Dear Ones, Greetings from sabbatical land! I’m just past the halfway point of my three months parted from you all. I have complicated feelings about my absence from you and yours from me, what I call becoming my own unoccupied country. I miss you and am sad for my strange distance from people who have suffered losses this winter, from dear folks undergoing difficult medical treatments and surgery, and from other situations in which I would certainly have connected with you.
On the other hand, I have been enjoying reconnecting with myself and working on the perpetual puzzle of how to maintain the most healthy balance between loving and strengthening myself and loving and strengthening you. It is a great luxury to have such an expanse of time to say “Yes!” to the many interesting things that beg for my attention and study! My dive into Judaism, for instance, has been a total delight. I just completed book three of four of this (biblical) Hebrew language course. The aim of the series is to make Torah study and prayers more accessible and meaningful. I have learned so much and have so long wanted to devote some time to exactly this. Check out Central Synagogue in NYC whose live-streamed and televised (Optimum 138) Shabbat services I regularly attend. North Shore Jewish Center and Rabbi Aaron Benson whose Judaism 101 class I have been enjoying weekly since October have been wonderful hosts to my learning, which has included Israeli dance on Tuesday evenings!
The NSJC class ends next week. Meanwhile, I am moving along in Hebrew book 4, Tav is for Torah, mapping my daily walks and, with my whole family, working on healthy eating habits! By the way, Linda and I completed the New York Times 30-Day Well Challenge (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/18/reader-center/30-day-well-challenge.html). The short workouts and healthy living challenges (like creating a date night, using exercise mantra, and choosing a special song to share with each other) were great sabbatical fare.
In a little more than a week, Linda and I will be flying (on March 5) to Nashville to begin our solo Civil Rights Trail journey through Tennessee and Mississippi. On March 20, we join 50+ other UU and UU-adjacent folks for a Living Legacy Pilgrimage—Alabama portion (http://www.uulivinglegacy.org/living-legacy-pilgrimage.html). Looking ahead: You’ll find in this newsletter some save-the-date invitations from me regarding our Belonging series, the April Vespers service, Easter Sunday child dedications, and a challenging adventure involving Ramadan. Please check them out! I’ll see you on the last day of March. Be good (but not too good).
So here we are, halfway through our 9th year together as Minister and Congregation, and I am about to up and leave you for longer than I ever have before. I’m finally taking some sabbatical months: three this winter (January through March) and three the following spring (March through May, 2020). Technically, “sabbatical” means a year of rest and renewal time every seven years. Today’s reality is a bit different. My agreement with you is that I accrue sabbatical time at a rate of one month per year, to be taken no more than six months at a time. This is a common benefit for UU ministers, and recommended in our Association’s Fair Compensation guidelines. University professors also often receive sabbatical time. And these days progressive corporations are also recognizing the benefit of giving their workers extended “fallow time” in which to rest, explore, and fill their creative well.
My years five, six and seven felt a bit too tumultuous for leaving you, but the Board and I think the congregation is in a good place at this point for weathering my absence. Truth be told, one of the strengths of UUFSB is your ability to take care of business on your own. I’d like to think that I have helped to strengthen that capacity, but effective lay ministry also just seems to be in your DNA. And you’ll have plenty of support. I divided my sabbatical into three-month increments so that I can begin and end each year with you. This winter three UU ministers will cover a month each of emergency pastoral care call. All my preaching spots are filled with clergy from a variety of traditions. Our worship and pastoral care teams are experienced and capable. Your Board is strong, watchful, and responsive.
I will be at home for the first two months. I am not ghosting. If you see me somewhere, we can talk. But, as best we can manage, I will be absent to you and you will be absent to me, untethered from one another, and mutually responsible for taking in the gifts and challenges of that freedom. In March, Linda and I will travel South to Civil Rights sites in Tennessee and Mississippi, and we’ll join a UU Living Legacy Tour in Birmingham (3/20-24). Until then, I will be concentrating on exercise; a weekly class on Judaism at North Shore Jewish Center that goes through February; reading, reading, reading; some special professional projects, and a radical “letting go” and looking up and deep.
The Sunday 12/30 service (Caitlin Corrigan-Orosco preaching!) will include a short ritual of leave-taking and a send-off of sorts. I hope you can be with us for that. Click here for info about how to get help in my absence.
“All manner of thing shall be well.”
