One Corner of the Borough


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

This is my last newsletter column for you. – I had to pause for a moment after writing that. The last. There have been several “lasts” over these several months. We have had a rather protracted leave-taking in the midst of this 150th Anniversary celebratory year. A mixture of emotions, sometimes difficult to sort out. The long time makes it easy to put off really thinking about it, letting it sink in. Then all of a sudden it’s May, and planning for June, and realizing I won’t be planning anything here for July or beyond. The Big Last Time is almost upon us.

An old New Yorker cartoon has Adam saying to Eve as they are departing the Garden: “My dear, we are living in a time of transition.” And so we are. A transition, however, is not an end; it is a passage from one place to another, and we are embarking on separate ones, you and I. As we do so, it is important to feel what we feel: grief (or relief!), sadness, anxiousness about what is to come, gratefulness for what has been. It is part of what this passage is for: it is an emotional movement forward, toward the ever-unknown. It is, as in music, a passage that leads from one part of a piece to another. Always moving, always leading toward What Comes Next. As T.S. Eliot wrote: “In my end is my beginning.”

As I move on, I am proud of the ministry I’ve offered to you, and glad for the learning and growing that has come from our ministry together. There are many strengths here, and they will help you through whatever challenges you may have going forward.

So as I say, farewell, it is both to mark our parting and to bestow a blessing. Saying farewell marks this time of going our separate ways. But I also leave you with a blessing: fare well, may you travel well and with good wishes through this new transition in your lives. Love well and be well loved, and be blessed by making your life a blessing to others.


- Daniel


May 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Our time together is winding down, just a few more weeks to go. Leave taking is never an easy thing to do. For a good while earlier this year, the time was far enough away that its distance kept it a bit unreal. But now, no longer on the far horizon, I find myself feeling the weight of its reality more and more. Jeez, I think, I’ve got to get a bunch of boxes for all these books and all the whatnot that has accumulated over the past almost seventeen years!
Then there are the goodbyes. Some of them have already started – in the line after Sunday worship, in coffee hour, here and there during the week. It’s important to mark this time (whether you’re sad or secretly glad) of parting. And you need to know that there is some protocol to all of this as well. I am bound by my covenant with my colleagues (through the UU Minister’s Association guidelines) to completely absent myself from the congregation beginning July 1. There are a couple main reasons for this. First, it allows the interim minister the space which s/he needs to do their work, facilitating the transition from one settled ministry to the next. Second, it allows your next settled minister the opportunity to make their own space, forge new relationships and connections, and get established on their own. I can’t tell you how important this is. This not only means absenting myself from the church, but also from social media connections. Yes, I’m going to have to “unfriend” you, remove myself from the church’s Facebook page – things like that. Of course, we very well may run into one another at a store or in the park, and say hello and exchange updates. It’s just that we cannot seek out those occasions, and definitely cannot “talk church.”
So over the next few weeks, in this time we have left, let’s do all we can to make this a good goodbye – celebrate all that we are grateful for in our lives together, and step into the unknown (in the words of Rabindranath Tagore) “with empty hands and an expectant heart.”
- Daniel

One Corner of the Borough

Friday, March 17, 2017

Once upon a time, a young radical walked the dusty roads of a distant land. It was said that he had been a carpenter by trade, and a carpenter’s son. What he was up to now was anybody’s guess, which guesses were made and discussed frequently. Some of the gossip passing around claimed that, as a young boy of perhaps twelve years, he had sat in the synagogue and spoke of the Torah in ways that amazed, astounded and (sometimes) angered those who listened. The hope for the promised Messiah was strong among many people, who ventured the thought that this may be the One. The skepticism about this Messiah was also strong, and many scrutinized from afar.


He seemed to collect people wherever he went, people who then followed him in his travels from one town to the next. It was said that he could heal and that he was wise. It was said that he criticized the Pharisees and, on occasion, encouraged open defiance of their religious rules. It was said that his influence among the people was growing.


Then word spread ‘round that he was heading to Jerusalem. Was he the One? Hopes soared, as well as fears. When he arrived, many greeted him in a royal manner, laying palms along his path and singing praises to God. He made quite an impression the following week, disrupting the temple money-lenders, going head-to-head with the Pharisees on the teachings of their faith, and even suggesting the eventual destruction of the Temple. He was a radical. Something had to be done.


And it was. The Pharisees orchestrated a case against him with the civil authorities. He was arrested, questioned briefly, and sentenced to death. As he died the tortuous death the Romans inflicted upon so many, his followers cringed in darkened rooms, fearful the authorities would come after them next.


