May 27, 2023

Jesus for President?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:12 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Christianity has a twisted relationship with government since Jesus was killed by the state for being associated with religiously fueled divisions, and three hundred years later the state asserted its power to enforce divisive Christian doctrine. I thought of this after reading the NYTimes today:

“As other Times Opinion writers, including most recently the columnist Michelle Goldberg, have noted, Christian nationalism is exerting an outsize and destructive influence on American politics. She writes: “Christians are called to serve God, not a political party, to put our faith in a higher power, not in human beings. We’re taught not to bow to false idols. Yet idolatry is increasingly prominent and our foundational principles — humility, kindness and compassion — in short supply.””

I am pleased that Michelle Goldberg emphasized the founding principles of Jesus above doctrines about him. It is something I always try to do when drawing on my Christian roots.


May 5, 2023

Walking With a Dog

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 11:31 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Back in June of 2021 I wrote this about nightly winter and spring walks with Socks, my dog:

“Each night when the clouds pulled back Orion appeared a little more toward the West. Always he walked with his dog, Sirius, as I walked with mine. Before him was Arigua, the great boar (I have always seen Arigua as a ridge-backed boar). The eagle flies above Orion’s head. He and his dog also hunt the bull. Perhaps he sees Cameolopardis, or Draco, or the Great Bear in the distance. Behind him stalks Leo, regal and silent.”

For fourteen years, most nights, mornings and afternoons we walked. The past two and a half years it has been around Avalon Alderwood and along the Swamp Creek protected area. Before that we walked in Bremerton, or Poulsbo, or Olympia, or Saint Louis or Muncie.

For the past two weeks I walked alone. Of course I was not utterly alone. Some nights I could see Orion, Sirius at his heel. I could see Lepus the rabbit between them, and even bright Venus glided radiant over the grocery store to the west. Socks walked with me too, but only as a memory. I missed his enthusiasm for walking and exploring. Even his last night on the earth, his gladness and curiosity seemed to erase any pain or stiffness in him as he trotted along. He could smell the rabbits and other dogs, long after they vanished into the dark. Last night, I missed the way we silently decided which path to take, or not. He was always a quiet dog, almost never barking. Now he is silent.

I felt sad when our other two dogs died, but Socks continues to haunt me, his absence saddens me. Though he died the morning of April 16, his memory follows me. Early on I voted in a family meeting against having dogs. Over years I have come to love their loyal, friendly spirits. I was glad for Sock’s steady presence in my life. For now, in memory and appreciation, I choose to walk with a dog every night.

January 20, 2023


Posted in Uncategorized at 4:25 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

For thousands of years, the word “minotaur” meant only one thing; it was the singular creature of King Minos.  That beast had the body of a man but the head of a bull (some ancient sources said it was more like a centaur, with a bull’s body and a human head, but I give them no credence).

The minotaur lived in the labyrinth. For thousands of years, the word labyrinth only meant one thing; it was the maze of Minos.  Then in the 20th century, both words began to invoke categories.  Fantasy literature of the 19th and 20th centuries began connoting “minotaur” as a kind of monster of which there could be many.  Personally, as a straight white male, I have come to imagine female minotaurs because, as the saying goes: “I have a lass-half-bull mindset” (sounds like: “glass half full”). The point is that both can serve as metaphors for elements of the spiritual journey.

Likewise, the word Labyrinth only referred to the maze of king Minos.  A maze is any complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way. But in the 19th and 20th centuries, an idea arose that a labyrinth was a particular sort of maze with only a single weaving path. Usually, this path went to the labyrinth’s center and back out again.  Walking the labyrinth has become a spiritual metaphor for the journey of life. It builds confidence in the idea that your life, though it seems to go in the wrong way many times, will eventually reach your spiritual goal. 

The third image for today is that of Ariadne’s (air-ee-ad-nees) thread. She gave the hero, Theseus, a ball of yarn. He tied it to the labyrinth door and let it unwind as he went in. After he defeated the minotaur, he rolled the thread back up, following its path. This helped him find his way out. We often must face the challenges of life alone. But never utterly alone. If we keep the thread of love and connection in our hands, we will be better able to reach the goal of our life, partly because it will always be there in our hands and minds.

Peace to You All.

October 13, 2021

Recognize the Duwamish

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:51 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

This past Sunday my congregation dedicated a plaque. Set on our grounds as a reminder that the Duwamish, Chief Seattle’s people, are still here and that the area of Shoreline and Eliot Bay were not given the land they were promised in the treaty of 1855, nor in later agreements. In my sermon I talked about their dispute with the Muckleshoots and the US Federal government. I also encouraged people to visit the Duwamish Long house on Marginal Way, get to know the Duwamish and the Muckleshoots, pay Duwamish Real Rent, and encourage our legislators to help heal old wounds.

