In Between Sundays

May 19, 2017

“...For you created my inmost being
You knit me together in my mother’s womb
I praise you
Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made
And your works are wonderful
I know that full well...”                         -Psalm 139: 13-14   

Dear Mom...

I am watching my beloved bear fruit.
And as the seed inside her body boldly unfolds
Evoking the full wonder of motherhood’s mystery
Flowing to (and through)
Her divine feminine well spring
I need to thank you -
For the most gracious gift of my life.

For the twinkle in your eye that became the wish in your womb that became me (Your first fruits).
Thank you for risking your own life to call my life forth.
Thank you for speaking me into existence.
For being the holy vessel through which my flesh came into form. Holding the vision, and guiding my seed to fruition.
For the husk. For the harvest.
Thank you for breathing me into life, and delivering me into the light of day.
Thank you for making room in your inn.
For flowing with the growing pains. And the ‘not knowing’ pains.
For offering up the time and (inner)space to knit me a place in the tapestry of spacetime.
Thank you for the blessed continuum of our relativity.
For our rhyme.

I am watching my beloved bear fruit
And it occurs to me (urgently) -
That you were my first address.
My genesis and my exodus.
The first place in which I ever did abide – or reside. And even when we collide, it is no less true – that I am native to you.
Your fruitful multiplication.

You were my first fruits.
The first food I ate and drink I drank. The first air I breathed. My first sight and sound were found in the dwelling place of you.
Your pulse was my first meter. Your voice - my first melody.
We may not always be on the same sheet of music.
But I’ll always be in your key.

Thank you for helping to compose me.
Conducting my entrance. Arranging my first movements.
I am an improvisation on your theme.
Your late-summer night’s dream awakened.
Thank you for your song in the key of (my) life.

I am watching my beloved bear fruit.
And I can hardly believe my eyes. Or begin to fully conceive of her experience -
Her chrysalis metamorphosis.
Incubating now
The hidden figure we were co-creating (and procreating) just then.
I am standing in awe of her in the present, and you in the past.
Infinity interweaving
Blessedly becoming a human be-ing
Thank you for carrying me through the sleepless nights.
And the uncomfortable days. The agonizing afternoons. The heartburn. The slow burn of our sacred fire shared.
Thank you for bearing me (and bearing with me) for three-fourths of a calendar year – in which every day was Labor Day.
Time out of mind.

Thank you for having the audacity.
They say ‘Fortune favors the bold’-
And here I stand...
Thank you for all the things I previously took for granted
For all the things you did for me when all I could do was poke, sleep, eat - and repeat.
And all you could do was eat, pray, and love
A soul you could not see.
And the substance of things hoped for (the evidence of things unseen) -
Is me.
Thank you for the labor-ing. Your wonderful works.
My kicks. Your screams.
The blood, sweat, and tears of your yesteryear
Are here and now - my nectar.
Thank you for allowing me to sprout up through your surface – from your prime root.
To spring forth – and to stretch out into the fearful wonderful world.

I am watching my beloved bear fruit.
And as the seed inside her body boldly unfolds
Evoking the full wonder of motherhood’s mystery
Flowing to (and through)
Her divine feminine well spring
I need to thank you -

For the most gracious gift of my life.


May 12, 2017

In this week after the #WhiteSupremacyTeachIn, I’ve been pondering all the many ways I fail, over and over again. It’s a long learning process, one I’ve been working on for many years, and one that I will continue to work on for the rest of my life, I’m sure.

During my childhood, I absorbed so very many messages about race and people from my family and the adults around me. Body language spoke volumes. Sometimes the words were explicitly negative, other times the message was implicit. At some level, they all entered my psyche and made an impression on me. The ideas tend to bubble up at the most inappropriate times.

The worst are the subconscious reactions. Or the times I solidly insert my foot into my mouth. Luckily, my children are excellent at calling me out. Last year, waiting for pizza to be made at a local restaurant in New Jersey, I remarked on how strange it seemed to see an all Asian crew working in an Italian pizzeria. It was a little bit of cognitive dissonance – in NJ, mostly Italian families own pizzarias – but it was a lot more about cultural assumptions made subconsciously.

It’s a small example, and it shocked my kids. They whirled around and said (imagine this in tones of complete teenaged outrage), “MOM! I can’t BELIEVE you said that!” And while I call it a small example, it might have felt painful for the staff to hear me say that, it showed my insensitivity, my complete obliviousness to that potential pain, and a whole lot of assumptions made.

