Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda
news of our historic UU church in Ruthven (Kingsville), Ontario

About Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda

Unitarian Universalist Church Of Olinda Photograph This church was founded on the faith that love is a more positive force for good than fear. It exists as a haven of religious freedom, offering fellowship, knowledge and inspiration to all who would seek truth, live responsibly and courageously, and be of service to humanity.


Publications available in celebration of 140th Anniversary

December 11th, 2020 . by William Baylis

In Celebration of the UU Church of Olinda’s 140th Anniversary the following two publications are now available for you to have your own copies.

  1. Universalists in Ontario by Louise Foulds
    A Centennial Project of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda – 1980 Revised Second Edition for the 125th Anniversary of the Church – 2005
  2. The Little Church at the Crossroads By Jane Innerd
    A Brief History of the First 120 Years of The Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda together with A History of the Years 2000 to 2020. In Celebration of the 140th Anniversary of the church.

To order, please download either the pdf or the word version of the attached flyer and complete the order form on the second page.

Current Sunday Services for 2021

March 18th, 2020 . by William Baylis

In-person Services suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Executive Committee of the Board together with the Minister of the church are monitoring advisories on the current coronal virus outbreak. At their meeting after the service on March 15, they elected not to offer in-person worship services until further notice. The in-person services are being replaced by new online materials and virtual services using Zoom. For future worship services, the situation will be re-evaluated with the latest medical and societal information then available.

Please check back on this site for updates, and visit canada.ca/coronavirus for more information on the virus.

The arrival of spring brings expectations for brighter and more colourful days. And along with these, we can find illumination on the mysteries of light and colour.

Date Speaker Title Musician(s)
Jan. 3 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Beyond ExpectationsWith Advent now past, new seasons of expectation are before us, as the coming months may reveal a new sense of life. Baylis-Stone Trio
Jan. 10, 2021 Elizabeth Ha Justicia for Migrant WorkersSue Markham, service leader Lorie Lyons
Jan. 17, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Uncomfortable Conversations>We sometimes hesitate to delve into some deep conversations because the topic is unfamiliar, or we may be afraid to make a mistake in how we talk about it. But if we find people or places that reassure us that it’s OK to lean into difficult topics – however imperfectly – then uncomfortable conversations can strengthen meaningful connections. Toni Janik
Jan. 24, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Long HaulAbout a month into the new year, we might wonder how exactly this year differs from the previous one. Even with major changes, a lot might feel the same for another while. Where do we fit in in the story of this new year’? Lorie Lyons
Jan. 31, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel France is Bacon“Knowledge is power”, but there are some questions we are not sure how to ask, either because we might not have the words we need, or because others don’t share that language with us. This can lead to misunderstandings, and it can also invite further contemplation. Toni Janik
Feb. 7, 2021 CUC, Revs. Shana Lynngood and Samaya Oakley A Faith Worth Failing For – National Service at 1 pm
We often talk about Unitarian Universalism as a transformational faith – and yet to be transformed means to take a risk. How is it that we are adverse to taking such risks when it comes to widening the circle of who we are as a community? Join Revs. Shana Lynngood and Samaya Oakley for a service that explores how we’ve failed and how we can learn from those failures to become the transformational faith we proclaim to be.
CUC link
Feb. 14, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Love it or Leave itWe all have things we don’t particularly care about… and we might not understand why others would be into those things. Sometimes people will pay a premium for a food we never crave, or we know die-hard fans of a movie we thought was alright for an evening, but its fandom perplexes us. The way people express their love and form relationships is also varied, and folks may go about it in ways that don’t resonate with others. The culture of diversity allows room for multiple realities to coexist. Baylis-Stone trio
Feb. 21, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Speaking in TonguesLanguages come in different flavours – with different sounds, looks, and stories. And forms of expression can go beyond spoken or written dialects. Telling each other our stories, or making ourselves known, can encompass all aspects of our being. Toni Janik
Feb. 28, 2021 Phil Alexander The Hardening of Attitudes – A Terminal Condition? Some of my experiences may lead to the conclusion that there is no generally agreed upon answer.​ (Black History Month) Lorie Lyons
Mar. 7, 2021 Karen Miller Light and Shadow: Transcendence and The Wisdom of Wise Women (International Women’s Day on March 8) Karen invites everyone attending the service to bring names of 1-3 women who have inspired you, and if you would like, also a quote by one of the women mentioned. tba
Mar 14, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Circling BackWe now mark a year of church outside the walls of our building, and anniversaries have power as times for commemoration and contemplation… sometimes, even celebration. We can recognize this time, and the feelings that come along with it, together. Toni Janik
Mar 21, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Circle of LightThe arrival of spring brings expectations for brighter and more colourful days. And along with these, we can find illumination on the mysteries of light and colour. Lorie Lyons
Mar 28, 2021 Rev. Conrad Dippel Salvation in the Stacks Based upon my experience in old libraries and wrecking yards, I explore the relationship between salvage and salvation, and wonder whether a Unitarian Universalist can be saved again. Baylis-Stone trio
Apr. 4, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel [Easter Sunday] Rising From the Rabbit Hole – Sometimes, a bit of extra time online can land us in unexpected places, as exploration of new topics can feed greater curiosity. Eventually, the time to emerge out of these rabbit holes invites new opportunities to rise up. Toni Janik
Apr. 11, 2021 Rev. Nicole McKay Called to ServeAt every juncture in our lives, we are asked to be attentive to that still small voice inside that guides us on our way. This is the journey of discernment which is revealed to us slowly over time and it is our responsibility to stay curious about how these callings will play out. This Sunday, join Nicole as she shares how she has come to discern her call to ministry as a Unitarian Universalist military chaplain in Canada, and how your own life’s journey is helping you bring your gifts and talents in service to the wider world. Lorie Lyons
Apr. 18, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Planet GroundOur planet is unique for many reasons, and exploring how other planets in our galaxy might compare invites the imagination to ponder on just what conditions are “just right” for life as we know it! Baylis-Stone Trio
Apr. 25, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel MVPs – Most Valuable Players – One year on, the meaning of essential workers remains elusive, with much debate as to what work is considered essential – though it’s clear that work itself is essential for livelihoods, and that workers are central to workplaces. Toni Janik
May 2, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel The Best Worst Spanish Sometimes, making mistakes can be the best way to get it right – be it learning a language, or building community. Lorie Lyons
May 9, 2021 Rev. Rosalind Mariconda Mother Nature: our timely teacherWe are called to consciously restore balance in a variety of ways, both in ourselves and in our world. The rhythms of Nature can guide us. Toni Janik
May 16, 2021 CUC AGM: Nation-Wide Service CUC Nationwide service Sustaining Our Light at 1 pm ET. – Now more than ever we need to be grounded in connection, in hope, and in love. As the cycles of the seasons teach us the gifts of the dark as well as the light, we still need energy–a spark–to fuel living into our aspirations and values no matter the season, the struggle, or the celebration. This Sunday service will celebrate how our UU faith and our connections are crucial to sustaining and amplifying that spark. tba
May 23, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Reading Tea LeavesThere is no right way to make tea – except… there actually is!  And that depends on what you’re making the tea for, or for whom, or why.  Standards matter, and it also matters when they do not.  Best practices work best when we ask what they are best for. Lorie Lyons
May 30, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel The Best Worst SpanishSometimes, making mistakes can be the best way to get it right – be it learning a language, or building community. Toni Janik
June 6, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel What is it Good For?Author and UU minister Robert Fulghum once proposed making a “Crayola bomb” to deliver crayons around the world whenever there was an international crisis, in order to promote creativity and wonder.  What are the alternatives?  Are they any better? Toni Janik
June 13, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Sheet CakeWe often have an instinct to help out.  But sometimes, our desire to be helpful might not match the actual needs of those who seek support.  How can we close the gap and be real supporters, rather than help for our own sake? Lorie Lyons
June 20, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel BBR (Be Right Back)Flower Celebration. Our program year is winding down, but church isn’t really over.  We have plans for the summer and into the fall.  And we mark this shift with our flower celebration. Lorie Lyons
June 27, 2021 Dr. Katherine Baylis The Howard Pawley Memorial Lecture: Can Earth, Now Stressed by Climate Change, Sustainably Feed 10 Billion People?Critical food issues in sub-Saharan Africa offer valuable lessons. Baylis-Stone
July 11, 2021 Qasim Rashid TBA Baylis

