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

“The Transformative Impact of the Coronavirus – Building For a Better Normal On the Other Side”, by guest speaker Daniel Blaikie (Howard Pawley Memorial Lecture)

June 28th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #118 This Little Light of Mine

Words & Music: African American spiritual, c. 1750-1875
harmony by Horace Clarence Boyer, 1935
Tune LATIMER

Interpreted by Sister Rosettta Tharpe

Reflection – The Transformative Impact of the Coronavirus – Building For a Better Normal On the Other Side – Daniel Blakie, MP (Video only)

Recording during live online service of the UU Church of Olinda.

Service Leader Bobbye Baylis begins by offering background about Howard Pawley and the Memorial Lecture in his name. She then introduces the Howard Pawley Memorial Lecture guest speaker, MP Daniel Blakie, who begins his Reflection with a Reading from Luke 18:1-8 “The Parable of the Persistent Widow”

Watch:

Reprise Hymn #118 This Little Light of Mine

Words & Music: African American spiritual, c. 1750-1875
harmony by Horace Clarence Boyer, 1935
Tune LATIMER

Interpreted by Sam Cooke


Thank You For the Music

June 21st, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #65 The Sweet June Days
~)-| W: Samuel Longfellow, 1819-1892
M: English melody, arr. by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958,
used by perm. of Oxford University Press
Tune FOREST GREEN

Interpreted by Julia Stubbs

Time for All Ages –Thank You For the Music by ABBA – The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (YouTube)

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.

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

There are very large stories circulating this week.  I will name some areas of global concern today, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives.  And I invite you to recognize your personal stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration.

Today is Indigenous People’s Day, which accompanies the Summer Solstice.  In our area, we particularly recognize the Caldwell Nation.

Last Friday was June 19 – Juneteenth, which is a holiday to recognize when slaves in Texas received news of liberation.  While it has long been recognized by Black people across the United States, it is gaining wider recognition, as more folks grow in awareness of the significance of Black history.

We also recognize that the Supreme Court of the United States has reached a decision further affirming LGBTQ+ rights.

Closer to home, we receive with sadness the news of numerous outbreaks in agricultural work places, which has severely impacted migrant workers, including two deaths.

We also recognize Father’s Day, acknowledging that it may bring opportunity for celebration, along with complexity in different relationships with fatherhood, as well as grief in remembering fathers who are no longer with us.

Homily – Thank You for the Music – Rev. Rod E.S.Q.

Watch:

Read [downloadable print-ready PDF available]:

Norbert Čapek was a Unitarian minister in what was then Czechoslovakia, where he defied German occupation during World War II.  That is also where he began the Unitarian ritual that is the Flower Ceremony, which has now been adopted by Unitarians and Universalists across Europe, North America, and beyond.  He also wrote the original Czech lyrics to a hymn we sing around this time of year Color and Fragrance.

The Flower Ceremony or Flower Festival began as an exercise of inclusion – anyone who shows up for it can take part in it, regardless of whether or not they are card-carrying members of the faith, and regardless of whether you have brought or shared flowers – everyone gets to leave with a token of the beauty that flowers offer.

Beauty is one of those concepts that is prevalent, sought after, idolized, and somehow, still underrated.  It is underrated, not because it’s not desirable, but because we don’t often consider just how powerful it really can be.

And when I speak of honouring beauty, I don’t mean an idealized form, or an unattainable body that’s commercialized, commodified, and objectified, but rather, the ability to see an incredible worth and dignity accessible to all of us, that inspires us and brings us a deeper sense of appreciation for all that can be good, wholesome, and pleasant.

And yes, tastes can differ.  I often say that my favourite flower is the dandelion – and I suspect some of you might differ from that preference.  In fact, my own taste can change depending on the season – in the wintertime, my favourite flower is the poinsettia.

But differences in taste aside, we can see a deeper value in the presence of flowers – as cradles of life, as connections among plants and animals, with insects that pollinate them, and fruit that feeds us.  Flowers offer colour and fragrance, they herald new life, they allow us to express many dimensions of love.

Along with beauty, another underrated power is the impact that art can make.  Art expresses connection and points out where there is disconnection.  It glorifies beauty – in all its forms – and exposes where it is lacking.  It allows us to feel “all the feels”, to communicate what is missing in simple transfer of knowledge, and often, inspire change.

