Welcome - Rev. Andy Pakula
"We kindle this chalice flame
For the flame of goodness within each person
And for brilliant illumination possible for each one
May this light guide us toward the greatness of which our spirits are all capable"
"Love is the spirit of this community
Acceptance is its sacrament
and service is its prayer
This is our great purpose:
To seek wholeness for all beings
To strive for justice and equality
And to join our hands in pursuit of unity and peace"
'Building a new way'
Candle for the world:
You will be invited to speak the names of individuals, peoples, and places we should hold in our hearts and prayers this day
Time for all ages - Rev. Andy and Sara Robertson
Sing the children out:
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine (3x)
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine
Candles of joy or sorrow:
You are invited to light a candle of joy or sorrow for the recent major happenings of your personal life - either in silence or with a few explanatory words or phrases. This is a prayerful, respectful, and supportive time. Please ensure that you share only in that spirit.
As I walked down the street, I saw spiderman - A 5 year old spiderman, in full costume, with everything needed to assume his identity for the day. That morning, he asked himself “who do I want to be today?” And the answer was obvious. I don’t ask that question every day, but maybe I should. Maybe we all should.
Every day we make choices about how we will go about how we will go about our lives – how we will make our way through the world We choose whether we want to act from generosity or selfishness. We choose whether we want to act from compassion or fear. We choose whether we will assume good intent in those we encounter, or whether we will imagine the worst. These choices are ours to make. The face we will wear is only partly determined – much depends on that decision: “who will I be today?”
Spirit of life, strength within and source of hope upon which we may draw
May we have the presence of mind to see our choices, unencumbered by the burdens we may carry.
May we be guided by love toward the identity that best serves the world and the cause of peace
May we have the courage tomorrow and the next day to choose wisely
And to be the hands of the sacred way toward the future
'We'll build a land'
Blues by Elizabeth Alexander
I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.
To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.
I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V's of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.
Collections at New Unity are donated to selected charities. This week’s donation will go to a branch of Age UK focused on research into the causes and possible treatments for dementia.
1) "OLD JOE AND THE CARPENTER" STORY - a tale from Appalachia
[© Pleasant DeSpain. Reprinted from Peace Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald, 2005.
Old Joe lived way out in the countryside, and he had one good neighbor. They'd been friends all their lives. And now that their spouses were buried and their children raised, all they had left were their farms... and each other.
But for the first time, they'd had an argument. It was over a stray calf that neither one really needed. It seemed as though the calf was found on Joe's neighbor's land and so he claimed it as his own. But Old Joe said, "No, that calf has the same markings as my favorite cow, and I recognize it as being mine."
Well, they were both a bit stubborn, so they just stopped talking to each other. That happened about a week before, and it seemed that a dark cloud had settled over Old Joe...until there came a knock at his door.
He wasn't expecting anybody that morning, and as he opened the door, he saw a young man who had a box of tools on his shoulder. He had a kind voice and dark, deep eyes, and he said, "I'm a carpenter, and I'm looking for a bit of work. Maybe you'd have some small jobs that I can help with."
Old Joe brought him into the kitchen and sat him down and gave him some stew that he had on the back of the stove. There was some homemade bread, some fresh churned butter and homemade jam.
While they were eating and talking, Joe decided that he liked this young fellow, and he said, "I do have a job for you. Look right there through my kitchen window. See that farm over there? That's my neighbor's place. And you see that crick [creek] running right down there between our property lines? That crick, it wasn't there last week. My neighbor did that to spite me. He took his plow up there, and he dug a big old furrow from the upper pond and flooded it.
"Well, I want you to do one better. Since he wants us divided that way, you go out there and build me a fence - a big, tall fence - so I won't even have to see his place no more!"
And the carpenter said, "Well, if you have the lumber and the nails, I got my tools, and I'll be able to do a job that you'll like."
Joe had to go to town to get some supplies, so he hitched up the wagon and showed the carpenter where everything was in the barn. And that carpenter carried everything he needed down to the crick and started to work.
