End Poverty, Protect the Planet

by Donald Fausel

On September 25, 2015, world leaders at the United Nations agreed on 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals. Here are those 17 Goals.

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages.

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

From those 17 goals, today’s blog will focus on Goal 1, ending poverty, and on Goal 13, taking urgent action to combat climate change. It will also include moral issues from Yale Climate Connection. If you want to read the entire article on Sustainable Development 17 Goals, when you get there, click on Goals.  

The forward of the document begins with a statement that is no secret, that it is the poor countries and people who tend to be particularly vulnerable to the difficult effects of climate change and there “…are already evident, natural disasters are more frequent and more devastating and developing countries are more vulnerable…they are more vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources and their limited capacity to cope with climate variability and extremes.”

Can We End Poverty?

According to the Sustainable Development goals, more than “…700 million people live in extreme poverty and are struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation.” That’s a lot of people, and sadly Children Suffer the Most… Even in developed countries there are 30 million children growing up poor in some of the world’s richest countries. Any discussion based on the thesis of “ending poverty” couldn’t evade the question: Can it be done? If you don’t ever listen to another TED Talk give yourself a big treat and listen to a 16 minute Alex Thier’s TED Talk on The End of Extreme Poverty . Thier explains how it can happen and how you can help solve humanity’s greatest challenge. He leads policy development, strategic planning, learning and evaluation at the United States Agency for International Development—the lead development agency for the US government and the world’s largest bi-lateral donor. Enough of his background, except to say this Talk is dynamite.

Science and Mortality

“The absence of certainty is not an excuse to do nothing.” This is a caution that Christine Todd Whitman, President George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made. Whether we’re talking about poverty or climate change, we can apply her wisdom to almost any situation. However, recently there’s been a shift in the conversation from scientific and technical issues to mortality and ethics. According to the Vatican Radio, April 28, 2015, a meeting of world leaders issued a final statement declaring “…human-induced climate change is a scientific reality…and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.” Basically, the statement says that humans have the technological and financial means, and the know-how, to combat human-induced climate change, while at the same time eliminating global poverty.

Fighting Poverty and Climage Change Must be Done Together is a twelve-minute interview with Isabella Lovin, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, who explains why goals must not be dealt with separately.

Science and Values

Douglas Allchin opens his essay Values in Science: An Introduction, by writing, “A fundamental feature of science, as conceived by most scientists, is that it deals with facts, not values. Further, science is objective, while values are not.” Later he acknowledges that this value-free notion has been challenged by sociologists of science about the authority of science, and its methods are “overstated and misleading”. Many of us might say that science can only provide data to inform our decisions but cannot tell us what we should do, that we should leave our values up to religion. If you read Sam Harris’ latest book The Moral Landscapeyou might not agree.

But for the present time lets us see what some of our religious values are that will help us end poverty and combat climate change. Since this blog is mainly for the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, it seems appropriate to start there. Here is an article from the Yale Climate Connection website by Christine Woodside on April 4, 2012, The United Church of Christ on Climate Change .

I like the first phase of the article; Humans carry responsibility—and should take action. I also was impressed by the Rev. Jim Antal, the head of the Massachusetts United Church of Christ conference, spending three days in jail last August for refusing to leave the park across from the White House. It’s also very motivating to see how the synods have moved forward from 2005 despite  “…all the resistance we met…”. And how about the “Not Waiting for Someone Else to Do It” activity. And how Pastor Susanna Griefen gave a sermon about the climate titled “Slouching Towards Crisis” a play on William Butler Yeats poem, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”. And don’t miss Politics Aside… ‘Everyone Wants to Take Care of the Earth’ I believe we can all learn these.

Below are a list of other religious groups and what they are doing for the poor and climate change. All of these are worthwhile. I want to end this blog with paragraph from the ‘Preach-In’:

“All people of faith share a moral obligation to care for the poor and vulnerable. These are the people who are least able to adapt and who are most affected by the climate crisis. We must not turn our backs on the future generations.”

I’ll focus on other goals in future blogs!

Also see, as part of this continuing series on faith-based groups:
Nationwide Climate ‘Preach-In’ To Target Broad Faith-Group Congregations
The Catholic Church and Climate Change
Judaism and Climate Change
Episcopalians Confronting Climate Change
Baptists and Climate Change
‘Green Muslims,’ Eco-Islam and Evolving Climate Change Consciousness
Presbyterians and Climate Change
Preachable Moments: Evangelical Christians and Climate Change
Mormon Silence on Climate Change: Why, and What Might It Mean?