You are welcome to attend our Sunday Services

February 3rd, 2019 . by William Baylis

Services begin at 10:30 AM on Sundays and last about one hour. Children are invited to attend religious education classes during the service. Weather permitting, we meet every Sunday between Labour Day and the end of June and once a month in July and August. About three services every month are given by our new minister, the Reverend Rod Emilio Solano-Quesnel and typically include an engaging sermon on a  timely topic. Other services often feature an invited guest speaker. Services are usually followed by good tea, coffee, and conversation. Please see the monthly newsletter on this site for scheduled sermons, speakers, and musicians. We welcome atheists, agnostics, and theists, pagans, humanists, Christians, members of other religious faiths and from LGTBQ communities and others seeking fellowship, knowledge, and inspiration.

The UU Church of Olinda is a welcoming congregation

September 5th, 2014 . by William Baylis

UUA Chalice Rainbow You are welcome here!welcominglogo_200

What We Count On

October 10th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #67 We Sing Now Together
~)-| Words: Edwin T. Buehrer, 1894-1969, alt © UUA
Music: Adrian Valerius’s Netherlandtsch Gedenckclanck, 1626,
arr. by Edward Kremser, 1838-1914

Posted by Paul Thompson for the UUCP in Moscow ID

Sermon – What We Count On – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

Last week I mentioned that, leading up to seminary, I started reading a certain book.  Today, I won’t get into the specifics of the book, other than to say that I re-read it again into my first year of seminary and brought it out wherever I might have a bite to eat or wherever I might have some time to sit around.

And one of those places was a greasy-spoon around the corner from the university.  They had all-day breakfast, including a “student special”, and I found it convenient that it was less than a five-minute walk to most of my classes.

Suffice it to say that I came around there a few times per week.  It didn’t take long before the server began to ask me if I’d have “the usual”.  And I found it unexpectedly comforting that I had someone who would ask me that question.

It didn’t take much longer until I could simply walk into the diner, plunk myself down on a seat, open my book, and – when I looked up a few minutes later – there would be a warm cup of coffee, right next to a plate, with the right number eggs, done the way I liked them, with my favourite sides, and my preferred bread done how I needed it to be done.

Now, I haven’t gone into any of the specifics of my breakfast preferences… but you know who knew all those details?  My regular server.  She knew the specs without flaw.  I came to count on it.

There are times when a pattern like this might seem, or feel, like a rut… a stubborn monotony that could use livening up.  But during those school years, juggling a heavy course load, and a shifting work schedule, that breakfast student special was a welcome anchor to my week.  I knew that, whether it was early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, I could walk in and find a meal.  I knew what it would cost, how much it would feed me, how much I’d enjoy it, and who would serve it to me, without even having to ask – we’d save our words for chitchat instead.  I could count on it.

There were other unexpected details that I started counting on… as much as I fancied myself a regular, I learned that there were higher calibre regulars.  Even though this diner categorically did not take reservations, there was always one booth with a “reserved” sign on it between 11am and 1pm, for the lady that lived upstairs and who always ate lunch there.  The diner could count on her being there, and they reserved her place.  I once made the mistake of sitting on the “forbidden booth” during lunchtime, and my server politely explained the situation, as she offered me another seat, before going to get me “the usual”.

