Being A Stone Catcher

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

Welcome to issue three of Heart Thoughts for 2018. We have seen a January thaw and now we are back in a deep freeze, with another storm forecasted. A hearty thanks to all of you who continue to make Sunday morning at Unity of Greater Portland a priority in your schedule. Our dedicated team works all during the week to prepare a Sunday-morning feast, and we are grateful for you coming to partake of it.

circle of handsI want to acknowledge some folks who work behind the scenes to help create a welcoming and informative atmosphere when you arrive. Hilary Hayes comes in each week and restocks the chair backs in the sanctuary and waters the plants. Cindy Hildreth dresses the bulletin board that the sign-up sheets are on with the theme of the season and prepares our welcome packets. Jaclyn Ashla maintains the community bulletin board and Pat Bartke and Trish Vogel maintain the Seasons bulletin board. Mindy Rosseland prepares the announcement slides each week and Gary Wane prepares the Sunday service slides weekly. A high five to each of these folks!

This past Sunday was the opening of the Season for Nonviolence, which goes from now until the first part of April. This is our fourth season and each year it becomes a more important focus for us individually and as a spiritual community. Here is why I say this. This is a quote from an article written by Fr. John Dear (who will be with us on Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18): “Fifty years after the watershed year of 1968, we are at another watershed, and Dr. King has put the fundamental choice before us. This is the Year of Nonviolence or Nonexistence.”

“A culture of nonviolence is not an impossible dream,” Pope Francis said recently, following up on his 2017 World Day of Peace message, “Nonviolence – A New Style of Politics,” the first statement on nonviolence in the history of the Catholic Church.

But our culture of violence begs to differ. “No, Pope Francis,” it says, “a culture of nonviolence is an impossible dream. No, Dr. King, there is no choice; non-existence is inevitable.” Deep down, that’s what we think, isn’t it? That’s what the culture of violence, the voice of despair, tells us.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote over 50 years ago this: “We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the pressing urgencies of the great cause of freedom… a time like this demands great leaders.”

The body of the message on Sunday was sharing about “stonecatchers,” which comes out of a book written by Bryan Stevenson called Just Mercy. Stevenson is a lawyer who started a non-profit organization called the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those on death row. This book was very moving for me and I strongly recommend it. Here is a TED talk Bryan did.

In the message from Sunday, I read from the chapter in the book, The Stonecatchers’ Song of Sorrow.

Have a great week and next week join me for “Kindness: Gotcha.”

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

White Stone Ceremony

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

I know that we Mainers are tough and many of you proved it on Sunday by showing up when the temperature was well below zero. As I drove down River Road on my way to the 8 a.m. service my car thermometer was registering -24… yikes… but you all showed up!

What may have motivated you was the service which is always the first Sunday of the new year, the White Stone Ceremony. I love this service because it is a reminder that we have a clean slate in which to create our life… it represents freedom.

This is a quote from John Selby’s book, Seven Masters, One Path: “We can’t hold one thing tightly in our grasp, and at the same time reach out and take something new. We must let go of and put aside what we are grasping, in order to be able to receive something that we want or need much more. All spiritual and psychological growth requires a letting go of a limited belief in order to open up and receive a more expansive belief — or even better, a direct experience of reality that makes all beliefs unnecessary.”

The Burning Bowl ceremony we do on New Year’s Eve and this ceremony set us up to release and then receive or take in the wonders of life.

This ceremony evolved from the book of Revelation 2:17. It reads, “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

The source of the white stone is from the time of Jesus. When a prisoner was released he was given a white stone to symbolize his freedom and to prove that he had been let go from prison. As long as he had his white stone, he was assured his freedom. It is a symbol of overcoming adversity or an external challenge. And when we overcome there is a shift in consciousness — we grow, we change, and our lives become richer. We become blessed and nourished by new things. A new name is written on it — our experiences of life will be changed because of our new intentions and our new thoughts and beliefs — our shift in consciousness.

If you were not present on Sunday, you can pick up a white stone this Sunday and find your new name.

Listen; listen to what your Spirit is telling you to write on your white stone. What are you hearing or feeling or knowing? What are your intentions? What if Spirit was writing on your white stone? What is it that Spirit will write? Ask, right now. Ask what would be the most helpful name, or what would be the most helpful word to take into this New Year?

Once you receive your word keep this stone as a reminder of this moment and your choice to be free. God bless you and have a new year of renewal and freedom.

