Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Holidays & Holy Days

At the congregation I serve we have monthly themes that provide a framework for our Faith Development efforts, including our weekly worship.  This month the theme is "Holidays & Holy Days," and one of the questions we've been dancing with is, "what's the difference?  What makes a holiday a holy day?"

On the first Wednesday of the month my creative co-conspirator, Leia Durland-Jones, and I have been facilitating a program around that month's theme.  As part of our Holidays & Holy Days program we each were given the opportunity to journal about what we'd been discussing.  This is what came up for me:
Holidays.  Holy days.
Days of Turning.  Transformation.
Moments -- mountaintops and valleys;
Highs and lows.  Birth and Death. And choices made.
Roads taken.

To mark.  To know I've marked these times.
Interrupt the everyday.  Break the
Step off the path.
Stand.  Dance.  Weep.  Listen.

We are called by something greater than ourselves . . .
called to something greater.
But it's so damned hard to hear,
so damnably hard to hear,
so god-damned hard to hear.

To hear.
That's what this is about.

Pax tecum,


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

What Do We Offer?

I am finding myself almost daily learning something new about Pope Francis, and each new revelation is surprising and inspiring. 

When he carried his own bags and paid his own hotel bill after the Conclave, I took note.  When he eschewed the gaudiest robes and the special shoes and the fancy "bling" that goes with being Pope, I sat up a bit.  When he washed the feet of prisoners (including women), I found myself leaning forward.  And when he agreed to receive Tim Schmalz's controversial -- but to my mind powerfully evocative -- sculpture, "Jesus the Homeless," my smile shone in my eyes.

But when I heard that he has been known to sneak out at night to minister to the homeless?  I wasn't just impressed . . . I was moved.  Could it be, as a friend of mine asked, that we finally have a Christian as Pope?

As I say, I was moved.  I've written before about my encounters with some of the unhoused people I'd met while commuting in and out of Boston during my days at UUHQ.  And Charlottesville, like virtually everywhere else, has a homeless population, a few of whom I have gotten to know a bit.  And the church that I serve is part of the town's PACEM program that provides housing during the coldest months of the year, so working with the homeless and to end homelessness is one of our ministries already.  One to which I'm particularly drawn.

After hearing about Pope Francis I found myself thinking about how I spend my time.  Could I make a practice of going out to the Downtown Mall and spending some time there, getting to know the guys who pass their days there?  Could I make time to volunteer at the Haven?  And I started fantasizing about saying to them as we get to know each other, "You should come by our church some Sunday," and having TJMC become a community where homeless men and women and professors from UVa rub shoulders as members of the same family.

But then I thought, "would what we're doing here matter?"  Would the things we say and do on Sundays matter to people who don't have a roof over their heads and who don't know where their next meal is coming from?  I know that the "salvific message" of Unitarian Universalism would be relevant.  I believe that our core teaching -- which I sum up as "we are one human family, on one fragile planet, in one miraculous universe, bound by love" -- is life giving.  But would our Sunday assemblies?

I don't think so.  And I don't know what it would take for the folks who come for food on the first Friday, or our PACEM guests, to feel welcome and at home.  But I know I like the idea.

And for what it's worth, I think the Pope would like it too.

Pax tecum,


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

TJMC 2020: a sermon

The following is the sermon I offered at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville, VA on Sunday, November 10th, 2013.  It is possible to hear a podcast if you'd like.  (It should be noted that this was not the sermon "advertised" -- "Families Together" -- but, rather, a response to the challenges offered by the situation the church finds itself in at this time.)


