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

Ukrainian Customs and Traditions (Janik)

March 27th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Reflection – Ukrainian Customs and Traditions – Dan and Toni Janik

(Note: you’ll hear an echo in the first 40 seconds of the recording – this will go away quickly and you’ll be able to hear Dan more clearly within the first minute!)

Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

Taking Action – Meaningful Ways to Support Ukraine – Canadian Unitarian Council

The Canadian Unitarian Council has compiled a list of organizations and options if you wish to contribute to humanitarian efforts and refugee support.

You can find the complete list through this portal on the CUC website:

Meaningful Ways to Support Ukraine (Canadian Unitarian Council)

#318 We Would Be One
~)-| Words: Samuel Anthony Wright, 1919-
Music: Jean Sibelius, 1865-1957, arr. from The Hymnal, 1933, © 1933, renewed 1961 Presbyterian Board of Christian Education

Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Brian Kenny (piano), Alena Hemingway (vocals), Mike Menefee (10 May, 2021)

April 2022 Newsletter Supplement (AUUction)

March 26th, 2022 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

April 2022 Newsletter

March 26th, 2022 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

Half Full

March 20th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Time for All Ages – Meditation and Song – Lea Morris and Rev. Amanda Poppei

LISTEN HERE: Hope Springs Eternal (with Amanda Poppei) (13 March, 2022)

Sermon – Half Full – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

And although we’re not quite halfway through Lent, already the Easter spirit of resurrection is in the air – in starts and stops – with cold and warm weather alternating, as well as wet and sunnier days.

Starts and stops have been a hallmark of the past while… today, we were able have some folks in our sanctuary, and while it wasn’t exactly half full, it was near the fullest it’s been in two years, and what we did today gives us a sense of what it can be like to be halfway toward a fuller in-person presence, even as we keep other platforms available. 

You’ve heard me say some version of this before – we’ve had partial attendance before… and we’ve seen the need to walk it back.  Nonetheless, it is significant that we had some more people attending in-person today – it has been almost precisely two years since we last held our last fully in-person-only Sunday service: more than two full cycles of 52 weeks… in fact 105 Sundays.

Last week would have been the 2nd anniversary since we last gathered together exclusively in-person.  Today is the 2nd anniversary since that was no longer an option.

We mark this time.

We mark the time to honour where we are – and to contemplate how we feel about it.  To become aware of the mixed emotions that come with budding optimism, as well as accumulated sadness and grief.  To recognize the sacredness of this moment and of those past moments.

As of this month, the confirmed worldwide death toll for Covid-19 has now exceeded 6 million.  And to some of you, that figure may hold a rather chilling significance.

In our own church community, we have seen the direct effects of the pandemic, including some among us who have been infected – most of you have recovered, to various degrees… and we also acknowledge that we’ll no longer see at least one of our members, who has died from the disease.

Many others among us will have also lost loved ones, perhaps due to other reasons, and it has sometimes been difficult or impossible to be by their side during those hard times, or to honour their memory in the way we’d hope, or at the time we’d hope, or in the presence of those we’d hope could be with us.

These are real losses, and real sources of pain and sorrow.  We honour them, as we mark this time.

Without forgetting the hardships… in fact, in conscious recognition of the hardships, marking the time invites us to take stock.

Taking stock is also part of Lenten practices.  Last week I invoked a “review” of some of these, which often include some kind of fasting – sometimes literal, but perhaps more often, it’s fasting in a broader sense of rehearsing what it’s like to do without, or to be with less of something.  One way that a Lenten observance – or many other traditions that include a fasting practice – make this a tool for spiritual growth, is in that a fast invites perspective into what is beyond the self.

A very practical example might be gaining some insight into what it’s like for people who involuntarily do without food, or who cannot afford to get certain luxuries, or perhaps certain delights that we might be used to, but have temporarily decided to do without.  In this way, a practice of doing without can help us better relate to the needs of others, and in this way develop deeper compassion.

It might also be a way for us to personally explore what else we have been missing.  If a glass is half full with water, it might be an opportunity to remember that we also need air.

Perhaps giving up a certain food might open up space for other sources of nourishment we haven’t reached for in a long time, which are better for us, and which we might well enjoy.  This could mean different, healthier, tasty foods, or it could be other sources of comfort that we might now remember to cultivate, including activities, places… and people.

And perhaps the money saved by abstaining from a certain frivolous purchase may find a home in something more fulfilling in our lives – or in the lives of others.

