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 2020

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 for the next few Sundays. They will be replaced by new online materials and, as possible, 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)
Apr. 5 Rev. Rod ESQ PUBLIC SERVICE CANCELLED! Wuthering –  – when expectations suddenly change, a new way of thinking about the future can emerge. Baylis-Stone Trio
Apr. 12 Rev. Rod ESQ We Have the Technology! –  since before the internet, the telephone and telegraph allowed fast communication over vast distances.  Even post mail can bring people together around the world.  Whether lo- or hi-tech, connection prevails. Virtual Service with Zoom
Apr. 19 Bill Baylis The Overview Effect –  a profound experience often reported when Earth is seen from space. Virtual Service with Zoom
Apr. 26 Rev. Rod ESQ Essential –  the tricky question of what meets our most basic needs leads to the deeper question of what those needs are. Virtual Service with Zoom
May 3 Rev. Rod ESQ Hold –  In times of uncertainty, it is difficult to stay still… and yet, the wisdom of practices such as meditation is that we can sometimes do a whole lot
when we do less.
Virtual Service with Zoom
May 10 Rev. Rod ESQ The Time to Plant a Tree –  – Today, we benefit from the fruits of seeds that were planted before us – by parents, ancestors, founders. This opens much room for reflection… and opens up
the question – what can we plant today?
Virtual Service with Zoom
May 17 Rev. Norm Horofker Cross-Canada Sunday Service –  The host congregation for our national Conference, the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax, presents a live worship service for all of us across Canada. It spans several time zones, and we’ll be able to join at 12:30PM our time (Eastern). Join us on Zoom. Virtual Service with Zoom at 12:30 PM
May 24 Rev. Rod ESQ The Special Time –   Different times in history have been remembered by memorable names… sometimes, they only tell part of the story – other times, they tell many stories at once.
Virtual Service with Zoom
May 31 Neil Buhne Today’s Interconnected World –   discussing what is currently shared in the world in many ways – using examples from Asia and linking those to experience from Canada and elsewhere..
Virtual Service with Zoom
June 7 Rev. Rod ESQ For Your Service –  Our Church has always existed upon the foundation of shared service.  This tradition of mutual ministry continues into new spaces, as we recognize that each contribution is vital in upholding our interwoven web. Virtual Service with Zoom
June 14 Rev. Rod ESQ Parallel Timelines –  
Sometimes the reality we live in looks different than the one we had in mind.  The space in between these realities can bring about a range of emotions, and how we bridge the two can help us be better together in space and time.
Virtual Service with Zoom
June 21 Rev. Rod ESQ Thank You for the Music (Flower Ceremony) –  The value of beauty, wherever it may be, and however it may appear, includes the power to offer comfort, gratitude, and inspiration.  Rather than a frivolous frill, an appreciation for the beauty around us can be the key to a more deeply meaningful life.  We can celebrate this power in our yearly Flower Ceremony.  (Send pictures of flowers by June 15, to share at our service!)
Virtual Service with Zoom
June 28 Daniel Blaikie, MP for Elmwood-Transcona, MB Annual Howard Pawley service: The transformative Impact of the Coronavirus –   a Canadian Perspective on Desirable Socio-Economic Changes
Virtual Service with Zoom
July 26 24 tba TBA- Virtual Service with Zoom

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


Today’s Interconnected World (Neil Buhne)

May 31st, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening 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
Tune SLANE

Interpreted by Daniel Wiebe


Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

It is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives. Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

As we think about our own stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, we are also mindful of stories from around the world, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

This week, we recognize racism in our society, keeping in mind the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. While this incident occurred in the United States, we are aware that racism is also prevalent in our country, and we are all called to action in acknowledging and dismantling it.

Offering

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

I remind you to Please beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through another means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic. Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”. When in doubt, ask someone who you trust. Let us take care of each other!

Reflection – Today’s Interconnected World – Neil Buhne

Watch:

Read:

http://uuolinda.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Olinda-Buhne-Interconnected-Post.pdf

Thank you – it is a privilege to be among you this morning.  I heard about the Olinda church back when I was 6 or 7 and went to the UU fellowship up the road in Windsor.  Going to that Sunday school, thanks to my Mum and Dad,  helped me to learn values that still motivate me and which I still try to aspire to fulfil.   I have thought back to those values since I became involved from beginning February in the work of the United Nations in the difficult job of diminishing the effects of the corona virus on peoples and community’s health and well-being.  I am always reminded of  the relevance of what I absorbed then to the universal challenge all people now face – to differing degrees.

Universal in that the virus affects everyone everywhere, regardless of nationality, of gender, or religion, starting in China, with Thailand where I am speaking from  the second country with a recorded case,  and there are people affected in all the places I have lived, Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, other places and even now  in Kingville/Leamington.

Universal.. but to differing degrees. In India, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia and the Philippines the challenges are still very big -as COVID  is still spreading,   But in places like Vietnam (zero), Japan,  Taiwan, S. Korea, Bhutan and Thailand, the disease has much less effect.

But how it affects people is different too. Here in  Thailand in a country almost twice as big as Canada less than 60 people have died since beginning February – Canada has had nearly 7,000 death. But the economic and social effects may end up being more in a country in which tourism is vital and trade crucial.  So fortunately, there are many less people who have died or had their lives turned upside down by illness…- but there are homeless  and hungry people where there were none before.  This is an issue here – but where I was living before in Pakistan or its neighbors India  and Bangladesh – hundreds of million who had slowly  pulled themselves out of poverty have quickly fallen back; with all the hardships associated with that.

Five  years ago,  the world committed itself to 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be met between 2015 to 2030 – fundamentally to leave no behind.   Despite Asia being the fastest region to economically grow – progress was slower already  in early 2020 on most of the goals.  Ironically, the ones where there was the most progress the last years:  education and health and progress on reducing poverty,  are the ones most at risk now of falling back. 

So why is the effect different on countries and on different groups of people so much?   What is the same – is that the most vulnerable are made more vulnerable: the migrant informal work in Mumbai India, the partly employed middle aged black man living in the Cass corridor near first UU in Detroit.      The frustration at this injustice can have other effects – the destruction from frustrated demonstrators – even just 50 km from here in Detroit – has roots in frustration at  being left behind. (excluded from salvation).  This includes being left behind on how the justice system treats them – but accentuated by more middle- aged black men and women dying from COVDI and losing their job.  How countries help or don’t help their move vulnerable is shaping the differences among countries (and within countries) now.

So it is a bleak situation.  – But it need not be. When Michael Fox founded UU Olinda -it was just a few months from the massacre of the Donnelly family 200 km NW – killings based on intolerance, misplaced righteousness and jealousy. This was  followed  months later by a ferry sinking near London killing 182 people   It was brave of him to found a church based on rejecting  the doctrine of eternal punishment. As you know – the  Universalists believed in a God who embraced everyone, and this eventually became central to their belief that lasting truth is found in all religions, and that dignity and worth are innate to all people regardless of sex, color, race, or class.

What was believed by those people in Olinda in  1881 would be consistent with the basic reasons the UN was founded in 1945:

  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours

So you may think now…… what do the Black Donnelly’s and Michael Fox and the founding of the UN  have with the effects of COVID -19??  Neil must be tired  – late on a Sunday evening in Bangkok!

“Let me quote my boss, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres:

Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.

What the world needs now is solidarity.

With solidarity we can defeat the virus and build a better world.”

*******

How we apply that solidarity can unite us or can divide us more!

The UN – and others did warn about the effects of pandemic -especially after ebola and SARS. But the world  did  not act on this warning.  If there is good news it is in this case,  a situation that we can cope with  — and with persistence and goodwill and solidarity we can overcome it.

Unlike in 1881 – we have more tools in our box  to make it through  this: we can communicate, we do have science, we have the capabilities – we  just need the will to cooperate.  But that will  does not come out of  nowhere.  It comes in good part  from the values we have and how we apply them.

Values of community and solidarity have helped the Olinda UU community come through much in 120 years.    The will to act in solidarity is rational –  but it also  come from the values people have.

So these values  from 1881, are as relevant now as  they were  when this church was founded. And applying these values  can have an effect on this community and if applied by everyone – on the world.

One of the keys sources of the UU  principles is to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science.  When the church was founded,  in 1881 Louis Pasteur found the first vaccine.  Applying that science now to a vaccine and to treatment is crucial – but that openness to science and objective approaches is also key to dealing with the economic and social effects of the pandemic. (Thailand has been good in doing this..)

But as the SG says – as important is,  the value of solidarity – and  the principles that UN is based on, especially “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” and “Justice, equity and compassion in human relations”.

Societies with solidarity are societies where there is trust.  Studies – including those I learned about at the University of Windsor from 1978 to 1982 and also much more recently  –  show that  the presence of trust brings a wellspring of positive outcomes: Communities with a strong sense of trust are better able to respond to crises.  Trust is associated with stronger economic growth, increased innovation,  greater stability, and better health outcomes.

It is associated with better success in overcoming the virus – in Switzerland compared with France,  in Germany compared with the UK,  in South Korea compared with Italy, in Thailand compared with Indonesia and even in Canada compared with the USA.

So the values remain relevant, which helped create an enabling environment that permitted the hard work of my parents as immigrants to give me more chances. Such  values helped create a  relatively prosperous, empathetic (if still imperfect) society, a society that can deal with the virus – and use values drawn from Universalism  to better apply the tremendous capacities we now have to meet the global – universal – challenges that still remain: in the health response, in the humanitarian actions, and in the socio-economic response.

The UN SG Guterres recently said: “Let’s not forget this is essentially a human crisis. Most fundamentally, we need to focus on people – the most vulnerable.”

