Margie-from-video

Dear Ones,

It has been so strange and stressful to be away from you during the time you have been grappling with the aftermath of our decision to display the Black Lives Matter banner on our Nicolls Rd. sign. If I’ve considered jumping into the car and zooming back to Stony Brook once, I’ve considered it a good hundred times, torn between my need for this critical rest- and study-time away and my sense of duty to stand with you in person. Every day and all along I’ve been in close touch with Fellowship leaders, though. I’ve obsessed about our Fellowship’s welfare as you all deal with wave after wave of news about the defacing of our banner, vitriolic verbal and electronic responses to our position and, finally, a threatening ultimatum.

But day after day what I saw was our congregational leadership responding in a non-anxious, deliberate, thoughtful, and inclusive way, seeking an acceptable balance between the financial survival of the Fellowship and our principled and public stand against white supremacist ideology and the unequal treatment of Americans of color. Day after day it seemed I could be helpful from afar, looped into salient email; offering advice, ideas and resources where helpful (I hope!); writing a letter to the editor of our local paper; interviewing with Newsday by phone; connecting people to helpers; responding to messages from local outsiders who genuinely and respectfully wanted to understand our position.

But day after day what I saw was our congregational leadership responding in a non-anxious, deliberate, thoughtful, and inclusive way, seeking an acceptable balance between the financial survival of the Fellowship and our principled and public stand against white supremacist ideology and the unequal treatment of Americans of color. Day after day it seemed I could be helpful from afar, looped into salient email; offering advice, ideas and resources where helpful (I hope!); writing a letter to the editor of our local paper; interviewing with Newsday by phone; connecting people to helpers; responding to messages from local outsiders who genuinely and respectfully wanted to understand our position.

The system of white supremacy that we have created in this country has many methods for making sure that White children are protected from even the most remote threat while Black children can be gunned down in the street with outrageous impunity every day! We have witnessed the nearly invisible way that racism works in white society. Racial standards are kept in place by public pressure (unrelenting and sometimes violent) being brought to bear against persons or groups who challenge them. Remember the cross-burnings! This kind of pressure constitutes a venerable strategy for shutting down a challenge to the power of racism and its champions in our country.

The BLM banner is accomplishing our aim, even after its removal. Our message is getting out. Many options lie before us regarding next steps in our efforts to amplify the voices of African Americans and other people of color in our beloved country. Hang in there, friends. This is how we live our principles.

MARGIE

Dear Ones,

A couple of days ago, Linda and I signed a contract to purchase the house we have been renting for the past nearly six years. It’s a Levitt home, model “The Cambridge,” built in the Strathmore “M” Section in Stony Brook in 1968. Our landlords’ parents moved in there when the house was still new. When we went looking for housing in the spring of 2010, this was the second house we saw and the rent was low—$1500/month for three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, double garage, full basement, huge kitchen, study, laundry room and a large, tree-shaded yard back and front. And there was a wood stove in the living room. I [heart] wood stoves.

The day we saw it, the house was still full of the Heller’s stuff and everything was 60’s—appliances, bathroom tiles, colors, clippings, antennas, phone jacks. Everything about the basement reminded me of my childhood—the ping pong table, the old toys, the shelves of books, the cool musty air, that basement smell. I really didn’t know whether to be delighted or horrified. I wondered how I could be who I am now in a place that captured so completely who I was then. We signed the lease, though, and once the rooms were emptied and the walls took on new colors, we proceeded to make it ours.

