Talk up the Game

Helen Pop
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 04/14/2013


If you saw the website blurb describing my talk today, you got the viewpoint that words give the ability to discover and create who one is whether spoken silently in one’s heart or out loud with each other.  For those who have the courage to speak one’s truth aloud, connection can come with others thus creating who we are, together, (like Swimmy.)  Giving voice to our lives can give voice to our joint people-power in order to strengthen the positive evolution of Sugarloaf.  Here’s how I pin words to my reality check in order to promote us “talking up the game” so we know what’s up and what we all are seeking.

First, I ask, “What is needed for each of us to more actively give of our gifts for Sugarloaf’s continuing good health?  What’s going on now is great.  However, I hope more of us will participate in the opportunities on our calendar to “talk up the game”.  We certainly have a leadership with a developing spirit (a sharing of their leadership power.)  Also, we have in place a deliberate framework for developing volunteerism by matching people’s gifts with each other’s and with meaningful tasks.  The contact information is on the back of the order of service if you’re ready for that matchmaking.  Another example is how I certainly have been supported by Rev. Megan’s helpful words that facilitated my voicing reaction to the UU World’s winter issue article by the Rev. Dr. Fredric Muir.  Rev. Muir is the long time minister of the UU Church of Annapolis.  His book about the value of one’s actual experiences making the basis for the growth of a person’s belief system, gave me my path for maturing my beliefs and spirituality.

 That path became useful during my prep for today.  In fact, I came upon a surprising revelation that gave me a new level of truth (that I’ll tell you about.)  Being the sort who requires ample solitude in settings that hold what I love or symbols of such, I am familiar with the depth of connection that brings my visceral knowing into my consciousness.  What I am now discovering, is that I find the same kind of connecting within our community here.  I haven’t found control over my accumulation of all these thoughts in order to voice what makes my kind of experience in solitude tie into the group experience I will describe to you.  So, call it my revelatory work in progress.

What’s a way I can give of my gifts?  Well, I’m doing this service with the hope of stirring your imaginations enough to respond with pro-active ideas to implement, alone or as a team (like serving a term on the Board.)  I feel we need better communication among us who are not the in-the-know movers and shakers, to be able to match our values with our gift-giving.  In seeking to apply our expanding values with consistency to our daily living, the ideal, safe home spot in which to practice is here.

  Benefits, beyond giving for the common good, can come out of volunteering here, too.  The astounding perk that came out of my prep for today is I’ve found God at Sugarloaf!  That’s my new revelation.  I seldom use the word, “God” due to its lack of a clear definition.  I’ve been toodlin’ along in my adult life substituting the general definition, “positive energy”, whenever God-talk comes up.  That term has not really served me, consistently.  There are times I need to call on a never-fail, restorative source to solve a problem that requires all the inner strength I can muster.

Well, I’ve discovered Rev. Dr. Thandeka has more succinct words to describe the specific way I do have an experience of what I am now calling God.  In the group process realm, here, my new definition of the energy of God ties in with the quality of creative communication I’m promoting.  I get so elated with what such deep discussion gives.  It’s so liberating of our inherent cores of inborn goodness!  Rev. Thandeka names this human-coming-together-with shared power, “religious phenomenon” having “the regenerating power of life itself.”

The Rev. Dr. Thandeka is another minister I consider to be a role model.  In her associating with Bishop Tutu, he named her Thandeka, meaning “one who is chosen by God.”  Last time I spoke with her was when she was promoting UU covenanting through small group lay-ministries.   Her career centers on teaching at UU Meadville Lombard Seminary.

My springboard for this talk is Fred Muir’s article, “The End of iChurch: To Build Beloved Community, Unitarian Universalism Needs a New Narrative.”  I see his theme being each UU congregation becoming less meChurch and more weChurch.  It’s a covenantal upside down turning of the meaning of one little letter to make little, self-involved “me” into becoming oriented toward “we”.  I see Sugarloaf’s new narrative coming out of our ability to better communicate by sharing our own stories of personal reality checks.  Remember Roy’s faith statement on our website’s blog?  Well, this is my faith statement from my present story out of my reality checks.

