The Tranquil Star (Audio Available)

January 13th, 2019
The Tranquil Star: Reflection on a Story by Primo Levi

You have come with stardust in your hair, with the rush of planets in your blood, your heart beating out the seasons of eternity, with a shining in your eyes like the sunlight.”

 These are the words I’ve been using to begin a child dedication for years. I don’t know where the words come from. They were passed on to me, like a gift out of time, from someone who got them from someone else, who got them from someone else. There is something so powerful that happens as you hold a child in your arms, surrounded by their parents and family and the whole community, and you speak those words.  

“You have come with stardust in your hair, with the rush of planets in your blood, your heart beating out the seasons of eternity, with a shining in your eyes like the sunlight.”

Perhaps that’s as close as we get to a foundational story in this tradition. “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,” as Joni Mitchell once sang.

This is the mystery of who we are. We are atoms, molecules, that were once the stuff of stars. We are this amazing something that comes to life — and we still don’t know how or why. Our existence, itself, is a mystery.

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Stories of Sanctuary (audio available)

Sunday, December 16th, 2018
Rev. Diane Rollert with special guests the Nakhla and Al Mohammad families with music by Sandra Hunt, Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert and the Yellow Door Choir

Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers come to Quebec and Canada looking for sanctuary. In our own small way as a spiritual community, we've done what we can to help. On this celebratory Sunday, we heard from members of the two Syrian refugee families we helped to sponsor in 2017-18. You can hear the full service here.

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Our Blue Boat Home: Earth as Sanctuary (audio available)

Sunday, December 9th, 2018
Rev. Diane Rollert with music by Sandra Hunt, Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert Shawn and Geneviève Dohring

“Help!” someone writes after the recent release of the world’s scientists’ report on climate change. The picture is worse, so much worse than we feared. Time is running out. Voices call out, “Talk to us about the earth! Tell us what to do!”

And I am caught, standing here, wondering where to even begin.

Do I start with my own love letter to the earth? (Carole did that so brilliantly in her poem earlier.) How many precious sanctuaries have we each known; how many sanctuaries has this earth given to us without asking for anything in return?

The crook of a tree to rest in as a child. The feeling of our hands deep in the soil as we plant in the garden. The sifting of sand through our fingers, and the sound of waves against the shore. Salt marshes and barrachois. The scent of summer roses, musky and almost cinnamon. Vast expanses of forests and canyons. Quiet meadows transformed by each season. A downy woodpecker’s surprise appearance outside my window. The snow falling on Mount Royal, the revelation of nature on the urban landscape. The earth reaching out to gather in sunrises and sunsets that lift our spirits and fill us with longing.

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Las Posadas: A multigenerational celebration to begin the holiday season (audio available)

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018
Yvette Salinas, Rev. Diane Rollert and Katharine Childs with music by Sandra Hunt and Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert and the Parts in Peace Choir

At Christmas time in Mexico and other Latinx communities, groups re-enact the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter (las posadas) for the baby Jesus to be born.  Families go from house to house in the neighbourhood for nine nights, singing, carrying candles, and asking for the couple to be let in.  Of course, everyone has an excuse for why they can't offer refuge — until the final night! Then the real celebration begins. In these times when sanctuary is too often denied, this story has much to tell us about the meaning of opening our hearts. 

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The Hero’s Journey (audio available)

November 25th, 2018
Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana and Rev. Diane Rollert

Three years ago, the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, founder of the Unitarian Church of Burundi, faced attacks in his church and was kidnapped. He was ultimately forced to flee his country and came to Montreal to seek asylum. Today he and his family are living in Saskatoon and he is embarking on a new ministry to build a French-language online UU website and community, based on the model of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. Click here to hear Rev. Fulgence's reflection on his journey.

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Vers la fraternité ou la parenté universelle

Présentation au Congrès vers la fraternité, organisé par Religions pour la paix - Québec
17 novembre, 2018
Par La révérende Diane Rollert, Centre St-Pierre, Montréal

La semaine dernière, j'étais à Toronto au Parlement des religions du monde. C'était très beau de se réunir avec 8000 personnes du monde entier qui sont rassemblées pour partager en harmonie et travailler pour la paix, un peu comme ce rassemblement aujourd'hui.