When I was doing my internship in our congregation in Concord, Massachusetts, the Senior Minister there, my friend and mentor Gary Smith, started off one sermon in a way I’ve never forgotten.  He had a knack for that.  Usually ended them well, too.  On this occasion he looked out at the congregation and said, and I paraphrase because it was nearly twenty years ago now:
The dinner party was a success.  Everyone had a great time.  The guests have gone home.  We’ve cleaned up the table.  The dishes are done.  We’ve turned the porch light off.  And it’s just us.  It’s just us, just family, sitting around the kitchen table, and we’ve got to talk.
What followed was a sermon challenging that congregation to step up to the plate in a way it hadn’t recently.  Their pledge drive had just come in seriously short, and it was time for some serious conversation around that kitchen table.  Just family.
Now it’s our turn.
In the first congregation I served, up in Yarmouth Maine, we created a term for it – “it” being the fairly constant state of not quite getting enough money from our pledge campaigns to fund the budgets we wanted to.  We called it, “muddling through,” and I can remember one memorable year when our treasurer presented to the congregation both our “dream budget” and our “muddling through again budget.”  That’s what we actually called them that year.
I was ordained nearly twenty years ago, and in that time I’ve served three of our congregations.  In my training I also had experience at both a student ministry site and an internship site.  So that’s five congregations I know pretty well.  Then there was my first UU church, my home church, The First Parish in Waltham Universalist Unitarian Unitarian Universalist Church, so that’s six.  And then, of course, during my years on the UUA staff I got to see quite a number of our congregations both up close and from a distance.  And then, as you can imagine, when we clergy folks get together we like to kvetch (and gloat) a bit, so I’ve heard about . . . well . . . countless others.
And what I can say, from the vantage point of all of this experience, is that just about every congregation struggles with money at least some of the time.  In fact, I once read a book on church finances that said one of the ways you can tell the health of a congregation is whether or not it sees its money troubles as a crisis or as just one of the realities of being a church.
Well friends, we’re looking at the “reality of being a church” . . . big time.  Last spring the Board brought to the congregational meeting a budget of a little over $600,000.  That was roughly a $63,000 increase over the actual results of last year – a 12% increase, give or take.  And that increase, believe it or not, was not because we were proposing to do some grand, new, exciting things; it wasn’t because we were revolutionizing the way we’re doing church in Charlottesville.  It was largely because in the previous year we’d added some staff  and we’d realized that we really ought to be compensating all of our staff fairly – salaries and benefits.  There were also some minor increases here and there, and we wanted to add a ten-hour-a-week youth coordinator position and increase our Church Secretary’s hours a bit.  But that was it.  It’s important to realize that that wasn’t some kind of “Dream Budget.”  It was, in fact, despite the increase, really a kind of “muddle through budget.”
Where there was a real jump was in the area of pledging.  We had hoped to be able to increase our pledge revenues by about $90,000, but this was really because we knew we were going to have to compensate for the loss of rental income from the Molly Michie Preschool, which has rented our basement but is moving out, and from U-House, which we were hoping soon to sell (and, as you heard earlier, we just have).  Since the largest percentage of our revenue is from the pledges of members – both formal and informal – that’s where we looked to make up this difference.  And we were so confident that the increase in energy and satisfaction we’ve been feeling these days would generate this kind of enthusiastic generosity that we decided to run a low-key campaign.
A mistake, as it turned out.  Yet even now, after we’ve literally spent months trying to contact each and every person who had not pledged during the campaign, we are still looking at less pledge income this year than last.  The revised budget that was presented for a vote at that congregational meeting a couple of weeks back is actually smaller than last year’s, and even with that there’s the possibility that the Board may need to tap our reserve funds, and your staff was directed to come up with some $20,000 in additional cuts should the need arise.  As of right now, it looks like they well may be needed, and those cuts include reductions in compensation – a quarter of it will be coming out of my package – and may eventually include hours as well.  Already we did away with plans for that much needed youth coordinator and we’re keeping the Church Secretary at the hours she currently has.
Now I’m pretty far into this sermon this morning and I’ll bet that many, if not most (if not all, actually) of you are expecting me to start asking anyone for money.  “Increase your pledge if you can!  Pledge if you haven’t!”  Right?  Well, I’m not going to do that.  I’m really, really not.  Some of you have already given generously, some “sacrificially,” as we call it.  You’ve done your part and I’m not, absolutely not, asking you to do more.  And some of you have not given anything, and I trust that you have your reasons.  There has been more than enough time for you to be swayed if swaying were possible.  So I’m not asking you to do anything more, either.
So what am I asking?  I’m asking us to realize that all of this means something.  I’m asking us to realize that all of this means something, and that we – you and me and all of us together – really need to figure out what it means.
It means something that one quarter of our members – fully one-out-of-every-four members – makes no pledge of record.  Nothing.  I know that some people donate their time and talent instead of money, and I in no way want to discount that.  Oh for our volunteers.  Bless you.  We need you.  But for there to be no pledge of record – not even $1 a week, not even $1 a month, not even $1 a year! – to have no pledge of record from  25% of our members?  Well, that means something.  I don’t know what it means, but we, as a community, need to figure it out.  It might mean that the economy’s changing, and money’s tight.  It may mean that some folks think that a small pledge won’t matter much.  It might mean that people figure someone else will take care of the money stuff or, maybe, that we’re doing okay and don’t really need the support.  (You know, the way a lot of people feel about NPR.)  It may mean that some folks are displeased about this or that and want to send a message by withholding their pledges.  It may mean that we don’t have a culture here – yet! – in which people realize that their pledge is only partially about paying bills but is really about being connected.  I don’t know what it means, but when I checked in with the UUA staff about pledging trends around the country every one of the consultants who responded said that having a quarter of your membership without a pledge of record should be cause for at least some serious reflection.  Friends, we need to figure it out.
And it means something when our church leaders personally call folks who pledged last year but not this year and don’t ever get a call back.  Even after several tries.  It means something.  Again, I don’t know what, but we need to figure it out.  Because when someone chooses not to return a call from another member of their church family, well, it’s not about possibly lost revenue at that point.  It’s about lost connections.  When a leader repeatedly calls a member (and I’m actually talking about 30 or 40 members) and hears nothing back it’s a sure sign that something’s broken, but, of course, we can’t tell for sure what because, after all, the calls aren’t being returned.  We need to figure this out.
You know, as Adam and I talked about this service this week he made a really good point.  Some of you know that Adam’s not only one of our new Worship Weavers but that for several years he led our canvass efforts, so he’s given this a lot of thought.  And Adam suggested that I honestly and openly tell everyone a bottom line truth.  You see, there is a figure that’s absolutely necessary if we want to have a church.  And that figure is $0.
That’s right.  We can have a church on no money at all.  It’ll look a lot different than TJMC does right now, but we could do it.  There’s a great story, probably apocryphal, that’s making the rounds on the Internet right now.  I won’t go into all of the details, but it ends with a preacher looking out at the congregation and saying, “I look out and see a group of people, but not a church.”  He’s supposed to have dismissed them to go home and think about it until the next week.  Well, we can have a church with a budget of $0, but we can’t have one if we don’t have committed, engaged, involved, and connected people. 
And that’s what I’m asking for this morning.  Not more contributions, but more commitment.  Not more pledge envelopes, but more people engaged.   And by this I don’t mean busier people.  Some of you out to have a bunk installed you’re here so often.  A lot of people are doing a whole lot of things, so that’s not the commitment I’m talking about.  But when it comes to “owning” the mission of the church?  When it comes to even knowing, clearly and with certainty, the mission of the church and making sure we stay true to it?  Who’s committed to that?   The financial situation we find ourselves in right now is, in and of itself, not such a big deal.  The budget will work itself out, or it won’t, but either way no doubt the universe will keep unfolding as it should.  But the financial situation we find ourselves in right now means something, and we really need to figure out what.
What kind of church do we want to be?  What kind of church are we, actually, now?
It turns out that this is a perfect time to be asking ourselves these questions, because we’re starting our Strategic Planning Process and it’s designed to investigate two fundamental question – what kind of church do we want to be in five, ten, twenty years and how do we want to get there?  The foundation for all of that, of course, is knowing what kind of congregation we actually are right now.
TJMC prides itself on being a growing, vibrant church.  We know that our space is too tight, we’re bursting at the seams, and many of us are imagining expanded space, new buildings, increased professional staff, more real engagement in justice work in our community.  Our Staffing Task Force of a year or so ago discovered that we are actually currently understaffed for this sized congregation, and that if we really want to grow we need to not only catch up to where we should be, where we need to be to support what we have, but need to be thinking about “staffing for growth.”  And if we’re to grow we really, really need more space.  Many of us are really excited by the possibilities in all of this.
And yet, this year’s budget is currently less than last year’s, and for the past several years our budgets have been essentially flat.  Stagnant.  By that measure, at least, we are not vibrant and growing.  We’re not even really “muddling through.”  We’re treading water.  And some folks think that we’re showing signs of getting tired.
Now, this may surprise you to hear, but it’s not the worst thing in the world for a congregation to stop growing – in numbers and in budget.  There are other kinds of growth.  Pruning back a wild and scraggly bush is not a sign of defeatism, but rather an excellent strategy for promoting greater health.  We are currently a roughly 450 member congregation.  That means that roughly 450 people have taken the step of formalizing their membership and have “signed the book.”  Some of those are not particularly active, and there are lots of active folks who haven’t taken that step, so this is not necessarily a very useful number, but we are currently a roughly 450 member church.
Another, and many think more useful, number is the average Sunday attendance – this we’d get by literally counting every person, of whatever age, is in any part of our church on a Sunday morning.  Do this for a year and then divide that number by 52.  We’ve never done this to my knowledge, but I’d wager that the figure would put us squarely in what’s called the “Program Sized Church.”  This is a congregation with an average Sunday attendance of between 150 and 350 people.  It’s worth noting that only one-in-six UU congregations is in this category.  Only one in six.
It’s worth noting, too, that the transition from “Pastoral Church,” the next size down, and “Program Church” is notorious for floundering congregations.  It doesn’t just happen.  It takes intentionality and courage; it takes faith and trust; it takes will.  And for the vast majority of congregations trying to make that step it takes time – years can be spent caught on that hump, stuck on that plateau, hoist on that petard, stranded on that sandbar.  Just as we’ve been for the past several years.  Just as we are, apparently, right now.
I want to reiterate – I am not asking anyone to pony up more money so that we can make that leap.  That would presuppose that we really want to, and that all it’d take would be money to make it happen.  As Adam said to me this week, “we don’t really need any more money.  Before we ask people for more money we need to really decide if we want it, and we need to decide what we want to do with it.”
I can honestly say that out of all those congregations I’ve known over these last two decades, none has been a better congregation than this.  None has had more promise that this congregation has; none more possibilities.  Think about the testimonials you hear on a pretty regular basis during the time of Joys and Sorrows – people saying how much this church community means to them.  Think of the energy you feel in this sanctuary on at least most Sunday mornings, and the excited hum you hear from the rooms where our RE program is taking place here and at Summit.  Think of the growing throng of students from UVA, and the parents, and the grandparents, and the great-grandparents, and all the kids who call this place “home,” who find here “family.” Some in ways they’ve never known before . . . have never known were even possible.  And think of all the good work that TJMC is involved in – in Charlottesville and in the wider world – making a real and positive difference.
We have been entrusted with an incredibly powerful resource, and it is up to us to decide how best to utilize it.  Those who have come before us are trusting us to hand this community of faith on to those who have not come yet.  I can say with complete certainty that it is not more money that we need.  It is greater clarity of vision and greater clarity of purpose.  And that we can only get by coming together and making it so.  We have a year ahead of us in which to do just that.  May we do that, and may our future be bright.
Pax tecum,

