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

FWIW – For What it’s Worth

September 27th, 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

Interpreted by the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

Time for All Ages – UU Principles Song – by Rev. Tony Larson,

Performed by Steve Askins, from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin, Illinois

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

As we consider our stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, we are also invited to witness to some of the events from around the world, remembering that what touches one affects us all.

Today, we keep in mind the people of Greece, where 4 people have been killed and several cities have been flooded by Cyclone Ianus.

We also recognize that Covid-19 will likely have claimed 1 million lives by the beginning of this week, with an infection toll of over 32 million.  We also acknowledge that in much of Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, a second wave seems to be shaping up.  This latest spike has leveled out over the past few days, and we may continue to contribute to this flattening with our efforts.  We are grateful that, although Windsor-Essex was a hot spot some months ago, it has lately had one of the lowest infection rates in Ontario.

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

Hymn #1058 Be Ours a Religion
~)-| Words: Theodore Parker, 1810-1860
~)-| Music Thomas Benjamin, 1940- , © 1998 Yelton Rhodes Music (ASCAP). Used by permission

Interpreted by Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Sermon – FWIW (For What it’s Worth) – Rev. Rod


Read: [Print-ready PDF document for download]

As this year rolls along, we are coming upon a year-long season of anniversary celebration, commemoration, and contemplation about the past – and the future – of our Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda, for all that it is worth, beginning with the 140th anniversary of the founding of our church, this coming November 8.

And as we get ready to look at our church’s history, it is worth looking at our larger tradition’s history – specifically, the Universalist tradition on which we were founded.

Now, I’m not going to go into an extensive historical account of Universalism today.  It is a fascinating story, and one which can get… very specific, and perhaps technical, with very close readings of biblical scripture, as well as seeking to apply a critical understanding of historical and contemporary use of language.  Over the coming year, we might delve more deeply into parts of that history and what it continues to mean for us.  For today, I’m inviting you to share in some of the basics, as we gear up for this year’s celebrations.

For some of you, this might be a kind of review, particularly those of you who grew up in this church, and especially if you were around when it was a Universalist church, before merging and becoming Unitarian Universalist.

But you might be up for a refresher, especially if you’re newer to our tradition, or new to the Universalist heritage of this church, which is a bit different than most UU congregations in Canada that generally spawn from the Unitarian roots.

Now, one of the quirks of both the Universalist and the Unitarian traditions is that their names come from very specific doctrinal schools in Christian theology, which has often been remarked as paradoxical, since both Unitarianism and Universalism – as well as the newer merged Unitarian Universalist denomination – are characterized by a lack of attachment to doctrine.  And in both traditions, the Christian elements have often come to represent a smaller proportion of the theological thought expressed in our communities.

For our shared reference, the Unitarian doctrine was a rejection of the trinitarian conception of divinity.  And Universalism rejected the doctrine of eternal punishment in an afterlife – that is to say, it proclaimed universal salvation – a statement that every single person is worthy of the same love.

But, if you’ve been attending our services for a while, you might have noticed that we don’t really talk very much about these specific doctrines and whether or not we reject them.  And we tend not to make many claims about afterlife, recognizing that, among you, there are different expectations of what happens after death.  And accepting the coexistence of these diverse theologies has become a hallmark of both of our parent traditions.

So, it might seem easy to dismiss the doctrinal roots of our namesakes – Unitarianism and Universalism – as vestigial remnants from a different time, when our congregations were clearly under the Christian protestant umbrella – something that is a much fuzzier question nowadays.

And yet, the spirit of these roots continues to drive theological thought and development among our communities, not least being the fact that Universalist and Unitarian attitudes were labelled as heresies rebelling against some of the established norms in the history of Christian churches.

And while we may no longer spend a lot of time debating the details of how the conception of divinity might be structured – and in our case, the… mechanics of an afterlife – these roots, for all they are worth, continue to inspire how we look at the world and how we develop spiritually.  From an openness to ongoing revelation that is not sealed, to a steadfast commitment toward radical inclusion.