Last week, I shared that the time saved by staying off of social media has often meant that I have more time than I realized for things that are more fulfilling than “doomscrolling” through other people’s feeds.  And sometimes these practices pay off, and become well-rehearsed habits.

A common theme in all these examples is an increased awareness of self and others.  A clearer sense of what’s important for ourselves individually and for our communities collectively, small and large.

Every once in a while, you’ll hear a clever remark from someone who proclaims that they’ve “given up giving things up” or that they “gave up Lent for Lent”.  These may be cute self-referential wisecracks, but I think that this approach may also be on to something.

It could be that sometimes we may feel worn too thin for doing without even more.  The last two years have been a kind of extended Lent in many ways, and maybe we could do a bit less with doing without.  To be sure, doing without certain ways of congregating has increased our awareness that there are other ways of doing church, not to mention that it has been a reminder that there have always been members of our community who cannot do church the way many of us are used to doing it.  And now we’ve taken a practice of enhancing how more of us can access opportunities for worship.

And in taking stock we’ve also confirmed that having opportunities for in-person gathering is also something that we cannot discard altogether.  Many of us sorely miss it, insofar as it is feasible, and there are parts of our community life that simply aren’t the same without the in-person element.

Perhaps we can also abstain from abstaining, when we already realize that we need more of something important in our lives.  Maybe we feel the need to “take up” something for Lent, or for the upcoming season.  I’ve done that myself on a few occasions, realizing I could do with a healthier habit, where rather than do less of something, I already see that there is something I’ve found to be lacking in my life, and which I could do with more of, for the sake of myself and others.

Perhaps this might be a time to remember the intentions that came around New Year’s Eve and give it another go if this year’s theme hasn’t quite taken hold – because personal growth and spiritual development takes practice, and it often takes more than one try.

If New Year’s Day has come and gone, and you missed the beginning of Lent to enhance your spiritual practice, then spring is another time that reminds us that renewal is always possible.  These opportunities are always there, as long as we remember to mark them and remark on them.

My friends, in this halfway time, we mark the time, to take stock and renew efforts for regrowth.  As the buds in the trees and the grass on the ground make tentative efforts to bloom out and sprout up, these agents of nature can also be our cloud of witnesses, accomplices with us, as we seek the brightening daylight.

And maybe, my friends, this might be the time to take the cue from nature, to simply take the time to observe it.  This can be as simple as looking out the window more often, to remember to lift the blinds (physical and metaphorical).  If we are able to, perhaps step outside more than we’re used to, and reconnect with the world that is out there.  Perhaps it’s the time to start something new.

We may be halfway there, my friends, and that half may well be plentiful.

So may it be,
In optimism, in grief, and in gratitude

Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #74 On the Dusty Earth Drum
Words: Joseph S. Cotter, Jr., 1895-1919
Music: Friedrich Filitz, 1804-1860

Brian Kenny (Piano), Amanda Hemingway and Mike Menefee (Voices)
Mike Menefee (27 August, 2020)

The Joy of Missing Out

March 13th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Time for All Ages Hymn with Reflection and Questions – Lea Morris

VIEW from the MOON – STJ #1026 If Every [Person] in the World
Lea Morris – thisisLEA
(11 March, 2022)

Sermon – The Joy of Missing Out – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF document available]

There’s a phrase that’s been making the rounds over the past two or three decades, which sums up the sense of anxiety that comes when we have the impression that we’re not keeping up with others – the fear of missing out.  This is often shortened with a fashionable acronym (a word made of the beginning of other words): FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).  Although it may sound like another word that is sometimes used as a slur, FOMO is rather used to express that sense of loss, sadness, and lack of fulfillment that comes when we think that others are having it better, or getting to have fun that we’re not having.

To be sure, the basics for FOMO aren’t all that new.  The adage “keeping up with the Joneses” betrays a similar sentiment.  But FOMO is often used to illustrate a stronger and more pervasive version of that feeling, especially one that has been amplified by the easier access we have to information, and particularly social media.

Now that many people have taken up the habit of documenting many parts of their lives – and advertising them by sharing them on their social media – it has become common to feel like we’re passive observers in what seem to be the amazing lives of others.  Not only is everyone’s lawn much greener, but so are their salads… their desserts are sweeter and fancier, their coffees frothier, their pets funnier, and their vacations more exotic.

Of course, that is only our perception of others, since many of those amazing parts of their lives tend to be but mere snippets of more regular lives, which are carefully curated to project a certain image.  Not only that, the fact that so many people do this, also means that we’re liable to be getting dozens, if not hundreds, of these constructed lives in short amounts of time, maybe within the same day.

