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

Seeds for Growth

September 26th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Hymn – #295 Sing Out Praises for the Journey
~)-| Words: Mark M. DeWolfe, 1953-1988,
~)-| Music: rev. by Joyce Painter Rice, © 1991 UUA
Music: Henry Purcell, 1659-1695
westminster abbey

Offered by Jess Huetteman (5 January, 2021)

Sermon – Seeds for Growth – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

For our cornerstone’s anniversary last week, the Membership Committee put together this Seeds for the Future Card, along with a special-edition printed order of service, as part of a… church care package – bringing some of the more tangible parts of the church closer to your home.

And just like our church, this package, in turn, is both tangible… as well as representative of an idea.  It is both here, and in the future.

Because, right now, it’s not quite the right season to plant these seeds, which means they need to be set aside for later, and you’ll be invited to do that come spring.  Just as our cornerstone was only the beginning of a physical home for a community that had already been around for some time, these seeds are only the beginning of what can become a future project for growth.

When they are planted – in the future – they will become the beginnings of future growing marigolds… themselves their own beginnings.

The whole process of germination is in itself a continuum of beginnings, from seed, to sowing, to seedling, flowering, pollinating, fruiting, and seeding again.  In a way, it’s not entirely clear where the seed ends and the plant begins…

Today, we mark another stage – another beginning – in the lives of… participants in our community, who are now being formally acknowledged as members.

And I say formally, because in many ways – including official ways – all of these participants are in fact already members of our church.  As of this morning, they have all signed the right papers (including our membership book), they have made a contribution of record to sustaining our community, and they have been actively involved in the life of the congregation.  This morning, we have gathered together, in our physical home, and in your homes, as one church, so that we may all say welcome, we see you, just as you have seen us, and we are glad to have you with us, in good company.

Unitarian Universalist minister and author, the Rev. Robert Fulghum, has suggested that weddings don’t really happen at the wedding ceremony, but rather, a wedding often happens over several days – perhaps weeks, or months – of candid conversation, as partners form a covenant regarding their dreams, their aspirations, their values… their problems – and how they might approach them.  That is the real wedding, he says.

And that’s not to say that the wedding ceremony doesn’t matter – on the contrary, it is an important opportunity to celebrate, and for others to witness and partake in the promises and vows that a set of partners builds over time.

Just like a partnership into a marriage, the moment of transformation between participant and member is about as blurry as it might be the case for the seeds in our care package as they transform into a “plant”.  The growth and development are ongoing processes without necessarily having a clear practical demarcation – yet we mark it nonetheless.

Some of you will have considered yourselves members long before you signed the papers, or came to a ceremony like this one.  And so, we take some time to ensure that you know, and that we know, that you know, that yes, you are here in good company, and in the company that you want to be in.

We also do this as a reminder of the covenant that many of you have already taken on, to share in this ministry, in good company.  Today, we make this public witness of the vows and promises – the covenant – that you have been building with this community, and that you will likely continue to build into the future.  A covenant of shared ministry.

Because a lot of the ministry that happens here is carried out beyond what I do as your settled minister.  This afternoon our church voted on a decision about the maintenance of our building – that was your job to do.  And, leading up to that decision, a fair bit of legwork was carried out by the Property Committee – assessing what our needs (and our building’s needs) might be, seeking out contractors, obtaining quotes, negotiating accessible rates.

I’ve been present for these kinds of discussions, and from time to time may be asked for my perspective, or I may see the need to offer my take on the matter, but for the most part, it was you and your peers, as members of this church, who have done – and are commissioned to do – this work.

We can say the same for just about all the other work that happens around here.  Even for our Sunday worship services, in which I tend to take the lead, there are roles for our lay members to be active in, be it assisting during the services themselves, looking after some of the services, or supporting the journey of worship.  I share this ministry with you.

Sometimes, that ministry is more visible – I often name the folks who are taking an active role during the Sunday morning service.  Other ministries get named and recognized at other times and other places, and some are carried out with more discretion.  And we share these ministries, in good company.

The Unitarian and Universalist traditions have shared in a heritage that recognizes what is sometimes called “the priesthood of all believers” – in our communities these days, we might use language such as “the ministry of all the faithful”.

