Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Month: January, 2017

The Sound of One Voice

Our reading from this Sunday was titled “You Reading This, Be Ready,” by the poet William Stafford. This sermon also drew heavily on “10 Ways to Build Resilience” from the American Psychological Association.

I remember my first evening as a chaplain – it feels like it was a very long time ago.  There is no way I could ever forget it.  When you study to become a Unitarian Universalist minister, you are required to serve as a chaplain in a hospital for a semester, a summer, or sometimes even a year.

It is often a mix of emotional boot camp with the normal duties of a chaplain – visiting patients, talking with families and doctors and nurses, being there in times of great joy, and more often than not, being there in moments of complete and utter sadness. Trauma, despair, confusion, death, and the breadth of human sadness with bits of bittersweet mixed in.  The particular hospital I was serving at was the very same hospital I as born in, a fact that somehow terrified me even more in the work that waited me as I began my first overnight shift on the floor with my supervisor. As we left the chaplain’s office she said, “Let’s go hang out in the emergency room.  It hasn’t been too busy today.”  Famous last words.  Before I knew it it was nearly five in the morning. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Resistance

Our reading from this Sunday was titled “Good Bones” from the poet Maggie Smith.

On Friday, January 20th, the year 2017, around noon, Eastern Standard Time, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America.  He had never held elected office once in his life.  He is known primarily as a reality television star and real estate mogul.

And he defied all odds and was elected on a platform of nationalist populism.  A nationalism that has been sweeping democracies from the Philippines to India, from France to the United Kingdom.  A nationalism we should be paying attention to here and abroad.

And for us, in this country, a nationalism that was unapologetically misogynistic, irrational, xenophobic, racist, isolationist, anti-fact, and downright nasty.  Should those words surprise you, I assure you my judgements of President Trump’s nationalism are taken directly from his own words, his own platform, and now his official Presidential agenda.  He is now here to stay.  For how long, we do not know.  He is our President.  And we are his employers. Read the rest of this entry »

Thou Shalt Engage

Our reading from this Sunday was an excerpt from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Tomorrow morning and throughout the day, our nation will pause to remember the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, one of the great saints of America for the movement he formed, the pacifism he practiced, and the dream of this country he shared with all of us for a racially, economically, and politically just America.

It feels especially fitting this year that we will pause to remember so great a man, and the values he lived – with tensions in the world rising, an uncertain political future ahead for our country, the real effects of the new government already being made tangible, and racial divides underscoring much of the struggle in communities near and far.

With progressives and many moderates, and I can imagine a very large handful of traditional conservatives, fearing for what is ahead in this country, the values that guided Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers are worth exploring more than ever. As Unitarian Universalists, we have a special affinity with Martin Luther King Jr.

Some of us even try to claim him as one of our own. He wasn’t. But he was close with us. He preached at our general assembly in 1966, he was close with many of our ministers, and he found white allies at the ready within our ranks.

He quoted Unitarian and Universalist ministers in some of his speeches, and yet he still held on to his Baptist faith – a faith rooted in the gospels and in the liberation stories of the Hebrew scriptures. He died tragically. Read the rest of this entry »

Journey Into Darkness

Our reading this Sunday was titled, “Potbound” by the poet Diana Chapman Walsh.

It was the usual atmosphere you’d expect from a conference.  A large room with too much air conditioning, bright fluorescent lights, and people easing in to their seats – a few people scurrying across the room to say hello to people they know, but most sitting and looking around, wondering what they got themselves into.

In this instance, it was a room of about 90 clergy, 8 religious educators, a radical Mormon mother, and a secular Dutch teacher that mistranslated the information about the workshop and was probably wondering what the heck she was doing in a room with mostly clergy.

The lights dimmed, soft music began to be played, some people started singing some sort of song, and once that was all done, the lead presenter jumped up to the front and center enthusiastically.  With a massive grin and a very gentle but resonate voice, he welcomed us.  He again welcomed us.  He welcomed us again and again, looking at as many of us as possible.

A colleague of mine turned to me and said, “This is going to be one of those self-improvement things, isn’t it?”  I nodded.  She sighed.  Indeed it was.  One presenter after another that morning glowed about what awaited us, they enunciated their syllables with frightening clarity, and spoke in a gentle lulling tone with a pace that let each word stand out. Anyone that has ever attended a corporate team building seminar, a workshop on empowerment, or anything that even has a hint of being what some call “new age” knows what this looks like. Read the rest of this entry »