Part of the issue is, in fact, the reality that the possibility of being part of so many things has never felt so easy.  Getting to know about exciting events, and about things we could get, or be part of, is just a click or notice away.  The very fact that we can get to more stuff, and get more stuff, is a constant reminder that we’re not doing or getting that stuff.

This has been a real observed phenomenon, particularly among the younger generations, and it has often been tied to higher rates of anxiety and depression, as getting massive doses of perfectly manicured lives can give the impression that our lives simply don’t live up to those of others, and we risk fearing that we’re missing out on something that everyone else is having, or getting to do.  Somehow, this may give the impression that we are not enough.

Of course, the bulk of this is an illusion, but it is hard to fight that sense that our lives somehow don’t measure up.

There is a better way.

What if, instead of focusing on those things we think we’re missing out on, we can cultivate a practice of intentionally missing out?

As I’ve already mentioned, the basics of this sense of having gaps between our lives and those of others is not that new, even though our current technology may make that gap feel even bigger.

And there have also been spiritual practices that invite us to grow in our sense of self and community by intentionally giving up some of the very things that we think we want more of.

Many faith traditions have some kind of practice that includes fasting.  This has typically been done by giving up certain foods, or giving food up at certain times (although this practice can be tricky for folks who have eating disorders or a complicated relationship with food).  But the concept can be extended beyond food, to giving up other things, or reducing our reliance on some material things, or maybe even taking up practices that centre our needs less to focus on others – and our relationship with them.

Some of us have looked into Muslim practices, which include fasting during the month of Ramadan.  Among other things, this practice invites contemplation about what we really need, as well as compassion for those who have less, by voluntarily sharing in part of the experience of doing without.  Almsgiving is also part of the Muslim practice, by sharing one’s wealth among the community through acts of charity.

Closer to our heritage, we’re now a couple weeks into the Lenten season that comes before Easter.  And some form of fasting has been part of observing Lent for a long time.  This can be seen as a re-enactment, a communal pageant, of the fasting that Jesus is said to have taken for forty days shortly before his death.

You might know that a Lenten fast has been done in different ways through history.  In Roman Catholicism, this has included giving up meat on Fridays, which is why fish might be a bit more popular around this time of year.

Many others extend the practice to giving something up… it is sometimes fashionable for chocolate to be one of those things, but many of us might choose something else to give up, or at least reduce, like a habit we’ve identified as being an issue in our lives.

I myself have previously given up social media for Lent, on more than one occasion.  As can be the case, a habit might come back in full force after the time of fasting, and that has sometimes been true for me with me with my social media fast.  But even then, having taken up that practice, at least for some time, has taught me something about myself and my relationships with others.  The practice has, indeed, become a rehearsal, an enactment of a “what if?” that has given me some real-life experience of what my life would look like if that fast became a more regular part of my routine.

Among the lessons learned is that I am usually happier when I do less social media.  Taking up the practice, even when temporarily, has offered me a glimpse of the realities that a different way of living can bring.  And it has increased my awareness that too much social media can be hazardous to my health.

And indeed, after a few trial-runs of the sort, I’ve noticed that, while I was never a particularly heavy user of social media, I now do it much less than in other years, even during “ordinary time”, sometimes going days or weeks without feeling the need to check the latest buzz or notices.

This doesn’t mean that we need to give these things up altogether.  In my case, I make use of social media for some ministry-related work, as well as some social connection, but it’s now a more balanced part of my life.  There is lower risk of FOMO, and there is a higher quotient of JOMO – the Joy of Missing Out.  Because sometimes the act of giving up also gives more of other things.  In my case, it’s been clarity as well as time – spending less time on one thing, allows for more time on other, perhaps more fulfilling things.

The author and journalist Oliver Burkeman, has recently written the book called Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.  The number four thousand may seem big in some contexts, but in this case, it refers to how many weeks are in the average human lifespan, which suddenly doesn’t sound like all that much.  In that scarcity, Burkeman finds the affirmation that, with limited time, we may feel the freedom to give up on taking on too much, to give up on the idea that we need to do it all, which was an impossible task to begin with (for those of us who are mortal).  And when we give up some things, we may find that we end up having more of other things.

