Minister’s Mind: Resistance

I had to laugh when I saw that the Soul Matters theme for January was resistance. So much is changing–in the world, in our lives, and at Tree of Life–and resistance is so often our response to change. It’s a good thing, I think, for us to take a look at resistance and try to see how it helps and hinders us in this changing world.

So much of the media is full of fear-mongering, scapegoating, and even hatred as politicians, parties, and ideologies jockey for power. It seems like many in our nation and in the whole world are afraid and keep looking for ways to keep things the same. It’s hard to admit that the old systems are beginning to fail us. It’s scary to wonder what will happen if we cannot trust the way things have always been. It’s what we know.

The new movements for social and environmental justice that are emerging are both a cause and effect of these changes. Climate change is real and people are beginning to wake up to the possibility of devastating consequences. Social media makes us aware of the brutality with which police have long treated Black people. We see the faces of refugees in ways we did not just a few years ago. We see them and we are changed. And that can be uncomfortable, even painful.

Some people are motivated by these changes to try to make a difference. We’re seeing new efforts–at the grassroots and beyond–that call for a more just, equitable, and compassionate way. As Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that call. But we may also be uneasy with the anger behind it or the lack of clarity about how to get from here to there. All of this is resistance.

At Tree of Life, we are working hard to understand and respond to the changes all around us. We are looking at the research, asking a lot of questions, and trying to respond to the trends and the needs in our world, including us. We are creating new ways to be together and new ways for our Sunday service to uplift us. We are also creating new systems that acknowledge that people’s lives are changing and are often so full that they don’t have the time to volunteer. We’re trying to adapt, and that means we have to experiment with new ways of doing things.

The Church of ______________

Tom Steffens and I are excited to begin collaborating on a new kind of worship service that we’ve been dreaming of for years. Four times between January and May, you are invited to explore the power of music with us during our Sunday morning Service. On January 24, we kick off our “The Church of _______” series with The Church of Jazz: Duke Ellington In February, we’ll have The Church of Folk, featuring Joe Jencks.  In April, we will celebrate classical music and in May, we are hoping to unveil The Church of Rock.

At each of these services, music will take center stage. Professional musicians will share their talent, interwoven with readings, quotes, and commentary on the artist, the genre, and the message of the music. We know that music touches a deep place in us and we hope that this new way of worshiping together will be moving and inspiring, as we look at all the changes in the world and hope to be transformed as well.

Our New Year-round Pledge Process

The next big change you’ll be seeing is to the way we ask you to support the congregation financially. Instead of relying on volunteers to create, manage, and implement an Annual Pledge Drive, we are creating a year-round system. (Click here to read the proposal the Board approved.) Our administrator, Mila Brinker, and I will take the lead to set up the new system. Each month a group of members, friends, and other donors will receive information about the congregation, our financial needs, and the possibilities of growth through generous giving. A volunteer Pledge Captain will help follow-up by paying thankful attention to our givers: expressing gratitude, answering questions, and hosting an event for that month’s givers.

We hope this new way of doing fundraising will free up much of the time and energy of our volunteers, as well as ease anxiety. Instead of the past process that started each year from zero, we’ll start with the idea that our givers are going to continue to support the congregation and will give a little more each year to absorb rising costs and grow our programs and mission. After all, this congregation has been around for 150 years so far. We’ve decided that trust and gratitude are a better way to start our fundraising! We hope you think so too.

As we continue to adapt to a changing world, we hope you will continue to be involved at Tree of Life however you can. If you are interested in the way congregations and their leaders are learning and growing together, you’re invited to join us for Reinventing Church Leadership–a cluster-wide workshop hosted by our congregation in Elgin on January 30th.  The day will feature workshops, projects, and a keynote address by Rev. Nancy Bowen, Regional Lead of the Pacific West Region of the UUA, called Making Meaning while Evolving and Adapting. The cost for the day, including lunch, is $15.

Love Will Guide Us,

Rev. Sean

P.S. Here is this months packet of resources on Resistance.

The Church of Jazz: Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

January 24, 2016  Duke Ellington was a composer, musician, and consummate artist. We kick off our new “Church of _______” series with the music of this Jazz legend who once said, “What is music to you? What would you be without music? Music is everything. Nature is music (cicadas in the tropical night). The sea is music, the wind is music. The rain drumming on the roof and the storm raging in the sky are music. Music is the oldest entity. The scope of music is immense and infinite.” Come let music speak to you as we turn the service over to professional jazz musicians Terry Sullivan and Richard Armandi honoring Ellington by sharing his genius with us.

Vocalist Terry Sullivan sang in early music ensembles and small concert choirs before turning to jazz. An Ohio native, she has a degree in flute from Ohio University, but began singing after college. Anita O’Day and Blossom Dearie are influences. Ms. Sullivan sings in intimate venues in the Chicago area. In addition to traditional musical training beginning in grade four, she studied at the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops at the University of Louisville, Kentucky.

Richard Armandi is one of the most versatile and in-demand musicians and educators on the Chicago scene today. As a jazz bassist he has performed with such luminaries as Marion McPartland, Barry Harris, Bobby Shew, David Baker, Jamey Aebersold, Dick Hyman, Scott Hamilton, Carl Fontana and many others, and has performed with such stars as Rosemary Clooney, Bob Newhart,Martin Short, Phyllis Diller and Rich Little. As a tubist he has performed with the Lyric Opera, American Ballet Theater, Grant Park Orchestra, Chicago Brass Quintet, and as featured soloist with the New Philharmonic, Ethos Chamber Orchestra, Concordia University Wind Ensemble, and at the 1992 International Tuba-Euphonium Conference. He is in constant demand as a bassist and tubist. As an educator he has served on the faculties of College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn, IL), University of Illinois at Chicago, Triton College (River Grove, IL), and Trinity Christion College (Palos Park, IL) teaching bass, low brass, jazz combo and improvisation. He has also served on the faculty of the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops since 1990.