Saturday, January 31, 2009

eating faithfully

Ethical eating is one of the two current study action issues of the UUA. (The other is Peacemaking.) At church on Sunday we devoted our worship to the issue and then held a potluck lunch after the service where people were encouraged to bring food that represented their ethical food choices. During the lunch members of the congregation spoke to the group about the various choices they've made and resources they've discovered to help them eat more ethically.

My sermon for the day is here.

if it works

My column for the Santa Clarita church February newsletter

One of the lines that struck me most powerfully from President Obama’s inaugural speech was when he said that it was time to put behind blind allegiance to old ideological differences and employ a new measurement to judge the worth of ideas. He said, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”

It immediately occurred to me that this is the approach Unitarian Universalism uses in regards to belief statements. The question is not whether a belief is right or orthodox, or in line with tradition, or found in scripture. The question is whether it “works.” Does a belief have a practical effect in making your life better? Does a belief lead you to support the value statements listed in our seven principles? Does a belief lead you to a life of joy and meaning, encourage to create relationships of justice and compassion with a larger community, and to take care of our earth home?

Sometimes we say that our churches are open to all beliefs, which isn’t quite true. But the question isn’t whether your beliefs follow the party line, but whether your beliefs contribute to the world we all seek. As with Obama’s desire to push beyond old political categories, Unitarian Universalists seek to move beyond old spiritual categories, not “are you a loyal follower of the one true path?” but “Does your path, however it goes, lead to the world we’re hoping to create together?”

Friday, January 30, 2009

circuit rider

I'm happy to say that I'm negotiating with our UU Church in Los Angeles to provide quarter time ministry to their congregation. I'll still be at the Santa Clarita church 3/4 time and giving Los Angeles my free hours. I've had some prior experience serving two congregations at once. It's tricky, and obviously Sunday mornings I can't be two places at once, but I do think I have something to offer Los Angeles even on a very part time basis, without shirking my responsibilities in Santa Clarita. And I've already been in contact with several other local ministers who've agreed to help.

First Church Los Angeles is an historic church in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. The congregation built a large building back in the 1920s. They have a proud history concerning social justice ministry. Currently the congregation is small and depends on rental income. Their most recent minister, Rev. Monica Cummings recently resigned to accept a position with the UUA.

The neighborhood around the church is urban and mixed ethnic, mostly Latino and Korean. It also seems to be undergoing revitalization recently. There's a subway stop two blocks from the church at a major LA intersection: Wilshire and Vermont. The Gay Men's Chorus that I sing with rehearses at a Presbyterian church just a few blocks from the Unitarian church. And I live only about a mile away - I'm much closer to the LA church than the Santa Clarita church, which is about 35 miles from my house.

still coughing

two weeks and a day after coming down with a cold I'm still coughing. The major sickness passed in about three or four days. I was badly sick on Friday and Saturday two weeks ago. Sunday I went to church but came home and slept the rest of the day. But by Monday I felt pretty well.

But since then I've not been able to shake a lingering cough. I'm feeling that the virus must certainly have been defeated by now and what I'm experiencing is just the body's inability to turn off it's defense mechanism. It's an example of what we come across so often in life of old patterns and habits continuing long after the surrounding situation has changed. There's no longer a healing purpose to my cough but it continues, just the way that old adaptive strategies that kept us safe in childhood, or early relationships, or our first dealings with the world, get repeated in current situations even when they're no longer effective, or might even be making things worse for us.

My cough is so strong it gives me a headache. not to mention disgusting and annoying to others. Please make it stop.

minister's retreat

I returned yesterday afternoon from a 4-day minister's retreat for the Pacific Southwest District Chapter of the Unitarian Universalist Minister's Association. We met in nearby Palos Verdes at a Catholic retreat house operated by the Daughters of Mary and Joseph. For this retreat, as is our pattern, we met in conjunction with the local LREDA Chapter.

Monday started with a lunch meeting of the Chapter leaders. I'm the Secretary of the Chapter so I attended. Then as everyone else gathered and the retreat officially started I led an ingathering worship service, and then facilitated Introductions and a check-in that took the rest of the afternoon.

Monday evening I drove back up to Los Angeles to attend Gay Men's Chorus rehearsal, while back at the retreat, our invited guests, UUA Presidential candidates Peter Morales and Laurel Hallman, spoke to the retreat group.

