First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

Unitarian Universalism in the heart of downtown Baltimore, embracing theological diversity and affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
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That Which Holds All

Because she wanted everyone to feel included

in her prayer,

she said right at the beginning

several names for the Holy:

Spirit, she said, Holy One, Mystery, God

but then thinking these weren’t enough ways of addressing

that which cannot be fully addressed, she added

particularities, saying, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Love,

Ancient Holy One, Mystery We Will Not Ever Fully Know,

Gracious God and also Spirit of This Earth,

God of Sarah, Gaia, Thou

and then, tongue loosened, she fell to naming

superlatives as well: Most Creative One,

Greatest Source, Closest Hope 

even though superlatives for the Sacred seemed to her

probably redundant, but then she couldn’t stop:

One Who Made the Stars, she said, although she knew

technically a number of those present didn’t believe

the stars had been made by anyone or thing

but just luckily happened.

One Who Is an Entire Ocean of Compassion,

she said, and no one laughed.

That Which Has Been Present Since Before the Beginning,

she said, and the room was silent.

Then, although she hadn’t imagined it this way,

others began to offer names:

Peace, said one.

One My Mother Knew, said another.

Ancestor, said a third.



Breath, said one near the back.


That Which Holds All.

A child said, Water.

Someone said, Kuan Yin.

Then: Womb.


Great Kindness.

Great Eagle.

Eternal Stillness.

And then, there wasn’t any need to say the things

she’d thought would be important to say,

and everyone sat hushed, until someone said


—Nancy Shaffer, from Instructions in Joy, available at, (c) Nancy Shaffer


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~Rumi, as quoted in Parker Palmer’s reflection on hospitality and welcoming the unexpected visitor.

by Becky Brooks, shared with the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore on Easter, 2014.

For the last several years I’ve been very interested in this question: can you choose what you believe?

This is a question I usually have occasion to ask of folks in my Adult RE classes. Some say yes and others say no, but the question always provokes a thoughtful response, and I love hearing differing perspectives.

Personally, I don’t think I can choose. If I could consciously choose what to believe, I would very much like to put my faith in the Easter story. I would like to believe, as my grandmother did, that Jesus was a man and a god at the same time, and that when confronted with human evil, he met it head on, and so conquered it that he rose up from the dead because God’s love is more powerful than any force on earth, including the evil that men do.

But I don’t believe that. And—before anyone brings up the words “evidence” or “science” or anything like that, I want to be clear: it doesn’t matter whether or not I think it’s true. I have deeply held beliefs, and maybe so do you, that defy evidence.

I believe all people have good inside them, even though I have seen plenty of evidence to the contrary.

I wish I believed that I’d see that grandmother again in heaven after I die, but I don’t believe in heaven. I kind of hope I’m wrong.

We all create meaning from our lives within the context we find ourselves in. And maybe it’s cliche for a Unitarian Universalist to find meaning in the Easter season in a tree, but cliches are there for a reason, and so this is my Easter message.

We have a saucer magnolia tree in our front yard. It’s a funny kind of backward tree. When it loses its leaves in the fall it looks extra naked because it’s branches are so wide and low you really notice: hey, that tree doesn’t have any leaves, for a long, long time throughout the winter. And instead of seeing little green knobs at the ends of the branches, it has these brown pods that match the tree. So even when the rest of the trees around it are starting to look like spring might be coming, this magnolia tree looks silent. And then the most amazing thing happens. Practically overnight, all those little brown pods open to reveal the deepest, darkest pink there is. Just a wee little bit. And then, just a few days later, the entire tree is alight with pink and white flowers. Like a neon sign put out by Mother Earth that says: SPRING!

I’ve loved watching this tree each year we’ve lived in our house, but this year was especially exciting because my kids love pink. And I don’t know if you know this, but when you’re three-years-old, six months of winter is a long enough time that a person can forget that anything in the natural world ever turns pink. So for weeks we’ve been telling them that the tree they love the most—the one they’re learning to climb, the one they can see from their bedroom window—is going to explode in pink flowers any minute.

And then, like magic, it did.

But, remember, this is a backward tree. Luckily we warned them what would happen next. Because the beautiful pink flowers are only with us for a short time. Their petals start to fall after only about a week. This time last week the whole tree was in bloom, and this time next week, all the pink flowers will be gone. The yard and street and driveway are strewn with fallen flower petals. Honestly, it makes for a sad sight, to see all those fragile petals, crushed under foot and tire, turning brown in the sun. But the scent! It smells like heaven walking through the yard right now. You can’t smell them much when the flowers are on the tree, but once they’re down, the most beautiful sweet smell surrounds you.

Then the leaves come. Just when you think you couldn’t be more sad about losing all those beautiful pink flowers, the leaves come. And for several weeks this tree is as cute as a baby with all its hair sticking up. All awkward and silly looking with neon green dots all over it. And as the weather changes, the leaves unfold. And before you know it, it’s hot outside. And by the time the heat arrives, that magical tree has got you covered with the best shade around.

I dearly love that tree. I find that it fills me with hope. All through the winter, through every season, the magnolia tree reminds me that life has a cycle, that nothing is permanent, that there are myriad things in this world that I have no power over, and that faithfulness is justified.

That’s my Easter story. I don’t know if my grandmother would think it has much in common with Jesus’ story, but I think it’s kind of the same thing.

Happy Easter. May you find hope and faith in little things and big things and make meaning in your life wherever you find it.


Everything you ever wanted to know about Unitarian Universalism, and (probably) more. With its last update in 2000, it’s a bit outdated in terms of statistics, but still a fantastic resource.


People always ask what my religion is

(via chialyn)



Who are these who sing Alleluia

and call risen, risen, indeed


dead long ago

whose words are so often amulets

against the necessary struggles


as if any words alone could:

love against all odds

sing with the lunatic

reveal the nakedness of power

deliver the dispossessed to choices again

turn hope’s prism for the blind to marvel

smooth hard places into feather beds for the broken

wrest from nothing and no way

      the chance for children to grow whole

stretch easy the backs that bear the work

bless all the world with our lives

            lived forgiving, alert for love


What fools, indeed,

who may never even discuss divinity

or agree on how much room there is anywhere

      for angels, again, to dance

but who

in their ancient poetry

with its curious syntax   and

in their reckless yearning insist


love never dies

survives after the grave   even here

and claims us    yes, now

and will not ever let us go.

—Barbara Pescan, from Morning Watch

(c) Barbara Pescan. Morning Watch is available at




"We are the certain and the seeking, the lifers and the newcomers, the beloved and the broken hearted, the insiders and the rejected, all of whom have found a home in the extraordinary, yet intimate communities of Unitarian Universalism."
~ Melissa Harris-Perry

image: creative common
design: Laura Evonne Steinman

From the Foreword of the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide,

(via hierology)


We are raising funds at CUC by making and selling lunches. The funds will go to our local food pantry to help feed hungry children through the weekend snack pack program. We are helping change lives of school children.

#UULent #Change

Wonderful idea!

Thank you so much to Rev. Naomi for her incredible ministry to all of us using bits and bytes to connect.

Blessings for your journey…


There’s some pretty big news in my life. I have a new baby boy!! My son was born on April 8th and everyone is home, healthy and happy. :)

But for the arrival of this amazing new life, I had two very different car rides. The first ride of note was taking my wife, in labor, to the hospital. I…

Love this! What an excellent reminder.

Congratulations Andrew!