Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year's Eve Message

Dear Ones,

Welcome to 2017!  If you're like me you're glad to put 2016 behind us. Like it or not, Donald Trump will soon be inaugurated as our next President. There will also be a "Freedom Concert" in Miami on Inauguration Day that will be televised as an anti-Trump protest. I wonder how Unitarian Universalists will manage this on January 20? Whatever you do, know that our Congregation has many ways to stay informed and become active. We know the next four years will test our progressive voices, and remember, you're not alone. 

On January 19th during our Teaching Thursday presentation Allen Maxwell will offer  WHEN THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD: SMOOTH PAVEMENT, SKID MARKS AND CRASHES? --THE IMPLEMENTATION OF PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN PROMISES On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, our resident and retired Professor of Political Science, Allen Maxwell will present his thoughts and ask you to join him in speculating about whether or not, “It could happen here.”

Our Justice Action Ministry will be offering us opportunities to become more active on issues of race, deportation, and activism. Do check the calendar and participate. Our Congregation will be voting on whether we will engage these issues. 

Our liberal religious voices will become more important and necessary during this Presidency. Please engage all that the Congregation has to offer.

Ministry to one another will be equally important on this journey. We will surely be challenged, confused, and crestfallen. May we use our voices and values on behalf of a broken and divided country and each other. 

May 2017 bring you joy. 

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Commitment for 2017

Friends,
The new year is around the corner and it's about this time I reflect on the past year and set goals for the new year. I guess you could call them resolutions. I wonder if you have a similar practice.
I've decided that one thing I'll commit to in 2017 is to hold reasonable expectations of myself and for others in my life. I decided this after re-reading my favorite book on ministry leadership, Leading With A Limp by Dan Allendar. I love how honest Allender is. It’s refreshing because he says things that most of us are afraid to say -- the simple truth of realities. The chapter in which Allender writes this is about counting the cost of leadership.  It’s simply an honest look at the unrealistic expectations we create for people.
I'm going to be intentional about practicing what I preach and let people know I have their back, expect them to make mistakes and not be good at everything, confront them with grace and gentleness and understanding that my specific desire and expectations may not be met, and to remember they are imperfect people just like me, and that they are human, not superhuman.
Allender writes, "What we want is an illusion and we know it.  We prefer the illusion because we have a deep need to be buffered from reality." and that "we inflict on a few while we comfort ourselves that we don’t have the right stuff to pull it off."  Strong words, words that I rejected at first reading, but found myself understanding them the more I thought about it.
I wonder, as imperfect humans, what do we avoid about the reality of ourselves when we are unreasonable with our expectations for others? For me, I can unreasonably expect people to be all I need or desire because that's who I want to be, and it's impossible.  It's good to step back and say. "It's not about me in this moment." I wonder if you might benefit from stepping back and realizing that your expectations for perfection from others, thus creating an illusion of reality, is because of your own fear of not being the perfect superhuman. Being compassionate toward ourselves will lead us to show compassion to others. Compassion is the root to all that we hold dear in our UU faith.  I look forward to adjusting my expectations and reminding myself I am beautifully imperfect and will not have my every need and desire met because those around me are beautifully imperfect too. 

May your holidays be blessed with joy and beautiful imperfection.

Rev. CJ

Monday, November 21, 2016

Off to New York and Canada

I'm off to New York and Canada at the end of this week. Richard and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with my family and friends and sneaking off to Montreal for a day. I'm not going to make a big deal about the weather there. Though there is snow, ice, and it's 27 degrees Fahrenheit as I write this, but I said I wouldn't make a big deal of it. So, I won't!

