Click to listen here (as delivered in Nantucket on March 18, 2018)

Let us pray.

Now… some of you instantly bowed your head a bit, maybe you closed your eyes. Perhaps you took in a deep breath as you waited to hear how I started the prayer and to whom I addressed it.

Others of you did that, but you also groaned a little inside, because you don’t pray, you don’t like the word pray, and wait…. didn’t we just pray?

Others still didn’t close eyes or bow heads – either because you thought, rightly, that I wasn’t about to actually pray. But others of you didn’t do any of that because the idea of prayer actually runs counter to how you understand your theology. And while you know I’m not going to intentionally exclude anyone in my prayers, you also have lots of experiences with so-called interfaith or ecumenical prayers that are directed to a particular understanding of a particular “Whom” to which the prayer is directed.

Prayer as a construct across the world’s religions and cultures is… fraught. Pray wrong and you’re a heretic. Pray too overtly and you’re a fanatic. Pray in a style that’s outside your community’s norms and you’re a pariah.

Sometimes prayer is so central to a religion’s lived practice it becomes almost a curiosity. Such is the case with our understanding of the five daily prayers of Muslims.

While it might seem strange to us, praying five times a day makes perfect sense to Muslims, who understand their god as one who seeks devotion in order to help us let go of the things of man, the things that would keep us from the deep compassionate love of God. Praying at prescribed times rather than praying when it’s convenient further enforces the idea that we must do things in God’s time, not in ours. The prayers have a distinct form and include words that have been spoken for a millennium, along with physical movements to involve the whole self in prayer.

This is a religion – one of the Abrahamic religions – that takes seriously the idea that In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. Islam is a recited religion, and to even read the Koran or speak the words of prayers is an act of worship and devotion. And while television has demonized the chant “God is Great” – “Allahu Akbar”, as though it is the secret code to unimaginable terrorism and violence – it is not that far off from the start of the Hebrew prayers, “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha`olam…” or “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe…”

It’s true that we who are by and large descended from Christian faiths, this kind of prayer seems foreign, the demands unreasonable. Yet even our Roman Catholic friends are taught to pray the rosary and instructed to do so at certain times and places.

Prayer is a significant practice in many religions, in ways many of us don’t understand and sometimes distrust.

Yeah. Prayer is fraught.

And yet.

Prayer is found around the world, in every religious tradition, whether it’s called prayer or not.

Now prayer should not be confused with meditation. Meditation is a practice or technique for promoting relaxation, building internal energy, and developing a sense of compassion in a floaty, non-attached sort of way. And don’t get me wrong – meditation and mindfulness practices are important and good and valuable. But prayer is different. Prayer  doesn’t expect you to watch your thoughts pass by or disengage. Prayer doesn’t expect you to be free of the monkey mind as a prerequisite; rather, that is prayer’s result. Being restless, dubious, and distracted is a perfect trifecta of emotion for entering a time of prayer.

So we decide to pray. What is it?

There are many ideas about what prayers should be, but I like the simple classification found in Erik Walker Wikstrom’s book Simply Pray, from which the title of this sermon is drawn. In the book, he talks about four basic types of prayer:

The first is Naming. This is a prayer of gratitude, for naming all the ways we encounter the sacred. It might appear in a grace said or sung before a meal:

Let us give thanks for the food that we share
Let us give thanks for people who care
Food fills our bodies, and love makes us whole
Let us give thanks deep down in our soul.

It might be the laundry list of names for god – whether the 99 names of God in Islam, or the myriad ways Unitarian Universalists name the sacred, starting with Spirit of Life and occasionally including ‘to whom it may concern.’

Or we may simply name all we are thankful for, and begin naming the mystery that prayer helps us approach.

The second type of prayer is Knowing. This is the prayer of confession, the prayer of “well, here’s all the crap.” It’s Job’s complaint to God in his eponymous old testament book. It is the third verse of For All That is Our Life:

For sorrow we must bear, for failures, pain, and loss,
for each new thing we learn, for fearful hours that pass:
we come with praise and thanks for all that is our life.

It is this Muslim prayer, also found in our hymnal:

Save us, our compassionate Lord,
from our folly, by your wisdom,
from our arrogance, by your forgiving love,
from our greed by your infinite bounty,
and from our insecurity by your healing power.

Knowing prayer invite us to journey into the shadow without judgment in order to see ourselves more clearly.

