Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spiritual pathways

I've been pondering the topic of my upcoming sermon on Dec. 7. Since a parishioner mentioned to me her yearning for more spiritual connection and experience during worship, I've been thinking about how to offer more of this in our worship services. Last week I used several brief periods of silence during the sermon, which folks seemed to like, and I'll probably continue to do that in other sermons. I'm sure I talk too much sometimes.

But in preparation for this service, which comes on the second Sunday of Advent, I've been tracing back in my life to re-live the moments which have been of particular spiritual importance to me.

Of course, it's a tricky subject, because spirituality is such a personal experience. For one person, it might be an insight triggered by a poem or a speaker's words; for another, it might be the emotional expression of gratitude for an act of kindness. For others, these might not be particularly significant at all.

But I have noticed that we can become more attuned to the moments in our lives which offer spiritual experience. We may have to train ourselves to recognize them. We may have to re-structure our lives to be more open to them. We may have to go looking for them. But no matter what, we can't really expect them to be administered by someone else, like a dose of medicine; we have to be open, ourselves, to the experience.

Because we human beings are constantly in a state of transition---from childhood to adolescence, to young adulthood, to parenthood, to marriage or singleness, to job changes, whatever---we also have to recognize that the changes in our daily lives affect our spiritual lives. We are sometimes so busy and preoccupied with the changes in our lives, both big and little, that we are not able to be as mindful of or open to spiritual experience as we might have been at another time.

So just recognizing the hunger for spiritual experience is a positive step. Just knowing that something that gave spiritual sustenance at one time has lost its power for us temporarily---that's a huge insight in itself. It may not feel good but it's a sign that a person is ready to grow and is starting to look around for nurture.

One of the spiritual pathways in my life has been music. One of my earliest spiritual experiences was sitting on a cold, windy hilltop out in far eastern Oregon with friends from our Baptist Youth Fellowship, singing the old hymn "O Worship the King". If you weren't raised in a hymn-singing household, you probably won't resonate to my experience, as I watched the sun come up on a stormy early spring morning with these friends singing these words:

"O tell of his might, o sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space;
his chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light,
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain."

I can't adequately explain this experience to anyone who hasn't had the kind of life I've had. But I try! And I recognize that music has long been a spiritual pathway for me.

So I'm thinking this week about how to help people find a spiritual pathway that is meaningful to them. And I know that one thing that has helped me has been to have a regular spiritual practice. Prayer is part of my spiritual practice, but mindfulness is another part of it. When I pray that I will be a good minister, my prayer reminds me to be mindful of the meaning in my life, because it is there that I find my spiritual sustenance, in the meaning in my life.

One way that music manifests itself in my spiritual life is that I often wake up in the morning with a song in my mind. I have learned to pay attention to that song because if it's there in the morning, I know it's a manifestation of my inner life. Sometime I'll tell another story about that awareness; I may put it in the sermon.

But right now I'm trying to discern why I have been waking up with "Old Fat Naked Women for Peace" on my mind. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old Fat Naked Women for Peace

Thanks to Fausto for reminding me of this great video by a Northwest group:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Looking forward to Thanksgiving

My sister and her husband, plus his two sons and their mates, will be here for Thanksgiving, assuming Snoqualmie Pass isn't inundated with November snow. The weather report is favorable, so I'm expecting them tomorrow about mid-afternoon. I got a ferry report this afternoon, however, that warned of long lines and they will probably have to wait a couple of hours for a boat.

Tomorrow I have almost nothing on the agenda other than getting ready for their visit. Today I got the guest room ready for J and P. The "boys" are only coming for dinner on Thursday and then heading back home or on to the next dinner.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I don't have to do much during the three days leading up to the big day; there's no sermon to prepare, no service to choose hymns for, as the post-T'giving service is usually lay-led. I can just look forward to enjoying worship, though, of course, there are always questions and issues to settle whenever I'm present.

On Friday, we'll probably go thrift-store gleaning, as that's a favorite pastime when we get together. We wouldn't go to a mall for the life of us! Boy, are those days behind me! I used to love going to the Cherry Creek mall on "Black Friday", when I lived in Denver; now I wouldn't go for love nor money. Too crowded, too frenetic, too artificial, too soul-crushing.

Friday afternoon there's a jam at N's house, but I doubt we'll go, unless it's just to stop by and say hello. I hate to miss the music, but I wouldn't go and leave J&P at home. I enjoy their company too much.

Tonight I'm kind of at loose ends. I could read a book (Marilynne Robinson's newest, "Home") but it's really more of a bedtime activity for me. I am not a TV watcher, once the news is over, except that I do enjoy Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's 8-9 p.m. replay of their 11 p.m. show from the day before. So I might do that, but really I'm not looking for anything in particular to do. If I were, I could clean up my office, which has been on my to-do list for weeks. Not interesting enough.

So I realize I'm babbling, but I felt a need to post something, even something boring. And now I have done that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lovely things that happened this morning at church:

1. J and P slipped in quietly during the prelude and stood up at Joys and Concerns to mention their hope for our veterans-support program.
2. E and K did a fabulous skit to kick off Guest at your Table. And E was a great worship leader.
3. Two unidentified women with two young teen girls came in a bit late and sat quietly during the service, then left immediately after the service. I think they were the lesbian couple and daughters who had contacted me earlier. I hope they liked the service.
4. We didn't have enough boxes for GAYT but it was okay.
5. There were four periods of silence during the sermon and people loved the meditative time.
6. Several people knew how to sing "Count Your Blessings".
7. The music this morning was wonderful---flute, violin, and cello. Two musicians were kids.
8. J and P found out that several people in the congregation are interested in getting a vet-support program going.
9. We welcomed several new members (13?) into the congregation.
10. We're going to the Chinese place for dinner tonight, spontaneously organized this morning.

The most joyful thing is that I see some of the positive results of my ideas and leadership taking shape.

And a cool thing that happened last night was that I went to hear some friends (Deja Blooz) perform at a local venue and they invited me to sing "Summertime" with them. It was great!

