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

FWIW – For What it’s Worth

September 27th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening 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

Interpreted by the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

Time for All Ages – UU Principles Song – by Rev. Tony Larson,

Performed by Steve Askins, from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin, Illinois

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

As we consider our stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, we are also invited to witness to some of the events from around the world, remembering that what touches one affects us all.

Today, we keep in mind the people of Greece, where 4 people have been killed and several cities have been flooded by Cyclone Ianus.

We also recognize that Covid-19 will likely have claimed 1 million lives by the beginning of this week, with an infection toll of over 32 million.  We also acknowledge that in much of Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, a second wave seems to be shaping up.  This latest spike has leveled out over the past few days, and we may continue to contribute to this flattening with our efforts.  We are grateful that, although Windsor-Essex was a hot spot some months ago, it has lately had one of the lowest infection rates in Ontario.

Holding the realities of the world, we also recognize the value in giving witness to the joys and the sorrows that are present in our personal lives.  To recognize, commemorate, and celebrate special moments, or landmarks in our lives.

Hymn #1058 Be Ours a Religion
~)-| Words: Theodore Parker, 1810-1860
~)-| Music Thomas Benjamin, 1940- , © 1998 Yelton Rhodes Music (ASCAP). Used by permission

Interpreted by Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Sermon – FWIW (For What it’s Worth) – Rev. Rod


Read: [Print-ready PDF document for download]

As this year rolls along, we are coming upon a year-long season of anniversary celebration, commemoration, and contemplation about the past – and the future – of our Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda, for all that it is worth, beginning with the 140th anniversary of the founding of our church, this coming November 8.

And as we get ready to look at our church’s history, it is worth looking at our larger tradition’s history – specifically, the Universalist tradition on which we were founded.

Now, I’m not going to go into an extensive historical account of Universalism today.  It is a fascinating story, and one which can get… very specific, and perhaps technical, with very close readings of biblical scripture, as well as seeking to apply a critical understanding of historical and contemporary use of language.  Over the coming year, we might delve more deeply into parts of that history and what it continues to mean for us.  For today, I’m inviting you to share in some of the basics, as we gear up for this year’s celebrations.

For some of you, this might be a kind of review, particularly those of you who grew up in this church, and especially if you were around when it was a Universalist church, before merging and becoming Unitarian Universalist.

But you might be up for a refresher, especially if you’re newer to our tradition, or new to the Universalist heritage of this church, which is a bit different than most UU congregations in Canada that generally spawn from the Unitarian roots.

Now, one of the quirks of both the Universalist and the Unitarian traditions is that their names come from very specific doctrinal schools in Christian theology, which has often been remarked as paradoxical, since both Unitarianism and Universalism – as well as the newer merged Unitarian Universalist denomination – are characterized by a lack of attachment to doctrine.  And in both traditions, the Christian elements have often come to represent a smaller proportion of the theological thought expressed in our communities.

For our shared reference, the Unitarian doctrine was a rejection of the trinitarian conception of divinity.  And Universalism rejected the doctrine of eternal punishment in an afterlife – that is to say, it proclaimed universal salvation – a statement that every single person is worthy of the same love.

But, if you’ve been attending our services for a while, you might have noticed that we don’t really talk very much about these specific doctrines and whether or not we reject them.  And we tend not to make many claims about afterlife, recognizing that, among you, there are different expectations of what happens after death.  And accepting the coexistence of these diverse theologies has become a hallmark of both of our parent traditions.

So, it might seem easy to dismiss the doctrinal roots of our namesakes – Unitarianism and Universalism – as vestigial remnants from a different time, when our congregations were clearly under the Christian protestant umbrella – something that is a much fuzzier question nowadays.

And yet, the spirit of these roots continues to drive theological thought and development among our communities, not least being the fact that Universalist and Unitarian attitudes were labelled as heresies rebelling against some of the established norms in the history of Christian churches.

And while we may no longer spend a lot of time debating the details of how the conception of divinity might be structured – and in our case, the… mechanics of an afterlife – these roots, for all they are worth, continue to inspire how we look at the world and how we develop spiritually.  From an openness to ongoing revelation that is not sealed, to a steadfast commitment toward radical inclusion.

So, let’s pause for a moment today, before we contemplate where we are, and where we want to go, and consider where we come from.

The universalist approach may seem new and radical, and in a larger historical sense, it is.  But looking further to the early Christian church, we also see evidence that types of universalism, rejecting eternal damnation and punishment in afterlife, were considered by the early church – and to some extent – accepted.

These are the kinds of “small u” universalisms, referring to theological concepts, rather than our “big U” Universalism, that speaks specifically about the name of our denomination.  “Small u” universalism is also sometimes called “classical” universalism, to distinguish from the Universalism label that has become the name of our church’s founding tradition.

We can see one of the earliest documented versions of this “small u” universalism, in the works of Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria, by the third century.  And several of his near contemporaries agreed.

Now, there is debate as to what extent Origen was a card-carrying universalist… his work is sometimes ambiguous and might even be seen as contradictory, but it is clear that his writings set out a universalist understanding as a serious proposal, with robust theological reasoning and drawing directly from scriptural texts.

As with many things, there have been several manifestations of the universalist spirit throughout history.  They range from merely posing the possibility of universal salvation – sometimes called “potential universalism”, to an absolute conviction that all people are guaranteed an afterlife in paradise, immediately upon death – this is sometimes called “unqualified universalism” in academic circles, but it is also sometimes known by the more metal-sounding name of “death and glory” – the kind of phrase that you might see on silk-screened black t-shirts at a heavy metal concert.

There is an in-between interpretation, in which everyone is guaranteed a punishment-free afterlife… eventually.  In this scenario, people might spend some time in a purgatory-style period when the soul is to be purified and restored unto blessedness.  And the time that this might take would depend on the type of life one led, and how one related to the redeeming figure of Christ.  This is academically called “qualified universalism”, and more popularly as “restorationism”.

