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


May 3rd, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #123 Spirit of Life

W & M: Carolyn McDade, 1935 © 1981 Carolyn McDade
~)-| harmony by Grace Lewis-McLaren, 1939- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
(Tune “Spirit of Life”)

Interpreted by the Orange County Unitarian Universalist Choir

Reflections for All Ages

The question exploration forum Quora offers community offerings around the question: “What are some examples in life of when less is more?”

Click here to see a diversity of answers:


Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason.  Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed hundreds of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives.  Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

As we think about our own stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, I will mention a couple of stories from

This week we keep members of the Canadian military in mind, as they face the news of a helicopter crash that killed 6 service members in the Mediterranean Sea last Wednesday.And in the month of May, we are also recognize many days that invite us to contemplate special observations.

  • May 1st was the spring festival time of May Day, as well as International Workers’ Day
  • May 2nd was Astronomy Day
  • May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day
  • Tomorrow, folks in certain Fantasy and Science Fiction fandoms may proclaim “May the 4th Be With You”
  • And on Tuesday it’ll be Cinco de Mayo, a date whose historical significance in Mexico and the United States is complex, and we’ve talked about before.

Meditation Tune #295 Sing Out Praises for the Journey

~)-| W: Mark M. DeWolfe, 1953-1988,
~)-| M: rev. by Joyce Painter Rice, © 1991 UUA
Music: Henry Purcell, 1659-1695
(Tune “Westminster Abbey”)

Instrumental of Westminster Abbey tune interpreted by organist John Pellowe


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!

Video Reading – Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You – CGP Grey

CGP Grey is a YouTube creator, and he is among one of the most recognized in the educational category.  His animated videos span a range of topics, and his latest one, just released last Thursday, speaks to some of the practical considerations while staying at home, in isolation.

In his video, Grey uses a spaceship metaphor for our home’s “bubble” – a space isolated from the rest of the planet.  What to do with this space, and this time?  His answer is to find a single mission: “Return better than you left”.

Reading – Covidevotional April 28, 2020 by Pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder (North Leamington United Mennonite Church)

Pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder shares her ministry with two other pastors at the North Leamington United Mennonite Church.  This week, she posted a “Covidevotional” reflection for April 28, and she gave me permission to share it with you as one of our readings.

In her reflection, Pastor Charleen also draws inspiration and quotes from her sister-in-law Kimberly Jongejan from Northglenn Colorado, who is a director of community programming and youth theatre in Northglenn, in the greater Denver area.

She reflects:

Comparison is the thief of joy. I’ve been heard to say that when we compare ourselves with others, we often find ourselves comparing our weakness with another’s strengths. I’m a pretty scatterbrained person, by nature. I start more tasks than I finish, by far. There are times I look with envy at the planners and organizers in my life. If I were more like them, I muse, my kids would have no gaps in their education, our home would be spotless, we would have listened to every episode of my favourite podcasts… and so on. It must be nice.

Comparison.. And its companions envy and jealousy, has always been a human weakness. Think of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, Saul and David – even the prodigal son and his jealous elder brother.

My sister-in-law Kim posted a raw post last week that I’ve been mulling over ever since. I won’t quote it all, but she basically retraced our steps through the quarantine – out of the gate, we were all shocked. Some jumped into action, some were paralyzed. Over time, some have slowed pace, been slammed by grief, shut down. Others have hyped up the pace. Add to this, the distorted view that the online world can provide.

There’s a sense of who’s doing this quarantine thing the best? We’re looking at other people’s golden moments on our phone while our own failures are staring us in the face. The dirty dishes, the squabbling kids, the great ideas still on the shelf. And there’s a bit of an online competition for emerging the best out of this. Compare, compare, compare. Compete, compete, compete. She urged us to give up on the hyper-focus on others’ achievements and focus on what brings us joy.

