wishes!
Bonus: At this gathering, you will also get an update from our Treasurer about First Unitarian’s financial health so far this year. What a team!
Here are Rev. Nancy’s answers to frequently asked questions about sabbaticals in general, and about this sabbatical in particular.
When is this sabbatical again?
My sabbatical begins on Saturday, October 15, 2016, and I return five months later, on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.
Who’s “in charge” while Rev. Nancy is away?
Rev. Geoff Rimositis will serve as Lead Sabbatical Minister. Over his 25 years in the ministry, Rev. Geoff has taken on this role many times, but is especially excited about this one. Just back from his own sabbatical, he brings renewed energy and vision, and a passion for all the growth and opportunity afoot at First Unitarian right now! Intern Minister Rodney Lemery joins our ministerial team, learning and growing alongside us. Our Office Manager Sharmeen Enayat can answer questions about space use and events. And our volunteer leaders will actually run the congregation and all our programs—as they are already called to do!           
            Before I leave, we will produce a list of “whom to call” (or email) for different aspects of our congregational life while I am away. In fact, even when I am not away, often you should reach out to these lay leaders or other staff members for answers to your questions and help with your needs, rather than turning to the Senior Minister each time. This is a chance for us to establish some new and healthier habits that will sustain us all over the long haul!
How does a congregation benefit from a minister’s sabbatical?
A minister’s sabbatical—especially the Senior Minister’s sabbatical—gives the congregation a chance to remember and experience how amazing YOU are. Without one individual serving as the symbolic focal point of congregational life—as my role often does—long-time members and brand-new visitors alike see how lively and shared our ministries really are. The imaginative, heartfelt, consistent work that our volunteers are already doing—to run the congregation; to present special events; to keep worship vital, meaningful, and creative; to offer deep and loving care to all in need; and more—all of these things become visible, and grow stronger, when the Senior Minister is away.
          In the next five months, you will hear new voices in worship—and I urge you to SHOW UP on Sundays to honor these very special guests; truly they are all-stars in the firmament of San José’s faith communities! You will celebrate our 150th Anniversary of Making Love Visible with the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the President’s Council (Sunday, November 13)! You will weather the storms of this election season, participate in Voter Engagement, and show up for our ministries in the public square, setting a tone for what we need to be and do as a faith community in the difficult months and years to come. For our work is ever evolving; we don’t want to lose any momentum now.
          When I return, we will meet each other with renewed strength and commitment! I can’t wait … But first, we all need this sabbatical.
How do ministers earn their sabbaticals, and how long are they usually?
For every year of service, a minister earns one month of sabbatical, up to six months total. The sabbatical “clock” restarts when the minister returns from a sabbatical. The time away can include that year’s month of vacation time, as long as the total does not exceed six months. My first sabbatical took place January to June 2011, so this sabbatical arrives right on time.
What’s the difference among “sabbaticals,” “study breaks,” and “vacations”?
It’s confusing, right? My Letter of Agreement with you (our “contract”) follows the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association guidelines. Every year I get one month of study break and one month of vacation. This plan recognizes ministers’ need for ongoing study as well as rest and refreshment. Each year, I usually break up these benefits into chunks, taking shorter breaks during the main part of our “church year,” and a bigger chunk during the summer. In the last two years, all of this time away has been spent researching my book project.
          A sabbatical offers an extended period of time away. Everything goes deeper with this extra time: completing a major project (see “book project”!), learning new skills, deepening my spiritual life, exploring new practices in ministry, “thinking outside the box,” establishing a renewed balance between personal and professional life, returning with fresh energy …
Why do ministers get sabbaticals?
In a just world, EVERYONE would get a sabbatical! Ministerial life also presents special challenges. Here are just a few of the things I am called to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis: preach, teach, offer spiritual guidance and pastoral care, inspire (suggest?) a vision for our work together, manage some of the programs that bring this vision to life, speak for our faith in the public square, engage in community organizing and transformational change, study, write, tell stories, answer emails, make calls, rally the staff, coach congregational leaders … Well, you get the picture!
          Congregational ministry is often a 24/7 job, despite our combined best efforts to bring it down to 24/6 or better. It wakes us ministers up at night; it occupies 90-95% of our waking thoughts; it both lifts and burdens our hearts; it stretches us to be better people than we could have imagined being. It is challenging, exhausting, sometimes hard on friends and family—yet filled on a daily basis with unexpected grace and beauty. I love it. I am grateful for it.
          So: ministers really need sabbatical time to step away from the “tyranny of the urgent”  and rest, reflect, reconnect with friends and family, get the “big picture” of where we’re going together—and complete major projects! For instance …
How will Rev. Nancy spend this sabbatical?
I will complete my major book-writing project, which has been in the works for two years! During this sabbatical, co-author Karin Lin and I will actually write the book we have been researching for Skinner House Books: “The Joy of the Journey: Unitarian Universalist Congregations on the Road to Multiculturalism” (working title, forthcoming fall 2017). I am the primary writer, with Karin editing and consulting every step of the way. So I will be visiting lots of libraries and coffee shops on my travels, where I will be getting all those words on the page. Over the course of this project, Karin and I have grown into a transformative relationship, learned so much about ourselves and the congregations we have studied, and we have finally reached the point where we are ready to risk sharing our truths and observations, our hopes and dreams for our faith in this timely journey toward a multicultural, antiracist, 21st-century Unitarian Universalism.
You have my heartfelt thanks and love for the wise and generous practice of offering your ministers sabbaticals! Please do join me for a free-flowing conversation following worship on Sunday, October 9, at 12:30 p.m. in the Ramsden Fireside Room. Come to worship at 11:00 where I will offer my wishes for the congregation; then come to the Fireside Room after worship with your questions, curiosities, and good wishes!
With all my love,
Rev. Nancy

