Posts Tagged Hurricane

Belonging

This family-friendly homily was preached at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Huntington on 9/10/17 on the completion of our renovated grounds, parking lot, and improved accessibility. This was preached the morning that Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida.

This is a complicated day. Many of us have enjoyed a Summer of beaches, and woods, and travel, and breaks from work and school. Some of us have caught up with family, and others have lost someone very dear to their hearts. Dozens of us spent a joy filled week together at our annual summer camp – Fahs – out on the east end of the north fork (you’ll see a bunch of us in pink shirts today to better spread the word so that all who want to come know about it.) We’re enjoying a mild Summer weekend, that feels like a warm Fall day. While last week, we saw so many suffer in southern Texas from one of the worst storms in their history. And this weekend, the Caribbean and Florida are enduring one of the worst storms in living memory. (Hurricane Irma is hitting ground as we sit here now; and we hold out hope for the best, while so many people prepare for the worst. My Facebook feed was full of many friends sharing stories of driving or flying to saftey over the weekend, while others are choosing to stay put and board up their windows.)

…And here, at our Fellowship, we are celebrating the rebuilding of our grounds – something that was 37 years in the making. A few weeks ago, I was telling a story about long Summer days, and my favorite memory from childhood – the time when my parents moved into their (still to this day) home, and the neighborhood kids welcomed me out to go play at the playground across the street. Oddly enough, I just made the connection that that memory, was from 37 years ago too. I was making new friends, in a new neighborhood, and about to enter Kindergarten, and around the same time, Mary Jane and others, were having the first conversations imagining something new. (What are some of the other names we remember who first helped the dream of this building – for those who were around then – can we remember them now?)

First things first, and the sanctuary we’re in now was built. It would see so many weddings, and memorials, child dedications, and coming of age services. This room would also house our cold weather shelter for migrant men, and art concerts, and town halls, and on and on. And our grounds are also used to grow food for the town’s pantry – we’re aiming for 1000 pounds of fresh produce this year. And at the end of next month, we’ll host a Saturday long training on accompaniment in this space (Oct 28), for any who would like to help support immigrants being called to court – to help determine whether they get to belong here in our nation, or if we turn our backs as a people.

What does belonging mean to you? When was the first time you felt like you belonged somewhere? When I got invited to the playground at 4 years of age, I felt like I was going to belong. Over time, I’ve learned that it wasn’t always going to be easy, or nice; people weren’t always going to be kind, but in some ways, I imagined that neighborhood was always going to be mine to go back to – if I wanted. Where do you belong; where do you most fit in? At home with your family? Is this Fellowship a place where you feel you belong? I hope we can make it feel that way if it doesn’t yet – sometimes it takes time. For the folks dressed up with Fahs shirts today – is that a place where you know you belong? I’ve been to that camp three times now; and as a gay man, I’ve got to say how much I appreciate a place where our religious community crafts a place of belonging for all our kids – lifting up the value of their diversity. Too often, our nation tells our kids they need to change who they were born as, to learn to belong, and I’m honored to take part in a camp that teaches our kids they belong for who they are. That’s a life saving ministry we offer. Don’t ever forget that. If all we ever did, was create shelter for migrant workers during the cold weather months, grow food for the hungry during the growing season, and create a space for our kids to grow up knowing they have value and worth for who they are, that would be enough.

But we do so much more. When you’re wrestling with whether to get out of bed and come to Fellowship, or stay in comfort and catch up with the Sunday Times, remember that we create places of belonging, in our corner of the world. For our children and youth – we’re going to try to create a little bit of Fahs Summer Camp all year long – a chance for kids of all ages to learn together on Sunday mornings. For those familiar, think of the Circle Groups at camp. For those less familiar, it’s a chance for all ages to work together. So many of us live our days mostly interacting with people about our same age. First graders are with first graders, and 12th graders are with 12th graders. It stretches a bit in college, and maybe a little bit more in the work world, but usually not a lot more. Religious community is a place of belonging where we get to stitch together more and more people – to know one another and to grow together. To accomplish dreams 37 years in the making, across the generations.

