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.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Words from the Pulpit, Oct 15, 2017

The Road Ahead or The Road Behind by George Joseph Moriarty
Sometimes I think the Fates must
Grin as we denounce and insist
The only reason we can’t win
Is the Fates themselves that miss
Yet there lives on an ancient claim
We win or lose within ourselves.
The shining trophies on our shelves
Can never win tomorrow’s game. [but]
You and I know deeper down
There’s always a chance to win the crown
But when we fail to give our best
We simply haven’t met the test
Of giving all, and saving none
Until the game is really won
Of showing what is meant by grit
Of fighting on when others quit
Of playing through, not letting up
It’s bearing down that wins the cup
Of taking it and taking more
Until we gain the winning score
Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead
Of hoping when our dreams are dead
Of praying when our hopes have fled
Yet losing, not afraid to fall
If bravely, we have given all
For who can ask more of a man
Than giving all within his span
Giving all, it seems to me
Is not so far from victory
And so the Fates are seldom wrong
No matter how they twist and wind
It is you and I who make our fates
We open up or close the gates
On the road ahead or the road behind

John Wooden, UCLA Basketball coach, described success not as winning but, he said,


Quiet Time/Meditation/Prayer
 Fond Words by Andrew M Hill

Hard words will break no bones:
But more than bones are broken
By the inescapable stones
Of fond words left unspoken.

So, let us in the quiet of our minds speak fond words:
for those to whom we are close and who are close to us;
for those whose presence is now a memory;
for fond friends and helpful neighbors;

And let us in the quiet of our minds speak fond words for those we too often forget:
for those who are struggling with poverty, with tyranny, or with disasters
for those who seek work, a home, or better health
for those who are discriminated against because of who they are.

And let us in the quiet of our minds try speaking fond words for those for whom we find it difficult to speak fond words:
for those who we never see but on whom we depend
for those who irritate us because they are only doing their job
for those with whom we are out of sorts

And let us in the quiet of our minds just hope that someone else is speaking fond words:
for those who we love to hate
for those who we cannot love and who are unlovely to us
for those who we have forgotten.

Hard words will break no bones:
But more than bones are broken
By the inescapable stones
Of fond words left unspoken.

Reading: Ysabel Duron
For this reading, I would like to share the story of one of the many Purpose Prize winners. The purpose prize was founded in 2005 by Marc Freedman, CEO of Encore.org. Since that time, the Purpose Prize has generated nearly 10,000 nominations and produced more than 500 winners and fellows. Marika and Howard Stone became Purpose Prize fellows early in the program. In 2016, the program transitioned to a new home at AARP. The AARP Purpose Prize™ award honors extraordinary individuals who use their life experience to make a better future for all. These are extraordinary stewards who make a difference in the lives of others

One of the Purpose Prize winners is journalist and cancer survivor Ysabel Duron. In 1999, Ysabel Duron’s gynecologist discovered a golf ball-sized cancerous tumor in her pelvic region. The diagnosis: Hodgkin lymphoma. She is an inspirational cancer survivor.

After she recovered, she was haunted by how few other Latinos she had seen receiving treatment. Questions about how, and where, Spanish-speaking cancer victims got help plagued her. She had survived. But how many did not?

In September 2003 she founded Latinas Contra Cancer (Latinas Against Cancer), an organization committed to educating, supporting, and providing essential services to low-income Spanish speakers suffering from the disease.

The call to action answered by Ysabel Duron has had an impact far beyond the Bay Area where she lives. Her passionate commitment is helping Latino communities across the U.S. gain access to cancer support, information, and treatment about cancer. Duron’s game-changing networking, partnerships, and legislative advocacy have been the hallmark of an encore career with significant social impact.

The social need is great. Cancer is now the leading cause of Latino deaths in the U.S., killing one in five, a rate higher than heart disease. And for Duron, framing the message of cancer prevention and helping organize social and psychological support for those most in need has become her mission.
I don’t have time to share her entire story today but here is her message:
“I knew I had a responsibility to represent this community of color, that I had to operate with integrity and shine a light. All the challenges kept preparing me to stand up for something.” To stand up for something.