And his work went smooth and fast. He did his measuring and his sawing and his nailing. It was about sunset when Old Joe returned, and the carpenter had finished his work. When Old Joe pulled up in that wagon, his eyes opened wide and his mouth fell open...because there wasn't a fence there at all.
It was a bridge, going from one side of the crick to the other! It had hand rails and all - a fine piece of work - and his neighbor was just starting to cross the bridge with his hand stuck out, and he was saying, "Joe, you're quite a fellow to build this bridge. I'da never been able to do that, I'm so glad we're going to be friends again!"
And Joe, he put his arms around his neighbor and said, "Oh, that calf is yours. I've known it all the time. I just want to be your friend, too."
About that time, the carpenter started pulling his tools into the box and then hoisted it onto his shoulder and started to walk away. And Joe said, "Wait, come on back, young fellow. I want you to stay on. I got lots of projects for you."
The carpenter just smiled and said, "I'd like to stay on, Joe, but you see, I can't. I got more bridges to build."
So he walked on, and there ends my tale.
The average person in this country spends 41.4 hours working at a job each week. Assuming that we sleep an average of 8 hours per night, that average person is spending 37% of their waking hours at work. Of course, the rest of our time is not necessarily free, so if you take out the chores – the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and all that, we find that the paid work we do is a very, very large piece of what people do with their lives.
Often, the distinction is made between working to live and living to work. If we work to live, it is a matter of doing enough work to survive – enough work to get enough money to spend the other part of our lives in a reasonably comfortable way.
For others, it may seem we live to work. We become so bound up in the life of work that we do almost nothing else. For some, addiction to work goes along with what has been called the Protestant work ethic. In essence, many of us feel valuable only for what we do and produce, rather than for who we are. This is a sickness that consumes the lives of too many good people.
And living to work goes along with the growing sentiment that more is better. So the more we work, the more we have, the more we have, the happier we will be – or so goes this absurd line of thinking which really leads us to have a lot of material stuff and no time to enjoy it.
If you work hard enough then, you may be able to spend one day a year on your personal yacht and the rest working. If you don’t work so hard, you can spend a hundred days in the park or with your family.
It is probably obvious that we need to find some kind of balance between working and actually living. Living can be rather difficult without money in this society, so we can’t ignore it altogether. Working for money, however, should never become a substitute for living.
But I want to move away from this simple dichotomy that separates the meaningful, enjoyable living time in life from the time we work – time that we think of as mindless, painful, tedious, and empty.
There are four people in this building right now who are working – who are doing paid work. I am one of them. I am working right now – even as I talk with you – in fact, I probably earned about 5 pence whilst offering you this very sentence!
Although I am at work right now and right here, it is not the kind of work that feels in any way empty or tedious or mindless. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have found and been able to take on work like this. This is work that I love – work that makes me feel alive – work that challenges and inspires me – and – maybe most importantly – work that is consistent with and lets me fully live out my values. There was a time when I was paid a whole lot more per sentence, but I certainly found it less rewarding, less inspiring, and much less attuned to who I am and what is important to me.
How do we work? How do we live in that large part of our time that may seem like drudgery but that for some of us may become a meaningful, nurturing, part of our experience?
Having lived in recent years through banking crises. Having lived through political scandals. Having lived with daily reports of corrupt businesses and any number of nefarious practices, it is maybe easiest to imagine jobs that seem to embody a lack of ethics.
Lately, we have come to have the most anger for bankers, but let’s not forget about some of the perennial favourites in the least trusted competition: multinational corporations, lawyers, politicians, police, bureaucrats, advertising executives, and one of my favourites - televangelists.
If we think about it, of course, there are far more jobs that cause help rather than harm. There are many many people who toil away at work that helps to make better, happier lives and helps to make a better world.
Some of those people – those unsung heroes – are here in this room today. They are teachers who help children get a good start in life. They are social workers who struggle to help people deal with and extricate themselves from some of life’s most difficult challenges. They are nurses who relieve suffering – both physical and emotional. Forgive me for not mentioning all of the worthy jobs you perform – there are many.
For most of us though, work is neither pure evil nor pure saintliness. For most of us, work brings daily choices and challenges.
A former employee who is a single parent with three children begs you for a good reference in her application for a new job. You know her performance was awful and that she has a drinking problem. What do you do?