Of course, in life, there are very few absolutes.  Some things did change.  Occasionally, my regular server might have been off duty and I’d have to spell out my usual order.  A couple times, I did have to give the server a heads-up that I was in the mood for something different that particular day.  At least once, inflation crept in, and the student special had a slightly different price tag – still a good deal, but the dollar amount was higher than when I first started going there.

One day, I noticed that the “reserved” sign was nowhere to be seen during lunchtime, and my regular server assured me that, yes, I could go sit on the “forbidden booth” – turns out the regular lady had moved out to a different condo.

Eventually, I moved out, as I followed my calling and took a ministerial internship in another city.  What we count on will change along with our circumstances and our needs.

Noticing these things that we count on – even if only for stretches at a time – is part of the practice of gratitude that can enrich our lives by replenishing our “wellness accounts”.  And if we do our housekeeping, at least every so often, we might find that we are richer than we thought.  And in Canada, this weekend is just one of those times when we intentionally set ourselves out to do just that.

We spoke last week about the housekeeping that comes with taking account of our stories and our histories.  This includes taking a sincere look at our lives as they are, affirmations and painful moments alike, so that we may have a better sense of who we are, how we might be more of who we think we are, who we want to be, and how we want to be.

An honest account – or at least, as honest as we can make it – is key to making real progress for ourselves, our communities, and all our relations.  And failing to do this can land us in trouble.

It so happens that Canadian Thanksgiving tends to land around the same time as the somewhat newly-established Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States, on October 11 this year.  This is around the date that was originally observed as the anniversary of the Christopher Columbus landing in the Caribbean in 1492… a date which symbolizes the beginning of colonialism in the Americas, and which, until recently, was widely called “Columbus Day” in the United States.

Of course, U.S. Thanksgiving falls later in the year, and its story has also been mythologized in a way that depicts a rather incomplete and inaccurate account of colonialism in North America.

Here, we just had a newly-established National Day for Truth and Reconciliation last month.  So, this is a time in both countries, when we can also make and renew intentions toward a more wholesome understanding and awareness of our history, in the journey toward truth, toward healing, toward reconciliation.  That’s part of remaining accountable to each other and all our relations.

We have also talked about how giving thanks – acts of gratitude – can be a kind of accountability.  As it, too, is an exercise in deepening awareness.

In much the same way that some of the more difficult parts of our stories can sometimes be glossed over when we record our stories in a certain way – hindering us from really taking stock of our reality – it can also be true that we sometimes forget to keep track of those things that sustain us, that can keep us going, that can bring joy into our lives.  And losing track of these can also get us into trouble.

Now, when exercising gratitude, it can be tempting to proceed as if blessings and curses were “assets” and “liabilities” in a regular “ledger” account, where one of each would cancel the other out… making it some kind of game in which the left and right columns fight each other out to see if we can stay in the black, lest we find ourselves in the red.

But a more helpful practice of gratitude might be in taking a slightly different logic.  Rather than tallying up our problems, and see if counting our blessings can “cancel” out our “deficits”, a more radical thanksgiving might look, not at ignoring or forgetting our issues, and rather seek clarity and awareness in what can sustain us through them.

As we’ve discussed, ignoring or forgetting our issues – our “liabilities” – can land us in trouble, and stall real improvements.  Naming these, in fact, can be quite liberating… sometimes, that’s all we need when we seek out a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on.

A radical gratitude, in turn, does not call us to skip over these “liabilities”, and rather look at what else we have with us, alongside everything else that is in our lives.  This is to say, taking stock of our “wellness account” – the “assets” that can keep us company, maybe even get us through the tough times.

What these are, the things that we count on, can be very personal.  Very often, people will name… people as their assets – friends, family, communities.  What we count on can also be places – home, the places you live in, the neighbourhood, the local place where you might be a regular.  What we count on can be activities, sports or exercise, comfort watching favourite shows or movies… relaxing, when possible, can be one of those anchors that we count on.  What we count on can even be things – a dear keepsake, an heirloom, a photo, a memento.

My friends, in this community, we count on each other.  Sometimes, things might look a bit different, as circumstances and needs change.  The people that have served our church change from time to time, lay and ordained.  The way we gather, the way we stay connected, the way we do worship, the way we do church – these have shifted and will continue to shift.

My friends, we may count on one another, even as each of us and our community continues to face challenges and struggles.  My friends, we may exercise the practice of radical gratitude, not by overlooking or ignoring whatever painful or unpleasant experiences we have, but by counting on all that which carries us through all of it, and by celebrating that which we care to honour.  Radical gratitude offers us not a way to “outcount our deficits” but a practice toward being more deeply aware of what is with us.

My friends, so may we be graced.
In Solidarity, in Love, in Gratitude

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #70 Heap High the Farmer’s Wintry Hoard
Words: John Greenleaf Whittier 1807-1892
Music: American folk melody, arr. by Annabel Morris Buchanan, 1899-1983, © 1938, renewed 1966 J. Fischer & Bros. Co.,
harm. by Charles H. Webb, 1933- , © 1989 J. Fischer & Bros. Co.

Brian Mittge (22 November, 2020)

October 2021 Newsletter

October 4th, 2021 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

Accounting for Theologians

October 3rd, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Time for All Ages – Rabbi Aimee Gerace

Rabbi Aimee Gerace Handling Her Business – Working Mom Life – Rosh Hashana 2021, from Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (20 September, 2021)

Sermon – Accounting for Theologians – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

In the insurance industry, it has happened that, when an actuary mentioned their profession, they were asked if they were some sort of accountant… with a self-deprecating sense of humour, their reply was that actuaries are the people who “don’t have the personality to be accountants”.  And still, actuaries and accountants alike can have a deeper range of dimension than they might get credit for – I once saw an actuary play a theremin.

