Margie-from-video

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. 

Dear Ones,

“Mission-Vision work” is the process a community uses to envision its place in the future, to gain clarity about the work and the path ahead, and to collect the energy needed to sustain them on the journey. The goal of our 2016 Mission Vision Process is for the lovers of this Fellowship and faith to discover together what really matters to them as a community and to find ways to invest the time, talent and treasure we have in those things.

You may have heard that the 2016-17 Pledge Campaign (ABD), which kicks off at the March 13th Sunday service, will include elements of our 2016 “mission vision” discernment, a process we’re calling “Discovering Our Path into the Near Future.” That 3/13 Sunday service, the Stone Soup Dinner Party that same evening, and the Dinners For 12 on the following Sunday will all contain exercises and discussions designed to help us discover who we are now as a congregation, the current context in which we are situated, and what that identity and context tells us about how we are called to serve one another and our neighbors. The Pledge Campaign concludes on the evening of April 23 with what is sure to be a wonderful Contradance and Dessert Celebration. The mission vision process continues to completion with two additional gatherings in May.

The last time the congregation took a formal look at questions of purpose and the future was back in 2007, the year after the retirement of long-term minister Kate Leyman. One product of that process was our current mission statement: “The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook is a religious community that seeks diversity, individual spiritual growth, and social and economic justice.” Another product was six bulleted visionary goals for the year 2017, all of which, by my lights, the congregation has achieved or made impressive strides toward achieving: to be known in the larger community, to take compassionate action, to grow in membership and human diversity, to increase membership engagement in Fellowship activities, to practice earth stewardship, and to achieve financial security.

Meanwhile, the world within and outside the walls of the Fellowship has changed in many ways. We face new pressures, struggle with new issues, find injustice in new places, confront new global vulnerabilities. The time has come to fix our vision as a congregation on what really matters to us NOW. In the process we are looking to meet the following ends.  We want to deepen connections between people who love this Fellowship and are committed to its thriving. We want to ask one another the most daring, provocative, and “box-opening” questions we can come up with in order to get at who we are, what we’re for, what moves us and what the world needs from us. We want to awaken our hearts and minds to possibilities no one among us could have conjured up alone. We want to leave every person with an indelible memory of “truth and meaning” that emerged during our time together. And we want to find some kind of words or symbols, some song or poem, some image or story that will later bring everyone back to those memories and to the inspiration and excitement they felt in that moment.

Please bring the gift of U to every Pledge Drive and Mission Vision event this spring!

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. 

Letters22Dec2015

. 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. 

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