I write a monthly column titled Pulpit Ponderings for my Fellowship’s newsletter, The Candle Flame. Here are the most recent examples.
Pulpit Ponderings, December 2016
Our Fellowship faces an intriguing time in the next few months. The recent election shocked most people, leaving in its wake much anger, frustration, sadness, and fear.
People want help and reassurance. People want desperately to do something. And people marginalized in one way or another by society seek sanctuary.
Many people will visit the Fellowship and will explore our online outreach. They will seek us out for reasons very different from those that often bring people to a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Theirs is not a gradual process, or curiosity. They feel desperation. They badly need to know that things will be alright and, if not, that they is a place they can go to.
In the coming month, in particular, people will want the familiar warmth and compassion surrounding the December holidays. They need these things, however, without the passive acceptance of the violence and bigotry erupting across the nation in the wake of the election. They need a place that stands by them no matter what. They need a place with a history and tradition of fighting injustice and welcoming the oppressed.
Therefore, I ask you all to consider the hurt visitors may feel. I want us to set aside some of our business as usual for a time and concentrate heavily on the members of our community who need this religious community in their lives. If you know someone experiencing pain, invite them to join us. When you meet the visitor, listen to their story. And when the time comes for action, be prepared to resist.
If you saw reports of the white supremacist conference in Washington D.C. recently, you know that those opposed to our Unitarian Universalist principles are very real and feel emboldened by the language and tone of our President Elect. The coming year may be critical for our nation, our region, and our community. I stand ready to face this challenge and to offer suggestions for contemplation and action. May this season of peace temper us for the events that may come.
Pulpit Ponderings, November 2016
Recently, I listened to a congregant commenting on his perception that our Fellowship’s decision making lacked sufficient democratic process. He offered no specifics or suggestions to address this perception, just his sense that a small number of persons were making the most significant decisions affecting the life of the Fellowship. Since this perception may be felt by others, I want to suggest ways in which any member of this congregation can help make our processes more democratic.
- Read the key Fellowship guiding documents. Participating in the American democracy requires knowledge of the Constitution. Participation in the Fellowship’s democratic process requires knowledge of the Mission, Vision, Core Values, and Covenant.
- Read the monthly newsletter and midweek updates and like the UUFoM Facebook page. Every effort is made to advertise any event of significance to the members and friends of the Fellowship through these communication channels. A democratic process is only as good as the efforts made by its participants to stay informed.
- Talk to Ministry Team and Committee chairs. The best way to learn more or ask a question about an area of the Fellowship is to speak to the chair of the responsible group. If you don’t know who that person is, feel free to email or call the Fellowship Office. Chairs want feedback. The democratic process starves in a vacuum and communication must travel both ways.
- Attend Ministry Team or Committee meetings. With the exception of the Pastoral Care Ministry Team and the Committee on Ministry (which both require a degree of confidentiality), every meeting held under the auspices of the Fellowship is open at all members to attend. If you want to know the next meeting time of a group, email or phone the chair of that group. If you want to view democracy in action, you can see it in the efforts of dozens of your fellow members volunteering their time designing worship services, maintaining the grounds, educating our children, beautifying our building, and the many other chores needed to sustain our religious community.
- Talk to your elected officers. As in any representative democracy, you vote for leaders to serve on your Board of Trustees who are entrusted to manage the legal and financial requirements of this organization. They represent you and are responsible to you. Board meetings are open to all to attend and minutes of past meetings are available for all to read. If you have an issue or question regarding the governance and policies of the Fellowship, you have every right to raise that question with the Board.
- Talk to the minister. I oversee and am responsible for every aspect of ministry at the Fellowship, a responsibility included in your call to me to serve as your minister. But, while I serve each of you, I also serve the greater community in which live hundreds even thousands of potential members of this Fellowship. I also serve the mission and goals of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, and adhere to its guidelines and codes of conduct. Lastly, I serve the history and tradition of Unitarian Universalism in the world. Email me. Call me. Grab me after a service.
- Be patient. You may not always hear the answer you think you want. But everyone involved in our democratic process will take all the time needed to explain the answer and the rationale behind it. After hearing the answer, you might have suggestions for change. Great! Identify the appropriate person and submit your suggestion in writing for consideration.
- Look outside the box. The decisions made in this Fellowship are made not only on behalf of our current members and friends. We also make decisions that serve the interests of our children, our neighbors, and our surrounding community. We commit to courses of action for those who may not even know we exist yet. We act to help some who will never sign a membership card, but to whom we owe our duty as a spiritual body. And we act for future citizens of this region who will study our contributions to the legacy of Unitarian Universalism as they carve their own path.
- Volunteer! Don’t wait to be asked. Offer your help, whatever the area. We are always in need of greeters and ushers, teachers and assistants, tree trimmers and painters, meal providers and drivers, writers and singers. The opportunities for you to be part of this Fellowship and to engage in its democratic processes are limitless.
- Don’t wait for leaders to act. We all wear multiple hats, and there is more than enough work to spread around. As a result, we can sometimes focus solely on today and not tomorrow, next month, next year, and beyond. So, take time to ask tomorrow’s questions. Who should we be serving and how can we best serve them? Are there new and/or better ways of reaching out to the community? What does Midland need desperately that we can uniquely offer? If we took out a $500,000 mortgage on our property, what could we do with that money to advance our vision? When you tell someone where you go to church, what is the first thing you hope comes to their mind?
Pulpit Ponderings, October 2016
Alien sounds bombard our ears every day. We walk down the street and the clanking of machinery and whirl of motors drowns out the whispering breezes and melodious tones of singing birds. The worst sound of all? Words spoken to disparage, to demean, to discredit, to dismiss. The smug, shrill voices of arrogance can make us feel unworthy, helpless to escape unpleasant circumstances.
When I am unable to shut out these unwanted sounds, I pull out my John Coltrane CDs and records and let his saxophone speak to me. Coltrane possessed a unique talent to bring his instrument to life with a purity that most of us mere mortals can only imagine. When his fingers dance, I hear no other sounds. My soul gets in sync with the beat and I follow his horn wherever it leads.
Too few people have the power to transcend the mundane and to lift others up into the stratospheric winds to join them on the journey. Some accomplish this feat with words, others with dance, still others with art. Some silent film actors had this ability using only facial expressions (watch Renée Jeanne Falconetti in the 1928 production of The Passion of Joan of Arc).
When you find people who speak to you this way, cherish them. Call upon them when the world bears down too hard, or when fear and doubt begin to crush your very humanity. The discordant voices are the ones out of step with reality. Harmony is the natural order in the universe and it welcomes us.