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Insights: We Need U! by Rev. Marjorie

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

There are two “U”s in Unitarian Universalism. Our denominational name is probably one of our biggest stumbling blocks for most visitors and new members. Our name is long and unwieldy and does not speak easily to what we all might believe in, without a long clarifying elevator speech. I remember stumbling over the name for this new amazing community that I had joined, Universalistic Unitarians was what I initially told people when I first came out about where I spent my Sunday mornings. For the life of me I just couldn’t get the name right. Not to mention that I did not understand what it really meant to be a UU, I kept waiting for someone to bring out the Kool-Aid because nothing could be this good and not be some kind of crazy cult. I remembering wondering where that other shoe was that was going to drop from some high height to crush my enthusiasm… I remember taking the “new UU class” at Arlington Street Church when I first decided to become a member. The first night I asked a simple question, “Why is the trinity such an issue that we chose to call ourselves, Unitarian?” As you might imagine there were sputters and some attempts to answer with the telling of the history of UUism that did not fill my need to know. My follow up statement was, “there are a lot of cool trinities like Mind, Body, Spirit” that I aspire too – the number three is pretty important in my book. That statement just hung in the air unengaged. Here is the important take away from that night… no one condemned me for asking “why” and ultimately I was the one who needed to seek the answer to my questions about Unitarianism.

With that very first question, asked in earnest, I was clearly destined to become a Unitarian Universalist where one of our guiding tenets is to “question authority.” The secondary symbol of UUism, directly after our sacred chalice, is the question mark – ?. Early on in my “conversion” (I say this tongue-in-cheek with a lot of humor thrown in for good measure) I got involved in and caught the fever for social justice because I felt safe for the first time in a community that held my personal story and my identity sacred. I believed that if society could value all of its citizens, documented or undocumented alike, and work to make the country safe for all of us to flourish without fear, that would be a good thing–a spiritual triumph of sorts. As UUs, or aspiring UUs, we are called to see this world for what it is – the good, the bad and the worst kind of ugly, and we are called to stand up, tug up our shirt sleeves and work to make things better, to aim higher. This was what compelled me to leave my career in high tech and to attend seminary to become a UU minister. I believed that sharing my story of facing fear, loss, and challenge set within a framework of contemporary events and worship could possibly help others reframe their own experiences. For me this life that we know is incredibly spiritual because I choose to see it that way. But, in truth, I also hold that science, mythology, poetry, numerology and every possible belief in-between are equally as amazing, spiritually held or not. That is what I think is amazing about Unitarian Universalism: we endeavor to hold the tension between all beliefs, we encourage evolution of belief. This does not mean we do not hold a singular belief sacred, we just choose not to exclude another’s beliefs in order to be the “winners” or the ones who are right. The one thing that I am certain about for sure in this experience of life is that nothing is certain or permanent. This is scary I know but it gives us a place to begin on a journey to self understanding and soothing.

This month the First Parish of Sudbury, Unitarian Universalist will honor those who are seeking… seeking what you may wonder? How about a spiritual community that believes in the hope that Universal Love can save us all, believes that we can defrost the hardened cynical hearted, believes that all are welcome to bring their differences to the table as long as each of us is willing to have an open heart and mind.

This month is about seeking safety, compassion, a reasonable belief system that you, yes you, craft and evolve as your life evolves. Ultimately we are each responsible for our lives and to intercede in care for others in need. This month we will be reviewing our illustrious history and how we progressed from being part of the congregational church, now known as the United Church of Christ or as one of my UCC colleagues once shared “Unitarians Considering Christ” to this community filled with expansive belief. This month we will be offering stories from new members and those who have stayed with First Parish for half a century or more. This is a month of investigation, questioning, suggesting, walking or rolling together. Also, this is a month to invite those who you have wanted to invite but were afraid or too shy to ask. This month expect a member brunch and a host of discussion about a plethora of topics. If you are interested in engaging in such a conversation and have a specific topic, please let me know.

As much as the world outside of First Parish seems a little scary at times it is our place as UUs to question “why” and to mindfully craft ways in which we can care for those who are in need and whom we need right back. There are two “U”s in Unitarian Universalism because we need one another and we cannot do this work of making meaning alone. We need all of the “you”s that we can gather.

Peace, Beloved Ones.

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: Staring into the Face of the Sacred

Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in General News, Minister's Column

hands holding a burning candle in dark

By Chris Scheller, M. Div., Director of Religious Education

Our spiritual theme for the month of January is “staring into the face of the sacred”. What does the sacred mean to you? My own view of the sacred was decidedly influenced by South Asian religious thought during my travels there between high school and college.

Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk, famously quoted a passage of Hindu scripture before the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, saying, “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which people take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!” In Hinduism, four of the most common paths to approach the sacred are through selfless service to others, devotional practices of love and adoration towards the sacred through practices such as prayer and song, knowledge and discrimination of the sacred, and meditation. In our own Judeo-Christian heritage, we can find parallels to these four approaches to the sacred.

