Annual Meeting, 5/19

By the time the Annual Meeting comes around, we’ve once again nearly completed another year in the life of the Fellowship. This is no small thing, especially considering the lingering effects of the pandemic and the state of the world in general. There have been days in the past few years when I truly wondered whether we’d be able to keep this community alive and well. But we have! And we have so much to be thankful for, most of all each other and our shared commitments to being a UU congregation.

I sometimes fantasize about what it would look like if EVERY MEMBER came to the Annual Meeting, every year. What it would be like for ALL of us to gather to acknowledge and thank each other, to discern together what our next priorities are, what the world is now calling us to do. Can you imagine? To think together about how well we’ve lived into our mission. To discuss together needed changes. To encourage one another to stay together and keep going– to trust that what we do here makes a difference. I know that in the real world only some of us will gather. I understand that people have many different ways of being part of the Fellowship, and that not everybody is able, or available, or all that interested in how our small local democracy works. And yet – don’t forget that the life and future of the Fellowship do depend on those who gather – who elect new officers, who affirm that those folks willing and able to serve are living up to our ideals, who hear and take to heart all of our challenges and successes in the past year.

The religious life is nothing if not a life of making commitments. To the many, many of you who do so – some for many years and some just now beginning – my gratitude is deep. I look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting on Sunday (May 19) – in person or online – as we do this beautiful work that belongs to us all!

Between Us

May is my birthday month, and reflecting on having been once again carried by the Earth thru this part of the universe, on a full rotation around the Sun, even taking all the hard things into account, I’m very glad to be alive! As a small token of my deep gratitude for all the gifts that I receive every day, I’ll be making a contribution to the UUFC Birthday Club again. The older I get, the more I love this: that on my birthday I celebrate by giving gifts to others, including an amount of dollars at least equivalent to my age, to the Fellowship. When it is your birthday month, I hope you’ll do that same.

One of the reasons I like to give to the Fellowship, again as a SMALL token of my deep gratitude, is that the Fellowship has been for so much of my life a community of companionship and nurture, in which I have in so many ways learned to be the kind of human being I want to be. When I first became a UU, here at the Fellowship, I was deeply interested in the history and development of liberal religion. I was in need of the kind of religious freedom the Fellowship, and UUism offered. I was thirsty for theological and social perspectives that were wide open and inclusive and progressive. It was heady and exhilarating, and I decided to make it my life work.

What I didn’t know at the time is that while the ideas are important, the opportunity to be in relationship with other people – to be in community, as we so often say – is even more important. Both are needed: the evolving ideas AND the chance to practice them in real time with real people. That’s my bottom line:
how do any of our ideas stack up in relation to how we interact with other people (and all of the living world?) I have to say, to myself as well as to you who might be reading, that as UU’s we are quite good at articulating, discussing, and debating ideas and not as good at living into our highest values. Like almost everyone else in the world, we still get hung up in self-centeredness, in a need for comfort and security, in an outsized need to be right, in the perspective of ego.
And so, I am grateful to be alive in order to keep trying, keep learning, keep aiming to be the kind of person I want to be.

I hope I have many more years to do this work, because the more I learn the more I see that I have to learn. I have a long way to go. Thank-you for being my companions on this journey!

Between Us

May is the month for our Fellowship Annual Meeting (May 19). Planning for the meeting, and the participation of many of us which even this small democracy requires, has been underway for several months. Not everyone quite gets this juxtaposition between the religious life of the congregation (and our own religious lives) and the necessity of participation in sustaining it. I suppose it is an acquired taste, and at the very least it takes practice. All of the team, council and board meetings about the budget, the bylaws, the goals and plans, evaluation of current work, all of the challenges and struggles and learning about new ways to communicate and interact – ALL of this is how we sustain this local and unique democracy. It may seem quite boring to some, even passe, yet in these days there is nothing more important.