MargieHouseI love the wood stove, the wood, the fires; the exuberant pink azalea, the many trees, the old rose, the snow drops, the rhododendron and hydrangea; the birdhouse on the porch, home to many generations of house finches; the shade that keeps the house so cool; the yellow maples in the fall; the surround sound of birdsong in the spring. This is not the most welcoming neighborhood, but we manage to qualify as good-enough neighbors. One same-side neighbor of ours is a retired fireman, such a nice man, Rick, always ready to help out. I brought our new neighbors on the other side a loaf of homemade bread last week—Tom, Heather, daughter Gianna and a boxer mix. There’s a psychotherapist nearby, a man who makes teeth, a gossip, at least two contractors, an Ironman, a nurse, a detective, some professors. I am friends with a Chinese grandmother who spends half the year here where her grandsons live. We smile a lot, our only common language. She gives me Chinese candy. I made them rolls last Thanksgiving from a squash she grew. When I am out walking dogs, I wave at everyone, a spiritual practice. Nearly all of them wave back these days. I am also friends with a pair of orioles, some flickers, a red-bellied woodpecker and a squirrel. Deer come by. It’s all good. This is our neighborhood. There is love here. May there be love where you are too.

MARGIE

 

Dear Ones,

We just started a new monthly evening service of meditation and reflection. It has been a lovely collaborative effort between Pat Killian, and Linda Anderson, our affiliated Community Minister, and myself. Together, we designed a format for the service, created a three-service pilot series, and publicized it, and now two of them have happened. The third one is coming up on Friday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m.

The service design is loosely based on the worship tradition of the Taizé Community, a monastic order founded in 1940 in Taizé, Burgundy, France, composed of more than one hundred Catholic and Protestant brothers who originate from about thirty countries across the world. Taizé worship is ecumenical, welcoming, multilingual and insanely popular in Europe. I experienced Taizé-style worship at one New Year’s Day service in Chicago after seminary and have never forgotten how far and deep it took me.

“Vespers” (evening prayer, “at the lighting of the lamps) is the seventh of eight traditional times of prayer that divide the Christian monastic day. Our vespers service is for anyone of any faith, within or outside our congregation. It is for people who don’t want to give up their leisurely consumption of coffee and the New York Times on Sunday mornings. It is for young people whose days begin at noon. It is for all who abhor a sermon. It is for people who are winding up a week of 9 to 5 and welcome a place to just “be” and not “do.” It is for people who feel crowded in their lives and need to regain a sense of spaciousness in place and time. It is for people who like to sing and people who like to listen to people singing and to instrumental music. It is for people who prefer an intuitive communal flow with few or no instructions.

The order of service for winter and early spring consists of chants and short songs from a variety of religious traditions and languages sung with multiple repeats; intervals of instrumental music; three short readings; a ten-minute meditation in relative darkness; a candle lighting and light gathering; a benediction and then tea and cookies. We sit in chairs in a layered circle with aisles. The room is lit with white mini-lights. No sermon, no instructions, no order of service, no imposed meaning-making, simply space to connect with yourself and, perhaps, with a deeper or wider self of which you are a unique and integral part. The service lasts an hour or less with time to meet or make friends afterwards. The sign that greets you at the door coming offers a brief orientation: “Please take a candle and a music sheet. Choose a seat. Enter the stillness. Be here. Don’t worry.” Together we create a sanctuary for listening to your life.

I hope you will be able to join us on one or another third Friday, maybe even make a habit of it. Soon we will be promoting the service in the wider community as a safe and welcoming interfaith space for rest, contemplation and inspiration. This service is a ministry we are offering to the world beyond our doors. It’s not just for us. It is a sanctuary of slow, quiet and rest for a harried world. Our collaboration yields gifts for the world.

Yours with great affection,

MARGIE

. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or paper-line 12 (2 1/2 inch) muffin cups. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, salt and walnuts.

2. In small bowl, combine sour cream, milk, butter and egg until blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over tops.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes for regular-size muffins, 20 to 25 minutes for giant-size muffins or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. 

Dear Ones,

“Mission-Vision work” is the process a community uses to envision its place in the future, to gain clarity about the work and the path ahead, and to collect the energy needed to sustain them on the journey. The goal of our 2016 Mission Vision Process is for the lovers of this Fellowship and faith to discover together what really matters to them as a community and to find ways to invest the time, talent and treasure we have in those things.