For instance, Burkeman contemplates the difference between having a to do list and a done list.  Now, a to do list is a very useful tool – I use one myself – as it helps in keeping track of tasks.  And some of those tasks may be vital to doing what is important to us and those around us: work that brings in a salary, and which we may also find fulfilling; taking care of our homes and our families; taking care of ourselves – all of these are the real important things.

And a to do list may remain useful as long as we remember to give up on doing everything that we could possibly add to that list.  Burkeman suggests a done list – things which we didn’t have to do (or were given the impression that we should do them) and rather things that we’ve taken up doing for our sake and the sake of those around us.

My friends, some of you may have already taken up a version of that practice, such as a diary or journal – that is a done list that allows us to witness to the life we have taken on.  Another way to look at it is as a practice of gratitude – celebrating the reality of our lives as they are, rather than maintaining an illusion of overly-ambitious lives that cannot be and which we fear missing out on.

Burkeman notes that this kind of practice helps remind us that we are enough, and there is no need to constantly justify our existence.

My friends, the Lenten practice of taking up more of life by giving up on the illusion of living up to other impossible lives, is a liberating spiritual tradition.  It is an opportunity to train ourselves in enhancing our awareness of what matters most, by foregoing the more superfluous trappings of things we need less of.

My friends, the joy of missing out involves celebrating the love that is more powerful than the fear of missing out.

So may it be,
In gratitude and joy

Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #16 ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple
Words: Joseph Bracket, 18th cent.
Music: American Shaker tune

Saint Andrews Episcopal Church, Seattle (22 July, 2020)

Black Belt for Beginners

March 6th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

#159 This Is My Song
Words: Lloyd Stone, 1912- © 1934, 1962 Lorenz Publishing Co.
Music: Jean Sibelius, 1865-1957, arr. © 1933, renewed 1961 Presbyterian Board of Christian Education

Cathedral of St. John the Divine (28 September, 2020)

Sermon – Black Belt for Beginners – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF document available]

One of the first activities I shared with my dad was attending a dojo – a place of learning for martial arts.  His art of choice is aikido, which can be translated as “the way of harmony”, though you may be more familiar with other arts, such as karate do “the way of the empty hand” and judo “the gentle way” or many others, like kung fu, jiujitsu, or taekwondo.

I remember that my dad had a black belt and I was quite impressed and proud about it.  I would sometimes boast to my schoolmates that my dad was a black belt, trying to make myself feel special.  This would not last, as the response would often be something like: “I guess he could kick all our butts then, huh?”

It was at that point that I’d have to awkwardly explain that aikido didn’t really have kicks, and punches weren’t really central to its techniques either.  Aikido is almost exclusively a defensive art, focusing on redirecting aggression so that it becomes harmless to yourself and to the aggressor.  I quickly learned that bragging about my dad’s “rank” wasn’t all that fulfilling.

When we moved to Canada, we continued the practice and found another dojo for aikido.  I was surprised to see my dad wear a white belt, just like me, as we started out.  “Aren’t you already a black belt?” I asked him.

He explained that this new dojo was in a different style tradition, and he therefore considered himself as much a beginner as me, and any of the other new folks.  I remember feeling somewhat let down, feeling like he had been unfairly “demoted”, though I also admired what seemed to be a wise sense of humility that he was projecting.

While I expressed my dissatisfaction at his “demotion”, he further explained that the belt’s colour wasn’t all that important… it has significance for sure, and those who wear black belts deserve a measure of respect – or at least caution – but the real purpose of attending the dojo was to learn and practice… the colour changes in the belt are nice side effects of that process.

I never quite got as far as black belt at my dojo… I took on other interests and initiatives as I started high school, and a change in management at the dojo also prompted me to pursue something else.  But I took to heart the approach my dad handed down to me.

And I also learned that a black belt isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  In movies and pop culture, a black belt is often depicted as a master with lethal expertise, but my dad let on that the black belt he held was a rather junior rank (not to mention that he wasn’t interested in lethal expertise).  It turns out that, once you’ve gone through all the colours, there are additional “secret” levels after you get the black belt.  Getting that black belt just puts you in what is called the shodan, which can be translated as the “beginner step” or “first degree”.  There can be several of these degrees or dans, and instructors might only begin teaching after getting to the third dan or higher.

Indeed, the black belt can be seen as a mere witness to basic competence in the art, its techniques, and the process of learning it.  The whole progression leading to the black belt is simply the journey toward learning how to learn the art.

