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

IOW (In Other Words)

October 25th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #126 Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Words: v. 1 Robert Robinson, 1735-1790, adapt.,
~)-| vs. 2-3, Eugene B. Navias, 1928-
Music: John Wyeth, Repository of Sacred Music, Part II, 1813
Tune: NETTLETON

Interpreted by Kaleb Brasee

1 Come, thou fount of ev’ry blessing, tune our ears to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
While the hope of life’s perfection fills our hearts with joy and love,
teach us ever to be faithful, may we still thy goodness prove.

2 Come, thou fount of ev’ry vision, lift our eyes to what may come.
See the lion and the young lamb dwell together in thy home.
Hear the cries of war fall silent, feel our love glow like the sun.
When we all serve one another, then our heaven is begun.

3 Come, thou fount of inspiration, turn our lives to higher ways.
Lift our gloom and desperation, show the promise of this day.
Help us bind ourselves in union, help our hands tell of our love.
With thine aid, O fount of justice, earth be fair as heav’n above.

For All Ages – Color film was built for white people – Vox

Meditation Music – Love Theme from “Cinema Paradiso” – interpreted by Karen Miller and Bill Baylis

Sermon – IOW (In Other Words) – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read: [Print-ready PDF for download]

The role of ministry is often described as work of service.  And in a community of faith, that can mean many things, including leading Sunday services.  This is a ministry that is often also shared with lay leaders.

Now, just as many of you might do at different times of your lives, I have also held a job in what is indeed formally called “the service industry”, literally serving food or drink.  And sometimes, members of our community fulfill that role at our church gatherings, when some of us serve food for the community, along with taking care of the other logistical aspects that this entails, like setting up the space, cleaning up, taking down.  In other words, we serve each other at our church, in many kinds of ways, some sound more literal than others, but they are all kinds of service.

Now, like some among you, I have done this semi-professionally.  For a couple of years, I held a part-time job with an event staffing agency.  In other words, we were “freelance butlers” of sorts… and that’s what we called each other in our agency’s culture – the “butlers”.  And our jobs included table and bar service for different kinds of events, from small house parties, to large gala dinners.  And yes, in addition to my license to solemnize marriages, I also have a Smart Serve certificate… in other words, a “bartending license”.

One of the gigs that I once worked at, was a private fundraising dinner – it was a schmancy affair at a swanky home, in a high-end Toronto neighbourhood.  The menu had been meticulously chosen, the desserts looked like works of art, and the décor was fancifully laid out, with purpose-made mood lighting, flower arrangements, a colour-theme, and trendy candle-holders that were whimsically suspended inside cute bird-cages around the main guest table.

The meal service was pretty standard – hors-d’oeuvres, cocktails, sit-down, salad, main course, schmancy dessert.  We’d done this plenty of times.

My fellow butlers lined up to serve the salad.  A small platoon of us filed out and each of us served the diners, two plates at a time.

Just as I was rounding the halfway point around the table, I suddenly found myself seeing stars and then felt a warm drip around my ear and side of the face.

It turns out that I had crashed into a birdcage.

The kind of birdcage that held an hour’s worth of melted paraffin wax, which was now dripping down my side unto my agency-approved black vest, black tie, black shirt, and black pants uniform.

Also, it was on my hair.

In a moment of crisis-management brilliance, I arranged for a co-working butler to serve the rest of my allotted salad, while I sheepishly walked over to my supervisor, with wax slowly hardening on my clothes, to explain the situation, and fill out the OSHA-mandated incident report.

My supervisor was… graceful enough.  She didn’t make a big deal out of it, but did helpfully suggest that I relieve my colleague on dish duty, so that they may take my place on table duty, as my uniform was no longer up to industry standard.

While no blame was named, I did feel rather foolish at my misstep, and many questions came to mind as I started piling dirty dishes into plastic bins.  How did I not see the birdcage?  Could I have avoided the birdcage?  Why am I the only one to have crashed into the birdcage?

My relationship with the birdcage featured deeply into my sense of ineptness at my job of putting down plates of salad.  I felt foolish, and had existential questions about my ability to perform in the service industry.

At some point into the main course, one of my senior colleagues joined me on dish duty.  Turns out that the seemingly static birdcage had a way of sneaking up on people.

With a slightly banged-up head, and an even more banged-up ego, my colleague’s company offered me an odd comfort.  I may have been a fool, but I wasn’t the only one.

