Other Perspectives

Big Question: Can I be honest with you?

By , Published on January 18, 2018
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In keeping with this month’s theme at First Parish, Right Relationships, let’s start by acknowledging that relationships can be complex, so getting them “right” can be difficult. Compounding the challenge is the fact that we each have many kinds of relationships and no two are the same.

In the face of such complex and indeterminate forces, it’s not surprising when we approach relational interactions with more protective personas, pre-conceived posturing or perfunctory patter.

Open, honest and direct communication can be fraught, even perilous. If I tell you what I really think and believe, will it jeopardize our relationship? If you are forthright with me, can I really hear your sentiment without being defensive or reactive?

Being forthright feels risky because it could change the relationship – for better or for worse. And change is risky. So it often seems like we must choose between honesty and the relationship (in its current form). When one impinges on the other, can that still be a right relationship?

Because of the inherent risk, these interactions are sometimes referred to as courageous conversations.

The dynamic goes beyond our close relationships. Within our professional and/or public relationships, there can be other forms of risk and impediments to forthrightness.

And yet these days we may feel increasingly called to take that risk, to be courageous, to speak out in public on behalf of ourselves or someone else. There are occasions when our silence is a form of complicity in a relationship that is far from right.

In this month’s Big Question Forum we’ll talk (openly and honestly) about the challenges, impediments and imperatives related to forthright communication – at home, in our community, at work, and in the more public sphere.

We hope you can join us next Tuesday, January 23rd at 7:30 in the parlor. 

Building Your Own Theology

By , Published on January 5, 2018
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Have you ever wanted to think through your perspectives on the big religious questions related to God, Heaven/Hell, spirituality, human nature, ethics as a way of articulating your current religious theology?

Well, here is your opportunity to do just that via the UUA course being offered at First Parish in February and March entitled “Building Your Own Theology.”

Through individual, small group and larger group reflections, activities, and exercises we will investigate these topics in a way that allows each participant the ability to document their perspectives culminating in an “I believe” credo statement of their current personal religious beliefs, or theology.

It has been said that liberal religion is a “do it yourself” approach to personal belief systems. The purpose of this course is to provide some of the tools for building a personal theology based on the materials of an individual’s life experiences.

The structure of the topics and exercises we will do will provide the framework that allows participants to navigate this “do it yourself” philosophy in a way that results in a refreshingly satisfying supportive environment to develop their  personal theology.

If you are interested please contact Don Leathe or Phil Griffith by January 21st.

First Parish Votes for Sanctuary

By , Published on December 14, 2017
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This past Sunday, December 10, First Parish convened a congregational meeting to consider two articles related to sanctuary. The first article proposed that First Parish become a level 2 sanctuary congregation (“sanctuary supporting congregation”). The second article proposed adding First Parish to the list of Unitarian Universalist Sanctuary Movement Pledge Congregations & Organizations. Both articles passed unanimously.

With over 90 members in attendance, we well surpassed the quorum requirement, which was one of several signs of enthusiasm from parishioners for this initiative. The sanctuary task force of the Immigrant Ministry was heartened by this show of support and appreciates all the coordination and hard work that Gail Hedges (Parish President), the Parish Committee, Reverend Catie, and others put into making the vote a success.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to share in this discernment with the parish body, and for both the words of support and tough questions that we received from parishioners along the way. It was beautiful to see different aspects of the church come together and make this milestone possible.

Now, the next phase begins. The Sanctuary Task Force will investigate which level 1 sanctuary congregations we can partner with.  Once a suitable level 1 is identified, we will present that congregation and the parameters of a supporting relationship to the Parish Committee for approval.  Once those steps are completed, you will start hearing about volunteer and support opportunities. In the meantime, we welcome anyone who wants to get involved or has questions or ideas to contact a member of the Immigrant Ministry.

Ultimately, the decision on Sunday was an act of faith, faith in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and faith in the love and strength of this church to continue to put that belief into action.

 

Coping with Loss During the Holidays

By , Published on December 6, 2017
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We all feel the press of cultural, family and personal expectations whether we’ve had a loss or not.   The following words and phrases express those expectations:

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Joy, Feasting, Celebration, Festivity, Good Cheer

This clashes with what a grieving person is feeling inside:

Loss, loneliness, emptiness, yearning, anger, guilt, depression

We yearn for holidays to be the same as they once were. However, when we’re grieving, the holidays remind us of what we have lost.

