Continuing Conversations

with Reverend Gordon Clay Bailey

Wednesday
Nov292017

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

 

 

Wednesday
Nov082017

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

Tuesday
May302017

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

 

Thursday
May042017

May 2017

What if in our conceptualization of spiritual, emotional and mental health, we moved to a common definition of the word “normal” as “usual” or “understandable”?  What if we stopped using “abnormal” as a weapon against ourselves and others? What if we got real about what it means to be born into a lifetime of struggle and developed a new and expanding idea known as “New Normal”?

What happens to us in life as we navigate the trails, tribulations and multivariate experiences of life?  If you fall down a set of steps and break your arm, we say that you injured your arm. We do not call you abnormal. My question to us all then is why can’t we be that simple, sensible and real with regard to sadness, psychological pain, overwhelm, anxiety, inner turmoil, and the other commonly occurring and understandable events that members of our human family face? Can’t we stop calling them problems, diseases, negatives, or worse and calling ourselves “abnormal” for experiencing them?  How about an evolved sense of things?  How about allowing new understandings to venture into the common discourse?  How about an ethos of love pervading what we say and do.  I’m for that, how about you?

Isn’t it time that we stopped being held hostage by those dominating forces that want us to avoid looking at the reality of our human condition?  I'm talking about the totality of the human condition. If we could do that, if we could adopt a “New Normal”,  that allows broader human experiences into our definition of normal, we could begin to create a way of speaking and practical strategies for living that supports the living reality of the human condition in ways the lift up, hold dear, maybe even espouses love.

“Normal” would now include pain, difficulty, and especially struggle. We would possess a “new normal” that has caught up with our understanding of who we are and how we got here. If you believe that our species has evolved and racism, gender inequality, homophobia, and any of the other isms that separate us as a human family are finally on the way out and that we have begun the long march towards wholeness and acceptance then it’s time to get on board with what’s new.  Our denomination is changing.  This is no longer a bastion for highly erudite white men to discern theological conundrums.  This new normal has Women in the lead, POC in positions from high to low and people of all stripes, orientations, genders and realities helping to shape our UU community and our world.  I hope to see many of you this month at UU Verdugo.  We are in the business of growing the “Beloved Community”.  Won’t you come be a part of it?

In faith,

 

Rev Gordon

Wednesday
Nov302016

April 2017
 

Human ecology is a way of looking at the interactions of humans with their environments and considering the relationships we have as a system. In this framework, biological, social, and physical aspects of the people’s lives are considered within the context of their environments.  For our purposes I’m proposing that we look at our lives as Unitarian Universalist, as members of UUCVH (UU Verdugo) and ultimately from that most western of notions from the individual perspective.
 
From my vantage point, I see our denomination as – a religious voice against policies of oppression and bigotry in the nation and world. This means that as a Unitarian Universalist I stand in opposition to the newest executive order from the Trump administration restricting travel to the United States from Muslim-majority countries.  It seems unjust and un-American. Despite what the administration might say this executive order is still a discriminatory attack on a single religious group.
 
Additionally so many of us are dismayed that the Trump administration has rescinded the previous guidance issued jointly by the U.S. Education and Justice Departments to allow transgender students to use bathrooms based on their gender identity.  The Unitarian Universalist community has vowed to fight for equal protection for transgender people at all levels of our society.
 
More to my point here in terms of who gets to come to the United States I believe that our Association stands alongside all of the world’s major religions as we affirm the moral imperative to welcome the stranger.  Our faith, our Unitarian Universalist congregations welcome individuals of all backgrounds and beliefs.  
 
 In fact UUA President Rev. Morales joined with more than 3,500 faith leaders in support of refugee resettlement in a letter to President Trump and Congress. It reads, in part, "As people of faith, our values call us to welcome the stranger, love our neighbor, and stand with the vulnerable, regardless of their religion. We pray that in your discernment, compassion for the plight of refugees will touch your hearts. We urge you to be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection."
 
A joint statement from Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association and Hon. Thomas Andrews, president and CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee as quoted in a ThinkProgress article reads, "In the face of looming threats to immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and the LGBTQ community and the rise of hate speech, harassment and hate crimes, we affirm our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We will oppose any and all unjust government actions to deport, register, discriminate, or despoil. As people of conscience, we declare our commitment to translate our values into action as we stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us."
 
Dearly beloved, these issues as well as those that affect our environment, our educational systems, our courts and justice department and so many other points of intersection apply in this Human Ecology discussion and discernment. 
 
Being a UU is not easy.  It is not a faith or spiritual community for the faint of heart.  We have a long history and even a mostly positive legacy in standing on the side of what’s right.  Standing on the side of love.  Moving from the purely subjective, towards more global understandings.  My dear friends let us take a deeper look this month at the ways we engage our faith.  Let us connect the dots between the many and varied aspects of life.  Let us find a way to step outside of the very normal reactions of the self and into a place of concern and even corrective actions that will lead us from the me equation and into the we dialog that will help shape this congregation, our denomination and prayerfully the world that needs more love, more understanding, more action that leads from the old and into the dawn of a new creation.  I am looking forward to continuing the conversation and learning how we can live out our values inside UUCVH/ UU Verdugo, out in the world and within the human ecology system that is us.
 
