Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day of Remembrance

The service on October 27, 2013 was held in conjunction with Samhain, the day to remember those who have gone before.  UUCL held a regular service with a Ritual of Remembrance, in which members of the congregation were invited up to the chancel and read the name of an ancestor and laid a flower and lit a candle in their honor.  I named Debbie Swanson, my deceased aunt.  She died suddenly of cancer, and her death weighs heavy on my soul, though I do not know why I feel more strongly about her than I do from the death of my brother.

"To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal, to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go." - Mary Oliver

There was a reading of Jane Flander's "Testimony" and the sermon called "As Trees Let Go".

At the beginning of the service, the children paraded into the sanctuary in their costumes and it was so cool to see how many children actually attend our church.  I believe that the UU church is a strong component of teaching children about tolerance and equality.

We sang the following hymns from SLT #413 Go Now in Peace and #175 For All the Saints.


The topic of the worship service on October 20, 2013 was the dangers of fracking.
Our guest speaker was Elaine Esh Lapp, a longtime PA resident who grew up in a farming community now devastated by fracking.  She gave lots of citations and stories and facts about fracking and what it entails and how it destroys the surrounding communities. 

"This we know. The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth." - Chief Noah Sealth

In the older children's Sunday School class, they were talking about what they would do if they were God, what kinds of things they would do.  My oldest daughter's innocent answer was "Give sharks immortality".  If only adult minds could work so simply. 

Our hymns were SLT #21 For the Beauty of the Earth, #1073 The Earth is Our Mother, and #175 We Celebrate the Web of Life.

Some members also played music for us.  Phil Holzinger played Amazing Grace on trumpet, as well as the usual anthems played by our pianist.

Loss and Grief, Resilience

I will combine two services in this post because I didn't take many notes from the first one, but I didn't want a two line post, so here you go.

The first one is from July 28, 2013.  It was called Loss and Grief.
We sang the following SLT hymns: #101 Abide With Me, #1002 Comfort Me, and #1015 I Know I Can.
We read from the Christian scripture, Colossians 3:12-15
The sermon was basically about the degrees of grief and how to make it through each one.

The second one is from September 29, 2013.  It was called Resilience and the title of the sermon was A Reed in the Wind.  This was an amazing worship service.  Everything spoke to me so deeply!  The opening quote on our order of service was from Winnie the Pooh.  It read: "Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." - Christopher Robin to Pooh.

Our Reverend was presented with a new stole, to mark her new contract as a full-time minister with our church.  It was a beautiful stole, hand-embroidered by a member of the congregation with many religious symbols on each side.

Early in the service, we have what's called a Time for All Ages, where the children and young at heart will gather in front of the church and there will be a reading, a story or a fable, or some other activity.  On this day, the Director of Religious Education (DRE) Kate Prisby read a story about a donkey in a well.  The donkey fell in the well and the farmer couldn't get him out but he decided that it was time to fill it in to prevent future falls.  So the farmer called a group of people together and they started to fill in the well with dirt.  In the beginning, the donkey struggled and panicked.  But after a while, he settled down and realized that he could just take one step up.  The farmers continued to throw dirt down the hole, but after a few inches, the donkey would take another step and eventually, the hole was filled and the donkey was out.  The moral of the story is simple enough, shake it off and step up.  After the Time for All Ages, our congregation sings Go Now In Peace, which is a hymn that offers peace to the children as they head off to their Sunday School classes. 

The service was filled with inspirational quotes on resilience. 

"One who never makes mistakes, never makes anything." - Theodore Roosevelt
"If you are going through hell, keep going" - Winston Churchill
"I haven't found a way that works, I've found ten thousand ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison

And several from Maya Anjelou

Our hymns were from SLT, #347, Gather the Spirit and #322 Thanks Be For These

Infinite Hope

The sermon on July 21, 2013 was called Infinite Hope. It was about having a sense of hope in the darkest times.  Our Director of Religious Education shared a story about Gander, Newfoundland.  Gander took in thousands of people on September 11, 2001 when planes were diverted away from NYC after the terrorist attacks.  With no questions asked, and without regard to ability to re-pay or their faiths, the people of Gander sheltered and fed their fellow man.  That is pretty amazing.  

"It is our duty as people of faith to stand in a place of curiosity."  I do not remember the source for this quote, because it really called to me.  Curiosity makes us human, and without curiosity we fall into complacency.  

Rev. Anne shared a poem called Blanket Weaver from the book Encounters.  I am having a hard time finding the text for this, but if you find a source for me please let me know!

