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
Fall is, indeed, coming. I woke up this morning feeling cold. It felt uncomfortable and invigorating at the same instant. As I woke fully I thought of the coming cold, my cold season long runny nose, and the slow arrival of the dark. The winds of autumn, the dropping of the beautiful leaves, the dry edge of cold soon to be an everyday experience. And for a minute I grieved the loss of the warm high activity months (for us non skiers at least) especially the loss of all that light. Time is coming to go bravely inside, literally and figuratively. Embracing the dark. So we begin this new cycle of our church year poised between the two, the dark and the light. The theme for our services in October is courage. Whenever I hear that word, I think of the scene from the Puccini opera “La Boehme” (the Bohemians). In the last act the heroine, Mimi, is dying. Her lover Rudolpho is bereft. Their old friend, Colline, described as a philosopher approaches Rodolpho, having seen that Mimi has little time left, and quietly says, “corragio”, courage. The music then swells as Mimi breathes her last accompanied by Rodolpho’s screams of loss and grief. The curtain drops. Those are the moments when we most need courage in our everyday lives aren’t they? Accepting loss and pushing our way through our lives on the other side. Whether the death of a loved one, or the reality of a devastating diagnosis, these are the “borders of our lives.” And as we continue to explore, one of the primary reasons we find safe places, spiritual communities, to be a part of. To be reminded we are not alone. To be loved through the frightening, empty time to come. It takes corragio!
Rev Barry Bloom
Here we go again! The new church year begins on the 17th of Sept. I will return to the pulpit on a regular basis (1st and 3rd Sundays of the month, except for Sept). The new cycle of Religious Education programs begins this day for our younger ones. And the music program comes back to full life with Sam Henline at the helm. The theme for that day is, or course, WELCOME. It is also the UU theme for the month. We get to have the service, a shared pot luck, and a Julie led program about some good stuff happening in our beloved community. “A good time will be had by all.” Really!
As many of you know, this is also the beginning of my 2nd, and last, year as your minister. When I met with the then existing board in the summer of 2016, I committed to a two year agreement. With your having been through the previous three years of one and done ministers, I knew that my minimum commitment to you had to be two years. So that you and I could experience enough time together to, hopefully change UUCG’s one and out karma, and to do some deeper work that would bring present healing and future prosperity to the church.
Good changes have happened. And many more are coming. Getting organized for this New Year, and looking ahead to the future by beginning the search, now, for the right person to be in the minister’s role by Sept 2018. I have pledged my support to the board, and to all of you, to remain in a support role after my June 2018 paid time is over. I have offered to volunteer in whatever capacity would be helpful for a time, until you are ready to fly into the next definition of UUCG.
I look forward to seeing you all on the 10th. May we fly into an amazing future together.
Rev Barry Bloom
Missed seeing you this month. I am recovering well from my knee replacement surgery. Walking a mile or so, going to physical therapy, being mostly pain free during the day. However night time pain remains making it hard to get the usual sleep. I am told that “may” lift in another 2 weeks or so……I’m hoping!
I have stayed loosely in touch with the board and Margaret. Including Skyping in for part of the board meeting. I will be at the church on Saturday Aug 12 to lead the board retreat, along with Amanda. Then, we start building toward the symbolic start of a new year. I will be in the office on September 5 for the first time. Then, I am really excited about “coming home” again together on Sunday Sept 10. That’s when we start our new year in a big way. Stay tuned.
I especially want to thank all of you who so kindly sent me cards or emails for my healing. Know that they have been very much appreciated!
Look forward to seeing you all soon! Put Sept 10 on your calendar. Let’s celebrate together!!!
Rev Barry Bloom
I'm writing this Monday morning June 26th, and though I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about it, my knee replacement surgery is tomorrow June 27th. As you know, when each of us is facing a challenge it looms large on our personal radar. We temporarily forget that everyone else is going on with their own lives living with their own personal challenges. The one thing I would like to ask is for your prayers for a full recovery, as I will always pray for each of you when you face your personal challenges in life. All of us for each other. That is part of the meaning of living in a spiritual community. For those of you who do not “pray,” sending healing thoughts is a fine substitute.