The third type of prayer is Listening. This is the prayer of holding space open. Listening prayer, as Wikstrom writes, “is predicated on the notion that God is already speaking to us and that the reason we don’t know this is that our heads are so full of static.” We want God to hear our prayers, but are we hearing our prayers?

There’s a scene in the film The Hunt for Red October, where our hero, Jack Ryan, is on an American aircraft carrier, tracking Soviet ships that are looking for a renegade Soviet sub; the captain notes that the Soviets are “pinging away with their active sonar like they’re looking for something, but nobody’s listening.” When Ryan asks what he means, the captain replies that the Soviets are moving really fast. “At that speed,” he says, “they could run right over my daughter’s stereo and not hear it.” Sometimes there’s so much static that we forget to listen. As the Talmud says: “The Good Lord gave us each two ears and one mouth, showing we should listen and speak in the same proportion.” Our hymn Voice Still and Small calls us to listen –

Voice still and small, deep inside all, I hear you call, singing.
In storm and rain, sorrow and pain, still we’ll remain singing.
Calming my fears, quenching my tears,
through all the years, singing.

Thoreau’s piece “I wish to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life” invokes the same kind of prayerful listening.

The fourth type of prayer is Loving. This is where prayers of petition and intercession come in. It is about asking for the things to make our lives and the lives of others better – showing our love and asking for love, mercy, and compassion in return. What’s important to remember in Loving prayers is that we do not pray so that GOD knows about people’s needs; we pray to make sure WE know. Spirit of Life is a Loving prayer, reminding us of who we want to be at our best…sing with me:

Spirit of life, come unto me,
sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea,
move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close, wings set me free,
Spirit of life, come to me, come to me.

Our opening hymn, May Nothing Evil Cross This Door, and our closing hymn, Thanks Be for These, are also Loving prayers.

Now of course you can do all this in the name of God, Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Vishnu, Odin, Gaia, or in the name of the Spirit of Life, the Creator, the Infinite All, Mother Father Spirit, or any other name you can come up with. The who, really, doesn’t matter. And even if you don’t believe there is a who at all, praying takes us outside of ourselves, reminding ourselves that there are forces at work in the world – nature, physics, metaphysics – that are larger than us, remind us that we aren’t the center of the universe.

Prayer, in other words, keeps us right-sized.

Because prayer isn’t about who you pray to, and know that you can pray to no one. Praying is about OUR attention. Prayer is a conversation with Mystery. Prayer keeps us humble – it is a way for us to acknowledge what we don’t know, and get us in touch with what we desire, what we need, what we fear. Prayer focuses our attention on what calls to us and what drives us. Prayer clarifies our priorities – noticing the things that strike terror, the things that make us weep, the things that call us to swell with hope.

And despite the fact that we all have probably uttered the “God, get me out of this and I will…” prayer in a time of crisis, or bad mistake, or bad hangover… prayer isn’t a bargain. Prayer isn’t about doing one thing to receive another. Prayer is simply a moment where we give attention. It creates space to notice all the bad stuff – our fears, our doubts, our anger, our sorrows – without guilt or judgment.

And just naming things in prayer – Divine one, protect my neighbor as he heads to surgery next week – or Mother of All, hold my family as they struggle with this loss – just naming things in prayer matters. You see, when things go unnamed, they tend to grow exponentially into big hairy monsters lurking around the corner. But when we take time to name all the bad stuff – and all the good stuff too – we draw our attention to those things so they seem more manageable.

Prayer also helps us see what we have to do. We might pray for help, but our prayers are answered when we see how that might happen. There’s the story of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town, and that all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, ‘I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.’

The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted, ‘Hey, hey you! You in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety.’ But the man shouted back, ‘I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.’

A helicopter was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, ‘Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I’ll take you to safety.’ But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety.

Well… the man drowned.

And standing at the gates of heaven, he demanded an audience with God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘I’m a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?’

God said, ‘I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?’

When we pray, we get clarity. We get perspective. We get right-sized, and so do our needs, our wants, our joys, and our sorrows. And when we pray, we create, for a moment, a bit of a pause for our bodies, minds, and souls to catch up to the moment.

I think this is one reason I kind of admire the Muslim practice of prayer. Five times a day, for a few minutes, prayer takes center stage. And while these are not free form, we know that ritual and rote chant can actually help open our minds to what we might consider religious experiences.