Rev. Muir’s assessment of what UU congregations need to change is stated through three points: “our refusal to acknowledge and treat our allergy to authority and power”, “our notion of exceptionalism”, and “our pervasive commitment to individualism”.  I agree with him, but now, will only address how Sugarloaf members might be exhibiting an “allergy to authority and power”.  Well, I’m fine with Sugarloaf’s exercise of our mode of power.  It’s not the power-over kind that’s from a person “up on a high horse”.

Fred Muir, also, gave a reference to the ideal some call the Kingdom of God.  Fred uses as an example Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s picture of the Beloved Community (a term King borrowed from the philosopher, Josiah Royce.)

 I do have a belief in what I see as the “Kindom” (coined by Rev. Marjorie Bowens Wheatley, as “The Kindom of God”.)  The Rev. Marjorie Bowens Wheatley, now deceased, was elected to the UU Association’s Commission on Appraisal that was involved with studying right relations within the UU movement.

I appreciate what kindom is from the lens of what I’ve learned from Rev. Dr. Thandeka, that it’s creative, meaningful human interchange with the “regenerating power of life itself”.  So, how does she define a person’s experience of this?  Thandeka says, “It is a physical, biological-time feeling.”  I name this feeling in me, “God happening”.  It’s a surge of life inside me.  I’ll tell you more about that, later.

In that telling, also, I will let you know how I see God happening when I relate to Sugarloaf’s Curiosity Café and the 9 A.M. Sunday, meditation group processes.  What I’m naming “God” here, is a process of shared power with people.  At Sugarloaf, it’s found when we employ a developing spirit for one another.  What are my experiences of God, here?  They come from meaningful sharing of leadership power and the sharing of heartfelt thoughts and feelings in creative group interaction.  It all has to do with how humans connect with one another (probably why my career field, before as a teacher now as an author, is early childhood education.)  It’s a precious realm I seek, a realm of authentic expression and whole body knowing.  This kind of knowing is received through my emotional and intuitive intelligence (most often generating the surge of feeling love.)

Here, at Sugarloaf, I encourage this precious realm happening by sharing personal experiences to support ideas and conclusions.  Those able to participate in Megan’s Planapalooza this past week, I’m sure, found it to be such an experience.  In next Sunday’s Curiosity Café discussion, we’ll continue envisioning realistic steps to take for continuing our healthy growth.

The Sunday after that, we have such an opportunity again, when the board has scheduled a time to revisit and dedicate ourselves to our Sugarloaf covenant.  OK.  A good number of you will be working on our grounds, then.  Maybe, you can eat lunch with us to join the silence to think about our covenant’s ideas and come up with catchy words of description - quick words to help us remember its richness (like Megan did with our mission statement last Sunday.)  Our covenant is not a creed to robotically recite. Don’t worry; I realize personalities differ.  Just being and expressing one’s values through doing is the mode for some, so grounds caregivers, duck out when you’ve finished eating your bag lunch.  Here’s a ditty, I see on Frank’s emails, sometimes, “To do is to be. (Socrates) To be is to do.  (Sartre) Do-be-do-be-do” (Sinatra.)

For me, to try and “enter the swim” of joining Sugarloaf’s participatory democracy, I have to get the whole picture of what’s needed.  So that means “getting in the know” by regular attendance on Sunday mornings.  Coffee hour is a place to have regular communication, sparked by the service plus hearing about what’s currently going on in our community.  When it comes to Sugarloaf decision making, I try and not just say, “whatever…” and conform to hierarchical decisions, be they from the stiff machinations of Robert’s Rules votes, the Sugarloaf Board with its book of our policies and bylaws, or Rev. Megan with her ways of bringing out the best in us.  My “whatever” attitude means I just don’t want to bother to participate in the decision making with seriousness.  Yes, I can apply my values to giving thought-out reactions to proposals.  Most of the time, I do try to give the extra effort since I’m so often moved to fit into all the volunteerism I see around me, here.  And I genuinely do appreciate the benefits from the leadership, year after year.  Such integrity of purpose!  No faking it for the sake of image or ego.

