Sunday, July 26, 2020

Shared Ministry: The Dance of Partnership, July 26, 2020

Amy Stauber

Way back in February as I was doing my homework as the Selection Committee Chair, I spent an hour or two each morning with my coffee reading In the Interim.  This book of essays, edited by Barbara Child and Keith Kron, got me excited about the possibilities of interim ministry and the search process that I was committed to for our congregation.  

Even before I knew that we would find a minister, I, in my hopefulness, volunteered to lead the services at the end of May after our successful interim ministry search and again at the end of July to welcome our hypothetical new minister.  Based on what the book said, it seemed like the right thing to do.  

My hope paid off.  In May, the Selection Committee was able to present to you our new interim minister, Rev. Ed Proulx.  And today the newly formed Transition Team is preparing the way for him to take over next week as our full-time minister.  

We are here today to prepare for the ministry that is to come and to celebrate the ministry we have been doing for and with each other in this last year.  We are here to celebrate how much ministry 1stUUPB — its congregants and ministers — have been doing for nearly 70 years.  

As our full-time interim minister, Rev. Ed will be leading services 3-4 times a month, and he will be our guide, helping us refine our financial and leadership practices and helping us prepare for our next phase of ministry whether that be developmental, settled or contract.  But I can assure you that one thing will not change with Rev. Ed’s arrival.  The myriad ways we, you and I, each participate in the ministry of 1stUUPB will grow and continue.

Change is coming our way, no doubt.  But we’re no strangers to change.  A little over a year ago, 1stUUPB adapted quite quickly to becoming a lay-led congregation.  And not one of us has escaped the changes that dealing with a world-wide pandemic has caused.   In the midst of this past year we have adapted to being an online community.  

Now once again, the forces of change are among us.  We must each redefine our roles and relationships to the community of 1stUUPB in light of the fact that we now have a full-time interim minister to guide and support us.  The roles of dozens of lay leaders within our congregation will shift and transform.

And this is truly a cause for celebration!  
New life streaming into our congregation and our spiritual lives.  

A new beginning.   

Isn’t that sense of refreshing newness what we all could use right now?  

This past year I feel that I have been unofficially enrolled in a fictional school that I lovingly call UU University.  It began with my first Board meeting in May 2019.   Very quickly, I found myself in need of an education.  Reading our bylaws.  Figuring out just how exactly one was supposed to serve a UU congregation as a Board Trustee.  Very soon I had to figure out how to be a leader when there was no minister, how to help the congregation decide what to do next, and when we did decide that we wanted an interim minister, how we go about getting one.  

Fortunately, I was not alone in any of this.  We went about this process together.

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Parks and Recreation, which takes place in the fictional town of Pawnee Indiana, but if it were a real town, it would not be far from where I grew up.  The place I still think of as home.  

The show is the brainchild of fellow Midwesterner Amy Poehler.    She plays the undaunted public servant Leslie Knope who loves her town and desperately wants to serve it.  Leslie is infamous for her project binders complete with color-coded tabs, charts, and personalized covers.  Not only does she create these hyper-organized binders for her work, but her friends find her making them for their life projects as well.  

I hate to tell you how many Leslie Knope binders I have put together for 1stUUPB in the last year, but I can tell you, I have learned so much by being a student at UU University.  I have learned about the nuts and bolts of how a UU congregation operates, and I have learned a lot about myself and how to collaborate with others.  

In addition to my binders, I have also developed quite a library of books from In Spirit, the UUA’s bookstore.  I realized what a couple of UU nerds my husband Larry and I are.  Between the two of us, we have a whole shelf of UU books.  Worship that Works by Wayne Arnason and Kathleen Rolenz and Serving With Grace by Erik Walker Wikstrom to name a couple.

Now, I have probably compressed several years of learning into one due to the nature and circumstances of my leadership role, but it has all been extraordinarily valuable.  I learned that UU congregations, or congregations of any faith denomination, do not exist only because of the minister, rabbi, priest, or imam.  They exist because of the lay leaders who, come hell or high water, will make sure that the Congregation continues.  But ministers do make us better.  They connect us to the larger UU world.  They provide spiritual guidance and consolation, pastoral care, staff supervision, and a level of professionalism that is hard for us to do on our own.  They provide a glue that holds us together, but they cannot do it alone.  They need us.  And we need them.  