Like the world around us congregations, too, have seasons. The sunshine of summer, the rain of spring, the crispness of fall, and the cold of winter. Even if we experience seasons in a different way in Florida we can imagine the cycle. There are bright times and grey times in the cycle and in congregations. As we will learn during our Yule service in December, in the grey times there is always hope and anticipation of returning light. I no doubt have caused confusion and some might view my willingness to continue to serve you as a bright time. Others may feel otherwise. We do find common ground in our current "season" within our Congregation. Each of us cares for the Congregation and act not to be a fly in the ointment or to create an "us" versus "them." Our love for our tradition and community is no less no matter where we stand. If we are to serve one another and the world we will need to explore all options and live in a bit of awkwardness. Even those options we are uncomfortable with. Let us be grateful that we need not stand on one side of the line or the other. Let us be grateful we stand on common ground of love for our beloved church. 

Let us put aside this work for one or two days to be fully present to those we love and care for. No matter your tradition this time of year I wish you peace, hope, and thanksgiving. 

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Monday, September 26, 2016

Forever Connected, Grateful

Dear Ones,

You know how it is when you take on a do-it-yourself project and you sail along pretty well until you reach a part of the job that stumps you? When we find ourselves in this spot we have two choices.

First, we can continue the job and risk the whole project. 

Second, we can identify our limits and ask another professional to manage the next steps allowing the project to continue smoothly.

There is a saying in developmental ministry, "A good minister knows when to leave." A developmental minister arrives to support the congregation to move toward health. The developmental minister knows that while doing that work there will be some peaks and valleys in their relation to the congregation.

I'm proud of where the congregation will be in 2017 when I leave, compared to when I arrived in 2013. Many have observed the same. Just as in the do-it-yourself project I mentioned above, I know when my capacity to do the work is done and when it is time for you to invite another colleague to move the congregation on the next leg of the journey.

I know the announcement of my departure might have been surprising, disappointing, and -- for some -- a relief. All of these reactions are valid. All love this congregation.

I'm not going to leave this congregation feeling upset. Truth be told I expected to move toward settled ministry, but it wasn't in the cards. Although I worry about some voices capturing the congregation, I know that your next minister will pick up where I've left off in helping some in understanding being in relationship with ministers. I know I've learned a lot about being in relationship with a congregation. That said, it's important to remember the strength of this congregation, the good work of this congregation, and the deep connections within this congregation. No matter who your minister is, this congregation has the grit and vision to be a strong presence and a place for all to commit themselves to reason, justice and compassion.

I ask you to remember why you are part of this beloved community. I love serving this congregation and will always hold up how amazing the people in this congregation are. I'm truly blessed to have had your care and this experience. We have shared so many laughs, tender moments, and truly walked together. We are forever connected and I am grateful.

Blessings, CJ



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August 2016

I'm presently in the Adirondacks winding up my time here preparing for my return to Florida.  I always get what some might call the "church itch" this time of year. That is, I am eager and ready to return to congregational life.

As your minister I have the privilege of having a birds eye view of congregational life and the year ahead of us. I'm excited by the opportunities that some of our present challenges will bring. Claudia, our Intern Minister joins us this month. Watch your newsletter for Claudia's schedule week to week. We have a hand in Claudia's formation as she moves toward ordination as a Unitarian Universalist minister. I already know that we will be blessed by her presence here.

Our board and committees have a lot in store for us. We will go deeper in racial justice, we will have a new website, membership will have a new focus with "200 by 2020" as their guide, there will be a concert series with many local musicians, our focus on financial sustainability will be laser sharp, your voice and ideas will be honored like never before, and our visibility in our area will increase. The total sum being revitalization.

Claudia and I will offer sermons this fall that will offer some comfort and inspiration as to how to live our Unitarian Universalist values and principles in what promises to be a difficult social and political time. Claudia begins with her sermon on hope and humility and I will offer a sermon on how to live and understand our UU faith amid troubling times. I am returning to the office on August 7th, we will welcome Claudia the weekend of August 21st when she will be preaching, and I will return to our pulpit on August 28th. I am glad to be among you once again.

