Happy Things and Lots of Exclamation Points!!!!!!

Yeah, I, too, have noticed that the communications from people in my line of work often contain a humorous number of exclamation points, smiley faces, and generally excited messages. We are a people passionate about our work- enthusiastic about the truly beautiful opportunities for connection and grace in our programs. Sometimes, it can get a bit out of hand, so today I offer a slightly different tone. Yes, I still want to communicate the amazing, transformative energy of our program, but maybe with more question marks.

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Living a faith-full life is challenging. Navigating the decisions of every day amid distractions and disappointments is hard work. Paradoxically, developing our hearts and minds calls us to stay open. Whether we are adults, youth, or children, the complicated business of getting through a day with an intact soul takes all the energy we’ve got. Can our church be not merely a place of refuge, but one of recharge, re-forming, and respect?

Our Unitarian Universalism wants to connect us with the power of Love. Our Unitarian Universalism wants us to build Beloved Community. Connecting with the power takes energy. Building anything stable takes solid materials and tools. What happens when we do not possess these resources? How can we make sure everyone has access to the healing, creative force that our church community can give?

All our congregations are experiencing declines in attendance and membership. Why are we losing ground? Why are the numbers dwindling? Partly it is the culture that surrounds us. Perhaps you have been following the series on NPR about the growth of the “nones” – the people without religious affiliation.  Could it be that we are focused on only one type of growth- numbers? What about developing other kinds of growth in the faith formation of the folks who are already in the pews (or even our members who are staying home on Sunday!)

This big hot mess we are living is you, me, them, and even those folks over there. All of us. When our conversations see the whole crowd and considers each voice as important, then I know our intentions have become reality.

When the experience of the child is considered wisdom for the Board table, then I know that our Principles are more than words.

When the door is held open for the parent, not for a tip, but to give respite from a world of fear and pain, then I see our compassion.

When we learn how to trust from Youth and give them cause to respect us, then I know we understand the chicken and the egg.

How might we imagine a better way? How might we support our people, even if it means we have to make changes? Can we honestly face the reality that changes need to happen, and be ready for something good to be just over the horizon?

This is the part where it helps to have faith. While I don’t know where we are headed or how we will get there, I do believe that the power of Love expands beyond our wildest imaginings. I know that when we tune into the frequency of connection, of caring, of creativity, then it is a tremendous force for life. And I know I don’t want to miss it happening. Woyaya. We are going.

When Hope Is Hard To Find

Last Friday the world came to a stop. Too many children’s and adults’ lives ended senselessly. We are stunned, scared, and sad. For days we have cycled between tears and rage, bewilderment and determination for change. All of these feelings are right, and normal, and need to be felt. It may be a while before we find our balance, before we can turn to the lawmakers for action, before turn to each other for a shift in our culture of violence. Before we look to how our own community is punctuated with similar, yet smaller scale, events nearly daily.

(Look here for resources on grief and talking to children about tragic events.)

Yes, the past few days have been hard. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that we have so many good people in the world. We gathered on Sunday to look into each others eyes and see the spark of light that resides in us. We sang together and lit candles and hugged. We gathered online to share messages of love and caring, comforting our grief and shock. These are the days when we rely on our strength together to hold each other up. As the Carolyn Dade hymn says:

10561_484476871585771_634101886_nI am grateful for every one of you who lives your generous and outrageously loving life – you who share that life and love with the world. It makes a difference. We are building a world of peace. We commit ourselves to this hard work, of facing fear and anger and sadness because we have hope. We have hope because we have  love. May love guide us as we heal our grief and work for change.

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Thank you to UU Media Collaborative Works for these images.

The Day After (They Are Watching)

It’s the day after, and which ever people you supported in the elections, we have a bit of calm after that big storm of ads, debates, predictions, and hype. (Can I get an “Amen” ?)

Now for the real work.

Our children are with us, watching and listening, seeing how we act in these crucial first days after the election. Do we gloat about our candidates winning? Do we bash the winners and tear apart their characters? Do we show the grace and good “sportsmanship” that we wish our children to have. Are we modeling how to build bridges with our former opponents, working toward a better future?

Olympic cyclists put rivalries aside

Our congregation is made up of very diverse people, with divergent theological ideas and also a multitude of political ideas. It is easy for us to begin to think that we are all alike in our politics, but let’s refrain from generalizations about the election results. Take care to be radically inclusive in our words and actions this week- and all weeks.

Unitarian Universalists come in different shapes and sizes, with many theological beliefs and political leanings. Our strength comes from the love and understanding we seek together. Each of us has a piece of truth to offer.

There is a saying, ” We have two ears and one mouth, because we should listen twice as much as we speak.” Let’s listen to each other. Let’s hear the great ideas all of us have to lead the country on a path of love and justice.

This week our Chalice Circle worship will focus on our fifth principle, which in simple language says,

“We believe everyone deserves a say about the things that concern them.”

We will discuss why democracy is important to Unitarian Universalists. We will think about the elections and being considerate of diverse political beliefs. Come, let us worship together!

The Golden Rule- How Are You Living It?

Tuesday, April 5th was “Golden Rule Day” A day to practice treating people the way we would like to be treated.  Sometimes, this includes treating ourselves as well as we treat others.  Watch this video of the

Charter for Compassion, created by Karen Armstrong, to bring more peace to our hurting world:

(It’s a good one for kids to see, too.)

Karen Armstrong will be speaking at our General Assembly this June as one of the many terrific speakers. Ware Lecture

If you are able, I recommend going to this amazing gathering of thousands of Unitarian Universalists in Charlotte, NC  June 22-26, 2011 General Assembly