Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.

Rev. Jacqueline Brett

Changes and Transitions

“‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar... “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present,” Alice replied, rather shyly, “at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.’” Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I recall first hearing the term re-entry when I was a child and watched on television as NASA astronauts re-entered earth’s atmosphere, shifting from the weightlessness of space to the strong gravitational pull of earth.
My heart is overflowing with gratitude for all that we did last weekend to create a soft landing for the end of my ministry at ERUUF.   
Thank you for honoring me after the May 15 service where we celebrated this year’s 2500 Hours of Love project. The range of projects our members completed is amazing, and their stories are inspiring.
During the short chilly days of January, I read plant catalogs and dream of lush gardens.
Two years ago this week we closed up public spaces and thought we'd be staying at home for two, maybe three weeks at most. Since that time we've mourned the loss of loved ones and the new babies we couldn't visit. We've witnessed racial violence, the increasing effects of climate change, polarization among fellow citizens, an insurgent attack on our nation's capital, rising inflation, and now the threat of Russian aggression on the eastern edges of Europe.
I’ve been amazed and moved by recent stories on the news about the courageous Ukrainian people who’ve been out in the streets protesting as Russian troops amass at their borders. The people hold signs, they chant, and they sing. There are tanks and guns and missiles on one side, and on the other are handmade signs, righteous anger, determination, and singing. Rocket launchers…cardboard and songs. 
One of the traditional readings for Christmas Eve is from the Hebrew scriptures where the prophet Isaiah says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.”   
Our Christmas tree this year looks more like an argument than a natural element, as if it was put together by a tipsy worker at the tree farm who thought it would be hilarious to use up all the leftover bits on something creative.
It’s easy to feel grateful when the day ends with a warm glow— when there’s enough and all’s right with your world. It’s not so easy if you’re feeling frightened, confused, disappointed, overwhelmed, or sad, because what’s there to be grateful for in any of that? This fall we’re navigating so much that’s challenging and it can be hard to catch a break from it. Sometimes before you even realize it you find yourself caught in a downdraft of negativity and the world appears bleak indeed.    
I’ve just returned from a trip to New England, my second in as many months. When I left Durham it was warm and my garden was full of orange, fuchsia, pink and white zinnias. When I returned this week the air had turned chilly and the leaves had fallen off our little persimmon tree.
I’m highly honored by the 2500 Hours of Love Project that was commissioned by our Board and created by a dynamic planning team that includes Gail Epps, Jean O’Barr, Michele Sager, Ann Verdine-Jones, Sarah Walls, Barbara Welanetz, Sam Wohns, and Rev. Jacqueline Brett. Special thanks to Barbara Welanetz, Pam DiLavore, and Claudia Kaplan for revising the lyrics of "Seasons of Love" to create the hymn that was sung by the ERUUF Combined Summer Choirs. Participation in this project offers each of us a significant opportunity to continue learning and acting on our UU values around racial justice, equity, and inclusion. 545 hours were pledged the first day! I can’t wait to talk with my family and add our pledge to this collective effort.
I’ll admit, when I first heard that covid cases are rapidly rising, my heart sank. I thought about parents who worked at home all last year amid overwhelming chaos and stress; also about everyone affected by layoffs, unemployment, and small business uncertainties. I thought about the aching loneliness and isolation of people who lived alone as the long months dragged on.
I’ve been present as several people have come back to campus for the first time. Usually, people slow their pace and take time to really look around. Most people at that point begin to tear up. Not being together in person in this beloved place with this beloved community for so long has been really hard, and when we first return we really feel the impact. And then we find out about change after change that’s been made. Distancing, waiting, shortages, changed schedules, new ways of doing familiar things—so many things large and small are different now.
For the longest time over the course of this pandemic, we were in “hurry up and wait” mode. But suddenly with vaccines rolling out so quickly and successfully, conditions are changing rapidly for the better. And now we find ourselves in something like a “hurry up and catch up” mode.
I'm still on Cloud Nine after last week's wonderful Sunday service that recognized the 25th anniversary of my ordination. I send my heartfelt thanks to the Board for reading my words, for creating the 2500 Hours of Service Project for all of us in the coming year, and for the absolutely lovely art glass piece. I hadn't expected anything more than a heartfelt "Congratulations," so all this was a deeply moving surprise. 
The clear sky of late winter spreads a bright blue blanket over a world that’s hurting, broken open this past year by multiple crises that all happened at once: global pandemic, racial injustice, climate disasters, and authoritarian threats to democracy. All this has been laid bare on our screens, in our streets, in the halls of Congress, in a time when we haven’t had our usual distractions.
Reflecting on this past year, I realize that my work was pretty intense, unrelenting actually. I didn’t actually work non-stop, but even when I wasn’t actively doing ministry I was thinking about it. I fully understand that this isn’t healthy or good. There’s lots of research about how important it is to have work-life balance, and a full life away from your work.
