A confession to make: I’m not sure this is the best way to start out a new ministry at a church, but I wanted to tell you what I was doing for two weeks week after I got news I was the minister in Greeley this coming year. I would wake up, go to wash my face, look in the bathroom mirror, smile a particularly goofy smile, and, with Julie Andrews full throated in my ear, sing: “Getting to know you Getting to know all about you... Getting to like you Getting to hope you like me” Sorry to put that in your ear for the rest of the day; you can bring it up with me later this month when you find yourself in the checkout line humming The King and I. I put that silly little story out there to explain how genuinely excited I am to be with you this year. Rest assured, this summer I have been doing my homework as well: reading past Unifaxes, pouring over the directory, and starting to monitor the Greeley Tribune. All the while, anxious to get to the real work of ministry which is to greet and walk with the people. All of the work is purely intellectual until we meet this month. I know you have read a bit of my biography, but I’ll share a bit more. I went to high school in Champaign, IL where the University of Illinois is located, so I know a bit about how the towniecollege dynamic in a community works, and what a remarkable time of year this is, with students coming back taking up the good parking spots and freshmen coming in wide eyed and hyperactive, this being their first time away from home. Perhaps a little more: I have spent most of my life in Colorado, in Littleton as a child, in Boulder as an undergrad, Denver as a young adult and on the Western Slope in Grand Junction in my thirties - the urban, suburban and smalltown parts of Colorado. I think this gives me an appreciation for the unique character of every community here and an understanding that Unitarian Universalism, with its congregational nature, looks different, is practiced differently and serves different needs depending on where a congregation is. This is true not only in the West versus the rest of the country, not only in Colorado versus the rest of the Pacific Western Region, but in every Colorado town. While I will continue to live in Boulder due to family commitments I have, I am excited to be focused on life here in Northern Colorado and excited for
you to show me the flavor of Unitarian Universalism here in Greeley. As we begin a new year, I’m excited to help working on the projects to grow the church and stabilize the finances, but I’m also hoping to build on our educational and social justice programing and expand our church’s voice in the community. I’m excited to hear the plans of our church leaders and learn of the efforts and experiences of our staff. Finally, I am looking forward to creating some really great Sunday services that are both comforting and challenging to current members of the church, welcoming and intriguing to newcomers, and energizing and inspiring to all before the week of work and life that follows every service. Although I am part time, I want to make myself available to members of the congregation as much as I can. I will be at church every week, but my office hours will be flexible so I spend more time with congregants and partner organizations than sitting alone at a desk. To that end, I am using an online calendaring service that you can schedule as you need: https://calendly.com/revaaron. If there is a church group or partner organization that has a monthly meeting you want me to be aware of you can email me at email@example.com. My first official service will be the ingathering and water communion on September 9th. I hope you can make it. Water communion is a beautiful metaphor and a wonderfully endearing ritual for coming back together and pledging ourselves to our joint work. It isn’t a bad moment to bring that friend you’ve thought about inviting either. Yours in Faith and Fellowship, Reverend Aaron Norris
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, it is my pleasure to notify you that the contract has been signed and we will be welcoming Reverend Aaron Norris to the pulpit in September. During the interview process, Reverend Norris impressed the board with his organizational skills, sincerity, and enthusiasm about UUCG and its future. Of course, you will learn a lot more about Aaron from him when he arrives, but until then, here is a bit about him. Aaron completed his Master of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. He completed a clinical pastoral externship at the University of Colorado Hospital where he served primarily the rehabilitation, orthopedic, and burn units. For the last three years he has served the First Universalist Church of Denver, initially as an intern, and later as a ministerial resident and finally as the assistant minister. He is excited to walk in companionship with the congregation at the Unitarian Universalist church of Greeley.
Aaron comes to ministry from a previous career in law, where he served as a deputy district attorney and owned a law firm practicing mainly criminal defense. He served in the Peace Corps in Mali. He holds a law degree and a Master’s in International Relations from the University of Denver and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Creative Writing.