For our adults, our Director of Religious Education, Starr, is working on expanding and deepening our adult religious education opportunities. The number one reason people tell us they look for religious community is to get to know more community. Take a serious look at Starr’s small groups program. It’s the easiest way to connect with more and more people every month, without the chaos (or excitement) of coffee hour. And in the spirit of deepening connections with one another – something we’re perfectly situated for – we’re beginning a campaign to rename coffee hour to “Fellowship Hour.” It was a suggestion from our ministerial intern (Greta). By a show of hands, who here wants more things to do? Who here has quite-enough-already-on-their-plate-thank-you? Excellent – vibrant hand-raising on that latter question. Sunday is officially the break from “more-things-to-do.” After service, come for coffee and Fellowship, and leave the work and chores of your life behind for a couple of hours. Don’t run up to a Board member and share your complaint. Don’t get one more thing done for your committee. Do the stuff that feeds you. It’s ok to sign up for stuff with someone carrying around a clipboard, but don’t rush to start a new committee meeting while the coffee is getting poured. Get to know your friends a little better; and make sure to welcome one more stranger into your life – if you’re up for it. With all of my clerical power, I give you the permission to not-do-stuff during Fellowship hour unless it feeds your spirit, and replenishes your well. There is so much hard stuff going on in the world, and we need places of respite to breath, to connect, and to reimagine new ways. Let our fellowship be that place for you.

 

 

 

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Prayer: Breaking Down Walls

Spirit of Hope, God of Many Names, and One Transforming and Abundant Love,

As we hunker down, beneath a blizzard on our streets,

And a blizzard of news and media that often remind us to continue thinking just like we have always thought,

Help us to see beyond our walls,

Beyond our lonely perspective,

To the humanity in our neighbor,

To the worth we may have forgotten in ourselves.

Open our hearts this hour,

Loosen our grip on how things must be,

Allow ourselves to not always be completely right.

For the road of must be’s, and always have’s,

Have led us to the world we have this day.

A world full of beauty and possibility,

But a world full of injustice, and inequity.

May we learn, and relearn, new ways to live,

With openness,

A breadth of vision,

And an easy joy, as best we can.

May our walls give us not only warmth and stability,

But may they be a staging ground for action in the world.

May they teach us where we have been as a community,

While reminding us that forward thinking was what brought them into being.

May our traditions include the tradition of innovation – long a part of our faith.

We especially hold in our hearts this hour, the homeless in our streets,

The residents of neighborhoods ravaged by Hurricane Sandy,

who have yet to rebuild their homes.

For those who are cold from loss of power and heat.

We are grateful for our members, and the communities,

Who have rallied together to ease the burdens of those so affected.

 

We invite the gathering now to lift up the names of those we wish to hold in our hearts…

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Veterans’ Day 2012

Spirit of Memory, God of Many Names,

We commemorate this hour the lives that have been torn by war,

The soldiers who have served,

the veterans long since at rest,

the families still waiting at home for good news,

amidst our nation’s longest period of war.

May we always honor the individual sacrifices,

A burden few of us share;

While ever seeking a path to a world without such need,

A world without war,

without the reflex of violence.

Help us to believe in an abundance,

May we cease to confuse our desire for more,

With the illusion of scant resources.

We ask for forgiveness,

Where we are too silent,

Wars that bare witness to widespread loss of civilian life.

May we learn to care for our veterans when they return home,

And come to find new ways,

To learn from their experiences,

Knowing that although they may be in great need,

They have a depth of experience, stories that must be shared.

Open our hearts to the pain, the service, and the hope.

Teach us to weave new stories,

That honor the peacemakers as well as the defenders,

That lift up dialogue as virtue, not as timidity.

This morning we pray,

grant us your Peace,

where it is so hard to find.

We continue to hold this hour the neighborhoods in our city, and our region, that are still ravaged by the aftermath of the Hurricane.

For JC who still needs help in repairing her home in the Rockaways,

For our Sister congregation in Staten Island, and their minister Rev. Susan Karlson, who are working diligently as a staging ground for their community,

For the Red Hook Initiative, that many of our members are directly involved with, helping to restore normalcy to a community still without infrastructure.

