Sunday, October 11 Service

Our guest speaker was Rev. Dr. Ryan Polly

COVID 19 has turned our lives upside down and no end is in sight. As a result, we can’t have all the special recognitions that we would normally have. I am referring here to the installation of our Prayer Partners. Under the leadership of Rev. Barbara Kowalska, they had their retreat this past weekend and the next step would be their installation before you, the community. Although we can’t do that at this time, I do want to introduce our Prayer Partners to you. They are Barbara Kowalska, Carolyn Sanford, Mimo Otis, Bonnie Grover, Jack Cole, Jana Brownlee, Hannah Johnson, Hilary Hayes, Jaclyn Ashla, and, new to the team this year, Sandy Watson. Our Prayer Partners are here to serve you and please reach out to Barbara if you would like a call from a Prayer Partner.

This past Sunday we had Rev. Dr. Ryan Polly as our guest speaker. Wow! Ryan gave us a very thought-provoking message on inclusivity. Here is a quote from his message that I believe we may all relate to…

“All too often when things get tough, when someone sees things differently or challenges our beliefs and values in some way, we divide rather than roll up our sleeves, get uncomfortable, and evolve into something greater. It seems that as humans, we much prefer our comfort zones and we avoid conflict as much as possible. After all, conflict is scary, conflict is hard, and conflict is absolutely out of our control.”

The book I of the Storm, which many of you have read and taken the class, sees “conflict” as our souls calling for something greater. And I believe therefore why we are seeing the conflict and chaos in our country now.

Rev. Dr. Ryan Polly

And here Ryan says, “But conflict is necessary. It is only in conflict and collective tension that we can emerge as better. It is only through conflict that true community can form.”

Another concept Ryan introduced was from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr…it is the difference between negative peace and positive peace. He said that King said negative peace was worse than hate.

Here are Dr. King’s views …negative peace was about the absence of tension and conflict. Negative peace is a desire for us all to “get along” and a hope that the inequities that lead to civil unrest are simply tolerated or ignored by those experiencing them. Perhaps it will all just go away. Negative peace isn’t truly concerned with community but rather with comfort.

Negative peace involves choosing personal comfort over fighting for something better. It involves avoiding conflict, rather than having the courage to stand up and show up. How often do you accept negative peace as a form of allyship?

Positive peace is about the presence of actual justice and the willingness to right wrongs. Positive peace is messy. Positive peace is uncomfortable. Positive peace is scary. Positive peace means having difficult conversations and doing hard work. Positive peace favors others before self and is an action-oriented energy that strives for the Beloved Community.

There is much more that Ryan had to say and some action steps we can take to create positive peace. I will leave it to you to see what those action steps are by watching the service. 

Annual Meeting is this Sunday! Please join us via Zoom; subscribe for the link. We will be voting on two bylaw changes and on new board members as well as sharing what we are working on as we move forward.

Please join us at 10 a.m. next Sunday as we continue the series See No Stranger and will be talking about “listen.”

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

For your safety, continue to social distance and wear face masks. The church building remains closed for gatherings of all services and group meetings. All business with the church office needs to be via telephone or email.


October 4 Sunday Service: See No Stranger: Loving Opponents – Rage

On October 18 we will be having our Annual Meeting. It will begin immediately following our Sunday service and will be on Zoom; so we hope you will be able to join us.

We have three openings for our Board of Trustees and those positions hopefully will be filled by Michelle Neas for a three-year term and Pat Paine and Jack Cole as alternates, which is a one-year commitment. We are blessed to have such competent folks stepping into service.

Heads up to the men in our community. This Friday the Men’s Group will be having an in-person, safe distancing event outside. They will have food, drumming, and fire circle. It begins at 6 p.m., weather permitting.

As I began my message on Sunday, I shared the topic was a little heavy; however, it was important to be heard. Not exactly what you hear on Sundays at Unity Center Spiritual Growth.

Here is the opening quote that set up the talk going forward: “This moment, for so many, has felt like 1968. It has felt like 1982, but every turn through the cycle, when people rose and grieved together and fought together and raged together and organized together, it created a little bit more space for equality and justice and liberation than there was before.”

As I continue with the series from the book See No Stranger: The Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, written by Valarie Kaur, this week the topic was “rage.”

