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

The Doors of Perception

February 26th, 2023 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Video Reading – The Most Important 10 Words A Stranger Ever Said to Me – by Hank Green in vlogbrothers

Sermon – The Doors of Perception – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF document available for download]

Have you ever felt like, no matter how hard you try, other people simply aren’t impressed with you, or with what you do, and how you’re doing it?  And been convinced that no one else could possibly think otherwise?

How about this one: have you seen someone else do something that didn’t impress you?  And been convinced that no one else could possibly think otherwise?

Hank Green, from the vlogbrothers YouTube channel, describes that moment of “unconvincing”, when he first had a serious realization that his perception was not nearly as universal as he thought.

He shares the story of “[t]he most important 10 words a stranger ever said to [him]”, when he was at a summer camp in his tweens [ten or eleven years old], watching another fellow about his age… dancing in a way that he found… odd.  He describes the experience as “second-hand embarrassment”, convinced that whatever he was seeing was not what “cool” dancing should be.

As he watched in astonishment what he was convinced was a cringey display, an older “higher status” woman said to him those life-changing words: “I know, I wish I could dance like him too”.

This broke young Hank’s perception of reality at the time, prompting him to… redefine how he related with the reality that he shared with others.  He was surprised that, not only did his own account and evaluation of the scene not automatically transfer to everyone else, but he was dumbfounded that someone else might actually think the opposite.  And rather than thinking of the unorthodox dancer with embarrassment, she was impressed.

Although these life-changing words didn’t exactly turn around everything in Hank’s life, it did bring a shift in some of his modes of thinking.  His mind began training itself to listen to another voice beyond his own patterns of criticism, and to accept that others may be experiencing a somewhat different reality – one that he might find worth exploring, and which might even offer transformation in how he relates with himself and others – a conversion in his perception.

Our perceptions of others – and of ourselves – can be like that.  And our patters of thinking can convince us to be self-deprecating of our own worth and offerings, or to think of others with disdain.

But if we take a moment to appreciate the value of others’ perspectives, we might just find an opportunity of conversion toward a more affirming viewpoint.

Now, there is a flipside to this… just as we may sometimes have an exaggerated sense of our failings and shortcomings (or find ourselves overly-critical of others), it also happens that we can be… disproportionately confident in our abilities or in the quality of what we think we offer.  And other voices, when coming from people who have credibility in those areas, can also offer a path to a more balanced sense of who we can be and how our offerings may better impact others.

Likewise, there are times when it can be warranted for us to offer perspectives that may […] complement how others perceive themselves, if these are offered with love, with tact, and a genuine desire to be allies in those who trust our counsel – rather than seeking to impose our own perspective on others.  This, too, can be an affirming practice.  Of course, it helps if we have some level of authority on the matter, which is to say, there’s good reason to believe that we know what we are talking about.  Criticism for its own sake is seldom helpful, and unlikely to be heeded.

And still, being open to wisdom from unexpected places can bring surprising shifts in our perception.  A stranger’s words: “Yeah, I wish I could dance like him too” can bring a conversion from deprecation to appreciation; from derision to affirmation.

My friends, although Lent does not take the same prominence in our tradition as it might for many of our neighbours, I have been raising it up over the past few weeks because… it invites certain spiritual practices, and I’m the kind of person who’s into those “spiritual” things (as I imagine many of you hope I would).

So, as we’ve been heading into this Lenten season, I have been inviting us to consider those things in our lives that offer value, and which we seek to see more often, by opening up space and time for them.

In what is traditionally seen as a “fasting” season, one approach for that is to also consider those things that may be getting in the way, by taking too much time and space.  Now that Ash Wednesday is behind us, which in some traditions marks the beginning of the season, you may have been toying with the idea of giving something up, or conversely, taking something up.  Sometimes, these two paths go hand in hand.

