Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Rev Dan Lambert: White Supremacy Culturally Dangerous, Morally Repugnant

First, I will state the obvious. I am a white man. That you can tell by looking at me. You can determine that by looking at my skin.
What you cannot see is my heart. You cannot know my passions, my sorrows, my fears, my loves, my frustrations simply by looking at me.

You cannot know my heart for bringing people together.
You cannot know my desire to heal hurts and to right wrongs.

Why is this important today? Why does this matter as part of the discussion about white supremacy, white privilege, and the Black Lives Matter movement?

It matters because for far too long white people and black people in America have been talking past each other when it comes to race relations.
It matters because for far too long we have looked at each other with suspicion, with contempt, with fear, doubting each other’s motives and hearts. 

I am trying to be part of the solution. I am trying to help. I am trying to be the change I want to see, but our culture does not make that easy.

Here’s what I know:
I know that I do not and have never owned slaves, nor have I ever been a slave.
I know that untold millions of proud Africans were brought to America against their will and enslaved.
I know that, in the 150 years since the end to legal slavery, blacks have not had equal opportunity, equal treatment, or truly equal rights in America.
I know that I can only empathize in part with the plight of blacks because I am not black and cannot experience what they have experienced.

25 years ago, when my auburn-haired girls were only 5 and 2 years old, and my son was a new born, we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, so I could go to seminary. The large townhouse community we moved into was the best option for us because of its location and because the rent was affordable. It also just so happened to be about 85% black. For the first time in my life I WAS in the minority. My girls had no idea what it meant to be in the minority, and I really didn’t want them to know
In the three years we lived there, we all made good friends in the neighborhood. Alexa, Caley, & Cameron played with the other children, and if there was ever a concern or a problem, the almost entirely black community knew exactly which white family the red heads belonged to. 
Yes, there was crime and trouble. There was a murder just three doors down from us one night as a result of a domestic dispute. The couple was white. 

Many people say that our goal should be to raise our children to be color blind. To see all people the same and treat all people the same regardless of race, nationality, or religion. I disagree. In fact, I think that is a very dangerous idea that ignores the realities with which those who are not white, Christian, and male face every day in America.
Rather than being color blind, the preferred goal is to be aware of the systemic racism, bigotry, and prejudice that is deeply rooted in our government, our society, and ourselves in ways that can be very subconscious and difficult to recognize unless you have been on the receiving end of such discrimination.

As a result of living as a minority in that Cincinnati community for much of their formative years, my kids learned to build friendships based on how much fun other kids were, irrespective of color, gender, religion, or socio-economic status. 

Because of that, my three children who experienced being part of the minority have all become champions for social justice in a variety of ways. In fact, my oldest daughter married a terrific guy who just happens to be black. My other daughter taught ME how she sees people’s souls, not the color of their skins, their gender, their religion, or their relative wealth. Her relationships bear witness to that. My son and his wife both majored in the social work field and are dedicated volunteers with a Court-Appointed Special Advocates for families in need.

These experiences and many, many more help illustrate why I am so deeply repulsed by the idea that any individual or any group of people believe they are inherently superior to any other person or group. White supremacy is one of the most culturally dangerous and morally repugnant philosophies active in America today. 

Allow me to remind all of us again that the number one Principle of Unitarian Universalism is the inherent worth and dignity of ALL people.

While I absolutely strive to empathize to the best of my ability with the realities, prejudices, and challenges that blacks are facing, I know that my understanding will always be limited because I am a white male. I want to understand and be more aware of my white privilege and how that affects my daily interaction with, and advocacy for the black community.

I want to be part of the solution. In order to be part of the solution, I know I need to listen more, to read more, to advocate more, to participate more.
That is why I am here today. To listen and to learn. 
It is my moral obligation as a fellow human. Amen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

YouTube Video of Rev Dan Lambert's Nov 19 Sermon

The video of Rev. Dr. Dan Lambert's sermon on Nov 19, 2017 can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-quSgz_hfQ7K1tlRqb7_PA/videos

LIFE OF THE CONGREGATION – Nov 19, 2017

The New UU seminar was held yesterday – 13 new and prospective members attended. Thank you to the members of the Membership Committee for organizing the leading the event. We will be welcoming new members during the service on December 3rd.

