Reverend Leslie Kee:
Leslie Welcome – Good morning! Welcome to the Unitarian Universalist communities of Casper and Laramie Wyoming shared worship service. As we begin our time together this morning, I would like to draw upon the beautiful words from some of my favorite prayers which remind us –
at the center of the gathered community dwells the Holy – one by one we have come into this place whole and broken, confident and yet still afraid … and what each of will find here is that which will make us whole and give us strength to promise the world our love…
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 religions of your childhood – you are welcome to this place made holy by our choice to come together, with open minds and open hearts. Welcome everyone.
If you have brought a candle with you this morning, I would invite you to join in lighting it as we light our flaming chalice which will illuminate and guide our time together this morning.
For our chalice lighting this morning, I will be sharing the words of UU minister Reverend Nancy Reid-McKee.
knows no boundaries.
We are not confined by the physical limits
Or, for that matter,
Of what often
Binds us, restricts us
Holds us back.
We are free-er than we know
When we release ourselves
And each other
Of what is needed
For true community.
We are here
Together In space
I see you.
I hear you
I love you
And light this chalice
A beacon of this community
Holding us all together.
Intros to the service theme and opening hymn
In this our second online Sunday service, we ask for you patience and prayers as we all learn how to be together in this new way. The worship theme for March for UU Casper is Possibilities – how ironic that we are living in a time many of us thought was not possible. Our minds and hearts are immersed in imagining the possibilities – possibilities growing from the grief for what we’ve lost and our fear. We may be imaging dire possibilities – illness, loss of our income, our jobs, losing those we love, worst case scenarios we keep hearing about. They weigh on our souls and rob us of hope.
To nurture our spirits, let us remember to imagine possibilities that can arise not from fear, but from faith. In What, or who, do you have faith? If you feel moved, please type in a word in the chat box to share.
Where does your faith lie? In each other… the spark of the divine in each of us… the quest for justice…. Community…. The power of Love… human ingenuity, God, your higher power, mother earth, science, human kindness, your values (add more from chat if any)? Let’s imagine what possibilities might arise from these. We will have a chance to explore these ideas during our discussion forum later in the service.
Here’s a possibility that some of us may not have imagined – singing together, while apart – each in our own homes, across the internet!
Our opening song written by Linda Hirshhorn, entitled “In these hard times.” – it’s short and simple and easy to catch on, and we’ll display the sheet music for you. Although we’ll all still be muted, I invite you all to join in singing. As we sing – apart and together, let’s imagine the beautiful noise of many voices:
“In these Hard Times” by Linda Hirshhorn, https://www.uua.org/worship/words/music/these-hard-times
In these hard times there will always be singing, and for that I am grateful. I have faith that we will one day soon sing together again, no longer apart. That possibility makes me smile and brings me comfort and hope.
In your chat box, you’ll see that Reverend Kee has posted the words of our unison covenant, I would invite you to 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 and beautiful noise!
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)
Reverend Leslie Kee:
The theme for this month has been Possibilities and I’m finding myself spending time contemplating the irony today’s big-picture is generating – not that dealing with a deadly virus which has pretty much turned the human world upside down is in any way a good thing – but it is the actual process of being turned upside down is where I’m finding so much irony spilling out.
For everyone who is joining our service for the first time today, and a quick refresher for those who have been around awhile, I’d like to speak to the fact there are many family-sized UU congregations, including in Casper and Laramie. Most of these congregations were started beginning in the late 1800s and steadily increased in number until the present time.
The Laramie Fellowship will celebrate its 65th birthday this year, and the Casper Community will celebrate its 48th birthday this year.
The American West’s family-sized congregations were started and then nourished by folks who embraced Unitarian and eventually Universalist theology. Through the decades, this heritage of lay-led fellowships has been a strong counter-balance to the New England culture of minister-led churches.
Here in the upper Midwest, particularly Wyoming, I like to think about the handful of UU Fellowships as being like the sturdy sagebrush with roots which cling tenaciously into the topsoil no matter how hard the wind blows, how demanding the temperature swings, or the amount of moisture and nutrients which are able to seep their way into the hard-packed soil.
With the arrival of professionally-trained ordained ministers into rural western communities, UU fellowships began facing a new challenge. It’s no secret, particularly in smaller congregations, ministers tend to come and go while the congregation remains. And in-between ministers, the work of maintaining the church and its ministries becomes 100% the responsibility of the lay leaders. This is why ministers encounter tenacious, deeply loyal, and highly competent lay leadership teams when they arrive at their new church.
Almost a year ago, the UU Fellowship of Laramie invited me to come on board as the part-time minister; and when asked if this would work for the Casper folks, the response was very positive support of the possibilities sharing a minister could create. And I would like to add with all humility, I brought with me some tenaciousness, loyalty, and a suitcase full of professional ministerial skills which have been serving me well also.
And so all of us have been exploring what a truly shared ministry looks and feels like.
Today, I share my ministry with two stand-alone congregations and the all the wonderful individuals who make up the congregations. At the same time, each leadership team, and all of you, are sharing your ministries with me.
It’s really that simple, we are here today because each of us yearns for so many of the same things; and each of us has found a religious tradition which articulates values and philosophical tenants which feel right and encourage us to do better; and most importantly, each of us has found a spiritual home – that place where we can hear each other, ask each other, and generate a love courageous and big enough to send back into this hurting world.
