Dear friends,

After more than 10 years of faithful service and more than 300 Sunday services, our beloved Keith Plumley has decided it is time to step down as Director of Music. Keith has given all of us more than we will ever know,

  • filling our services with beauty
  • planning and organizing music, musicians, worship, and much more when no one else was looking
  • developing our choir into a strong and enduring musical team that shows us all what we can create when we work together
  • and simply caring for each of us.

He will be sorely missed. Speaking personally as only one example, Keith has been an essential guide for me these last three years, teaching me the worship and music traditions of a religious movement to which I am an outsider. We all owe him an enormous debt of thanks.

Keith has asked for his last day to be October 30. Ever humble, he prefers we not shine the spotlight on him too much—but we will honor him, in gratitude for what he has given us. Please reach out to him with your appreciation, and please watch for more information on how we will celebrate Keith’s legacy at UUCS.

With gratitude,


This Sunday we will celebrate our annual Ingathering of Waters, a celebration of our summer journeys and our coming back together for the new church year. To do this safely via our virtual Sunday service format, please:

  • Bring a small container of water to the front porch of Hatcher House by Saturday, September 12 at noon. This is an extended deadline–we have some water but need more. Please bring your water by noon on Saturday!
  • Attach a note to your container identifying that it is from you and where you gathered the water.
    The water can come from a lake or the ocean or a river or a stream, or from your own kitchen–anywhere you have been this summer.
  • Our worship team will present the water during the service, pouring it into a common bowl, and reading some (we will not be able to do all) of our names and the places where we have gathered water.

Even though we cannot be together in person, we can serve together. In this time of anxiety and division, please join in this ritual of connecting with one another.

Thank you all–


“Voting is power. Who has it? And who is exercising their power?

“Often times I use that word ‘exercise’ when talking about democracy. I say, ‘Democracy is like a muscle—it needs to be used in order to be strong.’ My question to you, to us: ‘Are you exercising all of your power—all of your power?’ It can be scary to acknowledge your own power.” (Karen Mitchell)

Deliberate, clear, powerful & empowering: League of Women Voters-Spartanburg President and UUCS member Karen Mitchell’s sermon this past Sunday calls us to use all of our power for this election season:

  1. Pay attention: Is our state legislature making it easier for people to vote during the pandemic?
  2. Talk about voting with someone different every day until the election on Nov. 3.
  3. Get out your calendar, mark the day when you will vote—and make time on that day for voting to be the priority, no matter how long it takes.
  4. Follow the instructions carefully when you vote—make it easy for the person counting to correctly count your vote.
  5. Vote early.
  6. Have patience. Decide now that you will be patient for the results to come in. It will take days, and perhaps weeks, for the count to come in. Stay focused on the facts, and be patient.

Listen to the whole meditation here—it can move us from anxiety to power in this moment:

“Voting is power…. This is a legacy of the suffrage movement: the acknowledgement that it is ok for women to want and have power….

“Sarah and Angelina Grimké…fought for the abolition of slavery. They did not do it for how they were treated, but for how others were treated. Is there any generosity greater than that?…. Their crusade against slavery led to a second great crusade, so half the population—women—could vote. Sarah and Angelina saw, they heard, they acted. Now is the time for you, for me, for all of us, to take action. Vote. Vote early. Help others vote.”

Exercise your power–


Connection is the heart of spiritual practice: connection within ourselves, connection with one another, and connection with whatever is deepest and best in the world.

Mysticism is the experience of that deep connectedness. It is nothing more than that. And it is entirely relevant to the moment we are living today.

Mystical experience recurs in human cultures around the world and through time–regardless of belief, in theistic and non-theistic philosophical systems, from shamans crossings world thresholds to Buddhists awakening to our radical interconnectedness to scientists breaking into new visions of the Universe through the relentless question “Why?”: the human quest for meaning connects with one another and the world at the deepest, most life-giving level—so we can make this world more livable for everyone. Repeated again and again around the world are basic, concrete practices that guide us to the heart of existence, the Universe dwelling within us, as we dwell within it.

The result is always the same. This radical experience of the Universe disrupts systems of power and ideology. It challenges authority and empowers us to act on behalf of all living beings. Consider the political relevance—in his day and ours—of these words by a great mystic of modern science:

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’…. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion.” (Albert Einstein)

We are in a time of anxiety, and rightly so. Much is very bad, and things could get far worse. We have a lot to do. Mystical practices offer us connection—connection to the deepest and best of ourselves and our world, connection to the source of life. When you feel overwhelmed by the urgency and anxiety of our moment, an urgency and anxiety that is real and that can drain us of the energy to do what must be done, try these practices of mystics throughout time and culture:

  1. When you feel overwhelmed, breathe: this is the practice of our existence. It is the source of life and power. Just be.
  2. When conflict breaks out between us, when we are trying to work together—slow down and listen to each other. This is the practice of interconnectedness. We are much stronger as a team.
  3. When you are drained of energy and life feels hopeless—go outside, listen to the trees, feel the earth, swim the stars: feel your connection to the cosmos. This is the practice of connection.

There is a power greater than division and narcissism,
greater than history and fear, greater than our individual selves,
a power beyond all words and beliefs,
a power that disrupts authority and ideology and dogma,
a power accessed throughout time by people of every culture,
a power that can help us bring the world back into balance,
a power alive in you—

touch it.


Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Louisiana coast early this morning as a Category 4 storm with winds up to 150 mph, tying the record for the most powerful hurricane to hit the state. Hours after it moved inland, it remained a highly destructive Category 2 hurricane.