Counting our Blessings: a sermon

Rev. Kit Ketcham, Nov. 23, 2008

There's been an old song from my youth running around in my head as I think about blessings and what it means to count them. If you remember this old song and feel like singing, please join me. And if you don't know it, let us sing it to you. Let's not worry about the language----the basic idea is pretty good!
"When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
count your many blessings, name them one by one,
and it will surprise you what the lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done,
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings, see what God has done."
If I were writing this old song nowadays, I'd probably substitute the idea of "the Universe" or "Higher Power" or "Nature" for the words Lord and God, but the idea of blessings being numerous and outweighing the discouragements and storms of life is a universal one----we are blessed with life, no matter how hard it is at times.

Our reading today has reminded us of our friends and their place in our lives. Our mates, our homes, our kids, our many joys---these are all countable blessings which are pretty stable most of the time. They represent the Great Fullness of our lives.

I'd like to invite us to take a moment of silence and reflect upon the many blessings we can count. Close your eyes, if that's comfortable for you, and spend a few moments thinking about those many blessings and experience the Great Fullness of your life.
(1 minute or so of silence)

But blessings aren't always so obvious, are they? It has been a hard year so far, with financial and corporate meltdowns requiring drastic decisions on the part of our leaders, with election rhetoric heating up the airwaves and recriminations flying back and forth between politicians, with job loss looming for many folks, and even on our snug little island, the double threat of homelessness and hunger has become more and more obvious, even among our friends and family.

With the election over and our blood pressure beginning to subside as plans for the new administration seem to promise positive changes, as we pledge our support to a new vision for America---whether or not we voted for this new President---we are well aware that what may seem like a blessing to some of us may feel like a fearful event to others.

Hence the expression, "mixed blessing"! We can't be sure what is in store with any course of action. Is it right to bail out the Big Three car companies and thus save jobs or should tough love prevail and force them into bankruptcy or to make promises about what they will do with the money? Nobody knows for sure---each possible solution has its pros and cons. Many times we can't know whether events are a blessing or a curse.

There's an old story along this line that you may have heard.

A man has served as the Emperor's chef for years and is given a plot of land for a farm as a "Thank You" for noble service rendered to the Emperor. The man's friends all say, "What good luck, You have been truly blessed." But the man replies, "It may be good, it may be bad, it's too soon to tell."

The man goes out to see the property and finds that it is literally covered with rocks. His friends say, "What bad luck, you have been cursed and not blessed, with this land." The man replies, "It may be bad, it may be good. It's too soon to tell."

The man is working in the field with his team of oxen. A passerby notes that having a team of oxen is quite good fortune for a man clearing a field. The man replies, "It may be good, it may be bad. It's too soon to tell."

A few days later the ox team goes unexpectedly lame and the same passerby observes the bad fortune of the beasts' condition. The man replies, "It may be bad, it may be good. It's too soon to tell."

Without the ox team to help him, the man gets his only son into the field to help him clear the stumps and rocks. A friend drops by and observes that, "You are truly blessed to have such a strong son to help you in the field." The man replies, "It may be good, it may be bad. It's too soon to tell."

One day not long after this conversation, a large stone falls on the son, breaking his leg. Someone observes, "What bad luck has befallen you now that your son can no longer help with this hard work." The man replies, "It may be bad, it may be good. It's too soon to tell."

Before long, a terrible time of war befalls the country and all the able bodied young men are forced into the Emperor's army. Someone whose son has been drafted into service observes the good luck of the farmer whose son is still at his side since his broken leg made it impossible for him to fight. The man replies, "It may be good, it may be bad. It's too soon to tell."

Things go badly during the war and the emperor is overthrown. The new emperor takes back the gift of land that was given to the man, forcing him to return to the palace as a lowly cook. His friends observe the ill fate of having lost his farm to the new emperor. The man simply replies, "It may be bad, it may be good. It's too soon to tell."

So, though the unsettling and exciting events of the past months have got us all up in the air with both gladness and anxiety, as the man in our story has said, "It may be good, it may be bad. It's too soon to tell." Blessings come in unexpected places, at unexpected times. And sometimes they look like a curse at first.

Another way to express the idea of being blessed is the word "Grace". Grace means undeserved good fortune. It means Mercy. It means Kindness, Love, Forgiveness, Compassion, Reprieve, Thanksgiving. And we experience it most deeply when we are aware that we have done little to deserve it.

For me, sometimes the moment I dread is the moment that has the greatest gift within it: the phone call I stew about when the unexpected outcome is a new idea and a new direction; the outreach to an opponent which turns the enemy into a friend; the scary experience that becomes a passion.

I remember, when I was active in a twelve-step program, that I heard repeatedly the idea that "addiction has been the best thing that ever happened to me." By this startling phrase, the person meant that the addiction, whether to a substance or to food or to spending or to unhealthy relationships, had caused him or her to bottom out, to hit the last of his or her reserves, had forced him or her to seek help.

Blessings sometimes look like a curse at first, as they did to me when I learned during my first pastorate down in Portland that several people in the congregation had decided they wanted me to leave. But dealing with this upsetting event became a challenge that forced me to grow immeasurably. And now I can see it as a blessing---in disguise.

Let's take another moment for some silence. And in that silence, let's reflect privately, each of us, on the unexpected blessings of life, the times when a bad thing turned out to be a good thing. These too are part of the Great Fullness of life. (1 minute or more)

There's a third kind of blessing that is important to note, because it is inherent in our congregational mission. It can be misunderstood, as giving a blessing is often considered to be the duty and privilege of the clergy. But in our faith tradition, giving blessing is not limited to those who wear vestments or quote the holy books or officiate at religious ceremonies.

Blessing is something we all can do for one another---and for the world. The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, president of Starr King School for the Ministry has written this poetic challenge to us as Unitarian Universalists:
Choose to Bless the World
Your gifts-whatever you discover them to be-
Can be used to bless or curse the world.
The mind's power,
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing,

Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.

Any of these can draw down the prison door,
Hoard bread,
Abandon the poor,
Obscure what is holy,
Comply with injustice
Or withhold love.

You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?

Choose to bless the world.

The choice to bless the world
Can take you into solitude
To search for the sources
Of power and grace;
Native wisdom, healing and liberation.