Valarie sees it is perfectly legitimate to rage against the wrongs of the world, even to direct your rage, for a time, at those who perpetrate such wrongs. But then if you have processed your own rage, you have to be ready to listen, and finally to reimagine.

That’s revolutionary love. Valarie sees it as a compass, a tool that can guide one’s engagements at home and in the world. We are in the “tend the wound.”

In the book’s introduction, Valarie writes: Tend the wound is about learning how to love even our opponents. When we rage in safe containers to tend to our own wounds, and listen to understand theirs, we can gain the information we need to reimagine solutions.

“Tending the wound is not only moral but strategic: It is the labor of remaking the world.”

Rage is another shared feeling in this moment that can be used for good and our rage carries valuable information. It is important that we find safe ways to engage it and when we do it becomes a kind of dance.

Here are some great quotes from Valarie.
• “To release raw rage in a safe container, in order to send divine rage into the world, like focused fury.”
• “Divine rage is not vengeance it is to reorder the world.”
• “I remember I do not need to feel empathy or compassion for my opponents in order to practice loving them. Love is labor that begins with wonder. So, I wonder about them. I begin to see their pain and understand the wounds behind their words. I see their humanity – I see no stranger. When listening gets hard, I focus on taking the next breath.”

I look forward to this coming Sunday as we welcome Rev. Dr. Ryan Polly, who will be our guest speaker. Please join us at 10 a.m.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

For your safety, continue to social distance and wear face masks. The church building remains closed for gatherings of all services and group meetings. All business with the church office needs to be via telephone or email.


September 27 Service: See No Stranger: Loving Others – Fight

Mark your calendar for October 18; it will be the date of our Annual Meeting. It is the first time we are holding it at this time of the year. A year ago, we changed when our fiscal year ends. It runs now from September 1 through August 31.

We invite you to join us on Zoom following the Sunday Celebration Service. Not only has the date changed, but so has the format due to COVID-19. This is an invitation to all!

I am glad that I decided to focus on the book See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love written by Valarie Kaur. I find it to be appropriate for the times we are in right now.

I want to share from the chapter on “Fight” that I didn’t speak of on Sunday. Valarie is sharing about the spring of 2003 when our country was preparing to go into Iraq after 9/11. She was a student at Stanford and recounts an evening where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr came alive at a one-man production. She says when she returned to her dorm room her skin tingled and her throat ached as if her words were stuck.

She reached out to her best friend Brynn who was a student at Berkeley. Brynn had also been at an event that night and heard scholar-activist Edward Said and when they talked, they both felt a deep desire to respond.

Their conversation went like this…” What do we do? What do we do?” They knew they needed to do something.

Valarie said, “I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough. I don’t know enough. But it’s like something deep in me that’s aching to get out.”

Brynn responded, “Oh my god, we’re pregnant. We are going to birth all that’s inside us. It’s going to be painful, but we just have to trust that it will come. And we’ll look back and remember the night we were confused and uncertain.”

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. — John Lewis

Valarie and Brynn didn’t have this quote then;; however, they do now and so do we.

What motivates you and me to show up and fight for a cause or to protect someone?
Who will we fight for!
What will we risk!
What breaks our heart!
What causes our fists to clench!
Our jaw to tighten!
Our heartbeat to quicken!

Honor that in ourselves… that is telling us something… we are alive and have something worth fighting for. We are pregnant and something is wanting to be birthed.

Your spiritual action steps for this week…

Writing exercise:
• In what ways were you taught about fairness and justice?
• What issues do you care most deeply about?
• What is your role in this moment?

Here is an action:

Work in solidarity with other communities by learning how to act as a strong ally or accomplice.

Know that the act of allyship (or acting as an accomplice, as indigenous leaders offer) is necessary and requires both commitment and humility.

One starting place is to follow activists and leaders on social media and then listen and learn, without intervening, about what communities need from allies. 

Power without love is reckless and abusive
And love without power is sentimental
And anemic. Power at its best is love
Implementing the demands of justice, and
Justice at its best is power correcting
Everything that stands against love.
— Martin Luther King Jr

I invite you to watch “The InCharge Conversations 2020″ with Valarie Kaur on YouTube:

This coming Sunday the topic will be “rage”!