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Sep 23 2016

October Theme: Living with Our Fears

Published by under Minister's Musings

flower for October essay

“I Need You to Survive”

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

As I write on September 23, it has been an especially hard week for all of us committed to the Movement for Black Lives. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a police officer shoots and kills Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African-American man seeking help because his car has broken down. In Charlotte, North Carolina, Keith Lamont Scott, also African American, dies after being shot by police under unclear circumstances, and the community’s decades-long—no, centuries-long frustrations erupt in protests. Our Unitarian Universalist colleagues in these towns issue powerful statements of grief and solidarity. My heart is heavy.

At the same time, my commitment to our own work here in San José and Santa Clara County grows fiercer. We are building multiracial, multifaith, multigenerational, justice-seeking community here through the Beloved Community Movement, which brings law enforcement, elected officials, faith leaders, and community together to create transparency, trust, mutual respect, and even—dare I say it?—affection across all our relationships and our practices. A movement for justice and the recognition of the sacred value of life—I am so grateful that we at First Unitarian are part of it. You can join in through the Voter Engagement Campaign—never has it been more important to show up, beloveds!

It is also poignant that in this week of tragic loss and unrest, we could watch our Unitarian ancestors, the Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp, “defying the Nazis” (the title of Ken Burns’s documentary). During World War II, the Sharps go behind enemy lines again and again to rescue those most at risk of extermination. Such models of courage, of putting our faith into action! Please watch for a showing of this documentary at FUCSJ in the months to come. Today, I ask myself: Would I have been that courageous then? Can I be that courageous now?

In times such as these, when sorrows combine with so many other traumas and uncertainties, I keep repeating: We not only need to act in solidarity with each other and with those most at risk, but we also need to double-down on the spiritual practices that ground our actions in faith, hope, and love. Our capacity to Make Love Visible in all that we do and say is only as strong and wide as our foundation in our faith, in our connection to our deepest selves and to that Something More within us and beyond us.

So yesterday, I set out on one of my Morning Walks. These Morning Walks are my prime urban spiritual practice, but they have been in short supply lately, as I race to accomplish all that must be done before I leave on sabbatical on October 15. With a heavy, hungry heart yesterday, I go looking for some shout of abundant Life from the earth, and some link to centuries of human good.

Sure enough, within a block, this multicolored daisy-like creature reaches out over the sidewalk on her slender stem, casting a filigreed shadow on the cement. She lifts her head, directly in my path, and says, as clearly as if she really does speak English: “STOP!”