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Little Retro/Introspection


I'm going to be a little self-referential today.  (A lot, actually.)

I've finally taken a look at the variety of statistical information available to me about this blog and I have to say that I'm astonished.

This, for instance, is my 295th post.  Over its history A Ministers Musings has had over 51,400 page views.  And while 458 people who've seen my blog are somewhere in the United States, apparently there are supposedly 40 in the Ukraine and 5 in Kazakhstan.

Really?  There are people in Kazakhstan and Thailand and Taiwan who've swung through this little patch of the blogosphere?


Here's the actual list that appears in my "overview":

United States
United Kingdom
South Africa

If true, isn't that remarkable?  When I was a kid -- over half a century ago, now -- something like this would have been inconceivable.  Now?  Compared to the "audience" for most of the blogs I read these stats are nothing.  But really, 18 hits from Russia?

Pax tecum,


Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's hard to put my shoes back on . . .

While I was serving the First Universalist Church of Yarmouth, Maine I began to get a reputation as the preacher who preached barefooted.  So much so, that when a member of our congregation was ordained a friend of his from seminary was disappointed to see that I was wearing shoes for the ceremony.  (I wasn't preaching.)  So much so that when I began serving our congregation in Brewster, Massachusetts a couple of our congregants bought me a collection of funky socks to wear.

Shoeless Joe Jackson, meet Shoeless Rev. Wikstrom.

It all started about a dozen years ago.  (Could it really be that long?)  I was engaged in a two-year program on Spiritual Direction with the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation.  During our first nine-day residency we were given one 36-hour period of silence.  During this time we could do anything we wanted, as long as it didn't feel like something we "had" to do -- we were to be open to the movings of the Spirit.  A real Sabbath time.

At one point during this silent retreat-within-a-retreat I went for a walk.  It was a beautiful day -- clear skies, warm sun, brisk air.  As I walked along one of the convent's many trails I came across a large stone at the corner of a cross-road.  It was a large chunk of crystal, actually, and was situated just so that the sun shone directly on it.  To say "it called out to me" might sound strange, but there's no other way I know how to describe it.  And, so, I sat on the still partially frozen ground by this rock and proceeded to meditate.

The story of Moses turning aside to check out a burning bush was certainly in my consciousness, but I was still a little surprised when I "heard" a voice say, "Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground."  And as this was a 36-hour period in which the only "rule" was to follow our instincts, I proceeded to do so.  I stayed by that rock for a little while, and then just as quickly as I felt called over to it I felt ready to move on.

But as I began to put my shoes back on I found myself wondering about where the boundary was around this "holy ground."  Was there a circle of some as yet indeterminate diameter that was holy ground with everything beyond being more mundane?  I stood up, still barefoot, and took a couple of steps away from the stone.  This ground felt exactly the same to me as the ground on which I'd been sitting -- I could feel the icy coldness of it, and the soft oozy warm of the surface layer of thawed mud.  I took a few more steps and then realized -- not just thought or came to the conclusion that, but truly realized -- that there was no place that was not holy ground.  I kept my shoes off for the rest of my walk.  And the rest of that day.