This latter version of universalism is perhaps the one that Origen proposed, and the one that you might see among Christians that also lean toward a universalist view.  Because it is also worth noting that there are currently Christian-identifying communities that espouse this “small u” universalism.  This current exists alongside our denomination and is often called Christian Universalism, and this link, explains it in more detail.

And, while this classical universalism is no longer a… complete description of how our theologies emerge in our particular church’s community, it is worth taking a look at what it has meant.  It is part of our heritage, which continues to inform our faith, and continues to inform how we live our lives.

My friends, whatever your views on what happens after this life, the key value that every person’s life is worthy of acceptance, embracing their whole selves, including recognizing their inevitable faults, continues to be a founding principle of our communities.

My friends, the first Unitarian Universalist principle is a covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  The Universalist spirit stands at the foundation of our community of faith, and the foundation of our life of faith.

My friends, for what it’s worth, this is a heritage to celebrate.

My friends, for what it’s worth, this is a life to honour.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #148 Let Freedom Span Both East and West
Words: Anonymous
~)-| Music: Betsy Jo Angebranndt, 1931- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association

Interpreted at St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church

Chunks of Time

September 20th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

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

Interpreted by Julia Stubbs

Time for All Ages – Your Theme – CGP Grey

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

This morning, we keep in mind the people of the United States, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. With her death, and a new vacancy on the Supreme Court, there are many questions about the future of the court and justice in the US, and all the people who are affected by its decisions

We also keep in mind the transitional time that is September, with many people going back to school, parents adjusting their responsibilities, and potential shifts in working opportunities.

Holding the realities of the world, we also recognize the value in giving witness to the joys and the sorrows that are present in our personal lives.  To recognize, commemorate, and celebrate special moments, or landmarks in our lives.

We also remember all Joys and Sorrows left unsaid, recognizing that in this larger community, none of us is alone.

Sermon – Chunks of Time – Rev. Rod


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

You’ve seen hints of copper on the trees, the air feels colder this weekend, and – come Tuesday, the day will be more dark than light.  The fall season is upon us.

We’ve also had another… longer season to contend with… Pandemic Season.  It has both been longer, and likely will be longer, than many of us had either expected or hoped.

This week, it will be six months since we last gathered in the sanctuary in our church building.  And in this extended season, we have adapted the larger theme of church – from being in church, to being church, wherever we might be.

This adaptability of themes is what YouTube creator CGP Grey outlines in his video called Your Theme as one approach to making sense of chunks of time, like seasons and years.  As he mentions, this approach seeks to take advantage of broad themes, to identify and manage expectations over longer periods of time, especially when facing the fog of the future.

That doesn’t mean that more specific and structured systems don’t have a place – in fact, he has an entire separate video that describes the need for more detailed action plans in other circumstances.  But, as he remarks, not every problem needs a sharp tool.

And I think he’s on to something.  Especially since a broad theme, with flexible goals that can adapt to the specific situation, are the kind of life guidance that can help in making the more specific decisions of our day-to-day lives.

Speaking of themes, you may be aware that some other Unitarian Universalist congregations do monthly themes as part of their liturgical year.  We don’t do that here – at least not in that way – and there are many reasons for that, including some practical considerations, as well as elements of our church’s culture, and personal styles.  And I usually appreciate the flexibility that this affords me – and that it affords to our lay and guest speakers.  But, some of the keener observers among you might have noticed that many of the topics I touch upon tend to cluster in groups of three or four, which allows us to explore certain themes beyond a single Sunday morning.  And of course, our liturgical year has chunks of time with different flavours, as we move our attention to different priorities.

Be it weekly, monthly, seasonally, or yearly, thinking about the themes for different chunks of time, might help us get a better and clearer sense of the direction our lives are taking, or the direction that we would like them to take.  Because, to paraphrase CGP Grey: “thinking about our thinking, changes our thinking”.

Over this coming program year, we have a major theme that has been brought upon us, by mere virtue of the calendar – it happens to be the year 2020, and that is 140 years from when our church was founded.  We will be paying special attention to that anniversary on November 8, which will be close to the date when the count for those 140 years began.  And much like our church ancestors did 140 years ago, we will be gathering in building our spiritual community, even without access to a dedicated building for it.

But that’s just the beginning, because in September of 2021, it will be 140 years since the cornerstone for our church building was laid, so just less than one year from today, we will be recognizing that milestone of the cornerstone.  And who knows – we might even be able to celebrate the anniversary of our building, in the building.  I can’t make any promises… there’s always the fog of the future, but it is within the realm of possibility.

In any case, these two anniversary Sundays – November 8, 2020, for the founding of our church, and September 19, 2021, for the construction of our church building – will bookend nearly a year-long season when we can honour our history and our heritage, allowing us to explore where we have been, where we are, and where we want to be.  The leadership in our congregation has already taken steps in visioning what the future of our church may look like, as we navigate the current fog of Pandemic Season, and into the further fog of the future.

And in the coming year, we will all have the opportunity to be part of that conversation and think about what this all means – because “thinking about our thinking, changes our thinking.”  Adaptation will be part of it – the specific goals and actions will shift, and wherever we happen to be on September 19, 2021, we will have had a whole extended Anniversary Season to contemplate, celebrate, and commemorate our history, at the same time as we get to delve deeper into our emerging vision.

Now over the past Pandemic Season, other themes have emerged.  For me, most of the spring season – right around the time of our last in-person worship service – was dedicated to incorporating the use of audio-visual technology to complement and enhance our worship experience.  It just so happens that I was already moving toward that theme before we closed down the church building’s doors.

If you attended that last in-person service on March 15, you will remember that we watched a YouTube video as a kind of “video reading”, very similar to what we do on our live services and our web services, and as we have done several times over the past months.  So, the theme of more audio-visual elements in worship was already there, and as circumstances shifted, the focus of that theme also changed, as we needed to look to more expansive uses of audio-visual tech, to accommodate the need for online and web services.

For other members of our church leadership, Pandemic Season also had a certain theme, partly due to circumstance.  In the spring, a few of our Board members, concentrated their efforts to regularizing parts of our incorporation process, and over the summer, a devoted group dedicated a great chunk of time to fleshing out many details of what will be our revised by-laws, to conform to the Federal not-for-profit standards.

My friends, this fall season, we will be participating in looking at those new by-laws, getting to know them and understand them better, and hopefully approve them, by December.  That will be one of our seasonal themes.

My friends, your own personal and family seasons, or cycles, might look different.  Perhaps you divide your time between personal, and social – or family – seasons.  Maybe you think of your year or your seasons in terms of chunks of time to spend indoors, and chunks of time to spend outside in nature.  There may be times for work, or times for school, and times for leisure.  When it makes sense to do so, you might have dedicated chunks of time for staying locally, and chunks of time for travel.  However it is that you divide your time, spending a bit of those chunks of time considering what it means to have – and to be part of – that time, can help in finding a deeper meaning in it.

My friends, as we head out into the next several chunks of time, facing the fog of the future, and navigating through it as we think about our thinking, may we take this time, to be in time.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Sept-Oct 2020 Newsletter

September 19th, 2020 . by William Baylis

Click here and enjoy!

Celebrate with us the 250th Anniversary of Universalism in America

September 18th, 2020 . by William Baylis

As part of the Sestercentennial of Universalism in America, the UU Church of Olinda will be joining the Sunday Service led by Rev. Justin Schroeder, co-minister of the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, by Zoom. The service is entitled “250 Years of Universalist Heritage and its Meaning for Our Time” and runs on Sunday morning, October 4, 2020, from 11 am to noon ET.  This heritage is particularly relevant for our UU Church of Olinda since it was founded as a universalist church in 1880. The internet link to the service will be sent to members and friends of our church on October 3, 2020. If you do not regularly receive Zoom links to our services but want to participate on October 4, please send an email request for a link to our webmaster, whose contact information is given in the section <Our Church>.

For background and history of Universalism, access the 629-page pdf file digital Toolkit.

Worthy Waters

September 13th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

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

Interpreted by the Community Church Virtual Chamber Choir (Chapel Hill)

[Time for All Ages – Where does Water Come From? – SciShow Kids]

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

  • This week, we keep in mind the people of Sudan, where massive floods have devastated tens of thousands of people’s homes and left many people dead. May they find recover well.
  • We are also mindful of the people in the western United States, where wildfires are putting several populations in danger. These fires can be linked to climate change, and we can hope that they may be brought under control soon.
  • And this week, many young people have been returning to school, which also means that more people are returning to work.  May these returns allow for safe environments for all of us.

Holding the realities of the world, we also recognize the value in giving witness to the joys and the sorrows that are present in our personal lives.  To recognize, commemorate, and celebrate special moments, or landmarks in our lives.

Hymn #113 Where Is Our Holy Church? Vv. 1-4
Words: Edwin Henry Wilson, 1898-1993 ~)-| © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Genevan psalter, 1551, adapt. By William Crotch, 1775-1847
St. Michael

Interpreted by Jess Huetteman

Sermon – Worthy Waters – Rev. Rod


Read [Print-ready PDF for download]:

Every once in a while, I get a chance to visit St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.  It’s a large church building – the biggest in Canada, including powerful architecture, and an immersive setting and rich storytelling, that gives you a sense of Montreal’s Catholic heritage.

One of the places I sometimes visit when I’m there, is an unassuming room, with a steel water tank.  They give the water away, though if you don’t have a container of your own, you can get one of these bottles for a dollar, and fill them.

I’m always intrigued by what makes this water so special, to the extent that it is labeled holy water.

Well, it turns out the bottle contains a set of “ingredients” or “instructions” of sorts.  It turns out that holy water is not all that different than regular water – the secret ingredient is a blessing.

On the label, it explains that “To bless is to wish someone well”.  In the case of the kind of holy water that you find at places like St. Joseph’s Oratory, the water has been blessed by a priest, someone who has a job kind of like mine.

But Unitarian Universalists affirm what is sometimes called, the priesthood of all believers – these days we might phrase it something like the ministry of all the faithful.

And in fact, the water that I got there was blessed, not just by a priest, but also by the people who came along in my journeys to the Oratory.  In fact, when I started running out of this water, I had a chance to fill it more recently with water from a place where I had a holiday with my partner.  In any case, the water reminded me of the blessings I had by the people who are sometimes with me, and by the places where I can find this water.

So, I believe that, no matter where we are, we always have access to holy water of sorts – worthy water that has been blessed by people and places that mean us well.

Any of us who’ve lived in Essex county for any length of time, owe a great deal of our lives to this – tap water brought to us by grace of the County Waterworks.  It is a simple substance, yet a miracle of civil engineering.

What is inside our glasses has been around for a long time, and has been used before for uncountable uses.  It has been inside people and animals.  It has been sailed, and skated on. 

And before coming out of the tap, it has been graced by the powerful forces of science – physics, chemistry, and biology – gravity to separate it from heavier objects, substances to clear it, and living organisms to transform it from poisonous sludge, into life-giving drink.

It is blessed by the lives it has touched before, and by the lives that have cared for it.  It is worthy water.  It is holy water.

This water is easy to get – it is safe to wash with, cook with, and drink.

There are other waters that tell similar stories.

A few years ago, I visited my old home, which was in the old Olympic Village, from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  During my visit, I was able to stay in my old room, where I growing up.

While I was there, I often wondered about the athletes who lived there for a couple of weeks in October of 1968.  I wondered about who lived in my room, while getting ready for their event – Did they win a medal?  Did they come to represent their country regardless of the outcome?  How were they welcome when they got back home?

Some of you might remember that it was at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, when Tommie Smith or John Carlos made their remarkable Black Power salute, and they were not welcome by everyone in their home country.

I wondered about the athletes’ morning routines – how they felt as they used my shower, flushed my toilet, and washed their hands in my sink.  And I wondered – did they drink the water?

When I lived there in the 80s, we didn’t drink the water from those taps.  At least not directly.  My mom taught me to boil the water for several minutes, and then taught me to have patience as it cooled down.  We usually prepared batches in advance, but occasionally a lack of foresight meant, I had to go thirsty for longer than I expected.

