From the Minister's Study
The December Holidays Approacheth
The December holidays approach. Depending upon your heritage, there are a lot of different ways to participate in the festivities. Some folks celebrate Kwanza. Some celebrate Hanukah, which began before December even arrived this year. Some engage with a festival of lights with pagan abandon. Some use this time to celebrate the story of the birth of Jesus. Some engage in gift giving and family time, with food and Christmas music.
I have had a complex relationship with the December Holidays. One of the things I love most about the holidays is the music. I collect Christmas music and have been doing so for at least 25 years. I have sacred Christmas music, children’s Christmas music, spoof Christmas music, including some songs played with tools like saws and drills. I have Jazz, Electronic, Soul, Rap, Country and Alternative as well. Finally I have Christmas Blues music. So all of it, the corny, the kitsch, the child-like hope and wonder, the improvisational, and the sad and lonely perspectives are covered in the Christmas music I collect and encompass the range of emotions I have felt.
Some people look forward to the holidays and some do not. There are some of us who relish taking time out of our normal work-a-day schedules and traveling to spend time with family or host family, who have traveled to be with us. Some of us get excited about holiday feasts and treats. Others, especially kids, look forward to receiving gifts and having time off from school. But for each of the aspects of the holidays that some of us cherish, there are others amongst us who struggle with them. Some folks don’t have family to be around. Some don’t like to be around the family that they have. Some of us struggle with the pressure to buy stuff and over-eat as we try to be more mindful in our lives about material consumption and our ecological responsibilities.
The big word for this month is mindful. My prayer for us is that we remember that there are a number of different ways to engage with the December holidays and that there is diversity amongst us. One of the images in a sermon I preached for UCN a few weeks ago got Brenda Wingard into a wrestling state of mind about these upcoming holidays. We met and I invited her to share her perspectives on the upcoming holiday time. I am delighted that she did so. To read Brenda's article, click here: http://www.ucnorth.org/news/normal-brenda-wingard
You are welcome to submit a story about how you have engaged or will engage with the December holidays. If we don’t use them this year, we will in the future.
May you find peace in the paradox,
Relationship, Relationship, Relationship
I’m not sure, but, I think I may have had the best October ever. Going to Vermont to get legally married was more joyful than I had been expecting. The weather and the gorgeous trees did their part, and both sides of our family were well represented. And, it was such a pleasure to share some of my story with you and to feel such warmth, support and care from you collectively and in my individual interactions with you. Adding to my joy, your board of trustees started our October meeting with a toast to celebrate my marriage to Maren. All this has me thinking about relationship and how it is at the crux of everything we do in our lives, both personally and professionally.
We are focused on relationship at UCN in several exciting ways. Our chalice circles have begun. Twice a month folks that might not know each other very well get together and have deeper conversations about what is going on in their exterior and interior lives. In addition we come together and worship at one service on the first Sunday of every month. After that we share a meal together around small tables. I am looking forward to sitting with different folks every month.
And, beginning in November, your board of trustees will be hosting small gatherings here at church. We hope that every single one of you will make it a priority to attend one of these groups. This will be a time for you to talk with other folks in the congregation about what kind of concrete behaviors we want to see at UCN and what we don’t want to see. During these meetings you will be creating the building blocks for UCN’s behavioral convenient. A covenant is a promise made between people to abide by certain stated behavioral norms. It deals with concrete behaviors. I am glad that we are engaging in this work together. Creating a covenant by the members, for the members of a congregation is considered a best practice for congregational life by the UUA. It is all about valuing our church community and taking care of it by being respectful and by practicing respectful behavior with each other.
These meeting will take approximately an hour and a half. Some will be held on the weekend, and some will be during the week, some at night and some during the day. I hope that you will make it a priority to attend and participate in the meeting that is most convenient for you. All work on relationships is good work and I when I reflect on all that I am grateful for this month of thanksgiving, I know that this work will be a part of my gratitude celebration.