And when I returned to Yarmouth I began to honor that experience by taking off my shoes before I preached.  I did so both to remind myself of this powerful experience and to recognize that when I had the privilege of standing behind the pulpit and preaching to that community I was standing on holy ground.

Yesterday, during the mid-week worship service we hold here on the labyrinth (in good weather) I felt compelled to remove my shoes before walking, and I remembered that experience at Bon Secour so many years ago.  And again I found it hard to put my shoes back on.  Where does "holy ground" end and "unholy ground" begin?  I have to say, I've still never found that demarcation.

Pax tecum,


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

There is More Love Somewhere

On Monday New Jersey became the 14th state in the nation in which it is legal for same-gender couples to be treated identically with two-gender couples.  Even the Governor, Chris Christie, dropped his lawsuit and acknowledged that the court had spoken loud and clear.

I have to say . . . I have never understood what all the brouhaha has been about.  Over the years I've known a number of homosexual couples and a number of heterosexual couples.  And in those years I've seen some relationships work, and others not.  I've seen loving care and respect, and I've seen dishonesty and betrayal.  What differentiated the two was not the gender expression of the couple, but the quality of the relationship.

I am honored to have met and gotten to know two of the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case that set the marriage equality dominoes falling.  They are members of the congregation I served there, and are two of the loveliest people I've ever known.  The love between them was palpable.

And recently two members of the congregation I now serve went to Washington to have their union legally recognized.  They've been together for forty-four years but it is only after their wedding ceremony that they feel they can say to the heterosexual world, "our relationship is as valid, as legitimate as yours." 

Can you imagine?  Doing the hard work of keeping a relationship alive and thriving for over four decades and, yet, being constantly told in ways both overt and subtle that your relationship isn't "real" and doesn't really "count"?  Can you imagine this?  Far too many citizens in our country don't have to -- they live it every day of their lives.

For years, now, people have said that a general acceptance of "gay marriage" will damage and possibly even destroy "traditional" marriage.  The same was said, of course, about interracial marriages until the famous Loving v. Virginia case in 1967.  It was obvious that only people of the same race should marry.  Anything else would be an affront and a danger.

And it's been said that the true purpose of marriage is procreation, the creating of a stable family unit for the perpetuation of our species and our civilization.  Well, them, older couples and infertile couples should only be allowed to have "civil unions" too, because they wouldn't be able to generate biological offspring either.

And it's been said that "the American people" are against same-gender marriages -- at least, under that name -- so that not only tradition but public opinion are against it.  But since 2004 -- a mere nine years -- we've gone from same-gender marriage being outside the realm of most heterosexual's conception to being legal in fourteen states!

If the institution of marriage was able to survive the 2000 on-air nuptials of Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger, highly publicized 55-hour marriage of Britney Spears and Jason Alexander, and the 11-year run of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise,  it will certainly survive it's expansion to include loving couples who just happen to share the same gender expression.

Pax tecum,


PS -- the title of this post comes from a really wonderful hymn we Unitarian Universalists sing quite a lot.  It is an African American hymn, sung to a tune named after South African activist and martyr Steven Biko.  It's words are:  "There is more love, somewhere. / There is more love, somewhere. / I'm going to keep on / 'till I find it. / There is more love, somewhere."  And so may we all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Another God?

I was listening to El Rushbo the other day, as I am wont to do from time to time, and he lit into a rant that I found absolutely fascinating.  Conservatism, he said, is not a philosophy.  It is not a set of policies.  It is a way of life.  It is a way of life, he said, based on values, history, and tradition.

Sounds a whole lot like religion, I said to myself.

And then what I was hearing struck me:  Rush Limbaugh was -- whether he was fully aware of what he was doing or not -- was saying that conservatism is the conservative's religion.  It is the conservative's way of life.  It is evident in what they choose to do and what they choose not to do.  It guides their thinking.  It provides direction.  Some of this, to be clear, Rush did not say in so many words.  But it certainly seems to me that all this is a logical inference from what he did say.

And if, it seems to me, that what he said is true -- that conservatism is not merely a set of policies but is, instead, a way of life -- then it seems clear that conservative's claims to be Christian are demonstrably false.  After all, the first commandment -- the very first of the ten conservatives claim to hold sacrosanct -- is "thou shall have no other gods before me."

Christianity was, in its formative years, known simply as The Way.  It is to this day not a mere philosophy, not a set of policies, but a way of life that is based on values, history, and tradition.  Yet if Limbaugh is right, these so-called "Conservative Christians" have set another god before God -- conservatism.

Maybe this is why it's so infernally difficult to understand how people who claim to revere Jesus and the Bible can behave in ways so contrary to the message of both.

Pax tecum,


Friday, October 04, 2013

In Gratitude for St. Francis

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi -- Giovanni Francesco di Pietro di Bernardone.  He was born in either 1181 or 1182, and died in his mid-forties in 1226.  He is known in some circles as Alter Christus -- the other Christ.  I know him as the religious figure who speaks most directly and powerfully to my own soul.  A charismatic preacher who yearned for a life of prayerful solitude; a holy fool, whose primary message might well have been Rejoice! and yet who himself knew such deep melancholy.  I could go on.

Last evening I was surfing the web for images of Francesco and came across this one on the FaceBook page of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans.  I do not know (yet) who created it, but it is without a doubt my current favorite.  Here's why:

A number of years ago I had a revelation.  It came to me that the best image for God (at least the best image for my understanding of God) would not be a King, nor even a parent.  It would be a puppy.  A dog is joy unbridled.  No matter who you are, or how you are, a dog can't give you enough kisses.  And over and over and over again a dog calls out to you, "Play with me!"

So here is that holy fool of God, Francesco Bernadone, embracing and being embraced by that most playful of pups.

Pax tecum,


Thursday, October 03, 2013

What If The DRE Ran The Church?

Of all the things I've done in my career perhaps the thing with the best title was when I was hired by the Canadian Unitarian Council to be a "provocateur" for one of their annual conferences.  Professional Provocateur -- arguably the role I was born to play.

So I'd like to be clear that what I'm doing in this post today is being provocative.  Intentionally.  Consciously.  I'm not saying that I don't believe what I'm writing, but only that my goal is not to convince you of its rightness or wrongness.  I'm hoping that a conversation might ensue.  I'm hoping that others might stop for a minute, cock their head to one side or the other, maybe squint one eye, and say to themselves (and anyone who happens to be around them), "Huh.  I never thought about it like that.  I wonder . . ."

