DECEMBER 2018 – SHARING MINISTRY with Rev. Michael Hall

Rev. Michael Hall

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past,

courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish

that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal,

and that every path may lead to peace.”  —Agnes M. Pharo

One of my favorite stories of the season is that of Ebenezer Scrooge as told in Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol—and not just because Dickens was a Unitarian. I have always admired the story of the overnight conversion of the miserly, severe and friendless old man into the joyful, benevolent and sprightly gentleman animated by the spirit of Christmas. Yet, all of the celebrations of the many traditions in this “Season of Light” —from Hanukkah to Kwanza, Bodhi Day to Yule—could well open a hardened heart to compassion.

A few years ago, Christmas Day was on a Sunday and, even though we don’t usually have a service on Christmas Day (Christmas Eve is our tradition) I really thought it important to open every Sunday no matter how many, or few, came to our Sanctuary doors. I was very grateful that a few dozen people not named Hall showed up that morning if for nothing more than to hear the beautiful music that Carin Torp chose to play on that occasion.

I want to share with you the reflection that I gave that day, because it still rings true, like Christmas Bells even when times are trying, as they often are—as they still are. I hope you find it so, and perhaps it will prompt you to break out your Dickens and share that timeless story with your own family.

 

“Joy To The World”                                             (Michael F. Hall, adapted)

I have a question for you: Which Scrooge are you this morning? Are you the Scrooge that trudged home from his counting house joylessly last night; self-absorbed, venomous, cynical, feeling superior to others and telling yourself that all you need is to hoard something, (in Scrooge’s case money), that you have no use for and do nothing with? Or are you the joyful Scrooge this Christmas, kicking your heels and positively gleeful to be alive?

Are you the Scrooge transformed by Love in the face of mortality, grateful to have another day in the world in all of its heartrending beauty, just as it is? Are you the Scrooge craving the opportunity to be of use to others, in the place where you live, willing to embrace the world every day with a “Merry Christmas” heart? Are you the Scrooge who has learned from your life, who seeks to wear your heart on your sleeve and breathe new life into broken relationships? Even if it means risking an apology that may not be reciprocated?

I must ask you, on this Christmas day, are you willing to begin anew, to open the fullness of your being to stranger and saint; to live like time is both an ally and adversary? Have you decided to let generosity and joy be what you would lay on the scales— if ever there were need to account for your days—not your money; not your assurance that the world can be broken down into two camps: 7 billion nincompoops and you?

My friends, I don’t know very much, or at least I don’t as much as I would like to think. But I do know that joy need not be just an occasional state of mind. Joy can be cultivated; it can be chosen, it can be a conscious and full-hearted orientation to life. It can be turned into an action plan; to seed the world with Love.

For many of us, it has been hard to muster up joy lately. We have worried over the elections and the state of our democracy, wrung our hands over the state of affairs in far-flung places, fretted about the economy, or the vile things that some people do—and I am not suggesting that those things are not worthy of your concern or mine. But every last one those concerns can be a roadblock to doing the hard and needed work of engagement with the people and institutions in our world.

Where does this come from, this inclination to shut ourselves up, as old Scrooge had done for decades, to close off to the love of friends—-even family? How do people begin to return the kindness of others with coldness, suspicion or disregard? I think it may be fear at the root of this real psycho-spiritual disease.

Underneath, Scrooge was in the deadly grip of a profound, even pathological, fear. Fear of love, of loss and lack, not only of money but ultimately of control. In the end, he feared life, and people and, most of all, looking the fool. As he walked home on Christmas Eve, grumbling about the poor and the foolishness of holidays and charities, he had fully become what his choices dictated: a lonely, loathsome and pathetic man, the butt of jokes for whom only the saintly Bob Cratchit would choose to pray.

Don’t be that Scrooge.

Be the Christmas morning Scrooge, the one with the courage to be joyful in the face of circumstances beyond their control. Be the Scrooge that opens their heart to love despite the risk of loss, be the Scrooge that embraces life rather than fears death. Be that Scrooge, the one who woke one morning with a merry heart and learned to dance to the strains of mercy, redemption and service. Be that Scrooge, the one with the open heart and liberal spirit. Be that Scrooge, because that is the one most needed.

Happy Holidays to you.

Yours in Faith, Hope and Love,

Rev. Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board President Lucius Parshall – April 2016

SPEAK UP SO I CAN HEAR YOU!

The season is upon us once again. No, not that one. Our church is again entering the time when we are all asked to pledge to the church that has served us so well, so it will be there to serve those yet to come. Those congregants that have been paying attention over the last few years know how this works.  We put off pledging until the end of the campaign, then await the unveiling of next year’s budget that reflects every penny pledged—and not a cent more. Then we squirm and eventually rise to the occasion.

I’m proud of the financial restraint that our board has displayed over the course of this fiscal year, but our bricks and mortar are suffering. We were fortunate enough to avoid dipping into the reserve funds that the congregation allocated at our last general meeting, but we were also blessed with some very light heating expenses. Plans change, sometimes for the better.

Our congregation is getting older, so is our larger community. As America becomes more secular we watch the churches close around our community. I don’t think that Unitarian Universalists need to suffer this same fate. Peter Morales has made an eloquent case for us in his “A Religion for Our Time” video series (try that in your YouTube search window).

In the next year all of us will be asked to engage in creating a common vision that will carry the message of Unitarian Universalism into our local community. It is my fervent hope that this is not yet another exercise in wordsmithing, but a real communication of what we offer that sets us apart from dogmatic congregations. This vision is needed to lay the foundation for a new generation of congregants who will continue the work of making our liberal faith relevant.

I’m getting older, and I have a request. Will you please SPEAK UP SO I CAN HEAR YOU! I’m ready to increase my pledge by 5%, I’m ready to increase my involvement by 5% and I’m ready to work towards our common vision, 5% harder. That’s how it comes down, committing our time, treasure and talent to growing our congregation.  You may divide this pie differently, but in the end I’ll still be asking for 15% more. It’s what we owe to ourselves, and those who will follow.

Peace, Lucius

Reverend Michael’s Moment – April 2016

Bend down—and there it is: No need to wrest it from others. With the Way, in complete agreement— The mere touch of a hand is spring: The way we come upon blooming flowers, The way we see the year renew itself. What comes this way will stay…  —Ssu-k’ung T’u, (837-908), The Twenty-Four Orders of Poetry

Finally, it has arrived! One would think that such a mild winter as this would have been more patiently endured and easily gotten through—especially when compared to the ferocious cold and record snows of last year. For me that was decidedly not the case. With each tease of mild weather my heart soared and with the least suggestion of icy winter’s return it withered. I found that I was looking forward to, no longing for, the return of spring more than I ever have before. Maybe you felt that way too?

Why should this be? Who knows.

Perhaps such longing was the product of less light in the day. I know that many people lack concentration or are troubled by sadness and fatigue during the winter. Perhaps we felt compelled to stay inside and keep to the work at hand, winter’s shadows deepening the feelings of responsibility that come with maturity. For me, it may have been that the concerns of aging were finally creeping in, and with them wariness that under each fresh dusting of snow, hidden ice and a sudden fall waited. As the years pass, each turn of the wheel is more precious—as it should be—and witnessing the unveiling of another spring is not to be taken for granted.

In retrospect, I realize that I was simply impatient for the return of the lark and leaf—for the return of the spring in my step that comes with this season. I deeply missed playing toss on the lawn and listening to the muddy squish, swish-swish of my boots as I tramp around Goose Pond. I looked and looked for signs of budding, the reemergence of color, the return of the light and now, with April, I have my reward!

I won’t regret this impatience for spring, and neither should you. In this case impatience is simply a sign of health; of how much we love life, all life and the beautiful, cool, (never cruel), up-springing April.

However, I do want to extend this apology to winter: you are also lovely and not to be taken for granted. Enjoy your time away winter! We’ll see you again come December!

With Heart and in Hope,

Rev. Michael

Board President Lucius Parshall — March 2016

A recurrent topic with the Board is in the interpretation of the KUUC vision. This has been reflected in the House Meetings, and will hopefully be further developed with help from the district level over the next few months. I cannot express enough gratitude towards Talu Robertson, who has joined the board to serve out the remainder of our Past Presidents term.  Rachael Walter has been plugging away with the Worship Cluster, and D’vorah Kelly can always use more help for several openings on the Fellowship Cluster. Susan Chamberlain has agreed to coordinate the fundraising events that many of you are involved in. Feel free to discuss any fundraising ideas with Susan.