In faith,
 
Rev Gordon

 

 

March 2017

 Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.

                                                                                          Coretta Scott King

As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in the month of March the words of Mrs. King speak to me about how we can take inspiration from the wise women who came before us.  Coretta King’s vision of the role of women in making our country and world a better place remains a challenge to which we all should respond.  I think we need to face the fact that, though the UU feminist foremothers provide a positive legacy, we all have fallen short of completing the mission they and Coretta King imagined for us.

Unitarian Universalist women have often lead and shaped the struggle for equality.  In 1863 Olympia Brown became the first women to complete formal theological training and earn ordination as a Universalist minister.  Suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton gained inspiration from her association with the Unitarian Church of her time.  We can take pride that the UU heritage includes so many of the feminist foremothers while knowing that much that still needs to be done to realize true equality.

Sadly, women remain the victims of discrimination and abuse.  I am the proud son of a strong mother, the brother of a powerful sister, the husband of an activist for justice, the father of young women on the move and the grandfather of a girl that has the right to be who she wants to be free from male dominance or aggression. Yet I know the struggle continues.

I look to my faith, my spiritual home, and our congregation full of dynamic women, to lead and guide me in my quest to be a better ally and advocate for equality.  I want to hear and understand your voices, your witness, and your power so as to strengthen me and other men to be equal partners in the march towards a world free from oppression.

Coretta Scott King was right.  Creating change requires all of us to strive for the ideal of one world, with one destiny, joined together from material and spiritual necessity.  Let’s work together as sisters and brothers, parents, teachers, students, partners and friends, all committed to a positive human enterprise, with lives committed to love. 

For info about UU women in history see Notable Universalist and Unitarian Women: www.uuwhs.org/notable/index.html

For info on women’s history - The National Women’s History Museum:

www.nwhm.org 

 

 

February 2017
Minister

Usually in February, during Black History Month or whenever I get this feeling I start sharing African American, black history, and American history with people far and wide.  I used to do it mostly during February as an educational imperative. Yet more recently I’ve found more necessity in dealing with the ongoing narrative of Black Life in America as a day-to-day phenomenon.  Dealing with the humanity, culture, artistic aspects and diversity of a people far and wide is not easy.  Trying to share a lot during a month when the theme I’d like to engage our community with is listening is doubly hard.  Nevertheless, let me say that I feel that it is important to see, hear, know, study, engage and most importantly listen to people that live in a county (USA), sate (California), county (Los Angeles) together.  I feel even more strongly about us as Unitarian Universalist being able to hear and listen to the narratives of others in our movement that are different than our own.  I appreciate the fact that we as a church have chosen me as our minister.  That speaks volumes about your ability to be with someone very different.  I am now asking you to spend some intentional time learning about other black folk as this month of February passes by.  Who were the first Africans to come to this region?  When was the first black child born here?  What have been the contributions of Negroes, Blacks and African Americans to LA County or even more close to us our Unitarian Universalist denomination.  Let’s continue to learn from one another.  Let’s grow our historical knowledge about a people different than ourselves.  Let’s all listen to each other in new ways discerning more, understanding more, loving more as we go.
 
In faith,
 
Rev. Gordon

 

December 2016

Our spiritual theme for this month is Incarnation. Incarnation means moving from theory, speculation, possibility, plans, hopes, and good intentions into actual existence. Envisioning may be an essential ingredient of incarnation, but bringing a vision into actual existence requires effort, determination, desire, confidence, resources and patience – and sometimes, according to many religious traditions, it also requires openness to creative forces beyond ourselves.

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, I’d like to suggest that we look closely at the traditions we hold near and dear.  We need to discuss with family and friends the rituals across cultural holiday traditions and, most importantly, the ways we as a church and 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 own theology and make your connections to Unitarian Universalism meaningful. 

As the holiday season fast approaches, we often find our world speeding faster past us. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the month, weeks and days, for all that we have to do. We are trying to keep up with decorating, shopping, parties, end of the year meetings, purchasing that special new gadget that is on sale and keeping up with the gift giving of our family, friends and neighbors. We are so swamped with everything that we often do not take the time to focus on the spiritual meaning of the holiday season.

 Therefore, here is a little exercise you might consider.   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, for me I am putting it on my refrigerator. 

Look at what motivates you this season. Is it about keeping up with your gift giving? Is it about trying to outdo others? Or, is it about bringing service and light to a world in desperate need of love? 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, we can control only so many things.  Obviously, this past electoral season proved that for many of us.   So focus on what you can manage.  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.  You can control how much you volunteer with us at UUCVH!

For some, this is the loneliest time of the year. Look around you. Has a friend or someone in your circle recently lost a loved one? 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.

Look for the good 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.

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 along the beach or a walk in the mountains. This time for yourself, will give you the opportunity to focus on the spiritual meaning of the holiday season.   Given our theme this month try to make something good happen.  Let the power to create permeate your spirit.  Come watch “It’s a Wonderful Life “with me/us on December 17, 7 pm, at the church and allow the possibilities to take hold.

So, here’s to a season filled with light and love!  May it be so for each of us! 

In faith, 

Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey