Tag Archive | ministry

Muscle of Ministry

9232583-cartoon-of-woman-picking-up-a-heavy-box-it-causes-her-back-pain

They ache sometimes

My arms my legs

The work is hard

The path is steep

The lifting can be heavy

Sometimes sweat drips down

Into my eyes

My hair a wet halo

A crown of tears

One could imagine

 

None of that matters

In the end

That ultimate reality

That stands beneath us all

Did I love enough

Did I speak the truth

Did I find some ways

To help the spirit do

What the spirit needs to do

 

One beating heart

It’s all I have

To share

With hurting souls

It keeps me going

That strong muscle

Not mine alone

A gift of grace

I pray it will not quit

Until my work is done

 

 

 

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Why Are We Here?

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Opening Words (here)

Sermon notes:

The words church and God in the reading may have made some of you uncomfortable. Remember what I said the other week? Listen to your discomfort. It can be a good thing. In the story I told the children, I imagine the person who was asked the question about the purpose of the church was more than a little uncomfortable.

So why are we here? Why are you here? Why does the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalist even exist? History could be referred to of course, there were reasons this congregation was formed. There were reasons that some of the founding members mortgaged their homes in order to purchase this land and build these buildings that we enjoy.

I love questions. You will learn that. I think most Unitarian Universalists love questions. One could even say that asking questions is a part of our free faith. We don’t have creeds, but instead we have guidelines for ethical behavior, which is what our seven principles are about. If you don’t remember them, they are on the back of your order of service. This is not a faith tradition where everyone can do whatever they might feel like doing, whenever they feel like doing it. It is an accepting tradition; we do acknowledge our imperfection. We aspire to high ideals and know we will still sometimes fail, sometimes dismally. That is OK, but the demanding part of our faith is that we keep trying. We have goals and visions of the world we would like to create. It isn’t an easy task.

This fellowship has a mission statement. Did you know that? It pretty much answers the question of why we are here. It says what we are supposed to be doing here together, on Sundays and throughout the week.

The mission statement is on the front of your order of service.

“Building character, enriching spirits, promoting community, and serving humankind through spiritual growth and social action.”

It is a pretty great statement, I think. Do you all like it too?

But what does it mean? Building character: this fellowship intends to build the characters of those who participate. Someone from another congregation told me that they came to Sunday services to learn how to be a better person. Is that true for you? It matters how we live our lives and how we treat each other. Character also includes other things like integrity and responsibility, practicing compassion and forgiveness, being open minded, curious, inspired to make a positive difference with our lives, both for the people we are close to and for the wider community and world.

We are also here to enrich spirits, to help people feel whole and to experience joy and sorrow in ways that are real. A religious community needs to provide comfort to those that are hurting. Has this fellowship ever done that for you?

Promoting community – this is what we practice because we know that we are all connected. Our congregations can be places where we can discover how to get along with people who are different from us, who will change us and who we will change, because we are all a part of that interconnected community of life on this planet. We can then take what we have learned out into the world and help others learn about living with both respect and with love.

Our purpose is also to serve, all of humankind the mission statement says. Unitarian Universalism is not a “sit back and enjoy own spiritual understanding. No, we are called to serve, and spiritual growth is what fuels our social action. We can learn to love the whole world, including ourselves.

But why do you come here? Why do we need a congregation like this one here in this town? Why do we need a religion like Unitarian Universalism in the world?

So think for a minute about why you came here this morning. You are here after all, so you must have a reason for coming.

What are some of them? Go ahead and shout them out. I know some of you are not shy.

Robin Bartlett, a Unitarian Universalist Religious educator, in her blog post from which our reading was taken, has heard a lot of people say they come to church for their children, because the children are asking questions about God, or because a neighbor or friend is trying to recruit them into a more conservative religion.

Some people say they come to church because the sermons are entertaining. The crazy preacher can be really funny; you never know just what she will say. You could find much better entertainment, however, on TV, in the movies.