More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared,
The heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle,
The importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise,
The comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth,
Its chorus of life
Welcoming you.

None of us alone can save the world.
Together-that is another possibility,

Within this challenge there are two opportunities---one is to discover and acknowledge the gifts, the blessings we have within us, the blessings which give us power and experience. The writer Frederick Buechner has spoken of that place where our "deep gladness meets the world's deep need."

Let's go back together into a place of silence and consider what are the gifts we have within us as individuals, the blessings which give us something valuable to offer to the world. (1 min )
And now, staying in the silence, let's consider where our deep gladness, the joy that comes from the blessings we have found, meets the world's deep need. (1 min)

Let me read Rebecca Parker's words again as we think about our gifts and how we might choose to bless the world.

Choose to Bless the World
Your gifts-whatever you discover them to be-
Can be used to bless or curse the world.
The mind's power,
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing,

Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.

Any of these can draw down the prison door,
Hoard bread,
Abandon the poor,
Obscure what is holy,
Comply with injustice
Or withhold love.

You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?

Choose to bless the world.

The choice to bless the world
Can take you into solitude
To search for the sources
Of power and grace;
Native wisdom, healing and liberation.

More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared,
The heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle,
The importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise,
The comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth,
Its chorus of life
Welcoming you.

None of us alone can save the world.
Together-that is another possibility,

Let's remain in silence for a few moments, considering the Great Fullness of our lives. As we sing our closing hymn, savoring the community we are, let us prepare to bless the world.

BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world, our blessing of the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that our gifts, whatever we discover them to be, can be used to bless or curse the world. May we use our gifts to heal and not to harm, to bless and not to curse, to find the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Random and/or Weird Book Facts about myself

Miss Kitty over at Educated and Poor has tagged me with a meme, to list seven random or weird book facts about myself. I don't know that these are weird, as I don't have much knowledge of others' reading habits, but they are random, as they just popped into my head as I'm writing.

1. I hated the book THE HUNGRY OCEAN by Linda Greenlaw, which was November's choice of book in my book club. I was uneasy with it from the beginning and when I got to the part where they set a shark on fire and let it writhe helplessly in the air, suspended by a noose from the rigging of their swordfish-fishing boat, I was totally disgusted and stopped reading. I couldn't stomach the author's casual attitude toward either fish or humans.

2. I have read all the Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh mysteries, but it has been so long ago I don't remember any of them, just that I thoroughly enjoyed these women's ability to spin a yarn.

3. Stephen White, who writes psychological thrillers set in Boulder, Colorado, is one of my favorites, largely because he describes places I know personally very well.

4. I hardly read any non-fiction now that I'm out of seminary. I find that stories are much more important to me, when it comes to revealing truth. I have read David Dunaway's biography of Pete Seeger very recently, however, and was captivated by Seeger's life story.

5. I remember the books of my childhood so fondly: Anne of Green Gables, Back of the North Wind, Little Toot, Nancy Drew, Paddle to the Sea. And I still have Tommeliten and Pannekaka, two Norwegian-language picture books that my mother painstakingly translated into English in between the printed lines. They are tattered and faded, but they are very dear to me as they reveal my mother's beautiful penmanship.

6. I always read myself to sleep at night, only giving up when I'm dozing longer than I'm reading. Right now I'm reading Robertson Davies' THE CUNNING MAN, which is meaty, funny, erudite, and lengthy---my favorite characteristics in a book. Thanks to ChaliceChick, who turned me on to Davies.

7. I practically only give books as presents. My brother in law collects old Inland Empire history books and documents, especially those which are meaningful to our family's history in eastern Oregon and Washington. My sister loves murder mysteries, especially Evanovich and George. My brother is a thriller buff and his wife enjoys a variety of kinds of books. The FS, DIL, and GKs get gift cards to local bookstores in their area.

There, Miss K, I've done it. The orders are to tag seven other people, so here goes:
Joel the Neff over at On the Other Foot
Christina his lovely wife at A Hot Carmel Sundae
Joel Monka at CUUMBAYA
Kari at Chalice Spark
Lizard Eater at The Journey
Tim at The Eclectic Cleric
Ms Theologian at Surviving the Workday

If any of you don't have time or inclination to do this, don't feel guilty. I usually skip memes myself but this one I had time for this morning, having finished the sermon!

UPDATE: I know that the links aren't working properly and I'll try to get back to correct them later today. Thanks to Ms. T for alerting me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Testing our interfaith understandings...

can be a challenge when we don't know very much about another religion. Recently, our congregation had hoped to rent our facility to the tiny local Jewish community for one of their holiday gatherings but it turned out that several of their members refuse to attend anything in a church. (They have no facility of their own and must rent space for services and events.)

When we received the word that they were canceling their reservation, we were stunned and dismayed. Had we done anything to offend? Did they realize how much UUs have done over the years to be supportive of Jews? Did they know that we hardly even call our building a church, but rather a sanctuary, a meeting house? Why on earth would they choose not to rent from us?

So at the gym this morning, I asked H., who has been part of the local Jewish community to share her thoughts and she explained that there are Jews who, as a matter of religious principle, do not want to enter other religions' sacred spaces. It has more to do with principle and custom than with ancient wounds, there's nothing personal about it, and nothing we do is likely to change minds.

I realized as I thought more about this, this morning, that my own reaction was of intolerance for another's religious principle. I'm glad I had a chance to talk to H., for her calm explanation of a different religious way of life helped me see that my original reaction was a bit self-righteous and intolerant.

It's interesting to me that we are fine with religious principles that make sense to us, but when we encounter a principle that seems illogical, we are apt to assume the worst rather than the best. We struggle to make sense of ancient customs that don't fit our modern culture and are more likely to dismiss them rather than respect them.

I am learning gradually not to leap to conclusions without investigating further. I've re-learned that lesson today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Daddy, wherever you are.

Today my father, Merritt Bernhardt Ketcham, would be 101 years old. He was born on November 18, 1907, and died on April 16, 1970. He was a moonshiner in Missouri at age 12, a ranch hand and cowboy in Wyoming at age 18, an orchardman in Idaho in his 20s, a husband, seminarian, and father shortly thereafter, and a preacher and public servant for the rest of his life.

