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Universal Thanks – 11/18/2012

When someone does something nice for you – when your dad makes you soup when you’re sick, or your mom helps you with your homework, or your friend cheers you up with a hug when you’re feeling down – what do you say? You say ‘thank you’! Because you’re grateful and you want to show it, because you’re glad and you want them to know it. And more than just saying ‘thank you’ with words, sometimes you get so happy that you want to say ‘thanks’ by doing something nice for them in return. Maybe you do it right away, or maybe you hold onto that feeling, and save it up. So the next time they’re sick, or sad, or just whenever the time seems right to you, to paint them a picture or tell them a joke, or give them a hug to remind them how grateful you are for the things they’ve done for you, and how much you like them.

But most of us can think of at least one person we’ve known who has done so much for us – given so much love, shown so much kindness, offered so much help – that we can’t imagine paying it all back to them. And there are plenty of things that we have to be thankful for, but that don’t come with some obvious person to thank or repay. Who do you thank for rain, or for bicycles or basketball, or a song that was written before you were born? The world isn’t perfect, but there is so much about the world that is wonderful, that our natural state of being when we’re really paying attention to life should be one of gratitude. But then, once we find that we are grateful, what should we do about it?

One simple answer I would point to comes from the Sikh

Rates keep side with hair with they some user often used.

religion, which began 500 years ago in India. One element of the Sikh faith is a practice called langar: providing food to the community. Every Sikh Gudwara – each of their temples – has a kitchen where people make food every day, and serve it to whoever comes to eat. By tradition, this food is always vegetarian, even though most Sikhs are not. Their religion doesn’t have a problem with eating animals, but there are a lot of vegetarians in India, where their religion began, and the purpose of langar is that anyone and everyone should be able to eat. And if the people can’t come to Sikhs, the Sikhs will go to the people, which is why you may have seen pictures of Sikh men in the news, with their distinctive long beards and their hair worn in turbans, handing out food in New York and New Jersey in places struck hard by hurricane Sandy.

The answer to what we should do with our gratitude, for the thanks we have for the gifts we have received, is that we should give back. Not just to the those who have done the most for us, or to the people right in front of us, but to give as much and as freely and as far as we possibly can. That is how we say ‘thank you’ to the universe, to the world, to this amazing place where we find ourselves.

One of the ways that we do that here, in our community, is with the annual practice we began two years ago, called Simple Gifts. Each year as the Christmas-Hanukkah-Solstice-New Year season approaches with all of its excitement about giving and receiving gifts, we take the time to reflect on what we’ve already received. We challenge ourselves to make the gifts that we give to the people we love meaningful because of the thought and feeling put into them, instead of the price tag attached to them. And with the money that we don’t spend on the very most expensive things, we make a donation, together, to some people we do not know, to some organization that does good work, helping people who need help.

Each year, our children vote in Sunday School to decide where our shared gift will go, and this year they have chosen for us an organization called Smile Train. Smile Train operates in 80 countries all over the world. Their work is to help children who need cleft lip or palate repair – who were born with a gap in part of their mouth or face. This problem that can affect their ability to eat or to speak, and that often leads other people to stare at them, make fun of them or mistreat them because they look different, can be changed with a fairly simple surgery when they are still very young. But those surgeries still cost money, and need doctors to perform them. Smile Train covers those costs, and provides training to medical professionals to make treatment more available. Our children have chosen this cause to give us something to do with our universal thanks. In the coming weeks, as the shopping season kicks into high gear, I invite you to spend time, by yourself or with your families, thinking of ways your gifts to each other can be less expensive and more meaningful, and deciding what sort of gift you want to make on December 23rd, when we’ll gather our contributions together, into one great, big, thank-you to the universe.

