Updated: May 4
Recording of our May 2, 2021 online worship service
Good morning, and welcome to Birmingham Unitarian Church! I am Worship Associate Judy Amir. I am joined in worship leadership by Worship Associate Chris Slon. Our musician this morning are Forrest Howell and Kaye Rittinger. 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. All people of goodwill are welcome here. Social justice is an essential component of our lives. We are a “capital W” Welcoming Congregation and a Green Sanctuary Congregation. Our social justice work this year is focused on civic engagement, racial inequality, economic inequality, and environmental justice.
Our worship services are hosted on Zoom every Sunday morning at 10:30 and then later posted on Facebook. After the service, we invite you to stay for a virtual coffee hour. If you are worshiping with us for the first time today, we extend a special welcome to you. We hope that you’ll stay after the service and get to know us.
Join Keith Ensroth this Tuesday, May 4 at 7:00 pm on Facebook Live for our monthly Vespers Service. This is a joyful, yet introspective evening service that centers gratitude for the day that has passed and welcomes the night that is beginning. The service will include the lighting of memorial candles, candles of concern, and candles of hope and joy. Information for candle lighting can be submitted via this link on our website under Worship Links, or shared in comments on the Facebook Live video. To view the service live, visit the Birmingham Unitarian Church public Facebook page at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, May 4. The video will also remain on our Facebook page for later viewing.
Next Sunday, May 9 at 7:00 pm, the Humanists of BUC have a very special opportunity for us. Professor Bruce Pollack-Johnson will be joining the Humanists for a presentation on the proposed 8th UU Principle, of which he is the co-author. The 8th Principle also happens to be the topic of the reflections in our recently published May newsletter, so read up on it and join us next Sunday evening to hear about the 8th Principle from its co-author.
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.
Yesterday was May First, May Day, celebrated both as the International Workers’ Day and as an older celebration of the arrival of spring. This morning we are looking at mayday in a different sense.
The term we are exploring comes from the French “venez maider,” or “come help me.”
The mangled English version, mayday, when repeated three times—mayday, mayday, mayday—is an internationally recognized signal of distress. It says my ship is going down and I need help.
When in your life have you had to send out your mayday? Did someone answer? How did they rescue you?
When have you heard that distress call from someone—a family member, a friend, a complete stranger? Did you respond? Were you able to rescue them?
Calling out for help can be a surprisingly difficult thing to do. Helplessness in response to the call can be overwhelming. Today, the day after May Day, we ponder mayday.
Now, our service begins.
from Singing the Living Tradition, #447
read by Judy Amir
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
by Elizabeth Mount
read by Chris Slon
From our very first breath, we reach out
Co-regulation, not self-regulation, is in our nature.
We find our cues from the sun and the moon,
From each parent and caregiver,
We find our place in this great turning planet,
By turning to one another,
Generation to generation,
We awaken to the dawn, and fall asleep at the evening’s end.
Our life's journey is part of something greater,
A flame cannot be lit without a spark,
A life cannot begin without the air,
And we cannot begin to find ourselves without love.
May we reach out to one another,
May we offer love and nurturing care,
May we join together in celebration of the interdependence of our lives.
In this spirit, let us worship together.
"Let Care Be Our Prayer, O God" by Richard M. Fewkes
read by Chris Slon
Many of us, O God, don't believe in prayer. We're more comfortable with meditation, particularly the silent part. And some of us aren't sure we believe in God, or we scarcely know what the word means. But we do know that we care, that we care about one another and the kind of world we live in.
We care, dear God, we care, and sometimes the care we feel scares us, because we're afraid to care too much... too much for those we love... too much for friends and companions along the way. If we could pray out of the deep well of our capacity to care we might say, O God, let this care we feel become the bond of love that unites and heals us within and without, that joins us in body and spirit with the hopes and aspirations of people everywhere. Let our loving concern for those in our midst be the spark that enflames our loving concern for universal humanity. If we can't pray for lack of words, or for too little belief in the power of prayer, then, dear God, let our care be our prayer, and may we find the answer to all our prayers, spoken and unspoken, in the daily human expression of our loving concern.