After he died, and was buried, a realization came over his followers, an awakening like the dawn. In the midst of their grief, a compelling insight gripped them in a very powerful way. They felt the presence of their teacher as if his very spirit was with them. Their hearts filled with his teachings. A person may have died, but what he taught lived on in and amongst them. Hope had arisen from the dead.


Others have their interpretations of the Easter story; this is mine It is a liberal interpretation, a generous reading, seeing this story as poetry and metaphor instead of literal fact and history. It is solidly within our tradition which has revered Jesus as a unique teacher and, like the Qu’ran, honored him as one in a long line of great prophets. I cannot abandon Jesus to the narrow interpretations of others. Rather, I seek to broaden and deepen our understanding of him. Old interpretations must die, and when they do — when any narrow interpretation dies, be it one of possession or rejection — something new can be born. A new spirit, a generous and liberal spirit, rises. As it rose before, so will it rise again. And life will be renewed.

- Daniel


I Muse a Bit About the Holidays

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I want to take a moment and muse a bit about the holidays. Just let me get the curmudgeonly stuff out of the way first. Like: I keep expecting to see a big new sign over the Manger that says, TRUMP. And then there is the de rigueur mention of the commercialization of Christmas, which is true, and fairly disgusting, but you know that. And then there is the absolutely arbitrary celebration of our new calendar.

It is easy to find fault with the holidays, to point out all the shallowness that comes roaring in with them like the next nor’easter. As it is difficult to see across the street when the winds are blowing the snow sideways down your block, so it is difficult to see the simple and abiding message that has found a home in this season of the year. The reminder that new life can be born in the most unlikely of places; that when the frigid air settles in and the source of warmth and light seems to be slipping away, it turns around and begins the slow increase that leads to Spring; that just when all seems lost and defeated, the light of Hope can be found burning in the midst of it all; that when the life around us gets discouraging, we are reminded of the principles which can make that life strong and healthy – among them unity, creativity, and faith. Even in that most arbitrary of holidays, New Years, there is the opportunity to pause and turn over a new page in our lives, to begin again.

The key to it all is in the pause. It is never too late to take one. Take the time to step away, to be still, to see through all the glitz and glitter to what makes this time of year truly special: joy, love, peace, and hope. May they be with you now, and in the year to come.   Read more...

One Corner of the Borough

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

There is no more challenging time for many Unitarian Universalists than the so-called Christian holidays. I say, so-called, because these are times of celebration that existed long before Christianity laid its template over them and called them its own. Christmas is one of those times.

Unitarian Universalism grew out of the Christian tradition and has contributed to the traditions of this holiday. While we do not view Jesus as divine or savior, our ancestors were nonetheless inspired, in their own way, by the images and stories of the season, many of which images, like the ‘Christmas’ tree, are actually pagan. A Unitarian professor at Harvard, Mr. Charles Follen, introduced the custom of the Christmas tree to his Lexington MA congregation in 1832, a custom he recalled with fondness from his native Germany. From Lexington, this practice spread throughout New England and beyond. Other Unitarians contributed much to this season’s traditions.
Of the carols we hear and sing, one of the more popular, “Jingle Bells,” was written by the son of a Unitarian minister, James Pierpont, of Medford MA. Another popular Christmas carol, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” was written by Unitarian minister Edmund Hamilton Sears for the Church School celebration at a colleague’s church in 1849. Sears’ carol was praised as being the first such song with a clear social message, a message whose relevance continues to this day. “Heir of All the Waiting Ages” (which unfortunately did not make the cut into our current hymnal) was written by another Unitarian minister, Marion Franklin Ham, for Hymns of the Spirit, our 1937 hymnal. “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night” was written by Sir John Bowring, an English Unitarian, and member of Parliament, in 1925. And Unitarian poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
Our ancestors entered into the poetry of the season, as such poetry is what touches and nourishes the soul. As we do not have to make actual sacrifices (human or animal) to celebrate the Solstice, nor have our temple destroyed to know that the light of freedom can never be quenched, neither do we have to believe the birth of a god took place in an obscure stable sometime early in the morning exactly 2012 years ago. We can, however, be inspired by the hope symbolized in the winter fires, in the light that miraculously keeps burning, and in the image that in the darkest time of year hope can be born in the most unlikely and humble of places.
I invite you to revel in our ancestral contributions to the season as well as in the many other threads of this tapestry. Enter into the festival with open minds and open hearts. Sing “Peace on Earth! Goodwill to all!” so that this message may truly wrap itself around us and around our world.

June 28, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

As we move into our summer season, it seems to me a good time to practice an attitude of reverence. The rebirth of Nature all around me, well, naturally invites this, so I suggest it to you as well.