For the AliForneyCenter, whose intake shelter for LGBT youth was destroyed.

May we find immediate acts of kindness to alleviate the immediacy of the need,

And may we strive for acts of sacrifice that transform our communities for the generations to come.

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Small Group Ministry #31: After Sandy

#31 Small Group Ministry Session Written by Rev. Jude Geiger, MRE, First Unitarian, Brooklyn – Based on the sermon, “Beyond the Limits of Love” preached by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons at First UU on 11/4/12. This session offers an opportunity to reflect on the effects of Hurricane Sandy to our community. It is found here: http://www.fuub.org/home/clergy/sermons/?sermon_id=84

Welcome & Opening Chalice Lighting  (Please read aloud) #539 In Singing the Living Tradition by Maya Angelou

Statement of Purpose:  To nurture our spirits and deepen our friendships.

Brief Check-In: Share your name and something you have left behind to be here. If the group agrees, more time can be spent this month sharing our stories of Hurricane Sandy.

Covenant Reflection

Reading: An Excerpt/Edit from the sermon, “Beyond the Limits of Love.”

Unitarian Universalists tend to not like the idea of religious laws and requirements. We like to think that we’ll do the right thing out of love. But love doesn’t always result in people doing the right thing… or even the sane thing. Part of the tragedy of moments like this is that they expose the sad truth that love doesn’t take us far enough. We’re generally myopic when it comes to making hard choices on a large scale. Progressives talk about loving and caring for the earth. We can love the beautiful sunsets and mountains, the flora and fauna we encounter, but this kind of love is sentimental. Love is really bad at abstractions. It’s no good at acting on cause-and-effect at several levels of remove. It’s lousy at reading climate charts and calculating statistics and probabilities and running computer models to connect our actions with their indirect impact on the most vulnerable among us. And yet that is exactly what we need right now.

Discussion Questions: Looking back on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, how does Rev. Ana’s words regarding the utility of love resonate with you? When does kindness fall short? How do you see the world differently as we begin to get back on our feet as a city, with so many people now homeless? What would sustained change look like in the world at large? What would it look like in your – particular – life?

Closing:   (please read aloud – responsively if you have several copies) #576 “A Litany of Restoration” by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley (In Singing the Living Tradition)

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Prayer for those affected by Hurricane Sandy

Prayer 11/4/12

 

Spirit of Life, God of Many Names, and One Transforming and Abundant Love,

We pause this hour before the mixed stories of our region,

The stories of loss –

We grieve the death of over a 100 people from the Caribbean to the Mid-Atlantic;

A week without heat, without power, without water

Of homes washed away,

Of cars destroyed by the river,

and what the waters carried with them.

We are grateful for those of us who remained physically untouched by the storm despite being in its midst.

We honor the relief workers, the first responders, who were caring for us in our time of need – even though their own need was great.

—We hold in our heart communities like Breezy Point in the Rockaways – close knit home to many first responders – ravaged by the storm.

—We too hold Staten Island, and our sister congregation there who serves as a staging ground for relief

—We too hold the Red Hook Initiative and the community is serves – may our collection today and on-going help in what small way it can

—We too hold the clinics damaged by the storm,

The families still without power and water here and in the Caribbean,

We pray for the speedy support and recovery of the AliForneyCenter whose intake shelter was absolutely destroyed by the Hurricane. This shelter serves the needs of hundreds of LGBT homeless youth every night as they help them transition to permanent housing and work.

We are saddened by the cancellation of our own act-of-success-in-the-face- of-adversity – the Marathon.

May the effort so many have spent a year or a life-time preparing for not be seen in vain, knowing that even the act of preparing is a marker of the greatness of the human spirit.

 

May our own celebration this evening, of the installation of Rev. Ana,

be a call for continued acts of service to our communities.

May the supplies and food we gather today at both services bless us in our continued ministry,

knowing that our walls do not define us,

only our doorways so do.

God of Hope, we are humbled by the stories of neighbor reaching out to neighbor,

and reminded ever that this is the core of religion –

compassion for the sake of compassion.

We pray that our politicians may become leaders,

Letting go of partisan and consumer idols,

And act as one to heal the ravages of globing warming,

That our city and our coast have so clearly, so imminently, born witness.