A member of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, Elena Perez, observes that music specifically, and art in general, is perhaps one of the most powerful forces for us, especially at times like these.  She quotes a recent meme that’s circulated online, which goes like this: “As you binge watch your thirteenth entire series or read a book or sleep to music, remember.  Remember that in the darkest days, when everything stopped, you turned to artists.

The latest cover of TIME Magazine, for June 15, 2020, shows a painting by artist Titus Kaphar (see the cover painting here). The cover shows what Kaphar calls a merger between painting and sculpture – a picture of a Black woman holding the silhouette of her missing child.  The silhouette is physically cut out of the canvas, and illustrates poignantly the loss that many Black parents feel when their child is murdered as a result of systematic racism.  We have heard this story before, in this painting – we see it and we feel it at another level.

In this way, art, by appreciating beauty and exposing where it’s missing, can tell a fuller story, a more powerful story, that cuts through the numbness of the numbers.  And the numbers are important – it is important to have facts when seeking solutions to problems.

Yet, as statistics mount, be they infection case counts and death counts in the pandemic, or case counts on racist interactions and deaths, it can be easy to forget the human part of the story beyond the scope of the problem.

And when we experience the deeper reality of others’ life experience, we can make better sense of our relationship to the interconnected web of our shared existence, as well as a better sense of the action, and the mission that is required of us.  Along with that, we can feel the passion that may inspire us to maintain and create more wholesome connections.  And every once in a while, we may find comfort, and a reminder that beauty – and our appreciation of it – is essential.

And so, my friends, in days like today, we share flowers – to remind us that the appreciation of beauty and the nurturing of art are powerful forces in the search for connection and action.  And when we share in the presence of the flowers around us at this time of year, we are exercising the practice of a deeper power than can shape the world

May we make it so,
In Solidarity,
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #78 Color and Fragrance
~)-|Words: Norbert F. Čapek, 1870-1942
~)-| trans. by Paul and Anita Munk, © 1992 UUA
~)-| English version by Grace Ulp, 1926-
~)-| Music: Norbert F. Čapek, 1870-1942
Tune O BARVY VUNE

Interpreted by Sandra Hunt (piano) and Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert at the Unitarian Church of Montreal


Parallel Timelines

June 14th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

#279 By the Waters of Babylon
Words: Psalm 137
Music: Anon.
Tune UNKNOWN

By the waters, the waters of Babylon,
we sat down and wept, and wept for thee, Zion.
We remember, we remember, we remember thee, Zion.

Time for All Ages – Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho (YouTube) – 3 June, 2020 (9:27 mins.)

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows
There are very large stories circulating this week.  I will name one area of global concern today, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives.  And I invite you to offer personal stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration.

This week, we have seen the conversation on racism – and ways to dismantle it – continue, not just in the US, but also at home in Canada.  As we see ongoing unrest resulting from systemic racism in our society, and as we hear that another black man Rayshard Brooks, was killed by police in Atlanta GA, we continue to bear witness to the stories of marginalized people at home and abroad.

We also see some hope as the Province of Ontario has given the go-ahead to collecting race-based data on their interactions with the public.  Acquiring knowledge on the problem of racism, and how it is manifested in our communities, is one part of the work needed in dismantling racism in Canada.

Meditation Hymn #1042 Rivers of Babylon
Words & Music: Trevor McNaughton, George Reyam, Frank Farian, and Brent Dowe, © 1978 EMI Al Gallico Music Corp. (BMI).  All rights administered by Warner Bros. Publications US Inc. All rights reserved.  Used by permission. Warner Bros. Publications US Inc., Miami, Fl 33014, arr. Matt Jenson, 1964-

Interpreted by Boney M

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!

Sermon – Parallel Timelines – Rev. Rod E.S.Q.

Watch:

Read: [Download Print-ready PDF file]

There are some things that we have become used to seeing and being part of around this time of year.  Some of us make vacation plans, to visit people or places that are special for us.  Some of us simply look to spend more time outdoors, in the public areas that are usually accessible across Windsor-Essex, including events and festivals that are part of the yearly spring and summer cycle where we live.  Some of the younger folks in our lives, may have looked forward to graduation ceremonies, or graduation celebrations, like prom.  There may have been summer jobs in the works, or new school settings to explore, some of which may now be in question, or will likely look different that what was expected.

