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.


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.

Date Speaker Title Musician(s)
Dec. 6 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Power DynamicImbalance appears in many forms… Some of these are blatant, but others may not be so apparent, depending on which side of the equation you might be on. Toni Janik
Dec. 13 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Twelve Sleeps Halfway through the Advent countdown, anticipation seems to take centre-stage.  Yet between each sleep in the countdown, there are entire days with their own potential. Lorie Lyons
Dec. 20 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel The Long Night Ahead – small>The longest night of the year is upon us, and with it, the beginning of the coldest season – after an already drawn-out time of isolation for many.  What can we look forward to? Toni Janik
Dec. 27 Bill Baylis IAT – It’s About Time Measuring time and space and looking back in time. How the constancy of the speed of light revolutionized our understanding of spacetime. Lorie Lyons
Jan. 3, 2021 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 Workers 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 12:30am
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.
Feb. 14, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Tba tba
Feb. 21, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Tba tba
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) tba
Mar. 7, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel Tba tba
Mar 14, 2021 Rev. Rod Solano Quesnel tba

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

January 2021 Newsletter

January 10th, 2021 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

Beyond Expectations

January 3rd, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #344 A Promise through the Ages Rings
~)-| Words: Alicia S. Carpenter, 1930- , rev., © 1983 Alicia S. Carpenter
Music: Severus Gastorius, c. 1675, ed. by A. Waggoner

Offered by the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, Pianist Jeff Hamrick (3 May, 2020)

For All Ages – On Immunity, Inoculation, and Individuals – John Green in Vlogbrothers

Vlogbrothers John and Hank Green share perspectives on the history and story behind vaccines, and the question of their responsible use.

In this first video, John Green references the book On Immunity: An Inoculation, by Eula Biss.

Video Reading – Would I Take a COVID Vaccine? – by Hank Green in Vlogbrothers

Sermon – Beyond Expectations – Rev. Rod


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

Over the past couple of years, you’ve heard me talk about the approach that’s captured by the word anticippointment – that is, reducing the likelihood of disappointment by deliberately lowering our expectations – in other words, managing expectations.

It looks like health authorities had this approach in mind when, as the novel coronavirus was identified earlier last year, they announced that a covid vaccine was at least 12-18 months away.  They qualified this even further by stating that this was the optimistic outlook.

This came among more cautious speculation that a vaccine might not ever come at all, or that it might not be effective enough.

It seems that the approach paid off.  With managed expectations, the vaccines that came in, ahead of the expected schedule – under 12 months – and with remarkably high effectivity rates, roundly exceeded all expectations.

As we have also seen, this victory is only partial at best.  There are many logistical challenges ahead, from mass production of the newly-approved vaccines, to mass distribution of them, as well as a prevalent vaccine hesitancy among many in the population (including some concerns that are legitimate, while others are simply unfounded).  And that is without even accounting for some of the lingering questions that remain unknown, such as how long immunity by vaccination will last, to what extent it curbs transmission, as well as rare adverse effects that may have been missed in smaller clinical trials.

So, in some ways, even exceeding expectations still leaves room for ongoing managing of expectations.

And, as we have become aware in our community this past week, even a victory in record time was still not fast enough for some, who have already been fatally infected, and will never have a chance to get the protection from the miraculous development of these vaccines.

Even exceeded expectations have left some unrealized hopes behind.

And still, it is worth getting a deeper appreciation for what this victory – partial as it may be – means for our world community.  You have heard me talk about these new vaccines over the past few weeks, because this record-time medical breakthrough goes beyond a few research labs getting lucky, or an odd intense all-nighter, as scientists burnt the midnight oil… this one time.

This is a story of intense and intentional cooperation and collaboration through space and through time.

So, let us talk a bit about how the covid virus has played out in time…

In many ways, the year 2020 began a bit early – in December of 2019, as the novel coronavirus was identified around new year’s eve day, 2019.

Had the virus been identified just a couple days later, we would have spent 2020 talking about the dreaded covid-20 pandemic… and the part of me that likes order still gets a bit irked by the fact that it wasn’t covid-20 in 2020.  But it is perhaps fitting that this irksome number “19” remains in the covid name, because it is a reminder that covid, and diseases like it, are not just the product of the year when we’re most aware of it – it’s a product of a larger system that has allowed the disease to take hold.

Likewise, the vaccines of 2020 are also not the product of 2020 alone.

Many people are wondering how this process – which usually takes several years – could be measured in months, without cutting any corners.  And that’s because while the process of creating, testing, approving, and commencing deployment took place almost exclusively within the 12 months of 2020, the larger systems already in place predate the year 2020.  In a sense, the new vaccines were in fact not created in the space of 1 year – in a truer sense, it was more like at least 200 years.

The reason they could be prepared in record time, is largely in part because we relied on so much previous research, knowledge, wisdom, and collaboration from the past several centuries – and yes, a measure of luck.

Looking back just a few years, we can recognize that local governments and international agencies had already put systems in place for faster vaccine development, including new protocols and existing research on the innovative mRNA technology – these faster processes didn’t begin last January… people with foresight had invested in them years before.

When Chinese health authorities sequenced the virus’ code just about a year ago, that information could be put to use virtually overnight by research teams all over the world, thanks to the medical foundations that were already in place.

