A COMMUNITY OF Creative Liberation – April 2020

The theme of liberation was chosen long before any of us ever heard of CoVid19. Without the reality of the pandemic, considering liberation would probably have leaned heavily on how social justice continues to escape us, or how we desire liberation from the effects of capitalism, or from greed…or on any number of ways we might feel trapped by culture or expectations.

But we are in different times. So, in pondering what might be most useful this month, I considered changing the theme…to hope, or resilience, or courage. I queried some of you about possibilities. And in the end, I decided to add the qualifier ‘creative’ to the theme of ‘liberation.’

For me, ‘creative liberation’ is a call to think differently about what liberation is, and how to achieve it. Many of us perhaps have thought of ourselves as free, and liberation as a need that others have. Yet our very freedom has been made possible by systems that oppress and imprison, and in these days, we are seeing those systems dismantled. Scary, maybe, but might this dismantling be liberating?

Today, we are feeling imprisoned by restrictions…the need to physically distance ourselves…and are experiencing a loss of freedom. But our theme, creative liberation, is a call to consider what it is that truly binds or traps us, individually and collectively.
In these times, I think we have the opportunity to see liberation with new eyes, and to consider how we might creatively act and re-act in ways that open up space for new ways of being free as a people on this beautiful planet.

Community artist and activist Kate DeCiccio has suggested that “If we get this right, we’ll never go back to normal.” I find that incredibly freeing!

Please reach out. Don’t be alone. 
Rev. Julie 

Past Stone Soup Columns

Oh My People!

Ahhhh…deep breath…I’m back with my people!

I know, it’s a tad early, but given the circumstances, and after consulting with UFP’s leadership, I decided I just couldn’t stay away any longer. Home, with you, is where I need to be.

It goes without saying that these are unusual and trying times. We’re being asked to keep our distance from one another when we most need to connect. The very ground beneath us is shifting, requiring us to be nimble and responsive. Anxiety and fear have become our bedfellows.

But, our UFP community was built for times like these, right? We have a covenant with one another, already priming us to see our world through the lenses of healing, helping and blessing. We have promised to care for the earth, to serve humanity, and to cherish one another. We’ve already built a community grounded in love. The months ahead are gonna be tough, for sure, but we’ve got each other.

Recommended responses and best practices for these times are changing by the moment. I’ll be focusing my time in the near future on finding safe ways for us to connect, meaningful ways to support one another, and resilience-building resources for our collective and individual spiritual sustenance. I welcome your ideas, as well as your requests for support!

Right now, I am simply here to serve you. I’d like to hear how you’re doing…and especially want to know if you’re facing financial, physical, or logistical stressors.

I do not return to a ‘messy house.’ Far from it. I am not at all surprised at how you led and participated and carried on SO VERY WELL in my absence (see Jovanna’s Feb 28 report.) I am especially in awe of those who worked so hard to create and deliver our first-ever on-line Sunday service on March 15. Your competence and your dedication to this community inspire me. And I am grateful, so very grateful.

Yes. It feels good to be back. A sabbatical report will come soon, as will invitations to connect with, give to, and receive from one another, because even as uncertainty and isolation wreak havoc, we are called to remember that the best way to travel is together, with songs in our hearts. Indeed, we have each other.

Oh, my people, I love you,
Rev. Julie

PS: Here’s a poem for these times.

Nothing is Static    ~ Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti

The ground shifts, sometimes slowly,
sometimes like an earthquake,
reminding us that the solidity
we often love and seek
is an illusion.

The crumbling dust of the desert plains,
the moist fertility of farmlands,
the ending coastline of tidal shores,
all are changing.

Committees dissolve or are created,
leaders retire or step away,
ministers come and go,
by-laws are amended.

New experiences
lead to new truths,
which foster

the natural course of life
always pushing us
toward greater understandings
of what it means
to be human.

Everything about our existence
points toward change,
and dynamic re-creation.
And it’s hard because
change involves loss.

Can we hold the losses well,
while not holding ourselves back?

The ground shifts, sometimes slowly,
sometimes like an earthquake;
nothing is static.

The Flame Arising from Us

poem from Soul Matters

We gather
knowing that the light can’t
reconstitute itself.
Without each other
a coldness sits in.
Leaning on each other,
trusting each other
challenging each other –
Only from this does the flame emerge.
Today, may it rise again!

Today is a new day during the 3 months (Jan-March) when our dear Rev Julie is away on her much deserved sabbatical. During this time as is written in “The Flame Arising from Us”, we have “gathered” each and every Sunday, well… except one, when an icy current blanketed Peterborough and we had to make the challenging decision to cancel our Sunday service.