It’s an exceptionally difficult time for people who have lost a loved one within the months prior to the holidays. For others it may be difficult because of a death anniversary during this season, families far away, or a rupture of some kind such as divorce, estrangement, medical illness, etc.

There’s so much pressure to feel happy and festive—some comes from within but also from usually well-intentioned friends and family members who expect traditions to continue despite the loss. You don’t want to disappoint people but may feel guilt if you don’t participate. It’s common for grieving people to withdraw to avoid the pressure. It’s also common for family and well meaning others to get concerned and urge you to maintain the activities of the season in a misguided attempt to cheer you up.

If there’s one symptom of grief, it’s exhaustion. Unconsciously a lot of energy is going into that grieving whether grief is new or your loss happened a while ago. Holidays are packed with activity – parties, cooking, shopping, holiday cards, etc. Make time for rest.

Give yourself permission. It’s not yes or no. You can make adjustments. Do certain things and not others. What you do this year to cope can be different from last year or next year.  

Maybe skip the whole thing: It is actually okay if you decide to skip your traditional celebrations and instead go on a trip, go to a yoga or spiritual retreat, don’t send cards this year, etc. Give yourself permission to do what feels right.

Parties: If the party is called for 7 o’clock and goes to 10, call the host and let him or her know that you’ll come but only for a short time. You can explain or not. You can go or not.

Shopping: Use the Internet instead of the facing hassle of driving, parking and crowds. Keep a list with you so when you have energy you can go and do it in small pieces.

It’s okay to feel festive: When you feel like you WANT to participate in something festive, allow yourself to do it without guilt. Pain and happiness can live in the same house.

Plan. Think about what will make the holiday meaningful, what you have energy for and plan for how to make that happen. Don’t ad lib this one.

Communicate. Sit down with family and discuss what feels right and what is possible this year. How will you recognize the absence of a loved one.

 Remember. For many people memorializing the loss can be healing. Tree lighting, candle lighting, saying the loved one’s name is very helpful. Make time for stories of the loved one when you’re keenly aware of their absence.

Please contact Rev. Catie or any member of the Pastoral Care Team if you’d like to discuss this or could use some extra support.  The next Grief and Loss Group meets on Sunday, December 17th from 12-1:30 in the Keil Classroom, and is led by Andrea Goldberg.  All are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

Sanctuary in Spirit

By , Published on November 28, 2017
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I recently wrote a blog post called “Sanctuary in Practice” [http://uuneedham.org/sanctuary-in-practice/], about my conversation with Reverend Chris Jimmerson who serves as the Minister for Program Development at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, a level 1 sanctuary congregation. In this follow up blog post, I want to share how that conversation moved me spiritually.

Reverend Jimmerson first explained the process the Parish followed to become a Sanctuary Parish initially focused on the practical details involved. These were typical concerns: Would there be enough volunteers? Would the effort interfere with the Church’s other social action projects? Would raising money (if needed) divert financial resources from the Church’s fundraising efforts?

However, when their Sanctuary Committee met with the Parish Council to recommend becoming a Level 2 Parish, members of the Council challenged them to explain why they would recommend Level 2 as opposed to Level 1. The Council Members argued that if the process to become a Sanctuary Parish was viewed through the lens of the Church’s Mission and Values, the recommendation should instead focus on becoming a Level 1 Parish.

Later, the Congregation voted overwhelmingly to become a Level 1 Sanctuary. I was encouraged to hear this chain of events. Rev. Jimmerson believes the crucial element was when parishioners heard directly from the individual who had been a guest in Sanctuary at another church. This guest-in-residence shared his story, including the stress of living as an undocumented immigrant, the way his fears were realized when he received a deportation order, his challenge in deciding if sanctuary was the best option, and his explanation for why returning to his country was a dangerous option. Once congregants heard up close what many immigrants experience in their daily lives, they were so moved that the members voted overwhelming to become a Level 1 Sanctuary Parish.

