Archive | June 2013

Storms

Stay safe my friends

When thunder roars

Above the mountains

And lightening flashes

Across the sky

 

Stay safe my friends

When ignorance

Roars around you

And hatred flashes

Within your towns

 

Be brave my friends

The storms will pass

The sun will surely shine

The flame will rise

With love and grace restored

 

Be strong my friends

The task of tending

This holy fire is ours

The work will warm

Our bodies and our souls

 

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General Assembly – Memory and Hope

In a few days, i will going to Louisville Kentucky to attend the General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  I love GA.  I love gathering with thousands of other Unitarian Universalists (UU’s) whose hearts are full of love and who have a passion for creating justice.

My first GA was in Quebec City in 2002.   Barbara Pescan’s powerful sermon (click to read) at the service of the living tradition urged me to answer the call to ministry that had been stirring in my soul.  “May be someone down in the valley, tryin’ to get home,” she sang and it rocked my world.

I have attended ten years of GA’s and most have now blended together with so many  worship services, workshops, plenaries, and elections.  That first GA still stands out for me in so many ways, however.  It was the first time I had seen so many Unitarian Universalists in one place.  I remember being on a very crowded escalator and thinking, and then saying, “I can’t think of any place else I would actually enjoy being stuck in such a long line.”  Smiles and nods greeted my comment.  We were so glad to be together.

I remember the tears running down my face during a hymn.  I am not sure which one, maybe Fred Small’s “Everything Possible”, maybe another one of our LGBT affirming songs.  Hearing thousands of people singing, affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all, filled my heart and my eyes to overflowing

During GA that year, the US Supreme Court threw out all the Sodomy laws, declaring them unconstitutional.  When the decision was announced in the convention hall, everyone was cheering and crying.  Love was no longer illegal.

I don’t know what the Supreme Court will decide on the two cases before them now.  Their decision just might be announced during this year’s General Assembly in Louisville.   Hopefully, we will be able to cheer again.  I know there will be some tears in any case.

Lift me up

Lift me up

Above the pain

Toss me flying

High and free

 

Looking down

I will see

The valley deep

Not bottomless

 

Gently then

I’ll float to rest

On soft grass

Beneath the trees.

 

Hold me close

Don’t let me go

Just help me learn

Give me the courage

 

To mow the blades

Of hate and fear

And mine the source

Of hope and love

 

Waiting for the Supreme (court that is)

They say

They will decide

This month

Once but not

For all

 

For some

Not everyone

Freedom pulses

In short spurts

Not equal

 

Breath held

Waiting

Will it matter

For you

For me.

 

Justice cannot

Be made

By nine

Black robes

Unless it rolls

Down like water

 

Blessing us all

True vows

Like faith

Oh freedom

Will you

Come for me

 

Spirit

When the Spirit

Comes sneaking

Around the corner

Of your dullest day

 

Don’t be surprised

Just unwrap the gift

Let wild abandon

Carry you away.

 

Pandora knew

The truth of it

She unlocked the box

So love could fly again

 

The fruits of life

Were made for eating

And not to rot

Withered on the ground

 

Wise like Eve

We all must be

As we sing

The spirit’s song

 

Spiritual not Dogmatic – Sermon 6/9/13 UU Church of Ogden

We welcomed new members today.  Becoming part of this church community will change them.  It will also change us.  Our sacred water is a symbol of this.  We collect it each fall from whoever attends worship that Sunday, just as has been done each year since this church was started.  We add the new water to what we had before, creating an ongoing link from the past and to the future.  During our offering, we drop stones into this water, also symbolizing that this living community holds us each, no matter who we are, no matter what gifts we bring, or what burdens we carry.

There is more than one thing about our faith tradition that sets us apart from many others, but one important characteristic of Unitarian Universalism is that we are always changing.  Change can be difficult for people.  Crash helmets really are a good idea.

Let’s go back to our reading for a minute:

Unitarian Universalist Minister, Tom Schade, named four different conceptions of our churches. (For reference: Click here)

One – our churches are places where smart people gather for the intellectual exploration of life issues, in an atmosphere freed of religion dogma.

Is that part of why you are here?  If so, raise your hand. You are all smart people, by the way.  I don’t care how much formal education you may have had.

