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Entries for 2005

December 20, 2005

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it difficult this year to get into the “Christmas Spirit.” Living in Arlington has worked out for us in many important ways, but I will say that at this time of year I especially miss the pleasure of watching Cathy and our former neighbor, Bob, engaging in their friendly holiday light competition.

Alas, the spirit meter was so low, we weren’t even going to put up a tree this year, let alone lights. Until last week. On Thursday night, Cathy and I went to dinner, as has become our ritual, and we got to talking. Cathy had mentioned that the Third Congregational Church in Alstead, one of the towns most affected by the devastation from the recent flooding in New Hampshire, was going to be holding a toy and adult present drive on Saturday. Before you knew it, we’d decided that we would drive up to Alstead – also the town where Cathy’s grandparents had lived for over 15 years – with a car full of new fleece blankets and roasts from our freezer to be distributed to families most affected by the flooding.

With that small, but important decision the spirit meter leapt up, and on the way home from dinner we drove to the Fallon UU Church in Lexington to buy a small tree. By the end of Sunday, our mission completed, not only was the tree up, but it was decorated, the candles were in the windows, and the yard was awash with colored lights and a deer for good measure. Giving does the spirit good!

This Christmastime it also does my spirit good to think about how much you’ve given. I’ve just been reading through the “Stewardship Cards,” tabulating some results, and I’m very proud of us. As you will remember if you were there, on Sunday, October 23rd – Stewardship Sunday – I had the pleasure of distributing 150 envelopes, which between them contained a total of $1,020 of the church’s money. Everyone who came to worship that morning received an envelope, which contained either $2, $5, $10, $15 or $20. Every recipient was told to practice being a steward: to remember that the money belonged to the church and to spend it in a manner consistent with the church’s mission, vision and values.

To date I’ve received over 60 of the cards back. That’s pretty good considering that many families consolidated their stewardship money and returned only one card, and that the Middle School Youth Group, which received the undistributed envelopes, also returned only one card. I would say that almost 110 of the 150 envelopes are accounted for.

This is what I know: The money that was accounted for went to 31 different organizations or causes – local, national, and international. Almost everyone who returned a card at least doubled their money before giving it away, and most did far more than that. For example, one card told the story of five individuals who pooled their church money for a total of $27. To that they added $73 of their own money. Then they solicited another $145 from friends. Finally, they contributed their total – $245 – to the Loaves and Fishes capital campaign, where it was matched dollar for dollar. In short, they grew the church’s $27 into a whopping $490! There are other similar stories, some with even greater totals!

Not everyone who filled out and returned a card included information on the specific amount received or the specific amount given away, but thirty-four people were very specific. Those 34 people originally received a total of $225, and were able to add $2,722 through donations from friends and families, through additional contributions of their own, and through matching grants. In other words, those 34 people alone helped contribute a grand total of over $2,950 to causes consistent with this church’s mission, vision and values!

We should note here that the Rev. Andy Stanley of the Northpoint Community Church in metro-Atlanta has said that when they tried this Stewardship exercise at his church, they distributed $35,000 to the 5,500 regular worshippers. He believes that they at least tripled their investment in service to the world.

Well, we almost tripled our church’s original investment through the donations of just those 34 people. Add in the donations of the other 80 or so people who returned cards – each of whom at least doubled their original amount – and I’d guess we turned the church’s $1,020 into an amount easily 5 and perhaps as much as 10 times that! It is very reasonable to believe that we may have given away as much as $8,000 as part of this Stewardship exercise alone. And I am aware of all the other ways in which we have given this year, including increased giving for Loaves and Fishes locally, and donations for disaster relief around the world. Can you see why I’m so proud of you?

May the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of generosity, the spirit of the Love, which is the spirit of this church, continue to both grow and glow in your hearts and in your lives in this holiday season and in the New Year!

