Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation
February 21, 2010

Rekindle the Flame by John Porter 2010. All Rights Reserved.
The Four-Fold Path by Doug Rodgers 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Rekindle the Flame by Terri King 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Rekindle the Flame
by John Porter, February 28, 2010

Sometime this week you will receive an invitation to attend a coffee/dessert meeting as the first step in our appeal for funds for next year. We've named it Rekindle the Flame. Lorna Jaynes, Pat Rodgers and I are leading the effort.

When I was working on this little talk several days ago, my wife Jackie asked me, "Why did you pick the phrase 'Rekindle the Flame' as the title for the canvass appeal? It must resonate within you, somewhere. Talk about that." I thought at once about flames as a source of light, heat and energy. I thought of the thermonuclear flame of the sun that makes life possible here on earth. I thought of rekindling the flame as a symbol of renewal.

More immediate is our weekly lighting of our chalice candle. Every Sunday morning for 16 years we've watched one of our kids ignite the flame of our chalice candle while we repeat our promises that we make to each other: to treat others as our brothers and sisters, to care for the earth, and to live lives of goodness and love.

We are very close to calling a new minister. The Search Committee has spent a year at this and the congregation nearly 2 years at its interim tasks, and we will have a new minister in the fall. The Mission Peak flame was first kindled when a group of parents in a children's play group gathered together in the spring of 1992 and talked of forming a new Unitarian Universalist Congregation. It was rekindled on Charter Sunday, May 1, 1994, when 50 people signed the membership book in an act of faith in the future, and again when the Rev. Ben Meyers in 1995 was called as Mission Peak's first settled minister. Shortly thereafter we hired our first RE Director, Kate Walker, as we made a commitment to the religious education of our children. There have been 5 more DREs since, including Sally Ahnger.

Ben left in 1999 amid some conflict. We affirmed out faith in the community and rekindled the flame when we called the Rev. Chris Schriner in 2000 as our second settled minister. We were short of money to do that and an anonymous donor made a gift of $10,000 a year for 2 years.

We rekindled the flame once again in 2007 when we were evicted from our quarters at Kidango in South Fremont and moved into this space, and when we hired the Rev. Joy Atkinson as interim minister following Chris's retirement. Now we are preparing to consider and call our 3rd settled minister. So once again we Rekindle the Flame and renew our community.

I said earlier that I would have something to say about money. We need to increase our financial support - to pay our new minister, and to restore cuts in our kid's religious education program and in administrative support. All of this would require an increase of 15% in pledges.

Actually I have two things to say about money they both relate to the same theme. While the congregation exists in a money economy it is not about money. It's about community, it's about love, it's about being the best people we can be.

Mission Peak has no admission fee. It has no dues. It doesn't require a tithe. There is no cover charge. We only ask that you be generous. That said, it's a matter of fact that the dollar cost of running the place is borne more by some than by others, as you would expect. The 25% of members who give the most provide 60% of our pledges. We need and rely on their generosity every year.

This is normal church stuff. In some churches, 10% provide 90% of the support, in others it's 20% provide 80%. This doesn't make the donors of large amounts better than the rest of us, nor those who give lesser amounts worse. We each decide what we can give and what we want to give.

Next year we need an average pledge of about $1,300 per person. During this appeal we would like to ask those below this figure to consider bringing their pledge up to that amount -- to $1,300 per person - if you can. If you can't do it this year try to develop a plan to do so in a year or perhaps two. Not everyone can do that or even want to do it. If you can, please consider being this generous.

My second thought about money is this. I, personally, don't know how to put a dollar value on what I experience at Mission Peak. So what is it that motivates me to give? Here is my list.

While I can put a dollar value on a house, or a car, or an education, or a television, I cannot put a dollar value on these things from Mission Peak. So I am left with simply being generous, and grateful to be a part of this community. When you receive your invitation to attend a coffee/dessert please reserve a space promptly. When you consider your commitment to Mission Peak for next year please be generous. Help Rekindle the Flame.

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The Four-Fold Path
by Doug Rodgers, March 7, 2010

Where do we come from, what are we, where are we going?

We like to ask the big questions and sometimes we forget that we also have the answers, well, maybe not the answers, still we have an approach. Although culturally we are a long way from the Buddhists, spiritually and intellectually we seem to be getting closer all the time. You remember the 4 noble truths:

(Imagine a rap rhythm track background)
Life is pain.
The pain is in your brain.
You can train your brain to control the pain.
Here's how -- you follow the yellow brick road.

Our approach is to use the best advice of the world's religious and ethical leaders. As the Dalai Lama said recently, the goal is to have a more compassionate world. You can become more compassionate through faith in God, belief in heaven and hell, belief that the good or evil you do will come back to you, or from the reasonable analysis that a more compassionate world is a better, happier place to live.

Although we can't speak directly to someone like the Dalai Lama, who has been all the way to the Emerald City and come back to show us the way, we do have someone who (changing metaphors) can shepherd us along the road. Someone who can help keep us sheep on the path and thwack us with that curved stick every once in a while (gently and lovingly, of course).

It's better to get a thwack now and then rather than be eaten by the wolves. And there are plenty of wolves out there, not the literal kind who are in short supply, but the virtual kind, the ones who sap our strength and make us wonder why we get up in the morning, take our jobs away or generally afflict us with pain and suffering.

We call our shepherd the minister. And, no, the minister doesn't prevent bad things from happening to us, (oh well!) but she (or he!) can be someone to talk to, someone who can help us see the path when the light is dim.

Although Joy is leaving at the end of this spring season, we have a new minister coming in the fall! Well, we don't exactly have one signed up yet, since we can't make a firm offer until March 15. But we do have an excellent choice, and a good number two backup. So, we're ready, and we'll have details before you know it.

But shepherds - well, ministers - they need to be fed, and in our society money buys food, so that means money. And that means you, because we haven't found anywhere else to get it. So once a year we ask you to ante up, make your pledge of financial support.

IF we divided the costs equally among our members, it would be ~$1300 each for the year.
BUT we don't, so instead we ask you to give what you can.

It's like the old preacher said, the good news is that we've got the money. The bad news is that it's still in our pockets. So look deep into those pockets of yours. And, if it's dark in there, and your light has become dim, well, maybe it's time to REKINDLE THAT FLAME!

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Rekindle the Flame
by Terri King, March 14, 2010

Rekindle the Flame. Do you recognize that as the theme of this year's annual Canvass? I hope so!

I joined Mission Peak a little over seven years ago, and in the beginning Canvass used to be something I absolutely dreaded. Now - not so much. But over time I've gradually come to look at Canvass as another spring ritual - a rite of the season - a truly welcome time for reflection.

Here's one of the things I like most about Canvass. It's an exercise in personal choice. It's very like building your own theology or choosing your own spiritual path - there is no one right answer. You choose your own pledge and your choice will be respected and appreciated. That's so UU! There's a memorable episode of The Simpsons which depicts a different approach. Reverend Lovejoy is there in the pulpit preaching to his congregation about, well, money, and he says something like: "Tithing means 10%. And that's off the TOP, people! Don't make me audit you!' Now, the tithing part's OK; nobody will try to stop you from that, but we try to avoid the guilt tripping. Of course, in the interest of financial transparency and simply acknowledging the cold hard facts, we do talk about numbers. I'll mention 3 numbers right now:

For more details, read your Canvass mailing. Or come to one of the coffee and dessert meetings. Or talk with John or Lorna or Jack or Pat. Obviously, we could use some serious dough, and I do hope you'll dig deep. But I ask for that with the clear recognition that we each contribute in many different ways - not all of them financial. The goal for each one of us is to share some combination of money, time, energy, and talent, a combination that feels good and right in our own hearts. Figuring out that right combination is the "exercise" part of the "exercise in personal choice." But when we find that right combination for ourselves, the result is not a feeling of guilt nor pride nor burden nor resignation, but rather of joy and gratitude and abundance.

We often talk about how our pledges are acts of generosity - and that's certainly true. But they are also acts of faith - faith in our own selves and our ability to contribute to the greater good. Faith in each other - that we'll all share what we can. Faith in our dreams of what we can be and do together. Our pledge is a deliberate, personal, tangible act that reaffirms our covenant with one another. And that is an act of faith which takes perhaps the least spiritual of all things - money - and converts it into something very spiritual indeed.

As part of reaffirming our covenant with each other, we're called to reflect upon what Mission Peak means to us. What are we now, and what are our hopes for the future? For me, there are a few things that stand out.

Which brings me back - finally - to our Canvass theme: Rekindle the Flame. What does that theme evoke for you? For me, Rekindling the Flame is that everyday miracle which happens when we are in community together. It's a replenishing of the soul, and we do it with and for each other.

I'd like to close by reading a fairly well-known excerpt from Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love. As you listen, please consider this in the context of our shared life at Mission Peak.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.'

This spring, let's Rekindle the Flame together, bigger and better than ever. Together let's light a torch of LOVE AND HOPE that blazes bright and bold for the world to see.

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