When I go there now, we usually drink water from large 40L bottles, as has become the norm in Mexico.  The one from the taps is not necessarily harmful… but it carries enough risk that we’ve learned to take precautions.

And while that water might not be safe to drink, it is holy to me, I see it as blessed from its source, which has been graced by the presence of unknown athletes; unknown and known tenants over half a century; family and friends, who shared that tap with me, when it was the source for cleaning and preparing for the day and the night.  By their grace, that was worthy water.

On an early September day like today, it is often customary in Unitarian Universalist congregations to hold a ritual where we can bring water from places we might have visited over the summer.  Water that feels special because of a place that might have become special to us by our presence there.

That dynamic is less feasible these days…  Even if you did manage to visit some place and bring water from there, it is tricky for us to have these different waters poured in together.

And yet, all of you today, have special water with you.  Water that has been made holy by virtue of being next to you and accessible – ready to bring you life.

Most of you will have been able to bring drinkable water straight out of your taps, graced by the engineering marvels of our local waterworks around the county.

Now, over the summer a few households in rural Leamington were not able to do that, as a boil-water advisory was given in a limited space in town.

Even that water is special, and with a bit of extra care, it was possible to transform it into life-giving liquid – by boiling it – just as my family did at the old Olympic Village in Mexico City.

So, we see that any water can become special water – worthy water.  Whether it comes from far and exotic places, or from just a few steps away, where you live.  With some special care and intention, even the most brackish of waters can become a blessing to anyone and everyone.

Let us, together, partake in sharing this worthy water.  While we are apart, we may all drink from the same kind of water together.  Water that has been blessed by many others.  Worthy water.

To your health!
In Solidarity,

Copyright 2020 © Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #1064 Blue Boat Home
~)-| Words: Peter Mayer, 1963- , © 2002 Peter Mayer
Music: Roland Hugh Prichard, 1811-1887, adapted by Peter Mayer, 1963 – ,
© 2002 Peter Mayer
~)-| keyboard arr. Jason Shelton, 1972 –

When Normal is Not an Option

August 9th, 2020 . by Rod 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.

Interpreted by Bonnie Ettinger (piano) and Kevin Loop (soloist), from Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Association in Springfield, IL.

Time for All Ages – Born This Way by Lady Gaga – The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

August 6th and 9th mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. The Beirut explosion on August 4th is a reminder of what the devastation of an entire city, in an instant, can look like.

Today, we may hold a moment of witness to these events with this video recorded by Beirut resident Hoda Melki in her mother’s apartment the day after the explosion.  It is a time to witness intense sorrow, and maybe just a bit of joy.

Sermon –
When Normal is Not an Option
– Rev. Rod


Read: [Downloadable print-ready PDF]

Normality is a contentious topic…

Already in the last few months, we’ve seen how fluid a sense of “normal” can be.  Things that seemed outlandish in February, can feel ordinary by August… or at least, part of the expectations of what day-to-day life looks like in mid-2020.  Normality is not static.

There’s even debate among linguists on whether we should talk about “normality” or “normalcy” – one is considered more acceptable and the other is more widely used in some areas.  Which one is truly “normal”?  It’s hard to say.

The question of “normal” – as slippery as it may be – remains a hot topic these days.  And as we explore that, we might even see that a deeper, more meaningful question appears, on whether “normal” should even be the main goal.

The explosion in Beirut last week appears to have come about amid dire situations in Lebanon, which had become normal, but not what people in Lebanon aspire to have as their ongoing normal.

And that disaster is also a reminder of the other major explosions 75 years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  To one extent, we might welcome the fact that the use of nuclear weapons in warfare has not become a new normal, while we also recognize that the threat of nuclear warfare has remained a normal reality for decades – one which many dedicated people have worked to de-normalize, also for decades.

Sometimes moving beyond normal can be the better option.

So, let us talk about some of the struggles that people can bump into when dealing with what is seen as “normal”.

I have sometimes been asked whether I consider myself a person of colour – sometimes, I’ve been asked this by people of colour.  And even though I’m an immigrant of mixed racial background, I’ve been inclined to say that I do not consider myself a person of colour.

To be sure, there are some aspects of my life that might fall in the category of “racialized” – people sometimes hear a distinct accent when I speak, for instance.  And on my job applications, there is what might be called an “ethnic”-sounding name, and I don’t know if that has worked to my disadvantage, as can be the case for people whose names are racialized.

But most of my life experience reflects that of a white person.  I don’t live with a fear of being profiled in public spaces, and I usually feel safe dealing with authority figures.  Most of my identities intersect in a way that I realistically expect to be taken seriously.  When I speak, people usually listen.

In Canadian society, I essentially feel like what is perceived to be the “default” – for lack of a better description, people see me as normal.

For many people of colour in Canada, being seen as normal has often not been an option.  And that setup has given way to oppression, violence, and other forms of harm.

Since the killing of George Floyd, that reality has become more visible, not just in the United States, but worldwide.  Some of you have participated in giving witness, and offering solidarity, to this struggle for true racial equality.  Some of you have been part of recent conversations hosted by the Canadian Unitarian Council, which have included stories by Black Canadians, who offer witness to a reality in our country that many of us are still working to understand or even acknowledge.

Notably, many people of colour also wish to celebrate their racial heritage, and rather than erase it, or conform to social expectations of what might be perceived as “normal”, the deeper goal is a struggle for recognition of basic dignity, for acknowledgment of shared humanity, for celebration of diverse identities.

In the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, “plus” community – the L G B T Q + community – it is not uncommon to see a complicated relationship with the notion of what is seen as “normal”, or around the drive to be considered “normal”.  Different personal stories from L G B T Q + folks will witness differently around the desire to be seen as normal by a society that sees a straight lifestyle as the norm, or the expected default, with some wishing their sexual orientation or gender identity didn’t represent a reason for standing out, while others might reject the pressure to conform with the larger expectations from society.