Rev. Jimmerson said that his church’s spiritual growth since starting this process has re-invigorated his Church in a ways he had not imagined. He believes that having a guest in sanctuary has energized his members’ faith and their sense of empowerment, simply by recognizing how their actions and efforts could make such a profound difference in someone’s life. In fact, despite being less organized in their first time hosting a guest, he believes that more congregants stepped up to help the second time based on how people shared the positive benefits of living their faith. Their connection with the network of other Austin based congregations has also enriched them in numerous ways and provided additional insights, such as the additional danger one LGBTQ guest faced when some faith-based organizations refused to provide him sanctuary.

I wish I could better capture Rev. Jimmerson’s tone when he described these events to me. His passion and energy indicated both his joy in being a part of such an important movement and his renewed sense of purpose and love for his faith community and his faith. Yes, he admitted that at times at the beginning, when a guest arrived without the Church being fully prepared, it could be stressful, as if “the Church was building the bicycle as they were riding it.” But he takes pride that they now share these lessons with other congregations to make the process easier and enable more to join this movement.

I have been part of the Sanctuary Task Force that has been gathering information since June in order to enable our Parish to assess its willingness to commit to becoming a Sanctuary Parish. My efforts were guided initially by my belief in the importance of providing assistance to others who were experiencing suffering and disruption in their lives. But as often happens when working on such initiatives, my humanitarian impetus for getting involved became less visible as I became immersed In sorting through the practical aspects of such a decision.

Two events – both with their origins in Texas – brought me back to my center. The first was the news story that reported on a large church’s initial refusal to open its doors to flood victims in the Houston area. My immediate reaction led to my asking myself the question, “Will this be us – First Parish – if we choose not to get involved in the Sanctuary movement?”   My conversation with Rev. Jimmerson in Austin served as the tipping point in revealing the clarity of why I hoped our Parish would ultimately choose to become a Sanctuary Parish. His enthusiastic description of the spiritual benefits for all involved in becoming a Sanctuary congregation was compelling, and it re-enforced for me that the decision flows out of our stated spiritual beliefs. It provides us with an opportunity to put our stated values and beliefs into action.

On December 10 at 12pm in the sanctuary, First Parish will vote on becoming a sanctuary supporting congregation. Please join us.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews, 13:2)

Ask Me About Sanctuary

By , Published on October 27, 2017
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The Immigrant Ministry is leading an effort for First Parish to vote on becoming a level 2 (supporting) sanctuary.  This means we would organize to support a level 1 sanctuary so that they can host an immigrant in danger of deportation.

As a group, we have met for the past several months to study and reflect upon sanctuary.  Questions we’ve addressed as a group are:

  • Are we spiritually called to sanctuary?
  • What is the history and tradition of sanctuary in Unitarian Universalism?
  • What would it mean for First Parish to be a sanctuary or sanctuary supporting (level 2) congregation?

We are ready, able and enthusiastic to share the answers to those questions, and many more, with you.  In fact, you may have already seen us tabling at social hour or attended a recent meeting about sanctuary, or noticed that our full Sanctuary FAQ is now available on the First Parish website.

Sometimes one-on-one conversations are the best way to get questions answered, or to express concerns and ideas.  In that spirit, we welcome and encouraged you to ask questions to any member of the sanctuary task force of the Immigrant Ministry, including:

  • Becca Malakoff
  • Cathy Livingston
  • Clark Taylor
  • Jeanette Anderson
  • Tabby Rappolt
  • Traci Abbott
  • Will Rico

We are committed to open dialogue and want everyone to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with us.

A popular question has been “why are you recommending level 2 (supporting) status and what would that entail?”  Since this is such a popular question, I’ve excerpted the answer from the Sanctuary FAQ below.

IX. RECOMMENDATION OF THE IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE 

At this time, the Immigrant Ministry recommends that First Parish become a Level 2 Sanctuary Congregation.  By becoming a Level 2 Sanctuary site, we are taking a stand on a critical social justice issue.  This route provides us with the opportunity to contribute and  test our resolve while educating ourselves on what would be required of us if were to choose to become a Level 1 Sanctuary site at a later date.