Maybe you come for the music, but you can find great music a lot of places, at concerts, festivals, and even on I tunes.

Some people say they come for the intellectual stimulation, to hear words and ideas that make them think. Of course you could attend a college level lecture for that. There are a lot of other places you can go to stimulate your brain cells.

Maybe you come because you care about social justice. This community works very hard in many ways to bring more justice, equity, and compassion into our world. But if social justice action is your only reason, there are literally thousands of other groups you could join that are doing fabulous work for a wide variety of social causes.

If you are looking for inspiration here, for motivation, for ideas on how to live in this complex world, you could read poetry, listen to TED talks, or join a self-help group.

If you are hurting and looking for comfort or if you are trying to find yourself, you could go to therapy.

Some people come to church to make friends, or even to find a life partner. You could also do that at a bar, a health club, or through social media.

Some people also come to church to find God, the holy, to connect with their inherent spirituality. There are other ways to do that. Go out in nature, watch a sunset, plant flowers, or play with your children. You will surely find the holy there.

Did I cover everything?

I did forget one, which reminds me of another joke. I’d heard it before, but one of our elder’s shared it with me the other week.

It’s Sunday morning and the alarm goes off. A woman turns over in bed and groans. She turns to her partner and moans. I don’t want to go to church today. I know the sermon is going to be boring. People will ask me to do things I don’t have time for. I’d rather just stay home and sleep in today. Her partner turns to her with a sigh. Honey, you have to go to church today. “Why? Why do I have to go to church?”

The answer? “Honey, you have to go to church because you are the minister.”

There are many reasons to come to church, but unless you are the minister, there are many other options. Even ministers can decide on a different career choice. Almost none of us are do it for the money in any case.

But how many places can you go where all of those reasons can apply?

Robin Bartlett tells us to go to church

“for community, for learning, for solidarity, for a good word, for love, for hope, for comfort, even for salvation. Go to church because you can’t imagine not going. Go to church because (of what) your church …demands of you. Go to church because you cry in the worship service at least once a month. Go to church because you look forward to seeing the people.

Go to church because your church forces you to put your money where your mouth is–to use your financial resources to make a statement about what has worth. Go to church because you are known here. Go to church because you want to be known. Go to church because you pray for this same imperfect, rag-tag group of people all week until you meet again. Go to church because you need to in order to get through your week. Go to church because if you miss a week, you feel like something was really missing in your life. Go to church because your church community helps you to go deeper; to risk transformation; to yank you further down a path–to ultimate reality, to truth, to God–kicking and screaming. Go to church because it is a statement to yourself and your children about what has value and meaning. Go to church to find your purpose and live it. Give yourself the gift of church.” http://uuacreligiouseducation.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/dont-go-to-church-for-your-children/

She goes on to say, specifically addressing parents who say they come to church for their children,

“If church is not a gift for you, it won’t be a gift for your children.

You know that old (line) that we borrow from (the) plane instructions we hear read by flight attendants–… apply your own oxygen mask first before you apply your child’s, right? Well, you are your child’s religious educator and oxygen mask. Not our (religious exploration) curricula. Not our volunteer teachers. Not (the) minister. You. That’s a big responsibility, and (maybe) you don’t feel up to the task because (few) of us do.

But if we aren’t getting our spiritual needs met–our religious yearnings satiated; our deepest cries in the night soothed; our need to serve and be served; our God-sized hole occasionally filled, emptied and then filled up again– then we are never going to be up to the task of helping our children do the same.”

She says, “Don’t go to church for your children; go to church for you. You deserve it. Your children deserve it. And this brutal and beautiful world needs you to.”