And, here’s another perspective, what if this practice can involve taking a deeper look at the doors of our perceptions?  As Hank’s story illustrates, making space for someone else’s perspective can offer just that.  And when done with an affirming mindset, it may even help us make more room for ourselves to flourish – to find more confidence in what we do and to appreciate others in what they offer.  As well as to welcome balance into our lives when others offer us counsel, even if it may sometimes be hard to hear.

My friends, in this season of mind expansion, we may yet find transformation in unlikely places.  Wayward words from a stranger: “Yeah, I wish I could dance like him too” can remind us that we may be in a better place than we realize and that we can connect with others far more deeply than we might expect.

Because, who knows?  What if there are folks out there who wish they could dance like you, no matter how much you may doubt yourself?

What if, after thinking someone’s dial is only at Notch 8, someone else is looking at them thinking: “Yeah, I wish I could turn it up to 11 the way they do”?

What if, my friends, when you’re standing in front of a crowd – maybe this very pulpit – and you’re convinced things were a disaster, there are folks out there thinking “Yeah, I wish I could be in front of a crowd the way she does”?

What if, when we wonder if our singing, or our musical offerings, are up to snuff, there’s someone out there listening and wondering: “Yeah, I wish I could enjoy music the way they do”.

What if, when we welcome folks into our space and we’re wondering if they’d like to spend more time of inspiration and wonder with us, there are folks who say: “Yeah, I wish I could be part of that little white church in the country”.

My friends, sometimes there’s a voice in my mind that wonders: “Yeah, I wish I could be in a community of warmth and caring, that loves to look out for each other and make each other feel welcome”.  And then, another voice in my mind says: “Yeah, I am.”

So may it be,

In the spirit of shifting perceptions,


Copyright © 2023 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing #354 We Laugh, We Cry
~)-| Words & Music: Shelley Jackson Denham, 1950- , © 1980 Shelley Jackson Denham,
~)-| harmony by Betsy Jo Angebrandt, 1931- , © 1992 UUA

First Unitarian Church of Baltimore (10 January, 2021)

March 2023 Newsletter

February 22nd, 2023 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

Time Surplus…?

February 19th, 2023 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #86 Blessed Spirit of My Life
Words & music: Shelley Jackson Denham, 1950- ,
© 1987 Shelley Jackson Denham

Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara (20 March, 2021)

Sermon – Time Surplus…? – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF document available for download]

A month ago, I spoke about my sense of pride in… showing off an empty bottle of olive oil.  More specifically, it was a special Mediterranean olive oil, brought directly from far away as a gift from a friend who’d been travelling.

In cases like these, it’s my instinct to “save” these special things for “later” – for some imagined special occasion that would warrant their use.  Inevitably, that special occasion either doesn’t happen, or it gets put off as life happens, or when it does happen… I’ve forgotten about that special thing that I was saving, which then ends up languishing until it is no longer fit for use.  So, I was particularly pleased with my empty bottle of fancy olive oil, that I gladly used up while celebrating ordinary time, recognizing that every moment we live can be special… if we allow it to be.

I also mentioned an 8-minute phone call technique that is proposed by columnist Jancee Dunn in a New York Times article, wherein she schedules a deliberately-short check-in with friends, ends it promptly, and schedules another one before signing off.  Her rationale is that proposing a digestible chunk of time makes it easier for her, and her potential contacts, to ensure they wedge in the moment of connection into their busy schedules.

The 8-minute number is perhaps arbitrary.  I don’t usually follow it myself, and I don’t know what number would work best for you, or your connections.  But it’s the mindset behind the technique that I find most useful – the practice of making an important task easier and more accessible, so that we actually do it when it matters most: now.

It also illustrates that important things don’t have to be daunting or onerous for them to matter – it’s getting to do them that matters.  If time feels scarce, then adapting to a manageable timeframe helps with that hurdle.  If we fear that one task will go beyond what we’re ready to commit to, then setting reasonable boundaries to our commitment allows us to offer whatever we are able to, without overextending ourselves.  In taking that extra step to recognize our limitations, we may yet be able to do what we set our hearts to, without hitting the wall of expecting an ideal time when we’ll be able to do all the things.

The same columnist, Jancee Dunn, happens to quote professor of psychiatry Dr. Bob Waldinger, who said that: “most busy people ‘tend to think that in some unspecified future, we’ll have a “time surplus,” where we’ll be able to connect with old friends.’ That may never materialize, he said, so pick up the phone and invest the time right now.” [The New York Times, “Day 2: The Secret Power of the 8-Minute Phone Call” by Jancee Dunn. Jan. 2, 2023]

Of course, that does not mean that it is not also worth thinking in the longer term.  Some investments take time to pay off.  Planning with vision for future goals can offer guidance and motivation for responsible choices, even when they might imply some sacrifice in the present.  Some goals may not be achieved in the short term or even in our lifetime.  Being mindful of the generations after us is a way to become worthy ancestors.

But relying exclusively on what we imagine might be the “right” conditions, for action to make the present worthwhile, can also rob us of the ability to take advantage of the present moment, for doing what we can, with what we have, and for making and maintaining connections that sustain us within our limitations.  And these are investments of their own.

At our church, we have now reinitiated some hospitality offerings.  It’s a somewhat scaled-back version of a practice we’d had for several years, before the pandemic made sharing food and drink much riskier.

Now that the risk feels more manageable, we have walked some steps toward resurrecting that practice.  The offerings may be more modest, usually some hot tea, rather than tea and coffee.  Some of you might remember quite substantial spreads on Sunday.  These days, we’ve begun to enjoy occasional nibbles, to go along with our hot drink.  This is what our volunteers, and the resources of time, space, work, and money that come along with them, are prepared to offer at this time.  It is manageable, and it is present.  And for these we are grateful.

There may be a future when our after-service gatherings look more like what we might imagine as a golden age, but rather than expect such future when an imagined surplus might or might not materialize, we make these Sunday afternoons a golden time.  We enjoy them because we can have them now, with the people who are here, and because they are gifted with love.  Love for our community, and love for fellowship that receives these gifts, these times, and this company with grace and gratitude.

In April, we’ll have another opportunity to resurrect a cherished practice of a larger-scale community meal within our walls – a chili lunch.  It’s a BYOB event… Bring Your Own Bowl.  The volunteer team has invited this initiative after recognizing the current limitations of our space for handling large volumes of dishes.  Clean-up can be quite a demanding task, especially as our kitchen does not currently have an industrial-grade dishwasher and sanitizing machine.  So we are asking for your assistance in bringing one dish for your chili, which you can look after at home.

Of course, our Property Team is looking into getting the hardware that would make these events easier with our inhouse serving ware.  But rather than wait for the ideal time when we might have a surplus of resources, we are making the time for warm fellowship and food now – this is the time we have.

So, my friends, we don’t know when we might have a time surplus, or a resource surplus, in an imagined future, which is why it pays off to invest in the present with the resources we have now, even when they might feel limited – they may well be more than we realize.

My friends, depending on what traditions are familiar to you, this coming Wednesday represents the beginning of the Lent season.  Some of you might know it as Ash Wednesday.  And the Lenten season can offer us an opportunity to reflect on some practices that we may already seek to uphold during “ordinary time”… but which may yet have fallen by the wayside, so the calendar offers us an additional excuse – an invitation – to pay extra attention to them.

Sometimes, the Lenten practice is framed as a fast, and in a narrow definition of fasting, it may mean reduced food intake, or giving up certain foods (or other things that we might put into our bodies).  But we can also look at a broader understanding of fasting as reducing those things that take more time and space in our lives than we’d like.  To turn them down a notch.  Paradoxically, these self-imposed limitations can open up room for more of those other things that we recognize as important in our lives… things that we wish we could turn up to 11, if only we had time and space for them – which we just might have… if we mindfully make it so.

My friends, our limitations (personal and collective) might be constraining and restrictive.  They are also invitations to take action and connect – however we may be able.  Scarcity can represent real hardship, and it may also be a guide in searching for the wealth that is available to us.

