Open and Willing

Red buds budding against a fuschia background

Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation is currently practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. Please join us for online worship Sundays at 10am.

Chiming of the Singing Bowl

Words of Welcome and Announcements
David Morgen

Call to Worship 
Good Morning. This Call to Worship is by my brilliant colleague, Rev. Gretchen Haley: 

There is nothing you need to bring with you to be welcome here
no right beliefs or proof of citizenship
no eternal optimism or clarity of conviction
no boundless courage or endless expertise
You do not need to know what brought you here
Or how you will solve that problem you are turning over and over and over in your mind
Your bills do not need to be paid and your checkbook can be a mess
your children may have been up half the night
your hearing aids may not be working & your knees may be creaking
You do not need to be already perfect—or even half-way—
to belong in this circle where grace meets us where we are
but does not leave us as it found us*
where love resides in each of us yet is somehow more than all
where life still pulses and rages and heals and transforms 
creating us and this day anew once again.
Come, let us worship together.

Rev. Gretchen Haley

Lighting of the Chalice
We light our chalice today in celebration of all we have not lost and all that we have still to gain by our commitment to staying deeply connected to one another, no matter what. 

Singing 
Recording of Dr. Philip Rogers singing “Morning Has Come”

Story Wisdom 
DRE Adia Fields-Udofia, followed by Youtube video of “The Invisible String

Joys and Sorrows 
Now is the time in today’s worship where I want to encourage you to reach out this coming week via email to me, or to any member or our wonderful, dedicated Care Corps with ANY joys or sorrows that you would like to have shared here in online worship with our beloved community.  

For all the joys and sorrows that are in our hearts, but unspoken here today, let us take a moment of quiet reflection together. 

Prayer and Meditation 
Rev. Florence Caplow wrote this short prayer for today:

On this strange Sunday we gather together in new ways
Linked to each other through the delicate tracery of electrons
And through the invisible bonds of caring and love,
Sharing with millions the wondering and fear and uncertainty of this time
May each of us stay well and whole
May each of us find our ground of strength and clarity
May each of us let our hearts break open to new ways of caring for our neighbor as ourselves
May each of us know, even if we are alone, that we are held in a great embrace of love

Rev. Florence Caplow

Interlude
Recording of Dail Edwards singing “I Am WIlling”

Sermon 
Two days ago, Father Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan priest living in Ireland wrote this: 

Lockdown
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other 
across the empty squares, 
keeping their windows open 
so that those who are alone 
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know 
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples 
are preparing to welcome 
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able 
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Father Richard Hendrick

These past few days I have spent many hours on my front porch with my cat, Moxie. It is spring, and Georgia puts on a SHOW in the springtime, doesn’t she? It’s just glorious. And so what Moxie and the bumblebees have been reminding me of over and over again all weekend is that this amazing, resilient, beautiful Earth, in all her glorious cycles of life, does not revolve around human beings. All of humanity is anxious, I know… and with good reason. We are allowed to feel what we feel and not look for a silver lining if we don’t want to do that right now. That is true. And yet, for me, it has been helpful to notice that the trees are budding and blossoming anyway. The bugs are emerging anyway. The breeze is warming anyway. The daylight hours are lengthening anyway.

So much is still alive, vibrant, and beautiful. So much is still ours to take in freely, although nearly none of it is actually for or about us at all. 

And I am amazed and grateful to be a part of a greater whole. So. Much. Greater. ♡

My friend, Rev. Marcia Stanard, who I was privileged to spend time with bearing witness to tragedy and sorrow and resilience and hope at Standing Rock in North Dakota a few years ago, which is poignant to me as a way of remembering that we have done hard things together before, we humans, wrote this, just three days ago: 

Choices.
Yesterday, there were fewer cars at the Arrivals dock
at the Portland airport than there were dogs being walked
on my block.
Yesterday, a friend reported a clandestine meeting—a walk
with her elderly mother—careful to keep a six foot distance
as they strolled together in the sunshine.
Yesterday, schools were closed, and bars, and restaurants.
We no longer gather, laughing, in bustling crowds of strangers who might become friends.
But today, you could see fish in the canals in Venice, and
the swans have returned.  The skies over Beijing are clearer than they’ve been in a decade.
Today, the technology that we swore was killing our relationships, those phones our youth sink into, ignoring the world in front of them—is saving us. Letting us gather, see one another’s faces.
Tomorrow, fewer people will sicken and die if we keep our distance today. Imagine if all difficult choices had such clear and obvious results, like Greta’s been preaching.
And then live as if they do.

Rev. Maria Stanard

Beloveds, I miss your faces. I miss your smiles, your hand squeezes, your hugs. And I miss knowing that one of you will probably put aside one of the vegan cupcakes at coffee hour just to be sure I get one. I miss my ritual printing out a few full scripts of the worship right before service so that those of you who don’t hear so well can read along. By the way, this full script will be posted on our website, and I commit to doing it BEFORE worship next week, so that it is easier for those of you who depend on it.  

In the days and weeks to come, I will be doing my best to reach out to you personally, if I have not already. This is a great time to update your contact information in REALM. Even if you are pretty sure it’s accurate, it can’t hurt to check. Your people want to be in touch with you. And please reach right back if you need anything. I know that you know that our Care Corps. is here for you. And know that I am, too. Bless you for all of your recent messages that say, “I know you have enough on your plate, and I don’t want to bother you…” But this is what I am here for. Bother me. You are no bother. You are my reason to be right here, right now. You are why I get to enjoy a glorious Georgia spring on my front porch with Moxie. And you are who I am committed, honored, and privileged to serve. It’s just that I’m doing it from over here while you’re over there for now. And that is okay. This hard time will not last forever. And in the meantime, may we listen closely to ourselves, to each other, to the scientists and health experts, to the Earth, to the greater whole. May we come through on the other side of this strange time with an expanded awareness of our interconnectedness and a greater capacity for love and a braver willingness to venture forth into the unknown than we ever, ever imagined. Together. May it be so. And so, more true today than ever, I love you. And there’s nothing a teensy little global pandemic on a tiny little blue dot of a planet can do about it.

Singing
Recording of Traci Montgomery singing “Blue Boat Home”

Offering
To the work of this congregation, which is weaving a tapestry of love and action, we dedicate our offerings and the best of who we are.

Benediction

If you are who you were,
and if the person next to you is who he or she was,
if none of us has changed
since the day we came in here—
we have failed.
The purpose of this community—
of any church, temple, zendo, mosque—
is to help its people grow.
We do this through encounters with the unknown—in ourselves,
in one another,
in “The Other”—whoever that might be for us,
however hard that might be—
because these encounters have many gifts to offer.
So may you go forth from here this morning
not who you were,
but who you could be.
So may we all.

Erik Walker Wikstrom

Delivered at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation

March 22, 2020

© Rev. Misha Sanders