Minister Emeriti Letters to the Congregation

Gratitudes Galore

Emeritus is defined as: retired  from active professional duty, but retaining the title of one’s office or position. The ten Hove’s were Cedars’ co-ministers for 8 years and were granted “Emeritus” status in January of 2017.


Barbara and Jaco ten Hove

Revs. Dr. Barbara W. and
Jaco B. ten Hove

January 23, 2017

Dear Cedars Members and Friends,

It is with extraordinary appreciation that we thank all who helped make our Retirement Weekend (January 21-22) so wonderful and meaningful. We are humbled by the many people who came out on a rainy Saturday night (and after a big Seattle march) to spend time with us, remembering and honoring our ministries.

There are so many people to thank but we especially want to note the Retirement Celebration Planning Team. Led by the warm, caring and capable Penny Brewer, this team featured skillful contributions from Linda Andrews, Steve & Vicki Johnson, Jane Martin, Kassia Sing and Jenny Weaver. They worked so hard to make the evening shine! They were aided by so many but we can at least mention two other couples, Bob & Carolyn Meredith and Dean & Pat Sampson, who went above and beyond the call of duty in their help and support. What a fun and special evening it was!

Then the Sunday morning farewell service was deeply moving. As we walked out through the congregation, carrying special candles, the choir blessed us with song and our hearts were full o

f joy, sadness and love! Many thanks to Keri Schmit who did such a great job leading the service; to our niece Julie Bridstrup whose words brought us to tears; to Dea Brayden who came all the way from Colorado (and the UUA) to share her vision of how our faith will move forward; and to Nancy Philip, whose leadership of Cedars is exemplary.

We are so grateful for the important gifts we were given, including a gorgeous flower arrangement by Shayne Chandler, an absolutely splendid chalice created with love and spirit by Terry Siebert, and a photo book put together by Vicki Johnson with pictures by Richard Wilson (who gets additional well-deserved credit for the pictorial centerfold in the programs, plus the historical clergy photos now on display at Cedars Center).

We also must thank the magnificent staff of Cedars. Chris Smellow’s music blessed us on our journey at both events. Jennifer Conway brought tears to our eyes as she gathered the children to honor and thank us on Sunday morning. And Tammie Tippie worked so hard behind the scenes to create the beautiful program and Order of Service that graced the events.

There are so many others we want to acknowledge – – really all of you who wrote us cards and favored us with your words and gifts, large and small. We would like to name each and every one of you, but for now we can only say, to this beloved congregation that will always be a part of us – – thank you, thank you, thank you!


Your Emeritus Ministers,Jaco-Chalice-Drawing



A Departing Message from Your Co-ministers

From Your Co-ministersJaco-Chalice-Drawing

A Departure Message
Revs. Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten Hove

Dear Cedars Members and Friends,

We are excited to imagine an upbeat send-off as we celebrate our retirement from full-time UU ministry at the upcoming party and Sunday morning service. We hope many of you will join us at both so we can bid a fond farewell as thoroughly as possible. What’s happening is an uncommon moment in time that we will appreciate and relish with you. (See link to party info.)

As that leave-taking becomes imminent, we want to give you a sense of our plans and some dynamics that are important to understand when ministers retire from a congregation. Even though we are delighted to have an ongoing Emeritus connection with Cedars, it is true that our relationship with you will change quite a bit after we retire.

At your mid-year Congregational Meeting on Sunday, Jan. 29 (and probably online) the Cedars Board will share with you an agreed-upon covenant of mutual understanding regarding our Emeritus status and what it will look like for us and for you. There is a piece of it, however, that we felt might be wise to share in this more personal way.

First, when we leave Cedars, even though we will be your emeritus ministers, we need to make a very real separation in order for you (and us!) to adjust to this new landscape. Some things that may be a bit hard for us to do include: removing ourselves from Cedars email lists; no longer following Cedars members on Facebook; and not responding to any kind of personal outreach to us on social media, email or phone.

We hope all of you will understand that this isn’t because we don’t care about you or Cedars. It’s just a common and important practice when UU ministers leave congregations. We ask kindly that you not take this personally but understand it’s for good reason.

That said, as Ministers Emeritus, we will find ways to continue in our connection with Cedars, but only after a real break (likely two years or so) and then with the necessary support and consultation of your new minister(s). They will work with us on the best way to craft this new Emeritus role.

We also want you to know of our evolving plans for the near future, beginning right way in February. Our Winslow cottage will be in new ownership as of the end of January while our belongings go into storage. After a couple months in Virginia (where Jaco will have his hip replaced and we can be near family for support), we will move to Bellingham and into a condo we are purchasing there.

We’re arranging two more trips to the East Coast (on each side of the summer), which will include ceremonies to relocate our parents’ ashes in meaningful settings. We’ll also be at the June UUA General Assembly in New Orleans, where we will “walk” in the big, annual Service of the Living Tradition that includes honoring the latest class of retiring ministers.

We hope to remain active in various northwest UU settings and in that capacity may see you occasionally. We will also return to Bainbridge now and again and, when we do, if we run into you in a store or on a ferry, we will be very glad for that! But, please don’t ask us to comment on anything Cedars-related. It’s the best way for all of us to make this transition go smoothly and well.

Gosh, we will miss you! But, we’ll always hold you close in our hearts. We hope you’ll do the same for us, even as we all gently let go of this significant relationship and add new ones. Change is hard but it’s also exciting. Here’s to new adventures for us all!


From Your Co-ministers Revs. Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten Hove

From Your Co-ministers

Revs. Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten HoveJaco-Chalice-Drawing

An Open Letter to Younger Adults at Cedars:

Dear Friends of More Recent Generations,

We are indeed retiring (as of Jan. 31), but our hearts will remain embedded in this noble congregation and we wish to offer some parting words of encouragement to you who are on the younger side of things.

It can seem like Cedars is largely populated by those closer to your parents’ generation, perhaps, but there is actually lots of room for you all to also have impact and create an even greater, thoroughly thriving community inclusive of your peers, which can coexist and complement both the important, beloved elders among us and the cool kids who are learning early on what it means to be a UU.

We’re aware that young adulthood and midlife are often accompanied by various uncertainties that can make dedication to a congregation challenging. But we hope you also realize the value that can derive from any increase of connection here. We would eagerly testify: both of us grew up in UU congregations, including some of our important young adult years. (Jaco led a YA group actually called the “Young Wingnuts” back in the early 1980s, and Barbara was a leader for the early national organization of UU Young Adults.) Cedars is an enriching, sustaining place for people of “all ages,” as we are fond of noting.

And if you are currently raising kids yourself, one of the more lasting gifts you can give them is a grounding in liberal religious education, which will serve them and help guide their values for many years ahead. But their formative years fly by, so it takes a regular commitment to connect them to our Cedars RE program, very ably led by Jennifer Conway. She is a strong leader with great materials, and hungers for more young ones to participate (not to mention more adult helpers).

We urge you to prioritize attendance at Cedars, perhaps especially during the meaningful holiday season directly ahead, and then as the upcoming ministerial transition unfolds (and certainly as a powerful touchstone community during, say, the next four years). We’re confident that the growing cadre of your peers that already centers among us will embrace and support you further.

Bring your friends, too. Unitarian Universalism is an excellent, non-creedal religion for the 21st century in ways that many people have no clue about. We’ve loved being a part of things here for some years, and we know Cedars will continue to express itself well for years (generations!) to come, warmly welcoming you and your spirited authenticity—all of which can really make in difference in our world!

See you in church! Fondly,

From Your Co-ministers — In a Time of Tense Turmoil

Trying to figure out what to say or do in the face of so much ongoing hatred and violence is hard, maybe impossible. It can feel like the world has gone mad. People are mowed down in the streets by trucks and by guns. Police are killing, then being killed. Neighbors spew vitriolic nonsense at each other because they espouse different political views. And if you qualify as “different” you can feel like a target.

At times like these it can be tempting to put your head in the sand, or just scream and yell, or cry. It’s so hard to know how to respond to the sad craziness around us.

It may seem like an overly simple response to a very complex problem, but one thing we can do is be together and build beloved community locally, i.e., come to church. We can create in a small, but important way the world we hope for.

Much of the deeper conversation going on about today’s cultural challenges pivots on the breakdown or devaluing of socially binding institutions that once sustained us, such as religious organizations. While some, at their worst, contribute to the violence and racism that is built into the fabric of our nation, many also hold places where people can come to be reminded of their best selves.

It’s worth remembering that many of the great changes that have unfolded in our nation—from Abolition to Civil Rights to GLBTQ rights—emerged and were supported by the progressive religious community. Our religion can make a difference, externally and internally, at times like these.

So come to church—to mourn, laugh, protest, sing, and just be together with people who care about making a more peaceful and loving world. Come to church to take a break from your devices and the 24-hour news cycle. Come to church to hug a friend or shake hands with a stranger. Come to church to remember what counts: Love and Unity in all things.

And why not bring a friend? Some folks you know may be hungering to be in community with progressive and caring people. Many people think church and religion are only for people with specific and narrow beliefs or dogma. Ours is different.

Revs. Barbara & Jaco ten Hove

P.S. With the exception of the first few days in August, we will be home and working. Please let us know if you want some time with us. We are here for you.

A Message from your Co-Ministers

From Your Co-ministers
June 10, 2016
Barbara and Jaco ten Hove
(This column is adapted from comments delivered at the June 5 Annual Congregational Meeting.)

As most of you probably know, we announced our retirement about a month ago; a retirement that will begin at the end of next January. Following protocol, we told the Committee on Ministry first, then the Board, the staff and the whole congregation on May 18. We timed the communication of the decision and the date of our retirement based on advice from counselors in the UUA who have lots of experience with such things. For our announcement we also took into account an awareness that the board was exploring the idea of hiring a consultant to help address important issues at Cedars. We knew that it would not be appropriate for such a consultant to start working with you without full knowledge of our decision, sooner than later.

We made the decision to retire for a number of reasons but want to share two primary ones. First, we have both served UU congregations for around 30+ years. That’s a long time and we recognize that our energy for parish ministry is not as strong as it was when we came to Cedars eight years ago. Both of us are getting older (and creakier) and maintaining our health is demanding. We also feel ready to aim in some new directions. We have spoken to many of you who have retired ahead of us and have felt enormous support for that kind of transition.

Our second reason is related directly to you as a congregation. You need to find new energy, too, and to do so requires a different style and spirit than we have to offer. This has been a challenging year for many in our church (us, too) and it’s clear that Cedars is changing. We understand that and agree that new ministerial leadership is needed. Thus, our decision to retire at the end of January.

We know some of you have questioned the advantage of our staying until just after the holiday season. It may seem like a long time away if you are eager for change. But, after eight years of relationship building and spiritual work here at Cedars, and with Jaco having been on Family Leave so much this year (caring for his father), we believe it’s important that we have the fall and the holiday season to say farewell together. There is a lot we have learned from you and we hope there are things you learned from us, too. Having time to be together through a couple more seasons makes sense and we have been supported in this timeline not only by our counselors at the UUA but by the Cedars Board of Trustees as well.

We are also aware that some among you are uncertain as to our role in preparing Cedars for its next chapter. Although we will provide continuing leadership in all our usual ministerial ways and will support the board and other leaders through our knowledge of various UU systems, we will have no part in making any decisions about what Cedars will choose to do after we depart. The UU governance model (“congregational polity”) assures that such decisions are in the hands of ongoing church members; your leaders will be communicating with you a lot over the next few months as the way forward becomes clearer.

Meanwhile, we hope during these next months we will enjoy each other’s company in ways large and small. There are lots of Sundays to worship together, dinners and lunches to eat together, classes to learn together, and moments to laugh and cry and remember together. Just as there can only be one church in which we each began our ministries in the 1980s, there will always be just one church from which we retire: this one. We will always cherish that with great gratitude and will continue to express our thanks for all the gifts you have given us during these years of service.

This summer you will see us in the pulpit more than usual and we will be offering some opportunities to talk personally about this transition. In particular, we hope you will join us after service on either (or both) Sundays, Aug. 14 and 28 for what we are calling “Conversations and Reverberations.” These will be informal gatherings in The Island School Library to share thoughts, concerns, hopes and dreams.

We feel deeply blessed as we move along this path. We honor your feelings and great strengths. Thank you for your care and support.

Fondly, Revs. Jaco and Barbara ten Hove

Letter from Rev. Barbara ten Hove

April 29, 2016barbara-tenHove-pic

You can’t be a minister as long as I have (over 30 years now) and not come face to face with aging, illness and death. The Buddha was right all those years ago when he taught how important it was to encounter these realities directly.  But, it’s hard. It’s hard because if you love people, losing them is tough. And we are made for loving, aren’t we? So we’re going to hurt when those we love get sick, grow old and ultimately die.

