Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Thanksgiving Message: Gratitude List!

This is from my column in the November church newsletter, the Unigram.   You can read the whole issue at this link.

Gratitude List!

 

Medical studies reveal that cultivating a practice of generosity is good for your health. And one thing that generates generosity is the practice of saying thanks.

Our days can be long and full, and our challenges can be distracting, so it’s good to remember: it takes practice to be grateful. As I prepare to celebrate my eighth Thanksgiving season with UUSS, here is part of my gratitude list. I give thanks:

  • … for those who disagree with me with authenticity and love. It’s a gift to know that people trust me enough to challenge a recent sermon, or say they don’t see eye to eye with me on a point of theology or social witness. It means we not only are living out our diversity, but trusting one another. It means love!
  • … for the big, beautiful sanctuary building and the good things that happen inside: theater, music, book sales, large crowds on Sunday, coffee, soup, all-ages events like Thanksgiving dinner and the Holiday Party, fun fundraising activities, committee work, warm hospitality to newcomers, and care for others.
  • … for my dedicated staff colleagues, our committed lay leaders, and the many volunteers who make this congregation so vital and exciting.
  • … for the clear sky early in the morning, inviting me to read a poem or prayer and sit in reflection before I rush off. I would LIKE to be grateful also for a rainy morning—a whole bunch of them, soon!
  • … for the generous members, friends, and families who make and pay a monthly pledge to UUSS. Your gifts make so much possible in and beyond UUSS.
  • … for a home and a fun job, the relative safety which I am privileged to enjoy, the strength and vitality of the region and country in which I live, and the meals that sustain me every day.

Sometimes I forget to appreciate these ordinary blessings when they happen. That’s why I made this list. Thank you for reading!

Yours in service,

 

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Ministerial Message: Big Sunday—Read All About It!
September 10, 2015, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Becoming and Being Part of a UU Congregation

2014-06-29 19.39.09Dear Visitors, Members, Families and Friends of UUSS:

Greetings!

Well, we did it!  We made it back home.  Last Sunday the sanctuary was full of people, full of energy, and full of love.  Even though it was Labor Day Weekend, we had well over 300 folks—good thing we expanded the space.  We had a large crowd in Religious Education, coming together as a learning community for  anew year.

This Sunday is another very big day, and it will be hot—good thing we installed insulation and air conditioning!  Thank you to the leadership groups, dozens of UUSS volunteers, generous donors, and hardworking staff members for getting us to this moment.  Lucy and I are gratified by and proud of this congregation.

I want to metion two losses in our UUSS family.  As I announced last Sunday in the pastoral prayer, our longtime member Ed Blanchette passed away last week after a long decline, from heart failure.  Our condolences to his wife, daughters, friends and family.   As you know from the Unigram, we lost our UUSS friend Tom Griffin a few weeks ago.  His memorial service will be Saturday, September 26, at 3:00 PM at UUSS.   Doris Janes has told me that memorial contributions to honor Tom may be made to St. John’s Program for Real Change, which he strongnly supported. We extend our condolences to Doris and the rest of Tom’s family and friends.

I hope you stay safe and cool and can “Spare the Air” and spare the stress this weekend.  Take care!

Yours in service,

Roger

Rev. Roger Jones, Senior Minister

Below is a reminder of what to expect this weekend.  For information about Adult Enrichment programs and other opportunities for connection ehre, please check the monthly Unigram Newsletter and the weekly Blue Sheet Announcements by clicking on the titles.

This Sunday Morning

September 13 (at 10:30 a.m.) is our annual Ingathering Service, when we have a service with all ages.  Bring a small bottle or jar of water to represent your summer activities, whether near or far.  This all-ages worship service includes the ritual of the mingling of the waters and the reading of the Memorial Honor Roll, to acknowledge UUSS members and friends who have died since last year.

The service is for all ages, though our Nursery is always staffed for infants and toddlers, starting as early as 10:15.  Krystal and Annie look forward to seeing you. After the service during Coffee Hour there is a drop-in time in Spirit Play.  Parents, kids, grandparents and ALL interested UUSS folks are invited to drop by Room 7/8 to learn about this enriching Religious Education ministry at UUSS.  Our RE Programs begin September 20, though the Junior High Youth Group starts September 27.

Sunday’s Building Dedication Ceremony

The Re-Dedication Ceremony begins at 3:00 p.m. and is for all ages.  It will last up to an hour and include music by our UUSS Choir, Keith Atwater, Ina Jun (piano), Ross Hammond (guitar), Kathryn Canan (recorder) and others.  It includes a dedication ritual, and greetings from local leaders.  The Rev. Doug Kraft offers a story.  The sermon is “From Sanctuary to Caravan,” by the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley.  Our UUSS Choir has commissioned a choral song by UU musician/professor Lucy Holstedt.

