“Say Hello” 08/24/14
Come in today come in.
Bring yourselves your friends your family
Come alone or in a crowd
Bring your faith and bring your doubts
Bring your gladness and despair
You are welcome here
In the fullness of who you are,
this hour, this day
Come in come in
Relax in your chair
Take a deep breath
and rest awhile.
Listen to the music
Close your eyes.
Feel the pulse
Of beating hearts.
Let the stillness stir you
To laugh to sing to move
Whatever you came for
Whoever you are
We are glad you are here
Well hello there.
I am so happy to be here. I met a lot of you last Sunday and have gotten to know some of the staff and the leadership during the week. I have appreciated the warm welcome I have received.
I am here as your developmental minister and I likely have a style that you are not really used to. That is probably obvious to most of you already. Let’s talk about that some, as we begin to say hello in a deeper way, in a way that goes beyond the fairly easy “hi, how’s it going, pleased to meet you”, kind of conversation we engage in with people we have just met.
And while we are having those conversations, our very human tendency is to begin to judge the person we are meeting based upon pretty superficial things. How do they speak? Do they seem well educated, politically aware? Are they smart or pretty clueless? Hairstyles and clothing also make an impression on us and we also make assumptions about the person’s racial or ethnic background. Appearances are just that, however, appearances. There is a deeper truth, the reality and quite incredible uniqueness of the individual as a whole person. Just as in the song we sang earlier, they are somebody.
Most people have a need, I believe, a need to be really seen as who they are and to not be dismissed and diminished by someone else’s stereotype.
It is part of respecting the inherent worth and dignity of every person and it is part of practicing our faith of Unitarian Universalism, to look just a little deeper, to really say hello to the person, not just who they might appear to be.
OK, let’s talk about the robe I am wearing. I suspect it makes a few of you a little uncomfortable. It emphasizes my status as ordained clergy, and frankly that is the main reason I wear it. It is not a demand for respect that I do not have to earn. Instead, it is for me, an important reminder of the role I am in. I am your minister, not your friend. I am part of this community, but not of it. I am here to serve not myself or even you as individuals, but to serve something higher than all of us. That something would be called God, if one were a theist. It might be called something like the common good by a humanist. The work I do for you as your minister should also be for the overall good of this institution, the BFUU and also, for Unitarian Universalism as a whole. It isn’t about me. The robe and stole remind me of this each week. It reminds me that being a minister is a sacred calling. Don’t worry about that word, “sacred” for now, it can also just mean precious and important.
As mystical and impressive as that explanation might sound, and it is the most important reason, I also like to wear a robe just because it is very practical. I don’t have to worry so much what I will wear on Sunday morning. It is so much easier for a male minister; they can just switch up their shirts and maybe their ties and they are good to go.
I do have several different robes and stoles, so it shouldn’t be too terribly boring looking at me every week.
So if my robe makes you uncomfortable, if prayer makes you uncomfortable, if anything makes you uncomfortable, I want to ask you to try and develop a practice of and imagining that you are just saying hello to something new, something or someone you may not fully understand as yet. What is this all about? What are my assumptions? What does it mean to me? What does it mean to other people? We have had the use of language as a species for quite a long time, but we haven’t yet really learned how to communicate well. I am an extrovert (no kidding) and I sometimes just keep talking if it seems someone doesn’t understand. Feel free to ask me to wait, that you need to think about something more. We all process things a little bit differently.
And know that it is OK to be uncomfortable. Frankly it can be a good thing. If all we ever do is just sit on the sofa, we don’t really get to experience life. Discomfort can be a sign that change is happening, and there is no growth without change. Change is simply part of life. Growing pains are real.
So hello. Who am I? A little bit of biography: I was born and grew up in Watsonville CA. I am 64 years old, married, finally last year to my wife, Anne, who I have been with since 1975. We have three adult children in their mid-to- late twenties. The boys both live in the Bay area and our daughter is currently living in New York City. We don’t have any pets.
I went to UCB from 1968-1974, getting a BA in demography and a MA in sociology. I then worked for the social security administration for twenty-five years in Richmond CA, in the big red brick building next to the downtown BART station. I took early retirement in 2001, partly because George Bush was elected, but that is a long story and not appropriate for worship. I was an active lay leader at our Congregation in San Rafael from 1994 until I started seminary at Starr King. I did my internship in Annapolis, Maryland and served as the minister of the UU Church of Ogden from September 2007 until the end of June of this year.
Whoa! Now I am here. Hello.
I am here as a developmental minister. That means I am here to help lead you through the changes you will need to make so that BFUU will continue to not only exist, but to thrive. You want that, don’t you? You want BFUU to continue, and for it to thrive, yes? Not that you aren’t beautiful, as Rocky said so well last week, just the way you are. But, let me say this clearly. You can be much better than you are. You can have awesome worship services each and every week. They can combine words and music, ritual and, yes, also prayer and meditation, in a way that will not just make you think, but will also stir your emotions. There can be the kind of services that can feed your spirits and renew your energy so that you are better able to face the week ahead, with all the challenges that we all face in our lives.
This can be a place that is truly welcoming to all, regardless of their theological beliefs or even their politics.
You can also be self-sustaining financially. Frankly, the level of support that most members of this congregation are giving is embarrassing. If you care about this place, you need to kick that up several notches. Double or triple what you planned to put in the plate this morning. We will talk about money a lot in the coming months and probably years. We need to, because you are spending way more than you are taking in. It simply cannot go on forever that way.
You can also treat each other well, all the time, not just when you agree. This is a faith community. Our religious values and our seven principles should guide how we are together.
Oh, we are just getting started. I have only been here a little over a week and we have a lot to learn about each other. Your trust in me will develop over time. In the meantime, let’s just keep saying hello, and look a little deeper into each other’s eyes. There is a reflection of the holy there, if we only stop and really see.
Namaste – from the Hindu tration, the divine in me greets the divine in you. Hello.
I am going to end with something I wrote late last night
How do we say hello?
And it isn’t.
A quick glad hand
Don’t get too close
Ah, but the time may never
Seem quite right
To speak for real
What lies inside the heart
Fearless we must be
Faithful from the start
Brave the danger
Live in the mystery
Held behind our eyes.
Our souls just might
Begin to dance
We don’t have to be