Happy Solstice!

Screen capture from the December 20, 2020 Yule/Solstice Service of First Church Unitarian, Littleton.

Happy Winter Solstice! Happy Yule!

Yesterday’s online-only service (you can watch here) got me in the Yuletide spirit. I don’t mean to pat myself on the back for this, because it was mostly the Yule ceremony as done annually by parishioners that got me into the mindset. Usually, the Yule celebration would happen on a Saturday night, but pandemic logistics made that essentially impossible. I was pleased that it worked quite well for a virtual service. It was sweet to see so many faces from the congregation — and to see some stark-but-lovely winter solstice scenery. It was a bonus to have The Firehouse Band’s version of “The Christians and the Pagans” for the gathering video music. Also, The Church Choir was in full voice and sounded amazing! Many thanks to parishioners Carole Tillis and Carolyn McCreary who did so much to make the Yule celebration happen.

“reminiscent of cross burnings”

I have been sickened by what protesters “attending a Pro-Trump rally” in D.C. did over the weekend. There was violence, and there were blatantly racist actions like burning Black Lives Matter signs at historically black churches.

The Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills (senior pastor of one of the churches in question) said, “For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.” You can read more on this CNN webpage.

Obviously racism is nothing new in this country. But it is beyond troubling that blatant racists with a penchant for intimidation and sometimes violence have been winked at by the President of the USA for the past four years.

I hope and pray that we can get to a better place in this country before it is too late. May 2021 be the beginning of a new era.

Hanukkah Light

The very hanukkia I acquired in 1993, at FCU this morning.

I know Hanukkah is considered to be a minor Jewish holiday, but I have always thought it was a lovely holiday in so many ways. Today I attempted to share one small part of my appreciation for the holiday (you can watch the service here.) I bought a menorah (or hanukkia) for the Hanukkah of 1993, my last year in the US Navy. I can’t even remember what motivated me to do it. I was in the process of applying to seminary that year, so maybe the study of world religions was on my mind. I have lit the menorah for Hanukkah ever since, trying to be as respectful as I can. I am not Jewish, so it’s certainly not the same experience as it would be for a Jew. But I do feel closer to the Divine when I do it, and I feel solidarity with my Jewish siblings when I do it. I hope that that’s a sign that my practice is for the good.

The Zen of an Occupational Hazard?

Last Sunday, December 6, I preached on Zen Buddhism (in honor of Bodhi Day, celebrated traditionally by some on December 8). Now I have Buddhism on my brain, which is wonderful — but it makes it harder to get in the right mindset for Advent, and tomorrow’s Hanukkah homily, and the following Sunday’s solstice/Yule service!

The Buddha giving his famous “Flower Sermon”


But, it was worth it.

I have been a tai chi chuan practitioner for about 15 years, and so I’ve always felt drawn to Taoism. Now I’m feeling a very close tie to Chan Buddhism (the Chinese form of Buddhism that “traveled” to Japan and became known as “Zen”).

I find that Chan Buddhism brings together many of the things that I hold dear, and after the “holidays” are over, I plan to dive in. Stay tuned!

Loss in 2020

To say that 2020 has been a difficult year filled with loss is an understatement. Today I’m a little extra sad because today is the birth anniversary of Tom, a member of the church I serve and our office administrator. We lost Tom in early March 2020, just before the pandemic turned everything upside down. (He did not have Covid-19.) The timing was such that we haven’t been able to have a full memorial service for Tom yet. I know many other people have experienced something similar with the inability to have a typical memorial service or funeral this year. We were lucky that the timing with Tom was such that we were able to visit him in the hospital until the day he died, and that was a blessing.

I recently looked at a list of lost “notables” in 2020. We definitely lost some inspiring people this past year, including some of my personal heroes (like Bill Withers and Little Richard). But probably the loss of a “notable” that hit me (and many others) the hardest this year was the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was so devastating, with a lasting and difficult consequence. We at First Church Unitarian in Littleton had an online vigil for her, and somehow our humble vigil was mentioned in a Boston Globe article which you can read here (“Ruth Bader Ginsburg remembered at candlelit vigils around the region“).

Tom in red sweater, in his office at FCU. I’m seated at his desk, surrounded by him and other GALA brothers from the congregation. This was just a couple of months before he died.

Neither Tom nor RBG died from Covid-19, though more than 285,000 Americans have died from the disease so far. I pray that 2021 comes with less loss.