Stop rejecting and judging your life. Peace is not found in regret about the past or daydreaming about a different future. The present moment is the eternal moment where peace is found. But in order to be present to the moment, you must accept it first." - Jim Palmer, Notes from (Over) the Edge: Unmasking the Truth to End Your Suffering
Living in the moment is elusive for so many people, including myself. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I need to be doing in the future - what needs to be done this hour, this day, this week, this year. In some small way it helps because between the planning and the doing I don't have much time left for regretting the past. Still, living in the moment often escapes me.
Living in the moment means noticing the moment. I think it is OK to be busy, but the better idea is to be aware of the busyness. I see it as almost becoming an outside observer - like the fly on the wall who gets the bigger picture of everything going on.
While I'm intently focused on the task at hand, the fly sees me in context - sitting at the computer in my office, or ironing a shirt in the laundry room, or reading a book in bed. The fly notices what I'm wearing, the half-full coffee cup nearby, the cat circling my legs, the snow falling outside the window, etc.
Being in the moment is more than just rueing the past or ceasing to wish for the future. It's more than just tuning in all the senses to peel an orange (the famous zen meditation practice). Noticing the moment is to take in the totality of the surroundings, the place as well as the purpose. Easier said than done, but a goal worth aiming for.
As Jim Palmer says in the quote above, "The present moment is the eternal moment." It can be, with practice. Try being a fly for a while.
While it was happening, I was approached by several different people asking if I planned to give a blessing. Interestingly, the ones asking were guests we had invited from a nearby congregation and not from Pullman Memorial. I replied no, and here's why.
It was abundantly obvious to me that my parishioners already felt sufficiently blessed to be together and to be sharing this bountiful meal. They had gifted each other with their best casseroles and pies. They had shared their joys and sorrows and meaningful memories with each other in the worship service just before the potluck. They had exchanged hugs and stories and maybe even recipes with their fellow diners.
In essence, the room was filled with love - brotherly and sisterly love - and there was not one thing I could have said to improve upon what already existed. They had all blessed each other that day, and they knew it.
Sometimes a pastor has to know when to sit down and shut up or risk ruining a good moment. All I could say, all I can say now, is how blessed I am to being walking the journey with these wonderful people who know how to care for each other (and who make great pumpkin pies!).
Solon S. Beman, noteworthy architect retained by George Pullman for many constructions – including the entire town of Pullman – designed a beautiful, and functional, church building. One aspect of the layout involves separating the social hall space from the main sanctuary with huge, paired, double-hinged, folding doors.
His initial design is ingenious because it allows the two spaces to become one. If the sanctuary is filled to capacity then the doors can be opened and additional seating placed in the social hall. The doors also provide a way to travel between the two spaces without having to go outside and walking around from one entry to the other.
The problem is that, as conceived by Beman, the doors would either be fully closed or fully open. And since they weigh an awful lot (one estimate is about 500 pounds per door) one is not inclined to open and close them whenever needed.
At some point in the past this flaw was realized and one of the sets of doors was rehinged. This allowed for a single door to be opened somewhat easily (it's still heavy!) but doing this only opens up access to half of the aisle. A person with a walker or narrow wheelchair can sort of angle into the restricted space but not easily.
Now, after who knows how many long years since the first door was reworked, we are rehinging the opposing door so that two can be opened at once and give full and easy access to the aisle.
I often speak about how things happen at the "speed of church." Like turning a large ocean-liner, things will get done eventually, in due time. It will be worth it. This last impediment to having our sanctuary truly be accessible to the mobility challenged will make us finally feel fully welcoming for church services.
Next on the accessibility agenda for the interior – at some point, when the time is right – will be making the lower level dining hall accessible. It's being looked into, and it will eventually happen. Before that, however, we need to fix the roof over the hall, and then repair the water damage in that dining room.
On the outside, we will be repairing and resetting the front stoop, and then looking for a blacksmith/artisan to design handrails that are appropriate for, and integrate with, the building.
Like anyone with an old house, there is always work to be done, and it will get done, even if it takes longer than one might wish.
Perspective is difficult to nail down on this. On the one hand, I don't feel particularly "old" but on the other hand I do. I want to believe I still have a young mind, but I do realize I've grown more conservative on a number of issues over the years.
I know I don't have a young body - too many aches and pains say otherwise. I get up at 4 am, but also often go to bed by 9. This makes it much harder to go out to events in the evening that don't start until 8 (like movies at the Dryden Theater). On the other hand, early bird specials for supper seem to be timed just right.
I still like hanging out with younger folks and for the most part they seem to tolerate this aging dinosaur. I try to keep up with the changing technology all around me but my cell phone is 10 years old and is far from "smart." I can't seem to figure out Twitter and Pinterest and Tumblr, yet I do maintain a presence in the online world.
Various data tables say that if I've reached this age then it is likely I will live to 84. So long as my brain doesn't calcify too much I think that might be about right for my preaching. And when I'm done, just send my clothes to Goodwill.