There was also financial, political, and institutional will to act quickly.  Money came in from many sources – some public and some private.  Health authorities gave priority to the ethical and technical decisions that needed to be made.  There were also improvements in the systems used for data collection, and the process by which approvals were evaluated, allowing for the same level of scrutiny in review, but with an approach that allowed for concurrent following of the data by overseers, which assisted in making the final decisions more quickly, while safeguarding the quality and integrity of the data being used.

One of the reasons the clinical trials could be conducted so quickly was by taking advantage of the very challenges of the situation itself.  In a lemons-to-lemonade approach, the very fact that the virus’ reach was so widespread, and that people were aware of it, meant that recruitment for the trials happened immediately, rather than over months, and the efficacy of the vaccines could be tested against high exposure rates, which made it easier to collect useful data in a short amount of time – using one of the virus’ main features (it’s ease of spread) as a tool for us to combat it.

But looking even further back, we see that the story of vaccination goes back to older breakthroughs, such as the story of Edward Jenner, over two hundred years ago, when he noticed that milkmaids’ immunity to smallpox may come from their exposure to cowpox.  His was not the only discovery of its kind, as that kind of wisdom had been observed – and applied – by others in his time and before him.

My friends, I’ve been giving space to this story because it is a witness to a part of the human spirit that may have gotten lost amid the many difficult moments of 2020.  This story tells us something worth remembering – and it is worth celebrating.  And it is imperfect and incomplete.  Astonishingly early, and somehow still too late.

My friends, just as the year 2020 began in earnest in December of 2019, so it is that, in many ways, 2021 appears to have begun in December of 2020, with the approval and deployment of the new vaccine.  If 2020 was a year of rising infections, 2021 may well be a year of rising vaccinations, but more tellingly, it could well be the year when we become participants in fulfilling one of the other stories of 2020 – a story of preparation and foresight (even when it didn’t always seem that way); a story of ingenuity and resilience; a story of gratitude for the work – sometimes invisible – of previous generations; a story when individuals and communities each have a role to play; a story of small, cumulative victories, that add up to victories beyond expectations.

My friends, we’ll have a role to play in the coming months.  It is possible that not all of you may be eligible to get the vaccine for medical reasons (adverse effects, while rare, are also a reality).  Those of us who can, may participate by getting the vaccine when we’re eligible.  And all of us will also need to participate, over the next months, by continuing a practice of limited physical contact, wearing masks in consideration for others, and following general hygiene and health guidelines.  As we have seen in this story beyond expectations, small victories, across space and time, make the major breakthroughs possible.  We are part of this story.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #350 The Ceaseless Flow of Endless Time
~)-| Words: John Andrew Storey, 1935-1997
Music: African American spiritual, c. 1750-1875, adapt. and harmony by Harry T. Burleigh, 1866-1949

Offered by the First Unitarian Church of Chicago (songleader Beena David; pianist Jeff Hamrick, music director at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago. Recorded for the 9/20/20 service.) (21 September, 2020)

The Long Night Ahead

December 20th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

For All Ages – God Rest Ye Merry Gentle(folk) and We Three Kings mashup – by Boise UU Fellowship

As we long nights approach, we may be able to glimpse the latest alignment of Jupiter and Saturn, creating a “Star of Bethlehem” effect.
This performance by the Boise UU Fellowship celebrates this event with the conjunction of two classic Christmas songs.

Sermon – The Long Night Ahead – Rev. Rod


Read: [Print-ready PDF document for download]

When the sun sets at 5:03pm tonight we will go through the two longest nights of the year, with only a short day in between.

We will welcome newly-lengthening days in what has already been a dark season… not only have the days been shorter for the last few months, but we’ve come from even longer months of uncertainty, and a string of bad news, including sombre numbers that continue to climb worldwide.

And it’s looking like, in many ways, it might get worse before it gets better.  Even with slowly brighter days, there will be cold months, and for many among us, they may well be lonely months.

What can we look forward to in this long season upon another long season?

Kari Leibowitz is a health psychologist, who spent some time in Norway – during the winter.  She spoke with many people around the country and her findings on how Norwegians cope with long and dark winters are outlined in an article from the Guardian called Dreading a dark winter lockdown?  Think like a Norwegian.

Among her observations, she saw that Norwegians appear to have developed coping skills for long dark winters that go beyond solid housing and warm clothing – a lot of it seemed to come down to mindset.  Many Norwegians, it seems, have become used to looking forward to winter, shifting their sense about many of the things that might make winter feel dreadful, and regarding these as features, rather than bugs.

This shift in attitude also seemed to increase with latitude.  And the further north she went, the more people exhibited strong anticipation for winter, to the point that they were puzzled at the idea that there were people who don’t look forward to winter!

This was tied to the Norwegian concept of koselig, which – like its Danish cousin hygge – is a bit hard to translate, but in English we might articulate it as that sense of “coziness” that comes when we snuggle down with a blanket and a warm drink, for a quiet time in the winter, with some treats and maybe a good book or movie.

The concepts of koselig and hygge give witness to an approach in which, not only is embracing a measure of leisure acceptable, but that this can be outright glorified as a goal in itself.

For those of us to whom it is possible, winter may allow us some permission to slow down – to embrace the kind of leisure activities that we’re conditioned to think of as lazy or unproductive.  In the context of winter, sitting down and enjoying the space of our home curled up with a favourite pastime is perfectly reasonable – in the context of a pandemic, it is a public health imperative, as doing a bit less is precisely what the doctors are prescribing.