In the late 1990s, neuroscientists Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquili conducted an experiment with a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks and Roman Catholic nuns – they hooked these willing participants up to all kinds of brain scanning gadgets and asked them to pray or meditate as usual. Rosaries were said, deep humming chants were intoned, and at the end, the scientists analyzed the data. They found that at the moment these practitioners indicated they were “in the zone” with a spiritual connection to the Mystery, the frontal lobe activity increased significantly, suggesting that something happens when we occupy one part of our brain.

This experiment was repeated in the early 2010s with Muslims, and they found that when the prayers got most intense, the religious experience, as felt in the frontal lobe, increased. It’s thought that by distracting the analytical brain with a repeated prayer or chant, it allows other parts of the brain to get busy. And there is a thought that this kind of activity is healthy for our brains; just as doing crossword puzzles keeps those synapses firing, prayer activates parts of our brain that don’t always get a work out.

The conclusion I draw from all of this – the cognitive, the emotional, and the spiritual benefits – is that we should pray. A lot. Whether we really know how to or not.

Because while there are books and proscribed rituals for prayer, ultimately prayer is simply a moment of commitment, of diving in, of just going for it in order to experience it. To simply pray. Wikstrom has the perfect metaphor: just as you cannot know what prayer is until you do it, “you cannot find out what ‘wet’ feels like unless you get into the water. There’s simply no way to talk about it. There’s no explaining it. There’s no understanding it, even. There is only getting wet.”

So… let us pray.


Holy and Sacred Source of All,

We are tired.

Teachers and classroom aides and principals are tired from a 10-month marathon, helping young minds prepare for what’s next….and the young minds being prepared are tired, too, of cramming so much knowledge into so seemingly small a space.

Clergy and lay leaders are tired from a similar 10-month marathon, punctuated by weekly sprints, helping souls prepare for the work of beloved community.

Parents are just tired.

Service workers, postal carriers, landscapers, HVAC workers, city councilors, doctors, psychologists, shop owners, web designers, lawyers, non-profit directors – they’re all tired too.

All who watch the news and listens to NPR and watches their Facebook and Twitter feeds are tired of all the arguing, all the violence, all the discrimination, all the murders, all the suicides.

God, we are tired.

Bless us with relaxation – that we can enjoy quiet, unplugged times sitting in the sun or curling up on the sofa.

Bless us with assurance – that we really can take some down time.

Bless us with peace – that for a little while, we can recharge our long depleted batteries.

Bless us with reminders – that we are still connected to this big, loving, beautiful, hurting world.

God, we are tired… but we are not giving up.

We just need rest. And then we’ll pick up our books and our trowels and our nametags and our brooms and our phones and our pens and our protest signs and our shovels – and start again.

Meanwhile, thank you for the gift of rest.



“Take this bread, broken as my body is broken…eat this, in remembrance of me…”

Eat this, in remembrance of Jesus, a teacher, a pastor, a radical, a beloved son whose body was broken by a system that could not bear his truths.

Eat this, in remembrance of Sharon, the coworker whose body was broken one too many times by a violent spouse.

Eat this, in remembrance of Michael, the homeless Desert Storm vet whose body was broken when his staggering body hit the hood of my car, rolled over the roof, and crashed onto the pavement.

Eat this, in remembrance of Tricia, the beloved woman who shared my life and whose body was broken by the ravages of drug addiction, shame, and struggle.

Eat this, in remembrance of Rick, a fellow thespian whose body was broken by the HIV virus before he could create his dramatic masterpiece.

Eat this, in remembrance of my self, whose soul has been broken by grief, and trauma, and depression, and heartache – but whose body still has power and presence and the ability to help the least of these.


“This wine is my blood, my life poured out … drink this, in remembrance of me…”

Drink this, in remembrance of Jesus, whose blood drained from his body as he hung on the cross.

Drink this, in remembrance of Sharon, whose blood gathered in bruises that betrayed her best efforts to hide the abuse.

Drink this, in remembrance of Michael, whose blood stained the asphalt as his life left him..

Drink this, in remembrance of Tricia, whose blood was arrested in her body and could no longer pump through her heart.

Drink this, in remembrance of Rick, whose blood was overtaken by a virus that was – at the time – a death sentence.

