Category Archives: Newsletter

Entitlement

People often struggle with the word “entitlement.” What does it mean? Do I have it? Here’s an example. I was investigating an online eyeglass store this week and looked at the reviews. It seemed like all the reviews were either … Continue reading

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If you’re not a woman, it’s a pink hat

Men. Stop calling the wonderful pink knit caps donned in the women’s march, and everywhere it seems, using the p-word. It’s not our word. They’re not our bodies. It’s not our oppression. We don’t get to use that word. As … Continue reading

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Dog posts and Facebook

A while back, someone gently nudged me about my political inactivity on Facebook. In other words, why am I posting about things like kitchen updates, musical and technical curiosities, and my dog (especially my dog) when the country is going … Continue reading

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Visiting the yUUrt at Standing Rock

The Bismarck North Dakota Unitarian Universalist Congregation has been the only Bismarck community of faith that has publicly supported the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. It was an honor to visit the main camp yesterday to see the ongoing witness … Continue reading

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Care for the Caregivers

Once or twice a year I am asked, as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Ministry team, to assist a congregation dealing with extraordinary events. Often it is a disaster or tragedy. For example, the last two congregations to which I … Continue reading

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I want my Christmas Presence!

Yes, I meant to write presence and not presents. This month’s Soul Matters theme asks, “What does it mean to be a community of Presence?” As a Soul Matters congregation, each month we ask ourselves to look at our relationship … Continue reading

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What is a Mosaic Maker congregation?

That’s what the church staff and key leaders from our Racial Equity Action Leadership team went to Saint Paul last weekend to learn. We were joined by about 90 other leaders from a dozen congregations spread throughout the region, from … Continue reading

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Unitarian Universalism in Africa

Last year, a study group in which I participate each fall chose African theology as its topic for 2016. We will meet in November to discuss our findings. I was asked to research the state of Unitarian Universalism in Africa. … Continue reading

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“A love that casts out fear”

Like most of you, I suspect, I’ve had many emotions this week. Anger at the gunman who killed so many at a Florida nightclub — and ideologies of hate. Frustration over how this shooting is being spun. Sadness knowing this … Continue reading

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The year past, the year ahead

I continue to be overwhelmingly proud to serve the Unitarian Church of Evanston. It is a lively, growing, and vibrant community. I brag about you (perhaps too much) to colleagues, friends, family, anyone who will listen. I just think you … Continue reading

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The opportunity we’ve been waiting for! 

On the Table Potluck Dinners, Tuesday, May 10 I’m so excited to share this opportunity. Since UCE planted its Black Lives Matter sign a year ago, we’ve had workshops, conversations, discussion groups, and other ways to build understanding and wisdom around issues of … Continue reading

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Keep UCE?

Many of you have asked why I haven’t shared my opinion, which you suspect may be a strong one, about the proposed church name change. In a word, curiosity. Despite my own feelings, I have wanted to remain curious and … Continue reading

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Spiritual but not religious?

I hear this quite often: “I’m spiritual but not religious.” When I first started hearing this a few years back, it took me by surprise, for I’ve always found the two — being spiritual and being religious — to be bound together. For … Continue reading

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It’s getting cold out there

It was getting cold out there, at least. Then the temps crept back into the 70s and it feels like spring. Or dead of winter in Texas. As the cold, at least, approaches, I’m thinking about the many residents of … Continue reading

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Practices for letting go

Our theme this month is “letting go,” and what strikes me first is not why this is a worthy practice, but how it’s even possible sometimes. We all realize that letting go of things that no longer sustain us, or … Continue reading

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My laundry list

There’s so much information to get out this month that I’ve decided to provide a run down of what’s on my mind. Prepare for brain dump! PHOTOS FOR INGATHERING Please, send me a photograph from your summer, with name and … Continue reading

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Building relationship

A few weeks ago I received a funny chain mail message in my e-mail.  It was titled, “The Perfect Rabbi.” The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect Rabbi preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. … Continue reading

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Moving Forward

As many of you know, there are some significant changes to our music program. This article will explain  how we will move forward in the fall. The choir will be on hiatus in July and August as usual. My hope in September … Continue reading

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Boston & Cabaret Church

I will be away from Evanston the next two weekends. It always makes me sad when I’m not at church on Sunday — but there is work out there in the world to be done, and I will return home … Continue reading

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Will the senior minister get arrested?

