In this Irish-dominated community, we’ve probably heard a lot of jokes that refer to “my sainted mother.” Not all parents are saints, but being a parent is the most widespread and challenging investment in leaving a blessing for the future that human beings can make. It’s clear to me, however, that the future is hard to imagine, let alone predict. How then, do you bless the world’s future as you pass through it? Is the world that the millennial generation will experience in the late 21st century one that even the millennials have a hard time picturing? Is there anything the older generations have learned that can be passed on to youth, or is that a fruitless hope? Don’t they just have to figure it all out for themselves?
The most creative thing that we are engaged with every day is the improvisation of the life we live. We all have to make this up as we go along. Often we find out what we really know when we are forced to say it. Inevitably we make mistakes,and we have to “make up” for them too—but we can’t let the risk of failure stop us from the creativity that is our birthright. The Free Spirit Band will offer the music for this service, and they are considering—what else? Improvisational jazz.
In March, we look for signs of spring as surely as the disciples of Jesus looked for evidence of his resurrection. However, the original ending of the book of Mark, does not include a physical resurrection; instead, the disciples are left with only clues, hopes and dreams. So it is with us, when one chapter of our life ends and another has not yet been revealed. Even in the last days of winter, there are signs of new life emerging, if we can but see them.
There’s a politician I know who uses this line a lot, especially when he’s advocating an unpopular program, like a new tax increase. Most of us would prefer to live our lives unencumbered by limitations imposed by government, money, or time. Political conservatives call that “freedom.” This week let’s explore how accepting what is, with all the limits that involves, invites a different kind of freedom.
It’s always felt like a contradiction in terms when you are eating out alone and the seating host asks if you are a “party of one.” We’ll introduce this month’s theme for our worship services by celebrating those singular homes we inhabit that we take for granted—our one body, and our one life. Is everybody’s life ultimately a party of one, or a party with one?
Relationships are easier for some people than others. Extroverts who find engaging with people to be energizing may find it easy to have many relationships, while introverts have to try harder. But when both extroverts and introverts get over that initial hump of sitting down with a new person “one on one” they each face the same challenge. Can you get below the surface to understand what it really important to that other person? Many people are surprised that this question is vital, not only to building intimate relationships and friendships, but also vital to changing the world through community organizing. On this Sunday when our Outreach Offering is received to support Greater Cleveland Congregations and we meet our new full-time organizer, James Pearlstein, we will explore the connections be-tween the personal and the political, and the courage it takes to do both well.
During the course of our lives, we put a lot of effort into learning how to do some important life-tasks well—getting through school, learning a craft or profession, figuring out how to sustain friendships and loving relationships. Yet, isn’t it so often true that just when we thought we had this part of life figured out, we have to start over! We celebrate graduating from high school and we face the strange new world of college. We figure out the job we have, and do it well, just about the time the boss tells us that we are being re-assigned or offered a promotion. We take for granted what we thought were satisfying routines of married life and our partner asks for a divorce. We’ve been learning some new things ourselves this year about the courage you need to be able to start over, and we’d like to share them with you on this first service of the New Year.
The Wheel of the Year is ever turning. The Winter Solstice sabbat marks the official beginning of winter and also the shortest day of the year. Solstice is simple to understand: because of the earth's tilt, on this day the Northern Hemisphere is as far away from the sun as it can be. Therefore, the first day of winter has the least amount of sunlight. As we explore some of the stories and lore of the season we move from the simple to the sacred. We’ll enter into the mystery of the turning of the seasons and visit the “Root Children” and Mother Nature as they travel the Wheel of the Year from Solstice to Solstice.
Even as we enter the inward-turning season of winter, we find the lights, the socializing, the shopping and the overall intensity of the holiday season to challenging any desire we have for inner quiet. Drawing on their different spiritual practices, the co-ministers will reflect on what we find when we try to be quiet inside, and how our “inside” can be anything but quiet when we slow down enough to listen.
We’ll introduce you to Urban Hope during the worship service with a brief video and a special chance to connect with this unique community. Urban Hope serves as an ur-ban outreach for our area Unitarian Universalist churches: a way for all of us to become an active presence within the inner city, not just provide services from outside.
Our annual Thanksgiving Service will begin with our Multi-generational Choir singing “Gaudeamus Hodie” and a Time for All Ages called “Stone Soup,” after which children and youth will go to their classes. Wayne’s sermon asks us to consider how memory and expectation based on your past (or other people’s) gets in the way of being fully present with gratitude for what you are given today. Our bread communion ceremony will conclude the service, and dona-tions of bread that Sunday morning for both the distribution and altar decoration are always welcome. Please join us after the service for an All Church “Stone Soup” Potluck
The liturgical year in many faith traditions follows a cycle of seasons in both secular and sacred time. We have some-thing similar in Unitarian Universalism although we don’t distinguish between sacred and secular time. I’ve often envied the Catholic and Buddhist liturgical marking of special days dedicated to saints or teachers. How do we honor those who have played such roles in our lives? Looking at the past to see the lineages in which we stand is an important part of harvesting the fruits of this particular season of life. The Free Spirit Band will be performing Neil Young songs for this service
"You Are Like a Hurricane" is played in it's entirety at the end of the service.
These two words get a big response from UU’s. “Doctrine” – BAD! That’s what we don’t want! “Discovery” – GOOD! That’s what we do in our religion – right? We discover our own theology! So what happens when you put these two words together? You get an obscure, powerful, and trou-bling legal concept that raises questions about “entitlement.” To what are we “entitled” as human beings, as citizens? What do we have already, and what do we think we need, and what should we let go?
Service offered by Rev. This is the first of a Two-Part Sermon Series by Wayne and Matthew. Most of us would complete the title of this ser-mon with a familiar concluding phrase “the more they stay the same.” There is some truth to that proverb, but we have actually learned a lot about why and how changes happen in cultures and countries and political systems than we ever knew before. In the past decade, the media we use daily and our understanding of marriage have all changed dramatically in unpredicted ways. The more things change, the more we are amazed at how they can change.
This service will include a “a Ceremony of Release” for Kathy Strawser, even though she continues working with us through June 30. At this service, we will also mark the con-clusion of Matthew McHale’s internship and the beginning of his time as our Summer Minister.
“The Earth is our Mother” is a teaching from
Native American wisdom, which permeates both
popular culture and our activism for environmental justice.
This Sunday, we will go deeper into this metaphor to appreciate
its freshness and understand its limits. The sermon
title comes from a Buddhist text that offers us a different
take on what it means to fully engage with what the earth
has to teach us.
Join us for a Multigenerational Sunday with Reverend
Wayne Arnason and Kathy Strawser all about the care and
feeding of growing dragons! Parents, did you know that you
might have a little dragon in your house? Children, maybe
your brother or sister is a dragon! Singles, maybe you are
already a dragon! Come find out what Chinese cultural beliefs
about dragons can tell us about how humans grow, and
why growing up to be a dragon might not be a bad idea.
Jesus keeps coming back—not just on Easter morning, but in new and sometimes provocative ways. The latest controversy about Jesus was that he was not a spiritual teacher but a religious and political zealot; and that he came back to Jerusalem during Holy Week to stage an insurrection. Rebel or Rabbi? Which version of Jesus do you think will appear at West Shore on Easter morning? The outreach offering for this Sunday will go towards Greater Cleveland Congregations, our partner organization for community organizing.
The title of this sermon is a poker term that means you are willing to bet all the money you have on the hand you have. It’s a risk that entrepreneurs take sometimes. It’s a risk many of us have taken in our marriage commitments. When it comes to money and love, we know what “all in” means. What about with your beliefs, your ideas, your meaning-making in the world? What does it mean to go “all in” spiritually?
Theater has always been a part of my life. I began acting professionally when I was nine, and continued to perform in theater until I began serving my first congregation. It was both challenging and intoxicating to develop the skills to play the roles I was cast for, and I loved the applause. So my hardest lesson was to learn, to really learn, that the play was not about me. The Free Spirit Band will be playing this Sunday, featuring a song country star Lee Ann Womack wrote and popularized, I Hope You Dance.
Opening music is played in it's entirety at the end of the recording.
We don’t preach about sex very often, but there’s no doubt
that mutually consenting and loving sexual experiences are
the most common and accessible “mountain top moments”
for human beings. Sadly, the powerful role that sex has in
our lives means that it has been widely commercialized and
marketed. Is there an ethical continuum of judgment that
runs from billboard advertising to internet porn to human
trafficking? Are we all addicted to sex at some level and is
that why sex is so easy to exploit? The Outreach Offering
will be received for The Renee Jones Empowerment Center
for their programs to eliminate human trafficking.
The co-ministers finish out the calendar year of worship
services with a New Year’s liturgy and reflection on how we
know what’s new in our lives. How do we know when we
are in the middle of a momentous change of life? Sometimes
a “New Year” really begins for us in the fall or in the
spring! Sometimes it begins when important relationships
that have shaped our lives are ending because of distance
or death. If the rituals of this formal “new year” are feeling
hollow for you, maybe there is a different way to discern
and celebrate what’s new in your life.
Kathy Strawser, Director of Lifespan Faith Development
As the days get shorter, and the nights longer and darker,
join us for a multi-generation service that challenges us to
question whether dark times are times without hope. We’ll
hear a story about a father and daughter who go into the
woods one winter night to see if they can find an owl! We’ll
sing about the gentle comfort and strength that can be
found in dark nights. We’ll hear reflections and stories
about where hope in the darkness can be found.
Wait a minute! Isn’t this a “Unitarian” church? The “ Uni “ means God is One, right? Truth be told, not really. Stephen Prothero’s popular theological best-seller has inspired this sermon about the shallow and easy metaphors that suggest all religions really point to the same reality. I used to think that. I don’t any more. The more I learn about multicultural competen- cy, the more convinced I am that both God and religion are more complex, diverse, and amazing than any of our easy metaphors can capture.
The Free Spirit Band will perform.
The opening musical piece is available for listening in it's entirety following the closing of the service.
My early school experience included being afraid I might
fail. Failing meant you would be held back a grade and be
judged as “bad” or “not normal” by others. While our atti-
tudes towards student “failure” have evolved since I was in
school, the fear of failure is still a part of many of our lives.
And if we do fail
in our careers, in our personal lives, in
our roles as parents
what does really mean? What does
failure look like to you? Is fear of failure a valuable con-
struct in our minds and hearts, or a major barrier gate that
stops us from living life to the fullest?
“Each of us is an artist whose task it is to shape life into some semblance of the pattern we dream about,” wrote Rev. Arthur Graham. Whether or not we think of ourselves as having artistic gifts, each of us hopes that one thing we can “make right” is the artistic creation that is our life. Inspired by the work of artists and craftspeople, Rev. Wayne will reflect how to make the art of living come out right.
One of the most powerful truths about the season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is that it provides for us a religious response when nothing can be done to make something "right." Featured in the service is a video kicking off West Shore's Story Year! The Free Spirit Band will play Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," and two other pieces. This service also includes a ceremony of dedication for this year's volunteer teachers as the church school year begins.
Justice issues associated with water inspire the homilies at this annual multi-generational Water Ceremony service that begins the new church year. Bring a sample of water with you that represents some of the meaning you have found this summer.
Our new intern, Matthew McHale, will join the co-ministers in worship for the first time.
With Kathy Strawser, Director, Lifespan Faith Development
The opening musical piece is available for listening in it's entirety following the closing of the service.
This past month, our ministers said goodbye to the home that Kathleen's parents built and where she lived her entire childhood and some young adulthood parts, too. All of our lives, we take our leave of places that have meaning for us. How we make meaning of these leave takings will be the focus of this sermon.
Service Auction attenders this year were astonished when church administrator Debbie Lydon ran up the bidding on this year's "your choice" sermon. It turns out that Debbie was the agent for an anonymous bidder who couldn't be present. The winning bidder for this year's Service Auction sermon has asked the co-ministers to take the first sermon they preached together at West Shore and use it as means to reflect on how we work together, how our minds have changed, and how we continue to feel called. The sermon we will draw on for this task was preached on October 1, 2000, and is titled "Our Common Call." The Free Spirit Band offers the music this week, featuring Neil Young's Change Your Mind.