I don't know what he would think of my life choices if he were still alive. But I do know that he loved me and my sister and brother and mother deeply and would have done anything he could for us. I believe he would have wanted me to be happy and fulfilled, whether we agreed theologically or not. I believe our values were similar in most ways.

My own belief about what happens when we die is that we move to a new level of understanding of life. I can't articulate that any better than I have. A physical heaven in the sky seems unlikely, but it does seem possible that there is some new place to go.

Whatever it might be, I hope that his spirit understands my choices. I know that with every choice I have made over my lifetime I have asked myself the question "how would Dad view this?". There were choices I made that I was pretty sure he wouldn't like and I took those roads anyhow. There were others that I knew he'd like and still others that I knew were right for me, whether he would approve or not. So I've lived my own life but my father's values have stayed with me.

Thanks, Dad, for being my guiding light, for marrying my mother whose love still sustains me after these many years without her, and for giving J and B and me the moral plumbline you did. Your favorite non-Biblical quote is inscribed on one chamber of my heart: "This above all, to thine own self be true, and it will follow as the night the day---thou canst not then be false to any man." And one of the Biblical quotes you loved is on the other chamber: "What does God require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?"

Every time I preach, every time I offer a prayer or a blessing, I feel your presence. As I write this Sunday's sermon, using the theme "Count Your Blessings", I'll be counting mine and you are one of the greatest (and biggest--at 6'6") in my life. Thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm thinking about what we could do here to stand on the side of love.

I am a little ashamed to admit it...

but this morning I lost it with Lily and Max. Yesterday, though wonderful, being as how I got to get together with Kari and laugh and gossip (and plan our workshop), was a long day, being as how when I go over to the mainland I also try to cram in all the shopping I need to do (Fred Meyer, Trader Joe's and Costco, mainly for staples). I didn't get home till 5 p.m or so, dog-tired and ready to crash early.

Max had been outside since I'd gotten up that morning, about 5 a.m., so he was waiting for me at the door, snarfed down every morsel of food in the dish, and was out like a light all evening. I went to bed about 10, thinking I would at least be sleeping till 5:15 or so, which is when the cats normally come scratching at the door.

(Music changes to grim, dark minor chords) At 4:50 a.m. came the first scratching sounds. "NO!" I hollered at the door, which normally sends them packing. At 4:55 came the second event. "NONONONONO!" I shrieked, knowing as I did that there was no chance I'd go back to sleep after this outburst but hoping that Lily had gotten the message and would wait awhile longer. At 5:00 came the third scratching accompanied by a "mew" that I knew had to be Max, because Lily's mew is much more strident. She had clearly set him up for it.

This time, I threw back the covers, stomped over to the door shouting NONONONONONO at the top of my lungs, wrenched open the door, ready to chase cats as far as I needed to chase them, mentally reviewing how stupid this all looked. Of course, no cats were there, having fled at the first STOMP, and I went sourly back to bed, irritated and feeling foolish to boot, regretting it all but trying to think how I can re-train them to quit scratching at the door in the morning.

I managed to stay in bed till 5:30, at which point I got up and found Max and Lily groveling in the hallway outside my room, Lily lolling on her back in submissive (yeah, right) pretense and Max bouncing up and down embodying the "Oh boy, food food food!" message. Lily, who is the prime culprit here, is neurotic enough without my having probably sent her into a decline for the rest of the day by MY neurotic behavior. For the moment, she has assumed the fetal position next to the heater, looking fragile, if a 15 pound fat calico can look fragile.

But seriously, is there any way to address this without raising my blood pressure? I would be grateful for suggestions and would prefer not to hire the local cat whisperer just yet.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First Blogging Workshop in the PNWD!

Kari of Chalice Spark and I are cooking up a workshop for our District's Annual General Meeting in February. We met today at the Ram in Northgate for lunch and talked about how we could introduce folks to the blogosphere, showing them how blogs can work as congregational tools, as personal journals, as political discussion forums, etc. We're kind of thinking that if we can get a room that has wireless access we will create a blog on the spot, signing up attendees as contributors, and showing them how to use UUpdates, DiscoverUU, and other existing blogs and blog-tools to find material to write about. We'll upload pictures of them onto the blog, with their own writings featured.

Doesn't that sound like fun? We think there are only a bare handful of bloggers in our district. I hope there will be lots more after February!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It has been an excellent day!

This morning, our membership chair L. and I offered our first "UU101" class of the year, to which 10 new folks came. ALL of them are now actual, book-signed members! Three had signed before the class; seven signed today. Wow! We will be welcoming 13 new members into our midst on Nov. 23.

This afternoon, I went down to Rockhoppers to meet with K who wanted to talk about her yearning for more spiritual content in her life and in worship; K grew up in our congregation and is now a young mother of two who sees her 8 year old getting the kind of spiritual experience in RE that she longs for. We had a wonderful conversation and decided we would make an effort to bring YA's together for a regular experience of worship and friendship, with child care and food available.

This evening, we had our Conversation on Principle #6, world community. Only two people attended, but we had some good conversation and sharing of ideas about this principle and also the various experiences we had had which seemed to relate to it.

I'm tired but exhilarated by the day! And Max is home safe and it's not yet 9 o'clock! Yay!

Tomorrow I go over to Woodinville to preach and then will meet my new pal Kari of Chalice Spark to discuss the workshop on blogging that we plan to offer at our upcoming Annual General Meeting in February.

I'm looking forward to writing the sermon for the 23rd on Counting Our Blessings. I wonder if I can inveigle the congregation into singing that old hymn? Hmmmm.

I find myself bored with...

some of the topics others are dealing with in their blogs and I'm not sure why. Partly it's because I often go through an autumn slowdown creatively; there's just too much church stuff needing my attention, from growth on steroids in the congregation (we went from 10 kids enrolled in RE to 40, overnight), the need for policies about building use and rental fees enacted immediately, the acoustics in the sanctuary---you get the picture. This is hands-on stuff, immediately requiring attention, and my brain just isn't taking time to think about such things as:

"Oh no, a UU World article discussing all the ways we can/cannot eat ethically."
"Oh no, a ministers' chat discussion about the Mormons and the upcoming Salt Lake City GA and whether we should boycott (no) or stage a wedding-in (maybe) or some other pointed act of opposition to the passage of Prop 8 and its clones."