And the practice of accounting itself can have a number of dimensions.  First, a personal story…

Leading up to seminary, I took it upon myself to read the Bible cover-to-cover.  Now, this was not actually required for any of my classes or by any of my supervisors – I simply wanted to get a fuller sense of how the collection of texts is laid out, and what kind of narrative emerges when one reads it from Genesis to Revelation.

The process took several months – about a year in fact – as I budgeted a few chapters per day, and I would bring out the book at different spots… while sipping my coffee at a diner after breakfast, while on a break at work, or relaxing at a neighbourhood café.  This would often catch the attention of nearby table-mates, who would ask me what I was doing.

Sometimes, when I told them I was reading the whole Bible, I’d learn that a number of them have tried this, and a surprising amount of them would succeed.  But the most common outcome would be that they only got a few chapters in… usually tapping out at “the begats”.  And if you’ve ever tried this, you might know what I’m talking about – those long passages of genealogy, when the only narrative is an account of people meeting, giving birth to someone, and then that person growing up, meeting someone, and begetting someone else, in a long chain of parental lineage.

I got through “the begats” just fine – and they came up every so often.  And I also noticed that this practice went beyond genealogy… there were other portions of the biblical text that were quite keen to focus on more of the “housekeeping” aspects of the story.

Beyond family trees, there were catalogues of property, cattle, bronze houseware, even the odd census of a population – perhaps the most notable one of which is in the aptly named book of Numbers, which really does live up to its name, having several accounts of the population of the tribes of Israel, accounts which are interspersed with more… dynamic narratives throughout the book.

When folks read these portions of scripture nowadays, it may not seem all that enticing, or clear, why those are even there.  But when the people who took it upon themselves to bring these accounts together were making decisions about what would go in, they saw these “housekeeping” items as important.  If nothing else, it showed that keeping track of whatever history and story you have, was worth doing – that the account of a people’s shared story would be missing something, if they didn’t include the more practically-oriented records – as these had been handed down to them.

We do this sort of thing in our community, as do our neighbours of faith, and our sister congregations across the country.  It’s not always the most… glamorous of tasks, or the most visible one, but it is an important ministry – one which our communities could simply not do without.

Our Treasurer, our Finance Committee, our bookkeeper, are all among the most obvious examples of the folks who take part in this kind of ministry, though they aren’t the only ones.  Alongside accounting, we also have accounts, parts of our shared story and the narratives that help shape our community’s sense of heritage, identity, and direction.  Our Archives Team, is one of the more visible examples of that, complementing the work of the authors of our church histories.

And they’re not the only ones, if you’ve served in any of our committees, or in any committee – or any formal organization, for that matter – you will have received minutes, detailing the more noteworthy items from meetings, including decisions and plans for the future.  You may well have been tasked with taking down and distributing those minutes.  And this task – this ministry – as tedious and dry as it may sometimes seem, is vital in keeping our sense of what we have done, what we are doing, and what we want to do, and moreover, getting a sense of who we are and who we want to be.

There are many ways of accounting for this.  In our community’s culture, written records are often what we might most often think about when we talk about financial and historical accounts.  This is what is most prominent in the book of Numbers.  Though it is also common for cultures to have a high regard for oral accounts.  And in fact, the book of Numbers, alongside the accounts in its neighbouring books, are largely considered to be written records of previous oral accounts.

And even if we perceive ourselves to give priority to written records in our community, our oral accounts have more power than we might realize.  The stories we share informally, or the memories that we value most, are not always the ones that are formally recorded somewhere.

In our Unitarian Universalist tradition, our covenants are part of housekeeping, our way of accounting for one another.  And even though our most obvious covenants – such as our principles – are written down, how we implement them, how we live them out, is largely carried out informally in our everyday interactions.  Our covenants are an account of who we want to be with each other, and how we want to be with each other, and they guide us in keeping ourselves accountable to each other, which we do by witnessing to our words and actions, naming these, and – when we fall short – reflecting on how we can live out our covenant more fully.

Sometimes, the notion of accountability can be daunting concept… even scary.  That can be understandable – for some of you, words like accountability or responsibility might come tied up with a sense of… consequences, which is often a way of saying retribution or punishment.  And indeed, that is one way in which accountability is sometimes manifested.  The biblical literature also has many examples of this kind of accountability, as do many other sacred scriptures.

Beyond retribution, the biblical account also records some narratives in which the stories of its people are laid out, including causes for celebration and affirmation, as well as the more unpleasant stories – and the book of Numbers includes some of these accounts as well… part of the reason behind a census, was to quantify how many warriors there were… along with the kind of things that happen in war.  Preserving these kinds of stories is part of accountability.

These texts also have many examples of covenant, where people make promises to each other and give witness to these whenever they invoke these covenants.  The accounts of scripture also keep track of the blessings that they receive, and giving thanks for them – this is another expression of accountability.  Around a time of thanksgiving, we can keep count of the blessings we are graced with, as well as the stories – celebratory and painful – that come with living alongside each other.

I find it especially helpful to think of accountability as a tool for a more wholesome personal and community life.  At its core, accountability can be about that basic aspect of counting – which is to say, keeping track.

Going with the housekeeping image of financial accounting, we might see how a practice of accountability can be a gift.

When making a personal budget for the purposes of creating savings, for instance, many financial advisors will recommend taking an initial inventory of current spending habits.  This can be done simply by going about your daily business as you typically would – making the purchases you’re used to doing, and not immediately worrying about whether you should buy those things or not, or judging yourself for these, simply witnessing to the truth as it is.  At the beginning, the only difference in action is keeping track – be it by keeping the receipts in some organized container, or writing them down… or whichever method works best for you.

Then after a useful period of time – it could be a week for some, but more likely a month, or perhaps a season – you would take stock of what your financial life has been.  This can involve observing – witnessing – those things that we have given our treasure to, as they have been named on your receipts or records.  With this perspective, it is easier to reflect on whether that aligns with our values, or whether those resources could be better used on things, places, and people that enrich us more fully.

