The following is an essay – “what excites you about ministry?” – I had to write in 2009 when I applied for candidate status as a Unitarian Universalist minister. With my final step – ordination – on this Sunday – it’s affirming to see that I am still largely motivated by the same interests.
The light of a chalice. Pouring the waters. Exchanging flowers. Honouring Charles Darwin. Speaking out for justice. Celebrating connections. These are some of the UU rituals and practices which inspired me to turn to UU ministry. Three aspects of my vocation are most exciting: creating sacred space for reflection and connection, encouraging UUs to live out our shared values in daily life, and articulating the uniquely UU way of being in the world. Read the full post »
Posted by fjheath on May 3, 2013
I live in a maple-pine ecosystem with many sugar maples, with maple syrup a popular product at the farmer’s markets. This is an excerpt from a reflection on the wonder of maple trees.
Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.
Karen I. Shragg
Scott Russell Sanders, an American essayist and naturalist, once wrote: “It occurs to me that meditation is an effort to become for a spell more like a tree, open to whatever arises, without judging, without remembering the past or anticipating the future, fully present in the moment. The taste of that stillness refreshes me. When we surface from meditation, however, we are not turning from reality to illusion, as some spiritual traditions would have us believe; we are reclaiming the full powers of mind, renewed by our immersion in the realm of mountains and rivers, wind and breath.”
The full powers of mind. This is one of the strengths of our faith as Unitarian Universalists. We come together seeking transcendence – and knowledge – in both science and spiritual traditions. We become like trees and we learn from trees. Like Madonna, we know we live in a material world, so we seek to pay attention to the everyday, like a sugar maple in spring. As UUs, we explore, celebrate, and struggle with that tension of living both on the earth and within the mystery. We follow Earth Scholar Thomas Berry, who said: “The universe, the solar system, and the planet earth in themselves and in their evolutionary emergence constitute for the human community the primary revelation of that ultimate mystery whence all things emerge into being.”
The earth and the mystery – the yin and yang that frame our faith – are intertwined. We are grateful for both.
We are grateful for the wondrous presence of maple trees.
Posted by fjheath on April 19, 2013
Spring has receded as winter returns in the form of freezing rain and icy snow. Trees, cars, mailboxes – every surface slicked over with ice. Even the crocuses, which were merrily blooming yesterday, are closed up against the ice. I have been thinking of poet Langston Hughes’ poem In Time of Silver Rain, which has been adapted into a Unitarian Universalist hymn. I love this gentle song, and while Hughes was writing about a much warmer spring, the silver rain has been in abundance here in South-western Ontario. But even with the freezing rain, spring is lurking, waiting to return. Robins, cardinals, finches, sparrows, and blue jays are busy in the gardens, and the first pale mist of green is emerging from grass and shrubs. Life, life, life, indeed.
In time of silver rain the earth puts forth new life again,
green grasses grow and flowers lift their heads,
and over all the plain the wonder spreads of life, of life, of life!
In time of silver rain the butterflies lift silken wings,
and trees put forth new leaves to sing in joy
beneath the sky in time of silver rain,
when spring and life are new.
from the hymnal Singing in the Living Tradition
adapted from the Langston Hughes poem.
Posted by fjheath on April 11, 2013
This is the best time of year for sitting on the couch in my living room. The two large maples at the front of the house are not yet in leaf and the sun is low enough that the light streams into the room for hours in the afternoon. It’s a peaceful spot (except when the dog is barking madly at the people passing by on the sidewalk!) and a good place to practice self-compassion.
Image by Itaya
Compassion is, in part, a sympathy of feeling, of experiencing what another is experiencing. While much of the literature on compassion calls for us to act, to serve others selflessly,and a life of service does develop empathy,for those of us who judge ourselves far more than anyone else,perhaps compassion needs to begin at home. By accepting the light and dark within us,we can find our way to compassion for others. Read the full post »
Posted by fjheath on April 5, 2013
On Sunday May 5th, the Grand River Unitarian Congregation in Kitchener will ordain me as a Unitarian Universalist minister, bestowing upon me the title of Reverend and a stole as a symbol of ministry.
Please see my Ordination page (also up on the menu bar) for more details about this special service of celebration.
Much of ministry is a benediction—
A speaking well of each other and the world—
A speaking well of what we value:
A speaking well of our efforts—
A speaking well of our dreams.
This is how we celebrate life:
Through speaking well of it,
Living the benediction,
and becoming as a word
Posted by fjheath on March 18, 2013
I’m feeling grateful today. The chalice is overflowing! I’m grateful that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Durham in Whitby, Ontario has hired me to be their consulting minister beginning in April. Grateful that the Grand River Unitarian Congregation will ordain me in May. Grateful that the snowdrops beside the house are just coming into bud. I’m grateful to be part of this world, a world that include poets like Gary Snyder.
Prayer for the Great Family
Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
in our minds so be it.
Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing, light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowering spiral grain
in our minds so be it.
Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.
Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave and aware
in our minds so be it.
Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.
Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep— he who wakes us—
in our minds so be it.
Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars— and goes yet beyond that—
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us—
The Mind is his Wife.
so be it.
after a Mohawk prayer
Gary Snyder, Turtle Island
Posted by fjheath on March 15, 2013
I find myself longing for spring, so grateful for the lengthening daylight as we head towards the equinox. In anticipation, I offer this delightful excerpt from Pattiann Roger’s poem Rolling Naked in the Morning Dew (1989).
Lillie Langtry practiced it, when weather permitted,
Lying down naked every morning in the dew,
With all of her beauty believing the single petal
Of her white skin could absorb and assume
That radiating purity of liquid and light.
And I admit to believing myself, without question,
In the magical powers of dew on the cheeks
And breasts of Lillie Langtry believing devotedly
In the magical powers of early morning dew on the skin
Of her body lolling in purple beds of bird’s-foot violets,
Pink prairie mimosa. And I believe, without doubt,
In the mystery of the healing energy coming
From that wholehearted belief in the beneficent results
Of the good delights of the naked body rolling
And rolling through all the silked and sun-filled,
Dusky-winged, sheathed and sparkled, looped
And dizzied effluences of each dawn
Of the rolling earth.
Just consider how the mere idea of it alone
Has already caused me to sing and sing
This whole morning long.
Lillie Langtry – 1899 “The Degenerates” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Posted by fjheath on March 8, 2013
This blessing by UU minister Nancy Shaffer brings with it memories of spring salads filled with bright green lettuce fresh from the fields of local farmers.
Field at Table
When I begin to bless this food
and close my eyes I lose myself
first just in green: how
do leaves grow themselves this
green and how do they
grow at all to be so large and
how do they make themselves from
soil which in itself is only brown and
sunlight helps and water but
how is the end of this, green? How
can I bless this food? It blesses me.
Thank you, I say, for this bowl
which also is field, this green
which is meal before
I eat. Thank you, I say,
that this green becomes me.
Thank you for mysteries, this life.
First Salad of the Season (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)
Posted by fjheath on February 15, 2013
It was never too strong for us:
image from coffeemarket.com.au
make it blacker, Papa,
thick in the bottom,
tell again how the years will gather
in small white cups,
how luck lives in a spot of grounds.
Leaning over the stove, he let it
boil to the top, and down again.
Two times. No sugar in his pot.
And the place where men and women
break off from one another
was not present in that room.
The hundred disappointments,
fire swallowing olive-wood beads
at the warehouse, and the dreams
tucked like pocket handkerchiefs
into each day, took their places
on the table, near the half-empty
dish of corn. And none was
more important than the others,
and all were guests. When
he carried the tray into the room,
high and balanced in his hands,
it was an offering to all of them,
stay, be seated, follow the talk
wherever it goes. The coffee was
the center of the flower.
Like clothes on a line saying
you will live long enough to wear me,
a motion of faith. There is this,
and there is more.
Naomi Shabib Nye
from Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature, Columbia University Press, 1992
Posted by fjheath on February 8, 2013
As a Unitarian minister, every time I create a service I find myself scrolling through word documents trying to find that quote, reading, meditation or chalice lighting that fits the theme. I can waste a lot of time seeking that perfect piece – one of the downsides of a tradition without a sacred text! Most of the time I’m glad to find myself opened up in unexpected ways through reading novels, watching tv shows, or listening to tedx talks; I love referencing Anne of Green Gables as well as the Dalai Lama in a reflection. But it is a challenge trying to remember where I found that insight…
I created wordchalice to hold all these pieces in one place with a good search engine. I’ve only got a fraction of the texts I use up there, but I’m adding more each week. The blog includes insights from musicians, scientists, feminists, writers, gardeners, poets, theologians and wise people from across the centuries. And from tv shows that have wowed me with anew ways to consider the world. My original work will also be posted there. The Empty Chalice will remain my blog, the tumblr account is my reference database. An eclectic and evolving gathering of texts, I hope wordchalice will be a useful site for anyone seeking inspiration on topics from the sacred to the food we eat. It can be accessed via my blogroll anytime.
Posted by fjheath on February 7, 2013