A few minutes into dessert, my supervisor walked into the kitchen – “The photographer just got waxed!” she declared.

A very professional-looking fellow with silver hair and an expensive camera walked in.  Paraffin featured heavily on his corduroy jacket.  He was talking about how we would word the invoice for dry-cleaning.

By that point, I no longer felt foolish.  It was clear to me that it wasn’t a matter of me absently bumping into a birdcage, or my colleague being equally clumsy.

In other words, the problem was systemic.

Something about the layout in the venue’s décor lent itself to workers being wacked on the head and waxed over their bodies and clothes.

Now, I believe that the interior decorator for this particular event never had it in their program plan to harm workers, or spill hot paraffin over them.  I am convinced that that particular outcome was never part of their intent.

And yet, their layout had a measurable impact on the people responsible for making the event happen.  Some of them were newbies, like me, but it also included more seasoned service staff, as well, as full-out professionals, with years of experience.

It wasn’t a matter of an individual’s personal ability or shortcomings – it was the structure in place that was inherently problematic, and prone to cause harm to an entire category of people involved in the event – in this case the service workers.

My friends, in our communities, our living covenant calls on us to grow into awareness toward nurturing right relations with each other.  The examples of the silver, gold, and platinum rules, offer us perspective on the kinds of questions we can ask of ourselves, and others, when deciding how we can treat those around us… examining how we love ourselves, how we can love our neighbours responsibly, and moreover, how can we allow the wider community – and the systems in it – to foster loving spaces.  Spaces where we can be mindful of our intentions – and their impacts.  And spaces where we hold each other accountable, not just as individuals, but as a community.

My friends, as we continue to build beloved community, we may grow into awareness of how our separate selves collectively make the space for warmth and light.

In Solidarity,
So may it be,
In other words,
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #125 From the Crush of Wealth and Power

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

Interpreted by John Thomas, baritone soloist, posted by Dan Inglis


Heavy Metal

October 18th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #70 Heap High the Farmer’s Wintry Hoard
Words: John Greenleaf Whittier 1807-1892
Music: American folk melody, arr. by Annabel Morris Buchanan, 1899-1983, © 1938, renewed 1966 J. Fischer & Bros. Co.,
harm. By Charles H. Webb, 1933- , © 1989 J. Fischer & Bros. Co.
Tune LAND OF REST

Tune “Land of Rest” Interpreted by Bobby Horton, from the soundtrack to “National Parks”

1 Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard!
Heap high the golden corn!
No richer gift has autumn poured
from out the lavish horn!

2 Through vales of grass and meads of flowers
our plows their furrows made,
while on the hills the sun and showers
of changeful April played.

3 We dropped the seed over hill and plain
beneath the sun of May,
and frightened from our sprouting grain
the robber crows away.

4 All through the long, bright days of June
its leaves grew green and fair,
and waved in hot mid-summer’s noon
its soft and yellow hair.

5 And now, with autumn’s moonlit eyes,
its harvest time has come,
we pluck away the frosted leaves
and bear the treasure home.

For All Ages – The Golden Rule Poster – by Scarboro Missions

The Golden Rule is one example of an “ethic of reciprocity” – this is a way of dealing with each other by which we may benefit each other together.

Many religious traditions have a version of this, and one famous collection of these is a poster created by the ministry Scarboro Missions.

Here is a site that shows a few designs of the poster in a few different languages:

https://progressivechristianity.org/resources/interfaith-golden-rule-poster/

And here is the site of the original creator’s organization

https://www.scarboromissions.ca/product/golden-rule-across-the-worlds-religions

Sermon – Heavy Metal – Rev. Rod

Watch:

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

In our Unitarian Universalist tradition, we often outline a process for seeking norms on how we’d like to get along with each other, and we refer to this process as being in Covenant – this is something we’ll continue to explore in the coming weeks and months.

Now, let’s start with one norm that many of you will be familiar with –  the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  The Golden Rule appears in the gospels of Matthew (7:12) and Luke (6:31).  It recalls wisdom from the Hebrew scriptures – in Leviticus, there is a commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).  Other traditions have ethical pronouncements that echo the sentiment of reciprocity offered by the Golden Rule.

I’d like to invoke another kind of scriptural source here, which is the last book by astronomer Carl Sagan, called Billions & Billions.  I like it because he devotes an entire chapter to discussing several ethical rules to live by.  The chapter is called “The Rules of the Game”.