That last line is worth repeating, “This brutal and beautiful world needs you to.” How important is this congregation, not just to those of us who gather here each Sunday, but also to others in our town, in our state. I think we offer a vital service just by continuing to exist and to thrive. We offer hope to the young person wondering if their life is worth living because they are gay, to the man just released from prison expecting to be shunned by everyone he meets, to the recovering alcoholic, to the person who is homeless,to the eccentric thinker who everyone else thinks is just crazy, to the members of conservative religions who worry that their questions are somehow sinful, and to all the people who are suffering in so many ways from a culture that is far from accepting of differences and difficulties. Even if they never find their way here, even if they never sit in this room with us, if they know about us, we have given them some hope. We have made a difference. We have offered an alternative, a radical alternative, a community based on love.

So if you have been thinking this morning about the reasons you come here, I assume you have thought of more than a few.

I have another question for you. How much would it cost if you went other places to get what you find here at this church? How much more would you be spending on tuition, on therapy, on concert and movie tickets, or on drinks in a bar, if you did not come to church? What about the things that are truly priceless? How could you possibly meet anywhere else the diverse and wonderful people we have here in this religious community? Where else would you be welcomed with such open and loving arms no matter who you are and how you are feeling?   Where else are tears and laughter both not only acceptable, but treated as precious?

One last joke so we can end on a lighter note

Ready?

“If you don’t know what eschatology means, it’s not the end of the world.”

Hilarious right? OK, for those of you who don’t get that joke, eschatology is the theological stance of a particular religion on the end of the world. It isn’t something most Unitarian Universalists worry about much. We definitely don’t take the book of revelation literally. We may worry about environmental disasters or wars ending life on this planet, but our various views of God and the divine do not include the idea that God will destroy the world at some future date.

No, our theology is about life, about continual new beginnings, second, third and fourth chances. It is a life saving, life enhancing theology. We stand on the side of love, and that is why we are here. Amen and Namaste.

A Heartfelt Farewell

Call to worship (here)

 Well, today really is the day, the day I say goodbye to being your minister. I will be in town for the next week, until June 30th, but I am taking vacation time so that we can pack up the house. So today is really it, the end of the ministry we have shared together for the last seven years.

I made this short so I could hopefully get through it, but we will see how that goes.

After we do the litany later in the service, I will no longer be the minister of this church. It doesn’t mean that I will never see any of you again, but if we do see each other, it will be in a very different relationship. Good professional boundaries mean that while I will, of course, respond to any requests for information or advice from the ministers that will follow me, I will not be available to any of you for anything that concerns this congregation. Similarly, I will not be available to any of you for pastoral care. This is standard practice when a minister leaves, and it is a good thing.   It creates the necessary space that will allow you to develop a good relationship with your incoming minister.

Have I said enough times that I am really thrilled that the Reverend Shelley Paige will be here in August as your interim minister? I so love and respect Shelly. We went to seminary together. She is warm and smart, and I can’t think of a better person with whom to leave you. I have faith in her and I have faith in you.

This congregation will prosper and continue to do many fabulous things. I am counting on it! It would not be nice to disappoint your mother!

 

Our last hymn this morning was one we sang at my first service here. It has really been a dance we have done together. I now want to read the poem I wrote back in 2007, when I first learned I was coming to you. Catherine Zublin had it printed inside this stole, which she also made.

 

As the mountains rise

Above the salt flats

In majesty and wonder

We will listen

For the quiet call,

The still small voice,

A guide with measured steps,

Scouting out the trail.

 

And we may be amazed

By the thunders’ clap

The chance encounter,

A wild and crazy shout,

Rhythms that will make us dance.

And within it all

The precious beat of human hearts,

Of hopes and fears and dreams,

Open now in anticipation.

Live with patience

Grace, I must believe,

Awaits us all.

And then, in the spring of 2008, when you decided to call me as your settled minister, I wrote the following:

 

The mountains called to me

Their golden glow a beacon,

Shining, leading here.

Tears and laughter both

Mingled with the rain and snow,

Loving hearts and holding hands,

Good work to do.

This salty soil holds the miracle of life.

A garden, precious and rare,

Flourishes and grows.

 

Let us now dance together,

For a harvest time is here

And more are yet to come.