As Rachel Melcher, our Board president, mentioned in her words back in May, “We share the load, a shared ministry, because we’ve chosen to journey together toward the land of living our best ideals.”

We all have an opportunity to minister to each other just by being present.  

One of my deepest desires for our Congregation is to make leadership easier.  That is a pretty lofty task.  It might even be an impossible one.  After all, what worth doing is ever easy?  Building the beloved community takes some effort, but it can bring us deeper into understanding ourselves.  It can round us out.  Those parts of us that we do not think are our strong suit could become a little stronger.  The deepening of our commitment to UUism could bring us growth in ways we could never have imagined.

The horrific world of COVID-19 has forced us all into the virtual world for connection with people beyond our immediate households.  It ironically and tragically creates opportunities that in no way assuage our grief, our problems, our frustrations, and our loneliness, but there are opportunities.  There can be growth, even if it is just a tiny sprout of green in a vast desert.

A sprout of green that has turned up in our Congregation is that the pandemic has made it possible for at least 10 of our members to attend the UUA’s General Assembly, an annual convention celebrating our faith.  I know the virtual version of GA was no substitute for the shoulder rubbing that happens in person every year at these grand UU exhibitions, but the exposure that I got to the larger arena of the UU movement, even if it was just virtually, was like a shot of adrenalin lighting up these socially distanced, housebound days stretching out into months with no foreseeable end in sight.  

Attending GA made me feel plugged in to a super conductor of energy, strength, and resources.  I learned that the big churches of the UU world have resources to share with us little guys.  It is so easy to get frustrated by the sense that we have a lack of resources — people, money, staff.  But connecting with GA showed me abundance.  

1st UU Church of Dallas, which has over a 1000 members, 3 ministers, and 17 staff members, shared a program they have created for membership development called Faith Forward:  from Visitor to Leader.  It is a faith formation curriculum designed to help members develop their UU faith from the first day they walk in the door of the congregation to when they eventually serve on committees or in leadership positions within the congregation or in the community working to promote our principles.  I signed us up for a free trial of the first module in the series.  It focuses on spiritual practices.  Faith Forward has provided a complete set of videos and lesson plans for 12 one-hour sessions, so if anyone is interested in delving into this goldmine let me know!

Another highlight of my GA experience that offered me a glimpse into the wealth of opportunity in the UU world was a workshop I attended hosted by Rev. Galen Guengerich who is the senior minister at All Souls New York, another 1000-plus  member congregation.  This one with 4 ministers and 21 staff members!  

His talk brought out the poet in me.  I found myself jotting down poems during GA breaks, and the tendency toward lyrical, meaningful thought has continued through the summer.  His talk, which was really an extended sermon, brought me back to one of the very first spiritual practices I developed in life, the writing of poetry, he helped me to recognize the shift that is happening in my spiritual life as I enter middle age.  

He said that spiritual practice is not “a temporary diversion or a tasty escape.”  This statement caught my attention.  He was describing what I thought was true for most of my life—that spiritual practice was something to draw me inward, away from the world into a juicier reality.    Spiritual practices are a chance to connect deeply to oneself, in order to see, but ultimately a healthy spiritual practice leads you into deeper relationships both to people and the natural world.   

Rev. Guengerich states that “spirituality opens us up to what’s terrible and needs changing and to what’s wonderful and needs savoring.”  

The challenge of a spiritual life is to balance the need to connect deeply with ourselves and the responsibility we have of connecting deeply with others.  

There is no ministry without relationship.  
There is no ministry if it is not shared.  

My eyes were again opened by the Ware Lecture delivered by best-selling author Naomi Klein.  She showed how climate justice is at the root of all injustice.  It is a tangled web. Those most affected by global climate change, and the natural disasters arising from it, are those who are racially and economically marginalized.  It is not surprising that in the midst of a pandemic so many people are demonstrating in the streets demanding racial equality.

GA offered multiple opportunities for coming to terms with white privilege — how we tell our nation’s history with blinders on, how we glorify the past, and how we contribute to the erasure of indigenous peoples both past and present with the stories we tell.  From Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of America to the Mayflower landing and the first Thanksgiving,  to the sanctification of the Founding Fathers and beyond, we are used to a history that distorts, covers up, and erases the genocide and slavery that mark our nation’s founding.

I came away from GA challenged to know about the indigenous people who used to live on the plot of land I now claim ownership of.  I came away from GA wondering what my true calling is.  What my job is.  What my role in doing my part to save the world and its people should be.