He was born in Houston, Texas and moved to Littleton, Colorado when he was four years of age. He went to high school in Champaign, Illinois. His interests include exploration of popular culture, the Colorado Buffaloes teams (UNC Bear fans, please do not hold this against him!), and making home movies. For those of you who may be supporting us from afar or for those of you who may not have had the opportunity to attend the Congregational Meeting, you can view one of Aaron's ceremonies here: https://vimeo.com/176105318
Well, this is my last time to write to you in this way. I will be leading the services on June 3 and June 17, then will officially end my time as your minister on June 30. As I said at the Congregational Meeting, there is both deep sadness and a sense of joy that I am experiencing. The sadness is daily now as I begin ending my time with you. These two years have been filled with the satisfaction of growing relationships with many of you, leading services that brought, I hope, spiritual depth, and getting to know Greeley and its challenges. Good stuff all. The joy comes from knowing that it is time for me to slow down and shift priorities. I will not, again, serve as the minister of a church. I will still be a guest minister when asked and fill in for a short time if there is a need in a UU church. I plan to do some volunteer work as a hospice chaplain. I also want to participate in a local school program where volunteers do storytelling and reading to little kids. Working with those from each end of life’s journey feels just right for me now.
As I did at the Congregational Meeting, I do want to apologize to all of you for my limited energy and capacity during these two years. I do not have the vitality I once did. I am recovering. I walk at least a couple of miles every day and do the exercises the physical therapists gave me for my knee. My sight is better but is still quite limiting. As a result, I have not been able to do all of what you and I would expect me to do if I were fully living out my ministry with you. So, I apologize for things I didn’t do, as a result of things which happened to me over which I had no control.
In the big picture, this is such a beautiful spring with green everywhere, I hope we all can enjoy it. It is not always so. And as you do, know that I believe that UUCG is going to be just fine. Aaron seems like a good fit as your new minister. He will bring new initiatives that I hope you will enthusiastically support. It is time that you lead with your better selves and take Unitarian Universalism in Greeley to the place you all want it to be. I will be rooting for you. And prayerfully hoping that your wildest dreams come true!!
Now that there have been a few balmy days it really feels like spring has arrived. Yet, there is always the omnipresent cool/cold breeze or, at times, crashing winds that smack us out of our spring reverie. Then it’s balmy again…. for a day! Springtime in Colorado! Mostly we need the warmth to thaw out our minds, bodies, and spirits. To bring us back to a kind of aliveness that is hard to generate in cold times. I hope that is happening for you all. For the month of May the service theme is creativity. How lovely. It invites us to think/act creatively certainly, and it serves as the “smack” I related above. Because, Creativity can bring awareness, wakefulness, self-knowledge, celebration, and joy. Acts of creativity loosen up our perception, our consciousness of who we are. It can spread our wings. It certainly can dig us out of our ruts, overnight. So, I looked at this as an opportunity to celebrate creativity by getting to know two people who are deeply creative in the services I am leading in May. The first, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning poet, Mary Oliver. The second, Unitarian-Universalist Minister and Author, Robert Fulghum. I don’t know of any more original thinking creative people than these two.
They could hardly be more different. One, a small New England woman who walks the beaches and fields of Cape Cod, MA finding the grist for her poetry mill. The other a robust man, a Westerner, living near or on the Pacific coast. Oliver, a shy introvert. Fulghum more outgoing, or a least seeming like an extrovert, even though we UU minster’s can fool you about that.
