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?


September 18, 2020

Sylvia Perchlik

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:48 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik


October 22, 1935 – August 29, 2020
Sylvia Perchlik died in Bellevue, Wash., on August 29, 2020, from complications of a stroke and dementia; she was 84 years old.

Sylvia was born Sylvia Marston on Oct. 22, 1935 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Frank and Rose (Wilberham)
Marston. Her sister, Rosalie, was born two years later. Sylvia graduated high school in Vancouver and took two years of classes at the University of British Columbia.
In 1952, while on a Mazatlán vacation, Sylvia met Richard Perchlik. After a
whirlwind romance, they married in Denver, Colorado, traveled for a few months, and moved to Boulder. In 1962, the couple settled in Greeley, Colorado, in a big historic home on 13th Avenue that was always a swirl of
activity. She lived there for 55 years, raising four children. Richard introduced Sylvia to the joys of camping, and the family pitched many tents together, interspersing these trips with visits to see family in Cleveland and Vancouver, BC. Sylvia hosted countless bridge parties and the big old house was the unofficial community center of the neighborhood. Richard passed away in 1988 from cancer.

Sylvia was an activist involved in many social and civic organizations. She co-founded the Greeley chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and always supported the Democratic party. She was an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley. Sylvia got her real estate license in 1976 and sold houses for the Greeley Century 21 office for many years.

When she was in her 50s, Sylvia attended a dance where she met her partner of many years, Stan Wilkes. They circled the globe together, dancing and hiking–from Alaska to New Zealand, Africa to China, and many points in between. Sylvia was an inspirational force in the Wilkes extended family. In 2015 after suffering a series of strokes, Sylvia moved to the Seattle area to be closer to family, who helped her navigate her last years.

Sylvia was known for making people feel welcome and for supporting their dreams. She is remembered as effervescent with a great smile, a bright sense of humor and had the ability to make friends everywhere she went. Colorado suited her well as she was always up for sharing an adventure to explore nearby mountains on skis or in hiking boots or watching a summer thunderstorm. Sylvia was an energetic, positive person who loved to travel and called any day good if it involved dancing–from disco and contra to jitterbug and ballroom.

Sylvia is survived by four children, Thomas, David, Laura Wheeler, Andrew, as well as her long-time companion and favorite dancing partner, Stan Wilkes, and his daughters, Sarah and Leah. She also leaves behind 11 grandchildren, three great grandchildren, three nephews, a brother-in-law and countless friends.

Family and friends plan an online celebration of Sylvia’s life on Saturday, September 26. For information about memorial plans email Thomas Perchlik or Laura Wheeler.

Donations in her memory can be made to the ACLU [aclu.org], the UU Church of Greeley [greeleyuuc.org] and Greeley Family House [greeleyfamilyhouse.org]

September 3, 2020

Slavery in America

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:24 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I often find the postings of Sightings to be at least useful and often enlightening. It is essential to blend history, scholarship, and modern media approaches to religion in America.

Especially insightful is this recent article about Mr. Tom Cotton and the history of opinions of slavery in America:


April 12, 2019

Deep Peace

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

In ministry, I nurture harmony, wholeness and integrity. In one word, Peace.

For example, when our nation was gearing up for war with Iraq in 2001 and early 2002, I was unequivocally opposed. At least one member in my congregation was supportive of military action in general and that war in specific. Many more were uncertain. I listened to all people carefully. This openness I later came to learn was key to creating a culture of trust, starting Creative Interchange and engaging in Appreciative Inquiry.

On Veterans Day, we honored those in the congregation who were veterans. In the sermon that day, I explained the position of those who valued our armed forces, as well my vision of just limits on war. In that context, I told why I believed the United States should go no further than Afghanistan, where we would be entangled for decades. I checked in with my pro-military church-member afterward. He disagreed with me on my assessment of the situation but said that it was “a very good sermon.” Part of all good ministry is the ability to disagree in love.

At Christmastime, our worship services invoked a theme of Deep Peace, using the justice-based understandings of ‘shalom.’ We encouraged daily practices of peacemaking and peacebuilding. In February of 2002, I marched with many congregants and friends in a snow-storm to protest the war. I spoke about the ethical and the spiritual reasons to oppose war and build peace. Part of Appreciative Inquiry is to build a positive vision of the future and then develop practices for getting there. In a congregation of 150 or 450 the principles are the same.

Through all this, that conservative member of my church remained active and respected in our UU congregation. He told me he liked my sense of humor and my kindness. A few years later, when he was in the hospital, the caring visits by me and many others in the church moved him deeply. He said that the acceptance of the church helped his healing. I have found that in a large congregation the challenge is to create integration between the many layers so that such persons are not lost.

