Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


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!



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.

 



Chalice Lighting Words, Ordination Ceremony, March 29, 2014

Words for Chalice Lighting by Roger Jones

Ceremony of Ordination of Amy Moses Lagos to the UU Ministry

Saturday, March 29, 2014, in San Francisco

Good afternoon. When Amy Moses-Lagos was growing up in Springfield, Illinois, she attended the Abraham Lincoln Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist, now the Abraham Lincoln Congregation.

I know this, because when she was six, I was one of her Sunday School teachers there, when I was younger then, than she is now. Of course, this means that of everyone in this room who has had a formative influence on Amy as a Unitarian Universalist, I had the earliest influence, and therefore I guess the most profound…unless you count her mother, brother and sister, who are also here

Back then, in that congregation, at the start of every Sunday service, a child would lead the congregation in words for lighting the chalice.

Those words, and ours today, are combined from two sources: the late Rev. Elizabeth Selle Jones, now departed, the minister emerita of our church in Livermore, and from a Passover Haggadah, whose words are in the gray hymnal.

 

This flame affirms the light of truth, the warmth of community, and the fire of commitment.  [Selle Jones]

Please repeat each line after me:

 May the light we now kindle -PAUSE

Inspire us to use our powers -PAUSE

To heal and not to harm, -PAUSE

To help and not to hinder, -PAUSE

To bless and not to curse, -PAUSE

To serve you, Spirit of Freedom!

 

So may it be.



Recap of UUSS Summer Worship Services 2013

This past summer we had a variety of service topics, styles and speakers.  We said farewell to Doug in June and to Eric in September.  

Religious Diversity:  Whether in sermons, special rituals, or with meditation, prayer or Yoga practice in the service, we covered a variety of religious traditions and perspectives, including longtime Unitarian Universalists and UU children showing how they put their faith into practice in the ways they try to make a difference in the world.

Behold:

May 26–Grievable Deaths (Memorial Day), Roger’s sermon.

June 2 — Czech Unitarian Flower Celebration (Flower Exchange), Roger’s sermon, plus a 10-year salute to our Grasshopper Groundskeeping volunteers

June 9 — Doug’s last dialogue service

June 16 — Worship Committee Ensemble Service:  Father’s Day

June 23 — The Common Good?  Part 1 (Adam Dyer, Starr King School for the Ministry, with my participation)

June 30 — Doug’s Farewell Message (Concluding 13 Years of Ministry with UUSS)

July 7 — Rev. Bob Oshita, from the Buddhist Church of Sacramento

July 14 — The Death of Me: A play in place of a sermon, offered by Theater One with Roger’s participation on the other parts of the service

July 21 —  Becoming Love’s People (Rev. Meghan Cefalu of UU Community of the Mountains, in a pulpit exchange with me; Roger preached “Money and Life” in Grass Valley)

July 28 —  Yoga Etc.:  Care for the Body is Care for the Spirit with Paige, Roger, and UUSS Monday Yoga class members

August 4 — The Common Good? Part 2, with Adam Dyer

August 11 — Faith Theatricals:  Tell a New Story, by Rev. Sonya Sukalski, with Roger’s participation.  Blessing Ritual for Youth Departing Sacramento for the First Year of College

August 18 — Touching Hearts Through Bullet-Proof Glass:  Visiting Immigrants Held in Federal Detention in Local Jails:  Roger, JoAnn, Mary Helen, and Joan.  Blessing Ritual for Youth Departing Sacramento for the First Year of College

August 25 — Annual Ingathering Water Ceremony.  Buddhist Metta Guided Meditation by Erik B.  Roger’s Sermon “Roots and Wings.”  The Water Ceremony has Earth-based themes and was first created several decades ago as a feminist ritual at a UU women’s organization’s retreat.

September 1 — Modern Slavery:  Kids Making a Difference:  Roger, Aliya, Ben and other UU kids  from the Kids’ Freedom Club.  Pastoral Prayer by Petra.   Farewell solo by Eric S.

Now what?  Two services starting September 8:  9:30 and 11:15 AM.  Religious Education for Children and Youth at 9:30 AM.  Nursery Care during both services.



Birth, Breath, and Death — New Book on Lessons of Life as a UU Doula Midwife

I’ve been in conversation with Amy and thought I’d pass this along.  Read an excerpt of her book in the Fall 2013 UU World magazine.