In pointing out different ethical guidelines that have similar formulations, Carl Sagan lists them with according “metal” names.  The more noble-sounding ones, are given names of what are called “noble” metals, like gold and silver, which do not easily tarnish, while the approaches that sound less noble, tend to recall the names of lesser value metals.

Among these “metal” rules, is the similar-sounding Silver Rule – a negative formulation of its Golden counterpart – “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you”.  At first hearing, it sounds deceptively identical, except the Golden Rule promotes active positive action – to benefit others as you would like the same – while the Silver version seems more focused on preventing reciprocal harm.  And depending on the situation, the outcomes might be different.

Similarly, the Brass or Brazen Rule is more reactive – Do unto others as they do unto you.  It functions as a response to others’ actions.  And it’s the basis of what is more commonly known as Tit-for-Tat.  This is a fairly standard rule, perhaps one of the most widely followed, even without us realizing it.  And perhaps this is because it does not call for the level of self-reflection as the Silver and Golden Rules do, as they ask us first how we love ourselves, so that this may be a guide towards how we treat others.

This is perhaps the ennobling attribute of the “nobler” metal rules – Silver and Gold – as they call for self-reflection and invite you to value self-love, which is even more valuable if this self-reflection becomes a guide on how you love your neighbour.

Back to the Brazen Rule, and its derivative, Tit-for-Tat – these risk unhealthy cycles… it works all fine and good as long as others are playing along by treating you the way you’d like, and you treating them in kind.  But as soon as someone treats their neighbour poorly, a never-ending cycle of retaliation is liable to begin in a kind of perpetual vendetta.

The reciprocal nature of these rules is broken by the more unscrupulous Iron Rule – Do unto others as you like, before they do it unto you – and its moral compass seems to be based strictly on immediate self-interest and the capacity to get away with it.

There is also an odd hybrid between the Golden and Iron Rules – Sagan phrases it as Suck up to those above you, and abuse those below – and he calls this one the Tin Rule, describing it essentially as the Golden Rule for superiors and the Iron Rule for inferiors.  Examples of this ethic are easy to find these days.

Lately, the Golden and Silver Rules come to mind around the question of why we wear masks.  When health authorities began recommending them, they made it clear that their purpose was less about protecting oneself directly, and more about protecting others from potential harm… from us.

If you value being protected from potential harm coming from others, and you applied either the Golden or Silver Rule, then the ethical outcome is quite clear – you wear a mask.

But even this example exposes some of the issues that come with these noble metal rules.  What happens when you apply the rule, but don’t value that personal protection?  Or, more generally, if you haven’t explored in some depth what it means to love yourself?

If you apply the Golden Rule without a sense of what it means to love yourself, the Golden Rule won’t do your neighbour much good, if they’re treated in a way that isn’t respectful of the self.

Or maybe you do love yourself and are totally game to treat others in the same way you honour yourself… but maybe it turns out that the way you honour yourself is not the way others would like to be honoured!  What happens if someone meant to treat you well according to their standard, but the effect on you was the opposite, since the way they’d like to be treated might not line up with how you’d like to be treated?

In fact, one the criticisms of the Golden Rule, is that it does not seem to take into account differences in personal and cultural expectations on what it means to treat your neighbour well.  So, what does it mean when these well-intentioned ethical guidelines still fail to treat others with the respect they need, even if followed to the letter?

There is one “metal” rule that Carl Sagan doesn’t mention, but which has gained popularity.  It is called the Platinum Rule – Do unto others as they would like to have done unto them.  This one could be seen as more noble than the Silver and Golden versions, in that it shifts the focus from our wants or needs, to those of the recipient.  In this way, it removes the risks of the Silver and Golden Rules, where the frame of reference is yourself, since you might happen to have different priorities than your neighbour.

One of my favourite aspects of the Platinum Rule is that it adds that extra dimension to the ethical dynamic.  Not only is it an imperative to do a positive action toward your neighbour – the kind of action they would like, in fact – but it raises the question: What does your neighbour want, or need?

The Platinum Rule, therefore adds a layer of relationship-building.  It invites you to explore the needs of your neighbour before acting towards them and potentially offering something that might well be detrimental – however well-intentioned you may have been – based on your own perception of your needs.