This is not to say that “it all comes down to attitude” – there are a lot of other social, economic, political, and environmental factors in play.  There are realities about people’s situations that cannot be fixed with an attitude shift.  What Kari Leibowitz found in her research in Norway is not that people can get away from winter or pretend that it doesn’t exist, but that we may have more agency on how we encounter it, than we might realize.

Already in this protracted pandemic season, many of us have been able to identify some advantages that weren’t there before, such as finding that we might need to do less driving, for instance, or that other expenses we would otherwise incur might no longer seem necessary. 

These specific examples will not be true for everyone, but chances are that you might find some opportunities, if you’re in the lookout for them.  In our church community, some of our members have found it easier to connect to Sunday services, and other church activities, when they couldn’t before – although the opposite has also been true for other members.

The point of finding the opportunities in this extended winter is not to pretend that there aren’t challenges – but to rather recognize them, and if possible, even embrace some of those challenges as potential sources of growth.  And if we are fortunate enough to find opportunities in these challenges, we might also be able to offer what we can when we encounter folks who are struggling.

Many of you have done that, be it in connecting with members who could use further connection, or in volunteering gifts of time or even money to organizations that need additional assistance.  This has always been part of the holiday spirit – and now is even truer than before.

Aside from bringing greater exposure to many of the social inequalities and environmental issues of our time, this protracted season has also shown surprising resilience among the world community.  I have already spoken about the incredible news of such a fast development of several viable vaccines – and I’ll continue to explore that story, as it is hard to overstate – because it shows that we can be capable of facing incredible challenges, even exceeding expectations about what could be possible.  The most optimistic estimates were 12 to 18 months – approvals came in in just under a year… and just a few months ago, many were expressing doubts as to whether they’d even be possible.

Shifting our attitudes about winter and lockdown is not about ignoring the additional anxieties that come with winter… and with pandemic season – it is about being open to recognizing what is possible in making these seasons spaces for self and social improvement.

There seems to be a Norwegian saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”  And as winter arrives, reflecting on the story we tell ourselves about this time may just help us find the proper kind of clothes, the right tools, to endure, and perhaps even enjoy, this quieter time.

My friends, as we head out into the long night of the year that is winter, we do so with the knowledge that the longest night of the year will have already passed after tomorrow.

My friends, as of Monday, the days will begin to get longer and light will slowly be ever more present in our lives – just seconds and minutes at a time… barely enough to notice it day to day.  And, day to day, we will come to a time when the light will be more than dark.  We are now in the Great Advent as, day to day, people are gaining protection from the virus.  This improvement will be small and slow, silent as whispers.

And as spring and summer arrive, my friends, it will eventually be clear that we can again breathe outside, and in each other’s homes, in the physical presence of each other.  Each day from now on will still be important, as we cozy up when we can, and reach out, as we are able.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #55 Dark of Winter
~)-| Words & Music: Shelley Jackson Denham, 1950- ,
© 1988 Shelley Jackson Denham

Piano Brian Kenny, posted by Mike Menefee (3 December, 2020)

Twelve Sleeps

December 13th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #226 People, Look East
Words: Eleanor Farjeon, 1881-1965, used by perm. of David Higham Assoc. Ltd.
Music: Traditional French carol, harmony by Martin Shaw, 1875-1958, used by perm. of Oxford University Press

Interpreted by Julia Stubbs (11 December, 2020)

For All Ages The Story of Hanukkah by Jeremy Frank Read by Peter Jacobson

Pause – A Bit of Recent History – First Pfizer Covid vaccine given to British patient – The Guardian

Sermon – Twelve Sleeps – Rev. Rod


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

Perhaps one of the most popular ways for kids to count down to something – be it a birthday, the last day of school, a class trip… or Christmas – is by sleeps.  Today we can say “twelve sleeps to Christmas!”

It’s a clever system – it gets around the ambiguity that comes when counting by days… if I say twelve days to Christmas, does that include today?  Does that include Christmas day?  Is it twelve days inclusive?  And inclusive of which days… starting when?

Counting by sleeps does away with that – you go to bed tonight… and after you do that twelve times, you wake up to Christmas!

There is a lot of counting down these days.  During Advent, there is Christmas, of course.  After Christmas, many folks are ready to count down the sleeps to January 1st, 2021 – eager to be done with the year 2020.  [In the United States, and other places, some folks are counting down the days to January 20th.]  Last week, we might have been counting down the days till a Covid vaccine was approved, now it’s a countdown to when it will be rolled out – a government official phrases it as “V minus 3” (three days to the vaccine rollout) – we might call it, “two sleeps”.

As those efforts take place, we might be counting the days to a time when regular in-person meetings sound more reasonable and routine.  It gets a bit tricky, since exactly when that day might be isn’t entirely clear, but it’s increasingly sounding like it might be less than three hundred and sixty-five sleeps.  Some folks these days will be looking to see when the Windsor-Essex Gray Zone designation gets lifted, and count down in anticipation.

There is something about counting down that builds up expectation.  And sometimes, that can help in creating a sense of hope – looking forward to something, which often brings a measure of pleasure, even when the expected day, or moment, hasn’t yet arrived.  In some ways, it’s a way of extending – maybe even multiplying – the joy of an occasion, when we know the time remaining for it.

Now, I’ve spoken before about the notion of anticippointment – which can perhaps be cynically described as expecting some degree of… pre-emptive disappointment, lest the expected moment not live up to expectations, and in some way immunizing us from a bigger letdown.  A more… health-oriented definition could be worded more simply as an exercise in managing expectations.

That happens sometimes with the holidays.  After the right number of sleeps, Christmas or New Year’s Day arrives, and… it somehow doesn’t always live up to the hype.  Sometimes, it’s the days leading up to it that seemed to hold the bulk of the magic.

One of the sad news this week, was the announcement that aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager died.  He was the first person to travel faster than sound.  As his life was being celebrated, news outlets recalled the time that, in speaking about his experience of that significant moment – when he broke the sound barrier – Yeager found it to be a rather… underwhelming moment.  He’s quoted as describing it as “a poke through Jell-o”, and that he somehow did not seem to feel particularly different than before he was slower than sound.

He was, of course, glad that nothing more significant happened – it mostly meant he was safe – during a mission where many things could have gone wrong.  But the moment when he first flew faster than sound was mostly just another moment in the long journey of training, preparation, excitement, frustration, and anticipation, toward that goal.  That’s what he lived for in the months and years leading to Mach 1 – he lived for the days that led to just another day in the process – even if some days are marked as more significant than others.

Perhaps that’s the lesson about the sleeps that we might count toward those significant days in the future.  After all, part of the point of sleeping is waking up to a new day – another day in the journey.  Eventually some of those days will be marked more significant than others – maybe even historic.  But the days leading up to that day, are perhaps even more significant, in having built up the space for those special days.

My friends, we’ve witnessed the historical moment when Margaret Keenan, from Coventry, was the first patient to receive the Pfizer Covid vaccine in the UK last Tuesday – at which point she asked the nurse “is that it?”.  In Canada, a similar historic day may happen around this coming Tuesday.  But for the most part, those will be largely ordinary days for most of us.  We can still be excited about this, but not a lot will change in our daily lives on that particular day.  There will still be several weeks, or months – several sleeps – of anticipation.  But those days, and the sleeps in between will be important, as our situation slowly changes… quite possibly for the better.

And hidden along that story, my friends, are those significant days that led up to these recent special days.  As soon as the virus was sequenced about a year go, a lot of work came together very quickly to lead to the celebration in Coventry last Tuesday, and in the coming days.  In fact, Margaret Keenan was not the first person to receive the Pfizer vaccine… she was simply the first to do so as a patient.  Thousands of clinical trial volunteers had already received it months before, in otherwise unremarkable days – many days, and many sleeps, when much of the most significant advances were made, on days that are mostly unknown to us.

And so, my friends, it is unlikely that there will be a specific day when we can say, “there, the pandemic is over, and everything changes as of… now”.  Even if a declaration by health authorities is made on a particular day, it is likely that, just like an overhyped New Year’s Day, not a lot will look different from the immediate days before or after.  It will be the build-up to those days, and the sleeps in between, that will really matter.

My friends, it will be the anticipatory time of this great advent of the coming months, that will really make the difference.

And so, my friends, may we welcome each of those sleeps, and each of the mornings that follow them.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #409 Sleep, My Child
~)-| Words: Adapt. by Alicia S. Carpenter, 1930- , © 1990 Alicia S. Carpenter
Music: Welsh melody, c. 1784

Interpreted by the St. Thomas of Villanova Parish Laetate Ringers (14 September, 2020)

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.

Power Dynamic

December 6th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #360 Here We Have Gathered
~)-| Words: Alicia S. Carpenter, 1930- , © 1979 Alicia S. Carpenter
Music: Genevan psalter, 1543
Tune OLD 124th
Vocals (Choir) and Instrumental (Piano)

Offered by the Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco (May 3, 2020)
My-Hoa Steger, pianist; Asher Davison, Brielle Neilson and Mark Sumner, songleaders

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

Today is December 6, marking 31 years since the École Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal, and urging us to recognize the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Last week the Caldwell First Nation received approval for a land reserve.  This land has been in the certification process for 10 years, and the Caldwell First Nation has been seeking to have their treaty rights recognized for 200 years.

And we can share in cautious optimism as multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates, with high efficacy, are now beginning to be approved around the world, with phased rollouts in the horizon. Along with the unprecedented efficiency in their development, we also recognize that many people will not have access to them for several months.

Holding the realities of the world, we also recognize the value in giving witness to the joys and the sorrows that are present in our personal lives, including those that aren’t voiced, remembering that in our larger community, none of us is alone.

Hymn #130 O Liberating Rose
~)-| Words: Mark L. Belletini, 1949- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
~)-| Music: Larry Phillips, 1948- , © 1984 Larry Phillips

Offered by the First Unitarian Church of Chicago (Music Director: Jeff Hamrick) (14 June, 2020)

Sermon – Power Dynamic – Rev. Rod


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

Towards the end of my last year of seminary, a few years ago now, a group from my cohort was tasked with organizing our closing worship ceremony.  The cohort invited folks from all the colleges of the ecumenical school to be part of the closing worship team, representing the United Church, the Presbyterians, and the Anglicans, as well as taking care to invite me, representing the Unitarian Universalist perspective.  It was a bit like one of those jokes, though it was really an established practice to work together, in all seriousness.

At our meetings, I remember feeling quite satisfied with a sense of inclusion and representation – we had members from four denominations, with ages ranging from millennial to boomer, embodying racial and ethnic diversity, with folks identifying three sexual orientations, and at least two genders.  I thought we had done it – living the dream of collaborative inclusivity.

As we were settling on the details of the Order of Service and the content of worship materials, I made a suggestion for one of the elements of the service.  The precise details are a bit fuzzy now, and aren’t particularly important, but suffice it to say that it comprised a slightly more… experimental approach to one of the biblical readings.