Rev. Barry Bloom
Spring draws us out of our dark hiding places into the light. Protected against the winter winds and, usually, bitter temps, we feel the warm breezes now pulling us out into the sun. And if you cup your ear and listen hard you can almost hear the crack of a baseball coming from Coors Field as the “boys of summer”” once again circle the bases. It is a time of awakening the spirit. Depressions lift, eyes lose their glazed look, life surges anew. The focal point of the new spring is always…. Easter. Known for various reasons it is the holiday that both heralds the spring and celebrates the emergence of Jesus from the tomb. One is celebrated because it simply IS. That is the snow melts, the birds sing, green shoots spurt out of the earth, and a new softness fills the air. The other is joyously celebrated by Christians around the world based on their faith that Jesus was crucified and then rose from the dead three days later. Whether true story or deeply held myth, it can bring hope to all who let in its lessons. How are you doing? Has the winter been kind to you? Are you ready to revel in the sunshine? Do remember that there are kind, loving people who make up the membership of UUCG. If you need support or just need to talk or create opportunities to support others, reach out. Stepping through our introverted nature and reaching out can feel great, both for you and the other person. You can see it as part of your personal Spring coming out party. I am also always available to talk with you about whatever is on your mind or your heart. My contact info is on the order of service each Sunday, and through the web site, or by calling Margaret at the UUCG number.
Look forward to seeing you Easter Sunday, and beyond!
Warm, warm wind, more wind, cold, snow, more snow, COLD, then warm again. Interesting cycle. Enough to give earthly support to the flu epidemic flooding us here in Colorado. We are always off balance this winter. We prepare ourselves for one weather system, then the other hits us from behind. Sickness follows. Think they’re related? How are you doing? Have you escaped this uncomfortable cycle? Are you well? Or have you been challenged to stay in balance? Balance, as you might guessed from the intro, is the theme for this month. It’s what we seek in life isn’t it have? The golden mean, the middle way. Living out the promises of life in a balanced way. It’s something we are all learning from womb to tomb. And it is always changing. What we lived as a balanced life in our 20’s is not the same as a balanced life in our 40’s and beyond. Our values and needs change from decade to decade.
Staying in balance is part of the work of the church of course. That is, helping each other to do so within the context of spiritual community is a core value.
Then there is the challenge of being in balance within systems. The big pictures. That takes the same love and honesty that our own individual efforts take. This month we will look at balance from a couple of different directions. One as current as this moment, the other a study of ancient ways aimed at this holy grail of human behavior.
“Come, come, whoever you are” and join us.
Rev. Barry Bloom
Having experienced Jim and Kathy Vaughn’s 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration last Sunday, I am struck once again about how much perseverance it takes to carry out a commitment to a long term relationship. It came to mind as clearly as it did because that is our service theme for February: Perseverance. The willingness to make a long term commitment and stick to it, no matter what, in the Vaughn’s case. Amanda and I have been together for a little less than 30 years and I understand some of what that means. By these examples I don’t mean that couples should stay together no matter what when meanness and violence, disloyalty and dishonesty arise. Sometimes it takes great perseverance to end a relationship when it is appropriate. My first marriage ended that way, and it needed to.
Recently I re-read the autobiography of Huston Smith,”Tales of Wonder.” He is one of my heroes. Author of “The World’s Religions” that sold more than 3 million copies (one of the best selling religious books of all time) it was used in college classes for the study of religion and comparative religions for decades. It was, in truth, the world’s religions as studied by, and EXPERIENCED BY Smith. He spent much of his life becoming deeply immersed and practicing each of the religions he studied. His five part series of interviews with Bill Moyers about those experiences won an Emmy award.
For a number of reasons, I went to Berkeley, CA, to visit him at his home a few years ago. He was 91, almost 92 at the time. He died a year ago at age 97. I want to share some of that experience under the heading of this month’s theme because I know of no person who was more persistent about the study of the religious experience on Earth than Huston.
I hope all of you are well and are surviving the big warm UPS of the weather paired with crashing DOWNS, like last Sunday. The drive from Greeley to Golden was, at times, scary, as that good Northern Plains wind covered the road with snow drifts and made seeing ahead, well, challenging. But we made it safely. Then, Amanda, like many of you, came crashing down with the baddest Hong Kong flu. The day after our sewer backed up into the house. But that’s a story for another time. Persistence in the face of challenge. Right??