Mais j'ai été frappé par un participant qui a partagé une idée provocatrice : dans notre travail interreligieux, nous sommes souvent coincés au niveau des platitudes. Nous ne nous laissons jamais confronter aux vrais problèmes qui nous divisent.

Je vais donc prendre un risque aujourd'hui pour dire que si l’on rêve d'atteindre la fraternité universelle, on devrait se permettre de s’engager en dialogue sur les problèmes difficiles que l’on évite souvent lorsque l’on se réunit en tant que personnes de religions différentes.

On peut dire que la fraternité universelle est au cœur de la foi unitarienne universaliste - mais peut-être nous l'exprimons différemment. Nous avons toujours été une foi qui laisse place à l'indépendance de pensée, sans dogme, et à l'acceptation de la diversité. Nous cherchons à ouvrir de portes à ceux qui ne sont pas les bienvenus dans d'autres communautés.

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The Silent Hero

November 11th, 2018
By: Rev. Diane Rollert

Last week, I spent seven days in Toronto at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. One of the highlights was an invitation that I and the other Unitarian Universalist ministers attending the parliament received on behalf of the City Shul, a synagogue in downtown Toronto. We were asked if we would please come to form a circle of peace around the synagogue, in response to the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

Eleven Jewish worshipers had been massacred in Pittsburgh the Saturday before, on October 27, by a man who shouted that he wanted to kill as many Jews as he possibly could. The pain, grief and horror were still so raw in everyone’s hearts.

The City Shul is a small synagogue that rents space at the Bloor Street United Church. It was early when we arrived, the chilliest morning of the week. At first we were just a few, but with time, the circle grew and we succeeded in surrounding the building. We were joined by the members of the Bloor Street church, along with Muslim neighbours and others. As members of the City Shul congregation arrived, they greeted us with the words “Thank you so much for being here. Shabbat Shalom.” Before their worship service began, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein and other leaders of the congregation walked the perimeter of the circle, thanking us with tears in their eyes.

Clergy and community representatives were invited inside for the service. It was an incredibly moving experience. The congregation was emotionally overwhelmed by the number of guests who filled their sanctuary. After prayers were sung, local dignitaries and visiting clergy spoke. A local imam said that he and his community were there because the synagogue had supported them when their mosque had been attacked.

The memory of Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones was lifted up as well, two African Americans who were shot in Louisville, KY, the week before, by a man who had intended to attack an African American church. Finding the church closed, he mercilessly executed two strangers in a grocery store, simply because of the colour of their skin.

The Rabbi Goldstein spoke powerful words as she honoured the dead in Pittsburgh.

Read the full text here.

What Makes a Super Hero?

November 4th, 2018

This year, on the first Sunday of every month, the children are invited to stay in the sanctuary for a multi-generational service. The prayground is set up with materials, and both children and adults are invited to participate in the service today. Today’s service takes the form of a play, with a script and all!

To see the full text version of this service, click here.

Bringing Your Spirit Home

October 14th, 2018
Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert

As I think of our ancestors, I keep returning to this quote from African American writer, Ralph Ellison:

“Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.”

I love the beautiful messages of gratitude that many of you wrote to your ancestors last week for our Thanksgiving service. There were thanks for life, love, courage, song, traditions, eyebrows, thick skin, health and longevity. Our ancestors have given us many blessings. But ancestry also comes with the burdens of the past.

Unitarian Universalism is my chosen faith, and Unitarian Universalists are my chosen ancestors. I come here holding onto the teachings of the family I grew up with and the ancestors who connect me to my racial, ethnic, religious and cultural roots. This faith has enabled me to hold onto what is good in my past and to let go of what I don’t need, as I engage in this ever unfolding process of bringing my spirit home.

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Tell Me a Story

I remember once taking a very wet camping trip with our kids. It rained heavily all week. It rained so much that giant mushrooms started to take over our campsite, and we were forced to live under a canopy of blue tarps that we had strung up to protect our tent and our gear. With little to do, I sat with my daughter in our tent for hours, reading one of the Harry Potter books out loud. I don’t remember which book it was, but its magic saved our vacation.

