Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.

In Care

Finding Renewal

In the midst of uncertainty of many varieties, this fall I’ve been looking for renewal everywhere I can find it. A great source has been a new garden that Chris and I designed and helped install in our backyard in October.

After heavy rain that caused our basement to flood with “compost tea” (solid compost that was originally intended for the garden) we decided that we needed help. So we hired a landscape crew to install new pathways and a patio, and put in fruit and nut trees and shrubs: fig, persimmon, blueberry, kiwi, hazelnut, a tea camellia. Also serviceberry, stewartia, oakleaf hydrangea, carpet roses, red twig dogwood, and a few spring bulbs. We’ll see what survives this winter, and we’ll plant a bit more in the spring. Even with all the heavy rain and sudden cold, it seems to be holding together; I’m grateful we had such good help from professionals.

Where are you finding renewal as we head into the growing winter darkness? Is it with family? Friends? Books? Movies? At the gym? Over shared meals? With meaningful volunteer work? And how’s your spiritual life? I’ve been snacking on spirituality books like they’re popcorn—so good! I haven’t been able to walk as much as I’d like, but I’ve been stringing beads and drawing Zentangles, and I joined a prayer writing group. And I put a Contemplative Prayer app on my phone so that I can practice every day for 15 minutes. I don’t normally “do” this much, but I’ve found that keeping busy has been good for me. And any regular practice always puts me back in touch with my center. And when I’m grounded I feel ok no matter how much the world seems to spin all around me.

Do you have a regular practice that supports your inner life in the midst of stressful times? What is that for you?

Blessings, Deborah

ERUUF’s Disaster Response

What a frantic week of preparation for a terrifying storm, and what a relief that Hurricane Florence weakened and turned away from our area. And yet, how shocking to watch reports of rising flood waters turning eastern North Carolina cities into islands and major interstates into scenic rivers.

On Sunday, September 16 we raised over $3,800 for relief for storm victims. ERUUF’s donation will go to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, which gives 100% of funds to victims. The next day I also received a notice from Democracy North Carolina. You might like to give to this effort that is reaching out to minority communities that are usually overlooked and underserved. Check out this link for more information about needs and where your donations will mean the most.

Finally, as Rev. William Barber reminds us in this opinion piece, "storms like Florence do more than destroy; they also expose the inequities in our society that are perpetuated by extreme policies."  There are lots of ways to respond to this disaster. You can give money, donate supplies, or help displaced people register to vote. You can also hold our friends and neighbors who have been >so hard hit in your heart, with love. That’s a really good way to remember that we’re all truly connected, and feel comforted as you do.

Peace, Deborah

We Come with a Dream

Art by Dawn Hummer

We Come with a Dream

created by the Soul Matters Team

We come bound by the threads of a dream

Of all walking together side by side,

none of us above or below

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Much Too Much Fun

What was the most fun you’ve had recently? This past July my husband and I went to work on our backyard. For three weeks, he took a saw, pickax and finally a shovel to privet clumps. One large stump was so entwined and heavy that it took three people to carry it away. It looked awfully hard, and Chris would come into the house soaked with sweat, covered in mud, yet grinning like a kid having the bestest day ever. “Did you ever see the movie Shane?” he asked. “It’s like that giant tree stump the two guys hack away at…this is GREAT!”

He was removing the privet because we designed and built a fence. The lot next to us is covered in bamboo and we have an appreciative but vigilant relationship with it. We admire its graceful arcs but cut it back and dig it out when it starts creeping too near our house. We’ve been saving the poles though and this summer hired a strong, younger friend to dig post holes and drainage ditches. Then we built frames out of 2x4 and 1x6 cedar, cut the bamboo to fit and attached the cedar and bamboo screens to the posts.

This is phase one of our DIY landscape plan. And it was about the most fun I’ve had since I was a kid building forts in the backyard out of scrap wood and other junk. We don’t know if the fence will last or if we’ll have to figure out another way to create a sense of enclosure for the new garden. But for now we’re still amazed by a sense of “Wow! We did that?! How fun!”

Have you ever played with a weird idea and come up with something wonderfully unexpected? I highly recommend it.


