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Blog Post for Friday, May 22, 2020

Dear Friends,

As we go through this sheltering in place time, some weeks seem harder in the world than others.  This week has brought news of the 100000th death within the United States from Covid-19, the death of George Floyd and the threat to a Black birdwatcher in Central Park, and at the local church level, disheartening activity by scammers. So I just thought I would take a moment today to write a message to say that in the midst of all this I am buoyed by the work of this community and all the small acts of kindness that I get to bear witness to done by our members and friends. I thought I would just list a few:

The ways in which people have been calling and comforting one another and making that connection that is so vital to all of our well being;

The continued efforts to ensure the well being of our guest in sanctuary;

The engaged conversations about what it means to support Black and Indigenous people who are disproportionately affected (by sending support and by sending masks);

The care and comfort that have been offered to people who are living alone who have experienced health problems not related to the pandemic directly but which are complicated because of the reduced number of medical and other assistive services;

The food that is dropped off that has literally saved people from extreme hunger at a time when opportunities to earn money have disappeared and the gifts to the discretionary fund that allow people to be housed in extreme heat this week;

The number of people who have given of their creativity, time and talent to help make our worship services so inspirational including the choir members who have struggled with technologies that are not their natural place of comfort to allow us to have music;

The parents who have maintained a commitment to support their children’s religious education though another task while trying to work at home.

The quiet teams of people that have rallied around a number of the friends of the church who have been unhoused during this pandemic, offering so many small and large services that otherwise they literally would have no access to in a time when most services are shut down or nonexistent;

The continued efforts to rally voters for the fall;

The number of people who have continued to faithfully pay their pledge or pledged for next year to ensure that our staff can be paid for their extra hours during this time period.

For all that you do to make our community work and for all that you don’t see every day, please know that you are making a real difference in real people’s lives.

We face threats to our health and general well being, to our economy, to our political system, to our environment and yet we also are witness each day to simple acts the counter all these trends. If you would like to get more involved in activities that might help post your spirit, please feel free to be in touch. Mostly though, THANK YOU!

And take good care,
Leslie

PS Remember that we have been amassing resources to help us when the world seems overwhelming.  You can find them at:  Virtual Friday Meditation

A special recording for today is right here:

Reframing

For the last few weeks, I have been thinking of the power of reframing. Our faith tradition teaches me that bad things do not happen “for a reason” and yet when they happen, especially unbidden as the events of this spring, we have an opportunity to reframe them. Increased time to be mindful has been one of the new frames I have put on this time of sheltering and increased alone time.  I am appreciating that I have more time to turn inward and to discover the internal closets that I can clean out (and someday those external ones as well!) In recent weeks, as I find my spirit getting more weary, I have found reframing with gentleness important.  Here is the meditation on gentleness from this week’s vespers service:

Gentle, like a breeze moving through the grasses. Gentle as a realization that spreads across your awareness and gives release. Gentle as the first light that butters the morning. Gentle as the quiet after chaos and ruckus. Gentle as a rose petal against skin longing for touch. Gentle as a moth’s wings beating against a light. Gentle as the glow of a candle on a dark night. Gentle as the smell of bread and the taste of peace. Gentleness is a gift we give our spirits longing to soar free, to our aching hearts longing for what is lost, to our racing minds needing focus and calm. Go gentle into this time and into your life.

And we always offer words of affirmation as well.  Here they are:

Make yourself a cup of tea. Ask someone for their attention. Pull the corners of the love that has been given to you like a blanket around your shoulders. Drape your own table with the fine cloth of care you wish to bestow upon others. Swaddle your own heart in the wise embrace of generations. Gift your own most tender self with love and care each day. Be gentle with the world and start with yourself.

So may we seek the opportunities for reframing and those places of gentleness.

With What Do We Fill Our Hearts?

Here is the meditation we shared in our Vespers service this week. Join us for Vespers at 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday.

Oh friends!

Our streets are empty and yet our hearts are full. Full of worries and anxieties, real-life concerns and imagined predicaments. Our calendars are altered and yet our uncertainty seems to make appointment after appointment. Our choices are restricted and we may long for what we cannot do. And yet our inner freedoms remain: to count our gratitudes daily and even hourly, to take note and celebrate small acts of goodness, to remember that we belong to one another, to think of and act for those most fragile to these dangerous winds of change. Thus we choose the contents of our own hearts and the groundings of our own beings.

So we affirm and offer this:

Name your fears. Hold them and keep them company. Thank them for warning of dangers. Love them and give them pets and pampering. Do not insist they hide in the dark corners of your heart to live and grow only in shame and isolation. Teach them manners and draw boundaries. Tell them in a gentle and firm tone which sides of the lines are theirs to inhabit. In this way, your fears will calm and settle, will move over and make room for the peace and comfort, joy and thanksgiving which will enliven your being. You can prepare your heart with the intention of love.

Leslie’s Logos – March 2020

We have begun 2020 with a lot of bang! Our volunteers have been amazing, stepping up despite busy schedules and making things go. Services have been well-attended and filled with great music. Community time after services have been abuzz and we are excited to have the energy of new members and a steady stream of visitors.

We continue to provide leadership to our county and to the national world of Unitarian Universalism. In January alone we hosted the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County’s Welcome Our Witness event, the Faith In Action East Bay Clergy lunch and ordained our own Jim Lewis (that’s Rev. Jim Lewis now! Hooray!)

We care and love one another. We have been saddened by the deaths of many within our community’s embrace and also the illness of others. And when people reach out, others are responding, providing care and celebration of one another.
We are learning and growing together through classes on our history, through Sunday Salon discussions and the new Wednesday minister’s class which is focused on new ways of thinking about what we believe.

We are spreading restorative practices through Breath and Spirit and vespers, journaling, forest bathing, and other healing techniques.
And we are working for justice. The new Climate Action Committee has been holding educational events. Our Sanctuary Team has continued to support our guest (and is now able to offer short and discreet ways to volunteer) and we are preparing to house Winter Nights, just to pick out a few activities.

So much to take in and to relish and so much for which I am grateful. Much to improve and continue to work on. Let’s keep it going, together.
With gratitude, Leslie

 

A meditation for the end of January…

This week so many of those I interacted with spoke to the frenetic pace and heaviness of this month. Here is a meditation from our vespers service to lighten your spirits:

O world of small cares and large heartbreaks, endless lists and unreachable goals let me stop and hold a moment for the chiming voice of the sacred. Let me listen to its tones and let them call me back to my deepest loves and my clearest aspirations. And then let me touch that wholeness from whence all things holy spring. O teeming life with all its resurrections and tiny deaths, with its true threats and meaningless diversions, help me to be present to the small winged creatures of joy and the constellations of beauty that can frame the most ordinary of days and give them angelic voice. O day of limited hours and infinite duties, help me be present to you and all that you give and in doing so, let me be present to my own heart.

Pray for the power to notice and the discipline to pay attention. Exalt the power of every day and the comfort of the routine. Praise what makes you more yourself and give it a name secret to your own heart. In this place, in the quiet of these holding dark nights, know your own power for connection and healing. All that you need is in your own self and in the connections among us all.

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