“Oh, you beauty,” I breathe. I pause to take a photo. And as I walk on, David Frazier’s gospel song begins to thrum over and over inside until it rings out: “I need you, you need me, we’re all a part of God’s body … I pray for you, you pray for me, I need you to survive, I won’t harm you with words from my mouth, I love you, I need you to survive …”

Friends, though we may be physically apart during my book-writing sabbatical (October 15-March 13), we need not fear that we are ever truly separated. We are, each and every one of us, part of one Sangha body, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, working together for the good of all. “I need you, you need me”—yes! And oh, how I love you! We need each other to survive, and equally, we need each other to fulfill our call: to further the abundance of Life on this earth and to carry forward centuries of human good! I can’t wait to share what wonders we discover, what hope we create, and what community we build during the time that I am away!

Now: please go watch and hear Dr. Glen Thomas Rideout (director of music and worship at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor) lead the General Assembly 2016 Choir in David Frazier’s gorgeous song, “I Need You to Survive”:


with all my love,


Rev. Nancy


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Aug 26 2016

September Theme: Change

Published by under Minister's Musings

The Changes We Embrace for the Sake of Beloved Community

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

In the first days and weeks following the tragedies of September 11, 2001, New York City, still shrouded in ash, transforms itself from a hub of harried competitors, anxious seekers, and disoriented tourists into a family of compassionate, loving kindred. People are united—and this is important—not by a common enemy but by shared loss and sharp grief. The World Trade Center towers and the first responders represent every race, religion, nationality, and class in the world. Everyone of every age knows someone who has died or someone who is directly affected by the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job.
Yet in the midst of horror, beauty erupts. People open their homes, offer free rides, and show up with pastoral care and doughnuts for those working in the rubble of the towers. They make hard calls to next of kin. They find ways to comfort their children. They look at each other gently; they ask the deep questions and answer honestly. They gather in houses of worship to mourn and begin to make meaning. They make meaning by building Beloved Community.
In honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and in the face of today’s divisive national mood, the 9/11 Day group, including family members and survivors of the tragedy, has formed a coalition of nonprofits. Called “Tomorrow Together,” they will “organize diversity service projects, help teach empathy and unity to America’s youth, and bring generations together nationwide for community service.” David Paine, president and cofounder of 9/11 Day, says, “Our goal with ‘Tomorrow Together’ is to rekindle and reinforce the important lessons of empathy, service and unity that arose from the 9/11 tragedy, and to encourage all Americans and our leaders to work more closely together again as one nation to address the challenges facing our society.”

Join Us for Acts of Service
On Sunday, September 11, we launch our own recommitment to service by participating in the collection of much-needed items for our unhoused neighbors and kin who are served by the Julian Street Inn. Please see the list of needed items elsewhere in this newsletter, and bring your gifts to the entryway of the church before the 11:00 a.m. worship service on September 11. Our children and youth will parade in with these contributions as worship begins.

A Call for Deeper Changes
To embody empathy and unity, and to continue to build Beloved Community here at First Unitarian, we must “double down” on the spiritual practices that lead us to our best selves and to deeper connections, collaborations, solidarity, and community. In Joyfully Together: The Art of Building a Harmonious Community, Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (known as “Thay,” for “teacher” in Vietnamese) offers some deceptively simple yet profound spiritual practices, including these two:
1. “The Art of Watering Flowers”: “‘Watering flowers,’” Thay writes, “means giving encouragement by showing someone … their good qualities and our appreciation of those qualities…. The practice of watering flowers is an expression of our gratitude. When we are grateful we will no longer suffer so much.” As a community, we here at FUCSJ have lived through great trauma in recent months. Let us practice looking at each other gently. Let us ask the deep questions—“How are you really?”—and answer honestly. Most of all, let us speak and write and name our appreciations for each other’s beautiful qualities and generous actions. Our parched souls need the water—and we have this kind of water in abundance!
2. “Shining Light”: Shining light is the tender, loving practice of inviting each other to our best selves when we have made a hurtful mistake, whether intentionally or unintentionally. As Thay says, we are “the bones and flesh of the same Sangha [community] body.” So if we shine light on another’s mis-step, we are truly shining light on our own mistakes. This is not about “policing” each other’s behaviors! Rather, I’m inviting us to acknowledge our own mistakes and to encourage others to change with us as we recognize the flaws we share. For instance, as many of you know, I can “blurt” or snap at someone when I am particularly stressed or frustrated. It’s a sad flaw that I’m working hard to change. Recently I was reminded of just how hurtful this blurting can be; the wound I have inflicted can still smart years later, even when I have apologized quickly and tried to return to right relationship. It matters what we do and say! In our community, it’s particularly important that we slow down and think before we blurt or tease. That teasing comment may come across as hurtful. Without our meaning to, we may reinscribe a racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic, or ableist stereotype with our awkward attempt at humor. Let’s shine light on our own beautiful, broken selves, and practice a deeper mindfulness: slowing down and considering how we want to act and speak with each other, and gently reminding each other of our call to Make Love Visible in all we do and say, when we make a mistake.