The search for a settled minister continues. Some confusion over the UUA process means that the search will take longer than expected. We will continue the search and, in parallel, search for a possible full-time contract minister. It is too early to know if Rev. Dan could be in the frame. I know you will give us both feedback on Dan’s ministry.

The Village Players of the Palm Beaches will be presenting Mike Harabin’s “A Holiday Tale” here in the Sanctuary in December. Our own Joe Suhrbur is one of the singers. I saw an earlier edition of the show two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I encourage you to attend. Tickets are $20 and 90% of the proceeds will be donated to our Congregation. Saturday December 2 at 8pm and Sunday December 3 at 2pm. Barbara has the information.

Thank you all for your support of the Board of Trustees and your active participation in the committees and Congregational activities. Please reach out if Dan or I can help in any way.


Paul G Ward, President, Board of Trustees

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Who Do You Think You Are?

Male … White … U.S. Citizen … Able-Bodied … College Educated … Privileged … Gay … Father … Son … Fiancee … Minority … Unitarian Universalist … Spiritual … Humanist … Leader … Organizer … Business Owner … Copywriter … Gardener … Artist … 

I bring all of these identities, roles, and more to a new life in a new town. 

Moving, although a stressful transition that can bring somewhat jarring and traumatic changes such as a new job or school, a shift in economic responsibilities, leaving behind friends, and losing comforting physical surroundings that represent memories made and relationships started … 

... is also an energizing opportunity that offers you the ability to shed roles and responsibilities that no longer bring joy or meaning to your life, let go of unfulfilled plans or dreams, and allow you to finish writing your previous chapter so a crisp, new page can be turned to start the next one.

In a recent Palm Beach Post article about why some people love South Florida and some do not and move away, it was quoted that “moving does not guarantee happiness”, and demonstrates that continually examining how we view ourselves (and others) and repeatedly asking “who do we think we are” is an important exercise in deepening one’s understanding of oneself and crucial to our lifelong spiritual journey.

All life transitions — be it moving, a birth or death of a loved one, the ending of a marriage — push you to take an introspective look at who you have been, who you are at the moment, and envision your future self.

This exercise of self-exploration and reinvention is hardly limited to moments triggered by external circumstances, but accessible from within at any time.

I have found that a very telling way to check who I think I am at the moment is to view the “curated” identity I present via my social media pages. 

It offers a quick visual representation of the “public” me by the things I “like” and “share, how and what I say in posts, and what confirmation biases I am displaying through them. 

This always forces me to examine how I am presenting myself as authentic versus an idealized or contrived self and exposes areas that I need to re-examine and question further.

Examining identities within a wider circle is an invaluable exercise -- and recently, I, along with many other UUs of the Florida Southeast Cluster had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting and the “Thinking -- and Living -- Outside the Bubble” workshop led by Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith at the Treasure Coast Unitarian Universalist Congregation in nearby Stuart.

A healthy number of our Congregation’s members attended and had the opportunity to (respectfully) burst our bubbles of birth-given privilege, protection, and isolation through exploring our roles and identities to develop deeper understanding of others. 

This Congregation has a wonderful opportunity right now to engage in meaningful conversations about how each of us as individuals and as a whole define this religious community as well as examine how the larger community perceives us.

Being new to this Congregation — I have a much different perspective than a member who has been involved for decades. I look forward to getting to know all of you better — and you me — by hearing your experiences, expectations, beliefs, and values and sharing mine with you.

But, by all of us raising our voices to share, listen, and redefine ourselves as a religious community  — we can both illuminate our congregation’s positive attributes and identify its “growing edges” — all invaluable for informing our developing a ministerial road map for our future. 

Much like the brightly colored and patterned strips of fabric that make up the tapestry panels in our sanctuary, all of our unique — as well as shared identities and roles — are woven into a vibrant and pattern that incorporates each individual into one cohesive whole. 

