Weaving the Web – Rev. Amy Zucker-Morgenstern

  • Midweek Meditation September 21, 2017

  • Midweek meditation September 13, 2017

    There are lots of hymns that express my religion. And there are lots of popular-genre songs that express my thoughts on various and sundry secular matters. But what’s rare is a song that sings like a pop song while also getting right to the heart of religious questions. Jessica Martin, with what she calls “an agnostic-gospel song, the first of its kind,” has hit that sweet spot with a deceptively simple song.

    “Till the End,” J. Mar and the Manic Panics

    “So don’t be blind to the beauty . . .
    Cause there’s plenty to be grateful for, and love is all around,
    And we’ll be there for each other till the end.”

    People sometimes ask how a theology without any God, plan, or eschatology (that is, confident predictions about the ultimate destiny of humanity) can guide a person in life, much less guide a community. Despite three degrees in religious studies, 18 years of ordained ministry, plenty of practice delivering “elevator speeches,” and a solid sense of having the guidance I need, I sometimes struggle to respond succinctly. Jessica’s song helps. “There may not be a guiding hand”; life is not pure evil nor pure good; we know there’s plenty wrong with this world. We shine our light, not because there’s no other source of light, but because we need each other. We put our faith in each other despite our flaws, and notice beauty wherever we can, not because this short life is the only one we’re going to get, but because it’s the only one of which we can be certain. That’s a pretty good summation of my theology. I don’t know how this will all end (my life, your life, humanity, the universe), but let’s be there for each other till the end.

    “So this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
    I hope you’ll let it shine on you.”

    Jessica is a member of UUCPA, and I hope she’ll sing this song in our service soon!


  • Midweek meditation September 1, 2017
    The eclipse, which made an appearance in last week’s midweek meditation and Sunday service, made me think of one other thing that’s particularly relevant to this week’s service. It had to do with giving.

    I came prepared with a pinhole viewer, which is to say that I didn’t come all that prepared. I’ve made them before, but this one didn’t give a very clear view of the sun. Fortunately, other people had eclipse viewing glasses and one of the women who’d brought them and who stood grinning up at the sky’s display offered them to me. To put it more accurately, she urged them on me. She insisted I try them, and when I did, she said, “Isn’t that great?” Of course, as long as I was looking, she couldn’t, but she wasn’t in a rush to get them back. When I returned them to her, she accepted them happily, looked at the progress of the moon and sun awhile, then soon offered them to the next person to come up to our little gathering.

    She was so excited to share something that she was experiencing that even though she was in possession of a scarce resource, she didn’t even think of hoarding it. She wanted us to borrow the glasses. She wanted us to have the same experience she was having. And thanks to her, we did. It made me realize just how joyful it can be to give, and what might make it possible for giving to add to our sense of abundance.

    On Sunday, I’ll be talking about different reasons we give, and how we feel as we do. I will look forward to hearing about your experiences of giving and what they have meant to you.



  • Midweek Meditation August 25, 2017

    Dear UUCPA folks,

    There was such a nice neighborly feeling on Monday. I left my dance class in a rush the moment it ended, 15 minutes before the eclipse’s peak, having stretched to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (We all cracked up when it came on. “I couldn’t resist,” the teacher said.) A cluster of people was already on the opposite sidewalk, watching the moon and sun do their dance over the building. A few had eclipse glasses and handed them around to the rest of us. Everyone smiled and said “Wow!” and “That’s beautiful!”

    After about ten minutes, realizing I could probably get back to my daughter’s school in time to join her and her classmates outside, I thanked everyone and hurried the four blocks. A park I passed was full of skygazers. Workplaces had clusters of people outside, and we smiled at each other. At one shop, a motorcycle repair and rental place, no one had glasses, and I showed them how to use my pinhole viewer. Then someone emerged wearing what looked like a welding helmet. Laughter with stranger-neighbors, and the shared pleasure of living on this planet, beneath this star and moon, had me a little choked up.

