Margie-from-video

Dear Ones,

I thought you all might like to have a glimpse of what my bare bones calendar looks like month to month. Although I share this annually in one of my first Board Reports, I don’t think I’ve ever written about it here.

1st Mondays: “We Say Enough”—On Call for the Movement (for Black Lives)—mass Zoom call, 12:30-1:30); 2nd Mondays: Pastoral Assistants meeting (7:15-9:15 p.m.); 3rd Mondays: unscheduled; 4th Mondays: Quarterly Leadership Council meetings (7-9 p.m.); 1st Tuesdays: 3-Village Interfaith Clergy Association business meeting (8:30-10:00 a.m.), Shawl Ministry (7:00-8:30 p.m.); 2nd Tuesdays: UU Ministers Association LI Chapter Meeting (varying sites) (11:00-2:30); 3rd Tuesdays: 3-Vill Interfaith Clergy Lunch (12:30-2:00), UUMA Cluster Dinner (6:30-9:00 p.m.); 4th Tuesdays: unscheduled. Every Wednesday is my one sure Sabbath day (and every six weeks, usually the day I get a 4-hour Remicade infusion for rheumatoid arthritis—4 hours at Mather; 1st Thursdays: Meeting with DRE, Staff meeting (10:00-1:00); 2nd Thursdays: Jefferson’s Ferry lunch (12:30-1:30 p.m.), UUFSB Board Meeting (7:00-10:00 p.m.); 3rd Thursdays: supervision/planning with DRE (10:30-12:00), Staff Meeting (10:00-1:00), Shalom Interfaith Project (1:30-2:30); 4th Thursdays: unscheduled.

Every Friday: sermon prep/reading; 3rd Fridays: Minister’s Advisory Meeting (MAC) (8:30-10:30). 1st Saturdays: Sharing Circle Facilitators Meeting (irregularly, 10:45-12:45); 2nd and 4th Saturdays: personal time/sermon prep/congregational events; 3rd Saturdays: Worship Associates meeting (9:30-11:30). Sundays: Service 2-4x/month (32-35/year); RE Wing (2-3x/year); attend lay-led services (2-3x/year); post-service meetings and occasional afternoon/evening activities and events; 4-5 Sundays off/year, generally for conferences and such. A couple of Sundays a year I am home and sleeping in!

I also have a number of denominational and community leadership gigs. I am serving as Chair in second of a three-year term on Nominating Committee of Metro NY UU Ministers Association (UUMA) Chapter. I am Secretary of the Shalom Interfaith Project. I am the outgoing president of the 3-Village Interfaith Clergy Association. I am a member of the UU Trauma Response Ministry. I am Co-Convener (with Frances McGuire) of the Long Island Ministerial Leave Program.

Unscheduled” days—any day, actually, (though I generally protect my Sabbath Wednesdays, if possible)—often include meetings, coffee, lunch or breakfast, house and hospital calls, phone and email conversations. I also post regular office hours—afternoons on Mondays and Tuesdays and Thursday morning—but if I have no scheduled appointments, many other obligations, needs and errands generally fill those days. And, of course, when you call, your needs are my priority. Frequently every day, I am answering emails, researching, reading, keeping up with current events, planning and calendaring. You are almost always on my mind, one way or another. That’s what it means to be your minister. I am available and prepared to accompany you through whatever it is that is happening or planned or being planned. It’s all what I do. It’s a calling, an honor, rewarding, and not easy. Love feeds me.

MARGIE

 

Dear Ones,

Day to day life for you, for me, for all of us, can be challenging enough. I wonder if the additional challenges to our lives issuing from public spaces are raising as much concern and anxiety for you as they are for me? The presidential election process is breathtakingly worrisome. Mass shootings continue to shock us in the headlines. People of color and their white allies in Charlotte and elsewhere are rising up to protest more deaths of black men which appear to involve irregularities in police behavior. Here, a coalition of groups, including several dozen of us here at UUFSB, is planning a march and rally in Stony Brook on Saturday, November 12th in support of the inherent worth and dignity of black lives. Board-sponsored all-congregation Town Meetings have been scheduled for October 23 after the service for the “Social Justice in Congregations” discussion and on November 6 after the service for the “Next Steps with BLM” conversation. I know this summer’s BLM events and their consequences continue to trouble many of you.