Tuesday morning we continued our time with Revs. Morales and Hallman. Having missed the previous evening this was my first chance to listen to the candidates in depth. I was impressed with both but I was persuaded to support Rev. Morales and will vote for him in the election in Salt Lake this June. I'll post more about my decision later but briefly I resonated with Morales' view that now is a time for major and swift change at the UUA.

Tuesday afternoon we broke into small groups to further explore our own ideas about the issues raised that morning and the previous evening by the candidates.

Tuesday evening we had free time. I sat in the main meeting room with a group of 8 or so colleagues and we chatted together.

Wednesday morning we had a sample of intergenerational worship led by Rev. Erika Hewitt (Goleta), followed by a workshop on how to conduct effective intergenerational worship led by Rev. Clyde Grubbs and DRE Mary Jane Holden (Throop Church - Pasadena). Wednesday afternoon we had our chapter business meeting. Wednesday evening we heard what's called an "Odyssey" which is a personal history of ministry from one of our senior colleagues, in this case Rev. Jay Atkinson (Studio City).

Thursday morning we heard from a panel of speakers addressing the current economic situation focusing on the issue from cultural, spiritual, pastoral care, and institutional perspectives, followed by questions and discussion. We could have spent a lot more time on that. And then before noon, Rev. Anne Hines (Canoga Park) and I led a closing worship. The retreat ended with good-byes and people picking up sack lunches for the road.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

oh happy day

unbelievable. overwhelming. inspiring. invigorating. i love America again. The defining point of a generation. We are going to change the world.

How refreshing that classical music and poetry still have a place in our American culture. The quartet: an Israeli man (with a lesbian daughter) and asian man, a black man (playing the clarinet which I played in high school and college) and an asian woman, all playing a traditional Shaker hymn arranged by a white man, which is best known from its use by Aaron Copland a gay man. That's America. And extremely well played, too. Aretha was great, too, no slight there, though I did wonder if she really knew all the words to the second verse. But who cared about words when there was that hat to marvel at? Spectacular.

RIck Warren's prayer was generic and unimpressive. The man is not a threat. I do like the way when he got to the obligatory (for evangelicals) "In Jesus' name" instead he personalized it to say, (not an exact quote) "In the name of the one who has changed my life." But Lowery was great. I loved hearing all those old hymn verses. I loved his sense of humor. I loved there was no "In Jesus' name" and instead he got the whole crowd to shout Amen! Amen! Amen!

Obama's speech was magnificent. It sounded like the truth. Honest about the stituation we're in. Unafraid to call to task and to challenge. He gives us something to do, something to believe, and shows the way. I loved that her personalized the moment when from all the lofty far-reaching rhetoric he reminded us that 60 years after a person who looked like him would have been turned away from a lunch counter he can be sworn in to the highest office in the land. That symbolism means something. It's not about him after all, it's about all of us, all of us who were turned away from our hopes and dreams and who are now finding our hopes and dreams installed in the greatest country on earth.

Monday, January 19, 2009

sick but feeling better

being sick is weird. How fortunate I am that I can say that. Being sick is a rare occurence for me. I get a cold maybe only every other year and that's it. But I've had one the last few days. It started with a sleepless night on Wednesday. Thursday I was exhausted and had a headache all day. But I needed to be up and around for several errands and work appointments from early in the morning until late in the evening. I actually was craving tea in the evening, which is a sure sign I'm sick, and I went to bed with Nyquil. Friday I stayed in bed all day and read through several weeks worth of New Yorker and Christian Century magazines I'd gotten behind on. I drank more tea.

Saturday I tried to get up in the morning as I had a meeting to attend but realized in the shower that although I could probably have forced myself to be there no one else at the meeting would have been pleased to see me in that condition. I went back to bed. In the afternoon I got up for a few hours to work on my sermon.

And that was probably the worst of it. Sunday I did get up and go to church. I preached on MLK, and Obama, and the mysterious nature of "rights" that are unalienable to us but also depend on laws and the good will of our fellow citizens to make real. I spent the rest of Sunday in bed. Peleg and I watched the movie "Man on Wire" on DVD while I lay on the couch with my bathrobe and blankets. But today I got out of bed, got dressed, and I'm doing my regular Monday housecleaning.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

a new tactic on my wrist

On the way out of my doctor's office on Thursday morning I took off the brace i've been wearing for eight months (except when I had a cast on instead) and dropped it in the trash. I felt like a cripple leaving their crutches at Lourdes. It's not that my wrist is healed, it's not, but my doctor and I decided to try a different approach.