In this way, my friends, this kind of accounting can help us transform our lives in a way that better reflects who we want be, and how we want to be.

At least, that’s one way to do it.  Each of you will have found ways in which you can witness to your actions and the actions of those around you, to name them as they come along, reflect on how that enriches ourselves and our relationships, and become more of who we think we are, or would like to be.

My friends, witnessing, naming, reflecting… transforming – that is the opportunity that mindful accountability can bring to a community of faith.  And keeping an account of our stories as they are, and as they have been, with affirmations and unpleasant parts alike, allow us to better know the truth of our communities, that we may seek the changes we wish for ourselves and all our relations.

My friends, may we bear witness to our lives as they are, that we may recognize them for all the work and ministry that they call us to do, that we may intentionally and reflectively be more of who we seek to be.

My friends, may we so hold each other accountably.

So may it be,
In Solidarity, in Love, and in Peace

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #317 We Are Not Our Own
Words: Brian Wren, 1936- , © 1988 Hope Publishing Co.
Music: David Hurd, 1950- , © 1990 David Hurd

Seeds for Growth

September 26th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Hymn – #295 Sing Out Praises for the Journey
~)-| Words: Mark M. DeWolfe, 1953-1988,
~)-| Music: rev. by Joyce Painter Rice, © 1991 UUA
Music: Henry Purcell, 1659-1695
westminster abbey

Offered by Jess Huetteman (5 January, 2021)

Sermon – Seeds for Growth – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

For our cornerstone’s anniversary last week, the Membership Committee put together this Seeds for the Future Card, along with a special-edition printed order of service, as part of a… church care package – bringing some of the more tangible parts of the church closer to your home.

And just like our church, this package, in turn, is both tangible… as well as representative of an idea.  It is both here, and in the future.

Because, right now, it’s not quite the right season to plant these seeds, which means they need to be set aside for later, and you’ll be invited to do that come spring.  Just as our cornerstone was only the beginning of a physical home for a community that had already been around for some time, these seeds are only the beginning of what can become a future project for growth.

When they are planted – in the future – they will become the beginnings of future growing marigolds… themselves their own beginnings.

The whole process of germination is in itself a continuum of beginnings, from seed, to sowing, to seedling, flowering, pollinating, fruiting, and seeding again.  In a way, it’s not entirely clear where the seed ends and the plant begins…

Today, we mark another stage – another beginning – in the lives of… participants in our community, who are now being formally acknowledged as members.

And I say formally, because in many ways – including official ways – all of these participants are in fact already members of our church.  As of this morning, they have all signed the right papers (including our membership book), they have made a contribution of record to sustaining our community, and they have been actively involved in the life of the congregation.  This morning, we have gathered together, in our physical home, and in your homes, as one church, so that we may all say welcome, we see you, just as you have seen us, and we are glad to have you with us, in good company.

Unitarian Universalist minister and author, the Rev. Robert Fulghum, has suggested that weddings don’t really happen at the wedding ceremony, but rather, a wedding often happens over several days – perhaps weeks, or months – of candid conversation, as partners form a covenant regarding their dreams, their aspirations, their values… their problems – and how they might approach them.  That is the real wedding, he says.

And that’s not to say that the wedding ceremony doesn’t matter – on the contrary, it is an important opportunity to celebrate, and for others to witness and partake in the promises and vows that a set of partners builds over time.

Just like a partnership into a marriage, the moment of transformation between participant and member is about as blurry as it might be the case for the seeds in our care package as they transform into a “plant”.  The growth and development are ongoing processes without necessarily having a clear practical demarcation – yet we mark it nonetheless.

Some of you will have considered yourselves members long before you signed the papers, or came to a ceremony like this one.  And so, we take some time to ensure that you know, and that we know, that you know, that yes, you are here in good company, and in the company that you want to be in.

We also do this as a reminder of the covenant that many of you have already taken on, to share in this ministry, in good company.  Today, we make this public witness of the vows and promises – the covenant – that you have been building with this community, and that you will likely continue to build into the future.  A covenant of shared ministry.

Because a lot of the ministry that happens here is carried out beyond what I do as your settled minister.  This afternoon our church voted on a decision about the maintenance of our building – that was your job to do.  And, leading up to that decision, a fair bit of legwork was carried out by the Property Committee – assessing what our needs (and our building’s needs) might be, seeking out contractors, obtaining quotes, negotiating accessible rates.

I’ve been present for these kinds of discussions, and from time to time may be asked for my perspective, or I may see the need to offer my take on the matter, but for the most part, it was you and your peers, as members of this church, who have done – and are commissioned to do – this work.

We can say the same for just about all the other work that happens around here.  Even for our Sunday worship services, in which I tend to take the lead, there are roles for our lay members to be active in, be it assisting during the services themselves, looking after some of the services, or supporting the journey of worship.  I share this ministry with you.

Sometimes, that ministry is more visible – I often name the folks who are taking an active role during the Sunday morning service.  Other ministries get named and recognized at other times and other places, and some are carried out with more discretion.  And we share these ministries, in good company.

The Unitarian and Universalist traditions have shared in a heritage that recognizes what is sometimes called “the priesthood of all believers” – in our communities these days, we might use language such as “the ministry of all the faithful”.

People in my line of work sometimes carry fancy titles like Reverend or pastor, because we have made a career and life commitment of devotion to our tradition, our values, and the service that this entails, but that doesn’t stop any of you from participating on those same goals, as these tasks fit into your lives.

These may be through a named position, such as chair or member of a committee, or by your involvement in the life of the congregation, or by your financial support, or simply, by the gift of your presence in this company.  My friends, your shared ministry in this community of faith puts you in good company.

And our new member ceremony this morning, my friends, allows us to consider and contemplate the meaning and significance of being here, among each other, with each other, for each other, in good company.

