Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


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!



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.



“Safe Harbor” does not mean “Safe Bunker”: Doug’s great Stewardship Sermon for Celebration Sunday: “Resilience and Kindness”

Today we had one service, with nearly 300 in attendance.  Doug preached. Lonon gave a startling and moving testimony about his finding our church, ending with his thanks, and his encouragement to other newcomers that this is a good place.  I’ll try to post it soon.  Also today: the San Francisco/Oakland-based Sarah Bush Dance Project offered two liturgical dances.  We had a buffet sandwich/wrap lunch and two cakes afterward.   It was the day to turn in financial pledge cards for the next budget year.  Even before today began, we had received 74 pledges totaling $205,432!  The pledge forms that were brought up to the front and placed in a basket during our Celebration of Commitment ritual are yet to be tallied.  In any case, we are well on our way to the goal of $510,000.  It was a great day, and this is a great place to be.

Resilience and Kindness, by Doug

I start this morning with a few stories.

Story #1: A Meeting

I was standing in the back of the sanctuary greeting people after the service when I noticed Barbara Gardner standing in line. She was supposed to be opening the congregational meeting to vote on our 50 Year Building and Grounds Master Plan. What was she doing back here?

It looked like she was doing her best to look patient.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Jeff forgot his computer,” she said. Jeff Gold is our architect. He was going to be presenting the Master Plan itself.

“He has his PowerPoint presentation, projector and computer case. But the computer isn’t in it. He uses a Mac laptop like yours. Can we use yours?”

“Of course,” I said handing her the keys to my office. “I’ll go check with him to see if he needs anything else.”

By the time Barbara returned with my computer we had figured out that we also needed an adapter to plug it into his projector. My adapter was at home and too far away.

Hmmm.

Anne Bandy had approached me for help a few weeks earlier. She was offering a vegetarian cooking class. To project recipes and information, she wanted to connect her Mac laptop to the church’s projector. I told her the kind of adapter she needed and she bought one. It would work for Jeff as well.

I set out to find her. The congregation had spread out through the auditorium, lounge, library, religious education wing, office, patio and grounds. She could be anywhere.

I saw Ginger Enrico. “Can you help me find Anne?” Ginger turned immediately to go look. Then she came back. “Why don’t we call her cell phone? It’ll be faster.”

“Great idea!” I said. Ginger fetched her cell phone as I looked up Anne’s number.

Anne was on her way to church. “No, I don’t have my adapter with me,” she said. “But I’m close to home. It’ll only take me a few minutes to get it.”

Barbara started the congregational meeting with background of the Master Planning process. As she finished, Anne slipped into the congregation with her adapter and computer. As Jeff began to talk, I connected my computer to his projector. By the time he needed PowerPoint, the equipment was working smoothly.

I don’t think the congregation ever realized there had been a problem.

Story #2: A Vigil

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centers disintegrated. It was probably the most successful attack on America since the bombing of Perl Harbor. The fact that we were struck by a handful of terrorists rather than a nation left us feeling particularly raw and vulnerable.

What did it mean? What was going on? What would happen next? The future was foggy. I’m sure you remember the mood.

So on Wednesday evening, September 12, we gathered in this room. We sang. We meditated. And we invited each other to speak. The only guideline was that we weren’t going to tell each other what we should think or feel or do: no advice. We were just going to speak from the heart about what we were thinking and feeling. We were just going to share.

We didn’t solve the problems of the world. We just shared our hearts, our confusions, our fears, our hopes. We leaned on one another.

And that made all the difference. We had one another and knew that together we’d get through.

Story #3: A Cult

I grew up in Unitarian churches. So I took for granted the worth and dignity of everyone, thinking for myself and discovering my own believes in my own experience. I had friends who grew up in more rigid religious environments.

The cult of the Moonies was big back then. My non-Unitarian friends were more resistant to the Moonies because they were so attached to the beliefs they’d been taught. But once they got in, they rarely got out.

My Unitarian friends were more open to the Moonies. In church we’d learned to be open to other ideas and ways of thinking. So my Unitarian friends were more likely to go into the Moonies. But none of them stayed. They were so used to trusting their own experience and thinking for themselves, that once they learned what the Moonies were really about, they decided it wasn’t for them. And they just left.

Story #4: A Divorce

I was standing in our parking lot a few years ago as a member of our congregation told me she was going through a divorce.

“Would you like to sit down and talk about it?” I asked.

She paused. “Thanks,” she said. “I think I’ll tell my Ministry Circle first. Then I’ll let you know.”

She called a few days later and said her Circle had been great. For the moment, she had the support she needed.

This didn’t surprise me – she had invested in them and they in her. So they were there for her.

Story #5: A Fan

Walking into the office the other day I ran into Ricardo – one of our custodians. He smiled and showed me a blue wire that was charred on one end.

Apparently one of the exhaust fans on this building had stopped. A new fan costs about $600. An electrician could replace it for a few hundred more.

But Ricardo knows something about these things. Before calling an electrician, he climbed up on the roof. He discovered a burnt relay, which is what he was showing me.

He drove to the hardware store and, for a few dollars, bought another.

The fan works fine now.

Resilience

What do these stories have in common?

For one thing, they’re all about community. We’re stronger together than separate.

In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy holds up her fingers and wiggles them before Charlie Brown. “See these fingers,” she says. “By themselves each is weak and puny. But put them all together …” and she forms a tight fist that touches his nose “… and they are a power to behold!”

Yet the strength of community comes from more than brute power – a power that’s quieter and more fluid. It comes from resilience. When we’re together we’re more resilient than when we’re alone.

I walked into an interview with the Korean Zen Master, Seung Sahn. Next to him was a carved wooden Buddha with a rounded bottom. It sat on a little board. One end of a piece of elastic was stapled to the rounded bottom and the other end was stapled to that board.

Seung Sahn whopped the Buddha with the back of his hand. The Buddha fell back and lay down. Then the elastic spring it back upright.

Seung Sahn said, “Zen is the rubber band. It won’t protect you from getting hit. Life is like that. But when you get knocked over, it pulls you back up.”

Similarly, community and our congregation are rubber bands that help us recover. They give us resilience.

Nothing will prevent things from occasionally going wrong in meetings (story #1). Our architect, Jeff Gold, is enormously competent. But we all have lapses. The presentation went smoothly because Jeff was part of a team and that team was part of this congregation and together we had more resources and resilience to recover from a lapse.

Nothing can prevent the violence of the world from touching us like on September 11 (story #2). Our vigils are sometimes protests against specific policies. And sometimes they are just ways of coming together when we feel discouraged. As we come together we find the resilience to come back to center and face the next day with more heart, suppleness and intelligence.

Nothing can protect our kids from getting into trouble, making bad decisions or getting caught in unhealthy groups like Moonies (story #3). But I know that our children and youth programs – classes, Spirit Play, Youth Groups, sexuality courses, coming of age program – help our young people develop resilience through confidence in their own abilities to work things out by their own values. Our children and youth are more resilient because they are part of our Unitarian Universalist tribe.

Nothing can prevent that our loved ones from dying or protect us from getting sick or injured or insure our relationships will never change (story #4). These leave holes in our lives. But when we come together for memorials or Ministry Circles or just connecting in our various groups or Sunday services, we become more resilient. We see that all of us have holes in our lives. Knowing we aren’t alone shows us a deeper wholeness that makes us more resilient.

Nothing will prevent relays from burning out or buildings from aging (story #5). The fan was repaired inexpensively because collectively our congregation and staff draw on more talent than to any one of us have alone.

Harbor

Part of the theme of our Pledge Drive this year is “safe harbor.”