My thinking brought me back to us. 1stUUPB. My thinking brought me back to YOU.  As a Board member, I, along with 7 other people, am entrusted with ensuring the continuance and stability of this faith community.  By making sure that we have a minister, that we have smooth transitions of leadership roles, by making sure that we care for our facilities and the spiritual needs and the spiritual development of our members, I, in a very small way, am doing my part to re-write history.  To write a new future.  Right now the UU movement is truly the light of the world, and its congregations are how we can perpetuate and spread that light.

As UUs we accept the challenges of radical compassion and love and acceptance every day.  We model democratic process at its finest.  We participate in People Engaged in Active Community Efforts.  We show up for the Pride Parade and the MLK, Jr. Parade.  We show our humanity by covenanting over and over again with each other.  Knowing that we are human.  Knowing that we fail.  But keeping our eyes on the prize.  Gaze ever fixed on the vision of what we can be when we are serving each other at our finest.  

Are you willing to take up that call?  Are you willing to serve your highest ideals?  Are you willing to learn about yourself?  To grow deeper into your humanity?  

Are you willing to share this ministry, the ministry of Harriette Glasner, who helped found not only this Congregation, but the local ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Emergency Medical Assistance?  Are you willing to share the ministry of Nancy Benjamin, another early member of our Congregation who founded The Benjamin School?  

Are you willing to take up the ministry of Rev. James Reeb, who was killed marching in Selma, Alabama, in 1965?  

Are you willing to join a committee, lend a helping hand, send a card, or make a phone call?  

Can you think of a way to send cookies virtually during coffee hour?

Are you willing to commit yourself to the nobility of striving for a better world, a better life, a better self?

We ask no less of ourselves, my friends.  Unitarian Universalism is not a religion for the faint of heart.  Unitarian Universalism is no religion for the settled, the unquestioning, or the complacent.  It is no place to stand still.  

No one at the UUA headquarters in Boston is wearing a uniform from the Middle Ages.  We venerate no bones of saints, only stories of service and ideals.  We march boldly forward whether the rest of the world is ready for it or not because we know that the world is dying without the light we represent.  

We know that individually we are broken, our imperfections humble us.  We know that our world is broken, shut down, locked down, incapacitated by fear and incompetence and corruption at the highest levels of leadership.  And then there is our planet.  Record heat—100 degrees recorded in Siberia in June.  Raging fires, pandemics.  Our world is melting around us.  

What can we do?

We already know the answer.  We are already doing the work.  We are fighting for what is right at hand.  We are building the common good from where we are.  We are supporting the structures that we know sustain.  We are ministering to ourselves and each other.  We are coming to church.  We are not afraid to get involved.  We are present.  We are witnesses, supporters, and bridge builders.  We are welcoming a new minister.  May the spirit of love guide us from here.

May it be so.

Monday, November 12, 2018

November 11, 2018 Sunday Service Sermon and Readings

1stUUPB Sunday Service on November 11, 2018, led by Paul Ward, President of the 1stUUPB Board of Trustees and author of The Inner Journey to Conscious Leadership.

Opening Words
My opening words this morning are from Marianne Hachten Cotter's Welcome to this Place of Possibility!!

Welcome to this place of possibility!
This is love's hearth, the home of hope,
a refuge for minds in search of truth
unfolding, ever beautiful, ever strange.
Here, compassion is our shelter,
freedom our protection
from the storms of bigotry and hate.
In this abode, may we find comfort and courage.
Here may our sight become vision
to see the unseen,
to glimpse the good that is yet to be.

Dream Big Dreams - Poem by Douglas Stewart

Can you imagine being on the moon,
Or can't you see past the roof in this room?
You must take things beyond what you can see.
You must look past what is handed to you and me.

What is here are the essentials of life.
The bare minimum, which can lead to stress and strife.
But look beyond what seems to make sense.
Go ahead and peek over that real tall fence.

For what you find out there, beyond this place
Might just bring a new-found smile to your face.
For dreams are free, they don't cost a dime.
If you try, you'll like it and it will help pass the time.

See, the limits we have put on ourselves
Are from giving in to peer pressure and putting our dreams on a shelf.
Are you going to accept the status quo?
Or are you going to go where no one else goes?

Our dreams are what drive us and bring out our best.
They're the lights that guide us when we're put to the test.
Go ahead, dream and follow your heart.
You might be surprised and to others look smart.