And to conclude with two quotations  from the former UN SG I knew the best, Kofi Annan.  They are relevant to the moment:

As long as inequality and other social problems plague us, populists will try to exploit them.

——

We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race

That quote  summarizes   what I believe  and which I first learned from UU and what is relevant to remember, and to feel, now.

Universal truths

Universal values

Science and objectivity informed by values..

When the church was founded…….local global…

Today…. Universal roots of spirit of what motivate Fox still relevant

Today SG…

Today – most successful – where there was community – where there was science – where there was value on human life

Need to be relevant..

Did not listen to warning  – but a warning we can cope with

Need to use those value to cope with  challenges that may be harder to cope with

But unlike 1881 – we can communicate, we do have science, we have the capabilities – we need the will – and will comes from reason but will also come from value

Relevant now almost 120 years since this church was founded

Where  the Asia region was  – and I was – in  the beginning of 2020.

What happened to people and societies in the regions since then.

What has worked and not worked.

What is different than in Canada.  What is the same as in Canada.

The roles of shared values,  of science, of community and of solidarity 

What next – is there a roadmap, or guide book?

Played on weaknesses and build on strengths…

he “Black” Donnellys were an Irish family who emigrated to Ontario. Five of the family were murdered by an armed mob in the township of Lucan Biddulph in February 1880 and their farm was burned down, the culmination of long-standing conflict between the family and other residents. No one was convicted of the murders, despite two trials.

  • May 24 – The overloaded steamer Victoria’ capsizes on the Thames River near London, Ontario, killing 182 people.

The Universalists believed in a God who embraced everyone, and this eventually became central to their belief that lasting truth is found in all religions, and that dignity and worth are innate to all people regardless of sex, color, race, or class.

—————–

  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours

——————

Finally, when we get past this crisis — which we will — we will face a choice.

We can go back to the world as it was before or deal decisively with those issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crises.

Our roadmap is the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to a different economy.

Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.

What the world needs now is solidarity.

With solidarity we can defeat the virus and build a better world.

Thousands of people working in the shadows of the Swiss economy lost their jobs overnight in March, as hotels, restaurants and families fired their undocumented cleaners and maids in response to a lockdown enforced by the central Swiss government.

Unable to draw on state support, most were then forced to rely on charity to survive. Ultimately, that demand led volunteers and city officials to set up a weekly food bank at the ice-hockey stadium near the river.

After years of attempting to infect animals, he announced that he had developed a means of protecting sheep against anthrax – by neutralising the virulence of baccilus anthracus and then injecting this into the animals – but few believed him. He was asked to prove his claim by a public demonstration, and immediately accept the challenge. Although there is agreement that Pasteur inoculated a number of animals with his vaccine on 31 May 1881, and the demonstration took place at a farmyard in Pouilly le Fort near Melun, France on 2nd June, different accounts have related the numbers, and species of animals used.

Choose the civilizing way…

Research shows that the presence of trust brings a wellspring of positive outcomes: Communities with a strong sense of trust are better able to respond to crises.1 Trust is associated with stronger economic growth,2 increased innovation,3 greater stability,4 and better health outcomes.5

  1. 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Meanwhile, citizens of Europe’s high-trust countries have had it relatively easy. Germany has had little confrontational policing. The Netherlands implemented what it terms an “intelligent lockdown”, closing schools and restaurants but allowing socialising with up to three visitors. There are no limits on circulating outdoors other than staying 1.5 metres apart. Mark Rutte, the prime minister, says people are “treated as adults, not as children”.

As for Sweden, it has no lockdown at all. Schools and restaurants are open, though citizens are advised to avoid non-essential travel. “We use the phrase ‘freedom under responsibility’,” says Lars Tragardh, a Swedish historian. On Mr Hale’s index Sweden and Germany were the only eu countries that never reached maximum stringency.

The Swedes and Dutch are following government recommendations: mobility is down by about 40%, according to Google data. But in France and Italy it is down about 80%. Worryingly, Dutch and Swedish covid-19 mortality rates outstrip those in neighbouring countries. The Dutch death rate per head is almost four times that in Germany. Sweden’s is double that in Denmark, which has a tight lockdown.

This suggests that during epidemics trust is a double-edged sword. High-trust countries will probably do better economically, as they usually do. But in public-health terms, high trust may have lulled Dutch and Swedes into a false sense of security. For now, most are satisfied with their governments’ responses. But so are most Romanians. Perhaps that will help to close Europe’s trust gap. ■

Copyright © 2020 Neil Buhne

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.
CHERNOBYL

Interpreted by Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert and Sandra Hunt from the Unitarian Church of Montreal (Lyrics in the videos description – click “Show More”)


Cross-Canada Service (17 May, 2020)

May 28th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

On May 17, 2020, about 1000 Unitarian Universalists joined in a virtual service shared across the country, and beyond. It was hosted by the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax and the Canadian Unitarian Council.

Watch and edited recording:

One Storm – Many Ships
Cross-Canada Service (17 May, 2020)


June 2020 Newsletter

May 28th, 2020 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!


The Special Time

May 24th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #63 Spring Has Now Unwrapped the Flowers
Words: Piae Cantiones, 1582
~)-| Music: Thomas Benjamin, 1940- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Tune BLACKBURN

Performed by:
Choir Director – Mike Menefee
Brian Kenny – Piano
Vocals and Vocal arrangement – Alena Hemingway
For Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship during COVID19 closure

1 Spring has now unwrapped the flowers, day is fast reviving,
life in all her growing powers t’ward the light is striving.
Gone the iron touch of cold, winter time and frost time,
seedlings working through the mold now make up for lost time.

2 Herb and plant that, winter long, slumbered at their leisure,
now be stirring green and strong, find in growth their pleasure.
All the world with beauty fills, gold the green enhancing;
flowers make glee among the hills, set the meadows dancing.



Time for All Ages – Planting & Gardening

One activity that folks do both for paid work and as a hobby is gardening. Here is an introduction to the basics of plant growth

How Does A Seed Become a Plant? – SciShow Kids

And here is a fuller description by a young gardener, on how she grew her own salad!

How to Start a Garden | Gardening for Kids
by Samiah Rose Knows



Meditation on Joys & Sorrows
In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason. Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed hundreds of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives. Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

As we think about our own stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, I will mention some stories from around the world, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

This week, we keep the people of Pakistan in mind, as a plane crash has resulted in the deaths of 97 people. There are at two survivors. We keep our thoughts with the dead, the living, and with all mourners.

At the same time, there is space for rejoicing tonight, which is Eid al-Fitr, when Muslims around the world and in our neighbourhoods share in a ritual breaking of the fast at the end of the month of Ramadan.

Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz, from the Saskatoon Unitarians, shared this message of hope as a response to vandalism to several churches in Saskatoon, which had homophobic graffiti scrawled on them earlier this month. This video was made in collaboration with folks from Anglican and United churches, which were also affected, to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

There is a soothing song about halfway through the video!

message of hope 2020 – Saskatoon Unitarians – 10:56





Meditation Hymn #108 My Life Flows On in Endless Song
W: Traditional, Verse 3 by Doris Plenn
M: Robert Lowry, 1826-1899
Tune SINGING

Sung by Rivers of Grass Unitarian Universalist Congregation Choir




Offering
Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home. Details are in our Newsletter.

I remind you to Please beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through another means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic. Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”. When in doubt, ask someone who you trust. Let us take care of each other!



Hymn #204 Come, O Sabbath Day
Words: After Gustav Gottheil, 1827-1903
Music: A. W. Binder, 1895-1966
Tune SABBATH

Tune performed by Cantor Erik Contzius, produced by the Society of Classical Reform Judaism

1 Come, O Sabbath day and bring
peace and healing on thy wing:
and to every weary one
let a word of blessing come:
thou shalt rest.
Thou shalt rest.

2 Welcome Sabbath! Let depart
Ev’ry care of troubled heart.
Now the daily task is done,
let a word of comfort come:
thou shalt rest.
Thou shalt rest.

3 Work and sorrow cast away!
Sabbath is for prayer and play.
With the rising of the sun,
let a cheering message come:
thou shalt rest.
Thou shalt rest.




Sermon – The Special Time – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read:

[Download print-ready PDF document]

If you ever talk to someone who lived in Cuba in the early 1990s, and they happen to share some of their story with you, you might hear something about a time called “The Special Period”.

This is the time soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Cuba lost much foreign economic support. The years 1992 to 1994 were the most markedly difficult for the Cuban population, with shortages of food, fuel, and infrastructure.

The official name for this time in Cuban history is “The Special Period in Time of Peace”. A perhaps cynical view of this name might be that it is a euphemism for a difficult and challenging time, when livelihoods and lives were at stake. I see a good deal of truth to that. And I also suppose that the significance of that time in history also reflects its status as “special”, since it marked significant shifts in Cuban society, its politics and economics, as well as its culture.

Among the many outcomes of The Special Period, was a significant shift in agriculture, as the sugar cash crop became less useful, and the country diversified to more fruits and vegetables, as well as methods that were less reliant on industrial agriculture techniques. The economy also shifted, with wider foreign partnerships, and renewed interest in its tourism industry. Ingenuity came about, out of necessity, and people figured out ways to collaborate in order to get to work, grow food, and stay in community.

It’d probably be inappropriate for me to assess whether the net effect of this time was positive or negative. While many of the shifts were helpful to a recovery that was less reliant on one major benefactor, it came at considerable cost to individuals’ quality of life, and major social unrest. There are mixed views on how The Special Period affected the population’s health – malnutrition left many people susceptible to diseases… at the same time, the diversification of food production, and a shift from a meat-heavy diet to one higher on fibre and complex carbohydrates, also appears to have led to drops in diet-related ailments, including type-2 diabetes and heart disease. This, of course, is inconclusive.


Now, I don’t know if we’ll call the current time we’re living through something other than “The 2020 Pandemic”. I’ve seen a few candidates around. Some folks are talking about “The Great Quarantine”, or “The Great Pause”. Over the past couple months, I’ve sometimes made the case for something like “The Great Revelation”, as we find an enhanced awareness of important issues in our time, which have become more sharply visible and more evidently critical. I don’t know that we’d call it “The Special Period”, but I suppose that, whatever we end up calling it, it may indeed qualify as a “special time”.


One of the more elusive effects of this special time has been the phenomenon that many people are having trouble keeping track of time. The calendars and clocks still work just fine, but our perception of time can often feel warped, as many of our routines have been disrupted. Sometimes, it can feel like time is both going slower and faster than usual, all at the same time. Any day of the week can easily become “Blurnsday the something of Maypril”.

And this can be true whether or not you find yourself having paid work at this particular time. If you find that you have… an excess of leisure, one day can easily meld into another, with a sense that time is still… until a month suddenly goes by. And if you’re currently in paid work, it is possible that the routine looks different, especially if you’re working from home, when it’s difficult to tell apart work and home spaces. A few weeks ago, I shared a video that offers some tools to help with that, but I want to go a bit deeper today.

Many monastic traditions have ways of keeping time in addition to clocks and calendars – using ways to embody time by giving each part of the day different meaning through specific activities. Since medieval times, what are called “books of hours” stipulated prayers for certain times of day, and each monastic order would have other duties during the day by which members could participate in the life of a monastery or convent. These ranged from cooking, to transcribing texts, to carpentry and masonry, to artwork, or from gardening and planting, to making cheese, or brewing beer.

Many of you have taken part in some kind of similar activity, either as your paid work, or as a way to unwind. Perhaps the most important aspect here is that those times can each be made special, either by what that activity offers others, or by what it offers you.

Now, setting aside the monastic model, there is an even more ancient tradition about making time special. In the Hebrew bible – the Tanakh – we find the tradition of the sabbath. In the Jewish tradition, that is counted from what is now Friday evening into the daylight hours of Saturday.

In the early Christian church, the sabbath got shifted to a day that commemorated the account of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth – Sunday. And the commandment remained – to rest and feast. The feasting aspect is so engrained that, for those who observe Lent, it is not permissible to fast on Sunday – each Sunday is a “mini Easter” when fasting is not permitted, and feasting is the rule (if you’ve ever noticed that there are more than 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, that is why – Sundays don’t count in the fast).

The meaning of the sabbath is both simple, and perplexing. The commandment is very straightforward: “Thou shalt rest”. But it starts getting tricky when we try to figure out: “what is rest?”

Even in biblical times there were disputes as to what constitutes “work” and what counts as “rest”. In the tradition of rabbinical debates, we might see questions on how to categorize something as work and something as rest. And in the New Testament, there are stories where the followers of Jesus are challenged by religious authorities in relation to contravening the sabbath. I won’t list the specific answers here, they’re not always clear, but the important part is that the conversation is ongoing.

So, for those of you who may currently have… what feels like an abundance of rest, it might be difficult to figure out how to sabbath.

Well, if we stay with the biblical source for a bit longer, we get some clues. Part of resting on the sabbath includes a provision for worship. Now, in our specific circumstances, the meaning of worship can sometimes have broad meanings, but I find it helpful to think of it as a time to consider – and give due regard – to what is most important… our values, our relationships, our communities. Things that are sacred, things that are special. A sabbath can be a special time to nurture our spirits.

So, if your current “problem” is that you have too much rest, then seeking a sabbath can mean finding ways to… take a rest from rest. Or perhaps finding a difference between leisure time and rest for the sake of renewal. That can mean seeking, and maybe even finding, activities that nurture your sense of what is special. Some of them might have affinity to the monastic examples I mentioned: gardening, cooking, reading or writing. I suspect you may have your own ideas of what is important to you and what might work as sabbath-ing.

And if you have an opposite situation, where paid work is there, or may have even increased, then seeking sabbath is, of course, just as important. Finding some time to do something other than your work, is a way toward a larger wholesomeness. It may mean having some time to get groceries, or connecting with family and friends. It could mean a hobby, another kind of work that is not your paid work, but a personal passion. It could mean finding time to play.

One of the things that strikes me from the different possibilities of sabbath-ing is the need to find a special time to let go of some responsibilities for a while, or perhaps take a shift in responsibilities. It could mean changing focus from the self to others, or from others to oneself. This might sound selfish, though, as I have observed before, I think it’s more useful to think of it as self-full – which is to say, finding a way to feel more wholesome, so we may better serve ourselves and each other.

Now, having a whole day – a sabbath day – is helpful, because it allows a good deal of time… special time, to really get into something that feels like rest – whatever that may be. But some of your lifestyles, or chosen professions, or other circumstances, might not allow for something as seemingly-indulgent as a whole day.

My friends, sabbath can still find a way. There is something we can call “sabbath moments” – special times that we can take throughout the day. Most kinds of work allow for breaks, and meal times. These can be sabbath moments. Or that hour or two after work, to watch that favourite show, or make a call, or devote to something that helps bring a larger wholesomeness to your being – that can also be a way of doing sabbath. The practice of meditation, is a way of bringing sabbath in discrete moments, with every breath.

Muslims have daily prayer practices, several times a day – times to take a break from whatever else is going on, and considering what is most important. And there are larger times that are also made special. As the month of Ramadan comes to a close tonight, that special time is also celebrated with the feasting of Eid – a time marked by the sighting of a crescent moon.

My friends, how you find, and how you seek special time, will be your own task to figure out, and carry out. And yes, finding rest can sometimes feel like work, and it is work well worth it – a responsibility for ourselves and others. For in finding the special time, we can allow ourselves to feel the deeper meaning of time.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel


Closing Hymn #113 Where Is Our Holy Church?
W: Edwin Henry Wilson, 1898-1993 ~)-| © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
M: Genevan psalter, 1551, adapt. By William Crotch, 1775-1847
Tune ST. MICHAEL

Performed by the Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church


The Time to Plant a Tree

May 11th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #409 Sleep, My Child

~)-|W: Adapt. by Alicia S. Carpenter, 1930- , © 1990 Alicia S. Carpenter
M: Welsh melody, c. 1784
AR HYD Y NOS 8.4.8.4.8.8.8.4

(Original Welsh and English lyrics interpreted by harpist Siobhan Owen)


Time for All Ages – Liberation of the Netherlands – Canadian Heritage Minute

On the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, a new Canadian Heritage Minute was created to commemorate the Liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian forces.

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason. Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed hundreds of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives. Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

As we think about our own stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, I will mention some stories from around the world, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

This week, we keep the people of Andrha Pradesh, India, in mind, as a chemical leak from an LG Plant has killed at least 13 people and injured thousands of others. The incident has eerie parallels with the chemical leak in Bhopal in 1984.

Closer to home we share in the grief of another shooting incident in our country.

This Sunday is also Mother’s Day in many countries. Mother’s Day can be a time for celebration for many, and it may also be painful time for others. As we recognize the contributions of mothers around the world, we also keep in mind all for whom this time is complicated, sometimes in ways that are not easy to express.


Meditation Hymn #177 Sakura

~)-| Words: Japanese folk song. English words by Edwin Markham, 1852-1940
Music: Japanese folks song
SAKURA 6.7.7.7.7.6.6.

(Interpreted by Karen Miller)

#UUA & #CUC #Olinda #SundayService #Music for #Meditation: It is Spring time and time to reflect on the beauty of…

Posted by Karen Andersen Miller on Sunday, May 10, 2020




Offering

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home. Details are in our Newsletter.

I remind you to Please beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through another means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic. Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”. When in doubt, ask someone who you trust. Let us take care of each other!



Reading – “The Old Man and the Fig Tree” – Talmud

In this a Talmudic story of an old man planting a new fig tree, we get interesting answers to the question of when it’s best to plant

https://www.uexpress.com/tell-me-a-story/2016/3/27/lesson-of-the-figs-a-tale


Sermon – The Time to Plant a Tree – Rev. Rod

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[Print-ready PDF available for Download]

There’s an expression used on the internet to describe when someone appears to speak modestly about themselves – maybe even in a self-deprecating way – even though they’re actually drawing attention to something that they’re proud of. This is called a “humblebrag”.

I’m going to share a bit about myself in a way that may sound like a humblebrag, but I hope is more of the opposite – something that sounds like I’m showing off, but is actually meant as an illustration of humility… a “brag-humble”?

I have shared before about my workout routine – a simple regime of four body weight exercises, and some running in place, where the only equipment required is a floor – and since I have a floor at home this works out fine (and if you’re curious, the source of this is a 1960’s booklet called The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness – it was a hand-me-down from my mom).

Now the reason that I’ve shared about this isn’t so that you can marvel at how fit your minister is, but to illustrate the fact that I started this by doing only a few repetitions – or reps – per day, maybe just a couple times a week at the beginning, and I gradually built myself up to dozens of reps, several times a week, over several weeks and months.

This is the lesson of “eating the chair”, whereby small, incremental steps lead to considerable progress over time – a story that I shared some months ago, in which a couple of college students ate a chair over several months, by filing it into sawdust with a rasp, and adding the dust to their salads and cereal, until they ate the whole chair… for kicks, and extra credit on their summer philosophy paper.

But there’s a hidden truth to this reality. Not only did this kind of workout routine that I… “brag” about build up from a few reps to a longer, more vigorous workout over time… but that small start also had to begin at some point. There was a time when I hadn’t exercised for a long time, and it sometimes felt like I had missed the boat. It took a conscious decision to start, knowing that, with a few reps at a time, I might not see any visible benefits to the routine for some time. The RCAF’s Fitness Guide even has an exhortation: Do not Delay! Start Today!