I was going to write about Cabaret Church (below) for this newsletter column until Ryan Wallace from Community Renewal Society (CRS) called me this morning. Now I’m going to write about the possibility of getting arrested on Tuesday, and what … Continue reading

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Black Lives Matter: The church banner discussion

There has been much discussion about why Black Lives Matter; one might even say it’s a “sign of the times.” As we become aware that a disproportionate number of African Americans in U.S. society are imprisoned, shot, harassed by police, … Continue reading

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Values into action

At the Alaska State Museum in Juneau a few years ago, I came across a case of small figures that caught my attention. They were called “Billikens,” or “gods of the way things ought to be.” Each little figure had … Continue reading

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Vitality and growth

I write my blog this week from Asilomar State Park near Monterey, California. I woke up my first morning to what looked like snow on the dunes outside my window. It turned out to be sand so white it sparkled … Continue reading

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To be a people of integrity

My father could abide almost any transgression except for a lie. Knowing this, I definitely minimized the trouble I got into as a child by not lying. It was less about integrity than intelligence. I knew that the quicker I … Continue reading

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I long to be proven wrong

For the December newsletter article, please see my Dec. 12 entry. This is something I posted in a Facebook comment that captures my understanding of how church giving in the future will play out, and some of the consequences. I’ve … Continue reading

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Meditation for a Mindful Midweek 12/17/2014

Not dawdling not doubting intrepid all the way walk toward clarity with sharp eye With sharpened sword clearcut the path to the lucent surprise of enlightenment At every crossroad be prepared to bump into wonder by James Broughton Sign up … Continue reading

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Showing up

Convergences don’t happen often. We’re in the middle of one, now. First, there is a national conversation happening about race and police brutality. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, as reported in the September 2014 Mother Jones, between 2003 and 2009 there … Continue reading

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Meditation for a Mindful Midweek 12/4/2014

Sometimes my “midweek” may stretch into Friday, but this is too good not to publish this week, our congregation’s first December week of exploring “what it means to be a people of wonder.” Blessings, Bret _____________________________________ Wonder, by John O’Donohue … Continue reading

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Meditation for a Mindful Midweek 11/26/14

Many peace vigils were held last night to continue the healing process so many months in the making. Questions remain about what next steps are necessary for justice to prevail. We grieve when we must, rest when we must, act … Continue reading

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Maintaining a sense of grace

I write this month’s column from Pere Marquette State Park, near St. Louis. It’s one of my favorite places of natural beauty in the Midwest, and a perfect location for a minister’s study group retreat. This year we are studying … Continue reading

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Reconciling war & peace

Last month I wrote about our upcoming all-congregation workshop titled “What Makes UCE Thrive and You Come Alive.” (“The Thrive Workshop” for short.) I hope you’ll make a point of coming. It will be both personally meaningful as well as instructive … Continue reading

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What makes UCE thrive and you come alive?

That’s the question I and our Trustees want to know—and hope to find out—in our upcoming all-congregation workshop on Oct. 18. We are not a faith tradition bound together by creed or centralized beliefs. Instead, we are a people bound … Continue reading

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The beloved community

I’m currently in New York City for a week of vacation following a week at the Southeastern Unitarian Universalist Conference held each year in Radford, Virginia — also known as SUUSI. The theme this year was “beloved community,” and I gave … Continue reading

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Meditations for a Mindful Monday, 6/30/2014

Today, after traveling for a week, we close on our new home. I love this poem.  -Bret _______________________________ Why Bodhidharma Went to Howard Johnson’s “Where is your home,” the interviewer asked him? Here. “No, no,” the interviewer said, thinking it … Continue reading

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Why summer services?

