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

March 2022 Newsletter

February 26th, 2022 . by William Baylis

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Where the Heart Is

February 20th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Time For All Ages – “Unknown Blessings” by Paula Shmayda, sung by Lea Morris

thisisLEA – Lea Morris (21 January, 2022)

Sermon – Where the Heart Is – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

For many of us, the first thing we might think of when we hear of the composer Henry Mancini might be the Pink Panther theme.  I know that it’s one of the tunes that is part of the soundtrack of my life, and I suspect that this might be the case for many who grew up watching the animated shorts by United Artists.

And if you went to high school in Ontario, chances are you also heard another one of his iconic themes after studying Shakespeare’s iconic play Romeo and Juliet – if your class also happened to watch the film adaptation by Franco Zeffirelli.

Like the play, and its film adaptations, the epic Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet by Nino Rota, and arranged by Mancini, is at once evocative in its sense of lovelorn longing, and in its mood of melancholy heartbreak.  Romeo and Juliet is one of the quintessential love stories – you know the story.  And, it is also appropriately classified amid the tragedy section of Shakespeare’s works.

The tragedy comes from the other major theme in the play – family.  The star-crossed lovers were kept from the fairy-tale ending to live happily ever after… because their love was unacceptable in their society.

The play explores this tension – and questions it.  When Juliet asks “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” she’s not all that concerned with his first name, she’s really asking about his family name – Montague – and its implied feud with her own Capulet provenance.  And in asking “What’s in a name?” shortly before Romeo approaches her balcony, she wonders whether those family connections really warrant cancelling her own desire for a new family of her choosing, even if their families of origin seek to get in the way… which they did – with tragic consequences.

Their story rings true to many people who have needed to redefine or reconsider what family means to them.  Among the LGBTQ+ community, the ability to form – and find support among – a family of choice has often been a life-saving necessity, when their families of origin have not been supportive of their sexual or gender identities.  And this continues to be a recurring theme in stories that feature Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer, plus, characters.

Of course, even if your family of origin is supportive and continues to be a part of your life, it is always valuable to consider who your extended family of choice might be.  You might not always call them family, but they may still hold that same nurturing and trusting company, which you would expect from anyone who you might consider family.

These may be friends who you can confide in, coworkers who you might connect with, communities that bring you joy and a sense of belonging… a church that offers you a spiritual home, for inspiration, comfort, and occasional challenges and invitations for growth.  These can all encompass a larger family of choice.  People who can help you feel at home.

If home is where the heart is, then the people who feed your soul – be they families of origin or families of choice – are what elevate the places where you live into spaces for life.

As we have been reminded over the past couple of years, our church goes beyond the walls of our building, and its core lies in the people – the assembly – that form the church.

Of course, we do not forget that the places also matter.  Anyone who has ever been homeless, or precariously housed, knows that a reliable roof and a set of walls have a value of their own – with immediate, primary importance.

And we also know that beyond physical survival, our emotional well-being and spiritual survival also hinges on needs beyond protection from the weather, which is why finding effective support networks often go along with any comprehensive housing strategy.  The two form a complementary mashup of protection and support, that allow souls not only to survive, but to thrive.

There is a reason why I still broadcast our live services from our building, which is the place that often houses our spiritual home.  The physical place is one of the things that can help us tell each other the story of our faith family of choice.  And we take this opportunity to remember that we bring that faith into the ordinary places of our lives, even if that means that we sometimes watch, or read, the sermon from the places that represent your more habitual homes.

Because that’s another thing, we each can have multiple places, and multiple communities, that we can call home, and each may involve a different aspect of our family, writ large.

I have shared before that when people ask me where I’m from, I am sometimes puzzled and have trouble giving a direct answer.  Often, I presume people are wondering where I was born, and that’s a bit easier to answer, but it is clear that other times, people want to know where it is that I consider home.

And that’s trickier, because my heart has been in many places, and parts of it still are.  Having lived for extended periods of time in at least six different places (and some shorter spans in a few others) I have been fortunate that I’ve usually been able to be with family of origin, or find families of choice, or a combination thereof, wherever I live.  I sometimes joke that I’m poly-metropolitan, as I feel like coming home whenever I visit any of the places where I’ve been.  And then, when I come back to Leamington after any of these visits, I am coming home again.

All this to say that home and family will look different, depending on your story and your needs.

As we observe Family Day this weekend, we also consider how families can come in all shapes and sizes.  Our Unitarian Universalist faith has called us be intentionally inclusive of this diversity, and this includes recognizing that families may not always look the way that some of us might have come to expect.

This may mean remembering that, for some folks in our community, families of choice may be as important or even more important than families of origin.  Or it may mean keeping in mind that many households are bigger or smaller than the nuclear family that has often been considered traditional.