People in my line of work sometimes carry fancy titles like Reverend or pastor, because we have made a career and life commitment of devotion to our tradition, our values, and the service that this entails, but that doesn’t stop any of you from participating on those same goals, as these tasks fit into your lives.

These may be through a named position, such as chair or member of a committee, or by your involvement in the life of the congregation, or by your financial support, or simply, by the gift of your presence in this company.  My friends, your shared ministry in this community of faith puts you in good company.

And our new member ceremony this morning, my friends, allows us to consider and contemplate the meaning and significance of being here, among each other, with each other, for each other, in good company.

Your presence this morning, your presence this afternoon, your ongoing participation in the life of this congregation and your willingness to connect more deeply with each other, and with the world, is part of your ministry in our community of faith.

My friends, without your company, our ministry could not be possible.

My friends you are in good company.

My friends you are good company.

So may it be,
In Solidarity, in Love, and in Peace

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing 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

Offered by UUCGV (10 May, 2020)

Upon This Stone

September 19th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

140th Anniversary of the laying of our Cornerstone

Opening Hymn #1 Prayer for this House
Words: Louis Untermeyer, 1885-1977, © 1923 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, renewed 1951 by Louis Untermeyer, reprinted by perm. of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Music: Robert N. Quaile, b. 1867

Offered by Steph and Les Tacy (23 March, 2021)

Time for All Ages – Building Blocks

I’d like to talk a bit about one of the more popular building block options, which many of us may have gotten know as children, or while learning alongside children, or simply being adults finding a passion for building things up at home.  It is the LEGO block (and no, this is not a sponsored bit), and I will say that there are sets that are in fact made specifically for adults, as that company has realized that imagination doesn’t need to stop with age.

The standard LEGO building block has two functional ends.  There’s the bottom part, which can attach to a base plate, OR to a previous piece.  And there’s the top part which is covered with pips that always leave room for the next piece.  From then on, almost every piece fulfills the same set of functions.  Even the topmost pieces, which often have a smooth surface, for things like roofs, offer some flexibility, as they can always be removed… sometimes with more effort – but it can be done.  In this way, whatever your imagination brings up, the toy allows you to adapt in order to meet the needs of your vision.

Now, our cornerstone is built a little different, but it serves a similar function.  It is attached to the basement structure of the church, grounding it to the land where it sits.  And, with the help of some kind of mortar, it can support different parts of the structure above it, and in the case of our church building, a lot of it is indeed bricks – not that much different than the LEGO bricks (which kind of have their own built-in mortar).

And as the last 140 years have passed, some of these building blocks in our church building have had to be re-arranged to some degree, as the needs of the church have changed, the building has been adapted to meet its vision.

Even our roof pieces can be removed, some of them with more difficulty than others… and in fact, in the coming months, we may need to do just that, so that the building can continue to serve us safely and comfortably.  And we, as a church will be discussing this aspect of our building at a congregational meeting next week (Sept. 26).

And whatever we decide, it will come from a place of imagination, from a place of vision, from a desire to allow our church building to serve us as a church, in the service of humanity.

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

Offered by Jennifer McMillan, Westwood Unitarian online Services (6 November, 2020)

Sermon – Upon This Stone


Read: [Printable PDF document available for download]

In religious communities, it is a common practice to use pageantry as a way to re-create the stories that are central to a community’s identity and core values, and in that way, to renew these foundations as a common experience among the community in the present.

In our cultural setting, one of the most obvious examples is the Christmas pageant, when the story of a humble family seeking shelter and safety – and eventually revealing hidden divinity – is retold and re-enacted, so that this message of hidden holiness is brought to life once again in a more immediate, experiential way.

Other examples might be the many seasons of fasting that many traditions have, by which a group takes a collective activity that recalls ancestral struggle and scarcity – as well as promise and resilience!  Many of you may be familiar with the rituals that come with Lent and Easter, and our Jewish neighbours will now the pageantry and momentary sense of scarcity that come with Passover and Yom Kippur.

Over the past year (and beyond), our church has unexpectedly collaborated in… a pageant of sorts, being that we have somewhat inadvertently participated – as a community – in re-enacting part of the experience that our founders had as they were forming our church 140 years ago.