 

And come they did, those harvest times. We have done so much good work together. This church has changed in the time we have been together and so has this town. Those two things are not unrelated. It has always been a partnership and a shared ministry. We have learned from each other and we have all grown as a result.

 

We have lived through troubles and we have held each other’s hands for courage. We have stood together in graveyards, saying goodbye, and we have blessed the new babies that were born, saying hello.

Those memories will last, those tender connections of the heart are one of the greatest blessings of ministry, giving and receiving. Saying hello, and saying goodbye, is part of it all.

Another poem which expresses some what ministry has felt like to me here:

 

A traveler can get weary

The mountains are so high

A boulder comes from nowhere

To roll onto the path

 

You push it back

It comes again

Is there a way around?

 

Your compass has a crack

You did not see before

Supplies are getting low

 

Rest awhile; take in the view

Rejoice in all you’ve seen

You are only human and

The desert takes its toll

 

Let the fog wash over you

Listen to your dreams

Hear the sweet birds singing

Their melody’s for you.

 

Share your water

Share your food

With dear souls you will meet

 

Hold their hands

Wipe their tears

Find courage in their prayers

 

A traveler does get weary

Before the journey’s done

The ground beneath us all

Is what will help us stand.

 

God, give us the strength

To travel on again

Guide our feet

Lead us to our home.

 

And as a message for your future, this poem:

 

If God could weep

For all the pain

That in this world abides

The tears would flow like rivers

The rain would never stop

Ocean waves like thunder

Would reach the mountain tops

If God could shout

A message out

For all the world to hear

The roar of words

Would echo round

This green and spinning sphere

If God could act

We’d surely have

Peace in all the lands

Food for all the hungry souls

And care for all the sick

If God is sleeping

I’d like to know

How to wake the Holy up

Most likely God is asking

That same question

Of every one of us.

 

This church is awake. You have the spirit and you have the will. Blessing to all of you. I love you. May you fare well as I bid you a heartfelt farewell. Namaste.

A Litany of Farewell

 Catherine Zublin: In the Unitarian Universalist tradition of religious freedom, the authority and privilege of calling a minister rests solely and completely with the members of the local congregation. Likewise, a Unitarian Universalist minister freely chooses how to respond to that call. Minster and congregation enter a sacred covenant, a committed promise to be in relationship in a particular way. As the chair of the search committee that brought you here, I affirm that our relationship has been one where that promise was fulfilled.

Bill Hackett: As the board president when you first arrived, my goal was to help create an environment in which the minister could succeed. This has been a successful ministry for you and for us.

Laura Anderson: As the second of the three board presidents who served with you, I affirm that as you have dwelt among us as our minister, you have lived and spoken the truth in love as best as you were able. You have been our minister in times of sorrow and of celebration. You have helped us live our values as we worked for justice and as we gathered in religious community.

The Reverend Theresa Novak: I began serving as your minister in September of 2007. Over the years, I have loved you both as individuals and as a church community. You have inspired me and you have reaffirmed my faith each and every day. We have been together in sorrow and in celebration. We have made this town and the world a better place. I am very proud and very humbled to have served as your minister.

Doris Lang: As the President of the Board of Trustees of this congregation, it is now my duty to relieve you of your role as minister of this congregation. Will the members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden please now rise in body and/or in spirit? Please join me in reading the words printed in your order of service.

Members of Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden: We chose you, Reverend Theresa, to be our Minister. You have served us well, and you have been a strong advocate for love and for justice. It is now time to let you go. We are grateful for the years we have spent with you, for the gifts and the wisdom you have brought to us. We wish you well, as we release you from your calling as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden.

The Reverend Theresa Jane Novak: I chose you, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, to be my church. We have shared tender times as well as exciting ones. They have been some of the very best years of my life. It is now time to let you go. I am grateful for the years we have spent together and for all you have given me. I wish you well, as you release me from my calling as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden.