When my kids entered their teen years and decided they were too sophisticated for children’s books, I was still anxiously looking forward to the release of the next book in the Harry Potter series. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Harry and his friends as they grew up, and I needed to know that someday the evil He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Voldemort) would be vanquished.

You may think I’m weird, but there was a study a few years ago that found that adults make up more than 50% of the readers of young adult novels. These are not adults who are reading to children, but adults who are reading for their own pleasure. I discovered this, and a lot of the information that I’m going to share today, while listening to a program called The Ministry of Ideas, which is part of the Harvard Divinity School Religious Literacy Project. (https://www.ministryofideas.org/) This program was one of the inspirations for choosing to focus on the theme of story this month.

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The Narrative You Choose

September 16th, 2018
Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert

Years ago, when I was just a member of a Unitarian congregation, I was deeply disappointed when my minister decided to ignore the Jewish High Holy Days. As someone who has always held onto my Jewish identity as part of my Unitarian Universalism, this hit me hard. So I wrote him a short note to express my feelings. The poor guy, it was probably the last thing he needed to hear. But he sent me a handwritten card of apology, promising that he would never overlook the High Holy Days again. When I became a minister, I made the same commitment to myself and to the people I serve. 

Yom Kippur is the last day of the High Holy Days. From sundown this Tuesday, to sundown on Wednesday, observant Jews will fast, refraining from both eating and drinking. It’s a time when you settle your accounts with God, as well as the people in your life. You ask for forgiveness as well as offer forgiveness so that you can begin again with love; so that you will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year.  

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Reflections from Our Water Communion 2018

On the first Sunday of the fall season, for as long as most of us can remember, we’ve been celebrating a special ceremony we call the water communion. We use the word communion to simply mean “a sharing, a coming together” to affirm all that connects us to each other once again. It’s a tradition that is practiced by many Unitarian Universalist congregations and groups around the world. We come together from different directions, bringing water that we pour into a communal bowl.

Each congregation does the water communion differently. Here at the Unitarian Church of Montreal, we ritually pour water five separate times to symbolize the range of our summer experiences: our times of rest and renewal; our moments of happiness and joy; our grief and loss; the periods of change and transition, and finally, the experiences that remain unnamed.

It’s beautiful to watch as everyone gets up at different times during the ceremony to pour out water, as Sandra Hunt, our director of music, plays music to reflect each mood. Together, we witness an emotional map of our community. From the youngest child to the oldest adult, we see how many of us have been touched by highs, lows and change over the summer.

Here are two reflections from this year’s water communion by Rev. Diane Rollert, our minister, and Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert, our new song leader and choir director.

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Simple Gifts

June 17th, 2018
Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert

’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free,
’tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained, 
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘till by turning, turning we come ‘round right.

            — Quaker hymn

There’s a moment in the Hebrew Bible when the prophet Elijah finds himself standing upon a mountain waiting to hear from God. First a strong wind breaks the rocks around him, but God is not in the wind. Then an earthquake comes, but God is not in the earthquake. Then fire comes, but God is not in the fire. Finally, Elijah hears a still, small voice. In that moment, Elijah realizes that God is in the silence.

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I Say Yes! (Audio Available)

June 10th, 2018
Reflection by Rev Diane Rollert

Sometimes when I explain Unitarian Universalism to people who’ve never heard of us before, they’ll ask, “But if you don’t follow a single scripture like the Bible or the Qur’an, and you don’t put God or Jesus at the centre of your faith, then what makes you different from a social club?”

I often answer that we leave room for each person to find their own path to the holy, and we’re still a religious community. Why? Because we’re focused on more than just the social. We come together in community to search for answers to the most essential questions: How do we live with meaning and purpose? How do we respond to the intimate and the ultimate in our lives?

You might say we’re seeking simplicity. We’re trying to figure out what’s truly essential. How do we make our mark in this life, when we will never know for sure if there is anything beyond this life? Reincarnation, heaven, hell, the great void of nothingness, the returning from dust to dust and ashes to ashes, or the rearrangement of energy into some new beginning. We can have theories about what happens when we die, but all we truly know is what exists here and now in this very moment. That’s the quest that unites us as something more than a people who gather for coffee and conversation. 

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