The above statement would simply acknowledge that First Parish commits to becoming a Level 2 Parish. It would NOT commit us to partnering with a specific congregation that has voted to become a Level 1 Sanctuary. Once First Parish decides if it wants to become a Level 2 Sanctuary Parish, the Immigrant Ministry and the Sanctuary Task Force will monitor Level 1 Sanctuary congregations in our geographic area. The Sanctuary Task Force will meet with members of the Level 1 congregation(s) once the congregation has accepted someone into sanctuary to assess the viability of partnering with one of them as a Level 2 Sanctuary Parish. 

Once the Sanctuary Task Force has identified one or more potential partnerships, materials will be prepared and presented to the Parish Committee (as needed). Sanctuary Task Force will choose Level 1 to pair with (with approval/discretion of Parish Committee). 

Process for Partnering with a specific Level 1 Sanctuary Congregation:

Before declaring support as a Level 2 Sanctuary Parish with a Level 1 congregation with a family or individual in residence, the Parish will engage in the following discernment and decision process:

  • Provide a description of resident(s) living in sanctuary at Level 1 sanctuary congregations within First Parish’s geographic area (This assumes that there may be more than one congregation housing someone in residence.  If there is only one Level 1 congregation with someone in residence, that information will be brought to the Parish.)
  • Provide a list of the volunteer support activities that the Level 1 congregation has listed as needed.
  • Provide information on how many volunteers and/or hours of support are desired by the Level 1 congregation, including as much specificity about time slots available, desired time commitment for each volunteer, minimum hours of support expected of a Level 2 congregation, etc. as we can obtain.
  • Provide an estimate of any expenses that are anticipated in voting on a specific Level 2 commitment, including information on how that money will be raised.

We look forward to answering more questions, and growing in our understanding and spirit together.

Introduction to Sanctuary

By , Published on October 20, 2017
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First Parish is currently considering becoming a Sanctuary Level 2 congregation, a role in which we would support a Level 1 congregation housing an immigrant family. Tabby Rappolt recently attended trainings for Sanctuary volunteers. This is her report.

It was a dark and stormy night. Hot too. No place to park, either. Welcoming light poured from the door of the tiny church where the smiling sanctuary team welcomed a couple hundred people into the modest hall, urging us to help ourselves from the table piled with ice-cream treats “before they melt”. The team told us about meeting at least weekly for several months, the ready support, financial and spiritual, from their denomination, the excitement in the parish. They spoke of connecting with agencies, immigration lawyers, and the level one sanctuary in Cambridge. We introduced ourselves with name, reason for being there, and organization or parish. Wellesley Friends came out in force. There were LOTS of synagogues. There were unions, community social action groups, and several churches. I was the lone UU (embarrassing! I thought we were proud social action leaders).

We were told what it would mean to be a volunteer: 1) individual sign up by email (forms dump into an Excel spreadsheet) for what skills and time we were willing to offer 2) attend a free two-hour evening training by the Massachusetts Communities Action Network – several offered nearby during the summer and more to come throughout the year, and 3) sign the Newton Sanctuary and Solidarity Collaborative Covenant which committed us to following the Collaborative’s guidelines and respecting the procedures, requirements and guidelines of the level one church. The signing was individual only unless you had been authorized to sign on behalf of an organization. I signed for me since I had no authority to sign for First Parish. We were given a tour of the area set aside for the “guests”- two bedrooms with air mattresses and little else so as to emphasize to any town inspector that this was a temporary arrangement, not a violation of zoning law covering tenant housing in a public building, though temporary could mean up to two years. There was a nice eat-in kitchen, a sitting area/playroom, and a bathroom, about to be enhanced with a shower. I spoke to the sanctuary committee, offering my skills in database management for processing the volunteer forms into work schedules. On the way out I visited the cozy sanctuary – half the size of ours. A tiny congregation to take on so much!

A few weeks after joining the Newton Collaborative as a level 3 (individual) volunteer I went to the MCAN training in Brookline. Actual duties are simple. You can sign up on your volunteer email form to: do laundry, shop, drive sanctuary dwellers to appointments, take children to school/pick them up, be a sanctuary presence. The being present is to discourage ICE showing up, documenting what happens if they do, handling requests from the sanctuary dwellers (call a plumber, put an item on the shopper’s list, usually report issue to volunteer coordinator). Presence is always two people for 2-6-hour shifts 24/7. They are near the living quarters, but not in them. They can socialize with the dwellers, or provide some child care if the dwellers want them to.

Mainly the training is about attitude. You are there to support the dwellers, not manage them. No invasive personal questions, no unsolicited dietary or parenting advice. Basically, respect them as you would any other normal adult. That also means respecting their privacy – no gossiping about them, no photos, no contacting media without their permission. In fact, we are encouraged not to identify the people or the sanctuary except in the vaguest terms ( e.g. ”a church in Newton”, “people in sanctuary in Newton”) if we must discuss them to discourage identifying them in ways that will make it hard for them to live normally when they leave. And they will leave. These are always people in process of obtaining permission to reside and work here legally who fear that they may be deported before their case is decided. They are working with an immigration lawyer who has advised them to seek sanctuary. We were told that to date ICE has NEVER come into a church. But if they do show up: Only let them in if they show you a warrant signed by a judge. Move the dwellers into the sanctuary. Call the volunteer coordinator. Take pictures of the arrest in the sanctuary. The immigration lawyer will want those photos. Do not block ICE. Just take pictures.

It was a pretty intense two hours. I was heartened to find other UUs in attendance. The Brookline UU church is a level two supporting the Cambridge level one sanctuary which already has a people in sanctuary.

I have also been to a seminar sponsored by Temple Beth Shalom – Immigration 101 – presented by a local immigration lawyer on the legal aspects of sanctuary and sanctuary volunteers. Bottom line – yes, you are engaging in civil disobedience. No, you aren’t likely to be arrested unless you pepper spray an ICE agent. Presently, I am part of the Needham branch of the Newton Sanctuary collaborative. We meet as needed at Temple Beth Shalom. Beth Pinals heads the group and is our representative to the Needham Collaborative which meets every Monday night. If you want to volunteer at the Newton Sanctuary, she is the person to contact.

Big Questions Forum: How Do You Live With Uncertainty?

By , Published on October 19, 2017
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These are uncertain times.

Perhaps times have always been uncertain: it’s the nature of being human. We want order, security, control and certainty. How else can we live a rational, orderly life?

Yet in spite of all our progress, are these times not ever more uncertain?

  • Perhaps the stakes are higher.
  • Perhaps we are more hyper-aware of the turbulence of these times.
  • Perhaps now, daily, we are confronted with the fragility of our shared environment.
  • Perhaps this uncertainty brings out greater certainty in others, hardening them to the vulnerability required for relationships of depth

Uncertainty can be described as “A state of having limited knowledge where it is impossible to exactly describe the existing state or future outcome.” And yet, is not uncertainty a prelude to some kind of faith and more authentic living? Does not an over-developed sense of certainty lead to smug indifference?

To thinking people from investors to actuaries, uncertainty is associated with risk. And living in a risky environment creates stress. Life on the edge of a precipice feels precarious.

Yes, these are uncertain times. So in this first Big Question Forum of the year, in the face of this endemic and widespread uncertainty, we’ll ask:

  • How are you doing?
  • What is your direct and visceral experience of uncertainty?
  • Are you burdened by uncertainty, or buoyed by the exhilarating creativity of an undetermined future?
  • What strategies do you use, tacitly or explicitly, to address uncertainty?
  • How has the perceived increase in uncertainty changed you?

The Big Question Forum meets on the 4th Tuesday of most months during the year. This session will take place next Tuesday, Oct. 24rd, at 7:30 in the Parlor.

We hope to see you there!

Voluntary Sanctuary Training

By , Published on October 9, 2017
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This past summer, I attended a two hour training session for sanctuary volunteers at the Eliot Church in Newton.  The training was conducted by a veteran, lay leader whose own church in Cambridge has had guests for two months.  Because of the Syrian refugee crisis, the Muslim ban and other immigration issues, I had been interested in the sanctuary movement and had attended meetings of the Sanctuary Task Force at First Parish.  I was interested in the “do’s and don’ts”  of sanctuary volunteerism, not background information, and that is exactly what we received.  You are not a therapist nor a recreational director.  Above all, we were given the assurance that any questions or issues we felt inadequate to respond to could be referred to the volunteer coordinator.  This training was in preparation for shifts at a nearby Level 1, Newton church, for which I had volunteered,  and which was expecting guests within weeks.  There are many volunteer activities I can no longer perform efficiently, but I can take a sanctuary volunteer shift.  Since that time I have learned that those particular guests chose not to seek refuge, but others are expected shortly.

