Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Month: October, 2016

That Which Inspires

Our reading for this Sunday was the poem, “One Song,” by Rumi.

The city of Konya, in Turkey, sits just outside of the center of the vast country. It’s not easy to get to, and it is closer to Aleppo, Syria than it is to Istanbul. The latter, of course, is a massive sprawling metropolis sitting on two continents.

It is a perfect mix of old and new – ancient temples with new structures built right on top of them. The bosphorous river cuts through the city, marking the official beginning and end of the European and Asian continents in that region.

It is something to take in the enormity that is Istanbul – the culture, the history, the religions, and the people moving like waves every single hour of the day. Konya is a whole different story altogether. After flying in a small plane over the great emptiness that is central Turkey, and surviving the landing of a Turkish plane, you drive for what feels like days.

Days through the Anatolian steppes, which feel and look like deserts but most certainly are not. Days through ancient monasteries carved into mountainsides and days with a massive black cloud of smog coming closer and closer in to view as Konya approaches. The ride is probably just a few hours, but the landscape and peculiarities of the place make it stretch and stretch.

As you enter the city of Konya hiding behind the smog, you are immediately struck with just how different a place it is than Istanbul. It feels…suburban. It feels small but large at the same time. It feels like the Lexington, Kentucky of Turkey. Though we don’t have a giant smog cloud hanging overhead. Read the rest of this entry »

Renewal of the Spirit

The reading for this Sunday was the poem, “Pied Beauty,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately” – and so begins of the great American stories.  The story of a naturalist, a freethinker, a rugged individualist, and a man that did what he thought best for his own life and experience –

The story of Henry David Thoreau moving to Walden pond to live off the land, away from society, and to draw upon his own experience and the lessons of the natural world.  To suck the marrow out of life.

Henry David Thoreau is a name we hear often in Unitarian Universalist congregations.  It’s a name we proudly speak of.  It’s a name that most Americans are familiar with, having been forced to read Walden in high school or having some passing knowledge of the Transcendentalists and, in the very least, their individualistic spirituality.

Thoreau has a rather grand mythos attached to him.  He is seen as an intentional hermit, someone that had to escape the rush of society, someone that did what he wanted when he wanted to, and a great spiritual thinker that transformed American society and, by extension, informed Unitarian Universalism. Read the rest of this entry »

Heed the Guidance

It is said that Unitarian Universalism has a different feel depending on what part of the country you are in.  Each congregation of course has its own unique identity, but some have noted there to be distinct cultural differences in the religion itself depending on location.

East coast vs. west coast vs. the south vs. the Midwest.  I happen to agree.  Enter a Unitarian Universalist church on the West coast on any given Sunday and you will more often find services with liturgical dance, ministers in flowing white garments reminiscient of new age spiritual leaders from the 70s, chants to the goddess, and a flavor to it that is very counter cultural.

Enter a church in New England, however, and you will find people in their Sunday best, with organ music, often times scripture readings, the Lord’s Prayer, and communion!  And then there’s the Midwest, the birthplace of religious humanism and naturalism in our movement – the liturgical styles are different but the content is almost always lite on God talk.

And the South.  I’m still figuring that one out, but to be there is a definite flavor of Universalism – that itinerant tradition of which we are a part that sought to extinguish the fires of hell.  I wonder, where do we fall in this? Read the rest of this entry »

Called to Respond

There is this great story that come to us out of colonial North America, concerning a man by the name of Sir Edmund Andros born in 1674 – an English nobleman from London, and the 4th governor of colonial New York.

He was born with a silver spoon and believed wholeheartedly in the crown, the empire, and in the church.  Upon becoming governor of New York – he earned himself many enemies – because he was a nice guy.  He was called a Dutch sympathizer – one of the worst insults to be hurled during the infancy of British colonialism in North America.  The crown recalled him to England, examined him, and found no wrong doing on his part.

He came back to North America and was promoted to the Governor of the Dominion of New England, the only such person to hold that title.  With his new promotion in hand and his resolve to no longer be such a nice guy, he approached the Puritan churches throughout the colonies and asked them, “Would it be possible for the Church of England to hold services in your meetinghouses?” Read the rest of this entry »