When Hope is Hard to Find

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

Hope is a thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson tells us. She wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Endurance:  Being a Community of Hope Bound Together by our Why

By Rev. Morgan Forrest

Those of you who were here when I preached on October 9th might remember that I opened by using the St. Louis arch as a metaphor. This morning I would like to talk about the arch again, for just a moment.

Who here can tell us the definition of an arch?  (a curved symmetrical structure spanning an opening and typically supporting the weight of a bridge, roof, or wall above it.)

So that’s the technical definition. Now I would like to share with you the spiritual definition of an arch:  The poet John Ciardi tells us that an arch is “two weaknesses that lean into a strength.” Think about that…. two weaknesses that lean into a strength.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


My Irresponsible Search for Truth and Meaning

By Andy Grizzle

A few weeks ago, I was asked to describe my personal theology - apparently it's a thing they do in seminary.  I said that I had a sense of something larger than all of us, a unifying energy, something beyond our understanding that connected us all in ways that we are able to experience from time to time if we are attentive.  The reply to my answer was, "So you just haven't figured out the rest of it yet?"

And here, I thought I had really nailed it down.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Finding Center Amid The Storm

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

I chose the theme of “Integrity” for October thoughtfully and with intention, knowing that these were the last weeks in our national presidential election. I had no idea how challenging it would be to consider “integrity” when it is so absent from our daily discourse.

As Unitarian universalists, we are so devoted to the democratic process that we enshrined it as one of our foundational principles. It is, in its very essence, who we are.

And yet, democracy can be messy. Scribes and pundits have likened the democratic process to a sausage factory: we might like the result, but we’re happier not seeing exactly how it’s made. Winston Churchill once famously said that democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all the others.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Our Connections Define Us

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

Our Seventh Tradition reminds us to respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Each week, the news of the world comes to us through a variety of media – through our radios, our television sets, and through our computers and smart phones. We cannot pretend that we are not connected to the world, no matter how tempting it might be to try to unplug and step away.

This week, the world was moved by the image of a small boy in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria. Covered in dust and mud and blood, he sits alone and in shock as emergency workers scrabble through the rubble of a bombed building to find his mother, father, his two sisters, and his brother. According to news reports,[1] It took workers nearly an hour to get to the little boy, who looks like he is around three or four years old. An hour after he was pulled from the rubble, the rest of the building collapsed completely.    

....click here to read the entire sermon.


We're All in this Together

By Lauren Lyerla

One day last month, I found myself feeling really hopeless about the world. It's been rough lately, you know? Between the ugliness of election rhetoric, serious concerns about the potential election outcome, the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a promising filibuster and sit-in in Congress that STILL didn't lead to any progress on commonsense gun legislation, and the Utah vs. Strieff Supreme Court decision chipping away at civil liberties, I was feeling pretty low indeed about the future of my country, the nature of humanity, our political system, and more. It all just felt really bleak.    

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Are You Awake?

By Mark Fish

Today’s reading is the lyrics to a song called “Halfway home” from a band called Billy Pilgrim and was written by Kristian Bush.

On clear days it’s fast black dead west. Sun on my cheek, fly on my chest. I am one, driving with all the citizens. Halfway to work, halfway home. And the radio says there’s been a terrible accident, somewhere out by the waterway. I do more driving before 8:00 then most people do all day. But the work is honest, the customers human, don’t guess I can ask much more. The kids are in college, my wife is buying every single dress in the store. And me. I’m half way to work, halfway home. And me. I’m half way to work, halfway home. My doctor says my blood in pressuring me. Momma says this love is . . .    

