Minister’s Blog

A Post For Inauguration Day

Dear Good People of UUCNH,

I woke up this on this dreary, grey morning in a sour mood. The rain drizzled down outside the window. I was tired. The radio was on reminding me of the events to come today and about how deeply divided our nation is. It is an inauguration day like no other. “Oh well,” I thought. “I might as well just give into this feeling. Enjoy the wallow.” I shook my head, sighed, and noticed myself resigning, letting go into a daylong sulk. There was something about recognizing my voluntarily resignation that gave me pause. It seemed to suggest that I had some say in the matter. I had a choice. It made me wonder if I could push in the other direction and not let my mood be guided from the outside. So I gave it a try.

And, I’ll be darned, it worked. It felt defiant. I tethered onto kindness. I championed the good around me. I went to Bellwood Preschool after dropping of my daughter and watched the kids sing at “Happy Time.” (It is pajama day over there, so it was extra cute and that helped, too.) I acknowledged the truth of the day when I spoke with others, but fanned away the would-be clouds that began to form over our heads. I do not fear that I will lose sight of what is happening today. That is omnipresent. But our world is filled with joy and goodness as well. Both exist at once. And so I will just make a space big enough inside of myself to hold both. Or at least I will try my best to do so.

Someone asked me the other day how things will change for a church in this new world and new administration. I have given a decent amount of thought to this. First, we will be called to a direct resistance when we see things happening in our country and in our North Hills that run counter to our Unitarian Universalist values. Along with others who advocate for love and justice, the responsibility falls to us to speak out and be the voice of dissent and disruption. Time will tell where and when this voice is needed. But we can be certain it will be. We will need to show up in deed and action. More than ever, we will need to embody what we espouse. It is hard work to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Second, we will need to continue forward in areas that we believe are working to create a more just and sustainable world. We cannot simply be reactionary. We cannot spend the next years only in defensive mode. We must go forward with what we believe in. Finally, it is important that church remains a place of sanctuary and regeneration, of beauty and joy, of community and connection. While the world rages outside our church walls and discord in our own hearts, UUCNH will be a place where we can dare to love boldly, care for one another, inspire each other, show up with our full selves, and create a space where, as James Luther Adams said, we can “practice being human.” We will fill ourselves up with Love here so that we can go out and be Love in the world.

I am thankful for our church. I know it will be an important place in the lives of our members and friends in these coming days, months, and years. I am thankful to every single person who keeps this church running, healthy, and moving forward. We create this place together. We hold joy, anger, hope, sadness, and love all at once. We are each and together also a part of creating our human story with every other person breathing today. May we be strong and clear that the lines we write into this narrative are of peace, inclusion, and a vision of greater unity among our all siblings.   

There is work to be done. On this inauguration day, I find challenge, hope, and a call in these words from Langston Hughes…

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek

And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today-O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home-
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay-
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again-
The land that never has been yet-
And yet must be-the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine-the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME-
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath-
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain-
All, all the stretch of these great green states

And make America again!

With faith in love,
Scott 

Thoughts Scott Begot – January 2017

There has been a lot of talk about how 2016 was a horrible year. I would have to agree. There was the election (depending on who you voted for, I suppose), the Zika virus, a steady presence of terror attacks, more killings of black men by law enforcement, more killing of law enforcement by unhinged people, Brexit, civil war and mass killing in Syria, ISIS, climate change, the death of Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Muhammad Ali … I’ll stop. I could keep going, but that was becoming depressing.

This has been a terribly hard year. But there has also been beauty and goodness. There has been victory.  There has been laughter and love. Because of the Ice Bucket Challenge, we may have found the gene responsible for ALS, 800 hostages were rescued from Boko Haram, solar power is thriving in California, during a 24 hour period in India this year, a bunch of people planted 50 million trees, the hole in the ozone is actually getting better (a model for hope), child mortality continues to descend, manatees, tigers, and pandas… oh my! -all are up in population, Harriet Tubman is going to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, and this list could also go on and on. And furthermore, let us not forget that there are still puppies, rainbows, stars, fuzzy caterpillars, and snuggly blankets.

There is also our church, which is thriving – which is pushing into new space and deepening in ways that we hoped for years ago. I spend a lot of time at church, so while my news feed offers me despair, my daily life is filled with inspiration as I witness the way our church meets the needs of its people, how our members work together, and how we dream for our future and then courageously move forward into those aspirations. My daily life is full of goodness because I spend my days and evenings with the members of UUCNH. In hard times, my spirit is lifted by the reality of our church. If you get discouraged, I invite you to simply look around our community. Trust me. You will feel better. What good is a church if it doesn’t provide us with hope? Our church provides me with so much hope. And a place to participate in bringing hope into being. UUCNH is hope filled and hope fulfilling.