To dream is true freedom, expressed in our minds.
Let's see where they take us.
Maybe we will end up successful 
And heroes of our time.

Most of all, achievement (no matter what shape or size)
Started as a dream in someone's inner eyes.
Remember dreams are free, so jump in … get your start.
Who knows where you'll end up when you follow your heart.

A better place, a better time.
A better world we can find.
The answers all lie deep in our dreams
Locked up in our minds. 
Douglas Stewart

Story for All Ages
Higgins: A Drop With a Dream by Christopher Buice, read by Amy Stauber

Once upon a time there was a drop of water named Higgins.

Higgins was no ordinary drop of water. He was a drop with a dream.

Higgins lived in a valley where it had not rained in a very long time, so all the lovely green grass was turning brown, all the beautiful flowers were wilting, and all the trees were starting to droop.

Higgins had a dream that one day the valley would be a beautiful place again. But what could he do? After all, he was only a drop of water.

One day Higgins decided to travel and tell others about his dream. All the other drops listened very politely, but no one believed that his dream would come true. "Higgins," said one, "get your head out of the clouds. You can't spend your whole life dreaming."

Higgins decided that he had to do something to make his dream come true. So he began to think and think and think. One day, as he was walking by a rusty old bucket, he got an idea.

"If enough of us drops of water got together in this bucket," Higgins thought, "there would be enough water to sprinkle on a few flowers to help them grow and become beautiful again!"

Eagerly, Higgins told everyone his great idea. But everyone thought he was being foolish. "That Higgins is nothing but a dreamer," they said.

Higgins decided he had to do something to convince the others that he was right. So he said to them, "I don't know about you, but I'm getting into the bucket! I hope some of you will join me. Then there might be enough water to help at least some flowers grow beautiful again."

So Higgins ran as hard as he could, hopped way up in the air, and landed with a kerplunk in the bottom of the bucket.

And there he sat . . . JUST A DROP IN THE BUCKET.

For a long time Higgins was very lonely. It seemed like no one else was going to join him. But after awhile some of the other drops could see that the grass was dying and the flowers were wilting and the trees were drooping. They all agreed that something must be done.

Suddenly, one drop shouted, "I'm going in the bucket with Higgins!" And he leaped through the air and landed — kerplunk — in the bucket.

Then two other drops yelled, "Wait for us!" And they hopped through the air and landed in the bucket. Then ten drops jumped through the air into the bucket. Then thirty. Then fifty! And then hundreds of drops came from all around just to hop in the bucket!

Soon, the bucket was completely full of water. But there were still more drops that wanted to join, so they found another bucket and hopped in. Before long, there were two buckets of water— then three — then four — then ten — and then hundreds — and then thousands of buckets of water!

Along came a powerful breeze that blew over all the buckets, and all the water flowed together to make a mighty stream. Everywhere the water flowed, the grass turned green again and the flowers bloomed and the trees stood tall and straight once more.

All this happened because Higgins had a dream and his dream came true. Because he knew that although he was just a drop in the bucket, enough drops in the bucket make a bucketful, and when there are enough buckets with the wind behind them, then justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

About the author:
The Rev. Chris Buice is minister of the Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

Sermon – Mission Possible
Possibility thinking is powerful, it is the force that has transformed the world; it is possibility thinking that has allowed us to go to the moon and to invent the Internet, and it is this possibility thinking that has allowed us to seek new vistas, to find the most amazing love affairs, and to become more than we ever thought possible. I hope today that I can in some way inspire you to be possibility thinkers. 

Let me share an example of my own experience of possibility thinking. In January 1977, I found myself in Dayton, Ohio just in time for the inauguration of Jimmy Carter. This was my first ever visit to the United States. I was twenty-five years old. There I was, working in research and development at NCR - you likely remember the company as the National Cash Register Company. I was a mechanical engineering designer, but I wasn’t designing cash registers, I was designing cash machines or what we now refer to as ATM’s, Automated Teller Machines.

The first ATM was introduced by Barclays Bank in North London, in June 1967, more than fifty years ago. The design is credited to an engineering team led by John Shepherd-Barron of printing firm De La Rue. I was working at the De La Rue company in partnership with NCR.

Do you remember the first time you used an ATM? The first ATM the U.S was installed in Rockville Center, New York by Chemical Bank in 1969. But this really isn’t a story about ATM’s.

After spending nearly three months at NCR in Dayton, Ohio, I dreamed about moving to the US, but at that time I knew that was impossible. I continued my career traveling around Europe with occasional business trips to the US. But I was a possibility thinker and nearly twenty years later, I was offered the opportunity to work in the U.S. for 2 or 3 years. I came to New York in 1995. Those 2 or 3 years turned into 5 years, then 10, and eventually to more than 20 years, and still counting. Living in the U.S. became a possibility for me and then became a reality. I continue to be a possibility thinker.

As I continue with my theme of possibility thinking, I invite you to think about what wonderful things have happened to you that you first thought were impossible? When did you think possibility? When were you a possibility thinker?

One of my favorite possibility thinkers is the White Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. In a conversation with Alice, the White Queen said:
"I'm just 101, 5 months and a day."
"I can't believe that!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
The Queen, in response to Alice’s skepticism about believing impossible things, suggested that she begin practicing possibility thinking. Although fictional, this children’s story is a wonderful inspiration for believing in the possibility of impossible things. Thinking from a place of possibility can provide the bridge from our dreams and imaginings to our actions that can help make the world a better place to live and work. 

Reverend Dan suggested I might like to share some reflections on the role of president of the board of trustees during my talk today. I also want to talk about why I am wearing this poppy. All the while, keeping in mind our theme of possibility thinking.

When Rev. Dan emailed me a few weeks ago to ask if I was available to lead the service this week, I checked my calendar and said yes. Then I realized that, with Dan as our ministerial leader, we have a new higher standard for our Sunday services. I love listening to Dan’s sermons.  So, if this is your first visit to our sanctuary or you haven’t been here for a while, please don’t judge our usual standards by today’s service. Come back and meet Reverend Dan!

It has been my honor to serve on the Board of Trustees, first as clerk, vice president, and for the past 2 1/2 years, as president of the Board. Much as I have enjoyed serving on the Board, I have to say, I am already looking forward to the end of April when my term as president is complete. I am appreciating term limits!

As I look around this morning, I can see quite a few members of our Congregation who have served as president of the Board of Trustees. You know the challenges of this role.

One minute I am engaged in conversations about the strategic direction for the Congregation; the next minute I find myself collaborating with members of the Board about one of our most important tasks -- that of hiring a new minister. Along with these big issues, I am engaged in conversations and email exchanges about other important issues such as the campus sprinkler system or the cleanliness of the ladies’ room.

Whatever the topic, when I come from a place of service and possibility, I can make a positive contribution.  
In the coming weeks, we will begin a strategy planning process. We already have a Long Range Financial Planning Task Force and a Communications and Marketing Task Force. The Strategic Planning Task Force will look at the bigger picture, the future of our Congregation. We will look at our purpose, our vision, our mission, and our specific goals.

Two years ago, we set a goal of 200 members by 2020. Some of you thought that was impossible. I know it is challenging. Florida is a place where a few people call home, but many pass through on their journey through life. Despite the frequent departures, our Congregation has stopped shrinking and we are positioned for growth. I still believe 200 by 2020 is possible; not easy, but possible. And even if we do not achieve the goal, isn’t it worth the effort?

I encourage you to believe in the possibility of sustainability and growth for our Congregation. If we come from a place of service to our Congregation, we can achieve great things. I invite you to ask: how may I help? How may I serve? I have appreciated the opportunity to serve as president of the Board of Trustees. Thank you for your support.

Now let me share some reflections on the wearing of the poppy. The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war. Inspired by the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields" poppies were first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers killed in that 1914–18 war. They were then adopted by military veterans' groups in parts of the old British Empire. 

Today, the poppies are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to commemorate their service men and women killed in all conflicts. These small artificial poppies are often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, and poppy wreaths are laid at war memorials.

Some people choose to wear white poppies as an alternative to the red poppy. According to the Peace Pledge Union, the white poppy symbolizes remembrance of all casualties of war including civilian casualties, to stand for peace, and not to glamorize war. Purple poppies are used to commemorate animal victims of war.

To conclude my comments in celebration of the centenary of the end of the First World War, let me read the poem that inspired the use of the remembrance poppy, In Flanders Fields, written by the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae early in the First World War:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row,
 That mark our place; and in the sky
 The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
 We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 Loved and were loved, and now we lie
 In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
 To you from failing hands we throw
 The torch; be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die
 We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
 In Flanders fields.

