We celebrate International Peace Day today, which actually occurs September 21st ; we put out our now traditional “Pinwheels for Peace” organized by our Director of Religious Education, Halcyon Domanski.
Usually when we talk about Peace, we talk about politics; how you can avoid that? We talk about war and violence, but it always seems so far away, so removed from us here. We have a continuum of political belief here as many churches do, but I believe we need to address that more, that so-called conservatives and so-called liberals (all of us some kind of gradation) have not really communicated with one another, and that further, that is a barrier to peace as well! Inner peace, and congregational peace.
Our district Executive Joan Van Becelaere (pronounced van Beezler) spoke last Sunday about the building of community by having a common mission, by eliciting what it is about this church that is different than, a reading group, political rally, or discussion group.
One of our members, Barb Malin, has been involved in the Peace Academy and helped teach a course called “Nonviolent Communication,” a way of working toward peace, if you will, by the very way in which we communicate to one another and the wider world. Words matter, my friends, and they can deeply wound, be divisive, and yes even promote violence and intolerance.
The National Peace Academy, says it “supports, advances and nurtures cultures of peace by conducting research and facilitating learning toward the development of peace systems “local to global” and the development of the full spectrum of the peace builder inner and outer, personal and professional. In all its operations, internal and external, the National Peace Academy strives to embody and reflect the principles and processes of peace.”
The National Peace building Peace learning Certificate Program is: “for those seeking to Create Positive Change in themselves, their Communities, and the World.”
We have need of peace building within our own community; there is conflict that has seemed invisible, problems which have simmered and now come to a boil. It is a time we need one another and need to love one another.
Over the past 4 years, I have tried to promote and preach the beloved community, gathered together in religious and loving relationship; this is a way to peace, as much as demonstrating against a certain overseas war. I have, I hoped, preached peace and, I further hope I have preached and lived lovingly and peacefully. Because I was called to help this church grow, I also preached the challenge but deed for change, and all the threats that change might bring!
I have used Scientist and British Unitarian, Charles Darwin’s important quote, which I should put over my office door or maybe even a tattoo: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Peace and change begins with us, of course; it begins with each one of us, then working, loving, worshipping, working for peace and justice together, walking together even if we don’t think alike. Indeed, I have suggested that maybe it was time to do more than JUST walk together, and I know that that term can be interpreted to mean a lot of different things, but that’s just the problem; it isn’t exactly clear what we mean. I have suggested that we add a phrase or two, after “Walking together”, like helping and loving one another and reaching out to change the world for the better, or something to that effect. Would it make a difference if we actually said in our bond of union every Sunday that we should also “love and help one another”?
One of my early sermons, and one that I brought on the road preaching to about 4 or 5 other district churches, “How To Behave in Church.” There was also “The Top Ten Ways Not to Grow!” trying to use humor and story to bring about change and beloved community. In other words we must act like a church, one that we define and one that we come together to cocreate, after the building was built 15 years ago. I have heard some of the people who were part of that process, say that we built the new building so we could grow, but we haven’t yet. To that I would usually say, that deciding to leave your beloved old mansion, Graystone, that was like a church to you, you broke from the past and created something new, but that was only step one! I don’t mean to say that it wasn’t a great accomplishment, because it was, but for those of us who came after Graystone, we have a different sense of this building being our church, and this being 2011, not 1996.
I love “The Paradoxical Commandments,” by Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
‘ Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001
There is a UU version sung to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me” titled: “Love Surrounds Us”
Love surrounds us, this I know
For my spirit tells me so,
Each and all to love belong,
Fills my heart and makes me strong.
Yes, love surrounds us… (3x)
My spirit tells me so.
Peace and religion is about developing deeper relationships, becoming interconnected with that wonderful web of life; an enlightenment that we are all one, and that we need one another in so many different and profound ways. That, I believe, is one of the important elements that distinguishes us from a social club, that there is a religious purpose in our meeting and forming, that we are walking together every time we hold hands for the Bond of Union, but must continue holding hands long after we have recited it!
Peace is about how we communicate or don’t communicate with each other; it is the watching of our words as well as our actions toward one another, especially to those with whom we don’t think alike.
Imagine the peace and indeed the prosperity in this country alone if the Democrats and Republicans were to hold hands with one another, and act out of love for one another, as Jesus taught, though as someone has said, it’s often easier to love your enemies than to love your friends when you disagree!
Before I decided to enter seminary to answer the call of ministry, I had considered other possibilities in such areas that I had a profound interest, music, theater, teaching, social work, and especially psychology. I almost decided to become a clinical psychologist because I had always enjoyed reading books on psychology outside of requirements in college in the turbulent 60s and 70s. One of my favorite was Fritz Perls, who was what was called a Humanistic Psychology or a “Gestalt therapist,” the word coming from the German meaning similar to sudden enlightenment or the “a=ha” experience of discovery of ourselves.
A little Gestalt poem that he as famous for:
“If I just do my thing and you do yours,
We stand in danger of losing each other
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations;
But I am in this world to confirm you
As a unique human being,
And to be confirmed by you.