I will be in Greeley on Aug 12 to help lead the board retreat, and I will be available via electronic means for a crises that might arise during July/August. If you need to talk with me check with Margaret and run it by her, then run anything unresolved by Julie and/or Kathy, then if you still need me, call or email. I will return to lead the service on Sunday Sept 10, the official beginning of our new church year. We will enjoy celebrating together then in ways to be announced. During the rest of 2017- 2018 I will be leading services on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month. In the meantime, I hope your July and August are filled with fun and meaning. I especially hope your “one wild and precious summer” gives you new hope, present joy, and a new energy for the work of UUCG. We have overcome, now let’s grow together in love!!
Rev Barry Bloom
June is often a month of transition. From wet and cold to the searing heat for which the West is famous. For me, and us, it is also a time to prepare for changes. I undergo knee replacement surgery on my right knee on June 27, the payoff for being a runner for 25+ years, and will be out of commission for several weeks, I am told. Fortunately it coincides with the two months that I am off as your minister. When I was hired last summer the understanding was that I would come for less money than others might be able to pay and, in return, I would take both July and August off. That does not mean, however, that I am not your minister for those two months. It simply means I will not be making the trip to Greeley during that time. I will be available via electronic means. And I will meet with the board to help keep our new momentum going. And may show up for other good stuff.
In the meantime, I want you to know how optimistic and pleased I am about UUCG. We are on a good track. Our new lay leaders are supportive of where we are headed, and I hope you all will be as plans are made and carried out. Julie, Kathy W., Jean, Kathy V., and Sharlene will lead well and I look forward to working with them. And speaking of lay leadership, I want to acknowledge someone who has been working incredibly hard for us. Danelle Beauvais has been the Chair of the Worship Committee for some time. It is one of the toughest jobs in the church responsible, as it is, for the scheduling and quality of all the services at the church not led by me. She got pretty tired by the end of this church year and is, coincidentally having major surgery done soon on her upper back and neck. She needs our thanks for good work done, and our support while she is incapacitated. She tells me this will require 10-15 days in the hospital after the surgery. Here is a great opportunity to put love into action for us all. She will not continue as chair of the committee in the fall but, she will continue on the committee itself. THANKS DANELLE. May you return in the best of health. And to all the rest of you, us. May we all get the re-birth life is driving us to.
Be well and blessed be.
Rev. Barry Bloom
Life flows on eh? Spring, then soon the hot dry days of Colorado’s brown summer. Being present with it all is an opportunity to keep learning how to be conscious in a changing world. How to breathe in life. Every day I start with a prayer to be present, really awake and present in this beautiful world. It helps. I have been gimping around on a right knee that has no cartilage left. None. After experimenting with all the lesser healing strategies, I have given in to the dreaded process of knee replacement surgery. I say dreaded because I do not handle the meds well with which they will treat my pain afterward. So, I am searching for alternatives to opioids and other strong stuff. If you have any ideas, let me know. I was originally scheduled for a late May operation, but as I learned more about my projected painful state during the first 3-4 weeks after the surgery, and knowing all that is going on here in May/June, I opted to re-schedule for June 27. So starting then I will not be here in person during much of the summer (July and August) but will be available both during recovery, and after, once a week or so, to address church business electronically.
I am delighted that we have a number of new folks, and some who have been around awhile, to participate in the Joining Ceremony on May 7 during the service. Anyone who has “signed the book,” but has not been through the ceremony, is invited to join us. Let Margaret know.
The Annual Congregational Meeting will follow the service on May 21. It is another opportunity to practice a meaningful experience passed to us by our ancestors, namely, the practice of pure democracy. Thomas Jefferson’s writing about democracy in the 1760’s and 70’s were inspired, in part, by the Cambridge Platform, the agreement made by the Congregationalists of New England in 1636 (which included us at the time) to practice church life (congregational polity) through a one person one vote process. No top down leadership, instead governance by sacred agreement (covenant) to make decisions through friendly, respectful debate to reach decisions that reflect the spirit of the congregation. That remains our goal today. There are worries that abound right now about the state of the world. May we pray and act to make a difference in that world that needs us.
From the minister
A reflection on our theme each month.