I understand reverence as the central attitude of the religious life. Reverence is an attitude of respect, humility, and wonder in and of Life. Think of Albert Schweitzer’s concept of “reverence for life,” for example. It recognizes that we are not self-created, but that we arise with and within the larger Life around us, dependent and interdependent on more than we will ever know. It recognizes the vastness of this Life – the little bit we know about it, and the much larger portion we do not know – the Mystery in which we live and move and have our being. An attitude of reverence is one of respect, humility, and wonder amidst the very astonishment of being alive.

So as we enjoy the warmth of the sun and the beauty of Nature all around us, let us take a moment every now and then to pause and really take it all in. And from that place of reverence, and gratitude, move on into our day.






This Month, A Guest in the Borough

Sunday, July 17, 2016

This month, a guest in the Borough – Mr. Henry David Thoreau. Words to contemplate today, and in the days to come….


I wish to begin this summer well; to do something in it worthy of it and of me; to transcend my daily routine and that of my townsmen; to have my immortality now, that it be in the quality of my daily life; to pay the greatest price, the greatest tax, of any man in Concord, and enjoy the most!! I will give all I am for my nobility. I will pay all my days for my success. I pray that the life of this spring and summer may lie fair in my memory. May I dare as I have never done! May I persevere as I have never done! May I purify myself anew as with fire and water, soul and body! May my melody not be wanting to the season! May I gird myself to be a hunter of the beautiful, that naught escape me! May I attain to a youth never attained! I am eager to report the glory of the universe; may I be worthy to do it; to have got through with regarding human values, so as not to be distracted from regarding divine values. It is reasonable that a man should be something worthier at the end of the year than he was at the beginning.


Blessings to all,




A Guest in the Borough

Friday, April 29, 2016

From a well-beloved colleague, now of blessed memory, who served a long ministry in Milwaukee WI.  I especially like his closing remark.  Read more...


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Rev. Dr. John Wolf, minister emeritus of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa OK and a mentor of mine, once wrote: “There is only one reason for joining a Unitarian Universalist church and that is to support it.” These words come to mind as we are in the midst of our annual stewardship campaign. So what does your pledge of financial support support? It supports what it means here “to search and to serve.” Quality Worship, a wonderful Music program, Life Span Religious Education programs, Covenant Groups, Social Justice programs (including UU Ministry for Earth and our involvement in Greater Cleveland Congregations), our Lay Pastoral Care Team, and opportunities to gather together as a community of “joy, gratitude, comfort, and love.” Your commitment supports a congregation that seeks what is noblest and best in human life, that seeks to tear down walls instead of building them up, that knows how deep the longing is in each of our hearts for what is good and creative and life-giving. Your involvement and commitment helps sustain the presence of a liberal religious community, a presence that is needed now more than ever.

Patricia and I pledge 5% of our income to the health and growth of our community. I hope you can join us in strengthening our present and ensuring our future.


The Eternal Presence

Friday, April 08, 2016

What does it mean, to be within the Eternal Presence? What does it mean for us to be present to this Presence? As I understand it, it is to be present first to our own being, to our unique being in the world of time and space and matter.Through this, we can grow into being present to Being Itself, to the Presence in which we all live and move and have our being.

Interestingly enough, the first step in having this experience, this perspective, is grounded in a very rational decision – a relatively simple decision as to how we will understand things, as to the lens through which we perceive and interpret what we see and experience; that is, honing our Imagination just as we would our other senses, or our thinking and feeling.

We can go the route of nothing but, and see the world as reductive, always falling within the parameters of how we describe it, how we name it, how it appears only to our physical senses and our thinking or feeling – this or that reaction to this or that stimulus – nothing more, nothing but, the world as Absence.

Or we can go the route of something more, and see the world as expansive, always alive and changing and growing, always pushing at the boundaries of what we think we know – surprising us ever new – something more, the world alive, the world as Presence, as permeated with the eternal Presence.

Living a life of something more is not easy.It is constantly being assailed by the Agents of Absence. I wish it was as easy as, for instance, “believing” in Jesus, or telling folks you will build a wall to separate you from people who are different and whom your would prefer to denigrate than understand.

It is easy to rile people up by praising their own prejudices and belittling the lives of others. It is difficult to get people to look beyond themselves, to be excited about how complex it all is, about how they’re going to have to really look at themselves honestly; that there is a lot we do not understand, and tha putting down your perceived enemy is not the way to raise yourself up. This kind of Absence makes the heart grow harder. Presence may confuse our hearts (and minds) a bit at first, but eventually it opens us to the world, to more of the world, to the world as it really is.



This is a test blog July 16, 2015