It may mean staying mindful of our language… it remains common, for instance, to ask couples when they might start a family by having children, and this phrasing has a risk of overlooking the fact that they may already consider themselves a family, not to mention that there may be reasons why children are not there yet, or are not there any more, or may never be there, but a family is there nonetheless.

My friends, building and finding family can sometimes be hard work, as can be maintaining a connection or rebuilding connection with existing family.  It is also heart work, as this labour of love invites us to co-create spaces we can call home, be they in our houses or dwellings, or beyond the walls where we spend most of our time.

My friends, observing and celebrating the complementary mashup of people and places is part of a shared ministry, as is the work of reimagining and being open to seeing in how many places, and in how many ways, our kindred spirits find family and make themselves at home.

My friends, may the spirit of the Family holiday offer you one of many holy days in which to find where the heart is.

So may it be,
In love, in housewarming, and in grace,

Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #324 Where My Free Spirit Onward Leads
~)-| Words: Alicia S. Carpenter, 1930- , © 1989 Alicia S. Carpenter
Music: English traditional melody, harmony and arr. by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958, used by perm. of Oxford University Press

Sung by the River of Grass Unitarian Universalist Congregation Virtual Choir of Davie, Florida (31 May, 2020)

Desire Lines

February 13th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Time For All Ages – Meditative Moment with Rev. Raymont Anderson

Meditation by Rev. Raymont Anderson; Song “Walk Your Faith” at 5:08 by Lea Morris. Channel thisisLEA (12 February, 2022)

Reading – Tao Te Ching 78

Explore Chapter 78 of the Tao Te Ching on this page with several English translations of the same chapter – each translation can offer a slightly different perspective!

Video Reading – “How Footpaths Help Shape Our Technology – Cheddar Explains”
Explanation of Desire Lines, by Cheddar (1 November, 2018)

Sermon – Desire Lines – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

Many universities are known for their ivy-covered walls and historic-looking gothic architecture.  The place I went to for my undergraduate degree was not that kind of place.

I went to Carleton University in Ottawa.  Now Carleton started as a continuing education college for World War II veterans, only becoming a university a bit later on.  As a young university, it did not have much by way of historic buildings, and if you ever visit its campus, you’ll see a fairly ordinary-looking mix of mildly quaint red brick mixed with brutalist concrete, along with a newer batch of metal and glass buildings.

Of course, starting a campus from scratch allowed the architects to really think through some of their goals for the new learning spaces.

Now, the aesthetic quality of these buildings is a mixed bag… the Architecture Building is notorious for being perhaps the ugliest structure on campus, and even the more mild-mannered Student Centre Building was a bit of an Escheresque nightmare that made you believe its inner staircases and hallways had their own grip on the spacetime continuum… I once counted entrances into the building at five different levels – there was the underground tunnel entrance, the main street-level entrance, another two street-level entrances a few stories up, and a second tunnel entrance near the top level of the building.  This was easily explained by the fact that the building was by the side of a hill, but it was still a perplexing place to navigate when first entering it.

My particular college was housed in what is called the Loeb Building, a misleading name, since the “building” was actually four separate towers (imaginatively called A, B, C, and D), the floors of which were each connected between the towers by a thin hallway.  (And yes, the underground tunnel entrance was located a whole two stories above the street-level entrance… somehow the physics worked)

I eventually learned that, what seemed like a haphazard internal design, was oddly on purpose, and it illustrated a philosophy of space that was pervasive throughout the campus.

The architects made a very conscious decision to place faculty office spaces right next to the classrooms, so that students walking to class would inevitably bump shoulders with their professors.  This attitude was surfing on a 1960s wave of equality, and the designers wanted to literally carve this approach in stone.  And indeed, the faculty at Carleton was notably more approachable than in other institutions I’ve attended.  Calling professors by their first name was the norm, and showing up unannounced to their offices with open-door policies was a commonly accepted practice.

In the same way, the seemingly-confusing staircases of the Student Centre obligated many streams on campus to mix and mingle, including professors, undergrads and grads, student union leaders, pub-crawlers, the athletic types, and the keener crowds, all of whom had gathering spaces geared to their respective demographics placed beside and atop of each other.

Despite the aesthetic consequences of some of these design choices, and the occasional inconvenience that came from navigating the crowded hallways it created, I grew to really admire the intentionality that the architects and campus designers gave to setting up these new places for learning and community-building, making a set of plans in advance so that these spaces invited the people in them to co-create the kind of university they wanted to shape.

There is also a different approach to setting up new spaces, which requires a different kind of planning.  And to some extent it involves, perhaps counterintuitively, making fewer plans.

