Macdellar school in Ghana…

Above: Macdellar student-athletes with school founder/director Mark Tillah to the right.

Several folks from my congregation (First Church Unitarian, Littleton) have become involved in fundraising for the Macdellar Sons of Grace School in the Volta region of Ghana. In fact, there is a yard sale this Saturday (June 10) to raise funds for the school; volunteers from FCU will hold the yard sale at the Littleton Historical Society (4 Rogers Street, Littleton, right near the church).

I have a four month sabbatical coming in early 2024. Inspired by my parishioners, I will visit the school and volunteer there for about a month any way that is useful. (At least, “God willing”. That’s the plan.)

I created a website for the school (the same one linked above), so that was my first volunteer task!

I’m very excited to get involved with this wonderful school that provides a free education to kids who would not be able to afford the private and public schools in Ghana otherwise.

Coming back from the pandemic

It has been quite a busy time, trying to come back from the Covid-19 pandemic. I realize that it’s not over, but we are approaching a “new normal”. I’m proud of what First Church Unitarian has been able to accomplish, offering most things in multiplatform or “hybrid” mode. But everything has changed; not just for FCU, but for everyone. Time just keeps marching along too, of course. (Whatever “time” is.) It’s a good time to be nimble and prepared to try new things. We are doing our best. I do enjoy the challenge, mostly. But I still miss some things about pre-pandemic times. I still feel like fewer events happen in-person now, and I miss many of the gatherings. No denying that there are benefits, including more online options and less driving and less pollution. I try to keep an open mind.

More… “A Cloud Never Dies”

A new short documentary of Thich Nhat Hanh’s life was just released. You can watch it here:

It’s a nice short documentary. And it made me feel affirmed in the things I had chosen to highlight during my March 20th service since a lot of the same things are covered here!

In other news, I did indeed receive the 5 Mindfulness Trainings from the Order of Interbeing on my Sunday off (March 27th). They bestowed on me the lovely dharma name “Steadfast Peace of the Source”.

I continue to be fed by my increased meditation and mindfulness practice. I feel very lucky.

Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh

The past years have produced a shift in me, spiritually. For years, I have studied Vedanta and Taoism. I continue to be very moved and inspired by the wisdom found in these traditions.

A few years ago, in 2017, I loved to Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell has the second-largest Cambodian immigrant population in the United States. I have attended some local Buddhist services with the Cambodian community when I have been able (sometimes challenging due to my duties as a parish minister and the timing of that). Through these experiences, I have been feeling myself pulled increasingly toward Buddhism. Cambodian Buddhism is in the Theravada school, but in part because of my years of being drawn to Vedanta and Taoism, I find myself personally drawn to Chan or Zen Buddhism.

This year, I began to offer a weekly meditation practice group with my parishioners that we call the Loving-Kindness Sangha Meditation Practice Group (normally we meet on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m., online during the pandemic). Typically, we meditate in the style of Insight Mediation or Vipassana.

I have often found myself listening to the online meditations given by Thich Nhat Hanh, as so many are available through the Plum Village website and on YouTube. Sometimes I have shared his meditations with my group. I have found myself more and more drawn to the practices of the Order of Interbeing that Thay founded, which I have learned about since Thay’s passing in January.

This past Sunday, I led a worship service in honor and remembrance of Thich Nhat Hanh. It was done in the Unitarian Universalist style/tradition. In the process of preparing for that, I realized that I have quoted Thich Nhat Hanh in my sermons over the years more than any other person; the only sources I have quoted more often are scriptures of various world religions.

I am finding myself wanting to take refuge in the three jewels and getting deeper into Buddhist practice. It feels like a calling unto itself. I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship, and want to be more actively involved there. But I also want to be involved with the Order of Interbeing. I am excited for what delving into the practice might bring.

Here is the Sunday service remembering Thich Nhat Hanh:

My sister in ministry, around the corner…

Long time, loooooong time, no blog post. Covid-19 has meant that I spend far too much time online. I think in part because of that, I’ve had essentially no desire to blog. But I’m going to try to get back into it, because … there’s a lot to share!

Photo title: “It’s not polite to point”. (Rev. Lara Hoke points at Rev. Jen Munroe-Nathans during the charge.)

One of the nicest things that has happened during the pandemic, for me personally, is that an old friend is now the minister at the church around the corner, the Congregational Church of Littleton (CCOL). Once upon a time, CCOL and First Church Unitarian (FCU) were the same Town Church, established in 1714. In the 1830s and 1840s, we had that trinitarian/unitarian split and became two separate congregations. But with my old friend (Pastor Jen Munroe-Nathans) now around the corner, I hope we can join together more and more!

Yesterday, I had the honor of delivering the Charge to the Minister and the Charge to the Congregation in Pastor Jen’s installation. If you want to watch the service, here it is:

It was a lovely and inspiring service. (My piece, for my mother, who will want to start there, is here.)

I so look forward to more and more “good trouble” with my old friend, and our congregations.

My grandfather was in fact an ordained German Reform minister (Rev. Dr. Elmer R. Hoke), which is part of the United Church of Christ, like CCOL. So that’s kind of cool, too.