Continuing Conversations

with Reverend Gordon Clay Bailey

Spiritually Speaking

Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey

April 2018

 

Spring –A Time for Renewal

Spring is a time for renewal, growth, and expansion; we feel it in the air.  Even though we can do this at any time during the year, it feels just right to do it during spring.  

We seem to have that extra energy and focus to get physically active, take action, and create change and so it with us here at UU Verdugo.

This Spring is a great time to envision endless possibilities and boy do we need them here.  It also is a time for us/you to use your creative gifts to reach new levels of personal and congregational achievement, wellness, happiness and success.

Spring is a good time to let go of the old and make room for the new.  This can apply to the traditional spring cleaning but most importantly we need to apply it to letting go of old grudges, resentments, and anger that holds us back from enjoying inner peace and more happiness in our lives.   I know I need this badly.  That is part of the transition for you and me, letting go of the upsets and moving forward in our lives.

When we hold on to the old we keep ruminating and re-visiting old wounds and they keep us stuck. And sometimes we don’t even know it.   When we choose to let go of the old ways we make room for and open the door to endless possibilities that are waiting for us.

When we choose to let go of the old we can make great progress and hopefully alleviate some if not all of our emotional and physical challenges.

We all have struggles; it is called life.  While it is true that some challenges are harder than others are, this only means that we have to work harder at letting go and moving on.   We are all being guided through the learning process of figuring out life by overcoming its challenges; this is part of our earthly journey and UUCVH is no different.  

So, while Spring naturally invites us to let go of the old to make room for the new, I encourage people to do it on a regular basis to optimize happiness and hopefulness.  When it comes to transformation and renewal think of what Pablo Neruda said in one of his love poems, “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

Be receptive to unforeseen possibilities and remember to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you may become.

In hope for a better tomorrow,

 

Rev Gordon Clay Bailey

February 2018

Dear UU Verdugo,

Welcome to Black History Month 2018.

I am once again in what I feel is a difficult position.  For over 20 years now I have navigated the waters of the UU world.  During these years I’ve often wondered if what I am attempting to do is right for me?  I also have wondered if what I am trying to do is right for the UUA?  Guess what my friends, I’m still discerning if it is good for a Black American such as myself to live his spiritual life, his moral life, and his professional life within the context of a White denomination?

These questions and ultimately the answers I’ve come up with have allowed me to both serve professionally and maybe even more importantly give my religious and spiritual being over to the principles and purposes of this denomination that I love.

The stakes for me have always been very high.  The outcomes are still to be determined. The waters continue to be fraught with danger and calm.   

So what’s the take away?  I’m here and a good number of my fellow Black, African American, West Indian, African, Afro-Latino, etc. are here with me in the UU world.  We live, we sing, we proclaim Unitarian Universalism.  Sometimes we do this from a similar standpoint as our White sisters and brothers.  Sometimes we come at it from a radically different perspective.  Below you will find information about Black Lives of UU.  I hope it will spark some interest and cause you to consider Black Lives from a new vantage point. 

I will as always be delivering a few sermons related to the Pan African experience during this month.  As always I hope that within the dialog we can each see the other, our common humanity, the longings of a man that truly wants peace and love for all peoples of this beautiful home of ours. 

Let me know if you have questions.  Let me know if you agree or disagree with me on some points.  Let me know my time with you isn’t in vain for as surely as the sun rises each day change comes whether we are ready for it or not. 

In faith,
Rev Gordon Clay Bailey

Black Lives of UU presents

7 PRINCIPLES OF

BLACK LIVES

The Movement for Black Lives Convening, held in Cleveland, OH July 24–26, brought together over 1,500 Black people from across the country to build, heal, learn & organize.

It was a truly historic gathering. We the Unitarian Universalist Caucus took time that weekend to discuss the various issues we face in our faith as Black people. While many challenges and personal experiences were shared, one thing stood out for us all: Our Unitarian Universalist faith is what CALLS US to say that Black Lives Matter.
  
We see a direct link between the 7 UU Principles and the Movement for Black Lives. We — those of us at the Movement for Black Lives Convening, along with other Black UUs — created this document to present to our faith the 7 Principles of Black Lives.

Our hope is that this direct connection between our faith & the fight for Black liberation will make clear the URGENT need for all those who call themselves Unitarian Universalists to declare, without caveat or clarification, that Black Lives Matter.

During the week of 9/14/15 we released one Principle of Black Lives per day outlining the important principles that guide us in the work towards Black liberation, how these principles connect with the 7 UU Principles and how we were able to live out these principles at the Movement for Black Lives Convening.

Principle #1:

ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER

Queer Black lives, trans Black lives, formerly incarcerated Black lives, differently-abled Black lives, Black women’s lives, immigrant Black lives, Black elderly and children’s lives. ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER and are creators of this space. We throw no one under the bus. We rise together.