After some silence, each of my peers in the planning team offered support for it and consented to try out my suggestion.  In truth, I could sense that there was some… unspoken trepidation about my idea, and that they weren’t fully comfortable with it, but the group nonetheless formed a consensus, giving the go-ahead for it.  And, while I had picked up on the hesitance to adopt my recommendation, I did not feel at the time that it was my responsibility to advocate for others’ opinions.  If they had voiced their dissent, I told myself, I would listen to it and see about working something out, but since they hadn’t spoken against it, I decided to simply take them at their word.  The matter was closed.

Or so I thought.  A day or so later, I got an e-mail in my inbox.  One of my peers wrote that she and the rest of the women had held a follow-up conversation and voiced to each other their discomfort with my suggestion and were wondering if I’d reconsider.

I admit I was initially taken aback.  First, the notion that they’d had their own separate discussion – without me – seemed… unpalatable to me.  But then, a second shock took over – when I reread the e-mail and noticed that she had written: “me, and the rest of the women…”

It was only then that it dawned on me that all the other members of the team were women – and that I was, in fact, the only man.  Only then did I consider that their original hesitancy to object to my suggestion might have something to do with gender dynamics.

Since they had, in fact, now voiced their objection, quite unanimously, I reconsidered my suggestion and withdrew it (and there were other parts of the service where my contributions had been welcome).

But I still felt uneasy about how that other conversation had played out, and noticed how inadequate I felt at how I had handled it – feeling that I had missed something important in how I worked with my teammates.

I followed up with one them, to see if she would help me understand.  This new conversation was no longer about worship planning, but about the gender factor in our team’s dynamic.

She was gracious enough to listen to my questions and offer some of her time to educate me – I imagined she sensed that I was open to listen to her perspective.

She acknowledged that she, along with her female peers, had been socialized to hold back on their opinions – especially when it would mean countering a man’s position.  And in holding their own caucus as women, they’d found the confidence among each other, first, to voice, acknowledge, and validate their opinions to each other, and then, to voice them to me.

This is something that I technically already knew.  At some level, I understood that there was a power dynamic in play among genders.  But it somehow felt abstract… a historical footnote in the struggle for gender equality, that now – in the future that was 2012 – somehow did not really matter any more.  Except that it did.  And only when I saw it play out in real time, did I more fully understand, what that power dynamic meant.

My colleague said something else that has also stayed with me.  In addition to how I might consider how women had been socialized, she asked me if I had considered not just the fact that they were women, but that I was, in fact, a man.

I had not.

Since then, I have been learning to understand that – whether I realize it or not – I often wield more power than I might think, simply by virtue of the gender I present with, the moment I walk through the door.  I might not intend to use that power in any detrimental way, but my words and actions may still pack more weight than those of others.

This includes the understanding that the cultural socialization does not stop with my women peers, but has also shaped my assumptions about how I’m supposed to be and how others are supposed to perceive me, including the expectation that what I say is less likely to be second-guessed. (And certainly, as an ordained and called minister, there are legitimate reasons why people might want to pay attention to what I say – and still, I’m aware that I must always take the gender factor into account.)

This realization has also called me to re-evaluate many of my interactions with women in the past, when I might have thought my words or actions were innocent enough, or at worst, playful joking among friends, when they might in fact have been something worse – disrespectful, hurtful, harmful, perhaps even toxic.

In many cases, it is hard to know for sure, but I know that some of the ways I’ve behaved in the past are not ways that I would find acceptable now.  And of course, the work is never fully done – be it growing in self-awareness, or calling out toxic and harmful behaviours in others.

And that’s a call to many of us.  Today is the National Day of Action on Violence Against Women.  It is a very specific set of words, each one with very direct meanings.  The one that I’d particularly like to call attention to is Action.

And while women are named – and remembered – in this day of action, it is not a day directed exclusively at women.  On the contrary, it is an invitation – an imperative – for men to be part of the solution toward reducing gender-based violence.  And we do that acknowledging that women and people with other gender identities are disproportionately harmed when men don’t hold themselves, and each other, accountable.

The aim isn’t to feel guilty about our genders or debate which one is best or the most virtuous.  The goal is to renew a commitment to grow into awareness about who we are and what that can mean, to grow in understanding that the power dynamic among genders is not a mere historical artifact, but a mechanism that continues to affect real people, in real time.

Among the sobering statistics of the pandemic is a surge in reports of people – most often women – at increased danger in abusive households.  Even though the École Polytechnique Massacre happened in Montreal thirty-one years ago, we continue to see examples of the effects of toxic masculinity in our immediate time (and I’m not talking about masculinity in general, but specifically toxic masculinity).  The Toronto Van Attack and the Toronto Danforth Shooting, both in 2018, both seem to draw inspiration from misogynist sources.  In our year 2020, the Nova Scotia attacks and the Toronto Machete Attack also have a connection with gender-based violence.  And without excusing their behaviour, it is worth noting that many of the male attackers also struggled with a sense of inadequacy in their maleness – exposing a reality that patriarchy hurts everyone (and that might be a conversation for another time).

My friends, these are the most graphic examples, but the difficult and ongoing realities of the imbalance in the power dynamic among genders are manifest in many more, and much more mundane, everyday examples.  As I have witnessed to in my experience with my worship teammates in seminary, even the most intentionally inclusive and open-minded settings are not immune to the spectre of patriarchy sneaking up, when one is not actively aware of how the power dynamic among genders can be unexpectedly unbalanced.

