Here Comes the Sun…

painting by Bernie Fuchs



I love the light and stillness in this brilliant painting, which so beautifully evokes summer sunshine.  Summer solstice, the longest day of the year is a good day to celebrate the gifts of sun and season. It’s a day of strawberries, blue sky, and shimmering heat, at least this year.

For Unitarians, I see the solstice days – the longest and shortest days of the year – as a good day to remember that we belong to this earth and this solar system.   The orbit of the earth around the sun is such that our northern hemisphere is angled towards the sun, giving us more of the sun’s rays, tomorrow our orbit will begin to shift slowly around.   Today we will have more than fifteen hours of sunlight: summer has now officially begun here in the northen hemisphere. Continue reading

Letting the beautiful stuff out…

from Heath Ceramics

I was rich and I didn’t know it. We are all rich and ignore the buried fact of accumulated wisdom. So again and again my stories and my plays teach me, remind me, that I must never doubt myself, my gut, my ganglion, or my Ouija subconscious again.

From now on I hope always to stay alert, to educate myself as best I can. But lacking this, in future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out.  We never sit anything out.

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.   Continue reading

The Flame Challenge

What is a flame?  When we light the chalice at the beginning of our service, what are we physically bringing into being to symbolize our spiritual orientation?  Can you explain it to an 11 year old?

The Centre for Communicating Science has a new challenge inspired by the always more awesome than awesome Alan Alda.   As an 11 year old, Alda asked his teacher “what is a flame?’ She replied “oxidation”, an answer that may be accurate but certainly did not provide illumination for the young Alda.  Alan Alda, who is not only a world class actor – the only man who ever made me want to vote for a Republican nominee – as well as a writer of humour, honesty and wisdom (Never Have Your Dog Stuffed); he is also a science geek.  Invited to be a guest editor of the journal Science, he offered up the flame challenge.  Describe what a flame is in a way that an 11 year old can appreciate and understand.  The goal is to acheive clarity and vividness.

This is a great contest for Unitarian Universalists.  Our key symbol, that which represents us most deeply, is the flaming chalice.  We are the people of the chalice; part of our orientation is to find spiritual nourishment in the wonder of scientific enquiry.  How do we understand what we are doing when we light the chalice?  How is the symbol related to the reality? How do we describe it to ourselves?  To people who ask us what the chalice is all about?  And can we explain the beauty of a flame without using jargon, but with scientific accuracy, in a way that will capture a kid’s imagination? Can we explain our chalice flame to an 11 year old?

The contest closes April 2nd.  I’m working on my entry….

The Golden Spiral

      The core of Unitarian Universalism is the concept that “everything is connected and part of the whole”.

  As UUs, we are individuals freely gathered in community to explore and celebrate the wonder of living on the earth and within the mystery.  We live within the mystery, the divine, the universe, the whole; we belong to it and participate in it.  Each of us is whole, just as we are, and we are always, intrinsically, part of the Whole.

Continue reading

Welcome to the Empty Chalice

This blog is intended to be an exploration of Unitarian Universalism (and the wonders of life) from the perspective of an almost-but-not-quite minister living in Canada in the twenty-first century.  What are the possibilities of this tradition for this new century?   How can we tell stories from our history in a way that can provide guidance for the future?  How can we use our symbols and rituals to enrich our communities and our lives?

I hope to explore these questions and, although it goes against typical Unitarian expectations, begin to shape some ellipitical, elusive, sideways answers.

I take much spiritual sustenance from our chalice symbol.  I light a chalice at home.  A meeting at a congregation feels incomplete with a flickering flame.  But I also love the chalice as a cup, a cup that often holds a flame, but can also be empty.

The empty chalice is a powerful symbol that can help us develop our spiritual wisdom, which would be a good thing. Particularly today, when we are saturated with information coming at us from books, magazines, radios, websites, blogs, facebook, twitter, tumblr and on and on.   Our brains are full, and while that makes for much witty conversation and funny wall photos, I wonder what it does for developing wisdom?

I like this zen story.

An eager student travelled to the home of a wise zen master. He came to ask the master if he could become his student. While the student began to speak about his previous studies and what he knew, the master quietly served tea. The student talked and talked until he realized that the master was still pouring yet the cup was overflowing.

“Master!” he said, “You are spilling tea, the cup is full!”

“You are like this cup,” replied the zen master. “How can I show you zen unless you empty the cup?”