As most of you know, this winter (now well into spring) has been a season of loss for both Jaco and me. When his father was diagnosed with terminal heart disease in early February, we made a decision to care for him in his home as best we could. It hasn’t been easy.

We used up our Cedars Annual Leave first, then finally had to draw upon the Family Leave clause we thankfully have in our Letter of Agreement with you. Jaco has been with him steadily since Feb. 2 (working from the desert of southern California through March before we went on Family Leave in April) while I have gone back and forth. It’s been extremely fulfilling and terribly exhausting.

With the support of the Cedars Board, we determined that with the unexpectedly slow progression of Dad’s disease, it made sense of me to return to work while Jaco remains, at least for now, on Family Leave. As you might imagine, it’s hard for us to be apart at this time but we felt it was important for me to return to you and the meaningful work of our ministry. We don’t know when this situation will come to its sad conclusion but we certainly will provide updates as things unfold.

The Board and I have also talked about the challenges I face trying to manage only one half of what is designed to be a full-time co-ministry. I can’t physically, mentally or spiritually manage to do all of my job and Jaco’s. So, I plan to focus on what is most important and will ask your forgiveness in advance if I can’t say yes to everything that needs doing at Cedars.

Jaco and I recognize that this has been a very difficult and unusual situation for us and for Cedars. We are profoundly grateful to everyone who has stepped up to care for us and for each other.

I will be in the pulpit (preaching a sermon Jaco wrote!) this Sunday, May 8. I look forward to seeing you there.

All the best, Rev. Barbara

Update from Rev. Jaco ten Hove: Family Leave Extended

April 16, 2016

Hello, Cedars Members and Friends…

I want to offer a more recent picture of our situation, following previous messages (a column in the March 4 eBeacon and the March 23 letter, posted HERE, announcing our month of Family Leave, which ends on April 27).

My father, Jacob, continues to decline on home hospice, but slowly. The doctor recently gave us a good metaphor for this dynamic. When initially diagnosed as terminal (in this case, with his 97-year-old heart giving out), it can feel like skydiving from a plane – – dramatic plummeting toward the ground. That was how it was when I came down here (Murrieta, CA) in February to be his 24/7 caregiver.

However, once the very helpful hospice team and 24/7 support kicked in, along with a much less frantic environment that refrains from medical interventions, it can be like the parachute opens and one’s descent is significantly slowed. It can even feel like a tug upward or being on a “plateau.”

But the direction is still downward. This is confirmed by Dad’s blood pressure, for instance, which is charted regularly and shows a steady drop, evidenced also in his increasingly dark blue fingertips. He’s not in much pain at all, thankfully, but eats very little and is impressively weak, mostly skin and bones.

The prognosis for this, of course, is inexorable, with care demands increasing as he drops further in functioning. I’m trying to bring an unconditional love to my role as his filial attendant, which is fed by a pretty good relationship between us, forged intentionally over recent decades.

The big unknown factor, though, is timing. Any morning now he might not wake up or he could suffer some partial disability or he could continue to fade gradually. (I suspect some of you know this drill.) He has banked a lifetime of very good health, which provides a perhaps surprising reservoir of sustenance but makes it hard for us to schedule anything more than day-to-day, week-to-week.

So, in concert with the Cedars Board of Trustees we have arranged for an additional week of full Family Leave for both of us, through May 3, at which time Barbara will return to Winslow. As co-ministers, we share one full time position and I must continue to care for this fellow (the last of my six-member family of origin besides me), but Barbara will again take up her half of the co-ministry in May. I expect to be back in the saddle a couple weeks after my Dad’s death, allowing for full closure of his home and a road trip north.

We are deeply engaged in this personal ministry, very grateful to have some release time from other duties as we navigate waters sometimes calm, sometimes turbulent. Your kind thoughts and support are powerfully appreciated, even from a distance. My heart is filled with and strengthened by Cedars connections.

Take good care of each other, as you do. Fond blessings,

Eye on the UUniverse

Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove

Questions Unfolding Still: Process Possibility?

At a Sunday service last spring, Revs. Barbara and Jaco spontaneously Jaco-Chalice-Drawinganswered a handful of anonymous inquiries generated by the congregation that morning in an occasional exercise called “A Question Box Sermon.” Numerous provocative topics were submitted that couldn’t be among the ones spoken to that morning, so the Revs have agreed to address some in periodic Beacon columns such as this…

INQUIRY: When I was a Methodist, process theology defined God as the creative choice in all moments, and to be aware of that possibility is our path to enlightenment about God. Is this idea parallel to the UU concept of possibility?

RESPONSE: The short answer would be Yes.

Many UUs appreciate Process Theology (me included) for its creative openness to the unfolding of the universe (especially in contrast with passive, unchanging dogma in other systems). “God” here is still an eminent and eternal power, but redefined way beyond older images, as a force much more interactively engaged with the world in an evolving relationship.

Choice and free will would be important pivot points in this line of thinking, which was developed largely by Charles Hartshorne (pronounced “harts-horn,” 1897-2000), a member of First UU Church of Austin, TX, based on pioneering work by Alfred North Whitehead. I do wish they had given it a better name, though. “Process” is accurate, I suppose, but just does not adequately (or creatively!) convey the possibilities inherent in this field of thought.

Our UU Principles emphasize “the democratic process” and “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” so we can find ourselves in comfortable league with many progressive Christians who are actively creating newer versions of theology such as this.


Summer is Upon Us

From Your Co-Ministers
Revs. Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten Hove

Summer is Upon Us

Ever since the early years in New England when many of our 18th and 19th century Unitarian forebears migrated to Cape Cod during the heat of the summer and inland churches closed during July and August, the pace of UU congregational life everywhere tends to slow a bit come late June.

Cedars is no exception, even though we also have a fine slate of activities to keep things happenin’ over the weeks ahead, especially with excellent services each Sunday morning, accompanied by our creative and fun children’s program, “Wagons Ho!” There are insert fliers available each Sunday morning showing the opportunities to build community in the coming weeks and/or keep an eye on the eBeacon for up-to-the-minute announcements. Do partake!

For our part, we take a bit of a break after an intense (next) week at the annual UUA General Assembly, which is a glorious gathering of thousands of UUs each late June somewhere around the country. (This year in Portland, OR, a couple dozen of us from Cedars will be engaged in seminars, panels, workshops, exhibits, special events and large, inspirational worship services.)

In July, Barbara will be enjoying the fabulous Fourth festivities in Winslow while Jaco goes to Southern California to visit his 96-year-old father. Then both of us go to our annual week of fun family camp with 250 other UUs at wonderful Seabeck (on the Hood Canal), where Barbara will be helping to lead the daily worship services and Jaco will be a discussion group leader and golf cart driver.

Late in the month, we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary (a few months early) when relatives come from the east to join us for a week on Vancouver Island, as we happily visit Tofino for the first time. Then we’ll be around all of August, since we think there’s no better place to be during August than right here! And we especially look forward to sharing with you a Cedars Beach Party at Fay Bainbridge Park on Thurs., Aug. 27.

Meanwhile, we wish you and yours a great season ahead! Do remember to gather up a little liquid to represent your summer when we share our various waters on Labor Day Sunday, September 6, at the other end of the warm weather stretch.





From Your Co-ministers

From Your Co-ministers
Revs. Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten Hove

Questions Unfolding Still

At the May 31 Sunday service, “Love the Questions,” Barbara and Jaco endeavored to spontaneously answer a handful of anonymous Jaco-Chalice-Drawinginquiries generated by the congregation that morning in an occasional exercise called “A Question Box Sermon.” However, numerous topics were submitted that couldn’t be among the ones addressed, so the Revs have agreed to offer responses to many, if not most of those other questions over the course of the months ahead in periodic Beacon columns such as this (and perhaps a sermon or two)…

INQUIRY: We often say “Unity” and Love. For Cedars UU, why not “Community” and Love?

RESPONSE: We think that might indeed work, too, as an important comm-pound word that includes “unity,” especially if one applies a sense of “community” to all of life (not just human). Drawing on a song title by UU musician Jim Scott, we believe that “The Oneness of Everything” is a major theological statement, expressed by our 7th UU Principle: “Respect for the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.”

But many UUs are unable to recite this Principle from memory; therefore, a simple word like Unity, which sums it up nicely, can be helpful. Cedars is a beautiful embodiment of an intentional religious community, a local manifestation of the Oneness. But the word “Unity” might just point to an even larger context that holds “Everything” together in a way that “Community” doesn’t.

In much the same way that “Love” reflects the radical theological position of our 1st UU Principle (“the inherent worth and dignity of every person”), so does “Unity” suggest a profound and counter-culture orientation in favor of a very wide egalitarian interconnectedness, across all life forms.

“Community” could point this way as well, but generally it connotes a human-centered realm—very importantly, for sure, as evidenced by the value of our Cedars tribe. We just think that there’s even more UUnitty-gritty available in the shorter word.




Let’s Talk about Death!

From Your Co-minister—Rev. Barbara W. ten Hove

On Tuesday, April 21, a couple dozen of us gathered in the Cedars Center to do something pretty radical: talk about death with no agenda and a large chocolate cake. We were experiencing a “Death Café” (, part of an international movement that invites people to gather over good food and talk about death, dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), dead bodies, funeral rituals, grief, etc. We had a surprisingly good time. And it clearly touched a nerve in our Cedars community.

I have to admit I was not entirely shocked. When I took part in a Death Café last fall (among my UU colleagues), I felt its power immediately. How wonderful to just talk about this usually taboo topic with people who were willing to listen and learn from each other! I knew I wanted to bring this to Cedars and am so glad I did (with support from the Pastoral Care Team).

Not only did we talk about it with a very large group at Cedars Center, but many of the folks who were there almost immediately committed to talking further among themselves. Thanks to Richard Dorrell for leading these ongoing conversations made up of people from the first Death Cafe!

There will be another Death Café at Cedars this summer sometime in August for those of you interested but unable to attend the first one. I’ll do it on an evening instead of during the day, but it will once again include cake! Date and time will be announced soon.

Also this summer I’ll be bringing back a sermon I wrote a few years ago (“Why Die? The Quest for Immortality”) that addresses this topic head on. When I preached it in 2012, I heard from many of you that it would be helpful to hear it again, which will happen in August (updated of course).

My mother has often said that death is something we humans should be better at; after all, it happens to everyone. But, as she also says, “it’s so damn final!” Yes, and it’s also the price we pay for this glorious thing called life. I look forward to continuing the conversation. After all, what better place is there to talk about death than in a supportive congregation?

All the best, Rev. Barbara

Seasoning From Your Co-ministers

Revs. Barbara and Jaco ten Hove

Christmas is just around the corner and soon it will be 2015. The holiday season is both a wonderful and a terrible reminder of how quickly time flies. We’re happily into our seventh winter season at Cedars. Our first Christmas here was in 2008 when there was so much snow and ice that cars couldn’t get safely to our new setting at The Island School so we held an impromptu candlelight service at our offices in the Sterling Building. As we write this it’s a balmy 55 degrees and the likelihood of a white Christmas 2014 is extremely low.

Between that Christmas in 2008 and today our congregation has celebrated many holidays together. We’ve watched babies grow into kids and kids into teens. We’ve said good-bye to people we love and welcomed new folks among us. We’ve witnessed difficult moments in the life of our world and nation and been blessed by amazing gifts of love and hope as well.

As we head inexorably toward a New Year we celebrate the many ways Cedars has grown in size, energy and spirit. We’re proud of you and so glad that we are your co-ministers. We hope that each and every one of you has a wonderful holiday season and that you spend at least some of it with your Cedars community. Speaking of which, it’s not too late to commit to a few things that, we believe, will make your holiday season even more bright.

First, do come to our services, perhaps especially the Christmas Eve candlelight event at The Island School on Wednesday, Dec. 24 at 7:30 p.m. It’s a magical event! If you can’t make that (and even if you can), come to the two Sunday services on either side of it, this week’s all-ages Solstice celebration and the now-annual meditation service on Dec. 28–a great (and centering) way to come together during those exhaling days after Christmas.

Second, if you haven’t already, consider giving through the Cedars Alternate Gift Program’s online catalog. Your friends and family will appreciate it and so will the important organizations pre-screened by our AGP team.

Third, make a New Year’s resolution to lean in to Cedars even more. There are so many fulfilling ways you can mingle your skills and energy to help build community even more. See the list of upcoming activities elsewhere in this Beacon or volunteer to help with the ongoing support of our thriving group. We hope to see you in and around the wintery branches of this Cedars grove!

Bright Blessings to all this holiday season!
Fondly, Barbara & Jaco

Give It Away!

As co-minister of Cedars (and, for nearly 30 years now, numerous other congregations as well), it has been my ongoing privilege to work with hundreds of volunteers. No congregation can survive unless people willingly give their time to help run it. Some folks give loads of time, serving as board chair, for example, or leading the youth group. Others give less (participating in one-time activities or bringing a dish to a potluck, say).

