Ministerial Reflections


Reflections from the Ministerial Team

A MESSAGE FROM REVEREND CAROLYN

September 16, 2020  Rev. Carolyn offers this mid-week reflection:

“The sin of respectable people reveals itself in flight from responsibility.” Eberhard Bethage (From the introduction of Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

All around us there is free-floating anxiety. Our collective lungs and pounding hearts feel it daily. My current outrage-turned-anxiety-turned pounding heart concerns the revelation that many women who are detained at the southern border of our country have been involuntarily sterilized. We know this only because a brave whistleblower had a strong enough moral compass to come forward thereby risking their livelihood and career to do what was right.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of sacrifice of late. It’s not a concept Unitarian Universalists discuss often. When there is discussion it’s likely to be fraught. Yet, sacrifice is precisely what is called for in this terrible time – such as the sacrifice the aforementioned whistleblower exhibited; sacrifice such as the kind offered by the firefighters working in western states; sacrifice by those who have at least enough food, money, and opportunity for those who have precious little of each and all; the sacrifice of comfort we all make in wearing masks so that all of us may be safer.

Each week when the offering is taken up at All Souls we specifically say in response, “For all that you have shared and all that you have sacrificed, thank you.” We do so with intention, respectful of sacrifice’s meaning. We know that for many Souls, financially supporting the congregation comes at a cost that is thought worthy: sacrifice bolsters the greater good.

The greater good. More than anything right now, let’s hold the greater good in the center of our pounding hearts. Let’s sacrifice time, treasure, comfort, and privilege to see that our country’s wrongs are righted. There are women at the border – and so many others – counting on the willingness of “respectable people” to fly toward responsibility – even if it means sacrifice.

With Love and faith in your goodness,

Carolyn
 

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September 2, 2020
Dear Souls,

This reflection is going to sound vaguely familiar. In his lovely homily shared a few weeks ago, Mark Robel – a bona fide gardener – shared some garden wisdom. I am not a gardener but I did recently glean some wisdom a little patch of dirt generously shared.

Kate is the gardener of the family. Every year she turns our little back yard into a kind of secret garden. It’s remarkable – remarkable to me, that is. Those of you who are gardeners, who happily put your hands in the dirt are probably amazed on some level but not, like me, amazed that anything resembling a garden is possible in the little bit of earth that I am lucky enough to call, “home.”

All this said, Kate does ask that I take responsibility for the little bed that stretches beneath our living room window. It’s barely ten feet wide and a foot across. Every year I go to Smith’s Acres in Niantic and have a good old time. I fill up my wagon with colors – because colors are all I know about gardening – that I think will “pop” alongside our bright red front door and the pink rocking chair that sits in front of that red door. This year I went for muted colors and the reliable coleus. And then I got distracted. Benign neglect ensued. It has not been pretty. Early in the summer, my daughter said that my little garden bed looked like a child’s stick drawing.

Then something interesting happened. Volunteer weeds began to pop up. (I’m choosing to call them “volunteers.”) And guess what? The “weeds” are prettier and more abundant than the fancy Smith's Acres flowers. I’m letting them be and delighting in the dirt’s wisdom.

So let that be a lesson to you and to me: chill out. Sometimes the best laid gardens - and plans - don’t quite bloom but being “in the weeds” doesn’t necessary mean that you’re lost. Sometimes it means that something more beautiful has been found.

Reverend Carolyn Patierno

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August 26, 2020
The weekly reflection this week is offered by All Souls' associate minister Rev. Caitlin O'Brien.

Dear Souls,

There is an element of surrender to most spiritual traditions, an invitation to acknowledge the undeniable truth that we are not in charge. Today I need not remind you that we are neither in charge of the virus trying to replicate itself among us, nor in charge of a competent public health response to this threat. Yes, we have our part to play, but mostly we’ve just had to watch as our country’s Corona-virus death rate has become 6 times the global average. I trust that you share in my disgust with this fact, and that you are informing yourself, and taking a stand when and where you can.