What Wants to Happen Next

Ten years ago this week I began what I thought would be a one year interim ministry at ERUUF. Wow….life is what happens while you’re making other plans, yes? When I visited that June to sign a contract and find an apartment, the moment my feet touched the earth here on campus a strange thought resonated through my whole body as if I were a bell: “I’m home.” To which my rational self immediately responded, “Ok, yes, but just for one year.”

Life had other plans and the past ten years has brought enormous change. And through it we’ve figured out how to work, learn, contemplate, cooperate, demonstrate, play, and resist together.

One of my favorite theological questions is, “What wants to happen next?” A great way to begin to discern possible answers is to simply pay attention to what comes up from deep within as you ask yourself this question, and then also as you listen to what’s compelling to other people when they do the same. As you do this you begin to sense not just what worked ten, twenty, thirty years ago here or somewhere else. You begin to sense new possibilities that want to emerge here and now.

I’m looking forward to the next exciting chapter in this vital community, in this vibrant region, where good things will happen as we pay attention, open our hearts, listen and make room for who and what wants to happen next.

Blessings, Deborah

It’s Difficult in Times Like These

“It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”  The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank 

These past few weeks, no matter how politically active and spiritually healthy we are, we wake and find ourselves in a land that increasingly feels like a nightmare: 

We incarcerate children just like Anne Frank in dog kennels, with only mylar “blankets.”  We separate them from their families, and don’t know how or when they’ll be reunited. 

We send children just like Anne Frank back to Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, where they'll become the property of gang members, or be murdered if they refuse (gangs that US policy inadvertently helped create when we trained foreign leaders at the School of the Americas).

Some in this country are in thrall to illusions around our president.  And with their loyal devotion he’s able to subvert democracy, threaten our economy, and radically reshape our political relationships with world allies.  It will not last.  His supporters will wake up at some point.  And then they and all the rest of us will have to pick up the pieces and begin again.      

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Powerful Voices of Love and Truth

You might have heard that one of Rev. Barber’s latest endeavors is to pick up the civil rights agenda that has lain dormant since Dr. King’s assassination. Rev. Barber has partnered with Rev. Liz Theoharris, a long time anti-poverty advocate from New York. Together they’re leading this spring’s Poor People’s Campaign in 30 states, including North Carolina.

Read more about the campaign:
And yet this movement is about so much more than two powerful leaders. On June 4 I heard stories from people who are ill and have no health care; others shared the work they’re doing to keep our water clean and free from chemicals and coal ash. This past week I sat with a Latino pastor who cried as he shared stories about corporate wage theft from migrant farmworkers who come to him for support. With real grief he proclaimed, “God’s people are hurting!”

And yet…through it all there are the strong, loving, determined voices of people working for justice, jobs, health care, respect, and dignity. “Love is here; power is here; we are here” one banner proclaimed. Change begins when we listen to each other’s stories.

I’m grateful to ERUUFians Joan Tilghman, Emily Cox and Ann Ringland who’ve organized and served as peacekeepers for six weekly rallys where these stories have been told. Amid the swirling chaos and heartbreak of national politics, the clear voices of people who speak the truth clearly, plainly and with love have grounded me, steadied me, and brought me back to my senses this spring. Love is here; power is here; we are here! And ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around!

Video from Poor People's Campaign (June 2018)

Winds of Change

It’s been an amazing year at ERUUF. A generous member challenged us last December; they would match what members could raise dollar for dollar up to $250,000. Members stepped up and we more than met the match. As a result ERUUF has been able to pay off its $104,000 mortgage and put the rest into a reserve fund for scheduled maintenance (the big stuff that needs replacing and repair—and we will still cover our normal “wear and tear expenses” out of the funds we each contribute annually—as we should). Alleluia!!

And yet all this comes in a time when the Durham Herald Sun has been running a series on our local economic boom, the building downtown, and how all this affects our low income neighbors. In some neighborhoods developers snatch up homes for pennies on the dollar that residents can’t afford to maintain, then renovate and sell the properties at huge profit. Since long-time home owners, most of whom are People of Color, don’t realize the greatest profits, the remnant of wealth remaining in Durham’s historically Black communities is flowing out at stunning rates.

