Posted by Barry on April 18, 2016
I was so excited to find this recording of my all time favorite story, The Little Prince. I share it here with you in the hopes that you will find is as enjoyable and inspiring as I have and that you will share it with someone special.
Posted by Barry on March 20, 2016
I love the way Joy thinks about religious education and thoroughly enjoyed reading her words.
Everywhere I turn, conversation about the future of the church and organized religion and even Unitarian Universalism in America is happening. Some believe faith communities are in danger of extinction; some believe that it’s only a matter of time, unless we chart a new course. I believe that people always have been and always will be in need of sacred spaces and experiences, a tribe, and a way to make meaning of their lives. (And help with the children, forever and ever, amen.) Whether we have the will and the energy to make sure our churches can still do all those things is an open question, but a hopeful one. After all, it’s ours to do, and no one can stop us, should we decide to focus our energy on making the church more responsive, more finely tuned to the needs of today’s congregants. We can decide to consider how…
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Posted by Barry on February 18, 2016
One of the best constructed responses to marriage equality opponents. Best thing I have ready today.
answering the most sympathetic and reasonable arguments against same-sex marriage
I found the Marriage Conservation Facebook page when one of my FB friends linked to something “hateful” posted there. And it’s true, you don’t have to read very far to find nasty comments cloaked in self-righteousness.
But that’s not what I found interesting.
In general, I try to discourage my friends from winding themselves up by seeking out other people’s bile. Once in a while I run into some blessedly innocent person who doesn’t understand the depth of irrational hatred in the world, and who (sadly) needs to be disillusioned a little. But I believe that for most of us, the idea that there are crazy, nasty, ugly people on the other side comes to mind far too easily.
What’s harder to hold in mind is all the good, decent, well-meaning people who are trying their best to do the…
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Posted by Barry on February 16, 2015
This morning, at my church, we held a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new Community Outreach Center. The center is an expansion of the Matthew 25:40 Mission that has been a part of our church’s work in the community. The mission literally grew out of it’s Director’s (Mark Cook) trunk. The Outreach Center will provide a warming center during the day for our community’s homeless population while connecting people in need to the support and services they need.
As part of the church service that preceded the ribbon cutting, the kids participated in a Blessing of the Blankets. Just before Rev. Christana Wille McKnight lead the congregation in the blessing, I got to tell this story:
Once upon a time, on a day very much like today – rainy, windy and cold – there was a dog who didn’t have a place to live. On this rainy, windy, cold day the dog laid down in an alleyway to get a little relief from the weather. Nearby was a pile of yarn that someone had thrown away. The pile of yarn saw the dog and rolled over to it and tried to cover the shivering animal. It meant well and it tried really hard. It helped a bit. The dog felt a little warmer and a little drier and was grateful for the effort. But still, the dog was damp and chilly.
Later that evening, a young woman cut through the alleyway on her way home and saw the dog, covered in yarn, shivering quietly. She picked up the dog, yarn and all, and brought her home. While the dog huddled in the corner of the kitchen, the young woman gathered up all the yarn and brought it to her loom. Turns out the woman was an artist and had a real skill for weaving. Within a few hours she wove that yarn – in and out, left and right – until she had woven a beautiful blanket. When she was finished, she took that blanket to the corner of the kitchen, wrapped up the dog and went to bed.
In the morning, the young woman came down to the kitchen to find that the dog had given birth to 3 adorable puppies. The blanket was now wrapped around the Momma dog and her 3 puppies, keeping the whole family warm.
What makes a blanket different from a pile of yarn is vision, leadership and organization. We must always be grateful to those who share their vision, extend their leadership and bring organization to our pile of efforts. For it is through these gifts that our pile of yarn becomes more beautiful, more durable and more effective.
Posted by Barry on November 2, 2014
A wonderfully thoughtful and inspired piece about this beautiful song and our propensity to change the lyrics.
I have long been uneasy with a recent practice among Unitarian Universalists of singing changed words to a particular song in Singing the Living Tradition, the hymnal published by the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Granted, we are always changing words to make them more palatable and therefore singable in our congregations. We free original hymns of their sexism and God-talk, for example, in an effort for our worship to be more inclusive.
The changed lyrics I am thinking of are to the old African American song, “There Is More Love Somewhere.” I have heard it sung by UUs as “There is more love right here.”
And as much explaining as I have done from the pulpit about understanding and respecting the history and context of the song, I field questions from congregation members who protest the song’s words when we sing it as is.
There is much to be troubled…
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Posted by Barry on November 2, 2014
The theme in February at First Parish Church in Taunton is Hope. I have been thinking a lot about Hope and Faith lately. This story, which I told at our Time for All Ages, came from that thinking.
This is a story about three sisters – Hope, Faith and Love. I think their parents might have been hippies. Every day, the sisters work to fight injustice. They march against unfair treatment. They help kids being bullied. They sit with parents with sick kids. They help families struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table.
Each morning, Hope wakes up first and, in her wee happy voice, she sings, “I hope today will be a good day.” Her cheery optimism helps get her sisters up and ready for the day. The sisters sing together over breakfast, hum while washing up and dance while getting dressed to start the day. Bellies full, clean and neat, the sisters head to the door. Sometimes Hope’s sunny mood dims a little as she considers their work ahead and the challenges they might face. “I hope today will be a good day, but I am not sure.”