I’m proud of my daughters for calling me out, for recognizing the unacceptable words I spoke. We’ve been talking about injustice, racism, classism, sexism, and all the other -isms all their lives. It started one day when I took my eldest daughter out for breakfast as a preschooler, and she asked me why the owner, a woman of color, didn’t have a waitress dress on. I was gobsmacked, and after I hauled my jaw back up from the floor, apologized to the owner and explained to my daughter that anyone can own a restaurant, and anyone can be a waitress, and we shouldn’t make assumptions about people based on the color of their skins. We never did figure out what caused her to develop that assumption, but that’s the kind of ideas that our children absorb when we don’t talk about race and justice issues.

Over the years, I’ve made sure we have books for all ages that represent all kinds of people, of many colors and cultures and genders and orientations. We talk about incidents of racism and gender issues all the time. We talk about injustice that we observe, and we talk about how we can make positive changes, both for ourselves and our family, and what we might do in the larger world.

I still receive many outraged “MOM!” reprimands. Hopefully they are becoming less frequent. My kids didn’t even remember the conversation at the pizza place when I asked them about it. They did remember the conversation we had a few weeks ago about differences in how we thought about school dress codes. That one also involved a horrified “MOM!” reprimand.

How are you talking about issues of racism and white supremacy culture in your house this week? What are you doing to walk the talk, yourself, and with your family?

In faith,

May 3, 2017

I think that the fundamental process of conversation is one of the great miracles of nature, that two people communicating with each other is an extraordinary phenomenon that has so far defied all attempts to capture it. There have been attempts made in many different disciplines—in cognitive science, in linguistics, in social theory—and no one has really made much progress. Communicating with another person remains an essentially mystical act.

—Jaron Lanier, Harper’s Magazine, May 1997

Many of us – Unitarian Universalists, UUCC members, progressive persons generally – are on the front lines in advocating for, and offering, comprehensive sexuality education for our young people. We are under no illusions that talking about sex and sexuality will cause our children to engage in more sexual activity. Rather, we understand that the better they’re informed, the more they understand, the less mysterious and less illicit it is, the more likely they are to make safer, more responsible choices in their sexual activity. So, we respect sexuality and talk frankly about it, using language that is explicit and accurate, instead of euphemisms. We have demonstrated our commitment to communicating openly and well on these topics, no matter how uncomfortable and challenging it may be. We understand that our children’s lives – and our own – depend on it.

The reality of racism in America needs no less commitment and candor from us. And that is why UUCC – with more than 600 other UU congregations – has agreed to participate in the White Supremacy Teach-In this Sunday, May 7. I hope you’ll join us for worship, in which we’ll explore this topic in word and song, and then participate in listening circles (in which persons of color will be invited into their own affinity group).

I know that there is resistance among us to putting the words white and supremacy together. For many, it takes real effort to move beyond mental images of members of the KKK or Aryan Nations or Neo-Nazism. But persons of color in our UU movement are asking us please to listen to their stories and experiences, to understand that white supremacy is a reality in which we live, and that it’s more than the ideologies of radical White Supremacists. So I’m asking all of us at UUCC to suspend judgment and accept an invitation into real conversation, using accurate language to help us better relate to one another.

The lives of Black and Brown bodies literally depend on it. And so does our collective spiritual well-being.

I do hope I’ll see you on Sunday. In the meantime, if you have 5-7 minutes to take a brief survey, it would be much appreciated. The Black Lives of UU organizers would like to get a sense of how Unitarian Universalists are feeling and thinking about the topics of racism and white supremacy, especially as related to our local faith communities, Unitarian Universalism as a whole, and to ourselves as individuals.

If you’re interested in doing some further reading to remind yourself of some of the history of racism, especially in relation to faith communities – or if you’re still wondering about the recent outcry in the UUA – I commend any of the pieces below that are available online. And parents of children in UUCC religious education program, please watch your inboxes tomorrow for a message from Robin that will contain lots of resources, too!

Yours in faith and love,

“Letter from Birmingham City Jail”, by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr – a 1963 response from Dr. King to “My dear Fellow Clergyman” after eight Alabama ministers made a public statement calling on protestors to peacefully observe “the principles of law and order and common sense” in seeking racial justice

“The Empowerment Tragedy”, by Mark Morrison-Reed – published in 2011, this article offers some history and reflection about the ‘black empowerment’ controversy that nearly tore the Unitarian Universalist Association apart in the late 1960s

“On being a good ‘fit’ for the UUA”, by Christina D. Rivera – a statement from a final candidate who went un-hired for a UUA leadership job

“Letter to UUA Board of Trustees”, by Aisha Hauser – a request for specific, concrete policy actions regarding hiring at the UUA

“On Self Righteous Hysteria”, by Aisha Hauser – commentary on feelings vs. injustice

“Critics see white supremacy in UUA hiring practices”, by Elaine McArdle – a report about the most recent incident(s) that led to the resignation of the Rev. Peter Morales as President of the UUA

“Interim co-presidents see ‘opportunity to re-center ourselves’”, by Elaine McArdle – a recent report about current leadership in the UUA, following Morales’ resignation

And finally, at the very bottom of this webpage you’ll find other resources: #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn Resources

April 26, 2017

I like visiting other people’s homes, and visiting people in their homes. We express ourselves in those spaces in ways that are unique, revealing parts of ourselves that may not be on display at work or in public or in our civic lives. As a guest in another’s home, I am offered a glimpse into their life through what I see and hear and smell and feel there. And when I have guests in my home, I’m glad for them to experience a unique bit of me and our family in that place where I feel most myself.