Because our beloved community is growing and blending and maturing, when this upsetting Corona pandemic arrived, it just made sense for all of us UUs and friends to embrace this new dimension of our call to ministry – and we were ready for it.
Here we are today – who would ever have imagined we would be holding a virtual Zoom church service, broadcasting and participating from our homes (maybe even wearing pajamas!) with folks in Casper, Laramie, and who knows – maybe someone in Medicine Bow or Rock River or Alcova or a ranch somewhere in between – someone who was looking and found us!
And this is where I’m enjoying some of the irony – each of our congregations brings tenacity and determination to let no unbidden circumstance uproot and blow us away. Yet here we are, a gathering of UUs and friends who have a message which the larger world needs to hear – and if it takes a pandemic, a Zoom room, a computer, or smart phone to broadcast it, then so be it!
We have had to loosen our grip a bit in order to make room for the changes we needed to make – kind of like those herds of buffalo who when they roamed across the prairie, their hooves hoed the soil just enough for nutrients and moisture to seep in and create spaces for renewal and regrowth. Trampling, and burning, flooding, disruption and destruction are actually what life needs in order to regenerate and thrive, this is one of the examples of pure irony which never loses its power to fascinate!
In a family-sized congregation, especially in a time of crisis, we sometimes feel more intimately the challenge to move away from the familiar and comfortable. But the good news is, especially right now, representatives from both the Casper and Laramie congregations’ leadership teams, and all of you who have zoomed here this morning, have affirmed how important it is to create safe and inviting space, even if it is virtual space, in order for creativity to have room to grow; and when we do this, the promise of inclusivity, the challenge of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and the warm light of healthy relationships will become the heart of this new space.
So for me, there is a wonderful irony which spilled out of the unwanted circumstances and which compelled us to change.
Because, at the center of the gathered community dwells the Holy – one by one we have come into this place whole and broken, confident and yet still afraid … and what each of will find here is that which will make us whole and give us strength to promise the world our love…
May it be so. Amyn.
A prayer for health care workers
Rev. Florence Caplow
I have been thinking about those working in health care, their tremendous courage and willingness and vulnerability to this epidemic. Already there have been doctors and nurses who have become critically ill. I think also of the cleaning staff in hospitals, therapists, chaplains, and others.
To those who care for us
When our bodies grow weak.
For those using all their love and skill to keep the vulnerable alive another day.
For those working without enough protection this morning, without masks or gowns, re-using yesterday’s mask with a silent prayer that it still works, or using only a bandanna.
Who may be frightened of what is coming
Or who are already working around the clock
We send our deep love and gratitude.
May you be safe.
May you be well.
May your family be well.
May you be nurtured yourself by family and friends.
May you feel and know our wholehearted prayers and appreciation.
We send our blessings.
(Introduction to the prayer): As we imagine the rich and meaningful possibilities that may arise from our faith in each other and in community, can we imagine the possibility Of becoming a better listener?
A prayer for the listeners by the Rev. Joe M. Cherry
When my ears are full, Of the worries,
The concerns, The pains,
Grant me permission for silence
When my arms
And shoulders, And back,
Ache from the burdens,
Grant me permission to set them down
Guide me to another,
A friend, perhaps
To talk with
Not, for once, to be talked at
And may I not be a burden to them
As I pour out my pain
But a place, a space of mutual care.
My listener friend, May you always know
No matter how tired I am,
You can turn to me, too
We’ve been working out this week how to hold a Zoom discussion forum, where people can actually be unmuted and talk to each other in a meaningful way, and we think we have it figured out! Our Zoom technician Megan Jessup will be creating several zoom breakout rooms, and we will all be divided into groups of about 7 or 8 and transferred to those rooms for our discussion. When you arrive you should be unmuted. You’ll need to reopen your chat box when you enter to see the discussion questions that Rev. Kee will be adding to the chat box shortly. You can greet everyone else, introduce yourselves if there are new faces, and then begin your discussion on our two questions. Our breakout sessions will be 15 minutes long and then everyone will return automatically to the main room. Megan will be visiting the rooms to assist with any issues.
Let us all balance the opportunity to share with the opportunity to listen by providing space for everyone who wants to share. If you want to leave the room and return to the main room you can do that at any time.
Possibilities arising from faith. To nurture our spirits, remember to try to imagine the possibilities that can arise not from fear and grief, but from faith.
We shared some of our object of faith in the chat box earlier in the service: Where does your faith lie? In Each other… the spark of the divine in each of us… the quest for justice…. Community… God… …. The power of Love… human ingenuity, your higher power, mother earth, science, human kindness, your values (add more from chat if any). Let’s imagine what possibilities might arise from these. When we gather together again in the main room we’ll be muted, but we’ll take a few minutes to share our thoughts with everyone using the chat box.
Here are our two discussion questions:
Discussion question 1: What is the importance of faith for you in this difficult and uncertain time?
Discussion question 2: Imagine and share the possibilities that might be arising for you and the world from that in which you place your faith.
“Be Safe, Be Well,” written and performed by Dan Berggren, a member of the Assoc of UU Music Ministers.