I don’t like to make myself the center of attention, but I want to share that I’m coming up on a season of very happy personal anniversaries. Forty-five years ago Chris Cayer and I planned a wedding for the end of February, on purpose, because it’s such a gray and drab time of year, especially in New England where we lived at the time. Some people want to be married under the blue skies of May or June, or amid the color wash of fall. We just wanted a big, happy milestone to look forward to each year in the midst of such bleakness.   It’s was a joyful choice then and has been most of the time ever since. (1986? Not a good year, but we survived.)  And I feel blessed to be married to someone I still like so much after all these years. 
This past January 20th, at the age of just twenty-two, our nation’s youngest ever Inaugural Poet captured all of our hearts. Standing in the spot where just days before insurrectionists had stormed the building, Amanda Gorman recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” That day she said, “Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:/ That even as we grieved, we grew/ That even as we hurt, we hoped…”.
“ order to answer the question, ‘Where do we go from here?’... we must first honestly recognize where we are now.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Among other things, January 6 was Epiphany on the Christian liturgical calendar—a day when the wise men were warned in a dream that Herod intended despicable ill will toward the newborn holy child. “And so,” as Matthew recorded in his version of the events, “the wise men went home by a different way.” I don’t take this story literally but I take it seriously, because it’s a myth, and myths always offer us vitally important truth. 
One of my favorite seasonal readings is from a letter written to a friend by Fra Giovanni Giocondo (1435-1515), an architect, engineer, scholar, friar and Renaissance man. In his letter, despite difficult political and social conditions, he pens a very humanist message. He encourages his friend to contemplate life below surfaces, and then to act: take heaven! Take peace! Take joy!
For a long time, many ERUUF members have been able to successfully avoid personal experience with COVID-19. We might have known folks who had the virus, but by and large, most of our families hadn’t been immediately affected. Was it because many of us have lives and jobs that have allowed us to stay at home or work with very limited numbers of people? In part. But some of us are essential workers, and by practicing the three W’s (“wash, wear, wait”) we/they mainly have managed to avoid contracting the virus.   
After the year we’ve had, the time we’re currently having, you want me to think about what I’m grateful for? Seriously? Seriously. It took me a long time to learn this, but you don’t have to be happy to be grateful. In fact, gratitude actually is one of the quickest, surest, longest-lasting ways to find your happiness and maintain your equilibrium
Today our youngest granddaughter, Ava, celebrates her first birthday, and we’ll sing to her as a family over WhatsApp. None of us have seen her in person for more than ten months, because Ava and her mom have been in New Zealand since the island nation closed its borders last winter. I’m grateful that they’re in what is literally the safest country
How are you? When people ask me, sometimes I just move my hand in front of me like a cartoon sea serpent that’s swimming along in heavy seas. Probably like you, I go up and down, and at the same time, I find myself laughing often amid this incredible experience we’re all having together.
Photo Credit: Rev. Jacqueline Brett  There is urgency in the air this fall about voting and democracy. There were folks in line at 7:00 am on the first day of early voting at ERUUF. By 8:00 am the line stretched from the Fellowship Hall, past the front of the CARE Building, around the side, and down into the back parking lot. Some voters broug
One of my favorite calendars comes as a set of four pages that are three feet long by 12” high.  At the top are pictures of the rising constellations, and it also depicts the phases of the moon and sun.  On the land and underground, it depicts seasons of bird and animal migrations, hibernations, gestations, and the time for rearing the next generation. It also shows growing and harvest seasons for various plants. Everything rises and falls in its own season, its own good time.  
More than once in recent months I’ve come across this beautiful calendar from 17th century Japan. It was created in 1685 by the court astronomer, Shibukawa Shunkai, who noted 24 distinct seasons based on natural phenomena ranging from Risshun (Beginning of spring) through Daikan (Greater cold) at the end of winter.