See you in church.
The theme for January is Intention. That is certainly timely for the first part of a new year. What is our intention for our lives in the coming year?? Both individually, and corporately (i.e. the church). Do we have a plan, an intention, for the future? Or are we content to drift and allow each day to present itself as it is, and follow the direction the winds blow? Both have merit you know. It can best be explained as a left brain/right brain thing and it can also lead to a meaningful conversation on what does it mean to live the “right” kind of life?? Many indigenous peoples around the world become amused at our white people’s way of being wedded to the clock. When my friend, a Lakota medicine man, would say he would meet you around noon on Thursday, you might see him that day or not. Depends on whether something of delight or spiritual importance caught his attention. When one is not wedded to TIME, or carrying out a precise intention, there is more time for spirit to nudge us into consciousness. Which can guide us to our less often visited deeper selves. Imagination can be more alive, too, when demands are not urgently pushing us to fulfill all the goals of the day NOW. Speaking of intention, my hope for us all is that we thoughtfully prepare ourselves for this New Year by seriously considering what we want to accomplish in 2018. Consider the stuck places first, those things you want to release, let go of. Then, in the bright places you find in this newly liberated space fill in your deepest desires and wishes for yourself and loved ones, etc. during this evolving year I love being your minister and I look forward to the time we have together in 2018, and beyond, as precious. I am blessed.
The theme for this month is, of course, HOPE. Every UU church in the country will be doing a variation on this theme that fits the holidays so well. From the hope born of Thanksgiving to the bright hope that the birth of Jesus brought to the world.
Hope is not a popular subject these days. As progressives who have lost our world, our sense of safety and well-being, the days have been filled with an anxious review of what the tweets said today. Or more deeply, which building blocks of democracy are wobbling today? Where is hope for the future? When I feel that way, at my best, I recover by going on a walk in the splendor of Colorado’s style of nature, spend time with some children and elders, and go out and gaze and gaze at the stars. There is where I find my compass. It then points to the bright future rather than grubbing along in the dark and muck of “how awful it is,” and how awful HE is. It also reminds me that we have been here many times before and not only survived, but transformed as a result. The stars remind me. The services that I am leading reflect these holiday and hopeful themes. I invite you to, especially, come to the Christmas Eve Day service of carols and candles and readings. As Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, this annual service will be held on Sunday morning at the regular 10:00 a.m. time and not in the early evening as in the past. Please use that evening time to be with your families in joyful celebration of Christmas.
Rev Barry Bloom
And now there is that nip in the air that warns us of what is coming. Many branches are bare. The colorful excitement offered by golds and reds and yellows on the hills has passed. Except down here on the plains, some colorful relatives still stand proud.
I enjoy the changing seasons. I find it stimulating, even exciting at times. I don’t know what it would be like to live in a one season area. I don’t especially want to find out!
I hope you are following the information and invitations that President Julie Miller is sending out. Right now it is about gathering your input about who/what you want your next minister to be. At their best. Talk of cottage meetings and surveys fill the air. Please participate as best you can. The more that your wishes are known, the closer the reality of landing the person who most embodies those values.
It was good to see many of you at Scott Clugston’s Memorial Service at the Congregational Church on Oct 23. I am sure Karen and family appreciated your presence. The choir and I certainly did.
The services this month are primarily about happiness. What do we need in order to be happy? How much is enough for us to be happy? What role does gratitude/thankfulness have in our happiness? All to help us mirror this month’s UU theme of “Abundance.” And as a warm up to Thanksgiving.
I hope you are all feeling hopeful and optimistic in spite of whatever ailments and darkness comes. May we be grateful just as long as we have life!
Rev Barry Bloom
From the minister
A reflection on our theme each month.