As we go on our current lives – the real ones that we wake up to in the spring and summer of 2020 – those other lives that we thought were going to happen may also be living alongside us, in a kind of parallel timeline, that nags at us… “around this time, we would have… done such and such.”

We’ve all reached different levels of acceptance to these discrepancies in our realities, but it is likely that these parallel lives are there, somewhere, in the back of our minds.

There is a strong biblical tradition of dealing with discrepancies in our reality.  These are often found in the book of Psalms, and in other portions that are categorized as Lamentation.

The hymn Rivers of Babylon, by the reggae group The Melodians (and later popularized by the group Boney M), draws from two psalms – 137 and 19.

If you ever sing the hymn, which in our hymnal uses the original lyrics by The Melodians, you may have wondered who “King Alfa” is in the lyric how can we sing King Alfa’s song, since the original biblical text uses the words are how can we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land.  But The Melodians wrote the song as a Rastafarian hymn, where King Alfa stands in for Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor who is seen as a messianic figure in Rastafarian tradition.  With that imagery, Babylon can be used as a stand-in for any oppressive force.  And Zion is a symbol of a long-lost home.

Let’s talk a bit more about Psalm 137.  It has the distinction of being perhaps one of the easiest psalms that we can date.  Because it refers specifically to the Jewish exile to Babylon, or Mesopotamia, in modern-day Iraq, we know that it was written after the year 537 BCE.  From this history of exile and captivity, we hear it as a song of lament.

Its verses speak of a longing for a long-lost home.  It gives witness to the oppression of an enslaved people, whose traditions and songs were mocked.

It also speaks with a surprising frankness about how the people feel about that oppression…

Among the verses from Psalm 137 that are not included in the sung versions in hymns and The Melodians’ song, is the anger and desire for vengeance upon their oppressors.  If you’re curious, I invite you to read Psalm 137 – it isn’t very long – and the last few verses may be shockingly violent… which probably explains why they aren’t included in the most popular musical adaptations that you might hear.

And that’s the thing about psalms.  They are frank.  They speak of things lost, or things longed for.  They speak of injustice, and they speak of deep anger.  Tellingly, they are characterized by describing life as it is, with all its imperfections, and sometimes, its horrors.

Lamentation is an entire genre in the collection of biblical texts.  And there is so much of it, not just in the Psalms, but in other biblical books, because it serves an important purpose.

The art of lamentation has many layers, but it can probably be summed up as the ability to unapologetically recognize, and name, the fact that things can “suck”.  Sometimes we can phrase this politely as “things aren’t how we’d like them to be”, or “it could be better”.  But the frankness in the tradition of the psalms also invites us to more… direct language.

My friends, over the past three months, I’ve been expressing many of the affirming aspects of our response to the pandemic.  The fact that our church can continue to exist, survive, and even thrive, while outside of our building… in an exile of sorts.  The fact that many of us have found ways to maintain our community, and even strengthen it.  These are things worth celebrating, and it is important to make space for that – we’ve been doing that, and will continue to do that.

It is also important to allow space for lamentation.  To recognize that things can also suck.

It sucks that we haven’t been able to share the same physical space together, and that we feel compelled to keep that practice for some time still.  It sucks that we are required to forego, or sometimes reimagine, many of the parts of our church life, including the ways in which we can be involved in each other’s lives.

Many of you will also note – and lament – unwelcome changes in your lives.  It sucks that you cannot meet with, or hug, your grown children or grandchildren.  It sucks that summer plans have had to change, or have even evaporated.

Members in you family may have voiced similar sentiments.  In many cases, you may have heard children voice an unexpected longing for school.  Maybe they simply miss their friends, often enough they miss a special teacher, or the structured learning, or the sense of community among their peers, or the rituals of end of year, like graduation, or signing yearbooks, or even the feeling of the last day of school.  And children and teens will, quite unequivocally and without euphemism, tell you that “this sucks”.

In the wider world, you will have seen people commenting – or you may have commented yourselves – about those things that suck in society – we’ve been talking about racism, we’ve talked about economic inequality, and inadequacies about how people’s work is valued, and sometimes unappreciated.

It is important to be able to name these things, and recognize that they have an effect on us.  To recognize that we can get grumpy, angry, or sad, about the chasm that exists between the parallel timelines of different realities.

But – and there is often a “but” in the tradition of psalms – there is also opportunity to participate, or even create, a new direction in the parallel timelines ahead of us.

