Sunday, February 11, 2007

Being Winter

BE Winter - Delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron Midday Service. 2-11-07 by Jamie Goodwin

When I originally proposed this service back in December I was thinking, amidst the 50 degree days, I really want to talk about winter! that is, if winter ever gets here. Alas, as always, winter did come. The nights grew cold, bitter even, many of us have picked up the various winter time viruses that come along with living in a community of humans, and now we are in the depths of February.

Often this time of year I find myself longing, wishing, desperately hoping for the change of seasons. Winter to spring is one of the most fantastic and celebrated times in all cultures. We center some of our most important festivals on spring’s arrival. We think about beginning gardens and cleaning our homes, even though we know it is still too cold to do such things.

These last couple of years I have been wondering, am I missing something? Am I missing an opportunity, am I missing out on something important… by waiting? Waiting is important, essential. Patience may be the strongest lesson we are taught by winter. Still I wonder if waiting, if patiently longing for warmth and longer days is limiting me? I never expect I will be one of those people who full heatedly embraces winter, I doubt you will see me in snow pants and skies strapped to my feet, and I doubt you will ever see me with a joyous smile while shoveling my driveway and the smidge of sidewalk that I am responsible for keeping clear. Then again I have made a conscious effort, a spiritual choice to try to embrace winter. I call it Being Winter.

As much as I am able - I stretch, even when I am uncomfortable, I pull my heart back from that longing for what was and what will be, back into what is.

In many ways my feelings for winter mirror how many of us feel about change. We know it is coming, we sometimes dread it. We look around at our warm comfortable days and say “This is alright, if it’s all the same to you, I will stay right here.” When it hits, we wait, unbudging by the hearth fire, unwilling to look up from our melancholy and fatigue. We wait for a glimpse of the sun and the melting of the world around us. We wait, if we wait long enough perhaps… perhaps… we will find ourselves right back to those warm comfortable days.

Of course, life doesn’t work that way. There is work to be done. There are pathways to clear - there is crisp, refreshing air to breathe. My challenge to you, is to embrace change. Even when it is uncomfortable, even when its cold and challenging winds worm their way into your warm and comfortable cloak. Be change.

That is a little scary isn’t it? I don’t deny it. Change is scary, sometimes even hurtful. We are comfortable, secure, in some ways even happy. But it is also necessary. Just as the cycles of the earth, the changing seasons, are essential to the plants and animals we share our little slice of earth with. Change is essential to us as believers in a living faith.

But how do we change?

It is simple really, and only takes a life time. For things to change, we must also be willing to change. We must be willing to pour the light of our love into all we do. We must be willing to reach into the heavens and bring back the sacred, the true, the worthy. Most of all we must be willing to share all we find, and learn from those others who bring their own, sometimes unexpected, treasures into our midst. And they say this is an easy faith.

But if things change, tomorrow will be so much different than what we have today.

That may be true, but tell me, has one spring ever looked identical to the one before. Have the exact same flowers, and the exact same leaves appeared as they did so long ago. And yet spring is spring. Gardeners know that a plant that was thriving last we saw it may suddenly be struggling this year, what has been struggling for several seasons may suddenly burst forth in beauty and elegance. It is exactly those varieties in life that make it such a fulfilling adventure. Spring is spring, and just like the seasons, if we hold tight to who we are, if we remember and honor our history and traditions, whatever tomorrow might bring we can embrace and welcome into our lives.

There is a song close to the heart of many Unitarian Universalists, the last two lines perhaps, say it more clearly and simply than I have.

Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

We are blessed with roots, deep sustaining roots that even in depths of winter and blowing cold have sustained us, have kept us.

We are blessed with wings, as a living and moving faith, that we may soar above the clouds and search for all that is right and true.

Life surrounds us, even in the depths of winter.

I want to BE winter, and not just endure it
I want to BE change, and not just wait for it to happen
I want the BE life, and not just a spectator

No, it is not always easy, AND that is no excuse for not trying.

In the spirit of prayer I ask you to sing with me now, some of you may know the words, but if you do not they are listed in your order of service, the song is Spirit of Life. After we sing we will take a few moments to set together in silence. For now I ask you to rise, and as we sing think of all that life is; the warm spring days, the cold winter nights, the comfortable waiting places, and the challenging changing future.

BE winter with me now, BE change, BE Life.

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

~ Silence ~

Amen, and thank you for being here today.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What UU's Believe About God

Our 7th and 8th grade RE class did a survey of members during coffee hour. We asked people to check the beliefs below that pertained to them. We allowed the respondents to check as many as they felt fit for them. We got the list of statements from Compass Points by Gaia Brown and Michelle Richards, the curriculum for our class. After people responded (48 people), we classified the statements in the categories shown on the pie graph and determined the percentage of responses in each area.

Almost everyone agreed with the statement that "There are as many ideas about God as there are people", so we used that for the title of our graph instead of including it in our pie graph.
Here are the statements and the way we classified them. We would be interested in finding out what others in our congregation and other UU's on the Internet think about the findings of our survey.

Statements and Classification
God cares for us and listens to our prayers.-9
God is present in the relationships among people.-30

There is a spark of divinity in each of us.-43
God and the Universe are the same- God is in everything and everyone-30
God is inside, around us and with us wherever we are-8

I find God in Nature-43
God is like a loving mother who sustains us and all life-11

God is my conscience calling me to make the world a better place-19
We can use science and reason to make the world a better place-46

There is no way we can know whether or not there is a God-20

There is no such thing as God, and even the word is meaningless-5

God created the universe and left it to run itself.-6

Some Questions We Have:

* Do you think this is a true representation of the diverse beliefs in our congregation?

* Is this representative of UU's in general?

* Would you classify the statements the same way we did or make changes?

* Are there other beliefs that are not represented here?

Please leave your comments.
7th and 8th Grade RE Class