With deep love for you and gratitude for this journey we share,

Rev. Nancy

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Jul 22 2016

Mission Statement & Vision 2020

Published by under Minister's Musings

Mission Statement

Bound together by our commitment to making Love visible, we gather to deepen our spirits, to work for justice, and to create one sacred family.

Vision 2020

In 2020 at the First Unitarian Church of San José, we see:



  • Worship, classes, and activities that deepen personal spiritual development and encourage the expression in the world of one’s faith
  • Congregation-wide participation in activities that promote multicultural, anti-racist, anti-oppressive competencies, including deep listening, compassionate communication, and understanding of systems of oppression
  • Experiences in worship services, in church events, and through visual displays that deepen one’s awareness of multiple faiths and practices



  • A robust membership support system that engages everyone from first-time visitors to long-time members and friends through programs that include social events and celebrations, diverse support groups, and service to the congregation and to the community
  • Children, youth, and young adults at the center of congregational life through classes, projects, worship, and intergenerational experiences
  • Our facilities structurally sound and updated to support our ministries



  • Coalitions and alliances with interfaith, Unitarian Universalist, and secular organizations working for racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice


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Jul 22 2016

August Journal: Habits of the Heart for Times Such as These

Published by under Minister's Musings

Habits of the Heart for Times Such as These
by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones
Every day throughout my teenage years, my father sits at the kitchen table in the early morning hours, a cup of coffee by his side, a yellow legal pad before him, and a pencil in his hand. He is making a list (or five, or ten): lists of to-do’s for that day and that week; lists of his dreams and of steps to accomplish them; lists of instructions to give his colleagues, or his family, or the Sunday school class he’ll teach that weekend; lists of jokes to share with those very same people, bless him.
            For years, I railed against the content of my father’s lists, especially when they offered helpful but unasked-for advice for me. Little did I know how deeply this spiritual practice of my father’s—the chaos-reducing, brain-freeing, creativity-encouraging practice of list making—was seeping into my soul.
Nowadays, especially when our world—locally, nationally, personally, publicly—feels chaotic, traumatic, exhausting, and confused, I find it helpful to ground myself in this spiritual practice. I make, or I find, a list or lists that offer a pathway to clarity, peace, and a renewed sense of gladness about being alive. And lo and behold, I have found just such a list this week!
But first, a little context:
Habits of the Heart
What is a spiritual practice, after all, if not a “habit of the heart,” as writer-teacher Parker Palmer calls them? We find an activity that grounds us in our best selves and that opens our minds and hearts to new ways of seeing, thinking, being. Maybe our spiritual practice involves making lists, or praying, meditating, taking photographs, drumming, dancing, singing, beading, journaling, washing the dishes, serving meals to those in need … Actually, anything can be a spiritual practice when we bring a mindful intention to it. We practice and practice these activities until they become a habit of the heart, a steady portal into a new way of being in the world. We practice and practice, and gradually we feel ourselves beginning to change, with the side effect that our capacity to change the world around us grows, too.
In Times Such as These
As I write, the temperature of the national presidential election season has skyrocketed, with the major parties’ national conventions bringing heated rhetoric and sometimes-alarming surprises. We Unitarian Universalists feel, too, the pain of this summer’s brutal losses—the deaths of citizens and police officers; violence near and far; needs beyond our capacities to fix in any simple or straightforward way.
            Yet this week, just when I need it most, I come across a wonderful list. Parker Palmer lists five “Habits of the Heart” to help “heal the heart of democracy.” And it strikes me that Palmer’s list applies not just to our political system—though God knows we need these habits there. It can also remind us, dear ones, of the habits of the heart that we need as we strive to create the Beloved Community right here and now.
The List—Five Habits of the Heart for Us to Practice:
1. An understanding that we are all in this together.
2. An appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.
4. A sense of personal voice and agency.
5. A capacity to create community.[1]
What We Do Now
This list will not surprise us Unitarian Universalists. It echoes our core principles and the very mission of our congregation.
But in times such as these, the ground of our faith must prove its strength. We must “double down” on the spiritual practices that lead us to our best selves and to deeper connections, collaborations, solidarity, and community. What we do now matters!
            So: let’s plunge in. Let’s double down on the spiritual practices that give us the strength, hope, and courage to change and to be agents of change. We need such habits of the heart for these crucial times. I can’t wait to participate in what we will create!
With deep love for you and gratitude for this journey we share,
Rev. Nancy

