"If I had been less--less fortunate, the world would call it; if some obscure and peaceful life had been my destiny; if I had been poor, sick, helpless; would you have turned from me then? "
I've come to believe that everyone needs an Orphan. At least one. No, I don't mean necessarily a bonafide orphan, I mean something in your life that needs you to take care of it. Something, as St. Exupery would say you have "tamed" thus, obligating your faithfulness to it.
Your Orphan may be a cause, a relationship, or a care-taking. It may be a person, an animal, a garden, or a geas. It may be forgotten, unloved, or under-served. It may be something discarded, demeaned, or considered unworthy. It may be unappreciative, resistant, or rebellious. It may be living or it may be not. It may be wonderful. It may be not. Whatever it is, it's your Orphan. And woe to you if you turn away from it or neglect it.
Sometimes your Orphan will find you--whether you like it or not--whether you expect it or not--but most often, you will need to find it. Suziki Roshi reminds us, “The most important thing is remembering the most important thing.” Yes, your Orphan is a spiritual practice. Whatever your Orphan is, be deliberate with it. Be intentional. Because this is no Small Thing, your Orphan. It reminds you what the most important thing is--something beside and outside yourself. It places you in covenant--in relationship. It's your declaration that this life is important. What we do, matters.
Find your Orphan. See you on the playground.
Water, water, everywhere,
The Ancient Mariner, thirsty, is surrounded by water he cannot drink. A deadly irony. There is; however, a more insidious fate than this, that of being "knee deep in the river and not a drop to drink"—being thirsty for life and to be unaware that what we crave is all around us for the taking.
Sometimes our vision is masked by grief, or poverty--either of our circumstances or our spirit. Sometimes it's inattentiveness. Oftentimes it is disconnection from our deepest self, from the giftedness of life, or from needs greater than our own.
But I am here to remind you that There's a River Flowing Through Us—both in our individual lives and our collective UU Santa Fe Community.
This knowing state of "oneness" and flow is a state a grace. A state I observe, that most of us drift in and out of. With these words, I am calling you to grace—to the understanding that we are not here to believe something, but to be part of everything. That our emerging Unitarian Universalist identity calls us to partake of that which we crave most—to just bend down, cup your hands, and drink from the river that flows through us.
The sacred is within relationships—to ourselves, to life, to others. From pulpit to playground we call you to right relationship—through our worship, our small groups, our commitment to learning, to social action—these are the tools we use to listen to our deepest self, open to life's gifts, and serve needs greater than our own.
So, take a drink.
See you in church.
“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” -- Franklin D. Roosevelt
We are all inclined to “Small Think.” I know I am. Small Think happens when we don’t consider ourselves in a larger context, such as a wider society, or a complex ecology. Think of Small Think this way: Franklin D. Roosevelt mused, “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” Small Think: steal from a freight car. Big Think: run the railroad. Big Think is where the magic happens.
Small Think: how is our community doing? Big Think: what is our community doing? For whom and how much? Now you may get the impression that I have some bias against Small Think. Not so. Small Think has its place in our lives and our world. Sometimes we need to think about ourselves; sometimes we need to be good to ourselves. People who watch over me and what I do here often ask me this question: “Steven, what are you doing for self-care?” What they mean is “How are you taking care of yourself so that you may effectively take care of others?” Good question that. What are you doing for self-care?
How is UU Santa Fe taking care of itself so that you may take care of others? Such institutional self-care may take the form of mending interpersonal fences, patching spiritual roofs, and maintaining covenants of right relationship—doing the necessary Small Think to put our church lives on a new trajectory. Leadership has been deliberately and intentionally asking hard and important Big Think questions about this Special Place. What questions do you have? It’s a deep pool. There is only one good way to enter a pool, and I would submit to you that the using the poolside steps is not that way. Jump in that pool. The water is fine.
Shared church leadership (that would be you all, not “The Board”) is challenged to create the conditions that produces the work of the community. What is that work? Big Think, that’s what it is. I don’t know yet all of what that means to UU Santa Fe, but I am pretty sure that you know. Immigration discernment is one such. It’s Big Think. What else? As we shape a UU Santa Fe Development Plan you are invited to engage in shaping and undertaking it. Bet ‘cha it will look nothing like last year’s Plan. What Big Think belongs there? Who does your heart break for? How shall we pursue our Unitarian Universalist values in the context of our community? Live those values out in authentic ways? What programs, events, causes will engage you? That’s Big Think.
When the time comes, steal the whole railroad. See you in church.
The is a place for you and your family in this Special Place!
See you in church,
“Past the seeker as he prayed came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, he cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?” God said, “I did do something. I made you.” ― Sufi saying
Ours is a theology of engagement. We draw inspiration and truth from experiencing each other and the world around us. In doing so, we necessarily witness both the beauty and brokenness of our larger community and environment. Not everyone is suited for rolling paint or standing in a protest line, but there are many ways of engaging in this vital work:
In the In-Between Times
How do we relate to the world when we are not actively engaged in social justice work? What happens when we are standing in the grocery store line? How do our values express themselves in the In-Between Times? How will you engage the world?
Praxis for the In-Between Times
Here is when praxis informs us and supports us. Here are spiritual atributes most sought by Unitarian Universalists as expressed in our Seven Principles:
See you in the grocery store line. See you in church.
Lifespan Religious Educator
Calvin: It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring! -- Bill Watterson
A good landing is one you can walk away from. A great landing is one in which you get to use the aircraft again.
My father was a mechanically gifted tinkerer-turned-engineer--one of many such which the United States was blessed with in abundance during the last century. He tinkered with MGA sports cars--which my mother wisely put up with in stoic resolve lest he turned his talent to something she would really regret. I tinker too, but it's with churches nowadays. It's that Consulting Thing that got stuck in my UUSantaFe job description. Many of you have already discovered my compulsion to "Let's connect-the-dots and see how this works here."
Let me remind you that UUSantaFe is in a transition period--an interim period. Transition between what and what you may ask? It's an intentional period of examination, experimentation, and reimagination at UUSantaFe. It's the space between Alice Springer, former Faith Development Director, and Who's Next and What's Next. It's your chance to tinker. "We like the way that turned out--let's try it some more." Or, "Well, that didn't work--won't do That Again." It's a fun and fragile place, this interim period.
Peter Drucker, management consultant deluxe, tells us, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” That's what your interim period is for--creating your future. Also, Drucker states, "Results are gained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems." The Board recently went through a Development Planning Workshop. Among other things, it identified opportunities. Opportunities such as:
So, start tinkering. See you in church.
Lifespan Religious Educator
“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Antoine de Saint-Exupery teaches us that “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Yearn for the sea. That’s what this Special Place is for: to cultivate our yearning. To so transform our character that we must needs transform the world. Church communities are not sanctuaries—that would be a monastery. Let’s not confuse the two. Our community is not some fortress where religious liberals gather in like-minded solidarity to protect themselves from a conservative wilderness.
We are no fortress here, but a harbor where you are refitted and restocked to go back out onto the high seas of life. That’s what boats are made for. Yes, it’s safer for boats to remain in the harbor. But that’s not what boats are for. Our UUSantaFe harbor is full of community and friendships. And that’s a good thing. But your life wasn’t made for some placid existence here, but to move over the water. Here, we must learn to yearn for the sea. Our challenge is to answer the vital question of “What is this community called to do?” “Do” is an action verb. The question is not what are we called to be, but to do. And that’s the hard work of this community. To do.
In no mission statement have I read “we are here to make one another feel good about ourselves,” or “exist to make like-minded friends.” We are here for something more, a sacred purpose: to change ourselves and then the world. Transformation not sanctuary. Action not respite. Yearning not complacency. It matters not if yours is the God of the Revealed Word, the Consciousness of the Divine Light, the Integration of All Things, or even the Blank God of the atheist. What matters is that you stand in the presence of your God, yearn for the sea, and move over the waters.
See you in church.
Lifespan Religious Educator
and some good news and some bad news," said the preacher with great gravitas. "The church needs a new roof." Whereupon there was much consternation and moaning in the congregation because as they all knew, roofs are really expensive. But, he said brightening, "There's good news! We found the money!" Whereupon there was congratulations and general celebration. "But now for the bad news. . .it's still in your pockets."
It's still in your pockets. Yes, indeed, it will soon be time for the annual "Sermon on the Amount" as the ministry profession names it. And yes, the observant among you would be right in stating I am "singing for my supper." But there is more to it than this. You need to know something of how I think about this. There is only one reason to give money to operate this community. Only one. You believe in its mission. Not because you like the minister, or seeing your friends, or worst of all to "get what you want." It's because you believe in its mission--in the reason we gather for sacred purpose. Here we express and abbreviate it this way: "We nurture hearts and minds, practice beloved community, and work for justice."
On a personal note, my wife Kathleen and I believe in this mission and in this Special Community and we will pledge--and it's not even our community. How much more will those of you do for whom UUSF is your community? Soon the annual UUSF stewardship campaign will begin. Rather than dun you for months it will be short and quick--for which I think an extra 10% pledged in gratitude for this brevity is entirely justified.
You will no doubt hear of a significant shortfall in revenue because, bless them, very generous donors have died this past year, that the continued presence of our major renter HaMakom is in doubt, that 75% of our costs go to staff salaries and benefits (which is normal across our denomination), all of which conspire in almighty fashion against a balanced budget and adequate staffing. I believe that what we do here matters and whether you donate, pledge, or engage in planned giving (or all three!), that matters too.
It's still in your pockets. Don't leave it there. It matters.
See you in church.
Lifespan Religious Educator