You get the picture. These are actually kind of interesting things to think about but I'm just not enthused about going there.

Here's something that does interest me: how often extremely smart, well-educated people see criticism and condemnation in places where criticism and condemnation are more in the mind of the beholder than in the intent of the creator. It seems to be one of the more negative aspects of being extremely smart, that we jump to the sort of paranoid conclusion that we are being criticized and condemned.

This is a definite failing of mine. I have learned that when I'm feeling critical of someone else's behavior (and I sometimes get so bad at this that I obsess about another's behavior) I need to recognize that it's MY behavior I'm really obsessing about.

So I'm not planning to weigh in on ethical eating, Salt Lake and the Mormons, Prop 8 and its clones, the election, Sarah Palin, Barack (well, maybe Barack). I am going to tell you something else that seems worth mentioning: the similarities between Magnificent Max the Massacrer and the Favorite Son.

Actually, it's not so much the similarities between cat and young man, it's more the similarities between my anxieties about each of them---at least when the FS was much younger, more the age of Maxie the Magnificent, who is now approximately the equivalent of 16 human years old.

Last night Max didn't come in at his regular time----dinner. I had been out and about with friends and expected he would be eagerly awaiting me when I got home about 7:00. Nope. So I fired up the teevee and watched the Colbert Report (delayed edition), got online and played some games, read a little, worked on today's UU 101 class, always expecting to hear his plaintive mew. It got to be 10 p.m. and no Max.

I just had to go to bed because I knew I'd be up early, so I hollered out the door "Max, come home, I'm going to bed now!", turned off the deck light, and went to bed, but read for awhile, assuming he'd be scratching at the window shortly. No Max. At 10:30, I turned out the light, said a little prayer that he'd be okay and home soon. At 11:30, still no Max. Hoping he wasn't dead in a ditch, I slept intermittently until 1:30 a.m., when the little mew came at my window and Max was home.

The similarity is that I used to do the same with the FS. He can attest that there were nights when he'd find me glaring out the window at 3 a.m. when I finally heard his car in the drive. When he was 16, we both found this rather appropriate. When he was 21, not so much.

Max is old enough to fend for himself, as was the FS in many ways. The FS didn't drag home headless bunnies or other dead things, fortunately, though he did have some very interesting friends. And the FS didn't come home drunk or stoned (at least that I know of---and don't tell me differently, FS, keep me innocent), while Max comes home with mouse on his breath and feathers in his whiskers on occasion.

I've learned that I can't really prevent Max (nor could I prevent the FS) from doing dangerous, obnoxious things. The consequences have to be his, though I am often needed to clean up a mess or to retrieve him from his perch overlooking the neighbor's fish pond. He's a cat; he's going to act like a cat. The FS was a boy; he acted like a boy and now acts like a man.

I'm grateful to have both of them in my life, even if it does/did mean some sleepless nights.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Doing something locally for veterans

Veterans' Day is not your typical holiday. We don't much say "Happy Veterans' Day" to our friends and neighbors because it's not an occasion for shopping or for gifts or festive meals. There's a place inside us that recognizes that an awful lot of our veterans are far from happy and the events they have witnessed are dreadful and mostly not occasions for celebration.

We go to the parade, maybe, or buy a poppy from the American Legion, or say thank you to a vet we know personally. But we don't go much beyond that.

Coincidentally, today was the day I met with J., the mother of an Afghanistan vet who came home with PTSD and is currently receiving heavyduty treatment at a VA hospital in Oregon. J has been frustrated that so few services are available for vets on our end of the island and I am interested in helping her.

We met over at Island Cafe for an hour or so and hatched a plan with short-term and long-term goals. I'm going to identify those within my congregation who have ties to the military---either on active or retired status, former military, military families, former military brats, the whole spectrum---in hopes of finding a core group of UUs to help. Then we're going to schedule a get-together to talk about how we can help, what we can offer to this budding effort.

Once we have a working group which includes folks from my congregation, possibly other congregations, secular organizations and VFW and American Legion, therapists/artists/musicians/whoever wants to help, we're going to find funding to help us set up a local alcohol-free drop-in center with a pool table, a coffee machine, some furniture, etc., where vets can hang out with each other.

We UUs often say "we support the troops---bring them home", but once they're home we aren't very realistic about what they need. I hope we'll be able to offer them something once they get here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I think I'm in love...

with our President-Elect. The new Time magazine arrived today and as I read the several articles dealing with Barack Obama, I was struck by my attraction to him as a man. It isn't because he's handsome and young and sexy. It's because he is thoughtful and intelligent and funny (but apologizes when a joke goes askew) and adores his wife and children; he has stayed connected to his family of origin, he has a clear eye and a serene countenance. His words are measured and he seems to think before he speaks. Other people like and love him. He is a man of integrity who is not afraid to take bold steps. In short, he's the man of my dreams. I'm glad he's going to run the country for us.

During the Bush years, prominent (and not so prominent) men have been objects of ridicule. Though I have made jokes myself about some of the worst examples of despotic and/or clueless males, I always feel a little guilty about it, because males are too often the object of ridicule. Take most prime time sitcoms---who's the stooge? Why, the husband, of course.

I can't imagine anyone ridiculing Obama in the ways they have ridiculed George W. Bush. I know it will happen in some circles at least, but comedians will have a bit less to work with. And instead of making him look like a fool, jokes at his expense will give him a chance to respond in his characteristic serene ways, taking the punchlines and running with them. The best target of jokes is the one who can give as good as he gets; the worst target is the one who just looks foolish. What fun is that? And Bush has mostly just looked foolish.

I've had some great men in my life. My former husband, the FS's dad, the George Clooney lookalike, had such a knack with words and wordplay; we had our private word jokes that I still remember fondly. It wasn't enough to keep us going but it was good stuff. Another long-term love was encouraging of my budding musical skills, never critical, a good friend, a family man of integrity. And the man who still claims the "Love of my Life" title was funny, refused to think badly of others or to let a disparaging comment go unchallenged, and he thought I was beautiful. If I could have packaged all three of these guys into one single man, he would have been a lot like Barack Obama.