The extent to which our national democracy is in danger and to which all of our highest values are at stake (even more than in 2016) cannot be overstated.
It is nearly unbelievable how precarious the system is right now. It could very well be that the collective mindset of those who believe that something different is needed – authoritarianism at the very least – is so deep and wide that it is like a tsunami wave building. Certainly there is a wave. Anything and everything we do, here and in the wider circles of community, to practice and sustain democratic structures, makes a difference.

Many of you know more than I do, and have much more articulate political opinions. I am no political pundit. Nevertheless I am convinced that given the possibilities we need to begin now to plan for how we will organize our congregational life to take care of each other, and others who will be at even more risk, should the worst-case scenario come to pass. If this is something you can help with, please let me know. And for all you are already doing to help sustain democratic ideals – thank-you!

Passover, Freedom and Liberation

For Jewish people around the world Passover began on Monday April 22 and continues through Tuesday April 30. It is the annual observance of the story of the Exodus – the central story of Judaism. This is the story of the escape of the Hebrew people from Egypt, of their liberation from slavery thanks to the intervention of their god, of the beginning of a generation of wandering in a desert until finally arriving at “the gift of the land” – also from their god. In the Western world, this story is the foundation of our notions of social justice, solidarity, and the possibility of collective liberation from oppression and injustice.

Through thousands of years Jews have often observed and celebrated Passover in hard times, in contexts of ongoing oppression and injustice, in situations of danger.
This year the details are deeply complex and difficult, given the ongoing death and destruction in Gaza following a horrendous brutal attack on Jews. Centuries of enmity and injustice are present, exacerbated by decades of struggle between Palestinians and Israel. Few of us are unaware, or unconcerned about this reality.

As Unitarian Universalists, we have long promoted the ideals of freedom, primarily as the freedom of each individual to live, to thrive, to make their own choices. Sometimes we have joined that dedication with movements for collective freedom – for the freedom of groups and peoples from discrimination, oppression and worse. In recent years, with deeper theological reflection, UUs have come to realize that merely supporting “freedom” is not enough; that we are called to deeper commitments to creating possibilities of liberation from unjust systems and structures, by examining and helping to dismantle those structures – of racism, of genderism, of patriarchy, of anthropocentrism, to name only a few.

As always, we are called as religious people to learn more, to be less needful of our own comfort, to live in ways which contribute to collective liberation – therefore to meaningful freedom. For reflection, I share this poem by Rev. Julián Jamaica Soto (formerly Theresa), from their collection “Spilling the Light.”

To the people who have mistaken freedom for liberation

To be free, you must embrace
the breadth of your own existence
without apology, even if they try to take
it from you. You must know, not that you
can do whatever you want; you are not
a kudzu vine, eating entire hillsides for
the purpose of feeding your own lush life. You
must know instead, that inside you are entire
Universes—milky blue, magenta, and gold—
expanding. But to actually be free, you must
know and you must fight for the entire
Universes inside of everyone else.
Being free is not a license, but
A promise.

Between Us, 4/21/2024

Some decades ago, a well-known and seasoned UU minister wrote a sermon about joining a UU congregation. His summary was this: There is only one reason to join a UU congregation; you join in order to support it! That perspective has fostered lots of conversation over many years, and the longer I consider it, the more I agree with it. Since our approach to religion is both liberal and free, since there is no prescribed creed or test of belief, our highest goals are about creating true community. Learning to not only live together and be together, but to be good with and for each other and for all living things (for all the Earth!).

This is a very high aim, and often we lose sight of it. Support includes many things. For example our presence, our participation, our time and money. Our care and concern for specific people and programs and for the congregation as a whole (which is what shared ministry means). Our willingness to seek more than personal satisfaction, more than mere comfort, more than confirmation of our biases. All of these are why we engage in religious learning and growth, spiritual practices, shared ceremonies and rituals – we do these things to help us support the constant creation and care of a community. (And not just “community” as an abstract idea; this very real and very specific community, with all its unique and particular characters and characteristics.)

