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.

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

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.

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

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.

 

September 13 Service: See No Stranger: Loving Others – Wonder

Beginning September 19th is the Week of Campaign Nonviolence that has been going on now for six years. We are participating in this event with our vigil Action for Justice and Equality that happens on Sundays from 12:15 – 12:45 p.m. at the rotary of 202 and 302 in Windham. We are inviting you to come join us this Sunday in celebration of Campaign Nonviolence…you can make your own signs or there will be signs there for you…come one, come all!!!

You know you are in the flow when things come together in a way that you couldn’t possibly predict. On Sunday I experienced just that…the music Deana chose for the service was a beautiful song called Seven Wonders written by songwriter David Roth (who we have had as a guest musician) and when I did the meditation, which was one I found on the internet written by Shaun Lambert, it aligned perfectly.

The topic for the message this week was “wonder.” I began a new series on a book that was just published in June by Valarie Kaur called See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love.

I have been a follower of Valarie Kaur after first seeing her at the Parliament of World Religions in 2015. She captured my attention by her passion for justice and equality clothed in love. She began a movement called The Revolutionary Love Project. This is what this project is about…from their website https://valariekaur.com/the-revolutionary-love-project/

The Revolutionary Love Project offers calls to action, tools, inspiration, and support to fight for social justice through the ethic of love.

We commit to fight for justice through the ethic of love — love for others, our opponents, and ourselves. We are rising up across the U.S. and around the world in protest, music, dance, and direct action to declare that #RevolutionaryLove is the call of our times.

Your breathlessness is a sign of your bravery. It means you are awake to what’s happening right now. The world is in transition. ~ Valarie Kaur

The world is in transition. We are seeing what were the norms of our way of life crumbling around us. For many of us it feels dark and chaotic; however, take these words from Valarie into your heart and let them percolate there…“The future is dark, but what if – what if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor? What if all of our grandfathers and grandmothers are standing behind us now, those who survived occupation and genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, detentions and political assault. What if they are whispering in our ear, You, are brave? What if this is our nation’s greatest transition? What does the midwife tell us to do? Breathe and then push!!!

Here is a practice that Valarie developed I invite you to take it as your spiritual practice this week…

As you move through you day and come across faces in the bank, grocery store or wherever you might be say in your mind…Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, start to wonder about them as a person…when you do this you retrain your mind to see more and more kinds of people as part of us rather than them…practice this also with animals and plants, the earth…

Say in your mind: You are a part of me I do not yet know.

In doing this it is a practice of orienting to the world with wonder…and it is a preparation for the possibility of creating a connection.

Next week we grieve…

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

September 6 Service: Teresa of Avila

It is the evening of Labor Day and once again it was a beautiful day here in Maine. We have turned the calendar and another month is in the history books. We were out for a ride today and I saw some bright red leaves reminding us that Fall is near. This means that the Fall Equinox is right around the corner. 

As you know, I look for who I can highlight for their service. This week I want to give a high five to Jeff Plumer and his crew and Chris Purinton for keeping our lawn mowed and the grounds looking beautiful. Thank you for serving; we are very grateful for you!

Teresa of Avila, or also known as Teresa of Jesus, was the Middle Ages mystic we learned about on Sunday. She is the last of the women mystics that I will be sharing with you at this time.

What I love about Teresa is the struggle she had with balancing her physical life with her spiritual life. This is something many of us can relate to. She was vivacious, witty, and loved to be the center of attention and how that caused her much heartache in the early days of her life and in the convent. It was at the age of forty when she had her spiritual awakening.

Here are a couple of quotes and poems from Teresa:

‘You know, I no longer govern in the way I used to. Love does everything. I am not sure if that is because no one gives me cause to reprove her, or because I have discovered that things go better in that way.”

‘The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.”

God alone is enough.
Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough.

Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing trouble you.
Let nothing scare you.
All is fleeting.
God alone is unchanging.
Patience
Everything obtains.
Who possesses God
Nothing wants.
God alone suffices.

