In the Interim: 10/11/2019

meg-rileyMy 23 year old, Jie, recently visited Minnesota from Western Massachusetts, the Pioneer Valley area if you know it.  “Why do you live here?” Jie asked.  “It’s so ugly, and boring, and flat!”

I replied, “I don’t know why, but this just feels like home to me.  I belong here.”

Jie persisted, “But it is so much more beautiful where I live!”

I’m out visiting Jie now, after a UU conference in Connecticut, and I can’t disagree.  The trees are ablaze in reds and golds, there are mountains with streams and rivers tumbling down them, and I absolutely love the stone walls that are frequently seen around New England fields.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  I love it.  It’s much more dramatic and wild than Minnesota.  And…  It doesn’t feel like home.  Though I love to visit, I don’t feel a sense of belonging there. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 10/4/2019

terri-burnorWhat does it mean to belong to a church, to UUCM in particular? Why did you choose to become a member or attend regularly as a friend? What about this place allows you to go deeper, to give of yourself, to take risks, to seek connections, to try, to wonder, to work, to have fun?

What we love, we empower, wrote a now retired UU minister.* In your relationship with and your belonging to UUCM, you commit to empowering this place. And in return, it commits to empowering you. This happens in big and small ways through the trust, vulnerability, and openness that are required in the quality of belonging. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 9/20/2019

arif-mamdaniWe’ve been back at church for a while now, but it still feels like we’re returning. Perhaps it’s the sudden and somewhat unexpected burst of warm weather. Maybe it’s just that I got sick last weekend and wasn’t able to join you at church, but to me, it feels like we’re still not quite back into the church year yet. There’s a transience to things on the surface. At the same time, there’s a deeper sense of permanence as newly graduated, I return to the rhythms of life outside of the academic world. I’ve caught myself thinking “oh yeah, I remember how it is to *not* got back to class in September!”

In the midst of all these musings on the transient and the permanent, I’ve been recalling Theodore Parker’s sermon of the same name (well, sort of). In a sermon/essay titled “A Discourse of the Transient and Permanent in Christianity,” Parker explores this dynamic of what is transient and what is permanent in religion, and in his case, Christianity. I’m not going to step on Parker’s punchline and ruin it for you – you can read it here if you want, but what it made me think about is the transient and permanent character not just of religion, but of religious community, particularly this one.  Continue reading →

In the Interim: 9/13/2019


It’s been my privilege to hold worship as central in my portfolio as part of the troika providing interim ministry to this congregation.  That’s why you see more of me in the pulpit than you do of Rev. Terri or Arif—I’m the minister for worship arts.

It’s been wonderful to work with the Worship Arts Ministry team, a strong team with great skills and devotion.  We meet monthly and dream, scheme, plot and plan what’s coming along.  We work closely with Paul Winchester and the Music Ministry team, Jennifer Zwick and the religious education folks.  And we could use more members!

If helping with worship in any way is an exciting idea for you, I encourage you to come to a half-day training on Saturday, September 28, 9 AM to noon, to reflect more about it.  Our team members don’t all stand up on the chancel—indeed some of them say they’d prefer having 3 root canals to doing that—but help in ways large and small, visible and invisible.  All kinds of different skills are necessary. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 9/6/2019

terri-burnorThroughout the summer, a group of congregational leaders, staff, and the interim ministry team, came together to imagine how UUCM’s mission and ends (the longer range goals of the congregation) could more intentionally be brought into the active work of the church. We engaged in study, reflection and conversations. We dreamt big, wrestled with how things are and how things could be, learned more about governance, asked hard questions with care, allowed space, and became clearer in the what and why behind all this hard work.

The end result was the creation of three areas of focus that UUCM’s core ministries will be accountable to for the 2019/2020 church year.  Continue reading →

In the Interim: 6/28/2019

arif-mamdaniThe beauty of summer!

Well, I think it is official. With the summer solstice behind us, and the weather forecast predicting temperatures in the 90s with corresponding dewpoints, I think it is fair to say that summer is here.

There’s an old joke that says Unitarian Universalists are the only ones that God trusts to take summers off. It’s offered as an explanation for why UU churches go into “away mode” in the summer. And, in many ways it is true that our congregations tend to be a little less well attended in the summer months. Owing perhaps to our roots being rather tightly intertwined with that of institutions of higher education, and owing too to the fact that our tradition has historically valued a highly educated ministry (PhDs are welcome here!), we are accustomed to the academic calendar and it isn’t uncommon for UU ministers to take some extended time away during the summer.

And so, in keeping with that tradition, I want to let you know that over the next month or so, you can expect a couple of things to be different. First and foremost, this column will be taking a break, and will resume as we start things up again in August. Second, Meg is away through mid-August, and Terri and I (Arif) will be less physically present in the church, but still checking in and available.

This does not mean that we are not present or that you’re on your own! To paraphrase the title of Rev. Kate Braestrup’s wonderful book on her experiences as a chaplain with the Maine warden service, we are here if you need us. So, if you find that you do need us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. And as always, in the event of an emergency, call us.

May the longer days of summer bring a slower and more sustainable pace. May you have at least one moment by a lake where the sound of the water and the play of light helps you remember our interconnection to each other and the wider world around us.

May you have a wonderful summer.

— Arif

Each week (starting again in August), the interim ministry team will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme, the state of the church, or the state of the world. MegTerri and Arif will alternate writing this “In the Interim” post. We encourage your comments.

In the Interim: 6/21/2019

terri-burnorI live in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. In the blocks surrounding my home are lots of tudors, a fair number of bungalows (like mine), and colonials. Most of the houses are nicely maintained with foundation or sidewalk edge gardens and mown lawns. I love living in this area so filled with flowers and foliage.

And while I like trim and tidy, I like wild too. I like both. The orderly and thoughtful, and the creative and spontaneous. I need  the unexpected, the not sure and who knows. And, I can sit down for hours researching plants and filling out my custom-created garden database.

My spouse and I have only lived in our new house since November, so this is our first summer. It’s been wonderful discovering what we inherited in the gardens as they’ve come alive with the growing season.

Now I could have spent this time observing, learning and planning  what I wanted to do. That’s a very good thing and I’m doing that. But I also am doing another entirely different thing…. Continue reading →