The Power of Pretend

by Amanda Petersen

I just spent the morning on a beautiful island eating very juicy oranges and sipping tea. All of this was done on my living room floor with my granddaughter.  She is just learning the power of pretend. We laughed and giggled as the imaginary oranges squirted all over us. As I watched the light in her eyes as she figured out this pretend game, I thought of all the other places she will imagine in her lifetime.

Practicing imagination is a wonderful contemplative practice.  I know I have spoken about the power of the moment and getting real as contemplative practices, yet  giving oneself permission to imagine possibilities is also a great practice.  The imagination can lead one to a bigger picture of God, life, and community. For example, one may say God is male, judgmental, or disappointed. Maybe the vision is there is no time for prayer, life is stuck or things could never improve.  This is where the gift of the imagination is a Godly pursuit. Think of Martin Luther King saying, “I have a dream.”  What if one’s imagination could allow for a kind, beyond gender, forgiving God?  The contemplative imagination allows one to sit in a pretend world where one can find the time to pray, where life is full of possibilities beyond what is happening. Who know where it can lead? It also gives the space to try out life in a different way without having to upend everything.

The imagination is a very powerful prayer practice, not to be taken lightly, because it can also lead into places of limits and lack of possibility. When the time of imagining is over, the individual is different, whether the circumstances change or not. The door to life as it is known is open because one has seen it. Then comes the work in the real world. How does this time of pretend make its way into this life? How does imagining a more loving world help one create a more loving world? How does imagining a bigger God help one begin to examine the God they are encountering now?

My time this morning on the island has created a connection and a memory with my granddaughter that will continue to shape our lives together. The world just got a little bigger for both of us. Where do you go in your imagination? How can the power of pretend be a prayer practice for you?

Greetings from Camp Taji

guest post by Owen Chandler

(Editor’s note: Rev. Owen Chandler, the Senior Minister of Saguaro Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tucson, was deployed earlier this year from the Army Reserve, serving as Battalion Chaplain of the 336th CCSB in Iraq. He frequently writes letters to his home church, and is graciously open to sharing them here on the SWC Blog.

This letter originally appeared in his church’s June 14 newsletter.)

Beloved Saguaro Christian Church,

I send my greetings and prayers to you from Iraq! As always, I give God gratitude for your continued presence in my life. The fact that you make the intentional effort to remember me speaks of your character. It would be easy to merely move on with your lives, but you choose to value our relationship. I am grateful.

Iraq is a tragic blend of the historical wonder and brutal death. Fittingly, I arrived in the country on Friday the 13th. Hopefully it is not a metaphor for things to come. This country has much to offer and appreciate. Baghdad, over which I recently flew in an open helicopter, is a desert oasis along the river with green palm trees mingling among ancient domes and modern architecture. The war has clearly taken its toll on the landscape and the people. Currently, I am outside of the capitol in an outlying town, Taji. Our post is the former home of Chemical Ali’s weapon manufacturing plant and depot. I try not to breathe in too deep! It turns out that Taji looks and feels much like Casa Grande. Who knew that those Regional meetings in that dusty outpost would prepare me for this deployment?!?!?

As seems to be the reoccurring theme of this deployment, my role and duties changed on the flight up here. In addition to my duties as the battalion chaplain of the 336th CSSB, I am now the Camp Taji lead chaplain of all US and international military personnel. I have a couple of other chaplains that work under me. We are it for the whole camp. Essentially, I serve as senior minister of the camp chapel, help with chaplain support for thousands of military personnel, cover an outlying FOB, and make occasional visits to other FOBs that the 336th supports. To top it off, I am having to oversee the chapel reconstruction here on camp, which means regular briefs of generals and numerous meetings with contractors. The days are going much faster! The work is immensely meaningful and I pray that we are making an actual difference. I have attached some photos so you can get a feel for what my life looks like these days. Please know that I am reasonably safe.

I miss you all. I know the summer is upon you, church camps are going, and that your ministry continues to be authentically beautiful. I count down the days until we are sharing in these things together. May God bless your time with interim Bill Robey. Try to be merciful to him as his baseball team doesn’t appear to be doing much this year. I love you all.