Songwriter David Byrne once wrote "heaven is a place where nothing ever happens." Sounds pretty boring, doesn't it? With 84% of the population believing in heaven as opposed to 42% believing in hell, heaven sounds like a place most people are just dying to get into! Our Universalist ancestors believed that both heaven and hell posed grave dangers for the immortal soul. Come find out why.
special musical guest artist Peter Mayer
with Worship Associate Dave Willett
(the opening piano music is played in it's entirety at the end of the recording)
Memory is a powerful but elusive dimension of our lives. It shapes our individual and collective identities. It worries us when memory isn't immediately responsive. In ways large and small, from statues to stick-it-notes, we seek to preserve memories. Yet there is a mercy in forgetting. Some things can be let go. Some things are best forgotten. We well explore the tension between memory and forgetting in this service.
The Free Spirit Band will offer songs by Billy Joel and John Mellencamp.
The "God particle" had been found! Described by some as the "glue" that holds the universe together, the prediction that these subatomic particles existed has taken many decades to prove. But what difference does that make in how you feel about this universe you find yourself living in? Did God create the God particle? If God created the Big Bang does that make you feel like you have a cosmic companion? Is God's Bod the entire universe?
Science fiction monsters continue to be very big in the popular media - in television shows, movies and video games. The presentation of the characters in these shows is much more sophisticated than ever before. The vampires, zombies, and ghosts in these presentations are all examples of "walking dead," (i.e. entities who continue to have a life after they have died), and many of them want to return to their human existence! This multigenerational service will explore the theology and symbolism of the walking dead in a way that all ages can appreciate.
The Tin Man's plaintive plea in The Wizard of Oz was finally answered by the Wizard, who told him that he had all the compassion, sensitivity, and good will that he needed, whether he had a real heart or not. We might say today that the Tin Man had "emotional intelligence." Rev. Wayne will unpack that phrase, and reflect on how the emotional life we live is just as important to religious liberals as our intellectual life.
With Worship Associate Jeremy Beech
The Offertory music is available in it's entirety at the end of the service.
When a national decision is made, how far and wide do the ripples go? The story Pink and Say, a Civil War story by Patricia Polacco, frames our service’s theme and tells the story of two teens; Pink, a soldier from a family of slaves, and Say, a white soldier, and how the nation’s decision to fight a civil war, impacted their own decisions, friendship and their very lives. We’ll reflect on decisions, often out of our own control, that do change us, in remarkable ways. Junior Choir will present “There’s a River Flowin’ in My Soul,” a song written by Rose Saunders, Alabama’s first female African American judge.
The sermon title is from James Russell Lowell’s hymn, and the verse in the hymn that opens with these words concludes with “...comes the moment to decide.” The hymn makes it sound like there is a turning moment when a decision to stand with the good or evil side is made. Historians disagree about whether history does turn on such moments. In a year where we will honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we will look at the decision to stage this march as a turning moment in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and in the life of the nation.
The first service of the new year is a time to look back and look ahead. At any crossroads, however, we don't just look ahead and look back. We look right and left as well. We have four choices about which way to go when two roads intersect. This service will explore the ways we make the decisions that define us. The Free Spirit Band will join us to perform the classic Delta Blues song "Crossroads" and the Hunter/Garcia tune "New Speedway Boogie."
During any long journey, the rest stops are always welcome. Kids get to be active, parents get to relax and recharge. On the journey through any year, and on the journey of life, we have all looked forward to the holidays at the end of the year as such a rest stop. That is, unless we find them so engaging and exhausting that we end up starting the new year more drained than we were before the holiday!
This service will include children at the beginning of the service with a story for all ages.
John Rutter's initial inspiration for his Magnificat was another great masterpiece, The Magnificat by J.S. Bach. The Magnificat, the canticle of Mary (Luke 1: 46-55) traditionally formed part of the ancient service of Vespers in the medieval Roman rite. It has been set to music more often than any liturgical text other than the Mass itself.The West Shore Choir is joined by a chamber orchestra to present this work along with special holiday organ selections to open and close this special morning. Following an introit that includes our Junior Choir.