We are fully ourselves only in relation to each other;
The ‘I’ detached from a ‘Thou’ disintegrates.
I do not find you by chance;
I find you by an active life
Of reaching out.
Rather than letting things passively happen to me,
I can act intentionally to make them happen.
I must begin with myself, true;
But I must not end with myself;
The truth begins with two.”
(Tubbs W. 1972. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, (12) 5 Beyond Perls)
So ministry is about developing religious relationships with the mystical holy sometimes called God, but never adequately define for us so that we can experience it more than define it. But the other relationship is, of course, with the congregation. We are called to love you all, even the ones we can’t stand! I have sometimes said that loving certain people is easier than liking them!
One of our beloved African American ministers, Mark Morrison Reed, talks about the difficulties of being a minister, one of which is that you are always temporary and have to always be careful about your behavior toward congregant while remembering that we are advised not to make friends because that makes pastoral care more difficult, somewhat like trying to socialize with your therapist. He speaks of what he calls, “cruel irony. …, is a source of unrequited grief. I regret having not read the fine print. If I had, perhaps I would have made another choice. But the print was very small, the phrasing paradoxical, while I was young and eager. This is what it said: You will love your parishioners with all your heart but never befriend them. You will pour out your lifeblood for the community but never settle there. You shall die to the congregation so that the ministry might live.”
To promote and preach peace, therefore we must be at peace- with ourselves, with the world, and with those we serve. Over and over ministry is called “serving,” and it’s hard to be humble, when one is so well educated, but indeed, to become servants is our calling, and the evil of egotism so often gets in the way for all of us, doesn’t it. We want our own way. We want people to agree with us, and we are willing of course, to instruct them on how they are wrong and we’re right! Oh, that’s where we ministers can get in so much trouble.
But relationships are two way, and it’s always difficult serving someone who, for usually some unknown reason, dislikes you or doesn’t want you as their minister. If our congregants don’t tell us directly how they’re feeling, we encourage that they go the committee on ministry, but please make sure you find a way that is open and loving and peaceful to let the minister know what’s happening with you.
I was made aware in June there were perhaps a quarter of the church who were dissatisfied with my ministry enough to affect their pledging. I immediately went to the Committee on Ministry, the incoming and outgoing board chairs, and the District executive, and we have been working towards trying to sort out whether my ministry here is salvageable. I know my health issues have been a problem and often didn’t have the energy I needed to do all that I could do. After much deep consideration and much advice and counseling, I have come to the conclusion that for the peace of this church, and the peace of my heart, I must move on. I want this church to grow and you all to thrive; I want to make this as positive as possible and admit my share of mistakes. Even moving here was difficult and it seemed like “if anything could go wrong, it did!” It has been a difficult ministry, balanced by much joy and love as well.
For many of you, this will come as a complete surprise; I have tried not to let it have undue influence in my ministry or sermons, not to be negative, but it seems like grief is inevitable.
I am in the search process, looking for an interim position. I will be here until at least January 1st; we will work on a time frame later.
Moving on will be difficult for all of us, full of grief and pain, but hopeful for the future and open to the transitions of change. We need to talk about it and share our grief as well as love; where there is anger, and there will be anger, let us sow love.
I worked on my newsletter column to inform folks, so share it now:
The ART of Ministry
September 22, 2011
It is with deep regret and profound sadness that I announce my resignation; I love this church and hope that it thrives, but I have come to realize that my ministry here is preventing some people from fully supporting the church financially because of dissatisfaction with the minister. I haven't set a date yet, but it will be somewhere between January 1st and the end of June. I have been working with the Committee on Ministry, the Board, and the District Executive, Rev. Joan Van Becelaere about a strong suggestion that I resign last June to see if there was a way to salvage this, but I am convinced that the best thing for both the church and me is to part. I have also been working with Rev. Dr.
Susan Ritchie, who is one the district ministers trained in conflict resolution for ministers.
I think that if it came to a vote that the majority of you support my ministry, and I deeply appreciate that support, but to put it to a vote would also be to divide the church and probably cause a serious split, as has happened in the past. This is a great church with potential for growth, both numerically and spiritually, while also showing strong resistance to change. I have made mistakes in perhaps pushing too hard, too fast, or not having built up enough relationships; there have been obvious personality conflicts, even over such things as my sense of humor. My health has been an issue and sometimes kept me from doing as much as I should have. I accept my share of fault in this and am full of sorrow and regret at my failures and mistakes. I hope to learn from them and change what needs changing; I hope the church will as well. I'm so sorry that this all has happened; I love the people here and will miss you terribly, but I truly believe that it is time for a change and a new minister at your helm. I also hope that we can all learn from this and use it as a positive experience for growth, both as individuals and as a congregation. May love walk with us as, not having to think alike, we walk together and love one another.
With much love,
Amen, Peace, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum (may Peace be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A Hindu greeting the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and let me add one more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to ministry. Vaya con Dios is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is “Go with God,” SO I adapted it to say “Vaya Con Su Dios,” “Go with your idea or interpretation of God.”
Peace, Love, Shalom, Salaam, Blessed Be, Namaste, Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios I love you…