Doris Lang: Although you will no longer be our minister, the love that is between us will not go away. I offer you now this small vial of our sacred water, symbol of our gathered community. Please take it with you, knowing that our prayers and love will follow you for the rest of your days.

The Reverend Theresa Novak: Thank you. Please know that my prayers and love will be with all of you for the rest of my days.

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble in Paradise – Starr King School for the Ministry

I have hesitated on whether or not to write this post. Starr King School for the Ministry (SKSM) is important to me.  It is the seminary where I studied for the ministry, and there is so much pain there right now. I don’t want to add to that pain. But it seems to me in all the discussion about the disclosure of confidential information and the board’s response to that disclosure, several important points have been lost.  Three  of them are, in my opinion:

1. The underlying racism of the reaction to the selection of the Reverend Rosemary Bray McNatt as SKSM’s next president

2. Ignorance of the power dynamics of institutions, including those of small religiously liberal seminaries

3. Hubris and confusion about what the “empowerment ” of students actually means.

You can read the public documents from the school  here.

Facebook has been totally popping, but I only know of one UU blogger who has commented so far.  Scott Well’s comments are here. I found some of Scott’s comments less than generous in tone and that is partly why I have decided to add my own voice.

Disclaimer first: I have no inside information, just what I have gleaned online.  Most of the discussion seems to be about an anonymous email that contained confidential information and the students whose degrees have not been granted while the school investigates to see if they were involved.  Publicly disclosing confidential information is a serious ethical breech, not something that a minister should ever intentionally do, except in cases where there are legal reporting requirements. This wasn’t that kind of case, however.  It was instead because a student or students (or others) were upset with the selection of the next president of the seminary and believed the selection process was flawed.

1. Racism

There were 3 finalists for the position, all well respected and highly qualified individuals. When the African American woman was selected as the new president it triggered a lot of frankly racist nonsense about her being somehow less qualified than the other two candidates.  This is a major problem for a school that has as an emphasis on social justice work and  educating to counter oppressions. It is also something that always happens when a person of color rises to a position of power and authority, so I guess no one should have been surprised.  Think of those that still question where President Obama was born.  It happens to women too, and there was a very similar reaction when the now outgoing president, Rebecca Parker was first selected.  Everyone can have a favorite candidate and is certainly entitled to be disappointed if someone else is chosen, but would the reaction have been the same if the white male had been selected instead?  Would his qualifications and credentials be disparaged?  Would the selection process have been declared corrupt by anyone?

2.  Ignorance of power dynamics

If you chose to attend a small school or if you chose to work for that school, there is an expectation that you will generally support the institution, and also the board and administration.  Don’t bite the hand that you want to feed you.  Understand where the power lies and approach it with respect.  Constructive criticism is one thing, advice offered in love is a gift that, in my experience, is usually reasonably well received, even if it is not followed.  A milder version of this incident occurred while I was a student there.  One student took it upon herself to state publically that academic standards were being ignored by the school’s administration in certain selections.  She at least signed her name, but the personal advice I gave her was that if she really felt that way, it was probably time for her to look at transferring to a different school.  Similarly, faculty at a small school need to support school policies and the decisions of the board and administration, at least in all public discussion.  If you can’t do that, you don’t belong there.  You might even be fired.  By the way, this is also true for the staff who work for our local congregations.  An office administrator should not be trash talking about the minister – or visa versa for that matter.  The whole really is greater than the parts.

3.  Hubris

Whoever said that the students at the school should get to pick the faculty and the new president?  Being able to give some input into such decisions is a gift, so to be outraged when another decision is made is just hubris in my opinion.  This may be one of the systemic issues going on.  Students are encouraged to speak truth to power and to be vocal on all sorts of social justice issues, but not enough attention appears to be given to the need for humility.  The school is about so much more than the current student body and their opinions or even their careers.  The outraged students don’t seem to understand that.  If they hope to be effective ministers someday then they need to understand that the good of the congregation as a whole always trumps whatever personal  issues the minister might have.  Always.  It can be a very difficult discernment process, but it is one that needs to be done.  It should never just be about you; it has to be what is good for the whole, not what individuals think they want necessarily, but what will help them grow in their faith and also make a positive difference in their own lives and in the wider world.