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Dear Pastor, Can you please give me your reasons to justify why this award was given to Planned Parenthood by your Universalist Church?
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Dear [ ]
Thank you for contacting me. Some of our rationale for the award was explained in the newspaper article published through several media channels but I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate further.
While Planned Parenthood provides a number of different services nationwide, in the GLOW region (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming counties) they only offer services for victims of rape or sexual abuse, and the statistics are frightening.
Rape Crisis Service of Albion offers several portals of engagement. Their hotline fields almost 300 phone calls a year. Victims in just Orleans county have ranged in age from 6 months to 82-year-olds. As specialists in the field, they are able to offer counseling to this group of people unparalleled by any other local area social service.
Rape Crisis Service also educates police forces and other first responders on how to treat victims with proper respect and care to minimize the emotional trauma. They offer support groups, assist with medical examinations that obtain evidence for later prosecution, provide accompaniment (if requested) to the victims when appearing in court, and consult with other medical, legal, and enforcement professionals.
Part of their activities include educating the general public on the pervasiveness of the problem which is really a big piece toward creating the ultimate solution wherein rape and sexual abuse would eventually be considered completely unacceptable at any age, committed by any person against another. (Yes, while as many as 1 in 3 women experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetimes, men can be, and are, also on the receiving end of sexual violence, including rape.)
Other health services, such as the family planning that Planned Parenthood provides outside of the GLOW counties region, may be considered controversial by some, but are not different than the range of services provided by most public hospitals such as at Strong Memorial in Rochester. Everyone may not need family planning from Planned Parenthood, or from hospitals, but they do need the kind of emergency and specialized care that these health organizations, large and small, provide.
Our goal at the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church is to promote the evolution of a world where Love rules the hearts and minds of every individual. It will, likely, take a long time and a lot of effort. In the meantime, Rape Crisis Service deserves our recognition and support as they help pick up the pieces of shattered lives.
By presenting the organization with our Humanitarian Award for 2013 it is hoped that doing so brings some light to the problem of sexual violence in our area, and acknowledges the decades of expert care they have provided to the citizens of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties.
We assemble here this morning as a community of faith. Faith in the power of Love to ultimately win the day. Faith in the ability of good works to correct wrongs and to make for a heaven here on earth. Faith in the concept of original blessing, where each being is born not saddled in sin but in gentle goodness, with the potential to change the world for the better.
We assemble here this morning bringing with us the full weight of over 200 years of Universalism, when John Murray first spoke his message of salvation for all in a lonely little church on the New Jersey coast. We bring with us, also, the Universalist message of salvation-for-all that Hosea Ballou dates back to Origen in 230 A.D.
We assemble here with full consciousness of the humanist message that every person is unique and complete unto him or herself and yet by joining together in community the power of love is amplified far greater than the mere sum of its parts.
We assemble here as radical Protestants, carrying forward the good news of the prophet Jesus of Nazareth and his admonition to love one another as we love ourselves. We view the Protestant Reformation as still evolving, lending our interpretation to sacred scriptures from the bible and other worldwide writings that point the way to wholeness, health, and well being with a new story, an all encompassing story.
We assemble here this day as the latest incarnation of Albion area inheritors of George Pullman’s vision for a beacon on the hill - a church, a congregation, a community - to honor and spread his own father’s preaching of universal love and salvation. Yes, even though there be evil in the world, there also be faith, hope, charity, and love, and love can defeat evil in the here and now, rather than in the next life.
And we assemble here on this particular day to honor the work of an organization which, for 40 years, has been an expression of this congregation’s values of love, justice, and service to others by offering help and assistance to victims of violence.
Thus, together, we all assemble this day and act to make the day holy by reciting our affirmation, printed in your program.
1.) We are not a movement. A movement is more of a political response at a moment in time that will wither away when its goal is either accomplished, or abandoned. Certainly, a movement can appeal to one's heart and capture one's imagination and evoke energy to cause change, but even if a movement lasts for a hundred years it will still eventually evaporate.
2.) We are not a religion, if you define religion as having creedal beliefs and/or dogmatic ritualistic actions. I've heard it said we are "Radical Protestants" on the edge of the Protestant Reformation, continuing to evolve Jesus' story of Love. But we have actually evolved way beyond that, for our story includes the knowledge and wisdom of religions other than Christianity, as well as the knowledge and wisdom of humanism. We do not say you are welcome to believe anything, but the door is open to a world of possibilities like no other single religion would ever allow.
3.) We are a movement, sometimes. Our deep concerns for social and environmental justice are ongoing, never ending, although the focus at any single moment in time may change. Sometimes we jump on the bandwagon of a current cause but more often we are the leaders - identifying the cause for others, and helping to create solutions in both dialogue and action.
4.) We are a religion, absolutely, because we are dependent upon forming communities of faith. While it is possible for a lone individual to be Unitarian Universalist in principle, one only blossoms in the company of others. Our communities (congregations, churches, societies) are the foundation of UUism where each individual is challenged to grow and become the best possible example of humanity that he or she can achieve.
What do you think? Comments welcomed.