Faith chirps up in a voice strong and determined. “I have faith that our work matters. I have faith that things will get better.” Hand in hand, the three sisters set out to protest, to protect, to educate, to feed and clothe, and to heal the broken places in the world. They march arm in arm. They speak truth to power. They hug and cry with the suffering. They sing with the brave. They keep their hands busy with their life giving, world saving work.
The sisters have many friends and partners, but not everyone welcomes them. Sometimes they meet people who put them down. Sometimes they meet people who push them down. Sometimes they are even beat down. In these dark times even Hope’s optimism and Faith’s determination waiver.
Love in usually pretty quite. Usually she shows her strength with a gentle touch, a loving smile or a warm embrace. In the dark times, when the sisters are at their lowest, she shows her true power. “Get up!” she shouts. “Stand up!” “Keep moving!” When the sisters are almost at the breaking point, it is Love’s power that brings them through. Love reminds them why they work so hard every day. Love reminds them of all the wonderful people with whom they struggle. Love reminds of all the beauty they work to protect. With Love, they rise. With Love, they push forward.
And so the sisters work together each day. We will find them when we work together for justice. We will find them when we act with compassion. We will find them when we stand up and we will find them when we are shoved down. Each contributes in their own way to help us do what we know is right.
Posted by Barry on February 10, 2014
One of my responsibilities as the Director of Religious Education at First Parish Church in Taunton is to tell a story or share some thoughts during the worship service. We call this the “Time for All Ages.” This past Sunday, I struck upon a gem.
There once was a 3rd grade teacher – Mrs. Mello – who asked her students to write a letter to Santa with their Christmas Wish List as one of their assignments. Third graders are learning to write letters and this seemed like a good way to get the kids excited about their lesson. The children got busy right away. When the letters were all written, Mrs. Mello collected them and brought them home to correct that evening.
After dinner, she sat in her comfy chair, got out her red pen, and started correcting and grading the letters. She skimmed through several letters, not really focused on the stream of “Please bring me a new bike…new doll…new action figure…new computer game…” It wasn’t the content of the letters that was important. She was looking to make sure that they used capital letters at the beginning of the sentence, punctuation at the end and enough verbs, adjectives and nouns in the middle. One letter, though, drew her in.
It started off sweetly enough…
Thank you for all the wonderful gifts you brought last year.
But then it took an unexpected turn…
This year, could you make sure that me and my family have a warm, dry home. And could you make sure that my whole family is safe and healthy. I would really like it if my whole family could be together for Christmas and there is enough food on the table for everyone to get their fill.
I also want a dry pair of boots so my feet don’t get wet when I walk to school and a warm coat so I won’t be cold.
Mrs. Mello was shocked and saddened. She had no idea that Billy and his family were going through such a hard time. She picked up her phone and called Billy’s home right away.
When Billy’s mom answered the phone, Mrs. Mello shared with her the contents of Billy’s letter and asked if there were anything that the school could do to help her family. Billy’s mom replied that she had no idea why Billy would write a letter like that because the family was doing just fine. They had a warm, dry home. No one was sick and there was plenty of food. Billy had nice boots and a warm coat.
Billy’s mom thanked Mrs. Mello for her call and after saying “Goodbye” she went to Billy’s room to ask him about the letter. “Billy, why would you write a letter asking Santa for a warm, dry home? Why would you ask for the family to be healthy and well fed? Why do you want dry boots and a warm coat? You already have all of those things.”
Billy looked at his Mom with a big smile and said, “Yeah, isn’t that cool. I already have everything I want.”
Posted by Barry on December 10, 2013
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Karen whose parents signed her up to play baseball. Both of her parents loved baseball and lots of kids in their community played baseball so it seemed like a good idea.
Karen started going to practices and the games. Some of the kids were nice, but not all of them. The coach was not. Most of the time he yelled. He yelled at Karen and her friends to run faster, swing straighter and stop dropping the ball. When they didn’t run faster he made them run more. When they didn’t swing straighter, he kept them late at practice . When they dropped the ball, he threw it harder.
Karen played baseball for years. Partly because her parents liked the game and enjoyed watching her play. Partly because she had some good friends on the team. Karen played baseball for years. Karen got yelled at for years. She ran extra laps, stayed late at practice and tried not to drop the ball. Karen played baseball for years and learned to hate baseball. She just felt like she was never good enough.
Eventually, Karen stopped playing baseball. She stopped watching baseball because it reminded her of how unhappy it had made her feel. In fact, she pretty much gave up on all sports. The idea of being on a team with a coach just brought back too many unpleasant memories. She had friends who played sports – some baseball, others football, soccer, volleyball, but not Karen. No matter how much they told her about the fun they had, the health benefits, parties afterwards…Karen wanted nothing to do with it. She had been hurt too much.
Some people’s experience with church has been similar to Karen’s experience with baseball. They’ve been yelled at. They’ve been hurt. They’ve been made to feel like they are no good. They’ve given up.
For those of us who have discovered that we can love the game again, how do we share that love? How can we show them that there are coaches who don’t yell and teams where all the kids are nice? How do we let them know that practice can be fun, not hurtful?
How do we convince those who have given up to give it another try?
Posted by Barry on October 9, 2013