Why do we come to church? Why do we bother getting up on a Sunday morning, especially in the summer months? There are many temptations: sleeping in both Saturday and Sunday; an extra few hours at the park; Starbucks. Why … Continue reading

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Meditations for a Mindful Monday, 6/23/2014

The truck just pulled up to drop off the “pod,” in which all our belongings will be stored for the next week or so. Tomorrow I journey to Rhode Island for an annual church conference, and the day after my … Continue reading

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Meditation for a Mindful Monday, 6/9/14

As I was sitting thinking about this coming Sunday’s message for Father’s Day, Horace Silver’s “A Song for My Father” kept running through my head. While the song’s iconic bass intro and quick 16th note turns are well know, the … Continue reading

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Remarks from June 1 marriage equality ceremony

When I married my wife, Cindy, in 1988, we could not imagine a world in which our gay and lesbian friends might share in equal protections under the law. Today, in Illinois, that dream has finally come true. But it … Continue reading

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For the beauty of the Earth

For some time the Green Sanctuary Movement has urged congregations to go paperless. Starting this month, we are taking a couple more significant steps in that direction. First, you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in the number of inserts in the … Continue reading

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The “G” Word

Last month, in a sermon exploring process theology, I learned a lot about how many ways people relate to what theologian Paul Tillich called the Ground of Being (a.k.a. the big “G”). Never had a sermon I’d preached agitated so much energy—some … Continue reading

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Meditation for a Mindful Monday, 4/28/14

It’s been said that one thing the scientific story of creation lacks is poetry, that all the good myths are written in ways that are evocative and dramatic, while the language of the Big Bang is analytical and precise. In … Continue reading

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Another first

This is a year of firsts for us. Not for you. Not for me. For Us. In the fall we began our worship life together. In the winter we began two services. Now that spring has arrived we are talking … Continue reading

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Mission accomplished, so far!

It’s hard to believe that only a month has passed since UCE added a second service on Sunday morning. From my perspective it’s been a smooth transition, and I’ve gotten feedback that members are enjoying their church experience and are … Continue reading

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Installation choices

Looking ahead to 2014, one date in particular shines bright for me: the date I am formally Rev. Bret Lortie “installed” as your senior minister. I like that our process is such a deliberate one, from the search process and … Continue reading

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The place and function of doubt

After four months, two newsletter articles, two town hall meetings, gatherings with various groups, and countless hours of staff time, the moment has come: in a month we move to two Sunday services at 9:00 and 11:00. I’ve expressed a … Continue reading

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On the bus

As I write this I’m on the bus to Springfield. We pull onto Lakeshore Drive singing “We’re Moving Forward” and “Singing for Our Lives.” After the pastor from Broadway United Methodist church, which organized the bus, offers a prayer, a … Continue reading

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In-reach and Outreach

After a month of “hellos” and a couple of Sundays under my belt, I feel like things are settling down a bit. I’ve been seeing some of our programs in action, such as the Great Lakes outreach ministry that our … Continue reading

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Scoping out the competition

“I’m just church shopping…” is what I said when asked what brought me to their church doors that morning. A more accurate response would have been, “I’m checking out how you do church.” I spent every Sunday in July this … Continue reading

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Espresso in the basement and happiness

Our “stuff” is still in transit from Texas. Not sure how it takes three weeks for a POD to be moved from one location to another, but I’m told it has to go into limbo for two weeks between here … Continue reading

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A time for goodbye

“Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable.” —from “Burnt Norton” in The Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot … Continue reading

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Religious Humanism and me

It’s about time I say it explicitly. Some of you have suspected, although when asked I usually just say, “I’m a Unitarian Universalist!” But the truth is, I am a religious humanist. It’s how I practice religion. There are many … Continue reading

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Atop the mountain

For three days we camped and hiked around the Chisos Mountains. Since I wound up not taking my usual July  vacation this year, it was a well needed study leave for me, a time to reflect on the months ahead … Continue reading

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One very big word

Year two of theme-based ministry — here we go! We’ve already explored the themes of “Welcome” in August and “Covenant” in September. Since the beginning of this program I’ve heard requests for us to explore the concept of “God,” and … Continue reading

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A radical covenant

This month’s church theme is “covenant,” and as Paul Rasor writes in A People So Bold, there is something unique about our covenant: it is not closed but open. Most covenants benefit only those addressed by the covenant. That is, … Continue reading

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Hungering for Renewal

A few months ago I got a message from my audio book club reminding me that I hadn’t used any of my “credits” in a few months. I had a cross-country driving trip scheduled, so I thought what a great … Continue reading

