May 15, 2017

Warning

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:16 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Years ago the Motivators posters were all the rage.  You can still see them on office walls today. They have beautiful, high-resolution photos of something like a group of people rowing a boat into a sunrise. At the top, a single word, like “TEAMWORK.”  Below the image a few sentences like, “Teamwork is the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward shared goals.  It is the pull that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

Of course, these posters inspired many parodies.  In one is a similar image of a rowing team in the early morning, all pulling together, the word “teamwork” in a similar font.  But below are the words, “When we fail as individuals, the fault is ours alone.  But when we fail as a team, it is always some other idiot’s fault.” My particular favorite was the image of a sunken ship, only the prow above the blue water as the sky turns to orange and yellow.  Above is the word “MISTAKES.”  Below, the text reads, “It could be that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.”

I thought of that poster yet again when I came across the latest installment of Sightings.   Out of University of Chicago’s Divinity school and the Martin Marty Center, this column has come out twice a week for decades sharing insights to the appearance of religion in public media.  On May 5, 2017, Martin Marty himself wrote on “Taking the Unitarian Universalist Diversity Crisis Seriously,” with a picture of our past UUA President at the top.  You should follow the link below to read the article but to my first reading, Dr. Marty’s point is this: Sometimes the purpose of your deep troubles is to serve as a warning to others.

Sightings, on UU Diversity Crisis

Mistakes

February 10, 2017

Sanctuary

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:46 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

WORDS SPOKEN AT A VIGIL IN SUPPORT OF A CITY COUNCIL DECISION TO DECLARE OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON, AS A SANCTUARY CITY

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2017-FEB-7

My name is Reverend Thomas, lead minister at the Olympia UU Congregation. Tonight I want to speak about fear.

I understand, very well, the fear of terrorism. I want to live where I am not afraid of terrorist attacks, and because of that, I want others also to live free from terrorism.  I want to share the safety I feel here, with those who are fleeing violence and terror in this world.

I also fear to lose the protection of the law.  I want to know that I can call the police, or military, to protect me if need be.  I want others to have the same knowledge.  But there are people who fear the police and the military of their countries. I want them to share in the protections I enjoy.

I am glad I can thrive within the laws of this land, and this lovely city.  I want the law to protect me and all I hold valuable.  But if the laws of this land are unfair, unjust, or hurt people, then I will demand that they be changed.  And, if those in power do not act, I will resist those laws to draw attention to the need to make laws that are more just, equitable and compassionate.

Tonight we affirm our decision to be a sanctuary city.  That means we will not use our public resources to enforce national immigration laws.  I cannot tell you what to do, but I can ask ‘what exactly does that mean?’  Does it mean that we will not use our public resources, to harm others? Or does it mean we will use public resources to provide shelter and sanctuary from that harm?  Does it mean that we will passively resist, or that we will actively use our private homes to offer sanctuary, or will we put our bodies in between those we are called to protect and the foes that threaten them?

There are many people seeking sanctuary.  May we all feel safe and free of fear.  May we find the power to maintain all that keeps us safe. May we, tonight, extend the circle of care and protection we feel to all in Olympia, and to all who need it.

Amen

December 18, 2016

Make America Wake Again

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:03 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Oh, the Trump train is boarding, and all the powerful schemers are climbing abord. They are going to a land called America Great Again and they think we all will go with them.  But they are confused, most of America is confused, about where they are actually going.  They believe that America is Great is where each generation has more money, more financial opportunity, than the generation before.  

For example, The New York Times just published an article (“The American Dream, Quantified at Last,” by David Leonhardt) which begins with the fact that historian James Truslow Adams coined the term “American Dream” in his 1931 book The Epic of America.  They quote his definition of the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”  

The problem is that they use this definition to only focus on income, as revealed in income tax data.   But Adams went on, immediatly after the words quoted, to say that the dream was not just about income and because of that people msunderstand the dream.   Adams said, “It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

That sounds like the UU dream, the one that causes to wake up to the social order of the day.  We see the social order does not recognize people as they are, or empower them to attain their fullest stature.  Instead, the social order uses the sugar of income to ensure the oppressing, alienating, degrading and marginalizing of so many of us.  We wake each tme we mark the Transgender Day of Rememberance, or stand with those who say “Black Lives Don’t Matter Enough Yet.”  If we are moved by the True American Dream, and relize it is still only a dream, it moves us to leave the Trump Train and seek instead the most holy and beautiful, Peace Train. The dream causes us to wake up and “stay woke” as my allies put it.  

