Minister’s Mind–Integrity

Integrity comes from the same root as the word “wholeness.” I once heard a friend of mine, a gay man who was closeted because he feared losing his job as a public school teacher, say, “I don’t want a double life. I think everyone deserves to have a single life.” For me, that is the definition of integrity–the ability to have a single, whole, integrated life–not having to pretend or hide any part of yourself. I think, down deep, we all yearn for that kind of integrity.

There are many forces in our lives that push us away from that kind of wholeness, but I think the most powerful one may be perfectionism. To be whole is not the same as to be perfect. It’s when we feel the pressure to be perfect instead of whole that we begin to try to hide parts of ourselves that don’t seem good enough. And the more we push things down, the more likely they are to resurface in dramatic ways. Psychologists can describe and predict this phenomena and yet, it still happens again.

People are unique and wonderful and one ideal of perfection just can’t hold us all and can’t hold us all the time. If youth is perfection, then we’re all destined to fail at it eventually–we all get older. If straightness is “right” and gayness is “wrong,” then we consign a good number of people to lives painfully hiding in the closet. If whiteness is seen as “normal” and blackness as a deviation, we end up in a world steeped in both subtle and obvious racism and prejudice.

The goal of Unitarian Universalism isn’t perfection. We don’t have to pass a doctrinal test to prove we believe all the right things. We don’t have to all dress alike or look alike or think alike to be a community. We don’t believe that the human race needs to achieve some kind of perfection. In fact, we’ve seen the horrors that come from that kind of thinking. Instead, we value wholeness. Be wholly who you are. Learn to love and value what makes you unique. Let go of perfectionism and replace it with a goal of wholeness–of integrity–that allows you to bring all of who you are to this community.

We say at Tree of Life that we are “Rooted in Love and Reaching for Justice”–both of those things are about integrity. To be loved is to be known and valued for who you are. And for justice to prevail, our human community must come to believe that all are welcome, all are needed for us to be whole.  Love and justice are not two separate things, but like roots and branches, two important parts of one whole and healthy Tree of Life.

This month, be sure to check out some of the ways that you can explore your gifts and bring them to our community:

Join a class on the philosophy of Hannah Arendt

Attend Liberating Words: A Poetry-Writing Workshop for Everyone

Attend Beyond the Expected: A Worship Arts Conference

And here is the link to this month’s Soul Matters packet, which is on Integrity.

Liberating Voices: A Poetry-Writing Workshop for Everyone

Do you love poetry? Hate it? Write it? Don’t get it? Think it’s weird? Think it’s amazing?

Rev. Sean will lead a poetry writing workshop on Thursday evenings at 7 pm beginning January 22 and continuing for seven weeks. We will discuss how poetry works, what it’s for, and why it matters. Participants will be asked to read weekly assignments, write a poem on a provided theme, and share their writing with the group for constructive feedback in a supportive environment.

Rev. Sean taught this class at Starr King School for the Ministry as both a student and as Visiting Minister, as well as at three different congregations. Each time, the members of the class have had a tremendous amount of fun, gotten to know each other more deeply, and learned a lot about poetry and themselves.

Rev. Sean says, “My favorite memory of the class is the year that a member of the congregation came to church for another meeting, only to learn it was canceled. He told me he hated poetry, but was bored and his wife was in the class, so he stayed. He ended up writing some of the most amazing poems in the class, expressing his love of sailing and the sea. In the end, he became a poetry-lover and my best salesman for the class.”

You must call the Tree of Life office at (815)322-2464 to register and pick up the readings in advance. A donation of twenty dollars to Tree of Life is requested to cover the costs of materials.

The Philosophy of Hannah Arendt

20th Century Philosophy Class: Hannah Arendt

Come and join us at the Tree of Life in the Fireplace Room, on Monday evenings from 7:00pm-8:30pm, January 12th through March 9th, 2015, to explore one of the most important books of the twentieth century, written by one of that century’s greatest philosophers.

The difficulty of this course will be at the level of college undergraduate work. A $20 registration fee is requested as a charitable donation to the Tree of Life Church.

The Human Condition [ISBN 10:0226025985] by Hannah Arendt  You can purchase your own copy of The Human Condition by going on-line to:

Interested? Register for this class by mailing your registration fee of $20, checks payable to the Tree of Life Church, to the church office at 5603 Bull Valley Rd., McHenry, Il 60050. Please include the names of those attending and their electronic addresses, since the course instructor uses e-mail to contact students.

About the Instructor: Gus Santo taught philosophy at St. John’s University in Minnesota, at the L.C.U.U. Church in Wisconsin, and here at the Tree of Life Congregation in McHenry.

The Integrity of Dialogue

January 18, 2015  Jordinn Nelson Long and Jon Coffee

UUA President Peter Morales has written that our ability to spread compassion, understanding, and acceptance is literally a matter of life and death. Is this sense of urgency justified? Can something as simple as listening help us to live into this vision? Can we do that with integrity–even when we disagree?  Join visiting Meadville Lombard seminarians Jon Coffee and Jordinn Nelson Long, to consider what true dialogue might look like – and why it matters.

Jordinn Nelson Long is a mother of two, an intern at All Souls KC in Kansas City, and a seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School.  She blogs about faith and family life at

Jon Coffee is an intern at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and a seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School.  Jon previously interned at GaDuGi Safe Center, a resource and advocacy organization for survivors of sexual violence.

Worship Arts Workshop

Registration Forms Due January 19, 2015

To worship is to stand in awe under a heaven of stars, before a flower, a leaf in sunlight or a grain of sand. To worship is to work with dedication and with skill; it is to pause from work and listen to a strain of music. Worship is loneliness seeking communion; it is a thirsty land crying out for rain. Worship is the mystery within us reaching out to the mystery beyond. It is an inarticulate silence yearning to speak; it is the window of the moment open to the sky of the eternal. Rev. Jacob Trapp, Unitarian Universalist

Worship is all that and more. It is song and silence, thought and feeling, prose and prayer and hours of preparation, practice, selecting, rehearsal, writing, researching, organizing, learning, deepening, and sharing. Worship becomes the great mystery that we enter each week as faith communities.

Join us as we learn to create more meaningful worship for congregations of all sizes!

What: A worship workshop beginning with Keynote Speaker Rev. Erika Hewitt and followed by break-out sessions on storytelling, music, pulpit presence, writing and technology for worship. We’ll also have lunch and make time for getting to know other UUs.

Who: Professional and lay worship leaders, worship teams, musicians, and music directors. High school youth participating in these capacities are very welcome!

Where: Tree of Life UU Congregation, 5603 Bull Valley Road, McHenry, IL 60050

Cost: $20.00 for folks not from a sponsoring congregation. Members from sponsoring congregations are encouraged to donate. Not sure if you’re a sponsoring congregation? Ask your minister. (Tree of Life is a sponsoring congregation.)

More about our Keynote Speaker, Rev. Erika Hewitt: Rev. Hewitt has Master’s degrees in Latin American History and Anthropology. She graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry in 2002 and began the process of pastoring to congregations in the regular UU way, but something wasn’t right and so she leapt. She took a chance, moved from California to Maine and serves a congregation half-time while trusting Spirit to guide her in her other ministerial callings: coaching UU worship teams, writing, teaching yoga and meditation, and crafting rites of passage for others. Rev. Hewitt has written Story, Song and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for All Ages and The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People.

Click here for more information and the registration form.


Protest Police Violence

­Vigil to Protest Police Brutality

This Saturday, December 13, many UU congregations will be participating in demonstrations and vigils to protest police brutality.

Please join other Tree of Life members and friends in protest this Saturday from 12:30-1:30.

We will be standing on a corner of Bull Valley and Crystal Lake Road. Because parking might be an issue, we will meet at the church at 12:15 and drive over in a few cars (and pick our corner).

Please bring a sign (or two).

Rev. Sean asks that we remember that not all police officers promote violence.

We have also been asked to be mindful that signs such as “I can’t breathe” and “Don’t shoot” can be offensive when displayed by an all-white group of protesters. If you choose to have these words on your sign, be sure to enclose them in quotation marks and include the name of the man who spoke them:

“Don’t shoot.”Michael Brown

“I can’t breathe.”Eric Gardner

Other suggestions for signs:

Black Lives Matter

Racism Kills

Please Serve and Protect

Justice for #MikeBrown #EricGarner #TamirRice

Justice for All


Please excuse the inconvenience. We are trying to change the world.

And anything else along these lines that you can think of. We will also be displaying the church Standing on the Side of Love banner.

It’s the holidays. You’re busy. It’s cold out.

Please join us anyway. Questions? contact Pam Sourelis (; 815.351.8155)

Peace, Pam