It takes a lot of stitching, weaving, and pricked fingertips to bring the whole forth, but the journey and the results can be magnificent.

This exploration of the mystery, and the movement of the unknown into the light, is one of the projects of our spiritual journeys.  Deepening our understanding of ourselves.  Gaining courage in exposing more of ourselves to others.   This is one of the important ways that we find meaning in our lives -- how we discover our truth.

Creating a safe space for this exploration is one of the important functions of a religious community.  Providing opportunities for people to know themselves better.  Encouraging respectful engagement … that allows us to walk together on the journey…  and to live more fully into the possibilities of human relationship. 

We are here to nurture these important human needs.  To know ourselves and to know others.  

As we move more and more of our lives in the sunshine, we have more light on our path, and more warmth in our relationships, and more energy to give back to the world.

Amen and blessed be.

(With gratitude to Rev. Kathy Schmitz of 1U Orlando for her inspiration in developing this service)

Excerpts from "Who Do You Think You Are", a sermon delivered by David Traupman at 1stUUPB, Oct 22, 2017. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Meditation, by Amy Stauber

In this quiet, still space,
the dust can gently settle.
The sands can softly sift through the glass,
and we can hear the quiet voices.

The voices of Spirit
ever present beneath the buzz and hum of daily living.

We create sacred space here, now, together

for soul to emerge and flower within our hearts.

Words for meditation by Amy Stauber, delivered by the author from the 1stUUPB pulpit, Oct 29, 2017.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Alloween: the Spirit and the Mystery

I drink my coffee black and eat my chocolate dark.  Luna is the name of my black cat.  I even have a tall, dark and mysterious husband.  To top it all off, I was born under the sign of Scorpio, right smack dab in the middle of the time of year when it gets dark earlier and earlier each evening, so I guess it makes sense that I have a preference for things dark and mysterious, and that something comes alive in me during the fall.

I most became aware that I have an inordinate obsession with fall and in particular the celebration of Halloween when I was teacher at a Catholic school in Louisville.  I came up with a two week project on Halloween that had my students develop what I called a Halloween packet full of research on different aspects and origins of the holiday and stories revolving around it.  My principal, who meticulously went through our lesson plans asked, “Amy, isn’t this a bit much on Halloween for eighth graders?” Her reaction demonstrated to me that not everyone is as thrilled with the costumes, scary stories, and trick-or-treating as I am.

One of my main concerns about moving to south Florida 11 years ago was how much I would miss the changing of the seasons.   I can remember my disorientation that first year when October and November passed without any noticeable change in the heat or the vegetation.  I still struggle a little bit each year, and have learned how to make the most of Halloween and fall decorations. 

On the Autumnal Equinox Sarah Wilson shared a video that expresses my sentiments about fall in the South exactly. 

A woman wakes up on the first day of fall excited and happy.  She goes to her closet and pulls out a cozy sweater and scarf with fall leaves on it.  She puts on a pair of fuzzy boots and makes herself a big mug of pumpkin spice coffee.  Then she heads out the door only to find a couple of guys outside in shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  She immediately starts sweating in her scarf and too hot sweater and with a big frown on her face slams the door, knocking her fall leaf wreath right off.  She probably went straight to her air conditioner and cranked it down a few degrees just to get in the mood.

Needless to say, the killing frosts of autumn do not touch south Florida, but if you look closely, the signs of change are there.  We lose a fraction of the intensity of the sun.  Instead of 90 degrees it’s 83 or 84, and occasionally we get a South Florida version of a cold front.  Today might be the day. The ocean loses its aquamarine hue and no longer feels like bathtub water.  And we do have our own version of a killing force of nature. 

Hurricanes don’t freeze us.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They leave us sitting in our dark un-air-conditioned homes thinking about all the dead foliage we have to clean up.  And we’re grateful that’s all we have to do.  We’re grateful we have all of our loved ones accounted for; we still have homes standing, water to drink, and passable roads. 

This fall many people in Texas and the Caribbean came face to face with the killing and destructive forces of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Though it takes a different form, we are familiar in South Florida with the killing breath of autumn.

Our religious and cultural traditions reflect this dying time of year and ask us to take a look at death and perhaps make friends with it.  After all, it is as natural a part of life as birth. 

Many of you attended Bill Schoolman’s service on The Right to Die, last month.  In his discussion of the need for our society to take a closer look at how we allow people with terminal illnesses to suffer needlessly, he accounts for this cruelty by suggesting that we as a culture, a society, are so obsessed with youth that we almost make it seem unnatural to show age, to show signs of the passage of time.  We treat death as unnatural, but as I was explaining recently to a high school student that I tutor in English about the symbolism of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, I haven’t heard of any one yet, no matter how great he or she was in life who was able to overcome death.    Maybe you could count Jesus, but even though many believe he rose from the dead, he still didn’t get to stay. 

I was explaining to my student that Santiago, the protagonist of the novel, is fighting more than a fifteen hundred pound marlin and the sharks who want to feed on his great catch. 

He is an aging fisherman.  He feels his decline deep in his bones. 

Santiago doesn’t care that he has no money for food.  What’s most important to him is the will to live and to prove that he is still a hunter and a fighter. 

He’s still alive.  But no matter how he fights, the sharks keep coming, just like the deterioration of the body.  Just like death. 

We can die our hair, freeze our fat, and get Botox, but it doesn’t change the inevitable.  Nature’s passage into this darkening time of year helps keep us honest about that.

Celebrating this time gives us a chance to collectively take a look at death.  Coming together helps us examine it at arm’s length, maybe make friends with it, or at least develop an acquaintance, and as our cultural tradition of Halloween invites us to, maybe have a little fun with it. 

The ancient Celtic ritual of Samhain and the Christian versions of it All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and Dia de los Muertos provide an opportunity for deepening our spiritual understanding of death.  These traditions welcome connection with whatever lingers of the dead, the ancestors, those we have buried, or burned to ashes, those for whom our hearts still tenderly long.  We revisit their memory, rekindle their spirits by fire or candlelight and commune with them, talk to them.

And like Odysseus on his trip to the Underworld, we may receive news from home (our spiritual or ancestral home), and we receive something along the lines of prophecy, perhaps the direction we should go to get back home.

Can I provide a rational explanation for the times in my own life when I have felt the veil lift between the living and the dead?  Perhaps not, but I have had experiences that were for me powerful and spiritually moving, despite whether or not I can prove the veracity of them, or that they mean what I want them to mean.

Twenty years ago, I was living in a Benedictine monastery considering becoming a nun.  It’s an old monastery on top of a hill in Southern Indiana.  A gorgeous Romanesque chapel sits on top of that hill and at the foot of it is the cemetery.  On All Souls Day, the Catholic feast day that I now know derived from the pagan celebration of Samhain, the sisters led a procession from the chapel to the graveyard at Vespers, the sunset prayer service.  Gray skies threatening a thunderstorm, incense thuribles swaying on chains, sending out rich, piney and earthy scents of frankincense and myrrh.  Chanting and the litany of saints. 

A movie could not have set the stage better.  The wind threatened to blow out all of our handheld candles with the little cardboard disks wrapped around them to protect our hands from dripping wax. 

It wasn’t until we were all safely inside on our way to the dining hall that it started to rain, but the sun was shining in the westward windows when we reached the hall.  I turned to one of the sisters next to me.  Her post middle-aged face was bright like a little girl’s.  I bet there’s a big rainbow, she said.  We ran together to the colonnade that wrapped around the chapel.  Standing in the rain, we looked up to find a perfect half-circle of a rainbow arcing right over the top of the chapel.  Can I explain the occurrence scientifically?  Of course I can.  It was raining and the sun came out.  The water refracted the light.  But can I explain the timing and the placement?  Not a chance.  Can I prove that it was the souls of the departed reaching out, connecting for a passing moment with the living?  No, I can’t.  All I know is what my soul needs, what my heart knows and longs for. 