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Muslims in Mexico: The Making of 'Merica

By Andy Grizzle

When making my decision to enter the ministry, I contemplated the need to be where the parishioners are – spiritually, socially and physically – and it was clear that I will often need to meet people where they are comfortable, even if I’m not.  As a strengthening practice, I started listening to country music.  I don’t like country music.  I wanted to build a tolerance for things that aren’t my things, aren’t important to me, but are important to someone else.  I have not felt any love growing for the genre, with its Appalachian roots and western themes morphing into the anthem of the white man with a blue collar.  But I can listen to it now, and enjoy it when it’s done well.  And that’s tolerance.  Tolerance is boring.  You sit by and let a thing happen without complaining.  It’s also easy, and not too much to ask.   

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Unity: Commitment, not Conformity

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

There are days when ministry can be a real challenge. There are days when I wonder if people hear my
words, whether they listen to the things I say or whether they’re planning their next trip to the grocery
store while I preach.

This year, I have talked about grief – a lot. And grief takes time and it takes different people on different
paths, and people respond differently to it. For some, it is a reason to curl up and hide in bed, and for
others it manifests in anger, combativeness, and putting distance between themselves and others to
minimize the pain of further loss, a kind of “if I leave you before you leave me, it will hurt me less”

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Flowers are Dangerous

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

Flowers are dangerous

Love is hazardous

Threatening, even.

Particularly to tyrants.

Love is the thing that overcomes fear and division, and it is the thing that brings us together each week.

It was the subversive message that Norbert Capek preached – that all people had worth and dignity in the eyes of the divine – that was so dangerous to the authority of the Third Reich and caused him to be imprisoned and killed at the hands of Dr. Mengele’s minions.   

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Covenants: the difference between social clubs and beloved community

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

What is the difference between a covenanted community and a social club?

Depending on the covenanted community, there might be a lot of pieces of that covenant that look like the requirements for membership in a social club. There might be dues, or an expectation of regular attendance at meetings and an obligation to volunteer time and effort. There may be an expectation of a certain kind of behavior among members. Governance may be locally autonomous, with voluntary association with a larger network of similar groups, with officers elected annually, and regional and national conventions occurring with some regularity.   

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Shameless Sex

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

Some  years ago, I started asking every sex educator I met the same question: If you had a room full of clergy, what would you tell us to make us better ministers?  

Now, I asked this question of every big-shot sexuality educator I encountered. I asked Carol Queen of the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco, I asked Megan Andelloux from Rhode Island, and Charlie Glickman, and Reid Mihailko and David Jay, and Joani Blank, Alex Morgan and Monique Darling from San Francisco; Laura Antoniou,  and Mollena Williams from New York; Annie Sprinkle, and Tristain Taormino from LA. I talked to academics and activists, sexologists and sex workers, porn stars . . .

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Angry Letters to God

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

Dear God,

Why is life so unfair?

Sometimes it feels like we play by the rules only to get kicked in the teeth by those who
cut in line ahead of us.

Where is the incentive to do the right thing?

That adage “Nice guys finish last?” well, there’s a reason it’s an adage – because a lot
of the time it’s true. Nice guys – the ones who play by the rules, don’t dope, don’t cheat,
the rest of us – we come in second or third or sixth, or last.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Communication and Connection

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

Communication is the key to connection, and connection is the key to spiritual experience.
Not all experiences of connection are spiritual ones, but I would argue that most spiritual experiences involve a very deep connection, however we define the divine.

When Rev. Claudia Hall led worship in this space a month or more ago, part of what she did was to create a large “word cloud” of people’s experiences of Emerson. What came up more often than almost any other word, was “community.” The word “connection” was also very popular among those asked to describe their experience of Emerson.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


March Madness - Life After Super Tuesday

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

We – America – must figure out how to deal with our mad drunken uncle.

A hundred years ago, it was not uncommon for families to stash their mentally ill or addicted relative in an attic room or an asylum, let out only rarely to minimize the potential for embarrassment. After Super Tuesday’s primary results, though, it appears that America’s mad, drunken uncle is leading in the polls, and his minions are emboldened to the point where they are attacking those with different opinions, religions, or skin color.   