Last Thursday, Thanksgiving day, 25 or so folks (and one little support poodle) joined my family of three for a sweet afternoon and evening of good food, conversation and games. Earth’s gifts, passed through many kitchens, were represented bounteously: two 16# turkeys (donated by Jim and Sue Dooley—Thank you!) and Richard’s vegan tofurkey, gravy, multiple baked dressings, cauliflower gratin, Wendy’s carrots and baked spicy acorn squash, Bruce’s sweet potatoes, beautiful string beans, potatoes mashed by committee, chicken-noodle soup, fruit salad, Brussels sprouts with walnuts and pomegranate seeds, cornbread and squash rolls, pecan and pumpkin pies with vegan brethren, Jane’s chocolate cake and Lew’s sopapilla, mulled cider and cranberry-raspberry version of Swedish “glögg” (pronounced glook). In other words, we feasted!
Guest Bill Buonora wrote to thank us for welcoming him, his friend Karen and her little poodle Coby: My poor friend, a former nurse who is isolated living alone without family found this day special to meet so many nice people. Sometimes, we do not realize the positive effect our efforts have on people. One of the things I have especially loved about these Thanksgiving potluck dinners is the way we all pull together to set up the space, create the meal, connect strangers, distribute the leftovers and clean everything up. So much laughter and love.
Here’s a recipe for your own holiday tables. It’s a “wow” in your mouth!
Curried Cream Cheese Dip with Flavor Explosion
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tsp. curry powder (or more, up to 1T total)
- 2 tsp. ground cumin (or more, up to 1T total)
- 1/2 cup red pepper or red chili jelly/sweet chili sauce, divided
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries/raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts/walnuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped (~3 green onions)
- +1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut
Combine the cream cheese, spices, and 3 tbsp. of the jelly until smooth. An electric or hand mixer will make this easy. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a shallow dip dish (roughly 5″ x 7″). Spread the remaining jelly over top of the cream cheese mixture. Combine the dried cranberries, pine nuts, and green onions in a small bowl to mix, then sprinkle evenly over top of the dip. Chill until you serve. I first tasted this with Fritos dippers, but any sturdy chip or cracker will do! Wishing you all
Joyous Holidays in Good Company
There’s been a lot of family stuff going on lately. I thought you might like to hear a little about it. You may know that Linda, Matt and I went down to Canton, GA, the first weekend in October for a Haynes family reunion, my mother’s side. They’re all southerners and good, loving people. We are a remarkably good-natured and drama-free bunch. We came from that couple down there, Josephine and William Haynes (at their 50th anniversary party; both long gone now). Josephine is a granddaughter of Chang Bunker, the “original Siamese twin” brother on the right here [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang_and_Eng_Bunker]. The last time I saw any number of my Haynes family together in one place was in 2006 at the annual Bunker Twin Reunion in Mt. Airy, N.C. The last robust actual reunion was after Josephine died, sometime in the late 80’s. So it had been a while, and there were more children, more stories, more racial diversity and, sadly, fewer aunts and uncles. The remaining two of my Mom’s four brothers, my uncles Jim and Pat, were there with their wives, Pat willing himself to get there despite crippling medical issues. It was so good to be together: for coffee with cousins on our first morning; at Pat’s daughter Michelle’s for greetings, snacks and a swim (it was 90 degrees outside!); for barbecue and drinks that evening, and for a great southern breakfast on our last morning.
As for the Goldenweiser side of the family (my Dad changed his name to his mother’s maiden name when he was a teenager), my sister and I (with Joel and Linda) have been for several years now working our way toward letting go of the Brewster, Cape Cod summer property my dad’s parents Emmanuel and Ann bought in 1938. Liz and I spent every summer of our childhood there—all summer, in the little cottage (originally a garage). All along, my family’s needed to rent the larger cottage in order to pay for maintenance and taxes. In the last few years, the balance began to shift between our effort to take care of things and our ability to enjoy the little time we have these days to spend there. My sister, especially, was really burning out, and neither of her daughters were in a position to take up the slack. So, for these and a number of other reasons, we’ve made the wrenching decision to sell. A lovely family to whom we have rented in the past is poised now to buy the property. We know they will be good stewards…and…there is grief ahead. I can’t even imagine not having this place—the setting for so many memories and family 4ths and birthdays—in my life any more. But alongside the grief, deep and enduring gratitude for good places and good family.