At my age, it's probably too late to hope for Mr. Mostly Right to arrive, though I've never given up hope! I love being with good men, men who can carry on an actual conversation, men who think, men who are good at what they do, men who don't make excuses, men who like me and are not threatened by my work. There are a couple out there in the island's music world who seem like contenders but at this stage in my life, I'm not pushing for anything, just enjoying their company!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Non-election-related news

Okay, I lied. I do want to say one election-related thing. It's the "yeah but" factor that I've noticed arising in the wake of a history-making election victory by the first black presidential candidate. As my dad used to say, "a yeah but is a half-brother to a halibut" and he would invariably say it when I'd begin to argue with some pronouncement he'd made. I was never quite sure at the time what he meant, but I did learn not to argue with him!

There's a lot of "yeah-butting" going on now that Barack Obama is the President-elect. I find it in myself too: "yeah, but will he be able to do what he said he would do?" "yeah, but will he and his family be safe, with the racism that still exists in our country?" "yeah, but what if he falls on his face?" "yeah, but look at all the other stuff that went wrong"

It's the political equivalent of "this old thing? I just threw it on" or "you're just saying that to be nice" or "I do? you must be crazy to think I look good today" or "it was nothing---it was what anyone would have done". Hasn't Miss Manners straightened us all out yet? You receive a compliment, an accolade, a recognition of your hard work and YOU SAY THANK YOU! not depreciate the wonderfulness of the moment.

So to all those who just have to qualify the election of this remarkable man, this remarkable event, with all their "yeah buts"-----we know there are hard times ahead, we know it didn't go great for everyone. Could we just enjoy this moment for awhile without all the downer talk? Thanks.

Now on to the non-election-related news, for I skipped over a couple of things that happened over the weekend.

Saturday night was our auction and my little band provided the entertainment, 45 minutes of great songs well done. We were well-received, though the noise level in the place as people perused the silent auction tables and sipped wine and ate munchies was pretty high and I'm not sure how well people could hear us. Luckily, we could turn up the amps. Our "Bayview Sound" would have been more aptly titled "Bayview Pond", as we were down to three members, two of the others being either sick or unavailable.

The service the next day went very well. People liked the reading and the sermon (for both, you can scroll down to earlier posts to read them). We had good attendance, too, despite the big bash the night before. Rumor has it that we did very well with the auction, bringing in even more than last year's event.

Bayview Sound ( oh dear, that's BS for short, isn't it?) is working on several new songs, including one I found by Old Crow Medicine Show entitled "I Hear Them All". Check it out over at Will's place.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wrung out like a dishrag...

as my mother used to say, meaning that she had gotten pretty tired after a long siege of demands upon her. Others say "rode hard and put away wet" to mean about the same thing. Me, I feel like I'm beginning to wake up to a new day, as though emerging from a long nightmare over which I had little control, which I could not even wake up from.

I hadn't publicly taken a position on the election, though anyone who knows me would guess I'd vote for Obama/Biden. And I did. But I don't feel it's quite proper for me as a minister to broadcast my support for a candidate and take the chance of making those who don't agree feel unwelcome in our congregation.

At our worship committee meeting yesterday, we were talking about the service last Sunday and teasing out the best practices we'd seen (we focus on this, rather than negatives). I mentioned that something that made me uncomfortable was the candle lit at Joys and Concerns by a person who seemed to assume that every person present was an Obama supporter. I winced because I know we have Republicans in the congregation who are good human beings and had their own reasons for supporting McCain. Others agreed and we spent a little time talking about how to deal with such a thing, though we didn't come to any conclusion other than to wait and see if it happens again.

There has been in me, all during the recent months of the election campaign, a sense of "duck and cover", of hanging on to a capsized boat in hopes that rescue would come soon. I hoped to be rescued by allies, but I just wanted to be rescued. My Myers Briggs score is ENFJ, heavy on the J----the need for closure. Just give me a decision----I'll work with it. But don't make me hang on too long.

One of my minister colleagues commented recently that she was riding the Cranky Bus, miffed about this and that, impatient, snarky about everything going on in the church. I have to say I have felt the same way for weeks.

I've been yelling at the cats for wanting in and then immediately wanting out again. Lily is a whiner, walking around the house meowing loudly and apparently aimlessly. Loosy is an obsessive licker, wanting to lick me constantly. Max is too loving and in my face rubbing up against my freshly creamed and chapsticked skin and leaving long white hairs clinging annoyingly.

I've been feeling impatient, though I hope I'm hiding it successfully and being pastoral, with glitches in a variety of situations at church, knowing that my impatience is linked to the long nightmare, not to the actual event I'm impatient about.

That's the key for me, figuring out where the crankiness and impatience are coming from and focusing on that instead of the immediate situation. I've been shouting silently at other drivers more lately, rolling my eyes in the grocery store at what I perceive as stupidity or disrespect, wanting to bop somebody on the head for just sitting sideways on my favorite exercise bike at the gym and having a long conversation with the woman on the next bike who is actually exercising while he is not. GRRRRRRR!

But it's all related, I think, to the terrible losses of these past eight years, the disrespect and lack of compassion for other people, the dishonesty of those who have brought about the current economic crisis, the materialism that suffuses American culture, the disregard for the health of our planet, and the actual cultivation of practices that actively hurt people and hurt the planet.

When I was active in a 12-step program, I heard a lot of people mention how the particular problem they were dealing with might have been the best thing that ever happened to them, because they hit bottom and were forced to re-evaluate their lives and seek healing and reconciliation. Maybe the Bush years were the best thing that ever happened to America, because we may have hit bottom and are now on the way back up. Back up to becoming a world power that is respected for its character, not its wealth or might. Back up to encouraging people to get an education, not so they'll be rich but so they'll be wise. Back up to loving our neighbors as ourselves, not so we can use them but so that we can help them.