We might see this more concretely in conversations leading to the establishment of equal marriage, by which legal recognition of all couples might be seen as a way to be accepted in the mainstream of society.  But not all LGBTQ+ folks have felt that way, and even with today’s reality of access to equal marriage, parts of the community might still see it as irrelevant, or perhaps even harmful, to their identity.

[One of the umbrella terms that is sometimes used for LGBTQ+ folks is Queer, and… there’s still debate as to how acceptable that label is, having been used pejoratively for many years, yet many find it empowering, sometimes precisely because it highlights a certain move away from what others might view as ordinary.]

I’m not sure it’s for me to say whether being seen as normal should or should not be a goal for folks in the LGBTQ+ community. 

And whether or not LGBTQ+ folks want to be seen as part of the norm, the reality is that, for much of history, normal was not option.  And that often meant that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, intersex, nonbinary, asexual, polyamorous, Two-Spirit, and other sexual and gender minorities were “othered” by society, resulting in oppression, violence, and many other forms of harm.

So, I do wonder if there are more useful questions to ask about how we treat people in our communities and people in our society, beyond whether they are to be considered normal or not, or whether they should be otherwise “normalized” to conformity.  When normal is not an option, and even when it is, I wonder if it might be more… dignified, to ask how we can value people in all their humanity, appreciating, even celebrating aspects of their personhood that might be different from our experience, our preferences, or the perceived majority among society.

One such way that communities around the world do that, often in the summer, is during Pride.  And the name Pride tells us a lot about what it’s about.

Whether or not “normal” is an option, Pride events, commemorations, and celebrations, offer a space where people can give due credit to who they are, to embrace one’s personhood and humanity, however we were born, and however we may see fit to identify during our lives.

Often, these celebrations are in June, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when LGBTQ+ folks made it known that they matter.

[For different local reasons, places like Ottawa and Windsor-Essex offer this space in August, and ordinarily the Windsor-Essex Pride parade would have been today, on August 9, and I would have invited all of us to participate, in solidarity, in witness, and in celebration.

But these are not ordinary times, and that parade won’t happen today.  But that space will still be offered at an alternative time and an alternative place – virtually, on August 22-23.  The normal place and time was not an option, yet recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of different sexual and gender identities will be an option.]

My friends, many of the lessons that the pandemic has revealed call us to look beyond going back to normal – that a rather more meaningful goal would be to move towards better.

My friends, when normal seems like a less appealing option, may we strive toward better.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #170 We Are a Gentle, Angry People
(Singing for Our Lives)

W & M: Holly Near, 1944- , © 1979 Hereford Music,
arr. by Patrick L. Rickey, 1964- , arr. © 1992 UUA

Interpreted by Michelle Galo

“The Transformative Impact of the Coronavirus – Building For a Better Normal On the Other Side”, by guest speaker Daniel Blaikie (Howard Pawley Memorial Lecture)

June 28th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #118 This Little Light of Mine

Words & Music: African American spiritual, c. 1750-1875
harmony by Horace Clarence Boyer, 1935

Interpreted by Sister Rosettta Tharpe

Reflection – The Transformative Impact of the Coronavirus – Building For a Better Normal On the Other Side – Daniel Blakie, MP (Video only)

Recording during live online service of the UU Church of Olinda.

Service Leader Bobbye Baylis begins by offering background about Howard Pawley and the Memorial Lecture in his name. She then introduces the Howard Pawley Memorial Lecture guest speaker, MP Daniel Blakie, who begins his Reflection with a Reading from Luke 18:1-8 “The Parable of the Persistent Widow”


Reprise Hymn #118 This Little Light of Mine

Words & Music: African American spiritual, c. 1750-1875
harmony by Horace Clarence Boyer, 1935

Interpreted by Sam Cooke

Thank You For the Music

June 21st, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #65 The Sweet June Days
~)-| W: Samuel Longfellow, 1819-1892
M: English melody, arr. by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958,
used by perm. of Oxford University Press

Interpreted by Julia Stubbs

Time for All Ages –Thank You For the Music by ABBA – The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (YouTube)


Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home.  Details are in our Newsletter.

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

There are very large stories circulating this week.  I will name some areas of global concern today, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives.  And I invite you to recognize your personal stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration.

Today is Indigenous People’s Day, which accompanies the Summer Solstice.  In our area, we particularly recognize the Caldwell Nation.

Last Friday was June 19 – Juneteenth, which is a holiday to recognize when slaves in Texas received news of liberation.  While it has long been recognized by Black people across the United States, it is gaining wider recognition, as more folks grow in awareness of the significance of Black history.

We also recognize that the Supreme Court of the United States has reached a decision further affirming LGBTQ+ rights.

Closer to home, we receive with sadness the news of numerous outbreaks in agricultural work places, which has severely impacted migrant workers, including two deaths.

We also recognize Father’s Day, acknowledging that it may bring opportunity for celebration, along with complexity in different relationships with fatherhood, as well as grief in remembering fathers who are no longer with us.

Homily – Thank You for the Music – Rev. Rod E.S.Q.


Read [downloadable print-ready PDF available]:

Norbert Čapek was a Unitarian minister in what was then Czechoslovakia, where he defied German occupation during World War II.  That is also where he began the Unitarian ritual that is the Flower Ceremony, which has now been adopted by Unitarians and Universalists across Europe, North America, and beyond.  He also wrote the original Czech lyrics to a hymn we sing around this time of year Color and Fragrance.

The Flower Ceremony or Flower Festival began as an exercise of inclusion – anyone who shows up for it can take part in it, regardless of whether or not they are card-carrying members of the faith, and regardless of whether you have brought or shared flowers – everyone gets to leave with a token of the beauty that flowers offer.

Beauty is one of those concepts that is prevalent, sought after, idolized, and somehow, still underrated.  It is underrated, not because it’s not desirable, but because we don’t often consider just how powerful it really can be.

And when I speak of honouring beauty, I don’t mean an idealized form, or an unattainable body that’s commercialized, commodified, and objectified, but rather, the ability to see an incredible worth and dignity accessible to all of us, that inspires us and brings us a deeper sense of appreciation for all that can be good, wholesome, and pleasant.

And yes, tastes can differ.  I often say that my favourite flower is the dandelion – and I suspect some of you might differ from that preference.  In fact, my own taste can change depending on the season – in the wintertime, my favourite flower is the poinsettia.

But differences in taste aside, we can see a deeper value in the presence of flowers – as cradles of life, as connections among plants and animals, with insects that pollinate them, and fruit that feeds us.  Flowers offer colour and fragrance, they herald new life, they allow us to express many dimensions of love.

Along with beauty, another underrated power is the impact that art can make.  Art expresses connection and points out where there is disconnection.  It glorifies beauty – in all its forms – and exposes where it is lacking.  It allows us to feel “all the feels”, to communicate what is missing in simple transfer of knowledge, and often, inspire change.

A member of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, Elena Perez, observes that music specifically, and art in general, is perhaps one of the most powerful forces for us, especially at times like these.  She quotes a recent meme that’s circulated online, which goes like this: “As you binge watch your thirteenth entire series or read a book or sleep to music, remember.  Remember that in the darkest days, when everything stopped, you turned to artists.

The latest cover of TIME Magazine, for June 15, 2020, shows a painting by artist Titus Kaphar (see the cover painting here). The cover shows what Kaphar calls a merger between painting and sculpture – a picture of a Black woman holding the silhouette of her missing child.  The silhouette is physically cut out of the canvas, and illustrates poignantly the loss that many Black parents feel when their child is murdered as a result of systematic racism.  We have heard this story before, in this painting – we see it and we feel it at another level.

In this way, art, by appreciating beauty and exposing where it’s missing, can tell a fuller story, a more powerful story, that cuts through the numbness of the numbers.  And the numbers are important – it is important to have facts when seeking solutions to problems.

Yet, as statistics mount, be they infection case counts and death counts in the pandemic, or case counts on racist interactions and deaths, it can be easy to forget the human part of the story beyond the scope of the problem.

And when we experience the deeper reality of others’ life experience, we can make better sense of our relationship to the interconnected web of our shared existence, as well as a better sense of the action, and the mission that is required of us.  Along with that, we can feel the passion that may inspire us to maintain and create more wholesome connections.  And every once in a while, we may find comfort, and a reminder that beauty – and our appreciation of it – is essential.

And so, my friends, in days like today, we share flowers – to remind us that the appreciation of beauty and the nurturing of art are powerful forces in the search for connection and action.  And when we share in the presence of the flowers around us at this time of year, we are exercising the practice of a deeper power than can shape the world

May we make it so,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #78 Color and Fragrance
~)-|Words: Norbert F. Čapek, 1870-1942
~)-| trans. by Paul and Anita Munk, © 1992 UUA
~)-| English version by Grace Ulp, 1926-
~)-| Music: Norbert F. Čapek, 1870-1942

Interpreted by Sandra Hunt (piano) and Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert at the Unitarian Church of Montreal

Parallel Timelines

June 14th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

#279 By the Waters of Babylon
Words: Psalm 137
Music: Anon.

By the waters, the waters of Babylon,
we sat down and wept, and wept for thee, Zion.
We remember, we remember, we remember thee, Zion.

Time for All Ages – Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho (YouTube) – 3 June, 2020 (9:27 mins.)

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows
There are very large stories circulating this week.  I will name one area of global concern today, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives.  And I invite you to offer personal stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration.

This week, we have seen the conversation on racism – and ways to dismantle it – continue, not just in the US, but also at home in Canada.  As we see ongoing unrest resulting from systemic racism in our society, and as we hear that another black man Rayshard Brooks, was killed by police in Atlanta GA, we continue to bear witness to the stories of marginalized people at home and abroad.

We also see some hope as the Province of Ontario has given the go-ahead to collecting race-based data on their interactions with the public.  Acquiring knowledge on the problem of racism, and how it is manifested in our communities, is one part of the work needed in dismantling racism in Canada.

Meditation Hymn #1042 Rivers of Babylon
Words & Music: Trevor McNaughton, George Reyam, Frank Farian, and Brent Dowe, © 1978 EMI Al Gallico Music Corp. (BMI).  All rights administered by Warner Bros. Publications US Inc. All rights reserved.  Used by permission. Warner Bros. Publications US Inc., Miami, Fl 33014, arr. Matt Jenson, 1964-

Interpreted by Boney M

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home.  Details are in our Newsletter.

I remind you to Please beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through another means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic.  Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”.  When in doubt, ask someone who you trust.  Let us take care of each other!

Sermon – Parallel Timelines – Rev. Rod E.S.Q.


Read: [Download Print-ready PDF file]

There are some things that we have become used to seeing and being part of around this time of year.  Some of us make vacation plans, to visit people or places that are special for us.  Some of us simply look to spend more time outdoors, in the public areas that are usually accessible across Windsor-Essex, including events and festivals that are part of the yearly spring and summer cycle where we live.  Some of the younger folks in our lives, may have looked forward to graduation ceremonies, or graduation celebrations, like prom.  There may have been summer jobs in the works, or new school settings to explore, some of which may now be in question, or will likely look different that what was expected.

As we go on our current lives – the real ones that we wake up to in the spring and summer of 2020 – those other lives that we thought were going to happen may also be living alongside us, in a kind of parallel timeline, that nags at us… “around this time, we would have… done such and such.”

We’ve all reached different levels of acceptance to these discrepancies in our realities, but it is likely that these parallel lives are there, somewhere, in the back of our minds.

There is a strong biblical tradition of dealing with discrepancies in our reality.  These are often found in the book of Psalms, and in other portions that are categorized as Lamentation.

The hymn Rivers of Babylon, by the reggae group The Melodians (and later popularized by the group Boney M), draws from two psalms – 137 and 19.