Nonetheless, the Platinum Rule runs a different risk than the other noble “metal” rules… it might minimize the layer of self-reflection that seeks to recognize self-love, by prioritizing your neighbour.  Adopting an ethical basis based purely on the Platinum Rule might not only risk losing sight of the importance of self-care – it could, by extension, open one up to extreme vulnerability of self-neglect and abuse by others.  And it wouldn’t necessarily benefit society as a whole – just because a neighbour wishes to be treated a certain way does not mean that it would be beneficial to your other neighbours, let alone yourself.

So where does this leave us?

The way I see it, the value of these rules lies less on a drive to live purely by any one of these rules, and rather, to wrestle with the questions they raise about how we value ourselves, how we value our neighbours, and how we value our community.

My friends, if we stay on our toes, and consider the questions and the considerations that these rules bring up, then we may well forge them into a sort of “Ethical Alloy”, that combines their mutual strengths into a more solid set of ethical guides.  Asking what it means to love ourselves, considering how others might love themselves, exploring the needs of our neighbour, and remembering, the wider community of neighbours, and how actions might affect them – these are helpful skills to nurture when building a community of right relations.

My friends, when we build Covenants in our communities, we are not looking to simply optimize our self-interest, nor are we looking solely to selflessly serve others at the expense of our own needs and fulfillment – we are rather seeking to build a community of exploration, of healing, of forgiveness and acceptance.  We seek to build a community where we can get to know our neighbours – where we can get to appreciate and value our neighbours… and where they can get to know and appreciate us.  We seek to build a community where love is our guide – love for ourselves, love for others, and love for the interdependent web of which we are all part.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #140 Hail the Glorious Golden City
W: Felix dler, 1851-1933
M: Rowland Hugh Prichard, 1811-1887
Tune HYFRYDOL

Tune “Hyfrydol” interpreted on mountain dulcimer by Gwen Caeli

1 Hail the glorious golden city, pictured by the seers of old:
everlasting light shines o’er it, wondrous things of it are told.
Wise and righteous men and women dwell within its gleaming wall;
wrong is banished from its borders, justice reigns supreme o’er all.

2 We are builders of that city. All our joys and all our groans
help to rear its shining ramparts; all our lives are building-stones.
Whether humble or exalted, all are called to task divine;
all must aid alike to carry forward one sublime design.

3 And the work that we have builded, oft with bleeding hands and tears,
oft in error, oft in anguish, will not perish with our years:
it will live and shine transfigured in the final reign of right:
it will pass into the splendors of the city of the light.


TIA (Thanks in Advance)

October 11th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #67 We Sing Now Together
~)-| Words: Edwin T. Buehrer, 1894-1969, alt © UUA
Music: Adrian Valerius’s Netherlandtsch Gedenckclanck, 1626,
arr. by Edward Kremser, 1838-1914
Tune KREMSER

Tune Kremser interpreted by organpipe8 (Lance)

Time for All Ages – Thanks a Lot – by Raffi

Presented by the Raffi Foundation for Child Honoring, with collaboration from Teacher Erin Clarke and the children of classroom 9

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

This week we hold in mind the people of the Caribbean, Mexico, the United States, and all across North America, who have been affected by Hurricane Delta. Named after the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, Delta represents an abnormal number of named storms in the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

We also acknowledge that in the United States, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, on October 12, is getting wider recognition, in an effort to bring awareness of the realities of colonialism. Canada also has a National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on June 21, and other countries recognize Indigenous Peoples at other times of the year, which allow us to remember the history, the present, and the presence of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world, and throughout the year.

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.

Meditation Hymn #68 Come, Ye Thankful People – Karen Miller
Words: Henry Alford. 1810-1871
Music: George Job Elvey, 1816-1893
Tune ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR

Interpreted by Karen Miller

Hymn #277 When We Wend Homeward
Words: Psalm 126
Music: American folk melody, arr. by Annabel Morris Buchanan, 1889-1983, © 1938, renewed 1966 J. Fischer & Bros. Co., harmony by Charles H. Webb, 1933- , © 1989 J. Fischer & Bros. Co.
Tune LAND OF REST

Interpreted by Bobby Horton, from the soundtrack to “National Parks”

1 When we wend homeward to our land,
like dreamers we shall be;
like leaping rivers in the spring
we’ll joyful be and free!

2 For though our sowing work is hard,
and tears do freely flow,
on harvest day we’ll shoulder sheaves,
our hearts will overflow!

