Category Archives: Ministerial Musings

Ministerial Musings

Ever since I began serving the Fellowship as your interim minister in August, 2017, we’ve known that I was “pre-fired.”

In a sermon at the end of my first year with you, I announced that I had one foot out the door.  (Here I am, pointing to the door!)  I was laughing then!  Now, it’s almost time for me to go, and I’ll shed a tear (probably more than one) as I actually head out.

I have had a wonderful time with you.  The major goal of this time was to help you get ready for your new settled minister.  You are ready, and Eric Severson is ready to join you on August 1.

I’m heading to Pittsburgh, to serve the First Unitarian Church as interim minister for the next two years.

Because I want to be in Midland mid-July, I’ve revamped my schedule for these next few weeks.   I’ll be here until I leave for General Assembly in Spokane on June 17, and I’ll return to Chicago on June 23 for some vacation time.  Then I’ll be back in Midland on July 15, based here until I head to Pittsburgh on July 31.  While I’m in Midland I’m available for conversations and meetings, and will be glad to talk with you.

I will hold you in my heart always,

Connie

Not the Whole Story

Have you read the article in last week’s UU World magazine titled “After L, G, and B,” in print or online?

Have you also read the follow-up article, titled “Our Story Hurt People”? (https://www.uuworld.org/articles/apology-spring-2019)

Unless you’ve read the follow-up, you’ve only read part of the story. The original article has prompted strong negative reactions to the ideas presented and the language used as well as to the overall approach of the author.

The original article appears to be “informative,” but it contains a great deal of misinformation. As UU religious professional CB Beal wrote in her response (see below), “This article contains inaccurate definitions, errors of language, even slurs.” And, as the Transforming Hearts Collective noted (see below), “the article’s author modeled asking trans people harmful and violent questions.”

These are some of the responses that I found to be most informative about the issues and concerns involved:

“Centering the Marginalized: symphony and triptych” by CB Beal (https://medium.com/@jpc_cb/centering-the-marginalized-symphony-and-triptych-9dabc93cd461)

“What It Takes to De-Center Privilege: The Failure of this Week’s UU World Article” by Alex Kapitan (https://rootsgrowthetree.com/2019/03/06/what-it-takes-to-de-center-privilege/)

“Tips for Talking About the UU World Article,” by the Transforming Hearts Collective (https://www.transformingheartscollective.org/stories/2019/3/8/tips-for-talking-about-the-uu-world-article)

“Putting the “T” First: Public Statement on This Week’s UU World Article,” by TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional Unitarian Universalists Together) (https://transuu.org/2019/03/06/putting-the-t-first/)

Let’s never let “what we think we know” get in the way of what we can learn.

In faith and hope,

Connie

The Worm Thrower, revisited

I was reminded recently of an essay by Loren Eiseley titled “The Star Thrower.” Here’s my adaptation of an adaptation:

One morning, while walking on the beach, an old man saw a young man off in the distance, and wondered about the strange thing the young man off in the distance was doing. The young man kept bending down, picking something up, and throwing it into the ocean. He kept doing it over and over: bending down, picking up, throwing. As the old man walked closer, he saw that the beach was covered with starfish that had been washed onto the beach at high tide; they were stranded there when the tide went out. And he saw that the young man was picking up starfish and throwing them into the ocean.

When he got up close, the old man asked the young one what he was doing, and the young one replied, “saving starfish.”  And the old man said, “There are so many starfish on the beach, you can’t possibly save enough to make a difference.” And the star thrower bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the ocean, and replied, “It made a difference to that one.”

Sometimes, when rain soaks the soil, worms come up for air. Sometimes they crawl out onto parking lots or driveways and then can’t find their way back to the dirt. When I see stranded worms, I try to save them, at least some of them. Since I really don’t like touching worms, I take a leaf or a piece of paper and I gently nudge the worm so it scrunches up. Then I carefully slide the leaf or paper underneath it and gently toss the worm back onto the dirt.  Once, I saw a whole parking lot covered in worms. I tried to pick some that looked nice and healthy, so they would have a good chance of surviving. I like to think it makes a difference to the worms.

