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


January 9th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #326 Let All the Beauty We Have Known
~)-| Words: Dana McLean Greeley, 1908-1986
Music: English melody, adapt. and harmony by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958, © 1931 Oxford University Press

Unitarian Universalist Church Utica (30 January, 2021)

Sermon – Ctrl+Z – Rev. Rod


Read: [Printable PDF document]

When your work involves a lot of typing, you are likely to pick up a habit of using what are called the “key shortcuts” – which is to say, little combinations on a computer keyboard that do little “tricks” or functions.  I won’t go through all of them here, but there are a couple that bear mentioning.

On many computer configurations, if I press-and-hold the shift key while tapping the arrow keys, I can highlight text, if I then press-and-hold the ctrl (“control”) key along with the letter c, the computer will copy that text – this the ctrl+c shortcut.  And I can then paste that text somewhere else by using ctrl+v.  You could also do all this with your mouse, but sometimes, using the key shortcuts allows for more precision, or… well, control.

But perhaps my favourite key shortcut is ctrl+z.  Using that combination of keys does something magical – it will undo previous actions, and this can range from the last letter you typed, to entire paragraphs (depending on how many times you tap it).  It’s essentially a typing eraser, and I use it – a lot.  In fact, I used it while typing this very paragraph!

Like many things, ctrl+z is a tool, something that helps you in your trade – just as the correction ribbon on a typewriter might have been at some point.  And for someone who writes for a living, ctrl+z can be almost as habitual as typing itself.

Sometimes, the habit becomes so engrained that it can be a bit jarring when you realize you can’t use it “in real life”.  After spending several minutes, or even hours, moving furniture around a room – or putting furniture together – and then realizing it’s not quite where you want it, or the order of assembly has been mixed up… it can be almost a reflex to move the fingers to an imaginary set of keys, typing “ctrl+z” in the air.  But the furniture will not reset itself… the key shortcuts don’t work the same way outside of the word processor.  There is no ctrl+z for real life.

Or is there?

Let’s back up a bit… or press the proverbial backspace key, if you will!

It is common to start a new year with a sense of new beginnings, of resetting – perhaps looking back at the previous year and thinking about the things we might have done differently.  To some degree, this is an arbitrary practice, based solely on shifts in the calendar… but that’s as good a time as any.  In fact, reflection and evaluation has a place at any time when we feel that new direction might be useful.

And the past two years have certainly raised a heightened sense of… needing new direction, or wanting to start over again.  This is true worldwide, and this extends to our more immediate communities.  Perhaps some of us occasionally get an overwhelming desire to altogether have a total do-over… essentially press the proverbial ctrl+z keys of life.

New year’s resolutions represent one way some of us might try to do that – and these can bring mixed results.  It may well lead to new directions in life, or at least begin exploring certain aspects of how we live our lives.

Last year, I mentioned a more novel practice of considering a general theme for the year – rather than a specific resolution.  This approach might offer more flexibility, allowing the goals of a theme to adapt to the shifting needs that real life presents to each of us, as the year evolves.  You might choose, for instance, a year of health, or a year of relationship-building, and whatever you end up doing under any of those umbrellas represents your fulfillment of those themes.

In everyday situations, there are other ways that we may find “ctrl+z moments”, like when we make a mistake (outside of the word processor) or when we find that we have hurt someone.  Apologies are one way that we sometimes seek to remedy those missteps – these usually don’t really “undo” a regrettable action, but they might bring a relationship to a more wholesome state, perhaps even improve upon how it was before.

Now, apologies aren’t always possible, or desirable.  There are times when that’s not what is being asked for, and may in fact lead to more problems if they are not welcome.  They are one tool at our disposal, offering options.

An even broader tool at our disposal is an attitude of openness to learning.  And this is extremely valuable, because even when a complete do-over isn’t possible, or when apologies either won’t cut it or aren’t really feasible, learning will still allow us to grow and develop, to enrich our lives, perhaps further beyond what they would have been without having stumbled along in the first place.

We have previously explored how making mistakes is sometimes an integral part of the learning process, and that in many tasks, such as learning a language or a new skill, getting it wrong comes with the package as an expected part of the process.  That is what practice is often about.

Embracing this approach to learning and development is much easier when we stop demanding perfection in the process.  It doesn’t mean we won’t try in earnest nor does it mean forgetting about the consequences of a blunder; it simply means recognizing that the practice involves ongoing rehearsal, and each time it might be a bit different – maybe even a bit better.

Sometimes, when we hear a word like evaluation, we might cringe at implications of being tested or criticized.  But if we consider it in its broader sense of taking stock, of reflection and consideration of what’s important to us – what is valuable to us – then we can see it as another tool toward a new and improved direction.

Last week, we heard from some among you as you looked back at the past year, as well as how you’re looking at the coming year, and this is an evaluation of sorts.

In a couple of months, we’ll be holding our Annual General Meeting, and we’ll have had a chance to consider the annual reports from our many shared ministries in our church.  These too are evaluations and reflections of where we’ve been and where we want to go.  They’re not about testing or criticizing our shared work, they’re opportunities for learning and community development.

Our Committee on Shared Ministry will also be holding a general evaluation of our shared ministries, and this too will help us get a better sense of our congregation, taking stock of where we are and where we want to be as a church.

Our weekly Sunday services are constantly being re-evaluated, and this has become an even greater necessity over the past couple years, as our format and logistical preparation shifts – sometimes week to week.

So, my friends, even though life outside the word processor doesn’t really have as magic an eraser as ctrl+z, we do have ample tools for ongoing course correction, for consideration and reflection, for learning and enrichment.

My friends, may we take these opportunities to practice deepening and development in our shared ministries.

My friends, may we so practice our ministry.

So may it be,
In optimism and grace,


Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Hymn #56 Bells in the High Tower
~)-| Words: Howard Box, 1926- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Hungarian carol, © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association

Social Band (24 October, 2015)

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