Sermon – TIA (Thanks in Advance) – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read: [Downloadable print-ready PDF available]

As we’ve gotten more familiar with different technologies over the past few months, I’m also introducing some of the internet lingo that we sometimes come across while using online media.  A lot of this techie language tends to use abbreviations – shorthand ways to express common and significant phrases.  So, this year, I am peppering these condensed expressions in the titles of my sermons.  Last month, I talked about FWIW, meaning For What it’s Worth.  Today, I want to talk about the expression TIA.

Now, the alphabet soup of medicine, and the alphabet soup of correspondence and internet-speak, can have overlapping abbreviations that mean different things.  Some of you, or someone you know, may have already had experience with something called a TIA – a Transcient Ischemic Attack, sometimes known as “mini-strokes”, which would not have been a pleasant experience.  Today, I’m talking about a different, and more affirming, kind of TIA – the note that means thanks in advance.

This is something you might tag on at the end of an e-mail or text message, to assure your correspondent that you are grateful for what they can offer – even if it hasn’t been done yet.

This, is a pre-emptive form of gratitude, that is banking on the faith that, even when considering the fog of the future, someone will deliver… or do their best to make good on their intentions for your sake.

Now, it might sometimes seem like the default way of practicing gratitude is… retrospective – giving thanks for something that has been done for us, or that we have received, or that we’ve benefitted from – in the past.

Sometimes, the gratitude feels a bit more immediate, by acknowledging something that’s there for us now.  A common theme on this Thanksgiving holiday is the harvest time, naming the good fortune many of us have, to enjoy the yields of the earth and the wonder of nature.  Sometimes we recognize the work and life of animals that may be involved in our nourishment.  And we also recognize the work and dedication of all the people involved in producing these gifts and getting them to us – some of you are involved in doing this very work.

We do these acts of thanksgiving with good reason, to build reciprocity in community, to remember that which is there for us… even when we might sometimes forget, and to recognize the interdependent web of which we are part.

And the neat thing is that this interdependent web goes beyond space, as it also transcends time.  Certainly, we look at the past, but sometimes, we can look at the sources of gratitude that we foresee in the future.

Over the past six months, there has been greater social consciousness about the value of the work performed by what we call essential workers – and this category is often quite expansive, reminding us that we rely on each other more than we might typically think.  Most often, foremost in our minds are medical and health professionals, care workers, labourers along the chain of supply, as well as school and childcare services… though this list will immediately seem terribly inadequate to truly reflect the interdependent web that allows for our society to function.

And as we think about the coming weeks and months, we think about the work that still needs to be done to move us beyond the current realities of the pandemic.  One place where expectations are high is in the case of a vaccine.  And even though we don’t have one yet, we can be grateful now for the work that is already being carried out toward that goal.  We can give thanks in advance, because even though we don’t know when it will happen – and at times we might even be uncertain if it will happen – we still have faith that the people involved will deliver all they have to give toward that target.

And that’s what giving thanks in advance is about, my friends.  It’s an expression of faith in others, in their intentions toward us, and in their abilities.  It’s an expression of hope, that we may look forward to yet another opportunity to be grateful.  It’s an expression of love, for those who share this reciprocal, interrelated web with us.  It is as transcendent virtuous cycle that goes beyond space and time.

My friends, as we approach the “bookend” anniversaries of the Church of Olinda, recognizing 140 years since the founding of our church, in November, and 140 years since the construction of our church building, in September, we are doing all these kinds of acts of thanksgiving, my friends.

We are paying homage to the past, to the founders of the church, and the people who helped to build its community and its physical home.  We are giving regard, in gratitude, for the community we have now, eager to celebrate together what is there for us to share, and for the new and various ways that we can be church together, even while apart.  And we also express hope for the future of our church, seeing a vision of what it can be, and how we might do it.

My friends, we are giving thanks in advance for the work we do now, that we may enjoy the yields in days, weeks, months, and years to come; and that we may be gratified that others may also benefit from this, sometimes in unexpected ways.

And for this we may be grateful, in anticipation.

So may it be,
In Gratitude and Solidarity,
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #1010 We Give Thanks
~)-| Words & Music: Wendy Luella Perkins, 1966- © 2004 Wendy Luella Perkins
arr. Susan Peck, 1960-

Interpreted by the Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Choir


250 Years of Universalist Heritage and its Meaning for Our Time (4 October, 2020)

October 11th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

First Universalist Church of Minneapolis

Members of the UU Church of Olinda were guests at this live online service.

Watch full service: