Recording of our September 13, 2020 online worship service
This is the original work of the Reverend Mandy Beal (firstname.lastname@example.org), unless otherwise attributed.
1) This evening at 7:00 p.m., join the Humanists of BUC as they welcome BUC member, psychotherapist, and author Harper West as their featured speaker. Harper's talk is titled "An Interpretation of Donald Trump" based on humanistic psychology and Mary Trump's book "Too Much and Never Enough." Zoom information is on our website.
2) The next Confronting Racism session will take place this Tuesday, September 15, at 7:00 p.m. The main discussion topic will be the history of white supremacy in the United States. More details, including readings for the session, are in your weekly email, and the Zoom information is on our website.
3) There are dozens of ways you can get involved in the 2020 election, and lots of sites with information on how to vote. The new Beyond Voting resource page collects some of this material all in one place for your convenience. Find information on how to vote absentee, how to get involved in elections beyond voting, and more. Check out this new page via the button on the BUC home page under Resources.
4) Calling all parents of 8th graders! Please join us for a ROPE/Coming of Age parent orientation today at 1:00 p.m. Zoom information is available on our website. Also, all families K-12: please register your children through our website.
We worship from our separate homes this morning, but we are joined by a multitude of Unitarian Universalists in lighting our chalice:
Our chalice is lit to honor the worship year that has passed. Through the trials and tribulations we faced, we grew stronger. Our chalice is lit to welcome the year that is just beginning. May it be filled with love, hope, and joy.
“Water,” by Philip Larkin
If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.
Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;
My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,
And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.
One of the ways that we express the interconnectedness of our congregation is the sharing of financial support. The offering is not an obligation so much as it is an opportunity to show gratitude for each other and the good works of our church.
Giving online is probably less satisfying than passing the plate.
The sense of participating in the spiritual practice of generosity is somewhat lost when we are engaging that practice as individuals rather than as a community.
I often make an appeal to the practical financial concerns of our church, but this week, I invite you to consider the spiritual aspect of the weekly offering. As you make your contribution, bring to mind the people that you might encounter in our sanctuary. Your financial support is just as much an expression of your connection to them as it is a means to a financial end.
Your contributions can be sent through our website, Venmo (username @BUCMI), or by sending a check in the mail. In that spirit, let there be an offering for the support of this Beloved Community.
Joys and Sorrows
from Beth Brunton - Awesome teacher, mother, sister, partner, Nancy Schmitt's birthday is coming up on Sept. 17
from Annis Pratt - My daughter Faith is in the hospital after an apparently benign brain tumor was removed Tuesday. We have been terrified by her sudden illness (beginning with seizures) but things look better now and she is very cognizant. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
from Nancy Schmitt - Our dear friend, Laurel Heninger has just been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Please hold her in your thoughts and prayers as she navigates chemotherapy and surgery/ if it’s possible.
from Nancy Schmitt - Our friend, Carol Johnson lost her 91 year old mom last Saturday. Because her mom died in a nursing home in Midland, she was not surrounded by her family when she passed. COVID has been such a tragedy for so many.
The Sunday after Labor Day has special importance for many Unitarian Universalist congregations, including ours. This is the official start of the worship year, which concludes the second week of June. Like the natural world around us, our worship life moves in seasons and cycles. This year finds us in an unusual season that did not give our worship services an obvious summer break.
And yet, we find ourselves at a new beginning. We have peeled off the last page of the 2019-2020 worship calendar and begin the start of a new worship year full of opportunity. Before us lies the promise of new monthly worship themes and new ideas for our worship life. We also call forward the comfort and security of our past to steady us in a time of uncertainty and rapid change. Our Beloved Community has come through uncertainty and change before and we will do so again.
The first Water Communion was held in 1980 when two Unitarian Universalist women—Carolyn McDade and Lucile Schuck Longview—were asked to create a worship service for the Women and Religion Continental Convocation of Unitarian Universalists. The convocation was held in our state capitol, Lansing. The ritual they developed uses water as a symbol of our interconnectedness. It is in this spirit that our congregation celebrates Water Communion each year.
Birmingham Unitarian Church is a promise that has been built over decades and entrusted to our care. We are stewards of this community and our traditions. As rivers gather to form the ocean, we gather to form BUC. We come from different backgrounds and identities. We have different gifts and ideas. These differences are our strength. Each of us has something to offer to the life of our Beloved Community. In our individual diversity, we are one community.
As Unitarian Universalists, we value the interconnected web of life. We are connected in ways that are mysterious yet simple; profound but also ordinary. In this church, we do not share a common belief. Instead, we share a mutual concern for one another. The value of human relationships is the core of our faith tradition. Our religious life is built on covenants that call us to healthy and accountable relationships.
These relationships embolden and support our search for truth and meaning. We don’t always know where that faith exploration will lead us, but we know that we will find shelter in this Beloved Community. As we navigate the waters of our individual faith journeys, we find rest and renewal in each other.
Steve and Abha:
Our church is a place of comfort and a catalyst of change. We are comforted by shared traditions and familiar worship expressions. We gather on Sunday mornings to share stories and songs that remind us of our church’s history and the congregational life that we’ve built. At the same time, our Unitarian Universalist faith challenges us to remain open and curious. We should never be satisfied that we have found the one right answer to life’s big questions.
In worship services, we encounter that which is beyond our individual lives, yet deeply a part of who we are. Some of us call this God, some call it the spirit of life, or the power of human community. Our church is not a place of answers, but a place of bold questions. Our worship life is a container for these questions, both supporting and moving us forward.
When we celebrate Water Communion in our sanctuary, participants bring small containers of water forward and combine them in one vessel. This year, we’ve submitted images of signs that express something about our individuals lives. We’re grateful to Kurtis Zetouna for creating a visual representation of how our individual lives come together to form our Beloved Community.
by Rev. Mandy Beal
Thank you to everyone who submitted entries for our virtual water communion. This visual representation of who we are is very moving. Water is one of the better metaphors for UU congregations because it represents how our individual identities create one congregation. In the images of our virtual Water Communion, we saw these differences. Our church is a holy and special gathering of individual lives. And yet we are one. Many water droplets, many rivers, one ocean.
When I was a kid, I loved watching rain on the car window. Not the windshield, but the backseat window where the water was swept by the momentum of the car. I was fascinated by the way the raindrops would form little rivers as they moved down. Sometimes the rivers would join. Sometimes they ran next to each other. Sometimes they would join in one place, then separate again. They would snake left or right. Occasionally, if the rain was driving hard enough, or my parents were driving fast enough, the little rivers would even flow up for a moment. But eventually, no matter how they moved, the forces of gravity and cohesion would bring them together and in the same direction. No matter how they got there, the waterways eventually came to the same place.
Our church is like that. Each of us moves in our own way. Sometimes our spiritual and ideological paths meet and sometimes they don’t. At BUC, there are many theologies and people who don’t really know what a theology is. We span generations, social identities, and backgrounds. We don’t always agree or understand each other. But we are one church. We’re all moving in the same direction, compelled toward the same end - a life with meaning and a world made whole.
We gather as one church to witness the beauty and the mystery of life. Through our relationships, we find parts of ourselves that we hadn’t known before. We bear witness to each other’s joys and sorrows. We help each other dig deeper into our individual beliefs and spiritual lives. This mutual vulnerability, this being known and knowing each other is a sacred thing. We undertake these tasks seriously. And, of course, water doesn’t always flow as easily as rivers into an ocean or even raindrops rolling down a car window. Sometimes the flow is stubborn or where we least expect it.
In this morning’s story, we learned about a leaky water pot. The job of a water pot is to hold water; and because of the leak, the pot thought it was useless. But the boy who carried the pot saw the leak as an opportunity. He used that leak to make a trail of beautiful flowers. If the pot didn’t leak, there wouldn’t have been any flowers. If the boy had thrown the pot away, there wouldn’t have been any flowers. The pot wanted to give up, but if it had, there wouldn’t have been any flowers. Admittedly, I don’t know how a pot gives up, but the point still stands. Or, should I say, the idea...still holds water?
The boy always knew the pot had a leak and yet he valued the pot. He could have patched it up, found a different pot, or just ignored it. But he didn’t. Instead, he understood the pot had a leak and he thought that leak was a gift. He used that leak to coax forth something beautiful. All of us have places where we’re cracked. Having those cracks does not make us useless. It’s just another part of who we are. Like the pot from the story, our leaks are what make us special. Each of us is a gift to this congregation, just as we are.
Our church is not a place that throws out leaky pots. If we did, there wouldn’t be any pots left. We’re not a factory that produces perfect pots. There is no such thing and to pretend there is would be off-brand for us. Our church is not a leak-patching facility. You get to keep your leaks here. In fact, you may even find some leaks you didn’t know you had. We’re also not a place that ignores leaks. We are a place where leaks are fitted for greater usefulness. We plant flowers for each other and watch as they bloom.
Your leaks are welcome here. Not because we’re content with having leaks, but because we know leaks are inevitable. They are opportunities for deeper understanding. If we are to accomplish anything of spiritual value, we must know ourselves and each other. Cracks and all. We can only know what we need from church and what we can offer here if we are honest about who we are. Church that is not grounded in honesty is pointless at best and dangerous at worst.
And so we gather. We gather in a year that has worn us down yet we are full of hope. We gather in the mystery of the one that is made from the many. We gather full of trepidation and doubt and excitement and joy and hope and curiosity and everything that it is to be human. We do this again and again, each Sunday, each year, because we know the value of our church. And we know ourselves to be of value here. We don’t know where this river will take us, but we know that we are going somewhere. And we know we are going there together.