Increasing the Size of My Soul: A Practice for Growing Relational Power

Increasing the Size of My Soul: A Practice for Growing Relational Power

What is the size of your soul? By S-I-Z-E I mean the stature of [your] soul, the range and depth of [your] love, [your] capacity for relationships. I mean the volume of life you can take into your being and still maintain your integrity and individuality, the intensity and variety of outlook you can entertain in the unity of your being without feeling defensive or insecure. I mean the strength of your spirit to encourage others to become freer in the development of their diversity and uniqueness. I mean the power to sustain more complex and enriching tensions. I mean the magnanimity of concern to provide conditions that enable others to increase in stature.  -Bernard Loomer

Bernard Loomer, a twentieth century process theologian, speaks to how personal growth leads to an increased relational power that can change our world. The wounds to our planet and its people are dire and call for immediate action. Understanding the connected web of relationships, from individual to global, helps me know that all positive action is influencing the whole system toward health.

Today, one can listen to the news and believe that hate and greed are gaining ground, but we can also see evidence that more and more people are interested in a building a new way. 

The work of leading this change is to expand our sense of “We” so that it reaches beyond what is comfortable and easy. My identities, and the privilege embedded within many of them, allow me to work within the establishment. My responsibility in this system is to listen to marginalized voices and amplify their experience especially when it is is different than the experiences I am having. This requires me to see beyond my own perspective and find ways to be an accomplice to our collective liberation.

When we are willing to inhabit liminal space, I mean not just a whistle stop but really set up a home there, powerful change can occur. Strong emotional reactions are an opportunity to stop and slow down. We must make room for some new way to take shape. Creating this pause allows a generative force to exist and work in our relational systems so that they are loving enough and we can be honest enough to not only challenge each other, but remain in the uncertain, messy space once truth is spoken.

Choose to be extravagant with uncertainty. Traditional, mechanistic systems are built on the idea of closed systems with impenetrable boundaries and restricted supplies of resources. Part of creating a holistic society is disrupting the mindset of scarcity that governs us. We can increase our authentic relationships, trusting that there is enough hope, joy, and love for everyone growing all our power, so that no one is left behind as we build a holistic world.


The image is a close up of Bronze Fennel in my garden. It is a teacher of persistence and expansion. Leave a comment for whatever connections you draw to the text!

Moving the Fulcrum

I love this short video from Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University on the science of resilience:

This video is centered on the experience of children, but the science works for all ages.

We inherit a baseline of resilience through our genes, but that baseline does not determine our capacity to be resilient. Our physiology is one important piece of the equation, but our initial resilience setting is not final.

We can permanently change our ability to be resilient as adults. We can be resilient even if our genetic setting is less so. We can build resilience even if we have fallen down in past experiences. The more we build our resilience factors, the easier it is to be resilient in the face of future adversity.  We can move the fulcrum.

This fact revolutionized my own life and is the reason I am compelled to do group resilience work. Resilience is built through relationships. So, we absolutely can not do this work in isolation.

We are amazing and adaptive beings!

If you are interested in moving your fulcrum, check out Unbroken: Accessing (Y)Our Resilience

Stick Around For Joy

Joy To the World!

A favorite hymn of mine for this season. One that is tied into my memories of being with my family, making dozens of different cookies- all some variation of almonds and butter, or fanciful gingerbread shapes- and belting out all fives verses we knew in 3 part harmony. (Good thing Mom can sing tenor!)

repeat the sounding Joy

Joy overflows in music and tradition, in out connections with others, and in our time in nature. Joy is such a vital force in our lives – all year round. Carl Scovel remarked:

At the heart of all creation lies a good intent, a purposeful goodness, from which we come, by which we live our fullest, and to which we shall at last return. This is the supreme mystery of our lives. This goodness is ultimate-not fate, not freedom, not mystery, energy, order, nor finitude, but this good intent in creation is our source, our center, and our destiny. . . Our work on earth is to explore, enjoy, and share this goodness. Neither duty nor suffering nor progress nor conflict-not even survival-is the aim of life, but joy. Deep, abiding, uncompromised joy.

Joy is the core of our spiritual practice. Joy is our heart connecting to what we find sacred. A lack of Joy alerts us to when our lives are out of balance.

This week, we will make room for Joy in Chalice Circle. Please join us!


Amazingly, we are back to the start of another church year. I came across this lovely poem which describes how special this Sunday is to us…


by Patricia Shuttee

You and I  and all of us blew about
with the winds of summer,
following the sun  in different ways
of freedom  and of play,
finding rest  in the cool stillness of shadows,
and moving to the slow  heartstruck rhythms
which turned the long hours  of summerlight.

