Community Ministry, February 2017
Rev. Jane Ramsey, UUCB Affiliated Community Minister
I have to tell you, February is one of my least favorite months…. When living on the East Coast, I remember the beauty of winter wearing off, sort of turning to slush, and it is still cold…. And on top of that—there is our new President.
I know this election has been soul-crushing.
It is one of my goals in my work as a hospice chaplain to assist people in finding genuine hope when coming to terms with dying. This may take the form of looking forward to being united with deceased loved ones, or anticipating release from pain and suffering, or a desire to live until some event, such as a birth or wedding or graduation within the family.
Maybe it is time for us to work on ourselves in that way.
As a person facing death comes to terms with the inevitability of death, what is there left? Viktor Frankl (in Man’s Search for Meaning) was able to find meaning while living in a concentration camp … can’t we find meaning (hope even), given the circumstances we live in today? Many people are afraid of hospice because they believe it is a step into hopelessness. I certainly felt that way as I ever so slowly accepted the reality of our new president. (Actually I’m not there yet.) Yet, if people can face death with hope, if Viktor Frankl could find meaning in life under the most dire of circumstances, who are we to complain and give up? We need to find a way of accepting the reality of our new President and still have hope.
It is essential that we keep hopelessness and fear from obstructing our way to hope.
That truth of hope exists, we just need to reveal it.
Community Ministry, January 2017
In my work as a chaplain at San Leandro Hospital, I serve everyone – patients, staff, and visitors. When I see families and friends keeping vigil at their loved ones’ bedsides, I check with them about self care: are they remembering to eat? hydrate? sleep? get fresh air and exercise? take a break? I tell them how easy it is to lose track of these human necessities when focused on a loved one’s needs. I remind them that they need to take care of themselves so they can care for their loved one. I advise them to put on their own oxygen masks first.
We would all do well to heed this advice as we fear for the health of our country. Our collective sense of urgency and alarm is similar to what comes with a dire prognosis: we’ve received horrifying news, and the day-to-day updates keep getting worse. No one knows what lies ahead. There are serious reasons for concern and there is much we can do to make a difference. In order to care for our country and those most vulnerable, we will need to take excellent care of ourselves. It’s going to be a long haul.
As we step up to these challenges, may we find healthy rhythms of rest, reflection, and re-engagement. May we seek out joy, laughter, love and beauty. May we prioritize kindness, compassion, and justice. May we be gentle with ourselves and others. And may we remember to take periodic breaks from the news!
Community Ministry, December 2016
Rev. Cathleen Cox
This fall, I took up the presidency of the Unitarian Universalist Society for Community Ministries. UUSCM is a national UUA affiliate which describes its mission in these words: “UUSCM is a Unitarian Universalist movement of lay ministers and ordained clergy committed to promoting a broad spectrum of healing and social justice ministries. We believe that only through many diverse forms of ministry can we heal the broken, create justice, and live in harmony with the spirit of life. We hold a vision of a larger ministry that sees the world as its parish.”
I invite you to consider the opportunities in the new socio-political reality in which we find ourselves. Can we look for the ways to move forward, committed to our UU Principles and Purposes, towards empower-ment and meaningful engagement rather than being driven by fear and alienation? We can and we must.
At the Sustainability Summit held by the UUA in Boston last spring, a key theme was “Unleashing Lay Ministry”—an idea UUSCM has long championed as central to strengthening the shared ministry of our faith in the world.
Would it empower you to view the service you offer in this congregation and beyond as a lay ministry? Would it support you to join with other community ministers, both lay and ordained, who are working in concrete ways towards building the world we want to live in? Whether through your volunteerism or your work, your commitment to service makes a difference. What could it mean to you to claim it as a lay ministry? If this is an idea you’d like to explore, I invite you to contact me: email@example.com. Let’s talk.
With You on the Path,
Community Ministry, November 2016
Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae
It has been an honor to serve as an Affiliated Community Minister with Starr King School for the Ministry and UUCB this past year. I’ve met so many wonderful members of the community with a passion for spiritual growth, social justice, and community engagement. I want to offer a special thanks to the co-chair of my Committee on Ministry, Lonnie Moseley, and committee member Dr. Ali Kayhani for offering their skills, insights, time, and love to strengthen my spiritual leadership and our communities. We faced an especially difficult year with the unexpected passing of my dear heart-friend, sheikh, and co-chair of my Committee on Ministry, Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé. Anyone who knew “Baba” admired him not only for his dedication to educating generations of multi-religious, counter-oppressive Unitarian Universalist and progressive religious leaders but also for his immense spirit, contagious humor, and all-embracing love. We felt his spirit with us as we accomplished so much at UUCB and Starr King and, indeed, he lives on in each of us.
In the past year, I was able to co-facilitate multiple new member events, including chapels and dinners; consult with lay leaders and staff responsible for membership, hospitality, and outreach; and contribute to the Sunday worship life of the community. I also served full-time at Starr King where as the Director of Admissions and Recruitment I’ve been able to recruit some of the largest and most diverse classes in the history of the school, in addition to joining the adjunct faculty and teaching Eastern philosophical traditions and counter-oppressive change. We’ve had so many transformative conversations in all of these contexts about our ongoing work dismantling white supremacy cultures, deconstructing cisheteropatriarchy, addressing Islamophobia, challenging dominant economic systems, and dreaming of communities and a world where the inherent dignity and worth of every person is affirmed and celebrated. Thank you to everyone who helped bring this past year into being, and I hope our work continues to burn brightly into the future!
Community Ministry, Oct. 2016
Rev. Theresa Hardy
Let me assure you, even if you are failing miserably in some areas you are not alone. You are good enough. Parenting in this particular time is challenging. I am not referring to endless nights of interrupted sleep and countless viruses that plague our family of five!