Drink this, in remembrance of my self, whose blood courses still through my veins, a reminder that my life is called to love and protect and nurture and fight for those who cannot and could not…







Deliver us, O Truth, O Love, from quiet prayer
from polite and politically correct language,
from appropriate gesture and form
and whatever else we think we must put forth to invoke
or to praise You.

Let us instead pray dangerously –
wantonly, lustily, passionately.
Let us demand with every ounce of our strength,
let us storm the gates of heaven, let us shake up ourselves
and our plaster saints from the sleep of years.

Let us pray dangerously.
Let us throw ourselves from the top of the tower,
let us risk a descent to the darkest region of the abyss,
let us put our head in the lion’s mouth
and direct our feet to the entrance of the dragon’s cave.

Let us pray dangerously.
Let us not hold back a little portion,
dealing out our lives–our precious minutes and our energies–like some efficient accountant.
Let us rather pray dangerously — unsafe, profligate, wasteful!

Let us ask for nothing less than the Infinite to ravage us.
Let us ask for nothing less than annihilation in the
Fires of Love.

Let us not pray in holy half-measures nor walk
the middle path
for too long,
but pray madly, foolishly.
Let us be too ecstatic,
let us be too overwhelmed with sorrow and remorse,
let us be undone, and dismembered…and gladly.

Left to our own devices, ah what structures of deceit
we have created;
what battlements erected, what labyrinths woven,
what traps set for ourselves, and then
fallen into. Enough.

Let us pray dangerously — hot prayer, wet prayer, fierce prayer,
fiery prayer, improper prayer,
exuberant prayer, drunken and completely unrealistic prayer.

Let us say Yes, again and again and again.
and Yes some more.
Let us pray dangerously,

the most dangerous prayer is YES.

– Regina Sara Ryan

This is a post I should have written a month ago, when Rev. Jennifer Slade took her life – a beautiful, brilliant, humanity-affirming life. Her death was shocking and jarring. But I didn’t write then, perhaps because while she was a colleague, I didn’t know her personally and didn’t know how to parse it. I didn’t know what to say then.

It’s been a couple of days now since Robin Williams took his own life – also a beautiful, brilliant, humanity-affirming life. And while I didn’t know him personally either, somehow I think we all did on one level – we knew him through his antic comedy and his moving drama. He came into our living rooms and our movie theatres and we knew him. After hearing the news, my cousin wrote, “if he only knew how we felt… really felt.”

And suddenly, I know what to say – to those who loved Jennifer, to those who loved Robin, and to those who love anyone.

It might not have been enough, knowing how people really felt. I know, because I have lived it.

I have lived that moment when, despite having some success and security, I could see no way out.

I have lived that moment when, despite knowing that there were people who would miss me, I thought they would be better off without me.

I have lived that moment when, despite being knowledgeable about mental illness and the tragedies of suicide, it just didn’t matter.

Now obviously, I didn’t commit suicide. Instead, like a robot, I went to work, and thankfully the better angels in my head compelled me to say something to someone. They got me to a doctor, who got me to a psychiatrist, who got me treatment, which helped me get well. I now know better how to manage the sadness, how to reach out, what to look for in my own life so that I won’t go down that road again.

But I have lived that moment, when a decision is made. For me, the delay was largely because I couldn’t come up with a method that I thought would work. But I had made a decision.

There’s a scene in an episode of M*A*S*H, where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman spends some time at the 4077th because he had lost a patient. He explains the moment to Hawkeye:

Actually, the straw that broke my back was a kid who was hearing voices telling him to kill himself. After some time with him, he got very quiet, sometimes that’s a sign they’ve made up their minds. Only somehow, I missed it. And then that night, after we all went to sleep, that sweet, innocent, troubled kid… listened to the voices.

I know that moment of quiet. And I imagine Jennifer and Robin probably seemed calmer to family and friends in those last days than they had leading up to it. It’s impossible to know exactly what was in their mind, but I can imagine, because I’ve lived it.

So what do we do? If I hadn’t said something to a coworker, I might not be here today. The truth is, no one asked me. I put up a front of being very together, very self-assured, very competent and confident. I was (and still am) the person others came to for problems.

What we do is engage.

What we do is talk to people, not about their accomplishments, but about their lives.

What we do is ask “how are you” and stay present as we hear the answer.

What we do is not assume the confident person has a busy schedule and wouldn’t possibly be interested in going to lunch or a movie or helping with a project.