Owen Chandler

Innovation Lab Making an Impact

guest post by Rev. Sue Joiner

Note by Kenneth McIntosh, Church Growth and Renewal Coordinator for SWC:

“Last October, Sue Joiner and Ann Marie Stranger from First Congregational Albuquerque participated in the Innovation Lab Workshop held at the SWC office in Phoenix and led by Rebecca Glenn. They have attended video conference coaching group meetings in the months since then, and have facilitated an exciting process of innovation and healthy changes at their church. Enjoy this article, be inspired by some of these ideas, and remember that there are still openings for the Innovation Lab Workshop round #2 happening this fall.”

We began our process with a team of a dozen leaders in January. We were inspired by the Innovation Lab technique of experimentation, deep listening, prototyping and learning as we go. We interviewed people about the church to hear what their deep hungers were. The theme that was repeated the most was connection. Then we created a survey to help assess what would most meet that need for connection. We gathered to assimilate the information and discovered some themes:

There is a longing for meaningful relationships and we are addressing that by creating opportunities for people to get to know each other. We did a Lenten series using the book Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons. We had four groups meeting at different times and places over a six week period. These were so well-received that we are doing three groups this summer – one group is reading a collection of short stories set in New Mexico, another is reading the book Being Mortal, and a third will gather later this summer to read plays and look at the themes as they relate to our lives. Our Green Justice team is sponsoring a dinner and movie discussion to explore food justice issues in more depth.

We talked about connecting in worship. We have found ways to integrate children in worship and relocated our children’s corner to give children better access to their own resources. We have added some visual arts for Easter and Pentecost. We did a community Candlelight Memorial Service for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Our sanctuary is now 100% LED lighting (a result of the Green Justice committee and our commitment to making the space more welcoming).

We are looking at our building as a resource and seeking to make it friendlier. We put rainbow doors on Lomas (a major street outside our church) that say, “God’s doors are open to all”. We want to do more with the inside of the building. We are committed to a master plan for the building. We have a trainer and opened a fitness room in our basement that is open to the community.

We became a Green Justice Congregation on May 22 so we are finding new ways to live out this commitment.

We are planning to send care packages to any UCC student at University of New Mexico (we are counting on churches to send us the names of students who are coming to school here).

We are committed to finding new ways to make our building and our community a place of connection. We are finding new ways to get the word out about our extravagant welcome. We are committed to the whole person and to a welcome that is long lasting.

Summer Reading, Part Two

by Amanda Petersen

I am excited to meet this week for the first of your summer reads – A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  (If you can make this months discussion please join us next month for Shift Happens by Robert Holden). I enjoy hearing about what people are reading, everything from mysteries to deep theologically challenging books. I do know someone who is making the Bible their summer read. This is someone who is not normally a reader of the Bible. This is one book that seems to generate the most passion both for and against the merits of reading it.  Because of this, I thought I’d share some thoughts that John Chuchman, one of our [Pathways of Grace Spiritual Life Center] facilitators, had on the topic.  
“For me,
the odd, disjointed compilation
of ancient Hebrew texts and later Greek texts
called the Bible
has lost its claims to historical truth,
or to supernatural revelation.
As history and revelation,
Bible stories have long ago fallen away;
almost nothing that happens in it
actually happened;
its miracles, large and small,
are of the same kind and credibility
as all the other miracles
that crowd the world’s great granary of superstition.

Only a handful of fundamentalists read it literally,
despite debunking by experts
and critical reason.

If I read the books and verses of the Bible
it is because they tell beautiful stories,
stirring and seductive.

I explore the stories in the Bible
because they are transfixing stories,
dense and compelling.

The beauty of the Song of Songs
or the poetic hum of the Psalms
are beautiful as poetry alone can be.

They were best translated into our own language
in the highest period of English prose and verse,
in Shakespeare’s rhythms and vocabulary
making them more seductive.

These are good tales and great poetry,
and I do not worry about their sources.
I read them as fiction
as I read all good stories,
for their perplexities
as much as for their obvious points.

I can be stirred by the Bible
as enduring moral inquiry,
working to translate the knots of the Bible stories
into acceptable, contemporary, and even universal ethical truths.

I think that
enduring moral teaching can be found
in the Bible’s stories.

I read Bible stories with intellectual detachment,
and a sense that the Bible is
an extraordinary compilation about human nature and

In reading Bible stories
I also learn that I need more.
I am fed up with
the stolid apparent meanings of its verse,
searching for deeper meanings that enrich me.

In defying logic
Bible stories invite imagination,
and as a fictional creation,
its ideas about Deity remain compelling,
in their plurality.

I neither believe nor doubt
as I read Bible stories,
but remain suspended in Wonder
where good reading really takes place anyway.”