If you find yourself in a swirl of worry, angst, confusion in any degree, about any matter, please think of me as a ready source of support. I consider it an honor to be invited to sit down with you and the whatever-it-is that is causing you misery. Perhaps:

  • You need a sympathetic ear for problems with your job, children, marriage, relationship, or anything else; you are feeling confused, depressed, or isolated or have a joy to share.
  • You or someone you love is ill or facing surgery; perhaps you notice that someone you know in the congregation needs support.
  • Someone you love is near death or has died or and you need help with end-of-life planning or a service; you’re planning to marry, struggling in a relationship or contemplating divorce; you’re pregnant but wish you weren’t or are thrilled you are; you would like to have a child dedicated; you are undergoing a major transition in your life and would like to create a ritual to recognize the threshold you are crossing.
  • You or someone you know has questions about religion or Unitarian Universalism; you want to build your theology, deepen your spiritual life or are in spiritual crisis; you’d like to join the congregation or are already a member and are wondering how you can participate more fully in congregational life; you’d like to share your talents and gifts as part of one of our groups, committees, or classes, or serve as a volunteer in some other way.
  • You want to affirm something good going on in the congregation or would like to discuss a congregational issue that is troubling you; you have ideas about sermons or programs or have a project you would like to initiate; you’re mad at me or someone else and want to air your feelings and work it out…

Maybe you’d just like to come sit with me and see what may open to us out of the silence. “Come, come, whoever you are. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come yet again, come.” I want to help.

MARGIE

 

Dear Ones,

As usual in late August, our activity level at the Fellowship starts to ramp up. This year, though, many of the Fellowship’s governance and social justice leaders never really ramped down! When you see them, please thank them for their efforts to maintain our target “non-anxious presence” this summer. Staying cool when people get scared and upset is a hard-won leadership skill. Many of us have been working that learning curve with all our heart.

Sunday I preached the first of two sermons designed to remind all of us that this congregation is about more than any one stand we take on an issue that plagues our town or country or world. You can read “Sanctuary: Comforting the Afflicted” by clicking here. I hope to see you next week for part 2: “Sanctuary: Afflicting the Comfortable.” The point of the duo is that our faith calls us to take risks of all sorts, but without the love that binds and encourages and heals us, we would not have sufficient strength, power, or endurance. Whether we face a challenge as an individual, a small group, or a congregation standing together, we are no stronger than our grounding in worship, our mutual care in hard times, our willingness to search for truth and grow in spirit together, and our collective trust in the fruits of the democratic process. Challenge and comfort work together to grow us up, to calibrate our moral compass, and to empower our work.

These are the questions I believe we face right now: 1. How integral to the purpose of our existence as a UU Fellowship is engaging in justice work in the world around us? 2. What is the relationship between a moral issue and a political issue and how do we navigate political boundaries in our pursuit of justice? 3. In our justice work, do we act as individuals (in our own name), as small groups or teams (in the name of our group), as a whole congregation (in the name of our Fellowship and faith), or as some combination of these? 4. What Board and committee/team policies and procedures do we need to establish to guide us as we choose our issues and plan our actions, in order that we can provide a way for those among us who disagree to maintain their integrity and their faith home among us; manage the risk to people, financial health and property; be clear about the legal ramifications of our choices; align ourselves consistently with our principles, ideals and vision as a congregation in the public forum; and offer ourselves as informed and reliable partners to the groups we join as allies in the work? 5. Where do we stand with the action the congregation voted to take at the Annual Meeting in June?