Each of you will have gone through some process of learning in whatever it is you do, be it an apprenticeship with a mentor or senior family member, a certification, maybe a diploma or degree, perhaps navigating promotion opportunities at work, or learning what it means to be in church and do church with others as part of individual and communal spiritual development.  And going through each of those steps is really just a transition into a new level of expertise that requires further learning and refinement.

Last month, I mentioned that I attended a weeklong event of intensive professional development for ministers.  This event used to be called The Institute for the Learned Ministry, but the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association has adopted a philosophy that more closely mirrors the reality of black belts in martial arts, recognizing that learning is ongoing, so the event has changed its name to the Institute for the Learning Ministry.

In fact, the ministerial formation process has a few parallels to this approach.  In our tradition, ordination is often seen as a kind of gold standard of ministerial expertise – the “black belt” of ministry (or perhaps the white collar, as is sometimes the case).  But it turns out there are additional “secret” levels of expertise that we must fulfill, even after we have the cred to start wearing clerical collars.

Some of you are aware that newer ordained ministers are often in what is called preliminary fellowship… this is the shodan of professional ministry – the beginning step that witnesses to a certain proficiency in learning how to learn the intricacies of ministry, and it requires additional work, along with evaluation by our credentialling body – some of you have been involved in that part of my credentialling process.

After three evaluations, we might be bestowed what used to be called final fellowship.  But again, our credentialing colleagues realized that this title gives the wrong impression that learning is somehow complete – that title that I was given is now called full fellowship (not final) … a kind of third dan, that acknowledges a further degree of competence, including the ability to teach and supervise student ministers.  But the work of professional development isn’t done.  There is still a lot to learn (though I now have a better idea of how I might go about doing that learning).

One of the key aspects of doing that learning includes an openness to making mistakes, and taking them as opportunities for learning.  You may have seen the latest online trend of filling out the daily word game Wordle, or other similar games, which involve guessing a word with a limited number of attempts (six tries in the case of the game Wordle).  You may have observed that even making a “wrong” guess has value – as knowing which options were “incorrect” gives a lot of information that can help in guessing the secret word.  Even the “mistakes” can lead you to your objective… if you know how to look at them… if you learn how to look at them and use them to your advantage.

Of course, there are different kind of mistakes, and some are more severe than others.  There are situations in which a mistake can be especially damaging, and not everyone can afford the luxury of making certain mistakes.  Nonetheless, recognizing the inevitability that we will trip up, and finding ways to increase the likelihood of gracefully recovering when tripping up, is a valuable tool and approach that can make life’s challenges less hazardous – maybe even fulfilling.

In fact, one of the first things you learn in aikido is the expectation that you will fall.  A fundamental technique for beginners does not even involve engaging with an opponent, but practicing falling and breaking that fall.  Breakfalls are a set of somersaults that allow you to fall gracefully, minimizing risks of harm and inviting recovery.  And you don’t need a black belt to do them well.

My friends, you’ve heard me preach some version of this sermon before.  And I’ve done this quite deliberately, because practice requires revisiting important basics several times.

We have talked about how being willing to make mistakes when learning a new language is part of the key to mastering that language.  Together, we have lived the realities of re-learning how to do church in a setting we had barely imagined, along with the tech challenges, which can sometimes be awkward, sometimes humorous, sometimes outright frustrating, and also ongoing.  And still we have become the better for it, as we have approached a black belt in doing multi-platform church… which leaves a lot of room for further degrees of development as we continue to practice it.

And practice, my friends, is part of that process.  Whether you repeat a martial arts technique several times in a class, over many years; or rehearse a musical piece on an instrument; or go over our principles or any other of our covenants and figure out how to apply them to your lives and your relationships with others; spiritual growth and development calls for ongoing practice, including the moments when we fall short, which invite us to accept new lessons and take that learning into the next level.

My friends, many communities of faith in the Christian tradition, which is part of our heritage, are currently following a practice of reflection and deeper spiritual contemplation, which may involve forms of fasting, in this Lenten season that began last Wednesday and which eventually leads into Easter.  We can delve more deeply into that particular practice next week, but today I leave you with the reminder that any spiritual practice involves ongoing work and ongoing learning; it involves failing, many times; and it involves an ongoing call into greater awareness.

My friends, may we be open to failing, learning, and deeper awareness, as we take one more step.

So may it be,
In ongoing practice

Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

#128 For All That Is Our Life
~)-| Words: Bruce Findlow, 1922-
Music: Patrick L. Rickey, 1964- , © 1992 UUA

Rev. Christopher Watkins Lamb
Foothills Unitarian Church (9 August, 2020)