Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Remote Office Hours Today in Orangevale: God, Coffee, You & Rev Roger

Hey, suburban UUs and other spiritual progressives!
Today is the first of my Remote Office Hours for those who live a distance from the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento (UUSS). Today, May 1, from 11:30-1:30. Look for our group around a table in conversation, or at least look for me all by my lonesome!
I can be available for private pastoral appointments in each location before and after that time frame. Now accepting café/city suggestions for May 21 and June 5.

FOR TODAY, Friday, May 1, 11:30-1:30: The café in Raley’s at 8870 Madison and Hazel in Fair Oaks/Orangevale.



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!



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.



Testimonial by Bonnie for Capital Campaign >”Building the Beloved Community”<

This is it!  We are concluding the public phase of the capital giving campaign.  Next week is Celebration Sunday, when we celebrate this campaign and our community with services for all ages.  We will also announce how much people have committed over the next two calendar years and how much was donated in the First Gifts Sunday last week.  Right now we have raised $1.2 million in commitments from around 200 participants, so we are on our way to achieving the campaign’s Stretch Goal of $1.5 million.  Each $10,000 gift now also garners an extra $1,000 match from a donor family.  Thanks to everyone for your hard work and generosity.  A Commitment Form may be downloaded at this link.

Sunday, November 11, 2012, by Bonnie

My commitment to the Capital Campaign is not like my regular pledge to UUSS. This campaign is specifically about our buildings and how we use them, which got me thinking about my own history with this building.

I first set foot inside this building sometime in the mid 1990’s. A friend was playing in a community concert band and invited me to her concert. I distinctly remember sitting right over there and being so distracted by the banners around the room that I hardly paid attention to the music being played.

To give some context to this, let me say that growing up, my family did not attend church and we didn’t discuss god or even the absence of god. In my teens the concept of religion seemed exotic.

I was envious of my friends who had spiritual roots and could identify themselves with a religious label. I tried several on for size, but nothing seemed to fit. I concluded that organized religion was just not for me. I was a misfit, without an island of misfit thinkers to join.

So as I sat through my friend’s concert, for the first time in a long time I saw a glimmer of hope in what these banners suggested about openness and curiosity. My own curiosity about this place simmered in the back of my mind for a while, but I still didn’t feel like I was ready to commit to some group that required me to deny or defend any skepticism I might have.

But after my daughter was born, I found myself willing to re-engage in the exploration. So in the fall of 2000, I came to a Sunday service. This time I sat way back there –right next to the door in case I had to make a quick getaway.

But no one tried to convert me to anything, and while I was still skeptical, this space felt warm and inviting. I had a baby at home, so my attendance was sporadic, and I still sat way in the back, but I realized that sitting in this space for an hour or so on Sunday mornings provided me with a kind of nourishment I had never before received but discovered I had deeply missed.

About a year after that first service, I sat right back there, inside the lobby, where extra rows of chairs had been added to accommodate the people who couldn’t fit into the main hall. It was the Sunday after September 11, and I was so grateful to have this place to come to. For the very first time I felt like I could identify myself with a religious organization, and that I might actually be a “Unitarian Universalist.”

 

My daughter must have been about five years old when she first started attending services with me. She was absolutely fascinated by the lighting of the chalice and was quite dissatisfied with the view from the back of the room. It didn’t take long before she asked if we could sit in the front row—in the chairs closest to the chalice. I was completely caught off guard by my reaction.

Although I might have considered myself a Unitarian Universalist, I still saw myself as a newcomer, certainly not someone who had the right to sit in the front row of someone else’s church. I tried everything I could think of to convince her that the view was just fine from where we were. But she didn’t buy it. She looked me right in the eye and asked: “Mommy, why can’t we sit in the front row?”

How do you explain to a five-year-old a lifetime of doubts about church and religion and not belonging anywhere? She clearly felt like she belonged here. So, I let her lead me to that seat right there and we watched as the chalice was lit. It became our routine to sit in the front, and gradually, her confidence rubbed off on me. It may have taken me almost a decade from when I first set foot here, but I finally felt like I belonged–to this community – to this place.

And whether it was attending Sunday services, watching a Theater One performance, or coming to the annual Christmas tree trimming party, this place has nourished me in countless ways over the years. It was a year ago this December that Ben and I stood backstage, and peeked through the opening in the curtains as we watched each of our daughters light candles right down here.  A few minutes later, we joined them, and Doug led us through our wedding vows.

So now, I feel like this building and I, we go way back. We are old friends. And like an old friend, I don’t want to take this place for granted. I am so grateful that as my daughter navigates her way through her teens that she has this place to ground her. And I like to imagine that at some point in the future, someone like me might wander in, take a look around, and find a spiritual home here.

So, it is with deep gratitude for those who built and maintain this place that I am supporting the Capital Campaign.



Voices of the Beloved Community, #5 — UUSS worship service 10/29/12

We had a beautiful ensemble of members’ voices last Sunday, talking about how this religious community has touched their lives. This one is by a member in his early 60s who works in the environmental field and leads Buddhist meditation courses.  There are six entries here in total, including the opening words for the Chalice Lighting.