In Hope,
Scott

Thoughts Scott Begot – December 2016

When I breathe in, I breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I breathe out love.” We sing this song Meditation on Breathing together in church, and I am always comforted by it. In the last two months, I feel like I have not always been breathing in “peace.” I feel like I have been breathing in a good deal of anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger. Through October we focused on Race as our church theme. I personally found this deeply challenging, and it pulled me toward a more complex and difficult understanding of race in America. Then in November we had the culmination of an incredibly divisive and ugly presidential campaign. We elected an administration linked with misogyny, xenophobia, ableism, income inequality, and homophobia. As religious people grounded in love, our voice will be needed in these coming years. Ours is a message of inclusion for all people.

In December, our theme is Wonder. To me, this feels like a needed exhale. I need to be reminded of some beauty and goodness. I need to cherish the connectedness of all things. I need to remember that life is a miraculous gift and full of incredible wonder that leaves me in awe. We will continue to be a church that responds to our world in real ways to promote justice and equity. That is a constant. In December, we will ground ourselves in the holy mystery. It is from this place that we move into the world seeking to help create a more loving world.

SO many things fill me with a sense of wonder. I only need to stop and look around to be filled with gratitude and astonishment. Look at anything closely enough and wonder starts to unwind. So many things. Anything. Everything…

Life, the stars above, the sun, the blue sky filled with clouds, children’s laughter, fingers, toes, pandas, river currents, ocean life (that is a big one!), gravity, life cycles, eyes, smart phones, empathy, water, recycling, choirs, hope, running, tomatoes, baking bread, evolution, colors on a duck, generosity, a flower rising from a sidewalk crack, skin to skin contact, feathers, veins, numbers, humility, glitter, warmth, showers, teeth, medical science, snowflakes, puppies,  poetry, roots, seeds, wind, stories, self-expression, muffins, soccer, toilets, balloons, horses, lighting and thunder, rope swings, bouncy balls, wheat, engines, musical instruments, beans, kites, tears, beaches, breath, dirt, pencils, a chalice, friends, bees, hoola-hoops, math, bicycles, art, penguins, vinyl records, clouds, dreams, smoothies, heart pumping, snails, magnets, jokes, mountains, creativity, eagles, weeping willows, robots, hollow logs, dancing, lamps, movie-making, optometry, caterpillars, bark on a tree… I could go on… What do you see or feel  that creates a sense of wonder in you?

 In Wonder,
 Scott

Thoughts Scott Begot – November 2016

There is something strange about Halloween — – a want to be scared. Or even a delight in being scared. I am a gentle, sensitive, easily-troubled soul and have never enjoyed the fright of the season. When I was younger, when friends wanted to go on a scary graveyard walk, I passed. And scary movies! I have never liked them. The empathy and trepidation I felt for the victims in these movies far outweighed the thrill of the exhilaration of a scare.

Overtime, I have become desensitized. I watch horrible things on TV now. But they still make me sad. I feel a resistance anytime the TV offers up some sordid scenario. This reminds me of how powerful empathy is and how it can also be something that can be easily passed over. We can imagine the worst or can witness through fiction or the news the far stretches of how hard life can be. We might say, “That is horrible. I am so glad that is not me.” A true and strange take on the Golden Rule. But empathy is at the heart of our religious life.

There is a big divide between seeing oppression or hardship and working to help those to whom the trial is happening. As religious people, we are called to respond to the experience of the marginalized and downtrodden. The work is ours to bridge the gap between “that is horrible, I am so glad that is not me, and I wish that were not how things are” to “that is horrible, I wish that would never happen to anyone, and I am going to dedicate to that work.”

I can get scared. I know evil exists. Very real evil. My defense is not to deny this but rather to remember where it is that I religiously ground myself – love is real and we can make love manifest in the world. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I just watched a Halloween Curious George special with my kids. The spooky stuff was all in fun so that neither I nor my kids needed to worry about being scared. All is well. Kid shows always end well. In our world, I do not have faith that all will be well. To simply believe this would be to believe in pre-ordained magic. I do have faith in the power of love. And I do believe that we have the possibility to bring about the world we dream of. There is something about Curious George that gives me hope. George is imperfect and messes up a lot, but George’s heart is true and loving. He is learning. He is always going forward. Sounds like a Unitarian Universalist to me. Let us be some of the people to bring that light and love into the world that MLK spoke of.

