Minister

Back lawn of UUCS
11:00am
Simultaneous live-stream here

With the guidance of the COVID Committee, the Board of Trustees, and the Worship Committee, we will again offer in-person, outdoor services beginning this Sunday, March7 at 11:00am. Weather permitting, we will hold services on the back lawn of the church on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of March, April, and May (March 7 & 21, April 4 & 18, May 2 & 16). All services will also be livestreamed. If weather is inclement, we will livestream-only. We will follow all public health protocols to keep everyone safe: please bring a chair, wear a mask, and social distance. This will be a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of Spring! Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make this possible.

Come one, come all!

Scott

Celebrating Women’s History

“The inclusion of female divine names and images in worship and ministry empowers our work of peace and justice in the world by helping to break down patriarchal structures that keep so many people in poverty and oppression.” (Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton)

I once shared an image of the Divine Feminine with a group in dialogue about gender, race, and religious difference. This image is rooted in deep scriptural and faith community traditions, but it is very different from the normative male images of divinity to which many people in the group were accustomed:

Saint Sophia, by Mirta Toledo
Saint Sophia, by Mirta Toledo

The response was moving. Some people experienced deep recognition and elation. Others were very disturbed. It was evident that for everyone the image was unexpected and impactful. Images are powerful—they are a mirror, an echo; they tell us something about ourselves and our world, whatever our beliefs may be.

Of course, images of the Divine Feminine are foundational for human cultures around the world and throughout time:

Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion
Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion
Isis, Egyptian Goddess of Life, Death, & Magic
Isis, Egyptian Goddess of Life, Death, & Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there are images of great complexity, that push us beyond the usual boundaries of our accepted reality:

Ardhanarishvara, the god Shiva & goddess Parvati fused
Ardhanarishvara, the god Shiva & goddess Parvati fused

“Viewing deity as including and transcending female and male releases all genders to experience a deeper spirituality as we have greater freedom to fulfill our potential in the divine image.” (Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton)

When I shared with the UUCS Worship team and members of our congregation that we would be focusing on the Divine Feminine during this month, I was again moved—many people shared with me stories, images, and books about their encounters with the Divine Feminine, and the transformative power of those encounters in their lives. I would like to invite you to join in this dialogue as well. If you have stories, images, practices, or experiences of the Divine Feminine you would like to share, please reach out to me over the course of this month ( minister@uucs.org ). I would very much like to hear them.

For those of us who identify with a divine power, these stories, images, and practices can be challenging and liberating about who divinity is, and what our connection to Her can be. For those of us who do not find meaning in divinity, these images can still be challenging and liberating, a mirror revealing the power that human beings can access within ourselves to dismantle systems of oppression, symbolized in images from fellow human beings around the world.

For all of us, these images are an invitation—to be challenged, to be liberated, to discover a power for liberation of which we are all a part.

“With all the injustice and violence in our world, we often feel overwhelmed and wonder what we can do. We all want to make a difference…. We contribute to transforming our world through including female names and images of the divine. I invite you to speak and sing Her name, to experience Her transforming power.” (Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton)

Scott

This Sunday, a major leader in our community and state will be our guest speaker. The Honorable Brenda Lee Pryce, who served in the S.C. House of Representatives for District 31 from 1995 to 2005 and co-author of South of Main on the history of Spartanburg’s Southside before and during urban renewal, will lead our Sunday service. Please watch here.

Exactly one year ago, as Black History Month concluded, we moved into a reflection together on what it means to be a neighbor in the South Converse neighborhood (“To Be A Neighbor” and “South Converse“). Those reflections were interrupted by the on-set of the pandemic. (Although the videos of these services are incomplete, it is very moving to see the choir singing, and all of us gathered in person, right before the pandemic hit in the March 1 & March 8, 2020, Sunday service videos.)

In the year that has passed, we have striven to strengthen our connection with the Southside, building relationships, making and distributing hundreds of masks just for this neighborhood, helping with get-out-the-vote efforts, joining in community projects, litter pick-ups, and meetings, and much more. We are trying to listen, to learn again what it means to be a neighbor in this place, conscious of history, dedicated to making life more livable for every person here.

A year since the start of the pandemic, former Rep. Pryce will speak with us about this neighborhood and about our shared future. She has been a vital leader for us all, whether we know it or not. On Sunday, she will lead us again.

Please welcome her with your presence, even in our virtual format.

Thank you–

Scott

When we are frustrated, when we cannot make things work as we think they should, when unfairness overwhelms, when the world does not care:

a word of gratitude, even for the smallest thing,

can relax our shoulders, can open our minds, can help us shift to possibilities and a way forward.

Shift–

Scott

Look how beautiful this is: https://sparkandfire.com/billtjones/

We can do so much, so well, when we strive together–

Scott

Celebrating Black History Month

“Deep human stuff in a political environment.” (Bill T. Jones)

I have so often heard these words: “You should be grateful.” Or, “They should be grateful.” Words often spoken to “put someone in their place”, especially in moments of protest, of advocating for oneself, of expressing concern for what is wounding, of expressing outrage for what is breaking the world. Words meant to silence and subdue. Words of power, and not shared power—power for oneself over others.