Right now I'm just waking up from the nightmare and, though wrung out like a dishrag, starting to believe in America again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Heart of Democracy

Today is traditionally "Election Sunday", the day when Unitarian ministers in early days would offer their take on the upcoming election, two days away. In those days, they were less reined in by IRS regulations and could tell their flocks who to vote for, though who knows if their flocks did what they were told. "Flock" tends to be a misnomer among UUs, given that it often refers to sheep. But here's what I offered my flock today.

Rev. Kit Ketcham, Nov. 2, 2008

We had launched our boat trip down the Grand Canyon at the Vermillion Cliffs, at Lee's Ferry, Arizona. It was about noon on that first day when we pushed out into the Colorado River and headed downstream, past the tall cliffs that mark the entrance to this 300 mile long geology lesson.

I've always been a person who likes diving down to the heart of things, in this case, the layers of rock laid down over millions of years of geologic history. Over the next three weeks, as the river took us deeper and deeper into the heart of the Canyon, our small party of boaters watched Earth's physical history revealed in the layers of rock that striped and colored the cliffs.

We had started out on the Kaibab Plateau, where the dusty white layer of sandy limestone looks much like a pesky bathtub ring, and during the next few days, descended through layers of time: the Toroweap Formation, Coconino, Hermit, and Supai layers, and the brilliant Redwall Limestone which is responsible for so much of the color that stains the walls of the Grand Canyon.

By the time we reached the Inner Gorge of the Canyon, we had traversed in our little rafts millions of years of Earth's formation and we still were far from the Center of the Earth.

Jules Verne, in his classic 1864 science fiction novel, depicted the Center of the Earth as a hollow place full of prehistoric animals and natural hazards, reachable through the interior passages of an Icelandic volcano.

This novel, "Journey to the Center of the Earth", written about the time that geologists were abandoning the literal biblical account of the creation of the earth, had the educational purpose of showing how the world looked millions of years ago, from the Ice Age to the dinosaurs, for Verne had carefully taken his explorers down through the layers of rock, showing the different creatures which inhabited each period in geologic history.

Humans have always speculated about the true heart of the earth and our scientists' investigations have revealed it as a molten core of liquid iron and other minerals, alive and acting upon the body of the earth keeping it in a state of constant metamorphosis, with earthquakes, eruptions, and other seismic events, affecting weather patterns through its effect on sea currents, and thereby impacting our lives every day.

All living organisms seem to have a living core which keeps the organism going, keeps its internal systems healthy, makes it possible for the organism to interact with other organisms and produce communities--of bacteria, of families, of forests and pods and gardens and the myriad of beings co-existing interdependently on the earth.

You and I have hearts as our living core, the most important organ in our bodies, for without it we die. When my brother was so ill a few months ago, living on the energy produced by a battery pack which he lugged around with him constantly as his own heart deteriorated, his family and friends became deeply aware of how essential a healthy heart is. And his heart transplant last summer has meant the return of his life. Without that new heart, he doubtless would be dead by now.

It's easy to see what keeps a living organism going---its heart is that mechanism which powers a body or a collection of cells which are shaped into diverse forms, from the smallest bacterium to the largest being.

It's not as easy to see what powers a living concept. Our theme today is "The Heart of Democracy" and I invite you to go with me as we follow the threads that lead us deeper and deeper into this concept which is so important in our lives, both as Americans on the brink of an election and as Unitarian Universalists who consider democracy to be a religious principle.

Our human bodies are the visible manifestation that something lies at our core. We feel, we bleed, we breathe, we think, we clearly are powered by some energy that is not visible on the surface. Our senses may go, we may lose much of our blood supply and even our intelligence but we are still alive. Even when we cease to breathe, we may still be alive. Even when our heart seems to have stopped, it may sometimes still be re-started.

What is the most visible manifestation of democracy? I would say that it is probably the vote, the expression of one's opinion in an election, when the majority rules, when the greater body of voters decides how issues will be resolved or which candidates will take power or what ordinances will become law.

Yet we all suspect, I'd guess, that there is more to democracy than voting. So let's look for the layers beneath that visible manifestation of one person, one vote.

As a sidebar, let me mention that it's a feature of our representative democracy that we do not vote directly on every issue that confronts us as Americans. We instead vote for our representatives, those women and men whom we expect to do their best to provide a stable and just nation for us to live in. We expect them to have the best interests of our nation in mind as they do their work. We are, because of that, a republican (small R) democracy.

Because we are at least one step out in the process for many issues that directly affect us, we can hardly consider our representatives in Congress to be the heart of democracy. They are a feature which makes it easier to get things done, like the kidneys or the liver, but democracy would not die without elected representatives.

Going back to the idea of "one person, one vote" let's look more deeply at this feature of democracy. What is underneath this particular feature? It showcases the real or purported power and influence of one person and one person's conscience and ability to speak one's own truth. Where does this power come from? Is there a pathway here to the heart of democracy, like Jules Verne's passage through that Icelandic volcano to the center of the earth?

This powerful feature is right in line with our UU principles, particularly our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Yet we have seen the very public corruption of this facet of the democratic process. We have seen the immoral character of some of our representatives smeared across the headlines of our media. We have seen people accused fairly and unfairly of heinous acts. We have seen the votes of our representatives bought and paid for by corporate interests. We have seen individuals in our communities talked into voting against their own best interests by leaders who have only personal self-interest in mind.

So no matter how inherently worthy and dignified we may be as individuals, the truth is that our power and influence as individuals is limited in its sphere. We are free to vote as we will, but our influence and power are negligible unless we form coalitions and associations with others to strengthen our position.

The history of democracy is a checkered one at best. Non-democratic or quasi-democratic nations hold elections, yes, in lip service to the idea of "one person, one vote", but in reality, there is often no choice of candidates, no real way to effect change in the nation. There may be only one party of candidates. There may be threatened violence to dissenters. There may be coups which overthrow one elected regime in favor of another. This is especially true in formerly colonized nations. And there is a great deal of controversy world-wide about how to bring about a better democratic process in non-democratic and quasi-democratic nations.

There is controversy in our nation about whether our voting process is corruption-proof and a good deal of concern about how to include every eligible voter, how to handle voter fraud, and how to increase voter participation. If "one person, one vote" is to be meaningful, every voice must be heard and counted. When millions of people face losing their vote because of faulty procedures or outright corruption, "one person, one vote" doesn't mean much.