“The End of iChurch” article names what I picture as the Devil’s three pronged pitchfork.  Fred Muir says this threesome is the organizing narrative that is corrupting the UU movement and holding us back from becoming better at serving our wide theological diversity and the outreach population we could appeal to.  To me, first comes the prong in my pitchfork: “our refusal to acknowledge and treat our allergy to authority and power.”  More and more, I see us understanding the lay person’s responsibility is to support how we set up church life.  This enables the authority figures, who’re responsible for giving the guidance to accomplish our decisions, to “pick up their reins” with us helping out of our gratitude.  We are the ones who give them permission to exercise their power.  It’s a thrill to share Sugarloaf’s people-power by actively helping in whatever ways I can!  This is my vision of Sugarloaf’s Beloved Community, our Beloved Kindom.  Eventually, I see us all relating to one another with a developing spirit. 

Can we all move beyond the “whatever…attitude” to connect with more cohesiveness to reach our goals?  Yes!  To develop collective positive energy is Thandeka’s answer.  Right now, this kind of collective positive energy is how I see we’re finding unity of purpose.  It’s sure-footed because the process of the Long Rangers is organically slow-growing.  These discussions, for me, are spiritual experiences generated out of human connecting with meaningful words from the heart.  The illustrator for my books is a Buddhist monk.  He says that’s when “we think with our hearts.”  

So far, the Long Rangers’ leadership has given the Curiosity Cafes a safe environment with imaginative lightness and humor so that it’s natural for us participants to express our genuine feelings and ideas in a relaxed way.  The environment inspires us to bring out Thandeka’s kind of sustaining power from inside ourselves.  In fact, this is what I most “get-off” on.  It’s God happening.  UU’s well-revered religious educator, Sophia Lyon Fahs, wrote, “Some beliefs are divisive, separating the saved from the unsaved, friends from enemies.  Other beliefs are bonds in a world community, where sincere differences beautify the pattern.” Meaningful, creative communication is accepting of the viewpoints of others for adding to one’s thinking about a subject.  “Sincere differences beautify the pattern.”


Since I expect our beliefs to come out of our own reality checks of experiences, a natural way for humans to develop a maturing of beliefs is to have meaningful talk with one another.  I remember the college dorm type bull sessions for expressing experiences and beliefs that they would spark.  As a UU, I find this is a lifelong process for developing a more and more mature outlook from which to live purposefully.  It’s a part of our creedless faith tradition.

Enough said from me.  Time to close.  I’ll have to return with my Devil’s pitchfork if the Worship Committee has space in their calendar to schedule another time for me to address the third prong of the pitchfork, exceptualism.  I understand Megan, will present thoughts about UU’s unhelpful attitudes of individualism in her May 5th Sunday service.  Fred Muir says UU’s have a problem with a “refusal to acknowledge and treat our allergy to authority and power.”  I’m certain we at Sugarloaf are not as bad off in our developmental progress as Rev. Muir paints in his picture of present-day Unitarian Universalism.

Beneath my struggle for practical sense to emerge from what I’m, now, figuring out in words, this morning, is my central drive to discover how best to belong to the big picture outside myself – nature’s organic evolution.  The Sugarloaf matrix can be more and more of us finding our words to share meaningful experiences either through cooperative action and/or use of our voices with one another.  That’s my Sugarloaf vision.  Let’s increase giving of our best selves to become the weChurch on the hill.


Talkback - Now, I invite talkback from you all.  My title comes from playing in competitive sports.  Winning the game can come from the degree the players have of “talking up the game” (while strategizing and while playing together.)  Now, the floor is open for your telling “your take” about “talking up the game.”  Here are my ground rules:

After the first person speaks, the second person’s comment uses what the first person says to base what he or she wishes to contribute for discussion.  After all who wish to contribute to the first statement have spoken, a new subject can be offered by a new person.  Therefore, it is not only figuring out what you want to say, but it, also, requires heavy duty listening to what others say.  I have a stopwatch.  No going over 2 minutes for what you contribute.  Who would like to be the timer and handle the stopwatch?  Who wants to give the first comment to act as a springboard for discussion?