We have “known that the light can’t constitute itself” and so we have invited new people into the pulpit to offer inspiring messages and new children to grace us with their presence as they light the chalice.

And “because without each other the coldness sets in”, our hearts and bellies were warmed by the traditional Gambian meal that Alieu offered as a birthday celebration and send off before visiting his family after 5 years in Canada followed by his note, “no words can express my gratitude…”.

“Leaning on each other” was necessary last week when one of our members had a sudden serious health issue and our service leader spontaneously enlisted the song “Lean on Me” as our closing hymn.

During Rev Julie’s sabbatical we have been continuing on the community path of “trusting and challenging” each other during our many meetings, Journeys group, book clubs, Sunday morning Qigong etc. These gatherings stretch us in many ways and we’ve shared smiles and tears together as a result.

“Only from this does the flame emerge”. Yes, all of this is very much a part of our shared ministry which has become even more illuminated while Rev Julie is away.

“Today may it rise again!”, in the many ways we participate in community such as coffee hour, the Blue Horse Café this weekend, Resonance practice on Sunday evenings, the ‘Caring for One Another’ Community Conversation on March 8th, the capital campaign for accessibility and funding of the lift , religious exploration, youth group, giving and receiving fostered by our Pastoral Care worker and in everyday conversations with one another and simple gestures of connection.

May we each find ways to tend and notice the flame of community arising today and always.

Jovanna Soligo
For the Committee on Ministry

Living with Integrity – January 2020

It’s Boxing Day 2019; I’m in the quiet of my office, preparing to leave on a 3-month sabbatical. Elaine (our bookkeeper) is in the building too, preparing year end financials. There are many loose ends to tie up.

Our theme for January is “Living with Integrity.” During the sabbatical months, our theme-based ministry may feel less pronounced…the Journeys group will still meet, but just once a month, on the 1st Thursday, and our Sunday guest speakers may not focus on the theme. We’ll still provide a theme packet, but it will be the one that comes directly from the Soul Matters group…not uniquely formatted for UFP.

But do still read that packet! (It will be linked from The Flame and in our brochure rack, as usual.) January’s packet begins with a quote from Rachel Naomi Remen who speaks of integrity as “reclaiming the freedom to be who we are” and finding “something we have put in the back of a drawer long ago.”

Lately, I’ve been practicing the mandala mudra, which is about claiming wholeness. When I put my hands in this gesture, I can feel all the little loose ends of myself…which have gotten caught somewhere, or were flung out toward something, or are out on a search party…rolling back toward the center of my being. It’s like I’m gathering up all the little bits of myself that I’ve left here and there, and re-claiming them as my own. It’s a wonderful feeling! Try it!

I’m leaving a quote on my office door from F. Scott Fitzgerald, who encourages us that it’s never too late, or too early, to be whoever we want to be. But he also offers some words of blessing, which I pass along to you. Whenever you walk by my office in these months, take a moment to remind yourself of them:

    “I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before.
     I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re
     proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

I’m off to live into these blessings, and to work on calling all my little loose ends home, that I may live with more integrity and wholeness. May you do the same.

With gratitude for this time of renewal and rejuvenation,

PS. We are putting a temporary pastoral care ‘system’ in place for these months of sabbatical. At the time of this posting, all of the details are not finalized. More details should be on this page soon!

Living with Awe – December 2019

December is a great month to consider the presence of awe in our lives, but truly, every month is a great month for awe!
We speak of ourselves, in UFP’s purpose statement, as a community that embraces life with wonder and inquiry, but…what if we took this to the next step?
Awe might be defined as reverent and respectful wonder, a particular kind of wondering with a particular type of attitude. Awe is like wonder, but multiplied and deepened.
Awe has many synonyms, but to feel awe is like experiencing all of the synonyms at once.
Respect. Reverence. Worship. Admiration. Astonishment. Fear. Stupefaction.
And to me, this suggests that to feel awe, I must experience myself to be in relation to something that humbles me, overwhelms me, is greater than me, or is beyond my capacity to understand. And, to be in the presence of something I approach from a place of respect… because of its inexplicable power, mystery, beauty, or sheer size.
Life is all of that. Being part of the community of all-that-is is awe-inspiring. So, I want to embrace life with wonder, but also with awe.
I cannot create life. I cannot explain it. Life is a spirit and a force way beyond my understanding. I am in awe of life.
And also of you. 
Rev. Julie 

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