Last November, we celebrated the founding of our church… without any of us being present in a church building – just as our church’s ancestors had done when they founded our church… without even one stone set down for a building.  In that way, we have recreated the experience of our ancestors.

Of course, the founding of our church in 1880 came after a couple decades in which the Universalist message was already coming to life in our area.  It was a culmination of many collective efforts to form a community, and live a life that embraced a more radical inclusivity.

This culmination was, in turn, just the beginning of a formal church body.  And about a year later, this church body’s work culminated in the beginnings of a church building, by laying down its cornerstone just about 140 years ago.  This is because our church founders recognized that, while it may be possible for a community of faith to exist without a building, having a physical home can help it thrive, offering a stable space for the many activities that bring the community closer, as well as being able to become a more visible and active presence in the larger community.

The culminating moment of laying down that cornerstone, was in itself only the beginning of this building, which also took time to reach… one state of completion, a stage that led to later shifts, as the needs of the community have shifted.  Our building does not look the way it did in 1881, or 1885, or for that matter, in 1999.

Today, we begin one step into having our building once again become a major part of our church life – that process is still ongoing, and will still take some time for it to reach… another stage of completion.  And upon this step we build that next stage into our community’s life.

Now, there is a set of stories in the book that is known as the good news according to Matthew, chapter 16.  And… one interpretation of the stories in this chapter is that the prophet Jesus is exploring with his friends and followers the meaning of their ministry and the future of their community.  As they are discussing this, one of the leading friends and followers of Jesus has a moment of clarity.  My New Testament professor would sometimes translate this follower’s name as “Rocky”, though it is more often translated as Peter, which comes from the Greek for rock or stone.  Jesus points to his friend and follower, declaring:

“And I tell you, you are Rocky, and on this rock I will build my fellowship, and the gates of the underworld will not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18]

The fellowship or assembly that has been commissioned to Rocky, is more often translated as church.  And in one of the many puns that show up in the biblical text, we see the coexisting reality of a church being founded on the people, and to a great extent on the places that are built for people in which to gather to continue building their assemblies – their communities.

One of the things we have learned over the past year (or so), is a somewhat contradictory lesson that physical meeting places are both:  not as necessary as we might have thought, as well as more important than we ever realized.  These are our current coexisting realities.

Yes, life can go on in other spaces, including online.  No, it isn’t the same.  Yes, we have found new and exciting options.  And… the option that this house offers, remains dear and irreplaceable.

The fact that we have not met in person over the last year and a half has not spelled the end of our community of faith (in fact, in some ways it has thrived beyond our expectations).  At the same time, we have also felt the absence of our building in our lives, and we share a deep sense of loss at some aspects of our church’s life that simply can’t be fully replicated with our online options.

And the fact that our church was founded nearly a year before our cornerstone was laid, bears witness to the reality that our existence isn’t contingent on having a physical space.  Yet, the additional reality that – soon after our founding – our community saw the need to literally lay down the groundwork for a meeting space, is also witness to the intense need for it.

The foundations of a community of faith that were laid down by 23 women and men, and by “Big” Mike Fox, in the years leading to 1880, are the rock-strong leadership upon which this assembly of faith is formed.  And upon the cornerstone that was laid down in 1881, this community has found shelter, stability, and longevity – not exclusively, as our work has always gone beyond our walls – but as a base upon which we may find an anchor amid the tempests.  Even now, this building is the oldest one in Canada in which a Universalist or Unitarian congregation has continuously gathered (even with the occasional pauses).

The additional options for reaching our community, which we have nourished over the past year or so, aren’t going away.  We are easing back into our building… in a tentative manner, and the additional tools that we have to connect will remain.

This goes beyond the practical benefits that they give us in staying connected and offering further connection among the wider community, it is also a theological witness to our Universalist practice of radical inclusion.  More options mean that we can include our community in ways that may better serve humanity.

My friends, this building is important, worthy of celebration and ongoing expectation to our reclaiming it, and it is only important insofar as it serves us, in the service of humanity.  In it, we will increasingly find another space for us to grow closer together, and welcome all who seek truth in the spirit of inclusion.

My friends, alongside this sacred space, each of us offers a building block in this community, upon which its spirit rests and shines.  And I tell you, my friends, you are the building blocks, and upon these stones, we shall build our community, where fear will not prevail and love will be a more powerful force for good.