Presently, at First Parish, the Sanctuary Task Force of the Immigrant Ministry recommends that First Parish become a Level 2 Sanctuary congregation, thereby taking a stand on this critical issue, and enabling First Parish to support a Level 1 church who has adequate space.  I hope this becomes a reality; First Parish, while not a large church makes a loud noise when we band together.

Thanksliving and Thanksloving in a Challenging Time

By , Published on June 30, 2017
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Thanksliving and Thanksloving in a Challenging Time

By Kay and Clark Taylor

Introductory note: The following was given as the sermon on June 25.  It introduces two made up words, which you can see italicized in the title just below, and it seeks to define and enlighten the notion of “Beloved Community,” which Martin Luther King Jr. used to describe what he was working to create.  It is based on a powerful love that transforms enemies into people we can work with to find the way to justice and peace.  In the sermon, we drew on our own spiritual practices and the deeply real sense of community that infuses this church to point out that the Beloved Community that we find in our personal relationships and this church will lead us to work to create it in the wider world.

K: How do we — any of us — deal with life “in a challenging time”?  Clark, you and I struggled early in our marriage to have a family and came through it with one wonderful biological son and two wonderful adopted daughters.  That was a challenging time for us, for sure.  During that time we found ourselves agonized over the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, which was a different form of challenge to make sense of.  And there have been many other challenges along the way.  But now both of us find that, given our health and aging issues, this time stands out as particularly challenging.  As all of us sit here this morning, each of us can think about the challenges we have faced and are currently facing in our own lives.  And most of us can probably agree that as we currently experience life as citizens of our nation, with our cherished democracy hanging in the balance, this is a challenging time indeed.  

C: The two of us experience this church as a warm and loving community of people that is helping us in a powerful way to meet both the personal and societal challenges of our lives.  And we have become aware of the ideal of the Beloved Community, which the UUA has taken as a central part of its belief system.  Three years ago, 21of us heard Meck Groot, an official of the UUA, speak in this church about Beloved Community, including its use by Martin Luther King Jr.  It is based, she said, on the belief that love is the greatest force in the world, which is to be expressed through right relationships of love and respect.  At times, she said, the love of Beloved Community is confrontational, bringing to mind the recent huge demonstrations that have been organized to resist the negative, backward-looking policies of our President and the efforts of the rich powerful oppressors to become ever more rich and powerful.  But underlying the resistance and protest is a disciplined love, respect, and iron will that is determined to stop the oppressors in their tracks.  The goal is to make their oppression too expensive for them and too much getting in the way of what they are intent on doing.  At that point, they may find it necessary to sit down to work out a constructive solution based in our mutual humanity.  Martin Luther King said about it: “It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends.… It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

K: Beloved Community, in other words, is not based in a spineless weakness, but in tough love and strength. Within that framework it provides plenty of room for respectful tenderness and love. At this point in our 59 years of married life together we also experience our own love as an expression of Beloved Community.  And we also find that our church community participates in it, as well.  Our deep love and this church community are imperfect expressions of it, to be sure, but the vision of it inspires and guides us.  Because I know I am loved, I have strengths and energy to reach out to each of you and the world beyond.

C: Let’s start logically with thanksliving in our personal lives in the context of our church.  We think of thanksliving as an outward impulse.  It reaches out from us for this or that good experience, friend, family member, or aspect of our lives.  The two of us have spoken before of our practice of lighting a chalice in our home every day when we are first together in the morning.  Regardless of the kind of sleep we have had or the various pains in our bodies, we start with a simple candle of thanks that, in effect, lights a fire within us.   We are first of all thankful for a precious new day as a gift of life and love to share with each other and with others.  We used to just take a new day for granted.

K: Then we are thankful for the particulars that come to mind, including family, church friends, and the challenges that are before us in that day.  The hope is to set a pattern for the day to make the whole time we are awake lived in a thanksliving way.  Realistically, it never lasts through all parts of the day—especially when we are deeply frustrated by some problem in our lives. You can fill in the blanks of points in your day when you lose all sight of living thankfully.  But the challenge is there to find ways of centering ourselves to recover the fire of the thanksliving spirit.  And this church helps us do it.