In 1964, the pacifist, Vera Brittain, said, “Our task today is to find a method of helping and healing which provides a revolutionary constructive substitute for war.” As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I balance the integrity of the individual and the wholeness of the congregation to build Beloved Community and Deep Peace.

January 21, 2019

Moon Wonders

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:46 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Last night my mind was so full of wonders and joys I almost missed another. After a week of immersion in the lives and writings of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior., the weekend was full of joy. A wonderful ordination on Saturday, great worship on Sunday, all three granddaughters on Sunday afternoon.

Around 9 PM I took my dog up for a walk atop my daughter’s apartment building. The air was crisp and clear. I looked up, and there above and toward the east was a crescent moon. It seemed that it had been full just a day or so before. But I had been busy. Then I realized that it was in the wrong part of the sky for a crescent. At that time of night, if it was a waning, crescent it would not be in the sky. A waxing crescent would be low in the west.

Finally, I struggled with why it was at such an odd angle. Long ago, I learned a little cross-language and theological mnomic. A waxing crescent looks like a “D” for Dios because God is first. A waning crescent should look like a “C” since Christo comes second. But, this crescent looked more like a bowl. And the dark part glowed strangely.

It seemed utterly mysterious. I was going to ask Google when I got back to the apartment. However, I stopped wondering when I got back to the grand-babies.

It was not until this afternoon that I remembered all those notifications about a lunar eclipse!

Often wonders unfold unnoticed all around. Yet there they remain forever wondrous.

December 2, 2018

Google UU Church

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:42 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Today Google informed me that my Google business listing was recategorized. Looking further I discovered that Cedars is no longer listed as ”church” and now is listed as ”Unitarin Universalist Church.” How interesting that even Google Analytics can tell that we no longer fit in an unqualified way within that one old Western religious category. But I wonder, are UU Congregation, or Fellowship, or Society different categories in Google Businesses or variations of UU Church? What does our Google category say about our identity, what we have to offer, or how we identify our competitors in the marketplace of ideas?

April 4, 2018


Posted in Uncategorized at 4:51 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

The English versions of the book of Genesis open: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
But then the account drifts counter to current, scientific, understandings. The scriptures were written with the best science of their time and were written to sanctify the seven-day week. I have created my own UU version, using the results of science while honoring the rhythm of the week, and using the word God as a metaphor for the mystery of the source of creation.


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the Universe was one, singular, formless and empty. There was not darkness nor light, not distance nor time, and the Spirit of God hovered in and around all.

Then the spirit moved , and there was light, and heat. There and then formed hydrogen and helium, oxygen, and all the elements. God saw that this was good. The seas of hot dust clumped and congealed into balls of light, separated by darkness and cold space within. Light and darkness, the fist day. (But there was no Earth or oceans, no life or people, so we rest on this day and worship the wonder of being.)

Then God said, “Let the solar system be born.” So, one cloud centered and churned until it burst into nuclear fire, our Sun. Whorls and eddies became planets around it. The Earth formed, and one great lump collided with Earth. Moon and Earth cooled and danced together. God saw this was good. From morning to night, one billion years, the second day. (But there was no oceans, life or human beings.)

Then, God said, “Let water separate from the land.” Rain fell, rocks cooled, oxygen was liberated to change the atmosphere to air. Air, earth, fire, and water, was the surface of Earth, and God saw this was good. Morning with the sun shining on the seas and night with the moon shimmering on the waters, the third day.

Then God said, “Let there be life in the waters.” In shallow seas, it began as simple things that fed on sunlight. Life grew and changed and formed the Ediacaran garden. Fronds and tubes carpeted the oceans for 100 million years until new creatures formed. Then trilobites, sea scorpions, the earliest fish and sharks filled the waters. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” and life was rich and varied and God saw it was good; morning and night, the fourth day.

Then God said, “Let living things arise on land.” Plants came first, moss, then ferns, then woody plants and seed-bearing plants formed forests. Next, creatures began to move about and change until there were sail-backed dimetrodons and lizard like creatures of all sorts. Giant beasts swam in the oceans, and giant dragonflies flew through the forests. For two hundred million years animals and plants filled the earth, and God saw they were good. Then the evening came, and countless forms of life faded and vanished in the night of the fifth day.

Then God said, [at the beginning of one of my favorite days,] “Let there be dinosaurs.” And there were dinosaurs, and God saw they were good. For two hundred and fifty thousand million years dinosaurs thrived and took all sorts of forms. Some were small as cats, while others were the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth. Some ate only plants, while some ate other dinosaurs. From the early dinosaurs till triceratops walked under the twilight moon, two hundred million years.