So may it be,
In Solidarity, in Love, and in Peace

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn ##108 My Life Flows On in Endless Song
Words: Traditional, Verse 3 by Doris Plenn
Music: Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

Offered by First Unitarian Church of Chicago (17 May, 2020)

September 2021 Newsletter

September 14th, 2021 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

The Humours

September 12th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

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

Offered by Hillside Community Church (18 June, 2021)

Homily – The Humours [Water Ceremony] – Rev. Rod


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

If you’ve ever followed the history of medicine, you might have been intrigued by an ancient Greek view about human health, which attributed different ailments, emotions, and healing methods to the balance of four fluids in the body.  These fluids, or humours, were labeled as: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm, and while those labels may sound familiar, those words were used to describe different things than what we would now associate with those names.

I won’t go into the details of what these humours were, because our medical understanding nowadays is much different.  But I bring them to mind today because each of those humours were associated with different moods or personality types.

Someone who was thought to have more “blood” than usual was labelled sanguine, and was seen as lively, and perhaps more joyful than others.  If the imbalance was in “yellow bile”, then they were seen as choleric and prone to anger and rage.  If it was a matter of “black bile” – or literally in Greek, melancholy – then they were seen as prone to sadness.  And the folks labeled as phlegmatic tended to be seen, among other things, as more mellow or reserved.

This is a gross oversimplification.  And I’m offering this overview because, to me, the most useful part of this… classification method, was that it named real moods – emotional experiences that real people go through.

And today, I invite us to do that – to recognize our multitude of overlapping moods and emotions – with a different kind of humour…  (a humour, is essentially a liquid or fluid – it’s where we get the word humid).  And our humour today is water.

A ritual that many of our congregations do around this time of year, is a water ceremony that honours these emotional experiences.  One way to do that is to lay out four vessels for us to give witness to some of our emotional experiences as we transition from the summer days and into our new church year.

This was an eventful summer around the world, and chances are that there were some events in your personal lives as well.  A range of overlapping, and perhaps conflicting, emotions may have resulted from this, and it’s OK to recognize more than one at the same time.

So, we can lay out vessels for: recognizing joy, happiness, amusement, or other kinds of enjoyable experiences; another one for acknowledging anger, rage, fear, or other bold and sometimes unpleasant experiences; another vessel to honour sadness, grief, or otherwise a sense of loss that we might have encountered around this time; and a vessel to hold our sense of hope, for peace, for a sense of renewing faith, as we come together at this time.

I have short reflections for each of these moods, and pouring some water in a vessel for each of them may be a way for each of us to recognize these states of mind.  You’re welcome to set vessels of your own at home and follow your own ritual, or you can simply bear witness to the reflections included here.

Joy, Amusement, Pleasantness

The 2021 Ig Nobel prizes were awarded this past week.  (More accurately, it was called “the 31st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony”).  This awards ceremony is usually hosted from Harvard University, but was done online for the second time this year.   The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded to real scientific research that “first makes you laugh, and then makes you think”.

Among this year’s winners, was research seeking to demonstrate that transporting rhinoceroses upside down is better for them than transporting them on their side – this is surprisingly important knowledge for wildlife veterinarians, who occasionally need to transport ailing rhinos while minimizing harm to them; there was also a study that supports the hypothesis that humans evolved beards as protection from being punched in the face… which can lead to further lines of inquiry; and there was a study that catalogued the array of microorganisms on sidewalk chewing gum, which may offer unexpected insights in the realm of microbiology.  There were a total of ten awards, spanning six continents, and I invite you to look them up if you enjoy the combo of laughing and thinking.

These may not sound like ground-breaking research, but as laughable as they may initially sound, each of these endeavours adds to the sum of human knowledge in more profound ways than meet the eye at first glance – they first make you laugh, and then make you think.

Laughter, and by extension any kind of enjoyment, is a basic element in our human existence, and this past summer may have offered many of you with opportunities to find some kind of enjoyment, be it time to rest, or to get to do something you don’t regularly get to do, or perhaps laugh a bit more often… and maybe to think for a bit longer.

Around the Windsor-Essex area, with the Detroit River, and Lakes Erie and St. Clair, water can be a part of summer, even if it’s just a quick view from the street while walking downtown… sometimes, it can be something more engaging, like a day at the beach or a walk on the riverside.