With gratitude,
Scott

Thoughts Scott Begot – October 2016

During the month of October, our monthly theme will be Race. In troubled times, it helps to hear a powerful story of hope. Here is one such story as posted on Facebook from my colleague the Rev. James Leach at our congregation in Charlotte, N.C.
~ Scott

Part I
Without knowing anything at all, what story would you tell of this image, one captured in Charlotte last night? image

With no facts, no information, no larger context, what would you say about the man in the white shirt and cap in the center of this picture?

Is he making matters better or worse by doing what he is doing?

Here’s what I know: I met this man last night as I retreated to a church for solace and safety. As one of many clergy, out in Charlotte’s streets in the effort to be a presence for peace, I was weary and emotionally shaken. I had seen a protester shot right next to me. I had been tear-gassed. And, I had watched the situation on all sides spiral out of control. I was utterly heart-broken.

When I entered the sanctuary at the Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church where dozens of clergy had gathered earlier in the evening before heading out into the night, the man in this image was standing at the back, leaning over the last pew with his head down. I patted him gently on his back and inquired, “Hey man, you OK?” He lifted his head and with moist eyes responded, “Yeah, thanks for asking.”

Later he approached me in the sanctuary. He thanked me again and then said, “God is using me. I have faith,” he said, “you know the evidence of things not seen.” He expressed his deep belief that, in time, we are going to find our way to something far better. He looked me in the eye and said, “We can’t give up. We can’t give up.”

In a few moments, as I was talking with others, he walked past me on his way out the door. He caught my eye and smiled a big smile, talking a step toward me. We lingered in a long embrace. “You be safe out there,” I urged him. “I will,” he assured me, and, fingering the card I had given him earlier said, “I’ll be in touch.” Maybe my new friend John is right. Maybe faith really is “the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.”

Maybe we shouldn’t trust our first impressions of what we see. Maybe, when despair makes it hard to see a way forward, we have to renew our trust in what we can’t see. Maybe dawn really is when we can look into the face of anyone and recognize that one as a brother, a sister, a dear one.

You won’t be reading this John but . . . thank you. Thank you for putting your beautiful brown hands around the flickering ember of my weary soul and breathing your gentle words of faith into it, re- kindling its glow again. And, hey, be safe out there . . . please.

Part II
Through the miracle of social media and connections all the way across the country, Jonathan Red- fern did read my post and we connected. Here’s the continuation of our story, a miracle of the sort that you’re not likely to learn in mass media reports from Charlotte.

When he was in the church late Wednesday night, Jonathan was moved by our mention of the shooting of Justin Carr and felt called to go to that tragic site to pray even as the unrest raged in the streets. On his way there, he encountered a long line of police in full riot gear facing down a large crowd of protesters. Amazingly, there were two people kneeling in prayer directly in front of the police. (You can still see them in the picture I included in my earlier post.)

Jonathan felt moved to pray with them and knelt to do so silently, his arms resting on their shoul- ders. Overcome, he then rose up and began addressing the angry crowd, some of whom had pro- jectiles ready to throw at the police. He urged them not to resort to violence and insisted that love is the only way. Impassioned with his message of compassion, he began shouting, fist upraised: “Love! Love! Love! Love!”

At that point, two arms emerged from the phalanx of officers behind him and snatched him away. Carried off to the side and handcuffed, he soon learned that he was being arrested on the charge of “Failure to Disperse.” Taken to jail, informed of an October 26 court date, and without resources for bail, he determined that his only option was to remain jailed until his case came up.

He has since learned that an organization posting bond for protestors who have been arrested did so on his behalf. So, at 11 p.m. on Thursday night he was awakened in his cell and informed that he was being released. Back out on the streets, a midnight curfew impending, and confused about what to do, he looked at his messages and read, immediately, my post attesting to his influence on me. He tells me how heartened he was by it.

On Friday of last week, Jonathan Redfern and I reconnected, less than 48 hours after our first encounter. In between, he’d been to jail and I had participated in meetings with our congresswom- an and city officials and had joined in a clergy march to the site of Justin Carr’s murder where we prayed and reconsecrated that desecrated ground.

Jonathan and I had lunch together, participated in lengthy interviews with “Voices of America” and parted as newfound friends brought together in a time of such turmoil.

