It’s never been easy to know the Truth. In these days of “fake news,” disinformation and deep cultural and class divisions, it can be especially difficult to separate fundamental truth from instinct and intuition… much less be open to those who hold very different opinions. What does it mean to promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning?
In early (First Century) Judaism and in many other cultures, there was no such thing as “Religion.” It was not until the invention of Christianity as a religion that cultures started to separate the spiritual/religious from the rest of the human experience. In this era of rebalancing religion, how can we allow ourselves to integrate our mind, body, and spirit into one harmonious way of being in the world? How does that inform our living tradition of Unitarian Universalism?
On January 13, 2018, we marked the 450th anniversary of The Edict of Torda—one of the world’s first statements of religious freedom, issued by a religious gathering in eastern Europe presided over by the first Unitarian King. In recent decades, dozens of American Unitarian Universalist congregations have formed partnerships with the congregations that grew out of that tradition—including West Shore. What do we have to learn from this brave history, and the perseverance of our Transylvanian Unitarian cousins?
As Stewardship season begins here at West Shore, it is time to consider the biggest questions about money. How do the choices we make about spending and saving and debt and investment reflect our values? Are we managing our money, or is it managing us?
by Reverend Patricia Hart and Rev. Chris Long with
From an early age, each of us learns what matters most in this challenging and unpredictable adventure we call life. What did your family and community teach you about surviving, and even thriving as you grew? When did you learn to be wary, and how did you learn to dive into new experiences? Reflections on being members of a community that holds different ideas of perseverance.
To launch the monthly Soul Matters theme and our consideration of “Perseverance” we will explore some thoughts and tools for engaging joyful perseverance in times such as these. We'll visit Imbolc, Kindness, The Edict of Torda, "Love and Laughter", Ants and Turtles all woven into a tapestry of Perseverance Pizzazz.
Congregational life can provide opportunities for growth and deepening as individuals and as communities. How might our congregation work faithfully with Rev. Tricia Hart in this time of interim ministry, to co-create such a community at West Shore? Rev. Renee Ruchotzke serves NE Ohio congregations as a part of our larger Unitarian Universalist Association. She is West Shore’s primary contact with the UUA and the region. She serves as dean of the online UU Leadership Institute and blogs at Growing Vital Leaders on the (click it) UUA Website
Intentions matter. Living out a commitment to be kind, thoughtful, or open-minded can make an enormous differ-ence in our relationships, and in what we teach our chil-dren. But what someone means to do or say is only part of the story—we have to learn the essential skill of paying attention to the impact our words or actions make. Essen-tial… and really difficult.
On this anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are called to consider the legacy each one of us is creating in the struggle for justice. Young Rev. King did not predict the role he would play when he accepted the call to his first church in Montgomery, Alabama. How have you been called? And how have you answered?
Have you had the sense that you are an imposter: pretending to be successful, or competent, or even happy, when it doesn’t seem quite true? “Imposter Syndrome” is to be a widespread condition (though it’s hard to know for sure, since people are pretty good at hiding it). What might happen if you worried less about your deficits and embraced your willingness to try?
The end of 2017 reminds us that time is passing, either marking lost opportunity or setting the stage for new hope. We play a part in choosing hope or a sense of loss. Let’s consider what to do with the past so we can awaken to a new year of progress and enlightenment! Rev. Anya Johnston was last heard at West Shore at the ordination of Dave Clements in October. A Westerner by training and temperament, Reverend Anya has enjoyed immersive ministry since 1999.
Traditions and teachings about Hanukkah and Christmas come to life in this story about a Jewish boy and an African- American barber, who find ways to connect in this beautiful and difficult season of the year. All ages are welcome at this informal story-service.
Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
In the three millennia since Isaiah, it’s hard to find anything new to say about Christmas that hasn’t already been said at least a hundred thousand times. But even as we wade through the commercial wasteland that stretches through the holiday season one more time, can we find anything to say about Christmas that’s real, that’s new, that’s hopeful, that hasn’t been said before? Signs point to “Yes!”
Much of what religions teach about is not the world as it is, but as it might be. In order to make this more than an abstract exercise, we need to take the (often irrational) risk of hoping for something that is not yet true. Where is the line between faithful commitment and naiveté? Does being hopeful make a difference, in the world?
Thanksgiving is a reminder of the abundance in our lives: how much we have, and how grateful we are; or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Some thoughts on the power of being grateful (even when you don’t feel like it).