Early this month a meme that personally digs: If you don’t come out of this quarantine with either 1. a new skill 2. Starting what you’ve been putting off (like a new business) or 3. More knowledge [ – ] you never lacked the time, you lacked discipline. (attributed to Jeremy Haynes, April 2, 2020 Twitter). This sparked a huge conversation (and dozens of counter-memes) about how much we can expect of ourselves in this season of pandemic. The truth is, many of us are struggling, most of us won’t produce our best work in this season, and many of us will emerge in great need of healing. This is true whether we are working parents juggling at-home learning for kids, or single people facing long days alone and almost 6-7 weeks since their last hug.

More from my sister-in-law Kim: “Instead, picture it like this: are you squinting hard at what you’re seeing in this hyper-focus world, trying to absorb, adapt, incorporate or even contribute to everything? That’s just going to give you migraines and leave you feeling overwhelmed. Instead put on some glasses. Ones that filter out the blurriness and focus on the nuggets that feed your soul – not drain it. Laugh at the silly dogs. Cry for the burdened. Tackle a craft or try a new recipe. But ONLY if it will feed your joy.”

There’s no road map for this. But please, my friends, look at the path that is before you, and do not try to hike someone else’s trail. Don’t compare yourselves poorly to others, and especially don’t judge others who are coping differently from you. Instead, let us cheer one another on, with words of encouragement; and let us be encouraged in our own journey. Even if today’s not going great. Perhaps especially then. The journey is long. God is with us. So are God’s people throughout the ages.

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,[a] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”

Not someone else’s race.

This is the wisdom from our kindred in faith.

Sermon – Hold – Rev. Rod

PDF for download here



I am not a financial advisor, but I’ve sat on the boards of several faith-based not-for profits, some of which hold endowment funds, and these are subject to stock market volatility.

And I’ve seen the question that inevitably comes up when there’s a downturn in the market – what to do with the funds?

And the inevitable answer from financial advisors is very consistent and very concise – “Hold”.

Given the choice, they say, the best thing you can do is nothing.  Don’t sell, or sell as little as possible.

In some cases, they concede that there may be a need to convert a portion to extra cash reserves and service some immediate needs, but for the most part – just hold.  The most effective thing you can do, most advisors maintain, is to do as little as possible.

Now each situation is different, and I must stress this again, I am not a financial advisor.  But I am a spiritual leader, and I find it oddly comforting when such distinct disciplines can overlap on similarly simple, yet complexly counterintuitive insights.

For months now, I have occasionally invited us to sit in stillness during worship.  And I do this as a practice in doing more by doing less.  Being able to take a few moments to acknowledge ourselves, by recognizing the spirit of life that goes into every breath we take – and holding some stillness, can sometimes be a more effective way of building self-awareness, than doing a lot of active self-actualization.

I also know that that is not always what works for all of you, and there are other ways to stay in touch with ourselves, singing, cooking, exercising, searching deep conversations with dear ones, playing, studying.  These too can be forms of meditation, especially when done with a certain intentionality.

Perhaps one of the things that many of the practices that help build selfhood have in common, is that they invite one to affect what one can actually affect – nothing more.

And as we wrap up 7 weeks of enhanced physical distancing between us, the question of what we can affect can become especially sharp.

The last 7 weeks may have felt rather long – “March was a very long year” I have heard folks say.  And April was a longer one.

And in this time, we are still left with uncertainty about what happens next.  Some things seem like they’re being primed for opening – in a limited way.  Other things, like in-person worship, seem likely to still take several weeks, or quite possibly… months.

Rather than a sprint, this race is looking more like a marathon, or perhaps a relay-race.

And amid this uncertainty, the most consistent and concise request has been… to hold.  To hold on, just a while longer.

It is a counterintuitive ask, especially when there seems like there’s so much to do.  And yet, we are being invited to follow the wisdom, that we may be able to do more for others, by doing less.  Or at least, by doing less of what we might usually do outside.

And while indoors, it can be quite easy to find a preoccupation on how others are doing – and wondering if we’re doing quarantine right… or perhaps more often, wondering if others are doing quarantine better than us.

Pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder, from North Leamington United Mennonite Church, challenges this premise – “comparison is the thief of joy”, she proclaims in her Covidevotional reflection for April 28, 2020.

Now, she’s not talking about the kind of comparison that helps better understanding, like the “compare and contrast” that we do in an English Lit assignment.  What Pastor Charleen is warning against is the comparison that gets easily paired with jealousy and envy, by which we unnecessarily measure ourselves against those around us, and instead of finding support or inspiration in them, we use their examples as reasons to undermine our own worth, and the value that we offer to others by being us, letting our inherent worth and dignity get obscured by an unhelpful focus on others’ ways of being themselves.

There is a video by the YouTube creator CGP Grey, called “Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You”, and he offers another set of tools.  A kind of homework – quite literally – to set our limited space in the most effective way, so that we may be ourselves, as much as possible, during this time.  It does not require a lot of work – just mindful work.

Hold your sleeping space with reverence, sanctify some space for physical activity, celebrate your space and times of relaxation, and all of this is a creative enterprise that may in turn give you space to create when you need to.

At first glance, Pastor Charleen’s Covidevotional reflection, and CGP Grey’s advice may seem to be at odds with each other.  Pastor Charleen seems to imply that we shouldn’t feel caught up in the pressures of competition and feel compelled to do something that we’re not up for, while CGP Grey talks about “Lockdown Productivity”.

Like many things, I find that both messages complement the other, offering slightly different dimensions to our shared situation.  In essence, they both offer a common mission to be better to oneself and better as oneself.  CGP Grey phrases it as a mission to come back better than before, while Pastor Charleen emphasizes that this mission need not be hampered by unnecessary comparisons to others – if there’s a race, it is your race… no one else’s.

As much as Grey talks about the mission of self-improvement, he never suggests improvement against anyone else, only one’s own ability to take care of oneself – both for the sake of one’s own wellbeing, as well as the possibility to contribute to the outside world… if not now, then at some point.

When speaking about acts of creation, Grey suggests these can be just about anything that you’re good at, or are interested in getting better at, or even something that you need to do to look after yourself.  Cooking, crafting, studying, work – if that’s something you can do at home.  Pastor Charleen would add minding your children or your family.  Affect what you are able to affect – that’s all.  The mission of being better than before, is yours – no one else’s.

Grey also acknowledges that there will be times when the mission flounders – that’s to be expected, and berating oneself about it is less helpful than looking to continue on the mission.

And I suspect the mission’s greatest value probably lies in its aspiration, rather than the specific result.  As Pastor Charleen observes, “The truth is, many of us are struggling, most of us won’t produce our best work in this season, and many of us will emerge in great need of healing.”  And still, with the mission in mind to keep us focused, we may avoid coming out worse off… or at least, having avoided the worse outcomes.

And, my friends, these options are more desirable than their alternatives – the lesson of the mission remains: affect what you can; there is little use in affecting what we cannot.  Comparing ourselves to others, in the company of jealousy and envy, leads to little growth.  While a mission to keep mindful of ourselves, of our needs, of our reasonable actions, may well bring us to a deeper sense of meaning.

My friends, to hold on to what is good, we may let go of the extra work involved in seeking to do what we cannot.  This is the counterintuitive wisdom of being more effective by doing less, when what we do, we do mindfully.

My friends, minding ourselves – being more mindful of ourselves – is far from being selfish… it is being self-full.  It is a way of serving ourselves well so that we may sustainably be of better service to humanity.  So that we may hold each other better, as we hold on for yet another while.

So may it be.
In Solidarity

Closing Hymn – #348 Guide My Feet

Words: Traditional
Music: Spiritual from the collection of Willis Laurence James, 1900-1966
harmony by Wendell Whalum, 1932-
(Tune guide my feet)

Interpreted by Oasis Chorale

1 Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race.
Guide my feet while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)

2 Hold my hand while I run this race.
Hold my hand while I run this race.
Hold my hand while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)

3 Stand by me while I run this race.
Stand by me while I run this race.
Stand by me while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)

4 Search my heart while I run this race.
Search my heart while I run this race.
Search my heart while I run this race,
for I don’t want to run this race in vain! (race in vain!)

Comments are closed.