Let Go with LEGO (Audio Available)

Reflection by Akiko Asano, 23 July 2017

Good morning,

First, I would like to thank the summer services team for asking me to present again in front of all you awesome people.

Little did I know that when I first presented a “family coming out” speech at the Guelph Sexuality conference in 2013, that it would lead me to present it again many times. Each time it got easier and each time the “introduction” phrase of who I am started to shift and to change as I became aware of other aspects my own gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. I started to construct the new, improved, better version of “me”. Not only was I advocating for my trans child, I started to advocate for me.

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To Hold Our Traditions Fast — Or Not? (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 11 June 2017

To clap or not to clap, that is the question. 

Many years ago, it wasn’t unusual for the congregation to clap after each piece of music, breaking the flow of worship. A lot of people began to feel that the clapping took away from their feeling of being in worship and moved things more into a performance. So, in 1999, when two of our members went to an organ concert in Davis, California, a solution was conceived.

The couple noticed a man in the pew in front of them who did not clap. “Instead he used one or a combination of hand actions. Sometimes he held both hands vertical, palm out, in front of himself and rotated them out and back in rapidly several times – this action, he said when questioned after the concert, is the International Sign Language for the Deaf sign for applause. 

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The Flower Communion 95 Years Later (Audio Available)

This month we are exploring the theme of tradition. Now and then, over the years, I encounter someone who asks me why we Unitarians — who have liberated ourselves from the chains of rigid dogma — why would we celebrate traditions of any kind? “Do you do anything the same way from week to week or year to year?” they ask. “Do you even have worship services?”

Over the years, I’ve encountered a few people who argue that Unitarians should have no traditions, but that’s a pretty hard and rare line. Personally, I cherish our freedom of thought and the way we invite each other to responsibly search for our own truth and meaning and sense of the sacred. But I also love tradition, and I believe we humans need traditions to help us make sense of our lives.

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Cinnamon Sugar

Yvette Salinas, presented as part of the May 7th  Race, Diversity and Inclusion: A Teach-in Sunday Worship Service

Verónica loved cinnamon. She loved making tea with cinnamon sticks on cold, gray days. She loved rolling pan de polvo cookies in cinnamon powder while they were still warm from the oven. She even loved mixing cinnamon sugar into her mother's cafe those mornings after the baby had cried all night long. There was something about its color, its flavor, that just made her happy...even a little bit connected to the home of her Ancestors, far south from where she lived now.

Verónica lived with her Mother, Mami; her father, Papi; and the baby. Far from any extended relatives, Veronica's little family took care of each other. Always.

One Saturday, Verónica noticed her mother looking sad. Really sad. “Tomorrow we will try going to a new church,” Mami announced suddenly.

“Why?” Veró and Papi asked. It had been years since they last attended any church.

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Race, Diversity and Inclusion: A Teach-in Sunday Worship Service

Introduction by Rev Diane Rollert, 7 May 2017

In moments like this, there’s always a story that catches fire and pushes people to act. This story begins with two people. One was a white man, the other was a woman of colour. (To be a person of colour is to be someone who is not of white, European descent.) Both the man and woman were serving as volunteers on the governing board of the Unitarian Universalist Association in the US, our siblings across the border. Both applied for a high profile paying job. The woman was told she had all the necessary qualifications, but she didn’t quite fit. The man got the job. Like the majority of people on the team he was joining, he was white, male and a minister. 

Members of the UU community of colour in the US said, “Hey, wait a minute! Look at what’s been happening. You say that our principles call us to be a racially diverse and just movement. You ask people of colour to take on important volunteer positions. You take pictures of us in meetings for your publicity so that you can show the world how inclusive we are, but then you never hire us to hold leadership positions. You tell us that we don’t fit.”  The situation got tense, and the current UUA president stepped down just three months away from the end of his final term. Three interim co-presidents, all ministers of colour, were named to take his place.

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Tilling Rocky Ground to Cultivate Compassion (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Meg Roberts, 30 April 2017

I remember it like yesterday: the first Unitarian service I ever attended. It was almost twenty-five years ago: that Victoria Day long weekend, the Canadian Unitarian Council annual meeting was held in Montreal (where I lived at that time). When I arrive, people are friendly---not saccharine-sweet friendly, but authentically friendly. During the service, I enjoy the ritual of lighting the chalice. Charles Eddis’ sermon is inspiring. It seems like a warm, spiritually-growing community. At the end of the service, the brass quintet breaks into a ragtime piece---and people spontaneously get up and start dancing! I think: these are my people. And they have been ever since. Little did I know that eleven years after that, I would be a minister in this spiritual movement. And on top of that, that I would be here serving this particular congregation as a sabbatical replacement minister for six months, while Ray Drennan (your then settled minister) was off on study leave.

I am so happy to join you as you celebrate your 175th anniversary as Canada’s oldest Unitarian congregation. It is fitting that this month’s theme is compassion. Because all those years ago, during my six months with you, I learned a lot about compassion.

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The Golden Rule of Compassion (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 16 April 2017

The other day I ran into a neighbour as we were both walking our dogs. “You know,” she said, “I’ve been thinking about you and Jesus. I’ve been wondering what you were going to say this Easter Sunday.” She looked at me almost beseechingly and said, “I can’t read the news anymore!”

I tell her that I’ve been feeling the same way. Lately I’ve been wishing I could be Rip Van Winkle. I’d like to lie down in some soft grassy place up on the mountain, fall asleep and wake up twenty years from now. Just let the time pass and hope that the world is in a better state when I awake.

My neighbour says to me, “Who cares if Jesus ever lived. It’s the message that matters.” Then she puts into words what I’ve been struggling with lately. She says, “I don’t have hope. You can’t have hope now. All we have is our goodness, and goodness is strength.”

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Compassion in Many Voices from Arts to Islam

April 9, 2017
Reflection from Samuel Dalpé
Samuel Dalpé is completing a doctorate in contemporary religious studies. 

Une image d’une jeune fille en détresse est présentée à l’audience. Altruisme, volonté d’engagement et de porter secours sont alors fortement signifiée (bien que les résultats diffèrent selon la couleur de peau du sujet). Cette même jeune fille est présentée par la suite au côté de son frère[1]. Le degré sollicitude chute alors, et l’envie d’aider diminue. Joignez à l’image le reste de la famille[2] et l’impact de celle-ci est encore diminué. Présentez des chiffres de l’ordre de « 4 millions d’enfants mourront cette année de la faim » et l’empathie s’essouffle encore davantage. Pire, les conséquences de cette perception d’impuissance, de cet épuisement émotionnel, en viendraient à affecter notre motivation à considérer les engagements utiles près de nous[3]. Depuis une dizaine d’années, les études en psychologie et en neurosciences nous le confirment inlassablement, nos intuitions morales sont souvent déroutées lorsqu’elles sont conduites par notre empathie.

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Reflection from Shaheen Ashraf
Shaheen Ashraf, is a member of the board of the Canadian
Council of Muslim Women and secretary of its Montreal chapter.

I thank our leader of this congregation, Rev. Diane Rollert, for giving me this opportunity to share with you the Muslim perspective of ‘Compassion’.

In Arabic the phrase Bismi-Allah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem  translates to “In the name of God, TheCompassionate, The Merciful.  It is repeated before starting any act (work, study, worship, even before starting to eat). This, in my humble opinion, leads us humans to recognize consciously, our Source that some call God, or Allah or Jehovah OR, OR, OR!

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In All Honesty - Rites of Passage (Audio Available)

Reflections by Rev. Diane Rollert, Shoshanna Green and Normand Gosselin

Download In All Honesty by Rev. Diane Rollert
Download Shoshanna Green's reflection
Download Nomand Gosselin's reflection

My first wedding ceremony was supposed to be held on the beach, but rain changed our plans and we ended up inside the local yacht club. I was relieved. The surf was so loud that day, I had no idea how I’d be heard over the pounding waves. As planned, we got the cue that the bride was ready, so in I processed, followed by the groom and his groomsmen. Then we stood there, waiting at the makeshift altar. The bride’s music began, but no bride appeared. We smiled, the guests smiled back. The band played the wedding march to the end and started all over again. Still no bride. I stood there thinking, Ok, now what do I do? Just as I was about to step out of formation to find out what had happened to the bride, there she was. All was well, all was beautiful.

It’s been 15 years since that wedding, but what remains is the joy as the couple kissed and ran off before I could even say my closing words. They’d waited long enough and they were ready to plunge into their new life together. I laughed all the way home.

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Whatever Happened to Honesty? (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 5 March 2016

My father was a musician. In the 1960s, he designed a music program for the Chicago public school system. He took the soprano recorder — the woodwind flute-like instrument used in Baroque and Renaissance music — and he had it mass-produced in durable plastic. The sound was surprisingly clear and beautiful. He then wrote a teacher’s guide, the Olenick Method, using musical excerpts from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and the like. He was on a crusade to expose children to real music. 

Back in those days, most schools would introduce students to the flutophone as their first musical instrument. It was this screeching flute-like thing.  We’d all learn how to play ear-splitting renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. It was awful.  But Dad had us playing the William Tell Overture on the descant recorder, and it sounded like music. Mention the flutophone in my house and my father would shout out, “A total piece of crap!”

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On This Land (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 12 February 2017

Justice is a powerful, fundamental concept in our lives. But justice is also a wounded word. It’s a word that anyone can claim and distort to fit their own agenda. For the Europeans who arrived on this land hundreds of years ago, justice was claiming something that was not theirs. Consider the Hudson Bay Company selling 3.9 million square kilometers to the government of Canada in 1869. As Thomas King writes, “The problem was that the Hudson’s Bay Company didn’t own the land they sold to the Canadian government, any more that the French owned the land they sold to the Americans. They didn’t even control it. The purchases were no more than paper promises and wishful thinking.”

Yet here we are, nearly 175 years later, living in a world where everything is split up into property claims, where we make money by claiming and selling land. This land of justice is a land built on injustice.

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Love, Justice and Radical Inclusion (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 5 February 2017

Part I:  Every week we say in our words of welcome that we are striving to be radically inclusive.  But what does “radically inclusive” really mean? What are we really striving to do and how are we succeeding?