Please, join with me in making America “woke” again, seeking not the dream of money and cars only, but also the dream of peace, love justce and compassion.

December 7, 2016

Hotei

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:01 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Peace in Wartime

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:58 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

In the coming years, we know that the fight for environmental justice, and the struggle to unwind American racism, and even the work to end homelessness, will be more difficult and complicated. How do we appoah these struggles peaceully?

Recently I was given the privilege of talking with Brian Hovis on Panorama TV about how to deal with divisiveness after the recent national elections. I hope you get a chance to see it and talk to others about my ideas of peacemaking. However, to underscore a part of my thought I want to share what a great Texas writer and sharp wit, Molly Ivins, once wrote:

“It is not the symphony of voices in sweet concert I enjoy, but the cacophony of democracy, the brouhahas, and the donny-brooks, the full-throated roar of a free people busy using their right to freedom of speech. Democracy requires rather a large tolerance for confusion and a secret relish for dissent. This is not a good country for those who are fond of unanimity and uniformity.”

This is also true of our UU religious communities which value democratic processes highly. For example, though a minority, there are many UUs who are very conservative on some issues and who back politically conservative candidates. Sometimes they feel they must hide their thoughts in UU congregations for fear of alienating others, or of being ostracized. Part of “opening minds, filling hearts and transforming lives,” is seeking mutual understanding. We must have a willingness to not only disagree on some things but to be open and honest about understanding why we sometimes disagree.  

Further complicating the situation is the fact that it is against US law for any religious organization to support a particular candidate for election, or to affiliate with any particular political party. However, we religious communities are supposed to take moral stands, even on politically charged issues, legislation, and laws. Thus, despite minority opinions to the contrary in UU congregations, we fought for marriage equality and celebrated the US Supreme Court’s decision as a moral victory for us as well as for all people.  

In the coming years, we know that the fight for environmental justice, and the struggle to unwind American racism, and even the work to end homelessness, will be more difficult and complicated. Let us open our minds and hearts to one another, and may we hear within the cacophony of democracy the deeper harmonies of Peace.  

With Wishes for Wellness,

Thomas

July 25, 2016

Mimi Hubert

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:03 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I served First Unitarian of Saint Louis for five very good years.  Sadly, as I was getting ready to leave one member of my congregation was going through her last days.  It grieved me not only to hear that Mimi Hubert hd died, but also to know i would not be unable to lead the service in celebration of her life.  I was very glad that Mimi’s friend, the Rev. Margaret O’Neal could lead the service.  I was glad to write a short rememberance that Margaret could read to my fellow mourners.  I want to share those words here also, because they speak to the nature of our religion:
“When I Think of Mimi, I Smile”

Rev. Thomas Perchlik, July 2016

I every time that I saw Mimi Hubert, even when she was very ill, she smiled. Sometimes her smile was a simple gesture like the half-smile of the Buddha: compassionate and kind. She knew the pain and difficulty of relationships gone awry. Still, she smiled sweetly. Sometimes it was that big goofy grin, full of her humor and good will. She was willing to look for the good in any situation. 

When Mimi was the center of planning and organization for the huge RainbowCon, when a couple of hundred youth gathered in this church, she worked for months to put everything in order. It was serious work. As we arrived at that weekend the stress of the work was obvious in her face. And yet, often I saw her smiling, opening her arms wide to give anyone a hug, and enjoying the happy energy of all those fine young people growing in the garden she had prepared for them.  

Even in the hospital, recovering from difficult treatments and struggling with depression, she smiled, laughed, and showed immense kindness to others who were more ill than she was. When ever I think of Mimi, I smile

July 9, 2016

Gun – Violence – Peace

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 11:36 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Yet again our nation has been wracked by the bloody mix of guns, fear and anger. In one instance a loner, crazed by hateful thoughts, used a gun to kill many strangers. In another a police officer, frightened by seeing a gun, killed a non-threatening man in a car.

Far too often people with guns in this nation kill people they know, but we are more disturbed by attacks on strangers.  The most recent mass-shooting targeted police officers, and the killer invoked racial hatred as a motive. Thus this particular act of violence took on a particularly tragic quality. But in the end it is the same as other mass-shootings, a crazed person, acting as a free individual with a gun, wrought havoc on several fellow citizens.

Likewise, if Jeronimo Yanez or Philando Castile had not possessed a gun, that particular traffic stop could not have ended in death. Race was secondary to that situation. It adds to the fear and misunderstanding between people. If both men had been white and carried guns the situation was also likely to end in violent death, if slightly less so. It is the fear of violence and the way we use guns to amplify our that fear that must be opposed by the spirit of love. To paraphrase Christian scriptures, “We fight not against flesh and blood but the powers and ruling ideas of this troubled world.”

