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No snow either and quite a bit of sun early on. I felt a little tired at church today and had some trouble singing but I came through well enough, even if with a slightly scratchy throat. Charles Howes did the service and had an excellent program about the importance of love, “standing on the side of love” as the UU’s say.

Charles reminded us of the nastiness and evil prevalent because of lack of love. For example, in Boston people stealing parking spaces and breaking windows because of frustration with the snow, and three young people in North Carolina senselessly murdered by a frustrated person who felt they took his parking space and that they deserved to die because they were Muslims. Very very sad and very tragic. Lives at basically their beginnings, early twenties, wiped out. Whole futures that now never will come to be.

How incredibly precious is life. To waste it is the ultimate tragedy.

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The Rev. Carl Scovel, minister emeritus of King’s Chapel in Boston, and recipient of the UUA’s highest honor, the Distinquished Service Award, gave an amazing speech delivered before the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 23, 1994. This is known as the Berry Street Lecture of 1994.

I knew Carl back in the mid-1950’s when we both attended the Gannet Club, a club for singles, at the Arlington Street Church in Boston. He was a serious young man, very knowledgeable and headed for the ministry even then. He had grown up in China as his parents were missionaries there. I remember once riding in a car with him and another bright young intellectual by the name of Karl Nelson (not sure of that first name), going to some club function. They were discussing 19th century religious people, and referred to someone as “the last of the Transcendentalists”. I was very impressed with their knowledge, and that expression stuck in my craw. I wonder whatever happened to that Nelson fellow.

Here is a inspiring excerpt from Carl’s lecture:

We also know that spirituality is not simply the product of fear, frustration, or bad digestion. We know that our yearning for meaning and fulfillment is given in our very being. So! Follow that yearning, need, reaching to its source, to our creation, to our createdness and surmise with me, if you will, that this yearning, this reaching, this need, is no accident, no psychic atavism, but a reflection of that reality from which we come.

The Great Surmise says simply this: At the heart of all creation lies a good intent, a purposeful goodness, from which we come, by which we live our fullest, to which we shall at last return. And this is the supreme reality of our lives.

This goodness is ultimate—not fate nor freedom, not mystery, energy, order nor finitude, but this good intent in creation is our source, our center, and our destiny. And with everything else we know in life, the strategies and schedules, the technology and tasks, with all we must know of freedom, fate and finitude, of energy and order and mystery, we must know this, first of all, the love from which we were born, which bears us now, and which will receive us at the end. Our work on earth is to explore, enjoy, and share this goodness, to know it without reserve or hesitation. “Too much of a good thing,” said Mae West, “is wonderful.” Sound doctrine.

Do you see how the Great Surmise stands all our logic and morality on its ear? Neither duty nor suffering nor progress nor conflict—not even survival—is the aim of life, but joy. Deep, abiding, uncompromised joy.

I would like to thank the Rev. Richard Beal for providing this excerpt and telling us about Carl Scovel’s Berry Street lecture.

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This says it all, folks, this is it, the true voices from yon twelve-winded sky, from every quarter of humanity, this is Unitarian Universalism! Here’s a great ten minute video on our UU faith:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wezp1W2HKlU[/youtube]

For more exciting UU information and videos go to Peter Bowden’s UU PLANET TV!

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Here’s a poem by Ralph Helverson, minister emeritus of the First Parish UU in Cambridge, MA, which he served as minister from 1959 to 1977. The Rev. Dr. Ralph Norman Helverson died April 25, 2007, at Carleton-Willard Village, Bedford, MA, at the age of ninety-five.


Impassioned Clay
by Ralph N. Helverson

Deep in ourselves resides the religious impulse.
Out of the passions of our clay it rises.
We have religion when we stop deluding ourselves that we are self-sufficient, self-sustaining or self-derived.

We have religion when we hold some hope beyond the present,
some self-respect beyond our failures.
We have religion when our hearts are capable of leaping up at beauty,
when our nerves are edged by some dream in our heart.
We have religion when we have an abiding gratitude for all
that we have received.

