Recording of our March 21, 2021 online Daffodil Sunday worship service
Welcome to Birmingham Unitarian Church! I am Teresa Honnold, your worship associate on this beautiful first Sunday of spring. I am joined in worship leadership by our Co-Directors of Music Ministry, Abha and Steven Dearing, RE Coordinator Nico Van Ostrand, and worship participants Eddie and Zeke Dell, Amy Smalley and Nathan Schreck. We also have technical support from our Communications Coordinator, Sara Constantakis, and Zoom Greeter Jane O’Neil.
BUC is a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Even in our virtual format, we are a thriving community with a place for everyone. Social justice is an essential component of our church life. We are a Green Sanctuary Congregation, a designation we’ve earned through our dedication to caring for our planet. Our social justice work this year is focused on environmental action, economic inequality, civic engagement, and racial inequality. We are also a capital “W” Welcoming Congregation, which we celebrate today as Daffodil Sunday.
Our worship services are hosted on Zoom every Sunday morning at 10:30 and then later posted on our website and our Facebook page. After the service, we invite you to stay for virtual coffee hour. If you are worshiping with us for the first time today, we extend a special welcome to you.
We have 3 announcements today:
How Green Can You Go? Most of us have already incorporated certain habits into our routine to lighten our load on the planet. Here is a chance to dig a little deeper, talk with other BUCers, and find more ways to lower your home and personal carbon footprint. The BUC Environmental Action group invites you to participate in How Green Can You Go? We will examine a carbon footprint calculator, compare notes on what we found, and consider more earth friendly actions we might take now. Join our meeting this Thursday, March 25 at 7 pm. Zoom information is available on the BUC Calendar, and on the BUC Community Facebook page. We are all in this climate crisis together, let’s work together to find our way out.
Do you know about the Sunday Discussion Group? This thoughtful and engaging group meets every Sunday afternoon at 3:00 pm, and they are always eager for new participants. Weekly discussion topics are decided by majority vote. In April and May there will be a two-part book discussion. Zoom access information is on the BUC website calendar.
The Stewardship Campaign is underway for the upcoming fiscal year. Stewardship takes many forms and we build love in this community in many ways. However, we cannot ignore that we need financial support to sustain our facilities and staff and to engage in our events, programs and worship activities. Please do your part by pledging before April 1. Pledge commitments are an essential part of BUC's budget planning. Based on pledges, the Board of Trustees will approve a final budget and present it at the Annual Meeting in May. This year's pledge goal is $565,000, or a 1.8% increase, which is basically a cost-of-living increase. Together, let's celebrate all that our church community means to us during the best and worst of times by ensuring that we maintain financial health to support all that we do. And be sure to check out the BUC Facebook page every Wednesday for a live pledge goal progress update from stewardship team member Brian Schandevel!
Thank you for joining us this morning, or whenever you’re watching this. Although we are not together physically, we are together in spirit, and it is good to be together again.
And now our service will begin.
"The Church Has Left the Building" Rev. Margaret Weis
Read by Teresa Honnold
The church is not a place; it is a people.
The church is not only a steeple above the treeline, streets, and cars.
Rather, it is a people proclaiming to the world that
we are here for the work of healing and of justice.
The church is not walls built stone upon stone, held together by mortar
but rather person, linked with person, linked with person:
all ages and genders and abilities—
a community built on the foundation of reason, faith, and love.
The church is not just a set of doors open on Sunday morning,
but the commitment day after day, and moment after moment,
of our hearts creaking open the doors of welcome to the possibility of new experience and radical welcome.
The church is not simply a building, a steeple, a pew.
The church is the gathering together of all the people, and experiences,
and fear, and love, and hope in our resilient hearts;
gathering, however we can, to say to the world:
welcome, come in, lay down your heartache, and pick up hope and love.
For the church is us—each and every one of us—together,
a beacon of hope to this world that so sorely needs it.
The mission of Birmingham Unitarian Church is to create a free and welcoming religious community that encourages lives of integrity, learning, service, and joy. The weekly offering serves as an ongoing reminder of this mission and as Margaret Weis stated in our opening words, “For the church is us—each and every one of us—together, a beacon of hope to this worlds that so sorely needs it.” So let there be an offering in support of this Beloved Community and our good works. Contributions can be made through our website, Venmo (username @BUCmi), or a check in the mail. However you choose to give, please do so with an open heart for each other.
by Rev. Wayne B. Arnason
We join together now in a time of meditation or prayer, spoken at first and then for a time in the peace that silence brings.
As we enter into silence we remember the many connections that sustain and uplift us through this religious community. We remember those who preceded us, whose contributions built a free faith, who built this home for its practice.
We remember those around us, whose continuing care in thought and deed is an ongoing blessing in our lives, keeping the dream of free religion alive in our time.
We remember those who will follow us, the children presently in our care and those not yet come to light, who will inherit the work of our hands and hearts.
In the silence now, we sit surrounded by these many connections, visible and invisible, that remind us every day that we are not alone.
Peace be with us, and with all under the sun.