Hear our prayer, O God, as we dare to care, now and here, and everywhere. Amen.
by C. Slon
When Diane and I were in our twenties, we lived in San Diego. In those days we spent a lot of time on the beach. On one of those countless sunny beach days, we were out in the waves body surfing with friends when suddenly I could not touch the bottom and I found myself moving away from shore fast. Within a second or two, I was swept past my friends and was headed out to sea. Diane, standing in the trough of a wave, turned to look for me. As our eyes met, we both realized what was happening. I was in a rip current pulling me out to deep water.
Diane had been a state-ranked competitive swimmer and a certified life-guard, but that strength and training was useless against the brute force of the ocean. I distinctly remember her facial expression and physical stance in the water, poised between the desire to plunge in after me and the awareness her best effort would do no good.
What do you do when you hear the mayday call, you know someone is in peril, but you are helpless?
Well, I am a fixer. By nature and by profession, I fix things. When I encounter a problem I can’t solve, I am filled with feelings of frustration, guilt, inadequacy. It drains me of myself. For me, helplessness is exhausting.
Most times, like when the household wi-fi goes all mysterious on me, I can shrug it off. But there have been times in my life where the feelings brought on by helplessness have brought me to deep despair.
The night before my father died, my brother and I sat with him all through the night at the precarious tipping point between the discomfort of his body and the frightening places his pain medication took his mind. I could not fix things for the man who had taught me everything I know about fixing things.
The afternoon my daughter was being prepped for the third of three surgical procedures in one week to rearrange the aberrant arteries in her chest. As I stood just outside of the orbit of professionals doing their thing, in the eyes of that strong, smart young woman, I recognized the eyes of a beautiful, helpless infant whose every problem I could fix. But that day, I was useless.
The phone conversations with my brother in the years before the demons that plagued his body and spirit overwhelmed him. In those conversations I could not turn back the clock and protect him from the traumas of decades earlier that had put him on that rocky road.
In all these cases, someone dear to me was being pulled out to sea, and I was in the shallows, helpless.
So what do you do when you hear the mayday call, you know someone is in peril, but you are helpless?
This is the kind of question that defies the analytical methods I’ve been trained in. It can’t be answered with knowledge and logic and the easy language of math.
With this kind of question, I have found the language of metaphor is much more helpful. Metaphor is not a method of analysis; it doesn’t take things apart. Metaphor synthesizes the answer in its entirety.
The Rev. Scott Alexander, Minister at the UU Fellowship of Vero Beach, Florida, uses a metaphor he refers to as Waiting in the Garden to describe what to do when you are helpless. The metaphor is the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he is taken to be killed. If you are not familiar with the story, it is the point where Jesus wrestles with the realization that his fate is sealed; he is headed for a brutal death. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus sends out his mayday call.
Rev. Alexander focuses on an interesting aspect of this story. Jesus asks his friends to wait with him, to stay awake while he prays. Jesus does not expect his friends to save him. He knows they can’t. He simply asks them to stay awake, to wait with him, to see things through.
This metaphor is the answer I cling to when I feel helpless.
Sometimes, when there is nothing that can be done--being present, staying awake, seeing things through—is all that is asked of you. It sounds easy, but I have found it is hardest thing to do for a loved one.
The feeling of helplessness makes me want to say or do something—anything, even if it makes things worse. “Things will be ok.” “We’ll fix this.”
It fills me with doubt and guilt—"I must be missing something. Why can’t I fix this?”
Helplessness pushes me to withdraw or flee—"If I can’t fix this, I’m not sure I can bear it.”
But being present and awake is the only thing to do when there is nothing else to do.
On that sunny day on the beach so long ago, I don’t remember exactly how, but I was able to swim to safer waters and my toes finally found a firm purchase on the sandy bottom. In my struggle, I knew that Diane couldn’t save me, but I knew she was there and had an eye on me. I can’t say if that was the first time, but I’m sure it wasn’t the last time she waited with me in the garden.
May we all muster the strength we need to be present and awake when we are called to wait in the garden.
May it be so and blessed may it be.
As we depart one from another, let our hearts be secure through every human season.
Let our hearts be secure in seasons of anguish as in seasons of joy, in seasons of failure as in seasons of success, in seasons of uncertainty as in seasons of security.
Let our hearts be secure in this dual reality: we are worthy recipients of love and support we can never earn, and we are worthy providers of love and support others cannot earn.
Let our hearts be secure, for hearts know and understand and will respond if invited in.