Minister's Musings

Beloved Community

In some Native American traditions, Grandmother Spider wove the world into being with her thoughts, and taught the People how to weave. Unitarian Universalists honor and respect the interconnected web of all existence, of which we are a part. This is beloved community; we are all connected to one another and to the whole.

From “Beloved Community & Covenant,” in the May Touchstones Journal, by Rev. Kirk Loadman-Copeland:

The Beloved Community emerges as a tapestry of right relationships woven among those who comprise the congregation. This weaving must be intentional, because right relationship takes imagination, commitment, creativity, humility, compassion, and sacrifice. If we are to create the Beloved Community, we must be willing to sacrifice some of our rugged individualism to balance the narcissistic ME with the communal WE. It is also necessary to continually tend those relationships to prevent the tapestry from being damaged.

When our Wednesday Morning Politics and Religion discussion group heard the congregation was looking into the possibility of becoming a sanctuary congregation for migrants in immediate danger of deportation, they decided to research and discuss the topic. This is a super intelligent, open group of folks who gather weekly for a free-flowing discussion of all kinds of things going on in the world; always really stimulating! Dick (retired law professor) and Nancy Shugrue (leader in the League of Women Voters) made a learned presentation about the law, cases, memos, and how these things might affect Granite Peak as a sanctuary congregation. We commend them for their interest and diligence! There followed a list of points of facts and reflections, which came around to some of us.

Discussion of course was heated, with a multitude of perspectives (as we expect!). It is a deep, complex, scary, and challenging subject.

Previously, the Social Justice Council had formed a group, the Sanctuary Team, to research the topic. The Board approved a plan by the team to hold cottage meetings to inform as many of the congregation as they could about their findings, and to hear and record the reactions and questions of the membership. The team devoted months of research and soul searching to the project before proceeding with cottage meetings for the congregation.

The cottage meetings were designed to frame the discussion as a sacred gathering, in covenant with one another. They were also designed to help us decide, is this something we want to pursue? If yes, then details of feasibility, costs, logistics, etc. would be sorted out before opening our doors to a qualified individual in need (if no, no such details would need to be researched).

The Sanctuary Team felt a little undermined by the parallel process of the Wednesday morning group, and the Wednesday morning group felt a little offended when I said their efforts had been inadvertently detrimental to the cottage meeting process.

Ultimately, having spoken with many of the interested parties, I think we came to an understanding that of course no harm was intended by the Wednesday morning group, and they were of course not prohibited from pursuing anything of interest to them. Both groups understood that thorough research and discussion is needed for such an undertaking. Folks were open and courageous and thoughtful in addressing one another’s lived experience.

It is also necessary to continually tend those rela- tionships to prevent the tapestry from being damaged. Rather than harboring resentment, those who felt there was something not right in the process and interactions, were open and courageous and thoughtful in bringing it to the group and seeking understanding and compassion.

I do think that when the whole congregation is contemplating a very big project (and we have quite a few in the pipeline-- this, the ministerial search process, the renovation of the whole property...), it is essential that congregational conversations are organized by leadership in covenantal fashion, and that the whole congregation participate as a beloved community for deep discernment of heart and mind (this is what the Sanctuary Team’s cottage meetings were designed to do).

People will of course form their own opinions from what they know and find, but they need to bring this information and perspective to the larger conversation. Congregational polity demands that congregational decisions are made from the collective wisdom, gathered from intentional conversation; a simple vote without a collective discernment process is not good enough. Otherwise we are in danger of splitting into antagonist contingent groups and splitting the congregation.

Some folks from the Wednesday morning group did indeed sign up and participate in the organized cottage meetings, where they could voice their insights and concerns, and could hear the insights and concerns of others, and all was recorded by the Sanctuary Team to help in the final discernment process. After the final cottage meeting this month, the team will report their findings to the Board.

On April 29 after the service, the Sanctuary Team will present those findings to the congregation. It is not a cottage meeting; it will be too big for the full participation and deep listening required for a cottage meeting.

I have heard a wide range of perspectives, and many deep feelings. As UU’s we value the right of conscience. So far, all I have heard feel the current laws and practices surrounding immigration here are unjust. For some, conscience calls them to civil disobedience. For some, conscience calls them to obey the law, and make efforts to change the law. Some are ready and free to risk mightily, some are not ready for or free to risk. Some feel deeply that faith calls us to compassionate action, and that “the how” will follow. Some feel strongly that practical and financial details must be worked out before we can decide if it is possible and wise to offer sanctuary.

I thank and honor all those who have engaged in this process, and especially those who have put untold hours into researching, studying, chewing on the questions in faith for themselves, and offering that opportunity in a sacred conversation with the members of the congregation. I am disappointed that more of us did not join the cottage meetings. Whatever the outcome of the vote, I offer my blessings to this congregation as you continue your journey forward and continue to respond as people of faith in powerful and creative ways to the many injustices of the world, and as you continue to tend relationship, to weave right relationship (with) imagination, commitment, creativity, humility, compassion, and sacrifice.

Interdependently yours, Rev. Karla


Minister's Musings

The Touchstones theme for this month is Transformation. I encourage you to read the Touchstones Journal for the month. Spring is a time of profound transformation, when lifeless trees burst forth again with green leaves, and the humus of decomposed life nurtures the seedlings and sprouts that, warmed by the sun, will bloom and glorify the world. I love the message with the cocoon; to become free, we have to step out of our protective wrappings.