There is some famous lore in many campuses, where the campus designers decided to forego paving paths in green spaces for some time, and instead allowing the people using the spaces to create their own trails.  It was only once that it became clear which paths people were actually using, that the administration would formalize those paths by paving over them.

The unofficial trails are commonly known as “cow paths”, or more affirmingly as desire lines.  A notable example of this is the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, by Rem Koolhaas, who very intentionally incorporated the desire lines created by the population of the campus into the interior design of the building.  (and there is a more in-depth description of this concept in a video linked in the description).

The desire line approach displayed by Koolhaas is clearly different from the approach taken by the designers of the Carleton campus, which relied on actively directing the flow of pedestrian traffic.  By contrast, the wisdom of desire lines is to follow the flow of pedestrian traffic that emerges organically.

Rather than grit our teeth in annoyance that people aren’t treading where they’re “supposed” to, the desire line approach embraces people’s natural inclinations and welcomes their practice, perhaps even formalizing it… eventually.

By practicing an openness to go with the flow that real people take in everyday life, rather than seeking to fix it or direct it artificially, the user experience may be richer, more intuitive, and more respectful of people’s expressed needs (or desires), not to mention that they are more convenient as they can meet these needs more effectively.

Of course, both approaches can be useful, and while they may seem contradictory, I believe that, in the Taoist spirit, they complement each other.  There are times and places in which going with the flow will yield more edifying results than overregulating.  And yet, we know that some level of direction is useful, even desirable, in fostering cultures and norms that lead to more enriching, safer, and inspiring spaces.  If used together, these two approaches can offer a complementary mashup that invites us into looking at challenges with a lot more dimension.

The story of desire and love has plenty of examples when there have been attempts to unrealistically regulate people’s natural inclinations to express their love and sexuality, rather than embracing them for who they are, celebrate how they express love, and even formalizing the unions of those who wish to do so.  If, instead of trying to “fix” the rainbow of love, we allow ourselves an openness to recognizing the desire lines that people carve out for themselves, then we intentionally welcome a richer, more intuitive society, that respects how people fulfill their needs and honour their desires.

For instance, in our Unitarian Universalist tradition, we have been supportive and affirming of same-sex partnerships and unions for several decades, recognizing that it’d be inhumane and harmful to prevent people from loving who they do, and that supporting people’s desire lines is far more respectful, enriching, and even more convenient, than attempting to “fix” something that does not need to be fixed.  We have also been part of the process that allows same-sex couples to formalize their relationship, if they wish to do so.

More recently, our Canadian denomination has taken steps to better include our members who lead a polyamorous lifestyle, and we’ll have a chance to explore more of what that means later this month, with our guest speaker on Feb. 27.

Of course, there is a place for some active direction, which involves a different kind of intentionality.  In our communities, we recognize that there is value in upholding certain essential norms to prevent harm and promote the safety and wellbeing of all.

We affirm that any romantic or sexual relationship must be based on consent, mutual safety, communication, and trust-building.  And the principle of consent goes beyond the agreement to engage in sexual activities – it also applies to agreeing on the kind of relationship each party wants to have, and how each person in it wishes to be part of it.

Many of you are, or have been, in a romantic relationship, and you’ll have likely noticed that this kind of relationship shifts over time.  There are times when proactive planning and mapmaking are necessary, to lay down a course for where each of you wants to go in the relationship, to get a better sense of your personal and shared goals, and to set mutual understandings of what is acceptable and what is not, as well as mutual understandings about how you will respect each other.  At other times, there is room for more spontaneity, to simply see where things may go and how they might go, allowing your hearts to lead your relationship into mutually enriching and loving places.

At all of these times, my friends, there is room for intentionality, as either of these approaches allows you to get a deeper understanding of who you love, how you love them, and how they love you – if you’re paying attention.

And of course, my friends, this approach applies beyond romantic relationships, since relating to friends, larger family, and our varied communities, all require a mix of careful consideration and foresight, as well as openness to allow things to unfold on their own.

My friends, the complementary mashup of intentional planning, and intentionally going with the flow, is a Taoist dance that allows us to grow together, with a sense of caution, as well as adventure.

My friends, may we proceed with prudence, and may we proceed with pride.

So may it be,
With love, with caution, and with grace,

Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #299 Make Channels for the Streams of Love
Words: From Richard Chenevix Trench, 1807-1886
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.

Offered by the Unitarian Church of Montreal worship team (25 October, 2020)
Piano: Chad Linsley Fiddle: Marie-Claire Saindon Voice: Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert

February 2022 Newsletter

February 1st, 2022 . by William Baylis

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