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May 20 2016

May Theme: Letting Go

Published by under Minister's Musings

All Hands on Deck!
Uniting Our Forces for Justice in This Election Season
by the Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones
We have a crucial opportunity to make a difference during this election season by calling “all hands on deck” for the Voter Engagement Campaign that People Acting in Community Together (PACT) is organizing across our county and that its parent organization PICO is organizing across the country. 
What Is the Voter Engagement Campaign?
The Voter Engagement Campaign aims to:
1. Strengthen PACT’s power and each participating congregation’s power and effectiveness—by showing how many folks we reach county-wide, and by experiencing the impact we have as a team! (Imagine how persuasive our meetings with decision makers will be in years to come if we can show that we have had an impact on a great number of voters this season.)
2. Transform the electorate by focusing on people who have been excluded from the democratic process but who can and need to have a voice.
Each PACT congregation will set up a team of people willing to work in five areas:
— door knocking (in partnership with other congregations’ teams, like our friends at Our Lady of Guadalupe, or Most Holy Trinity, and many more whom we will meet as we partner)
— phone banking (we are pros at this!)
— data collection (perfect job for the computer-savvy quieter folks among us—lots of data entry to keep track of how many people we reach—this is what builds power for us as PACT!)
— voter registration and pledges (in areas where this will have the most impact)
— coordinating the team’s efforts and communicating with other teams
PACT will provide training for the Voter Engagement Campaign, and will bring groups of folks together across congregations based on which role(s) they want to play.
In our work for immigration reform over the past ten years, we have experienced the life-changing joy and power of building relationships across congregations and cultures. The Voter Engagement Campaign offers us a similar chance to expand our hearts and lives by connecting with our neighbors across the county.
Time Commitment:
Each volunteer can control how many hours they put into this work. The more people involved, the less any one person will need to do.
On Sunday, June 19, we will offer a worship service that explores the underlying forces driving this disturbing election season. What pain and anger cause such extremism? How do we feel compassion for those whose views not only differ from ours but seem downright dangerous? What does our Unitarian Universalist faith call us to do at such a time as this?
After worship that same Sunday, PACT will offer a training for all who want to participate in the Voter Engagement Campaign. Please join us for both worship and training on Sunday, June 19!
What Can You Do?
·         Say “YES” if and when our PACT-staff organizer Jesús Ruiz calls and asks you to join a training and a team!
·         RSVP ASAP for the training on Sunday, June 19, at 12:45 p.m. at FUCSJ (room TBA), where PACT staff will get us ready to jump in with other congregations. RSVP to Office Manager Sharmeen
·         Invite friends to join you on the FUCSJ team!
“Why Us, Rev. Nancy?”
Friends, together we have the passion, leadership, engagement, and concern for the well-being of all peoples and creatures—and of the planet itself—that calls us to make a difference in our community. So much is at stake in this year’s election, not just because of the election of a new president who will set tone and direction for the country but also because of numerous crucial bills and measures that reflect on our care and inclusion of all. Each of us has particular gifts to bring to this campaign—and each of us has friends who will also say “yes” to participating when YOU invite them to join.
Let’s SHOW UP!
We can’t sit this election out. It’s about much more than just making sure that we ourselves vote. It’s about more than just registering more voters. It’s about affirming our deepest values for the direction of our community and our country. It’s about building networks and power so that we can be even more effective in the future.
       And most of all, it’s about RELATIONSHIP. It’s about our kinship with each other and all around us. It’s about Making Love Visible.
I hope you’ll join me in this campaign.
With my love,
Rev. Nancy

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Mar 28 2016

April Theme: Coming Home

Published by under Minister's Musings

What We Long For

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

What word or words describe what you most long for in your life this year? Another way to put it: What words describe your goals for yourself these days?