What are your thoughts about reading the Bible?? Feel free to share your summer reads! I have a feeling many of you are looking for some more books to enjoy, to be challenged by, and to take you to that place of Wonder.

When the Mind Becomes Silent

by Amos Smith

When I was growing up in Virginia, there was a large open meadow up the hill from my childhood home. Even though most of the acreage in my neighborhood was well developed, the meadow was left wild. After I climbed over a dilapidated wood fence and made my way through a thick barrier of trees, tall green grass sprang, resembling an overgrown alpine meadow. At night, the sky above the meadow opened into the great expanse. The distinct stars illumined the darkness as though I was far from habitation. In the summer the fireflies added lights to the deep blue.

The meadow gave me the space I needed when my little house and family began to close in. As with all families, sometimes things got claustrophobic. At those times I headed out the back door and started the slow walk toward the meadow. When adolescent insecurities mounted and there was no outlet, I started the slow walk…

After I pried through the wall of trees I would walk several paces then lay back against the thick grass. At first my thoughts raced, as they had throughout the day. Then, slowly my thoughts settled like particles of dirt floating to the bottom of a glass of water. If I stayed there the water became still, all the dirt settled, and the murky water of my mind cleared. Space between thoughts lengthened. My breath slowed. And a homesickness I struggle to articulate softened.

I was only yards from home, yet I had another home akin to silence.

Safe Place

by Karen Richter

In this week following the mass shooting of LGBTQ persons of color in Orlando, I’ve read much about the importance of sanctuaries, places where a person can be who they truly are. This reflection is about one of those places in my life.

The picture above is my Great Aunt Georgia’s house in Asheville, North Carolina.  It’s a lovely bed and breakfast now, but when I was a kid it was just a rambly, way too large and slightly spooky old house.  My aunt was Georgia Virginia Daughdrill (at least that was her full name when I knew her.  She was married once before to my father’s favorite uncle.  Plus – two states!).  I called her Georgie.  She was my paternal grandmother’s much older sister and had pretty much raised my dad.  My whole life, she was the same… fluffy completely white hair, frumpy clothes, and the kind of pleasant unadorned woman’s face that people sometimes call handsome.  She’s gone now, and I’m realizing now that I remain completely clueless about her inner life.  I never knew her to attend church, but she sat down with the Good News Bible every night and once, when she thought I was already asleep, I heard her whispered nighttime prayers.

The house was a character in my childhood almost as much as my aunt and grandmother.  It was there that I stayed up until midnight the first time.  We had a freedom there, my brother and I, that seemed missing everywhere else.  It’s a well-worn family story that “my Aunt Georgie says I can do anything I want.”  My mother swears she came into Georgie’s kitchen once to find me licking the end of a stick of butter when I was a toddler.  The house was the setting for a bizarrely diverse cast of characters – friends, neighbors, boarders – that seemed completely normal to me, just like I knew it was normal for the bread to be always slightly burned.  As a very small child, I thought everyone had an Aunt Georgia.  And what a world it would be if we all did.

On Chestnut Street, Dennis and I spent many happy hours searching for hidden passageways and hollow spaces, deciding whether or not the old portrait’s eyes followed us as we walked down the hallway, or compiling dossiers on my aunt’s boarders.  We knew that “in the olden days,” the house had been owned by a local doctor.  We imagined ghosts of former patients gliding by us in the parlor.  I guess we felt so safe there, so loved and cherished by this wonderful aunt with no children of her own, that we had to invent dangers to keep ourselves occupied.  Or maybe we just watched too much Scooby Doo.

One of my earliest memories is a tree falling over at this house.  It was a huge tree (an oak, maybe?).  When it fell, it shook the whole house.  The top of the tree landed across the street.  It had been diseased for some time; when it fell, a misshapen cement blob fell out of the trunk.  It was like a giant’s dental filling, and it stayed where it had landed, in the corner of the yard along Chestnut Street.  I wonder if it’s still there.  And I wonder how big that tree would look to me now.

Aunt Georgia’s house was not what I would call child-friendly.  There was no closet full of toys or bunk beds or collection of kiddie DVDs.  In the sideboard, there was a shoebox of random small toys and junk that we fashioned into all manner of pretend items.  In the living room, there was an oriental-style rug that became a wonderful garden of my favorite sweets.  In the hall was a trunk with old-fashioned shoes and photos.  Occasionally, we would pull various items out of the trunk and play ‘going to Atlanta,’ an elaborate storytelling with parties and dancing in fancy dresses. Out in the yard were snapdragons and snowballs and low bushes that became hideaways.  We swung on the front porch glider and came inside just in time for Lawrence Welk or Hee Haw.