Duron is now committed to reshaping federal policy, law, and funding. An advocate for extending the Affordable Care Act to cover more immigrants, Duron believes “everyone deserves the best treatment they can get when they’re ill.”

After her own experience fighting, surviving and “putting a human face on the big C,” Duron’s great empathy for cancer patients has made her absolutely clear on her bigger purpose in the second stage of her life. “I was meant to do this — to be a voice for an underserved, underrepresented population without a voice.”

Ysabel Duron exemplifies what it means to stand for something.



Adapted from words by Tom Schade
There is a power at work in the universe.
It works through human hands,
but it was not made by human hands.

It is a creative, sustaining, and transforming power and we can trust that power with our lives and with our ministries.
It will sustain us whenever we take a stand on the side of love;
whenever we take a stand for peace and justice;
whenever we take a risk.
Trust in that power.
We are, together, held by that power.
May we stand for what we believe in.
May we seek thrive-ability for our environment, our Congregation, and for ourselves; moving from surviving to thriving.
May we never shirk our responsibilities to ourselves and the universe
May we strive to be, not so much the best in the world but, the best for the world.
May it be so.

Words spoken by Paul Ward from the 1stUUPB pulpit on Oct 15, 2017. (His sermon follows.)

Sustainability and Stewardship: From Surviving to Thriving

I spent much of the summer at my home in Portsmouth, England. Portsmouth is the home of the British Navy and my apartment overlooks the harbor entrance. When I arrived, the USS George HW Bush, one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world, was anchored just outside the harbor, in sight of my apartment. It was good to see the U.S. Government was providing special security for my visit.

The UK Government must also have got wind of my being in town. They also sent an aircraft carrier but not just any aircraft carrier -- they sent Her Majesty’s Ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the newest and largest vessel of the British Royal Navy. I was there to witness the ship’s first entry into Portsmouth Harbor. Portsmouth will be the home port for this aircraft carrier which is expected to be the Flagship of the British Royal Navy for the next fifty years.

According to Rear Admiral Chris Parry, aircraft carriers combine the sustainable reach of maritime platforms, the striking power and versatility of aircraft, and the multi-role possibilities of distinctly large chunks of deployable sovereign territory. Sustainability is an important theme for this aircraft carrier and for my sermon today.

One last reflection on HMS Queen Elizabeth: when the ship was launched in Scotland last year, rather than the traditional champagne launch, it was a bottle of Scotch whisky that was smashed against the hull to launch the ship. What a waste!

I want to start with some “What if?” questions:
·    What if we focused on stewardship rather than leadership?
·    What if we focused on thriving rather than just surviving?

But what is stewardship and what is sustainability?

I like the definition of stewardship as a theological belief that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care of it for the greater good -- Humans are responsible for the world, and we should take care of it for the greater good. It is about the careful and responsible management of something or someone entrusted to our care.

The definition of sustainability that I like is: something that can be continued or a practice that maintains a condition, meeting current needs without harming our environment and without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by balancing environmental, economic, and social concerns. So, something that can be continued without harming our environment.

So, let’s begin with
Environmental stewardship and sustainability

I am often impressed by the passion of advocates who speak from this pulpit. Leah Rothschild who was our service leader during the summer described herself as an eco-feminist which I found described as someone who combines ecological concerns with feminist concerns, both philosophically and politically.  Leah described her experiences of tree sitting, which is a form of environmentalist civil disobedience in which a protester sits in a tree, usually on a small platform built for the purpose, to protect it from being cut down. Tree sitters are stewards of the trees and the forests.
I have never been a strong advocate; I am not really an activist but, as some of you know, I am writing a book on Conscious Leadership and conscious leaders stand for something. So, I have been challenging myself about what I stand for.

So, I stand for non-violence, I stand for freedom of speech but strongly believe in the philosophy of do no harm. I also stand for protecting our environment. 