Last summer I visited another graveyard in Southern Indiana, my ancestral graveyard.  My grandparents, great grandparents and great-great grandparents are buried there.  My beloved grandmother who died 27 years ago is buried there.  It had been 15 years or so since I had visited her grave, yet when I stood there reading her name, remembering.  I found myself saying, I still miss you, Mamaw.  When I looked up, I saw through my sunglasses rainbows in the clouds.  I thought it was some trick of the eye with the sunglasses, maybe it was.  But it lasted until we got in the car and started driving the country roads to my uncle’s house.  It lasted so long I felt compelled to mention it to my Dad. 

I know there are lots of things I want to believe, and I want to believe that something of those nuns, something of my grandmother, and something of my mother who died last year lives on, even if it is only in my memories and in my heart. 

And there is great wisdom, great consolation
in celebrating this great inexplicable mystery, this darkness from which we all come and to which we all must return.

When my mother died, I was by her side along with the rest of my family.  Let me tell you, when death overcame her, I understood the ghoulish masks of Halloween and how they mock the face of death.  I left the hospital that night with a twisted and distorted image of my mother’s beautiful face burned in my memory.

And that night I dreamed of her.  She was alive again and had an important message. “I’ve come back to make amends,” she said.  The dream was so powerful it woke me up shaking a little bit and I had to remind myself that my mother’s “ghost” would never hurt me.  In the middle of the night after such a loss, it’s easy to lose your grasp on the rational world.  

The next day, I told my Dad about the dream, and he shared with me that all during the time my mother was dying, he kept whispering in her ear to make her peace and to forgive her siblings.

My parents are devout Catholics.  Dying in a state of forgiveness is very important to them.  And my mother really struggled with forgiveness when it came to her family.  She was the oldest of eleven.  They were all victims of abuse and alcoholism is a family trait.  There were many misunderstandings and hurt feelings over the years.

We have no idea whether or not Mom made her peace with them in her heart.  She was in a coma when the priest gave her last rites.  This gave my Dad some anxiety about her soul.  But love has a way seeing things through despite the seeming finality of death.   You see, my Mom had us, the family she created and we became her agents on this earth. 

Dad called each and every one of the living siblings and invited them to the services and to our house.  At the visitation, an aunt I had never met before, but who was my mother’s maid of honor appeared.  I walked her and some of my other aunts over to a table and showed them pictures from my mom and dad’s wedding at which they were all present.  An uncle I barely knew showed up and agreed to be a pallbearer.  My sister, brother, and I spent time during the visitation and after the funeral getting to know them all, hearing stories that helped us understand the pain my mother carried.  Perhaps together, my Dad, my siblings, my aunts and uncles and I, did for my mom what she could not.  We invited each other in.  We made amends. 

Forgiveness, the healing of souls, the connection of love that is stronger than the grave — THAT is what Samhain, Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and Dia de los Muertos are all about.

Do I know for sure whether my rainbow experiences at the monastery and at my grandmother’s grave, and the dream I had about my mother are real connections to the beyond, or not.  No.  I don’t.  Are they figments of my imagination?  Maybe.  Probably.  But, I do know for sure that part of me needs these little miracles.  They keep me strong and they keep me alive and thriving.  They keep my grandmother and my mother alive in me.  They passed me the torch of love and I’ll carry it with me to the end. And when it’s time.  I’ll pass it on too. 

Another thing I know for sure is that one thing doesn’t die.  Love.  The way we touch the hearts of others.  The loss others feel when we die proves that.  The love I still feel for my grandmother 27 years later proves it.  She lives and will continue to live because she taught me to love, and I will give my love to others.  Her love was the product of her mother’s love and all those who loved her.  And my presence here today is the product of my mother’s love.

So let’s take this time these next few days and dare to look at the grave.  Stick our hands in the ashes and the dirt and remember and listen for the messages from home about how to get back home, and most importantly feel the love that doesn’t die.

Alloween: The Spirit and the Mystery, a sermon delivered by Amy Stauber from the 1stUUPB pulpit on Oct. 29, 2017.