Story for All Ages
a BUC true story, adapted by Nico Van Ostrand
read by Nico Van Ostrand
This morning’s story for all ages is about the true origins of Daffodil Sunday. At the beginning of every service, you may have heard a reminder of BUC’s commitment to social justice, including our status as a “capital W Welcoming Congregation,” which means we’ve made changes to the way we do things so we can be intentionally welcoming and fully inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals and their families.
This story starts 27 years ago, in 1994, when members of this congregation set out to learn and reflect about ways they could make BUC a more welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people. After a long process, they wrote down commitments and action items like changing the language in church programs and publications to be inclusive, following the leadership of LGBTQ+ members, and hosting rites of passage like services of union, dedications of children, and gender-affirming ceremonies. This status as a capital W Welcoming Congregation is not just something we say at the beginning of each service. It’s something this community has been actively living since 1994.
Now, the members of BUC didn’t want this to be a quiet commitment to being welcoming. They wanted to tell the whole world that this community is one where everyone belongs! That way, LGBTQ+ folx who were searching for a church to call their own could know that BUC is a hate free space. But also, making this commitment publicly was a promise not just to the church community, but to everyone out there, that BUC will continue supporting and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.
So, in October of 1994 BUC members wrapped the entire church in caution tape. It was bright yellow and eye-catching, and it certainly helped get the word out! In fact, the Detroit Free Press even wrote an article about this UU church’s commitment to making changes to be better welcoming to LGBTQ+ people.
That bright yellow caution tape caught someone else’s eye too -- a gay couple who lived in the apartments behind BUC. Those neighbors were alarmed by this caution tape, which is not often used for happy reasons. They checked in to find out what it was all about, and to ask whether the church community was okay. They were relieved to learn that the yellow tape was not marking a crime scene, but actually marking a special space. That tape was marking Birmingham Unitarian Church as an intentionally welcoming, hate-free space. Instead of “keep yourself out,” the yellow tape meant “you are welcome here because we have worked hard to keep hate out.”
That gay couple from the apartments nearby -- people who knew firsthand how much it hurts to be hated for daring to love -- they were so touched by this that they went out, maybe at night, maybe with their flashlights, and prepared a secret surprise -- a BUC miracle -- that lay in wait to sprout in the woods the next year.
And when the spring came in 1995, BUC members were greeted by thousands of daffodils that most definitely hadn’t been there the year before. This was the gift that the neighbors gave -- a symbol of their appreciation for the transformative work this community did to become a Welcoming Congregation.
I love that bright, living flowers have become the symbol of BUC’s work for LGBTQ+ folx because daffodils cannot exist on their own, without help -- they need sunshine, soil, water, and occasionally a little human assistance. And in the exact same way, BUC’s status as a Welcoming Congregation takes work, and we are so up for the challenge of helping it bloom for years to come. Our announcement at the beginning of each service that we’re a Welcoming Congregation is a reminder that this story I’m telling today is still being written, and just like all good stories there will be amazing chapters where we get it right, and sad chapters where our community falls short of the commitment to be truly Welcoming.
This is this story of Daffodil Sunday -- a celebration of the beautiful daffodils, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people -- the people like me who use one of the many, many other labels -- the people who grace our community, the folx claiming their identities and their wholeness, their partners and their pronouns, and the glory of being. You are welcome here.
Instead of closing with “the end” I’ll put a bookmark in the story now, a bookmark that comes with a commitment that this community will continue growing and blooming like those miracle daffodils -- living out our Welcoming Congregation work in everything that we do.
What drew me to Unitarian Universalism is its heart and its spirit as a beacon of liberal religious values. I was married in this church. I raised my children in this church. This is where my head and heart come together whether it is coffee hour, worship, or committee work. I love this church that is embodied in its people.
As Rev Margaret Weis wrote in the opening words,
“The church is the gathering together of all the people, and experiences,
and fear, and love, and hope in our resilient hearts;
gathering, however we can, to say to the world:
welcome, come in, lay down your heartache, and pick up hope and love.”
That is what is at the heart of Daffodil Sunday. All are welcome here. As Nico told us in our story for all ages, it was the dedication of our church members who wanted to affirm and promote our 7 principles by living out our faith publicly, wrapping the church in yellow tape to say we were a safe place for Gays Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queer individuals and their families. We were granted Welcoming Congregation status by the UUA. The question then becomes-- is it an award we put on a shelf and refer to in our opening words? Or is it a call to action?
The Unitarian Universalist Association understands this, and now asks that congregations renew their Welcoming Congregation status. BUC did the work to renew last year led by a dedicated group of congregants, and they have my gratitude for making that happen.
If you look at our 7 principles, we are told that “They are not dogma or doctrine, rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in UU religious communities”. The preamble to the 7 principles asks us to affirm and promote—words that call us to action. So that means Our first principle telling us to affirm and promote the worth and dignity of every person” by our actions.
What do we need to work on now to keep the meaning of being a Welcoming Congregation as that call to action?
Before BUC closed to in person services, the Welcoming Congregation Renewal team were working to educate us about preferred pronouns, also referred to as personal pronouns. It is very straightforward. Every person wants to be called by the pronouns that show the world how they see themselves and how they want others to see them. With the distance that the shutdown has created, we’ve lost momentum on this practice of being kind and honoring others dignity.