In the services at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte on Sunday, September 25, we displayed the fierce image of Jonathan leading the crowd in his “Love! Love! Love! Love!” chant. I told of meeting him and how deeply he touched me. Then, to the surprise of our congregation, I called Jonathan forward from the pew where he was seated. The congregation responded with thunderous applause and not a few tears. We stood before them, alongside one another, telling our respective stories. We embraced again as we had done on Wednesday evening, this time professing our love for one another.

If you’re reading or otherwise encountering only the high drama of violence, anger and destruc- tion in conjunction with the uprising here in Charlotte, you’re missing the best parts of this story. The true heart of this community is being opened and bonds are being formed that will enable us to continue our struggle in the days and week and months and years to come. That, frankly, should alarm and unnerve the “principalities and powers” who image that a highly militarized, provocative police force should be adequate to protect the status quo.

As our amazing Chamber Choir sang in our services yesterday: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

And . . . assuming that he WILL read this post [it is also posted elsewhere] I say to my new friend Jonathan Redfern . . . I love and admire you and thank for continuing to bolster my faith.

Thoughts Scott Begot – September 2016

 

I have two New Years. Maybe you feel this rhythm as well. When the ball drops on December 31 and midnight rolls over to 12:00.01 a.m., things feel fresh, and I engage in the annual tradition of good intentioned resolutions. I also feel similar each September as summer comes to a close and the new church program year begins. And I do a similar thing with resolutions each fall. I have high hopes of new patterns of behavior that will make me more effective, productive, and grounded. Generally, the same thing happens around January 10 as happens September 10 – good intentions are swept away by the frantic pace of life. My resolutions and intentions near always have to do with the allocation of time and how I move throughout my day.

Two years ago I made a church year resolution, and it stuck. I would like to share it with you and invite you to share it with me. Each day I receive an email in my inbox called A Common Meditation. It is produced by the Rev. Galen Guengerich, minister at The Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City. The email contains a very simple and brief quote for reflection. Here is the quote from this morning as I write this:

A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe”; a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures, and the whole of nature in its beauty.

 – Albert Einstein, 1879 – 1955

It is that simple. And this quote is longer than usual. I must admit that I was surprised when this particular effort of mine stuck. Over the years, I have tried other reflective email dispatches only in time to send the seemingly inevitable “unsubscribe” email. I also receive the Writer’s Almanac in my inbox each day, and it gets read only about once a week. But this one is working. I credit the brevity of Common Meditation passage and the quality of selection for its sustainability.

Rev. Guengerich states the purpose as “a daily spiritual practice to help spark our moral imagination and set our moral compass as individuals (Emerson called it ‘provocative reading’). It can also help establish a common spiritual conversation that will further unite us as a community of faith.” He then offers instruction for four steps – reading, reflection, intention, and contemplation. I don’t always follow the steps. Most days it is enough just to take a deep breath, read the quote, and think for a moment about how it moves in me or how I relate to it in my life. Then on to the next email… But I share this because I have found it a grounding touchstone in my spiritual and contemplative life. I made a rule that I can never delete one without reading it and giving it at least a moment of thought. This has served me well. I hope that it may serve you as well.

To sign up:

www.allsoulsnyc.org/site/c.atJQL8NRJqL8H/b.6640933/k.2152/A_Common_Meditation_for_All_Souls.htm

Thoughts Scott Begot – June 2016

In my Ministerial Agreement that I first signed with the church five years ago, one section states, “The Minister is expected to be involved in professional activities, such as attendance at the UUA General Assembly, District meetings, conferences and the like. The Minister is encouraged to act in the community beyond the Church on behalf of liberal religious values.” While my first priority in ministry will always be our church and people, my work does lead me to interesting places beyond our walls.

While I have been involved in some level with the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) for years, I have increased my relationship with this group this past year in response to our church’s stated desire during our Dreaming sessions to do more justice work. PIIN is an organization that brings together faith communities in Pittsburgh to work for systemic change around injustice in the city. UUCNH has a long history with PIIN and our church is a dues paying member congregation. The organization has evolved over the past few years, and in many ways is a stronger, healthier organization. I attend the Spiritual Leaders Caucus once a month, which is a powerful meeting of Pittsburgh area ministers. PIIN leads me and many of our congregants to protests, marches, and to legislators offices. Highlights of this year for me were finding myself speaking through a megaphone about climate change to a large crowd in front Rep. Keith Rothfus’ office (I did not know that was going to happen) and peacefully being escorted out of Presbyterian Hospital by security with a group mobilizing UPMC workers in support of a $15 minimum wage (we kinda thought that might happen).