About our Guest Speaker: The Rev. Dr. Terasa G. Cooley was named Program and Strategy Officer of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in 2013. She was a parish minister for fif­teen years (Detroit, Chicago, Hartford and Bridgeport, CT), served as a district executive for five years, and became director of Congregational Life at the UUA in 2010.  She is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist with a BA in English from the University of Texas, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a D.Min. from Hartford Seminary.

My personal note:  Terasa [ter-AY-sa] Cooley and I have been friends since 1994, when I was a seminary student in Chicago and she was minister at the nearby UU church.  She mentored me in several important ways, as she has done for many clergy and lay leaders, especially young adults, LGBT UUs, and UUs of color.  Many of her friends, myself included, are encouraging her to run as a candidate for president of the Unitarian Universalist Association next year.

Other information:  The Hon. Eric Guerra will bring greetings from the City of Sacramento, and the Rev. Jason Bense will bring greetings from a neighbor church and St. John’s Program for Real Change.  And, did I mention the music?

The service is for all ages, though there is audio in the Welcome Hall and Library if your child vociferously objects to the ceremony!  It will last an hour or less.  Refreshments and finger foods to follow!

Special Gift for the Celebration

We are invited to make a special gift in honor of the success of the renovation project.  Checks may be made to UUSS.  See the colorful box in the Welcome Hall during the morning service, or bring your gift for the offering at the Re-Dedication. You may designate a person in whose honor or memory you wish to make a gift, or any reason or occasion you wish to honor by your gift.  If you are not able to attend Sunday but wish to make a gift by credit card, you may contact our Bookkeeper, Michele.

We celebrate and give thanks for all of the

generosity, work, love and care which have brought us to this moment.



Invocation for Volunteer Recognition and Annual Meeting of the YMCA
April 29, 2015, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Children and Youth, Prayer

Invocation for the YMCA of Superior California’s

Annual Meeting and Volunteer Celebration, April 29, 2015 

by Rev. Roger Jones, YMCA Advisory Board

Please join me for a few moments for reflection and intention as I offer these words of prayer.

Spirit of life-giving Love, whom we invoke by many names and call upon in varied moments of life, we call on you now to bless this meeting, this meal, and those who are sharing this time together as volunteers, donors, staffers, leaders, and loved ones.

We give thanks for being together here in this place, and for the great institution of the YMCA, which we serve and support with our generous gifts of time, talent, money and good will.

We give thanks for the volunteers and staff here with us now. We give thanks also for those absent from this event but whom we count as our YMCA colleagues and friends in pursuit of the Y’s mission to build strong children, strong families and strong communities, and to inspire lives of more joy and beauty, health and wholeness among ever-growing numbers of people.

So may it be. Amen.



A SHARED MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT & SENIOR MINISTER: The Annual Pledge Drive Kickoff!

FEBRUARY 3, 2015

Dear Members and Friends,

UUSS IS AT ONE OF THE SHINING MOMENTS OF ITS HISTORY RIGHT NOW.

• We’ve added 50 new members since May. Worship is deep, joyful and lively. Our Greeters welcome new visitors every Sunday—even at our temporary home.

• Our dynamic duo of ministers has yielded new surprises in our worship and programs. We can build on this progress by fully funding Rev. Lucy’s position at UUSS.

• Our music program is blossoming now, with a growing choir and amazing duets and soloists. Next year, we strive to fund a Choir Director position once again.

• The new Spiritual Deepening Circles have 100 participants. Adult Enrichment has brought more than 125 people together. Theater One has staged a great variety of plays—more now than last year, when we had a full stage and auditorium!

Religious Education volunteers and staff give generously of their talents and love to our children and youth. We seek to support UUSS families even better.

• Our talented staff works together with high spirits to support the congregation in pursuit of our UUSS mission: we come together to deepen our lives and be a force for healing in the world.

• Our Earth Justice Ministry, Kids Freedom Club, and other social-action groups have brought people together to learn, organize, serve and give of themselves.

Our pledges of monetary support make it all possible. Starting Sunday, February 8, members and friends will make pledges to the operating fund for the 2015-16 year.

Funding our UUSS goals for success in the new budget year calls for an average pledge increase of 10%. We know that hardship has affected some of our households, so we also appreciate that many others will stretch in order to make an increase larger than 10%.

In shared commitment, both of us will increase our household pledges to UUSS.
Your pledge is your decision. Pledges of all sizes are valued and appreciated.

What we ask is your generosity.

Generous giving makes possible so much within and beyond our congregation. Thank you.

We can keep this congregation shining in the coming year. Let it shine!