October 8, 2021


Posted in Uncategorized at 3:19 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Every year I celebrate October with pumpkins, spiders, skeletons, monsters and ghosts. The pumpkins become Jack-O-Lanterns the week before Halloween.

Our Alderwood balcony.

June 3, 2021

Orion Walks

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:45 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

About 9 or 9:30 PM tonight my dog Sox (or Socks) and I will take a walk, just as we have for years. But I will miss Orion. Through late fall and winter I have watched him cross the southern skies. Each night when the clouds pulled back (more often than not) he appeared a little more toward the West. Always he walked with his dog, Sirius, as I walked with mine. Before him was Arigua, the great boar (I know most call him “the charioteer” but I have always seen him as a ridge-backed boar.) The eagle flies above Orion’s head. He and his dog also hunt the bull. Perhaps he sees Cameolopardis, or Draco, or the Great Bear in the distance. Behind him stalks Leo, regal and silent.

Today, the first stars will not appear above Puget Sound until almost ten. Through the summer the deadly scorpion follows the hunter’s path. I will almost forget his companionship. Then he will will appear, out walking, yet again.

February 25, 2021

Seven Days of Creation

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:25 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

“Seven Days of Creation”

by Rev. Thomas Perchlik ©2021

Earth, Space, Sunlight, Sun Rays, Sunrise, Sunshine

In the beginning there was only the Great Mystery. The Mystery was in darkness without form, and over it hovered the Mysterious.  Then the Mystery spoke: and there was light. That was The Big Bang, or Radiant Dawn of the First Day.  With light also came time and space and gravity. Then, matter spun atoms into elements. Helium separated from Hydrogen and by noon of the first day clusters and pinwheels of fiery stars swirled into being.  These stars forged new elements: like aluminum and iron, silver and sulfur.  The creation of stars and elements went on for a very, very long time and the source of creation saw it was good.  That was the end of the First Day. 

At the beginning of the Second Day one of many disks of dust was swirling in space.  The Mystery of creation touched the center of that disk and it burst into the light of our happy yellow Sun. Planets and rocks spun out of the disk to circle our Sun.  One of these planets was the Earth.  She was molten hot back then. As she cooled, late in that day, a smaller planet was caught in her gravity, and earth and moon started a long spiral dance. Finally, Earth cooled, and rain fell.  The Mystery saw the earth and the planets of our solar system were good.  That was the end of the Second Day. 

On the Third Day the Mystery made the Archaea, the very earliest forms of life on Earth.  Living things began to use oxygen and nitrogen and carbon. Some of these developed chemical powers to turned sunlight into life-energy.  Eventually there was the vast Edicaran garden the bottom of the seas.  On this long and quiet day new forms of life evolved from earlier forms.  Some creatures began to feed on others and some evolved defenses to escape being eaten.  The Holy Mystery saw that this was good and that was the end of the Third Day.

Early on the Fourth Day the Great Mystery used evolution to shape quiet things like sponges and clams. Then formed funny-finned-fishes and myriad Trilobites. The Mystery moved the surface plates of the Earth and Appalachian Mountains with others were pushed up to begin their enduring existence.  Plants with stems rose into forests. Giant dragonflies hummed through those forests.  Sail-backed Dimetrodons lived and died over millions of years.  Some forms of life, like insects and spiders, turtles and sharks, trees, ferns and even moss saw that day and endured.   Within the Mystery it was clear that these things were all good at the end of the Fourth Day.   

Then began the Fifth Day; The Day of Dinosaurs.  Many different kinds evolved into being.  From Eoraptor to Triceratops; from Tyrannosaurus Rex to the Maisaurs, they roamed the earth, lived vibrantly over eons and left their bones to fossilize.  Other life developed, like frogs and conifers.  True flowers began to bloom on this day, full of color and scent.  The earliest birds rose up, flying and singing as their descendants do today.  Late in the day a new form of life came into being; mammals. They were small but saw the end of the day when a great asteroid crashed into the earth.  Global climates changed, and the dinosaurs faded away, but life endured.  In the Mystery of all, this was good, and that was the end of the Fifth Day. 