Notice that it is not “safe bunker.” It’s not “perfect bomb shelter.” It’s not “a mighty fortress.” There is nothing that can shield us from the difficulties of the world. When our lives hurt, when we lose our job, when a loved one dies, when our confidence drains, it’s not necessarily because we’ve failed, sinned or done anything wrong. Stuff happens. Just ask Job.

The image of our stewardship drive is “safe harbor.” A harbor doesn’t stop the storm. The winds and rains come in. But the harbor does lessen the strength of the currents and the impact of the waves. It does give us a place to ride out the storms without being pulled to the bottom.

The bonds of community make us more buoyant. They give us resilience. They make it easier to heal, grow and thrive.

Beacon

The other half of our theme this year is a beacon of love and justice.

We don’t claim to be the sun that turns the night into day. We don’t claim to fix the world. We just want to play our part: to be a force for healing in the world. To shine a light into the darkness.

And what’s the nature of the light we shine?

I would suggest it is kindness.

Just look at our values statement. It is really a faith statement even though it says nothing about ideas or ideology: the nature of God, the universe, the after life, political preference, tax policies or the nature of the human soul.

It says we put faith in the goodness that can be found in anyone when we have enough openness and curiosity and love and courage. Our values statement says “we put our faith in the kindness.”

It’s a beacon of kindness, not a beacon of ideological purity. Ideologies start wars and motivate terrorists. Our beacon is about kindness, fairness, equality of opportunity, worth and dignity and the fact the we are all inextricably related to one another in the interdependent web.

Blind Spot

One of our weaknesses – a blind spot for religious liberals and progressives as well as pluralistic consciousness in general – is that we underestimate the power of a lighthouse. We value being out there taking care of the oppressed, the poor and the disenfranchised. We may forget to build our own resilience, to build our own community, to give bricks, mortar and power to our lighthouse, if you will.

It’s easier for us to take care of others than take care of ourselves. It’s all too easy for us to let our building get worn, our budget to get depleted, as we give to others.

Yet, I think we’re doing pretty well: recent repairs, new entryway, upgrades to the kitchen and library and lounge area. Our budget is getting stronger despite the recession.

We adopted the Master Plan without a dissenting vote. For a herd of Unitarian Universalist cats, that’s nothing less than a miracle. It says a lot about our trust in one another and the resilience that brings.

We have a stronger group of young adults than we’ve had in years. Our youth programs are large and feisty. We have lots of adult enrichment classes and groups. We have Ministry Circles, Men’s groups, book clubs, Family Promise. We serve meals at St. John’s shelter and Loaves and Fishes. We have a Palestinian Israeli study group, Lay Ministry, Friends in Deed, choir, vigils, family camp, games nights, and on and on. And we’re close to settling Roger here as our second minister.

Who is doing all this?

We have no sugar daddies. We can’t print our own money.

We have ourselves. And I’m glad for that. So take a look around. Go ahead, it’s okay. Don’t feel shy.

This is us –a good sampling of all of us. We together are the ones strengthening the harbor and powering the light. We are the ones creating the resilience and the kindness to shine into the world.

So this morning, we gather to celebrate all that we are – all that we’ve done – to pat ourselves on the back.

And in the process we consider our financial pledge to this congregation. For the tending of the harbor, for maintaining the lighthouse. For the sake of the kids, the elders and all the in-betweeners. For the sake of all we bring. For goodness, openness, curiosity, love and courage.

Pledging is an act of faith. It’s not blind faith. It’s faith born of experience. We trust one another. It’s faith that if we do what we can we’ll do well.

I know I’m one of the larger givers in the church. There are ministers who don’t pledge at all. They say they are employees and are not part of the congregation in the same way the members are. And there is something to be said for that point of view. But I value being a member of this congregation as well as one of your ministers. So I pledge as a member.

I want to thank all of you who help support all of us in so many ways. I trust that you give within your means – not more than you can afford and not less. I trust that you’ll take it to heart and pledge what you can. That’s all any of us would ever ask of each other. Know that every pledge helps.