Like the different images of light we see through different stained glass windows, the sacred looks a little different to everyone depending on our perspectives and beliefs about what is sacred. As Unitarian Universalist Rev. Paul Rasor points out, sacredness is that which we perceive is worthy of the highest respect and reverence and “a vehicle through which we may experience ourselves in deeper relationship with the divine.” Now, we may prefer other words to “divine”, such as simply life, truth, love, the interconnected web, mystery, or that which is. The name isn’t important. What is important is the feeling and experience of the sacred, as Rev. Gretchen Haley writes, in our call to be awake to suffering, in our opening our hearts, in the process of transformation, and in the way that each and every one of us throughout all space and time is simultaneously connected and the same, yet also more diverse and unique than we can ever know.

In our Unitarian Universalist heritage, we have been taught to look for the divine everywhere. Thoreau wrote in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, “The ears were made, not for such trivial uses as men are wont to suppose, but to hear celestial sounds. The eyes were not made for such groveling uses as they are now put to and worn out by, but to behold beauty now invisible. May we not see God?” Of course, as Rev. Harold Babcock reminds us in reflecting on this passage, learning to see in this way will take practice.

So let us marvel in the exquisite uniqueness, the exquisite sacredness, of everything and everyone we encounter. Let us see all life as sacred, whatever that means to you, and approach the sacred in all the ways we can. For there is saving grace there, not just for ourselves, but for the whole world. And let us approach and live the sacred in our own unique ways as we relish the hard-fought religious freedom that is our heritage as Unitarian Universalists. For by doing so we live our truth, we express our own most exquisite uniqueness, and we bring the whole world alive by coming alive ourselves.

Amen, and Blessed Be.

 

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Insights: Embodiment

Posted by on Nov 30, 2016 in General News, Minister's Column

hands holding a burning candle in dark

My Dearest Friends,
Be Love, Bring Love, Share Love this was the sermon that I offered on Homecoming Sunday in September;  LOVE is the foundation that we must endeavor to build upon. In my experience there are two root emotions from which all other emotions stem, Love or Fear. If you feel hurt or angry or lost, in some way or another, when traced back to the root emotion one will most likely find fear. The same is true of love… if one feels happy, confident, inspired when traced back the feeling one usually comes to is love. Reading an article on the website psychcentral.com I uncovered this wisdom, “When it comes to love versus fear, the only way to is through. In other words, I must first acknowledge and allow myself to deeply FEEL my fear before I have any actual chance of – not replacing but transforming – the fear into an experience of love.”
My hope for this fall has been to cultivate within us a sense of loving kindness for oneself and for all other beings on this planet – it is a tall order but it needs to be done. I endeavor, on a daily basis, to cultivate a sense of wonder and love. The teachings for September centered on seeking and finding love in our respective communities and lives; love for oneself particularly. October held the key to forgiveness as a means to personal healing, how without forgiveness we can have little personal peace and spiritual advancement. November’s teachings coalesced with taking risks in our lives as a means to cultivate love in this world – sitting in our fear until we transform it. During November we faced our fear of the other and handed out LOVED buttons to friends, family and strangers. I also  encouraged us to not remain silent about what you believe to instead share our passions, risky for sure. If you were unable to attend all of the worship services this fall I would recommend that you check out our website and the worship archive. Since September we have been conciously building towards December’s theme, Embodiment.
Embodiment is about taking all of the learnings and experiences that we have cultivated in our lives and mindfully assimilating them into a way of being, to truly embody them. This month we begin with Joy and Awareness in our Revels service, then we move into a place of realization and acceptance of our spiritual connection with all beings and to answer the call to be what I am calling an “Earth Angel.” You know those people who inherently know what their call to action and are inspired to follow that call towards action, inspired by loving kindness, compassion, and mission. All fall we have been working towards this moment of embodiment… To let go of all of those things that hold us back, to truly heal and then to begin the work of healing a broken world one person at a time. Through the work of unpacking and re-membering our lives we will have an opportunity for transformation of fear and all of its resultant emotions into love. First and foremost on this journey we begin by realizing, accepting and stepping into the fear of self and others. Instead of expecting to be disappointed in others as a means of protection let us accept the call to let go of the fear and instead embrace our vulnerability – risky yes but absolutely transformative.
I invite us, over the next week or so, to catch up on or review the teachings held within the sermons from this fall and participate fully during the month of December. This is the foundation that we will need to enter into the work of the new year fully “charged” and ready to be the agents of change, the earth angels, of our time.
If you feel slighted or if you do not feel loved take this moment to imagine and realize that you truly are LOVED.
I am including a mediation on personal transformation:
Release the harsh and pointed inner
voice. it’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.

Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet. Shift
out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.

i can say this only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and
embracing what I see.

Love, not judgment, sows the
seeds of tranquility and change.