The radius bone continues to have a significant gap just below the wrist where no bone material has grown. Despite keeping the wrist immobilized with the brace, and treatment with a bone stimulator, there's been no change in several months. It may be that bone will never grow there, or it may be that growth is still coming and is just delayed. On the other hand I have no pain. And my biggest hardship is the loss of strength and flexibility in the wrist from not using it for so long.

So we decided to ditch the brace and to let me start using my wrist normally. I do need to be careful because the wrist is fragile with the missing bone. But meanwhile I'll get to regain my strength and flexibility, and return to the activities that I enjoy and keep me healthy, like riding my bike and lifting weights. The doctor will continue to monitor me, but we're going to wait two months for the next check-up instead of just one month. And if the bone remains unhealed and starts to cause me some problem we can always intervene at that point.

Friday, January 16, 2009

final thought on Rick Warren

A friend sent me a link to Melissa Etheridge's statement about Obama's choice of Rick Warren to speak at his inauguration. I had read reports on this, including recently a quote from Etheridge’s piece quoted in The Christian Century, which I subscribe to. It was nice to read the whole piece.

I totally agree with her position, especially the essential question she asked herself before agreeing to appear at the event with Rev. Warren, “Am I really about peace?”

Rick Warren and other folks need education not vilification. We will not really win this struggle if it’s only shoved down the throats of America by legal decisions and yet their hearts and minds are never persuaded. It’s not a shotgun wedding that I’m seeking for gays and lesbians, it’s a wedding that is supported by my fellow-citizens in just the way that I wish to use my own marriage to support my society.

There will certainly be some bigots out there who will never get it. Rick Warren may be one, though I doubt it. But discovering who is persuadable and who isn’t requires that we try talking before we exclude. I applaud Obama’s strategy of bringing opposing voices to the table. Then we’ll see who’s willing to talk and who isn’t. I want to be one of those who’s wiling to talk.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

lay theological education

I was invited by Douglas Muder of Free and Responsible Search to help him extend a discussion posed by a UUA task force on Lay Theological Education. The question is what do UUs need to "go deeper?" My glib answer is that what we don't need is "theological education." What we need is spiritual experience. We don't need more talking about religion, more discussion, more reading and research. What we need is to do religion: hands on social justice work, pastoral care, prayer and meditation, ritual, personal connection, pilgrimage, worship that is really worshipful.

In a quote from the invitation I see that the task force is off track in thinking that lay people need a kind of "seminary-light" education. Muder writes:

"In the discussions the task force has had among ourselves, we talk a lot about the gap between the kinds of adult ed you'd find at a typical UU church and the far more arduous program of a divinity school. What could we offer the person who wants to go deeper, but can't take years out of his/her life and spend tens of thousands of dollars?"

But "going deeper" doesn't require knowing more, it requires doing more. "Deepening" isn't an intellectual exercise it's an experience. For me, seminary was extremely useful in that it exposed me to a mature theology that I found compatible with my reason and thus gave me permission to explore the spiritual yearnings I already felt. If that's the need a short booklist and some self-study is all that's required.

But I find in my church community that intellectual problems are not the blockade they were for me, and that more or better theology does not move people to become open to spiritual experience. I find in most of our churches the membership is ready for spiritual work and they want help in doing it. Their questions are "How do I get started?" "Where do I go?" "How can worship be more inspiring?" "What could I say in prayer?" "How can I regularly access that experience of God I've had spontaneously a few times?" Reading theology is not going to meet that need.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

faith club

I attended the first meeting today of what will likely develop into a "faith club." I borrow that title from the name of a book that describes three women's effort to find understanding between their separate religious identities as a muslim, a christian, and a jew. My group consists of several members of our interfaith council who decided that in addition to meeting to organize community service efforts like our annual CROP Walk, we also wanted a place where we could learn about each other's faith and talk about our various answers to the important issues of theology. In particular we wanted a place where it would be OK to talk about our disagreements and to pose the challenging questions we have for each other.

