In the Interim: 5/3/2019

terri-burnorThe other day, I sat in a circle with about 40 men who are incarcerated at the Minnesota state correctional facility in Stillwater. They had come for a session in mindfulness meditation, which is offered twice a month by a group of volunteers. I’ve been to Stillwater before, but I’m just starting to volunteer with this particular group.

We went to the prison chapel, and the four of us who were there to facilitate set up the room for a typical attendance of 25-30. More and more men kept arriving until nearly every chair was used, and we ended up creating a circle that pushed to the perimeters of the space. It was the largest number that have ever come.

Patrice, the leader of our group, has been guiding this mindfulness practice in prison for nearly 20 years. She creates an atmosphere of both openness and boundaries, helping the men receive the gift of silence and stillness, when that is such a rare commodity in this place. She invites them to try the meditations and allows individuals to leave after the chime rings if the experience isn’t right for them in that moment. She acknowledges that some may fall asleep and that is okay. She sets clear expectations and guidance for the time together. And she accepts the men where they are. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 4/19/2019

meg-rileyYou’ll receive this on Good Friday, and as the day turns to night, Passover seders will begin all over the world.  Though UUs mark Easter in our own ways, we do little to note the crucifixion which must happen before the ressurection can occur.  And while  about ten percent of us are “Jewnitarian,” the UU seders I’ve attended over the years have been brief and abbreviated, nothing like the long forays into deep discussion and reflection I’ve celebrated in the houses of Jewish friends.

Sometimes I long for more of a liturgical year for Unitarian Universalists. Various people have written them over the years, and some congregations opt into them.  At UUCM, engaging in theme-based ministry connects us to dozens of other congregations pondering the same monthly topics.  But none of those optional calendars have the depth of the year that a Christian or Jewish or Muslim calendar holds, and sometimes I long for that.  Many of us create our own seasonal rituals and choose to align our energy with that of the earth more than with a particular faith community. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 4/12/2019

arif-mamdaniIs wholeness something we have, like a possession? Carefully gathered and held on to? Or is it something that we notice when it is present, but isn’t necessarily something we can create or intentionally bring into being? This is just one of the many questions we’re invited into as we travel the terrain of wholeness this month. Wholeness can be surprisingly difficult to define – that’s what makes it a good topic for spiritual exploration! Yet this slipperiness can also raise our hackles a bit. If wholeness is something good, if it’s a desired character trait, some of us would like nothing more than to define it, affirm that we posses it, and move on.

What’s also true is that engaging the topic of wholeness can lift up and point out the places in our lives where we don’t experience wholeness and wish that we did. Whether from the loss of a loved one, work that isn’t fulfilling, the emptiness of an ended or absent relationship, or a sense of spiritual or existential emptiness, when we turn our hearts toward wholeness we can’t help but notice the places where we don’t feel whole. So, as we move into this theme, let’s remember to be gentle with ourselves and with each other. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 3/29/2019

terri-burnorI woke up on Thursday all excited about the possibility for the day. This day was the season opener for major-league baseball and the Twins home opener. My spouse and I have been part of a season ticket group going far back into the Metrodome days. We rarely miss the start. It is my favorite game of the entire year. There is so much excitement and energy and curiosity. New players. New team. New season. (By the way, the Twins won 2-0 in one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time.)

Even though all of us Twins fans know it’s a rebuilding year, we’re still teased by the possibilities, still dream about what could happen — maybe not this year, but perhaps, just maybe, not that far away either. Or maybe not. Who knows!?!

Sports (and especially the professional sporting industry) are not perfect. Yet they can offer a great teaching in life’s journey of possibilities, momentum, resiliency and hope.

As we close out this month on the theme of journey, I continue to be guided by the related theme of possibilities that are inherent along the way. With that, I wonder … what if we looked for the most obvious possibilities right in front of us? Continue reading →

In the Interim: 3/22/2019

meg-rileyDear Friends,

As I promised in last week’s service (Music Sunday!), I’ll share information (below) about becoming an observer at immigration/ deportation trials.  I recommend it.  If you are unable to help out during the day, as this task requests, there are huge numbers of other ways to be of support to immigrants.

If you are interested in becoming a court observer, here’s good advice from my friend Amy Lange, who has gotten deeply involved with the process:

The Human Rights Defender Project is a collaboration between the Advocates For Human Rights, The Binger Center for New Americans (at UMN law school) and Robins Kaplan Law. The goal of this project is to bring transparency and accountability to immigration court.

The first step to volunteering is to watch this video. After you watch the video you can sign up for shifts here. You’ll also find the sign up link on the video home page. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 3/15/2019

arif-mamdaniWe are on our way! Our journey has begun!

Where are we headed?

Toward a budget for next year!

How are we going to get there?

With your contributions to this year’s stewardship campaign: Growing 2030 Possibilities!

I have a secret to share with you all.

The secret is this: I love stewardship campaigns.

That might be an odd thing to hear from a member of your interim ministry team. So often, we hear that folks hate fundraising, that money stresses folks out, and that budgets are a source of angst and worry. And sure, I feel all those things too, but on balance, I love stewardship campaigns.

I love them because it continues to amaze me that groups of people can come together, pool their resources, and collectively create something that could not exist with the efforts of any one person alone. What I think is even cooler is that we’re here, today, because of the generations of people who supported this church, and who supported Unitarian Universalism. Think about that for a moment. Think about the origin of your connection to this church and this faith. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 3/8/2019

meg-rileyI don’t know about y’all but I get pretty crunchy about now every winter in Minnesota.  Here on February 37th, or whatever the date is, I am sick of snow, sick of ice, sick of slush, sick of cold.  I start kicking those ice/filth clumps by my car wheels pretty hard, not that they pay any attention to me.  And don’t even get me started on ice dams.

Times like this, it’s good to remember to breathe, and to seek fluidity wherever we can find it—in swimming pools or bathtubs, in yoga or stretching, in breathing or hunkering down with a good book and warm tea.  Whatever helps us to remember that we don’t need to be clenched all the time!

We all deal with unwanted weather systems of all kinds on our life journeys.   Winters that won’t end, people who won’t listen to us, addictions that won’t obey our will or intentions, illnesses that don’t ask our permission to invade bodies we love, including our own.   It’s easy to believe that we’d be happy if it weren’t’ for these external forces, yet that’s not what research actually shows. Continue reading →