Your presence this morning, your presence this afternoon, your ongoing participation in the life of this congregation and your willingness to connect more deeply with each other, and with the world, is part of your ministry in our community of faith.

My friends, without your company, our ministry could not be possible.

My friends you are in good company.

My friends you are good company.

So may it be,
In Solidarity, in Love, and in Peace

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #298 Wake, Now, My Senses
~)-| Words: Thomas J. S. Mikelson, 1936- , © Thomas J. S. Mikelson
Music: Traditional Irish melody, harmony by Carlton R. Young, 1926- , renewal © 1992 Abingdon Press

Offered by UUCGV (10 May, 2020)

Upon This Stone

September 19th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

140th Anniversary of the laying of our Cornerstone

Opening Hymn #1 Prayer for this House
Words: Louis Untermeyer, 1885-1977, © 1923 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, renewed 1951 by Louis Untermeyer, reprinted by perm. of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Music: Robert N. Quaile, b. 1867

Offered by Steph and Les Tacy (23 March, 2021)

Time for All Ages – Building Blocks

I’d like to talk a bit about one of the more popular building block options, which many of us may have gotten know as children, or while learning alongside children, or simply being adults finding a passion for building things up at home.  It is the LEGO block (and no, this is not a sponsored bit), and I will say that there are sets that are in fact made specifically for adults, as that company has realized that imagination doesn’t need to stop with age.

The standard LEGO building block has two functional ends.  There’s the bottom part, which can attach to a base plate, OR to a previous piece.  And there’s the top part which is covered with pips that always leave room for the next piece.  From then on, almost every piece fulfills the same set of functions.  Even the topmost pieces, which often have a smooth surface, for things like roofs, offer some flexibility, as they can always be removed… sometimes with more effort – but it can be done.  In this way, whatever your imagination brings up, the toy allows you to adapt in order to meet the needs of your vision.

Now, our cornerstone is built a little different, but it serves a similar function.  It is attached to the basement structure of the church, grounding it to the land where it sits.  And, with the help of some kind of mortar, it can support different parts of the structure above it, and in the case of our church building, a lot of it is indeed bricks – not that much different than the LEGO bricks (which kind of have their own built-in mortar).

And as the last 140 years have passed, some of these building blocks in our church building have had to be re-arranged to some degree, as the needs of the church have changed, the building has been adapted to meet its vision.

Even our roof pieces can be removed, some of them with more difficulty than others… and in fact, in the coming months, we may need to do just that, so that the building can continue to serve us safely and comfortably.  And we, as a church will be discussing this aspect of our building at a congregational meeting next week (Sept. 26).

And whatever we decide, it will come from a place of imagination, from a place of vision, from a desire to allow our church building to serve us as a church, in the service of humanity.

Hymn – #52 In Sweet Fields of Autumn
Words: Elizabeth Madison, b. 1883, used by perm. of Hodgin Press
Music: William James Kirkpatrick, 1838-1921, harmony by Ralph Vaughn Williams, 1872-1958, © 1931 Oxford University Press

Offered by Jennifer McMillan, Westwood Unitarian online Services (6 November, 2020)

Sermon – Upon This Stone


Read: [Printable PDF document available for download]

In religious communities, it is a common practice to use pageantry as a way to re-create the stories that are central to a community’s identity and core values, and in that way, to renew these foundations as a common experience among the community in the present.

In our cultural setting, one of the most obvious examples is the Christmas pageant, when the story of a humble family seeking shelter and safety – and eventually revealing hidden divinity – is retold and re-enacted, so that this message of hidden holiness is brought to life once again in a more immediate, experiential way.

Other examples might be the many seasons of fasting that many traditions have, by which a group takes a collective activity that recalls ancestral struggle and scarcity – as well as promise and resilience!  Many of you may be familiar with the rituals that come with Lent and Easter, and our Jewish neighbours will now the pageantry and momentary sense of scarcity that come with Passover and Yom Kippur.

Over the past year (and beyond), our church has unexpectedly collaborated in… a pageant of sorts, being that we have somewhat inadvertently participated – as a community – in re-enacting part of the experience that our founders had as they were forming our church 140 years ago.

Last November, we celebrated the founding of our church… without any of us being present in a church building – just as our church’s ancestors had done when they founded our church… without even one stone set down for a building.  In that way, we have recreated the experience of our ancestors.

Of course, the founding of our church in 1880 came after a couple decades in which the Universalist message was already coming to life in our area.  It was a culmination of many collective efforts to form a community, and live a life that embraced a more radical inclusivity.

This culmination was, in turn, just the beginning of a formal church body.  And about a year later, this church body’s work culminated in the beginnings of a church building, by laying down its cornerstone just about 140 years ago.  This is because our church founders recognized that, while it may be possible for a community of faith to exist without a building, having a physical home can help it thrive, offering a stable space for the many activities that bring the community closer, as well as being able to become a more visible and active presence in the larger community.

The culminating moment of laying down that cornerstone, was in itself only the beginning of this building, which also took time to reach… one state of completion, a stage that led to later shifts, as the needs of the community have shifted.  Our building does not look the way it did in 1881, or 1885, or for that matter, in 1999.

Today, we begin one step into having our building once again become a major part of our church life – that process is still ongoing, and will still take some time for it to reach… another stage of completion.  And upon this step we build that next stage into our community’s life.

Now, there is a set of stories in the book that is known as the good news according to Matthew, chapter 16.  And… one interpretation of the stories in this chapter is that the prophet Jesus is exploring with his friends and followers the meaning of their ministry and the future of their community.  As they are discussing this, one of the leading friends and followers of Jesus has a moment of clarity.  My New Testament professor would sometimes translate this follower’s name as “Rocky”, though it is more often translated as Peter, which comes from the Greek for rock or stone.  Jesus points to his friend and follower, declaring:

“And I tell you, you are Rocky, and on this rock I will build my fellowship, and the gates of the underworld will not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18]

The fellowship or assembly that has been commissioned to Rocky, is more often translated as church.  And in one of the many puns that show up in the biblical text, we see the coexisting reality of a church being founded on the people, and to a great extent on the places that are built for people in which to gather to continue building their assemblies – their communities.