We have religion when we look upon people with all their
failings and still find in them good;
when we look beyond people to the grandeur in nature and to the purpose in our own heart.

We have religion when we have done all that we can,
and then in confidence entrust ourselves to the life that is
larger than ourselves.

Not bad.

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Here I am back to Terry Eagleton again with his first Yale lecture series talk, “Christianity Fair and Foul”, in the middle of which he invokes the “mind-blowing contingency” of the cosmos, the fact it might just as well never have happened, and captures for me again my one feeling of mystery, namely, the Why is there something rather than nothing? feeling. He’s totally brilliant and amusing throughout this talk and sums up Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens as Ditchkins. I was led here this morning from another old flame of mine, James P. Carse, to whom I was led by the remarkable Rebecca Parker, UU “theologian” of the Starr King school in Berkeley, Calif., after having heard her beautiful North Conway Friday evening talk about earth being our only paradise, as proclaimed by among others, Jesus H Christ, and the early Christians. How I found James P. Carse from this comes from a UU World interview of Parker and co-author Rita Nakashima Brock, under Recent Articles in the sidebar. Parker’s latest book, again with Brock, is titled, “Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire”. OK, there’s enough material here in these links to last a lifetime, certainly my lifetime.
😉
ps. I forgot what really set me off on this track this morning, Stanley Fish’s recent article in the NYT, God Talk. It’s a review of Terry Eagleton’s latest book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.
Happy reading! 😆

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More Fun in Church

Fun in church again today. Richard (our minister) created a “Lighter and Brighter” service dedicated to easing any growing winter blahs. This worked! My blahs were definitely eased and it appeared to me from my vantage point in the choir that the blahs of the rest of the congregation were eased as well. In fact Kathy happily lit a candle for the big fat robin she had seen yesterday, and Heather lit one for the amazing shooting star she saw last night on driving home from performing at the White Mountain Hotel. Were these premonitions of the paradigm shift we experienced in church today? Ha Ha Who knows? Speaking of paradigm shifts, Richard arrived in a light tan suit with a yellow tie and proceeded to give us opening words in jumpy jazz rhythm.

He invited Mary Hargreaves, better known as Mary Ukelady, to help us sing away the winter blues, and she was terrific as usual. She and Heather did a great duet together, and also Heather, our choir director, did her amazingly awesome new song, Make It Mine, that she did at the Open Mic on Friday. The choir put on a show of its own with an exciting do-do-wah song which Heather had picked out for it. We had the congregation jumping, yes, almost literally.

Speaking of the Open Mic on Friday, that was terrific too. There may have been upwards of 60 people squeezed into the concert hall in the church basement. Heather, leader of the Open Mic, had to cut the number of songs per performer back to two from three in order to fit everyone in. The choir did “One More Circle” by Peter Mayer, arr. Jim Scott, and I think we really bashed it. Yippeeee!

So what do all these fun and games have to do with bettering the state of the world and the people suffering in it? Are people suffering? Absolutely! But the purpose of our celebration today was to celebrate life, the world, and our amazingly good fortune to be alive in it, to be thankful, ever so thankful that we live, have life and love for this brief time on earth. And every person’s death diminishes us.

How about I close with John Donne’s famous poem?

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Many years ago at the Arlington Street Church in Boston we did a Vaughn Williams musical arrangement of this poem. Wish I still had it.

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Hey, we had a good day in church today. I always get turned on there. It starts slow. Very few people. You wonder if anyone will show up. We had a full complement of people for the choir. Four women in the front row. Three men and one woman in the back row. This let us do a four part round. It was a little shaky but we got silent clapping from Becky. For introit we did a Jubilate Deo. Great fun to hit that. I enjoyed singing it.

Mind you this is a UU church with Universalist leaning. We’ve added about six or seven people this year. I think there were close to forty people in attendance today, counting the choir. We’re all very informal. Lots of candles lit. I lit one for son Christopher, saying today would have been his 52nd birthday.