Although she always looked the same to me, as I grew older, Aunt Georgie did too.  When I was in high school, she moved out of Chestnut Street and into a more practical apartment.  When she closed the door at Chestnut Street, we all lost something precious.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 40.11-12

So now you, Lord—

don’t hold back any of your compassion from me.

Let your loyal love and faithfulness always protect me,

because countless evils surround me.


Prayer for Today

Spirit of Life, I pause to give thanks for places of safety. May I be that place of protection and acceptance for another!

Pulses stopped and souls began arriving in eternity

by William M. Lyons

Pulses stopped and souls began arriving in eternity even before the 911 calls reached help. First responders teetered on the brink of sacrifice. Hostages gave last hugs to dying friends and lovers in hope-to-survive silence. Trauma teams offered heroic efforts even as the blood of the victims they tried to save soaked through their sneakers. When the shooting stopped 49 very innocent people and 1 very guilty shooter were dead. But it’s not over.

To a person the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people with whom I’ve spent these last five days — at vigils, in church, on line, and in person — have been caught off guard by the depth to which this latest American mass murder has shaken them. That includes me.

Pastoral words eluded me in the numbness, and in the anger, and in the gut-wrenching broken-heartedness I felt for the parents and siblings and grandparents and family members of choice who were praying that it was their unaccounted for loved one’s cell phone that was dead. For them it isn’t over. It will never be over.

Hours before the Pulse murders, Juan David Villegas-Hernandez shot and killed his wife and their 4 daughters in Roswell, New Mexico. But that multiple victim shooting was bumped from major newscasts by the bigger story from Orlando. I am writing this on the first anniversary of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in which 9 black Christian Americans were murdered. Tragically, whatever day I would have written to you is now an anniversary of a mass shooting in our country. Any day. In fact, there were more mass shootings in the U.S. last year than there are days in a leap year. I am sure that for the Hernandez family, and for the survivors of the victims of the shooting that took place on whatever day you are reading this, the grief, the pain, the terror, and the aftermath are just as big as for the families reeling from what just happened in Orlando.

What happened last Sunday will make everything in life so much harder for the victims’ and for the perpetrator’s survivors. What happened last Sunday will make many things harder in all our futures. If there is one thing I am walking away from the Pulse massacre committed to, it’s refusing to love anyone to someone else’s death. In some way, I feel that being patient with people who oppose assault weapon bans and common sense gun control laws is loving my LGBT friends and family members to death. I didn’t say I wouldn’t or don’t love them. It’s just going to be so much harder for me to be patient with them. Assault weapons threaten all of us. People who have not been thoroughly screened carrying guns threatens all of us. With Orlando, gun control is no longer (as if it really ever was) about the right to bear arms and is absolutely about who lives and who dies.

It’s going to be harder explaining to families who’ve lost ones to violence motivated by sexual orientation, why churches let fear of losing members or income prevent them from becoming or even talking about becoming Open and Affirming. With Orlando, being gay stopped being a matter of whether or not the Bible says homosexuality is right or wrong, and become a matter of what the Bible says about whether LGBT people live or die.

It’s going to be harder for me not to be political as a spiritual leader. The Pulse massacre is an attack against LGBT people. It is an attack against Brown people. It is an attack against, not by, Muslims. Life and death are spiritual matters. When politics infringes on any person’s right to fully experience life, enjoy liberty, and pursue happiness, and when political leaders engage in or tolerate hate speech, politics has invaded the spiritual realm, and my response as a person of faith and as a spiritual leader must be, “Love wins! Game on!”

Beloved family members and friends of Stanley Almodovar III, Amanda Alvear, Oscar A Aracena-Montero, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Antonio Davon Brown, Darryl Roman Burt II, Angel L. Candelario-Padro, Juan Chevez-Martinez, Luis Daniel Conde, Cory James Connell, Tevin Eugene Crosby, Deonka Deidra Drayton, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Mercedez Marisol Flores, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Paul Terrell Henry, Frank Hernandez,Miguel Angel Honorato, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Jason Benjamin Josaphat, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, Alejandro Barrios Martinez, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, Kimberly Morris, Akyra Monet Murray, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Joel Rayon Paniagua, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, Enrique L. Rios, Jr., Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, Edward Sotomayor Jr., Shane Evan Tomlinson, Martin Benitez Torres, Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, Luis S. Vielma, Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, Jerald Arthur Wright,

my heart is broken for you. I am confident that I can say on behalf of the Southwest Conference United Church of Christ we all hurt with you, and we share your righteous anger. We too are asking, “When will this stop?” and declare with you, “Enough is enough!!” We grieve the loss of such loving and talented members of your families and of the Hispanic community. We stand with our Muslim friends and neighbors for peace. May our efforts together lead to the peaceful realm for which we long together.