It’s that time of year again – that season when most of the “voices” in our lives are calling to us to do more, accomplish more, buy more, bake more, eat more. And very few voices are telling us to slow down, to do less, to be still. It is that season when many of us have ample opportunities for being with those who are important to us – loved ones, family and friends – for sharing food and drink, for telling stories, for catching up, for giving gifts, for writing holiday cards. And sometimes n... Read More

The Jewish Festival of Sukkot has begun and observant Jews have begun to eat meals in the sukkah, or booths. These booths are temporary structures, built of fragile materials, with scantily covered roofs, through which, according to tradition, the rain must be able to enter and the stars must be visible. The point of dwelling in the sukkah is to remind us that our lives are fragile and temporary, that we cannot rely on our possessions for security, nor our jobs, nor our relationships, nor even ... Read More

Many people, it seems, are sometimes unsure as to when to call the minister. For many years a list of good reasons to be in touch with the minister has circulated among church newsletters. Although it is by no means complete, here is a good start… Pastoral Reasons to Call the Minister When you want to get acquainted or introduce yourself to the minister… When you would like to talk about your faith or your religious values… When you have personal or family problems you would like to discuss.... Read More

Early last week, while putting away the fresh vegetables we’d picked up at the Community Farm in Waltham, we noticed that it was beginning to get awfully dark. It was only 7:30 or so and, accustomed as we’d grown to late summer sunsets, we naturally thought the darkness was caused by cloud cover. But no; the skies were clear as a whistle. It’s just fall – which also explains the yellowing leaves on the tomato plants and why the lilac tree is beginning to shed her leaves. As sad as it is to see ... Read More

Many of you have begun to ask about my summer plans – where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, to what extent I’ll be available. On Saturday, June 18th, just about the time this newsletter arrives in your hands, I’ll be leaving for Fort Worth, Texas, for this year’s UUA General Assembly. This year, I’ll be driving to GA with a friend and colleague. While I’ve driven before to distant GA’s – including Nashville, Cleveland, and Quebec City – this will probably be the longest GA road trip that I’ll ever... Read More

One year ago today, it became legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for gay and lesbian couples to marry. The world has not fallen apart as a result. “Traditional marriage” has not been undermined. And 5,076 gay and lesbian families have been able to attain the same legal protections granted by the state that have been long been afforded their straight counterparts. What an historic year! How joyful Cathy and I have been to have our relationship legally recognized! And how proud I am that ... Read More

This past Sunday, Linda Berez and I had the opportunity to reflect a little bit on death and the sanctity of life. As part of her reflection, Linda touched on the importance of talking with our loved ones about our wishes. These are such important conversations for us to have with one another as the recent political and media attention to Terri Schiavo’s death makes clear. According to the VistaCare Hospice website, A recent study by Dr. Ira Byock revealed some interesting facts about how the ... Read More

This past Sunday, after the worship service, a good number of us stayed to have a conversation about the change to the Membership section of our bylaws proposed by the Board. It was a lively conversation – a healthy conversation – and we are the better for having had it! Elsewhere in this edition of the Belfry you will find a message from Peter Calkins, delineating possible next steps forward in the conversation regarding the bylaw itself. What became clear to me after our discussion on Sunday ... Read More

I think it may be fair to say that Unitarians and Universalists have always struggled with how best both to express gratitude and to accept its expression. I base this extravagant claim on historical precedent. After all, it was the great American Universalist preacher, Hosea Ballou, who once said, “Next to ingratitude, the most painful thing to bear is gratitude.” And from the Unitarian strand of our faith heritage, it was Louisa May Alcott who wrote in Little Women, “It was easier to do a frie... Read More

Many of you have asked for ideas about how to respond to questions or comments from people opposed to full rights and full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bi- and transgendered people in our society. The following is an excerpt from Meg Riley’s “Public Speaking Tips for People of Faith,” which can be found in its entirety at . -Rev. Wendy Public Speaking Tips for People of Faith by Rev. Meg Riley Don’t respond defensively to homophobic scriptural citations by engaging in a ... Read More


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