 

We ask for healing in our communities,

In our playgrounds and our homes,

We hold especially in our hearts this morning all those living in shelter,

Whether from the storm, or from the ravages of systems of poverty,

May they all find a way to stability,

And may we learn ways to end these cycles.

We pray for the W. family whose tree on their house is being removed as we speak. For JS who’s brand new home in the Rockaways was flooded by the storm surge.

We pray for PE. who will be going into surgery on Tuesday to treat thyroid cancer. May he know in his heart the love this congregation holds for him, may his healing be swift and lasting.

 We invite the gathering to speak aloud the names we wish to hold in our hearts.

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Reflection following Hurricane Sandy

Telling our stories is a powerful form of ministry with one another. It is in this spirit that Coco, Cooper, Michele and I share our stories this morning. This week has been both emotionally exhausting and incredibly fortunate for my home. Being in zone B, we were not asked to evacuate ahead of time, so we hunkered down, stored up supplies, froze extra water in zip lock bags just in case, and prepared for a night of computer games and a good book.

We live two blocks from the Con Edison station that had a transformer blow. I personally missed the great flash of white light that lit the sky – I was busy staring at my computer shutting down.

The East River, typically 2.5 avenues away (or the one half mile from our front door) in Stuyvesant Town where we live, became our neighbor for a night and part of a morning. Although it receded by the next day, the streets were wet through Thursday. The power was out, hot water was gone, and running water came and went for up to twelve hours at a time. Some of our neighbors were out of gas, but we were fortunate. Our building did not suffer that level of damage.

Over the next few days, we would climb down the ten flights of stairs with our flashlights to grab some bread from bodegas that were getting rid of the last of their supplies – grateful that no one was price gouging their goods.

Many eight story stall trees were dead on the grown. Twelve foot lengths of pier, giant rivets and all, were as far in as Ave C – leaving wreckage to the cars they rested upon, amidst other cars literally tossed about by the East River.

Traffic in Manhattan, usually a bitter affair, was pedestrian friendly, almost devoid of any honking horns, and civil in a way I could never imagine.

In our community, neighbors and resident staff were taking turns visiting each of the 30,000+ homes without power to make sure folks were alright. Letters were circulated asking us to check on our neighbors who were elders – who had no hope of climbing down, let along up, ten flights of stairs.

One café brought out a generator to the street, and set up a power strip so that strangers could recharge their cell phones and laptops. This may seem small, but when you have no ability to tell anyone that you’re fine – this was a great act of charity and relief. When we finally had cell coverage again on Wednesday, I was heartened to hear of the stories of outreach and support organized by our members and Rev. Ana. I felt cared for by their leadership.

We finally did evacuate on Thursday to the magical land of “Park Slope” which was high, dry and heavily caffeinated. We felt very blessed. We are returning home later today.

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Prayer for our Daily Routines

Spirit of Life, God of Many Names, and One Transforming and Abundant Love,

Move within us as we go about our daily routines.

Some of us have hit our stride,

Comfortable in our new job,

excited about the addition to the family,

or that math problem is finally starting to make sense.

Others of us are unsure of what lies ahead,

Wrestling with illness,

Missing the friends who have moved away,

Or just stressed out by things that once brought newness into our lives.

May we hold all these truths in our care as we meet one another,

In our coffee hours, our classrooms, or the ride home.

Teach us to treat, with love, each story as our own;

Knowing that most of these stories,

are true for all of us,

at one time in our life.

 

Bless us with a spirit of endurance,

When all we need is the strength to carry on for one more day,

A view that makes space for hope,

When a way is hard to find,

And an inclination to love –

Ever knowing that the world needs such passion,

All the more when we find it lacking in our own hearts and minds.

 

We hold in our hearts this hour all the people living on the streets this week.

May those in storms’ way find shelter and warmth, food and safety.

We pray for the residents of British Columbia who are recovering from a severe earthquake,

The people of Hawaii facing a Tsunami,

and the people of Vietman preparing for a Typhoon.

 

We pause in silence for the 65 people who have already died in the Caribbean due to the Hurricane.

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