One of the things we have learned over the past year (or so), is a somewhat contradictory lesson that physical meeting places are both:  not as necessary as we might have thought, as well as more important than we ever realized.  These are our current coexisting realities.

Yes, life can go on in other spaces, including online.  No, it isn’t the same.  Yes, we have found new and exciting options.  And… the option that this house offers, remains dear and irreplaceable.

The fact that we have not met in person over the last year and a half has not spelled the end of our community of faith (in fact, in some ways it has thrived beyond our expectations).  At the same time, we have also felt the absence of our building in our lives, and we share a deep sense of loss at some aspects of our church’s life that simply can’t be fully replicated with our online options.

And the fact that our church was founded nearly a year before our cornerstone was laid, bears witness to the reality that our existence isn’t contingent on having a physical space.  Yet, the additional reality that – soon after our founding – our community saw the need to literally lay down the groundwork for a meeting space, is also witness to the intense need for it.

The foundations of a community of faith that were laid down by 23 women and men, and by “Big” Mike Fox, in the years leading to 1880, are the rock-strong leadership upon which this assembly of faith is formed.  And upon the cornerstone that was laid down in 1881, this community has found shelter, stability, and longevity – not exclusively, as our work has always gone beyond our walls – but as a base upon which we may find an anchor amid the tempests.  Even now, this building is the oldest one in Canada in which a Universalist or Unitarian congregation has continuously gathered (even with the occasional pauses).

The additional options for reaching our community, which we have nourished over the past year or so, aren’t going away.  We are easing back into our building… in a tentative manner, and the additional tools that we have to connect will remain.

This goes beyond the practical benefits that they give us in staying connected and offering further connection among the wider community, it is also a theological witness to our Universalist practice of radical inclusion.  More options mean that we can include our community in ways that may better serve humanity.

My friends, this building is important, worthy of celebration and ongoing expectation to our reclaiming it, and it is only important insofar as it serves us, in the service of humanity.  In it, we will increasingly find another space for us to grow closer together, and welcome all who seek truth in the spirit of inclusion.

My friends, alongside this sacred space, each of us offers a building block in this community, upon which its spirit rests and shines.  And I tell you, my friends, you are the building blocks, and upon these stones, we shall build our community, where fear will not prevail and love will be a more powerful force for good.

So may it be,
In Solidarity, in Love, and in Peace

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn ##108 My Life Flows On in Endless Song
Words: Traditional, Verse 3 by Doris Plenn
Music: Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

Offered by First Unitarian Church of Chicago (17 May, 2020)

September 2021 Newsletter

September 14th, 2021 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

The Humours

September 12th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #145 As Tranquil Streams
~)-| Words: Marion Franklin Ham, 1867-1956
Music: Musicalisches Hand-buch, Hamburg, 1690, adapt.

Offered by Hillside Community Church (18 June, 2021)

Homily – The Humours [Water Ceremony] – Rev. Rod


Read: [Print-ready PDF document available for download]

If you’ve ever followed the history of medicine, you might have been intrigued by an ancient Greek view about human health, which attributed different ailments, emotions, and healing methods to the balance of four fluids in the body.  These fluids, or humours, were labeled as: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm, and while those labels may sound familiar, those words were used to describe different things than what we would now associate with those names.

I won’t go into the details of what these humours were, because our medical understanding nowadays is much different.  But I bring them to mind today because each of those humours were associated with different moods or personality types.

Someone who was thought to have more “blood” than usual was labelled sanguine, and was seen as lively, and perhaps more joyful than others.  If the imbalance was in “yellow bile”, then they were seen as choleric and prone to anger and rage.  If it was a matter of “black bile” – or literally in Greek, melancholy – then they were seen as prone to sadness.  And the folks labeled as phlegmatic tended to be seen, among other things, as more mellow or reserved.

This is a gross oversimplification.  And I’m offering this overview because, to me, the most useful part of this… classification method, was that it named real moods – emotional experiences that real people go through.

And today, I invite us to do that – to recognize our multitude of overlapping moods and emotions – with a different kind of humour…  (a humour, is essentially a liquid or fluid – it’s where we get the word humid).  And our humour today is water.

A ritual that many of our congregations do around this time of year, is a water ceremony that honours these emotional experiences.  One way to do that is to lay out four vessels for us to give witness to some of our emotional experiences as we transition from the summer days and into our new church year.

This was an eventful summer around the world, and chances are that there were some events in your personal lives as well.  A range of overlapping, and perhaps conflicting, emotions may have resulted from this, and it’s OK to recognize more than one at the same time.

So, we can lay out vessels for: recognizing joy, happiness, amusement, or other kinds of enjoyable experiences; another one for acknowledging anger, rage, fear, or other bold and sometimes unpleasant experiences; another vessel to honour sadness, grief, or otherwise a sense of loss that we might have encountered around this time; and a vessel to hold our sense of hope, for peace, for a sense of renewing faith, as we come together at this time.

I have short reflections for each of these moods, and pouring some water in a vessel for each of them may be a way for each of us to recognize these states of mind.  You’re welcome to set vessels of your own at home and follow your own ritual, or you can simply bear witness to the reflections included here.

Joy, Amusement, Pleasantness

The 2021 Ig Nobel prizes were awarded this past week.  (More accurately, it was called “the 31st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony”).  This awards ceremony is usually hosted from Harvard University, but was done online for the second time this year.   The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded to real scientific research that “first makes you laugh, and then makes you think”.