....click here to read the entire sermon.


Deadly Expectations

By Rev. Dawn Fortune

The demands and expectations experienced by today’s suburban youth are unlike those pressed upon any previous generation.  

This is the generation that grew up in a world with a competitive application process for pre-school, the children of Boomers or Gen-Xers, wired from day one, their lives playing out online in real time. They have never known a time without the internet. They are unlikely to remember a time before everyone had a cell phone. 

....click here to read the entire sermon.


"Who am I, when I'm with you?"

By Rev. Dr. Claudia Hall

Good morning Emerson! Many of you know me, but for those of you who do not, I’m a long-time friend of Emerson Chapel. I’ve been a minister since 2001, and since 2007 I’ve been doing community based work, mostly pastoral care with people questioning the intersection of their faith and their gender or sexual orientation. Those experiences have given me a lot of time to reflect on what makes identity, and it was fabulous to get together a couple of weeks ago with my friend Mark Fish and collaborate on these sermons. If you missed his sermon last week, he spoke about the importance of creating a personal identity, choosing from all of your experiences and preferences the parts that you want everyone to see and those that are reserved for those closest to you.  

....click here to read the entire sermon.


"Evolution of Identity"

By Mark Fish

The summer before my 6th grade, I moved from the wooded hills of Maine to the open fields of Iowa. In Maine, I saw myself as an explorer, adventurer and a guide. I lived in a neighborhood used exclusively for Navy families and it was near the woods. New families were always moving into the neighborhood while older families were moving out. After spending all of my elementary school years there, I felt like I knew every pond, every trail, and every tree. I was an outgoing and confident kid, eager to share what I knew with new people moving in. I saw myself as a cub scouter, trumpet player and a tree climber. And then I moved to a small town in one of the flattest parts of Iowa –where I quickly learned that knowledge and skills in sports, farming and cars were valued. I didn’t have any of those attributes and my classmates didn’t see any of those in me. So fitting in was extremely difficult. There weren’t any trails to explore and hardly any trees so I couldn’t be the guide or the adventurer. The only thing of my previous self that I was able to take with me to this foreign land was my identity as a trumpet player. But for the most part, I felt like I lost who I was during that move. I became shy and socially awkward and it was difficult for me to make friends. I eventually found ways to adapt and survive in my new environment and I gradually developed a new identity: I pictured myself as a wolf, a single solitary hunter living alone. I developed an armor of aloofness. I became cocky, independent, and someone who didn’t have to rely on anyone and didn’t care what anyone else thought about me. At least that’s how I wanted to see myself and how I wanted others to see me. first time I stood here before you, I told you a story about a short film by the Three Stooges. In it, Curly encountered a cactus that left spines in his posterior. His two brothers set to removing those quills, one snipping them off at the surface with shears, and the other pulling each quill out with a pair of pliers. I told you then that the work before us would present us with similar choices: to take the easy way, throwing a proverbial fresh coat of paint on the project, or to do the hard work of deep repair.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


"Paths in the Wood"

By Rev. Dawn Fortune, Interim Minister

The first time I stood here before you, I told you a story about a short film by the Three Stooges. In it, Curly encountered a cactus that left spines in his posterior. His two brothers set to removing those quills, one snipping them off at the surface with shears, and the other pulling each quill out with a pair of pliers. I told you then that the work before us would present us with similar choices: to take the easy way, throwing a proverbial fresh coat of paint on the project, or to do the hard work of deep repair.

....click here to read the entire sermon.


"Be It Resolved"

By Rev. Dawn Fortune, Interim Minister

Some years ago, I conducted an informal survey of people I knew. I asked if they made New Year’s resolutions, and if not, I asked why.

Lots of people I talked to said they don’t do resolutions any more. Not on New Year’s anyway.

Too much pressure. They fail and feel bad and give up before Valentine’s Day.

Resolutions are serious business.

....click here to read the entire sermon.