Two – our churches are places to connect to the rebellious and counter-culture trends in society, a place to meet more radical, committed and interesting people there than anywhere else in town.

Is that part of why you are here? If so, raise your hand. Interesting.

Three – our churches serve as a place for community, a community perhaps more welcoming and supportive than you have found anywhere else.

I think Rev. Schade was wrong to label these “stages” as if they are something that we move through and leave behind.  Instead, they are not only part of what we once were, but they are part of what we still are today and part of who we will be in the future.  They are in the water, so to speak.

But, what of his fourth so-called stage?  Do you have your crash helmets on?  Should we issue them to our new members in addition to a flower and a book?

How many of you come here to be challenged, to wake up, and to be a little off-balance?  How many of you want to discover a way to change and improve your own life and also the world around you?

OK, if that rings true for you, please raise your hands.  We have some brave souls here!

There is a lot of conversation going on right now about where Unitarian Universalism is going.  Are we the religion for our time or are we going to fade away like most of the mainline denominations seem to be doing?

The Reverend Christine Robinson talked about this a lot as the keynote speaker at our regional assembly last month.  You can find her full address on-line.  Her main point was that the religious landscape of America is changing, that the fastest growing group of people in America are those who think of themselves as spiritual but not religious.

She says:

People used to come to us because “We honor your religious freedom,” but that is not bringing many people any more. Now, when people decide that they don’t believe what they were raised to believe, they often go for years without belonging to any congregation, and in the new religious ecology, there’s no pressure to join one. When they decide they want to go to church again, it is not because they want freedom; they’ve had freedom. They come looking for something that they can’t get in the secular world. They want spiritual instruction, not freedom. They want a safe place to explore what happens to them when they start to deepen their lives.

They come to us because they know their beliefs are not orthodox and because they would feel hypocritical in an orthodox church…. in this they resemble their elders. But once here, they want to do very different things.

Here’s my guess at a slogan for this part of the religious ecology; a place we can call our very own and serve with integrity and thrive: “Spiritual growth in a theologically diverse community.” (For reference: click here)

She also called it, “Spiritual not dogmatic.”

Rev. Robinson did not go into it in detail, but an important part of spiritual growth is sharing that larger spirit into the world, serving others and creating a more just world.  Yes, we should be issuing crash helmets.

Another thing we need to be clearer about is our theology.  This congregation handles our religious diversity well, but in our larger association a debate is going on about how we use religious language in our congregations.  The Rev. Marilyn Sewell tried to define a common Unitarian Universalist theology and listed the following: (For reference: Click here

“We believe that human beings should be free to choose their beliefs according to the dictates of their own conscience.

We believe in original goodness, with the understanding that sin is sometimes chosen, often because of pain or ignorance.

We believe that God is One.

We believe that revelation is ever unfolding.

We believe that the Kingdom of God is to be created here on this earth.

We believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, and that other prophets from God have risen in other faith traditions.

We believe that love is more important than doctrine.

We believe that God’s mercy will reconcile all unto itself in the end.”

Now, those work really well for me.  I agree with them.  But then again, I believe in God, although my understanding of God is nothing like the understanding of clergy from more orthodox traditions.  Some of the atheists had a huge problem with her use of the word God.  They felt like they were being excluded from what was stated to be a theology held in common.  I think if her ideas were simply rearranged, and a small phrase added, then there would not be the same level of controversy about them.

Listen again, and see if they work for you.

“We believe that human beings should be free to choose their beliefs according to the dictates of their own conscience.”  Agree?  Raise your hand.  It is our fourth principle somewhat restated.

“We believe in original goodness, with the understanding that sin is sometimes chosen, often because of pain or ignorance.”  Raise your hand.

Then for the next five, let’s add the words, “if we believe in God or if we were to believe in God,” The addition of those words should be helpful for the atheists and agnostics among us.

“We believe that God is One.”  Raise your hands.

“We believe that revelation is ever unfolding.” Raise your hands.

“We believe that the Kingdom of God is to be created here on this earth.” Raise your hands.

“We believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, and that other prophets from God have risen in other faith traditions.” Raise your hands.

We believe that God’s mercy will reconcile all unto itself in the end.” Raise your hands.

And finally, and this one is I think the most important of all:

“We believe that love is more important than doctrine.” Raise your hands.