On the Sixth Day, evolved running horses and whales began their deep-sea songs. Elephants and wily coyotes came to join the birds and sharks.  Turtles continued to multiply along with new creatures like squirrels and ravens.  Saber-toothed Tigers and Wooly Mastodons came and went through times of deep cold and times of warmth.  Trees grew true fruits and daisies began to bloom.  The Rocky Mountains lifted up, the Grand Canyon began to form and late in the evening Tahoma, or Mount Rainier, rose in fire and ash.  The Mysterious saw that the earth was good, that life was also good and that mammal life was good. That was the end of the sixth day. 

Then, in Africa at dawn, the Mystery caused the first human beings to stand up and look about and realize the goodness of life and love and wisdom.  Humans moved out over the whole of the earth, being fed, in body and spirit from its abundance.  Along the way we improved on language, and politics and science.  We shaped societies and invented technologies. We studied and learned and shared more often than we fought. We made art on the walls of caves and later on the walls of buildings.  Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

That is why we come to this meeting place on the Seventh Day of each week to rest and sing and talk about all that is truly amazing and wonderous. We worship, so that we and all humanity will live sustainably well, vibrantly grow, and share this beautiful earth with all the living things through the next seven days to come.


January 29, 2021

Who is In Charge?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:44 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Written version of a sermon shared with the Shoreline UU church


READINGS: Ancient and Modern

The Readings today are about Who or What is in Charge. Both of them refer to a very personal deity, but our religion asserts that reality, the ultimate truth is unified, but has no singular description, no perfect name.   If you need to, listen to how these poetic, mythic, and imaginative descriptors of truth run parallel to the existential, literal, and logical. 

The Ancient Reading is from Jewish and Christian scripture, the Biblical Book of Numbers chapter 11 verses 10-17.  The setting is that the people have escaped slavery with God’s protection and Moses’s leadership, but are now wandering the wilderness.   

“Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord (GOD) became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.”

The modern reading comes from “Communicating Our Faith” By the Religious Educator, Liz Jones, and the Reverend, Tom Owen-Towle. It invokes the sense in our faith that everyone carries religious authority and thus everyone is in Charge. 

“As Unitarians we hold that every unit of existence is inherently valuable and to be treated as such. We also contend that the cosmos is unitary, that reality is indivisible and whole, that God or Goddess [or Truth Ultimate] is one.

As Universalists we contend that wisdom is discoverable in every era and corner of the universe. And we assert that the only salvation worth having is communal not individual, and that all creatures are held in the eternal embrace of a loving deity, rest assured.

As Unitarian Universalists we covenant together… focusing on shared vows rather than set creeds. Our lives are ultimately measured by right relations instead of right beliefs. We promise our spiritual kin that we will comfort, celebrate, challenge, and companion one another for better, for worse, -ongoingly-. Universalist forebear Hosea Ballou caught the kernel of our covenant in 1805: “If we have love, no disagreement can do us any harm; but if we have not love, no agreement can do us any good.”

Now we will respond to the readings by singing together the very UU song, Spirit of Life. 

HYMN OF REFLECTION (CS): #123, Spirit of Life


These past few weeks have been amazing, filled with fear and hope. Change and resistance to change.  Personally, I cannot say how great is my relief that we now have a US President who understands the difference between being a democratically elected executive and being a politically powerful demagogue. 

American culture is a constant tug-of war between “Me” and “We,” between individual needs and shared responsibilities. A couple of days ago, after listening to an article on NPR about the baseball player, Hank Aaron, and his life of excellence, dignity and inclusion, I heard a conservative Trump supporter say, “We just want to be left alone.” At its worst, the struggle is not simply between me and we but over exactly who is included in “We the people.”  

Freedom and connection, risk and protection, continuously vie for our minds and hearts.  Attitudes of “my way or the highway,” or “victory at all costs,” surely undermine the healthy process of democracy.  So, as religious people one of our core values and promises is to “promote the rights of conscience and the use of the democratic process” in this world and I hope this recent US election makes it more likely that we can fulfill that part of our mission.

But the challenge goes deeper.  You should know, that a liberal UU congregation as well as an entire nation can be divided by questions of control and power.  All of human history and individual experience includes repeated struggles about who is in Charge.  In a cartoon I read this past week, a little boy is playing with little cars spread over the living room floor. His mom is reading in the next room.  Then, older sister comes home and trips on a vehicle. “Clean up this mess!” she demands. 

Little brother stands in response, “You’re not the boss of me.”

She tenses at this, glaring at him, so he steps back and tries to shore up his position, “I don’t have to do what you say.”

She continues to glare and balls both fists, so he looks to the next room and adds, “especially when mom is around.”

