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Continuing Conversations

with Reverend Gordon Clay Bailey

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

 

 

Monday
Oct312016

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

William Arthur Ward

So my dear church family where are we on this matter? Choosing Gratitude as the theme for this month is easy and yet it often seems that expressing gratitude is difficult.  I’m hoping that life has made the possibility of experiencing this extraordinary feeling part of your paradigm for healthy living?  If yes, then we will experience and share how it impacts our lives together.  If not, then the theme for the month is appropriate.   

Did you learn that gratitude is one of the human activities that are essential for your life? I hope so, because then you already have a leg up. If you’re already motivated and willing to put in the effort and commitment it takes to be grateful, I’m applauding you.  If by chance you haven’t realized that gratitude is vitally important, as of yet, I’m recommending it to you as an offering for better living.  How exactly you accomplish this is up to you; what’s needed is to find at least one activity from a world of possibilities and to put gratitude into action.

One of the things I learned long ago in seminary was to keep a gratitude journal.  If you enjoy writing, if you are good at it, or it feels natural to you, then it is a promising way to practice daily.

Maybe you’re an artist and it’s in the creation of your art that you find the expression of this feeling?

Or maybe still you’re a deep thinker and you stop in the midst of your busy days to ponder, to bask in, or simply to relish the joys in your life.  Who made a difference?  Was it the bead maker? Did the auto mechanic rush the service so you could get to work on time?  Maybe the girl next door brought in your paper?  What I’ve experienced in life, is a straight line running from the 1960s to now, of the world, people, nature, family, friends, strangers offering me a kindness just because.  Wow am I grateful!

The problem at times isn’t how kind or how good life has been.  The issue more often has been my not taking note of it.  Is this you too?

My journal once stopped, has become alive again.  I’ve found my voice, my groove and in it I can see the many blessings more clearly.  This month I’m going to express my gratitude to you and to my family and to the many friends, and colleagues that cross my path and smile, give a hand, or provide meaning to my life in some way.

A person I know shared a letter they read in a book.  This note sums up a lot - it was sent to a high school English teacher, more than thirty years after being in class.

The main thing I want to tell you is that you were, without question, the most influential teacher I encountered in High School, and that I am extremely grateful for the interest you took in me.  You seemed to think I had something on the ball, and trust me on this, that was a minority opinion among the school faculty.  Your estimation of my abilities, inflated as it may have been, translated into a certain degree of self-confidence that served me well, I think, in the years that followed.

Perhaps more importantly, you treated me – a pretty unsophisticated 17-18 year old – as an adult, and there is nothing on earth more empowering, to a teenager, than that.  Even allowing for the fact that the 1970s were very different times than these, I sometimes find myself thinking “What was she thinking?”

This in some way reveals just how powerful it is to express your gratitude directly to a person in your life.  Let me say thank you for allowing me into your lives, for sharing this ministry with me. It is a joy to be here and my dear friends I am grateful!

Have a wonderful season filled with gratitude, compassion and love.

In faith,

Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey

Wednesday
Apr272016

Continuing Conversations

 

            The autumn leaves, they have my attention.  The shorter days, they inform my life.  The cooler nights, the breezy afternoons, the colors of an awesome life, all bring me closer to this season and this time in my life.

            Recently Lisa and I saw a movie that was funny, quirky and relaxing.  “Hello My Name Is Doris” took us on a journey that was both upsetting to me and insightful.  The long and the short of it for me was about the midlife issues of caring for a parent, collecting too much stuff, sibling misunderstandings that extend into later life and fantasy exploration.

 

            Somewhere along the story the lead character Doris goes to a rock group’s performance (Baby Goya).  The young people at the show seem to love Doris and her style and way of being.  The head of the group tells us of an upcoming album title – New Vintage and wants Doris in her late middle-aged look to be the cover shot. Wow, that sent my head spinning.  I couldn’t stop myself.  I thought of our Unitarian Universalist Principles and was inspired!  I started thinking about the UU faith and in particular our congregation. And how we are New Vintage ourselves!

 

            Are we on the verge of living into a – New Classical age?  I sure hope so.  Finding the time, energy, spiritual direction and excitement that a new love or new vocation can bring is what I’m trying to find for us.  It is not that UUCVH isn’t wonderful just as it is; it’s the potential for more that intrigues me.  It’s that I see a congregation that is even more than what we presently are.

 

            This reaffirming of faith, this excitement about engaging the spirit, this willingness to dive in, taste, touch, and feel things anew, is both exhilarating and needed. The changing of the seasons, the march of time, the willingness to live into the moment is happening before our very eyes and if we are willing to walk through a new door of understanding maybe, just maybe we will find ourselves renewed by this community of seekers, teachers, saints, sages and sojourners.

 

            So my friends now is the time, not some later far off date.  The fall of this year or be it the fall of our lives is calling us in to action.  Our religious lives, our church, our world, needs us to recommit.

 

            We have had a few new youngsters join us and Elizabeth and the RE committee are hard at work.  AJ and I are offering different options for adult growth.  Our local cluster of congregations has created a new vehicle for service.  I for one am totally engaged.  How about you?

 

 I hope learning is taking place. I hope maybe, even just a little, contemplation into things we haven’t spent much time thinking about before is taking place?  The Board and committee on ministry and all of the committees are busy doing their thing! 

 

Social Action is ready, willing, and I believe able to be the hands or in part, the worker bees for our community of Unitarian Universalist who place a premium on doing, not talking.   Faith in action is a reality I respect!  Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, mentoring the young or unemployed, cleaning our park, or some other way of being connected and engaged with the world about us is part and parcel of living our faith.

 

            I am hoping to host a meeting of Interfaith Clergy this season, right here to start a much-needed dialog.  I’ve been told I am one of maybe two ministers of African descent to have served this area?  I don’t know for sure, but as I attend local meetings I am usually the only person of my ethno cultural background.  Nevertheless, I believe in working together.  This is the only way I know to move forward in a very complicated world.

 

            Our own friendship dinners and possibly small group ministry are also part and parcel of the important work that congregations do together.  Yes, eating and sharing are work.  I think they are good works but work nevertheless and we enjoy each other at UUCVH very much!

 

            I’ve been wondering how many of you speak Spanish? I’ve wanted to be part of a Latino/English conversation for many years.  What would an open invitation to the Latino Community look like?  How would we welcome Spanish-speaking guest into our spiritual home?  How do we even bridge the gaping chasm between the others and ourselves?

 

I don’t have all of the answers or even enough of them at this point to give voice to them all and yet I know in my heart we must find a way.  The time is at hand.  The season is right. A new manifestation is going to be needed if growth and sustainability are important to us.  Then, and maybe only then, will we begin to act in radically different ways?  So my friends, get yourselves ready.  Prepare a way for a new you and a new us!

 

            I love autumn!  I love the possibilities it allows. I find it particularly lovely in a place like ours that has the best of all possibilities. The Verdugo Hills are beautiful.  Our weather, climate and lifestyle are like a dream to me.  The trails through the parks provide the most spectacular views. Our location is awesome if nature and beauty fill your heart. This backdrop for spiritual enrichment, deepening of our individual souls, and engagement of the big questions of life in a safe communal setting is awesome!

 

             How grand is that?  I’ve known some people that have waited a lifetime for a chance like we have.  The ability to come together on a weekly bias to live, learn, discuss, engage, lift up, review and celebrate is a wonderful thing.  The will to determine what we stand for and what our response to the issues of the day will be our quest.

 

            Ah yes, in the words of Rabindranath Tagore seem appropriate to me- Today the peace of autumn pervades the world… In the planets, the sun, and the stars, the joyous dance of atoms through endless time. (# 540 in our hymnal)

 

 

In faith,

Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey

 

 

 

 

July 2016

Staying Woke

One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake throughout great periods of social change.  Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions.  But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.  The large house in which we live demands that we transform this world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood.  Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.

                                                                                                MLK jr

 

Staying awake during my drive is always an issue for me.  My eyes are not what they used to be.  I’m often distracted by the beauty of the land and my mind can wander.  What’s a middle-aged head in the clouds kind of guy to do?  Well for this cross continental trip the drive was made a lot easier for me as I contemplated our year together, what GA had/has in store for me/us and the global/national/local issues that both confound me and engage me.

