Friday, June 5, 2009

Letter to Roger Butts from the Muslim Community of the Quad Cities

At a service Lisa Killinger from the Quad Cities Muslim Community and I put together on the idea of surrender, Lisa read a letter to me from the Muslim Community as I prepare to leave for Colorado. It was totally unexpected and a real gift. Thanks Lisa and all my friends in that community!

A Love Letter From the Muslim Community

Dear Reverend Roger,

So many years ago, you reached out to the Muslim Community in love. It is classic Roger to think and act inclusively. When you reached out, the Muslim Community was very young; we were just getting on our feet. You made sure to invite us when there was an interfaith event. You reminded others in the interfaith community of our presence, and always kept us in the loop and in your thoughts.

For a small minority faith, that meant the world to us. We have, since those early days, gotten to stand together with you and your flock at the ‘Peace in the Park’ events, the ‘Yom Heshoa Service’, and a zillion PACG gatherings. We say together at an event with rows of National Guard soldiers’ boots, remembering those who lost their lives in Iraq where we struggled to read the names of those who had died, while fighting back tears (profoundly unsuccessfully I might add.) You have generously housed so many events here in this church, in the name of peace, good stewardship of the earth, and social justice.

You are a good man, Reverend Roger, an excellent leader, and a wonderful friend. We know the mountains of Colorado have called you for service there, and soon you will answer their call, take your dear family, and go. There is no doubt that your journey will take you to experience and be a part of great things. But understand that you will be greatly missed.

This community, Muslim and Unitarian, Christian and Jewish, Pagan, and Athiest, Buddhist and B’hai, will long remember you Roger and the example of love, peace and, yes, surrender you have lived here among us. The Quad Cities have been forever enriched by your time and service here and you will never be forgotten for who you are and what you stand for. We hope your journey will some day bring you back so we can welcome you as our much beloved guest. You are a dear soul and a dear friend.

From the Muslim Community to you, Asalamualikum (May the Peace of God Be With You.) Godspeed.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Memorial Day Litany

In Memory of All Victims of War and Terrorism:

Ashes, Stones, and Flowers

For vibrant lives suddenly and shamelessly sacrificed, we lift up the ashes of our loss, 
O Source of Life.

For the lives that continue, haunted forever by the pain of absence, we lift up the ashes of our remorse, 
O Wellspring of Compassion.

For the conflagration of flames and nightmare images forever seared into our memories, we lift up the ashes of our pain, 
O Breathing Spirit of the World.

For the charred visions of peace and the dry taste of fear, we lift up the ashes of our grief, 
O Infinite.

For all the deaths that have been justified by turning the love of God or country into fanatical arrogance, we lift up the ashes of our shame, 
O God.

As we cast these ashes into the troubled water of our times, Transforming One, hear our plea that by your power they will make fertile the soil of our future and by your mercy nourish the seeds of peace.

The people recite the names of the dead.

The people cast the ashes in silence into the river [or a bowl of water].

For the ways humanity pursues violence rather than understanding, we lift up the stones of our anger, 
O Breathing Spirit of the World.

For the ways we allow national, religious and ethnic boundaries to circumscribe our compassion, we lift up the stones of our hardness, 
O Wellspring of Compassion.

For our addiction to weapons and the ways of militarism we lift up the stones of our fear, 
O Source of Life.

For the ways we cast blame and create enemies we lift up the stones of our self-righteousness, 
O God

As we cast these stones into this ancient river, Transforming One, hear our plea:

Just as water wears away the hardest of stones, so too may the power of your compassion soften the hardness of our hearts and draw us into a future of justice and peace.

The people recite the names of the dead.

The people cast the stones in silence into the river [or a bowl of water].

For sowing seeds of justice to blossom into harmony, we cast these flowers into the river, 
O Source of Peace.

For seeing clearly the many rainbow colors of humanity and earth, we cast these flowers into the river, 
O Infinite.

For calling us to life beyond our grieving, we cast these flowers into the river, 
O Breathing Spirit of the World.

As we cast these flowers into this ancient river, Transforming One, hear our plea:

Just as water births life in a desert and gives hope to the wounded, so too may the power of your nurturing renew our commitment to peace.

The people recite the names of the dead.

The people cast the flowers in silence into the river [or a bowl of water].

[Litany by Rev. Patricia Pearce, pastor of Tabernacle United Church, Philadelphia, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

From Today's Washington Post--Interfaith Bridges of Peace

This is such an important topic. It is of crucial importance now in the Quad Cities, as the Muslim community and the Jewish community are experiencing some tension. Let us keep building bridges of understanding!

Synagogues and Bridges in the Bronx

Today's blog is by Eboo Patel and Samantha Kirby.

Wednesday night in New York, four Muslim men were arrested for a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx, NY, and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base. They were quoted in newspapers as saying they wanted to "commit jihad" and that "if Jews were killed in this attack...that would be all right."

About three weeks ago, in New York, a Muslim man, Imam Shamsi Ali, gave a talk at the Free Synagogue in Queens about the "Essence of Islam" during an interfaith Holocaust remembrance service. After the talk, he engaged in a dialogue with Rabbi Michael Weisser, who said "Imam Ali and I share a common vision of a world in which people of all traditions will come to consider themselves as family working together to build a more harmonious world."

Which one of these stories do we want to tell our kids? 

The story of how several repeat-offenders, (one of whom made statements on Islam that "often had to be corrected" according to an assistant Imam), took a twisted version of Islam and aspired to commit violent acts in its name?

Or the story of how Jewish and Muslim communities are coming together to learn from one another and ensure that one of the most horrific acts of the 20th century should never be repeated?

Or better yet - how can we transform the first story into the second story?

This is one job of an interfaith leader.

The way that communities react to events like the one that happened Wednesday night can change the story. Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), immediately came out with the following statement: "We repeat the American Muslim community's repudiation of bias-motivated crimes and of anyone who would falsely claim religious justification for violent actions."

Mayor Bloomberg said "Most people in New York City want to live together, work together, and I think we're as safe today as we've ever been before."

The first important steps have been taken: national and community leaders are speaking out against this act, refuting the religious claims of the would-be attackers and reassuring the community that the majority of people want nothing more than to live and work together in peace.

Now the next steps must be taken. Interfaith leaders must step up and work to ensure that relationships between the Jewish and Muslim communities, bonds we know exist from other events such as the Holocaust remembrance service, are maintained. They should create forums for discussion on how to keep their community safe, and talk about how to process events like these. They must host dialogues to better understand one another and the shared values among their different faith traditions, then organize service events to act on these values and better their common community.

One way to start this process is to take direct public action. In Chicago after September 11, a mosque received threats of violence against anyone entering the building. This mosque had existed for years in the community, and the Muslims who prayed there had built relationships with their Jewish and Christian neighbors. Because these communities realized that an attack on any one group is an attack on everyone, they stood vigil around the mosque during afternoon prayers to ensure that the Muslim community could pray in peace.

No matter what activities community leaders in the Bronx may choose, they should work towards one end - the end that can transform the 21st century into an era of interfaith cooperation instead of the era of global terror.

They must build bridges.

The Fall Schedule for High Plains Church (tentative, tentative, tentative)

Subject to change after receiving input


August 2: Blessed are the _______

A sermon about three favorite peacemakers…Dorothy Day; Theodore Parker; and Thomas Merton. After a five minute introduction to each, we sing a song. A nice August service.


August 9: The Emperor of the US a reflection with ...

A reflection on identity and desire and self-awareness and self-acceptance. Light-hearted but with a message that might endure.


August 16 or 23:

Depending on the anniversary picnic, I’ll either do this and not do the 23rd. Just depends on the schedule.

SERMON TITLE: Marginalia

Based on a poem by Billy Collins, those little moments that come out of nowhere and lead to epiphanies, new awareness, new ways of being in the world. (I’ll send you all a copy of the reading).


August 16 or 23: Lay led service.


August 30: U and I

Testimonials and other reflections on small group ministries at HPC


September 6: ??? perhaps lay led. If not, I’ll probably do something on The Meaning of Work or the Tao of Work or something like that.


September 13: Water Service. We’ll all plan together this service, I would imagine.


September 20: Lay led or if it is mine: The Tangled Bank. The tangled bank is an image that Darwin uses in his Origins of Species. This is a service on nature and contemplation and so on.


September 27: What Baby Suggs Taught

Here is the origin for me of the image of the walking stick. I use the story from Beloved by Toni Morrison of Baby Suggs preaching out in the clearing. Gia, a good time to think about a dramatic reading with movement.


Perhaps sometime in October, the RE program and the congregation could engage in a kind of a blessing of the animals????? 


October 4: A Theology of the Blues

We’ll need to find a blues band. We’ll explore the themes that the blues provides and the way that the blues can help us think about really important questions.


October 11: Perhaps lay led? Otherwise, maybe a good time to reflect on animals, do a blessing of the animals, etc…


October 18: The Power of Forgiveness (Yom Kippur)

Using clips from award-winning PBS documentary, The Power of Forgiveness, we’ll talk about reconciliation—personal, political, and communal. And draw on a wide range of interfaith voices—Thich Nhat Hanh, Elie Wiesel, Marianne Williamson, etc, etc—to bring up this crucially important idea.


October 25: Perhaps Autumn Reflections or perhaps Day of the Dead.

Either way, I anticipate using lots of voices from the congregation at this time. Participatory service for sure.


November 1:  The Power of Generosity

Why is generosity and stewardship so important in every religious tradition? At a bank the other day, I saw a sign that said: It’s not what you make, it is what you save. I wondered if we could say: it’s not what you make, it’s not what you save, it’s what you value and build and support.


November 8: To humanism!


November 15?


November 22: The Power of Gratitude

Why is gratitude such an important part of the journey towards wholeness? What is it about gratitude that is so compelling? What does gratitude stand for?


November 29: ?

Note: The end of Ramadan, the beginning of advent, the holidays are deep upon us. It might be a good time to talk about slowing down, self-care, family stresses. We’ll see.


I’m leaving all of December open, wanting to hear from you both about when the children’s pageant might be and what other traditions might occur during this time. Plus, I will have become a bit more aware of some of the themes that really need to be addressed, so even though I have ideas, I’ll keep this open.


December 6:


December 13


December 20:


December 27:

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The rest of the sermon series in Davenport

May 24: A Happy Atheist Walks Into a Church/Memorial Day readings from Molly Tiegland
May 31: Surrender with Lisa Killnger from the Islamic Community
Children's Carnival after church
June 7: What is happening at General Assembly
June 14: Music Sunday/Flower Communion
June 21: To Fathers/Child Dedication
June 28: If I had but one sermon to give 
(and a bit about glbt theology since pride weekend was the day before)
After church a potluck for Roger and family as this is our last Sunday in Davenport.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Off to the second ministry

As most know, I have been called to High Plains Church in Colorado Springs, CO. I am so excited.
I will be leaving for there July 1.

Friday, January 30, 2009

February 1 Order of Service

The Order of Service for the Unitarian Church, Davenport
Sunday, February 1
The Four Chaplains: On Diversity and Its Uses

The reading which I love best is the scriptures of the several nations, though it happens that I am better acquainted with those of the Hindus, the Chinese, and the Persians, than of the Hebrews, which I have come to last. Give me one of these bibles, and you have silenced me for a while.
Henry David Thoreau

I do not prefer one religion or philosophy to another. I have no sympathy with bigotry and ignorance which make transient and partial and puerile distinctions between one man’s faith or form of faith and another’s—as Christians and heathens. I pray to be delivered from narrowness, partiality, exaggeration, bigotry. To the philosopher all sects, all nations, are alike. I like Brahma, Hari, Buddha, the Great Spirit, as well as God.
Henry David Thoreau

I am convinced that what is life denying, what is repressive and false, will be known as such, and people, who are basically good, will follow a new way. Let us be some of those who step out and lead the way, who dare to be the Light that blesses the world, that all the earth may be fair, and all her people one.
Marilyn Sewall


Board Welcome

Opening Words:
If God Invited You to a Party

Opening Hymn: 209: O Come, You Longing Thirsty Souls

Chalice Lighting #458

Children’s Time
Singing the Children Out

Joys and Sorrows
Response: 159: This is My Song

Special Music

Sermon: The Four Chaplains: On Diversity and Its Uses

Response: Hymn 401 Kum ba Yah
Extinguishing the Chalice

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