What we do is be present to those who otherwise might be outside our close circle.

What we do is be in covenant.

“Love is the doctrine of this church,” we recite, “to the end that all shall grow into harmony… thus do we covenant with one another.” Not contract, not promise, not lawfully abide. Covenant. Be in right relation. With everyone.

It’s possible that Jennifer had good, strong people in covenant with her and like Sidney Freedman, they still missed the signs. It’s possible Robin was surrounded by people who genuinely loved him, not his celebrity or his genius, and they still missed the signs.

But then I remember the viral stories of the men – one a police officer at the Golden Gate Bridge, one an Irishman who lives near a cliff – who talk to people who look like they’ve made a decision, and encourage them to keep living. They have an unspoken covenant with these people – to know them. To relate to them. To care for them. To listen when no one else will. Sometimes it isn’t the people closest to us that make the difference but simply the people who take seriously the care of being in covenant with one another.

A decade ago, Jeannie Gagne wrote an incredible, haunting piece (available to all of us in Singing the Journey) called “In My Quiet Sorrow,” written to honor those times when we carry “sorrows in our hearts that sometimes go unexpressed—with a prayer for support, love, and guidance. We all have times in our lives that are challenging; sometimes we need to ask for help, but we don’t know quite how or when.” (from the UUA’s song information page) Our covenant to one another is to hold each other and be present for each other in these times:

I am worn,
I am tired,
in my quiet sorrow.
Hopelessness will not let me be.
Help me

I won’t speak
of this ache
inside, light eludes me.
In the silence of my heart,
I’m praying.

I keep on,
day by day,
trusting light will guide me.
Will you be with me through this time,
holding me?

You’re my hope
when I fear
holding on, believing.
Deep inside I pray I’m strong.
Blessed be.

You may not know what to say exactly. But say something. And genuinely listen.

You never know, and you still may miss some of the signs, but you may also make all the difference.

Today, on this national day of Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for

  • My nephew Tom’s continuing recovery and his now home with the ‘rents.
  • The many hours in the kitchen with Mom learning her methods and recipes – they keep her with me.
  • A growing and focusing sense of purpose.
  • My crazy, devoted, outrageous, loving family – even when we’re separated by miles (or in this case, a terrible infection that has Sandy and I doing Thanksgiving dinner on our own today).
  • Antibiotics (see above).
  • Deep friendships – that hang on despite long gaps between conversations (and as an ancillary, thank God for Facebook, so that those friends are still connected somehow).
  • Pumpkin pie – well, all pie, really. I mean, who doesn’t like pie?
  • Room for the sorrows of the day too – both personal and national. I miss Mom and Dad, as well as friends who have passed… but I am also sad that our European ancestors had no regard for the cultures and peoples they encountered when they landed here.
  • My brilliant, shiny, compassionate, and earnest colleagues at Union Theological Seminary.
  • Laughter; especially at this (h/t Erik Wikstrom):
  • Music. Always music.
  • The soft, snoring kitty next to me (and the one sacked out on my bed).
  • I and those I love are safe, warm, and dry. And sorrow that is it not so for everyone, when it is in our capacity to make it true for all.
  • My faith. And yours. Many beliefs enrich our world.
  • Challenges – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.
  • The many teachers in my life – professional and unintentional
  • Memories – even the bad ones.
  • Books.
  • Middle age – I’m old enough to know better but still young enough to do something about it. (Although I’d like a little less of this aching and creaking, thanks.)
  • Opportunities, some of which I know I get because of my place of privilege (white, middle class, American), some of which I have fought tooth and nail for, some of which have been simply gifts of grace.
  • The inspiration of fellow Unitarian Universalists – you keep me focused and hopeful.
  • Peace.
  • Joy.
  • Love.


Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

The following remarks were delivered at the Time of Remembrance and Renewal at the Round Lake Auditorium on the evening of September 11, 2011.


We gather here today, in our community, among friends and neighbors, to mark perhaps the most momentous event in our collective memory.

We gather to remember those who lost their lives, to remember those who gave their lives, to remember all who served, and to remember our own innocence lost.

But we also gather to wrap the grief and anxiety of the last ten years with love and hope.

It seems surprising in some ways, as we have grown so inured to tragedy. We have all experienced personal losses. We hear the news of lives lost in distant wars and nearby shootings. We see tragedy everywhere – especially these days as flood waters devastate our region and tear apart families. Yet we don’t often gather ten years later to remember.