I struggle to find possibility thinking in the concept of war but let me remind us of the Ode of Remembrance, I shared during our quiet time
The passage from the poem "For the Fallen", written by Laurence Binyon.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

By remembering the fallen, maybe we can focus on the possibility of lasting peace.

Having celebrated the centenary of Armistice Day, let me share a few more positive thoughts about possibility thinking.

One of my teachers is possibility thinker Ben Zander; Ben Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and co-author of the book, The Art of Possibility. Ben tells the story of the two salesmen who traveled to Africa from England in the 1900s. They were sent to find out if there was any opportunity for selling shoes. This was long before emails so they wrote telegrams back to Manchester in northern England. One of them wrote, “Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.” And the other one wrote, “Glorious opportunity. They don’t have any shoes yet.”

To be a possibility thinker, you have to be a dreamer. You have to have imagination.

So let me share of a story about Daring to Dream by an unknown author:

An 8-year-old boy approached an old man in front of a wishing well, looked up into his eyes, and asked: "I understand you're a very wise man. I'd like to know the secret of life."

The old man looked down at the youngster and replied: "I've thought a lot in my lifetime, and the secret can be summed up in four words.

The first is think. Think about the values you wish to live your life by.

The second is believe. Believe in yourself based on the thinking you've done about the values you're going to live your life by.

The third is dream. Dream about the things that can be, based on your belief in yourself and the values you're going to live by.

The last is dare. Dare to make your dreams become reality, based on your belief in yourself and your values."

And with that, Walter E. Disney said to the little boy, "Think, Believe, Dream, and Dare."

I love the idea of daring to dream. I have “Dream Big” written large on a cushion in my apartment.
What are your dreams? Do you dare to dream, to dream big; to dare to dream and then do it, to make the dream a reality?
(UU) Christopher Reeve, the actor best known for his role as Superman, was left quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition in 1995. 
One of my favorite Christopher Reeve quotes is, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

For me, it all starts with belief. Let’s pause for a moment. What do you think is impossible, but you really want to believe is possible? What to you dare to dream?

A final word on possibility thinking from Wilferd Peterson, an author of inspirational essays. He says, “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it, is to become a possibility thinker!
May it be so!

Closing words
In celebration of possibilities that lie ahead, I share this quote inspiring us to focus on the goodness in the world. These powerful words were written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

Monday, January 22, 2018


We have established an ad hoc Marketing and Communications Committee tasked with improving communications within our Congregation and to those outside of our Congregation. We met for a kick-off meeting yesterday which helped identify priorities and also demonstrated the wide diversity of opinion about what is most important. I want to thank Gary Evans for stepping up to lead this Marketing and Communications Committee. He will be forming the team over the coming weeks. I invite everyone to share their thoughts about Marketing and Communications with Gary and the team.

Harry Wolin is leading the pledge drive this year. We will hear more from Harry as we move into the month of February. Your pledges will determine the budget for future of programs such as Religious Education and Youth, buildings and grounds, and everything else.

We continue our search for a full-time minister. Next month we will be seeking your opinions on the performance of our ministerial leader, Dan Lambert. Look out for a survey that will be available online and on paper.

Many thanks to those of you involved in putting on the Art Show. Ministers Hall is looking great. Our Fellowship Hour will be extra special this morning.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


I would like to provide an update on the composition of the Board of Trustees. Bob Ashmore has stepped down from the Board for health reasons. I am sure you will join me in thanking Bob for his service on the Board.

One of our newest members, Elizabeth Shine, has been appointed to complete Bob’s term of office. Elizabeth has been part of our Congregation for more than a year and was previously a member of a UU congregation in Connecticut for fifteen years. Let’s welcome Elizabeth to the Board of Trustees.

The Board held its annual retreat two weeks ago. One of the outcomes of the retreat, approved at this week’s Board meeting, was the formation of an ad hoc Marketing and Communications project team. The purpose of this team is to explore how we can do a better job of marketing and communications. We plan to kick this project off in January. If you have expertise in marketing and communications and would like to contribute to the team, please let me know. I will be leading the team initially.

I will be heading to England on Christmas Day and wish you all a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year. “My theme for the new year is Shaping the future as if you will live forever, while living today as if you may die tomorrow.”

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.

Any questions?

Paul G Ward

President, Board of Trustees

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


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