In what has become not a sprint, but a marathon, I encourage you to remember to take care of yourself, because that is something that you actually are in charge of. For example, as often as you can, give yourself the chance to laugh out loud. This week, I’m reading a David Sedaris book that has me cackling under the covers at night. It’s good for the soul. And consider the washing of your hands to be an act of both physical and spiritual self-care. Join me, if you wish, in the practice of singing “Spirit of Life” as you wash your hands. I think that Carolyn McDade’s lyrics bring a great deal more meaning to this ritual than the “Happy Birthday” song. Don’t you agree?:

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.

In solidarity and in faith,                                                                        
Rev. Caitlin

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August 19, 2020 
Our intern minister, Ann Kadlecek, is back! Ann offers this week's reflection, with an invitation to build up our "letting go muscle". 

Hello, Souls!
It is good to be back with you, at the end of a summer that somehow has seemed both too short and too long.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself this summer is an abnormal tidiness. When so many important things seem beyond my control, keeping my books and files and projects organized just feels good.

Controlling something – anything – does feel good, but is it sustaining for the long haul? For this is definitely a long haul. And I encountered a very different perspective in one of my summer zoom groups – a weekly interfaith gathering of religious professionals, mostly chaplains, sharing the spiritual practices that are sustaining them, right now.

One chaplain shared that he used to have a set route for his morning walk, until one day he allowed his dog to choose where they would go. To me, this sounds very brave – I’m pretty sure my dog would lead me on a tour of New London trash bins and squirrels. And this chaplain did report some frustration at first. But his dog-led walk became a daily ritual that he now sees as an opportunity to strengthen his “letting go muscle” – a practice to build his capacity for letting go of bigger things. It is now, he says, his most important spiritual practice.

We’re all carrying a lot these days. We’re going to have to learn to set some of it down. This takes practice – not in big, dramatic ways, but in our everyday moments. Practice can happen when we approach something we’re already doing in a different way, refraining from control, or perhaps just letting our shoulders drop a little, and seeing what happens.

I’m not ready to give up my organized living room. But I’m finding other ways to practice – yesterday it was while driving, today on a call with the cable company (a really excellent opportunity to practice!).

May we each, in our own way, build the “letting go muscle” that we need to sustain us in these perilous times.

Be well, Souls.
Ann, Intern Minister

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August 12, 2020
Affiliate minister Rev. David Horst offers this week's reflection. 

The Persistence of Beauty

On my dark days, all I see is the ugliness pervading everything from city streets to our nation’s capital. I find litter, weeds, and blight in the city — a good metaphor of the corruption and cruelty among the ruling political class in Washington, D.C. Drinkers and smokers drop their empty nips and cigarette packs without a thought. Knee-high bitter dock, knotweed, and prickly lettuce in sidewalks and empty lots, spreading their late-summer seeds, have gone uncut for months. Soiled mattresses and crumbling particle-board furniture lie moldering at curbside. The city and political landscape from here to D.C. is debris-ridden and uncared for. How can I witness this uncaring and neglect and not feel dispirited?

And yet, somehow and someway, beauty persists. I witness the proliferation of Maximilian Sunflowers finding nourishment in the gutter. I praise the hardy Hydrangeas blooming blue and full in the heat of the day. I join local volunteers gathering on Saturday morning to clean up trash and debris from the streets of their city just as I support good-government leaders and citizens promoting honesty, equity, and decency.

By word and action, I resist the seduction of cynicism, the surrender to fear and division, and the wanton spread of ugliness.

Instead, I seek and find the beauty in our diverse cityscape and every human face. I believe that the democratic process and rule of law, like the beauty of the flowers, persists and flourishes.

Now it’s time to pick up the litter, cut the weeds, and clean up the streets — and speak out and vote.

Peace and blessings,
Reverend David Horst
Affiliate Minister