(Online) A Message for our Beloved Community

Reverend Leslie Kee:
Good Morning and Welcome to this space where each of us has arrived by the touch of a finger!
We have brought with us this morning so much, and so let us begin with the familiar. If you have a candle, I would invite you to light it as I light our chalice and kindle the flame which symbolizes so much:

• May the warmth of this flame remind us of the warmth of our homes where we are safe from the harshness of wind, cold, and the last vestiges of winter struggling to stay.
• May this warmth also remind us of our fellow human beings who do not have the safety of a home to protect them from the harshness and cold, which too many times, are the walls around their lives.
• May the brightness of this fame be like a beacon to guide us so we may travel a good path where all that nourishes the flourishing of life abounds.
• May the brightness of this flame also shine for those who are traveling paths where there is not enough compassion, kindness, safety, understanding or love.
• May this flame remind us life flourishes because we need each other – that no matter what comes our way, we do not have to be alone because the love which fills each breath we exhale, is just like oxygen which sustains the fire.
• And for this moment, this radical moment, may we find a certainty within the knowable bonds of love and community.

Again I would like to bid everyone a very good morning – and welcome to this cool Zoom Room we hope to fill with all the good stuff we bring to those bricks and mortar buildings we love and call our UU homes!
I am Rev. Leslie Kee, minister of the Casper and Laramie Unitarian Universalist congregations, and I would like to welcome members and friends from both communities this morning! I would also like to extend a very special welcome to anyone who is joining this UU service for the first time – no matter the color of your skin or hair, no matter where you live or how you make your living; no matter whom you love; no matter the faith of your childhood – you are welcome!
Also joining me this morning is Laura Gossman our co-service leader.

Before we begin our service, I would like to confess I have been plagued with a considerable amount of ‘tech anxiety’ these past few days and I would guess some of you have been feeling a bit anxious too – so now is a good time to let you know if something happens, like your screen goes dark, don’t worry, when it happened to me, I just tapped around on the corners of my screen and the Zoom room magically reappeared.
Even if you get disconnected somehow, all you have to do is go back into the link and rejoin – you won’t be disrupting the broadcast.

Later in the service, we’ll ask you to open your chat box and you will be invited to type in your comments and so this is an opportunity to become friends with your computer or smart phone if you aren’t already, and believe me, if I can do it so can you!

Now I invite all of us to relax and think enjoy, while we open our hearts and minds to this amazing opportunity to be together – to minister to each other – to offer our prayers and our gratitude – and to celebrate this amazing product of human ingenuity — technology!

I invite you to open your chat box and the words to our unison covenant will appear, please appear recite them with me. We are going to unmute everyone for this part so unison won’t exactly be what happens, instead we’ll have cacophony of echoes and delays and it will be a joyous sound!

Love is the spirit of this church and service is its cause.
This is our great covenant, to dwell together in peace,
to seek truth in love, and to help one another.

James Vila Blake (adapted)

This morning I would like to share a message of comfort and of hope because by coming together, we have brought with us so much – from fear of the known and the unknown; worry about ourselves, our loved ones, and even those who we do not know; and I am not ashamed to admit I still have some residual tech anxiety because I am not friends with ‘Alexa’ and she does not control the lights and television in my house – and probably never will!
We also bring with us our deepest and most sincere hopes and prayers for a swift ending to the pandemic which is causing so much chaos and death.

And surely, I am not the only one who has also brought with me this morning some real optimism – I’m optimistic because I did figure out how to use Zoom and my smart phone didn’t out smart me this time!

Also, all of you are here this morning and that alone brings profound gratitude and overflowing optimism into my heart. Despite the chaos and rapid pace of change swirling around the whole world, I know in my heart of hearts, many people around the whole world are reaching out to each other – gathering this very hour to bless and make sacred their holy spaces, be they spaces created by technology or by the intentions of the human spirit.
I believe each of us is capable and devoted to bringing forth our best self so, together, we nourish the web of creation with the vibrancy of our own words; our own unique prayers and intentions; the resourcefulness which abounds in every community; and always – affirmation of the true nature of life: diversity which will ultimately be humanity’s saving grace.

Let us take a moment now, draw a deep calming breath, get comfortable, take another deep breath —- and let us worship together.

The Rev. Dr. Lynn Ungar has written a poem called:
PANDEMIC
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

….reach out with your heart….Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful…. Reach out your heart…Reach out your words… Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch…..Promise this world your love—

I really can’t say it any better than Rev. Lynn. Deep down in our hearts, we know it is essential to be grounded in those values and deeply held beliefs which are the heart of this beloved spiritual community we have chosen for ourselves.

Deep in our heart of hearts, we know everything is going to be ok because in our own life times each of us has witnessed the pure goodness humans are capable of.

We have witnessed and experienced the wide generosity humans are capable of.
We have been immersed and anointed in the vibrant and limitless potential of love.

Yes, we are going to come through this, our time in history, because so many are committed to those values and actions which will help humanity grow and learn and become more loving and compassionate – and yes, we who have gathered together this morning believe in and draw upon the power and resilience of the human spirit!

Loving Kindness Meditation

So we are going to participate in a Loving Kindness Meditation and Community Prayer created by Rev. Kristin Psaki at Foothills UU in Fort Collins. Foothills Unitarian reached out to us last week to help, and we are so grateful for technical training from Rev. Sean Neil-Barron and being allowed to use their resources.

In this Loving Kindness Meditation and Community prayer, we will be alternating between singing and sharing in the chat box. Rev. Kristin’s voice will guide us through it.

Rev. Kristin Psaki Metta Meditation

We are excited to also share a video by Rev. Sean from Foothills Unitarian of his Pilgrimage to the Grocery Store. A Techy word for this is a Sermon VLOG – his first ever. His inspiring message speaks of supporting community and answering the call of courageous love.

Rev. Sean Neil-Barron A Pilgrimage to the Grocery Store

Reverend Leslie Kee:

This past year, UUs in both the Laramie and Casper congregations have been planning Sunday services under the umbrella theme of ‘Living our UU Values.’ Many UU churches around the country also having an overarching theme and Foothills UU in Ft. Collins, where Rev. Sean Neil-Barron is the Associate Minister, has had a theme also: theirs is ‘Courageous Love.’
Because I know we are a compassionate, generous, and loving community, for me the most courageous question is, ‘what will we become?’ And this is where being able to stay grounded in those values which anchor our faith tradition like – valuing the inherent worth and capability of every person; of valuing justice, equity and compassion in human relations; of valuing a free and responsible search for truth and meaning – are what give us perspective and the assurance; and when we depend upon this solid foundation, then the weight of the world doesn’t seem so heavy.
We can deal with the stuff which demands our immediate attention while at the same time, we can find comfort in knowing the wider community which we also care about will be ok.

When your own heart is full of love, your spirit will make sure this love and confidence emanates into the world.
Just like the generosity of our fellow (and tech savvy) UUs in Ft. Collins reminds us, we don’t have to go it alone.

At this time, I would like to take a few minutes and by using your chat box, invite you to briefly share what is in your heart this morning.

TIME FOR SHARING

Let us pray
Let us create a prayer together:
At the center of the gathered community dwells the Holy.
We are the prayer, each and all
One by one, we come to this place – whole and broken,
Commencing and concluding, laughing and weeping.
And soul by soul, the prayer begins: “Spirit of Life and Love…”
Two by two, we greet one another – smiling, nodding, speaking, embracing.
And in relationship, the prayer continues.
“Spirit of Life and Love, where we meet is a sacred space…”
Moment by moment the circle builds, pulsing like four hundred heartbeats.
We fill the circle with our breath; we inspire.
The circle fills us with wealth, we are inspirited.
The prayer rises on our very breathing together. “Spirit of Life and Love,
where we meet is a sacred space and we are inspired by one another’s presence…”
The circle will not, cannot, go on forever, yet this circle will never die.
What each of us finds here is what we are not. It makes us whole.
It gives us strength to go out in the world beyond this holy community
beyond this sacred space, to begin yet another prayer: let us pray:
“Spirit of Life and Love, where we meet is a sacred space
and we are inspired by one another’s presence.
At the center of the gathered community dwells the Holy.
We are the prayer, each and all. We are the prayer each and all.
Amyn.