It is good to know who is in Charge, and to whom you are accountable for your actions. Although, the comic actress, Tina Fey, was interviewed a few years back and was asked, who is your boss?  She responded, “My six-year-old daughter. “Kids are definitely the boss of you. Anyone who will barge into the room while you are on the commode is the boss of you.”

IN a UU congregation the ultimate boss must be not a person, but that quality of being that is both loving and reasonable. The boss is called by many names, Spirit of Life, Compassionate Reason, buddha dharma, the gestalt of the good, true and beautiful. 

Our basic theology was summarized in the reading by Jones and Owen Towle.  It is this: the power of the good and true is found most clearly in individual lives. But the one best way for individuals to bring the true and good into their lives is through an encouraging community of people. We come closer to our goal by seeking the true and good together, and weighing the impact of their insights and choices in one another’s lives.

Thus, Unitarian Universalists trust in congregations. We have faith in congregational life.  Our polity, the way we govern and organize congregations, is called congregational polity. That means that each congregation is in control of itself, not a bishop, nor episcopate, nor district council, nor national body, or global authority. No one is the boss of us. No one can tell a congregation what it can and cannot do.  To be sure, we are bound to other UU congregations by the power of covenants, open-ended agreements about shared goals, and shared works. This church is in community with other UU congregations, and we make decisions with them about many things. But they cannot tell us what to do for and among ourselves, ever. 

So, at an elementary and practical level, the congregation is in Charge here. But notice that the community forms to invoke and serve the truth tempered by compassion, an open and transparent heart, and mind.  So, the question of how to reach that must temper all our choices. 

For example, when I was in seminary, I worshipped for half a year with a Quaker meeting in Colorado, the kind with no minister or governing board. They lived the classic ideal of Quakerism that required unanimity in group decision making. They owned a small building with a border of grass, flower-beds, and a few trees.  The climate there is arid; 16 inches of rain a year compared to our 37.  So, they needed a watering system that would keep all their plants alive instead of dying and being replaced every two years or so.  They also had a problem with individuals leaving the water on too long, both an ecological and financial issue.  So, they decided to install an automatic sprinkler system.  It only took them one meeting to discuss this idea and agree. Then they had to decide which system to buy and how much it would cost. Then they had to decide who would install it and for how much. Then they had to choose when it would be installed.  I met them, five years after they decided to get an automatic system, beaming with pride at their brand new, economical, water-smart, and healthy landscape.  But I wondered if five years was way too much time for such a decision. 

When I asked, they told me that “this was how God works.” I thought to myself, if God only took six days to create the world, why did he take five years to install a sprinkler system? Truthfully, I understood. That community valued participation in group decisions and peaceful management of conflict over being quick and efficient.

This was a small congregation, perhaps a hundred people.  In America, the average size of a congregation, in any religious tradition, is about 150 members because it is still possible for the leaders to know and talk with everyone.  When congregations that grow much beyond that size must delegate power and decisions to smaller groups within the congregation.  This takes some centralized control.  As the reading about Moses illustrates, if everyone is in Charge then no one is and one person cannot be in Charge of everything. So, we distribute power and delegate control to various responsible persons in the congregation, including the minister. 

When I was a teenager and young man, my most favorite movie of all time was Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  King Arthur is out looking for lords to join with him at the round-table to rule all of Briton. Approaching a castle, he sees a peasant on the road and calls out “Old woman!” The peasant responds, “Man.” 

“Oh, man, sorry.  Can you tell me what knight lives in that castle over there?”

The peasant responds, “I’m 37.” 

King Arthur, quite confused, asks “What?” 

“I’m 37,” The man indignantly responds “I’m not old.” 

“I did say sorry about the “old woman,” Arthur explains, “but from behind you looked…”

The peasant cuts in, “What I object to is you immediately treat me like an inferior.” 

“Well, I am king.” Arthur responds.

” Oh, King eh… and how’d you get that? By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma and by exploiting the workers…”

He later explains that the peasants have formed an anarcho-syndicalist commune where all take turns to act as an executive for the week, but their choices have to be ratified at a special meeting. My point is that a congregation does not need a king, but it is not a commune either.  In UU congregations large enough to call a minister, people must make choices about how to share ministry with that minister while also dividing responsibilities.

On common point of tension between ministers and leaders is that both have “the Congregation” as their boss.  This is problematic because a congregation is not really a person, or thing.  It exists, perhaps, in congregational meetings and gatherings, but even there it still is nothing more than the overlapping ideas of many individuals about what it is and isn’t.  The larger a congregation the more it is made up of overlapping circles, but not all of these are perfectly in communication.  Sometimes these circles have no common person between them, except the minister. 

