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


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 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

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.


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



[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.

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

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:

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:


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:


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



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

Interpreted by Ogrange County Unitarian Universalist Choir



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):


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:

Plot model planetary orbits on your site:

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)


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.

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

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.



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

(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


(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.

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.

Wuthering – The Sudden Obliteration of Expectation

April 5th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #146 Soon the Day Will Arrive (interpreted by the Chancel Choir of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland)
Words: Ehud Manor
Music: Nurit Hirsh
(tune Bashanah)

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In these days of uncertainty, we make space to recognize all who are affected by COVID-19, and we remember all who have died in the course of this pandemic.

We give thanks to all people who are giving more of themselves at this time – some by duty, some by obligation, some by personal conviction and compassion – including health professionals, grocery store clerks, utility workers, and all essential staff too many to know and who are often unseen or unacknowledged.

We also remain mindful of our own personal Joys & Sorrows, recognizing that our personal experience is worthy of space amid the larger story of the global community.

Reflection Song – Bobcaygeon – The Tragically Hip (Official Video)
© 1998 Universal Music Canada

Video Reading – “The Sudden Obliteration of Expectation” – Hank Green in vlogbrothers – 20 March, 2020

Since 2007, the brothers Hank and John Green have been communicating with each other long-distance via YouTube. Each week, they post a message to each other – Hank posts on Fridays, and John posts on Tuesdays. They make their posts public, often speaking to the wider audience of the world wide web.

These video web logs, or vlogs, have made their channel – the vlogbrothers – one of the most longstanding and influential channels on YouTube.

Hymn #151 I Wish I Knew How (interpreted by Nina Simone)
Words & Music: Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas
~)-| arr. by Mary Allen Walden, 1946-1997, © 1992 UUA
(tune Mandela)

Sermon – Wuthering – Rev. Rod ESQ

In his vlog for March 20, 2020, Hank Green tells his brother – and his wider internet audience – about his experience in finding out that he has ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disorder in which his body attacks the lining of his large intestine, causing severe pain, and potentially leading to other consequences, like the possibility that he might need to have his colon removed, or having a greater risk of cancer.

While his diagnosis of ulcerative colitis allowed for some clarity on next steps for his health care, it left many unknowns… he really didn’t know what kind of consequences this illness would lead to – or when. Moreover, he began to realize that many of his expectations about his future – the story he told himself about his future – were now irrevocably changed.

Some of these expectations, he explains, were ones he wasn’t even aware that he had, such as the expectation that he could eat popcorn whenever he wanted throughout his life. Popcorn is no longer an option for him, and without knowing that this was even something he expected, the option of popcorn was lost forever.

One way that Hank describes this is as “the sudden obliteration of expectation” and the emptiness that can follow when these expectations disappear, without something firmer to take their place, other than the knowledge that the future will never be the same.

In looking for a word that could signify this feeling, a friend of his suggested wuthering, which the author Emily Brontë describes as an “atmospheric tumult” in her novel Wuthering Heights. Hank Green suggests that the word wuthering could well be used more broadly to denote a sense of uncertainty – and, more specifically, the kind of uncertainty that comes with a realization that our previous expectations no longer seem realistic, and that things will never be the same again.

It may well be that Hank’s use of wuthering, in this sense, will never gain currency in everyday language, but in exploring it as one way to describe that sense of loss and uncertainty, he reveals a very telling common experience in our humanity.

My friends, many of you are familiar with this feeling.

It might have come with the death of a loved one, or another kind of loss, like a breakup or someone moving away. It might come with the loss of a job, or it might be part of a change in health, be it due to an accident, an illness, or aging.

These days, many of us are experiencing it together, as we figure out – in a global scale – what the current pandemic means… now and in the future. We expect that things will get better, but we don’t really know when. And when they do, they will never be the same.

It can be hard to contemplate this new reality.

The story we’ve told ourselves about our future seems to vanish – at least for the time being – and we’re realizing that we’ve had certain expectations from everyday life, which are now rare, such as buying groceries whenever we see fit, or finding what we’re looking for at the store, taking vacations, or traveling, or simply greeting each other with a handshake or a hug.

Things like sharing a common space in our church building, in the presence of our community of faith, are no longer part of our week – and we don’t really know when that will be possible again. There are other people we’d hope to see in person, and it may now be that we won’t see them for a long time. In some cases, we might never see them again.

These things are gone from our lives for the time being, and while most of these will return, we will not look at these parts of our lives in the same way again, knowing that they are much less certain than we’ve come to expect.

The absence of these things, and their eventual – yet precarious – return will become a new normal. In the meantime, we are also adjusting to the new normal of remote and virtual meetings, and connecting from afar with different methods and technologies.

It is not the same, yet we are learning to adapt to these alternatives, and they are becoming increasingly normal.

My friends, together we are weathering the storm, the atmospheric tumult, of a collective wuthering. This new reality is becoming part of our story about our present and our future. This new story will shape our lives from now on, as our expectations shift and adjust toward a different sense of normalcy.

Not all of these new expectations will represent loss – we may in fact expect more and newer opportunities. We might expect more about preparedness for pandemics, and also for making our health care system more robust altogether. We might expect a deeper awareness of all who face economic uncertainty, in our communities nearby and around the world, not just now, but also at other times.

In our community, one of the new expectations may well be the possibility to reach more folks from our community, and in ways we haven’t tried before. What we learn from this time will remain with us, and will become part of our new story.

My friends, our new stories will eventually help us fill the gap – the distance – that we might be feeling today. It will not be the same and it will be something new.

We may, my friends, even find a deeper sense of connection and a previously hidden wholeness.

In Solidarity, so may it be.

[Printer-ready version of Sermon available here]

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel

Closing Hymn #1021 Lean on Me (interpreted by the late Bill Withers)
Words & Music: Bill Withers, 1938-2020 © 1972 Interior Music (BMI)