My friends, our community represents rich resources of time, space, warmth, and love.  A wealthy surplus of these may abound in the times and spaces where we are now.

May we search for that surplus together.

So may it be,
In the spirit of hidden wealth, in all its dimensions,

Copyright © 2023 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing #288 All Are Architects
~)-| Words: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882
~)-| Music: Thomas Benjamin, 1940- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association

UUCC Music Director Anna Hamilton

Friendship Recession

February 12th, 2023 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening 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.

Michael Tacy (15 August, 2020)

Sermon – Friendship Recession – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF document available for download]

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and it is customary in our Canadian culture to highlight romantic relationships around this time.  Some of you may be planning a special dinner with a partner, or perhaps a card and gift exchange with them.

And… as if often the case with holidays, there may be some baggage around this holiday, as well.  Perhaps your partner is no longer around, and this time may highlight their absence.  Maybe you haven’t had a partner in while and the emphasis on romantic love brings up feelings of exclusion (I’ve been there before).  Or maybe a previous partnership has left scars or painful memories that don’t seem conducive to celebration.

Is there a way to expand the meaning and focus of this day beyond the romantic dimension?

As it turns out, when I was growing up in Mexico, Valentine’s Day was actually branded Love and Friendship Day (Día del Amor y la Amistad), such that romantic and platonic aspects of love were celebrated, offering a more inclusive holiday.  In some places in Latin America this can include a “secret friends” practice, similar to our “secret Santa” tradition.

I have to say that I originally found it puzzling when that side of the holiday wasn’t as prevalent here, when I first arrived in Canada – though I’ve seen versions of this expanded approach in elementary school and some workspaces, in which card and candy exchanges among peers is sometimes encouraged.

And, while holding friendships may be a more universal and inclusive experience than being in a current partnership, people who study populations have noticed that we may be having fewer friendships than what we used to have.

It seems that, amidst current talk of possible economic recessions, there may be a larger unseen recession going on… a friendship recession.

Last year, the Survey Center on American Life published findings that people currently report having fewer friends than before.

There are many reasons for this.  The pandemic has certainly played a role in how we engage socially, and has complicated the calculations we might make for social interaction.  But the trend goes beyond the past three years.  Curiously, one factor has been identified as “declining religious involvement”.

It has also been observed that one group is particularly vulnerable in the friendship front – men.  And this may be attributed to men being socialized to certain ideals of masculinity that discourage showing affection, or displaying vulnerability.  This may be another illustration that – at least in some respects – patriarchal systems hurt everyone.

Age also seems to come into play, as it seems that adults have a harder time striking up new friendships than children.

As children, and perhaps young adults, we spend time in school settings that might make forming friendships seem like a low-effort enterprise for many of us, as constant exposure to peers of similar age, sharing a similar experience, and perhaps sharing similar life outlooks, offer an environment where nearly any situation might expose you to potential pals.

Later adulthood, however, reveals a different reality, where making new friends often requires additional intentionality, and competing life priorities might easily drown out the importance of finding folks with whom we can find support, share vulnerability, and foster meaningful moments outside of work or home life.

Now, while it may be true that forming adult friendships often calls for some extra effort, it might not be as difficult as we might think.

For my partner and I, one of our newer friendships locally came by through a combination of happenstance as well as a measure of intentionality, and some willingness to take low-level risks.

A few years ago, not long after we arrived in the county, we attended a local agricultural fair.  Dropping by the open-air Sunday service at the fair, I felt that the guest minister had said things that resonated with me and my approach to spirituality and community.  After the service, I saw that he was hanging out near his church’s tent.  After a short contemplation, I thought: “Let’s go say ‘hi’.”

Depending on your own… level of comfort with meeting strangers, this might represent a measure of risk.  It could be an awkward meeting.  Maybe the new acquaintance might have no interest in interacting with you – and this could feel like rejection.  Or perhaps it may simply feel like too much effort, if you’re in a space where you’d rather be on your own.