Last week there was a worm on the cement pad in front of the Fellowship building. It was large and intact, but dead. I found a flat stick and used it to gently place the worm in the dirt, so it could return to the earth as it decomposed.

Just call me “The Worm Thrower.”

In Faith and Hope,

Connie

Ministerial Musings

Trusting, verifying, risking

Questions of trust are on my mind these days.  Whose word do we trust, and by what authority?  How do we trust ourselves and each other?  Do we listen to our own instincts?  Are our own instincts trustworthy?  How do we protect ourselves and each other?  What do we risk by trusting?  What do we risk by not trusting?

On general principles, I tend to be a skeptic.  Paradoxically, my skepticism sometimes makes me vulnerable.  Or even gullible, when I tell myself “You’re too skeptical,” and then go too far the other way.  Yet I’d rather be gullible than cynical.

Trust, verify, risk.  These are imperatives for building relationships and for living in this world.
We build trust in each other by being reliable and trustworthy, building relationships of trust over time.  Boundaries and accountability help give us reason to trust within the context of those relationships.

Our trust is verified through the truth of the relationship that is established.  And even when a relationship of trust is established, if our experience and instinct give us reason to question, then we need to ask questions.

Some level of risk is inherent in our lives, and without some level of risk we wouldn’t be able to walk outside our own doors.  Or even stay inside them, for that matter.

Of course, there are some risks we do not take.  We protect our children’s safety through policies and practices that minimize risks.  Yet, taken to extremes, over-protecting our children would mean stunting their development as human beings having their own experiences of the world.  We “manage” risks, but we can never eliminate them.

We risk ourselves every time we put ourselves out in the world, trusting the promise that the world offers us.   We make a sort of cost/benefit analysis.   Is it worth the risk to trust?

Even as I ask questions, I want to be open to life, even if that makes me vulnerable.                   

As a passage in our hymnal (#658, from an anonymous author) reminds us,

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk exposing our true self.
To place our ideas—our dreams—before the crowd is to risk loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
To live is to risk dying.

Let’s trust, verify, and risk.  Let’s laugh, weep, reach out, put forth ideas, love, hope, try, and live.

In faith and hope,
Connie

What Do You Believe?

One of the hallmarks and defining characteristics of Unitarian Universalism is that we have no creed.  This does not mean that we do not have beliefs; nor does it mean, as is sometimes said, that “we can believe anything we want.”  In our non-creedal religious movement, we have individual beliefs, not collective beliefs.

As Unitarian Universalists, we formulate our belief statements in terms of credo, which is the first person singular (“I believe”); not creed, which is a doctrinal set of beliefs (“we believe”).

It’s not that we can believe anything we want to, it’s that we can—and do—believe what we believe.  We believe what we have to believe, not because anyone else or any written text tell us we “have to believe,” but because “…our senses, our learning, our Earth, our communities, and our wise people” (as Unitarian Universalist minister Barbara Wells lists some of the sources of wisdom from which we draw) give us reason to believe. Our own stories are among our sacred texts.

We are responsible for developing our own beliefs in light of our own experience and conscience.  A participant in an introductory session on Unitarian Universalism asked me whether this means that we are “required” to develop our own beliefs, and I found this an intriguing question.  For Unitarian Universalists, there is very little that is required by external authority!  Yet my hope is that each of us does feel ourselves “required” to develop our beliefs; that we will feel called to do so, to enrich our own spiritual lives and our conversation in community.  No one else will do it for us!

“Our need is not to ‘find something to believe,’” Unitarian Universalist religious educator Edith Hunter reminds us, “but rather to discover that our lives indicate what we believe right now.”

As James Luther Adams noted in his pragmatic theory of meaning, belief is “meaningful” insofar as it affects actual practice: “what difference to our practice and to our expectations … will [it] make to believe this rather than that.”

It matters what we believe; it matters even more how we live our beliefs.

One way we engage in articulating our beliefs is through workshops designed to help participants figure out what they believe about some theological questions (such as the meaning of life and death; the nature of human beings and our place in the universe).  I’ll be offering a Credo Workshop in October and November, and the schedule will be available soon.

-In faith and hope, Connie