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

For your safety, continue to social distance and wear face masks. The church building remains closed for gatherings of all services and group meetings. All business with the church office needs to be via telephone or email.


September 20 Service: See No Stranger: Loving Others – Grieve

You still have time to register for the One Planet Peace Forum. It will begin on Friday, September 25 at 3 p.m., continuing Saturday and Sunday as well. Peace needs to be a priority in our lives at this time. This is a free event.

The program will integrate short keynote talks, panels with discussion, contemplative practice, and sacred performance to create a safe place for collaboration by applying universal principles, values, and tools, such as truth-telling and unitive justice, to find common ground through interfaith and interdisciplinary dialogue and action. One Planet Peace Forum will be an annual event offering a universal platform for people of all spiritual and secular expressions to co-create solutions to the most challenging issues facing humanity today.

I opened the message on Sunday with the following quote:

“Those who love us never leave us alone with our grief. At the moment they show us our wound, they reveal they have the medicine.” ~ Alice Walker

“Love is dangerous. If I see you as a part of me I don’t yet know … then I must be willing to fight for you and feel grief.” ~ Papa Ji

The message this past Sunday was focusing on the story Valarie Kaur is telling in her book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love. There is so much of her personal story in this book that I can’t cover every Sunday; I encourage you to get the book. It is an eye-opener of how people of color experience life in this country even when they are born and brought up here.

This week “grieve” was the topic. The message began with how the trajectory of Valarie Kaur’s life changed on the day of Sept 11, 2001. There isn’t a person who was at least the age of eight on that day doesn’t remember with clarity the impact that event had on their lives. Many of the freedoms we experienced up until that day are no longer available to us.

Valarie’s life changed as a result of the first death that occurred on September 15, 2001 to a Sikh man named Balbir Singh Sodhi in Meza, Arizona. Balbir had gone outside in the driveway of his gas station to plant flowers when a man shot him five times in the back.

This was the first of 19 hate crimes to take place in the aftermath of 9/11 and all on people of color. Valarie knew that these hate crimes needed to be documented for any intervention to take place.

She was in college at the time and talked with her advisor and told her of the plan she had to take a camera and interview all the families of those who had died. She was advised to write a proposal and present it to the college for a grant. The grant was provided and along with her cousin Sonny, and her Honda Civic, they headed across country to film and talk with victims’ families.

In my talk I told the story of Balbir Singh Sodhi’s wife Joginder and the interview Valarie had with her in India and her response when asked what she wanted to say to the people in America.

These next words I invite you to take in and let your heart respond… Grief is the price of love. Loving someone means one day, there will be grieving. They will leave you or you will leave them. The more you love the more you grieve. Loving someone also means grieving with them. It means letting their pain and loss bleed into your own heart.

When you see that pain coming, you may want to throw up guardrails, sound the alarm, raise the flag, but you must keep the borders of your heart porous in order to love well. Grieving is an act of surrender.

Spiritual Action Step this week:

Who do you feel the need to pay attention to in this moment? Is there someone close to you that may be grieving…Be willing to ask them, “What do you need?”

It may be you grieving others…send messages of love, find others grieving as well and join them either online or at rallies…find what you need to…is this a call for you to live a more meaningful life.

“Unresolved grief inside a person is tragic; unresolved grief inside a nation is catastrophic.”

These words from Valarie:

“Revolutionary love is a well-spring of care, an awakening to the inherent dignity and beauty of others and the earth, a quieting of the ego, a way of moving through the world in relationship, asking: ‘What is your story? What is at stake? What is my part in your flourishing?’

“Loving others, even our opponents, in this way has the power to sustain political, social and moral transformation. This is how love changes the world.”

Next Sunday is “fight”…what are you willing to fight for?

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

For your safety, continue to social distance and wear face masks. The church building remains closed for gatherings of all services and group meetings. All business with the church office needs to be via telephone or email.


Here are some ways we can do that:

On Zoom: Coffee Hour, Book Group, Spiritual Exploration discussion group, A Course in Miracles and other offerings coming up… Check our calendar for details.

In Person: Bring your own dinner to Unity between 5 – 6 on Friday night when weather permits.