Showing posts from 2015

January 2016

For a moment last month I realized I was human.  Having had a difficult and emotional month of ministry I found myself stepping back and not being as present as I typically am. You've noticed. I was hard on myself for taking the time to step back, discern, and increase my time for spiritual practice. I thought that as the minister this "luxury" couldn't be mine. But, I'm brave enough to say that isn't true. When stuck in difficulty we should all have the opportunity to step back. It's healthy and we return renewed and revived with deeper understandings. Sometimes we lack compassion for oneself and the compassion that we should expect from others.  I share my intimate lesson lesson with you as minister, as teacher. As a fellow human being, I too have the same struggles and emotional processes that you do. My hope is that my sharing will lead you to share with me and others. I'm stepping out of the shadows having taken the time to think and to unders

December, 2015

Dear Ones, As always I am in disbelief that another year will soon pass. It is this time of year many are consumed by deciding which behaviors they will change for the new year or making resolutions. I stopped making resolutions a long time ago. I focus on the Roman god Janus. Looking back as well as looking forward. I've learned a lot about myself, and you, over the past year, particularly in the past few months. Looking back I'm able to pick out a few major lessons like sometimes ego can blind you to realities, email stinks, most of the time, to communicate effectively, and that when relationships break we can repair them instead of throwing them away. Looking ahead I've decided to change a few things. Taking the next step in caring for my health as well as making a few adjustments in my ministry are commitments I'll be making. I'm presently engaged in changing and enhancing my sermon writing and delivery. I've realized that writing and delivering sermons has

November 2015

Friends, Most of you know I spent nearly a week in Mount Dora, Florida recently with my colleagues. Twice each year all the ministers in Florida gather for collegiality, development, and organizational matters of the Florida Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association ( FUUMA). I serve on the executive committee of FUUMA as a Good Officer. This means I help guide FUUMA as well as act as minister to the ministers of Florida. During my time in Mount Dora I was able to worship twice each day and had time for spiritual practice. We engaged a program around Black Lives Matter. I shared our experiences. I also met an inspiring black minister, Rev. Poole, who has -- against all odds -- planted the Grace African Methodist Episcopal Church in The Villages in Marion county. Rev. Poole's father was the president of the NAACP during the Civil Rights movement and succeeded the president who's home was bombed and destroyed. This offers a unique perspective on the lives of people who are bla

September 2015

Friends, Impressed yet? In August 2013 upon my arrival I was asked to work on the goal of building a cohesive and mission-driven staff.  I would have never predicted the hills and valleys that we have experienced together in assembling such a dynamic team. The Congregation should be proud and blessed. I know I'm grateful as this work wasn't done in a vacuum. We all had to participate, collaborate, and trust. Let's reflect on one day in the life of our Congregation. On September 13th I invited our Director of Child and Youth Programs Beth Matthews to deliver a sermon in my absence. I hear she was quite successful -- you can slow down on the emails sent to me offering accolades for Beth.  I wasn't surprised. Beth is a talented woman who understands who this Congregation wants to be. Our Sunday Music Coordinator Peilin Ko was given the theme of the service just days before our September 13th service. That was my doing. The information given to Peilin was not as in depth as

Grateful in August

August arrives. I'm preparing to return home, and I'm ready. I'm beginning to miss my routine and my work. This internal signal tells me it's time to go. Richard and I will be driving home together. Each summer as I leave our home here in New York and its surroundings I say a ritual thank you. Yes, I literally thank the river, thank the heron and otter families, thank the long and quiet roads, thank the spaces between the branches in the trees for inspiring my imagination, thank the Queen Anne's lace, and as I turn and step out of the door I look around one last time and say, "Thank you." My gratefulness sometimes comes from a place of recognizing the privilege of having our home and space in New York. However, when I leave I feel I need to say, "see you next summer" like a summer camp buddy that shares your summer year after year. Not unlike growing with a dear friend, this place has held me, has celebrated with me, has witnessed life at its raw