An informed and fully-franchised electorate is not the heart of democracy, though we are making progress in our journey to the center of the earth, excuse me, the center of democracy.
The layer beneath the electorate is conscience, I believe, a sure sense of right and wrong, a desire to speak one's truth and not to be "bought", not to be inveigled into wrong thinking, not to give in to selfish interests, but rather focused on the greater good.

Our conscience, at its best, looks past its own point of view, looks for what will maintain not only healthy humane life for all beings but health for communities as well. Conscience is aware of both one's privilege and one's responsibility.

But however keen our conscience may be, it is not easy to exercise conscience if one does not have the freedom to do so.

Perhaps the layer beneath conscience might be individual freedom and next to it, a recognition and acknowledgement of that freedom. If we are unaware of our individual freedom or if we are prevented from acknowledging it, like those in oppressed conditions, we are not free.

So freedom may be the heart of democracy, and recognition and acknowledgement of that freedom may be its activating force. Without individual freedom and awareness of that freedom, democracy will surely expire, as it has time and again in oppressive regimes.

Now, we may have dived down to the Heart of Democracy, but I don't want to stay there. An active and healthy body does not strictly rely on heart function. It relies on the interdependence of organs, tendons, bones, blood, the many body parts which together make our bodies fully functional. Like our physical bodies, Democracy relies on more than individual freedom.

This past week, I spent three days with my UU colleagues in ministry, a little R&R time for sure but also an opportunity to talk about how we are together, how we support each other, how we care for each other and for each other's ministries with respect and assistance.

Our purpose was to create a collegial covenant together and we spent hours talking about what it means to have a covenant. And this is where I want to draw our attention today because it relates to the heart of democracy.

Our UUCWI affirmation contains the word "covenant" as does the charter of the UUA. "This is our great covenant", we say every Sunday, "to dwell together in peace, to speak truth in love, and to help one another." And our denomination is founded upon principles that we covenant to affirm and promote.

A covenant is not a contract. It is not a business arrangement. Instead, it is an act of mutuality, of consent and promise, of obligation to one another, of shared destination, of shared affection. It is living, renewable, sustainable, reciprocal. It empowers us to reach out to one another. It clarifies assumptions about our roles within the community.

When we have created our mutual covenant as colleagues, it will probably read something like this, which is the covenant of the Iroquois Chapter of the St. Lawrence District:

Mindful of our common calling,
conscious of our need to be together and
inspired by our commitment to Unitarian Universalism,
we covenant:
to share our stories
to nurture our spirituality
to minister to one another
and to celebrate our life together.

This is a covenant among ministers. It says, in effect, that we will take care of each other, that we will cherish our time together, that we understand what it means to have a calling to ministry, that we are mutually committed to our faith, and that our relationships with each other are important and worthy of nurture.

Just as democracy is less than healthy if all its parts are not working well or are not working together, a community's health is enhanced by a covenant which speaks to our life together.

The late Unitarian Universalist minister Napoleon Lovely once wrote: "The bonds of love keep open the gates of freedom". A covenant based on shared affection helps to insure the freedom of all in the community.

When we are in a covenantal relationship, we promise to each other that we will care for one another, that we wish to live in peace with one another, that we will give and receive freely, that we will speak our truth with love and respect, that we will say yes when asked for help. These are all religious acts, spiritual disciplines, the promise of a covenantal relationship.

It is not always easy to be in a covenantal relationship, as those of you who have been married, who are still married or in a longterm loving relationship, can attest. Very few covenants, even marriage covenants, are written down anywhere but in our hearts, and the assumptions about the covenant between partners or in a community can be wildly inaccurate. Those of us who are no longer married can attest to that one!

A covenant is dependent on trust, on a shared sense of purpose, shared affection, and a mutuality of obligation. It is most successful when it is publicly affirmed and written down somewhere besides just our hearts.

I am hoping that in the next year or two, we will do some thinking together about our shared covenant, examining our Sunday affirmation to see if it says everything that we have and are together, and including a statement of our mission, our shared purpose in this larger community.

Let me end with a story which I think acknowledges our shared, but mostly unspoken, covenant together and perhaps points up the wisdom of making our covenant explicitly known to one another.

Last spring, leaders in our congregation became interested in taking a stand on an important issue in our world: the issue of torture and its illegality, its cruelty, and its uselessness. This is a First Principle issue, for torture degrades and abases human worth and dignity.

To determine the level of support in the congregation for placing a banner on our property stating "Torture is a Moral Issue", a poll was taken via email and many positive responses were received. No negative responses emerged at that time, but after the banner went up, we discovered that several people in the congregation had not been aware that there was a poll and a few were unhappy---not because they believed torture was a good thing but because they felt it unwittingly sent an anti-military message and this was hurtful to our military families and would likely discourage new military families from feeling welcome here.

It wasn't immediately possible to resolve this situation but we vowed to do so as soon as we could schedule a meeting in our new building, and a couple of weeks ago, 15 or so people met here to talk about how to address the issue of the banner.

The conversation was respectful, passionate, and gradually a mutual understanding emerged: that the language of the banner was the sticking point, that a new banner's language would read: "Torture: End it Now!". I was in awe as I saw this happen. I hadn't known what to expect. I had hoped for a peaceful outcome, but to find this level of cooperation and understanding of other points of view was remarkable.

I saw our dissenters speaking their truth in love. I saw our supporters of the original banner hearing the pain of the dissenters. I saw the group striving for a mutual resolution that met the needs of both sides. I saw two sides come together in respect and affection. I saw people who had been uncomfortable expressing dissent speaking freely, no longer so afraid that their truth was not welcome.

I heard and saw love in the room, a caring for others, a desire for peace, a sharing of purpose. I saw a sense of freedom and of relief that we can create growth out of differences of opinion.
We affirmed our spoken and unspoken covenant together that night. And I was pleased. And those attending were pleased. And I believe the Universe was pleased as well.

Let's pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that we are here together in love, that we shape our lives by giving and receiving love, and that we share a common purpose, to increase love and justice in our world. May we find ways to do this in our everyday lives, in our work, and in our play. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.

Saturday, November 01, 2008