Among this year’s winners, was research seeking to demonstrate that transporting rhinoceroses upside down is better for them than transporting them on their side – this is surprisingly important knowledge for wildlife veterinarians, who occasionally need to transport ailing rhinos while minimizing harm to them; there was also a study that supports the hypothesis that humans evolved beards as protection from being punched in the face… which can lead to further lines of inquiry; and there was a study that catalogued the array of microorganisms on sidewalk chewing gum, which may offer unexpected insights in the realm of microbiology.  There were a total of ten awards, spanning six continents, and I invite you to look them up if you enjoy the combo of laughing and thinking.

These may not sound like ground-breaking research, but as laughable as they may initially sound, each of these endeavours adds to the sum of human knowledge in more profound ways than meet the eye at first glance – they first make you laugh, and then make you think.

Laughter, and by extension any kind of enjoyment, is a basic element in our human existence, and this past summer may have offered many of you with opportunities to find some kind of enjoyment, be it time to rest, or to get to do something you don’t regularly get to do, or perhaps laugh a bit more often… and maybe to think for a bit longer.

Around the Windsor-Essex area, with the Detroit River, and Lakes Erie and St. Clair, water can be a part of summer, even if it’s just a quick view from the street while walking downtown… sometimes, it can be something more engaging, like a day at the beach or a walk on the riverside.

And sometimes, it’s as simple as a cold drink on a hot day.

Pouring this water may help us recognize the moments of joy that we have coming into our reconvening this year, or that we look forward to as we engage in this community again.

Suggested meditation music – Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven

Anger, Rage, and Fear

Among the news this summer and into the fall, we’ve witnessed the frightening developments in Afghanistan, where many people have been desperate to leave, fearing for their lives.  And fear often begets anger.  Many people around the world have strong feelings about the near-twenty-year war that has just ended.

Along with that comes the memory of the attacks that happened on a clear Tuesday morning 20 years ago.  Many of us remember the fear that came with that day, along with the anger that led to many decisions and world events over these past 20 years.

I remember being invited to a Thanksgiving dinner on October 8, 2001, and learning over the dinner that the bombing of Afghanistan had started the previous day.  It sobering to consider that it’s only less than a couple weeks ago that that war ended.

The decisions leading to that war have become divisive and we also see that divisiveness around many other issues today: around social and racial justice, around health policy, and around environmental action.

Among our environmental fears, we have witnessed the stormy seas and rainy gales that have come with multiple hurricanes this season, many of them hitting both far away and closer to home.

These stormy fears and this anger are part of our world and our own personal lives, and we can acknowledge it here.

Suggested meditation music – Storm Warning by Frank Mills

Sadness, Grief, Loss

Many of us have experienced loss around this time, or may wonder if we may be facing some kind of loss in the coming days.

In the world, we are witnessing the loss of women’s rights in Afghanistan.  And over the past year or so, we have seen the loss of health and life due to the pandemic… and other reasons.

With yesterday’s anniversary, many remember the sacrifice given by First Responders in the performance of their duties – simply doing their daily job during a disaster.  And this echoes with the experience of many First Responders over the past couple of years, who have given so much of themselves, including their lives, in the performance of their duties during crisis.

With water, we recognize the tears of sadness, literal and proverbial, that may be part of our lives and of our world.

Suggested meditation music – Nocturne by Martha Mier

Hope, Peace, Faith

When we talk about the time 20 years ago, the narrative usually mentions both Twin Towers in New York City… it often also includes the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and… sometimes there’s a mention of a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Of course, the symbolism of Wall Street and the US Department of Defence amid the smoke, along with the numerous casualties involved, bring easily-recognizable images.  But sometimes I wonder if an oft-missing headline from 20 years ago, was that field near Shanksville…

Of the four flights that were crashed just over twenty years ago, flight 93 was the only one that didn’t reach its target.

And that wasn’t an accident – it is believed that deliberate action by passengers in that flight prevented it from reaching Washington D.C. and causing even greater harm.

After the closing of Kabul’s international airport at the end of August, it has just been announced, a couple of days ago, that a new civilian flight left Kabul’s international airport – the first in a couple of weeks – bringing people to a safer place, over a week after it was doubtful that this would be possible.

Even amid extreme adversity, there is hope.  And faith, in its many manifestations, can help us find a glimpse of peace.

This month there were elections in Morocco and Sao Tome – these are complicated things, and… they always leave space for change… maybe for the better.  Here in Canada, we are heading into our own election, and wherever you stand in it, it offers some opportunity for a better life in our country and in the planet.

Water may offer witness to floods of hope, and tranquil streams of peace, that feed growth and change.

Suggested Meditation Music – How Can I Keep from Singing? Traditional

And so, my friends, with the fluid form of these waters, we witness to our moods – to our shared and personal emotional experience that comes with this transitional time, as we face our past, and look to our future.

My friends, may the witness of these humours offer more balance in our lives.

So may it be,
In Solidarity, in Love, and in Peace

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn – #4 I Brought My Spirit to the Sea
~)-| Words: Max Kapp, 1904-1979
Music: Alec Wyton, 1921- , © 1990 Alec Wyton
First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

A New Premise 3 – Yes

September 4th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Confluence Lecture 2021 – Rev. Anne Barker (Westwood UU, Edmonton Alberta)

A New Premise, part – Yes

(originally posted to the Canadian Unitarian Council’s YouTube channel on 27 April, 2021)

A New Premise 2 – disComfort

August 28th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Confluence Lecture 2021 – Rev. Anne Barker (Westwood UU, Edmonton Alberta)

A New Premise, part 2 – disComfort

(originally posted to the Canadian Unitarian Council’s YouTube channel on 27 April, 2021)

A New Premise 1 – What if we were wrong?

August 21st, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Confluence Lecture 2021 – Rev. Anne Barker (Westwood UU, Edmonton Alberta)

A New Premise, part 1 – What if we were wrong?

(originally published 29 April, 2021)

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