This is a question that our staff has been wrestling with lately. How do we live this out in our work? I asked our director of religious explorations, Katharine Childs, if she would write something for our newsletter. That led to a written conversation between Katharine and Yvette Salinas, our RE assistant. I’ve asked their permission to share some of their words. I’ve also invited them to lead a service on a Sunday when they can be the ones to talk, and I can be the one to listen.

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Songs and Stories of Resistance

Introduction by Rev Diane Rollert, 29 January, 2017 (Audio Available)

I count myself as someone who was very blessed to have grown up singing songs of resistance. It was a gift that my parents gave me. I was pretty young when they took me to hear Pete Seeger sing for the first time. Even then, I remember tears coming to my eyes as we sang We Shall Overcome. Ever since, this has been a song that has always reassured me that I am not alone in my desire to see peace and justice prevail. 

Right now is a pretty dark time. I keep promising myself that I will let go of my disappointment in recent political events in my homeland. I say to myself, you’re in Canada now. But honestly, it’s not just me. The entire church staff is feeling pretty unsettled, and only some of us are from the US. And then, with the new US immigration ban and the protests at airports across the US last night, I cannot begin to describe my horror and my sadness. 

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Ministry is Like a Love Affair (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Carole Martignacco,  22, January, 2017

A rose is an apt symbol of love, with it's graceful unfolding. (place rose on pulpit)

You may know I hail from that country to the south. So to begin ~ yes, I accept all your expressions of concern and commiseration.  But I have to tell you, it was so good to be here in Montreal for the Women's March yesterday. I was there with your minister Rev. Diane and her husband David, and we joined others from UCM to hear some fabulous speakers at the rally - Sue Montgomery among them, and the Raging Grannies. I was reminded of the Women's March in 2000 in Quebec - Genevieve Patterson and I sat together on the bus, sharing stories of our daughters going and returning.

Come sing a song with me, walk in rain with me - or ice or snow or hail.  Come meet and plan, share a meal with me, explore ideas, tell stories, raise funds with me. Come march for rights, teach some kids, worship, study, learn, dance, cook and just BE with me.  And I'll bring you hope - and you'll bring me the same. And I'll bring a song of love, a rose in the winter or any other time. 

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Bring, O Past, Your Honour (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 15 February 2017

We’ve entered our 175th year as a congregation. How many events in our lives are counted into the hundreds? I love this sense of being strongly connected to history. Our lives are marked by annual events that are more than just our own celebrations. They are observances that have arisen out of the actions and experiences of people who lived and died long before us. They are the work of those who planted the seeds, who watered the roots, who made it possible for us to grow into us. 

We are a people completely different from our ancestors, and yet somehow, their spirits are woven into our spirit. There is something wonderfully mysterious, like DNA, that gets passed from one generation to the next that has its origins in some fantastical place that we have yet to understand.

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Ring Out, Wild Bells! (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 8 January 2017

After the US election, I was looking for something to read — some sort of distraction from my obsessive watching and reading of the daily news. I’ve always enjoyed the work of science fiction writer Robert Sawyer. After all, he’s a Canadian author who tends to promote a hopeful, positive view of the future of humanity. So I picked up his latest book, Quantum Night, just published this past year, thinking this would be exactly the escape I needed from reality.

If you know Robert Sawyer, you know he does a lot of scientific research and likes to grapple with big, existential questions. He’s not the most poetic writer, but what he lacks in style he makes up in imagination. In Quantum Night, he explores a creative relationship between psychology and quantum physics as he considers the existence of evil and the nature of consciousness. 

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Roots Hold Me Close (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 4 December 2016

“Roots hold me close, wings set me free.”
                —from the hymn Spirit of Life by Carolyn McDade

It’s been quite a week. On Monday morning we went to the airport to welcome Omar, Salwa, and their seven children. What an amazing journey it has been for them and for us. They arrived saying, “We’re ready. Help us to get started in our new life.” And that’s what we’ve been doing: 

Finding an apartment, painting and furnishing it, gathering winter clothes — and then suddenly rain gear at the last moment— we were so busy looking for snow boots, we didn’t even think about rain gear! Then there was shopping for the first groceries, putting together maps of the neighbourhood, waiting forever for the wifi installation that still hasn’t happened, setting up and going to appointments with the school board, going to Service Canada for Social Insurance Numbers, setting up appointments for health cards and medical exams, making arrangements for French immersion courses, trying to figure out college equivalencies, trying to figure out the financial benefits that Canada and Quebec offer, scheduling translators, and the list goes on. 

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Treasured Moments (Audio Available)

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 20 November 2016

Listen more often to things than to beings,
‘tis the ancestor’s breath when the fire’s voice is heard,
‘tis the ancestor’s breath in the voice of the waters…

                    Words adapted from a poem by Birago Diop
                    from the song “Breaths” by Ysaye Barnwell

Birago Diop was a poet and storyteller from Senegal. His poem, Souffles, or Breaths, draws from something beautiful that is found in many of the spiritual traditions of Africa: Things have power because they have been touched and experienced by the ancestors. 

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