The Inclusivity Ministry Task Force responded to many calls to take on the challenging topic of class in America by hosting the ground-breaking Class Conversations workshop here at West Shore on Saturday, November 4. Sunday’s worship service will feature that program’s presenters, Betsy Leondar - Wright and Rev. Lee Paczulla, in dialogue with Rev. Hart. How does “class” fit into our commitment to become an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural congregation?
We sometimes talk about congregations as “family;” but actually a church is more like a neighborhood. Various kinds of people show up at different times, and end up “living” next to one another. Each has an impact, often in no one could predict. Come join in as we spend time reflecting on how this church is the product of many people’s love and attention. The Junior Choir will sing and the Free Spirit
Each of us is born into a particular family, community, culture and time of history. Each person is shaped by their context, as well as their biology. That’s when the story gets interesting. Life happens, and people change—sometimes a little, sometimes profoundly, and almost never without pain, and joy. Recognition of new West Shore UU Church members. The Free Spirit Band will play.
This is an unusual Sunday service, at an unusual and urgent time in our faith. The Unitarian Universalist Association Board, the UU Ministers Association, and the Liberal Religious Educators Association among others are urging all UUA congregations to heed a call from Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) - to hold a "Teach-In" on the painful reality of racial inequity in our country, and in Unitarian Universalism. Many of us now understand American culture to be steeped in assumptions of "white supremacy." Just what is the truth? And how shall we respond?
Imagine peering through a kaleidoscope and seeing a trans- formation of color, patterns, and shapes. Each piece in a constant motion to create a dance of color against a source of light. How can the kaleidoscope be our metaphor for a Unitarian Universalist theology that is always in a state of transformation, and discovery as people and elements flow in and out, revealing a new beauty to our every evolving search for truth and meaning. Let's explore this together!
Easter and Passover show up as springtime celebrations, full of good food and family get-togethers. But the religious stories behind both of these holidays deal with profound change and dislocation, when all that is familiar gets over- turned and something truly new begins
The story of Palm Sunday and Holy Week provides the capstone to the Christian narrative. Palm Sunday in particular shows up in both the Christian Gospels and has its roots in Hebrew scripture. But the story is not quite the same in both places. Why does that matter?
This year’s stewardship campaign is posing two questions: How has West Shore UU Church changed lives? and How could West Shore change even more lives, even more effectively, in the future? Answers offered so far have been fascinating, and broadly focused. Stewardship is all about connecting people’s dreams of a vital future with the resources needed to make it all happen. The Free Spirit Band will play!
Wisdom counsels us to be our “authentic selves.” But what kind and level of authenticity should we strive for—to be who and what we already are, or to reach for the better self we’ve always meant to achieve? Reflections on what it could mean to actually live out your highest values. This Service Auction sermon was won by Chris Baumhauer.
The Equinox is approaching—winter is waning, spring is upon us, as day and night move back into equilibrium. This is a good season to seek balance: in one’s personal life, and even in our communities. What would it look like, to be a community in balance? What might it take to get there?
West Shore Junior Church, Worship Leaders If there is one thing that holds people back each day from achieving high levels of success, it is fear. When did you recently take a risk to overcome your fears and accomplish a goal? Join the Youth as they share their stories of overcoming fear. The Free Spirit Band will play; 6th Grade and older will attend the entire service.
Americans have spent time celebrating “Black History” in February for almost a century, since Dr. Carter G. Woodson initiated Negro History Week in 1926. Those celebrations have focused on some of the ways that African Americans and White Americans have lived separate histories in our country. Can we find a way to see the whole story, more fully?
As Stewardship season begins at West Shore, we will look at how two very powerful forces in life—love and money—can pull us in opposite directions. How can we allow ourselves (and teach our children) to bring our love and our money back in line?
We are all the same… and we are all different, too. Join us for this All Ages service as we explore questions of identity and community through a delightful story, “The Checker Players” by Alan Venable. Can we truly honor one another as individuals and still find a way to common ground and shared commitment? The Free Spirit Band will play, and children first grade and older will stay for the entire service.
As we approach the halfway mark of this first interim year, it makes sense to mark where we are: to celebrate accomplishments, notice challenges, and look ahead to see what might be coming next. Rev. Hart will talk a bit about lessons from the Timeline, begun in November by the Board, Emeritus Council and Transition Team. The timeline will be posted in Baker Hall on Sundays in early January—there is still time to add your own comments.
Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek writes that “Hope is only where despair is." Truly new things happen only when we can find no way out of "existing coordinates" and must invent something new in order to survive. "The magic is to turn a desperate situation into a new beginning.” How might we do that? Children and youth will join us in the Sanctuary for the beginning of the service.