Then God said, “Let mammals dominate the earth.” An enormous meteor hit the Earth and so much changed. Dinosaurs did not survive the change, though some few transformed into birds that flew across the arc of the sky. Many creatures and plants, from sharks and snakes, to ferns and pine trees, changed very little. But mammals thrived. At first, they were few and small, but they developed into Elephant like mastodons, and huge saber-tooth tigers, early canines became huge wolves. God said, “Be fruitful and increase” and so they did. Somewhere near the end of this day, several kinds of primates developed tools. Creatures had long used sounds to communicate, but some of these new creatures spoke languages and sang songs.

We gather on Sunday to remember the first day of creation when there was only dust and light. We also celebrate that a new week is beginning. We are the latest of creation, and we must live in harmony with all the rest of the Earth. What will the world be like in a million years, or two hundred million? Will we have faded away, or will we survive to carry life and wonder and love out to other stars? Will we be smarter and healthier, or not? We Unitarian Universalists have chosen to work with the Creator Spirit who first said, “Let there be light.” May we be a blessing in this wonderous universe.

January 11, 2018

The Cry of Cthulhu

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:48 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I just finished reading Crispin’s Model, by Max Gladstone at Tor.com. The story is a fun variation on H. P. Lovecraft style stories. I read through Lovecraft’s short horror stories when I was in high school and have noted various appearances and influences of his work in other media, especially Mignolia’s “Hellboy” saga. But Lovecraftian themes also appear in humorous occurrences like Hello Cthulhu, or “Cuthulu for President” bumper stickers that proclaim, “No lives matter,” or ask, “Why choose the lesser of evils?”

The basic theology (mythos or meta meaning structure) of Lovecraft’s writing is that in the time before time, there dwelled in this universe old powers. Though they were part of the foundation of the earth and universe, they were banished or put to sleep. They care not at all about us, except that through us they can be called back into this universe to destroy it and remake it into a realm that fits their horrific tastes. To look upon them pushes most people to the brink of madness, or beyond.

The short story, Crispin’s Model, is written like Lovecraft’s stories. It is a first-person narrative about someone drawn inexorably into a near encounter with one of these Old Ones. (Spoiler alert, do not read further if you want the story to surprise you on its own terms.) But wonderfully, the story ends unlike Lovecraft’s works. Instead of our protagonist staving off an inevitable doom, or shadowing all her days with the horrors that lie curled at the root of all things, Crispin’s model overturns the genre and overpowers evil. She uses her will to love and to live to blot out the horrors. She uses conversation and honesty to bring the painter, Mr. Crispin, back from madness.

In this affirmation of human power and compassion as allied with the deeper power of love and justice the story takes a liberal-religious and humanistic turn. Most horror is pretty morose and tilts toward despair. The evil remains at large in the last lines of Gladstone’s story, and lives have been lost. But love and honesty have show their power and shown they are greater than mighty and ancient ills. I don’t know if this implies James Luther Adams’ “cosmic optimism” but it does have some of our spirit.

August 30, 2017

The Great Flood

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:40 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

The flooding in Huston and in the surrounding region, is a disaster!  Over 30 people have died and the loss to homes and business is huge.  This month has ended with the worse flooding ever seen in the history of the US.

It is impossible to really compare troubles and disasters, because so much depends on the context and the spiritual grounding of the people involved.  But, it should be noted that over 1000 people died this summer in floods around Mumbai, India, and the south Asian region including Bangladesh and Nepal.  They are still suffering an ongoing disaster there.

I understand the moral imperative of caring for those near to home first.  I am OK with the slogan “America first,” so long as it includes, “within a healthy global community.”  The implication of the slogan seems to be, “America first, and to hell with everybody else.”

The human world is increasingly interconnected, and we are woven into the web of life.  Our impact on climate effects everyone, everywhere.  Thus, we have a responsibility to share in limiting climate change and mitigating the damage and suffering it causes.  Furthermore, if we understand that compassion and sympathetic-joy are the two highest emotional states, “the abodes of heaven,” then we must not limit our compassion only to those with certain labels, or within certain boundaries.

As Jesus put it, according to Matthew 5, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect [in your love], therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  And the apostle Paul expanded on this teaching in his letter to the Romans, chapter 12.  

June 11, 2017

Universal Good

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:41 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

We struggle for justice, not because it is achievable, but because struggling for it is the source of our well being. This is the root of our morality and our demand for progress. It arises from the Unitarian, and the Universalist wells of our heritage.
To be more specific, here is a quote inspired by a story of Hoseah Ballou, but you can replace the words “steal a horse” with “say something we feel is racist” and it still applies: “The Universalists taught that people act morally, or in their words, practice holiness, because this is what leads to true happiness. In other words, stealing a horse would not occur to a Universalist, not because Universalists are better people than others, but because Universalists know a secret, one not obvious to everyone, but deeply true nonetheless: that true happiness requires living from principles of justice, equity, and compassion. In the words of the 1793 Winchester Profession, the Universalists of the time all agreed, “We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men.” Quoted from Erica Baron on Nature’s Path blog, June 9

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