For our first meeting we read the book recommended to us by one member of our group, an Episcopalian priest who had read the book with a group in her church. Today we also had a Buddhist lay man, and a Jewish lay women. We also hope in future meetings to be joined by a second episcopalian priest, a Reformed Rabbi, and a Mormon lay woman. And we have a contact to a Hindu woman who may be able to join us as well.

I'm very excited about this opportunity. That I already know these people through several years of work on the council will make our initial meetings easier. But I'm looking forward to having conversation with them in a way we never have before.

Monday, January 12, 2009

petty pet peeve

i notice this stuff. Peleg and I watched a movie last night. At one point there's a scene where the entire population of the city succumbs to a mass hysteria. They sleep it off in the village square, and then wake the next morning with a collective hangover. The voice-over in the movie then says that the people were so embarassed by what they had done that many of them:

"literally erased the event from their memory."

Mis-use of the word literally annoys me. Literally means actually, or truthfully, or in reality, but instead bad writers often use it in an attempt to add intensity to a cliched metaphor.

If the verb "erase" means the act of removing a physical mark then there's no way to literally erase a memory. If, you argue, "erase" should be understood more generally to refer to any act of obliterating what once existed then you could erase a memory but in that case the word "literally" would be redundant because every act of memory erasing would be literal.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

marriage equality rally

Here's the text of the speech I made at today's rally on the steps of Pasadena city hall advocating for the repeal of DOMA.

My name is the Reverend Ricky Hoyt and I’m here because Unitarian Universalist ministers have been performing marriage services for same-sex couples for over 40 years and it’s about time my religious beliefs were given the same respect that we give to the conservative Christians, the Catholics and the Mormons.

I’m here because my faith does not draw distinctions between the worth of adult relationships based on their sex. My faith does not draw distinctions between families and the love parents can give and the security children deserve based on the sexual orientation of the parents. My faith does not have me tell some of God’s children that you were created to arrange the flowers at other people’s weddings, but you can’t have a wedding yourself.

God cares more about marriage than about old definitions of marriage. God cares more about justice now than about upholding past traditions. God cares more about respect for people than about respect for what we’ve chosen to call scripture. God cares more that you take care of your own marriage than that you make rules about somebody else’s marriage.

I’m here because as an American citizen who can read the constitution for myself, I know that it the responsibility of my government to treat every citizen as equal persons under the law. It’s that simple. It’s about equal rights. This isn’t about sex. This isn’t about immorality. This isn’t about religion. This isn’t even really about marriage.

This is about equality. This is about the government of all citizens that every one of us pays taxes to, and empowers with our votes, treating every one of us with the same dignity and respect as every other person. What we demand is that just as the government has told employers that they cannot discriminate against us, just as the government has told housing authorities that they cannot discriminate against us, just as the government has told schools and hospitals that they cannot discriminate against us, we demand that the state itself stop discriminating against us in the institution of civil marriage.

Do you want to talk about immorality? Some of our foes want to talk about immorality.

Immorality is creating a law and calling it the Defense of Marriage Act when it defends no marriages but prevents and attacks thousands of marriages. Immorality is setting up a state by state system of marriage rights and telling the queers down in Alabama and up in Idaho that it doesn’t matter what happens in Massachusetts and Connecticut you’ll never be equal here. Immorality is a privileged majority by a 52% vote stripping fundamental rights from their neighbors and fellow citizens.

With this ongoing fight for marriage equality gays and lesbians have stepped up and said, “We want to be fully recognized members of this society. We are eager to take on all the burdens and responsibilities of caring for our spouses, raising the next generation of children whether our own or adopted, and creating secure households and stable neighborhoods.” And the majority heard us and answered, “No Thank You, we like it better when you were victims.”

I actually feel sorry for the foes of marriage equality. I feel sorry for them because they have placed themselves on the wrong side of a rising tide that will eventually find themselves overwhelmed. The tide of marriage equality is coming in.
Now tides move slowly, we all know. For a long time it can seem as though there is no threat or power in the rising tide. There is plenty of time to build your castle and to give your castle every appearance of strength and permanence. But every child knows that all castles made of sand will succumb to a tide that no person can hold back. If your castle is built of the sands of bigotry it will crumble. If your castle is built of the sands of hatred it will crumble. The sand castle some have built to reserve marriage as the exclusive right of heterosexual couples will be washed away by the tide of equality.