What if, rather than demand gratitude of others, we each practiced gratitude ourselves?

Gratitude is a powerful practice. It asks of us mindfulness and humility. It has the power to shift our minds and our feelings. It illuminates possibility. It can bind broken relationships. It can rebuild a world.

This has been a year of pandemic, of protest, of deceit, of loss, of grief, of strain. We have heard ugly comments, comments of power, and not shared power. We have felt concern. We have felt outrage.

What if, in the brokenness of this moment, we practice gratitude? And by cultivating gratitude in ourselves, we cultivate possibility in the world, to rebuild the world.

This month, we will practice gratitude. We will be still, we will feel, we will radiate. We will experiment with ourselves, to see what power gratitude offers us, for rebuilding our world.

And in our practice of gratitude, with mindfulness and humility, we will practice gratitude in celebration of Black History Month,

gratitude, for the sheer humanity, the sheer beauty, the sheer presence of the people of Africa and the African diaspora in our world,
gratitude, for the peoples and continent who gave birth to us all at the origin of our human being,
all people ultimately born of Africa,

gratitude, for those of us who identify as Black,
gratitude, for those of us who share this world with these our siblings,

gratitude for so much that sustains us,
for so much on which we depend and for which we are indebted,
for so much taken, and even so for so much still so generously given that we do not deserve,
gratitude for so much that has made our lives possible
but for which we may never have expressed thanks.

If, with mindfulness and humility, we practice gratitude, who might we become? What might we discover our human being to be? And then, what might we do? What world might we help to build?

“Goodbye binary. Hello future. I’m dreaming…I’m dreaming….” (Bill T. Jones in The Process of Becoming Infinite)

–Scott

We care, for one another and for our community.

This Sunday we welcome New Members, and we celebrate the launch of our Annual Generosity of Giving Campaign. It is easy for churches to get lost in the numbers chase–how many members do we have, how much money have we given. When that becomes our focus, we have lost our purpose. It is important to remember why we exist, why we work so hard for our small community of faith and hope, and to stay on mission. Then even the numbers–which are important, just not our purpose–become a very useful tool to fulfill our purpose.

We care, for one another and for our community.

In the light of our purpose, we celebrate the expansion of our church team, welcoming new members who want to be a part of our transformative work, and putting in the often difficult effort to know one another, to help one another connect, and to amplify one another’s unique and very different gifts. And we share those gifts–gifts of time, skill, awareness, resources, energy, and presence–to fuel us all in the work we share. When we expand as a team and fuse our gifts–all of us on the team, and all of our different gifts–we do things in the world that matter, far beyond anything any one of us can do.

We care. For one another and for our community.

This Sunday, we will celebrate our team and our gifts:
– Celebrate our New Members by welcoming them this Sunday at 11:00 am via our livestream: https://www.youtube.com/user/uucs
– Then join in our Annual Generosity of Giving Campaign launch this Sunday at 12:30pm to celebrate our congregation’s unbelievable generosity in service and giving: https://uucs.org/stewardship/

With gratitude & awe–

Scott

“When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it”
(from “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdKdyemxbew

Amen–

Scott

Such beauty, to sustain us in troubled times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJa9_pFA8QM

“…to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all siblings,
to make music in the heart.”
(Howard Thurman, Singing the Living Tradition #615)

With gratitude–

Scott

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” (The Dalai Lama)

In the prophetic literature of the Hebrew people, the word is chesed, חֶסֶד, the defining attribute of the Divine and that to which human beings aspire. In the humanistic Confucian philosophy of China, the pictogram ren, 仁, combines the character for “human being” and the character for “two” to indicate the possibility for humane relationships between us, that which can bring a fractured world back to harmony. The spiritual traditions of India speak of ahimsa, अहिंसा, non-violence and respect for all living beings, so important as to govern all thought, speech, and action; taken further, the principle expands to loving-kindness, maitri in Sanskrit, मैत्री – in the Pali of Buddhist texts, metta.

It is a New Year, after a long, complex year now past. To begin this year, we will spend time together considering this simple, globe-encircling, life-demanding, life-changing virtue: lovingkindness. We will do so by practicing the metta meditation, using the version shared with our congregation by Judy Allen. I transcribe it below, from a message from Judy read out loud to me by my 9-year-old daughter.

We begin by expressing love for ourselves:

May you be free of suffering.
May you be at peace.
May you get ice cream.
May you know the joy of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for all others.
May you know LOVE.

We then express love for those for whom we care:

May you be free of suffering.
May you be at peace.
May you get ice cream.
May you know the joy of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for all others.
May you know LOVE.

And finally, we express love for those who we find difficult, in small ways and in large:

May you be free of suffering.
May you be at peace.
May you get ice cream.
May you know the joy of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for all others.
May you know LOVE.

This year, may we know love in all the ways best for every one of us. Happy New Year—

Scott