In the talk, I use Mirabai Starr’s words from the book Saint Teresa of Avila, Passionate Mystic to give you a taste of Teresa. Well, you can hear more about Teresa from Mirabai herself. At exactly 11 a.m. on Sunday I received an email with the heading “Teresa of Avila as a Guide to a Radically Authentic Life. Mirabai is going to do a free 90-minute talk on September 21 from 1:30 – 3 p.m. This is sponsored by the Rowe Center in Rowe, MA.

This coming Sunday I will be starting a new series on the book by Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love.

Lastly, the Friday evening dinners provided by Dee Capoldo will no longer happen as he is now back to work full time…Thank you, Dee, for these wonderful few weeks of a great meal and great community!!! 

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

 

August 30 Service: Julian of Norwich

I don’t know about you, but I find I gravitate to good news stories and looking for little things as well as big things to be grateful for in these difficult times. I have a couple of good news stories that I would like to share with you.

A few weeks ago, we shared about Dee Capoldo wanting to prepare a meal for veterans who were in a Veterans Career Home in Biddeford. As a community we provided, with Home Depot, what was needed to do this safely outdoors. Home Depot provided the grills and we provided chairs and other accessories. Dee, with the help of a few others, is providing meals twice a month. In the mail I received this letter addressed to me from Volunteers of America Northern New England. It read: The Veterans, along with staff from Volunteers of America NNE Veteran Services would like to thank you and the members of Unity Church. The food donations you made not only filled the stomachs of the Veterans but their hearts as well. Since the start of the stay-at-home orders, our Veterans have had little social ties and needed something to boost their spirits. During the BBQs, I have visibly watched moods change and spirits lifted. We can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done. It was signed by Brian Bouthot, Assistant Program Manager.

If you would like to serve, call Dee at 207-337-3953 to learn when the next BBQ is happening.

Just today I heard from a board member of Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing that Jim Staebler from our community helped with our first project on Friday. A shout out to Jim!

My friends this is what ministry and being a part of a community is looking more like in the months to come. We are finding ways where we can be the hands and feet of God in the world. Keep watch right here as more opportunities will be offered.

More to be grateful for…Julie Thompson was our guest musician on Sunday and as always shared her talent with us. She sang a beautiful song to set up the talk on Julian of Norwich. The song was All Will Be Well by Meg Barnhouse. Take time to listen to it and see the complete service by downloading it here…

Matthew Fox said a time of pandemic is a time for bringing back feminine energies. No theologian in the West has more thoroughly developed the rich theme of the motherhood of God than has Julian of Norwich. “Just as God is truly Father,” she writes, “so also is God truly our Mother.”

I am enjoying bringing these Middle Ages women to life now. I recently did a class with Mirabai Starr called Life the Sacred Blessings of the Women Mystics and Goddesses. Here is an excerpt from the class on Julian…

She wrote and she gave counsel and she prayed and meditated. At one point, Christ reveals himself, as herself, as the mother. She’s talking about the Trinity here, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I realized the Second Person is really our Mother, which is Christ. Other traditions suggest that God the absolute, the transcendent one is the Father, Christ is the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the Mother, Sophia. But this is Julian saying, “Well, actually, he told me that he is she, that the Second Person is the Mother.”

I realized the Second Person is really our Mother. This beloved being works with us as a parent here on earth. We were created with a twofold soul, sensual and spiritual. Our spiritual essence is with God the Father. Our sensual nature lies with the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Mother, in whom we are rooted by virtue of creation. In taking on our flesh, the Second Person became our Mother of Mercy. Our Mother keeps all our parts together and works on us in various ways. We profit and grow in Christ the Mother. Christ Jesus who does good over evil is our True Mother. She is the source of all motherhood, and we have our being from her, protected by all the sweet love that endlessly accompanies motherhood. As truly as God is our Father, just as truly is God our Mother. She says, “It is I.” What she means is “I am the power of goodness of the fatherhood. I am the wisdom and loving-kindness of the motherhood. I am the light and grace of all blessed love. I am the threefold nature of the Divine. I am unity.”

I will end with some of her writings…

It is God’s will that we be occupied in knowing and loving, until the time comes that we shall be fulfilled in heaven.

As the body is clothed in cloth and the muscles in the skin and the bones in the muscles and the heart in the chest, so are we, body and soul, clothed and enclosed in the Goodness of God.

God is the true Father and Mother of Nature, and all natures that are made to flow out of God to work the divine will shall be restored and brought again into God.