You may have heard that the 2016-17 Pledge Campaign (ABD), which kicks off at the March 13th Sunday service, will include elements of our 2016 “mission vision” discernment, a process we’re calling “Discovering Our Path into the Near Future.” That 3/13 Sunday service, the Stone Soup Dinner Party that same evening, and the Dinners For 12 on the following Sunday will all contain exercises and discussions designed to help us discover who we are now as a congregation, the current context in which we are situated, and what that identity and context tells us about how we are called to serve one another and our neighbors. The Pledge Campaign concludes on the evening of April 23 with what is sure to be a wonderful Contradance and Dessert Celebration. The mission vision process continues to completion with two additional gatherings in May.

The last time the congregation took a formal look at questions of purpose and the future was back in 2007, the year after the retirement of long-term minister Kate Leyman. One product of that process was our current mission statement: “The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook is a religious community that seeks diversity, individual spiritual growth, and social and economic justice.” Another product was six bulleted visionary goals for the year 2017, all of which, by my lights, the congregation has achieved or made impressive strides toward achieving: to be known in the larger community, to take compassionate action, to grow in membership and human diversity, to increase membership engagement in Fellowship activities, to practice earth stewardship, and to achieve financial security.

Meanwhile, the world within and outside the walls of the Fellowship has changed in many ways. We face new pressures, struggle with new issues, find injustice in new places, confront new global vulnerabilities. The time has come to fix our vision as a congregation on what really matters to us NOW. In the process we are looking to meet the following ends.  We want to deepen connections between people who love this Fellowship and are committed to its thriving. We want to ask one another the most daring, provocative, and “box-opening” questions we can come up with in order to get at who we are, what we’re for, what moves us and what the world needs from us. We want to awaken our hearts and minds to possibilities no one among us could have conjured up alone. We want to leave every person with an indelible memory of “truth and meaning” that emerged during our time together. And we want to find some kind of words or symbols, some song or poem, some image or story that will later bring everyone back to those memories and to the inspiration and excitement they felt in that moment.

Please bring the gift of U to every Pledge Drive and Mission Vision event this spring!

MARGIE

. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or paper-line 12 (2 1/2 inch) muffin cups. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, salt and walnuts.

2. In small bowl, combine sour cream, milk, butter and egg until blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over tops.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes for regular-size muffins, 20 to 25 minutes for giant-size muffins or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. 

Letters22Dec2015

. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or paper-line 12 (2 1/2 inch) muffin cups. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, salt and walnuts.

2. In small bowl, combine sour cream, milk, butter and egg until blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over tops.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes for regular-size muffins, 20 to 25 minutes for giant-size muffins or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. 

Dear Ones,

Yes, you have a foodie for a minister. It could be worse. I promise you.

Every year at the head of our late fall and early winter holidays, I offer you a Fellowship-tested recipe for your files and festive tables. On many Belonging and all-day workshop Saturday mornings, these muffins (in their “mini” form, though they're are just as good as regular size muffins) appear on the morning treats table next to the coffee and tea. They are easy to make and always received with wonder—not too sweet, wonderfully lemony with a “streusel” topping that is really only a simple sprinkling of sugar before baking. An easy fix on lazy post-holiday frenzy mornings.

Sour Cream Lemon Streusel Muffins

Makes 24 mini-muffins, 12 regular-size muffins or 6 giant-size muffins.

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (for muffin tops)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or paper-line 12 (2 1/2 inch) muffin cups. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, salt and walnuts.
  2. In small bowl, combine sour cream, milk, butter and egg until blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over tops.
  3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes for regular-size muffins, 20 to 25 minutes for giant-size muffins or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack.

I wish you all the best this holiday season: warmth, love, beauty, deliciousness, reunion, company, discovery, memories and hope. May the year 2016 bring you blessings beyond your wildest imagination. May you notice them. May you savor them. The muffins too.

Love, and see you in the candlelight,

MARGIE

. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or paper-line 12 (2 1/2 inch) muffin cups. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, salt and walnuts.

2. In small bowl, combine sour cream, milk, butter and egg until blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over tops.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes for regular-size muffins, 20 to 25 minutes for giant-size muffins or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. 

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