The Movement for Black Lives calls on the Unitarian Universalist faith — a faith willing to make the bold proclamation that each person inherently matters — to live up to that claim by working toward a future in which Black lives are truly valued in our society. We call on UUs to actively resist notions that Black lives only matter if conformed to white, middle-class norms, and to challenge assumptions of worth centered around clothing, diction, education, or other status. Our value is not conditional.

Principle #2:

LOVE AND SELF-LOVE IS PRACTICED IN EVERY ELEMENT OF ALL WE DO 

Love and Self-Love must be drivers of all our work and indicators of our success. Without this principle and without healing, we will harm each other and undermine our movement.

The Movement for Black Lives seeks to build a society where Black people thrive instead of survive. We seek justice for those we have lost to police violence, we seek equity in housing, education and healthcare, we seek compassion from our fellow UUs for the struggle we are called to be a part of. 

Principle #3

SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS DIRECTLY TIED TO OUR ABILITY TO EMBRACE OUR WHOLE SELVES

A principled struggle must exist in a positive environment. We must be honest with one another by embracing direct, loving communication & acknowledgment of all that we are and all that we hope to be.

The spiritual growth of UUs of Color is directly tied to our ability to stand in the truth that Black Lives Matter, that our lives matter, both in the wider world and just as importantly in our UU congregations. We call on our UU congregations and the UUA to support our work towards wholeness as Black people. We must be honest with one another by embracing direct, loving communication. 

Principle #4 

EXPERIMENTATION AND INNOVATION MUST BE BUILT INTO OUR WORK 

Embrace the best tools, practices, and tactics, and leave behind those that no longer serve us. Evaluation and assessment must be built into our work. Critical reflection must be part of all our work. We learn from our mistakes and our victories.

The Movement for Black Lives works daily to expose the truth about Black life in this country and in the world. To uncover the layer of white supremacy that exists in this society. To bring to light the Anti-Blackness that is present in our everyday lives. We call on all UUs to root out the Anti-Blackness that exists within our congregations and our faith. 

Principle #5 

MOST DIRECTLY AFFECTED PEOPLE ARE EXPERTS AT THEIR OWN LIVES

Those most directly affected by racial injustice & oppression should be in leadership, at the center of our movement, and telling their stories directly.

We stand in the Movement for Black Lives at a time in which voting rights are being threatened at every turn. Black people are being denied the most basic of rights — the right to vote and have adequate representation in our country. We work towards a society in which Black life is valued, in which Black life is not discarded, in which Black Lives Matters, and in which the work of Black people is seen as equal to their white counterparts. Black voices in our congregations, in our faith, and in the world must be valued. 

Principle #6 

THRIVING INSTEAD OF SURVIVING 

Our vision is based on the world we want, and not the world we are currently in. We seek to transform, not simply to react. We want our people to thrive, not just exist — and to think beyond the possible.

Any work towards peace, liberty and justice must address racial injustice. Black UUs are calling our faith to join us as we work towards justice for ALL Black people and by extension for all people. 

Principle #7 

360 DEGREE VISION

We honor the past struggles and wisdom from our elders. The work we do today builds the foundations of movements of tomorrow. We consider our mark on future generations.

Acknowledging the ways in which a Supremacist society diminishes us ALL is a critical part of the work of the Movement for Black Lives. When the most marginalized of our society is free, then we will ALL truly be free. We call on our faith to affirm the truth that only when Black Lives Matter will All Lives TRULY Matter. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

And encourage the adoption of Principle #8


"We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions."

December 2017

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!"

-Charles Dickens

 

Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.

 

- Prophet Muhammad

 

Chanukah is about the spark of the divine in all of us made in God's image.

-Suzanne Fields



The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time -- a time to contemplate your immortality. A time to forgive, to be forgiven, and to make a fresh start. A time to awaken.

 

-Frederick Lenz

 

I celebrate the spirit of Christmas. It's the winter solstice celebration, rebirth and new possibilities.

 

-Ian Astbury

 

Holidays, economic frenzies, over consumption and the end of another year; here we go again…

 

-Gordon Clay Bailey

 

Each year, December brings a month filled with holidays, celebrations complete with a variety of gift giving traditions, and—to the glee of students and educators alike—school vacations. Before we fully engage this season Id like to suggest that we look closely at the traditions we hold near and dear.  How about discussing with your family and friends the rituals across cultural holiday traditions and most importantly the ways you as a family group celebrate them.

 

In what ways does holiday gift giving and merry making figure in the popular imagination through great literature that is re-read and performed year after year?

Trace your own traditions especially the practice of gift giving and big celebratory dinners.  Consider if common themes and elements can be found within the different spiritual traditions that form your on theology and make your connections to Unitarian Universalism richer, deeper, more meaningful.