Environmental stewardship refers to responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices. We need to be good stewards of this earth.
Although the origin is uncertain, I really like this quote: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” -- “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” While I was in England last week, I was told to expect another grandchild next spring. I am looking forward to having another grandchild. But, what am I doing to protect the environment for my children and grandchildren?

In my book, I have included the story of the Patagonia organization. Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia, an organization that began life creating pitons and axes for the sport of rock climbing. Chouinard soon realized they were becoming, in his words, environment villains. The iron pitons hammered into the rocks caused major damage.

After an ascent of the Nose in Yosemite National Park, once pristine and considered impossible to climb, Chouinard became disgusted with the degradation he had seen and, despite the pitons being the mainstay of their business, decided they would phase out the piton business. In the event, in 1972, they replaced the damaging iron pitons with aluminum chocks that could be wedged in by hand and easily removed rather than hammered in and out of cracks.

Patagonia has become a very successful, environmentally conscious business and is now described as a supplier of environmentally friendly clothes and equipment for silent sports, none of which require a motor and where reward comes in moments of connection between people and nature. I love that: moments of connection between people and nature.

In his book, Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard explains why he was in business. He said, “True, I wanted to give money to environmental causes. But even more, I wanted to create in Patagonia a model other businesses could look to in their own searches for environmental stewardship and sustainability, just as our pitons and ice axes were models for other equipment manufacturers.” This purpose is supported by a mission statement which is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

An interesting tension exists between “building the best product” and “causing no unnecessary harm”?
In an interview with Rick Ridgeway, VP of public engagement at Patagonia, published in Conscious Company Magazine, he talks about this tension.

Patagonia has replaced the chemistry in the durable water resistant (DWR) coating on their shell jackets from one that was causing some considerable harm on the environment through fluorocarbon chemistry with one that is less harmful; but it is still harmful. In analyzing and considering all the other potential replacements they have found that coatings that do no harm to the environment last for only one or two years instead of the fifteen or twenty years for the current jacket. Patagonia cannot possibly be comfortable, much less complacent, with where they’re at, because it’s not nearly good enough but they are working on it and they are being transparent about it.
Environmental stewardship and the importance of the sustainability of our planet for future generations cannot be over-estimated despite what the U.S. president has to say about climate change being a hoax invented by the Chinese. I support the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

I have not yet seen Al Gore’s new movie, The Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power but from what I hear, it is optimistic perspective on just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Apparently, he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

Bringing this closer to home, let me mention the Climate Action Coalition of South Florida. I live on the beach and I know the sea levels are rising. I expect Singer Island to be underwater at some point in this century. I don’t think I can stop the sea levels rising but I can join in the those seeking action. I encourage you to support the Climate Action Coalition of South Florida and other environmental initiatives.

UU Stewardship
Let me move on to the stewardship and sustainability of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches. As president of the Board of Trustees for this Congregation, I take stewardship and sustainability of this Congregation very seriously.

Our next stewardship campaign is some way off but I hope you will continue to be inspired to give generously in support of our Congregation.

As Unitarian Universalist theologian Tom Owen-Towle once said, “Generosity involves openheartedness, the cardinal ability to give lavishly of yourself to others, to the world around you, to the divine communal Spirit in which we live, move, and have our beings.” He goes on to say this “generosity undergirds and underwrites all other values.
Without generosity, one loves sparingly, if not stingily;
without generosity, our acts of justice happen rarely;
without generosity, we hoard our precious gifts of time and soul and other resources.”

The tension between generosity and stewardship challenges the Board of Trustees. We want to be generous and caring for each individual and yet we must take action for the good of all. Decisions we take are not taken lightly.

Some might say we are surviving quite well even without a minister. So far this year, we are within budget. We are coping without a minister. With the active support of so many of our Congregation, I hope you will agree that we are doing more than just surviving -- we are thriving. That doesn’t mean we are complacent. Selection teams are working diligently to hire a settled minister for the long term and a contract minister for the short term. I will be providing an update in my Life of the Congregation presentation after the service today.