That's what I think "What If . . ." questions are really all about.  To get us to see things from a new angle, to try on a different perspective, and to remind us to wonder.  Today's What If?  What if the Director of Religious Education ran the church?

Let's start with a few assumptions.  I am writing about the religious community I know best -- Unitarian Universalists.  Others may find something useful in all of this, but it's really to and for UUs that I'm writing right now.  And let us for the moment at least agree with one another that I consider Unitarian Universalism to be its own religious tradition.  You may not think so -- and there are certainly folks with divergent opinions on this issue -- but I'm the one writing and I am beginning with the premise that Unitarian Universalism is its own distinct and unique religion.  We grow out of Protestant Christianity, that's true.  But Christianity itself grew out of Judaism and nobody's running around saying that Christianity should feel compelled to adhere to Jewish traditions, norms, and forms.  So I'm writing primarily to Unitarian Universalist and with Unitarian Universalism in mind, and our tradition is its own thing.

All that said, I think it can also be agreed -- and if you wildly disagree remember who's writing this! -- that the forms of our tradition still look awfully like the Protestant traditions from which we were born.  Many of our churches are called, well, "churches."  And lots of them look like churches.  What with the pews and the pulpits and all.  And lots of them have an ordained clergy person (or two) who are seen to a greater or lesser extent as the CEO of the church.

This makes a certain amount of sense.  Our tradition grows out of the Protestant strains that advocated for a "learned clergy."  And today's ordained UU ministers spend a fair amount of time (and money!) preparing for the roles through which we serve our congregations.  We study preaching, and church history, and theology, and pastoral care, and comparative religions, and . . .  If we're not all really smart folk we at least have a whole lot of learning!

But here's where I want the head tilt to come in.  Does it make sense for a Unitarian Universalist congregation to have an ordained clergy person at its head?  Let me play this out a bit.

In some traditions the clergy person -- Rabbi, Imam, Minister -- has been, not to put too fine a point on it, the smartest person in the room.  At least, often, the most educated. And for certain the most well trained to do things like interpret sacred scripture.  It seems self-evident that traditions that value such things would look to someone who looks a whole lot like a modern ordained minister to lead them.

But Unitarian Universalists don't necessarily fit this mold.  In the vast majority of UU congregations today the ordained minister is decidedly not the most learned person in the room!  Per capita, UUs have more Ph.D.s than just about any other religious tradition.  And our clergy don't even necessarily know more about scripture and religious history than the people in the pews, not that that's a particularly powerful need in most UU congregations.  We don't have a sacred text that is in need of interpretation.  And is a seminary-trained, ordained clergy person the only one who is able to draw meaning out of life?

In some traditions the clergy -- priests, let's say -- are thought to be imbued with a special authority to perform certain acts.  Only an ordained priest, for instance, can officiate the sacraments.  But UUs don't have sacraments, per se, and even if we did it would be the rare congregation that would say only an ordained clergy person could perform them!

Where am I going with all of this?  I have heard it articulated, and have said it myself, that everything a UU church does is in one way or another part of the process of "faith formation."  Everything we do is part of that "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" that we affirm is one of our guiding principles.  It's long been noted that ordained clergy are woefully uneducated about issues of church governance and administration.  But I think it can just as certainly be asserted that another area in which our training is generally underwhelming is faith formation.  A cursory course in religious education, sure, but that is not the area of expertise most of us were encouraged -- or even assisted -- in developing.

It is, however, precisely the purview of the Religious Educator.  In recognition of this, in fact, more and more congregations are changing the title of their Director of Religious Education to Director of Lifespan Faith Development.  And, so, I'm just wondering -- why, if there has to be one person who is at the "top" of the UU org chart (if you will), why is it the clergy person and not the religious educator?

To be sure, in many of our congregations the religious educator is a part-time, and even a volunteer, position.  The person filling the role does not have anywhere near the training and preparation of the clergy person.  These folks may mean well, but they are in no position to "run the church."  I acknowledge that this is so.  I don't, however, assume therefore that this means it should be so.  It may be that we've been putting our preparatory energies in the wrong place.  Perhaps, rather than putting so much time and energy into clergy preparation we should be developing better prepared, and better supported, DREs!

I also want to head off any argument directed at the idea that I'm saying clergy are unimportant.  I am not.  We bring skills, and training, and sensitivity to the game that's important.  Even essential.  Clergy have a capacity for seeing connections, and weaving things together that is, indeed, a part of our training.  And while I do believe that nearly everyone is qualified to "pass life through the fire of thought" (as Emerson described the art of preaching), I also know that the clergy's training in homiletics and worship theory make us indispensable in training and guiding the laity.  There is no question -- in my mind, at least -- that ordained clergy bring great value to congregational life.  I do not, however, believe that that ipso facto translates into the elevated role most of us have inherited and are assumed to deserve.

It seems to me that it would be ideal for the religious professional, and the "ministry professional" (for want of a better term), and perhaps even an administrative professional to work together as a team -- each one bringing their own particular skills and perspectives to the task.  But I want to question the virtually unquestioned assumption that it is the ordained minister who is -- and should be -- "in charge."  And, to be honest, if I had to pick only one role to be "on top" I think I would choose the DRE.

So . . . thoughts?

Pas texum,


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gandhi-Ji

"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this in flesh and blood
did walk upon this earth."  (Albert Einstein reflecting on the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi)

I was in college when Richard Attenborough's film about Gandhi came out.  My friends and I were floored by it; moved by it; profoundly touched by it.  I'd say that in the first week it was out we must have gone four or five times to see it.  (To be honest, by the fourth time we went we were smuggling in large bags full of our own popcorn and were only a little self-conscious about stuffing huge handfuls of popcorn into our mouths while Ben Kingsley was onscreen asking for "water . . . and a little lemon.")

I do understand that there was more than a little hagiography in that film, and yet from all that I've read over the years since, it painted a fairly accurate portrait.  It might have been ever so impressionistic, but that doesn't mean that it's not true.