Now it is time  for gathering-in.
We come together at this time
and in this place on the bridge of autumn.
Summer is fading backward into memory,
and winter waits in snowy brilliance,
offering its months as our learning-time
and its celebrations for our special joy.

We meet with eagerness and delight,
need one another for sharing.
We have joys and sorrows and hopes to share,questions,
things we care about and want to help make better,
things that we would like to understand,
ideas waiting to be heard.

Today, we are together in gladness,
once more the special big family
that we call our Church,
a family of all ages that sings its songs,
tells its thoughts, asks its questions,
and searches together in peace and understanding
with courage and with love.

Progress Looks Like Our Youth

Several years ago, our middle schoolers on a Sunday morning looked like this:

(Were are they?  Well, there IS no picture, because there were no middleschoolers around on Sunday mornings!)

Yes, it’s true, we had a solid OWL program for 7th and 8th grade, but it was rare to spot the elusive Junior High Youth in RE Classes.  There are many complicated reasons for this, but I do not want to focus on them. I would rather bring the celebratory news that times have changed!

Here’s what the middle school group looks like now:






Thanks to the long term thinking and caring of MANY adults combined with the great attitudes of youth I am so happy to say there is a blossoming youth program at Channing both on Sunday mornings and for OWL!

The group is full of terrific, energetic and thoughtful youth who care about each other and this community.

Thanks to everyone who has chaperoned, taught, assisted, been a mentor, bought cookies at fundraisers, voted for additions to the youth budget and lent your energy to this growth!

Yes, the numerical growth is great, but the growth in faith development is really remarkable. The youth group held a cottage meeting for the Minister Search last week. On the whole, the youth had well thought ideas about what is important to them as Channing moves into this next phase. This great group. I heard laughter. I saw welcoming of new members. I witnessed maturity in bridging the differences between 6th and 8th graders. They understand community.

What can the adults learn from this youth group?

Symbols of Connection

Hi All-

There are a ton of thoughts to share with you about the lectures and workshops I have attended- I need time to process them, though.  In the meantime I wanted to show you one of the interesting things about General Assembly- the Ribbons!

Everyone is walking around with badges and each person has a different combination of ribbons, pins and stickers attached to their badge.  Here’s mine:

These are all symbols of our connections around our Association. I have my name (including CRE for Credentialed Religious Educator!!!), Pins for the carbon offsets I bought to help reduce the impact of my plane ride and the convention center use, a Standing On the Side of Love Pin, my Liberal Religious Educators Association lanyard, a Green Sanctuary sticker, Welcoming Congregation ribbon and the Annual Program Fund pink ribbon indicating that Channing was a Merit Congregation last year- giving an increase of money to the UUA .  YEA Channing!  Here’s a little video by our friend Peter Bowden explaining this:

What’s with all the ribbons? from UU World on Vimeo.

So we are doing well and maybe, we can expand our giving to the APF and Association Sunday in the years to come in support of the amazing work of the UUA who give our congregation a tremendous amount of support!

What Turns a Busy Day Into A Great Day?

I had a great day Sunday-

I was pressed for time (as usual!) so I walked into my office, found a template for paper dreidels in my files, copied some off and made an example dreidel for the Preschool-Kindergarten class… and zipped over to the Sanctuary…
Wrote out some announcements to be read in the Sanctuary (and brought in the traveling chalice- and got stopped by the usher for questions and the layleader for other questions)…head back to Channing House…
Got the movie on the Children’s March (how children made a difference in the 1963 Civil Rights Movement) prepped for the Fifth-Sixth grade class…turn on the heat in there!.. gathered teacher binders…and headed over to Parish Hall…
Set up a couple of couple of classrooms, putting away random flotsam that seems to wash up during the week…..check in with the folks in the Re-Gift Store…. paid the childcare gals….got the supplies together for the pencil case making craft (for the schoolbags for Haiti) happening during Fellowship …unlocked the playground….and back to Channing House!
Prepped my notes and handouts for the parent information meeting for Our Whole Lives also happening during Fellowship!….Then I grabbed my notes to help teach the Neighboring Faiths class on Islam, which was an amazing and engaged group…after class, I whisked into the Library to set up for the OWL meeting, including dragging the totally heavy and tippy TV cart from the Fireplace Room and cued that movie.  Ack!  beter try to dash over to Parish Hall for a cuppa coffee!
Drat!  Only decaf left!

Pour a bit before checking in with the Haiti craft….I’m stopped by parents who want to lead a snow tubing evening for the Junior Youth social night- so we plan to check in later…see lots of people I would love to talk to, but knowing I have to get to the OWL meeting I do no more than briefly check in with the teachers and parents I see and move on (with a few stops to help direct adults to meetings here and there)…Have a few unexpected young folks at the OWL meeting, so we gather some Legos and set up for a multi-gen meeting!  A great hour is had with thoughtful parents and leaders- energizing!…  Then quickly clean up and scoot back over to the remainder of the pencil cases craft in Parish Hall!…Great connections with the folks there then clean up and do everything in reverse order to shut down for the day.