My friends, we are called to do that work, as a covenantal community seeking ongoing personal and collaborative growth.  To make space when we realize we already take more space than we thought, and invite others to take that space, especially those among us who have been accustomed to give it up.

My friends, may our prophetic imperative to justice, guide us toward a deeper understanding toward harmony, and truer balance among all of us.  My friends, we have work to do – may we take it on.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #125 From the Crush of Wealth and Power

~)-| Words: Kendyl L. R. Gibbons, 1955- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Peter Cutts, 1937- , © 1969 Hope Publishing Co.

Interpreted by John Thomas, baritone soloist, posted by Dan Inglis (16 July, 2020)

Reflections on Being a Universalist

November 29th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

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

Interpreted by Julie Stubbs

Reflections on Being a Universalist – Dr. Jane Innerd


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

This November we are celebrating the 140th anniversary of the beginning of our congregation.  As part of this year’s celebration I was asked to bring the history of the Church up to date and in doing so had the opportunity to think about my own Universalist heritage and the Church of my youth.  Here at Olinda the land for our Church building was given to the congregation by Big Mike Fox who was a local farmer.  Mr. Fox had been interested in the Universalist idea of salvation for everyone, for at least twenty years before our congregation was founded.  During that time, he and Mrs. Fox distributed Universalist literature locally which they obtained from a publisher in Utica, New York.  They were greatly taken with the idea of a loving God who would not condemn anyone to hell for eternity.  However, at that time the largest Church in Essex County, the Baptist, did not agree with this point of view. The Baptist, in the words of a local citizen, “with renewed vigor, sought to counteract [Universalist] influence by a more literal presentation of an endless hell and kindred doctrines.”

Olinda was founded by converts to this Universalist message of a loving God.  There is some confusion about what the Church was called for its first years but the most likely name was The Church of Our Saviour, thus indicating that the founders considered themselves to be Christian, probably believing in Jesus as the Son of God.  As befitting a Christian Church, Olinda has a communion tray with small glasses now kept in storage.  In the forty years I have been a member here, this tray was used only once when Rev. Martha Munson had a communion service with modern words.  It was not popular.

I remember taking communion with modern words in the Universalist Church I “grew up in” in West Hartford, Connecticut.  That Church was then called The Church of the Redeemer, Universalist.  Like Olinda its name denoted a connection to its Christian foundation.  The Church of the Redeemer is a large brick building with two huge impressive white columns in front and a tall steeple.  The interior is plain as befitting a New England Church, with tall Gothic windows not unlike ours, only much larger.  On the wall behind the pulpit was a large painting in muted colours of a young Jesus sowing seeds.  I wonder if it is still there now because the congregation has moved far beyond this close connection to Jesus.  It is now called the Unitarian Universalist Church of West Hartford.

For thirty-five years the Minister of my Church was Rev. Dr. Wallace Grant Fiske.  He was what I think of as an old time Universalist speaker, like Mr. Thompson the one time I heard him speak here at Olinda.  Rev. Fiske had a broad education and could quote or reference widely from literature.  Although nominally a Christian Church at that time, it was very liberal and belief in Jesus as the son of God, or even belief of a living God, was not required for membership.  Therefore Rev. Fiske was not allowed to be a member of the Council of Christian Churches in the Hartford area.

I was in the Youth Fellowship. We met Sunday afternoons at 5pm for a three-hour meeting.  The first hour was choir rehearsal because the Youth Fellowship was the choir for the early, 9am Sunday Service.  Then we had a pot luck dinner organized by the Mothers of our group of around 30 High Schoolers, and then a meeting.  As a choir member for four years while I was in High School, from the Choir Loft at the back of the Church, I heard many, many sermons.  After High School I lived with my honorary Grandparents and attended Hartford College for Women.  My Granny and I sang in the Adult Choir for the 11am service.  Two more years of sermons!  It was quite an education.

“Love is the Doctrine of this Church.”  That was the beginning of the avowal of faith that we said in unison every Sunday morning.  I remember that Love was frequently the subject of Dr. Fiske’s sermons.  He talked about love in our families, our communities and our world.  He talked about what love is, what it means to love and why it is so important.  He delivered sermons on other important topics such as charity, forgiveness, hope and the UU principles, but it seems to me that Love was a frequent topic.  In my mind I can still hear him say “and the greatest of these is Love.”

As was common in his day, Rev. Fiske occasionally referred to the Bible in his sermons and often used a quotation from the Bible for the Reading.  The Bible quotation, of course, was relevant to the subject of the sermon.  It did mean that I heard a lot of readings from the Bible and also how the verses could be interpreted for a 20th Century audience.  I cannot remember any time when Dr. Fiske mentioned the word hell.  His sermons were about this life and how to live morally, happily, responsibly.  His literary quotations were always apt and interesting.  The Church prospered because Rev. Fiske was such a good speaker.