So why do we gather for this one? And why is this one so hard?

I believe it is because the events of September 11, 2001, was not just a random incident or an act of nature. It was personal: a planned and targeted attack on us.

Many of us were personally touched – we lost loved ones or knew someone who did. We knew people who rushed in to help when millions were rushing out. Others know people who had gotten a late start, had a dentist’s appointment, ran into train delays, anything – anything – ANYTHING that kept them from being at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that Tuesday morning.

In that first year, we did many things right to manage our grief. We held vigils, memorials, such as the one held in 2002 in this space; we offered our financial support, we went to help. We worked through those first trying, heartbreaking years.

But still we sit, ten years later, still knots in our stomachs and lumps in our throats when we think of the Twin Towers, and the Pentagon, and the men and women who brought down the fourth plane in Pennsylvania.

We need more room to heal our wounds, to tend our grief, to mourn our loss.


And so we gather today to wrap our arms around each other, to share memories, to consider the scary and frightening world in which we live.

Our world is scary – I don’t have to tell you all the things that frighten us now – and the many ways our fear manifests. We remember these quite easily – even more so if you travel by airplane or take a day trip across the border into Montreal…

But we are not here just to remember our fear – we are here to transform it.

It is ten years later, and we still feel raw. So how do we get to a place of renewal? That’s what I hope we can discover together today.


We who are gathered here come from many faiths, or none at all – we draw comfort from our sacred texts, our beliefs, and that moral conscience inside us that knows right from wrong, good from evil.

And our faiths vary – we are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, theists and deists and agnostics and atheists. Those lines alone can divide us – it is easy to see the differences between beliefs and let those differences take charge. And there are lines of nationality… and race…and identity – easy ways to divide us into a comforting ‘sameness.’

In fact, it is in our ancient tribal nature to be drawn to sameness – to see the world in terms of us versus them. Us versus them was very important when we feared total destruction of our little nomadic villages. Us versus them provided protection against predators and conquering hoardes. Us versus them is comfortable. Instinctual.

But we don’t live in the ancient world anymore. We live in a global society – the world is bigger than ever. We can chat online with friends in Manitoba, Madrid, Mumbai, Melbourne… our media, communications, products, ideas, and friendships are expansive and global.

And as large as the world is, is as small as it has become. Events that happen on the other side of the world shake us – whether they be tsunamis in Indonesia, genocide in the Sudan, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, famine in Somalia, shootings in Norway, or riots in London.

Our women and men in uniform serve around the world in wars with people we hardly know but are intimately connected with – because this world, as large as it is, has grown small.

And when the world is this small, we have to let go of some of our tribal mentality… or at the very least, open up the tribe to include everyone.

The choir sang a few minutes ago words inspired by Deuteronomy 6, verses 4-9:

we should love one another with all our hearts…
and we should care for each other,
with all our souls and our might.

Mother Teresa reminds us that we belong to one another… we are one family, one tribe.

It’s hard to remember, of course, when part of our tribe hates us with every fiber of its being… it is all too easy to remain angry and hurt. It’s easy to keep our wounds open and feel their rawness. We feel powerless to combat the evil that is seemingly more tangible than ever, making it easy to circle the wagons and hide in our pain.

But we should love one another with all our hearts.

And whether you believe in God, or gods, or no god at all, that golden rule – to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, reminds us that the acting in love – compassion – is how we heal. Meister Eckhart suggests that we may call God love; we may call God goodness, but the best name for God is compassion.


And out of compassion comes renewal.

Compassion comes when we listen to one another’s stories. When we listen to one another, not as enemies or people who are different, but as people, we hear their stories and we understand that they too hurt…and cry…and celebrate…and love.

Compassion comes when we think outside ourselves. Part of our celebration here today is a thank you to the men and women who serve on the emergency teams – fire fighters, EMTs, police. These are people who show compassion in spades – they think outside themselves and say “how can I help my neighbor”?

Compassion comes when we allow the weight of our pain to open our hearts a little bit more. Instead of our struggling to hold it closed or cry out in agony, we let our hearts be heavy… and full… and we act and speak out of that pain… we heal through our woundings.

