In the Interim: 12/13/2019

arif-mamdaniAwe.

Awe can be a rather slippery notion for us. It’s easy in this world we inhabit to stay plugged into a life that leaves little room for the miraculous around us, either because we’re philosophically averse to admitting there’s anything beyond our ken, or simply because we’re hustling too hard to notice there’s much beyond the next task, the next appointment, the next bill that needs paying. There are many reasons why it isn’t hard at all to live small and foreshortened lives. 

Church exists to break into and through this feature of modern life and shake us out of our torpor. Church is here to grab us by the metaphorical shoulders, jump up and down, and point at the moon and say “do you see that!” Church is here to gesture around the wide world and say “we are part of all of this!” In other words, church is here to poke, prod, cajole, and otherwise encourage us to cultivate more awe in our lives as a way to wake up to the wonder of the world and find our place in it. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 12/6/2019

meg-rileyAs we explore the theme of awe this month, consider these words from Rev. Kendyl Gibbons:

“Religious community exists to help us deepen and celebrate and be nourished by our authentic experiences of reverence. We gather not because we think we can force those experiences to happen on demand on Sunday morning—sometimes they do, although you can’t count on it—but rather because we want to remember and affirm them; we want to testify that we are the kind of beings who have such experiences, and that they change us for the better, and give shape to the larger meaning of our lives.”

We are a diverse community. Words that some of us might use to express reverence for the vast and infinite universe—God, holy, sacred, divine—might cause others to shut down and lose interest. Really there is no adequate language to describe the mystery of the infinite, and much has been lost trying to force words and creeds on one another throughout history. Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal religion in recognition of that fact: Our principles center us in commitment to common values and action, not language or ritual. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 11/22/2019

terri-burnorI’ve wanted a tattoo for a long time. I think my interest got sparked in seminary (everything happens in seminary!). I have a tattoo pinterest board and saved instagram posts. A potential idea comes to me, and I obsessively look for examples and imagine what my version could look like.

I still don’t have one for many reasons, but I haven’t quite been able to let go of the idea either. One of the images I return to repeatedly is a compass rose. As a female private pilot, it reminds me of friendships, adventures, and “aviatrix” pioneers. It’s also a literal and metaphorical symbol of journey and following (or finding) a direction — themes that have been important in my life.

But despite the compelling case for a compass rose, I haven’t committed to it (or anything else) being a mark on my body. It’s not really about changing my mind or fear of regret. It’s about what something embedded (like ink into skin or beliefs and ideas) can mean or say. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 11/15/2019

arif-mamdaniWhat we pay attention to grows.

I know that I quote this all the time, but this line that adrienne maree brown often quotes is perhaps the crux of the point of spiritual practice. Think about that for a moment. What you pay attention to grows. Which begs the question: where am I, where are you putting your attention?

Try this for the next week. Or even just for the next day. Track where you place your attention. Yes, I’m saying pay attention to where you pay attention – but really! Try this. What do you do when you wake up? Reach for your phone? Check the news or social media? What does that grow in your soul? Continue reading →

In the Interim: 11/8/2019

meg-rileyLast week, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism convened a gathering open to people of all races to reflect on UU theologies centered in the experiences and wisdom of Black people.  All three of your ministers were able to join several hundred other folks who attended, in person or online.  Because it was nearby in St. Paul,  we were able to show up in person.

We attended six plenary sessions reflecting on different aspects of Unitarian Universalism, each with multiple speakers.  Though all were Black, there were radical differences in other identities—gender, size, ability, age, ethnicity/ country of origin, theological orientation.  The variety was intentional and consistent, and the respect for diversity of viewpoint and expression was inspiring.

A couple of the practices at the conference particularly caught my attention.  One was the idea of radical consent.  While asking permission to hug someone is common, at this event we were invited to pay close attention to the energy of the person’s response to such a request—an unenthusiastic ‘sure’ was a signal to us to stand back and give someone space, rather than ignoring the lack of enthusiasm, only hearing the answer we wanted and hugging them.  We were also encouraged to ask if it was OK before sharing intense emotions or information that might be hard to hear, and generally to be sure that our interactions with people were consensual.  I liked that.  It made me pay closer attention to how I interact with people. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 10/25/2019

terri-burnorAs I was flipping through my Facebook feed this morning, two contrasting news stories caught my eye. One was about a Mahtomedi high school sports team who taunted Asian players on the opposing team. The other showed a group of teenage soccer players huddled around a fellow teammate so she could discreetly adjust her hijab.

We choose how or whether we belong to each other. This type of belonging comes from a sense of connection that spans apparent differences. It’s thinking about belonging at the micro-level — trusting how that can help us with the big, scary, or complicated stuff.

Imagine all that may have gone into the relationship between those soccer girls. We don’t have to idealize it or pretend it all went perfectly smoothly. But I think we can surmise all the little things that built one on top of the other to create that kind of awareness and connection. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 10/18/2019

arif-mamdaniGreetings UUCM!

It has come to my attention recently that we as your interim team may not have been clear enough or vocal enough about some shifts in how we’re allocating time amongst the three of us, and what I’m doing this year in addition to working at UUCM. So, here goes:

Rev. Meg, Rev. Terri, and I collectively fill one full time position. This year, differently from last year, Rev. Terri is with you 50% time, and Rev. Meg and I are each 25% time. Our portfolios are largely the same. Rev. Meg handles worship and pastoral care, I handle governance and administration, and Rev. Terri handles congregational life, social justice, and this year, is also handling the majority of staff supervision. The other major change this year is that I’m also working at First Universalist in Minneapolis ¾ time. All of which is to say that you may have noticed you’re seeing me less, and some of you might run into me over at First Universalist if you happen to find yourselves there. Continue reading →