I am referring to the judgment and criticism that parents deal with at the park/store/school/ or on Facebook. In this age, many of us live far from familial support and struggle to do this alone. I would hope parents would band together and find more spaces to congratulate each other on being good enough! Yet, sadly I notice the opposite.
Our anxiety and fear, stress and exhaustion lead us into judging other parents. When I notice this within myself, I ask myself some questions. What am I afraid of others seeing? How do I forgive myself for failing in some areas? How can I model being good enough, for my kids and others? I’ll start—without Netflix and hot dogs our family life would be miserable!
I invite parents to recognize the often stormy weather of parenting and reflect on how we can, as Gandhi wrote, “be the change we want to see in the world.” Let us be honest about what parenting looks like! Let us be holy fools and remind ourselves and others about the deep spirituality of parenting.
Community Ministry, September 2016
Rev. Sue Magidson
Mornings at the hospital where I work:
Supervisor (warmly and collegially): “So what are your plans for the day?”
Sue: “Ask me when it’s over.”
Hospital chaplaincy is, by its very nature, unpredictable. I never know who will need me, when they’ll be available, what they’ll need, or how long we’ll have. So many variables disrupt the best-laid plans. Sometimes I manage to be in exactly the right place at the right time; other times, I spend entire days trying to connect with a patient, only to find that the patient isn’t interested in a visit after all.
Over the years, I’ve learned to be both methodical and opportunistic, paying attention to what’s in front of me, as well as my To Do list of intentions. After all, it only takes a moment to exchange a smile, say a kind word, offer a hug, or check in to see how someone’s feeling. A moment of connection at an emotional time can make all the difference.
As a chaplain, I step in and out of people’s lives, accompanying them through challenging times and rarely learning the end of the story. Hello. Goodbye. In between, a moment. Of varying duration. Sometimes pedestrian; other times deeply connective and transformative. A dance of connection and release, connection and release. Will I see this person again? I never know.
Isn’t that how life is? Unpredictable. Filled with opportunities to touch each other’s lives, even if just for a moment. What if we held our To Do lists a little more lightly, paying attention to what’s right in front of us? What if we lived our lives, knowing that all we have are precious moments?
Community Ministry, August 2016
Hospice Chaplain II
By Rev. Jane Ramsey
Gaunt is the only way to describe him.
He sits upright in his bed,
a word search book in his hands.
“I’ve had this cough forever
….it doesn’t mean anything
I’ve been sick like this before
…..and I always get over it
All I need is some physical therapy to strengthen my muscles.
Oh yes, I talk to him all the time
What do I pray for?
To get well, of course…”
So I pray for a cure
not believing it will happen…..
searching my soul for a shred of faith in the kind of miracle he is asking for
so that I may not speak in an in-authentic way….
But this is not about me……
and I move on….
Community Ministry, April 2016
This week I taught a free teleclass, “Working with Impossible People,” that, not surprisingly, was well attended. Who hasn’t been annoyed from time to time with people who seem to create roadblocks to accomplishing projects that matter? And can any of us say that we haven’t been – from somebody else’s perspective – the “impossible person”?
Whenever and wherever we work together, our growing edges will show up, and we will sometimes make things difficult for one another, even when we don’t mean to. What can we do so that frustration doesn’t turn into resentment and withdrawal? Continue reading →
Community Ministers, February 2016
A Single Tear
By Jane Ramsey
Reflections on a visit to a hospice patient in a nursing home
A single tear rolled down her cheek,
as white hair framed her pink and white complexion.
She lay in bed,
her frail body mildly contorted while lying on a bed pan.
It was the song that brought the
tear to her eye
“….and he walks with me
and he talks with me
and he tells me I am his own…”
That’s when the tear came “he tells me I am his own”
Her daughter, a woman smartly and elegantly dressed for business
cries as she is leaving
“I love you, Mommy”
The staff get her off the bed pan
and we do one more chorus of
“He walks with me and he talks with me
and he tells me I am his own
and the joy we share,
as we tarry there
none other has ever known……”
What’s not to love about this new job of mine?
Rev. Dr. Jane Ramsey is a Spiritual Care Provider with Napa Valley Hospice and Community Minister Affiliated with UUCB
Community Ministers, January 2016
Hush, Hush, Somebody’s Callin’ My Name
What calls to you? Does it call loudly, insistently? Or is it a whisper, barely perceptible? Do you feel it deep in your body?
Do you heed the call? Ignore it? Postpone responding?
Many ministers speak of feeling called to ministry. Call stories come in all shapes and sizes, from a sudden Eureka moment to calls that develop slowly over many years. There may be multiple calls – to different congregations or organizations, to different types of ministry, traditional and entrepreneurial.
But call is not just for ministers and not just about vocation. You may feel called to create a home, leave a home, raise a family, travel around the world, plant a community garden, read to schoolchildren, live lightly on the earth. You may feel called to witness at the county detention center or on the streets of Richmond after a murder. Perhaps you feel called to serve as a worship or pastoral associate. Perhaps a particular way of being calls to you: hard worker; dreamer; visionary; quiet observer; leader; supporter. The list goes on.
Then there is the question of what calls to us as a religious community: Who are we called to become? What are we called to do? How do we want to focus our precious time, talent, and treasure? How do we as a group answer these questions?
At worship on Sunday, January 31, your affiliated community ministers will reflect on these themes. We warmly invite you to join us.
Rev. Cat Cox, Rev. Theresa Hardy, Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae, Rev. Sue Magidson, and Rev. Dr. Jane Ramsey