Yours in service,

Roger Jones, Senior Minister, and Linda Clear, Board President

PS—Please read the Pledge Form for 2015-16. Fill out your Pledge Form and bring it to the next Sunday service or mail it to the office at 2425 Sierra Blvd., Sacramento 95825.  Your monthly pledge of support will keep UUSS thriving… from month to month, from year to year, and from generation to generation. Thank you!



Minister’s May Newsletter Message: Where there’s a Will, there’s a Way!

I’m overdue to redraft my Last Will and Testament. I also should create a Trust.

Since doing my will in 1991, things have changed. My nephews have grown up. They are out on their own, and their parents have done quite well, so they are not in need of all my assets. For 17 years, I haven’t even been in the Midwestern UU church that I listed as a beneficiary in my will long ago. Now I have a new congregation that is near to my heart and whose mission inspires my actions. This one!

 

Other things have changed. Since those days, I’ve become a graduate of one UU seminary and I feel very close to another one. I want them to continue to produce “all the ministers that are above average” for a long time to come.

 

At UUSS, our 50-year Master Plan for the Buildings and Grounds is visionary and beautiful, and the amount of resources necessary over the years for it will not be small. What made this plan possible in the first place were bequests of beloved members and friends of UUSS, now departed. You can see all their names on the metal Gratitude and Appreciation tree sculpture in the lobby.

 

Our fundraising consultant, Rev. Bud Swank, told me that we need an organized program to invite people to consider and plan on leaving a bequest or other legacy to UUSS with instruments like wills, trusts, mutual fund beneficiary designations, etc. This will ensure the Master Plan has sufficient resources down the road. I decided to get going on this need myself.

 

I don’t expect to die soon, but I don’t want to neglect putting down on paper the decisions that could put my assets to use in the service of my liberal religious values and in support of the mission and continuing ministry of this congregation.

 

If you’d like to talk to a minister about the kind of legacy you would like to plan for the future of Unitarian Universalism, please be in touch with one of us. I’m glad you are here now, in person. I look forward to seeing you soon on a Sunday. Take care!

 

Thank you for being part of UUSS.

 

Yours in service,

 

Roger

 



Pastoral Prayer for UU worship service, July 20, 2014

Rev. Roger Jones, Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento

Now please join me in a time of contemplation, in words and silence. Notice your feet on the floor and your body in the seat. Notice your breathing, in and out. Relax your eyes, whether open or closed.

O Spirit of the calm summer clouds, ease our souls, as we gather in reflection and in hope. We give thanks for those around us in this community of encouragement and welcome.

We give thanks for the gift of life and the gift of this new day.

Life is fragile and fleeting, and many of us are thinking of those we have lost, perhaps recently, or some time ago. Let us make the sound of their names now at this time and, by our speaking, let us bring them into the space of our sanctuary with us.

Life holds many kinds of challenge. We hold in our hearts those who need our good wishes and help for all kinds of struggle, and we offer our own burdens to compassion’s warm embrace. We ask for serenity, courage, and wisdom as we make each new step on the journey of life.

Life brings occasions for joy and gratitude. Let us call to mind the milestones and celebrations that lighten our spirits. Whether speaking aloud into the sanctuary or whispering to ourselves, let us now speak of our joys or those of others.

Many another’s good fortune lift our own hearts in praise of joy.

Life brings change to this hallowed spiritual home. As this congregation prepares to vacate this building for a year of construction, we recognize the dedication of our volunteers and staff members. Their vision, purpose, collaboration, reliability and generosity have brought us to this point of promise. We give thanks!

At the same time, we must look beyond these walls to the desperation and agony afflicting the human family. We lift up the people of many tragic scenes, including three in recent weeks or days. A Malaysian jetliner was destroyed by a missile fired from separatist rebel-held areas of Ukraine, killing hundreds of innocent adults and children. Fighting in the Gaza Strip in Palestine is now in its 13th day. The Israeli military and Palestinian Hamas militants ratchet up the violence, with Hamas missile strikes into Israel and a military incursion of tanks and troops into Palestine.   At last report, the lives lost include at least 5 Israelis and 336 Palestinians, including 65 dead children. [As of July 21, per the New York Times, 27 Israelis and 556 Palestinians have been killed.]  It was the killing of teenagers from both sides that sparked this wave of pain and chaos. It makes the heart weep.

On the United States border with Mexico, hundreds of thousands of Central American youngsters arrive as refugees from the destitution and violence of their home cities and villages.   While fragile children wait for mercy, U.S. government leaders vacillate and fight.   While some citizens argue, others go to guard the children or send money for basic needs.

We lift our voices to the sky to call for a world without violence. We long for a renewed wave of dignity and healing to cover the human family. We extend prayers for peace to all places of conflict and oppression, near and far.

May each of us have the courage to do what we can. May we choose the ways of peace and courage.