So first things first- as I left Pasadena Monday I couldn’t help but be amazed and dismayed at the hills being on fire.  OMG (oh mother goodness), what a site to see driving away from our valley as the fire roared.  Then the landscape, mountains, plants, our state and nation pulled me into a love affair made new.  What an amazing place we call home. 

Then I had the sheer joy to find Native American radio and a show that talked about the word RADICAL and all of its implications, historic significance, and reality in today’s Public Square.  While in NM I wept long and hard.  Feeling so sad about the ways we have and continue to treat First Peoples. Feeling both a sense of connection and new purpose I’ve been Re- Radicalized and as long as I have breath I must be vigilant in doing what is right!

The heartland of our nation reminded me of the things of my childhood.  Green spaces, lots of trees, ice cream, fireworks, farms   and people that reminded me of aunt Bea and Andy- it sure feels good to me.  They were lovely to behold!  The reality probably is very different?  Some are doing well, some not so much.  Roads seem in really bad condition and our infrastructure sure needs a fix.  Nevertheless, I felt at ease.  Despite histories that are far from perfect and present conditions that leave me wondering about the worldview that people of the nation are seeing I was glad to get to this part of the world.

 

Arriving in Columbus and getting to GA has been on my mind and now I’m here.   Getting to work is what this trip is all about.  Getting my energies replenished by UU’s that are moving, doing, shaking and staying awake through the justice issues, political, social, environmental, cultural, changes and upheavals of our time is amazing to me.

What I’m seeing, hearing and feeling is life altering if you’re open to that kind of experience.  I feel open and ready to engage.  How about you?  GA can be visited on line.  Our movement is taking on big issues and I believe trying its best to help a world in need of healing/love!

Lastly, the music has been awesome.  I know of only a few things I like more than good music in fact really there is Nothing like being with thousands singing, moving, feeling the power of music to heal us and bring us together. I leave you with these words from a song you might know-

‘I Need You to Survive’ 

 

These words are simple yet they remain at the heart of my/our ministry together. 

 

Stay Awoke and in love,

 

Rev. Gordon

 

June 2016

 

Ahh sweet June and the weather is nice finally.  Children are getting ready for freedom, college students are back and the pace of life takes on a decidedly summer time attitude.

 

As I’ve grown older I am in awe of the summer season.   I have lots of expectations of beach walks, fun parks and lazy days.  I love the blue skies and long walks with my loves, my community and myself (time for internal discourse).

 

These are the days I’ve longed for.  I came in part to California to lead a life filled with short pants, tee shirts, sun tea, and cookouts, beautiful bodies and older bodies sitting on decks.  This way of life, all of it allows me to see and be seen in a different light.  I’m happier now and I’m more open to the world around me. I must admit it I’m a guy whose disposition is totally improved by the warm weather and sunny days.

 

So what happens if this isn’t your season?  Where do you turn if this time of year turns you off?  How do you survive the long season of the sun?  I guess it is much like those of us that tolerate winter or rainy seasons or even El Niños.  I imagine you find an air-conditioned space, draw the blinds, pull the curtains and delve into movies, novels and quite time in the house.  Wow, that doesn’t sound so bad after all.  The kids are outside!  The people are off to the beach, mountains or visiting their loved ones and hence the malls, stores and other places you might visit may be emptier?

 

Oh, where am I going with this?  I am going to the fact that no matter the season.  No matter your age.  No matter your health condition you’ve still got yourself!  You still have the situation that you’ve been a part of or even created.  You still have the woman/ man in the mirror.

 

Michael Jackson was a lot of things, the King of pop, a childhood star, an innovator of sight, sound and effect and yet for me as a man that shares the same skin illness (vitaligo), same era (late baby boomer) and same ethno cultural group (African American)

I am most appreciative of a song that he sang (Man In The Mirror) that captures so much of my mind when it comes to the life I want to lead at this point and time.

 

I’ve been a crusader of sorts.  Seeking to dismantle the linked oppressions that affect me and the world around us in negative ways.  I’m a do-gooder to a point and have stuck my nose in other people’s business too many times to remember.  But the issue of anti-oppression, concern for the environment and my deepest hope for the world that we live in to become the paradise (Beloved Community) I think it was meant to be consumes me.

 

I dream of blue skies but not just blue, clean fresh, exhilarating air that invigorates and renews the spirit of us all.  I fantasize about a world where racism and ethnic division no longer exist and people of the planet much like the wild flowers of a meadow live side by side in each other’s company.  All beautiful and possibly fragrant!  I am seeking a world free from the hate and stigma that being a member of the LGBTQ community brings.  The feelings that separate us and strikes fear, dismantles families, churches, and promotes legal affairs in our country. 

 

If I am Latino (Asian, African, Amer-Indian) and you are European it should not matter!

If I am gay (GLBTQ) and you are straight it should not matter!

If I am old and you are young it should not matter!

If I am not able bodied and you are able bodied it should not matter!

If you are well educated and I am not it should not matter!

If you are economically well off and I am poor or marginally getting by it should not matter!

If you are an activist and I am only able to manage my own affairs it should not matter!

 

I’m no longer a young healthy man; I’ve gone through a Job season.  Not that I was ever the Creators most perfect human.  Oh, far from it nevertheless, I’ve had my share of health woes and other issues that come up with parenting, life circumstances and my own internal idiosyncratic ways dealing with life.

I’m saying to you all that if we look in the mirror and are 100% honest and fair what ways might we change?  How might we grow our souls, bodies and minds in new and more productive ways? 

How can we use this season for the good of all?  I will be reading a lot this summer and pontificating a good deal over the next three months.  Look at Facebook and Twitter for my postings.  Engage with me in dialog over the electronic mediums and even send me a snail mail if you still use that tried and true form of correspondence.

 

I’m looking to change the tenor of my ministry and even myself.  I feel a new manifestation is at hand and I’m in the early stage of a great beginning.  I am planning a plethora of things for next congregational year.  I will be planning a new form of worship each month and year of adult RE that expands our horizons and brings us closer to our faith and spirit. I’m looking at more engagement with our youth, deeper connections with our local community.

 

 In the final analysis, what is our time together about if transformations of mind body and spirit aren’t possible?  I’m ready are you? 

 

I hope this summer will be a wonderful one for you all!  I trust you will be as safe as possible, use your sunscreen, hats, fans or AC as needed.  Drink lots of water!  Be kind to yourselves and to the world around us.  And know that I love you and have had an awesome season with you all!

 

In faith,

Rev Gordon Clay Bailey

May 2016

 

Often, people ask me what is different about Unitarian Universalist Congregations; I say that we are a people bound together by a behavioral covenant, rather than by a creed.  That we are a denomination of pilgrims on a journey of spiritual discovery and communal connection. The more I have thought about it, the more I have realized that my “standard answer” is not as complete as I want it to be, it doesn’t get to the core of my own beliefs, and ultimately its why the concept of Covenantal Community is the topic of this month’s new-letter column.                          

In reality, virtually all synagogues, churches, and masjids are covenantal communities and I am sure they would all hasten to point out that there are definite behavioral components to the covenants on which they are based. The concept of behavioral covenants is an ancient one, one that predates the sacred writings on which most western religious covenants are based.

But I am going to bring this closer to home.  I am suggesting that we look anew at what covenant means to us both individually and collectively as a congregation.  We have a unique opportunity here.  We are poised to make changes in our own lives and in this La Crescenta, Glendale, LA Co, community.  To this end I am offering a sermon on covenant, we are offering an adult education class on your building your own theology, and we have the annual meeting coming up.  All of these activities here at UUCVH along with the District’s annual meeting and our UUA General Assembly all lead us towards this critical act, this profound locus, this important ideal of what it means to be in community as a UU and a member /friend of UUCVH.

Hence, I don’t believe we can do both covenant and individualism, individuality, yes, but not individualism well within the context of the Unitarian Universalist faith.  Articulating and living our Principles as a commitment to covenant—creating and sustaining a community by “promising to one another our mutual trust and support”— and finances, this takes extra effort.

I hope, nay I am counting on this community of history and integrity, promise and reward to come together, shape a new future, and live long, prosper and love well.

This is my dream for us; I hope in part it is yours as well?

In faith,

Rev Gordon Clay Bailey