Continuing Conversations

with Reverend Gordon Clay Bailey

Sunday
Nov012015

Happy November to all.  While many in the nation bemoan this season I love it.  The trees back east have usually been a delight this time of year.  But now I’m learning of new wonders.  Here in California its warm, a bit wetter than I expected and incredibly beautiful as it is all year long.  I’m learning about the flowering things that seem to appear almost daily.  And sweet smells as I walk and take in the sights.

This is a big season for me for multiple reasons. I’m celebrating my first Holiday season with you (UUCVH) and feeling pretty good!  I am very fond of this community and have grown to love this place so quickly.  You all make it really easy!

Now comes the hard part, or at least the more rigorous part of why I’m with you.  I’ve got a good feeling that we are on the verge of doing something special here.  It’s the kind of feeling I get when I know the groundwork has been laid and all we, as a community of faith, have to do is reap the harvest.

This congregation has done much work.  You all have sustained a liberal spiritual community in a mostly theologically conservative neighborhood for years. 

You have stood for many good and righteous things like integration and tolerance, love and nonviolence for many years.  Your Unitarian Universalist credentials are good!

Heck, you hired me and that speaks volumes about the kind of community your willing to be.  But, folks, I have to ask more of you.  Now is the time to push up your sleeves again.  I believe we are on the precipice of growth.  I have seen new people coming through our doors, calling and asking questions and even stopping by.

My hope is that we are ready?  Do you feel it?  If not, get ready to jump on board because its time to grow and here are a few things I have in mind that I think will help.

Be passionate. If we are going to grow our congregation, we must be passionate about this ministry. Those in the Bible who accomplished great things were passionate and committed men and women. Elijah was passionate and unafraid when he confronted Ahab, the king (1 Kings 17-19). As a result, he saw a nation touched by an awesome power. So, let’s be passionate men and women of Spirit. Our ministry will be the better for it.

Be open. If UUCVH is going to grow we have got to be open to doing things differently.  This applies to the Sunday Services, the new Soulful Saturday Service (starting Saturday November 14th from 6-7 pm), Religious Education for adults and families, the upkeep of our buildings and grounds, our committees and groups, and, of course, our attitude. 

Being open doesn’t mean what we did before wasn’t good enough.  It means we can, and will, do what it takes to improve, change develop, and make new.  Its about the way we do things around here.  It’s about RADICAL HOSPITALITY!

Be of service.  Yes, this means you! If you’re homebound, maybe you can make phone calls or emails?  If you’re working all day, maybe it’s a few batches of cookies by night to share with a group home or the homeless?  If you’re not sure what gifts and talents you have to share, come by and speak with me one-on -one or in a group to find out exactly which of your many talents you will share. 

Trust me; we all have something good, something right, and something of value to give to this congregation and more importantly to this community.  So, noone is exempt!

I’m looking for us to grow by at least two members each month – twenty to twenty-four this 2015-16 year. 

I know we can do it!  I’ve got a feeling! This year’s going to be a good, good year and it all begins with you!

Lets celebrate November in all of its glory.  For some people this means Thanksgiving, for others a reemergence of traditions from their people long forgotten and needing to be heard, seen, and experienced again. For others, new traditions just recently found.

So I’m wishing you all a Happy November- to All Saints, All So,uls, All People together as one united to bring a message of hope, peace and love to Los Angeles county, Glendale, La Crescenta and all people far and wide.

In faith,

Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey

Thursday
Oct012015

“Mindfulness” is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

That definition is awesome!  That understanding is very desirable to me.  That way of life is not mine but I would sure like to try to incorporate it into my daily life as I am concerned that if I don’t pay closer attention to all the beauty around me it might be lost to me in a fog of memories come and gone.

So I went on a search and discovery mode and found many interesting and insightful resources.  Clearly Mindfulness as a cultural phenomenon is here to stay.  We as people fro a western ideological standpoint are engaging this important precept.  In a cover story in the November-December issue of Psychology Today, I learned of   paradoxes of living in the moment. Since then, I’ve been trying to live in the moment as much as possible. Whenever I feel upset or worried, I try to bring myself into the present. And when I can I take a few mindful breaths.  Look at my surroundings, and pay attention to the moment.  Wow, have I got a long way to go, but I’m living less in my head and more in the moment now than ever before—and I can feel the difference.

Here are some practical tips to help you on your mindfulness journey.

Meditate. The easiest way to meditate is to simply focus on your breath.   The challenge is to keep your attention on your breathing. Often, your mind will wander and thoughts will arise—and that’s fine. When it happens, just let go of the thought and bring your attention back to the present by focusing once again on your breath.

Use a reminder, something that you can use as a call to attention.  When you notice it, let that serve as a reminder for you to notice your surroundings, become aware of your senses and your bodily sensations, and bring your focus into the present.

Practice slowing down life by attending to the small things of life and experience. Take a minute and go get a handful of rocks or sand. Now look closely don’t just drop them or it. Instead, imagine you’ve never seen a rock before. Look it over carefully. Consider its shape, weight, color, and texture. Rub the rock or sand in your hand.  Notice its feel, texture, color, and weight, all of the qualities.   Remember to focus on what each pebble/rock or grains look like.

Make it new. When you’re cooking, giving a presentation, or even just recounting a favorite story, try to make it new in subtle ways, delivering it in a way you’ve never done before. Rather than performing it by rote, take a risk and try something slightly new—use different seasoning, words, add a pause, try to express a particular emotion to the audience in a new way.

Mind the gap. Whenever you find yourself waiting—for the checkout line to move, for the traffic light to change, for the Web page to load—get present. Instead of being impatient and wishing things would go faster, be grateful for the gift of a respite—for the 30 seconds or a minute or two minutes during which you have no obligations. Take the opportunity to mindfully breathe in, breathe out, and savor the moment.

Focus on your senses. When you observe your surroundings without judging them good or bad, you naturally move your awareness into the present moment.

Close your eyes and focus on your sense of scent and mentally list all the smells you're aware of—the restaurant downstairs, the wet pavement outside, the perfume of a nearby co-worker.

Next, list all the different sounds you can hear—the ventilation system, cars in the distance, and the hum of your a/c unit, texting, and footsteps.

Then, open your eyes and list all the things you see—the rustling of the trees, the faces in the crowd, and the wrinkles on your palm.

Finally, list all the things you can sense that you appreciate—the way a beam of sunlight hits the brick building across the street, the welcome sight of a friend's smile, the smell of cookies baking. Remember, you're not looking for things to appreciate—you're appreciating the things you sense.

With practice, this exercise will put you in a state of relaxed attention that reduces anxiety and makes you feel more fully alive.

That’s ultimately my goal for each of us...  to be more fully alive this day and all the days of our lives.

In faith,

Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey

Tuesday
Sep012015

I’ve traveled the long and sometimes dusty highways and byways of our beautiful continent this past month.  The journey from New York City to La Crescenta has been one that took some twenty years in ministerial aspiration and resulted in my coming to UUCVH as your called minister.

I’ve decided to develop a month-by-month approach to our shared ministry for this coming year.  Id like to start with RELATIONSHIP as the topic for September.  We will look at the many types of relationships that congregational life cultivates.

We can look to ourselves and how we relate within the context of the self as unique beings amongst the billions.  From there, we will venture into our church family and the relationships we have and share here.

Next, we delve into denominational life, activities, UU values, mores, structures and how they affect our individual journeys.

The Adult RE on Building Your Own Theology will kick off on the 20th before church and our engaging World Religions will begin on the 22nd in the evening.  Both of these are natural to UU identities, both of these enlist and engage our UU principles and purposes.

Lastly, I want to take us into a critical analysis of our relationship to La Cresenta, Glendale, LA County and beyond if we make it that far.  What do we ultimately desire for our congregation?  How shall we draw closer to the peoples, cultures, and diversity of this beautiful community.

So, here is a quote that says a lot about how I am operating-

Empathy is the starting point for creating a community and taking action. It's the impetus for creating change. -- Max Carver

And, here is a quote for activating our bodies, mind and spirit-

In our religious tradition, it is not just ministers and religious professionals who have power to bless. Each of us has to bless another, and to bless the world. Therefore I invite everyone here to participate in this blessing. The words are ordinary words, but we make the blessing real through our shared intention.

In closing, Id like to seek your help -- for in order to do this work together we need to develop a paradigm that is open.

We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community. -- Paul Bloom

Dear Friends, let our lives together begin in earnest and let the love guide us in all we do!

In faith,
Rev. Gordon

Saturday
Aug012015

Living into the Covenantal Community

Greetings to my members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills.  I’m almost there!  I’ve been pondering many things about our future together; most of all how to have the very best relationship with you that is humanly possible.

Despite the fact that Unitarian Universalist (UU) worship’s roots are in Protestant Christian liturgical traditions and practice, there is a critical difference between the meaning of UU worship, and membership, and the meaning understood by other traditions with Protestant identities.  This is even greater if you come from another Christian sect, religion or no faith at all.  It is a difference between worship experience founded on covenant and worship founded on creeds. This distinction is critical to our free faith, and answers basic questions about why we choose to be UU – and, most importantly, why you are a member and friend of UUCVH.

This is my first of many letters to you all.  This is my first attempt to set the stage for right relationship henceforward and I feel it is really important to get started on the right foot.  This congregation called me and I am so honored.  I heard a clarion call and in that understanding, I felt a strong pull to take us to a new place.  Not one that we wouldn’t know or understand but one in which our collective abilities to engage this community and the larger Unitarian Universalist world in a dialog of love and pursuit of action, justice, peace, covenant and right relationship.

Who we are as individuals and as a congregation shall be revealed to you and me as we take steps toward a new beginning.  Who are you, within your community when you gather on Sunday morning or Saturday afternoon, or Wednesday night, or any of the other times that we gather? Who are you, as a religious body? And, who are we yet to become?

These are some questions that a closer look at our vision statement, mission, and covenantal contract will help us ascertain, answer, and articulate in positive ways. For, as the biblical prophet once said, “Without a vision, then the people will perish.” It is also true that if you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there.  Without knowing why we bother to gather, and to be a community, this congregation could one day be in danger of ceasing to exist, or of merely replicating the local university’s continuing education program, or the local debating society, or the local country club.

If we don’t know who we are as individual Unitarian Universalists forward progress is difficult. One of the keys is knowing who you are as a member of this congregation and denomination, and then living into the collective UUCVH vision for our faith community.  That, in part, is what makes us different.  It helps to differentiate us from the countless other religious options.  It makes us special and even more relevant in these times.

I believe in us: you and me.  Lisa and I are on our way to be part of your beautiful community.  One in which Unitarian Universalist values, morés and actions direct our feet toward the ultimate goals of creating spiritually rewarding worship experiences, beloved community and world peace.  I guess I have lofty goals in mind for us.  I hope you do too.

I expect to be in place and announcing office hours very soon.  Check our website and Facebook pages, as I will begin to share thoughts and ideas with the community very soon.

I am totally excited about our new ministry and journey together.  I trust you are too!  Get ready everyone; we’ve got a lot to do!

In peace and love,

Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey

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