The annual stewardship pledge drive is one specific way we support the Fellowship – by making a pledge of annual financial support. This week the stewardship team is still waiting to hear from most members of the Fellowship – are you one of them? Our annual meeting is another important way we support the Fellowship, by taking part in the annual discussion of Fellowship business, by being an active part of this specific democratic process which belongs wholly to us.

The Fellowship has been a vibrant, welcoming and consequential religious congregation for nearly 70 years because of the support of so many people who have shared a commitment to its wellbeing. All of us who are here now a recipients of that long and beautiful tradition. Though our support, may we do our best to keep it healthy, moving and growing, for ourselves, for each other and for all those who will come after us.

Between Us – 4/14/2024

Last week I mentioned a musician who often reminds their audiences that “This is not entertainment – this is a spiritual practice.” It’s a beautiful ideal for a UU congregation such as the Fellowship. At our best we are a community of practice, aiming at high ideals! So much more than interesting conversation and fun ways to spend time together (although those things are included – they are simply not our highest aims.)

Here are several ways to enter into the practice:

~Plan to be part of the worship review which begins on May 3 (6:30 pm) and May 4 (9 am) to help discover our common needs and goals for worship (in various forms) at the Fellowship

~Make your pledge of financial support to the Fellowship for 2024-25 as soon as possible

~ Join in one of the Town Halls (April 21, May 5, 11:45 AM) to prepare for the Annual Meeting (May 19) to help the discussions we have and the decisions we need to make be caring, thoughtful and well-informed.

In other words – be serious about your part of the life of this congregation. Bring your best intentions and your best self, for the good of the whole!

Also, for those who have asked about the readings in the Easter Sunday service on March 31, here are the references:

~Two articles by Rev. Myke Johnson: “Radical Love” (April 2023) and “Sacred Trees and Resurrection” (July 2019) at

~”Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire” by Rebecca Ann Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock, Beacon Press, 2009.

Between Us, 4/7/2024

April is Stewardship Month at the Fellowship, among other good things (like Earth Month and Poetry Month…) This means it’s the time we each consider our role as part of the congregation, as part of the covenant, as part of this living tradition. It’s the time when we make pledges of support – of our time, our talents and our financial resources.

The UUFC is sustained by pledges, which are not the same as contributions. Contributions are always welcome, but the Fellowship depends upon pledges, which are commitments of financial support for our shared work. If you are accustomed to simply contributing, I strongly encourage you to make a meaningful pledge this year. If you have never pledged before, let this be your good beginning!

The beautiful thing about being part of this community is that we support our work together, each according to their means and situations, yet all joining in. All of us. The most important part of the stewardship pledge drive is that all of us participate, together.

Pledging can be a spiritual practice – an activity we choose to engage in which over time helps us grow in wisdom, compassion and love. To pledge and regularly pay that pledge calls one toward greater generosity.

Each Sunday we say together these words: “From the countless gifts we each have been given, gifts of life, and love, and sustenance, we bring these small portions to share in the works of love, which none of us can accomplish alone.” Our pledges are much the same: we each bring our portions, and together we share in the great works of love which the UUFC can accomplish. As a congregation and a community we can do more together than we can individually.

Making a pledge of support for the Fellowship has never been more important, so take some time during the next week to thoughtfully consider your pledge, and then make a pledge that signifies how and why the UUFC is important, to you and to the world. Make a pledge that you can feel good about, because you know you are making a commitment to your highest values. Make a pledge which makes a difference.

We know that the world needs us, and we know that we need each other in this work. Together we can accomplish so much more than any of us can accomplish alone. Thank-you for joining this year’s stewardship pledge drive.

These Ancient Modern Stories

The Jewish and Christian traditions are foundational in the long evolution of stories which have shaped Unitarian Universalism. It is now the season for two of the most important of those stories: the exodus of the ancient Hebrew people from Egypt – the Passover story, and the death and resurrection of Jesus – the Easter story.