Philosophy, religion and love infuse this thoughtful set of observations. –Kirkus Reviews
Amy Glenn has brought her own great sensitivity and heart to the portals where we enter and leave this life, and to the loving presence that is our source. Filled with a wisdom that touches into the great mystery, “Birth, Breath, and Death” is a poetic and beautiful reading experience. –Tara Brach, Ph.D. Author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge
I found myself re-reading, lingering, pausing to think and to settle into the peace and love that pervades every word in this little but powerful book. She probably doesn’t begin to consider herself A Teacher, but I would gladly sit at her feet and just soak up her inborn and learned wisdom. — Peggy Vincent, Midwife and Author of Baby Catcher
Amy Wright Glenn sensitively and poetically explores the nature of our most profound experiences. These reflections on life and death are not of dry theory but are informed by the depth and richness of her own life –both personal and professional.  Reading this book, I am brought ever closer to what I call “home” – that place of clear seeing and knowing from within, the place where I deepen my relationship to Self and the world around me.  –Sudha Carolyn Lundeen, Soulful Life Coach and Senior Kripalu Yoga Teacher Trainer
Amy has a poet’s heart and voice.  She integrates this lyric voice into a moving memoir of life experiences: her own and those she has witnessed in her work as mother, wife, doula, teacher, and chaplain.  I resonate with so much of her story, having made my own path out of constrictive religious bonds, and through my own passages of self-exploration and growth.  I also resonate with Amy’s ability to merge head and heart in her reflective process. I recommend Birth, Breath, & Death to any person who appreciates well-crafted narratives of growth and transformation, especially those professionals engaged in the work of spiritual and physical nurture. –Tedford J. Taylor, Clinical Ethicist, Chaplain, Director of Pastoral Care & Training
If you like narrative non-fiction about real women doing real work, their struggles, fears, failures and triumphs her story is for you. The energy of birth crackles on every page. Amy has delivered one amazing book. –Patricia Harman CNM, Author of The Midwife of Hope River, Arms Wide Open; a midwife’s journey and The Blue Cotton Gown
Amy Wright Glenn is a seeker who takes us on an adventurous journey in this compact, insightful and inspiring book. We travel with her into self-discovery and into the healing of wounds from childhood—the destination is an openhearted motherhood. She has written a lovely book. — Kathryn Black, Ph.D. Author of Mothering Without a Map
“Birth, Breath, and Death” is one extraordinary little book. I hope it will find its way into many, many hands: mothers-to-be, midwives, physicians, nurses, educators, doulas and healers of all kinds. Amy Wright Glenn writes about birth and birthing ourselves, as well as our babies. Five stars.” –Suzanne Arms, Director of Birthing The Future and Author of Immaculate Deception New York Times Best Book of the Year


ArtWorks! Comes back. But How Can “Religious Education” Be Religious When We Are Not Talking about “Religion”? –>this is Part 1 of 3

Since 2009, our summer Religious Education (RE) program has been ArtWorks

Artists in our congregation introduce children and youth to their medium and work, and to engage the group in trying out that art form.  These arts include, among other things, painting, fabric, sculpture with mixed media, origami, crafts, music, and acting.

A question has intrigued and challenged me:  Where’s the religion?

What does all this have to do with religious education?

First, I want to say (paraphrasing Dr. Maria Harris):  that the curriculum is the whole life of the church.  The congregation is teaching all the time, in all its program areas and activities.    The congregation teaches by how it worships (and with whom), what it says and what it doesn’t think to say, how it celebrates and mourns,  how its members treat one another, how it relates to music and the other arts, how it responds to the larger culture, and how it reaches out beyond its walls (and whether it does at all).  If we all do these things together, and reflect together on what we are doing and why, we are a community of learners–all of us–and we are providing RE to one another.  Whatever is going on…there is a religious or spiritual lesson there.

So, if all we do here becomes part of  the Religious Education of the whole church, what is our purpose?

What are the intentions behind what we choose to do?

The following explains what is most important in my eyes:

Ours is a fragmented society.   Americans are lonelier than many other cultures, and our loneliness is increasing.   We are more isolated than folks have been in all of human history.   I know the Web connects people in unprecedented ways, but after hours in front of a screen with no in-person contact, I can’t say I feel more connected than I did 20 years ago!

Economic relocation and dislocation interrupt friendships.  Our transience and mobility mean that many do not have strong roots anywhere.   Consumerist individualism does not fill the void of not having people who know us as we truly are.  In light of this, the progressive church’s number one purpose is not the transmission of knowledge, but the practice of community, the rare and real experience of belonging.

Ours is an age-segregated society.   Rare is the household that includes more than parent and child these days, but in years past extended families of three generations often shared a home.   It’s common these days for grandparents and grandchildren to live far from one another, and rare to be in the same town.  In contrast to village culture in other lands, or the days of neighborhood friendships in our own country, today’s children are unlikely to have ongoing relationships with adults who aren’t their parents, school teachers, or (sadly) social workers.  Elders with no grandchildren (or none living nearby) might see a few that come by once a year for Christmas caroling at the retirement home.

What kinds of wisdom and love do our kids miss out on because they don’t grow up around their grandparents?  What joy–and what opportunities for loving and giving–do adults miss out on because they don’t have kids or grand kids of their own, or because they see theirs so infrequently?

Given our larger culture, the most radical and religious thing we can do as a church is to introduce people to one another without regard to the categories and separations imposed on us by secular culture.  The most powerful thing we can do is to build connections!

What I want our children and youth to learn at UUSS is a sense of belonging.  They belong here.  They can develop roots here.   People here love and care for them, are proud of them, are willing to spend time with them.  I also want them to learn that they can be friends with kids who are not in their own narrow age group.  Most schools put kids into segregated classes, and it makes some sense, developmentally.  We have some general age breakdowns too, in some of our RE programming.  Yet we promote and provide activities in which younger kids and older youth can help, watch and learn from one another.

What I want our elders and other adults to learn is that in this community their presence and their talents are life-giving, and their mentoring friendships are formative.  They have much to share, and they have much joy to look forward to.  They can build a legacy here.

The vehicles or programs by which we promote such relationships are important, but what matters more is not the particular input, but the product of our time together:  a sense of relationship, a sense of belonging, the spirit of gratitude and of giving back.