There’s a lot more I could say. I could get into the personalities. People are all friendly and enjoy one another during coffee hour, before church, and even during. There were about ten people at the social concerns meeting during coffee hour. I didn’t attend — being treasurer is enough — and chatted with various people.

I’ve decided to learn “One More Circle” by Peter Mayer, arr. Jim Scott, for the Open Mic this Friday. It’ll be the seventh anniversary. Heather started it the end of January 2002. See an earlier post on the fourth anniversary for background. It’s amazing how time flies.

OK, that’s it for now. Over and out.

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Snowy Snow Snow!

Yes, we’ve got a lot of snow already. Even ahead of last year at this point I bet. Another 12 to 14 inches here yesterday. And a “mix” coming on Wednesday. Yuk!

Cynthia and I braved the elements yesterday and headed for our UU church in Norway, Maine, leaving a bit before 9am. No trouble at all getting there. The snow hadn’t started yet. But during our church service the storm began.

We were having an exciting and amusing Solstice service. Noise makers and drums were brought in to chase away the darkness and witness the return of light and life. So, as we had fun banging and clowning around, the snow began to build up outside.

Hey, we had some serious aspects to the service as well. It wasn’t entirely Pagan, but did have a bit of the Christmas cheer with tree and all, plus some messages for the Christians among the sparse congregation.

Needless to say, we left for home, normally a 35 minute drive, right after the service. We did fine, driving very carefully behind lines of cars behind snow plows, until we made the turn onto rt 117 to Denmark.

Then suddenly, with no warning from anybody (not even from God), we spun off the road. I watched in horror from my driver’s seat as our Subaru Forester slid past a road sign and to the right of some birch trees, and came swinging around down an incline to rest beside a small house. We were unscathed but a bit traumatized.

Suddenly people seemed to appear from nowhere. A small truck with a plow stopped up on the road, people got out and came down to us, a friendly guy from the house came to my window. “Hey, with a little help I think you can back out of here!”, he said.

The people in the truck maneuvered it down by the house and started removing snow from behind our car. Cynthia was invited into the house. Shovels went to work and I was told to back up slowly. Before I knew it, the car was freed and ready to go.

I thanked the people profusely, drove back to the road from the driveway, and followed the savior truck, ever so carefully, back toward Denmark, and then made it up the hill and home.

All this time it had been snowing without let up of course. What a exciting and interesting day we had! Whew… we were sure happy when we emerged from our car safely at home.

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We had a great Mem Day service in church today. That’s our UU church in Norway, Maine, pretty small as churches go, but we’ve picked up great enthusiasm in the last few weeks. Not sure why. But there you are. But getting back to the service today: Richard (that’s our minister) was in great form and had some wonderful thoughts. The thing about him is that he’s a regular person, not at all remote as some ministers, with their egos, tend to be. I get along with him great. He’s got a self-effacing sense of humor, just like me. But getting back to his thoughts, he emphasized memories, memorials, throughout the service. We were all asked to speak out and mention names of loved ones who have passed away. Many people spoke out. We must have had a good 25, maybe 30 people in attendance today. Our music went well too. Heather, our music director, led us in an enchanting and mesmerizing anthem about the Goddess, our returning, etc. Right now as I write this I can’t remember the details. So much happened today, I just can’t reproduce specifics. But we did pick up a new church member today, a very nice person named Trudi, didn’t get her last name. Our Growth Group met after church and Trudi became a new member of that. “An Inconvenient Truth” was shown at 1pm for those who hadn’t seen it. And now people are chatting and laughing upstairs while Clarissa and Eryn prepare supper so that Cynthia doesn’t have to do it.

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Here’s Kate Braestrup, the only combination Game Warden and UU minister that I know of, and to boot she’s from the Great State of Maine! Listen to her talk about her work and about God:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dXHbhGLYJ8[/youtube]

A totally inspiring lady. Here’s her book: Here If You Need Me: A True Story.

For more great UU stuff, check out uuplanet.tv. 😀

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