          And what words describe what you most long for in our congregational community? What goals would you set for this community in the days, weeks, months, and years to come?

          Since January, I have collected answers to these questions from members of our spiritual home. The range of answers demonstrates our rich diversity. The repetition of some words reveals some common threads. I have asked our newsletter editors to create “word clouds” out of these words—one for our personal longings, another for our longings for First Unitarian. In a word cloud, repeated words and ideas show up in a larger font.

          Yet every one of these words represents a “font” of longing and of wisdom. Where do you find your hopes and dreams for yourself, and for our beloved community, in these “clouds”?

How shall we ground these hopes and dreams—how shall we grow them—in this, our spiritual home?

It’s going to be a beautiful month at FUCSJ. I’ll see you in church!

For Ourselves:


For Our Community:



With you on the journey, with love,

Rev. Nancy

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Feb 26 2016

March Theme: Refilling the Well

Published by under Minister's Musings

We Are Enough: How Healing Begins

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

Please: Stop for a moment.



For these few minutes, watching the words scroll across your screen or holding this journal in your hand, you do not need to “do” anything more than open yourself to this instant. Let the words roll or tumble or stroll into your mind and heart. If something interests or inspires you, that’s lovely. If not, that’s OK, too.

These moments of rest are yours. A time to remember that we—all of us—already are enough. Sure, we all want to continue to grow—at least, I hope we do! Yet who we are right now, just as we are—that’s good. That’s enough.

No need to beat ourselves up for mistakes we have made or for what we have yet to do.

No reason at all to believe the great lie that you may have heard someplace—that you are not as beautiful, loving, and lovable as you truly are.

Right here and now, see yourself as a sponge, soaking up these words, these true words:

You, I, we are enough.

We are enough.



Let a smile play across your lips.

Or not.

We are enough.

We humans—especially we humans living in this valley—harm ourselves when we absorb the messages of our larger society, messages that say we are not enough. Sometimes we ourselves double-down on the harm of not-enoughness—by working ourselves into the ground, or by pumping up our ego in compensation, or by hurting our relationships through lack of care, understanding, and simple presence. Sometimes it’s our situation that double-downs on the harm, such as when a lack of resources or unjust and oppressive systems make it impossible for us to rest if we hope to keep ourselves and our loved ones housed and fed.

We need to understand these harms and their sources in order to reconnect with our deepest, most abiding sources of replenishment.

Our congregants’ range of responses to this month’s theme of “Refilling the Well” offer suggestions for healing. You can see many of these responses in “In Our Own Voices” in this issue. I confess: I’m the one who writes, “I know all too well those moments when my spiritual and emotional well runs dry. Would it be possible to keep my water jugs fairly full all the time, or am I destined to lurch from oasis to oasis, gulping thirstily at the things that replenish me?” Would my stores of spiritual water run low if I really had the assurance—which Unitarian Universalism offers—that I am already enough?

Some congregants’ responses refer to literal water. In our drought-stricken state (multiple meanings intended), the longing for cool, refreshing, clean water in abundant quantities lies just below the surface of our conscious thoughts and feelings—except when it bubbles over into active anxiety.

We are afraid that there isn’t enough.

“It’s interesting to think of the literal meaning of ‘refilling the well,’” one congregant writes. “A well is not like a glass or a reservoir that needs to be refilled. A well is presumably refilled by the Earth if humans haven’t drawn too much from the aquifer. Following that view of the phrase, you could talk about stopping whatever harmful things we’re doing and then allowing the well to refill (or heal) naturally. Would it help if we used that as a metaphor for other aspects of our life?”

This month at First Unitarian we offer abundant spiritual offerings for refilling the well, from the range of worship services and small groups, to the all-church party on March 13, to Easter’s Flower Communion featuring the folk duo emma’s revolution! This month, may our natural healing begin, as we take in this assurance of our faith:

We are enough.

We are enough.

We are enough!

With love and faith,

Rev. Nancy

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