Welcome to Berrien Unitarian Universalist Fellowship! You are always welcome on Sunday and all our events! Sunday Services begin at 10:30 am. Please come as you are; our events enjoy an informal atmosphere. Explore our website for our principles and beliefs and the activities and events at Berrien UU Fellowship, which we often call "BUUF." Come visit us, and feel free to ask questions! Sunday services are led by regular guest speakers and lay leaders, including Religious Leader Rev. Jim McConnell, Rev, Viola Moore, and others. OUR LATEST NEWSLETTER IS ONLINE. Contact our administrator if you wish to receive "In the BUUF" by snail mail each month. Sign up for the online version at lower right.
Wrestling with Life's Gifts
Dear Members and Friends,
Sometimes life surprises us with gifts. We have to decide to accept the gift and the changes it will make in our lives, or we have to struggle and wrestle the gift to test whether the gift will be a blessing or a problem. This happened to me when I was very young and had been married in 1942 to Robert, and we were happily situated in southern Wisconsin where Robert was the minister of the First Methodist Church. The social worker said to Robert, “You must find a home for this child; he is too wild for the state orphanage.” Robert tried and there was one wealthy family in the parish, a childless couple, who were willing to consider the adoption. Before the adoption process could be started, the man became seriously ill. The wife called me and she said, “In view of my husband’s precarious health, we have decided not to adopt Henry.” The problem was back in Robert’s hands to find a home for Henry. That previous summer Robert had helped six churches in northern Vermont write a constitution for the Green Mountain Larger Parish. This parish was to include three Congregational churches, two Methodist churches and one Baptist church located in Montgomery Center, two miles from the Canadian border. In view of this invitation to be co-ministers of the Green Mountain Larger Parish, Robert said to me, “We have a chance to move to Vermont where no one knows the story of this child and it would be a completely new start for Henry.” He would simply be known as the preacher’s son. The state of Wisconsin had decided that the mother, who was a schizophrenic and unfit to raise a child, was put into a hospital in Monroe, Wisconsin, and Henry was put up for adoption. Caroline, the mother, was sent to the county hospital where she stayed for the remainder of her life.
Henry, age five, had helped us move into the parsonage. He soon discovered where the cookie jar was. We knew that if the cookie jar was empty, Henry had paid us a visit. We were offered this child and I was not ready to receive the gift. Robert and I had been married for one year and I was not ready for motherhood in any sense of that word. Robert and I had decided that in the fullness of time we would accept the Green Mountain Larger Parish offer. For the first time in my life I had to wrestle a gift. I knew that if I refused the adoption my husband would question the sincerity of my faith which was being tested. My instinct was to refuse the gift; the gift was making too many demands of me and I could see a host of problems coming out of the situation. We would be adopting a child with our never having been babysitters or helpers of any age. I went directly from college to seminary to marriage. Motherhood was simply not in the picture, so I wrestled the gift knowing that the fate of my marriage depended on my decision.
If I were a genuine Christian, I would say an immediate “yes” to the gift. I did not really want the gift of this child or any other child, even my own. Yet I knew that my lack of a firm religious faith would be a problem for my wrestling. How could I claim to be a Christian and deny a child a chance at a rich full life? I kept on wrestling the gift. What would become of my marriage if I deliberately chose to put my own selfish desires first? Here I had a chance to do what my faith commanded, namely, to love my neighbor. After much wrestling, I finally decided that the best thing to do for the child was to adopt him and take him to a new life in northern Vermont.
Life often throws us gifts which challenge us and which will shape our lives in a new direction and lead us into paths unknown. This was not a wrestle for Robert because he knew from the beginning what his religious faith dictated.
All the correspondence about the adoption took place by telegram because we had to prove to the state of Wisconsin that we were responsible people who would guarantee Henry a room of his own and a new legal name, Henry Edward Moore, with the parental rights terminated by the court. You could imagine what the child was going through with new parents, a new name, and the wrenching goodbye to his mother, Caroline, a good mother who happened to be severely mentally ill.
We never know when life will present us with another gift. All our lives we have to wrestle with gifts that come to us and we must wrestle the gift into some kind of an answer. Every gift contains possibilities, opportunities for growth and an invitation to live largely and fully out of our sense of fullness. We are never prepared to wrestle with the gift. It comes to us suddenly with no warning. Wrestling with the gifts is a lifelong struggle. When Henry was five he said he wanted to be a bank robber. Robert pointed out to him the life of a bank robber is not a happy one and you may wind up in jail. Henry answered with all the bravado and swagger of a five year old, “They would never catch me!”
Peace be with you!
Dear Members and Friends,
I have been looking in The New York Times to see what the popular books are just now. There seems to be a plethora of self-help books which promise to make you slimmer, prettier, stronger, healthier, and sexier. The assumption behind these books is that people are dissatisfied with themselves, their condition, their health, and that they have a general sense of not being well. I think that from time to time every person wishes for a different self. If we are looking for personal transformation it is not to be found in these self-help books. The reason is that very few books address the central problem of life which is the problem of meaning. It makes me sad to hear that the number one health problem in Sweden is alcoholism. Sweden has solved most of the social problems so that people have a decent standard of living. No one is hungry, no one is homeless, abandoned or forgotten, and education is free from kindergarten through Ph.D. Now that the social problems have been solved including the problem of health care, what is there left that people feel driven to find answers to their problems in alcohol which does indeed give you an altered consciousness? With all of the positive social engineering in Sweden there is one problem which neither the government nor the philosophers can answer, i.e., the problem of meaning is yours to solve. In one of the prayers in our church we end with the phrase “…that life may be more meaningful.” I find that very disturbing. The problem of meaning is a very personal problem. Where do we look for meaning? Some people will say that the Bible offers many answers to this problem. Many people think that religion offers a solution. So often people say to me, “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual.” Then I ask the question, “How does your spirituality play out in everyday life?” “How different is your daily life as you express your spirituality?” The word religious is commonly defined as belonging to an organized group, such as a church or temple. When I question further about how this religiousness works out in daily life if you say you are spiritual, what does that mean in your daily life? Is your religion transformative so that the energy of your life is daily renewed? Each one of us is a field of energy. Even when we are asleep our fields of energy are at work. This energy field is not usually in the forefront of our consciousness. Whenever we meet another human being there is an exchange of energies. This energy is the gift we bring to every person we meet. Although we are not intellectually aware of the interchange of energies, the process goes on. It is in this meeting of others that we look for meaning in our lives. Lately I have started a new greeting which is, “Peace be with you.” It is amazing how often the reply is, “Peace be also with you.” How such greetings change the atmosphere!
In the little town of South Haven, Michigan, there has been a peace vigil at the post office at noon Fridays. This has been going on for 10 years, summer and winter. This group has a sign which stretches from one side of the street to the other with the word “Peace” written in 80 different languages. I find it strange that our college campuses are not alive with peace demonstrations. It is almost as if peace is not a good word, but it is what our troubled world needs more than anything. Could we become a peace church? As I write this there are only two peace churches in our country, namely the Quakers and the Mennonites. Could we begin in our daily lives to use “Peace be with you” as a common greeting? I started my peace campaign just two weeks ago. Could we here at BUUF become a peace church?