And, so, each year I try to mark Gandhi-ji's birthday.  Sometimes it's just being quietly aware of the anniversary.  Some days I re-watch the movie.  And some days I just try to be a little bit better than I am, so that I can help the world to become a little bit better than it is.

This year I've written this post, discovered this lovely photograph, and wish to encourage anyone reading this to spend a little more time to read a collection of Gandhi's thoughts.

Pax tecum,


Monday, September 30, 2013


Every Wednesday on the highest point in Charlottesville there is a labyrinth.  (That just happens to be where Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist is located.)  This weekly walk is led by one of our other ministers (Leia Durland-Jones, our Director of Religious Education). But to call this "a labyrinth walk" is perhaps a bit misleading.  "Worship Experience" is probably more accurate.

Each week we arrive (11:45 am on Wednesdays) to discover a new way to engage with the labyrinth and our own lives.  This past week, for example, the theme was balance.  Before entering the labyrinth we were each encouraged to physically explore balance as we walked.  We were also given a piece of paper on one side of which we were invited to write down places in our lives in which we feel we have this whole "balance thing" down pretty well.  On the other, we were invited to make note of places where we want or need more balance.  When we arrived in the center, we were encouraged to light a candle and to select a card (some of which had a word or phrase on it, some of which had only a photo).  That's the card I selected on the left.

To be honest, the two sides of my paper were a little . . . unbalanced.  The first side, the one where I was to have listed the places in my life that felt in proper balance, didn't have too much on it.  I'm not saying that there are no such places in my life, but for sure I am much more conscious of the places where balance is lacking.  (First thing I put on the second side, "I wish I had a more balanced awareness of where I am, and am not, in balance.")

That out-of-balance side, though . . . let me count the ways.  But I noted a pattern developing:

work/family life

Anybody else see what I saw?  And can anybody else relate?  A few years ago I read an article about a group of Catholic monks whose order has always worked outside of the monastery.  In order to keep up with these outside jobs the monks had taken to carrying pagers and cell phones.  And their rate of job-related stress had been skyrocketing.

There is a traditional monastic model of spending one-third of one's day in work, one-third in prayer and study, and one-third in rest and recreation.  (Note that recreation is also re-creation.)  I'm nowhere near such a balance.  How about you?

I don't know what needs balancing in your life, but I wish you well.  And I invite you, if you're in the C'ville area, to come by TJMC on a Wednesday (11:45-12:15).  You might well find your way to something you needed to see.

Pax tecum


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Being Something to Someone

I don't know if he was the first person to say it, but he is certainly one of the most famous.  In his first letter the the people in the congregation he'd help to start in the town of Corinth, Paul of Tarsus said, "I have become all things to all people."  Here it is, over two thousand year later, and people are still trying to replicate his feat.

And not just individuals.  Institutions -- like, o let's say like churches -- often try to be "all things to all people."  Sometimes it's in an attempt to attract folks who aren't yet a part of the community; the church tries to figure out who these people are, what they want and need, and then tries to give it to them.    And sometimes it's because the people who are already among "the faithful" have so many wants and needs themselves; the church tries to hold on to these folks by "giving them what they want."  Either way, though, the result is most often the same -- the faith community that tries to be "all things to all people" usually ends up not really being particularly good at anything for anybody.

I know of a congregation which used a lot of nautical imagery to describe themselves.  Their church wasn't their home -- it was their sailing ship.  They did a lot to make sure that they were sea worthy.  The spoke of their ordained minister as their captain, and their lay leaders were the crew.  You get the idea.

Now this was in the days before Blue Boat Home hit the scenes.  I wonder how often they sing that hymn today?  Maybe not too often.  I actually wouldn't be surprised if they were using a whole other set of metaphors to describe themselves these days.  Because one day their captain said to them that he thought it might be an awfully good idea if this great sailing ship might consider leaving port once in a while.  What good is being on a ship, he asked, if that ship's always moored in protected waters?

I don't like the minister-as-captain metaphor myself.  I've always said that I think we ordained clergy are really more like the navigators.  The laity, the congregation, is really the captain and crew.  (And this ain't no pleasure cruise.  Everyone has a job to do --whether on board or at one of our ports of call!)  My job, as I understand it, is to hear where it is you want to take the ship and then, after consulting the charts and going up on deck to test the winds and check the weather, I can help you figure out the best way to get where you're wanting to go.  I'm not the one to decide the destination, but I do know something about laying in a course.  I can help in figuring out how to get from here to there.

This Saturday morning -- from 8:30 'till around noon -- the congregation I serve will be kicking off its year-long process of "strategic planning."  I know that some people's eyes glaze over when they hear those words, but I can honestly say that I'm tremendously excited.  I think you should be, too.  The Board has made this process its number one priority for the coming year, and it's at the top of my list as well.

This is the beginning of my third year of mutual ministry with the people of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church -- Unitarian Universalist.  We've gotten to know each other a bit.  We've run a few drills -- including a few fire drills, to be sure.  We've started to learn each other's rhythms.  We don't know yet everything that there is to learn about each other -- thank God, because we'll need something to talk about on those long nights at sea -- but we know each other well enough that we should probably be getting down to raising anchor and going . . .

Well, that's the thing now, isn't it?  Just where is it that TJMC wants to go?  With its current contingent of officers and crew, where of-all-the-possible-journeys-there-are do we want to set out for now?  That's what this strategic planning process is all about.  Nothing short of clarifying our sense of direction.

Now we could try to be all things to all people.  We could, in other words, try to go in every direction at once which would no doubt have the effect of creating the illusion of movement while we're really safely tied up back in the harbor.  Oh, the wind might be in our sails and the ship might be rocking with the waves, but we really won't be going anywhere.  And I think we want to be going somewhere.  I think that we'd really prefer to be something to someone than nothing to anyone

So come to church on Saturday -- this Saturday, Saturday September 28th.  Plan to spend some time with your crew-mates discovering just how it is we're planning on deciding where we want to be going on this leg of our voyage.  We will -- as we've done with the past several Fall Leadership Retreats -- have both a "talk track" (for people who like to process with words) and a "do track" (for people who like to process in other ways).  Children, youth, young adults, older adults, seniors, long-time members, newcomers . . . everyone is really encouraged to attend because while we might not want to be all things to all people, we sure do want to be a place where all people are welcome.