But, if you’re looking for new connections, the stakes are probably worth it – and in all likelihood, the fears around them may be unfounded to begin with.  You may find that others are more likely to engage than you might expect.

After introducing myself to this colleague from a different tradition, we struck a comfortable conversation.  He and his wife were also fairly new to the area and didn’t mind meeting new people, as it turns out.  We got a dinner invitation on the spot.  This, too, might have represented a level of effort – or perhaps risk – on their part.  Either way, we found it to be worth it, and we continue to make space and time for us to hang out.  A couple weeks ago, the four of us went as a joint team at a trivia night, and we were excited to get to third place, being that we didn’t feel particularly knowledgeable about the subject matter (then again, the award placings weren’t the main point).

I have shared that this year, I’m following a theme of expanding connection and re-connection, and have found that phone contacts with friends and family I haven’t talked to in a while are easier to do than I sometimes lead myself to believe.  There’s sometimes a sense of inertia when you haven’t talked to someone in a while, and eventually, the reason you don’t call them is… because you haven’t called them.  My experience lately, is that they’re usually more than happy to hear from you again.

Here at the church of Olinda, our mission and practice include space for fostering friendship.  The words to our Chalice Lighting invite us to offer fellowship, and call us to one community of warmth and light. 

We see and hear concrete examples of this mission and practice.  We uphold traditions of shared community meals – established and re-emerging.  Some of you get together of your own account, building on your acquaintance from shared time and space in worship (and over the past weeks we have heard some of you sharing celebrations of these encounters).

Some of these manifestations come from the “institutional” dimension of our church, including the work of our Caring Committee, with an established mandate to connect with folks in vulnerable moments or facing prospects of isolation, as well as our Membership Team, who grow links among members and offer opportunities for community-building.  Some manifestations are more organic, as you seek out your own deepening relationships with members and participants. 

My friends, all of these require some level of effort and perhaps risk – and these are usually worth it.  And as we remain mindful of this intentionality, we build upon the wealth of camaraderie that can shield us from the hazards of a friendship recession.

My friends, there is no shame in reaching out and making connections – we need these.  During a holiday time that celebrates love, there is no need to limit the reach of affection to romantic relationships, which represent but one manifestation of special friendship.  And platonic friendships may offer special connection of their own.  Our platonic companions are more than “just” friends (as we sometimes call them), they are gifts of mutual support, havens for shared vulnerability, and sources of meaning-making.  Like any investment, there are some initial costs and require work, and they can be risky, but the rate of return can yield infinite results as they mature.

My friends, in our community of faith, we practice the co-creation of this special wealth, and in our wider communities, we also have opportunities to make valuable investments that can bring us out of a friendship recession.

So may it be,
In the spirit of friendship,

Copyright © 2023 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #18 What Wondrous Love
Words: American folk hymn
~)-| New Words by Connie Campbell Hart, 1929- © 1992 UUA
Melody: Melody from The Southern Harmony, 1835

Foothills Unitarian Church

Covenanting Through Transitions (CUC National Service)

February 5th, 2023 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

The Canadian Unitarian Council hosted this week’s service.

Watch the recorded broadcast here:

National Worship Service (Sharing Our Faith Covenant Through Transitions) – 5 February, 2023

National Sunday Service – Covenanting Through Transitions

February 4th, 2023 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

This week, the Canadian Unitarian Council is hosting a National Service. This is an opportunity to see fellow Unitarian Universalists from across Canada!

You’re invited to join the service on Zoom (brief registration with name and e-mail address):

Join National Sunday Service – Covenanting Through Transitions Sunday, February 5 at 1PM

There is also the option to watch the livestream on the Canadian Unitarian Council‘s YouTube channel.

We will resume our regular Sunday morning services (10:30am), with in-person options, next week (Feb. 12).

Stories of Haiti

February 2nd, 2023 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Glen Jackson

Presentation originally offered on 22 January, 2023