Now let us take silence together for a minute. May we come home to our breathing.   May we come home to the feelings of being alive. Now May the breath of life breathe in us a new sense of hope and the motivation to make that hope a reality. Blessed Be and Amen. Namaste.



Learning Spirituality from Plants! Flower Celebration Sunday Message

Homily (Sermonette) by Rev. Roger from UUSS Flower Communion Sunday, June 2, 2013 (All-Ages Worship Service)

 

Writing in his journal in 1859, Henry David Thoreau says that “the mystery of the life of plants” is like the mystery of our own human lives. He cautions the scientist against trying to explain their growth “according to mechanical laws” or the way engineers might explain the machines that they make.   There is a magic ingredient, to go along with air and sun, earth, water and nutrients. There is one part miracle to every living thing, he says. The force of life. A force we can feel and recognize, but cannot create or control.

For my birthday I received a planter from our Religious Education staff person, Miranda.   To ensure its longevity I left it in her office, and it has flourished. But when she departed for two months in Ghana, a post-it note appeared on the planter: Roger, remember to water me.

            I am not reliable around green things. I have nearly killed off a cactus—a small one I got last Christmas. I remember when I was little, in school, planting seeds in Dixie cups with dirt an inch deep.   Watching the sprouts, helping them along; it was fun. Then, a few years later, a friend of the family helped me plant a garden in the back yard: green beans, tomatoes, onions. Delicious, for one or two summers.

But my horticultural karma was all downhill from there. In high school I mowed grass for a few neighbors and friends of my mom. One family had a large yard around their large house. They asked me to pull or cut out the weeds growing close to the house.  This was before the days of the weed-whacker, which would have been fun to use. Using my bare hands—not fun. So I drizzled gasoline on the weeds near the outside walls, all the way around. Killed all their weeds. Filled the house with fumes, I found out later.

To the good fortune of the plant kingdom, in my adult life I’ve never had a yard or a garden, nearly always lived in an apartment. Here in the church’s community garden, which we call UURTHSONG, a few summers ago at lunchtime I helped myself to a few meals of tomatoes and chard, but I haven’t dared to plant a garden plot.

I know many of you garden, with lovely flowers and gorgeous vegetables. You have citrus and plum and fig trees and so many other kinds. Some of you are Master Gardeners. Some of you sell plants for a living, or you work in landscaping and grounds-keeping.

Some of you volunteer with plants, like our member Jerry, who spends many a weekday tending the flowerbeds and flowerpots here at the church. Some of you, like Nancy and Gail, give tours at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center on the American River Parkway, among other outdoor places. Annie and other UUSS Waterbugs tend our thirsty trees and bushes year after year.

As I noted, my experience with plants is questionable, so I can’t be sure what it’s like for people who put hour after hour into the lives of growing green things. But this is what it might be like.   Planting, tending, watering, weeding, harvesting, transplanting… it involves a mix of your own physical power, and the patience to wait and see what happens. It calls for intention and effort, and then for humility.

            One cannot bring plants into bloom, or force them to bear fruit. You have to learn enough to know when and where to plant them, how much water and fertilizer to give, how much to weed, when to prune or plow over, and of course you need to know what not to do.

You do your part, waiting, watching, tending. You wait on the force of life. You wait on a miracle, an everyday ordinary miracle. Seeing a vine crawl, blossoms yielding fruit, colors calling for bees and other pollinating insects. Miracles happen a lot. But we can’t make them happen. We can’t make life happen.

I wonder if this is a helpful way to think about our spirituality. There are new and modern resources for spiritual growth, and there are ancient practices.   We can draw on all of them, of course.   Yet the main ingredient is paying attention. Watching ourselves, noticing reactions, sensations, desires. Observing the world around us—the plants, the people, the traffic, the sunlight. Gently tending to the needs around us.

Preparing ourselves.

Perhaps we can think of spiritual growth from the perspective of a faithful gardener.   Not a prizewinning perfectionist whose work is on the cover of a magazine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I bet most of us aren’t up to that much effort in spiritual practice (or in gardening).

I’m thinking of a gardener like a humble companion, a curious visitor. As a humble gardener tending our own growth, we remember to check in with ourselves, on a regular basis. We notice the world around us. We tend our gardens. We wait in humility, and we remember to practice patience. We don’t worry about explaining too much, about figuring ourselves out, as if we were machines, predictable and controllable. We don’t try to fix, only to encourage, nurture, water and feed.

We can’t make plants grow, but we can help them, and watch the miracle happen. We can’t force ourselves to grow spiritually—and we certainly can’t make somebody else grow. But we can be present and attentive. Be intentional. Notice what might help, or ask. Practice a bit more patience.

Then, we can enjoy the results. We give thanks for what we are able to harvest, thanks for the results of our waiting and watching.

Give thanks for the ground of our being. And celebrate every ordinary miracle.

So may it be. Blessed be. Amen.