I hope all involved can spend some reflection time  on the following question:

What is the best thing I can do for the future of the school, for Unitarian Universalism, and ultimately for our world?

I happen to believe that both Unitarian Universalism and the world need the Starr King School for the Ministry.  It is a very special place.  It isn’t perfect, nothing is.   If we want to be faithful and effective religious leaders then our mission must be to build things up and to make things better.  Let’s all try and pray about it.  That could help.

 

Tom Shade has some important things to say about power and authority  (here)

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go

I must

Unravel the yarn

Carefully

So it will not tangle

So it can be woven

Again

Into yet another

Cloth

The color of the yarn

Is the color of my heart

I leave with you

Your loom is waiting

For the next weaver

And a new tapestry

It will be beautiful

If I let go

With love

With grace

May it be so

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong Opinions Strong Drink

martini1

For most of my life

I have been blessed – or cursed

With strong opinions.

Like strong drink,

Strong opinions

Can be intoxicating

Raise your glass high

Work for the cause

Follow me

I have an idea

I know what we should do

And so often

The people I am with

Have listened and agreed.

Sometimes they even do

What I say.

A wonder

For which I am grateful.

A minister is expected

To know what is right

How to walk this planet

In a way that serves life

A moral guidepost with vision

And God knows I try

But really now

I am only human

Strong opinions

Like strong drinks

Are hard to set aside

But sometimes we

I guess I mean I

Need to stay

Just a bit thirsty

Ask a few more questions

Listen hard for the truth

Explore many paths

Sip some more water

Take some more time

Before we can mix

Just the right cocktail

With an olive of justice

A portion of hope

A splash of compassion

Together at last

In a shaker of love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How shall I say goodbye?

images-7

 

How shall I say goodbye

How can I loosen

The heartstrings

That have held us so close

For the last seven years

A lifetime it seemed

A ministry true

Hope and dreams

Tears and laughter

Music and prayer

Were the cement

That bound us together

We trembled in awe

At the mystery of life

Revealed each new day

The blessings of birth

The tears of grief

The joy of weddings

The hard work of  justice

I won’t say goodbye

I won’t break my heart

The ties are so deep

The best I can do

Is offer with grace

A fond fare thee well

My hearts strings will sing

In memory and love

A sweet song of gratitude

For the rest of my life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politicians, Ministers, and Movie Stars

A minister, a politician, and a movie star walk into a bar together…

It should be the beginning line of a good joke, but I am afraid it is just too far-fetched.

They would never go into the same bar.  But in the bars they do go into, someone is very likely to say to any of them – and not as a pick up line – “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”

Ministers, politicians, and movie stars all tend to be recognized by people we don’t know.  It happens to me all the time.  Someone will come up to me in the grocery store, at the pizza joint, or at the do-it-yourself car wash, and say, “Oh, I know you, aren’t you the minister of the UU church?” They have maybe been to the church a time or two, attended a wedding or memorial service I officiated, saw me at an event or demonstration where I spoke, or even saw my picture in the newspaper.

OK, it is a smallish city.  But in smallish cities, ministers are public figures, especially if they tend toward the out-spoken.

I don’t know for sure what Brad Pitt does or Mitt Romney .  Odds are extremely good I will never run unto any of them at a bar or anywhere else.  I would recognize them, but they wouldn’t know me at all.

A number of years ago, before I entered the ministry, I was a national level officer in a professional association, the Federal Manager’s Association.  We held our annual conventions in DC every year and we also had a PAC fund.  I had the opportunity to meet with quite a few Members of Congress in their offices.  I met Ann Richards and Hilary Clinton at fundraisers for other candidates.  Most were delightful in their own way, but even though I shook their hands, I did not really “meet” them.  They were wearing their politician persona.