I continue to co-lead the North Hills interfaith group NORTH (Neighboring Organizations Responding Together for Hope). Our group supported each other this year in various ways. When our friends at the Muslim Association were threatened this year, we showed up and invited the press and ended up with a great article about Muslims in Pittsburgh on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PPG). When our Black Lives Matter signs were repeatedly stolen, the group rallied with us in an op-ed in the PPG, which resulted in a full article in the Pittsburgh Courier. We are beginning an initiative to address LGBTQ awareness in the North Hills school systems.

In our wider denomination, this year I will be serving as the President of the Ohio Meadville Chapter of the UU Minister’s Association. I am honored that my peers asked me to serve in this capacity. As is good practice for all covenanted communities, this year we are reviewing our commitments to one another and looking forward to bolstering our collegial relationships.

I have been hearing several of our members sing the praises for years of Summer Institute, the annual week long Unitarian Universalist camp on Oberlin College campus. So, I am pleased that my family and I will be attending this year. The organizers invited me to be a worship leader this year, and I will be leading morning worship and evening vespers with a team of UU ministers. I am excited for the chance to work with colleagues to provide meaningful services for this fun and celebratory community.

I love our church barn. I love our church people. It makes me very happy when I turn off of W. Ingomar Road down our driveway and see our gathering place. Here, we ground ourselves in the values of our tradition and our shared community. I also love it when I pull out of our driveway onto W. Ingomar Road to take those values out into the world.

I hope to see you at church. And I hope to see you out there in the world!

Scott

Thoughts Scott Begot -May 2016

My family and I went to New York the last few days. Though it may seem a bit far from Pittsburgh, it is far closer than Kentucky where I grew up. To me, it seems close enough for a quick trip. And with two kids, a quick trip is about right. In short time, we saw the Statue of Liberty, had breakfast in a New York diner, lunch in Chinatown, a picnic in Central Park, walked through Times Square, had a daily intake of New York pizza, and, of course, we rode on the subway, which if you ask our kids, was the highlight of entire the trip.

For me, a highlight of our trip was worshiping with the Unitarian Church of All Souls on Sunday morning. It is one of our most historic congregations both for its people and its actions. For me personally, being there was a pilgrimage of sorts. All Souls originated in 1819 as the first “Unitarian” congregation to be organized in New York. (Unitarian is in parenthesis because at this time, the use of this word as a descriptor of this way of being Christian was not widespread.) William Ellery Channing is now known as the father of American Unitarianism, but then he was simply the minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston. Channing was on his way to Baltimore to offer the sermon in which he would put forth what would be known as “Unitarian Christianity.” He codified a way of being Christian that rejected the Trinitarian structure of God, and instead proclaimed the unity of God. He also declared the absolute necessity to interpret the scripture with the use of reason. Channing arrived in New York with his message boiling over. His sister, Lucy Channing Russell, gathered people into her home in Manhattan to listen to the ideas of her brother. And a church was born. It is because these people before us lived their values and spread them that we gather today together as a religious community in the way we do.

All Souls Unitarian Church is in the middle of Manhattan, a few blocks east off of Central Park. The Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills is down a driveway off West Ingomar Road in Franklin Park. Both of our churches are distinctively living out and creating what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist congregation in our world today in our own particular communities.

And… in that New York church, my 4 year-old daughter reached below the pew, pulled out the hymnal, and said, “It’s the same one.” We watched as the chalice, symbol of our faith carried our flame. We sang familiar hymns. We gathered around shared values. And on this Sunday at All Souls, the church supported their youth in their spiritual formation at their Coming of Age service just as we will on May 8. (See you there.)

It is true for all of us as individuals. It is true for every Unitarian Universalist congregation.

We are unique and precious. We are each an expression of our lived history, of our current actions, and of our dreams for the future. So we bring ourselves into this community to be and create this our expression of Unitarian Universalism here in the North Hills. And as we are created by the actions of the Channing siblings in 1819, so too will the Unitarian Universalists in the North Hills in the year 2213 be an extension of what we do today.

As part of the process,

Scott

Thoughts Scott Begot – April 2016

My family and I went to New York the last few days. Though it may seem a bit far from Pittsburgh, it is far closer than Kentucky where I grew up. To me, it seems close enough for a quick trip. And with two kids, a quick trip is about right. In short time, we saw the Statue of Liberty, had breakfast in a New York diner, lunch in Chinatown, a picnic in Central Park, walked through Times Square, had a daily intake of New York pizza, and, of course, we rode on the subway, which if you ask our kids, was the highlight of entire the trip.