Here are the hymns we sung that day.  The hymns come from Singing the Living Tradition (SLT), and other sources.

~~~SLT #276, O Young and Fearless Prophet
O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee, thy life is still a 
summons to serve humanity; to make our thoughts and actions less prone to please 
the crowd, to stand with humble courage for truth with hearts uncowed. 
We marvel at the purpose that held thee to thy course while ever on the hilltop 
before thee loomed the cross; thy steadfast face set forward where love and duty 
shone, while we betray so quickly and leave thee there alone. 
O help us stand unswerving against war's bloody way, where hate and lust and 
falsehood hold back Christ's holy sway; forbid false love of country that blinds 
us to his call, who lifts above the nations the unity of all. 
Stir up in us a protest against our greed for wealth, while others starve and 
hunger and plead for work and health; where homes with little children cry out 
for lack of bread, who live their years sore burdened beneath a gloomy dread. 
O young and fearless Prophet, we need thy presence here, amid our pride and glory 
to see thy face appear; once more to hear thy challenge above our noisy day, 
again to lead us forward along God's holy way. 
~~~SLT  #1027, Cuando el Pobre (When the Poor Ones) (for the sake of space, 
I will post the translated version here.
When the poor ones who have nothing share with strangers, when the 
thirsty water give unto us all, when the crippled in their weakness 
strengthen others, [Refrain] then we know that God still goes that road 
with us, then we know that God still goes that road with us.
When at last all those who suffer find their comfort, when they hope
though even hope seems hopelessness, when we love though hate at times 
seems all around us, [Refrain] then we know that God still goes that 
road with us, then we know that God still goes that road with us.
When our joy fills up our cup to overflowing, when our lips can 
speak no words other than true, when we know that love for simple things
is better, [Refrain] then we know that God still goes that road with 
us, then we know that God still goes that road with us.
When our homes are filled with goodness in abundance, when we learn 
how to peace instead of war, when each stranger that we meet is called a
neighbor, [Refrain] then we know that God still goes that road with us,
then we know that God still goes that road with us.
~~~SLT #170, We Are A Gentle, Angry People
We are a gentle, angry people, and we are Singing, singing for our lives
We are a gentle, angry people, and we are Singing, singing for our lives

We are a justice-seeking people, and we are Singing, singing for our lives
We are a justice-seeking people, and we are Singing, singing for our lives

We are young and old together, and we are Singing, singing for our lives
We are young and old together, and we are Singing, singing for our lives

We are a land of many colors, and we are Singing, singing for our lives
We are a land of many colors, and we are Singing, singing for our lives

We are gay and straight together, and we are Singing, singing for our lives
We are gay and straight together, and we are Singing, singing for our lives

We are a gentle, loving people, and we are Singing, singing for our lives
We are a gentle, loving people, and we are Singing, singing for our lives


A New/Old Faith

Hello everyone!

I thought I would share a little of my faith with you.  I have done this in the past, sharing my Pagan faith, but there has always been another aspect.  A tolerant, open aspect.  As the title says "a new/old faith".  I've always carried with me the principles and beliefs of the Unitarian Universalist church, they walk easily hand in hand with my Pagan faith, and Pagans are accepted and valued members of the UU (Unitarian Universalist) community.  I attended an Esbat at a UU church when I was a teenager.  When my second child was a baby, she and her sister were dedicated at a UU church in Utah.  And this past summer, me and my family became full members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster, led by Rev. Anne Mason. 

The UU faith is an amazing faith, believing that everyone is equal in God's eyes and they really put that into action with their involvement in their communities.  I thought I would share some of that with you today.  I will first post the UU Principles and the sources from which they draw their faith.  I'm sure many of you can identify with one or several of them. 

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:
  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

I would also like to share pieces from the services we have attended at UUCL since the summer.  I take a notebook and write down the hymns and any readings or thoughts that come to mind.  Those will be in the following posts.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why I Am A Pagan

Why am I a Pagan?
It's not an easy question to answer.  Just as when someone asks 'what does it mean to be a Pagan'?  Those are not easy answers to give.  With many other faiths, you can say 'I am Christian because I follow Christ' or 'I am Muslim because I call God by the name Allah and follow the Q'uran'. 

To be a Pagan is to be a little bit of everything I guess. 

As a child, I grew up in a household that were Christians, though we never went to church or got baptized, just Christian because it was the 'thing' to do.  When I became a preteen, I began exploring.  The world was small to me, and while I was aware that there were a multitude of religions in the world, I didn't really thing of them as religions, but more other lifestyles.  I didn't know any better.  So I started going to church, many different denominations.  Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of God.  But none of it made sense to me.  There is even a passage in the Book of Genesis 1:26: Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness"  The plurality of that statement was always confusing to me, since it was taught that there was only one God, a male figure.  And I wondered, why would He use 'Us'?  Also, if we are made in His image, and there are two sexes, wouldn't that imply a male and female Deity?  Now that made sense.  So as I got older, I explored the possibilities, and it came to me.  It was possible that there were male and female Creators.  After all, women are the bearers of children, not men. 

As I came to this realization, it was as if the universe opened up to me.  Where most people would see something insignificant or plain, I would see so much more.  Where people would see science, I would see a miracle.  A tree is not just a tree, it is an integral part of the world, creating life through it's oxygen and shade through it's leaves. 

And if I listen to the simple miracles of life all around me, I can almost hear the Gods of Old talking to me.  And my ancestors as well.  I have been the family genealogist for over a decade now and I have traced lines of ancestors far back in time, and I feel like it's a way to honor our past.  It's a way to learn about the way life was before it was complicated by industry and technology.  It's a simpler way of living. 

To be Pagan, I am accountable to myself and my community.  There is no guidebook for Pagans, our morals and life lessons come from nature, from our own conscience, and from our community.  To me, it is a very honorable thing to teach my children, that all ways lead to God, by whatever the name you choose to call them.  If you lead a good life, a noble and helpful life, you will arrive in a peaceful place when this life is done. 

I hope this way enlightening, for those who read all of it.  And as always, I am open to questions.  However, I do not like to be told that 'I am doing it wrong' or that 'I am going to Hell'.  I shed the God vs. Devil, Heaven vs. Hell worldview long ago.  Ask me anything, I'm an open book.

Have a great weekend everyone!