My parents had three daughters—Margaret, Janet and Teresa. We were never Maggie, Jan and Terry. My mother was adamant that people use our full names and that no one had the right to nickname us. I had a teacher in elementary school who called me Terry. I ignored her when she called on me using that nickname. I was told not to be rude. But I knew that was not who I was, and that teacher was not going to move that rock
So you can see that for us UUs using someone’s preferred pronouns is not about grammar. It is about seeing and being seen ---it is about being acknowledged as our whole true selves. When we don’t make the effort to learn about preferred pronouns, or practice using them, you must know it hurts people’s feelings. And more than that, it makes them feel unsafe. That is not who we are as Unitarian Universalists.
We need to live up to the words on the UUA Welcoming Congregation site.
“All of who you are is sacred. All of who you are is welcome”
I am Nate Schreck, I use he/him pronouns, and I am a member of the BUC high school youth group, GUUSH.
In regards to pronouns, GUUSH has made it a priority to be accepting of all identities and genders. We identify our pronouns in the beginning of each meeting and call our peers back into covenant by using the correct pronouns. We had a class in the beginning of the year discussing pronouns and gender identity. It helped us to come to an understanding about pronoun usage and respect amongst our group. Although we have continued this work in high school, the groundwork was laid as early as eighth grade during the our whole lives program, also known as OWL. As Unitarian Universalists, this concept made sense, it fits with our values seamlessly.
They/them pronouns can be used as a first-person singular pronoun. The youth have identified several strategies to recognize correct pronoun usage including:
slowing down your speech to be more conscious of what you are saying
practicing using they/them pronouns
and identifying your pronouns as much as possible when meeting new people.
My community at BUC is a safe space for people of all gender-identities, other places for youth often aren’t. In school, pronouns are not as big of a topic of discussion and I don’t know the pronouns of many of my peers. Teachers often won’t use gender-neutral language and non-binary gender identities are not always understood among both students and teachers.
While 2 of my teachers asked for pronouns in the beginning of the year, that leaves 4 more who didn’t. There is no Gay-straight alliance at my school, there has not been a pride celebration, and our counselors are not often trained to deal with gender-identity questions.
Depression rates among LGBTQ+ teens are much higher than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. Many people face bullying or lack acceptance from their family.
This highlights the importance of GUUSH, and BUC as a whole in respecting people’s gender-identities and pronouns. It is part of our mission as Unitarian Universalists to provide a spiritual and safe space for all people, regardless of gender identity. We ALL need to work hard to make sure that we are welcoming everyone because some people might not have that support anywhere else. Introducing yourself with your pronouns, asking others their pronouns, and being consistent in your usage of those pronouns are all achievable steps toward building a safer community. Your words are manageable, yet meaningful.
One of the agreements in GUUSH’s covenant reminds us to leave room for growth and change. Through our religion and community, it is our responsibility to leave room for growth and change. Being a good ally means being open to growth and change, something of which we are all capable.
I’m Amy Smalley, and I use they/them pronouns. The growth and change that led to that decision is what I would like to share this morning.
Science has shown that biological sex and gender are a complex mix of genetics, neurobiology, and endocrinology. As the saying goes, it’s complicated. Who each of us is, at our core, is elemental, pure, and complicated, just like our unique journeys.
My own journey took an unforeseen turn two years ago. I have been “out” for decades, opting to be matter of fact about my sexual orientation and long-term relationship—now marriage—with Cindy. And I assumed that many of my personal preferences were just part of being gay.
Then I learned about non-binary gender identification, and I had an “Aha!” moment. Clues from my past stepped forward into focus: my discomfort with puberty, my unwillingness to conform to what society told me I should want to look and act like, my inability to sing either “Natural Woman” or “Nothing Like a Dame” years ago when our Choir Sunday theme was Battle of the Sexes. I wanted simply to be a person, neither female nor feminine, neither male nor masculine.
Realizing I was non-binary was a second, easier coming out. I spent two months, though, deciding on my personal pronouns. I brought home stickers and buttons from the membership table and made multiple versions of my name tag. The morning of BUC’s Pride service, I got up and put the they/them/their sticker on my nametag, and my they/them/their button on my coat. And I felt truly settled and comfortable—I was home.
I still have to work just as hard on honoring others’ personal pronouns, and I make mistakes. When I do, I apologize and correct myself. Many of you have known me for many years as a “she,” and that may make it more challenging to use my new pronouns. But when friends do—when I hear a “they” that refers to me—it warms my heart and deepens my connection to the person who made the effort to respect me that way. It affirms my worth and dignity in our beloved community.
Each of you contributes to making BUC a place where I and other members of the LGBTQ+ community feel welcome, safe, and at home. Please, let’s keep working to deepen that welcome by learning to honor personal pronouns. I assure you it matters, and I believe it’s an essential part of putting our Daffodil Sunday story into practice.
Go now, out into this spring day and look for the daffodils lifting their faces to the sun , symbols of the work we have done and will continue to do in support of justice for the LGBTQ+ community. Go with joy, hope and in faith.