So, let’s pause for a moment today, before we contemplate where we are, and where we want to go, and consider where we come from.

The universalist approach may seem new and radical, and in a larger historical sense, it is.  But looking further to the early Christian church, we also see evidence that types of universalism, rejecting eternal damnation and punishment in afterlife, were considered by the early church – and to some extent – accepted.

These are the kinds of “small u” universalisms, referring to theological concepts, rather than our “big U” Universalism, that speaks specifically about the name of our denomination.  â€œSmall u” universalism is also sometimes called “classical” universalism, to distinguish from the Universalism label that has become the name of our church’s founding tradition.

We can see one of the earliest documented versions of this “small u” universalism, in the works of Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria, by the third century.  And several of his near contemporaries agreed.

Now, there is debate as to what extent Origen was a card-carrying universalist… his work is sometimes ambiguous and might even be seen as contradictory, but it is clear that his writings set out a universalist understanding as a serious proposal, with robust theological reasoning and drawing directly from scriptural texts.

As with many things, there have been several manifestations of the universalist spirit throughout history.  They range from merely posing the possibility of universal salvation – sometimes called “potential universalism”, to an absolute conviction that all people are guaranteed an afterlife in paradise, immediately upon death – this is sometimes called “unqualified universalism” in academic circles, but it is also sometimes known by the more metal-sounding name of “death and glory” – the kind of phrase that you might see on silk-screened black t-shirts at a heavy metal concert.

There is an in-between interpretation, in which everyone is guaranteed a punishment-free afterlife… eventually.  In this scenario, people might spend some time in a purgatory-style period when the soul is to be purified and restored unto blessedness.  And the time that this might take would depend on the type of life one led, and how one related to the redeeming figure of Christ.  This is academically called “qualified universalism”, and more popularly as “restorationism”.

This latter version of universalism is perhaps the one that Origen proposed, and the one that you might see among Christians that also lean toward a universalist view.  Because it is also worth noting that there are currently Christian-identifying communities that espouse this “small u” universalism.  This current exists alongside our denomination and is often called Christian Universalism, and this link, explains it in more detail.

And, while this classical universalism is no longer a… complete description of how our theologies emerge in our particular church’s community, it is worth taking a look at what it has meant.  It is part of our heritage, which continues to inform our faith, and continues to inform how we live our lives.

My friends, whatever your views on what happens after this life, the key value that every person’s life is worthy of acceptance, embracing their whole selves, including recognizing their inevitable faults, continues to be a founding principle of our communities.

My friends, the first Unitarian Universalist principle is a covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  The Universalist spirit stands at the foundation of our community of faith, and the foundation of our life of faith.

My friends, for what it’s worth, this is a heritage to celebrate.

My friends, for what it’s worth, this is a life to honour.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #148 Let Freedom Span Both East and West
Words: Anonymous
~)-| Music: Betsy Jo Angebranndt, 1931- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association

Interpreted at St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church

Chunks of Time

September 20th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

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

Interpreted by Julia Stubbs

Time for All Ages – Your Theme – CGP Grey

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

This morning, we keep in mind the people of the United States, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. With her death, and a new vacancy on the Supreme Court, there are many questions about the future of the court and justice in the US, and all the people who are affected by its decisions

We also keep in mind the transitional time that is September, with many people going back to school, parents adjusting their responsibilities, and potential shifts in working opportunities.

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

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

Sermon – Chunks of Time – Rev. Rod


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

You’ve seen hints of copper on the trees, the air feels colder this weekend, and – come Tuesday, the day will be more dark than light.  The fall season is upon us.

We’ve also had another… longer season to contend with… Pandemic Season.  It has both been longer, and likely will be longer, than many of us had either expected or hoped.

This week, it will be six months since we last gathered in the sanctuary in our church building.  And in this extended season, we have adapted the larger theme of church – from being in church, to being church, wherever we might be.