So thank you. Thank you.

 

 



“Forks over Knives” to be shown at UUSS October 23

Our church’s next Documentary Film Club presentation will be the film everyone is talking about – Forks Over Knives.

This film “examines the profound claim that most degenerative diseases can be controlled by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.”  Join us at UUSS on October 23 at 4:00.  All are welcome, and there is no charge.  Please come a bit early so we can start on time, and plan to stay till 6:00 PM so we can talk about it.  Some will want to go out for a bite afterwards and talk some more.

This topic relates in some ways to the most recent study and action item of our denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.  At our General Assembly in June 2011, delegates revised and voted on a DRAFT Statement of Conscience on this issue, Ethical Eating and Environmental Justice.  Read the draft statement here. Add your comments below!



Another great family Stewardship Testimonial: For the Good of the Whole

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011

 

Good Morning – I think this “good morning” one of the few times that UU’s are unison!  My name is Kathleen and my husband, Christopher and son Erik have been members of this place since 2000.

I was raised without a formal dogma and actually frightened from organized religion because of the “Born-Again” movement that happened in the 70s.  My husband, on the other hand, was raised a practicing Catholic until he left the house for college.  We both had our religious war wounds, but we both are very spiritual in our own ways.

When our son was born, we both wanted to find a village to help raise our son and we didn’t want to raise our son in a religious vacuum – just like sex, if you don’t provide a good education, they learn all the wrong things on the playground.  UUSS is known for its Religious Education or “RE” program – so we came in December 1999 for a Candle Light Christmas service and we have stayed members ever since.  By the way, RE provides a safe place for kids to learn about their own spirituality all the way through high school.

 

What we have found here are wonderful people who have opinions and accept you even if you do not believe the same (of course they’ll argue with you!)  We found life-long friends who we found when we shared raising our small children.  I have been a worship leader and have sung in our choir, whereas Christopher has helped out with the (RE).  Even on those days where we don’t want to get here at 9:30 in the morning, we are inspired by Doug’s and others’ sermons that bring insight from all religions and religious practices of the world.

 

There are many ways to contribute to UUSS.  But I am here today because we have started our  “For the Good of the Whole” stewardship campaign.

We all contribute in our own ways to this place, but to keep it going we do need funding.  We understand that you may not be able increase your pledge this year but if you can, please consider doing so – for the Good of the Whole.  Whatever amount of generosity is right for you to give to UUSS, please know that we thank you.

Many have volunteered to be Stewards, including myself – which is kind of funny because of my own conversations about money – but we could use more.  If you would like to be a steward – if you like meeting with people – you can sign up at the Stewardship table, which is outside the door on the patio.

And if a Steward calls you, please meet with them.  We want not only to get the pledge cards in by March 13, we really want to get your thoughts and feelings about UUSS and continue to make this a great place.  This is why I volunteered to be a steward.

Thanks to all of you in this room, because you are what make UUSS great.



Clown Circus March 22!
March 9, 2009, 2:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Clown Circus Returns March 22
By Rev. Roger Jones
UUSS welcomes the Swan Brothers Clown Circus Sunday, March 22, 12:45-1:30 PM under the Classroom 7/8 Big Top. These two guys’ jokes are the most lo-cal cheese around! Their tricks will make you squeal, or roll your eyes, depending on your age. See http://www.sbcircus.com for info. Thanks to Les Corbin for bringing them here.
This is an all-ages worship day, so families can come to the 11:15 service and stay for the show, or come at 9:30, go to lunch nearby and buzz on back to church.
Even if you are tired of the antics of our two in-house clergy clowns, be a good sport and save this date! Our services on March 22 will conclude and celebrate the 2009-10 Stewardship Campaign. Let’s do our best during the final weeks of the pledge drive to put a smile on our clowns’ faces and keep Doug & Roger from getting shot out of a cannon.