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Occupy Democracy

I was downtown riding my bike near the Federal Reserve building when I saw the protest. It was a small group of scruffy looking people, led by a woman with a megaphone. She was yelling a series of indictments at … Continue reading

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Vocation: Your Life Calls

In “Explore Your Vocation, Find Your Calling,” Ofer Zur, points out that the search for your calling or vocation is different from identifying an occupation. Occupation has more to do with earning money and paying the rent—or satisfying our pride. … Continue reading

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Ten Years After 9-11

Moving away from tragedy doesn’t just take strength or brute determination. It takes vision — the ability to see clearly. In the practice of “insight meditation,” also called Vipassana, the primary task is to cultivate what is called (no surprise) … Continue reading

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Encountering the “Emergent Church”

For several years I’ve been reading about something called “the emergent” church, a flavor of Christianity that is striving to be more inclusive, accepting, and “back to the basics” of Jesus’ teachings of radical love and social reform. I’ll never … Continue reading

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More on mission

Do we want to be a mission-based church? Mission, for some of us, may be another of those challenging words, conjuring up images of “missions” to convert others to a particular faith, or of those big mega-churches which lay claim … Continue reading

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A pilgrimage to Walden Pond

“What are we looking for?” is one of the biggest questions along our religious journeys. There are many place to find answers: in conversation with each other; during Sunday worship; when we engage in lifelong religious education. One traditional way … Continue reading

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Geocashing with friends

I only see my friend Rev. Craig a couple of times a year these days, and recently he’s introduced me to the sport of Geocashing. The first time we went on a Geocashing adventure was in Ottawa last October where … Continue reading

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Religious imagination and Cosmic Jesus

I began writing this article while at General Assembly in Salt Lake City. A trip to this town wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Mormon Temple at the city’s center, a few blocks from the convention center. Apparently … Continue reading

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Building the church of our dreams

I walked away from last week’s workshop with the Rev. Susan Smith, our district executive, energized and enthused about the coming church year, which begins in August. As I sat with the bulk of our First Church leadership—past, present, and … Continue reading

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Caring for each other

As our community grows, so do the demands of caring for each other as we mourn, celebrate, contemplate, and explore our lives together. Such pastoral care exceeds a single person’s capacities in a church like ours (which serves between 400-500 … Continue reading

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Tending the garden: experiments in church

Spring reminds us of renewal, but in our busy lives there’s so much to miss: the first blue blooms of plumbago appearing in the park; the redbud’s pink flowers giving way to red-heart shaped leaves; yellow explosions of esperanza greeting … Continue reading

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Truth be told

Truth. This is the hard one. Unitarian Universalists are often cajoled into believing there is no truth, that it’s all relative. Actually, I believe in universal truths, just few that we can know – maybe gravity or the power of … Continue reading

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Regret according to James Bond

I enjoy James Bond movies. There it is. I know they can be sexist, violent, sometimes mindless – and I’ve seen them all. It started with Ian Fleming books (before I was allowed to watch the movies), continued with watching … Continue reading

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Religion and politics

Yesterday I went to the polls to vote. I’ve been waiting months to take that tangible step of punching my straight [********] party ticket. I love how at the end of the electronic ballot a bright red flashing button lights … Continue reading

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The way things ought to be

At the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, I came across a case of small figures that caught my attention. They were called “Billikens,” or “gods of the way things ought to be.” Each little figure had similar devilish features: slightly … Continue reading

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On the border

Last week I met up in Brownsville, Texas, with youth from our high school program and several members of our church. Our mission was two-fold: help the small Brownsville church with some necessary repairs and cleanup, and support a rally … Continue reading

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Radical hospitality

I’ve used this term many times over the past few months but haven’t really explained it. “Radical hospitality” has become something of a spiritual buzzword lately as more and more congregations (in many faith traditions), struggle with what it means … Continue reading

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Forgiving the holidays

I write this month’s column from the U-Bar-U retreat center near Ingram. This is the first time in many years where I’ve been in a t-shirt and shorts as the holidays draw near. I was a little sad about the … Continue reading

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Small group ministry

Sometimes when I use a zippy story in a sermon, months later people only remember the story and not the message behind the story. “That was your sermon on almost crashing your airplane,” they might recall about my sermon a … Continue reading

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