And there’s an even hidden-er truth to this, because I have actually fallen off of the workout wagon… several times. Maybe I’ve gotten sick and have had to take a break, or been travelling, or felt I was too busy with something else. And I’ve had to start again, incrementally.

And with that, I’ve found that one of the hardest things of starting, or starting again, is battling with the regret of having missed out on that time when I could have been doing that which I thought was good for me or for those around me. That deceptive regret that seems to whisper that there’s no use to doing anything now since we haven’t done it anyway – and what use will it be now?

Last week, I mentioned Pastor Charleen’s reflection that “comparison is the thief of joy”. She was mainly talking about when we compare ourselves to others, but it also applies to when we compare ourselves to ourselves. Be this comparing ourselves to our past selves, or to a self we wish we had been – and sometimes these are the toughest comparisons we make.

In the Talmud, there is a story of an old man planting a fig tree, and when the emperor sees him do this, the emperor asks the old man why he would plant a tree, since it’d be unlikely he’d have a chance to eat its fruit – the emperor tells him: “The time to plant it was in your youth”.

The old man gives a few answers – for one thing, he’s used to working and sees no need to stop, also… who knows? maybe he’ll just live a bit longer and taste the tree’s fruit after all. And in any case, even if he’s not around to taste the fruit of the tree, he’ll gladly leave it to his son, just as his father left him the fruits of his labour.

The story of the old man and the fig tree is sometimes summarized in the saying: the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago – the second best time is now.

The best time to have healthy habits is last year, or twenty years ago, or as a teen, or as a kid, or whenever it was that we weren’t doing it. The second best time is now. And with that approach, a lot is possible. A solid second best is much better than other alternatives, and that is good enough.

Now, this isn’t a Public Service Announcement to make you converts to The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness. Your situation, abilities, and personal goals will be different, but I imagine there are some things you wish you had started before, and would still like to carry out, but wonder if it’s really worth it. The lessons of the second best time to plant apply throughout.

When the pandemic was declared, and shelter-in-place orders kept us from meeting in person, I remember feeling regret that I hadn’t already secured a Zoom account for the church. But that regret wasn’t going to be very helpful in allowing us to continue our community with other options.

I was also blessed by having already had some experience using this platform as a Trustee on the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Board, which has been meeting on Zoom for several years. The seeds that had been planted by them, gave me some confidence in learning to host Zoom for our community of faith. This includes an ongoing learning curve, which you are now sharing with me, as we explore how this tool can help us reach all who wish to be part of it.

And that is another lesson from the story of the Old Man and the Fig Tree. A humility in recognizing that, what we have now comes from trees and seeds planted long ago, by people who we no longer have around, or by people we have never even met or heard about. And some of what we’re doing today will become seeds for others to harvest.

This week was a landmark commemoration of Victory in Europe Day… and depending on how you count the signing of the treaty, the anniversary was this past Friday (May 8) or on Saturday (May 9). And the heritage of war is always a complicated one, comprising seeds and scars.

One thing that we can say with confidence, is that our world would not be what it is today, were it not for the many acts that were carried out by millions of people during the time of the Second World War, from resistance fighters in Europe, to soldiers and other service personnel, to engineers, and people at home, seeking to support each other, offering the abundance of themselves in times of scarcity. Many seeds were sown then, and very often, we benefit from the fruit of those trees that some of us had no hand in planting.

Today is also a recognition of a major demographic in society – mothers. This too can be a complicated day, including many seeds, and sometimes, scars.

One thing we can say is that our lives would not be what they are today, were it not for the work of mothers, and parents of many genders, who have offered of themselves in raising children throughout the world. Often nurturing generations, not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of the generations afterward. Many seeds have been sown by our ancestors, and very often we eat from the fruit of trees that we have had no hand in planting. And seeds we are sowing today, will impact generations to come – regardless of whether we see their fruits or not.

These days, we’ve been exploring ways to make our church more accessible, and for folks to be part of it in different ways, through different media. And we plant these seeds with the backing of the seeds that were planted in 1880 and 1881 by our church founders, Big Mike Fox, and the blessed company that teamed up with him.

And in our wider community, there are also some discussions, or actions, that have taken the backseat for some time, and are now coming into sharper focus, especially because their absence is being felt more strongly at a time of crisis, like this one.

Matters such as poverty, homelessness, food security, work safety standards, migrant worker’s rights, a robust healthcare system, science literacy, environmental awareness.

Many of these are conversations where we might sometimes feel like we missed the boat… where it might feel like we really should have gotten our ducks in a row, like, yesterday, or last year, or back in the twentieth century.

And yet, my friends, we are better off seeking swifter and stronger action on these issues now, than if we stayed wallowing on the fact that we might not have been as active before.

In fact, my friends, this may well be an opportune time to make a stronger case, as the effects of inaction are more clearly visible. Many people who might not have felt affected by these issues, now see them closer to their home, or even affecting them, illustrating how what touches one affects us all.

My friends, as we look for ways in which we may find healthier ways of being at home, healthier ways of being in community, and healthier ways of connecting with our wider world, let us be mindful of that deceptive regret that comes with not having engaged before, remembering that now is a fine time to recognize what is possible. Though we may be long overdue, we can always start anew.

So may it be.
In Solidarity,
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel

Closing Hymn #151 I Wish I Knew How

W & M: Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas,
~)-| arr. by Mary Allen Walden, 1946-1997, © 1992 UUA
MANDELA 11.11.11.6.6.6.6

(Interpreted by Nina Simone)


Hold

May 3rd, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #123 Spirit of Life

W & M: Carolyn McDade, 1935 © 1981 Carolyn McDade
~)-| harmony by Grace Lewis-McLaren, 1939- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
(Tune “Spirit of Life”)

Interpreted by the Orange County Unitarian Universalist Choir

Reflections for All Ages

The question exploration forum Quora offers community offerings around the question: “What are some examples in life of when less is more?”

Click here to see a diversity of answers:

https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-examples-in-life-of-when-less-is-more

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason.  Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed hundreds of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives.  Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

As we think about our own stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, I will mention a couple of stories from

This week we keep members of the Canadian military in mind, as they face the news of a helicopter crash that killed 6 service members in the Mediterranean Sea last Wednesday.And in the month of May, we are also recognize many days that invite us to contemplate special observations.

  • May 1st was the spring festival time of May Day, as well as International Workers’ Day
  • May 2nd was Astronomy Day
  • May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day
  • Tomorrow, folks in certain Fantasy and Science Fiction fandoms may proclaim “May the 4th Be With You”
  • And on Tuesday it’ll be Cinco de Mayo, a date whose historical significance in Mexico and the United States is complex, and we’ve talked about before.

Meditation Tune #295 Sing Out Praises for the Journey

~)-| W: Mark M. DeWolfe, 1953-1988,
~)-| M: rev. by Joyce Painter Rice, © 1991 UUA
Music: Henry Purcell, 1659-1695
(Tune “Westminster Abbey”)

Instrumental of Westminster Abbey tune interpreted by organist John Pellowe

Offering

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home.  Details are in our Newsletter.

I remind you to Please beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through another means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic.  Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”.  When in doubt, ask someone who you trust.  Let us take care of each other!

Video Reading – Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You – CGP Grey

CGP Grey is a YouTube creator, and he is among one of the most recognized in the educational category.  His animated videos span a range of topics, and his latest one, just released last Thursday, speaks to some of the practical considerations while staying at home, in isolation.

In his video, Grey uses a spaceship metaphor for our home’s “bubble” – a space isolated from the rest of the planet.  What to do with this space, and this time?  His answer is to find a single mission: “Return better than you left”.

Reading – Covidevotional April 28, 2020 by Pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder (North Leamington United Mennonite Church)

Pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder shares her ministry with two other pastors at the North Leamington United Mennonite Church.  This week, she posted a “Covidevotional” reflection for April 28, and she gave me permission to share it with you as one of our readings.

In her reflection, Pastor Charleen also draws inspiration and quotes from her sister-in-law Kimberly Jongejan from Northglenn Colorado, who is a director of community programming and youth theatre in Northglenn, in the greater Denver area.

She reflects:

Comparison is the thief of joy. I’ve been heard to say that when we compare ourselves with others, we often find ourselves comparing our weakness with another’s strengths. I’m a pretty scatterbrained person, by nature. I start more tasks than I finish, by far. There are times I look with envy at the planners and organizers in my life. If I were more like them, I muse, my kids would have no gaps in their education, our home would be spotless, we would have listened to every episode of my favourite podcasts… and so on. It must be nice.

Comparison.. And its companions envy and jealousy, has always been a human weakness. Think of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, Saul and David – even the prodigal son and his jealous elder brother.

My sister-in-law Kim posted a raw post last week that I’ve been mulling over ever since. I won’t quote it all, but she basically retraced our steps through the quarantine – out of the gate, we were all shocked. Some jumped into action, some were paralyzed. Over time, some have slowed pace, been slammed by grief, shut down. Others have hyped up the pace. Add to this, the distorted view that the online world can provide.

There’s a sense of who’s doing this quarantine thing the best? We’re looking at other people’s golden moments on our phone while our own failures are staring us in the face. The dirty dishes, the squabbling kids, the great ideas still on the shelf. And there’s a bit of an online competition for emerging the best out of this. Compare, compare, compare. Compete, compete, compete. She urged us to give up on the hyper-focus on others’ achievements and focus on what brings us joy.

Early this month a meme that personally digs: If you don’t come out of this quarantine with either 1. a new skill 2. Starting what you’ve been putting off (like a new business) or 3. More knowledge [ – ] you never lacked the time, you lacked discipline. (attributed to Jeremy Haynes, April 2, 2020 Twitter). This sparked a huge conversation (and dozens of counter-memes) about how much we can expect of ourselves in this season of pandemic. The truth is, many of us are struggling, most of us won’t produce our best work in this season, and many of us will emerge in great need of healing. This is true whether we are working parents juggling at-home learning for kids, or single people facing long days alone and almost 6-7 weeks since their last hug.

More from my sister-in-law Kim: “Instead, picture it like this: are you squinting hard at what you’re seeing in this hyper-focus world, trying to absorb, adapt, incorporate or even contribute to everything? That’s just going to give you migraines and leave you feeling overwhelmed. Instead put on some glasses. Ones that filter out the blurriness and focus on the nuggets that feed your soul – not drain it. Laugh at the silly dogs. Cry for the burdened. Tackle a craft or try a new recipe. But ONLY if it will feed your joy.”

There’s no road map for this. But please, my friends, look at the path that is before you, and do not try to hike someone else’s trail. Don’t compare yourselves poorly to others, and especially don’t judge others who are coping differently from you. Instead, let us cheer one another on, with words of encouragement; and let us be encouraged in our own journey. Even if today’s not going great. Perhaps especially then. The journey is long. God is with us. So are God’s people throughout the ages.

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,[a] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”

Not someone else’s race.

This is the wisdom from our kindred in faith.

Sermon – Hold – Rev. Rod

PDF for download here

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I am not a financial advisor, but I’ve sat on the boards of several faith-based not-for profits, some of which hold endowment funds, and these are subject to stock market volatility.

And I’ve seen the question that inevitably comes up when there’s a downturn in the market – what to do with the funds?

And the inevitable answer from financial advisors is very consistent and very concise – “Hold”.

Given the choice, they say, the best thing you can do is nothing.  Don’t sell, or sell as little as possible.

In some cases, they concede that there may be a need to convert a portion to extra cash reserves and service some immediate needs, but for the most part – just hold.  The most effective thing you can do, most advisors maintain, is to do as little as possible.

Now each situation is different, and I must stress this again, I am not a financial advisor.  But I am a spiritual leader, and I find it oddly comforting when such distinct disciplines can overlap on similarly simple, yet complexly counterintuitive insights.

For months now, I have occasionally invited us to sit in stillness during worship.  And I do this as a practice in doing more by doing less.  Being able to take a few moments to acknowledge ourselves, by recognizing the spirit of life that goes into every breath we take – and holding some stillness, can sometimes be a more effective way of building self-awareness, than doing a lot of active self-actualization.

I also know that that is not always what works for all of you, and there are other ways to stay in touch with ourselves, singing, cooking, exercising, searching deep conversations with dear ones, playing, studying.  These too can be forms of meditation, especially when done with a certain intentionality.

Perhaps one of the things that many of the practices that help build selfhood have in common, is that they invite one to affect what one can actually affect – nothing more.

And as we wrap up 7 weeks of enhanced physical distancing between us, the question of what we can affect can become especially sharp.

The last 7 weeks may have felt rather long – “March was a very long year” I have heard folks say.  And April was a longer one.

And in this time, we are still left with uncertainty about what happens next.  Some things seem like they’re being primed for opening – in a limited way.  Other things, like in-person worship, seem likely to still take several weeks, or quite possibly… months.

Rather than a sprint, this race is looking more like a marathon, or perhaps a relay-race.

And amid this uncertainty, the most consistent and concise request has been… to hold.  To hold on, just a while longer.

It is a counterintuitive ask, especially when there seems like there’s so much to do.  And yet, we are being invited to follow the wisdom, that we may be able to do more for others, by doing less.  Or at least, by doing less of what we might usually do outside.

And while indoors, it can be quite easy to find a preoccupation on how others are doing – and wondering if we’re doing quarantine right… or perhaps more often, wondering if others are doing quarantine better than us.

Pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder, from North Leamington United Mennonite Church, challenges this premise – “comparison is the thief of joy”, she proclaims in her Covidevotional reflection for April 28, 2020.

Now, she’s not talking about the kind of comparison that helps better understanding, like the “compare and contrast” that we do in an English Lit assignment.  What Pastor Charleen is warning against is the comparison that gets easily paired with jealousy and envy, by which we unnecessarily measure ourselves against those around us, and instead of finding support or inspiration in them, we use their examples as reasons to undermine our own worth, and the value that we offer to others by being us, letting our inherent worth and dignity get obscured by an unhelpful focus on others’ ways of being themselves.

There is a video by the YouTube creator CGP Grey, called “Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You”, and he offers another set of tools.  A kind of homework – quite literally – to set our limited space in the most effective way, so that we may be ourselves, as much as possible, during this time.  It does not require a lot of work – just mindful work.

Hold your sleeping space with reverence, sanctify some space for physical activity, celebrate your space and times of relaxation, and all of this is a creative enterprise that may in turn give you space to create when you need to.

At first glance, Pastor Charleen’s Covidevotional reflection, and CGP Grey’s advice may seem to be at odds with each other.  Pastor Charleen seems to imply that we shouldn’t feel caught up in the pressures of competition and feel compelled to do something that we’re not up for, while CGP Grey talks about “Lockdown Productivity”.

Like many things, I find that both messages complement the other, offering slightly different dimensions to our shared situation.  In essence, they both offer a common mission to be better to oneself and better as oneself.  CGP Grey phrases it as a mission to come back better than before, while Pastor Charleen emphasizes that this mission need not be hampered by unnecessary comparisons to others – if there’s a race, it is your race… no one else’s.

As much as Grey talks about the mission of self-improvement, he never suggests improvement against anyone else, only one’s own ability to take care of oneself – both for the sake of one’s own wellbeing, as well as the possibility to contribute to the outside world… if not now, then at some point.

When speaking about acts of creation, Grey suggests these can be just about anything that you’re good at, or are interested in getting better at, or even something that you need to do to look after yourself.  Cooking, crafting, studying, work – if that’s something you can do at home.  Pastor Charleen would add minding your children or your family.  Affect what you are able to affect – that’s all.  The mission of being better than before, is yours – no one else’s.

Grey also acknowledges that there will be times when the mission flounders – that’s to be expected, and berating oneself about it is less helpful than looking to continue on the mission.

And I suspect the mission’s greatest value probably lies in its aspiration, rather than the specific result.  As Pastor Charleen observes, “The truth is, many of us are struggling, most of us won’t produce our best work in this season, and many of us will emerge in great need of healing.”  And still, with the mission in mind to keep us focused, we may avoid coming out worse off… or at least, having avoided the worse outcomes.

And, my friends, these options are more desirable than their alternatives – the lesson of the mission remains: affect what you can; there is little use in affecting what we cannot.  Comparing ourselves to others, in the company of jealousy and envy, leads to little growth.  While a mission to keep mindful of ourselves, of our needs, of our reasonable actions, may well bring us to a deeper sense of meaning.

My friends, to hold on to what is good, we may let go of the extra work involved in seeking to do what we cannot.  This is the counterintuitive wisdom of being more effective by doing less, when what we do, we do mindfully.

My friends, minding ourselves – being more mindful of ourselves – is far from being selfish… it is being self-full.  It is a way of serving ourselves well so that we may sustainably be of better service to humanity.  So that we may hold each other better, as we hold on for yet another while.

So may it be.
In Solidarity
Amen

Closing Hymn – #348 Guide My Feet

Words: Traditional
Music: Spiritual from the collection of Willis Laurence James, 1900-1966
harmony by Wendell Whalum, 1932-
(Tune guide my feet)

Interpreted by Oasis Chorale

1 Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)

2 Hold my hand while I run this race.
Hold my hand while I run this race.
Hold my hand while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)

3 Stand by me while I run this race.
Stand by me while I run this race.
Stand by me while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)

4 Search my heart while I run this race.
Search my heart while I run this race.
Search my heart while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)


Essential

April 26th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #16 ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple

Words: Joseph Bracket, 18th cent.
Music: American Shaker tune
(Tune SIMPLE GIFTS)

Tune Simple Gifts interpreted by Rod Smith

’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free,
’tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
’till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Reflection for All Ages – Thank U Frontlines – Chris Mann inspired by Alanis Morissette

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason. Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed hundreds of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives. Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

This week we keep the people of Nova Scotia in mind, as people across Canada struggle to make sense of the deadliest shooting in Canadian history. We also remember that, similarly to the École Polytechnique massacre, gender-based violence seems to be a factor.

Flags have been flown at half-mast this week, and they will be again on Tuesday, in recognition of Workers’ Memorial Day, which commemorates workers who have been killed on the job. While worker safety has always been important, given the events of the last week, and of the last couple of months, we are given a stronger call to remember every worker who faces hazard in performing their duties.

Meditation Hymn #352 Find a Stillness

~)-| Words: Carl G. Seaburg, 1922-1998, based on a Unitarian Transylvanian text,
© 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Transylvanian hymn tune,
~)-| harmony by Larry Phillips, 1948- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
(Tune SIGISMUND)

Interpreted by the First Unitarian Church of Chicago

1 Find a stillness, hold a stillness, let the stillness carry me.
Find the silence, hold the silence, let the silence carry me.
In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power,
I will find true harmony.

2 Seek the essence, hold the essence, let the essence carry me.
Let me flower, help me flower, watch me flower, carry me.
In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power,
I will find true harmony.

Offering

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home. Details are in our Newsletter.

Beware of e-mails that ask you for money online. Neither the minister nor the treasurer, nor anyone from the church will ask you to send money to an account by e-mail. And we will never ask you to send us your credit card number or your e-mail credentials (like username or password).

Any “urgent” appeal to you for money on behalf of the church should be seen as suspicious.

Reading – “Circle of Friends” in Sum by David Eagleman

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist who also writes speculative fiction. In his book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, he explores forty hypothetical scenarios, as thought experiments set in speculative afterlives. These often expose deeper truths about our current lives.

This link has an excerpt with his first four stories – our Reading “Circle of Friends” is the third story on this page.

Video Reading – You Clap for Me Now – The Guardian (2:11 minutes)

This is an homage to essential workers that are also immigrants in the United Kingdom.

Sermon – Essential – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read:

[PDF for Download here]

In this prime time for home streaming of movies, shows, and music, it has been interesting to see the how pop culture has adapted to the realities of the pandemic. In early March, it only took a few days for singer Lady Gaga’s latest music video Stupid Love, to be parodied into the song Stupid Cough, about coping with the latest aspects of our lives. I’ll add that both of these videos were remarkably fun to watch.

The American singer, Chris Mann, made an entire cottage industry out of parodying pop music songs and adapting them to reflect our emerging culture in the wake of this year’s pandemic.

Many of these parodies are intended to bring a measure of humour during this difficult time. One of his parodies, however, is more of an homage… a reinterpretation of Canadian singer Alanis Morissette’s classic Thank U. Alanis Morissette’s original song is an act of thanksgiving to the many people and places that have made her life what it is. Chris Mann’s Thank U Frontline kept the thanksgiving theme and adapted the song for this time, seeking to recognize as many workers as he could think of.

The question of who is an essential worker is a tricky one. When the government of Ontario first came up with a list of essential workers who were allowed to work outside the home, the list went on for 74 items… and many of those items included several sub-categories. A lot of people were considered essential.

This wasn’t without some controversy. It was noted that some types of work catered only to some very special interests, rather than fundamental infrastructure for our society to function.

At the same time, one might note that several roles were not in that list. This is partly because some of these are not remunerated, such as stay-at-home parents, but at a deeper level, it is also because the question of what is essential, hinges on who it is essential to.

The Ontario essential workers list has since been revised. Some kinds of work, such as construction on certain projects has been deemed less urgent, when balanced against the priority of reducing the spread of disease. But the question lingers about what it is that we need for us to go about our lives, to live, to survive, to thrive. Each of these is a slightly different question. Each is important.

When Chris Mann parodied Alanis Morissette, he went over a large span of occupations – and roles. From the very evident healthcare workers, to the store clerks, truck drivers, sanitation workers, teachers, stay-at-home parents. Some of these have historically been less glamourized, and yet we are more deeply aware of how vital these all are for communities.

When Chris Mann names appreciating all that we take for granted, he specifies what that is – everything.

Really, all workers that make our life what it is, are often – in some way – unrecognized at different points in our lives… people who do things that we don’t know how to do, or we don’t want to do, or didn’t even know needed to be done.

In his short story “Circle of Friends”, speculative writer David Eagleman observes that the people we know, who already offer so much in our lives, are still a tiny fraction of the folks who make our life what we know it to be.

My friends, over the past couple months, you will have heard a word come up increasingly often and increasingly broadly – heroes. It is being applied to an exponentially growing category of people – and rightly so. There are millions of people who are risking their lives every day. Some went into their work knowing the risks; some knew it was risky, but it is know even riskier; some never thought it would involve potentially lethal risk; and some just need to get the work done, no matter what, because they have a duty – duty to themselves, duty to their family, or duty their communities.

I’m not worried about over-using the word heroes. I know that, if anything, I’m underusing it, overlooking people whom I don’t know, and might never be aware of how they are part of my life.

As the National Worker’s Day of Mourning draws near this Tuesday, April 28, I am reminded that the people who are making a living, in my local community and my global community, are always giving of themselves, sometimes at great, clear and present risk, and other times with unexpected dangers, or at the expense of other parts of their lives.

With some of the things we’re doing without these days, we are also getting a grasp for another dimension to this question of what is essential in our lives – another one of the revelations of this special time.

As we see our spending habits shift, we are also getting clarity on those things that we really really need, as opposed to those that we thought we wanted… but upon consideration, probably don’t make the impact in our lives that we have made them out to do.

Travel for commuting has decreased noticeably over the past several weeks, and with that, air pollution. Some of it has been out of necessity, and will return over the next year. Some, it is now clear, may simply be unnecessary, and many things could be done differently to carry out our daily business, with a smaller impact on our environment.

The David Eagleman’s story “Circle of Friends”, which I offered as a reading, is a thought experiment in awareness about the people who we don’t often think of, and what would happen if we suddenly found ourselves in a reality where the only people in our lives were the people we actually remember, leading us to eventually miss the vital contributions of people we have never met.

This year, we are taking part in a somewhat similar, real-life experiment. Professor Paul Monks, from the University of Leicester declares that “We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest scale experiment ever seen” in relation to observing our suddenly-reduced impact on the environment. This experiment, I might add, also includes considering those things we can do with less, as well as the people who we cannot do without.

There are services that are not on the Ontario government’s list, which we are still missing. Things like grooming services that cater to our sense of dignity, and which are nonetheless not considered a matter of life and death. Even medical supports that are important to our own sense of well-being are sometimes taking the backseat to the more pressing question of the pandemic. And yet, these have an essential quality, that is sometimes difficult to express.

My friends, there are intangible things that we are becoming more aware of – our sense of freedom, our tactile sense of community, our sense of security in livelihood, or even in our expectations of daily routine. These are things that are both secondary to public health, and yet essential to our long-term sense of self and community.

What does this mean? I am not going to give you a final pronouncement on what is categorically essential and what is not. If we were to draw up a list, we will likely disagree on some specific items.

My friends, the deeper revelation, is on the clearer truth that is being exposed to us – that many of the things that we’ve brought ourselves to rely on, may not be nearly as essential as we’ve made ourselves to think, while others we rarely think of are far more essential than we may have imagined, and that we are much more essential to each other than we might realize.

For all of you, and all the people in our lives, we are thankful.
So may it be.
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel

Closing Hymn – #67 We Sing Now Together

~)-| Words: Edwin T. Buehrer, 1894-1969, alt © Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Adrian Valerius’s Netherlandtsch Gedenckclanck, 1626,
arr. by Edward Kremser, 1838-1914
(Tune KREMSER)

Interpretation of Kremser Tune by organpipe8

1 We sing now together our song of thanksgiving,
rejoicing in goods which the ages have wrought,
for life that enfolds us, and helps and heals and holds us,
and leads beyond the goals which our forebears once sought.

2 We sing of the freedoms which martyrs and heroes
have won by their labor, their sorrow, their pain;
the oppressed befriending, our ampler hopes defending,
their death becomes a triumph, they died not in vain.

3 We sing of the prophets, the teachers, the dreamers,
designers, creators, and workers, and seers;
our own lives expanding, our gratitude commanding,
their deeds have made immortal their days and their years.

4 We sing of community now in the making
in every far continent, region, and land;
with those of all races, all times and names and places,
we pledge ourselves in covenant firmly to stand.


May 2020 Newsletter

April 23rd, 2020 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!


The Overview Effect (Earth Day) – Bill Baylis

April 19th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn – #21 For the Beauty of the Earth

Words: Folliott Sandford Pierpont, 1835-1917, adapt.
Music: Conrad Kocher, 1786-1872, abridged
(Tune DIX)

Interpreted by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
(Adapted lyrics below)

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the splendor of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:

(Chorus)
Source of all, to thee we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

2 For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight:

(Chorus)

3 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light:

(Chorus)

4 For the joy of human care,
sister, brother, parent, child,
for the kinship we all share,
for all gentle thoughts and mild:

(Chorus)

 

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

There are many joys and concerns of a global nature, not only concerns about the effects of the pandemic COVID-19, but events that may or may not be directly related to it.

After Hurricane Harold threatened the lives, livelihoods, and homes of people in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Tonga, this week, we are also mindful of the people in the United States, where a tornado outbreak over Easter weekend also threatened the lives, livelihoods, and homes of people already dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

Closer to home, we keep the people of Nova Scotia on our minds, where a man carried out several shootings, killing and injuring several people this weekend.

 

We also recognize some space to recognize two 50th anniversaries:

1) 50 years since the successful rescue of the Apollo 13 crew after an explosion in 1970 damaged the command module and threatened the lives of the astronauts on board, and

2) on April 22, we celebrate the 50th Earth Day, not only giving our thanks for the beauty of Earth, but also reminding us of the work we still have as caretakers of this planet to preserve its role in hosting the interdependent web of all existence and supporting an amazing biodiversity of life on Earth, now and into the future. We humans really do hold the world in our hands…

We also celebrate the safe return to Earth of two astronauts, Drew Morgan and Jessica Meir, and a Soyuz commander Oleg Skripochka from the International Space Station on Friday morning.

 

Meditation Hymn – #123 Spirit of Life

W & M: Carolyn McDade, 1935 © 1981 Carolyn McDade
~)-| harmony by Grace Lewis-McLaren, 1939- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
(Tune SPIRIT OF LIFE)

Interpreted by Ogrange County Unitarian Universalist Choir

 

Offering

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home. Details are in our Newsletter.

Beware of e-mails that ask you for money online.  Neither the minister nor the treasurer, nor anyone from the church will ask you to send money to an account by e-mail.  And we will never ask you to send us your credit card number or your e-mail credentials (like username or password).

Any “urgent” appeal to you for money on behalf of the church should be seen as suspicious.

 

Reflection – The Overview Effect – Bill Baylis

To see all illustrations and charts, download the Interactive Print-ready version (PDF) 

Two days ago, two astronauts and a cosmonaut from the International Space Station (ISS) returned to Earth after months in space. The world is now a different place than what they left, and they must enter two or three weeks in isolation in order to protect themselves and their immune-compromised bodies (a result of spending months in space) from the virus and other germs. But while they were on board the ISS, they experienced a new perspective of the Earth they had briefly left. The new perspective affects many astronauts deeply. It is called the “Overview Effect” and forms the topic of my talk today.

The term originated in a book by Frank White: The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution (Houghton-Mifflin, 1987), (AIAA, 1998). It describes a profound cognitive shift in perspective experienced by many astronauts after seeing Earth from space. Astronaut Ronald Garan said “The experience is incredible, you have all this motion and colours and light that really gives you the sense that we live on a, a living, breathing organism and the experience is undeniable yet surreal, it remains very much part of who I am today,” and Joseph Allen added “I’ve known every cosmonaut and every astronaut…without exception, every one of them cannot get over the beauty of seeing planet Earth. It just takes your breath away and [pause] you just cannot take your eyes off the Earth. It just is so beautiful.”

Astronaut Don L. Lind said “Intellectually, I knew what to expect. I have probably looked at as many pictures from space as anybody…so I knew exactly what I was going to see…But there is no way you can be emotionally prepared for the emotional impact…It brought tears to my eyes.” And Astronaut Edward Gibson made the key observation “You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things in the universe…The result is that you enjoy the life that is before you…it allows you to have an inner peace.”

It takes the ISS, moving at 27,600 km/hr, just over 90 minutes to complete an orbit of 40,000 km around Earth, and passengers can see about 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. Videos made from the ISS show lightning storms and aurora as the ISS passes overhead. There are a number of video recordings of this impressive sight.

Here’s a 30-second time-lapse video from the European Space Agency (ESA):

https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2017/09/A_time-lapse_view_of_Earth_from_the_Space_Station_from_Africa_to_Russia

The overview effect provides an important perspective that all humanity should experience. The world would be a better place if contentious politics and its many petty squabbles were replaced by this unifying image of Earth in vast space. But how can we accomplish this? Most of us will never have the opportunity to visit the ISS and even our politicians will never gain that valuable perspective (as much as we might like to shoot some of them into space!). In order to reach children of a larger portion of the population, the ESA began what they called SpaceBuzz project in December 2018. It uses virtual reality in a rocket-ship shaped bus to simulate views like those experienced by astronauts when visiting the ISS or traveling to the moon. For details see https://www.space.com/spacebuzz-virtual-reality-spaceflight-overview-effect.html .

We’re looking at a different approach, using a human-scale exhibit in an attempt to elevate our thoughts from earthly squabbles to a more heavenly overview. Specifically we want to offer a scale-model solar system, where visitors can wander–often at the speed of light (at the scale of the model) or even faster—from planet to planet, see how large our solar system is compared to its planets and moons, and recognize how much larger still is the visible universe that we now know holds hundreds of billions of exoplanets, some of which may well hold “alien” life.

In the remainder of my reflection, I want now briefly to describe some of the problems inherent in constructing such a scale model, how those problems have been addressed in some successful scale models around the world, and what a scale model on the riverfront in Windsor might look like. Basically we want an attractive static scale model of the solar system along the riverfront in Windsor, Ontario. The model planets would be displayed on a path along the Detroit river, stretching from a model of the Sun near Ouellette Avenue to Neptune close to the Ambassador Bridge (and a kilometer beyond if we include the Kuiper belt). The relative sizes of the planets and their mean distances from the Sun would all be displayed on the same scale of roughly 1:1.5 billion relative to our actual solar system.

Earth in this model would be a marble-sized sphere about 8.5 mm in diameter at a distance of 100 m from the Sun, modeling the true Earth 1.5 billion times larger and thus about 8.5 x 1.5 million m = 12.8 thousand km in diameter and at a distance of 150 billion m and thus 150 million km from the Sun. See table below for more model sizes. By experiencing an accurate scale model of the Sun, the Earth, and other planets in our solar system, visitors can gain a perspective of the place of Earth in our cosmic neighbourhood and its size relative to that of the Sun and other planets. They will also be able to read about the planets, their associated moons, and their orbits about the Sun on plaques at the planet positions, as well as visualize, and listen to information about them on their smart phones, tablets, or portable computers as they walk or ride along the river front. The solar system model will help visitors appreciate the vastness of the solar system relative to the size of Earth and experience some of the profound “overview effect” reported by several astronauts when viewing the Earth from satellite orbit or from the moon or the International Space Station.

Such models have been created and displayed in a number of locations around the world, but they are not common because of the difficulty of accurately combining the small sizes of the planets, especially Earth and the other terrestrial planets, relative to their distances apart and from the Sun. If the model Earth is to be larger than a mm in diameter, roughly the size of a BB pellet, the planetary model of the solar system must stretch over distances of a kilometer or more. Our waterfront along the Detroit river presents the opportunity of displaying a scale model with a reasonable compromise of sizes and distances.

In the sketch below, the orbits of the planets are modeled as circles around the Sun, and the model orbit of the most distant planet, Neptune, shown in blue, extends near the Ambassador Bridge, just over 3 km away. The Kuiper belt is about 4 km from the Sun in our model and is shown on the map as a magenta circle.

See following table for a key to the sketch with model sizes and distances. The Oort cloud in the model is almost 1000 km from the Sun and is not shown in the model. The sketch and its calculations were made with the help of programs provided by the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the observatory of the University of Manitoba. The scale and positions of the Sun and planets can be adjusted as needed for permits and convenience as long as the relative sizes and distances are maintained.

The Solar System model is meant to be an attractive feature of the Windsor waterfront that encourages visitors to walk, jog, or bicycle along the more than 3 kilometers of the park while learning about the formation and properties of our nearest planetary neighbours. As you have seen, a number of astronauts who have viewed the Earth from the Moon or from the International Space Station have commented on the profound experience of viewing the Earth as a brilliant blue marble in the vast black backdrop of space. It’s a perspective that subjugates petty Earthly problems and squabbles to higher existential goals of preserving life and its habitat on the Earth for millennia of future generations. Few of us will ever be able to share this potentially life-changing perspective of viewing Earth from space, but it could serve us well if more of us appreciated the place of Earth in our Solar System as our neighbourhood of the cosmos. The model solar system should also be an attraction for visitors to Windsor, encouraging them to enjoy our beautiful waterfront while learning about the Earth, its environment, and other parts of our solar system.

Key to the sizes of the planets and their orbits, here approximated as circular, for the proposed scale model of the solar system in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. On this scale of1:1.5 Billion, it is reasonable to include the Earth’s moon in the model (diameter 2.2 mm at a distance 25 cm from Earth).

The scale of 1:10 billion is a popular choice in the U.S.A., used at sites known as a Voyage Communities (see http://voyagesolarsystem.org/). In the Voyage model, Earth has a diameter of only 1.2 mm and is 15 m from the Sun, whereas Neptune is 4.5 mm in diameter and lies 500 m from the Sun. Such models have been set up in Boulder, Colorado; Washington, D.C.; Houston, TX; and other locations. Because the model planets at this scale, they must be mounted on pyramids or cones so that they can be easily seen. Voyage models has the advantage of being contained within a half kilometer of the model sum, but planet sizes are unfortunately also quite small.

The planetary path model at the 1:1 billion scale (e.g. Hagan, Germany and Eugene, Oregon) is ten times larger than the Voyage Model. The one in Hagen, Germany, dates back to a publication in November 1959 and claims to be the world’s oldest solar system model at this scale. The planets are represented in the model by one or more bronze plates, and their orbits encircle the tower. Earth is modelled as a 1.27 cm-diameter ball, 150 m from the 1.39 m-diameter model Sun in the Rathaus.

In the planetary path model, the speed of light is reduced from the actual 3×108 m/s = 30 cm/ns to 30 cm/s (from about a foot/ns to a foot/s), which is roughly the speed of a leisurely step-by-step stroll. The model has to extend at least 4.5 km to represent the distance of Neptune from the Sun, and further if trans-Neptunian objects are to be faithfully modeled, and the round-trip distance to Neptune in the model may be longer than many casual visitors (at least in America) might want to undertake.

There are several other planetary-path solar system models at the scale of the one in Hagen, but the one in Prague (see http://www.hvezdolet.cz/planetarnistezka.htm ), on a bicycle path along 13 km of the Vltava River valley there, from the model Sun in Prague to the dwarf planet Sedna, may be the most complete. It claims to model all dwarf planets as well as the larger moons of the solar system. It held its grand opening on May 13, 2018.

The world’s largest permanent scale model is in Sweden in a scale of 1:20M. The Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden, actually represents the Sun together with its corona. It has a diameter of 110 m. (The photosphere of the Sun without the corona has a model diameter of 71 m.). Earth on this scale is 65 cm in diameter and lies a distance of 7.6 km from the globe. The Pluto-Charon pair is 300 km away. Other dwarf planets (and dwarf-planet candidates) Ixion, Eris, and Sedna, are also included. The termination shock, where the solar wind has slowed to the speed of sound, is located in the model 950 km from the globe and above the Arctic Circle. Some of the model objects are housed in museums, schools, and science centres, and some include art work. This is not a model that you would want to generally visit only on foot!

There are several more models across the world that can offer inspiration and ideas for the best choice of a model for Windsor, Ontario. Returning to the scaled model proposed, its scale of 1:1.5 Billion accommodates both planets with diameters in the cm range and distances of a still walkable few km from the Sun.

The speed of light is 20 cm/s (8 inches/s) on our proposed scale, compared to 3 cm/s in the Voyage model and 30 cm/s in the planetary-path model). It uses the same scale as the model built in La Malbaie, Quebec, where model Jupiter is 10 cm in diameter.

At the moment, the installation of such a model solar system in Windsor is still a dream and there is much work to do, including on its design. I invite ideas of how best to make such a model an attractive, interesting addition to the Windsor Riverfront (such as adding artistic components) fostering the overview effect for visitors.

Thanks for your attention and let’s welcome Earth Day now armed with an enhanced overview.

Some references

Frank White, The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution (Houghton-Mifflin, 1987), (AIAA, 1998).

Build a Solar System has a built-in calculator for sizes and positions of the planets.  https://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/

Voyage Community: www.voyagesolarsystem.org/

The Colorado Scale-Model Solar System at the 1:10 billion scale used by Voyage exhibits, a popular scale that fits Sun to Pluto within 500 m. Plate supports are pyramids, with a transparent peak holding each planet:
https://www.jeffreybennett.com/model-solar-systems/colorado-scale-model-solar-system/

Plot model planetary orbits on your site:
https://umanitoba.ca/observatory/outreach/solarsystem/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_System_model wikipedia compares 70 scale models of the solar system around the world. Generally scale models of 1:10 billion or more are no more than roughly a half km in radius and easily walkable whereas those of 1:1 billion or less are large enough (~5 km radius) to require a bike or other transportation.

https://www.astroblemecharlevoix.org/balade?lang=en The 1:1.5 billion scale solar system model in La Malbaie, Quebec (~40 km N of Quebec City near mouth of the St. Lawrence river, population 8,300; formerly Murray Bay)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overview_effect

The Overview Institute: https://overviewinstitute.org/

 

Closing Hymn – #345 With Joy We Claim the Growing Light

~)-| Words: Samuel Longfellow, 1819-1892
Music: Musicalisches Handbuch, Hamburg, 1690, adapt.
(Tune WINCHESTER NEW)

Rendition of “Winchester New” tune by Andrew Remillard
(Lyrics to Hymn #345 below)

1 With joy we claim the growing light,
advancing thought, and widening view,
the larger freedom, clearer sight,
which from the old unfold the new.

2 With wider view, come loftier goal;
with fuller light, more good to see;
with freedom, truer self-control;
with knowledge, deeper reverence be.


A Grand Unifying Story

April 12th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn – #398 Gathered Here

Words & Music: Philip A. Porter, 1953- , © 1991 Philip A. Porter
(Tune GATHERING CHANT)

Reflection for All Ages – Together – John Green (3:51 minutes)

The brother of Hank Green, vlogbrother John reflects on the meaning of interdependence.

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason. Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed tens of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives. Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

As we think about our own stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, I will mention a couple of stories and landmarks from around the world, since what touches one affects us all.

We are mindful of the people of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga, where Category 5 Hurricane Harold has killed at least 29 people, and has severely affected the lives, livelihoods, and homes of hundreds of thousands of others in these Pacific island nations.

Today, also marks the 40th anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox dipped his leg in the Atlantic Ocean and ran halfway across Canada, never completing his run, but inspiring millions of others to carry on his legacy.

 

Offering

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home. Details are in our Newsletter.

I remind you to beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through other means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic. Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”. When in doubt, ask someone who you trust. Let us take care of each other!

 

Hymn #61 Lo, the Earth Awakes Again

~)-| W: Samuel Longfellow, 1819-1892, arr.
M: Lyra Davidica, 1708, version of John Arnold’s Compleat Psalmodist, 1749
(tune EASTER HYMN)

(Interpreted by Steph and Les Tacy)

1 Lo, the earth awakes again – Alleluia!
From the winter’s bond and pain. Alleluia!
Bring we leaf and flower and spray – Alleluia!
to adorn this happy day. Alleluia!

2 Once again the word comes true, Alleluia!
All the earth shall be made new. Alleluia!
Now the dark, cold days are o’er, Alleluia!
Spring and gladness are before. Alleluia!

3 Change, then, mourning into praise, Alleluia!
And, for dirges, anthems raise. Alleluia!
How our spirits soar and sing, Alleluia!
How our hearts leap with the spring! Alleluia!

 

Sermon – A Grand Unifying Story – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read:
(PDF for Download here)

If you’ve looked at our Newsletter, you will have noticed that the original title for today’s sermon was We Have the Technology! And I had chosen that title because I expected (prophesied, if you will) that this would be the first Sunday since we last met in person, when we’d be able to gather in a virtual space by making use of some newer technology.

And indeed, the prophecy has been fulfilled – we have the technology to help us renew a deeper sense of connection, at a time when gathering face-to-face would be unwise, and that by being apart together, we are supporting – in solidarity – worldwide efforts to mitigate the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

Now, one of the hallmarks of this time, is a rapidly-changing landscape, so today I’d like to focus on something a bit bigger, the idea of a Grand Unifying Story. Because at this time of the year, different folks of faith are invited to remember aspects of their tradition that offer just that – a grand unifying story.

And this particular year, we find that we are now encountering a grand unifying story of our own. In many ways, it feels like a brand-new story… we’ve been hearing the word “unprecedented” quite a bit. But in many ways, it’s just like many of the grand unifying stories of lore and yore…. some, from not even that long ago.

Folks in the Jewish tradition around the world have lamented how this time to gather as a family, to celebrate the holiday of Passover, has come at a time when large family gatherings could be especially dangerous.

Though many have also remarked that it may be somewhat fitting that the holiday commemorates a story of families staying at home, to protect themselves from a plague, eventually emerging safe into a new kind of life. This has been one of the great unifying stories in Judaism.

Also today, many remember the Christian tradition with the resurrection story of Jesus of Nazareth – a humble carpenter – coming to life anew as a most significant spiritual leader, inspiring his followers into a new kind of life. This too, is the primary great unifying story of the Christian faith.

Now, I’m not going to spend time discussing the historicity of those stories, because their power comes from illustrating a deeper truth that faith can guide us from times of despair into expecting – and creating – a new reality where life has new meaning.

Our current reality, where we have been called into service, often at great personal hardship or expense, represents what feels like a new narrative to our lives, and what life might look like in the future.

In our congregation today, only one member was alive at the time of the last great pandemic in 1918, and she had been barely born. So yes, this is indeed quite new for most of us.

There have, of course, been other flu-like pandemics, though they haven’t impacted us in the same way. And for several decades, the AIDS pandemic has affected different parts of the world, and different populations, with varying levels of severity. For some, the parallels are quite striking, while many others have felt mostly unaffected.

And I know that some of you were alive for other greatly-impactful moments in the history of the world. Many of you will remember the horrors of the Second World War – how it affected your immediate family life, and then shaped global life afterward… sometimes in horrifying ways, and in some ways with a renewed sense of optimism for what people around the world can accomplish when they resolve to work together, to create ways of coordinating with a larger vision of global community.

We remember stories of heroes, some are famous ones, who helped hundreds of people flee the Holocaust, as well as other individuals who helped in smaller, yet significant ways, be it offering safety to others, as they could, or contributing to a collective effort, sharing in the scarcity to offer a measure of plenty.

Some of you might recall that the original design of our flaming chalice, comes from the Unitarian Service Committee’s operations in serving refugees from Europe during that time.

Some of the younger folks, like myself will remember how our world seemed to change suddenly, on a Tuesday morning in September of 2001… as the world realized that life would not be the same again, even when it might feel – somewhat – normal. We have heard stories of heroism from around that time, along with stories of great grief.

During Joys & Sorrows, I mentioned that today marks the 40th anniversary for the beginning of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, as he dipped his leg in the Atlantic Ocean on April 12, 1980. That was a Great Unifying Story for Canada, and it has continued to inspire folks around the world.

Even with the heartbreak of his run ending suddenly, barely halfway through, his story continues to inspire individuals – most of whom will never be as famous as him, nor hope to be – to work together, contributing to what has become the single largest one-day annual fundraiser for cancer research, even when Terry Fox never got to dip his leg in the Pacific Ocean. The story of the Marathon of Hope, is one that reminds us that heroes come in all sorts – famous and anonymous – with large contributions, and small, but significant collaborations.

And now, today, we find ourselves participating and co-creating a new great unifying story. You, me, and more than seven billion others, are called to be part of a global effort to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Making offerings, small and large. This may mean staying home to reduce the risk for those who can’t stay home. Or it may mean going to work – be it to ensure that other people can keep food on the table, or to attend to the health of others.

All of these offerings represent sacrifice. Some of it may seem more glamorous than others – all of it is vital.

My friends, over the course of these weeks and months, we may remember the names of some of the heroes that are becoming today, some names we might forget, most names… we will never learn. All of them will have served the greater good. And we are called to serve alongside them.

And, my friends, we’re also called to uphold the prophetic imperative that comes from this shared, global experience. And that is an enduring call to action, to proclaim the emerging awareness that has been revealed in the course of this pandemic.

Just as the story of the humble carpenter reminds us that life-transforming inspiration may come from unexpected sources, we are reminded how we depend on everyone’s contribution, especially those that are often unappreciated, or underappreciated.

My friends, we have also come into deeper awareness about the impact of poverty, about the necessity of quality and accessible health care, about the need for a robust culture of scientific responsibility and research, about the effect of humanity on the rest of the natural world.

These matters are not new – people have talking about these for some time now, but in the shared experience of the pandemic – the great unifying story of this suddenly silent spring – their importance has become all the more striking.

My friends, the world is again seeing more clearly how what touches one affects us all – and we’re seeing clearly that we can work together. You have been evidence of this.

My friends, we need not wait for the curve to dip down for us to rise up. We are being renewed today, rising into a deeper awareness – and appreciation – of our global community and of the interdependence in the interconnected web of existence, of which we are all part.

In Solidarity, so may it be.
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel

 

Closing Hymn – #395 Sing and Rejoice

Words & Music: Traditional round
(Tune MOORE)

Another hymn with the same tune – #397 Morning Has Come (interpreted by Dany Rosevear)

1 Sing and rejoice.
2 Sing and rejoice.
3 Let all things living now
4 sing and rejoice.


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