Showing posts from 2014

December 2014

Dear Ones, I am absolutely gobsmacked that we will soon say goodbye to 2014. Howie Stone's upcoming service will ask us to reflect on the year past and dream for the year ahead, and so I will. I am grateful and proud to serve this Congregation. We are enjoying an exciting time. From the crow's nest it is visible that we are ALIVE! Our child, youth, and adult programs are growing, families and young people are discovering us, long-time members freely offer their wisdom and support, membership increases, our staff is increasingly stable and skilled, our presence in the community is growing, and our ministry to one another brings us closer. We've worked hard to build a thriving community and we continue to bask in the glow of success.  I'll speak for myself and claim some missteps and bumps and bruises in our work together. I'm well aware of the patience of the Congregation in giving me the room to experiment in the name of building a healthy Congregation. It is

October-November 2014

Dear Ones, I am a New Englander so imagine my shock when I recently read that Florida lays claim to the first Thanksgiving, which occurred on September 8, 1565 between Pedro Menendez de Aviiles and the Eastern Timucua, who long lived on the land surrounding the St. Johns River. Apparently they celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving. This just may be considered some form of blasphemy in New England. If it is true, what do I do with the first Thanksgiving story that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony? To make matters more confusing I read that the first Thanksgiving is also claimed by Virginia and Texas, though those feasts were long after that of Florida. Since 1863 when America claimed her national feast day we have been celebrating Thanksgiving Day by recounting the first Thanksgiving as a time of peace, prosperity, communion, and a grand gesture to God giving Him thanks and praise for a good harvest … IN MASSACHUSETTS. I don’t believe that story and understan

September, 2014

Dear Ones, Risk. I wonder what came to mind when you read that word. We often associate risk with inviting negative consequences into our lives. The work of taking risks can be unnerving and for some of us counter-intuitive. For some, like me, risk is comfortable and necessary. You might be thinking that this newsletter article is late. It is. I intentionally held it back so I could do a little research on taking risks. It involved observing and working with our youth and their advisers. Not too long ago one of the youth, Natalia, had an idea. She wanted to rally the youth group and the Congregation around the idea of hosting a Peace Festival. A colossal undertaking and a risk. The youth decided to run with the idea. My kind of people! Many of us had doubts, had concerns whether the youth could pull it off or not, worried about inviting the community into our spaces, and just plain anxious about the risk. I've learned a lot from our youth in the process. We avoid risk because it&

August, 2014

Dear Ones, On August 17, 2014 I will return to the Congregation full time and am ready and grateful for another year of congregational life. In June I left for Providence, Rhode Island to attend General Assembly along with thousands of other Unitarian Universalists. I was appointed by the UUA's Board of Trustees to serve as a Commissioner on the UUA's Commission on Social Witness last year. I tell you this because General Assembly is very different for those of us who serve. Our week is packed with meetings, follow-up and preparation for plenary sessions where delegates vote on the business of the UUA. Though I'm glad to serve it doesn't leave time for workshops and other gatherings. It's simply the nature of the work. I did have a chance to attend the Barre Street and Ware lectures and worship. You will hear many themes from our pulpit that originated in Providence. I then visited our home in New York and spent some time with family in New York and Canada. After

June 2014

Dear Ones, If you've read my Facebook posts you'll know that I've been struggling with something. I've served congregations in the northeast where church begins on the Sunday after Labor Day and ends for the summer usually the third week of June. You can count on it. The congregation gathers in September and goes on their way in June. It never changes. Some congregations have summer services but they are usually quite small and held in different places. Our congregation is quite different. I'm not struggling with year-round services. We should be ready every Sunday for whoever walks through our doors. It's more of the snowbird situation I'm struggling with. In April members and friends start to migrate north, some not returning as late as November. I prefer that we stay together all of the time. I have an innate urge to herd and keep track of each of you. I need to know where you are and what is happening in your lives. I can't do that with these migra

May 2014

Dear Ones, Do you like feeling vulnerable? We have all had times in our lives when feeling vulnerable wasn't our choice. Parts of ourselves that we keep hidden are exposed without our permission. But what if we chose to be vulnerable? If we reveal our true selves, our authentic selves, we are at risk of being judged, the topic of conversation, misunderstood, and -- worst of all -- rejected. What if we were so comfortable with who we are that vulnerability wouldn't be such a risk? I have chosen vulnerability. Well, the truth is, I need to be vulnerable. There is no other choice for me. When I entered seminary I decided on vulnerability. It was horrifying because I was among the academic elite and mostly people of privilege. You see prior to that I had spent years guarding my true self -- the real story. Almost no one knew that I was raised in poverty, had had a difficult childhood filled with abuse, homelessness, and dysfunction. I was becoming an expert of "class passing

April 2014

Dear Ones, Each day in my ministry I'm asked to weigh in on situations or advocate for what I believe is what the Congregation wants or what is most healthy for us. I'm aware that I am not the type who has to win or who can never lose. In fact I think using the win-or-lose model is dangerous in our congregational life and work. It lacks spiritual and faith maturity. That is, if we employ that model we are operating from a place far below our best selves and far below what our tradition calls us to be.  Win or lose instantly sets us up as adversaries, which we are not. I often wonder about what the baggage is that we carry that pushes us to risk dignity and relationship in order to win. What elicits the anger and resentment when we feel we've lost something. These are some interesting dynamics for members of a congregation, and their minister, who are on the same team with the same goals. Desperate are we when we must win and not lose. Forgiving and understanding are we wh

March 2014

Dear Ones, Many ask me if Richard, my husband, is happy in our Congregation and if he is happy in South Florida. I feel I can confidently answer these questions for him because we, too, ask one another the same. The answer is yes. We are both loving the connections and relationships we are making with this generous Congregation. It's true. You are generous. You take very good care of us and each other. We know and feel a circle of support around us. We both talk about the paradise factor of South Florida, which for us has been simply divine. So back to Richard. I have been working in congregations for 13 years now and Richard has been by my side all that time. He has served as president of a congregation, served on ministerial search committees and many other committees and boards. He has always been a youth group advisor and a member of small group ministry. That was until I began professional ministry in 2006. As a spouse of a minister, your relationship with the Congregation

February 2014

Dear Ones, I lived in the East and West Village of New York City for many years. I loved my time there. Neighborhoods and community existed then before gentrification. One would expect the opposite in such a large city. I knew the names of the Italian baker, the Polish butcher, the Korean man who sold produce, and the Russian woman who provided flowers and plants to the neighborhood. Arnie at the record shop, Maria and Bob at the Grassroots Tavern. I frequented a diner on West 4th Street and 6th Avenue. The best breakfast around. The best late-night meal after a visit to the Grassroots! The diner felt easy and comfortable. Like a pair of velvet pants. I never had to place my order. I was seated and my meal would appear. The same waiter every time who took the time to remember me and my preferences. It is in places like this that when you walk in you are sure to be greeted by people who know you and your name. You would never leave without the latest news of the neighborhood. You felt

January 2014

I recently rented a car to drive from Syracuse to Brasher Falls, New York for a family visit. Nearly reaching my destination I noticed an orange light in the car signaling a warning. I wasn't sure what the symbol meant that was used to communicate the warning. It looked like a push lawnmower to me. Why would the car be warning me about a push lawnmower? Obviously it didn't make sense and I was unable to figure out what the symbol was. There was a vacant lot just a mile up the road so I turned in to figure it out. I relied on the manual that comes with every car and lists what each warning signal means and the action that would need to be taken. I thumbed through and eventually learned that this lighted symbol was telling me that the windshield washer fluid container was nearly empty. I wasn't surprised to learn it had nothing to do with a lawnmower. Since my arrival the Board of Trustees and I have made efforts to review, update and create a manual not unlike the aforemen

December 2013

Dear Ones, I've told many of you that this is my first holiday season without snow so I am a bit disoriented. That is certainly not a complaint, just an observation. As a colleague reminded me "you don't have to shovel sunshine!" No matter where you find yourself this is truly a magical season. The nostalgia, the childhood mysteries, the seemingly increased generosity, and the mindset that this is a season to lay down some of our struggle and simply observe. This is a magical time of year indeed. Beyond the good memories, the excitement and anticipation, the lights strung from palm tree to palm tree, the hour of snow that is made especially for you in City Place, and in the friendly gatherings and good cheer there lies a place where this season can bring painful memories, regret, feelings of loss and depression. That place isn't quite as visible. There have been no lights strung, it's lonely without the people we've lost or cannot be near and tears may

November 2013

Dear Ones, Years ago I studied the work of Ronald Heifetz, particularly his work relating to leading adaptive change. I've spent some time over the last month reflecting on his theories, and one that stands out is giving the work back to the people. Using that theory, a leader is focused on getting others to assume responsibility and instilling confidence in others through encouragement and support. We've been sharing our ministry for three months now and I am astonished with what we have already accomplished. However, I am increasingly aware of my need to practice giving the work back to the people. I am always eager to serve the Congregation in any way I can. There is a fine line between serving and not allowing you to do the work of the Congregation, one that can be easily crossed if a careful practice is not considered. The work may engage a longer process, might involve more complicated steps, and require teaching when you, as a group, are doing it. But it is your work

October 2013

  Conflict. Competition. Choice. I've spent some time with these words the past couple of weeks. I've had cause to examine each as they are related to the programs that are mainstays and programs that are popping up and are offered to the Congregation. You see, we are growing. Not only in visitors, children attending Religious Education, and those interested in membership. This growth is more subtle. The needs of the Congregation are growing. I've observed that in the past programs have been reserved for Thursday nights or that the standard programs are offered on certain days. I've also observed that any program offered outside of what we are accustomed to causes a little confusion and concern. It may even cause some anxiety when there are two or more programs being offered at the same time on the same day. We worry that programs are in competition with one another and in our minds we label this as conflict. Our Third Principle guides us to encourage the spirit

September, 2013

Dear Ones, As you may know I traveled to Minneapolis last month to attend and participate in a Developmental Minister Seminar. I welcomed the opportunity to connect with my colleagues from across the country who join me in serving congregations in transitional ministries. In fact, the Rev. Dr. Doak Mansfield from Tampa has agreed to preach here in the coming months. I, of course, will travel to Tampa to do the same. Much was learned and shared, of which I will share with the Congregation soon. There was one story shared by a colleague, who has been serving a particular congregation for nearly a year, that I wanted to share with you. A member of the congregation called her and asked to schedule a meeting because she had an urgent question to ask her. She asked the congregant if she would share a little information and the congregant said that she would just have to wait until the meeting. Naturally she was curious and waited for three days to pass so she would eventually be presented

August, 2013 -- the Beginning

Dear Ones, I’m grateful for your hospitality and generosity in welcoming me to the Congregation.  I am delighted to have found you and it is a privilege to be held by you.  I look forward to our shared ministry. I’m slowly learning my way around and must tell you that Betty Richards is a skilled tour guide of our area! I’m delighted to share with you an email I received.  A young couple -- UU’s who have just welcomed their infant son -- have recently moved to Florida from Long Island.  They reached out to me as they wanted their son blessed. We will be dedicating him on August 14th.  How exciting for all of us! I plan to offer a column each month for the eBeacon which I have titled “From 635”.  I will typically offer a reflection and make short announcements related to our shared ministry.  I want to accomplish several things in this short column this month.  Please bear with me! I have taken the office in the Sanctuary, mainly because of its accessibility for our members. Please