We have new members joining and existing members are actively engaged. If you are ready to get more involved, talk to members of the Board and members of the committees. Let’s continue to move positively towards an increasingly thriving Congregation.

Personal stewardship
So, I have talked about environmental stewardship and Congregational stewardship. I would like to end with a focus on personal stewardship. For me, this is about choosing service over self-interest.

Peter Block, who I met in New York about 20 years ago, wrote the book on stewardship. He wrote, stewardship is to hold something in trust for another; a choice to act in service of the long run and a choice to act in the service of those with little power. Although recognizing that the idea of stewardship is somewhat elusive and suffers from ambiguity, the practice of stewardship still provides a framework for thriving in the complexity of this modern age.

Ultimately, we must make a choice between service and self-interest. We exist in an age of self-interest and entitlement. But can we come from a place of service? Can we ask, how may I help you? How may I serve this person or this organization? How may I serve this Congregation?

As I look for examples of conscious leaders, I look for people who act responsibly for the good of all, not first and foremost for their own self-interest. One source of inspiration is the Purpose Prize™ -- an award that honors extraordinary individuals who use their life experience to make a better future for all.  I shared the story of Ysabel Duron in my reading. There are many other examples of exemplary stewards who have made a difference.

As I prepared this service, I was reminded of our sixth and seventh UU principles:
    6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
These principles run through this message of stewardship and sustainability. 
So, what are you called to do?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.”

Today, October 15, is the 288th day of the year 2017. There are 77 days remaining until the end of the year. What do you stand for? What are you called to do before as we begin to plan for 2018?

So, let me come back to sustainability and stewardship.

I have a growing passion for sustainability of our planet. Last week, the European Union hosted the 4th edition of the Our Ocean conference in Malta. At the conference, 437 tangible and measurable commitments were agreed.
Let me share one commitment. P&G Dish brands -- the world's #1 selling handwashing liquid -- announced it will continue to use 8,000 metric tonnes of recycled plastic per year in its transparent plastic bottles, using an average of 40% Post-Consumer Recycled plastic content.  P&G Dish Care are also using recovered beach plastic and raising consumer awareness of the ocean plastic issue. These initiatives complement P&G's support of the efforts of the Trash Free Seas Alliance to dramatically reduce the flow of plastic into the world's oceans. Members of the Trash Free Seas Alliance® aim to reduce and make continual progress toward eliminating ocean trash.

There are a lot of good things happening. I invite you to look for the causes that inspire you to encourage the survivability of our planet.

Our Congregation is doing more than surviving. I believe we are thriving while we search for a settled minister. I appreciate every one of you, and all you do as stewards of our Congregation.

I invite you all to consider the questions,
·    How may I serve?
·    How may I help sustain our environment whether it be our planet, our country, our state of Florida, our County of Palm Beach, or our own back yard?
·    How may I help this Congregation to thrive?

Put service before self-interest. May it be so.

Sermon by Paul Ward, delivered from the 1stUUPB pulpit on October 15, 2017.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Spiritual Capitalism -- Dr. Richard Hattwick

(A Peek at Some Possibilities)
Is capitalism consistent with Unitarian Universalism’s SEVEN PRINCIPLES? Does it produce social justice and spiritual growth? Does it have the potential to do so?

 Answering that question for the entire capitalist system seems to be the implication of the sermon title and the reading by Charles Handy ( The Hungry Spirit, 1998). Handy actually does that in his book. A framework for doing that might be a comparison of American individualistic capitalism with the social welfare forms of capitalism found in many of the other industrialized nations. Another approach would be to compare America’s broadly defined New Deal era ( 1930s–1970s) with the subsequent Bad Deal era of the 1980s to date. Robert Kuttner does a good job of that in his two books EVERYTHING FOR SALE (1997) and (The Squandering of America ( 2007).

               I could have tried to do that. I could have discussed both parts of the Handy quotation, both the virtues and the vices. But that is far too complex a subject for a Sunday sermon. Instead, I want to focus on one-half of the Handy quotation, the virtues part. I plan to further narrow the focus by addressing Handy’s claim that capitalism has the virtue of promoting morality and community. And I plan to further narrow the focus by discussing the spiritual potential of one capitalist institution ……. Business.