And sometimes, it’s as simple as a cold drink on a hot day.

Pouring this water may help us recognize the moments of joy that we have coming into our reconvening this year, or that we look forward to as we engage in this community again.

Suggested meditation music – Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven

Anger, Rage, and Fear

Among the news this summer and into the fall, we’ve witnessed the frightening developments in Afghanistan, where many people have been desperate to leave, fearing for their lives.  And fear often begets anger.  Many people around the world have strong feelings about the near-twenty-year war that has just ended.

Along with that comes the memory of the attacks that happened on a clear Tuesday morning 20 years ago.  Many of us remember the fear that came with that day, along with the anger that led to many decisions and world events over these past 20 years.

I remember being invited to a Thanksgiving dinner on October 8, 2001, and learning over the dinner that the bombing of Afghanistan had started the previous day.  It sobering to consider that it’s only less than a couple weeks ago that that war ended.

The decisions leading to that war have become divisive and we also see that divisiveness around many other issues today: around social and racial justice, around health policy, and around environmental action.

Among our environmental fears, we have witnessed the stormy seas and rainy gales that have come with multiple hurricanes this season, many of them hitting both far away and closer to home.

These stormy fears and this anger are part of our world and our own personal lives, and we can acknowledge it here.

Suggested meditation music – Storm Warning by Frank Mills

Sadness, Grief, Loss

Many of us have experienced loss around this time, or may wonder if we may be facing some kind of loss in the coming days.

In the world, we are witnessing the loss of women’s rights in Afghanistan.  And over the past year or so, we have seen the loss of health and life due to the pandemic… and other reasons.

With yesterday’s anniversary, many remember the sacrifice given by First Responders in the performance of their duties – simply doing their daily job during a disaster.  And this echoes with the experience of many First Responders over the past couple of years, who have given so much of themselves, including their lives, in the performance of their duties during crisis.

With water, we recognize the tears of sadness, literal and proverbial, that may be part of our lives and of our world.

Suggested meditation music – Nocturne by Martha Mier

Hope, Peace, Faith

When we talk about the time 20 years ago, the narrative usually mentions both Twin Towers in New York City… it often also includes the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and… sometimes there’s a mention of a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Of course, the symbolism of Wall Street and the US Department of Defence amid the smoke, along with the numerous casualties involved, bring easily-recognizable images.  But sometimes I wonder if an oft-missing headline from 20 years ago, was that field near Shanksville…

Of the four flights that were crashed just over twenty years ago, flight 93 was the only one that didn’t reach its target.

And that wasn’t an accident – it is believed that deliberate action by passengers in that flight prevented it from reaching Washington D.C. and causing even greater harm.

After the closing of Kabul’s international airport at the end of August, it has just been announced, a couple of days ago, that a new civilian flight left Kabul’s international airport – the first in a couple of weeks – bringing people to a safer place, over a week after it was doubtful that this would be possible.

Even amid extreme adversity, there is hope.  And faith, in its many manifestations, can help us find a glimpse of peace.

This month there were elections in Morocco and Sao Tome – these are complicated things, and… they always leave space for change… maybe for the better.  Here in Canada, we are heading into our own election, and wherever you stand in it, it offers some opportunity for a better life in our country and in the planet.

Water may offer witness to floods of hope, and tranquil streams of peace, that feed growth and change.

Suggested Meditation Music – How Can I Keep from Singing? Traditional

And so, my friends, with the fluid form of these waters, we witness to our moods – to our shared and personal emotional experience that comes with this transitional time, as we face our past, and look to our future.

My friends, may the witness of these humours offer more balance in our lives.

So may it be,
In Solidarity, in Love, and in Peace

Copyright © 2021 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn – #4 I Brought My Spirit to the Sea
~)-| Words: Max Kapp, 1904-1979
Music: Alec Wyton, 1921- , © 1990 Alec Wyton
First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

A New Premise 3 – Yes

September 4th, 2021 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Confluence Lecture 2021 – Rev. Anne Barker (Westwood UU, Edmonton Alberta)

A New Premise, part – Yes

(originally posted to the Canadian Unitarian Council’s YouTube channel on 27 April, 2021)