In the biblical text, there is often a turning point after the lamentation portion – what my Old Testament professor, academically referred to as “the but clause” – that moment when we have recognized the parts of our lives that don’t conform with our expectations of how our life or the world should be, and then search for those things that support us, naming our longings and a new resolve to see them through.

We often do both of these in our ritual of Joys & Sorrows.  And when we do that, we name our laments, as well as recognize those who are around us, and those things that inspire us to be in a new relationship with life.  Be that the stars, the flowers, the people we rely on, or our breath – the spirit of life that allows us to get up in the morning.

My friends, we do not need to shy away from the gaps in our lives that leave us wanting more.  But, it is helpful to name them, sit with their reality, and then search for the resources that will allows us to create something different and inspiring.

May we make it so,
In Solidarity,
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

#377 & 379 (Old Hundredth)
M: Genevan psalter, 1551
Tune OLD HUNDREDTH

Interpreted by organist Rob Charles

#377
In greening lands begins the song
which deep in human hearts is strong.
In cheerful strains your voices raise,
to fill the whole spring world with praise!

#379
~)-| Words: Kenneth L. Patton 1911-1994 © 1980 Kenneth L. Patton
Ours be the poems of all tongues,
all things of loveliness and worth.
All arts, all ages, and all songs,
one life, one beauty on the earth.


For Your Service

June 7th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #128 For All That is Our Life
~)-| Words: Bruce Findlow, 1922-
Music: Patrick L. Rickey, 1964- , © 1992 UUA
Tune SHERMAN ISLAND

Interpreted by Chelsea Sardoni, mezzo-soprano

Time for All Ages – Systemic Racism Explained – act.tv (YouTube)

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows
There are very large stories circulating this week.  I will name one area of global concern today, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives – the offer personal stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration.

This week, we continue to pay attention to the unrest resulting from systemic racism in our society, highlighted by the killing of George Floyd by police.  As we do so, we remember that while systemic racism may sometimes be manifested differently in Canada, it is also a reality in our own neighbourhoods, and we commit to participate in dismantling the culture and the system that perpetuates it.

We also remember all Joys and Sorrows left unsaid, recognizing that in this larger community, none of us is alone.

We are in this together.

Meditation in Stillness – Breathe – Lynn Ungar

Meditation Hymn #169 We Shall Overcome

Words & Music: African American Spiritual, c. 1750-1875, Musical and lyrical adaptation by Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan and Pete Seeger.  Inspired by African American Gospel Singing, members of the Food & Tobacco Workers Union, Charleston, SC, and the southern Civil Rights Movement.  TRO–© Copyright 1960 (Renewed) and 1963 (Renewed) Ludlow Music, Inc., New York, International Copyright Secured.  Made in U.S.A.
All Rights Reserved Including Public Performance for Profit.  Used by Permission.
Tune Martin

Interpreted by The Moorhouse College Glee Club at the 2009 Candle on the Bluff Awards

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!

Sermon – For Your Service – Rev. Rod E.S.Q.

Watch:

Read:

[Downoald print-ready PDF document]

My friends, in June, it is customary for us to set aside some special time to recognize our volunteers, because it bears regular reminding that ours is a shared ministry.  In principle, we already know this, but it takes on special significance when we take a pause to see the specific faces attached to this truth, knowing that there are personal stories behind this truth, and perhaps considering more deeply how you are part of this truth or how you might want to be more involved in it.

One of the fundamental traits of volunteering is that it is not typically remunerated.  And yet people do it, because it brings on other rewards – a sense of connection, a sense of achievement, a sense of contributing to something larger than ourselves.

Another, aspect that is sometimes overlooked, is that unpaid work is indeed work.  It brings value to a community, and it brings value to the individual.  It also takes time, it takes dedication, and to some extent represents sacrifice.  It means putting energy and passion into something other than whatever else we might also be doing.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable – it often is, just as paid work can also be enjoyable, if you’re fortunate to have that kind of position.  That doesn’t make it less work, and it warrants recognition.

We thank you for your service.

Which brings us to one other dimension that is not always articulated.  Folks volunteer to do this work – which is to say, we do it willingly… out of our own volition.  Each of you who has taken a volunteer task, will have your own reasons.  Some may call them selfless, or sometimes selfish… I suspect they’re often a combination of both, which are part of what I like to call self-full.

In our wider society, there is another kind of unpaid work that often also goes unrecognized.  And that is the work of social justice by folks who are experiencing social injustice, in real time.