    Then there was this: racists and anti-Semites in Oregon seizing the opportunity to hang messages on an overpass: “Eclipse whitey,” one fantasized that people of color think. Another offered, “Jewish financing available” for this imagined project. I guess you can use the coming-together of thousands of people to disseminate fear and hatred among them, if fear and hatred are what rule your universe.

    I was happy to see that the signs were reported immediately and the state transportation workers took them down. Love wins, but heavens above does it have to be diligent, determined, and fearless to do it.

    In Sunday’s service, I’ll share more thoughts on the many meanings we create from events like the eclipse. See you there.


    P.S. I’ll be sending brief thoughts like this out to the UUCPA community once a week most weeks (probably on Wednesdays from now on). To receive them, subscribe to Announce or CREParents. You can set either one to Digest mode to receive one bundled post per day.

  • Weaving the Web August 10, 2017

    I was in New Orleans for the annual General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association, where the Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray became our first elected female president (not the first to serve–keep reading for details). All three candidates were women, and they created a covenant of behavior among them when the race began. It made for a positive process, focused on each candidate’s vision instead of on tearing down others’. For me, it helped me to turn my focus as well to what I want in a president and my hopes for our religious movement.


    On one thing, they were all agreed: the tendrils of white supremacy, which has arranged US Americans into a hierarchy based on race since before our country’s founding, reach even in to our congregations and association, and there are antidotes that we have not tried. For the previous ten weeks, since the abrupt resignation of UUA President Peter Morales, the UUA had been led by a Board-appointed trio, all African-American: the Rev. Bill Sinkford, previous president; the Rev. Sofia Betancourt, a parish minister and seminary professor (and the first woman to serve as UUA president); and Leon Spencer, the first layperson to serve as UUA president. They established a Commission on Institutional Change that will “analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA . . . with the goal of long-term cultural and institutional change that redeems the essential promise and ideals of Unitarian Universalism.”


    What we know from experience is that in order for us to overcome the backward pull that is exerted on people of color in our communities, we need to pull the other way. This General Assembly had a high proportion of UUs of color, and one key element made the difference: scholarships. Going to General Assembly is expensive, and while people of all races and ethnicities can experience financial hardship, it is far more prevalent among people of color. Usually, most of these UUs stay home during GA, which is everyone’s loss. In the convention center in New Orleans, I felt like I was seeing the future: a glimpse of a UUA that looks like the USA. Maybe one day we will even have a UUA that looks like the world. It was beautiful. But we–all of us–will have to work to put funding in place for similar scholarships for next year.


    The gathering of ministers that takes place just before GA was energizing, and particularly focused on how we can lead our organizations and congregations toward honest confrontations with white supremacy, in its overt and subtle forms. If you’re looking for similar communities:


    • join me in listening to Voices and Experiences of Unitarian Universalist People of Color (resuming August 27, 1-2)–the next reading, by KokHeong McNaughton, is available from the office.
    • join DRUUMMM, the organization of UU people of color, if that’s you (druumm.onefireplace.org)
    • join Allies for Racial Equity (a UU organization, alliesforracialequity.wildapricot.org) and/or Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ, a non-UU organization, showingupforracialjustice.org), if you’re white
    • whatever your background, if you’re passionate about the movement for black lives, join Black Lives of UU (blacklivesuu.com)
    • become active in our Criminal Justice Reform group (the e-mail list is criminal-justice at lists.uucpa.org)
    • join the Adult Religious Education programs on economic justice and Class Conversations when they begin in the fall / winter. Sometimes, and troublingly, we white people can divert race conversations to the issue of class, and it’s important that we not use it to defer racial justice yet again. However, if class and race are understood as intersectional, then building our courage to deal with classism can speed our progress toward racial justice.


    I get jazzed about the wider UU world whenever I go to Ministry Days and GA. If you’d like to feel that thrill, the UU World magazine puts out a weekly e-mail with the latest news about what UUs are up to all over the world; subscribe at lists.uua.org, where you’ll see UUWorldWeekly on the list.


    I will see you in church on Sunday, August 13, for our ingathering and Water Communion.