There are reasons why America celebrates the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King as a crusader for racial justice, and fails to mention the part of his legacy that focuses squarely the injustices of poverty and class in America. We will look back at King’s prophetic vision, and look forward to what is needed today.
Unitarian Universalists and other progressives have struggled to “make the world a better place” for a very long time. For most of that time, we have worked on one issue at a time. Now, we are challenged to see how injustice toward one group is connected to injustice elsewhere. Some thoughts about why UUs went to Standing Rock, and other stories. The Free Spirit Band will play, and the children will join us in the Sanctuary for the beginning of the service.
Join us as we celebrate the end of both Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, honor the prophetic legacy of two extraordinary Unitarian Universalist Women, and work towards building our own “personal prophecy” as we step with courage and Unitarian Universalist Faith into 2017, together! Racial and social justice demand that we continue to stay awake!
Rev. Peter Newport & Worship Associates A very special worship service, for all ages. Join us for a retelling A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, the lovely story of a Christmas past told from the recollection of a child.
One of the highlights each year is our annual holiday choral concert as part of the B. Neil Davis Artist Series. This year West Shore Choir will perform the “Gloria” by John Rutter. This work was commissioned by the Voices of Mel Olson and first performed on May 5, 1974 in Omaha, Nebraska under the direction of the composer.
Given current controversies over language and “the holidays,” you might not know that Christmas has not always been accepted as a legitimate religious holiday in America. Come hear some of the stories of how Christmas became a beloved and sacred holiday in our country, and how Unitarians and Universalists led the way!
During the holiday season, we may find ourselves at many different tables. How do we as Unitarian Universalists create an inclusive worldview that widens the Beloved Community and welcomes all to the table? The Free Spirit Band will play, and a special Youth Choir will sing. Kevin Lowry is the Chaplain and Director of Covenant Student Ministries, an ecumenical Campus Ministry in Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood, and a seminarian with the UU House of Study at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. Kevin lives in Wooster with his wife Alex, Daughter Estella and the soon to arrive Baby Boy.
This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, a four-week period of patient (or impatient) anticipation leading up to Christmas. Many families use Advent calendars to count-down to the festivities, but mostly we wait—either to get it over with or in eager delight. Might there be a spiritual dis-cipline to waiting? Are there insights we might gain from such a discipline that may sharpen our appreciation of Christmas? Enquiring minds and hearts want to know. Rev. Newport is the husband and partner in ministry of West Shore’s Interim Minister, Rev. Patricia Hart. They served together in two congregations in Pennsylvania and have been married for almost twenty years. Peter served congregations in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Pennsyl-vania, and has been both a hospital and a hospice chaplain.
Thanksgiving is a cherished American holiday, celebrating gratitude and community, and commemorating the hospi-tality of the “first Thanksgiving” between the Pilgrims and the Indians in the early days of the Plymouth Colony. But what really happened almost 400 years ago is much more interesting than the stories we learned in elementary school.
How would you complete this sentence: “West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church is a congregation that ____________?” There are facts that belong in such a de-scription, of course; but the ways people feel about and remember their church’s “story” have enormous power in representing both its present challenges and future possibilities. What story will you tell about West Shore?
The election is (finally) upon us, and it would seem that our country is coming apart. Divisions are deep, the American Dream is coming under fire, and the search for common ground can feel like a pointless exercise. What are we called to do, as “faithful” people? How do our religious values and principles inform our actions and our words, even now? Especially now!
In this darkening time of the year, it is fitting to remember beloved friends, family, and even pets that have passed away. For our ritual of remembrance, all are invited to bring a picture or memento of a deceased loved one or pet. What is the power of remembrance?
Worship Leaders As Unitarian Universalists and friends of the great, living tradition, we put great trust in the ability of science and medicine to heal our physical bodies in some instances, and rightly so. Let’s explore together what, if any, role our UU Principles and Sources, and UU theologies, play in healing in our lives. Rev. Christopher Long returns to the Cleveland area after eleven years of being away. He graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry (May 2009), was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist Minister by the First Unitarian Church of Oakland (June 2009), and spent the last seven years in Madison, WI, where he worked at the University of Wisconsin as an Assistant Associate Program Specialist.
Times are changing, and so is the church. The roles of Minister, Board, staff and volunteers look quite different than they did even a few decades ago—not to mention the fact that social media has brought what happens at West Shore to many who may never come to church. How shall we, together, create something that fits our time?