Thank you to all committee heads that have submitted their budgets to John Lowry. He is already well-underway in creating next year’s budget.  Mark Meess and the building committee has been developing a solar panel project that would further lessen our carbon footprint. It seems that several projects are underway, including plans for the space in the R.E. Wing. Take a moment and share your thoughts on these initiatives, or anything else concerning our common vision, via phone, email, and I’m usually around on Sunday mornings.

Peace, Lucius

Board President Lucius Parshall – February 2016

The tinsel’s packed away for another year, but I was honored to be part of our Christmas Eve service. I’m often a sucker for things traditional, and the Christian overtones connect me with my own youth, for better or worse.

Since joining KUUC, I’m trying to do this free and responsible search for truth and meaning, but it can’t happen in a vacuum. I test new ideas against what I once believed as true. This makes me embrace my roots, and honor my traditions, if only on a personal level. I thank each one of you for teaching me tolerance both for myself and with others.

I also think on Liberalism’s Big Tent. If we are a welcoming congregation, where are the liberal Christians, where are the Eisenhower Republicans? Pete Seeger said that, “It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.” I think that Pete was right, but learning to talk has to be hand in hand with respect.

This month we have begun a new policy, you may have noticed. We have a designated point person who each week is identified from the pulpit during announcements. That person is charged to be available to visitors. These visitors are seeking, but often leave without finding or even identifying what they are seeking. The best we can do for them is to listen. One of the tag-lines that the Communication Committee came up with was “KUUC–Where all your answers are questioned.” We need to go beyond saying that we are a dogma free congregation and live it.

The history of our Liberal faith has placed us ahead on so many issues. It is a position that I am loth to surrender, and do not wish to let go due to complacency. We have a good thing, and expanding our base is good for our community and the world. I’m ready to clarify our vision and work together to strengthen our congregation.  Please share your thoughts and ideas to help make this happen.

Peace,

Lucius Parshall

 

Board President Lucius Parshall – January 2016

As most of you should know, with Michelle’s recent move for work (Congratulations Michelle!) my elected status was accelerated. While I already miss the guidance of Michelle, I’m excited to take on a new role in promoting our liberal faith.

Someone recently asked me to put the word “liberal” in context. I said I was using the term liberal from an intellectual perspective rather than political. I look over our principles, and I wonder how many conservatives and theists that may stumble upon our church would agree with my use of the word liberal. Are we the “big tent” church, or have we been galvanized by a too tight interpretation of our own liberalism? I think on our third principle, “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregation.” Does this happen with each person that comes through our door? I can’t say, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Now I’ve promised Rev Michael that I’ll leave the sermons to him, but I do believe that we have a good thing here within our faith. Good for our community, and worth preserving. We all need to nurture our church not only spiritually, but also financially. While I believe that where there is no vision, the people perish, having a heated sanctuary to gather together in has to be right up there as well. I also see solid financial footing is the foundation upon which our vision resides.

Over the next few months I hope to be examining all of our resources and ask if we are putting them into best practice for nurturing our vision, and sustaining our future. I will truly welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this matter that concerns not just our current congregation, but also those potential congregants who have yet to participate. It seems to me a natural way in which to live out faith.

Peace,

Lucius Parshall

Adult Religious Exploration Book Discussion

BOOK DISCUSSION: THE CONVERSATION

“The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care” by Angelo Volendes, MD, will be the focus of an Adult RE book discussion in January/ February 2016. Book discussion sessions will be co-facilitated by Nancy Brigham and Dottie Bauer, and will be scheduled for several Sundays after church with specific dates yet to be determined.

Please contact Susan in the office if you would like us to order a paperback copy of the book for you. DEADLINE for requesting a book is Monday, January 18, 2016 (MLK Day). If you have any questions, please contact Nancy (npbrigham@gmail.com) or Dottie (dottiebauer@gmail.com).

CALLING ALL QUILTERS!

Beginning in early February the vision of next year’s raffle quilt will begin to formulate in the hearts, minds and hands of those who wish to be part of the effort. The proceeds from quilt, which will be raffled off at next year’s Green Sale, supports both the Community Breakfast program as well as KUUC. If you’d like to join us in 2016 please contact Hazel so we can determine a schedule that will accommodate all.  Next year’s quilt will be a hand-quilted project sure to delight and dazzle.  We invite you to consider joining us as many hands make for light work.   Contact Hazel at 499-6162.