For me, a highlight of our trip was worshiping with the Unitarian Church of All Souls on Sunday morning. It is one of our most historic congregations both for its people and its actions. For me personally, being there was a pilgrimage of sorts. All Souls originated in 1819 as the first “Unitarian” congregation to be organized in New York. (Unitarian is in parenthesis because at this time, the use of this word as a descriptor of this way of being Christian was not widespread.) William Ellery Channing is now known as the father of American Unitarianism, but then he was simply the minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston. Channing was on his way to Baltimore to offer the sermon in which he would put forth what would be known as “Unitarian Christianity.” He codified a way of being Christian that rejected the Trinitarian structure of God, and instead proclaimed the unity of God. He also declared the absolute necessity to interpret the scripture with the use of reason. Channing arrived in New York with his message boiling over. His sister, Lucy Channing Russell, gathered people into her home in Manhattan to listen to the ideas of her brother. And a church was born. It is because these people before us lived their values and spread them that we gather today together as a religious community in the way we do.

All Souls Unitarian Church is in the middle of Manhattan, a few blocks east off of Central Park. The Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills is down a driveway off West Ingomar Road in Franklin Park. Both of our churches are distinctively living out and creating what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist congregation in our world today in our own particular communities.

And… in that New York church, my 4 year-old daughter reached below the pew, pulled out the hymnal, and said, “It’s the same one.” We watched as the chalice, symbol of our faith carried our flame. We sang familiar hymns. We gathered around shared values. And on this Sunday at All Souls, the church supported their youth in their spiritual formation at their Coming of Age service just as we will on May 8. (See you there.)

It is true for all of us as individuals. It is true for every Unitarian Universalist congregation.

We are unique and precious. We are each an expression of our lived history, of our current actions, and of our dreams for the future. So we bring ourselves into this community to be and create this our expression of Unitarian Universalism here in the North Hills. And as we are created by the actions of the Channing siblings in 1819, so too will the Unitarian Universalists in the North Hills in the year 2213 be an extension of what we do today.

As part of the process,

Scott

Thoughts Scott Begot – March 2016

The Responsibility Poem
By Charles Osgood

There was a most important job that needed to be done,
And no reason not to do it, there was absolutely none.
But in vital matters such as this, the thing you have to ask
Is who exactly will it be wholl carry the task?

Anybody could have told you that Everybody knew
That this was something Somebody would surely have to do.
Nobody was unwilling; Anybody had the ability.
But Nobody believed that it was their responsibility.

It seemed to be a job that Anybody could have done,
If Anybody thought he was supposed to be the one.
But since Everybody recognized that Anybody could,
Everybody took for granted that Somebody would.

But Nobody told Anybody that we are aware of,
That he would be in charge of seeing it was taken care of.
And Nobody took it on himself to follow through,
And do what Everybody thought that Somebody would do.

When what Everybody needed so did not get done at all,
Everybody was complaining that Somebody dropped the ball.
Anybody then could see it was an awful crying shame,
And Everybody looked around for Somebody to blame.

Somebody should have done the job
And Everybody should have,
But in the end Nobody did
What Anybody could have.

I have heard this poem read aloud a few times and each time I think, I would like to read that on paper. It is quite a ride to keep up with hearing someone reading it. The point lands squarely at the end of the poem, but it is so clever that it is worth reading to see what is actually happening.

This poem came to my mind as our theme of the month for March is Responsibility. I have no fear that we are a church where Nobody shows up. We are a church of Somebodies and Everybody. Other than three paid staff and our pianists, we are an entirely volunteer organization. As I walk around the church, I am always amazed and mystified by this fact. I am in awe of what the people who came before us created and the people who are here now are creating. But I get it. I really do.

This is an incredible place that heals hearts and lifts up joy. Here we hold up our most cherished values and are challenged to bring them into the world. When we dream of a world we want to live in, for most of us, this is the place we start. Here we seek justice, embody love, and sing together. (Seriously, for most of us, where else do we get to SING together! What a human joy!) Here, at UUCNH, we agree not that we will think alike, but rather that we will endeavor to walk together.

This month we will have an ambitious annual pledge drive as we aim to establish a budget that will provide healthcare for all our church employees as well as help us stretch out into other dreams. This place may be bound together by love. Our church also requires our shared resources to realize our dreams. As we consider our responsibly to our church community, may we do so realizing it is a responsibility born of joy, gratitude, and hope. We are most certainly a church of responsible Somebodies. And
together we are one heck of an Everybody!

With Love,
Scott