I saw that our God was never wrathful,
nor ever shall be.
God’s lucidity and unity
will never allow this.
God is the goodness that cannot be wrathful.
Our soul is oned to God, unchangeable goodness,
and therefore between God and our soul
there is neither wrath nor forgiveness
because there is no between.

During your quiet time this week sit with this or another of Julian’s words…let her wash over you…

Join me next Sunday as I bring you Saint Teresa of Avila.

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

August 23 Sunday Service: Hildegard of Bingen

Oh, it is so good to be back! I want to thank Kim Cowperthwaite for doing a wonderful job platforming both Sundays. A shout out to Rosie Deer Heart and Matt Purinton for sharing the messages. Christine Wolf for facilitating the Coffee Hour, Chris Purinton for handling the AV and of course Deana Gurney, who provides just the right music every week to enhance the message. I am blessed to have such a strong team to support me.

If you haven’t noticed, we have some strong women in 2020 that are making their voices heard both locally and nationally. The woman who I talked about on Sunday called women out in the 1100s. It was Hildegard von Bingen. She said, “We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.”

There is a lot written about this amazing woman who in 2012 was canonized and named Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI. Where does one begin describing Hildegard? On Sunday I gave a snippet of the many contributions that she made to the world.

Although an artist, composer, author, pharmacist, among her accomplishments what she is most known for was her visions… she had numerous prophetic and mystical visions during her life and is said to have been a miracle worker.

She writes in her first book Scivias (Know the Ways), “When I was forty-two years and seven months old, Heaven was opened and a fiery light of exceeding brilliance came and permeated my whole brain, and inflamed my whole heart and my whole breast, not like a burning but like a warming flame, as the sun warms anything its rays touch.”

In another writing from Scivias, “And behold, in the forty-third year of my passing course, while I was intent upon a heavenly vision with great fear and tremulous effort, I saw a great splendor, in which a voice came from heaven saying to me: ‘O weak mortal, both ash of ash and rottenness of rottenness, say and write what you see and hear. But because you are fearful in speaking and simple in explaining and unlearned in writing these things, say and write them not according to human speech nor the understanding of human creativity… speak the things you see and hear; and write them not according to yourself or any other person, but according to the will of the One Who knows, sees, and disposes all things in the hidden places of his mysteries.”

As Hildegard scholar Renata Craine notes, “As a woman graced by God and called to speak out, Hildegard gives us new and very feminine images of the God-reality, like the visionary image of the “cosmos resting in the womb of God. She expanded woman’s capacity to nourish new life in her womb into the great all-embracing depth of a theological truth that we came from the heart of God and that the earth is the womb of our becoming whole, of and with each other in god.”

I encourage you to search out Hildegard’s poetry or music. Learn more about this amazing Saint.

Next Sunday join me as we learn more about Julian of Norwich. We will also have special music from our good friend Julie Love Thompson.

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

August 16 Sunday Service: Non-Resistance

Sunday Service with Rev. Matt Purinton, guest speaker


Message from Rev. Pat Bessey:

As I continue my vacation, I am grateful for another mystical experience for you to read about. This came from Don Labbe; thank you Don for sharing.

Don wrote this to me: I am not sure if this qualifies for a mystical experience, but here goes.

On Monday I woke up at 5 a.m. feeling a lot of fear, I was worried that the muscles of my right knee were not healing properly, I was worried that I would be in pain forever, that I would not ever walk properly again, that I could not be happy if I was in pain all the time. I was in a pretty dark place. I understood that most of what I was feeling was a response to limiting beliefs; while that helped some, I still did not FEEL much better.

I drifted off to sleep and had a dream that I was confronting someone trying to threaten me. He tried to punch me and tried to hit me with various objects or threw them at me. I very quickly came to the conclusion that he was a bully and did not pose a real threat. While I never struck him, I did neutralize him by not backing down, deflecting his blows and asserting myself. When I awoke, my feelings had changed. I felt my healing process was on track and I could handle whatever came my way. I was sent a message that I could relate to i.e. my martial arts training.

You can share this with others if it would be helpful.

I will be back with you on Sunday sharing about the life of the Middle Age mystic, Hildegard of Bingen.

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