One last thought.  To prepare, folks might want to consider a question.  If you think I'm going to say "What it is that you most want and need?" or "What it is that you think others most want and need?", you'd be wrong.  This isn't the first time this faith community has engaged in such a discernment process, and out of one of the past efforts there came this statement:
The TJMC-UU Mission Statement
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church is a church of the liberal tradition rooted in the heritage of Unitarian Universalism and dedicated to the belief that in every individual there are extraordinary possibilities.
  • We are committed to the individual and collective pursuit of spiritual growth, social justice, and life-long religious education and understanding.
  • We foster an open and free community in which we share our gifts, care for one another, and honor our differences.
  • We seek to have a lasting influence on local, national, and global programs that promote equity and end oppression.
 So . . . if this is our mission (and I have to say that that last line in particular really inspires me and could be a mission statement all on its own!) . . . if this is our mission, where does this mission want to take us?  That is what I hope will guide our discussions on Saturday, and in the coming months.

Pax tecum,


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Life After Death . . .

One of the great things about being an ordained clergy person, especially one serving in a parish setting, is that you get to spend at least a portion of your days thinking about cool things.  (Most people imagine that we actually spend a whole lot more of our time doing that than we actually do -- phones calls, e-mail, and scheduling meetings takes up quite a chunk, truth be told.)  The best part, though, is that not only do we get to spend at least a portion of our days thinking about cool things, but that this is multiplied because quite often when a member of the church finds herself or himself thinking about cool things they send a link along.

This happened the other day when a wonderful member of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church read this quite provocative piece in the Opinionator of the New York Times:  The Importance of the Afterlife.  Seriously.  The author, Samuel Scheffler, explores the notion that what really matters to most of us most of the time is not our own survival, nor even necessarily the survival of our loved ones, but the more nebulous notion of the survival of our species.  One of my favorite lines is, "Although some people can afford not to depend on the kindness of strangers, virtually everyone depends on the future existence of strangers."

I think that this is just such an extremely interesting notion to consider -- what would it mean to you, to how you live your life, if you knew that the human species was not going to survive much past your own demise?  If you knew that, after you, there just weren't going to be any new people coming along?

So . . . thanks, Bob, for sharing this with me.  I hope everyone else finds it as interesting as we did.

Pax tecum,


Monday, September 23, 2013

The Other Side of the Mountain

My recent post about depression stirred up a number of responses in folks.  Like most bloggers I have folks leave comments here on the site, and others comment on the links I post on FaceBook.  Since I'm a rather public blogger, that is since I also have a public role as the lead minister of a church, people come up to me on a Sunday morning, or at some point mid-week, to tell me what they think of what I've written.

And there are all sorts of reactions to a post like that.  Some call it "brave."  Others say, "TMI."  The vast majority of reactions I got to this one were positive -- it's amazing how many people suffer silently and who are grateful whenever anyone helps them to remember that they're not alone.  There were also, not surprisingly, a few voices who thought that such revelations about my struggles are not appropriate for someone in my public role.  These folks would like to be able to look up to their minister in the pulpit and see someone who's got it all pretty much together.  (Or, at least, perhaps more together than they do!)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his address to the graduating class of Harvard Divinity School of 1838, said that the preacher's calling is to give people "life pass through the fire of thought."  (I've always maintained that it's also to offer "thought passed through the fire of life," but that's probably a post for another time.)  I can also remember a preacher at a friend's ordination saying that a traditional term for our profession is "parson," and that etymologically what this means is that we are called to be "persons."  Professional persons.  To live our life fully and authentically.  And when I put these two ideas together I feel that that has to include those "too dark" or "too much light" experiences like the one of the other day.

Still, that's not the only reality.  Not for me; not for anyone.  As the Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh says, "life is full of suffering, but to suffer is not enough."  And, so, today I offer this other message:

Pax tecum,

Monday, September 16, 2013

When Horrors Come Home

This is the sermon I preached at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville, Virginia on September 15th, 2013.  You can listen to the podcast to get the aural experience.

The Opening Words for the service were taken  an article in The Atlantic written by Andrew Cohen It is titled, “TheSpeech That Shocked Birmingham The Day AfterThe Bombings.”  We read the second paragraph of Cohen's introduction and then read nearly all of Charles Morgan, Jr.'s speech.  It is worth it to read the article in it's entirety -- Cohen does a masterful job of weaving Morgan's speech with his own contextualizing commentary.  A very powerful piece.