Dear Ones, As promised I'm sending some brief words along as I vacation. I'm well. I'm rested, am enjoying much down time, swimming, boating, am steeped in nature, reading for pleasure, and traveling a bit. I'm hoping to visit some of you in Ottawa, Albany, and the Catskills soon. Montreal is lovely and lively in the summer and I'm here for another few days. I love the people in and around our home in the north country of New York who show their Appalachian roots. Yes, I'm in the Adirondacks but many, including some family members, are Appalachian transplants. They're quite proud to be rednecks. They aren't fond of the derogatory use of the term redneck but it's original meaning is not an insult but a badge of honor. Author Jonathan Vankin tells us of the Scottish rebels opposing the religious and political oppression of England's Charles I being rednecks as they signed a 17th century covenant declaring religious freedom in blood. The Scots-Iris


Dear Ones, Something nagged at me telling me I had to travel to Charleston, South Carolina. I felt there was unfinished business for me if I did not bear witness to the church shootings at Emanuel AME. I took with me a chalice pin and a brief note written on a notecard from our Congregation. I added both to the condolences collecting outside of the church on behalf of us all. I arrived to blocked streets, the Red Cross on site, a large police presence, and barriers creating a confusing path for all wanting to join in our final steps of our pilgrimage. Hundreds of mourners were pouring out of the church and onto the street. I didn't know that inside lay Myra Thompson, dead. She was shot and killed because her skin was black. I walked a block and joined the long line of others wanting to pay their respect. I could smell something sour, something rotten. I discovered that most of the flowers laid in the past week on the sidewalk outside of the church were in decay. The stench filled m

Summer is Here

Dear Ones, Summer is most definitely here. This will be my third summer in Florida and I am pleased to say I think I've adapted to the heat....somewhat! As every summer I will spend a few weeks at our home in New York. I am leaving for New York on June 30. Richard will follow two weeks later. My cousin is flying here from New York and we will drive back together. I plan on seeing friends along the way and will stop to visit the AME Congregation in South Carolina. It's an important stop for me. I simply must bare witness to this racist tragedy and worship and mourn with its people.  I will likely return earlier than planned, as I always do. I am one to recognize when I've had enough vacation and move on. I know that it has a been a joy for the last couple of years to return to the beaches and the home we've made in Florida. I do love it here. In my absence please do email me or call my cell phone if something big is happening or you find yourself struggling. Its no bothe

May 2015, Covenant

I remember the day we brought our oldest son, Antonio, for a neuro-psychological evaluation. We were told that he had a pervasive developmental disability. Richard and I were leveled. You see, when we decided to adopt children we had dreamed of being part of all the typical milestones all of our children pass through like school dances, friendships, graduations, university. In that moment all of it was taken away and each year as Antonio grew we felt the loss of the milestones he was missing in the moment. We needed to be the parents we never wanted to be or expected to be. We were  disappointed. At the time of Antonio's diagnosis we were given the opportunity to "give him back" to return as a ward of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We never considered it. Despite our devastating disappointment we had made a commitment to Antonio and to our family. We trusted each other and decided to see it through. We could never step away from this disappointment, or our son. Today

Let it Be a Dance

S erious, strange,or silly?  In the original 1984 movie Footloose we journeyed with a rebellious teen who moved to a small town where rock music and dancing were banned. The movie portrays the timeless struggle between innocent pleasure and rigid morality. I offer you this as a segue into one of the most interesting things I've heard during coffee hour since I arrived in the summer of 2013. YOUR MINISTER HAS BANNED DANCING IN OUR SERVICES!  Serious, strange, or silly?  Silly. Tis' silly but allows me to reiterate some things I'm quite serious about. I stated during a Teaching Thursday program weeks ago that I preferred, my personal preference, services where there is no dancing. It's a remnant of my Catholic upbringing. I congratulate service leaders who include such things in worship. I don't have the chutzpah! Why am I entertaining and acknowledging this silliness?  It is because I'm serious about not letting silly become something that divides us. It is b

Individuality or Greater Community?

