Tag Archives: continuing education

Becoming an Elder


When a neighbor drove by as I was walking, she rolled down her window and pointed behind us with a smile and said, “Home is back that way” . . . “we’re going to need that kind of help someday.” We laughed and she drove on, having reminded me that we are conscious about getting older even though we still feel young.

Part of my ministry is to craft a worship service once a month for Unitarian Universalists and their friends who are residents of a retirement community near our church. In that environment I feel too young at 70 to have a real understanding of life at 80, 90, or 100 (as two of them will soon celebrate their centennial birthdays!).

Part of my personal quest is to age with a certain amount of grace and purpose. To that end, I signed up for a four-week, on-line webinar on Eldering. It’s designed for spiritual companions like me and equally important, for my future decade(s). Getting older can also be a path to becoming more open-hearted and appreciative of life at any age.

The New York Times Magazine has a weekly column entitled “New Sentences.” Translated from the original Japanese, author Sayaka Murata writes, “I’m now thirty-six years old, and the convenience-store-worker-me is eighteen.” (Click on the image to read the short commentary by Sam Anderson.)

I salute you, at each of your inner and outer ages!




NO, it’s not shorthand  for SEX–but for “South By.”

SXSW reads South by Southwest; insiders often shorten the name to “South By.”  It’s a big series of overlapping festivals in Austin, TX: Education, Interactive, Film, and Music. For almost 2 weeks these events roll through and overlap. With so many schools and colleges out for Spring Break, people pour into town. There are lots of satellite events, too, and free music all over town. I’ve heard that the population of Austin doubles during this time, so locals avoid downtown and the roads that feed into it.

For several years Maggie, a close friend of mine, has attended the SXSW Film Festival. She is especially fond of documentaries and tries to see as many as possible. This year I decided to join the crowd as part of study leave (so much to learn from movies!) and vacation. As a first timer, I’ve pored over the schedule and movie descriptions and locations and come up with a tentative plan. As the days go by and people start talking about their favs, my list will undoubtedly change.

Today’s lineup: Best of Vimeo Shorts; Girl Walk//All Day; and Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies.

Descriptions from the web site:

Best of Vimeo Shorts: “It’s hard to construct a program from the world’s most impressive collection of short-form media. With millions of incredible videos to choose from, it’s not a question of finding good stuff, it’s how does one ignore so much brilliance? The curators at Vimeo have taken on the task, though, and their existential pain is your gain.

“Vimeo Loves showcases the diversity and stunning quality of the Vimeo community’s work. From timelapse experiments that depict the Earth in new ways, to tours of new worlds never before visited, get ready for some of the most captivating videos on Vimeo.”

Girl Walk // All Day is a feature-length dance music video and tale of urban exploration that follow three dancers across New York City. They turn the city’s sidewalks, parks, and stadiums into an evolving stage as a story of rebellion, love, and discovery unfolds. Shot entirely in public spaces, and funded entirely by crowd-sourcing, Girl Walk // All Day is a statement about the power of community and public space. Set to the album All Day by mashup musician Girl Talk, it’s also an insanely fun love letter to New York.”

“Produced by Oxford Film and Television, Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies is Bafta winner Patrick Forbes’ seventy-six-minute documentary of the Wikileaks affair as told by the people involved: personal, moving and frequently hot tempered, it documents history in the making and establishes a new frontier for technology and journalism.

“A definitive factual account of the Wikileaks affair, the film features the first major television interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.”

Want more? Click here

Wellbeing for Clergy


I am so gratified that I attended the Clergy Wellbeing seminar in Santa Barbara, CA. The retreat setting is lovely–La Casa de Maria. The 26 acres were once Indian land, of course, then became a ranch, then was turned over or sold to the Catholic Church for a novitiate, where young women prepared to become nuns. However, some time or other, the women got a bit uppity–they wanted to ditch the habits, for one thing. The Bishop said No way, and the women said, OK, we resign!

It became a retreat center. There are still religious statues and iconography like Mary, angels, and stations of the cross, but it is open to people of all faiths. There was a monastery on site until it burned a couple of years ago. No one was hurt, but the building was a loss. There are both a large chapel and also a small meditation chapel. The smaller chapel was donated by a Dutch family. Its focal point is a large circle of light on the back wall, bisected by a vertical line and a horizontal line, also of light. In the dark space, the image is striking. I had no desire to turn on the room light.

For the seminar, Larry Peers facilitated about 30 clergy of multiple faith traditions in a very interactive process of identifying our lives as they are, how we would like for them to be, and specific changes (however small) to shift in that direction. The participants often became the teachers, when they shared their stories and Larry asked questions to help them figure out new directions. We were Unitarian Universalist, United Methodist, Lutheran, Episcoplalian, Ukranian Orthodox, Religious Scientist, and seminary professor, all as equals. We made lasting connections.

I’m very glad I attended. It exceeded my expectations and has given me a lot of food for thought!



While Jon holds down the home fort, here’s an overview of my sabbatical plans. (Excerpt from Sunday’s sermon):

My sabbatical is coming up in two weeks, beginning the 24th. Unlike within the corporate world a sabbatical is not a time to look for another job. It is a time to enhance my ministry from a larger perspective. The term sabbatical comes from the Hebrew shabbat, a period of rest. I expect to rest, to acquire new skills, and to rediscover exactly what I love about ministry, especially serving this congregation. In fact, I will abide by a covenant that says I will not leave Live Oak for at least a year after my return. You can be sure that I have a plan with a schedule, places to go, people to see, projects to pursue, books to read. My plan is to begin with a workshop in Santa Barbara, CA, on clergy wellbeing, where we’ll touch on some of the same ideas Chuck and I presented in our sermon series on wellbeing.

Then I’ll go to Monterey where about 350 UU clergy will gather for our first CENTER Institute, a major opportunity for continuing education. My particular focus will be on the Vocal Community. The leader will be Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, who is a UU and a founding member of Sweet Honey in the Rock. She is a prolific songwriter and teaches in an oral tradition often found in African American churches—by rote and without written music. I can hardly wait to spend 15 hours with her and also sing in the choir for worship services.

Four days later I’ll make a giant leap to visit India! The 3-week trip will be led by a leading UU minister the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi and his delightful wife Lalitha. Some of you heard Janamanchi’s wonderful sermon at General Assembly a couple of years ago. We’ll visit several cities and their sacred places in southern, northeast, and north India.

After India I’ll travel to Boston with a colleague on some denominational work, so that will give me a chance to visit the UUA headquarters, and of course the bookstore, and across Beacon Street to Boston Commons. Close to my final weekend will be a yoga retreat held near Austin at the beautiful Hindu temple Barsana Dham. And, of course, I’ll spend some time with my entertaining husband Jon Montgomery mainly so he won’t get too used to having me gone!

That gives you an outline of my plans. But until they actually unfold day by day, I won’t really know what to anticipate. In fact, I fully expect to be surprised by people and places I encounter, especially when traveling in India. I expect intense spiritual growth that will take me far beyond my regular meditation practice. I expect to be changed. Already it is certain that my routine will be disrupted.