The Passover and Easter stories do not shy away from the hard realities of human suffering. They include graphic descriptions of plagues, armies, murder, brutality, loss, and devastation. They are stories which arise in times and places of oppression and violence, of the power of a state to use oppression and violence to sustain its greed. They are stories of people terrorized and killed and pushed to the edge of endurance, and they are stories of endurance and perseverance and un-extinguishable dedication to justice and love. Stories we can understand so well, because we live in these times too. The stories of Passover and Easter are stories for our time.

One thing I’ve learned from working with these stories for so many years is that I can’t fully understand what they mean on my own – I don’t meaning alone. I make meaning in relation to others – listening, hearing, considering. I need the perspectives of others, because there are so many pieces of truth. This is why we work together, why our justice and connections and learning work is led by teams.

I’ve also learned over and over again that the human story remains so much the same. Which is good, because the human story always includes new life, new ways, and the persistence of love and truth over and over again. What makes sense to me now has made sense to many others in the midst of times of devastation. Like so many others before us, in our lives now, we are called to let go of old ways and begin again. To be able and willing to accept new life as it comes, even if from the ashes of the old.

In April of 2020, just a few weeks into the world-wide pandemic shutdown, UU minister Kendyl Gibbons said this: “This Easter, as never before in many of our lifetimes, we are invited to seek the strength to let go of an old way of life, and discover what else might be possible.” May this be our aim this year as well.

Daily Practice: A Weekly Reminder, 3/22/2024

Along with trees and bushes and bulbs, the Fellowship seems to be in a season of blooming! Events and activities abound – so many ways to get together with others, to share in religious learning and growth, to increase justice and peace step by little step. New formats and methods for communication are emerging. The Fellowship calendar suddenly feels full, as do the Sanctuary and the foyer and the Social Hall on Sundays. Tables are multiplying in the foyer – that’s a sign of activity and of the need for folks to invite other folks to join them. (Tables can also sometimes feel like obstacles – we’ll need to take care in how we use them.) It’s also a season of cleaning up and cleaning out – including some moldy carpets and furniture. We’re in preparation for renovation of the meeting wing of the building – finally, and we’re preparing for Stewardship season and Earth Month. It can feel very energizing and exciting and a little overwhelming at the same time.

Recently I found a prayer I wrote after a retreat of some sort, more than 15 years ago. It was like a gift to myself in this season of growth. May it be helpful to you as well.

“In the swirling of paradox in this moment, acknowledging my conflicting needs and aims, let me gather all the love I know, and give thanks.

May I hear the sound of today calling me, and may I never forget the call of all ages – may these calls from Life guide and steer me as I move.

May the path on which I move be a path toward more justice and peace: may it be as clear as possible and filled with enough curves to keep me from certainty.

As I move, may I be an instrument of the music at the heart of Life, ready and willing to be played and to melt into the song.”

May I wake up into more and more gratitude for each day that is given to me and for all that it offers.”

Daily Practice – A Weekly Reminder, 3/17/2024

This is the week – Spring has definitely arrived. Daffodils and jonquils have been holding on thru cold rainy days – and now they are standing proudly! The long line of ornamental plum trees around the corner are purple pink today. When the crescent moon appeared last night, with Jupiter shining close by, frogs and owls began to provide music – this morning owls and robins. Spring has arrived. Once more the gifts are given.

It has been four years (!) since the Spring of March 2020, when we shut down and entered into pandemic living. The human world began to feel more calamitous and fractious — and in many ways it still does. Nothing has simply reverted to the way it was before. Perhaps by now we realize that there are only constant opportunities to start over, to begin anew in a changed world, as always.

From time to time we consider the ‘art of embracing’, as a practice of turning toward and moving toward — moving in the direction of with arms opened wide. The question is “What are you willing and able to move toward for the good of all?” Everything we have been practicing will continue to help us – inner nobility and steadiness, naming our fears and counting our blessings at the same time, and the core strengths of courage and trust. Beginning today, every day, the way stretches out before us, and we can only take one step at a time. There are blessings that live in the very acts of reaching out, of moving toward, of opening our arms in anticipation.

Every day may we breathe in deeply and feel the calming power of an exhale, as we open our arms and begin again. Sending love to you all — Jill