Thunder rumbles overhead and I’m trying to remember…is this a part of a normal early August afternoon? I hope so, because otherwise it’s way too easy to view it as an ominous foreshadowing of what’s still ahead with the pandemic, racial justice, hurricane season, climate change, the November elections, and more. This summer I’m trying hard to ackno
This week we wrapped up a 30 Day Racial Equity Challenge at ERUUF. The purpose was to create a compassionate and supportive learning space where White people could lean into our sometimes deep discomfort as we begin to recognize and dismantle racism within ourselves and our institutions. Over 100 participants and facilitators engaged in one daily l
My husband had this interesting conversation with our (at the time) six-year-old grandson. Husband: “Are you going fishing?” Grandson: “There are no fish in that lake.” My husband, puzzled, looking at the boats full of people fishing just offshore: “Why do you think there are no fish in the lake? Grandson, full of logic and self-assurance: “Well, I
I hope you were able to attend the online June 28 UUA General Assembly Sunday service, because it was deeply moving. And did anything look familiar? In addition to a great sermon and music, the Rev. Mykal Slack, who lives in Durham, was one of the preachers and Mykal recorded his parts of the service in the ERUUF sanctuary. The programing at GA is
Friends, I’ve been thinking of you and hope you are well. I hope that you are keeping your mind and heart open as the pandemic of racism has been laid bare on our screens these past couple weeks. Some among us have long known the real story about race in our country; some of us are just now waking up to it. If you are a Person of Color, I’m holding
"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness...because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace."                                   &n
“It’s a huge danger to pretend that awful things do not happen. But you need enough hope to keep going. I am trying to make hope. Flowers grow out of darkness.” (Corita Kent)   I do not know how this happened, but really, a full moon, Friday the 13th, spring forward into Daylight Saving Time, and the impact of COVID-19 all in one week? Se
Social scientists say that resilience is our ability to bounce back. While this seems quite true, I have a hunch that spiritual resilience is about an even deeper connection that can help us survive a killing season. Like a tree bent by prevailing winds, how might resilience help us stay vitality alive in body, mind, and spirit even after terrible
It finally feels like winter around here, and for this short season I welcome it. The chance to slow down and eat dinner in front of a fire, flip through a seed catalog, doodle and splash some color onto a clean page, make a call to a longtime friend for an overdue chat, all beckon with promise. Outside by day bare winter branches reach for the cle
Many have asked for a recording of the spoken word piece I delivered at Jazz for the Holidays on December 18. The service was unrecorded but the text is available below in this longer than usual blog post:   Life is veiled and hidden, even as your greater self is hidden and veiled. Yet when life speaks, all the winds become words; and whe
In the midst of uncertainty of many varieties, this fall I’ve been looking for renewal everywhere I can find it. A great source has been a new garden that Chris and I designed and helped install in our backyard in October. After heavy rain that caused our basement to flood with “compost tea” (solid compost that was originally intended for the garde
What a frantic week of preparation for a terrifying storm, and what a relief that Hurricane Florence weakened and turned away from our area. And yet, how shocking to watch reports of rising flood waters turning eastern North Carolina cities into islands and major interstates into scenic rivers. On Sunday, September 16 we raised over $3,800 for reli
We Come with a Dream created by the Soul Matters Team We come bound by the threads of a dream Of all walking together side by side, none of us above or below Less or more or forgotten. A dream that more is possible even more than we have yet imagined. A dream of kindness and connection that softens and turns us toward each other with tenderness. A
What was the most fun you’ve had recently? This past July my husband and I went to work on our backyard. For three weeks, he took a saw, pickax and finally a shovel to privet clumps. One large stump was so entwined and heavy that it took three people to carry it away. It looked awfully hard, and Chris would come into the house soaked with sweat, co
Ten years ago this week I began what I thought would be a one year interim ministry at ERUUF. Wow….life is what happens while you’re making other plans, yes? When I visited that June to sign a contract and find an apartment, the moment my feet touched the earth here on campus a strange thought resonated through my whole body as if I were a bell: “I
“It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”  The Diary of a Young Girl,
You might have heard that one of Rev. Barber’s latest endeavors is to pick up the civil rights agenda that has lain dormant since Dr. King’s assassination. Rev. Barber has partnered with Rev. Liz Theoharris, a long time anti-poverty advocate from New York. Together they’re leading this spring’s Poor People’s Campaign in 30 states, including North C
It’s been an amazing year at ERUUF. A generous member challenged us last December; they would match what members could raise dollar for dollar up to $250,000. Members stepped up and we more than met the match. As a result ERUUF has been able to pay off its $104,000 mortgage and put the rest into a reserve fund for scheduled maintenance (the big stu
The Black Lives Matter banner at the UU congregation in Winston-Salem has been stolen several times now. So often, in fact, that my intrepid colleague, Rev. Lisa Schwartz, bought a spare the last time she re-ordered. Which was great, because on Sunday April 22, when someone not only stole their banner for the 3rd time, but also spray painted "WHITE
Emma Gonzalez. A tiny young woman who arrested our attention with the way she held space for grief and outrage not with words, but 6½ minutes of silence, the amount of time it took a gunman to kill 17 of her classmates and friends. She could have spoken, and it would have been a significant moment.Instead, her presence, raw courage, and commitment ...
We read the headlines at our house and shake our heads. Is this the Times or the Onion, we ask each other in disbelief. The world that we've known and prepared for is battered daily; institutions take big hits and falter; protections we had come to take for granted are no more. Is this just the way the pendulum swings, part of the big shifts of cul...
The sky this new year has been the pure, clear blue that comes when arctic air rushes down from the North Pole and sweeps it clean. It appears overhead like a bright fresh page that could hold any great vision, every resolution and best intention. But once imagined up above the fray of our everyday world, how do we bring these visions and ideals do...
#MeToo. I have to admit that at first I didn't understand how tweeting about this could make a significant difference. Oh, I believed the women who were telling their stories. But while that's an awesome first step, it takes more to create lasting change. We know, because we've done this before. More than fifty years ago small groups met in living ...
How is it with your spirit? What's holding you in balance after big losses? Amid big political and climate changes? What's holding you steady in the times when life doesn't unfold as you had expected? Me? I've been walking a lot more. I've reduced my intake of the news and have limited my time on Facebook. I try to read balanced reporting from reli...
My husband, granddaughter and I went on a half day rafting trip down the Nantahala River on August 21. We were in a group of about 100 very lucky people who paddled downstream between mountains that rose up steeply on either side of the river. We rested in a cove as the color seemed to drain from the world. The air temperature dropped to 63 degrees...