Just a quickie, pigeons.
I had two consecutive weeks off in February for vacation time, and when I returned home the church had a snow day, so the person who had prepared to lead the service on February 15 wound up doing that service for February 22. The end result is that I had three weeks away from leading worship, and boy, how illuminating it was to note the increased anxiety in my brain and body the following week!
By Saturday night I was breathing shallowly, obsessing about the flow of the liturgy, reviewing the children’s message in my mind every chance I got, composing an extemporaneous prayer while cooking dinner, and heartily fretting about the sermon. I slept very poorly due to nerves on Saturday night.
None of this low-level distress is evident to me during the regular course of my working year, but having had a considerable break from it I was able to see just how much heavy lifting we are doing every Sunday. In the Unitarian Universalist tradition it is especially heavy since we use fresh words for everything from the Call To Worship to the Benediction. Phew, that’s a lot of faithful creative output!
Nothing else to add, just to say that it seemed like an important observation to share with you. MWAH!
Unitarian Universalists are going back to Selma for the fiftieth anniversary of the march that eventually brought about the Voting Rights Act. Many Unitarian Universalists remember and cling to the moment as the apotheosis of social justice commitments, especially because one of our lay members, Viola Liuzzo, and one of our ministers, the Rev. James Reeb, were murdered in the days surrounding the march. They had both come in to participate following the call by Rev. Dr. King.
This is much more than an exercise in nostalgia and solidarity. It is a memorial, a funeral, a call to renewed efforts toward anti-racism and anti-oppression work in #BlackLivesMatter America.
Many clergy have been asking what to pack and what to wear, and as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, these are not trivial questions.
Some Unitarian Universalist ministers want to wear these.
Or they think they should wear stoles over street clothes to signal to the world that they are religious leaders.
Neither of these choices is appropriate, and I have said elsewhere that I find the first option offensive.
I like, support and appreciate the Standing On The Side Of Love slogan and campaign. It is a banner I am happy to have flying in our church sanctuary at times, and a Tshirt that I own and wear when I am joining UUs at big events like gay pride or climate marches. I love the happy feeling I get when I walk toward a park or gathering place and see a big swarm of those bumble bee shirts. Those are my people! I think to myself, and I head toward them with gratitude.
But the fiftieth anniversary of the march from Selma is no time for anyone to identify themselves with a denominational brand. To do so communicates immaturity and competitiveness to others, no matter what Unitarian Universalists say about wanting to communicate enthusiasm and pride. An ecumenical leader just sent me a Facebook message saying, “I wonder if the glaring UU branding in the clerics is an expression not of ecumenical/ interfaith solidarity, but an expression of anxiety and competition. I know of no other denomination where the clerical uniform has been particularized with a color… ”
Of course it is! And the terminal uniqueness to which UUs are still unfortunately prone, even as time marches on and proves us to be marching in tandem with mainline Protestants in many of the issues we were once cutting edge.
Colleagues, be respectful and respectable. Wear structured clothing. Wear a suit. Wear clericals if you want to identify as clergy. Leave off the stoles flapping in the wind, as you are not officiating at a wedding or performing a pastoral function. Stoles are not public symbols of ordained ministry and often look goofy over street clothes. They are highly individualistic (“This is my denominational stole! This is my rainbow unicorn quilted stole! This is my home congregation design stole! This is my I Love Nature And Horses stole!”) and can ruin a photograph by being askew. They are liturgical vestments and do not really belong in the streets, but if you feel strongly about wearing one, please do not make it a denominational slogan. Please do not time-stamp an historic moment by wearing a transient symbol. I know that the Standing On The Side Of Love campaign is not denominational and purely Unitarian Universalist. That isn’t the point. The point is that this moment is not about team pride of any kind. It is about human history, legacy, remembrance, martyrdom and justice. None of those things should be cheapened by flagrant displays of specialness or separateness.
Some UUs may object: “I’m clergy but I’m not Christian and do not wish to wear clericals because that has no integrity.”
Then don’t wear clericals. Exchanging clericals for an unrecognizable, distracting symbol at a moment of high national importance is about your need to be identified in photos as a particular flavor of religious leader, not about making a visual, emotional, psychological statement for the ages.
It’s not about you or our tiny denomination, and if Unitarian Universalist cheerleading and preferred Rainbow Brite colors palette was going to win converts to our movement, I am certain that would have happened by now.
Part of the power of this image taken fifty years ago is that you cannot tell the participants apart by creed or denomination, church-goer, atheist, layman or clergy. They are elegant, they are dignified, they are one people.
Guess what, noodles?