This adaptability of themes is what YouTube creator CGP Grey outlines in his video called Your Theme as one approach to making sense of chunks of time, like seasons and years.  As he mentions, this approach seeks to take advantage of broad themes, to identify and manage expectations over longer periods of time, especially when facing the fog of the future.

That doesn’t mean that more specific and structured systems don’t have a place – in fact, he has an entire separate video that describes the need for more detailed action plans in other circumstances.  But, as he remarks, not every problem needs a sharp tool.

And I think he’s on to something.  Especially since a broad theme, with flexible goals that can adapt to the specific situation, are the kind of life guidance that can help in making the more specific decisions of our day-to-day lives.

Speaking of themes, you may be aware that some other Unitarian Universalist congregations do monthly themes as part of their liturgical year.  We don’t do that here – at least not in that way – and there are many reasons for that, including some practical considerations, as well as elements of our church’s culture, and personal styles.  And I usually appreciate the flexibility that this affords me – and that it affords to our lay and guest speakers.  But, some of the keener observers among you might have noticed that many of the topics I touch upon tend to cluster in groups of three or four, which allows us to explore certain themes beyond a single Sunday morning.  And of course, our liturgical year has chunks of time with different flavours, as we move our attention to different priorities.

Be it weekly, monthly, seasonally, or yearly, thinking about the themes for different chunks of time, might help us get a better and clearer sense of the direction our lives are taking, or the direction that we would like them to take.  Because, to paraphrase CGP Grey: “thinking about our thinking, changes our thinking”.

Over this coming program year, we have a major theme that has been brought upon us, by mere virtue of the calendar – it happens to be the year 2020, and that is 140 years from when our church was founded.  We will be paying special attention to that anniversary on November 8, which will be close to the date when the count for those 140 years began.  And much like our church ancestors did 140 years ago, we will be gathering in building our spiritual community, even without access to a dedicated building for it.

But that’s just the beginning, because in September of 2021, it will be 140 years since the cornerstone for our church building was laid, so just less than one year from today, we will be recognizing that milestone of the cornerstone.  And who knows – we might even be able to celebrate the anniversary of our building, in the building.  I can’t make any promises… there’s always the fog of the future, but it is within the realm of possibility.

In any case, these two anniversary Sundays – November 8, 2020, for the founding of our church, and September 19, 2021, for the construction of our church building – will bookend nearly a year-long season when we can honour our history and our heritage, allowing us to explore where we have been, where we are, and where we want to be.  The leadership in our congregation has already taken steps in visioning what the future of our church may look like, as we navigate the current fog of Pandemic Season, and into the further fog of the future.

And in the coming year, we will all have the opportunity to be part of that conversation and think about what this all means – because “thinking about our thinking, changes our thinking.”  Adaptation will be part of it – the specific goals and actions will shift, and wherever we happen to be on September 19, 2021, we will have had a whole extended Anniversary Season to contemplate, celebrate, and commemorate our history, at the same time as we get to delve deeper into our emerging vision.

Now over the past Pandemic Season, other themes have emerged.  For me, most of the spring season – right around the time of our last in-person worship service – was dedicated to incorporating the use of audio-visual technology to complement and enhance our worship experience.  It just so happens that I was already moving toward that theme before we closed down the church building’s doors.

If you attended that last in-person service on March 15, you will remember that we watched a YouTube video as a kind of “video reading”, very similar to what we do on our live services and our web services, and as we have done several times over the past months.  So, the theme of more audio-visual elements in worship was already there, and as circumstances shifted, the focus of that theme also changed, as we needed to look to more expansive uses of audio-visual tech, to accommodate the need for online and web services.

For other members of our church leadership, Pandemic Season also had a certain theme, partly due to circumstance.  In the spring, a few of our Board members, concentrated their efforts to regularizing parts of our incorporation process, and over the summer, a devoted group dedicated a great chunk of time to fleshing out many details of what will be our revised by-laws, to conform to the Federal not-for-profit standards.