In the midst of such significant changes, I’m inspired by long time fellowship members who have a strong commitment to all of Durham. ERUUF was recently recognized as the group that contributes the most annual volunteer hours at Urban Ministries. And for the past several years Durham CAN, our local community organizing group that works on jobs, affordable housing, and community policing has had an office here on our campus, and we’ve become increasingly active members with them. Our commitment to dismantling systemic racism is significant in all this, because it helps us become partners who better understand the issues and increase our skill at following the lead of local People of Color who are fighting for their rights.

In a time when the winds of change are blowing fiercely, Unitarian Universalists have a great moral compass in the form of our principles and liberal religious values—justice, equity, and compassion just to name a few. At ERUUF we’re using these important tools as guidance to find meaningful, impactful ways to transform life for ourselves and our neighbors.

Blessings, Deborah

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UUs in the News

The Black Lives Matter banner at the UU congregation in Winston-Salem has been stolen several times now. So often, in fact, that my intrepid colleague, Rev. Lisa Schwartz, bought a spare the last time she re-ordered.

Which was great, because on Sunday April 22, when someone not only stole their banner for the 3rd time, but also spray painted "WHITE" across their front doors in huge, skinny letters, she and the congregation were ready. The new banner was up by 12:15pm as the congregation sung their commitment:
"Ain't gonna let no spray paint turn me around..."

Even better, at a press conference just days later, not only did the local Black Clergy Caucus turn out with their strong support, but so did many White ministers from mainline churches from across the city. Also joining them were a county commissioner, members of the city council and school board, and one lone, sweet member of the local Socialist party.

Rev. Schwartz says that every leader spoke in support of the congregation, and that in particular it was heartening that two prominent White mainline clergy publicly emphatically stated that the question was not why a White church would display a BLM banner, but why ALL White churches aren't displaying the banner. And they committed to lifting up banners on their churches.

After the press conference, Rev. Schwartz says that all the leaders who gathered agreed that “the vandalism was SO minor compared to the oppression that people of color have endured for centuries. We’ve pledged to lift not only the banner, but the issue, clearly and consistently.” Together they’ve vowed that they will continue the conversation about race and the work of Black Lives Matter in Winston-Salem.

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Trauma and New Life

Emma Gonzalez. A tiny young woman who arrested our attention with the way she held space for grief and outrage not with words, but 6½ minutes of silence, the amount of time it took a gunman to kill 17 of her classmates and friends. She could have spoken, and it would have been a significant moment.Instead, her presence, raw courage, and commitment ...
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Balance in Unhinged Times

We read the headlines at our house and shake our heads. Is this the Times or the Onion, we ask each other in disbelief. The world that we've known and prepared for is battered daily; institutions take big hits and falter; protections we had come to take for granted are no more. Is this just the way the pendulum swings, part of the big shifts of cul...
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Intentionally on Purpose

The sky this new year has been the pure, clear blue that comes when arctic air rushes down from the North Pole and sweeps it clean. It appears overhead like a bright fresh page that could hold any great vision, every resolution and best intention. But once imagined up above the fray of our everyday world, how do we bring these visions and ideals do...
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Wanted: Ethical New Ways of Being Together

#MeToo. I have to admit that at first I didn't understand how tweeting about this could make a significant difference. Oh, I believed the women who were telling their stories. But while that's an awesome first step, it takes more to create lasting change. We know, because we've done this before. More than fifty years ago small groups met in living ...
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Deep Wells Require Tending

How is it with your spirit? What's holding you in balance after big losses? Amid big political and climate changes? What's holding you steady in the times when life doesn't unfold as you had expected? Me? I've been walking a lot more. I've reduced my intake of the news and have limited my time on Facebook. I try to read balanced reporting from reli...
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Out of the Shadows, Onto the Journey

My husband, granddaughter and I went on a half day rafting trip down the Nantahala River on August 21. We were in a group of about 100 very lucky people who paddled downstream between mountains that rose up steeply on either side of the river. We rested in a cove as the color seemed to drain from the world. The air temperature dropped to 63 degrees...
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