May these reflections, offered to my dear congregations, bring peace and inspiration along your journey as well.

White and black cat playing in grass
Needle with cream color thread

June 2021: Play

What a month we have ahead of us! Some are preparing to greet friends and family they have not been physically near to in over a year. Many are struggling with all the factors that mean they still may not be able to engage in more in-person contact. Some are eagerly awaiting slower summer rhythms after the end of the school year. Yet others are not ready for the end of the school year! This congregation is studying and preparing for an inclusive multiplatform reentry and will soon rejoice in the ways we can begin to reconnect in person. We are also preparing to say goodbye, you and me, on June 13 after our last Sunday service together. Rev Alexa, our Pastoral Care minister will remain during July to provide two services and emergency pastoral care support. Despite preparing to miss you, both Rev Alexa and I join you in happiness as you anticipate the joy of welcoming a new minister in August!

And…it is not only this congregation that has a full June ahead! The entire Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is busy preparing for our annual conference and business meeting (a.k.a. General Assembly) during the last week in June. From June 15 through General Assembly, I will be busily working as co-Chair of the UUA Commission on Social Witness. Then, we will all get to share in some aspect of General Assembly, because Accotink UU will virtually attend the Official Sunday Worship Service of the Unitarian Universalist Association on Sunday June 27 at 10 AM on our regular Zoom worship link (coffee hour with only AUUC following worship). This is a phenomenal opportunity to take part in an incredible service a year in the making; a service that will be shared across the country with fellow UUs.

With all that arises in our collective and individual lives in the months ahead, let us remember to return to our center, to the heart of community. Early in the pandemic, I reflected in the monthly blog about where the congregation lives. We were facing a longer shutdown, a growing pandemic, a deepening uncertainty. I wrote a short poem in that blog to remind us where the congregation is, and I bring it back, slightly updated, here:

The Simple Hook…Or: How to Find the Congregation in a Pandemic

It’s not the building

It’s not the ritual

It’s not the membership

It’s not the minister

It’s not the thing you worry about


it’s not.

It’s how you love

It’s how you love one another

It’s how you love the world together

That’s the congregation

It’s that simple

You can’t get off the hook

on this one.

Open book on wooden table with evergreen sprig holding page open

May 2021: What's Your Story?

“What’s your story?” It’s a casual question, but how it is asked, and how you answer, conveys volumes. We can ask this question lightly seeking a surface level response to some question—such as why someone arrives at a meeting or support service. Or, in a reassuring way we can ask the question with a careful curiosity, conveying an invitation to go deep and reflect. There is also the uninterested version laden with sarcasm. But no matter—all these ways to ask are no match for the answer.

It turns out we have a dearth of healthy examples in our culture for how to tell our authentic stories. We receive a deluge of stories throughout our lives, from story books to great works of fiction, movies, television, famous (and infamous) peoples’ social media feeds. But virtually all of these stories present one version or another of the single-minded hero, the protagonist who learns from experiences of life, the person who surpasses the masses or succumbs to the odds. Too often we get the formula: once there was…then this happened to the protagonist…then they learned/overcame/failed. It is as though no one else and nothing else moves and grows to make the hero possible. Notably absent from many stories are women, especially my elder generations who were taught that their stories were synonymous with and invisible to a man’s, a family’s, and a community’s stories.

Neither of these versions of “story” is completely untrue. We are wonderous individuals capable of incredible feats of free will. And, we are simultaneously only able to do and be and imagine ourselves within myriad other stories and histories. The person who tells the story of their growth ought also to tell how the other characters, the community, the world grew up with them and made their transformation what it was. Conceiving of ourselves as individuals who move through and achieve amidst an unchanging context is simplistic delusion.

The implications of such underdeveloped stories are far-reaching. Unable to tell our own personal stories healthfully embedded within growing communities and circumstances around us, leads to an overly individualistic worldview. It impedes our ability to conceive of ourselves as part of a world community and an interdependent web of existence. It curtails our capacity for empathy and encourages a commodification of experience and other people. It robs us of the conceptual language needed to be able build our way out of the climate crisis and systemic racism and sexism.

If you are still reading, your spirit is probably settling lower right now. Let’s follow it down to rest on the earth. Imagine you are sitting next to me on the rough ground beneath a tree. How about we stay here for a bit…there is shade, the weather is nice. Tell me, what is your story? Let’s skip the ‘once there was…then this happened to you…then you learned.’ Instead, I would love to bear witness to the places in life where you glided, and the places you sank. Gliding, who inspired you, who floated with you and goaded you on? Who was growing and changing and how did that inspire and challenge you? Who did you teach and what did they learn? Who and what were your teachers in life? Where did your community learn to grow that gave you joy, and where did it get stuck?

Our stories cannot live alone because they are tangled up in all the other stories we encounter; they are knotted in our wider communities. Tracing the lines and loosening the knots, balancing attention to all the threads that touch our lives, we can tell and retell how we are woven together and finally come to know the fabric of our shared destiny.

With this approach in mind, we are invited to reflect on our stories of the past two years. How have we tugged and stretched one another? What have we learned and taught one another? What has our growth made possible for each within, and those beyond, the congregation? Each to another, how have we changed our understanding of ourselves and our possibilities in this world?

Tell me, what is our story?

Cherry blossoms, which peak in April in the D.C. area

April 2021: Becoming Spring

It is spring! The season of rebirth and emergence is upon us, and I have been delighting in the gradual return to green. It seems that the pandemic has brought me closer to Earth’s rhythms, perhaps because I spend more time walking and watching outdoors: Less attention to traffic lights, other drivers, and stop signs, and more attention to bird sounds, footsteps, and the breeze.

This has me wondering, will my attention return to the old ways in a few months? There are certainly many things I will be glad to part with, such as squishy cucumbers from curbside pickup. Yet I must wonder at the silent change that has been stirring and emerging in my consciousness. My relationship to the world is becoming something new, truer to my deepest values. I don’t want to lose that.

Perhaps collectively, we are all shifting. Last summer many folks became more aware of police violence, and more, against Black people. We witnessed the rise in anti-Asian violence. Throughout the pandemic we have tried all manner of ways to stay connected—from online worship, open mic nights, small groups, to phone calls and email outreach from the Board, Membership, and the Pastoral Care Team. Underneath all this shifting care, what is emerging?

Here in these weeks and months as we look toward plans and hopes for reentry, let us pause to take in the fullness of what is quietly, underneath the surface, coming into being. Let us not brush aside this tender new growth amidst the dream of “old normal.” There are soft sprigs we ought to nurture. I want to stay close to Earth’s turning; I want to stay viscerally connected to protecting her season. And, this community wants to keep the new strategies and adaptations in care for one another. Let us notice all the new growths that have been quietly emerging, which speak to our deepest truths and our deepest longings. Keep space for these amidst the busy months of reentry. May we become a new, truer version of ourselves.

weight measure scales in black on white background, one on left with an X and the other with Y

March 2021: Committed to What?

In light of last month’s theme of Beloved Community, let us begin by asking, what is our commitment to beloved community? Or rather, what commitment shall we make to beloved community? There is a big difference in these two questions. The first puts us in a defensive position; from this position one might say, “of course I am fully committed to it, it is part of our values and part of being a UU.” But commitment is not about what you value, and it is not a contract. …More on that in a moment. The second question puts us in a position of active engagement and curiosity. Ah, this is a much happier frame of mind to act with creativity in this world! If we ask what commitments we ought to make to beloved community, we might wonder, “what can I do, what can I draw on, to pursue this ideal?”

Back to my proposition that commitment is not about what we value. It is related, for sure. We have other words and concepts for values, like principles and aspirations. Commitment, in turn, is about what we unite our lives around. Commitment comes from the Latin com (with, to unite) and mittere (to send, throw). Commitment is inherently about action, motion, and time—not static values.

Whereas beloved community is something we value, making a commitment to beloved community is about what we are committed to doing in order to help build it.

So this month, let us ask ourselves, what is it we are committed to doing to pursue our ideals? The Living the Pledge campaign is a wonderful place to begin to explore this question. Reflecting on adopting the 8th Principle is another (check out to find out more). Greening our building and grounds and our personal lives is another way to explore this question, as is supporting our neighbors at the elementary school through meals and other means (meal packs are active again so click here to sign up).

There are, of course, other commitments in our lives beyond commitments to building the beloved community. As your minister, I’ll admit I’m partial! Still, carefully discerning the question for all commitments is important. Commitment is not contract. Commitment is not value. Commitment is an action uniting your life’s resources toward something. So, it is a worthy question: What commitments shall you make toward what you value?

Hand profile used as tree with multicolor hands as leaves on blue background, will people profiles surrounding tree on ground

February 2021: Beloved Community

In the poem “One Love” shared for this month’s theme, Rev. Hope Johnson says, “We are one, A diverse group…Of proudly kindred spirits.” At this point in history, let us name the ways in which we are kindred. The forces of division are giving power to extremism, here and abroad. We must remember, each of us, the good that we are here on this earth to embody. We must name the things we will neither condone nor allow, and name the values of kindness and democracy that we live by and aspire to. Beloved Community will not build itself.

Surely, we might learn from history’s lessons. February is Black History month. But we should study Black history all year. Not only because American history is part of Black history, but because hope for our national salvation from tyranny is embedded in the hardest lessons that are recalled in that history. Lessons waiting like stones to be unearthed and rediscovered in order to restore, and make durable, the foundations of democracy.

We will not be able to move forward in efforts to counter violent white nationalist extremism without building on history’s lessons of racial discrimination, violence, and brutality in this country. Despite all the pain folded into that history, I am full of hope for healing because we have something the ancestors never had: their stories with which to build.

And so, we must listen to the past, openly and uncomfortably and with the goal not only of reminding ourselves how bad that was, but with the goal of discovering the keys to resistance and healing needed today. Beloved Community will not build itself, and we will not accidentally stumble upon it one day in relief. WE are the builders of tomorrow, and we are called now to find the stones and get to work. Let us build together.