But, everyone who volunteers does so because he or she feels a need to give. And all the studies show that giving of one’s time, talent and treasure is not only great for the organizations that receive the gift, but for the giver as well. Volunteers are generally happier people, research has proven. And, as someone who has worked with volunteers my entire career, I can attest to the truth of that statement.

April 6-13 is National Volunteer Week and people around the country are thanking and appreciating volunteers for the amazing amount of time they give to keep our nation’s religious, social service, arts and other organizations running. Jaco and I want to thank all of Cedars volunteers for the many ways you make our congregational life run smoothly and productively. We truly couldn’t “do church” without you.

(And look ahead to the Cedars Opportunity Fair, coming after church on May 4, for a great overview of all the ways to get involved in this thriving congregation.)

I also want to note that many of us also volunteer beyond Cedars. I am constantly amazed when I hear about the ways our local community is sustained by the people of this church. From such groups as Sustainable Bainbridge to the Friday Tidies to the Interfaith Council to Bainbridge Performing Arts to Helpline to Fishline and beyond, we are a church full of giving people.

Jaco and I believe in volunteering, something our lifestyle here has allowed us to do to a satisfying degree. Jaco is an active docent at Islandwood and was a leader for the recent RePower Bainbridge campaign to save energy, among other Sustainable Bainbridge endeavors. We both volunteer at Bainbridge Performing Arts running concessions and ushering (and I, of course, occasionally acting), and we’re engaged as well in our homeowners association.

But my biggest volunteer gig is at Helpline House where, for five years now, I have spent pretty much every Thursday morning engaging with clients as they shop the food bank. The volunteer manager at Helpline is Marilyn Gremse, Cedars member and a wonderfully committed “wrangler” of hundreds of Helpline volunteers. She asked me, in support of National Volunteer Week to tell her why I volunteer at Helpline. Here’s what I said:

I volunteer each week at Helpline first because I believe in the organization. Helpline is a true multi-service center, providing so much to our community, from food to medical equipment to housing and job support to simple caring. Second, I volunteer because, as a minister in the community, it is good for me to remember that there are those who live in this affluent area who are struggling and that they are my neighbors. Third, coming to Helpline each week grounds me in work that is hands on. I know I make a difference in people’s lives, and that matters to me.

Finally, I volunteer at Helpline because I like it. I enjoy the work, the people I volunteer with, the clients I interact with and the staff who run the place so effectively. Yes, I come home tired after my four-hour shift. But, it’s a really good tired and I always wake up on my Helpline morning excited to join in the good work of an organization whose mission and values I support wholeheartedly.

During this upcoming week of honor, I encourage you to consider how your volunteer commitments make a difference in your life. Post your thoughts on the Cedars Facebook page or just tell a friend. Volunteering is all about Love, really. And as the great Unitarian folksinger Malvina Reynolds once wrote, “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more!”

Happy National Volunteer Week to everyone at Cedars!

All the best, Barbara


Eye on the UUniverse: Following Climate (Mood) Changes

Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove, co-minister

For February’s National Preach-in on Climate Change I contributed a curiously titled sermon, “Noah and Klaatu Walk Into a Bar…” the text of which is now posted on our Cedars website and sent (by request) to the site sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light. I tried to take an unusual and hopefully stirring angle to this ironically ubiquitous yet still ignored subject, and I wish to follow up here with one more very helpful note, from the “pages” of our friend and neighbor, YES! Magazine.

Immediately after the service, Fran Korten pointed me to an online YES! article called 8 Reasons for Optimism on Climate Change, which itself is hopefully stirring, so I pass along that link and summarize it here, because it can potentially change one’s mood to know that “huge and positive changes are quietly taking place” to impact this realm that challenges us so severely.

It can be a struggle to feel any worthwhile traction in a good direction, but true to form, YES! offers some, as noted by author Michael Northrop (program director at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which aims to advance “social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world”). Here’s his list, minus the fuller descriptions you can get at the YES! site:

  1. We already know how to engineer zero-carbon buildings.
  2. We are finally entering the age of the electric car.
  3. We are using more renewables, and less coal, than ever before.
  4. States are showing that it’s possible to make policies that both cut carbon emissions and create jobs.
  5. Cities are facing the consequences of climate change and taking action.
  6. The president is ready to take action, at home and internationally.
  7. China wants clean air and clean energy.
  8. Renewable energy is on the rise around the world.

Even if your mood swings on this rough ride, keep the faith, my friends, and as we all do our part, there is hope arising.

In the spirit,


Cedars on the Rise

From Your Co-Minister, Rev. Barbara W. ten Hove 

It’s been an amazing year at Cedars!

We are the proud owners of the beautiful Cedars UU Center in downtown Winslow, where lovely rooms provide great space for us to work, meet, eat and learn together. Our adult membership is at its highest level ever and we have more kids and youth registered in our religious education program than we’ve had in years.

Our choir has about doubled in size during the past few years and the quality of our music program is being noticed by everyone who comes to services at Cedars. And speaking of services, our attendance continues to grow on Sundays as more and more folks discover the blessings of being a part of our growing liberal spiritual community. The energy and goodwill on Sunday mornings is, as Jaco likes to say, “a beautiful thing!”

We are so proud to be the ministers of this thriving band of religious seekers. We are blessed to have a great Religious Education Director in Candee Cole, who despite some serious health challenges this year has bounced back strong and continues to inspire families with her wonderful way of making church both meaningful and fun.

We are thrilled to have worked alongside Chris Smellow since we arrived at Cedars nearly six years ago. What a gift she is to our community! Her musical and spiritual gifts bless our congregation each week and she is beloved by choir member and listener alike.

And, of course, we can’t say enough about the amazing lay members who do the work of this church with grace and style. Among the Auction leaders, Sunday School teachers, Worship Associates, Board Members—and much more!—we witness extraordinary people giving their gifts to Cedars week after week.

We know that Cedars is a special place. We know that what we do here and are here matters not just to us but to the wider community in which we live. We make a difference and we change lives for the better. We do so because together we are the church. Our church. Cedars Church, Unitarian Universalist.

How much does this church mean to you? What do you value as much in your life as you do this beloved community? What might you do to keep it strong and healthy far into the future?

As we enter into our annual Stewardship season, we are proclaiming: “This is the Year!” After a good stretch of Gathering Our Dreams we know that there is powerful momentum among us to make a great leap into the future. We continue to grow our membership, our Religious Education program, our choir, our organization and our presence in our community. Now it’s up to us to grow our budget to a level that matches our intention, activity and potential.

Jaco and I invite you to pay attention to the many ways you can be inspired to grow your commitment to this beloved church we call our religious home. Check out the new front page of the Cedars Directory for more information about this year’s Stewardship campaign. And please make your commitment to be at church this Sunday, Feb. 23, for our Stewardship launch and on March 16 for Stewardship Sunday followed by Cottage Meetings (afternoon neighborhood team gatherings).

This is the Year! Let’s realize our dreams and grow together.



What Do You Say After You Say, “I’m a UU”?

From Your Co-Minister, Rev. Barbara W. ten Hove

One of the more challenging moments we UUs can face is the dreaded question: So what do UUs believe? This can come at any moment—at a dinner party with friends, standing in line at the grocery store, on the phone with a family member, etc. If you’re new to Unitarian Universalism, it can be daunting to describe our mouthful of a faith easily or quickly. Truth to tell, even those of us who have spent a lifetime in the UU realm, even trained as clergy, sometimes fail in finding the right words.

It’s why, about 10 years ago, Jaco and I wrote a curriculum called, “Articulating Your UU Faith.” We realized that many of the classes and programs available for UUs helped us as individuals to grow in spiritual ways but rarely were we given tools to help us actually talk about this complex yet beautiful faith of ours with others. So out of this yearning “AYF” was born, and it has evidently been a helpful resource all over the country since then.

In February, I’ll be teaching it at Cedars again, this time at our sparkling Cedars Center, on four consecutive Thursday evenings beginning next week. (See info blurb above.) When I taught it five years ago (with Jason Cheung—many thanks, Jason!), we had about 15 folks who gathered to explore and learn from one another. This time, I’m leading it with retired religion professor Alan Miller and we are excited to share this interactive “class” with a new group of Cedars folks.

Are you someone who could enjoy and benefit from this opportunity? Yes, if:

  • You are relatively new to UUism and want to learn more about it.
  • You are a long time member who still struggles to talk about UUism with others.
  • You are a youth who wants to learn how to talk about your religion with your friends.
  • You are a parent who would like tools to share your faith with your kids.
  • You just want a chance to explore and engage with your fellow Cedars members!

This class offers lots of opportunities for growth and understanding. If you think you might come, send me or Alan an email. But, if you just show up this coming Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7:15 p.m. at Cedars Center, you’ll be most welcome!

Hope to see you at the class or at church!



Eye on the UUniverse: What’s in Your Portfolio?

Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove, co-minister 

Those among us fortunate enough to have resources invested in various financial vehicles are probably paying some attention to how those firms are using our money in the wider world, which is generally called Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). It’s become quite an effective way to ensure that our greater resources are not propping up values counter to our own but instead are utilized to promote the growth of life-affirming activities around the world.

Such personal choices do influence planetary ethics, because there are definitely companies that act for the Common Good, locally and globally, and others that profit from at least dubious if not notoriously nefarious endeavors. It matters where our life savings sit, especially in bunches, and history already records a number of powerful collective efforts to address inequities by campaigns that alter the flow of capital resources, such as the widespread divestment campaign aimed at South Africa in the 1980s. This clearly helped bring an end to the unjust apartheid era, supported by Sullivan Principles that arose to inspirationally guide this aggressive but not violent achievement.

Now, three decades later, the way our national UU Association’s significant investments are intentionally invested is in a bit of a spotlight. “The UUA has been strongly committed to SRI for over forty years. Our commitment springs from our faith, and from our deep conviction in the dignity of all human beings,” says the UUA’s SRI web page.

But at the moment there is a rather fierce debate raging about how best to use these collective investments. The UUA’s Common Endowment Fund uses their considerable SRI filters to apply almost $150 million, about half of which is from congregations. (Cedars is not connected to this process, financially, but we could be, if we decide to fund our own Endowment, currently on our books with a zero balance, and then invest it alongside other UU groups, managed by UUA experts.)

The ongoing debate is intriguing and pivots on one of our most pressing and regional issues: coal. A small percentage (3.5%) of the UUA’s portfolio is in holdings that profit from fossil fuel industries. Two viewpoints have been very outspoken about this being appropriate—or not.

One side says such investments give us important access to corporations so we can conduct shareholder activism and try to change them from within. See this piece: Fossil fuel divestment is not the answer by Tim Brennan, UUA treasurer and chief financial officer. The protest against this posture, claiming ethical contamination, is well voiced here: Fossil fuel divestment is moral, strategic by Fred Small, minister of First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and co-chair of Religious Witness for the Earth, a national interfaith network dedicated to public witness on environmental issues, especially global climate change. (These statements were published in last summer’s UU World magazine.)

At last June’s UUA General Assembly in Louisville, KY, I attended a workshop on this issue and listened carefully to related testimony in various plenary sessions, all very cogently presented. I found I could understand both positions. As passionate as I might be in favor of a divestment strategy, the UUA’s impressive description of how little impact divestment actually has in this arena was also persuasive, especially compared to shareholder activism in collaboration with other investors through the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Investor Network on Climate Risk.

Nonetheless, near the end of the GA, delegates voted overwhelmingly to adopt an Action of Immediate Witness, “Consider Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry,” which calls for “a denomination-wide conversation within congregations about divesting from fossil fuels or exercising shareholder influence.” (Watch the debate and vote on the UUA website, starting at 1:21.)

Looking ahead, as reported on the UU Ministry for Earth website, next steps are apparently aiming at a bothandian solution: “UU divestment proponents are organizing to present a Business Resolution at GA 2014 to divest the UUA’s Common Endowment Fund, with an allowance for minimal direct holdings for shareholder advocacy purposes and increased investments supporting a transition to clean energy” (my italics).

Where would you come down on this issue? What’s in your portfolio?

In the spirit,



Eye on the UUniverse: At the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC)

Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove, co-minister

By request, below is my statement of Thursday, October 10, made in person and submitted in testimony to the WA State Utilities and Transportation Commission hearing in Olympia, regarding their review of Puget Sound Energy’s controversial 20-year “Integrated Resource Plan.” In my allotted three minutes I attempted to forthrightly apply UU principles to a pressing issue of our time: COAL.

In the spirit,




Thank you, Commissioners, for taking our concerns seriously. I wish to offer an avowedly religious perspective. I started ministering in the Seattle area in 1988, in the context of Unitarian Universalism, in which discipline I was raised. Our 11-syllable mouthful of a name connects us to two aspects of existence that are very pertinent here.

Unitarian means an abiding awareness of and fidelity to the Unity of all life, the oneness, the interconnectedness—elusive as all that may feel at times. Universalism means we believe that at the heart, at the core of that oneness is the power of Love, universally. The most compelling message taught by Jesus is to love one another. That instruction animates many if not most world religions—elusive as it may feel at times. When any of us are at our best, we are loving one another.

So Unitarian Universalists tend to apply the twin lens of Unity and Love to issues of our day, as our ancestors have been doing for centuries in their own ways. I urge you to consider in this matter the fundamental interdependence of all life, which is no longer a subject of debate since scientists have demonstrated it conclusively, increasingly so. There are moral implications to this awareness, especially if we honor a commandment to love one another.

What is proposed by PSE in their so-called Integrated Resource Plan instead demonstrates a willful, myopic ignorance of our fundamental unity and interconnectedness, by promoting an unnecessary dependence on coal—a destructive and unhealthy resource that cannot be integrated into a morally just worldview. Just because energy can be cheaply acquired by digging and burning coal does not mean it should be, when so much else is at stake. And the deeper, deferred costs of their Plan must be factored in, morally.

In our time, we all are called to move with some urgency to recover and protect the planetary environment we share and presumably love, along with its people, many of whom are and will be very adversely affected by PSE’s current plans. Please inspire PSE instead to be more creative with our future, more responsible to the bottom line of Unity and Love. Thank you again.

Syria -- the Dilemma

From your Co-Ministers

Syria - 2 FlagsAs the situation in Syria gets more and more desperate, we are aware that people are hungry for a religious response that makes sense. Like many of you we are confused and concerned by the situation.

We have found the following two articles helpful and thought Cedars members and friends might as well. You may access them through the links below.

We hope we’ll continue to see you often as we move into the autumn season. We are regularly in our office at the new Cedars UU Center (usually on Wednesdays and Fridays in the morning) so come by or make an appointment to see us. As challenging as things are in our world today, being a part of a religious community helps ground us in what’s really important.

Hope to see you in church and during the week, too!
All the best,

Barbara and Jaco signature




Barbara and Jaco

Eye on the UUniverse: Stirred By GA

By Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove

There was almost tangible buzz throughout the 2013 UUA General Assembly (June 19-23 in Louisville, KY), anticipating at any moment a US Supreme Court rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That word finally came a few days after “GA,” but there was still no shortage of stirring moments (and plenty of other words) for the 3,300 UUs gathered with me for five days along the Ohio River in north central Kentucky’s “Possibility City.” (The UU World has good online coverage.)

Over two hundred youth were quite visible among us, as were over 600 UU congregational delegates, at least one from every state. At GA and also in the immediately pre-GA days of focused programming for clergy and other small groups, there were noticeably more younger adults (than previous years) mingling with the always plentiful elders, which was heartening. Perhaps connected to this younger dynamic was the large number of handheld devices in use. The Twitterverse was throbbing.

Also dominant at this GA was the issue of climate disruption, especially as manifested in coal mining and the local scourge of mountain top removal, which is truly heartbreaking. I attended two workshops specifically addressing our practices in the face of impending climate disruption, one of which taught me a new twist on the old commandment: “Thou shalt not kill—even slowly.” The other was an impressive treatment of how the UUA is very effectively using its considerable financial resources (e.g., the UUA Common Endowment Fund) to positively influence companies in which it has investments. See more on this HERE and HERE.

We also marched as a throng to the banks of the Ohio River for an interfaith rally, both to protest environmental injustices caused by coal mining, fracking, mountaintop removal, etc., and to promote more clean energy. There and in the plenary rally before the march, we were graced by the presence and message of local farmer, author and cultural/economic critic Wendell Berry, whose family has direct UU connections. He was quite inspirational, reading his moving poem, “Questionnaire” and making statements such as: “Necessary political changes will only be made in response to changed people.”

The sermonizing and speeches that populate each GA landscape seemed even more rousing than usual, with music to match. The prime lecture of the week was given by noted interfaith activist and author Eboo Patel , an American Ismaili Muslim, who explained how “nurturing positive relations between people with deep disagreements is holy.” And UUA President Peter Morales emphasized in his Report that “Collaboration is the key to our future,” noting many effective ways UUs are doing that across cultural and religious boundaries.

I sang in the ministers’ choir that performed twice during the week and it was powerful medicine. Our pair of directors were from the staff of All Souls Church in Tulsa, OK, and they led us in some really fun gospel-style material. At one point after the recessional that ended the normally rather staid annual Service of the Living Tradition, the upbeat music just wouldn’t stop and a kind of mild mosh pit formed at the foot of the stage, crowded with folks who didn’t want to quit singing and dancing together, to “I’ll Take You There.” Read and/or watch the service, although you might want to skip past much of the first half, which was taken up with the naming of ministers in various life and career stages. My bald head sticks up in the back left of the choir. “Exultant,” the UU World headline called it (the event, that is, not my head).

The preacher at that Saturday evening service, Vanessa Southern, suggested in no uncertain terms that religion could either be in the way or lead the way to a brighter future, and this echoed a theme throughout GA: that UUism is poised to contribute mightily, especially when one considers the numerical rise of the “nones.” These are people who do not declare any religious allegiance, yet have values that align with ours. They probably do not even know that there’s a religion like UUism to join up with and help their lone voice resound more loudly.

The very next morning, I was in the congregation for the Sunday service, in which former UUA president Bill Schulz offered an evocative view of the earth and “our covenant with all being,” featuring stunning video support. He also was unequivocal: “Everything that separates or divides us is stupidity on a cosmic scale.” The two prominent GA services and sermons mentioned above were very different in style and content, yet they complemented each other in a typically diverse yet unified manner. I commend the videos of them to you. Worshipping with thousands of UUs is like nothing else.

I went to other intriguing workshops, numerous plenary sessions, and had a small role in the closing youth and young adult worship service, which featured 100 attendees (at 8 am!) and leadership by a youth from Seattle. I also had precious time with beloved distant colleagues, made some new friends, and enjoyed the quite-warm-but-not-oppressively-hot Loooville environs, including a ministers’ reception at the nearby and very impressive Muhammed Ali Center.

But perhaps my most moving moment came near the end, in that Sunday morning service, when I unexpectedly became the guide for a blind elder colleague who was placed in the seat in front of me and left by himself. I’ve known 87-year-old Rudi Gelsey for decades, although not so much personally, but he’s a very notable character of good will, if a bit lovingly eccentric, and he had an important speaking role as recently as last year. (I will be precisely his current age if I make it to my 50th anniversary of ordination.)

 The service began and the next thing I knew, Rudi was standing to the music and waving his arms enthusiastically, as if conducting, which he did throughout the hour, almost whenever there was music. Early on, though, he stopped and tried to check to make sure he wouldn’t hit anyone nearby, so I leaned forward to let him know he was in the clear. From then on I cued him in, as necessary, about when to stand (or not). And at one point he turned his head toward me and said, in general, “Isn’t this wonderful?!”

 Watching and enjoying his spirit, I got a sudden, tearful flash—that I could be looking at myself in the future, older but still going to GA, and¾although likely physically compromised in one way or another¾still engaged by great energy in the room, perhaps even waving my arms to uplifting music. I realized that I could at least hope to be as present to that future as Rudi was to this moment.

 Afterwards, I gave him my arm and led him through the crowded hallways to his next location, as he eagerly told me of his new book, A Path to Perpetual Peace. I then set about packing to come home, with the sweet aftertaste of a solid, abundant GA experience lingering on my fulfilled palate. Next June we gather again in Providence, Rhode Island, with a theme of “Love Reaches Out,” and in 2015, GA comes back to Portland, OR. I also look forward to the upcoming Pacific NorthWest District Assembly (a kind of mini-GA), in Spokane next March 14-16, with a theme of “Love Beyond Belief.”

When individualists (like most of us UUs) can focus together in large, centered community for days of high intention and art, a marvelous and indescribable door opens in my heart. I am stirred, and maybe even a little shaken.

In the spirit,


Co-ministers’ 2013 Sabbatical Report

From January 15 to May 15, Revs. Barbara and Jaco ten Hove pursued a board-approved, four-month sabbatical for travel, study and reflection. (Their Letter of Agreement with Cedars, similar to that of most other settled UU ministers, stipulates that they accrue one month of sabbatical leave time for each year of service, and 2012-13 was their fifth year at Cedars.)

Regular, short sabbaticals ensure that ministers maintain energy and love for their work, and provide opportunities for congregations to learn more about themselves and deepen their own capacities. After good preparation in numerous affected arenas, we were confident that Cedars could continue to prosper, meet challenges and nurture those among us while they were away, and that’s what happened, thanks to the contributions of many lay leaders, other staff and Jaco & Barbara themselves.

At a May 23 Sabbatical De-briefing Workshop, led by Pacific NorthWest District Executive Janine Larsen and attended by about 15 Cedars leaders, perspectives and learnings were exchanged productively, and the co-ministers distributed a three-page report about their sabbatical activities, attached here in PDF: Co-minister’s Sabbatical Report

They’re Baaaack…

Untitled-2It’s so great to be home again, among you all! After four long but intriguing months away on sabbatical we are delighted to return to Cedars and our abode in Winslow. We hope that many of you were able to read the monthly columns that we sent from afar, sharing some of our travel adventures and thoughts. You’ll be hearing more in our sermons and conversations in the months ahead. We’re now actively catching up on all things Cedars, and there certainly has been a lot going on!

For instance, before we left we knew that we would miss much of the early transition into our new offices and meeting spaces. Clearly, a lot of folks have worked hard to make the space functional and beautiful and we add our gratitude for all the hard work done by so many, especially the point people who managed demanding details and handiwork. The transition continues, and we’re very excited about the Dedication Party there on Madrona Way, June 2 after church.

We were also pleased to see how successful the annual stewardship drive was. Thanks for making a strong commitment to your congregation, and extra thanks to the leadership team that made it such a creative process. Meanwhile, the Sabbatical Committee and Board stayed on top of things big and small, largely behind the scenes, so they also deserve giant kudos.

As expected, staffers Candee and Chris stepped up in a variety of ways even more than usual in our absence. Our Religious Education program continues to blossom and our Music just keeps getting better and better. We hope you know how lucky you are to have such talented people as these working for you. We missed them and are happy that we get to return to collaborate some more.

And we were thrilled to hear from numerous colleagues who came to guest preach at Cedars about what a wonderful experience they had with you. They were impressed by the energy they felt at Cedars and could tell that we are a growing and thriving congregation with wonderful lay leadership and excellent staff.

As we reflect on what we learned during our time away from you we realize again how much religious community means to us and to our world. One of the most disappointing realities we confronted during our time away, particularly in England and Northern Ireland, was how many churches (including Unitarians) are not only not thriving but actually dying on the vine. It made us aware of how very precious our religious freedom and our liberal religious institutions are in the United States.

So, we want to ask you now that we’re back together, what dreams are you dreaming for the future of our beloved congregation? What might be next in our journey together? We now have our first “landed” home. Yes, we know it’s not our Sunday morning space, but it does solidify us in a way that we’ve never been before. How will we use these nice rooms to meet our mission? How will having such a home make a difference to us as a congregation?

We’re also aware that we are approaching our 5th anniversary as your ministers. That’s a good long time, which we celebrate, but what do we imagine might happen in the next five years? What kind of ministry does our community need from all of us? And what resources (human and financial) do we need to move with strength into the future?

We realize that we can’t answer these questions quickly or simply. After the sabbatical our goals right now are to reconnect with all of you, share what we’ve learned during our time apart, and hear stories from your lives in and around Cedars during our absence. We are hopeful that this process will only bring more good energy to all of us. It seems like a promising time to start imagining and dreaming big for our congregation.

Thanks again for all the fine work you did to keep the Cedars vessel sailing well through the winter and early Spring. We return with humility, gratitude, and an abundance of learning experiences. We expect to be around a lot this summer and look forward to sharing and shaping with you.

Barbara and Jaco signature

Sabbatical Update #3

Untitled-2Dear Cedars Members and Friends,

As the third month of our sabbatical comes to a close, we send greetings to you from far away, “across the Pond,” as people from the Atlantic region are wont to say. At this writing we’re in Ireland, after significant stays in England and Israel. The penultimate leg of our four-month sojourn is to a place we find very spiritually uplifting: the green isle of Eire. We’ve been here a week so far and there will be much more to experience on this trip, especially our first visit to Northern Ireland soon.

But we thought it fitting to share in this column some thoughts from our somewhat earlier pilgrimage in another Holy Land, the big one: Israel (March 14-28).

We came to Israel because one of Barbara’s best and oldest friends (Lisa) has lived there for thirty years, after marrying an Israeli. She continued her education, working as a therapist and raising three lovely daughters. Whenever she and Barbara would meet on one of her visits back in the States, Lisa would offer again and again the invitation to come see her in Israel. This sabbatical finally gave us the opportunity and we are very grateful, indeed.

We came to Israel without an agenda, but we can’t say we arrived without expectations. It is the Holy Land after all, and we imagined that we would feel the weight of history and faith in this young country. We knew we might have some welcome warmer weather but we were happily surprised by all the fruit and vegetables that were growing in abundance almost everywhere we went (besides the desert in the south, of course).

sab1-2And yes, history was very palpable. Our first outing away from our friends’ home (which is outside Tel Aviv, just 20 miles northeast of Gaza) was to a nearby hill overlooking the valley where it is written a young David fought the giant Goliath. While there, we heard a young tour guide telling the story to a group under a tree.

Our personal escort (Tomer, my friend’s husband, who is a professional guide and tour leader) also translated for us this ancient story from the Hebrew Bible. And as we sat and looked at the views all around us, a Bedouin shepherd passed by with a large flock of sheep and goats. You might picture him in a long white robe but in truth he was wearing blue jeans and using a cell phone—a reminder that Israel may have ancient roots embedded at almost every turn, but it is still a very modern country.

We felt that modernism in the many factories and productive towns that we saw during our stay, plus solar hot water heaters on maybe 90% of the rooftops. One coastal city Lisa and Barbara visited (Ashdod) seemed like a gleaming white version of the Emerald City of Oz; everything seemed so new and bright. The newness was also felt in our friends’ self-built home, which had some curious stylistic differences but could likely be set down anywhere in a US suburb without missing a beat.

Perhaps the main thing that really reminded us of where we were was the reinforced “safe room” that all Israeli homes are required to have. To us, it looked like a laundry room, but to them it will always be a place to go when, say, missiles from Gaza land nearby (which happened again not long after we left). Living with the constant threat of such violence is jarring and impacts everyone, although the general climate throughout the country seemed quite free of the kind of threatening crime that often plagues US metro areas.

Admittedly, our window as two-week tourists was rather narrow. But thanks to our generous hosts, we got around and saw quite a bit, from the ancient city of Jerusalem (where we spent two nights on our own) to the controversial but beautiful Golan Heights (where Syrian missiles landed the day after we passed through). We saw the lovely port city of Haifa with its gorgeous Baha’i temple gardens; we picnicked in the soft hills of the Mt. Carmel area; we got caught out in a nasty sand storm in the town of Safed; we witnessed a group baptism in the Jordan River; and Jaco peeked through the closed coastal mountain border with Lebanon.

We stayed in a kibbutz guesthouse and then a hotel owned by a Druze hair stylist who had lived for ten years in Cleveland. We also got up close and personal with iconic creatures on a Negev Desert camel farm (their milk is used to make very healthy skin cream), and Jaco floated in the mineral-laden Dead Sea. We heard stories from our friends’ daughters about their schooling, their dreams, and their military service. We helped our friends host Pesach (Passover) for their extended family, and we learned to eat salad for breakfast.sab2-2

We only occasionally talked politics, but our friends and most of the people we met through them seem deeply aware of the issues that confront Israel. We happened to be in Jerusalem on the day President Obama arrived (escaping the traffic jams only a few hours before his appearance) and everyone seemed eager to hear what he might say, and then were mostly positive about his visit.

Though they live cheek-by-jowl with many who would like to obliterate them, the Jews we met never expressed any hatred of Palestinians or Muslims. Our friends interact daily and respectfully with people across the religious and cultural spectrum. Both work closely with Arab Bedouins, for instance (one of whom asked Jaco if he was a “priest,” and then confided that he was an atheist, good-naturedly thinking it might shock him).

And we visited in the gracious home of some of their dear friends who are Druze, an offshoot of Islam that is intriguingly defined in Wikipedia as historically “Unitarian.” It is impressive how many varied religious folks have found ways to share relatively peaceful daily lives in the modern democracy of Israel, especially in dense Jerusalem.

That said, there are obvious challenges that we saw and learned about during our time there. Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, created in response to the Holocaust and the long-standing hatred of Jews that have made them unwelcome throughout the world. But being a Jewish state doesn’t necessarily mean all are religious, per se. Our host friends, for instance, certainly identify as Jewish but are not active in a synagogue, and, in fact, have very real concerns about the religious extremism present in their own country.

For instance, we saw a lot of Hasidim, one of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sects, whose rigidly righteous beliefs (and actions) are apparently not always appreciated by many fellow Jews. Importantly, recent election results elevated a new leader who courageously questions the power the ultra-orthodox wield, including their unwillingness to serve in the military (which all other Israeli young people are required to do at age 18-20, and even the local Druze agreed to serve thusly).sab3-2

The Hasidim are resented by some for the extreme role they continue to play, especially in the settlements, and their avowed belief that until the Messiah comes, Israel as a state shouldn’t really exist. They are clearly a major obstruction to any two-state solution, which seems to many like the only path toward greater Israeli security. We don’t pretend to fully comprehend the intricacies of all this, knowing that it’s a complex and demanding problem, to be sure.

But it reminded us how precious our diverse religious landscape is in America. We are not only free from the tyranny of religion, we’re also free to be religious in whatever way we choose, with a unique value of the separation of church and state. Not things we should ever take for granted!

There is much more to tell about this stirring adventure (plus all our other sabbatical stops before and after), which we will begin to do upon our impending return, especially in the Sunday service on May 19 and then as our contribution to the ongoing Pilgrimage series on June 16.

We continue to miss all of you at Cedars and look forward to our return in a month.

Fondly, Barbara & JacoBarbara and Jaco signature

Sabbatical Update

Untitled-2Dear Cedars Members and Friends –

We write to you from the wintry landscape of Richmond, VA, where we’ve spent a month at the home of Barbara’s sister Mary, as planned. We’ve been reading and writing a bit, but this time with our family has really meant so much to us! When we moved away from the east coast in 2008 to return to our beloved Washington State, we knew we were leaving behind easy access to our family and old friends, as both of us grew up on the mid-east coast.

Our sabbatical time here has given us the blessing of regular contact with people who also mean a lot to us. While here we’ve not only seen Barbara’s sister and her husband David, we’ve also seen Barbara’s mother Rollene almost every day. Her two other sisters and niece have visited, too, and we spent four days near Kitty Hawk, NC, with Jaco’s sister Judy and her husband Blair.

We were especially glad to not have to rush our visit with Jaco’s sister, who has pretty aggressive lung cancer. (He’s now planning to bring their 94-year old father from Southern California to visit Judy in early May, near the end of our trip.) We were also able to be supportive before, during and after our brother-in-law here in Richmond had a serious operation to correct some issues that emerged from when he broke his leg very badly almost two years ago. Helping family in this way is something we’ve been less able to do since we moved back to the Northwest, so it is a deeply appreciated part of this sabbatical.

We’ve also had the rare pleasure of attending church numerous times this month—mostly at First UU Richmond and once at the UU Congregation of the Outer Banks, NC. We could just sit in the pews and enjoy the experience of worshiping with others who share our faith. Despite the different shapes and sizes of all the various UU congregations, our churches are in many ways far more alike than different, and it was a joy to celebrate our faith in beloved community even if far away from the church we call home.

Doing so made us consider how important it is that Cedars is actively connecting people in the Bainbridge Island/N. Kitsap area. This past month we found ourselves in two different places in the US and could find within a few miles a UU church where we were heartily welcomed. Think about this a bit. For many years, Cedars was a small fellowship, floating for the most part under the radar, with plenty of people maybe never knowing there was a UU church in the area.

Now we are a vibrant, visible congregation of many adults and children, meeting in worship every week. Our Religious Education, Music and other programs are strong. (Thank you, leaders and participants thereof!) Plus, for the first time ever in our history, we own a piece of real estate we can call home. It’s a great time to be a part of Cedars and we’re proud to be your ministers.

One of the services we attended at First UU in Richmond was their Canvass/Celebration Sunday, led by their senior minister—none other than the Rev. Jeanne Pupke, a talented person who did her internship at Cedars (then called UUFBINK), not long after the turn of the Millennium. Jeanne was then ordained by you, so we felt a bit of familial pride as she inspired us all to give radically to our church home(s). Knowing that Cedars is also in the midst of a stewardship campaign made us sit up a bit straighter.

Jeanne reminded us that when we UUs choose to give generously to our church amazing things can happen. Like us, she and her partner Regina tithe (give 10% of their income to meaningful efforts). We’ve also found this to be powerfully liberating. Even from far away, we know the pledge we make to Cedars (a generous portion of that tithe) goes to build a stronger church that really makes a difference.

As you move through this year’s Stewardship Program without us, we challenge you to remember how much it matters that people like you are able to find a strong and vibrant UU church nearby. Remember that when we work together we can build a rainbow community founded on the radical premise that all of creation is One and that Love is at the heart of it all. We will make another generous pledge to Cedars this year and we encourage you to do so as well.

Meanwhile, we miss you, dear ones, but you are in our hearts and minds daily. On March 11, we begin our overseas sojourn to England, Israel and Ireland, so thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. Enjoy the coming of Spring!

Fondly, Barbara and Jaco
Barbara and Jaco signature

Sabbatical Update

Untitled-2From Your Co-Ministers, Revs. Barbara & Jaco ten Hove

Dear Cedars Community,

A month has passed since we left our beloved home on Bainbridge Island, and we write to say we are doing well and hope the same for you. As you may recall, the first few weeks of our four-month sabbatical included travel to Southern California and to Florida. The week we spent in St. Petersburg, FL, was particularly memorable among over 400 other clergy at the second biennial UU Ministers Association Institute for continuing education, where we had the opportunity to worship, study, and engage with many of our stimulating and fun colleagues. (The beach there was nice, too, although it was warm only for a few days and then turned pretty chilly.)

While Jaco spent the week learning about and experiencing Bhakti/Kirtan chanting, I had the opportunity to study preaching with the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, eminent minister emeritus of Riverside Memorial Church in New York City. Among other things, he challenged us to look at preaching and worship as healing arts, and to find ways to gently speak truth to power.

In particular, Dr. Forbes invited us to imagine what we might say to President Obama ahead of his State of the Union Address. In a seminar exercise, we had a very short opportunity (about 3 min.) to address the president in sermonic form. Some of us could offer this message via their congregations in the weeks following the conference. But since I was to continue on sabbatical, I had to think of another way to contribute my ideas to the president.

And so I wrote a letter, which is below. I sent it to President Obama before the State of the Union Address, and though I have no way of knowing if he actually read it, I’m still glad I sent it. I hope you’ll read it, too.

After a road trip up the southeast coast with my sister Mary and her husband David, we are now happily living with them for a few weeks in Richmond, Virginia. While here, we are reading books (Jaco’s already digested Malcolm Gladwell’s first two books, The Tipping Point and Blink), enjoying family, walking a lot, doing some writing/editing, and, in my case, learning how to use Dragon Dictate (speech-recognition software). We’ll send another update in March, as we embark on our big trip to England, Israel and Ireland.

Please be assured that even as we appreciate this enriching time for travel, rest, study and growth, we do miss you all very much and look forward to our return in mid-May.

All our best, Barbara (and Jaco)
Barbara and Jaco signature

February, 2013

Dear President Obama,

I’d like to invite you, Michelle and your daughters Sasha and Malia to make a stop sometime this year on your way to Hawaii. If you were to fly into Seattle, you could make the short drive on I-5 to the point where I-90 crosses it. There, on a small hill, is a beautiful place called East Shore Unitarian Church.

Many years ago, your grandparents brought your mother to this place. I think your daughters might learn something about themselves if you took them to it.

If you came, as you walk into the church, you’ll see a mosaic based on the Tree of Life. This mosaic was made many years ago and graced the outside of the church when your family would’ve walked into it the first time. They might have been surprised to see this symbol on a church. Yet, what a beautiful image it was and still is! The Tree of Life represents for many of us the deep and abiding connections we share with all creation, our Oneness with all that is. This is the heart of Unitarianism and I believe its message touched your mother in powerful ways.

Though I never met your mother, I know people who have, and they spoke to me of her strength of character, her willingness to stand up for what she believed in, and her fierce loyalty to those she loved. I know you have taught your daughters to remember their grandmother. If they were to enter into East Shore’s sanctuary, they would sense her presence and spirit. For, I believe, she learned at least some of those qualities in this special place.

Why do I know this? Many years ago, when I was a young woman starting out in ministry at age 25, I came across the country (I grew up just a few short miles from where you live in the White House) to serve as an Associate Minister at East Shore. In this beloved community I met people like your grandparents—strong, independent, fine people who taught me to be the woman I am today. In service to them, I learned how to be a faithful and caring minister. More, I learned to be a strong woman in a world where strong women are not always easily accepted. I think your girls would get a sense of this if they came to this church and saw the place it was for your grandparents and mother, and the place it still is today for a vibrant and diverse community.

I understand that some people have scoffed at your Unitarian heritage, blaming your liberal values on your family’s “exposure” to our “heathen” religion. I would gently challenge you to accept it as the gift it is. Unitarian Universalism is a religion that blesses the world with its acceptance of religious diversity and its commitment to the values of Unity (Unitarianism) and Love (Universalism). Our country and our world could use such values, don’t you think? Within the walls of any of our congregations you will meet Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, Pagans, and others. While we differ in specific beliefs about God, we agree with what my late friend and great religious thinker Forrest Church once said about our shared faith. “Unitarianism proclaims that we spring from a single source; Universalism, that we share a common destiny”

In closing, I want to reiterate my invitation to you and your family to come visit East Shore and see the kind of church that helped shaped your grandparents and your mother, and through them, you and your daughters. Though I no longer serve as their minister (I am in a church nearby these days), I’d be happy to meet you there, introduce you to their wonderful ministers, and give your daughters a taste of what the religious life can offer women who are strong and independent.

You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you prepare for the State of the Union address. Thank you for all you have done for us as a nation.

In Unity and Love,
The Rev. Dr. Barbara Wells ten Hove
Co-Minister, Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church
Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap County, WA 98110

Back When We’re Through with Blooming

Untitled-2We love our work. We love doing ministry here at Cedars. We love working with Chris and Candee and all the lay leaders in the congregation. We love spending Sunday mornings with you and other days and evenings as well. We love living on Bainbridge Island and in Kitsap County. We love our little home in Winslow.

Yet, even as much as we love our life here, taking a break from the rather all-encompassing world of ministry is a real blessing. We are lucky to be in one of the few professions that understands and values sabbaticals. We are so grateful that you good folks at Cedars are supporting us in this short but significant break in our regular routine (Jan. 15-May 15, 2013).

Breaks like this can make a big difference in maintaining a long-term ministry. We want to stay at Cedars for many years. But to do so well, requires of us constant re-tooling of our skills, refreshment of our spirits, and filling the cup of our knowledge. Taking short sabbaticals over the course of many years can help us grow and blossom among you.

We’ll be doing some interesting things while we’re away. Lots of travel in the US, plus stopovers in England en route to and from a long desired destination— Israel—and a return to one of our “heart places”—Ireland. We’ll preach on Easter Sunday near London and then attend Unitarian services in both Dublin and Belfast.

We’ll also be in learning mode. Jaco will work on creating a hopefully publication-worthy collection of our “Spiritual Strengths” sermon series while Barbara learns how to use Dragon Dictate, a voice recognition technology. Both of us will attend the latest UU Ministers Association “Institute”—a week long program of study for over 400 UU ministers, and Barbara will begin a two-year collegial program on contemporary preaching and worship.

And we’ll spend some good time with family, including both of our elderly parents and our siblings, too, all of whom live a long way away from our island and who miss us as much as we miss them.

But a sabbatical is not for us alone. We challenge you to reflect on who you are apart from us. What skills can you sharpen? What gifts can you give? What will you want to share with us when we return? (You can also learn more on the Cedars Sabbatical webpage.)

Time away from routine can make a real difference in all of our lives. It doesn’t mean we won’t miss you; we will, very much so, and hope you’ll miss us, too! But this time apart can be a season of blossoming and blooming for all of us. Enjoy all the wonderful guest speakers; take part in classes and programs; help get our new office up and running; and support each other in your ongoing spiritual growth. When we return, we’ll all be stronger and ready to re-engage at a new and deeper level.

Expect to hear from us (via this newsletter) occasionally during the sabbatical. We won’t be reading Cedars email but will have a way of getting news of any large emergencies, as needed. Trust your Sabbatical Committee, the board and staff to help keep the ship on course. We are confident all will go well.

As a parting gift, we offer you this wonderful poem from our friend and colleague Lynn Ungar. Read it now and again and think of us. We’ll do the same. And we promise to come “back when we’re through with blooming.”

Camas Lilies
by Lynn Ungar

Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas
opening into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?

And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: “Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming.”

Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.

Barbara and Jaco signature

"Easy Peasy?"

This Sunday, October 7, Jaco and I will celebrate 22 years of legal marriage. Our anniversary always urges me to reflect on how lucky I am—not just because I married my soul mate all those years ago, although I never take that for granted.  I know I am lucky also because no one questioned our right to get legally married in 1990.  We just went down to the county office, got a license, then got married. As my young niece likes to say, easy peasy.  But for our gay and lesbian friends, it hasn’t been easy peasy at all.

And here we are in 2012—so much has changed in 22 years!  Next month, Washington citizens have the opportunity to be one of the first electorates to legalize marriage for more than just heterosexual couples, by confirming a law (already passed!) through the referendum process, R74.  We have a chance to be leaders in this work for justice and equality.  We can choose to make history. And I urge all of us to thoughtfully and spiritually consider those choices.

Some folks think that “religious people” don’t support gay marriage. It’s all too common for progressive religious types to get lumped in with our more conservative friends and neighbors. Sometimes I’m fine with that. (I actually believe that many religious people of all persuasions share more in common with each other than with those who live only in the secular world.) But in this case, it matters that we differentiate ourselves. It matters because those in the GLBT community who might think that all religious people are opposed to their happiness and commitment need to know that isn’t true. They need to know we value their marriages as much as Jaco and I value ours.

This past week, the Bainbridge Review printed an article showing the diversity of local religious leaders who support Marriage Equality and R74. Jaco and I are proud to be signers of that letter and to stand with others who want to end this discrimination and continue to build a more inclusive community. We urge you to not only make a commitment to affirm this important referendum but to talk with your friends and neighbors about why. Take a moment to practice saying, “I’m a religious person, I go to church, and I support Marriage Equality.”

It makes a difference. You can make a difference. We, as a state, can make a difference and make history. Thanks for Standing on the Side of Love for all those who want to marry, just as Jaco and I did 22 years ago this week.

All the best,

When Being a UU Really Matters

As many of you know, I had a laparoscopic hysterectomy on Monday, August 13. All went well (considering the surgery went 90 minutes longer than expected!) and I returned home after a night in Northwest Hospital. During the subsequent weeks of this recovery process, I have again been reminded why being a UU really matters and how being active in a church helps so much in the healing process.

First, my UU faith sustained me. I never for a moment thought that this surgery came about because God was mad at me or I hadn’t done something right (or done something wrong). Instead, I felt held in the great Unity of all creation and knew that Love surrounded me throughout. I never once felt alone, especially with all my UU colleagues, near and far, chiming in with affection and support.

Second, my UU congregation (that means you!) sustained me. For two weeks, delicious dinners were delivered and I didn’t even have to get out of my pajamas or answer the door. I got lovely cards, sweet Facebook posts, and the choir even came to visit and sing for me. I know many of you prayed for and held me in your hearts. I could feel it. Thank you so much for doing what a church does so well—care for the sick when they really need it!

Third, my local religious community sustained me. As a part of the larger interfaith community here in our little corner of the world, I was amazed at all the good wishes I received from people who have a different faith than mine. I know for a fact that there were nearby Mormons, Buddhists, Lutherans, Congregationalists and Christian Scientists pulling for me—and who knows, maybe others I don’t even know about! What a blessing to live in a community where religion connects rather than separates us.

Going through this has taught me a lot about the importance of our faith and our church and our community. Many, many thanks to all of you who made this challenging time easier. I still have healing yet to come; I’m told it can take months to fully recover. But at this moment I’m feeling incredibly blessed and lucky that if I had to go through this, I did so here, with you.

Hope to see you at church soon!

All the best,

P.S. It was my goal to send appreciation to all of you who made a meal, gave me a gift or visited me, but if I forgot, please forgive me and know I am exceedingly grateful!

Summer's Fond Farewells

The recent losses of three Cedars elders has softened the summer envelope for us. Deaths of any sort are a reminder of the finitude of life, certainly, but this combination carries with it some powerful dynamics, especially in that two of the three were relatively sudden.

Let us take a moment here to honor Louise Rikley (d. June 16, age 96), Doug Elliott (d. July 18, age 80), and Al Tlam (d. Aug. 18, age 88). They had all been active Sunday church-goers and will be greatly missed among us. A service for Louise was held in Poulsbo on July 21; Doug’s memorial event will be at the Suquamish UCC Church at 1 pm on Sat., Sept. 8; and Al’s family is still considering how best to proceed in this regard.

Louise had been living with her son Gene and Sandy Bullock for 26 years, enlivening their daily endeavors and travels, as well as Cedars activities with her sparkling personality and friendly nature. She was able to spend her last days in hospice care at home.

Doug was well beloved by all ages, perhaps especially as a mentor for our children’s classes, but also as an adventurous and thoughtful friend to many, not to mention loving companion to spouse Carol. The brain tumor that rapidly claimed him this summer was a distressing end to a rich and fulfilling life.

Al was an ingenious fellow with a compelling life story, who quietly made and maintained our Sunday service candles, just the latest of many technical accomplishments. With no forewarning, however, something unknown led him, in the end, to take his own life, and we grieve with his family at this abrupt close to a long arc of living.

As we turn toward September and begin to bid farewell to another summer, we also relish the memories of our now-departed friends, Louise, Doug and Al. They each graced our world for a good long, hearty stretch. May they rest in peace.


Life is What Happens When You're Making Other Plans

These wise words (attributed to John Lennon) seem particularly relevant to us now as we face unexpected medical challenges this summer. Jaco, who has battled incipient skin cancer for years, has been advised to go through an extreme face and scalp treatment on Aug. 21 that will likely be very helpful but will make him look quite blotchy during the days (maybe weeks) afterward. And Barbara, too, has had health issues arrive this summer.

After a series of tests, her doctors have determined she needs to have a hysterectomy, due to a cyst that has not gone away. Luckily, there is no real concern about cancer, but waiting would evidently only tempt fate. So, on Aug. 13, Barbara will have laproscopic surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus. This will require one or two nights in the hospital (Northwest Hospital in Seattle) and a six to eight week recovery period.

Congregations know how to deal with this kind of thing. We hold each other in our hearts and prayers and help out as needed. As your ministers, we’re usually on the caring side of this equation. This summer, we may well be on the other. We’re grateful (in advance) for Cedars folk who will pick up the slack and support us as we recover.

We’re confident these health issues won’t sideline us for long. At this point there are no emergencies, just some natural anxieties. And we’re mighty glad we’re not alone as we walk this path. We have each other, our friends and colleagues, and we have you, the wonderful Cedars community that we know cares so deeply for its people.

We’ll keep you informed if things unfold in unexpected ways. For now, we feel the love that is so much a part of this wonderful congregation. Thanks again for all you are and all you do!



The lengthening evenings and gradually warming temperatures of June assure us that summer is coming. Though things at Cedars quiet down a bit during the summer (and your co-ministers tend to travel a bit), make sure to stay connected and participate as you can. There’s still a lot to participate in, such as:

Sunday services certainly continue throughout the summer. In July, look forward to two music services, a sermon by Fran Korten on The 99% Movement, UUs and Us, a service celebrating the Spirit of Aloha (Hawaii) and one on Voluntourism. In August, Jaco and I return to the pulpit. Remember voting on which older sermons we’d revisit? Find out in August, along with a wonderful service by our own Barry Andrews.

While the worship services are inspiring adults, our kids get to take part in the Cedars Hogwarts Charter School of Wisdom and Wizardry, created by our wonderful director of Religious Education, Candee Cole, with help from many other wise and wizard-like adults. You can be one of those adults—it’s not too late to join the team! Our kids will have a great time—and maybe they’d like to invite some of their friends to join them. Summer can be a great time to bring visitors who might be a bit less busy than they are in the fall. Introduce your friends to Cedars—they and you won’t regret it!

You can also continue to learn and grow through the summer. The Program Associates are offering two meaningful programs. A one session (and free!) introduction to the inspirational 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life will give you a chance to see if you want to continue with a longer program in the fall. And Jaco will lead a four-session study group called UU Grounding in a Forrest of Cedars, a clever way to tell you that you’ll read and study some of the wonderful work of the late, great UU articulator, Forrest Church. Sign up for either event directly on the church’s Brown Paper Tickets site: and look for more info in the latest brochure on-line soon or in paper form at the Welcome Table at service on Sunday.

And don’t forget that the summer can be a great time to get to know your Cedars community better. We would love for you to invite us over—things are quieter for us in the summer, too, when we’re not away. You might also think about an informal gathering of folks from your Neighborhood Team, or your kid’s Sunday School class, or just some nice people you met at church. Don’t be shy! Cedars is a better community when we reach out to get to know each other better.

The summer is short, but like so many things, this just makes it even more precious. So let’s stay connected during these (soon to be sunnier) summer days.

All the best,

Change Agents, Together

As summer approaches, we realize that it’s been almost four years since we came to Cedars—wow! Four years. During that time we’ve done a lot (we hope) to help Cedars flourish. But we can’t help but notice that alongside that stability comes change—quite naturally, but nonetheless.

Change sounds good. It often even feels good, once the change has occurred. But actually going through change can be another matter. Someone once said that no one likes change except a wet baby and even the baby cries in the midst of it. Change is hard.

Yet, it truly is the only constant in this world of ours. Our bodies change as we grow and age. Our family changes as new family members join or leave. Our neighborhoods change as new homes are built, new families move in or out, and trees grow or are cut down. Change can be hard.

And, of course, our church changes along with everything else. New leaders emerge, new ideas and activities are tried while others get dropped, new people come into our beloved community. And while this is happening, some among us take breaks from leadership and sometimes folks leave us. It can be hard to look around and see more new faces than familiar ones. It can feel strange to discover that other people love some of the new things happening while others miss the old ways. Change can be hard.

So how do we handle it? We stay connected as we transition—that’s the key. If we understand deep down that change is inevitable and cannot be stopped, then it’s imperative that we learn to go with the flow and do our part to help things unfold in positive directions. While we do so, if we stay connected those who are having the hardest time with the change can feel support and care. And those who are exhilarated can remember to occasionally slow down and check in with the rest of us.

Change is hard. But it is essential to human growth. Our Unitarian Universalist faith teaches us that spiritual growth (aka change!) takes place best within the arms of community. Our faith teaches us that change is not to be feared but to be accepted as a natural part of the evolutionary process. And our faith teaches us that we have the power to effect change and must use that power wisely.

As summer waits enticingly around the corner and the planet once again reminds us that variable but reliable cycles are its earthly essence, let us commit to staying connected through whatever change is bound to come, in our personal and shared realms.

All the best,

Eye on the UUniverse

JacoAs you probably know, last Sunday, one of our fellow U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan (out of nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord) went on a rampage, killing 16 local civilians in their homes, most of them children. I admit to having some trouble concentrating on my own life’s details after this latest military misconduct, another barbarous deed that will likely reverberate around the world for some time. Gruesome and painful details are still emerging and who knows what will unfold from here, but it could get pretty harsh, echoing the edge I feel in my heart.

Early reports are that the fellow was “unstable” and “troubled” after three tours of duty in Iraq, including a head injury. And we at Cedars are called to “love without judgment.” Nonetheless, it is indeed hard to find love for someone who would resort to such random, deadly violence against innocent children. Or, for that matter, for the people in charge who allowed (or forced) him to serve so much time in harm’s way that he became Harm personified.

I know that the vast majority of military personnel perform with honor, and I will try to hold room in my heart for the perpetrator(s) of this insanity, but I think we are also called to use great judgment to discern a path that will both hold this person accountable and name the contributing context in which he acted so brutally. The two are essentially linked and simply prosecuting an actor will not really alter the horrific storyline.

I trust the military authorities to do the former, although not without some reservation, but that is out of my hands anyway. What I can do is address the latter, the context of this massacre, about which we might reasonably struggle to find meaningful perspective (and might disagree, of course). Here’s what emerges for me in my upset at this sad, sad turn of events halfway across the planet.

As has been famously noted, “War is Hell.” When decent people go there, some will—perhaps inevitably—become Hellions. Part of me believes behavior of the sort we are reeling from now is in no way acceptable and should certainly be eliminated from the human repertoire. Another, more historical part of me suspects, however, that it isn’t just recent wars that are Hell. I do not doubt that there have been parallel activities—spontaneous wickedness, willful ignorance and contrived brutality—throughout the annals of war.

Now, however, those annals are much more visible and accessible, thanks to our modern, global media and the 24/7 news cycle. (I can even recall how, when I was of formative age, the Vietnam War came vividly to my TV screen nightly.) What else has changed is our weaponry. Violent inclinations now have so much more lethal handmaidens. How psychologically stable, one might reasonably ask, for instance, are the personnel who stand just a finger push away from various nukes (often confined in submarines, no less)?

And is 100% psychological stability even reasonable to expect? Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome seems to be rampant. Many warriors come home incredibly and understandably distressed. If “War is Hell,” what do we really expect of people who go there, or of those who design the fierce, fiery landscapes? Who are we kidding?

I’m no pacifist, but the adage that “violence begets violence” has perhaps never been more horribly apparent—and wrenching, and from numerous angles. (I grieve also for the children recently shot by handguns.) Maybe this is a watershed moment, when our society has to look in the mirror and truly see the consequences of our complicity with a resort to force and weapons. Trying to solve complex, inter-cultural dilemmas through sheer power is hereby exposed as the unfeasible and damaging excuse for diplomacy it is. Bring back the National Peace Academy.




We are an inherently creative species; we must find a better way. That would be the hope I can muster this week.

Cedars — Grounded and Growing in Unity and Love: Nourishing Things That Matter, Nurturing People Who Care

BarbaraDo you realize that every time you contribute your time, love or money to Cedars, you make a statement to the world that is powerful? You can stand up straighter knowing how much difference your presence in a progressive religious community makes.

Our church is called “Cedars,” which is a wonderful name for a religious community that is both grounded and growing in our foundational UU principles of Unity and Love.

We are grounded in a long history of religious progressives, who taught, as Transylvanian Unitarian Francis Dávid did in the mid 16th century, “We need not think alike to love alike.” We are grounded in a great American religion with historical adherents such as John Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maria Mitchell. We are grounded in a congregation with local roots going back over fifty years.

But Cedars is also growing—in commitment to create a fulfilling community of all ages; growing in meaningful and open-hearted worship; growing in a desire to help others within our region and beyond through social justice programs and support.

What grounds us and supports our growth? A willingness to nourish things that matter and nurture people who care. How do we do that? By actively supporting this radical community we call Cedars. Our spring Stewardship theme (title above) reflects this intention.

This year, we especially ask you to make your stewardship commitment a strong one. Cedars is at a wonderful place right now. The recent congregational assessment assures us that people appreciate our staff, our rented facilities, our programs and our outreach. But everyone wants more. More for our children and youth. More music and excellent worship. More programs that help us learn and grow. More outreach that makes a difference.

We can have more, but it will depend on us giving more. It’s as simple as that. And so, your stewardship team is asking that you consider making a strong pledge to Cedars for the upcoming fiscal year (July 2012 – June 2013). To learn how to do so online, watch for the Stewardship website, which will go live beginning March 4. More specifics about this info will come your way soon.

Goshin, 2007Cedars matters. Where else can you be surrounded by people who embody a belief in the Unity of all creation with Love at its heart? Where else can you find an inclusive, all-ages community that inspires us to be, as we say each week, “the best that we can be”? Where else can you go to find spiritual nurturing and nourishment that is at once so elusive yet essential?

When you engage with the life of Cedars you step into a congregation that provides a well-grounded place for you to walk your talk, live your hope, and grow relationships that matter. Thanks for making your commitment to Cedars a generous one.

All the best,

The Immigrant Experience, Then and Now

As our wider Unitarian Universalist world throbs with increased awareness about contemporary immigration in preparation for a “Justice General Assembly” (GA) in the hotbed of Phoenix this coming June, I am inclined to personalize the issue. As you may have heard, we are all immigrants.

Some years back, Barbara and I took my father to Ellis Island, there in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, overlooking the lower Manhattan skyline of New York City. This was his third time on Ellis Island, having also done Basic Training there for the WW II Coast Guard. But even earlier, in 1922, his poor Dutch immigrant family came through those portals when he was a young child.

The three of us wandered through an impressive 21st century museum about the 19th and 20th century immigrant experience, and located the manifest of the vessel that brought my dad’s family here from Europe, with one-way tickets. We also looked over the relatively new and moving American Immigrant Wall of Honor (which soon afterward had my father’s name and his parents’ names engraved on it, now among 700,000 others).

Our visit to this National Monument was stirring on a number of levels, and the visceral nature of that experience returns to me as I gear up to both lead a community interfaith study group on “Immigration as a Moral Issue” (beginning next month) and attend the GA in Phoenix, which almost got moved out of Arizona in protest of the harsh political and enforcement climate down there that has endangered so many of the latest generation of American immigrants.

Instead, the Unitarian Universalist Association decided to alter our “business as usual” and recast this year’s annual gathering of thousands of UUs to focus on “multiple ways of engaging in justice work for people of all ages. Joining with the people of Arizona, we will worship, witness, learn and work together.”

One of the resources they have already put together to help educate and inform us about the complex angles of this issue is a six-session discussion guide, which I will soon team up to lead with Betty Petras and Kathryn Keve, two local leaders much more experienced than I am in this field. The Interfaith Council has also agreed to co-sponsor this group, which will be advertised to the wider community.

Betty is not only one of our Cedars worship associates, but a longtime researcher and teacher of immigration-related subjects. Kathryn is a retired psychologist, art therapist and photographer who is on the board of both the Kitsap Immigration Assistance Center in Bremerton and the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple on Bainbridge. They will bring their valuable awareness into play and help deepen our conversations. I look forward to collaborating with them, and other guests they will steer our way.

Immigration as a Moral Issue” will meet on the 2nd and 4th Monday evenings in February, March and April, as part of our current line-up of Spiritual and Ethical Programs for Adults, registration for which is done through the Brown Paper Tickets site, at very minimal cost. (Please sign-up by Feb. 8 so you can get the first session readings beforehand.) This group or any of the other offerings might just be what can spice up and enhance your path toward Spring.

If you’re like me (with immigrant roots—which is most of us, as they say), you may still not be as alert as you’d like to be on the particulars—especially the moral dynamics—of immigration today. I invite you to investigate and grow with me. And consider joining me as well in Phoenix for the also-stirring 2012 Justice General Assembly (June 20-24). Feel free to inquire with any questions, etc. (and/or follow any of the above links).


Approaching the Winter Solstice

Dear Cedars members and friends,
As December unfolds on the heels of Thanksgiving, we continue to celebrate the many ways we are blessed. We are blessed to live in this beautiful part of our country. We are blessed to enjoy a warm and lovely home with each other and a sweet kitty companion. We are blessed to have meaningful work and local opportunities to make a difference. And we are so very blessed to serve you, this congregation, full of engaging people doing so much good in the world. If we forget to thank you, let us do so here. Thank you for all you are and for all you do. We are grateful indeed to be your co-ministers.

As we move deeper into December, we wish you a blessed and hope-filled holiday season. And as a small gift to you, we offer these thoughtful words from one of the greatest UU writers of the 20th century, Kenneth L. Patton (who, incidentally, served as the minister of Jaco’s home church for many years). May his words offer you both perspective and encouragement as we move ever closer to the Winter Solstice.

The days of the year have stiffened in ice, and darkness has grown upon the land.

The season of cold and early dusk is upon us.

The sun has retreated down the sky, the living green has forsaken the earth, and the leaves have fallen.

The flowers no longer bloom, and the birds have fled to the south.

We approach the shortened days with gladness, for the ancient fear is no longer in our faces.

The heavy death upon the earth is no lasting peril, and the roots in the soil are only sleeping a long sleep.

We hold the turning of the year as a promise; and the renewing of life is our solid hope.

The time of returning light is known, and we ready our houses for the celebration.

The sun will climb the heavens again, and the darkness will be pushed back each day.

The months of snow will give way to the months of leaves, and petals will fall upon the earth.

The young will be brought from the womb, and the shoot will burst from the seed.

We will walk upon the greening grass and plowshares will divide the warming soil.

In the midst of winter the promise is given of the summer season, and in the midst of darkness there comes the assurance of light.

In the time of cold comes a messenger of warmth, and in the days of death there is heard the good news of life.


The Knights Who Say “We”!

Our recent and delightful auction theme was Knights of the Round Table, so I’ve been thinking in Such Realms of late. And at our also recent regional ministers’ meetings (probing the intriguing question, “Whose Are We?”), the subject of covenant led one presenter to comment that when individuals in a group agree on some common understanding, “I”s become “WE”s.

So, I thought to myself, UUs could be considered The Knights Who Say “We”! (an unabashed, if oblique reference to the influential comedy film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”). Over my 20-plus years in parish ministry, I have certainly noticed how some members take a bit longer to refer to the collective as “we.” For whatever (probably good) reason, they linger in the “you” and “they” mode when commenting on aspects of congregational life, despite their involvement therein.

At some point, though, the I hopefully becomes a WE, as a deeper connection emerges, relationships grow and a seat opens at the round table of community, facing in. Saying “we” when speaking of one’s congregation indicates a commitment of the heart, a “leaning in” toward the center of that group, an eager identification that adds to one’s individuality and grounds the self in relationship with others of all ages.

There is almost no other place in our culture where one can garner the value found in knowing and being known by people of all ages—regularly, significantly, joyfully experiencing the gamut of the human age span interacting together under a congregational banner. Such a round table has a diversity of seats.

When our Pacific Northwest ministers gathered to explore “Whose Are We?”—the sense of covenant that binds us around the inclusive table of UUism—we were invited to muse on a few productive angles and I offer here a brief recounting of my reflections, thus inspired. I suspect any Knights Who Say “We” (ordained and otherwise) can gain insight from also considering these approach paths, which ask about “the quality of one’s relationship and covenant with Source, Call and Community.”

SOURCE is as good a word as any for that ineffable mystery greater than the sum of the parts. I find the quality of my relationship and covenant with Source is at once earthy and cosmic. This planet is literally the source of my being, plus where I will return eventually. And the Earth itself is embedded in a Universe of immeasurable and unknowable dimension, a largess with which I try to find ultimate balance and humble comfort.

A CALL is what anyone knows as an inner drive toward resounding authenticity, offering opportunities to live out of one’s own passion and gifts. For me, I have tried to listen deeply for this call throughout my life, at some moments suspecting that there was something ahead that was awaiting my energies. I feel fulfilled when I can honor such purposeful momentum, which tends to reflect an ethic of service toward the good of the whole.

The quality of my relationship and covenant with COMMUNITY is very much what has followed from a longtime call in the direction mentioned immediately above. I find a deep grounding in the often messy but dynamic process of a group mind, amid multiple perspectives. Patience and accountability are essential companions on this path.

Our engagement at the round table of life is seen in the quality of our relationship and covenant with Source, Call and Community. As Knights Who Say “We,” let us continue journeying together toward a future of shared hope, called to add our creative presence and multiple perspectives into the human mix that animates this Earthy domain and moves us to serve the Good.


Who Is Morally Accountable for Coal?

I have been struggling with this rather ominous topic and decided to make a statement that might contribute to the public discussion from an angle not always considered, so I sent the message below, reflecting my UU values (especially “practical interdependence”), to PSE and local media…


Who Is Morally Accountable for Coal?

An Open Letter to the Leader of Puget Sound Energy

Dear Kimberly Harris (President and CEO of PSE),

Thank you again for coming last month to engage with some of us on local and regional challenges as they relate to your company (“Community Energy Discussion,” 9/18 at IslandWood). As moderator for the intriguing panel that featured you and representatives of four other relevant organizations, I was focused then on facilitation. My reflections since that evening, however, have centered on your response to concerns about coal as a fuel source PSE uses to generate electricity.

When confronted with a laundry list of ongoing human and environmental ills associated with coal production at the Colstrip power plant, you declared that coal was a “least cost” resource, calling it the cheapest of available energy assets for PSE to utilize. I have trouble reconciling this statement with a moral understanding of our current global context.

By accepting the current price structure of coal, you disregard and literally discount the visible, if uncomfortable truths about Colstrip and the adverse effects of open strip mining, as well as other regional methods of extraction, such as mountain top removal in and around West Virginia.

The particulars are well documented elsewhere; I’ll just note another bottom line—that every $1 of electricity from coal does $2 in damages to our country and our bodies (American Economic Review). I found your rationale for why PSE still supports any aspect of this production to be less than convincing, as the worsening blight of coal attaches to you in uncomplimentary ways. I believe it is a “least cost resource” only if one is outfitted with moral blinders.

Of course, all consumers are complicit with our inordinate demand for power, and we had better come to grips with how truly, ultimately expensive our energy habits are. I want to see PSE as an influential leader in moving our whole culture toward greener energy use, but the good that your company already does in that direction, which I heartily appreciate, is potentially all but negated by this myopic inclusion of coal in your mix of fuel sources.

The woefully torpid attitude of our federal governmental toward a realistically sustainable future with fewer environmental pollutants and a lower carbon footprint, suggests that future generations will judge us all as irresponsibly dangerous and indulgent. Meanwhile, one related arena in which legislators have not been inactive is the (heavily lobbied) price support provided to keep coal under-regulated and its market cost artificially, inexcusably, immorally low.

If PSE (and consumers, of course) were truly accountable for the inefficiencies and damage that haunt this chain of production, coal would no doubt be rightfully seen as the “high cost” resource it actually is, and you would not be supporting its harsh impact on our world. We need you to be ahead of this curve, not resisting it.

Just because coal is there in the ground does not give anyone moral justification to pull it out and burn it, especially when the effects of this process are so obviously destructive and unhealthy, especially when short-sighted, artificial price props limit incentives for development of more renewable energy sources, especially when virtually all scientists are issuing severe warnings about climate disruption caused largely by the increasing use of carbon.

I am reminded of the persuasive reason homeowners usually want to reduce obvious energy waste before undertaking more costly upgrades: it is wiser to first go after “low-hanging fruit.” In this case, wisdom and moral leadership from our utility would include jettisoning any dependence on the foul use of that black fruit of the earth. I challenge and urge you to do so with clear-eyed vision and haste, so we can all more creatively craft a future beyond coal.

Respectfully and hopefully, Rev. Jaco ten Hove, co-minister of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church and Steering Committee member of Positive Energy (Bainbridge Alliance for Clean Power), although the views expressed in this statement are my own.

Stirrings at the "Exclusion" Memorial Wall Dedication

by Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove

I was very glad and honored to be among hundreds of celebrants attending the dedication of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Wall on Saturday morning, Aug. 6, which also happened to be Hiroshima Day, the annual recognition of our U.S. drop of an atomic bomb on that city in 1945. Prior to that awesomely destructive moment, and not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, all those of Japanese descent who lived on the west coast were forcibly taken away to relocation camps, by government order.

Bainbridge Island, as is notably chronicled, was not only the site of the very first 276 removed from their homes, and the only community whose local newspaper vocally objected to the internment of its residents, but it was also the most welcoming place to those returning, 150 in number, after three years of confinement in California and Idaho camps.

The near-total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, combined with this year’s earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan, lent further meaning to this focus on our neighbors. All in all, there was powerful momentum and symbolism wrapped up in that Saturday, not to mention the testimonials of so many actual lives, represented by the dozens of relocation camp survivors present at the dedication event. (See coverage in the Bainbridge Review and Kitsap Sun, and even in the New York Times.)

One speaker related how the local Interfaith Council had first suggested the idea of a memorial, back in 1999, and this made me sit up a little straighter, as the current president of that same Interfaith Council. (I am attempting to get the transcript of this talk for the IFC website.)

Besides the eloquent and moving speakers, one post-ceremony moment really caught my eye and heart. The large crowd standing between the survivors and the entrance to the path toward the Wall had to part so the elders of Japanese descent could be the first to enter that wall space. There were tears and applause as the line slowly made its way toward the ceremonial ribbon, which was cut by now 100-year-old Fumiko Hayashida and daughter Kayo Natalie Hayashida Ong, figures in an iconic 1942 photograph of the grim mother holding her sleeping baby, both “tagged” en route off the Island. (See the pic and accompanying Seattle Times story.)

As I mentioned at our Cedars service the next morning, what has really stayed with me has been the comment of one speaker, who suggested that our community has really come together around this injustice, both then and still. (And there are two more phases of the Memorial to be built there at Prichard Park.) So perhaps the standing title, while accurate, might be more poignantly rendered as the Japanese American INclusion Memorial. That would suit the stirring envelope around this piece of our local and international culture.


2011 General Assembly Rocks Charlotte!

Jaco and Barbara ten Hove

by Revs. Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten Hove

We love to report back on the particular ways our annual UU General Assembly(GA) unfolds each year! It is very heartening to be among thousands of Unitarian Universalists from all over the world, who gather to do business (change by-laws, honor leaders, vote on statements of conscience, etc.), engage with workshops and presentations (on a really wide variety of topics), participate in large, very musical worship (always a highlight), and reconnect with old friends and colleagues. It’s usually an exhausting but exhilarating week.

Every GA is different and yet has similar gifts. We are grateful that we could be part of this one in Charlotte, NC, to participate again in the annual love fest of religious liberals. We’ll bring much of what we gained during these days to our work at Cedars (and lots of helpful online coverage is specifically linked below).

This year our UU Association of Congregations (UUA) notably celebrated the 50th anniversary of the consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America in 1961. Here are some of our highlights from this important GA.

For Barbara:

  • Attending (with my fellow homebred UU Charlotte cousin) a “Standing on the Side of Love” march and rally supporting marriage equality in NC (where anti legislation is currently under consideration). We were both mightily impressed by a young person who shared the challenges of dealing with gender identity as a teenage child of immigrants. We were proud to show NC that we support the rights of GLBTQ people, especially as reported in the mainstream Charlotte media.
  • Singing through 50 years of UU Music in 50 minutes with lots of other UUs.
  • Discovering my own youth group advisor and dear friend was at GA with her husband. Over a meal we shared memories and reconnected.
  • Listening to Karen Armstrong (pronounced Car’-ren), in my opinion the greatest living interfaith scholar, who reminded us that all religions have compassion at their heart. Her new book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, is on my list to read this summer, and she celebrated that Seattle is the first city to sign on to the Charter for Compassion that she has spearheaded.
  • Worshipping at the inspirational Sunday morning service with 4,000 UUs, lots of stirring music and another Kaaren (Anderson, UU co-minister in Rochester, NY), who preached on the importance of moving beyond the false dichotomy of Humanism and Theism to a commitment to live out of connection and compassion—other words for Unity and Love!

For Jaco:

  • Leading worship (with Barbara) for our colleagues in the Clergy Couples group that annually gathers just ahead of the GA.
  • Experiencing a number of deep and stirring theological lectures that embolden us toward more effective articulation of our saving UU message. One pair of presentations, by Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, focused on what it would take to make Unitarian Universalism a “church for the new millennium.” Among his remarks:
    1. UUism will fade away if we allow a “spiritual but not religious” attitude to dominate;
    2. Our job is to creatively save religion from the cynics and manipulators; and
    3. Religion is not a set of beliefs but a holistic way of life; “where we keep reminders of life’s meaning.”
  • Being on stage as an elder in the annual Young Adult Bridging/Synergy Worship Service (the first one of which Barbara and I helped create at the 1995 GA in Spokane). See me in chalice lighting action at 1:09 of the online video.
  • Voting to amend and then affirm the final version of our UU Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating, a significant and challenging document, representing three years of dynamic, widespread reflection and process.

Next June’s General Assembly will be a “Justice GA” in Phoenix, AZ, focusing on our country’s immigration struggles. GAs after that will be in Louisville, KY, and Providence, RI. If you can arrange to attend at least once, it will reliably expand your religious horizons in exciting ways.

Meanwhile, join us and Barbara’s visiting sister Brooksie (mother of our niece Julie, the friendly young pianist living with us this summer) when she presents a musical service at Cedars on July 24!


Archives of the co-ministers' columns

You can find archives of the co-ministers’ columns here.

On Change and Stability

We all know that one thing we can usually count on is change in our personal lives. It happens to our bodies as we grow. It happens in families as children mature, as siblings enter new relationships, as parents move into new spaces, as elders deal with aging. Change is inevitable, in lots of ways, with lots of angles.

But it’s also true, as the old adage reminds us, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” We might move into a new house and paint it the same color as the one we left. An annual holiday rolls around and we invite the same friends for a traditional meal together. We get a surprise letter from an old friend (okay, an email!) and realize that she sounds almost exactly the same as we remember her from the eighth grade.

The human journey is a flowing mixture of change and constancy, and congregational life mirrors our own. This spring we’re experiencing some significant change as Kim Beyer-Nelson, Director of Children’s Religious Exploration since January 2010, left Cedars following her decision to pursue different activities. Also, Frank Mandt, long-time editor of this newsletter, decided to complete his long, dedicated service in that role and now, here we are, writing our last column for a monthly Beacon. (See elsewhere for information on intriguing new methods being implemented by the board’s Communications Task Force.)

These are both pretty large changes, and it can feel a bit dizzying to imagine how we will adjust in response to them. But here’s the good news. Though change is always present, Cedars is also in a very stable place, with many blessings to count. Our relationship with The Island School is strong and we hope to spend Sunday mornings there for many years to come. We have a nice church office in a garden setting. Finances are improving and our lay leadership is strong, providing a steady hand on the helm and a growing series of fulfilling programs. And as of this summer, your co-ministers will have served Cedars longer than any other colleague.

Because so much at Cedars is stable and resilient, we have significant capacity to move creatively in response to the changes. People are excited about the opportunities to explore new directions in both Children’s RE and communication. As Jaco likes to put it, folks are “leaning in” as they realize how much they can both offer to their beloved church and receive in the valuable process of building community together.

How about you? What excites you about Cedars? Where can you “lean in” to make a difference? As the summer begins to unfold, we encourage you to consider how you might deepen your connection to Cedars and augment both the energy of change and the power of stability, bringing greater fulfillment to your life along the way.

Let us know what you think and feel in these lengthening days. We stand ready to support you as we move with excitement and hope toward our fourth year among you.


PS. For the first time, we’re offering you the chance to “vote” on bringing back a favorite earlier sermon (or one you regretfully missed), to be preached on three Sundays in August. Ballots will be available at church on June 5 and 12.