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Not a Rule Follower

I tend not to follow the rules. Just ask the Catholic nuns who exhaustingly tried to rear me.  There are several unwritten rules of ministry.  I'm afraid I've broken some rules since I joined you in 2013. For example, I once moved all the tables in Ministers Hall. I once moved the pulpit to the floor as an experiment. A new minister should never do that. When a minister arrives at a congregation his or her mantra should be, "Change is undesirable at this time...change is undesirable at this time...."  Sometimes it's necessary to not follow the rules. For me rules are worth breaking if it's for the sake of growth for us as individuals, our spiritual maturity, and if the rule breaking will move us closer to the congregation you dream of.  I'm sure you could share your own instances where not following the rules may be justified.

I've led you to an announcement. I have decided, as proposed to the Sanctuary Services Group, to change the format of the order of service. Take a few deep breaths and let me explain. I've observed that you wish to be better connected, to know the joys and concerns in our lives, to be reminded of what is going on in our congregational life.  I've studied orders of service from many congregations. I believe I've developed an order of service that will better meet our evolving needs.

I've not changed most of what you find in our current order of service. I've formatted the order of service to allow us to connect, be informed, and act as valuable resource for visitors. The new format makes the order of service living. It's like stepping into a snapshot of our congregational life. It demonstrates how we worship, how we care for one another, and how we offer opportunities to grow deeper in our beliefs.

I had reservations about making this change. The order of service in congregations is a "sacred cow."  As a sacred cow the order of service has been immune to tampering. Sometimes we create sacred cows that hold us back. In this instance I believe that our order of service could serve us, and our visitors, better. The change will move us closer to becoming the congregation we want to be.

I'm telling you this because the order of service you receive will soon change. I care that you understand that this wasn't a case of my preference or an impulsive decision. The change is based on what you, the congregation, is asking for. Try it on.

May we remain connected, cared for, and clued in.
rule
Blessings, Rev. CJ

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 2016

Dear Ones,

So much has happened in our country this past week. So much to digest, to consider, and to find our way out of.  I'm sure your heart is as heavy and your confusion and anxiety might have increased like mine has. I hold all that has happened and discern what my response should be as your minister and how I might comfort the Congregation and lead our Congregation to a response worthy of our Unitarian Universalist faith.

I have a new hero. His name is David Brown and he is the Chief of Police in Dallas, Texas. He is my hero because I admire his courage, his reproach of conventional wisdom, and his call for all of us to do the right thing no matter what. These attributes might lead us in the right direction in responding to personal, local, and global issues. You may know that Chief Brown encouraged those who have been protesting to get off the protest line and apply for a job. Moving from frustration to community service. “We’re hiring,” he said. “Get out of that protest line and put in an application. We'll put you in your neighborhood and help you resolve some of these problems."  For me, this isn't knocking the right and decision to protest. Chief Brown is simply offering another way. A way that is more likely to build trust and relationships.


I've been thinking a lot about this idea. What would happen if we got off the protest line and took ownership of our neighborhood in cooperation with other neighborhoods moving toward a common purpose?  I know for sure that this notion decreases my anxiety of responding because it makes the work doable and not so overwhelming. I like the idea of trying something different; a new approach.

The New York Times reports that during a news conference last Monday, in which he offered new details about the attack, Chief Brown commended the success of the “community policing” model he favors, which has given him a national reputation as a reformer focused on defusing tensions between police and minorities. Again by criticizing conventional wisdom, challenging  the status quo, and worrying about doing what is right.

What does this mean for us? How will we respond as a Congregation? I know we have a Justice Ministry that has already been doing the work. One of the best ways we can support Black Lives Matter and better understand the tension between law enforcement and minorities is to work to understand and unveil white privilege. Our Justice Action Ministry has already held workshops and I know will offer additional opportunities to us in understanding and naming white privilege without guilt.

We can't lead the efforts of Black Lives Matters, but as allies we can engage black communities, organizations, and congregations to listen and learn. As your minister, a guide to leading you to who you want to be as a Congregation, it is my important task to support and promote the efforts of our Justice Active Ministry. As pastor I provide comfort and counsel, as preacher I use our pulpit to inspire the Congregation to name the problem and become part of the solution, and as teacher I make available to you opportunities to reflect on privilege and opportunities to engage with stakeholders of the movement to ease, to resolve, racial tensions that are ripping our communities apart. Along with the Justice Action Ministry I can best serve you by giving you the tools you'll need to respond as well as the inspiration to use them. We need to look to Chief Brown for inspiration as well. We might take applications of our own. 