The Board, your minister and the Committee on Ministries of the Congregation (COMC) is planning a series of UUFSB gatherings to take place this fall. The 1st meeting will be a Board-sponsored Town Meeting (designed by the COMC and SJ leaders) to solicit input on policy development from the congregation in the light of Bill Gardiner’s paper “Congregational Decision-Making About Controversial Social Justice Issues” (click here to read it). The 2nd meeting will be a Board-sponsored Town meeting to discuss next steps with Black Lives Matter. The 3rd meeting will be a duly-called Congregational Meeting to consider options raised in the 2nd. The congregation voted to display the banner, so the congregation will need to vote to rescind or reiterate that decision. I hope all active members, including those currently disaffected, will participate in these important discussions. Look for more information entering your Newsfeed soon.

MARGIE

 

Dear Ones,

It has been so strange and stressful to be away from you during the time you have been grappling with the aftermath of our decision to display the Black Lives Matter banner on our Nicolls Rd. sign. If I’ve considered jumping into the car and zooming back to Stony Brook once, I’ve considered it a good hundred times, torn between my need for this critical rest- and study-time away and my sense of duty to stand with you in person. Every day and all along I’ve been in close touch with Fellowship leaders, though. I’ve obsessed about our Fellowship’s welfare as you all deal with wave after wave of news about the defacing of our banner, vitriolic verbal and electronic responses to our position and, finally, a threatening ultimatum.

But day after day what I saw was our congregational leadership responding in a non-anxious, deliberate, thoughtful, and inclusive way, seeking an acceptable balance between the financial survival of the Fellowship and our principled and public stand against white supremacist ideology and the unequal treatment of Americans of color. Day after day it seemed I could be helpful from afar, looped into salient email; offering advice, ideas and resources where helpful (I hope!); writing a letter to the editor of our local paper; interviewing with Newsday by phone; connecting people to helpers; responding to messages from local outsiders who genuinely and respectfully wanted to understand our position.

But day after day what I saw was our congregational leadership responding in a non-anxious, deliberate, thoughtful, and inclusive way, seeking an acceptable balance between the financial survival of the Fellowship and our principled and public stand against white supremacist ideology and the unequal treatment of Americans of color. Day after day it seemed I could be helpful from afar, looped into salient email; offering advice, ideas and resources where helpful (I hope!); writing a letter to the editor of our local paper; interviewing with Newsday by phone; connecting people to helpers; responding to messages from local outsiders who genuinely and respectfully wanted to understand our position.

The system of white supremacy that we have created in this country has many methods for making sure that White children are protected from even the most remote threat while Black children can be gunned down in the street with outrageous impunity every day! We have witnessed the nearly invisible way that racism works in white society. Racial standards are kept in place by public pressure (unrelenting and sometimes violent) being brought to bear against persons or groups who challenge them. Remember the cross-burnings! This kind of pressure constitutes a venerable strategy for shutting down a challenge to the power of racism and its champions in our country.

The BLM banner is accomplishing our aim, even after its removal. Our message is getting out. Many options lie before us regarding next steps in our efforts to amplify the voices of African Americans and other people of color in our beloved country. Hang in there, friends. This is how we live our principles.

MARGIE

Dear Ones,

A couple of days ago, Linda and I signed a contract to purchase the house we have been renting for the past nearly six years. It’s a Levitt home, model “The Cambridge,” built in the Strathmore “M” Section in Stony Brook in 1968. Our landlords’ parents moved in there when the house was still new. When we went looking for housing in the spring of 2010, this was the second house we saw and the rent was low—$1500/month for three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, double garage, full basement, huge kitchen, study, laundry room and a large, tree-shaded yard back and front. And there was a wood stove in the living room. I [heart] wood stoves.

The day we saw it, the house was still full of the Heller’s stuff and everything was 60’s—appliances, bathroom tiles, colors, clippings, antennas, phone jacks. Everything about the basement reminded me of my childhood—the ping pong table, the old toys, the shelves of books, the cool musty air, that basement smell. I really didn’t know whether to be delighted or horrified. I wondered how I could be who I am now in a place that captured so completely who I was then. We signed the lease, though, and once the rooms were emptied and the walls took on new colors, we proceeded to make it ours.