My friends, this fall season, we will be participating in looking at those new by-laws, getting to know them and understand them better, and hopefully approve them, by December.  That will be one of our seasonal themes.

My friends, your own personal and family seasons, or cycles, might look different.  Perhaps you divide your time between personal, and social – or family – seasons.  Maybe you think of your year or your seasons in terms of chunks of time to spend indoors, and chunks of time to spend outside in nature.  There may be times for work, or times for school, and times for leisure.  When it makes sense to do so, you might have dedicated chunks of time for staying locally, and chunks of time for travel.  However it is that you divide your time, spending a bit of those chunks of time considering what it means to have – and to be part of – that time, can help in finding a deeper meaning in it.

My friends, as we head out into the next several chunks of time, facing the fog of the future, and navigating through it as we think about our thinking, may we take this time, to be in time.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Sept-Oct 2020 Newsletter

September 19th, 2020 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

Celebrate with us the 250th Anniversary of Universalism in America

September 18th, 2020 . by William Baylis

As part of the Sestercentennial of Universalism in America, the UU Church of Olinda will be joining the Sunday Service led by Rev. Justin Schroeder, co-minister of the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, by Zoom. The service is entitled “250 Years of Universalist Heritage and its Meaning for Our Time” and runs on Sunday morning, October 4, 2020, from 11 am to noon ET.  This heritage is particularly relevant for our UU Church of Olinda since it was founded as a universalist church in 1880. The internet link to the service will be sent to members and friends of our church on October 3, 2020. If you do not regularly receive Zoom links to our services but want to participate on October 4, please send an email request for a link to our webmaster, whose contact information is given in the section <Our Church>.

For background and history of Universalism, access the 629-page pdf file digital Toolkit.

Worthy Waters

September 13th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

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

Interpreted by the Community Church Virtual Chamber Choir (Chapel Hill)

[Time for All Ages – Where does Water Come From? – SciShow Kids]

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

  • This week, we keep in mind the people of Sudan, where massive floods have devastated tens of thousands of people’s homes and left many people dead. May they find recover well.
  • We are also mindful of the people in the western United States, where wildfires are putting several populations in danger. These fires can be linked to climate change, and we can hope that they may be brought under control soon.
  • And this week, many young people have been returning to school, which also means that more people are returning to work.  May these returns allow for safe environments for all of us.

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

Hymn #113 Where Is Our Holy Church? Vv. 1-4
Words: Edwin Henry Wilson, 1898-1993 ~)-| © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Genevan psalter, 1551, adapt. By William Crotch, 1775-1847
St. Michael

Interpreted by Jess Huetteman


Sermon – Worthy Waters – Rev. Rod


Read [Print-ready PDF for download]:

Every once in a while, I get a chance to visit St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.  It’s a large church building – the biggest in Canada, including powerful architecture, and an immersive setting and rich storytelling, that gives you a sense of Montreal’s Catholic heritage.

One of the places I sometimes visit when I’m there, is an unassuming room, with a steel water tank.  They give the water away, though if you don’t have a container of your own, you can get one of these bottles for a dollar, and fill them.

I’m always intrigued by what makes this water so special, to the extent that it is labeled holy water.

Well, it turns out the bottle contains a set of “ingredients” or “instructions” of sorts.  It turns out that holy water is not all that different than regular water – the secret ingredient is a blessing.

On the label, it explains that “To bless is to wish someone well”.  In the case of the kind of holy water that you find at places like St. Joseph’s Oratory, the water has been blessed by a priest, someone who has a job kind of like mine.

But Unitarian Universalists affirm what is sometimes called, the priesthood of all believers – these days we might phrase it something like the ministry of all the faithful.

And in fact, the water that I got there was blessed, not just by a priest, but also by the people who came along in my journeys to the Oratory.  In fact, when I started running out of this water, I had a chance to fill it more recently with water from a place where I had a holiday with my partner.  In any case, the water reminded me of the blessings I had by the people who are sometimes with me, and by the places where I can find this water.

