December 2016

November has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for most of us at UUCG. In the aftermath of the presidential election, many of you have expressed a wide range of emotions, most very difficult to hold. Some have told me you feel called to action in ways you never have before. The racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia we all knew was present in our country has been exposed, affirmed, and even empowered in ways that leave many of us very fearful. A local high school in Suwanee was vandalized with racial slurs and homophobic threats, with the name of our President-elect boldly painted in the middle of the epithets. We are hearing about such incidents, and worse, all around the country.

I anticipate that those of us who are skilled in creating community, connecting with new people, and building bridges will be called upon in the coming months, if not years. And, those of us who are not comfortable with these skills might learn! As some feel empowered to hate more openly, we must rise up and love more boldly. Our faith calls us stand, roll, and rise up on the side of love.

As I write this, there is an imminent threat to the people of the Oceti Sakowin camp at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Unless powerful people find a way to prevent it, there is a strong probability that hundreds of people will be seriously harmed, or killed, in the efforts to remove people from the camp, and we may see yet another gross injustice towards the indigenous people of this land. I am grateful for this congregation’s support in sending me to Standing Rock, and I pray a peaceful and fair resolution will emerge.

With all this, and so much more, going on in our country, I am finding it difficult to wrap my mind around being away on vacation, study leave, and sabbatical January through July. I have realized how much strength and hope I draw from your presence in my life. I am grateful for this time for renewal and reflection, and I will continue to be working for a more just and loving world while I am away. I am so fortunate to serve such a generous, courageous, and compassionate congregation.

Please come to the Sabbatical Send-Off Party on Sunday, December 11, following the Congregational Meeting. There will be music, dancing, some games to play, and some gifts to be given. It’s a hiking theme, so feel free to wear your hiking clothes to church that day!

On December 18, Paige Varner will lead the service, and I will be there to receive a Journey Blessing during the service (a modified Ritual of Leaving).

I will lead two more services after that: The Christmas Eve service will include lots of wonderful music, and a story for the times. The Christmas Morning service will include “fun” holiday songs and a beloved Christmas story. We’ll have muffins, scones, hot cocoa and coffee waiting for you! Christmas is a time to remember that every child is a blessing, and every being has worth, and is worthy of dignity.

I’ll be sending updates while I’m away, and I’ll be lurking on Facebook now and then, but not engaging. I love you all; I will miss you while I am gone, and I will be SO glad to be back!

With much love…
Reverend Jan

November 2016

Aren’t presidential elections fun?! Not. I find I’ve been singing, humming, and repeating the mantra of the November theme song* for several weeks now … I invite you to join me:

May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be whole.

May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well.
May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be whole.

May we be filled with loving kindness. May we be well.
May we be peaceful and at ease. May we be whole.

This will be a good mantra throughout this month, before and after the election and then as we prepare to have time with family and friends over the holidays. For some, those gatherings can be fraught with emotional challenges, political differences, or the grief of absent beloveds.

This song offers a reminder to breathe with intention, to offer yourself loving kindness, and to hold all beings with loving kindness… even, or especially, when that feels difficult. Sometimes that can feel difficult right here within our own congregation. We may be kindred spirits drawn to this faith, but we do not all think alike. In addition to remembering to send loving kindness to those with whom we might differ, I also want to lift up our covenant of right relations:

It is our deeply held belief and commitment that this be a community of love. We sustain our community through trust, compassion, and inquiry. To live our commitment…

  • We recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person and relate in a respectful manner with each other;
  • We strive to understand each other and find agreement when possible, questioning and listening with open minds and hearts;
  • We practice empathy, forgiveness, and gratitude;
  • We practice direct communication between parties to resolve conflicts and misunderstandings;
  • We hold ourselves, and one another, accountable for doing the work of the church responsibly;
  • When reaching out to the larger community, we do so with compassion – in the belief that we model an ethic of peace, liberty, and justice.

This covenant can also be practiced with people beyond the congregation … coworkers, peers, family, and friends. If you ever want coaching in how to live more fully into this covenant, you can reach out to me or our Board of Trustees for coaching and support. If someone comes to you with an issue about someone else, encourage that person to speak directly with the person, or to request assistance from me or the Board of Trustees.

With loving kindness…
Reverend Jan

*Singing the Journey #1031: Filled With Loving Kindness. Traditional Buddhist Meditation, adapted by Mark W. Hayes, set to music by Ian W. Riddell

Posted on November 20, 2016, in 2016.

October 2016

This year we are “Singing the Journey” with each monthly theme highlighting one of our hymns. We are also Singing the Journey together as we search for a new Choir Director to fill the big shoes our beloved Kevin McKinney leaves behind after so many years of serving, most as a volunteer. I know I will be forever grateful for his generous contribution of time, talent, energy, and expertise. I am also grateful that we all stepped up to acknowledge this professional position by making this a priority for our staffing plan. I know that UUCG has been proud to be working towards being a fair compensation congregation, and this is a strong step towards that goal.

As the Choir Director Search Team (Bill Benshoof, Debra Greenwood, Shea McQuain, Lydia Patrick and I) seeks a new Choir Director to start in 2017, we are Singing the Journey with our guest Choir Directors on loan to us once a month from neighboring UU congregations. This is such a fabulous example of how congregations step up to hold one another in shared covenant. I hope we will have opportunities to pay it forward over the coming years. You will want to be sure to show up on October 16 for our next guest Choir Director, Amber Fetner from the UU Fellowship of Athens.

October 16 is also the day of our annual pledge drive kick-off. The music is going to rock! We’ll be Singing the Journey towards our vision as we blend our voices in song and conversation and work in harmony to build our beloved community. We’ll strike a note of gratitude with every generous pledge of support we receive!

October’s theme is “Let This Be a House of Peace.” As we enter the last weeks of this presidential campaign in the United States, tension is likely to rise. Many people feel the stakes are very high. Some feel that our system is so broken that voting is an exercise in futility, and others feel the obligation to vote deep in their bones. While it can be tempting to assume that all Unitarian Universalists have “like minds” we actually don’t…. we do, however, have kindred spirits, shared values, and promises we strive to keep.

Our covenant is to walk together with trust, compassion, and inquiry. I encourage each of us, including myself, to ask questions rather than try to persuade; seek to understand before being understood; and, if you don’t want to engage in a conversation about an election issue or a candidate, respectfully request another topic of discussion. We all need to be sensitive to one another as a people of faith seeking the best ways to live our values in the world. We will each have different ways we choose to do this. Let this be a house of peace, let yourself be a house of peace, and may that peace radiate out to all the places in which you engage over the next few weeks.

With a loving and grateful heart…
Reverend Jan

Posted on November 20, 2016, in 2016.

September 2016

September is the time when the leadership of the congregation turns attention to our annual pledge drive. In October every member and friend is asked and encouraged to make a financial pledge to support the shared ministries of our beloved congregation. It takes all of us pitching in together to keep our vibrant programs running, maintain our buildings and grounds, and continue to move towards our vision.

Money is a subject many people find difficult to talk about. There can be a lot of emotions tied up in our relationship with money. The lessons we learn about money start at a very young age … probably every single person has some story they could tell about what they learned about money from family and friends as a child.

Money and church can be an even more complicated conversation. For people raised in a faith other than Unitarian Universalism, or who were not churched at all, they may not know how we manage money in our faith tradition. Perhaps people hold assumptions that we receive money from our Unitarian Universalist Association, or from other sources, but this is not so.

Unitarian Universalists own their congregations. This means the members of the congregation, in collaboration with staff, make the big decisions about our buildings and grounds, our programs, and our staffing. We are also responsible for providing the funds for the commitments we make and the programs we create. This is a covenantal act… part of our sacred promise to do the work of the church responsibly. Most of the Unitarian Universalists I have conversations with believe that money can be used for great good in the world. Having money can certainly make many aspects of life easier, more comfortable, and less stressful. Paraphrasing songwriter Susan Werner, when they have plenty and then some, UUs are often quite generous in helping others to have plenty and then some too.

Most Unitarian Universalists I speak with enjoy being generous, especially if their generosity is directed towards something that makes an important difference in their lives … like fostering spiritual growth and nurturing connections, and making the world a more welcoming and green place. My hope is that our vision to create such a place, and our sacred covenant to do the work of the church responsibly, will inspire a new level of generosity so we can move into 2017 confident that we can meet our commitments to one another for the responsible stewardship of our sacred space and our shared ministries.

Many, many members of UUCG give generously of their time, their talents, and their treasures. Perhaps you would like to share with the congregation why you give so generously. Starting in September I’ll be asking people to share their stories of generous giving during the worship services, on posters in the building, and in other ways. Please send me an e-mail or a text if you would like to share your story of what inspires you to generously support UUCG.

With a grateful and joyful heart,
Reverend Jan

Posted on November 20, 2016, in 2016.

August 2016

Our 2016-2017 annual theme holds great possibility for an exciting year at UUCG: Singing the Journey invites us to explore the ways we “harmonize” with our voices, as well as with our time, talents, and treasures on our journey towards being the radically welcoming sanctuary in a green space we envision. Our programs this year will be built on monthly themes based on beloved songs from our hymnals, inviting us to go deeper into the stories, metaphors, and meanings in the words we sing.

Singing the Journey is also an appropriate annual theme as we embark on a journey with a new Choir Director. During the month of August the Board of Trustees and I will form a small Choir Director Search Team to engage in the process of finding the person to lead and build our choir and music program over the coming years. Our plan is for this person to start in January 2017! The Chalice Lighter Call is still open to contribute to funding a portion of this position in 2017 to move us towards fully funding it in 2018. Please spread the word! Here’s the link to share with your friends and family: Chalice Lighter

Singing the Journey also speaks to the journey we are taking together and separately through my time on Sabbatical. Our Sabbatical Committee (Paige Varner, Wally Watson, Karen Smith, Barbara Stahnke, and Laura de Castro) is hard at work preparing for this precious time for both the congregation and for me to go deeper into our sense of calling, to renew our spirits and our commitments, and to chart a course for the next few years of our shared ministry together.

On Sunday, August 28, from 1:00 – 3:00 the Reverend Kenn Hurto, Lead Executive for the UUA Southern Region, will lead a workshop with the congregation to explore the work of the congregation while I am on Sabbatical. That workshop will start after we have lunch together, about 1:00, and end at 3:00. He will then meet with key leaders to determine the next steps in planning the congregation’s activities during this Sabbatical time.

Up to and during the Sabbatical, there will be a special bulletin board set aside with information about what I’ll be doing, updates from me about the activities I’m engaged in, the work the congregation is doing, and key dates and contact information while I’m way. The Sabbatical Committee is working on a brochure with lots of information to respond to the questions I’m sure many of you have, and we’ll have lots of time over the next few months to make sure people’s questions are answered before I go.

I’m here through the end of 2016 … my Sabbatical time will be combined with vacation and study leave officially beginning on December 26. I’ll return to the office on July 31, 2017. I am excited about the fall programs and Singing the Journey with you this year.

With much love,
Reverend Jan

Posted on November 20, 2016, in 2016.