One outcome of all this Universalist “education” came in handy in High School.  I attended a girls’ school.  Our Headmistress arranged for a Professor from nearby Wesleyan University to come once a week in our Junior Year to instruct us in the Old Testament.  Then in our Senior Year a different Professor came to lecture on the New Testament.  By the end of our Senior Year, all thirty-four of us were exhausted with applying to Universities and getting ready for our final High School exams.  So, when the Professor announced a final exam for our New Testament course, there were groans in the classroom.  One of the girls asked if everyone had to take the exam.  After a moment or two the Professor said that anyone with an A in the course would be exempt.  During the year we had had homework on passages from the New Testament.  We were asked to interpret or explain quotations. I did not find this difficult, after all I had had a lot of instruction from sitting in the Choir Loft.  There were five of us who were exempt: me, the only Universalist in the class, my friend Priscilla, the only Unitarian, and the three Jewish girls.  I love to tell this story.  All the Christian girls took the final exam.

In 1961 I voted for the Unitarian Universalist merger and instantly became a Unitarian Universalist but my roots are in Universalism.  When I left West Hartford, other things happened in my life and I did not regularly attend another Church until I came to Olinda forty years ago.  However, I carried my Universal heritage with me, the benefit of all those sermons.  Of great importance for me during that interval were the Unitarian Universalist Principles, especially the first one, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  I went to University in North Carolina which I told my northern friends was like going to a foreign country and then I lived in England for four years, another foreign country.  In both places I was at first adjusting to people who spoke the same English language but whose thoughts and beliefs had quite a different basis.  But my Universalist belief in the worth and dignity of everyone gave me a touchstone for my own behaviour.  To treat other people with dignity because they have value, I realized at a young age, was how I should behave because I am the only person whose behaviour I can control, no matter who I am with or where I am in the world.

How does a religion control behaviour, you might ask.  Well, one way is to threaten punishment for bad behaviour.  In Christianity that means one’s whole life is judged at death and for a failing grade the possibility of eternity in hell.  We Universalists, like Mr. and Mrs. Mike Fox, believe in a loving God, if we believe in a God at all, and so the possibility of eternity in hell does not motivate us.  However, it is interesting to know that our Universalist idea of eventual salvation is a very old idea.  One of the earliest Christian theologians, Origen, who lived from the year 185 to 253 CE, believed in universal salvation, that all souls would eventually go to heaven. He believed that going to hell first was temporary, a time and place to purify souls to make them ready for heaven.  For this he was declared a heretic.

I think that we Universalists like to think that we have had an influence on Christianity, softening its stance that hell is for eternity.  But here is a recent statement by a Christian Minister in his rebuttal of Universal salvation.  He says “[t]he New Testament explicitly denies Universalism.  Our Lord Jesus speaks repeatedly about the reality of hell, about the gravity of judgment, and about the eternity of hell, that the fire does not go out, that the darkness never ends.”

Even as a child I did not like the idea of a God who was watching over my shoulder and judging all my thoughts and actions.  I guess I was always an agnostic or atheist, meaning for me that I was just not interested.  And I am surprised when I talk with Christians who believe in a literal place of punishment.   I did not grow up with that particular fear.  It is a great motivation if you believe in hell but also, I think, destructive if it engenders fear of a vengeful God and fear of judgment.  Everyone makes mistakes.  We live in a complex world, a world not of right and wrong but instead a world of a huge number of possible choices.  The best we can do is to try to make the best decision possible at the time, to try to be a good family member, good student, good citizen, good worker or good at whatever it is we do. This life has its pleasures and rewards and also regrets and even remorse but for a Universalist not the fear of everlasting punishment.

A few years ago, when I was visiting friends in West Hartford, I visited the Church of my youth.  Inside the sanctuary I climbed up the narrow stairway into the Choir Loft.  As I looked around, I felt thankful for the opportunity I had to hear many, many Universalist sermons, sermons which were focused on this life and on the Unitarian Universalist Principles which have helped me to navigate, as best I can, in the circumstances that have come my way.

Amen and Blessed Be.

Copyright © 2020 Jane A. Innerd

Closing Hymn #134 Our World Is One World
Words & Music: Cecily Taylor, 1930- , © 1988 Stainer & Bell, Ltd., all rights reserved, used by perm. Of Galaxy Music Corporation
Music arr. by Richard Graves, 1926- , © 1988 Stainer & Bell, Ltd.

Interpreted by Cecily Taylor

December 2020 Newsletter

November 27th, 2020 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

TFW (That Feeling When…)

November 22nd, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #57 All Beautiful the March of Days
~)-| Words: Frances Whitmarsh Wile, 1878-1939
Music: English melody, arr. by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958
used by perm. of Oxford University Press

Interpreted by the First Presbyterian Church Oneonta Virtual Service – Posted by Kim Paterson

For All Ages – The Ecstasy of Gold – Ennio Morricone, interpreted by Carolina Eyck on Theremin

Carolina Eyck offers an ecstatic performance of one of the haunting themes from the movie The Good, The Bad and the Ugly by looping her voice and accompanying on theremin – the touchless electronic instrument.

And if you’re interested in learning more about the theremin, Hank Green explains it on SciShow – The Physics of the Weird and Wonderful Theremin

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

Today we are invited to give witness to some of the events from around the world, which remind us that what touches one affects us all.

  • Friday Nov. 20 was the International Trans Day of Remembrance, to commemorate and memorialize trans people who have been victims of violence as a result of transphobia.
  • Thursday Nov. 19 was World Toilet Day – and while this may sound whimsical, bringing awareness of sanitation (and the lack thereof) is a serious matter that affects billions of people worldwide.
  • This morning, we keep in mind the people of Central and South America, as Hurricane Iota has made landfall in Nicaragua and has affected people across the Americas.
  • And we can share optimism that Covid-19 vaccines are being shown to have high efficacy and their rollout is in the horizon.