C: Science itself is supportive in this endeavor to live thankfully and names amazing multiple benefits that come from thanksliving.  A Newsweek article quotes a psychologist from the University of Birmingham, who noted in 2013 that the “list of potential benefits [of living thankfully] is almost endless: fewer intellectual biases, more effective learning strategies, more helpfulness towards others, raised self-confidence, better work attitude, strengthened resiliency, less physical pain, improved health, and longevity.”  The author goes on to name five more specific ones, all scientifically demonstrated.  What’s not to like about thankful living?  You can be sure that the two of us are listening to ourselves even as we speak, to find a way more deeply into the benefits.  

K: Thanksloving can be singled out as a profound form of thanksliving.  It is relational at its core.  As human beings we find it difficult to impossible to love ourselves if we do not experience others reaching out to us in a loving way.  You may point to one person in your growing up life who inspired you with the will and confidence to live in a productive way.  For some it is a teacher, a grandparent, or a special caregiver.  We may well have several such people in our lives.  Thankful living, thus, incorporates thankful loving, but the loving aspect is worth focusing on in itself because of its profound importance in our relationship with others and, ultimately, with how we love ourselves.  

C: The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote of contrasting ways of engaging with others, as I-Thou, on the one hand, and I-It on the other.  I-Thou involves treating other people as holy or sacred loving others rather than as things, as “its.”  Every person, whoever we are, has an innate desire to have others care about us in a loving way.  In our defensiveness, we often have developed habits and attitudes that make it difficult for us to be easily loved and accepted by others.  But we can remind ourselves that all of us are alike in that essential way of needing to be lovingly accepted by others.  Quakers speak of “the god in us” and “holding one another in the light,” i.e., with reference to the holy Thou in all of us.  Kay, you and I have developed ways of working through the difficult differences of our lives.

K: I was and am more focused on creativity and beauty, while you have been committed to social change and activism.  Then you took up garden photography as a hobby, which served as a bridge for our interests.  Even with that, I found it hard not to think of your social justice work as more valuable than my focus on artistic beauty.  But I have come around to becoming very supportive of your justice work, which I also believe in. As a result, we have become each other’s cheerleaders. As we have become older and are now heading into some difficult uncertainty on the health front, our thankfulness and love for each other has become deeper and even more emotionally satisfying and life fulfilling.

C: We have been offering a window into our marriage as a kind of case study of how we have worked to become more intentional in our thanksliving and thanksloving.  But as all of us here today seek to become more thankful and loving people, both in our primary relationships, our friendship circles, and in our church, the further truth is that it opens the possibility for us to offer more as citizens in uplifting artistic beauty and the political justice struggles in our world. Another way of saying this is as we work to create the Beloved Community in our church, we are more prepared to work toward the Beloved Community at a grander loving justice scale as we join forces with others in the world around us.  As a church we can see that we are already on that journey:

K: Our church has tackled the challenges of Beloved Community-building in many ways.  To mention a few: by becoming a green congregation, with support for the health of the planet, and a welcoming congregation with an open love for all people, including LGBTQ, transgendered people, and folks of all gender identities. We have taken on the challenge of becoming a more racially just congregation and the cause of helping to release people who have been trafficked and try to support them.  We are in the process of deciding whether to become a sanctuary congregation that would support a faith community that has enough space to house an undocumented immigrant or family.

C: Given these outreach efforts and others, in which many of us have been involved, we can say that this church is engaged in helping to create the Beloved Community in the world around us.  And if we add up every single thing different ones of us are doing as volunteers or in our places of employment to make the world a more just and peaceful place, we would be impressed.  You who are volunteering or working for a just peace at work are unheralded ambassadors of the spirit of this church.  But clearly there is much more to be done.  We invite you to consider what you can do in light of your own spiritual practices to become more of an ambassador for beauty, justice, and peace.  Our hope here in sharing some of our own thanksliving and thanksloving practice is not that you will do what we do, but that you will draw on your own way of building and sharing in Beloved Community.

 

 

 

 

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