Because of my role, I am near the center of many things.  I speak personally and work in many groups. My very job is to speak to common values, the roots of our tradition the truth that inspires us and the vision of the future that bind us. Thus, I invoke the center. But to be certain, I am not The Center. The center is the ever moving and changing overlap of many minds, and thus moves like the wind and can not be pinned down. That is why love and thoughtfulness must be our boss, to anchor our community and relationships.  

What also greatly helps such relationships is to state clearly for what each is responsible and how not to step on the work of the other.   Also, it helps to state what choices we share and exactly how we will decide together.  For example, in our congregation as in most, there is a clear difference in most people’s minds between the minister and the board of trustees.  But if you read our bylaws you will see that I am automatically a member of the board, not as a trustee but as the minister.  So, what would it mean for me to hold me accountable for my ministry?  Am I on the board or not? Similar questions arise bout the relationship between the board and committees, especially when the same people serve on both.  Does the board control committees or are committees ruled by leaders, or by the congregation? Furthermore, if I am on a committee, can I be the boss of that committee? In the end, the question is if no one is in control of everything, then who is in control of specific things and who will back that person up or hold that person to account for their work? 

When I was in my second year of ministry, the small congregation I was serving had conflict. This caused a shortfall between the proposed budget and the results of the pledge drive.  A small group of people came to the board meeting where we were to decide what to do.  I am not going into all the reasons for it, but those people came with a written proposal that I be given a six-month contract, and if the money did not come in that time, I would be let go.  My response was to tell them that a ministerial call is not a job. They had called me because they wanted what a full-time minister could do for them.  Either they should commit to having a long-term, full-time minister, or admit that they did not want a minister and call a congregational meeting to dismiss me.  Half measures would not work.  Because I was clear, a middle-aged couple spoke up. I did not know these people very well. They came to worship but did little else because they had done it all for decades before I arrived. One said that the two of them knew the congregation well enough to know they had the resources to pay me. They also said that they would lead a second round of the pledge drive.  Then they got a few others to help and the net result was that I stayed and continued to serve them for a total of eight years. 

In the end it was not me alone, nor what I said that won the day. Nor was it that couple and their leadership alone. In the end it was the whole of the congregation, working together to make shared decisions that ended up growing the congregation by 10% and helping me be a successful minister. 

So, as we put one step in front of the other and go together in the light of a new day let love be our guide and let the clear light of reason illuminate our steps.  May we be clear about who does what, realizing that in the end we must all work together in harmony. Let us be told what to do only by the clear mind and the caring heart.  Our worship Companion, Cal Spengler, will now call for our offering and we will listen to a song written in November of 2016.  As the song says, “I know you’re scared / And I’m scared too / But here I am, / Right next to you. You gotta put one foot in front of the other / and Lead with love.”

November 5, 2020


Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:53 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Today I was reminded again by the UU World of the great loss to all UUs everywhere by the death of Elandria Williams. May we all carry on and fulfil the best of her legacy.

UUA Co-Moderator Elandria Williams (who died September 23, 2020) addresses the 2018 General Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri.

October 27, 2020

Anti-Racist Universalism

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:39 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I was reading about a professor at Bryn-Mawr, Julien Suaudeau, who wrote a piece about the current tension between French ideals and the reality of racism and division. He asks,

“How can French universalism reinvent itself as an anti-racist and postcolonial co-production? Asking these questions is not to reject universalism, but rather to question the forms in which it manifests itself and how they relate to reality and material conditions. They push us to understand what these values mean for someone living in the countryside, or in the suburbs of a big city (banlieue), or for a French person whose background is that of an erased and obscured colonial history. In line with the thinking of Jean Jaurès, the universalism emerging from these questions would start from the real and move towards the ideal.”

The same question can be asked of Unitarian Universalism. How can our (small ‘u’ universalism) be reinvented as anti-racist and postcolonial? How will diverse people co-create something that has been dominated by white Americans? How can we question the forms in which we manifest our faith without blindly rejecting their inspiration in both Christian Universalism and humanistic universalism? How can we understand what our current forms of UU life mean to those people who’s background includes the erased and obscured history of American colonialism, slavery, jingoism and Jim Crow?

My experience tells me that it depends on relationship. Who do we know and work with and how does that shape the words we use, the stories we tell, the rituals we perform and above all the people who find a home in our congregations and stay to become leaders?

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