So, I believe that, no matter where we are, we always have access to holy water of sorts – worthy water that has been blessed by people and places that mean us well.

Any of us who’ve lived in Essex county for any length of time, owe a great deal of our lives to this – tap water brought to us by grace of the County Waterworks.  It is a simple substance, yet a miracle of civil engineering.

What is inside our glasses has been around for a long time, and has been used before for uncountable uses.  It has been inside people and animals.  It has been sailed, and skated on. 

And before coming out of the tap, it has been graced by the powerful forces of science – physics, chemistry, and biology – gravity to separate it from heavier objects, substances to clear it, and living organisms to transform it from poisonous sludge, into life-giving drink.

It is blessed by the lives it has touched before, and by the lives that have cared for it.  It is worthy water.  It is holy water.

This water is easy to get – it is safe to wash with, cook with, and drink.

There are other waters that tell similar stories.

A few years ago, I visited my old home, which was in the old Olympic Village, from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  During my visit, I was able to stay in my old room, where I growing up.

While I was there, I often wondered about the athletes who lived there for a couple of weeks in October of 1968.  I wondered about who lived in my room, while getting ready for their event – Did they win a medal?  Did they come to represent their country regardless of the outcome?  How were they welcome when they got back home?

Some of you might remember that it was at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, when Tommie Smith or John Carlos made their remarkable Black Power salute, and they were not welcome by everyone in their home country.

I wondered about the athletes’ morning routines – how they felt as they used my shower, flushed my toilet, and washed their hands in my sink.  And I wondered – did they drink the water?

When I lived there in the 80s, we didn’t drink the water from those taps.  At least not directly.  My mom taught me to boil the water for several minutes, and then taught me to have patience as it cooled down.  We usually prepared batches in advance, but occasionally a lack of foresight meant, I had to go thirsty for longer than I expected.

When I go there now, we usually drink water from large 40L bottles, as has become the norm in Mexico.  The one from the taps is not necessarily harmful… but it carries enough risk that we’ve learned to take precautions.

And while that water might not be safe to drink, it is holy to me, I see it as blessed from its source, which has been graced by the presence of unknown athletes; unknown and known tenants over half a century; family and friends, who shared that tap with me, when it was the source for cleaning and preparing for the day and the night.  By their grace, that was worthy water.

On an early September day like today, it is often customary in Unitarian Universalist congregations to hold a ritual where we can bring water from places we might have visited over the summer.  Water that feels special because of a place that might have become special to us by our presence there.

That dynamic is less feasible these days…  Even if you did manage to visit some place and bring water from there, it is tricky for us to have these different waters poured in together.

And yet, all of you today, have special water with you.  Water that has been made holy by virtue of being next to you and accessible – ready to bring you life.

Most of you will have been able to bring drinkable water straight out of your taps, graced by the engineering marvels of our local waterworks around the county.

Now, over the summer a few households in rural Leamington were not able to do that, as a boil-water advisory was given in a limited space in town.

Even that water is special, and with a bit of extra care, it was possible to transform it into life-giving liquid – by boiling it – just as my family did at the old Olympic Village in Mexico City.

So, we see that any water can become special water – worthy water.  Whether it comes from far and exotic places, or from just a few steps away, where you live.  With some special care and intention, even the most brackish of waters can become a blessing to anyone and everyone.

Let us, together, partake in sharing this worthy water.  While we are apart, we may all drink from the same kind of water together.  Water that has been blessed by many others.  Worthy water.

To your health!
In Solidarity,

Copyright 2020 © Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #1064 Blue Boat Home
~)-| Words: Peter Mayer, 1963- , © 2002 Peter Mayer
Music: Roland Hugh Prichard, 1811-1887, adapted by Peter Mayer, 1963 – ,
© 2002 Peter Mayer
~)-| keyboard arr. Jason Shelton, 1972 –