Politicians can be charismatic, but they see so many people, most of whom want something from them, that most of the time they aren’t really connecting to the people they are meeting.  That is true no matter what party affiliation they might have.  They have their standard lines which  they use to respond to just about anything anyone might say.

I suspect movie stars are much the same way.  “Yes, I will give you an autograph.”  “I am happy you enjoyed my last picture.”  “Get out of my face.” They don’t have to think about what to say to a particular individual; they don’t have to really connect with the other person.  They can just be a “public figure.”

Ministers have a public persona too, even if we don’t happen to be wearing a collar or a stole.  People, even strangers, expect something different from us.  They sometimes think we can see into their very souls.  It is daunting sometimes.  It is always humbling.  We listen to their stories of pain and heartache.  Our words don’t have to be many, they don’t need to be particularly eloquent, but they have to be real, a memorized script just won’t do.

I think we have more in common with the bartenders.

 

singing bowl

A Larger Ministry

I am a large woman

It is a good thing.

As a minister

My shoulders must be wide

When people need them

To absorb their tears.

My arms must open up

To create a safe space

To hold the fearful

Close to my body

In a strong embrace.

If I could only be

Even larger

My giant heart

Might beat a rhythm

Loud enough

Just loud enough

To teach this hurting world

The joy of the dance.

 

Leaving Utah

I told my church this week that I would be leaving them and leaving Utah at the end of this coming June.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it is a good one for me and for my family.  Although it might take awhile for them to realize it, I think it will also be good for the church that I will have served for seven years.

My reasons for leaving are many.  I miss my friends and family in California.  I also want to live in a state where my marriage is not only legal, but where our rights as a family are respected not only by the laws of the state and nation, but also by most of the elected officials, and by the vast majority of the citizens.  Even if court cases eventually bring marriage quality to Utah, it is still going to be a hostile environment for years to come.  I am just tired of it.  Having had a taste of real equality in California, to stay here would feel to me like choosing to remain in chains.

I am also tired of the increasingly bad air, the crazy gun laws, the lack of sex education in the schools, the suicide rates, the meth and prescription drug addiction, the teen pregnancies, the domestic violence, the crooked politicians, the rampant child abuse, and the callousness of a governor who refuses to expand medicaid.  People are dying and he and most of the legislature just don’t seem to care.  Frankly, things only seem to get worse every time the Utah legislature actually passes any laws.  California has some of these same problems of course, but the state government there tries to work on them in ways that make at least some sense to me.  They wouldn’t raise the speed limit to 80 miles per hour without at least considering the environmental impact.

Then there is the weather.  Spring and fall are the only seasons that I really enjoy here.   Summers are too hot and dry, and winters are too cold and too polluted.

It is hard to minister to a church and to the wider community unless you love them and are also happy to be with them where they live.  I deeply love the members of the church.  I also love much of the wider community and am thrilled that environmental activism is increasing in the state.  I am proud of Utah’s GLBT community and awesome organizations like CORC, OUTreach Ogden, Equality Utah, Peaceful Uprising, Utah Mom’s for Clean Air, and the ACLU.  Organizations like Mormons for Equality and Ordain Women also bring hope for change.  I wish I could take all these good folks to California with me.   Then the only thing I would continue to miss about Utah is the glow of the setting sun on the mountains.  That is true beauty, it really is.  The Pacific Ocean also has its charms, however.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden is an awesome congregation.  They deserve a minister who will truly be happy in Utah.  I was happy here for a long time, but things have changed.  Maybe I am just getting older.  The congregation is very easy to love, so whoever follows me will certainly love them as well.

I am so proud of the work we have done together.  The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden has made a positive difference in so many people’s lives.  We have helped change the wider community as well.  The work of the church will go on without me; of that I have no doubt.  The people and the good work they do will always be in my heart.  Namaste.

Click (here) for the sermon where I told these good people that I would be leaving them.