Entries for 2011
December 20, 2011
This is how it sometimes happens to perfectly ordinary people like you and me… Someone loses a job. In this
economy, new jobs can be hard to come by. The jobless rate is currently around 10% and more and more people are being counted among the “long-term” unemployed. After not weeks, but months – and occasionally, years – of job searching, a family’s resources begin to run out. The income from unemployment insurance comes to an end. The savings go. The bills keep coming.
Perhaps there is no longer a source of health insurance for the family. Perhaps the family has broken down and
asked to borrow money from friends or family. According to The New York Times, more than half of those who are
unemployed have borrowed money since losing their jobs.
Perhaps there is not enough money to buy enough food to feed the entire family. Parents may start to go without a
meal or two, here or there. Some will overcome their sense of pride in order to seek help from a local food pantry,
although less than 25% of people who experience food insecurity ever do. Many families will have to figure out the
ins and outs of “food stamps” and federally funded school lunch programs for the first time…families who never
imagined in their wildest dreams that they’d be in that position.
With offers of credit drying up, with utility companies threatening to shut off electricity, with oil companies refusing
to deliver oil until they are paid, and with threats of foreclosure or eviction in hand, many more families in this
economy are having to make very difficult choices than 5 or 10 years ago. And they are having to ask difficult
questions…can I afford to drive to Worcester for a job interview, even if it is offered? What will I do when my car is
due for inspection and I can’t afford new brakes? How can I afford to take my dog or cat to the vet even though she
is injured? Or my son, with these lingering symptoms, to the doctor?
Many will be forced to reach out to state and municipal offices, food hotlines and fuel assistance programs for help
this winter. And some, as a truly last resort, will reach out to a church. Perhaps they will be affiliated with that
church…perhaps not. It’s hard to imagine which would be more difficult. But in any case, people will often reach
out to a church when they’ve tried every other avenue for getting help, but are still finding it impossible to keep their
heads above water.
More often than not, I imagine, they will be turned away. After all, the resources of churches are limited by the
ability of their members to support them; and their members, too, are struggling during these difficult economic
times. But sometimes those who, in desperation, seek help from a church, will find help.
Here in our church we have what is known as a “Minister’s Discretionary Fund,” which is used in precisely this type
of situation to help those who are in great need. Over the course of my 10 ½ years here, I have had the privilege of
being able to offer financial assistance to individuals and families in our community - both members and nonmembers of our church – who find themselves temporarily in great need. Sometimes that help has kept the lights on or paid the rent or mortgage for another month or two, long enough to keep the families afloat until the tide turned for them.
I understand that there are advocates of many worthy causes pleading with you for a year-end donation. National
and global organizations that house the homeless or feed the hungry, public radio and television stations, and so, so many others abound. And of course, we, here at this very church, would welcome your year-end contributions to
support our current operating budget. But if you could stretch your wallets just a bit wider this month to make a
much-needed contribution to the Minister’ Discretionary Fund, people in need right here in our community will be
able to benefit directly from your generosity. To make a contribution of any amount, please make your check out to
HUUC and write “Minister’s Discretionary Fund” on the memo line.
With abundant blessings and wishes for a safe, happy, healthy holiday season and New Year,
PS – If you or someone you know are in need of financial assistance, please be in touch with me.
I finally took my daughter to the zoo today. Actually, more to the point, I finally took myself to the zoo. I've lived in Massachusetts almost 20 years, but I've never been to a zoo here. Having grown up outside of Washington, DC, I was somewhat spoiled when it came to zoos and I confess I've been somewhat snooty when it comes to exploring new ones.
But what a treat! A walk through the woods on a beautiful and unseasonably warm autumn day, punctuated by sightings of magnificent wild animals…a...
I feel like a broken record. “How is Katelynn?” you ask. And I answer by saying, “She’s coming down with a cold,” or “She has a cold,” or “Why, she’s just getting over a cold!” And then I invariably add, “Cathy has it, too, but I’m trying not to get it!” (Or, sometimes, “I have it, too, but Cathy’s trying not to get it!”)
Yes, in the last 3 years, I have become somewhat of an expert on rhinoviruses. I have worked hard, with more success so far THIS year (knock on wood!), to fight them off. I ha...
Have you ever been lost? I remember once, years ago, walking the dogs on an unfamiliar trail in Concord, and suddenly discovering that I was lost. No worries. It was a nice enough day and I forged ahead, finding and following a wide trail in what I thought was likely the right direction.
It was not. I did end up figuring out – eventually – where I was and I found my way back, but I expended a lot of time and energy in the effort. It was good that the conditions that day were not too trying.
“The only Zen you find on the top of a mountain is the Zen you bring up there.” —Robert Pirsig
Many of us head to the mountains…or to the woods, the lakes, or the oceans…to try to find the peace of mind that so often eludes us in our regular old work-a-day lives. In my case, camping on the Penobscot Bay for a couple of weeks each August, in a place that I’ve come to think of as “my soul’s earthly home, ” usually goes a long way toward doing the trick.
This year, however, peace of m...
It is hard to believe that another year has come and gone and another summer is upon us! Soon, after celebrating Katelynn’s 3rd birthday a few days early, I will be heading to Charlotte, North Carolina for this year’s UUA General Assembly. I will be driving this year, leaving on June 20th and returning on June 27th. In case of a pastoral emergency while I am away for General Assembly, the Rev. Elea Kemler (Groton) and the Rev. Cindy Worthington-Berry (Westford) will both be providing emergency c...
As you may have heard, some people are predicting that the Rapture will occur this coming Saturday, May 21st, at 6:00 p.m. At that moment, according to the predictions, all of those who are among the “elect” – chosen by God to be saved – will be taken away and the rest of us will be left behind. I say the rest of “us” because, well, as Unitarian Universalists, we are not likely to be among the saved; for by most accounts, the difference between saved and unsaved is the kind of profession of fait...
On May 22nd, as part of our worship service, we will celebrate our annual Service of the Living Tradition, during which we will welcome those who have joined our church within the last year. If you are interested in joining our church, please let me know! If you’re considering joining, but aren’t sure if you are ready to become a member or not, I hope you’ll be in touch so that we can talk more about what membership in the Harvard UU Church entails.
Also during worship on May 22nd, we will be h...
On Sunday, March 6, I preached a sermon exploring the topic of “Spiritual Types.” And as part of the experience, I asked members of the congregation to fill out a brief survey took called “The Spirituality Wheel: A Selector of Spiritual Type” designed by Corinne Ware. This type inventory covered four possible spiritual types:
Type 1’s are those people with a “Head Spirituality.” This kind of spirituality is known in Hinduism as The Path to God through Knowledge. If you are a Type 1, you h...
February is truly one of my favorite months and a day like today just reinvigorates my appreciation for it! Fifty-one degrees! A true winter thaw, the mountains of snow in the yard softening and beginning to melt away! The ice dams nearly gone from the roof! I know there’s more winter to come, but the return of the light, the return of the sun’s warming energy, gives one reason to hope.
It also inspires one to begin to prepare for the growing season yet to come. Today I sat down with the seed c...
There is a story in the Buddhist tradition about a woman whose young child – an infant – became ill suddenly and died. She was grief stricken by the loss, as we can easily imagine. It is said that she carried the body of her dead child up and down the streets of her village, begging anyone and everyone to give her something – some kind of medicine, some kind of cure – to bring her dead child back to life.
They thought she was crazy. And she was. She was crazy with grief. Most of the people she ...