Long after our candles our vigil candles are extinguished, we remain
The light of hope refusing to give in to fear
The light of peace that terror can not dim
The light of comfort in the midst of deepest grief
A beacon for gun controls laws that would have kept weapons out of the hands of Omar Mateen
A conflagration of solidarity for Muslims across our land
The spark of healing for closeted families who missed the opportunity to love them in the wholeness of who God created them to be
Bearers of the flames of remembrance for each member of our family murdered early this morning
The glow of gentle anger smoldering because it happened again, vowing to do all we can so it never happens again.

The Third Chair

by Amanda Petersen

In light of the news this week in Orlando and other places in the world, it seems appropriate that this week the third chair is added: society.  My observation is the first (solitude) and third (society) chairs can be the most challenging.  There are those who get squirmy when asked to spend time in solitude and there are just as many who avoid eye contact when asked to participate in society.

Connecting and being aware of the larger society is messy.  This is the place of least control.  This is the place where one can get hurt.  Yet this is the place of the “real”, whether one wishes to acknowledge it or not.  Society is the place to practice the reality that life is not about being pain-free, in control, and having life make sense.  Society is where surprises and miracles take place in a space much bigger than one’s imagination.  It is the place of release into the movement of one’s tiny piece in the great cosmos of the Divine.

Of Thoreau’s three chairs, I think this is the one that surprises people the most.  Isn’t  going off to the woods all about leaving society and all its messiness and pain behind?  Can’t one just shield oneself from the pain of massacres and politics?

Yet the truth is that there is no escape for people of faith.  Faith invites each of us into the place of knowing we are ALL connected to the ugly and beauty of life.  Solitude allows us to hear that Still Small Voice, community allows us to practice it, and society allows us to live it.  When unjust murder happens, when the shadow of humanity comes forward, it touches us.  Just as when the beauty of people coming forward to donate blood or give voice to the voiceless touches us.  We are connected.  We are both the ugly and beauty.  From the place of the first two chairs we enter into the pain and hope in the midst of the senseless and find God in our connection.  How one participates is up to each individual as they are led by their understanding of the first two chairs.

The invitation is to know that the invitation is happening every moment.  This week,  place three chairs in some spot of your space.  Spend time in each chair.   Let the connection to God in yourself, community, and society be your guide.

Compassion: Orlando

by Teresa Cowan Jones

We mourn the loss of life of our brothers and sisters in Orlando and hold hope for healing and love for all the victims and their families and friends. May we all hold tight to the universal value of compassion, especially for the marginalized, and reach out to each other and to the source of life — the ground of all being, however you define it — for support in our grief.

I hear responses to this tragedy that seem to force a choice between love and accountability. We can hold these together; love provides both the means and the end.

We stand with the LGBTQ+ people and all those who are oppressed in the work of both love and justice, which must go together for either to have meaning.

We invite all to reclaim public space as safe space for human feeling and connection and to do so because, and not in spite of, our differences. Together only will we find our way to both honor the rich uniqueness of our cultures and wisdom traditions and celebrate our oneness as humanity. It’s OK that we don’t know how just yet. We will make mistakes but with the goal of compassion, we can stumble together to find our way to a new way of living and being together in which all beings are honored and have dignity.

Hate crimes and terrorist activity demand that we come together in love and solidarity. In Sacred Space this week, we’ll look with new eyes at the sayings of Jesus to help us stay sure-footed in both compassion and justice. We need not let beliefs, religions, race, gender or sexual orientation separate us anymore. We can be one.

May we all love, together, now.  May we focus on our unity and strength and continue to draw encouragement from each other in and for the creation of beloved community.  Let us look at our collective human heritage of the world’s wisdom traditions to teach us a new path.  Let us get to know the stranger – the seeming other – in a way that heals the human species and the planet.

May we let our collective and rightful outrage fuel the changes for which we can no longer wait or assign to someone else. May we all feel now and act now.