               The background for this sermon and a reference to which you can go afterword is the American National Business Hall of Fame. I became involved with that organization at the time of its founding in 1972. The founders were a group of business school faculty who were concerned about the need for our students to be exposed to good business leader role models. So we launched a research program to identify examples, write their business success stories and find ways to get those stories into classrooms. One of the classroom presentation projects was a 50-minute slide illustrated lecture on business ethics. You can still view a version of that on YouTube ( search for the American National Business Hall of Fame videos) or on the hall of fame web site.  That topic, business ethics, is what I plan to call your attention to today. But I’m redefining the topic as one aspect of spiritual capitalism. And I will argue that the capitalist business firm can be a vehicle for social justice and spiritual growth.


1. Definitions - I begin by defining spirituality and social justice
2. Business Ethics – I continue by using business hall of fame studies to shed light on the ethical potential of capitalist businesses.
3. Business Spirituality ( the highest level of ethics) and  the vocational service ideal – I then introduce a case study of business spirituality and give the concept a new name, VOCATIONAL SERVICE.
4. I next offer some thoughts about the vocational service ideal becoming the basis of a spiritual capitalist system.
5. Those thoughts raise the issue of codes of ethics so I offer a couple of code suggestions
6. I end with a couple of ideas for bumper stickers.


Let’s begin by defining the concept of spirituality which I will be using. If we were involved in a multi-week Teaching Thursday program I would use Ken Wilber’s book INTEGRAL SPIRITUALITY for my definition. And I would  use one of the Thursday sessions to explore his definition. But today I only have a few minutes to define the concept. So I will use humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs concept.

 Maslow, you may recall, argued that humans have a limited number of basic needs which are arranged in a hierarchy. At the lowest level are survival and safety needs, in the middle are a collection of needs for community such as belonging, being appreciated and being respected. At the upper level are the needs for self-actualization and self-transcendence. I define spirituality in terms of those top two needs. Spiritual growth is the process of working toward meeting those needs.

I can also use Maslow’s hierarchy to define social justice. Social justice, I suggest, is a situation where all persons are able to satisfy their lower and middle level needs adequately enough to focus on meeting their self-actualization and self-transcendence needs. We’re talking about entitlements – basic income, health care, retirement income, safety net, education, housing, and so on,  Entitlements should not be a word of opprobrium. It should be a word to describe spirituality in economic policy. If you have a neighbor who rails against entitlements in principle you need to encourage him to work on his spirituality and economic literacy.


               Let’s turn now to the issue of spiritualism at the level of the business firm. Again, I’m talking about potentials rather than probabilities. I will use the American National Business Hall of Fame program on business ethics as the framework for analysis.

If you viewed the business ethics program, here is what you would hear and see:

1. The opening question – Can a person behave ethically and still succeed in business?
2. The three possible ethical codes – exploitation ethic, ethic of justice, ethic of altruism
3. The distribution of laureates among the three possibilities - None at the lowest level. The rest at one or the other of the remaining two with the majority at the ethic of justice level.
4. The laureate’s adoption of the stakeholder view of ethical responsibility - A business has a responsibility to serve all stakeholders fairly – customers, employees, investors, suppliers, local community, and environment.   Profit is a long run goal which depends on how well the other stakeholders are served.
5. For each stakeholder hall of fame laureates held specific goals. ----Typical laureate views regarding ethical responsibilities with regard to the first two stakeholder groups were as follows  For customers the basic goals are fair price, fair quality, honesty in communications and refusal to deal with potential customers if a low level of ethics would be required. For workers, including management, the goals were good pay and increasing pay made possible by increased productivity, job security with long run continuing employment, providing an atmosphere conducive to daily happiness at work, and providing personal growth and a sense of meaning through work.
6. Identification of an ethical code  to use to figure out what the typical laureate’s view would be with respect to other stakeholders --- suppliers, local community, investors, environment ----THE FOUR-WAY TEST.


         In my opinion both the ethic of justice and the ethic of altruism represent spirituality at work in the business organization. They both reflect what is sometimes referred to in the business literature as the vocational service ideal. I like that term and for the rest of the sermon I will use it synonymously with the concept of spiritual capitalism when we’re talking about the business firm. Let’s now take a closer look at the vocational service ideal as it appeared and flourished at ServiceMaster, a company founded and led by three of our hall of fame laureates.

               The story begins with the firm’s founder, Marion Wade. Born in 1989 Wade finished high school in 1912. For the next two and one half decades he made a living as a salesman. He sold insurance; he sold pots and pans; and he sold home moth-proofing services. He was good at selling. But he was also unethical. As he put it:

Customer-stealing, commission-cutting, minimizing the importance of the fine print –all these were tricks of the trade I learned after becoming victim of them several times … It was a cutthroat racket … (It made me fast on my feet and enjoying the competition more than I despised the double-dealing.”

In 1930 Wade was selling home moth-proofing services when the company he worked for went broke. Teaming up with another man he started his own moth-proofing business. It was successful but remained small. It was also in 1930 that Wade became a deeply committed Christian and began daily reading of the Bible. For the next fourteen years he lived a double spiritual life … shady ethics at work and Christian ethics at home. As he put it:

“ I was trying to personally honor God, but I never tried this with my company because I had been trained in the school of competition which attests that religion and business don’t mix.”

Then, in 1944, there was an epiphany. A chemical explosion occurred while Wade was moth-proofing a closet. He lost his sight. For months he was confined to a hospital bed in darkness with nothing to do but think about his past and future lives. He prayed. He asked for forgiveness for his past behavior at work and promised to work as a Christian in the future if his sight returned. He vowed to transform his business into one where, in his words, “ Every employee, from top to bottom did his job for the Glory of God.” Wade’s sight returned; he went back to work and kept his promise or covenant.  kept his promise. The results were gratifying. As he explains:

“ We began each day with a prayer and an acknowledgement of our commitment… We all felt the influence. We found ourselves undergoing changes in our attitudes toward each other as well as toward the job. We all got along better: there was more willingness to go the extra mile, to work the extra hour; and when disagreement  arose, as it inevitably does, we were able to resolve it by a prompt discussion rather than carry grudges and lose tempers … The dedication brought new vitality into the group. We developed a new pride in doing a good job.”

What we see here is Wade’s attempt to create a spiritual company culture. Again in his words:

 “When you work for the Lord you find yourself raising the level of your efforts. Your job becomes more than a job. It becomes a calling. It is now the ministry by which you glorify God. You work harder and you do a better job so that your efforts will please God who is now your silent partner.”

Over the next decade the firm experienced excellent growth. Three key partners were added, two of whom, Ken Hansen and Ken Wessner worked closely with Wade and succeeded Wade as company president. New lines of business were added. The ServiceMaster name was adopted (It meant “service to the master”. Policies were developed for the purpose of keeping the new spiritual culture strong. Four of those policies are worth mentioning because of their implications regarding what a spiritual capitalist company  might look like. Those four are:

1. Don’t engage in competitive pay for employee performance. “ An employee is hired at a specific salary to do a specific job, and as the company prospers, so does he. But if he is willing to work a little harder only when he is baited by bonuses he really isn’t doing his job in the first place.”
2. Hire only people of high moral character. “ It is my duty to learn as much as I can about a man before I send him out to represent a company that is dedicated to the Lord.”
3. Delegate responsibility. “ We set policy at staff conferences, then each man goes back to his office to do his job, using his own brains and his own skills to make decisions.”
4. Dignify every job in the company. “ A job has only as much dignity as the man gives it, and the best way to dignify a job is to dedicate your efforts to the Glory of God.”

In 1957 Wade gave a talk about his company’s spiritual approach to business and how it energized the employees. The administrator of a nearby Catholic hospital was in the audience. Afterwards she contacted Wade, told him about the hospital’s problem with housekeeping. Employees performing that function exhibited poor attitudes toward their work and it showed in poor performance. There was high turnover. Could ServiceMaster take over the cleaning function at the hospital and work some of ServiceMaster’s magic there?  Wade, Hansen and Wessner investigated the possibility and then decide to give it a try. It worked! The hospital cleaning crew became energized. That became the basis of ServiceMaster’s subsequent growth. By the late 1970s hospital service represented 95% of the company’s business. For ten years starting in 1978 ServiceMaster was the most profitable company on the Fortune 500 list of American service companies.

By then the academic community had discovered ServiceMaster. The Harvard Business School conducted two studies of the company. The studies verified the company’s claim that its policies energized the workers to feel proud of their work and to find meaning in it. Harvard found a number of other secrets to the company’s success including training procedures and ongoing research to develop new products which would increase employee productivity thus allowing the company to raise employee pay. Among the training approaches were in-hospital workshops which ServiceMaster workers attended jointly with the hospital’s doctors, nurses and administrators. The objective was to help all attendees see how vital the cleaning function was to patient recovery.

While Harvard was busy finding out what made ServiceMaster tick, the firm’s three top leaders were busy looking for a new mission statement. The initial reason for doing that was that managers were discovering much untapped talent among the entry level employees. A yearning to help those people develop their latent capabilities emerged. So added to the one mission statement, To Honor God in All We Do, was added a second statement, To Help People Develop.

I have been referring to the mindset of Marion Wade, Ken Hansen and Ken Wessner as spiritual ethics. It is the ingredient which defines spiritual capitalism at its best. Another name for the phenomenon is vocational service. Let me finish this sermon by using the term vocational service and speculating about the possibilities of it becoming widespread in capitalist economics.


A world of businesses imbued with the vocational service ideal would take us a long way toward the ideal of spiritual capitalism. One world-wide private sector community service organization actually promotes that vision. Rotary’s mission statement reads, “ The Object of Rotary is to encourage the ideal of service as the basis of worthy enterprise AND in particular foster acquaintance as an opportunity for service, high ethical standards in business and professions and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity for service.”

The mission statement goes on to suggest that the service ideal should apply to the other aspects of a Rotarian’s life  AND presents this vision for world peace, “ Advancement of international understanding, good will and peace through a fellowship of business and professional persons united int the ideal of service.”

       That is an inspiring ideal but by itself it requires that a large majority of the population voluntarily practice vocational service --- in business, in government, and elsewhere. But that alone is a bit utopian. Encouraging the spread of the vocational service ideal needs to be coupled with a comprehensive set of government rules for market behavior and government policies to do those things which markets cannot do or do adequately. As noted at the beginning of the literature on government economic policy is relatively advanced in this area. We know what can be done. But it won’t be adequately done until those in government adopt and are able to practices the vocational service mentality. Perhaps requiring fiduciary responsibility for elected officials would be a move in that direction. Imagine a cabinet secretary, a congressperson or a president being removed from office for failure to comply with the job’s mandatory fiduciary responsibility.


Even a vocational service mentality backed by a comprehensive fiduciary laws won’t lead to perfection. But the shortfall can be reduced by practical codes of ethics. Rotary has an application here also. It is called THE FOUR WAY TEST of the things we think, say and do- Is it the Truth? Is it Fair to All Concerned? Will it build Good Will and Better Friendships? Will it be BENEFICIAL TO ALL CONCERNED?

Unitarian Universalism also has what could be called a code of ethics, our SEVEN PRINCIPLES. It’s a bit too long and somewhat indirect for daily use multiple times. But it is great for quiet review at the end of the day.


Let me conclude with a few suggestions for bumper stickers to promote the concept of vocational service and spiritual capitalism.

For the individual I suggest ----- Service Above Self ! One profits most who serves best.

For the entire capitalist system which includes the economy, the polity and the culture I suggest ----Vocational Service and Mandated Fiduciary Responsibility.

 "Spiritual Capitalism" -- a sermon by Dr. Richard Hattwick on Oct 1, 2017 at 1stUUPB.