None of that was 100%, but it was pretty close, and it really is a distinctive theology, particularly among denominations that are part of the Christian tradition, as we have been and still are in many ways.

Those of us that believe in God believe in a merciful loving God, not a judgmental or punishing one.

Those of us that believe in an afterlife do not believe in a hell where people are punished after we die.

I could go on, but being a Unitarian Universalist, is not a “believe whatever you want,” kind of religion.

So my hope for our new members, and for our longer-term members as well, is that you find here not only what you are looking for, but also what you might need.

I hope this church makes you think, and I hope you find the ideas and the other people here interesting.  I hope you feel welcome and supported in this community. And I hope that you sometimes feel challenged, surprised, and maybe even a little off balance. I hope you discover ways to improve your own life and to make this world a better place for all who share this planet with us.

What do you want?  What do you need?

Feel it.  Imagine it.  Make it so.

Nameste.

Letter to the Editor

http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/05/30/scouts-discovered-their-moral-compass

Letter to the editor published today

 

Editor,

Neal Humprey has it wrong in his Top of Utah Voices column of May 29, “Boy Scouts have lost their way.” The Scouts are instead, starting to discover their moral compass.

He says that by accepting gay youth, that the BSA will decline just as his denomination has. They may in fact decline, but it will be because they are changing too slowly. Limiting their policy change to those under 18 was a mistake.

Change is part of life and both organizations and people need to adapt or they become dinosaurs. This is what is happening to many religious denominations. The fastest growing religious group in America is the “nones.”  The “nones” include atheists and agnostics, but most are those who identify as “spiritual but not religious.”  When asked, they say that they do not believe the traditional dogma and are offended by the moral hypocrisy and bias they have seen in churches.

My own faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism, is a liberal one.  Our historic roots in this country go back to before the American Revolution, but we change and adapt as new information and new truths are revealed. We started supporting gay rights in 1970, shortly after Stonewall, because we considered it a religious imperative to do so. Now, the majority of Americans and the vast majority of those under 30 agree with us on that issue. God’s love has always been inclusive. We should try to live that way, too.

Unlike the sharply declining numbers of most mainline denominations, our national membership numbers are fairly stable. In the last eight years, a full 30 percent of our congregations grew by at least 10 percent, and half of those by more than 30 percent. Our churches that are growing the fastest are the most innovative in their worship and the most active in social justice causes.

We are welcoming the “nones” with our “spiritual but not dogmatic” approach to living religiously. The holy did not stop speaking 2,000 years ago. If conservative churches want to be around in 50 years, I would suggest they start listening.

Rev. Theresa Novak

Minister

Unitarian Universalist Church

of Ogden

Taking up Space September 2004

I am a large woman

And I need some space.

The world is not big enough

Sometimes.

Sharp elbows jutting, jabbing

The smaller people

Push by with impatience.

Their looks of disgust

Try to cut me down to size.

I don’t feel crowded

By other fat people,

Even in a small space.

Our round bodies bump

Pleasantly together

With a jiggling, Jello-pudding ease.

Comfortable.

Earth mother goddess,

Welcoming, warm, and wise.

Ah.

Funny how someone so big

Can feel so invisible.

Yes, EXTRA large

Is way too small.

Really.

I don’t want to feel small

Simply because I am

What someone else thinks is

Way too big.

I am a large woman

And I need some space.

I want to grow larger still

Spirit filling my body  – and more

Flowing out, around.

Free.

Divine spirit,

Larger than all imagination,

Teach us how to bump more gently

Into one another.

May our spirits flow

Around the sharp edges,

Around the rude elbows

That jab us apart.

We are large souls

And we need some space

To be

Together.

 

Decided to post after reading the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum’s post on her blog. http://revcyn.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-big-issue.html

 

Promises

Take your vows not lightly

The Spirit knows the truth

No need to know the future

Doubt can open up the heart

Cast your fears out to the ocean

And the tide will roll them in

A promise needs fulfilling

By a soul that yearns to grow

 

Rain

Where do they come from

Words falling on the page

Meaning something

Maybe nothing

Still they come

The flow goes on

A river of words

Rained down

From mystery

 

Thus spake the Lord

Said Jeremiah

From his lonely well

The water rising

All around him

Be still and let

The Spirit speak

From deep inside

Your yearning soul.