Featuring the West Shore Choir
David Blazer, Director
This phrase from Henry David Thoreau was written many
years before "born again" was associated only with
evangelical religion. Thoreau is one of the many spiritual
pilgrims in religious history (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed)
whose "road trips" changed the religious consciousness
of their culture, and perhaps the world. We'll tell some
of their stories, and look at being "born again" in a different
The ultimate expression of your opinion in a democracy, your right to vote, can be exercised through November 6! In the United States, this is a hard-won right that is represented by three "sacred texts" of our democracy: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. Do these 200 plus year old documents still have meaning in our elections? Or does the avalanche of advertising this fall reducing complex social issues to slogans suggest that "texting" is more crucial to our politics today than any sacred political texts?
In the Twilight Zone episode, The Obsolete Man, Burgess Meredith played a character brought to trial be a fascistic atheistic state, accused of having beliefs about humanity and religion that were obsolete. The story evokes some of the questions this sermon takes up: Is the secular humanist point of view a shrinking minority in UUism and in America, or is it the wave of the future? Thanks to George Bliss for suggesting this as the Service Auction Sermon for this year.
Join Reverend Wayne Arnason in welcoming our pulpit guest Ari Lippman, lead organizer of the Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC), a non-partisan coalition of faith communities and partner organizations in Cuyahoga County working together to build power for social justice.
In two short years, the power inherent in congregations who want to join forces for justice, and the sound principles and practices of community organizing, have produced a faith based organizing network that Northeast Ohio's political leaders respect and pay attention to. Come hear how it was done, and why West Shore is a proud dues-paying member of GCC. The Outreach Offering will support the work of GCC in the year ahead.
Despite Facebook's plummeting stock price, the growth in users of networking apps in the past eight years has been phenomenal. Are you linked in to all your friends? What difference is it making in your life? If you are a regular social network user, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how you use it to make your life better. Or why you tried social networking and dumped it? We'll look at what these networks tell us about community life today.
Our "Apps for Life" series kicks off with what we have learned from the app that most people have the most experience with, in their car, desktop computer, or smart phone - GPS! What-ever global positioning map application you might use, it seeks to answer the same questions: Where am I? Where am I going? How can I get there? Are these spiritual questions or what??? It's an appropriate Sunday to dedicate our teachers for the new church school year as the service begins, and tell your kids we love them as they head for the year of RE classes.
Two of musician/activist Pete Seeger's lasting legacies will surely be his commitment to our country's labor movement and the environment. His efforts to support labor unions and to clean up New York's Hudson River teach us that all work has dignity and that clean water is not to be taken for granted. Join us for story, song and reflection on this Labor Day Sunday as we begin our new church year that includes our annual Water Ceremony. Don't forget to bring a small amount of summer water collected from the backyard pool, the local river/lake, or a more exotic place from your travels.
With Kathy Strawser, Director of Lifespan Faith Development
The ancient Hungarian-speaking kingdom of Transylvania is home to the oldest Unitarian movement in the western world. West Shore is proud to be a partner church with a Unitarian church in Bagyon, Translyvania, Romania. The visit of our Partner Church minister culminates in a service of celebration at which Rev. Fekete will offer the sermon. Join the co-ministers and Partner Church leaders in a service that honors the traditions of the oldest surviving Unitarian movement in the western world, and the friendship we have built with them.
With Reverend Kathleen Rolenz and Reverend Wayne Arnason
The merger of a Pentecostal Universalist congregation with a Unitarian Universalist congregation in 2010 raised some eyebrows in both traditions! Did these two congregations really have anything in common? It’s worth noting, in that regard, that the Christian holiday of Pentecost is one of the most important Sundays of the year in the Unitarian Churches in Transylvania! Pentecost was the last Sunday in May, but we’ll look at the story of Pentecost as a way to understand how the Pentecostal movement can be an inspiration for us.
A hundred fifty years ago, a young teacher named Lewis Carroll was taking care of his headmaster's three daughters for a day and told them stories about the adventures of a girl named Alice. Alice knew who she was when she got up that morning but by the end of the day, after many adventures, she had "grown" bigger and smaller, timid and brave, foolish and wise. Using "Alice in Wonderland" as our looking glass, let's see what it means to grow up and what grownups look like to kids. The Junior Choir will join us for this service, singing "Like a Bird."