I invite you to contemplate the ways that the humus of awareness, and the warmth of love and compassion, can transform your life and the lives of others, especially as we consider the possibility of becoming a sanctuary congregation for migrants in danger of deportation. I hope everyone, whatever your perspective, is participating in the cottage meetings arranged by the Social Justice Ministry Council. This is a crucial congregational conversation, and the Immigration Team has done careful and thorough research to share with you (they are not pushing a particular perspective, but wish to inform us, and then we will see what is the will of the whole).

If we work in separate cohorts, we erode the trust we have built as a beloved community. Journeying together, we can discern our best approach. Sanctuary in some form may, or may not, be the next step in our long and strong legacy of immigration work in the community.

You and I are undertaking an extended goodbye, as I prepare to leave the congregation in June, a transformation of sorts for us all. There is a lot of genuine love and affection between us, as minister and congregants, so it is difficult to think of ending that relationship. We do well to remember that it is genuine, but it is indeed, as minister and congregants. That is a special kind of relationship. Though I humbly give you my heart, I must withdraw my presence when it is time to go. I will grieve the loss, and some of you will too. That is just fine, though perhaps painful. Circle of life. We can continue to remember each other fondly, and send our wishes for well-being into the atmosphere.

I must turn my ministerial attentions elsewhere, and you must turn your attention to your interim minister, and then your new called minister. They will be different from me, but they will have their own treasures to offer; be ready to receive them. I have no doubt that this healthy, beloved congregation will continue to thrive as a community of generous and creative souls and be continually transformed.

In love and trust, Rev. Karla 


Minister's Musings

Our Touchstones theme for March is humility. I encourage you to read the Touchstones Journal this month. it is full of rich thought. I like the quote from Andrew Holmes; it is indeed humbling. And one of the many benefits of belonging to a congregation is that it helps us expand our concern beyond ourselves; to family and friends, to the congregation, to others in ever widening waves. Here, we are encouraged to learn and practice compassion.

In February, several members of Granite Peak UU went to Phoenix for a day with UU Justice Arizona (UUJAZ) to observe the legislature in session and to speak with our respective legislators about issues we care about. Presentations were offered about justice issues. A time for reflection was offered. I myself was not able to attend this time, but I am grateful that our congregation sent folks to carry on this important work.

One of our members is currently on the Board of UUJAZ, and our Director of Social Justice and Faith Development, along with many other volunteers, help make this kind of outreach and relationship and action possible.

Our Director of Music, besides bringing beautiful music in many ways to us on Sundays, led the singing at the UU Professionals Cluster meeting in Chandler in February, a gathering that helps Arizona UU congregations make connections and learn from one another.

Last year, Arizona hosted the whole Pacific Southwest District for a Justice District Assembly, launching us towards deeper exploration of immigration issues, and also towards collaborative and creative worship and other partnerships to deepen and expand our faith.

Our intrepid new Office Manager has taken the reins and kept the wheels turning admirably, adding new expertise to the task, and taking the UU faith deeply to heart.

This month we focus on our annual Stewardship campaign. My deepest wish is that this congregation will continue to grow into its potential as a force in transforming our own lives and in the world for compassionate action. Our staff have been invaluable in making that possible, and we must commit to bringing their salaries and benefits up to UUA guidelines, as fair and just employers. Practice what we preach, for how can we withhold fair compensation in good conscience? With the help of this amazing staff group, Granite Peak UU will continue to make waves in your own hearts and minds, and well beyond, reaching for the stars.

Humbly, Rev. Karla


Minister's Musings

Our Touchstones Theme for February is LOVE, of course. I LOVE this Unitarian Universalist Faith, and I LOVE this beloved community of a congregation. I invite you to consider your love, too, and invite friends and neighbors this month to experience some of our sort of love. Who do you know who would benefit from this open, active, intelligent religion? Who do you know who would be a wonderful addition? Evangelize a little bit, bring them along, spread the love.

Loving our bodies is a bit more of a challenge for some of us, and I’ll start the month looking at loving the breakdowns bodies sometimes experience (how many surgeries have we had in the past year?!). My own physical decline is a real challenge, and I want to figure out how to continue to accept and celebrate my being, while grieving and letting go of the losses.

When it comes to human rights and needs, Unitarian Universalists SIDE with LOVE. We are in the midst of “30 Days of Love,” from MLK’s birthday to Valentine’s Day. Our Side with Love worship is February 11; I’m looking forward to it!

Love love love, Rev. Karla


Minister's Musings

Happy New Year! Blessings to all of you. I look forward to our new Sunday morning schedule and working out the bugs as we go! I am excited about the new possibilities for rich experiences.

For New Year’s resolutions, I’d like to suggest that you make one that will commit you to nurturing your spiritual life. In our busy lives, we have to be inten- tional about scheduling “non-productive” time (though of course it is truly productive!). Creative activity like making music or art, crafts, gardening, dance and writing can be powerful food for the soul. Perhaps you would like to regularly meditate, or pray, or engage in a mindful movement practice like yoga or tai chi. Reading or conversing about spiritual matters and reflecting can also be beneficial, and of course, there are those walks in the woods.

My own resolution is to read poetry and other creative and spiritual writing at least twice a week; I’m pretty sure I can honor that promise to myself. I expect to dabble in many of the other practices I’ve listed, but I’ll commit to this one at least. This is the kind of reading that touches my spirit and inspires my own writing and creation of worship. Now that it’s public, I’ll have to be accountable!

As we all prepare for my departure in June and get ready for a new minister, I know I, and you, will have some grieving and letting go to do, and also ex- citement and anticipation about a new ministry. Let’s do it together in compassionate and life-giving ways.