* * * * *

This isn’t going to be a particularly cheery sermon this morning.  I want to warn you in advance.  Not a lot of laugh lines in it; I know it’ll make some of us squirm.  It did me as I researched and wrote it.  Cried some, too.  Might still.  I just want you to be prepared.
Let’s say that it’s 9:00 in the morning.   People of all ages are coming in the Edgewood Lane door, but it’s largely families with kids.  And let’s say that it’s the morning of a youth-led service, so the energy is particularly high.  Parents are feeling proud; kids are excited.  It is, in short, a pretty ordinary morning.
And then an explosion rocks the building.  It’s like an earthquake, but bigger and louder.  The hall and the sanctuary almost immediately fill with smoke and dust.  All of the windows shatter.  That wall, right over there, collapses, and we can see that the Edgewood Lane door is gone.  So is part of the parlor.  And the steps outside.
We quickly learn that four of our children were killed in the blast.  Another lost one of her eyes.  Another twenty were injured.  In time we learn that one person – and as many as four people -- had planted up to fifteen sticks of dynamite in the bushes by those stairs.  They’d known that families used that entrance.  They’d wanted to kill our kids.
What would you do?  If that happened here, what would you do?  Where would you go?  Who would you be looking for in that chaos?  What would you be feeling?  What would you do?  What would you want to do in response?
Fifty years ago today that scene played out almost exactly at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was 10:22 in the morning.  It was a youth Sunday, and the children were coming up from their Sunday School classes preparing to lead the adult congregation in an exploration of the theme, “The Love That Forgives.”  Not all of the windows shattered – a stained glass window showing Jesus leading a group of children survived.  But it was damaged.  Jesus’ face had been blown out.
And four little girls lay dead.  This morning, in churches and other places of meeting all over this country their names are being read aloud:  Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Denise McNair (age 11), Carole Robertson (age 14), and Cynthia Wesley (age 14).  (Addie Mae Collins’ younger sister, Sarah, was the child who lost one of her eyes.)
This was not the first act of violence in Birmingham.  The city had earned for itself the nickname “Bombingham,” because of the number of times African American institutions had been bombed since World War I, and one neighborhood in particular --  made up almost exclusively of upper-middle class, African American homes -- had been dubbed, “Dynamite Hill.” 
Nor was this the first church to be bombed in Birmingham.  On Christmas in 1956, dynamite was placed where the Bethel Baptist Church and its parsonage connected.  The minister, the Rev. Frederick Lee Shuttlesworth, had his bed in that corner of his bedroom, and although the blast destroyed much of his home, he emerged unscathed.   When told by a policeman who’d responded to the scene, and who was also himself a Klansman, that he, Shuttelesworth, should leave town, the Reverend replied that he hadn’t been saved so that he could run.
A year latter, Shuttlesworth and his wife Ruby attempted to integrate the previously all-white public school system by enrolling their own children.  A mob of Klansmen attacked them.  The police never responded.   One of the men who attacked the Shuttlesworths was Bobby Frank Cherry, who six years later would place the dynamite under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church. The mob beat Shuttlesworth with chains and brass knuckles in the street, and somebody stabbed his wife . Shuttlesworth drove himself and Ruby to the hospital where he told his kids to always forgive.
The theme, 50 years ago today:  “The Love That Forgives.” 
The 16th Street Baptist Church was the headquarters, if you will, of what came to be called the Birmingham Campaign, that spring and summer in 1963.  It was conveniently located across the street from Kelly Ingram Park, and made for an easy walk to downtown for nonviolent action.  Kelly Ingram Park, some will remember, is where Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor issued his infamous order to turn fire hoses on protestors – protestors who included young, elementary-aged children, and fire hoses that were set on a pressure that could strip bark from a tree and pull bricks out of their mortar.  The thousands of young people who participated in the so-called Children’s Crusade met up at the 16th Street Baptist Church.
It was the Rev. Jim Bevel, who at the time was the Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who had had the brainstorm to actively involve young people in the campaign.  After the bombing at the church, and the deaths of Collins, McNair, Robertson, and Wesley, Bevel said that he thought the intent of the bombing was to say (and I’m paraphrasing here), “If you’re going to use your kids against us, we’ll use your kids against you.”  He’s gone on record as saying that he gave serious consideration to leaving the movement after the bombing – not because he’d been frightened off, or had become demoralized, but because he’d wanted to hunt down the people who were responsible and kill them himself.
If that happened here, what would you do?  What would you be feeling?  What would you want to do in response?
This week also saw the anniversary of another heinous terrorist attack – the attacks of September 11th, 2001.  Nearly three thousand people died when madmen turned planes into bombs, bombs packed with human shrapnel.  And on Wednesday, those names were read.  Over the years I’ve read them myself from pulpits I’ve served – carefully recalling the name of each and every one.  It takes hours.
And one of the things that made those attacks so horrible was that they came quite literally out of the blue.  No one expected such a thing to happen, and that morning had been so beautiful.  I looked it up yesterday and it seems that it was lovely here that day; I know that it was one of those days that you could hardly help feeling good on where I was that morning in Maine; and my friends in New York have all said the same.  We were all feeling so good . . . until we weren’t.
And that’s I’m sure how the folks at the TennesseeValley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee were feeling on July 27, 2008, as they watched 25 of their kids performing the musical Annie, Jr.   That is, until a man who declared that he wanted to kill “liberals and Democrats” pulled a 12-gauge shotgun out of a guitar case and opened fire, killing two -- Greg McKendry and  Linda Kraeger – and wounding seven others.
And that’s how people’d been feeling a year earlier prior to the rampage in which a gunman killed 33 on the campus of Virginia Tech, and how it was in that movie theater in Aurora, Colorado just before 12 were killed and 70 injured. 
And less than six months later it was just an ordinary day-like-any-other day until 20 children, six teachers, and a gunman’s mother were killed in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
What would you do if that happened here?  What would you want to do in response?
I told you I wasn’t going to be my usual ebullient self in this sermon.  How can I be?  History is littered with the rubble of far too many example of places that should have been safe havens being turned into slaughterhouses.  “If this could happen in a church,” they said in ’63, or a college campus, or a movie theater, or an elementary school for God’s sake, or in a street in the heart of New York City under a sky that was heartbreakingly blue . . .  If this could happen there . . .
What can any of us do?
Believe it or not, I have an answer.  I’m still Methodist and Presbyterian enough to think I know a few things, but don’t worry – I’m Unitarian Universalist enough to be clear that you don’t have to agree with me.  But here’s what I know.
We’ve also recently seen another anniversary.  September 5th was the 5,774th anniversary of the first Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and yesterday was the 5,774th anniversary of the first Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  Every year over those millennia these High Holy Days have reminded the Jewish people that none of us lives a blameless life, that all of us are at least in some ways culpable for the sins of our own lives and those of the wider world around us.  And these Days of Awe, year after year, century after century, reinforce the idea that the only way to make a real difference in the way things are is to make a real difference in the way we are.

That’s what Charles Morgan, Jr. did with his speech on September 16th, 1963, right?  That speech was an act of atonement.  That’s what, I think, our own Rev. Roy Jones was trying to do through his act of draping this church in black crepe in mourning fifty years ago.  That’s what I hope we’re ever learning better how to do in our Jefferson Legacies initiative as we strive to find ways to atone for the “sins of our fathers.”  That’s what I think each of us, and all of us, are called on to do . . . again and again and again . . . each time we are shown that the world has not yet become the Beloved Community we dream about.

The Russian writer and activist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in his book The Gulag Archipelago:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Fifty years ago today four little girls were murdered by hatred and fear.  And each and every year, each and every day, each and every moment we have the opportunity to search our own lives, to acknowledge the ways in which we contribute to their continued ascendency in our world, and then to make the conscious choice to act, to act for love.
May it be so.
Pax tecum,
Rev Wik