I did not come to UUSS by accident. When my wife and I arrived in Sacramento in 1988, we based our search for a place to live on three factors: work, the American River, and a Unitarian Universalist community.

We first became UUs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis in 1979. We deepened our involvement at the West Hills Fellowship of Portland, OR in the early 1980’s. When we returned to California in 1982, it was to a rural town on the North Coast with no UU presence. After 3 years without a church, we moved to a larger town in the San Joaquin Valley as committed UUs in search of a religious community. As soon as we arrived, we looked up Unitarian Universalist in the phone book. I called the number. “Where do you meet? Do you have services this Sunday? What programs do you have for children?”  “We meet in a member’s home, but we’re not meeting this week – it’s Super Bowl Sunday.” With two daughters 3 and 6 years old, we decided maybe that was not the congregation for us. So from 1985 to 1988, we drove an hour each way to the UU Church of Fresno to sing in the choir and attend services.  Our girls attended religious education. The community was caring, intelligent, and deeply engaged in the affairs of the day.

So, as soon as we arrived here, we settled near the River and near UUSS. Over the years since then, our places of work have changed, but the River and UUSS have remained. They have literally “been there for us.” The River is a place to walk in nature, to allow the oaks and salmon and egrets to bear witness to whatever sorrow or frustration or joy we bring to that moment.

UUSS offers a different kind of engagement. I love that there are people here who are happy when I am sad. I love that there are people here who share their grief and fear with me when I am feeling grounded.

When we joined, I loved that there were people who were old when I was young. I was in a men’s group and a Latino awareness group called LUUNA with Frank “Paco” Winans.  Frank started offering our Day of the Dead services in 1999 and asked me to take over for him the following year. My wife and I were privileged to visit with him as he was dying in August 2005, to sing hymns to him, and to whisper in his ear as we left “Vaya con Dios, Paco.”

Now that I am old, I love that there are people here who are even older, and there are people who are much younger. I have facilitated the junior high youth group, served as a mentor in the Coming of Age program, and gotten to know children on our Annual Family Camp and through our Valentine’s Day intergenerational activity called “Special Friends.”

UUSS has also been there for our family. When our older daughter began exploring her sexuality as a teenager, she had people at UUSS to turn to with life experiences different than ours. The OWL program gave her a safe environment to learn about sexuality in a group of peers led by adults with a commitment to our youth and supported by a solid curriculum developed by our denomination. When she chose to research the HIV/AIDS crisis for a school paper, she found Steve. Steve was the director of The Lambda Center and he shared his own knowledge as well as the Center library to help her research. Steve moved on to become active in the San Francisco UU Church; The Lambda Center moved on to become the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center; and our daughter earned a Masters Degree in Human Sexuality from San Francisco State University. In one of her first classes, the professor asked if anyone in the class had had any positive reinforcement of their sexual identity from a religious community. Rachel was the only one to raise her hand. When she was asked about her own “coming out” for another paper, she wrote that it was no big deal – she felt in our family and in this community that she never had to “come out” in any dramatic way. She continues her involvement with the UU movement and spent the last year in the first program for young adult activists sponsored by the UU Legislative Ministry of California – as a Fellow in the Spiritual Activist Leadership Training program.  She graduated at the UUA General Assembly in Phoenix in June.

UUSS has been there for my family and for me. That’s why I plan to be there for UUSS over the long haul.



Top Ten List: Benefits of Joining a UU Congregation — or at least this one

 

 

People have asked me about the reasons one would join

a congregation—the benefits as well as the expectations

of members. 

Here’s my list, in ascending order of importance.

Number 10: The wider world of the UUA (support and

advice to look for ministers, build RE, and raise money;

uua.org; District Assembly and General Assembly; “World” magazine;

Skinner House UU books; Heritage Tour to Boston).

Number 9: Beacon Press, one of the last remaining

independent publishers, and a courageous one at that!

Number 8: Washington and Sacramento UU offices to

keep us abreast of key issues and to help us make our

voices heard by the government (of the people, by the

people, for the people.)

Number 7: Leadership development opportunities

through volunteer involvement here and at workshops in

the Pacific Central District, with our clergy’s support.

Number 6: Voting at congregational meetings. Influence

in building the future of UUSS!  Next meeting:  Oct. 18, 2009.

Number 5: Adult Religious Education classes for learning

and spiritual growth. Ministry Circles for building closer

connections with other members, special-interest

programs.

Number 4: The rare and precious opportunity for intergenerational

friendship—with people from one week old to 100 years old, and

fun events for all ages.

Number 3: The support of trained Lay Ministry listeners and other caring

volunteers.

Number 2: Pastoral and staff support—listening and

pastoral care; information to help you connect with

groups, resources or programs; weddings/memorials;

coaching of volunteers.  And I include  in my morning prayers

this congregation and those with concerns I know about .

Number 1: Regular worship services! Rain or shine, your

worshiping community is here for you every Sunday of the

year—not to mention special-event services and rituals.

Well, I ran out of numbers!

But I would add: “The inspiration of being part of a vital,

values-based spiritual community, which encourages us to

deepen and express our own beliefs and to put our beliefs

into action to make the world a better place.”

What would you put on the list that I left out?

TIME FOR COMMENTS, DEAR BLOG READERS!