If you ever sing the hymn, which in our hymnal uses the original lyrics by The Melodians, you may have wondered who “King Alfa” is in the lyric how can we sing King Alfa’s song, since the original biblical text uses the words are how can we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land.  But The Melodians wrote the song as a Rastafarian hymn, where King Alfa stands in for Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor who is seen as a messianic figure in Rastafarian tradition.  With that imagery, Babylon can be used as a stand-in for any oppressive force.  And Zion is a symbol of a long-lost home.

Let’s talk a bit more about Psalm 137.  It has the distinction of being perhaps one of the easiest psalms that we can date.  Because it refers specifically to the Jewish exile to Babylon, or Mesopotamia, in modern-day Iraq, we know that it was written after the year 537 BCE.  From this history of exile and captivity, we hear it as a song of lament.

Its verses speak of a longing for a long-lost home.  It gives witness to the oppression of an enslaved people, whose traditions and songs were mocked.

It also speaks with a surprising frankness about how the people feel about that oppression…

Among the verses from Psalm 137 that are not included in the sung versions in hymns and The Melodians’ song, is the anger and desire for vengeance upon their oppressors.  If you’re curious, I invite you to read Psalm 137 – it isn’t very long – and the last few verses may be shockingly violent… which probably explains why they aren’t included in the most popular musical adaptations that you might hear.

And that’s the thing about psalms.  They are frank.  They speak of things lost, or things longed for.  They speak of injustice, and they speak of deep anger.  Tellingly, they are characterized by describing life as it is, with all its imperfections, and sometimes, its horrors.

Lamentation is an entire genre in the collection of biblical texts.  And there is so much of it, not just in the Psalms, but in other biblical books, because it serves an important purpose.

The art of lamentation has many layers, but it can probably be summed up as the ability to unapologetically recognize, and name, the fact that things can “suck”.  Sometimes we can phrase this politely as “things aren’t how we’d like them to be”, or “it could be better”.  But the frankness in the tradition of the psalms also invites us to more… direct language.

My friends, over the past three months, I’ve been expressing many of the affirming aspects of our response to the pandemic.  The fact that our church can continue to exist, survive, and even thrive, while outside of our building… in an exile of sorts.  The fact that many of us have found ways to maintain our community, and even strengthen it.  These are things worth celebrating, and it is important to make space for that – we’ve been doing that, and will continue to do that.

It is also important to allow space for lamentation.  To recognize that things can also suck.

It sucks that we haven’t been able to share the same physical space together, and that we feel compelled to keep that practice for some time still.  It sucks that we are required to forego, or sometimes reimagine, many of the parts of our church life, including the ways in which we can be involved in each other’s lives.

Many of you will also note – and lament – unwelcome changes in your lives.  It sucks that you cannot meet with, or hug, your grown children or grandchildren.  It sucks that summer plans have had to change, or have even evaporated.

Members in you family may have voiced similar sentiments.  In many cases, you may have heard children voice an unexpected longing for school.  Maybe they simply miss their friends, often enough they miss a special teacher, or the structured learning, or the sense of community among their peers, or the rituals of end of year, like graduation, or signing yearbooks, or even the feeling of the last day of school.  And children and teens will, quite unequivocally and without euphemism, tell you that “this sucks”.

In the wider world, you will have seen people commenting – or you may have commented yourselves – about those things that suck in society – we’ve been talking about racism, we’ve talked about economic inequality, and inadequacies about how people’s work is valued, and sometimes unappreciated.

It is important to be able to name these things, and recognize that they have an effect on us.  To recognize that we can get grumpy, angry, or sad, about the chasm that exists between the parallel timelines of different realities.

But – and there is often a “but” in the tradition of psalms – there is also opportunity to participate, or even create, a new direction in the parallel timelines ahead of us.

In the biblical text, there is often a turning point after the lamentation portion – what my Old Testament professor, academically referred to as “the but clause” – that moment when we have recognized the parts of our lives that don’t conform with our expectations of how our life or the world should be, and then search for those things that support us, naming our longings and a new resolve to see them through.

We often do both of these in our ritual of Joys & Sorrows.  And when we do that, we name our laments, as well as recognize those who are around us, and those things that inspire us to be in a new relationship with life.  Be that the stars, the flowers, the people we rely on, or our breath – the spirit of life that allows us to get up in the morning.

My friends, we do not need to shy away from the gaps in our lives that leave us wanting more.  But, it is helpful to name them, sit with their reality, and then search for the resources that will allows us to create something different and inspiring.

May we make it so,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

#377 & 379 (Old Hundredth)
M: Genevan psalter, 1551

Interpreted by organist Rob Charles

In greening lands begins the song
which deep in human hearts is strong.
In cheerful strains your voices raise,
to fill the whole spring world with praise!

~)-| Words: Kenneth L. Patton 1911-1994 © 1980 Kenneth L. Patton
Ours be the poems of all tongues,
all things of loveliness and worth.
All arts, all ages, and all songs,
one life, one beauty on the earth.

For Your Service

June 7th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

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

Interpreted by Chelsea Sardoni, mezzo-soprano

Time for All Ages – Systemic Racism Explained – act.tv (YouTube)

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows
There are very large stories circulating this week.  I will name one area of global concern today, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives – the offer personal stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration.

This week, we continue to pay attention to the unrest resulting from systemic racism in our society, highlighted by the killing of George Floyd by police.  As we do so, we remember that while systemic racism may sometimes be manifested differently in Canada, it is also a reality in our own neighbourhoods, and we commit to participate in dismantling the culture and the system that perpetuates it.

We also remember all Joys and Sorrows left unsaid, recognizing that in this larger community, none of us is alone.

We are in this together.

Meditation in Stillness – Breathe – Lynn Ungar

Meditation Hymn #169 We Shall Overcome

Words & Music: African American Spiritual, c. 1750-1875, Musical and lyrical adaptation by Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan and Pete Seeger.  Inspired by African American Gospel Singing, members of the Food & Tobacco Workers Union, Charleston, SC, and the southern Civil Rights Movement.  TRO–© Copyright 1960 (Renewed) and 1963 (Renewed) Ludlow Music, Inc., New York, International Copyright Secured.  Made in U.S.A.
All Rights Reserved Including Public Performance for Profit.  Used by Permission.
Tune Martin

Interpreted by The Moorhouse College Glee Club at the 2009 Candle on the Bluff Awards

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home.  Details are in our Newsletter.