I 'm sitting in my favorite spot in a tiny French restaurant. In front of me are two patrons speaking Parisian French. I understand a few words, very few, having a French Canadian grandmother. Beside me are two 50-something women who are obvious colleagues. I overhear religious language, so naturally my interest peaks. They were leaders of the local Catholic diocese responsible for a group of Catholic churches in the area. Between my cafe au lait and salade de la Constance, I was privy to venomous conversation. Worse than my eavesdropping was my discovery that parishes were being pitted against one another, receiving the news that they are not good enough because their Holy Thursday was not up to snuff, not as good as that of the church across town, personal attacks on leaders, all brought together with the ugly bow of insular thinking. Clearly it was a strategy based on competitiveness used to help the individual parish churches become bigger, better, and -- let's face it --

From the SAC Newsletter, April 2015

I'm deeply disturbed by the blinders that are put on to avoid the realities of social and environmental issues of our state and country. Poverty, lack of health care and emergency services, sea levels rising, Christian fundamentalism controlling taxpayer dollars, women's health put at risk, low wages, no work, the super wealthy getting fatter, and on and on. Surely our leaders don't really think that poor mothers simply need to pull their lives together, a child is better left in the system instead of being loved by same-gendered parents, to receive public benefits you need to sacrifice privacy, that the world's top scientists are simply stupid and histrionic, that poor communities create and perpetuate their circumstances, and religion and government are bedfellows. Surely stripped down to basic humanness they see and feel and mourn and weep. I wonder. I believe basic humanness, the fact that you are born into the world, gives us all worth. However, when we decide to b

April 2015

I have a dear friend who teaches in an elementary school by day and an adult education school by night. In both instances she is teaching English as a second language. We were recently in conversation about the practicalities of transcription in linguistics. That is, not studying the theory of, but actually doing the work of converting human speech into written text. Listening, writing what you are hearing, and listening even more.  I remembered that conversation and the wisdom of transcription after our most recent annual meeting. Though my spoken words weren't being transcribed, they were being reflected back to me verbally. Advice given for phonetic transcription is to listen to yourself out loud before deciding on pronunciation. Members of our Congregation were reflecting back some of my words amidst a hard conversation. When the words left my lips I was confident they were the words I wanted to use and the words that would be most helpful. That was until a member said them b

Respecting Elders

Respect your elders. We've all heard this at one time or another. I've recently had cause to reflect on the meaning of the word elder. Most of us might understand the word to describe an older and influential member of a family or tribe.   I've come to understand it differently. An elder can be any member of a community that can offer wisdom or influence. An older person and even a child can be an elder of a community.   I spend much time listening to congregants who have been leaders in congregations for decades. Their experience and wisdom is so valuable. On the other hand I am constantly amazed by what our children and youth teach me. Just when I think I'm the elder, the teacher, the wise one our children and youth do or say something that is humbling and causes me to pause, listen, and learn.   We all have potential to be elders in our Congregation. Some of our wisdom is from years of life experience and some is from having grown in a post

February 2015

I introduce myself nearly 7,314 times each week. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but I do announce myself and introduce the Congregation a lot. Something significant happened last Thursday afternoon. I was participating in a small group meeting of stewards and we were asked to introduce ourselves, our role in the Congregation, and why we remain involved with the Congregation. Many of us have been asked these questions. We usually don’t hear what anyone else is saying because we are busy forming our own response in our minds. This time that didn’t happen for me. I didn’t think about how to answer those questions. I simply stated my name, my role and said, “I am here because I want be.” I didn’t feel the need to give a laundry list of reasons why I love the Congregation. This simple statement was very meaningful to me and from the heart. I wonder how many places we occupy because we want to versus having to. I wonder what happens when we feel the need to be somewhere else. Unitarian