MargieHouseI love the wood stove, the wood, the fires; the exuberant pink azalea, the many trees, the old rose, the snow drops, the rhododendron and hydrangea; the birdhouse on the porch, home to many generations of house finches; the shade that keeps the house so cool; the yellow maples in the fall; the surround sound of birdsong in the spring. This is not the most welcoming neighborhood, but we manage to qualify as good-enough neighbors. One same-side neighbor of ours is a retired fireman, such a nice man, Rick, always ready to help out. I brought our new neighbors on the other side a loaf of homemade bread last week—Tom, Heather, daughter Gianna and a boxer mix. There’s a psychotherapist nearby, a man who makes teeth, a gossip, at least two contractors, an Ironman, a nurse, a detective, some professors. I am friends with a Chinese grandmother who spends half the year here where her grandsons live. We smile a lot, our only common language. She gives me Chinese candy. I made them rolls last Thanksgiving from a squash she grew. When I am out walking dogs, I wave at everyone, a spiritual practice. Nearly all of them wave back these days. I am also friends with a pair of orioles, some flickers, a red-bellied woodpecker and a squirrel. Deer come by. It’s all good. This is our neighborhood. There is love here. May there be love where you are too.

MARGIE

 

Dear Ones,

We just started a new monthly evening service of meditation and reflection. It has been a lovely collaborative effort between Pat Killian, and Linda Anderson, our affiliated Community Minister, and myself. Together, we designed a format for the service, created a three-service pilot series, and publicized it, and now two of them have happened. The third one is coming up on Friday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m.

The service design is loosely based on the worship tradition of the Taizé Community, a monastic order founded in 1940 in Taizé, Burgundy, France, composed of more than one hundred Catholic and Protestant brothers who originate from about thirty countries across the world. Taizé worship is ecumenical, welcoming, multilingual and insanely popular in Europe. I experienced Taizé-style worship at one New Year’s Day service in Chicago after seminary and have never forgotten how far and deep it took me.

“Vespers” (evening prayer, “at the lighting of the lamps) is the seventh of eight traditional times of prayer that divide the Christian monastic day. Our vespers service is for anyone of any faith, within or outside our congregation. It is for people who don’t want to give up their leisurely consumption of coffee and the New York Times on Sunday mornings. It is for young people whose days begin at noon. It is for all who abhor a sermon. It is for people who are winding up a week of 9 to 5 and welcome a place to just “be” and not “do.” It is for people who feel crowded in their lives and need to regain a sense of spaciousness in place and time. It is for people who like to sing and people who like to listen to people singing and to instrumental music. It is for people who prefer an intuitive communal flow with few or no instructions.

The order of service for winter and early spring consists of chants and short songs from a variety of religious traditions and languages sung with multiple repeats; intervals of instrumental music; three short readings; a ten-minute meditation in relative darkness; a candle lighting and light gathering; a benediction and then tea and cookies. We sit in chairs in a layered circle with aisles. The room is lit with white mini-lights. No sermon, no instructions, no order of service, no imposed meaning-making, simply space to connect with yourself and, perhaps, with a deeper or wider self of which you are a unique and integral part. The service lasts an hour or less with time to meet or make friends afterwards. The sign that greets you at the door coming offers a brief orientation: “Please take a candle and a music sheet. Choose a seat. Enter the stillness. Be here. Don’t worry.” Together we create a sanctuary for listening to your life.

I hope you will be able to join us on one or another third Friday, maybe even make a habit of it. Soon we will be promoting the service in the wider community as a safe and welcoming interfaith space for rest, contemplation and inspiration. This service is a ministry we are offering to the world beyond our doors. It’s not just for us. It is a sanctuary of slow, quiet and rest for a harried world. Our collaboration yields gifts for the world.

Yours with great affection,

MARGIE

. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or paper-line 12 (2 1/2 inch) muffin cups. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, salt and walnuts.

2. In small bowl, combine sour cream, milk, butter and egg until blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over tops.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes for regular-size muffins, 20 to 25 minutes for giant-size muffins or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. 

More Articles...