Meanwhile the real castle called equal protection under the law, the castle guaranteed by our constitution, made of stronger stone, built well away from the water, and open to all persons will prevail.

Remember religion is not the enemy. Churches are not the enemy. Bigotry and ignorance are the enemy. Keep up the pressure. Keep up the visibility. Keep up the love. And we will win this fight.

Friday, January 9, 2009

the problem is...

I actually heard a commentator on CNN describing the current economic situation and the data on lower consumer spending in December say...

"The problem is that people are only buying what they need. That's not the route to prosperity."

Buying more than we need leads to homes filled with trash, obesity and sloth, starvation in other parts of the world because of our consuming more than our share, pollution and habitat destruction as we force the earth to produce more than it can sustain and to take back more waste than it can re-absorb.

What if we put fulfilling human "needs" ahead of propping up an artificially robust economy, and realized that people need meaning and purpose and self-agency and beauty and joy and human connection more than they need big cars and game systems and new sweaters and luxury trips and giant houses?

The solution to our economic woes is not to encourage people to buy stuff they don't need. The solution is to create an economy that doesn't depend on constant growth enabled only by exploiting cheap labor and non-renewable natural resources.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

hole in the bone

Nearly eight months after my cycling accident that left me with a shattered wrist, I'm still not completely healed and it's beginning to be a possibility that I may never be completely back to normal. Fortunately, the hand itself is OK and I have good movement in all my fingers (typing is not a problem). But there's a significant gap in the bone material of the radius, on the side of the bone near the ulna, near where the bone connects to the wrist.

For the last few months my doctor and I have been trying to get the bone to regrow. I've been wearing a brace for support, taking supplements of calcium, and wearing a "bone stimulator" which is a device that creates an electro-magnetic field over the broken area and induces bone growth. However, the gap has not closed, and it now seems likely that the exposed areas have become scarred over, which would prevent healthy bone from growing.

The next steps would begin with putting a camera inside the wrist to see whether there is any living bone at the break that could support new growth, and if there is then filing the gap with bone graft, perhaps taken from my hip. If there is no living bone then the only option might be to fuse the radius bone with the first line of wrist bones. That would limit mobility but would give me enough strength that I could resume most of the use of my right hand.

Needless to say there has been a lot of opportunity and time for spiritual reflection about all this. I've been depressed. I've confronted feelings of shame (I'm not a perfect cyclist who always pays perfect attention). I've acknowledged my age and mortality. I've tried to develop patience. I've thought about the process of healing and whether there's a place for God in the process or is it just up to me and my doctor. But like the injury itself, which still remains unresolved, my spiritual musings are also incomplete. I don't know what it means. I don't know what it's for. The experience doesn't seem valuable to me, just awful. I don't believe that we have experiences in order to learn certain lessons (the experiences aren't caused purposefully) but I do believe that spiritual growth comes from examining our experience. As of yet I haven't figured out how to make this experience benefit me.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Prayer

Here's the prayer I spoke at church last Sunday to close our time or prayer and meditation:

Great Spirit of Time, Master of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.
We praise You and Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.
Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day to feel love, and joy, and peace, and to spread love, joy and peace to others.
We leave the irreparable past in your hands, carrying forward the lessons we’ve learned and step out into the unknown space of the new year you have opened for us.
With expectation and eagerness we take up the responsibility of creating the world we wish to inhabit.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

run around

Still laid up with my (insert expletive) broken wrist and not able to get on the bike in 7 (insert expletive) months I've taken up running again. At least it gets me out in the sunshine. And it gets me some badly needed exercise. I am going to the gym but I can only do leg machines. And then I can use the stationary bike. It's a good workout but it's not the same thing. And the lack of weight-lifting has slowed my metabolism so I've been putting on some pounds lately. Ugh.

I'm lucky to have a nice right-out-my-front-door run, down to the lake, once-around for three miles or twice around for five miles, and back to the house. I used to do it twice a week when I was training for the marathon.

AND, the city just completed a long-awaited path on the opposite side of the lake. Instead of running in the street now we can run (or walk, dogs too) on a nice graded path, through the trees. Friendly people. Nice Views. SOuthern California weather. There's even a water fountain. Cool.