Before I end I want to bring to your attention to the Heart-Based Meditation workshop on Thursday evening from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., facilitated by Dr. Paul and Sandra Dugliss. They are returning by popular demand. I look forward to seeing you there.

The following Tuesday evening, the Women Empowering Women group will go in a new direction using the material in the book Traveling with the Turtle. This is an opportunity to deepen your spiritual life and to live a nonviolent life. It will meet the third Tuesday of the month from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. for 13 months. Please join me and others who are on the journey traveling with the turtle.

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

World Peace Meditation

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

Happy 2018! Although the thermometer is registering below zero, my heart is warm as we wrap up 2017. It was a wonderful year and holiday season! As we begin a new year, I find it fitting to recognize our dedicated staff. The staff at Unity of Greater Portland make my job easy and keeps everything running smoothly.

  • I want to give a shout-out to Steph Plourde, my assistant and the go-to person that many of you bring your questions to — she either has the answer or knows where to get it.
  • Jan Strout handles the finances as well as the Unity Book and Gift Store. If you haven’t been in recently, you are missing a treat. She has been a part of this community for a couple of decades and carries much of the history of Unity of Greater Portland.
  • And to Deana Gurney, our music director extraordinaire. She is the one who week after week selects just the right music to complement my message. She is unflappable!
  • Our newest team member is Andrew Williamson in the AV booth — already I can see he is up to the task.

Now a look at our volunteer staff.

  • Christine Wolf plays a dual role as office support to Steph and creates and puts out Heart Thoughts every week. She readily says “yes” whenever asked to take on an extra task.
  • Leah Rush is doing an outstanding job leading our Youth Education Department. She is the idea person and has so much passion for supporting the teachers and the children.
  • Maria Lundy — we all know Maria and her passion to feed us. She can be found in the kitchen with her strong team making sure everything is ready once the service is over; she knows many will head for the food! She can be found long after everyone is gone doing little extra things in the kitchen to make it easier for her crew and more enjoyable for all of us.

Our attention turns toward the new year and we see great events and programs already on the calendar. We begin with two new classes. The first one will be led by Mindy Rosseland, “The Ultimate Catch and Release: Living Life Passionately.” The second class, kicking off the Season for Nonviolence, will be facilitated by Jack Seery and is titled “Way to Peace.” Visit our calendar to view all that is happening.

And ladies, this one is for you: I will be facilitating a new program for Women Empowering Women. This will be a once-a-month group that will focus on spirituality and nonviolence. It is based on the book Traveling with the Turtle. The first group will be on Tuesday, January 16 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Mark your calendars right now!

Don’t miss being with us this Sunday for our annual White Stone Service. This is where we celebrate who we are and our new freedom. See you there!

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

Christmas: A Season of Love

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

The countdown is on! Only four more days until Christmas Eve. We have a special service planned for 10 a.m. and our traditional Christmas Eve candle light service at 7 p.m. There will not be an 8 a.m. service, and following the 10 a.m. service coffee and tea will be provided and you have an opportunity to share with us some of your favorite holiday cookies and pastries.

This past Sunday, “Love” was the word for advent — and both services were filled with love. Our children performed a play titled “A Celebration of Interfaith Traditions,” which was both entertaining and educational! I want to give a hearty thank you to Elizabeth Peterson for writing and directing the play and to our Youth Education leaders and parents for supporting the rehearsals and making it such a memorable experience.

In keeping with the theme of love, here is an acronym for you to apply in your day-to-day life and especially during the holidays. It is a gift that keeps giving:

L – LISTEN intently to the people with whom you are interacting with… Listen deeply; it is a great gift.

O – OPTIMIZE the time you have with your loved ones. The truth is, we do not know our last hour; don’t postpone giving your love.

V – VALUE the people in your life; really notice their goodness.

E – EXPRESS your gratitude, appreciation and praise.

Along with living the acronym for “love,” here is another practice for you from New Thought writer Joel Goldsmith from his book Practicing the Presence: What is the principle? “Love they neighbor as thyself.”

In obeying this commandment, we love friend and foe; we pray for our enemies; we forgive, though it be seventy times seven; we bear not false witness against our neighbor by holding him in condemnation; we judge not as to good or evil, but see through every appearance to the Christ-identity – the one Self which is your Self and my Self.

This holiday season and clear into 2018, let us see the Christ in every person we encounter!

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