We, Unitarian Universalists, as a religious people, consciously dedicate ourselves to respond to gun amplified fear by working for Love and Justice, Dignity and Tolerance. Our goal is to counter the fear and terror created by these mass-shootings. Our goal is mot to merely end all the gun related violence in our nation, (and in our world). We want to create a spirit of peace. We have no one single method for undoing this violence. Some of us focus on gun control legislation, and others on raising awareness of our own biases. But in worship, together, we will represent our shared dedication by lighting a flame in a chalice. The flame represents the one spirit and truth that inspires us to use all resources available. We use our feelings of sadness, even helplessness, to support one another, and to create peace.

June 6, 2016

Of What Does the Lobster Dream

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:57 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Recently I went to see the movie, The Lobster.   It is definitely a thought provoking movie, disturbing and funny and very wierd.  I plan to write an article about its theology, but for the moment, here are two insightful quotes from movie reviewers. 

The Boston Herald Review

Beethoven, Shostakovich and Stravinsky all put in prominent appearances, but the most evocative selection here may well be Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s country-Gothic ballad “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” which its plaintive plea for unrestrained love: “Do you know where the wild roses grow, so sweet and scarlet and free?” Perversely romantic almost in spite of itself, “The Lobster” doesn’t offer the answer, but it suggests we keep looking.

Chicago Reader Review
Lanthimos and his frequent cowriter Efthymis Filippou draw heavily on the theater of the absurd in their crafting of timeless and tragicomic fables that hold up a mirror to society. 

The term “theater of the absurd” was coined by Hungarian dramatist Martin Esslin in a 1960 essay of that name, which dealt with the work of Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, and Eugene Ionesco. “The Theatre of the Absurd attacks the comfortable certainties of religious or political orthodoxy,” he wrote in 1965. “It aims to shock its audience out of complacency, to bring it face to face with the harsh facts of the human situation as these writers see it.” The absurdism of these plays, according to Esslin, typically arises from a world devoid of meaning in which people are controlled by mysterious outside forces. Absurdist plays often mix broad comedy with horror and tragedy; the dialogue is riddled with dictums and cliches; the flat or archetypal characters, stuck in meaningless routines, tend to behave like automatons; and the cyclical plots emphasize repetition and the pointlessness of existence.

The Lobster’s comedy, like that of so many absurdist plays, is biting and tinged with terror. 

The Lobster’s dialogue is purposely ridiculous, the actors straight-faced and robotic as they utter romantic bromides.

Esslin wrote that the real challenge of absurdist drama is to persuade the viewer to “accept the human condition as it is.” An absurdist drama, if written and executed well, need not leave the audience feeling miserable. “The shedding of easy solutions, of comforting illusions, may be painful,” he wrote, “but it leaves behind it a sense of freedom and relief . . . in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.” The 
http://www.bostonherald.com/entertainment/movies/movie_reviews/2015/05/cannes_film_review_the_lobsterhttp://www.bostonherald.com/entertainment/movies/movie_reviews/2015/05/cannes_film_review_the_lobster

April 27, 2016

My Dear People: Unitarian Hobbits

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:26 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Remarks made at the First Unitarian Church of Saint Louis, April 23, 2016

My Dear People, long ago according to Mr. Tolkien, Bilbo Baggins gave a speech at his one-hundred-and-eleventh birthday party.  I have borrowed some of Bilbo’s words, and added some of my own, to properly to honor this marvelous event, our Fellowship of the Church Dinner.

My dear Dusenberys and Fathmans, and Koebbes, O’Briens and O’Malleys, and my dear Myers and Kindlebergers, and so many more. Too many to name and count, including individuals such as Bovento and Hoeklman, going on to those at the end of the alphabet, such as the Wires, and the inestimable Weck.  WELCOME!  Also, my greetings go to all those who have worked to make this party possible including Ms. Clemons and Ms. Underwood, and our custodian, Mr. Smith.

Today, this church is more than a hundred and eleven years old! In fact, it is only a couple of months past its hundred and eighty-first birthday! Since we did not celebrate our birthday at the end of January, let’s do that now.  Cheers!

I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.  I shall not keep you long.  We have feasting to do, but we are gathered together for a purpose.  Indeed, I have three Purposes for this speech.

First of all, I speak to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all and that five years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable Unitarians and to say that I am sorry to be leaving you in a few months.