In gratitude for our church life,
Going to the Chapel
Some of us remember where we were when big historical events in the world, or in our country happened. Many people of a certain generation remember Pearl Harbor. Others remember where they were when they heard the news about the Kennedys’ and MLK being shot. Many of us remember that first moon landing. (I ran outside to see if I could see the astronauts up there.) Well, I remember where I was when I learned about the Supreme Court ruling that The Defense of Marriage Act, the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, was unconstitutional, by a 5-4 vote.
I was in San Diego with a gaggle of Maren’s relative on the west coast time zone. I knew the decision was supposed to come at 10:00 Eastern but did not have the TV on. I got a call from Sammy, one of my nieces, there was a lot of noise in the background. “Aunt Julie! Aunt Julie! The ruling just came down. DOMA has been defeated.” There were whooping sounds coming from her room, which Ruby was sharing.
Then a few months later the Federal Government, including the IRS, the Social Security administration, and the Armed Forces interpreted the decision in ways that include people like Maren and me, who do not live in a state that recognizes our marriage. So it finally made sense to get married.
This is a joyous, exciting time; so exciting that it wants to burst forth from me like a bird that just can’t help singing or a dolphin that jumps into the air and makes that noise that Flipper used to make. Yes, I’m going to the chapel and Maren and I are going to married.
And I want you to celebrate with me. I wish I could take all of you to the UU church in Brattleboro, Vermont. And if you do happen to be in Vermont the weekend of Oct. 12, we would love to see you there. However, we can celebrate together on Sunday Oct. 6 after church at the first Sunday Lunch. Let’s turn that into a DOMA-defeated, Rev.-Julie-and-Maren-are-getting-married party.
Maren and I don’t need a toaster or a waffle iron, but if you want to give a gift to acknowledge this huge life event, please consider donating to Fair Wisconsin, which is working to make marriage available to all people, without them having to leave the state, and to have our marriage recognized in Wisconsin. The folks at Fair Wisconsin have even set up a website with our picture on it, for your donation. How cool is that? Check it out! http://bit.ly/revjulieandmaren
Yours in joy,
Past Posts by Rev. Julie
At the Intersection of Now
I have been reflecting on reflecting. I cast my mind back to the 1950’s. I had a pretty good idea of what this country was like, both good and bad. Elvis was the king. Senator McCarthy was scary. Big, round, roomy cars were the main form of transportation. I then reflected 50 years before that to the 1900’s. We had yet to have the two world wars, the atomic bombs, or even cars. I think about the differences between 1900 and 1950 and then I think about the differences between now and 50 years ago in the 1960’s.
In part I have been thinking about these different times because 50 years ago the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The Beatles would soon come to this country and appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Massive cultural shifts were just a breath away. How is 2013 like 1963? How is it different? 1963 was a year of promise and heartbreak. How have we lived into that promise and how have we continued to suffer from the heartbreak, of war, racism, and the assassination of President Kennedy.
I could spend hours thinking about these things. How society is different and how it is the same. And I do spend hours listening to the music. The music of the 1960’s has always been really important to me. It gave birth not just to cultural change, but changes in consciousness. Yet, fond as I am of this time period, no less a man than Willie Nelson reminds me that I may have been happy yesterday morning, and I may be happy about how yesterday turned out, but I can't be happy yesterday. I can only be happy today, this hour this minute… Now.
Happiness exists at just one time, and that time is now.
Perhaps because he tours the country in a bus, Willie likes to think of life as a road trip. When he talks about life on the road he says, “I have had untold opportunities for joy, learning, sharing, and lots of fantastic sunsets and sunrises. And every one of these opportunities will be at the intersection of the road I’m on, and the road called now.”
True happiness lies at that intersection of the now. For me, true happiness lies with my ministry here with you, and the life I have with my family. I am delighted to go forward into the year with joy in the present and a confidence in the ways we are going about being a vibrant church community.
I cherish the past, I am nourished by it. I am excited about the future and what we can do together, to increase the common good now and in the coming generations. There are so many creative ways to do this and room for all of us. I invite you to join with me on this road called now.
In faith and love,