(Danna Faulds)
Peace and Love,
Rev. Marjorie
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Days of Awe…

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in Minister's Column

This upcoming week is an especially important one in the Jewish religious calendar it is considered to be a time to reach out to those whom we may have slighted or afflicted in some way to make amends. The practice begins on Rosh Hashana (October 2 at sundown), which is known as the Jewish New Year, one has ten days to atone until Yom Kippur (October 11-12). On Yom Kippur, Yahweh (God) writes, in very permanent ink, in either the book of life or death how we have done this year. The ten days before Yom Kippur is a time when one can make a difference in their life and in the lives of others.

Being Unitarian Universalists we do not have a specific time where we intentionally review our year to see if there have been times and ways that we have faltered, or hurt others, on our path. I have often shared that in each moment we have the opportunity to begin again in love but I am interested in this time known as the “Days of Awe.” What can and should we atone for? In many ways it feels like a healthy practice to do a yearly review and ask/receive forgivenesses allowing us to really begin again on Yom Kippur with a lighter and atoned for heart.

The word atone is a special one if dissected it means “at one.” So just maybe if we take the time to review and atone we might find that we can be at one with our spiritual understanding of Self, which I often shorthand as Spiritual Self.

Here is an important note about this time of the year, if Jews repent during the Days of Awe and are found worthy by Yahweh their name will be written in the Book of Life and they will be granted another year of life. If one does not repent satisfactorily then on Yom Kippur their name will be written in the Book of Death, which as you might imagine would have dire consequences in the upcoming year. Therefore, during the Days of Awe what one does and how one atones is literally a matter of Life or Death. These days that we are about to enter are considered the most high holy days in the Jewish calendar.

One has to wonder why the early Christian community left this practice behind? I believe that it was because Christianity is based on an eschatology of the end times, Christians were and are are expecting the end and believe that people are sinners by nature so atonement is through confession to an intermediary. Thus no need for an annual atonement.

Early Christian Unitarians believed that humankind could work, atone and make oneself more Jesus-like; whom our forebearers and we consider was a human prophet. Christian Universalists on the other hand believed that God was so loving that (S)he would never damn their creation. As a denomination, spiritual community, we have come a long way from our Christian roots. Some of us still define ourselves as Christian while others self define as Buddhist, Humanist, Aetheists, Muslim, Sufi, Agnostic, Pagan-nature centered, Mystic, Zoroastrian, Transcendentalist, the list goes on and is long. Personally, I “Self-identify” as Unitarian Universalist (UU), I do not claim an identity beyond this because my journey is ever evolving and UUism allows me to follow wherever my heart and mind might lead me without boundaries to hold me back. This enables me to seek in the sacred practices of Judaism and to find a practice that holds meaning for me such as the Days of Awe and to embrace this time and make them a part of my own practice.

As with every part of my journey I invite you to join me in thinking about the year that we have each had and to ask and offer forgiveness to those whom we have friction or conflict with and then to heal as we become at one once again on the path of discovery and meaning making.

Peace to you my dearest ones,

Rev. Marjorie

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Minister’s Meditation…

Posted by on Sep 16, 2015 in General News, Minister's Column

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Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30pm in the Brackett Room
Join the Minister’s Meditation group if you want to start a practice and you need a place to seek. Join the Minister’s meditation if you have been practicing for a long time but would like to share your practice with others. Each Tuesday night is a bit different as we share readings, thoughts and practices from sitting to qigong. All are welcome.

 

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First Parish Moves Into Strategic Action!

Posted by on Mar 20, 2015 in General News, Minister's Column

MattyAfter a year of Strategic thinking and planning Rev. Marjorie helps the revived Council Team to celebrate the transition to Strategic Action!
On Saturday, March 14th Rev. Marjorie and Della Hughes led the Council Team to share their plans for the 2015-2016 year. “We are ready to take it to the next level!” explains Rev. Marjorie as she shares the plan and budget for the Communications Task Team with the Council Team and members of the congregation. As part of her presentation, she expanded on her thoughts with the following statement and the question: “What sets First Parish apart from other communities religious and secular?”
We are an engaged congregation of individuals who want to change the world. We believe that in order to change the world that change begins in our own hearts and minds. We hold and affirm values that are welcoming of all people and we do our utmost to walk the talk and do this best in a diverse community of thought and practice. We are inspired to share our values in the world to help frame a possible solution to the challenges that humankind faces. We do not believe that we hold the truth but we have a commitment to working in community with all people to uncover our collective wisdom and expansive truth. We are Unitarian Universalists…

The meeting turned into a celebration when lunch replete with a strategic action cake was served!

On other news from the Communications Task Team a mailing went out to new residents in Sudbury and Maynard last week which converted into three new visitors this week. We welcome those newcomers to spend some time and to get involved with our community through ushering, greeting or many of our social action events!

Photo by Tom Arnold
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