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

Secondly, we are here to celebrate birthdays of another sort, the anniversaries of all who joined this church 15 years, 25 years, 50 and 55 years ago.  I am not going to add up all those years, all the Sundays celebrated, all the Fellowship Dinners attended, all the money that you gave or any of that, but it is not a trifling amount.  It is a form of inheritance given to us for which we should be grateful.

It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history, the sixth anniversary of my arrival by barrel here at our annual Fellowship Dinner; this was the first time we were, properly, introduced.  I was only fifty then, but I had the honor of being seated at a front table with the eldest of our elders, including Marietta Hunsche, who on that day was not even a hundred and who, tomorrow we will memorialize in words and song.   The banquet that night was very splendid; I was as grateful to be here then as now.  I repeat what I said then, ‘Thank you very much for coming to this little party and for including me.’ I now expand on what I said then: thank you for including me in all that we have done together for the past five years.

Thirdly and finally, I wish to say that this party is not my party, even though I briefly wondered if the Tolkien inspired theme was chosen just to please me.  In fact, this dinner is not about me at all.  This party is about you, the fellowship of this church.  The minister of a church makes visible the good of the church,  but he or she is not its goodness.  I represent the center, but I am not the center.  I clarify our purposes, but I do not determine our purposes.  I choose a course across the wilderness, I can name the dangers and the joys we should face in our journey together, but I cannot choose what you do or how you do it.  You are the fellowship of the church.  Even when I give a great speech, without you to create the occasion, to support my work, to open your minds and hearts, I am just talking to myself.  And when I am gone, when someone else holds this office, you are the church.  With you and only through you does the church live and love and remember and hope.  Together, as a fellowship, you must seek the truth, seek love, seek justice, and seek honesty, integrity, and inspiration, because the finding is in the seeking.

But tonight we cease from seeking.  Together, we rest from our eternal journey to find the spiritual ring of Love, Justice, Dignity and Tolerance.  We take the time to look around and to see in each other, the fellowship of the church, to appreciate how far we have come on our journey, and to see clearly the spirit that moves us all to do the hard work of committees, and boards, feasts, and festivals.  Tonight you are all to be honored, for you are the mighty Fellowship of the church.

April 6, 2016

ULTIMATE JUSTICE

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:22 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Often, while  marching in Ferguson, we chanted “No Justice, no Peace.”  I thought to myself as I chanted, “Know Justice, know Peace.”  However, during a lull in the chanting, I asked a young man next to me, “What do you think ‘justice’ is?” He replied without hesitation, “Put that murderer away.”

Last month, on the Books and Culture website, Tim Stafford posted an essay titled, “Why Justice Divides Us; And how it can unite us.” You can Find it here.  (Tim Stafford is a self-avowed Evangelical Christian, an author and the general editor of a recent publication, God’s Justice: The Holy Bible (Zondervan).)

In his essay, he notes how most people contrast justice with mercy, and associate justice merely with laws, and punishment for breaking laws.  He notes the obvious parallel between how Christians often see the “Law” of the Old Testament and the “Grace” of the New Testament. But,  Stafford argues, that ultimately, Biblical justice “Is not the application of a static body of law, but a foundational component in the great story of God setting right the creation he loves.” In fact, he emphasizes that the Biblical view of justice contains and incorporates Grace and Mercy.

He writes: “The gospel is not just about personal transformation. The good news is that God is setting right everything: individuals and society, nations and nature. If the gospel is strictly about sin and atonement in the individual’s heart, “your God is too small.””  I have met many people, even Unitarian Universalists, who’s God is too small.

Many people in UU congregations struggle with what appears as an absence of a clear and unifying theology, because we have no creed.  In fact, we  have a robust theology (defined as “a way of speaking about the holiest and trusted source of all that is good and right in our lives”), and it centers on a Beloved Community of Ultimate  Justice.

Our theology shows up in what we do and value. For example, we are often very proud of being among the first, in this country, to speak out against slavery, to ordain women, and to affirm gay and lesbian marriages.  We feel energized by action on climate change, or engagement with immigration reform, or demands that our political system treat the most vulnerable and poor with a fair and generous hand.  These examples show what we think is of greatest worth and that the heart of our faith is a vision of Ultimate Justice (what Stafford calls “God’s Justice”).  This vision draws from all our religious sources, Biblical, and Humanistic.  Thus,  it is an act of worship for us to chant “Know justice, know peace” if we remember that Justice is an integration of radical mercy, kindness and reconciliation into the application of the Law.

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