It is through compassion that we find renewal. It is through compassion that we see love, and joy, and peace. It is through compassion that we touch the divine in ourselves and each other, what the Buddhists name when they say “namaste.”


So we go forth together today, holding each other, remembering, and loving one another with all our hearts. And while we may not always know or feel or see peace… we can always pray for peace.


Oh Creator God, I live in a state of awe.

I am in awe of the new friends I have met, who have such wisdom and insight to share.

I am in awe of the technology that allows me to connect to these new friends – to find people all over the world who have a variety of perspectives that help feed and shape my own.

I am in awe that I have been given the space to experifail – to truly step out in faith, not certain whether I will fail or succeed.

I am in awe of  the natural world – the power of storms, the constancy of life, the ever-present regeneration.

I am in awe of God’s call to all of us, to be co-creators in a world we can only imagine in concert with one another.

I am in awe of God’s call to me, to take the step out in faith, to embrace my gifts, to life in fullness.

I am in awe of the expansiveness and limitlessness of divinity, of how far people can stretch toward the light when they feel deeply, think openly, act courageously.

I stand in awe today.

May I always stand in awe and wonder at the great mysteries.


One of the limits of WordPress, I have discovered, is that it hates too many iframes, and thus is unwieldy to edit. So I’ve instead put up this followup post… it includes a link to the audio from August 21, as well as the words of Rev. Linda Hoddy’s blessing.

The audio – click here to listen –  picks up at beginning of my formal remarks – right after “Song of the Soul”… it includes Linda’s blessing, closing words, extinguishing the chalice, and the postlude.

Linda’s words of blessing are below:

Spirit of Life,

We give thanks for this beloved community, this congregation,

 where a call to ordained ministry can be felt and nurtured.

We give thanks for the one who is now being called to deeper service, and for her Yes,

                We ask your blessings for her journey, and grant our own.

May Kim continue to be attuned to things of the spirit,

 open to and heedful of the subtle signs and messages by which you will guide her into

the service of humanity and a better world.  

May she be accompanied by wise and gentle souls

 who will help her discern and refine her ministry.

May her academic preparation be excellent.

 But more importantly, may her heart and mind be continually opened to your guidance and will.

 May she increasingly know the divinity present in all creation:

 in nature, in work, in play, in other human beings,

 and herself and her call to service.

 May she never doubt her own worth as a child of God, with gifts intended for the blessing of humanity.

May ministry not only be something that she does, but may it 

deepen and mingle with the roots of her being, until ministry is the very essence of who she is.

May she find joy in the sacrifice and surrender that ministry requires. 

We are grateful for all that she has shared with us in these few years:

Music and theater,  

                Administrative skill.

Laughter and tears,

Tenacity through conflict and tumult,

Warmth, wisdom, insight and friendship.

These gifts have enhanced our life together.

 And now, as we release her to greater service, we wish her well.

May she know in times of doubt and struggle, as well as in times of joy,

 that our prayers are with her.  We will hold her gently in our hearts, forever.


PS: The Art I am using for the thumbnails is created by UU watercolorist Jordan Lynn Gribble.

A conversation on Twitter just reminded me of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”… and I remembered that I rewrote the lyrics a couple of years ago.

We had held a “check your theology at the door” hymn sing at the church, and we had a blast singing “Just As I Am” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”…songs of our pasts, which stir up our souls in old and sometimes meaningfulways. We sang and told stories and laughed and cried that night… blessed to share this with each other.

 “It Is Well” was my trigger. THe words spoke deeply to me – to a point. Theoriginal lyrics by Horace Spafford are deeply tied to ‘washed in the blood” theology, and I found someof them to be too out of line with what I believe. And yet the song moved me. My minister, Linda Hoddy, suggested I rewrite the lyrics, which I did.  Our music director, Michael Harrison, arranged the song for a quartet, and we sang it the first time at a service on Faith, Hope, and Charity.

You can read what I wrote about it here. Below are the words as rewritten:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, faith has taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

 It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul.


Though pain, tribulation, and trials should come

Let this simple prayer now console

Though I have regarded my helpless estate

I shall know it is well with my soul.

 It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul.


When life beareth down, and no answers arise

And all is beyond my control

My heart still can rest in the peace I have found

And proclaim it is well with my soul.

 It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul.


 New lyrics by Kimberley Debus, 2009; original lyrics by Horatio Spafford, 1873. Music by Philip Bliss, 1876.