 

As the holiday season has all ready engulfed us, we often find our world speeding faster past us. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the months, weeks and days from Halloween to New Years Eve for all that we have to do. We are trying to keep up with decorating, shopping, parties, and end of the year meetings, purchases that are on sale.  We try to keep up with the gift giving to family, friends and neighbors. We are so swamped with everything, that we often don't take the time for the true spiritual meaning of the holiday season.

 

So here is a little exercise, write down your affirmations or guidelines for what you want this season to be about. You can write it on a post-it note or an index card. Place it where you can see it. Place it on your bathroom mirror or in your wallet.

 

Examine what motivates you this season. Is it about keeping up with your gift giving friends? Is it about trying to out compete with them? Or, is it about bringing service and light to others? Is it about trying to make every persons party? Or. Is it about visiting someone that you haven't seen in some time? Is it about eating and drinking more, until you feel wasted? Or, is it about your quest for a deeper meaning in your values? Only you can examine this.

 

Work to control things that you can. In life their are things that you can control and those you can't. Focus on what you can. You can control binge eating and drinking. You can control arguments and bad language. You can control charity towards those in need. You can control over spending. You can control visiting a lonely family member, friend or neighbor.

 

For some, this is the loneliest time of the year. Look around you.  Are we missing a church member that hasn’t been seen in a while?   Has a friend or someone in your circle recently lost a loved one?  Maybe a divorce or breakup was in someone we know life recently?  Please do your best to seek them out and spend some time with them. Invite them over or take them shopping. Plan something that is constructive with them. If a person lives far away, pick up your phone and give them a call or at least try a text or message on Facebook.

 

Look for the good all around your life. Many people brace for the holidays, when they might be better off embracing the holiday season. Sometimes the smallest good can shine through to liven up your spiritual meaning of the season. You just have to look for it.  You might even need to give yourself a nudge?

 

Finally, take some time for yourself. Get away from everything for a few hours by yourself. Pick a place and time just for you. Schedule a block of time for your mind. Find a place to just relax and enjoy yourself. For some, it might be a few quiet moments in meditation. For others, it might be a stroll through the woods. This time, for yourself, will give you the opportunity to focus on the spiritual meaning of the holiday season.  So, here to a season filled with light and love.  May it be so for each of us!

 

Best of the season to us all,

 

Rev Gordon Clay Bailey

 

 

November 2017

 

Dearly Beloved,

These words are filled with so much meaning.  The thoughts attached to them have to do with the deep and abiding connections we as a UU congregation share with one another, of larger faith communities and even more the universal reality of the very small degrees of separation that exist between all living things.

I have been both troubled by the natural events of the last few months and I have been saddened by the human endeavors that not only precipitate tragic events but actually are the very reason for pain amongst our human family.  In our area of the world we have been dealing with a lot of pain.  So many of the the Las Vegas nightmare were from Southern California and even our very own Crescenta Valley.  Just a short time ago we had the Verdugo fires only to watch now the horrors the fires of Northern California and the devastation and loss of life there.

I don't know what will come next.  But as I live and breathe I know more shall follow. Preparedness is a word that is often said but not truly followed up on.  Please prepare for the natural disasters that are possible.  Please pay attention!

As you know by now I am a man that believes in prayer, meditation, collective action and individual deed.  I am a soul that longs to be in right relations with all sentient beings and beyond.   I believe deeply in honoring Mother Earth.  So, my friends I am searching and seeking, wondering, hoping and praying.  May we as UU Verdugo be a place of comfort in difficult times.  May our faith community step forward and be about moving this world closer towards a Beloved Community.  May I, as an ordained minister, and each of you and lay ministers be a beacon of light for as surely as good times exist bad ones are never far away and each of us must dig deeply into our spirits to be part of the solutions to save a world that is often out of balance.

Below are the word from our President.  May they be a source of insight and and call to action.  

In faith, hope and love,

Rev Gordon Clay Bailey.


 

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray issued the following pastoral message:

Dear Colleagues, Religious Professionals and Lay Leaders,

I am thinking of all of you. It is now three months into my term as UUA President, and it has been a time of repeated tragedies and traumas. These have included political traumas including the Transgender Military Ban and the rescinding of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. They have also included the devastating natural disasters of fires out West and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that devastated parts of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. And there have been the violent human tragedies of Charlottesville and now Las Vegas.

I hold you all in my heart as you are called to speak to these events in your communities. You nurture communities where people can bring their heartbreak, their pain, their anger, their confusion, their despair. Through your leadership you are asked to create a container for all of our human reactions, a place where families might get support talking to their children, a place where our children can come bringing their sadness, confusion and worry.

As your colleague, your President, your fellow leader in faith, I want you to know that I am grateful for your ministry. I am grateful that you keep showing up with words of comfort and hope, of courage and challenge. This past Sunday, I spoke to a congregation about how this is no time for a casual faith – how the very real challenges and heartbreak of this time in this country and the world require a deep practice of our faith. These realities require a practice that makes room for us to bring our pain and our anger and our vulnerabilities, but one that also continually calls us back to love and to our human capacity for compassion and hope.

You all are on the front lines – providing ministry and leadership to people of all ages, helping us all not to lose our humanity in this very inhumane time, helping us all not to lose hope. Today, as I awoke, the words of Adrienne Rich were on my heart:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:

so much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those

who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power

reconstitute the world.

My fellow leaders, I cast my lot with you. We will not give up hope.

Yours in love and faith,

Susan Frederick-Gray

June 2017

The longer I serve as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association, the more I wrestle with the question of how to explain Unitarian Universalism.


Since I’m in my 22nd year of service, you might expect that answer would be easy at this point.  Well my friends, you’d be wrong and I would be telling a falsehood if I could give you a simple answer.

You see, the theme this month is: “Living Our Faith” and I for one am determined as I ever was to know myself, my theology, and my faith as it stands or moves in me and around me.  I am excited and renewed by the efforts I must engage to make this reality come to the front of my conscience mind.  I, in fact, live for love, knowledge, family and this faith.  It means everything to me and I am hoping it is more than a passing fancy for you. 

So my friends, the questions around your understandings of UUism and how it impacts, directs, informs and fulfills you, are coming your way.  This summer I’m asking each of you to consider deeply what this faith is and what you want it to be.  I’m asking you to practice your creed, your personal theology, your UU values so that without a question or too much doubt you might tell a friend, stranger or any soul what you believe.

I’d like to start by saying that we UU’s are not as unique as we sometimes think and say we are – progressive people all over the world for instance, encourage others to think and explore and search their own lives in coming to understand God and the universe around them.

We UU’s are, generally expansive in our encouragement of that search and it is in fact one of our greatest gifts that we actively search. I would also note, that I do not believe that “spirituality” is about what someone passively “believes” but, instead, how a person actively engages their inner and outer worlds.  It’s more than lip service.  It’s a paradigm for living.  

That being said, there is a line in the hymn, “We Laugh, We Cry” (#355) which says that we believe, “even to question, truly is an answer.” An important part of the spiritual grounding of our faith tradition, as I understand it at least, is precisely this encouragement to seek for truth and meaning. This is not the same as saying, “UUs can believe anything we want.” That’s way too simplistic and not at all what I think we are about.

It is to say, however, that our faith encourages us to challenge ourselves to look into our own lived experience with dedication and deep longings to understand the insights of religion, science, and the arts as sources of knowing “the twin realities of being born and having to die” (as the Rev. Forrest Church put it). This is no small thing. Ours is, at its best, an active faith that calls on us to examine, work on, re-examine, and to keep on examining our understanding of the universe and our place in it. One way to describe the spirituality of Unitarian Universalism is that it calls on us to become comfortable in the discomforting place of being human and having to live and ultimately die.

So no, you can’t “believe anything you want.” In the first place, “belief” is not, for UUs, the core of “spirituality.” In the second, we are encouraged to actively engage ourselves and the world in a free search for meaning; to then engage with others in open, dialog about what they have discovered in their search; and to then to arrive at a place of our own beliefs.

Unitarian Universalist spirituality and faith ought to lead us to the place so many of our youth model for us during their Coming of Age service – “this is what I believe now, but I know my beliefs will change over time.”  This is almost foundational to being UU.

Another aspect of our faith tradition’s spiritual core – it is not enough to engage in this search for truth and meaning. We then must strive to apply our discoveries to the way we live our lives in the world.  This isn’t to say, that just by affirming another’s inherent worth and dignity is enough.  No my friends, we’ve got work to do.  Potable water, housing, food, shelter, equality, racism, immigration, war, disease, incarceration, and need I say more?  We as a liberal faith and as UUs are called on to change the world for the better.

One more observation – this is not, in my experience, the way a lot of UUs understand and experience our faith. Far too many, it seems to me, come to UUism having already decided on the “answers to life’s big questions,” and have no real interest in looking any further.

We come, many of us and maybe even the majority of us, to have our understandings affirmed rather than challenged; we want our established biases reinforced instead of re-examined. In this we are absolutely no different than the majority of other religious traditions we humans have ever created.  Despite our saying we are so very different.

So dear friends I will share a line or two from a song we sing at Sophia Fahs Religious Education camp.  I’ve been going there for many years now and I believe this will be my last but for the rest of my life I will recall with gladness and great heart the song that simply says-
 
Dear friends, dear friends you have given me so much, I love you so. 
 
UUCVH, UU Verdugo, thank you for another year.  Thank you for the many kind words and deeds, thank you for being you (UU)!
 
In faith,
Gordon