Similarly, I value the rare opportunity to visit other worshiping communities – Unitarian Universalist and others. (I know that many of you visit UU congregations in towns where you travel, and I’m glad you do!) Last Sunday evening I had the privilege of being a guest at Beth Shalom Congregation, where I was invited as a non-Jew to lead a responsive reading as part of the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s annual Yom HaShoah observance. Characteristically, I was a little nervous about my own behavior – hoping that my head covering would stay on my head (an expectation of anyone who speaks from the bima there) and that I would otherwise be appropriately respectful in their sacred space. The experience was moving and humbling.

This weekend I will visit another congregation – the Middle Collegiate Church in New York City’s East Village, where for the third year in a row I’ll attend the Revolutionary Love Conference. I’m looking forward to visiting with old and new colleagues; to hearing from speakers like Valarie Kaur, Van Jones, Bill Moyers, and Jacqui Lewis; to experiencing a few days in the big city; to being a worshiper instead of a worship leader on Sunday, in a service that promises to be lively and engaging; and to bringing home new ideas about how UUCC can be an ever-more-vibrant and robust congregation.

And that’s another great thing about visiting others’ homes and houses of worship – it prompts me to reflect on my own places, to appreciate what I have, to think about how I might apply some new ideas in my own life, and to imagine how that life might grow even more rich and meaningful. It’s good to step out of one’s routine once in a while, to gain new perspective. I’ll look forward to sharing some of what I learn in NYC. Meanwhile, I’ll miss you on Sunday!

With love,

April 20, 2017

Big F, little f, what begins with F?

“Four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff,” says Dr. Seuss.

But I’m thinking of a different F-word a lot recently. F-A-I-L-U-R-E.

Failure, said the Rev. Alma Faith Crawford* to a group of clergy years ago, is The F-word that most haunts many of us.

Big Failures, little failures. Our sense of failure causes embarrassment and shame. Our fear of failure hinders our willingness and ability to act boldly and take healthy risks.

We try to teach our children that mistakes and failures are opportunities for growth and learning, and yet we know how crippling they can be to our self-esteem and our sense of competence.

Lately I’ve had a litany of mostly-little failures running through my head, nagging at me. My lack of follow-through on a task, negatively impacting someone else. A worship decision that fell flat. Carelessly hitting a raw and painful nerve in a loved one. An oversight that left someone feeling invisible. A broken promise.

But there are other F-words, too – ones that remind me that I am not wholly defined by what I perceive to be failures.

Friends. Fidelity. Fun. Forgiveness. Faith.

And it’s that – faith – that sustains me. Faith in our community. Faith in myself. Faith in my relationships. Faith in Life itself.

We are part of a reality greater than ourselves alone, and I have chosen to entrust myself to that greater reality – Life, Love, Ultimacy, God – that calls on me to remain in relationship, to not give in to despair, to live a life that is humbly courageous, to confess and apologize and ask forgiveness, to make choices that affirm life.

So, in the face of fear and failure, I will choose to be faithful – to you, to myself, to love, to life.

Yours in Faith,

* The Rev. Alma Faith Crawford will be the preacher at this year’s Union Service on Sunday, May 7, 2017, at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. She’ll deliver a sermon titled, “Sanity While Black: Enduring Racial Trauma without Losing Our Damn Minds”. The service will begin at 4:00 pm; doors will open at 3:30 – pre-worship concert by orchestra and combined choirs.

Greater Baltimore Unitarian Universalist congregations gather each May to remember the 1819 visit of Rev. William Ellery Channing to Baltimore, where he preached the sermon “Unitarian Christianity”. At this year’s service, worshipers will hear a challenge from the Rev. Alma Faith Crawford, former Professor of Worship Arts at Starr King School for the Ministry (Berkeley, CA) and founding pastor of Church of the Open Door on Chicago’s south side. Crawford shares how racism generated her clinical depression, anxiety disorders and PTSD – and how medical treatments and activism both help and hinder her recovery.

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May 28 at 10:00am 
(note change to one worship service)
Intern Minister Anthony Jenkins will preach
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General Information:

  • Academic Year: Two identical services at 9am and 11am.  
  • Summer (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend): One service at 10am.
Location: Owen Brown Interfaith Center (Directions), Sanctuary C, 2nd floor, East end of the building.  Read more about worship.

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