Certainly it was much like many of my Sunday mornings at Channing- (quieter than some!) but this one left me especially energized, hopeful and ready to take on more.

SO what made this wild ride of a morning have such a good feeling?  After thinking it over for a couple of days, I think what makes me so blissful is seeing programs come together that have been slowly gathering interest and momentum over the past few years- Elementary OWL and Youth Programs.  Both programs have special meaning to me, and it has been my dream to see both areas of Channing’s ministry grow.  Now it is happening!

In the third year of offering Elementary Our Whole Lives, we have a fourth trained leader and a big class of children who might join.  Even before “official” registration, the class is half full!  Channing has always been a great supporter of Junior High OWL, and we have shown that Elementary OWL is important to us, too!

It is a little more amazing that the youth program is taking flight so strongly.  We are offering Sunday Morning Neighboring Faiths classes, monthly Coming of Age and Social Nights.  There is a lot of overlap in the youth who attend these three parts of the program, so the youth are getting to know one another and make real bonds.  Kim Shute and I are leading all three elements right now, so we get to know the youth well also!  It has been very rewarding.  When I hear a youth ask what we will do next month for social night with an expectant tone and SMILING – well, that’s the best!

I could go on and on, but I’ll keep it short.  Part of me wants to hold on to these happy feelings, but I know it would be healthier for the program for me to share some of this joy with other caring adults, too.  I have LOVED planning lessons on Islam and creating a 6 foot banana split trough, but I need to also have time to administrate lessons and communicate more with our other teachers!  SO I am hoping that this amazing energy can be carried on for the youth…perhaps you are ready to have this busy/happy feeling, too?  Something important is happening at Channing for the youth, something that we can keep going, and building!  I had no idea the youth would be so responsive, so fast to the attention we are paying to their classes and programming.

One of our activities in class was drawing what we envision G-d to look like.  Well, I see G-d in just about everything, and especially in the relationships we people have with each other.  So when I have a day where relationships are strong and vital and since I have had a challenging Fall, I am singing:

What Wondrous Love Is This (Hymn 18 in Singing the Living Tradition)
link to mp3
What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That brings my heart such bliss
And takes away the pain of my soul, of my soul
And takes away the pain of my soul

When I was sinking down,
Sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath my sorrows ground,
Friends to me gather’d round,
O my soul, O my soul,
Friends to me gather’d round, O my soul

To love and to all friends, I will sing, I will sing,
To love and to all friends, I will sing
To love and to all friends who
Pain and sorrow mend,
With thank unto the end I will sing, I will sing,
With thanks until to the end I will sing.

American Folk Hymn,
New words by Connie Campbell Hart, UUA

The Fountain of Youth, And Why We Need It Back!

>No – I don’t have a secret to end aging…this post is about our young Channing folks, the junior and senior high age Youth.  Quite often I am asked, “Where are the high school kids at Channing?”  That’s a complicated question to answer…

I hear stories about a vibrant senior high group, YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists) at Channing.  I hear anecdotes about how some years the group has been bigger than others, but always some Youth were around and gathering.  Right now we don’t have a senior high group.  Is there still a place for Youth at Channing?

Our Youth are living in a hard world.   Life is even more fast paced for teens than it is for adults! Youth need time to connect face to face, comforting each other and celebrating each other.  Youth group at its best provides spiritual sustenance, community and fun.  And for youth who might not fit society’s norms, having a safe place to be yourself is essential.

The many suicides of boys and young men around the country this fall has made me realize more than ever that we need to build our youth group at Channing because it will save lives.  A strong youth group of caring peers will counteract brutal bullying that causes our young people to give up hope.  Yes, especially for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth a loving environment is healing, but really all youth benefit from affirming company.

Here’s what Rev. Meg Riley says about our calling to make the world better:

Whatever the reason for the decline of Youth Group at Channing, we have a chance to rebuild our  program and make it stronger than ever!

Now is the time to spend extra energy building the connection of the junior high group of Youth.  These 5th, 6th and 7th graders are excited about Channing and more so about each other.  These junior high youth are ready to spend time together, so let’s give them what they want BEFORE they lose interest!

It is going to take some commitment from parents.  The effort you put in, helping with a social night or driving will be well worth the gains in leadership, friendship and reinforcement of UU values that Youth Group provides.  In just one night a month we can lay the groundwork for a rocking youth group!

I am excited to see what develops!