I remind you to Please beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through another means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic.  Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”.  When in doubt, ask someone who you trust.  Let us take care of each other!

Sermon – For Your Service – Rev. Rod E.S.Q.



[Downoald print-ready PDF document]

My friends, in June, it is customary for us to set aside some special time to recognize our volunteers, because it bears regular reminding that ours is a shared ministry.  In principle, we already know this, but it takes on special significance when we take a pause to see the specific faces attached to this truth, knowing that there are personal stories behind this truth, and perhaps considering more deeply how you are part of this truth or how you might want to be more involved in it.

One of the fundamental traits of volunteering is that it is not typically remunerated.  And yet people do it, because it brings on other rewards – a sense of connection, a sense of achievement, a sense of contributing to something larger than ourselves.

Another, aspect that is sometimes overlooked, is that unpaid work is indeed work.  It brings value to a community, and it brings value to the individual.  It also takes time, it takes dedication, and to some extent represents sacrifice.  It means putting energy and passion into something other than whatever else we might also be doing.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable – it often is, just as paid work can also be enjoyable, if you’re fortunate to have that kind of position.  That doesn’t make it less work, and it warrants recognition.

We thank you for your service.

Which brings us to one other dimension that is not always articulated.  Folks volunteer to do this work – which is to say, we do it willingly… out of our own volition.  Each of you who has taken a volunteer task, will have your own reasons.  Some may call them selfless, or sometimes selfish… I suspect they’re often a combination of both, which are part of what I like to call self-full.

In our wider society, there is another kind of unpaid work that often also goes unrecognized.  And that is the work of social justice by folks who are experiencing social injustice, in real time.

This work is also work, and it is often unpaid.  Sometimes it is unpaid because it is unappreciated.  Often it is even received with hostility.  And because of this, this kind of work, this kind of ministry, is also not always taken on voluntarily… given the choice, some folks would rather not have to do it.  But the reality is that it sometimes becomes a necessity to advocate for oneself.

Now, I want to recall, for a moment, that there are many forms of oppression and many ways to be marginalized.  For those of you who haven’t experienced racial oppression, you might have otherwise lived marginalization due to your gender, or your age, or ability, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or where you fit in the construct of socio-economic class.

If you fit into any of these, or similar categories, you might recognize that sometimes you have to advocate for yourself.  This is work, it is unpaid, it is usually not voluntary.  It is not fair, and yet, it has become necessary.

Sometimes the categories of privilege and marginalization overlap… for those of us who may find ourselves in the privileged position, there is also work to be done – it will be work, it will likely be unpaid, and is necessary… a duty, for the sake of fairness.

That is the work of solidarity, to be side by side with those who do the work of advocating for justice, especially when they’re advocating for themselves.

Now this work can take many shapes.  These past couple of weeks, you’ve seen that it has often been expressed in the form of public protest, often at danger to oneself.  Now, I’m not going to spend time debating the specifics of how that is carried out, because today, that will distract from the larger truth, that people are advocating for themselves, and other folks are being in solidarity with them.

That particular expression of solidarity may not be possible or appropriate for you.  There are other ways, that may make more sense in your specific situation.

And perhaps you’re struggling with how to show your support.  These conversations can be tricky, and it’s easy to be daunted by the rules of engagement, which can often shift unexpectedly.

There is one way that I want to highlight.  When in doubt – listen… take a breath, and listen.  If marginalized folks are speaking to an experience that is different from yours, listening is one of the most basic ways to show support.

And yes, it is also work to do that.  It takes self-restraint to put aside our opinions for a while, and really seek to engage with information that may be new to us.  It may be unremunerated work.  And it will be just work.

We’ve had this conversation – several times before – in this community of faith.  By now, many of you are used to hearing about the need to listen to the stories of marginalized folks, and you are well aware of the need to advocate for justice that truly applies to everyone equally.  This is not news.

What I want to stress today, is that the work doesn’t end.

It certainly doesn’t end for the folks with marginalized identities – who constantly live the experience of oppression and who also often find themselves having to explain that experience to other folks who have trouble identifying with their experience.

It is for this reason that we have guest speakers in February, who give witness to why Black lives matter.  And it is why we also talk about different types of justice, outside of the designated day, or week, or month when that matter is featured.  The work is ongoing.  It necessitates repetition, and practice, because that is one way in which lasting change comes about.

You may have already engaged in some of this work over the past few days.  And there is always room for more.  If you’re wondering today, how you might show support.  There are a couple options I’d like to offer.

On this web version of the service, I am including a few reflections, with different perspectives on the current conversations of racial justice.  I invite you to take a look at them.

My friends, the articles or reflections I’m posting on the web page are not a comprehensive list.  It is only one starting point.  You are invited, to follow your own journey, as many of you already do.

And, my friends, there is one other concrete action we’ve been invited to do.  The Canadian Unitarian Council has set up a study group for dismantling racism.  Part of the work includes a survey of Unitarian Universalists across Canada, because knowledge about where we are informs what action we need to take.  Many of you have completed that survey.  And as the Dismantling Racism Study Group progresses in its work, I invite you to explore how you might be involved.

And when in doubt, my friends, listen.  Whenever the opportunity shows up, listening can be one of the most effective kinds of work you can do for the sake of justice.

So may it be,
In Solidarity,

Some Materials for Personal Growth

Dear Liberal Allies by Trungles


Want to support Black people? Stop talking, start listening by Laura Hensley and Olivia Bowden in Global News

How Change Happens by Rebecca Solnit in Literary Club

let your grief rise by Rev. Theresa Inés Soto


#34 Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire
Words: Hal Hopson, 1933- , (1 Corinthias 13:1-3), © 1972 Hope Publishing Co.
Music: Trad. English melody, adapt. by Hal Hopson, 1933- , © 1972 Hope Publishing Co.

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