Living a life free of anxiety for all that is happening around us seems more difficult these days. Know that I am here to comfort, to listen, and offer what I can to equip you to manage in these troubled times.

Blessings, Rev. CJ.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Call to Action

I gave those assembled a call to action related to advocacy for sensible gun policy during our service on Sunday. I'm grateful the message was well received. I know you're waiting to hear some of what you might do to answer this call. I've listed a few things here for us and others:

1. Watch how your Senator votes today, Monday, June 20th. Go to  http://nyti.ms/28Iglmi or other sites for more information. Advocate accordingly.

2. Lobby County Commissioners for local policy changes. Go to pbcgov.com

3. Join the Palm Beach County Progressive Roundtable. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. This group makes sure all progressive grassroots organizations are collaborative in advocacy.

4. Support organizations with our progressive values.

5.  Volunteer in campaigns that bring the best candidates to the White House, the Senate, and Congress.

6.  Lobby Congressman Patrick Murphy.
2000 PGA Blvd. Suite A3220 Palm Beach Gardens, FL  33408  phone 561.253.8433  Fax 561.253.8436

7.  Join The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence on Facebook

8.  Watch for upcoming speakers and events in our congregation.

If you are not online simply call our office for printed information related to the websites above.

Go to http://www.lwvwa.org/pdfs/lobby_your_legislator
to learn about how to lobby your legislator.

Blessings, Rev. CJ
 

   

   

Monday, June 13, 2016

I'm Proud of Us

I'm proud of us. I'm proud that we are hosting families this week. Families that are homeless. I can't help thinking, "There but for the grace of what I call God go I." People that have families and jobs but simply do not earn enough to secure housing. Imagine the relief you might feel when you and your children know where there meals are coming from and where they will sleep without needing to move for six days.

I'm proud of us. I'm proud that we are practicing what we preach when we name freedom of belief as foundational to our faith. Our Congregation has welcomed the Palm Beach Pagans with open arms and minds. Like UU's, Pagans are misunderstood and it's hard to find allies in this culture. This group has already brought so much to our Congregational life. I hope to see you at the Summer Solstice ritual and BBQ this Saturday at 3pm. I'm grateful for what we have in common and our deliberate community of free thinkers.

I'm proud of us. I've observed that we have increasingly become more concerned with fellowship, ministry to one another, and spiritual growth. This is why we gather.  Not to work out our individual needs, but to create beloved community.

I'm proud to serve our Congregation, which continues to innovate, embrace change, create opportunities to be sure our foundation remains solid and we remain relevant. I hope you are proud.


I am stepping back in a couple of weeks as I will retreat for the month of July.  We've done holy work this year and it is time for all of us to rest knowing we've earned it. Have a safe and relaxing summer.
 

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Monday, May 9, 2016

May 2016

Every year around this time I have an uneasy feeling. Our congregation changes as our snowbirds fly north. I have grown to anticipate this season of migration, but I don't like it. I prefer we be together. Our snowbirds offer us so much through their ministries. They support and sustain our congregation in many ways. Their return is something to look forward to.

As I make my own plans to rove this summer I'm planning for our next church year. There is lots to look forward to. One thing in particular is our Intern Minister, Claudia Jiminez. Claudia will be preaching here on May 22 and will offer time for a Q & A during coffee hour. Claudia will also be meeting with our Board of Trustees in anticipation of a formal invitation to join us. I do hope your curiosity will bring you to our service on May 22.

Once formally invited, Claudia  will be an additional religious professional on campus. She will be here for two years and part-time. This internship is important in Claudia's ministerial formation as she prepares for ordained UU ministry. It is important in the life of our Congregation as we act as a teaching congregation and take part in training and forming future ministers. I feel strongly that our Congregation has so much to offer a student minister. We are a rich training ground that knows how to hold others in care. Please do become involved in Claudia's formation.