You are producing a product and you are ordered by your boss to cut corners. What do you do?
You are selling a product or a service and you know you can make the sale if you just exaggerate a little bit more. What do you do?
You see another employee being mistreated because of their beliefs or sexual orientation or disability. You know that speaking up will risk your opportunities for promotion and salary increases. It might even cost you your job. What do you do?
These are the sorts of everyday ethical challenges we face in the workplace, and the costs to ourselves and to others are very real.
For most of us, it is not what job we do that matters, but how we do it. I remember a school crossing guard when I was a child – her name was Anita – and it didn’t matter what the weather was like – icy, sweltering, or chucking down – Anita was there with a smile and a welcome word helping us kiddies get safely to school. She was a person who could have moaned and groaned about the hard work she had to do and instead she took every opportunity to brighten someone else’s day.
In “The art of happiness at work”, the Dalai Lama shares his conviction that “In all human activities the main purpose should be to benefit human beings. We should take special care to pay attention to the human relationships at work, how we interact with one another, and try to maintain basic human values, even at work.”
Every one of us can make a difference for others in the work we do. A smile is a tremendous gift. A kind word is a balm for a wounded soul.
As a colleague, we can be supportive and nurturing. As a boss, we can do more than command – we can mentor and encourage and guide. As an employee, we can tactfully help our supervisors to be better at what they do. We can see them as human beings too and try to make their lives more rewarding.
And each of us also will have hard choices to make. When ordered to build a fence of separation like the carpenter in our story today, will we follow the rules or will we dare to violate them – to risk our pay and our livelihood for the sake of doing good.
There is nothing easy about making these ethical decisions. The economy is tough right now. Jobs are scarce and – when we have a good one – we want to hold on to it. The pressure to earn more is always there for all of us. More so for those who have families to feed or who are at risk of not being able to make their rent.
The work world does not make it easy to live by our values. The culture around us affects us deeply. In a corrupt environment, corruption becomes normal. We start to see anything else as an aberration. It takes a very strong and determined person to challenge the strong influence of that kind of culture.
There were certainly times in my previous career when I may have more than slightly exaggerated my own company’s capabilities to help my career and those with whom I worked. I’m not proud of those moments, but they seemed so natural and normal at the time.
Each of us – in taking up our places as principled people in the workplace needs to make a careful calculation. How much am I willing to risk in order to live authentically by my own values and ethics – to be true to the person I aim to be?
No one can make that judgement for us, but there is nothing more valuable than exploring our values mindfully and deliberately – especially with other people who are committed to live guided by principles and values. It makes a difference to be in a community like this where we can explore these questions together and support one another.
Beyond the opportunities to practice being human and loving at work and beyond the difficult ethical challenges that it poses to exercise our discernment and stretch our moral muscles, we return to our choice of work.
Each of us comes to life with our own ways of being and approaching the world. Some of who we are was determined in the detailed sequences of the codes in our genetic material. Much was determined by the experiences of life from conception up until this moment. And we are here, different, with differing needs and gifts.
Being ethical at work is not only about being attentive to the needs of others. It is unethical to be inattentive to our own needs.
The wise Quaker educator and author Parker Palmer said this:
I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life -- about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them.
Doing work that is aligned with our inner truth, our values, our authentic identity – this is work that nurtures our spirits. Work that so feeds us gives us the strength and makes us centred enough to serve others. There is no honour in unnecessary suffering. Each of us is the greater for doing – to the extent possible – the work that is right for the unique individual we are.
Whatever work you do, find the opportunities to be most fully the person you wish to be – the person who loves, who holds to deep values, and who is aware of the inner life of others.
As much as you can, do the work that feeds and nurtures your spirit and brings you inspiration. Do this for yourself and for all those who are blessed and served by each person who lives from strength and authenticity.
'For all that is our life'
(Please remain standing for the closing words)
Let us talk together about values
Let us dream together of peace
Let us struggle together toward justice
Let us work together to break the chains of mindless toil, of poverty, and of greed.
Let us journey toward the life abundant
You are welcome to light additional silent candles during the postlude music.