Answering the Call – 11/11/2012

There’s going to be a new Pope next Sunday. Not the Pope you’re probably thinking of: I’m talking about the leader of the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt. Their leader died several months ago, and his successor was chosen last Sunday. The leaders of the church narrowed the field of possible new patriarchs down to three, and then placed each of those names into a crystal chalice. A child wearing a blindfold picked one of those names out – and that’s going to be their new Pope.[i] When I read about that ceremony, it made me wonder what might have been going through the minds of those three candidates as they stood at the threshold of such tremendous possibility. Coptic Christians are a religious minority in Egypt, and they have a long history of mistreatment at the hands of the government and the general population there. Tensions are particularly high just at the moment, as the appalling YouTube video designed to offend Muslims and defame their religion that gained such infamy a few months ago, seems to have originated from a Copt living in the US. The high religious office to which one of them was about to be called would be a heavy mantle to take up. So perhaps their thoughts might have been along the same lines that the filmmaker Nanni Moretti imagined in a fictional scene of Roman Catholic cardinals meeting to elect a new Pope in the Vatican. As the camera pans over the crowd, the soundtrack allows the audience to hear that each man is praying basically the same thing: “Don’t choose me!”[ii]

Most of us do not receive our callings in quite so dramatic a fashion as having our names plucked from a crystal goblet, or earning 332 votes in the electoral college, to point to another of the past week’s events. There may be no particular laurels or rays of light, no heavenly choirs or revelatory visions. But all of us are called, nonetheless. We are called because we live in a world which is imperfect and which requires the work and struggle of human beings in order to move from the way it is, to the way it ought to be. Your calling is whatever way you find to accomplish this. It is your part of the larger project of human history.

The work to which we are called is rarely easy. It is very hard just to listen for that call, the place where “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”, as Frederick Buechner put it. Answering can be a far greater challenge. Earlier we read the words of the Rev. Olympia Brown, one of our Universalist ancestors who lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Rev. Brown is sometimes remembered as the first woman minister ordained in America, which is not quite right, but close to it. Today, more than half of Unitarian Universalist ministers are women, including the last two ministers called by this congregation before my arrival. That doesn’t make choosing a career that men held a total monopoly on for centuries an easy thing, but being the first person in any category obviously comes with special challenges.

Olympia came from a family that valued learning. When there was no school to serve the area where her family lived in rural Vermont, Olympia’s father built one on his farm, and convinced neighboring families to share the cost of a teacher for all their children. In an age when it was nearly unheard of for a woman to do so, Olympia attended college, gaining her BA from Antioch college in Ohio.[iii] Somewhere in there, she began to feel her call to the ministry. It was catalyzed when she met Antoinette Brown, who really was the first woman ordained in America. Antoinette came to speak at Antioch on Olympia’s invitation and years later, Olympia said of that meeting, “It was the first time I had heard a woman preach and the sense of victory lifted me up. I felt as though the Kingdom of Heaven were at hand.”

Antoinette Brown was a liberal Congregationalist, and was ordained by the congregation that called her, but never fully accepted or recognized by her denomination. Yet she became a preacher and an activist despite the numerous barriers to the pursuit of her vocation. When she was in theological school, Antoinette had to obtain special permission to speak in class, and an article she wrote defending the right of women to speak in church was only deemed fit for publication once it was accompanied by a rebuttal from one of her professors.[iv] Gnawing theological misgivings eventually caused Antoinette to leave the Congregationalist ministry. And after many years she eventually found her way to – where else? – the Unitarians.

Antoinette Brown was the first woman we know to have been ordained by a congregation, but Olympia Brown was the first woman to become a fully endorsed and ordained minister of any denomination. Her path came with barriers similar to Antoinette’s. Every theological school in the country then, and indeed in the world, banned the admission of women. Nevertheless, she wrote to several seminaries seeking permission to gain a theological education. Some rejected her outright. One agreed to accept her, but only with the understanding that she would not be permitted to attend classes with the male students. The only school that would allow her to enroll and attend classes sent a letter from the president of the school saying that he “did not believe women were called to the ministry.” Olympia later explained, “I had supposed his discouragement was my encouragement.” She gladly accepted the reluctant offer of a place at the school, even when she arrived and found that no one expected her: the president declared she would never actually arrive, assuming that his letter would be enough to discourage her. Nonetheless, she persisted.

It is a powerful thing, when we know for ourselves what the most worthwhile task we can undertake is, whether it requires a moment or a lifetime to complete. But following that knowing, answering that call takes confidence in it. This is not the same as blind certainty. In certain political circles it has become common for candidates for public office to declare that they are running because God told them to, or more explicitly because God wants them to win. I’m not sure if anyone has conducted a study of how often candidates who make these claims go on to lose their races, but I would guess that the rate is not much different from that of all candidates taken together. The belief that your ambitions are divinely sanctioned not only are sets a person up for disappointment, it robs them of the creative power of risk: knowing that you are taking a chance, that you very well could fail, pushes you to try new strategies and seek new ways to reach your goals. Confidence based on delusion is a poor substitute for courage born of hopeful principles.

To succeed, the belief that what you know about yourself and the world around you is worth acting on, must be able to endure a chorus of voices trying to turn you around. Those voices don’t have to be literal hecklers and naysayers. Common sense, is often our chief impediment: in our self-interested and cynical society, we are taught to be skeptical and dismissive of grand hopes and any deep sense of purpose. Writing about some of the lofty purpose that guided her life and career as a minister, Olympia Brown said, “You may say this is impracticable, far away, can never be accomplished, but it is the work we are appointed to do.”[v] And sometimes the greatest obstacle between us and following the counsel of our hearts is our own inertia. The call of the world’s need can come at any time, in many different forms, and most of the time answering it means stepping out of our daily habits and patterns of behavior.

Now I want to turn to the other side of the coin for a moment. Some of us have jobs we’re not crazy about, or otherwise spend our days doing work that we like alright, but don’t love. Some of us are out of work, or just never found that perfect match between what we do and who we are. And some of us might feel that what we do is necessary, and important, but it doesn’t free us from doubt, and it certainly does not immunize us against fatigue. We all may have that still, small voice inside of us, but as a dear friend said to me recently, it does seem to be louder for some of us than for others. So let me say clearly that there is no necessary link between answering a call from the universe, and a sense of job satisfaction. Some of us find a purpose that wears the same name throughout our lives: as parents or partners or professionals or volunteers. And some of us don’t have that plum line running through our identities. But that does not change the fact that all of us are called, and that there is an opportunity in each moment to change the world for the better.

The voice on the phone sounded desperate and tired. Here and there, it cracked, with that ring that told you she was holding back tears. The woman leaving the message was calling, on the day before Thanksgiving, to tell her daughter that she was going to send her some money to buy groceries for her children. She was just going to have to miss her next mortgage payment in order to do it. She said her goodbyes, and hung up the phone; the message ended. When Virginia Saenz listened to that recording on her answering machine, she felt the raw emotion in that voice wash over her. Her heart broke, and it broke even though she had no idea who the woman on the other end of that phone call was.

Lisa Crutchfield was trying to reach her daughter living states away, but she had dialed the wrong number. It would have been so easy for Virginia Saenz, whose phone she had reached accidentally, to delete her message and return to the regular course of her day. But then that is the hallmark of something we are called to do: when the soul resonates with the repair our world needs, the easy answers become more difficult, and the difficult choices get easier. So Virginia picked up the phone, and she called Lisa back. She told her she had the wrong number, she told her not to worry, and she told her to make that mortgage payment. And then Virginia went to the store, and she bought a whole mess of groceries, and she took them to Lisa’s daughter and her family. [vi] The call of the world can come from many, many different places. And it may be drawing us into a lifetime’s work, or into a simple, single errand. But it is always there. There is no wasted time. There are times when we are tired, times when we are distracted, times when we really have to focus on ourselves right now. Times when we are afraid, times when we are discouraged and times when we don’t know how to begin, but still, in every moment, there is a call for each of us. A challenge and an invitation to work that is needed and real.

Both Olympia and Antoinette Brown devoted themselves to the cause of securing women’s right to vote. In the late 1800s, that was a very good way for a woman to get yourself labeled a troublemaker and a malcontent. The bumper-stickers remind us that well-behaved women rarely make history, and this, in fact, is true much more generally: history is never made through good manners, polite conduct and doing what is expected. In one obituary, it was said of Olympia that nothing “exemplified her vitality and intellectual independence,” so well as, “the mental discomfort she succeeded in arousing…among the conservatively minded.”

This week, folks across the country took to the polls in an election year when much has been done in many states to try to make voting more difficult and more inconvenient. Yet despite the barriers to participation, both intentional and accidental, the story of this election was how hard folks are willing to work to exercise their duty as citizens. Like the people in New York and New Jersey voting in the dark at polling stations that lacked power. Or Alfie Fernandez in Florida, who stood in line for six hours to cast her vote, still waiting long after the polls had closed, and after the presidential election had already been called, waiting so long that it was Wednesday before she was able to hand in her ballot. “I felt my vote was important,” she said.[vii]

That, is what it means to answer a call: large or small, long or short, the work, the mission, the purpose we take up must feel important. It might be surrounded by elaborate ritual, as a blindfolded child draws our name from a cup. It might come in the unexpected revelation of seeing something we’ve never seen before, that lets us imagine the world in a different way. It might come in the random serendipity of a stranger’s phone call. But trust that it comes: the world is calling each of us. So our work is to listen, and to answer.



[i] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/egypts-coptic-church-prepares-for-ceremony-to-choose-pope/2012/11/04/4e8faecc-264c-11e2-92f8-7f9c4daf276a_story.html?hpid=z3

[ii] From his 2011 film Habemus Papum (We Have a Pope)

[iii] http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/olympiabrown.html

[iv] http://www25-temp.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/antoinettebrownblackwell.html

[v] Singing the Living Tradition, #578

[vi] http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/weird/Wrong-Number-Miracle-76368647.html?yhp=1

[vii] http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2012/11/absentee-ballot-surge-delayed-miami-dade-election-results-voting-delays-put-south-florida-in-harsh-l.html

God Can’t Vote – 11/4/2012

There is a story from the Jewish tradition set a little less than 2000 years ago. The Sanhedrin, the council of legal authorities, were debating a small point of law and one of them, Rabbi Eliezer, found himself at odds with the others. Outvoted by his fellow sages, Eliezer declared, “If it is as I say, let this carob tree prove it.” The tree immediately uprooted itself, flying through the air and out of the garden where it had been planted. But the other teachers were not impressed; “No proof can be brought from a carob tree,” they replied.

Rabbi Eliezer continued, “If it is as I say, let this stream of water prove it,” and the stream began to flow backwards. His fellow rabbis remained adamant: no proof could be brought from a stream, either.

“If it is as I say, let the walls of this meetinghouse prove it,” he declared, and the building around them began to quake. Another sage leapt up to rebuke the walls, saying, “When scholars engage in legal dispute, what is your relevance?” The trembling stopped, but the argument continued.

Finally, Rabbi Eliezer proclaimed, “If it is as I say, let it be proved from Heaven.” And there came a great voice from on high crying out, “Why do you dispute with Rabbi Eliezer? All matters the law are just as he says!” But Rabbi Joshua responded, “The law is not in Heaven.” The responsibility of that legal ruling fell to the judges in that room, and to no one and nothing else. Not even the voice of the Holy One had standing to contradict the determination of the court.[i]

As Unitarian Universalists, our faith is grounded in the value of freedom of conscience and the quest for democracy. The people who are most effected by a decision, should be the ones who make that decision, together. Something like Rabbi Joshua and the other sages who ruled against Rabbi Eliezer, we do not privilege one voice or viewpoint over the many on the basis of spiritual authority, tradition, or miraculous circumstance. We are not waiting for all of our important decisions to be made for us by someone or something else. The responsibility for making the choices that shape our lives falls on each of us as individuals, and on all of us together as one community.

Our faith takes the power and the duty of the ballot seriously, which is why, for those of us who have the privilege of United States citizenship and who are registered to vote, this coming Tuesday is an important day. It is my responsibility as your minister to offer moral and spiritual council on the subjects and concerns that matter in your lives and in the larger community this congregation serves. So it is necessary that I say something to you about this Tuesday’s election.

It would jeopardize the tax exempt status that this congregation enjoys as a religious institution for me to instruct you on which party or candidate you should favor. I will not be doing that, but for the more important reason that it would run against the values of our shared tradition. From this place, I stand and offer what insight I have, according to my own limited experience, my study of our living tradition, and the stirrings of the infinite but inscrutable spirit. From your place, you receive that message and consider it, or do not, as you wend towards the truth of your own understanding. This is the covenant between preacher and congregation; I invoke no authority for my words higher than the trust you have placed in me. So rather than dwelling on the specifics of your choice for President, I want to turn instead to the five questions that appear on the ballot here in Beverly, to the values that inform those questions, and what our tradition has to say about those values.

It seems fitting that by opening with Question 1, the so called “Right to Repair” issue effecting car-owners and related businesses, we begin with just a complete mess. After this question was set on the ballot, the state legislature reached their own agreement with the folks who proposed it in the first place, so now the main people calling for a “yes” on this issue are new groups hoping to disrupt the deal that has already been made between the two original factions. As confusing and crazy-making as that sounds, it is a reminder to me of something profoundly important. Democracy is not any one system or practice: it is an ideal which we can never perfectly attain, but which we can always move towards. Any system that attempts to empower people to rule on the matters that shape their lives is always imperfect, and always sacred.

A friend of mine who is a Unitarian Universalist once told me about her experience as a poll worker in a very close and hotly contested election. Whenever you have enough people filling out paperwork, there will be some mistakes. It was her job to take ballots that had been rejected by the automatic reading machine, and examine them to see if she could determine who the vote had been intended for. If she could, then that person’s votes could be counted for their candidate, instead of being discarded as illegible. She could see on most of the ballots that folks had marked the candidate she opposed – a person she thought would be terrible, even dangerous in that position. In her head, she raged at the people who had made that selection, “What could they be thinking? How could they possibly have voted for that guy?” But all of that frustration did nothing to stop her from doing her job: to make sure that their votes were counted, as much as she disagreed with them. The methods by which we make our decisions together can always be made more fair, more open, more inclusive – and they should be made so. But, even in an imperfect system, such as one that sometimes sends a question to its electorate that it wishes it could take back, there is a holiness in following and abiding by the rules that we have agreed to, even when it means we don’t get our way.

Question 2 is the ballot measure that religious leaders throughout our commonwealth seem to have the most to say about. The asks whether or not physicians should be able to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives. The primary religious argument against it is rooted in the sanctity and protection of all human life; a near universal religious value, and one that is essential to who we are as Unitarian Universalists. There is also opposition to this measure from disability advocacy groups. John Kelly, of the organization Second Thoughts, said that the reason given for enacting this and a similar law already in place in Oregon is, “mainly about the social and emotional issues of becoming disabled, like depending on others and feeling like a burden.”[ii] As Unitarian Universalists, life is infinitely precious to us, and not just able-bodied life, not just privileged life, not just life when it is easiest to live, but also when it is hard. Suffering is not itself a good thing, but even in suffering, there is the possibility for good to occur. “To hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” as Martin Luther King put it.[iii]

Yet, it is because I am a Unitarian Universalist that I support the right put forward in Question 2: of the terminally ill to choose to end their lives and to seek the assistance of their doctors in doing so. I support it just as I support many rights that I do not expect or desire to use myself, even those that I would counsel others against employing. In the book of Deuteronomy, these words are attributed to the prophet Moses: “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life…”[iv] And in the Gospel According to John, the teacher Jesus is said to have said, “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”[v] Life is something more than a heartbeat. Unitarian Universalism affirms, in the words of Mary Ann Moore and my childhood minister Helena Chapin, that each person must be free to search for what is true and right in life.[vi] Freedom gives life meaning; there can be no purpose to living without the ability to say ‘yes’ or to say ‘no’.

From my time spent as a hospital chaplain, I can attest first hand that modern medicine is capable of remarkable things. I can also report that it is possible to extend life far beyond any reasonable sense of its natural boundary, prolonging it into something approaching living death. This is, and indeed has to be, the default setting for medical care in a compassionate society: do everything you can to keep a person alive, until and unless they ask that you stop. The ability to decline treatment, even if it means that death will come more quickly, is widely accepted in most religious traditions and universally protected under the law. Because our bodies are the things in this world that are most intimately our own, where our authority must be final and sacrosanct. I see the matter addressed in Question 2 as an extension of this right.

The right to choose what we do with our bodies also informs the subject of Question 3, which would make it possible to obtain and to use marijuana medicinally here in Massachusetts if passed. Now, contrary to what people tend to assume about me on the basis of my hair length, I have no particular fondness for marijuana. And I would counsel anyone to be careful with any substance, legal or illegal, popular or unpopular, whose purpose is to make you think, feel, or act differently than you otherwise would.

But my anger at the consequences of our national war on drugs far outweighs my distaste for chemical escapism. Roughly 20% of inmates in state prisons nationally are there because of drug-related offenses, and drug offenders make up about half of the federal prison population. Mandatory-minimum sentences, particularly at the federal level, result in lengthy prison terms for nonviolent offenses. The market for illegal substances is massive, and decades of brutal “tough on crime” tactics haven’t eliminated it, but have divided families and gutted neighborhoods by keeping violence and narcotics tied together and disproportionately targeting people and communities of color. Ten years ago, our association of congregation took a public stand calling for an end to the drug war as a matter of conscience.[vii] This was right in line with our long history as a voice for prison and criminal justice reform, a natural consequence of our faith’s original belief in the fundamental mercy of God. To the extent that the issue of Question 3 would do anything to push back against the harmful failure of our national drug policy, my reading of our tradition inclines me towards it.

Here in Beverly there are two more questions beyond the three listed on the state-wide ballot. Question 5 addresses the matter of whether corporations are people. Spiritually speaking, the answer is simple: they are not. We Unitarian Universalists affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person, meaning every human being. Other things can have value, but no object or institution can have as much value as every person does. The limit for corporate rights ought to be set by the public – that is, by actual people – according to their determination of the public good, and the need to protect the rights of other actual human beings. This would include the right to speak, to vote, and to think, without being shouted down by a barrage of television attack-ads, robo-calls and dishonest political mailers.

I’ve left Question 4 for last because this relatively minor, thoroughly local question touches on one of the central themes of this year’s election. How much do we each deserve, and just where should we get it from? Question 4 would slightly increase local property taxes to support affordable housing and public spaces, and would also allow us to benefit from state funds going towards the same purpose. Because our heretical ancestors were so unpopular and despised in most of the places they lived, there is much in our history that would cause us to favor a smaller and more limited government. But our tradition is even more clear that all people are intrinsically valuable and deserve to have their basic needs met. All people are entitled to health care, to food, to housing. Reasonable people may disagree over the limits of government and the roles we should or should not ascribe to it. You may not believe that raising money through taxation and spending it on essential services is the proper role of government. But that does not change the fact that we are all still morally on the hook, individually and collectively, for how we will meet the needs of all the people in our town, state, and nation. Government is the most powerful single tool we have for working together as a whole society; anyone who does not want us to use it to fulfill our obligation to feed the hungry, nurture the sick, welcome the stranger and otherwise comfort the afflicted, had better have an alternative prepared, and be ready to devote themselves to it.

I would say once again that none of what I have said is intended as an instruction in how you should vote in two days. Rather, I hope that it will make some contribution to your own process of decision making. Perhaps it may also provide some grist for your discussions with other folks about the matters on the ballot on Tuesday, and the larger questions that will still face our society on November 7th, whatever the outcome on the 6th. In so far as I am handing our direct assignments and specific instructions, they would be to vote if you are able, and to remain or become engaged once the election is over. God can’t vote. The world does not get better all on its own. To improve our lives and the lives of other people, we have to struggle, to work, to make hard decisions, to have tough conversations and to refuse to surrender to the seductive power of apathy or distraction. Our society needs us – all of us – to bring our ideas and our ideals into the public square of debate and decision. For if we do not carry our values and our faith into the polls with us, then they will remain absent from world we inhabit.



[i] From the Mishnah, Bava Metzia 59b

[iii] MLK, “I Have a Dream” (1963)

[iv] From Deuteronomy 30:19

[v] From John 10:10

[vi] From their book, Beginning Unitarian Universalism

Listening as Spiritual Practice

“Nature hath given us one tongue but two ears, that we might hear from others twice as much as we speak.” –Epictetus

The world we live in has a superabundance of noise. The sounds of nature layered over the din of human industry and commerce, and all of that before we get to anything communicative, anything in which one human being tries to say something to

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find a way to a holy way of living is in the give and take of dialog. Consider this, the next time you find yourself at coffee hour or in a committee meeting. The practice of listening to another person is a saving act.

[I’m mindful of the fact that I’ve been using “listening” as a stand-in for “communicating”, something which can be done quite capably by people who cannot literally hear. I beg the forgiveness of the deaf folks in the audience, and am reminded once again of the limits of language, and how much necessary personal growth is always in front of me.]

Along this theme of listening as a doorway to deeper relationship and more profound meaning, I want to mention that in October, some volunteers and I attended a kick-off event for a major effort to build relationships and collective power among congregations on the North Shore. This project begins with intentional conversations, a practice of deep listening, in each community. I and other volunteers will be looking to talk with as many of you as possible to learn more about your lives and in particular to identify the issues most deeply effecting you, as we seek to help identify needs and opportunities to work for social change in our part of the world. By listening, may we open ourselves up to the wisdom that exists within, and between, every one of us.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

sunset

First Parish Church

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