Holding the realities of the world, we also recognize the value in giving witness to the joys and the sorrows that are present in our personal lives – to recognize, commemorate, and celebrate special moments, or landmarks in our lives.

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

The Community Church of Chapel Hill

Sermon – TFW (That Feeling When…) – Rev. Rod


Read: [Print-ready PDF file for download]

As we’ve been online for a while, I’ve been sprinkling some “internet-speak” expressions on our sermon titles – the kinds of shorthand that you might find on social media, or those standard abbreviations that you might use when texting on a cell phone.  This month, I’m going to talk about the initials TFW.

Now, I should note that these three particular letters can indeed be used in three distinct orders in “internet-speak” – and each of those abbreviations have distinctly different meanings… so I don’t recommend mixing them up!  For instance, the order FTW can mean “For the Win!”, as in, “Meeting together, apart – for the win!”.

There is also the infamous WTF, which… I won’t spell out here, because… this is a church.  But if you’re still curious, I’m sure someone in your family can clarify its meaning.

Today, our winning combination is TFW – That Feeling When… (dot dot dot).

It’s often used in expressions that denote a strange, yet identifiable, feeling – often a situation that is awkward, such as “That feeling when… someone points out the parsley on your teeth – after coffee hour is over”.  It can also be used in an affirming way, as in “That feeling when… you come home from the field and get to take your boots off”.  And it can also include situations when there are… conflicting emotions, as in “That feeling when… you make your bed perfectly, and now must sleep in it, and ruin it all”.

Perhaps the phrase is so ubiquitous on social media because it is helpful in describing emotions that can be tricky to fully describe, yet we also know that they will be familiar to anyone who’s been in a similar situation.

This year has brought up a lot of “feels”.  In Canada, the past eight months have certainly been quite strange, yet many of us might share a lot of the same feelings about it, alongside the rest of the globe.

Many of us have named “that feeling when… March suddenly turned into November, but it still felt like ten years”

For many in our community, the last month has brought up a wide array of strange, yet commonly shared feelings.

On his opening monologue for Saturday Night Live, on Nov. 7, American Comedian David Chapelle remarked on that feeling he had four years ago… that feeling when the election didn’t go as he had hoped – as he remembered that time four years ago, he asked “remember how bad that felt?” and then he remarked about the present in the United States: “remember that half the country, right now, still feels that way”.  His was a reminder that everyone can hurt, even when it’s for different reasons.  That everyone can feel disappointment – grief and anger – perhaps even fear, when facing defeat.  And that those feelings can be a cue to work towards healing, to act graciously, and remain humble in success.  Because everybody feels.

Indeed, 2020 has probably offered us enough feelings to process for the rest of the decade.  And while some of these feelings might feel odd, or confusing, or simply… complicated, they are also… oddly normal.  And whatever bizarre emotions may be happening with us, as part of the shared reality of 2020, it can be comforting to know that others are sharing this reality with us, and that we are not alone in it.

There can be that feeling when… you see your community come together, stay together, be together – and hold each other.

Not only does sharing in a community allow us to navigate those strange feelings when reality feels odd, but it also allows us to acknowledge and celebrate those feelings when something remarkable happens.

Small, yet significant moments, such as that feeling when… music speaks to us, when art gives us chills, when skill gives way to awe.

I recently watched musician Carolina Eyck’s rendition of The Ecstasy of Gold (which is one of the themes from the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) playing it on the unusual instrument, the theremin.  Watching Carolina Eyck’s performance certainly gives me that feeling.  And our individual tastes might differ, so I can’t expect it did the same for all of you, but I suspect some of you might share in that feeling, when hearing her play something special.

Each of you will have encounters of beauty that bring you that same feeling.  And, what’s more, there will very likely be others who share that experience.  And even when it doesn’t come from the same experience, there will be others who experience that feeling, when someone’s skill can offer transcendence or ecstasy.

We can also share optimism in the midst of extensive hardship.

That feeling when… the end of the pandemic suddenly seems within grasp.

It’s a complicated feeling… a cautious feeling.  With multiple vaccine candidates on the way, yet likely months till all who need it can get access to it.  There can be a mixed sense of celebration, maybe even an anticipation of relief, alongside a grim anxiety that it may not be fast enough for everyone who is at risk, or everyone who is still struggling.

That feeling when… lightning speed can still be agonizingly slow.

And still, my friends, we can share those strange and complicated feelings when not everything makes sense, or when something special happens, or when we can look forward in anticipation, along with all the risks that lie ahead.  My friends, here we can name, together, that feeling when… life happens.

Because, my friends, we are not alone.  We are not alone in this community.  We are not alone in the wider communities that we are part of.  And we are not alone as beings that can experience… all the feelings.

And, my friends, we can also build those special experiences together.  We do that every Sunday, and whenever else we get together, even when apart.  To remind each other that: we get it, that we can get each other, that we can hold each other – when that feeling comes up.

And we can cultivate those times when that feeling can present itself, making space for special connection.

That feeling when… we worship together.

May we continue to build that space, for that feeling when… we embody the church.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #100 I’ve Got Peace Like a River
Words: vs. 1-3 Marvin V. Frey, 1918(?)-1992, © 1974 Marvin V. Frey,
vs. 4-6 Anonymous
Music: Marvin V. Frey, © 1974 Marvin V. Frey

Interpreted by the Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church

Sustaining Our Light

November 15th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

National Sunday Service hosted by the Canadian Unitarian Council

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