This work is also work, and it is often unpaid.  Sometimes it is unpaid because it is unappreciated.  Often it is even received with hostility.  And because of this, this kind of work, this kind of ministry, is also not always taken on voluntarily… given the choice, some folks would rather not have to do it.  But the reality is that it sometimes becomes a necessity to advocate for oneself.

Now, I want to recall, for a moment, that there are many forms of oppression and many ways to be marginalized.  For those of you who haven’t experienced racial oppression, you might have otherwise lived marginalization due to your gender, or your age, or ability, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or where you fit in the construct of socio-economic class.

If you fit into any of these, or similar categories, you might recognize that sometimes you have to advocate for yourself.  This is work, it is unpaid, it is usually not voluntary.  It is not fair, and yet, it has become necessary.

Sometimes the categories of privilege and marginalization overlap… for those of us who may find ourselves in the privileged position, there is also work to be done – it will be work, it will likely be unpaid, and is necessary… a duty, for the sake of fairness.

That is the work of solidarity, to be side by side with those who do the work of advocating for justice, especially when they’re advocating for themselves.

Now this work can take many shapes.  These past couple of weeks, you’ve seen that it has often been expressed in the form of public protest, often at danger to oneself.  Now, I’m not going to spend time debating the specifics of how that is carried out, because today, that will distract from the larger truth, that people are advocating for themselves, and other folks are being in solidarity with them.

That particular expression of solidarity may not be possible or appropriate for you.  There are other ways, that may make more sense in your specific situation.

And perhaps you’re struggling with how to show your support.  These conversations can be tricky, and it’s easy to be daunted by the rules of engagement, which can often shift unexpectedly.

There is one way that I want to highlight.  When in doubt – listen… take a breath, and listen.  If marginalized folks are speaking to an experience that is different from yours, listening is one of the most basic ways to show support.

And yes, it is also work to do that.  It takes self-restraint to put aside our opinions for a while, and really seek to engage with information that may be new to us.  It may be unremunerated work.  And it will be just work.

We’ve had this conversation – several times before – in this community of faith.  By now, many of you are used to hearing about the need to listen to the stories of marginalized folks, and you are well aware of the need to advocate for justice that truly applies to everyone equally.  This is not news.

What I want to stress today, is that the work doesn’t end.

It certainly doesn’t end for the folks with marginalized identities – who constantly live the experience of oppression and who also often find themselves having to explain that experience to other folks who have trouble identifying with their experience.

It is for this reason that we have guest speakers in February, who give witness to why Black lives matter.  And it is why we also talk about different types of justice, outside of the designated day, or week, or month when that matter is featured.  The work is ongoing.  It necessitates repetition, and practice, because that is one way in which lasting change comes about.

You may have already engaged in some of this work over the past few days.  And there is always room for more.  If you’re wondering today, how you might show support.  There are a couple options I’d like to offer.

On this web version of the service, I am including a few reflections, with different perspectives on the current conversations of racial justice.  I invite you to take a look at them.

My friends, the articles or reflections I’m posting on the web page are not a comprehensive list.  It is only one starting point.  You are invited, to follow your own journey, as many of you already do.

And, my friends, there is one other concrete action we’ve been invited to do.  The Canadian Unitarian Council has set up a study group for dismantling racism.  Part of the work includes a survey of Unitarian Universalists across Canada, because knowledge about where we are informs what action we need to take.  Many of you have completed that survey.  And as the Dismantling Racism Study Group progresses in its work, I invite you to explore how you might be involved.

And when in doubt, my friends, listen.  Whenever the opportunity shows up, listening can be one of the most effective kinds of work you can do for the sake of justice.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,
Amen

Some Materials for Personal Growth

Dear Liberal Allies by Trungles

https://www.uua.org/worship/words/reading/dear-liberal-allies

Want to support Black people? Stop talking, start listening by Laura Hensley and Olivia Bowden in Global News

How Change Happens by Rebecca Solnit in Literary Club

let your grief rise by Rev. Theresa Inés Soto

https://www.uuma.org/mpage/SotoPoem

#34 Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire
Words: Hal Hopson, 1933- , (1 Corinthias 13:1-3), © 1972 Hope Publishing Co.
Music: Trad. English melody, adapt. by Hal Hopson, 1933- , © 1972 Hope Publishing Co.
Tune GIFT OF LOVE