We care, for one another and for our world. UUA Disaster Relief acts to help congregations and communities affected by disasters. If you would like to contribute to disaster relief efforts, you may do so here:

Thank you for your concern for all in the path of this powerful storm–


On Tuesday, August 18, our congregation joined with the League of Women Voters, leaders from the South Converse neighborhood, and citizens from across our community to dedicate the Grimké mural in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Under strict public health protocols (wearing masks, socially distanced, outside) on one of the most beautiful August mornings I can recall, we gave thanks for the women who have led us through generations of struggle to greater rights and freedom for us all today.

The next day, I shared this photo from the event with a Zoom gathering of UU ministers in NC & SC:

Grimké Mural 'Determined'
‘Determined’ (artist Nancy Corbin)

They were stunned to silence. After a long, awe-filled pause, one exclaimed, “Holy S**t, that is amazing!”

Holy, indeed. Thank you for making serious s**t happen in this community and this world, every f***ing day.

With profound gratitude,


“I stand before you a convicted criminal.” (Susan B. Anthony, after her arrest for exercising her right to vote as a US citizen under the 14th Amendment in the presidential election of 1872)

Fights over citizenship; denial of the right to vote despite the promises of the Constitution; protests, slander and attacks on protesters, and arrests to stop their just actions; divisions splitting progressive movements; the dominating double legacy of patriarchy and racism; the fight to transform our lives: in this past Sunday’s service, Mary Miles embodies the heroic scale and inspiring power of Susan B. Anthony’s life. And in that life, we hear the unfinished struggle of our nation today.

In all of this, the work of organizing stands out as the critical, endless, relentless, effective work to make change reality. Anthony was a genius at it—for temperance, for women’s rights, for abolition, for citizenship, for suffrage.

“Every energy of her soul is centered upon the needs of this world. To her, work is worship. Her belief is not orthodox, but it is religious.” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on Susan B. Anthony)

The power contained in this life pulses through Mary Miles’s presentation. We can feel its effect on us all.

It is asking us to step forward today:


“We ask suffrage not as a favor, not as a privilege, but as a right, based on the grounds that we are human beings, and as such entitled to all human rights.” (Charlotte Rollin, one of the first women and the first African-American woman to address the SC state legislature, in 1869)

From English common law to the fusion of abolition and women’s rights to the reluctant ratification of the 19th amendment in the SC General Assembly in 1969, Dr. Melissa Walker offers a comprehensive, nuanced, inspiring history of the women’s suffrage movement. She engages the racial and class dynamics that both connected and split the movement for women’s suffrage, to teach us our fuller history, and to illuminate the continuing fight for freedom, equity and human rights in our own time.

Dr. Walker reveals that even streets in Spartanburg—Plume and Connecticut in Converse Heights—witness to the women who fought for decades to expand the promise of democracy: “After th[e] demoralizing defeat of the Suffrage Amendment…[t]he South Carolina movement lay dormant for six years. It was revived in Spartanburg in 1912. That year, a woman named Emily Plume Evans gathered a number of her friends together to organize the New Era Club, an organization that was committed to advancing the industrial, legal, and educational rights of women and children.”

Dr. Walker tells the stories of amazing women who would not stop fighting for what they knew was right. And so, we are summoned.


And keep fighting:


“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”—The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified August 18, 1920

Marches. Protests. Strikes.
Harassment. Policing. Arrests.
A global pandemic. A resistant Administration. Laws of exclusion by those who wield power.
Patriarchy. Racism. Systems of violence and oppression.
Courage. Persistence. Teamwork. Change.

The actions leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago resonate with the life of our nation today. We can see, in that moment, in that movement, and in those individuals, both our nation’s light—the vision, the energy, the philosophy, the movement, the investment, the dedication, the achievement—and our shadow. And we see it in ourselves today.

This month, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment—once more in a pandemic, once more in a time of protest against oppression, once more when some who wield power undermine voting rights for their own benefit.

The accomplishment of those who led us 100 years ago is monumental, arduously wrought from the clash of minds and lives to change how we think, to change our laws, to change how we live. We will celebrate. We will express gratitude. We will learn history we should know but have yet to learn. All this, in honor of the heroic women who knew what could be, and fought to make it so—to the benefit of us all.

There is no better way to honor their memory than to keep fighting. As I write this, the current Administration has publicly suggested using the current pandemic—which has been vastly worsened by that Administration’s callous denial and deliberate mismanagement—as a reason to further disenfranchise voters and to subvert our electoral process.

Tyranny stalks democracy. Our shadow haunts us. We have come so far. We have so far to go.

Fight for voting justice:

As it was 100 years ago,
now is the time—


“‘Loveable’? ‘Loveable’? No one loved me, because I was shameful and despicable…. But…[I] heard the Universe say…‘This [new name] is a gift for you.’” (Thandeka)

Hilarious, poignant, courageous, outside of all lines, and simply beautiful: this past Sunday’s service guides us through the life-journey of UU theologian Thandeka, on a quest to awaken to the power of Love Beyond Belief. Offered to us all by Stacey Jackson and her team, this is a probing drama of how we can reawaken to the parts of ourselves lost to neglect and self-protection, and the joy that is still possible. “My body and its feelings had become part of my conscious life…. Every part of me felt realigned in this awesome resting place of love.” (Thandeka, on her breakthrough experience of emotional and spiritual liberation during a worship service)

And the music, in Thandeka’s life and in this service: “This was…the rhythmic presence of the Universe sweeping her into cosmic consciousness.” Listen to the joy that transforms pain:

“Love beyond belief is not just a thought. It’s a feeling: cosmic consciousness, creating experiences in church services and small groups and in our daily lives of awe and wonder and compassion that make us feel at one with the Universe. Personal experience is the foundation of our religion. What binds us together is that we love beyond belief. And let the congregation say, ‘Amen!’” (Stacey Jackson, on the life and work of Thandeka)