Blessings, CJ

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

April 2016

Dear Ones,

Over the weekend I officiated the memorial service for Charlotte Callahan. As her husband Jim and their children shared stories of Charlotte I was touched. I learned a lot about Charlotte and her life-long commitment to fairness and justice. I also learned that Charlotte is an example of how we can transform the world. Her family shared examples of how she changed the world one person at a time.

You may have heard me say over and over again that we don't necessarily need to march or protest to bring about change. We can be intentional about changing minds one person at time through conversation, advocacy, and living as an example. While at Charlotte's service I was approached by two people I had never met. They thanked me for my articles in the Palm Beach Post and told me, "You are our voice. Please continue."  I assured them that I would, we would.

We sometimes never know the lives we are touching or the change we are creating. I've been inspired to live like Charlotte lived.

Blessings, CJ

Monday, March 21, 2016

March 2016

In his sermon yesterday, Mathew Sydney described one of the tenets of his faith as honoring and actively caring for the earth. The beautiful way he articulated it captivated me. It's the way I articulate our ministry. Look around you. Look at all we do to transform lives through liberal religious community. Our mission. We respond to many calls for help from and to be allies to many in our community. We are able to gather freely and welcome those who are looking for a spiritual home. We are the liberal voice in our area. We have buildings that offer space for learning, worship, and outreach to so many.

And so we need to actively care for our Congregation and its people. If you support an organization financially I urge you to make our Congregation a priority. Here you build your spiritual home that helps you articulate your values, live your values, and one that will support you with learning, friendship, and fellowship. We need to remain strong and viable. We need staff, we need buildings, we need programs. If you have yet to pledge your support, I implore you to pay attention to this task. If you want to invest in justice, equity, and compassion you have the opportunity to do so. Help me guide a ministry that is bold and life changing.

In faith, Rev. CJ

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 2016

The past couple of months have been busy for pastoral care. There have been a few instances in particular that caused me to pause and realize that we as a congregation sometimes have no idea what our fellow congregants might be managing, battling, or reconciling. Imagine sitting in service on Sunday and looking to your left and to your right. What are these dear people holding that we may never know about.

That is, unless we ask, offer a loving supportive touch, and take interest.  We are a family with family dynamics and typical family struggles. But our struggles are sometimes hidden, unknown, and held silently from one another. It's what we do as humans.
 

We believe we can handle everything on our own. Our pride and ego stand in the way. Shame and the thought of being a burden creep in.
What do we expect from one another? I mean our congregational relationships should be deep, connected, without judgement and holy honesty. That is the kind of place we are. A place where you can put your burdens down, rest, exhale and feel and embrace.


During this month of love I encourage you to look left and right and ask yourself, "What is the most loving thing I could do?"  It is within this congregational culture that we thrive and become a beloved community -- the important stuff. As one person we may not change the world but we can change the world of one.
Rev. CJ


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

January 18, 2016

Dear Ones,

This past week was challenging. We hosted most of our usual renters, our Buddhist friends, and two families that are homeless. I asked you to make sacrifices of your time, space, and usual comforts.

I did wonder what it was like for you to meet in cramped spaces, have your gatherings in spaces that are not your usual spots, and what it was like to share resources. I agree that this past week wasn't the perfect week for me to agree to host families. A funny thing about the homeless -- they can't plan when they will need us. But we were there when they needed us.

I wondered about other things this week too. What is it like to be homeless? What is it like not knowing where your next meal will come from? What is it like living in a classroom with a baby and feeling like you're imposing? What is it like not having a consistent space where you can gather with others of your faith? One thing that comforted me this week was knowing we were living our mission.

Although the temporary circumstances of being overbooked may have made us uncomfortable we did transform lives through liberal religious community. You see, our mission isn't to transform lives through our meetings. When we are challenged by not having our usual comforts it's a time for us to step back and realize the truly important work of our beloved community.


Would I host families in a week with so many other happenings again? No. But, if the need presented itself I would respond. Thank you for your support and patience.

Blessings, Rev. CJ