I read this little tip somewhere and it really works!
Before applying your mascara, warm it by rolling it between your hands for a bit. The warmth makes the product spread much more easily over your lashes.
So I just stick my mascara in my bra before applying it. That does the job nicely and my lashes are lush.
I have some Lenten commitments that help me feel right in my heart and life, and right with GAWD.
Isn’t it hard to talk about our relationships with God in a way that doesn’t sound smarmy and pious? I hate being smarmy and pious so I’ll stick with irreverent, thankyouverymuch.
On my recent vacation, I had one goal: to pay attention to what I require in order to feel good in body, mind and spirit. That’s all I did. And it turned out to be extremely valuable. I got clear about the following things. I call them the “I Need This And It’s Okay.”
1. I need a lot of time to transition from being awake to being in the day.
This is huge for my mental and emotional health! When I open my eyes, I need silence and calm. This means that I need to get to bed early enough whenever possible to not require an alarm to wake up.
In the silence and calm, I think things out. I think things like,
What am I hoping to get done today?
Who most needs my time?
How is that work going?
Who’s at the very top of my ‘get back to’ or ‘pray for’ or ‘visit’ list?
How am I feeling about that meeting we had yesterday?
Is the issue resolved or do I need to do follow-up?
What’s coming up that I need to plan for?
God, can you help me with a story for my sermon?
This is just lying in bed thinking. I need this time. If I don’t get or take this time I feel out of breath, rushed and frazzled by 10 AM.
You might call this prayer. Sometimes it is prayer.
A lot of the time, actual prayer time happens later in the day or at night in bed on the other side of the day.
2. No aggravation before 10 AM.
This means that most e-mails get read later in the morning.
There is nothing so important that it can’t be postponed ’til late morning. This helps me keep my perspective on everything, and I believe it has helped my stress level and mindfulness about how to respond to challenging issues.
3. I need to take my dog for a proper walk.
Back everything up. He gets a half an hour of unrushed snorfling time, even if it takes me ten minutes to get the both of us dressed for the cold, and lately it does. Did you know that they make little doggie galoshes? They do, and my beagle wears them because if he doesn’t he gets ice stuck in his paw pads and salt burns.
4. I need to properly feed myself and my animals.
This means actual breakfast and coffee, not gulped on the run. Not a Power Bar. Not a string cheese. The animals don’t get kibble slapped into a bowl. They get a thoughtfully prepared meal, even if it’s just kibble. It’s all in the way I prepare it for them.
5. I need to read.
Even 20 minutes of reading helps me feel grounded in wisdom and sanity. It has to be something good, but it has to be concentrated reading, not clicking.
6. I need to keep food at church.
It has meant the world to me to have small containers of actual food at church. It means everything not to scarf down a Power Bar at 4pm or go home starved and light-headed.
7. I need to cook.
See how simple these things are? Feed myself and others. Rest. Wake calmly. The cooking thing is essential for me to feel connected to how I am feeding myself. It is essential. When I don’t cook for a week or even four or five days I feel like an orphan, and it doesn’t matter if I go to restaurants or get good take-out. It’s the alchemy of taking out the ingredients and patiently and creatively and gratefully transforming them into delicious food that I eat in my own home off of my own plates that nourishes me. Cooking is love, and I feel love when I cook. I also make food for others and that makes me happy.
8. I need to have something fun to look forward to in the not-too-far future.
Dinner with friends. Someone stopping over for coffee. A theatre outing. A date with a cute guy. A fresh setting that isn’t church or home, the grocery store or the snow piled sidewalks.
9. I need to stop working at the end of the day.
Just stop. If I have a night meeting, I have to work. But I try not to have too many night meetings.
10. I need to recognize that I cannot participate in and support every worthy organization that begs my loyalty and attention.
I cannot keep up with the demand as a minister on behalf of my congregation and I cannot keep up with the demand as a private citizen. I must choose a few that I can support and accept that I have to let a lot of pleas for time, talent and treasure go unanswered. It’s hard, but it’s the only way I can stay clear and not drown in requests.
It feels selfish to make a list of personal needs in the season of Lent, which calls us to deny ourselves (please, darlings, don’t give me that new-fangled thing about how Lent is now about ADDING something. That’s crap! Give me my hair shirt and my ashes!). But while my timing may not be liturgically on fleek (and I believe I am the first to use “on fleek” in that context), it is honest and authentic. I needed to get clear about my needs and try to live into them for my own good and the good of my ministry.
How about you, dumplings? What do you need? What are you becoming aware that you need? Line ‘em up. Let’s look at them.