It’s not easy being human. It’s not easy to be a caregiver, to be a parent, to be in high school, to have regrets, to manage overwhelm, to forgive someone, to find forgiveness, to access feelings, to take in a diagnosis, to confront an addiction, to adjust to grievous loss, to know what to say, to admit and manage a mistake, to know what you want, to stop crying, to allow yourself to cry, to access a sense of hope, to make friends, to rediscover joy, to figure out how to help, to know what to do now… and next. I know. I’m human too.
For many of us, these are scary times in our own communities and our nation as well. That larger sense of insecurity can make every personal challenge feel more impossible to engage or even survive. When everything seems to be boiling over or resolutely inert, reach out. If you find yourself in a swirl of worry, angst, confusion in any degree, about any matter, please think of me as a ready source of support. I consider it an honor to be invited to sit down with you and the whatever-it-is that is causing you misery. Perhaps
➢ you need a sympathetic ear for problems with your job, children, marriage, relationship, or anything else; you are feeling confused, depressed, or isolated or have a joy to share.
➢ you or someone you love is ill or facing surgery; perhaps you notice that someone you know in the congregation needs support.
➢ someone you love is near death or has died or and you need help with end-of-life planning or a service; you’re planning to marry, struggling in a relationship or contemplating divorce; you’re pregnant but wish you weren’t or are thrilled you are; you would like to have a child dedicated; you are undergoing a major transition in your life and would like to create a ritual to recognize the threshold you are crossing.
➢ you or someone you know has questions about religion or Unitarian Universalism; you want to build your theology, deepen your spiritual life or are in spiritual crisis; you’d like to join the congregation or are already a member and are wondering how you can participate more fully in congregational life; you’d like to share your talents and gifts as part of one of our groups, committees, or classes, or serve as a volunteer in some other way.
➢ you want to affirm something good going on in the congregation or would like to discuss a congregational issue that is troubling you; you have ideas about sermons or programs or have a project you would like to initiate; you’re mad at me or someone else and want to air your feelings and get some clarity about what is going on…
Maybe you’d just like to come sit with me and see what may open to us out of the silence. “Come, come, whoever you are. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come yet again, come.” I want to help. The Pastoral Assistants are here for you as well (Linda Kirk, Linda Volkersz, Linda Mikell, Karen Foernsler, June Cerveny, Sylvia Kirk, Marie Baltz)—you will find in us all ready ears, big hearts and confidential care.
Summer flowers for you, ❤️
One thing I do when I am away from you in the summer is read like a demon. I start with novels (a love I can’t often indulge between Sept and June). I recommend these: Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar; The Map of Salt and Stars (2018); Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017); and Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (2017). My non-fiction consumption usually begins after vacation, though the first thing I read this summer was the new book about my ancestors the “original” Siamese twins: Yunte Huang, Inseparable (2018). If you been looking for a book that eloquently touches the place where science and religion meet, pick up Alan Lightman, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine (2018). If you happen to be in a place where the skies are dark and clear, go for a star walk and remember how big you are and how small! I just finished the Rev. Meg Riley’s new UU-published book Testimony: The Transformative Power of Unitarian Universalism (2018). I made those words bold so that you will look here and do this: Buy and read this book. Write “Read and give away” on the title page. And then give it away. Here is what I did with mine. I put it in a Tiny Free Library. This activity is called evangelism. Evangelism is good. We tell people what we love about UUism. Proselytism, on the other hand, is not what we UUs do. We don’t tell people that ours is the only way or even the best. So go ahead—evangelize the hell out of your local world and family circles. Save lives. Make us known.
Here are a couple other things to dive into this summer. Beacon Press published this book this year: Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. It’s now a NYT best seller. Please take a deep breath and read it cover to cover. You will “Ah-hah!” and, having read it, you will be better prepared to speak to the pushback we will all experience when we unveil our new banner at this year’s Homecoming. Speaking of which, please see elsewhere in this newsletter instructions for Homecoming-wear 2018 and suggested accoutrements for the day. And look here: https://3vclergy.blogspot.com. The Three Village Clergy Association now has a member blog! Check it out to see the UU, Jewish, and Quaker entries already posted. We post new stuff on Wednesdays.
I start back on August 13, preach from our pulpit August 19 & 26. Until then and beyond, I am your most ardent fan.
Summer flowers for you, ❤️