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A Moment of Holiness

"Think of a a time in your life when you experienced a moment of holiness".  This was an exercise often used by a teacher and colleague of mine, Rabbi Bob Abramson at various seminars and gatherings of educators and spiritual leaders.  He purposely left the words 'moment of holiness' undefined, leaving it up to the participants to define for themselves.  I was a participant a few times in this activity, and adopted it myself in various programs and sessions I have led.  It is always powerful and thought provoking.

People give widely differing responses to this charge.  Some are simple and elegant; such as the hush of a morning dew, or the smile on a child's face.  Others list crucial moments- birth of child, a wedding, or sunrise at the Grand Canyon.  But all share something in common.  All of these moments help transport the individual out of the ordinary into the extraordinary.  The experience is transformative, if even for a moment, and some say, it gives them…
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‘A Memory of Assisi’ - Rev. Steven Kim, Pastor of Setauket United Methodist Church

‘A Memory of Assisi’ Rev. Steven Kim, Pastor of Setauket United Methodist Church
In January 2020, my wife and I made a trip to Italy along with another couple who are my colleagues. We stayed the first two nights in Rome and drove to our second destination in the Tuscany area. On our way to the world-wide famous winery region, we stopped by the medieval town of Assisi. It is built on the slope of a mountain which boasts a picturesque scenery. Especially the sunsets, they were breathtakingly beautiful which was a bonus to us. 
Our primary goal in Assisi, however, was to trace the remnants of St. Francis. I guess you are familiar with the life story of the saint. We walked about 10 minutes from the mouth of the old town to the Assisi Monastery or Basilica, which is located at the northwestern corner of the town. It consists of three different sanctuaries on three floors. Unlike many other magnificent cathedrals in the country, the Assisi Monastery is not commercialized. Tourists are not a…
Journey by Frank Kotowski
In the religion I follow, Spiritualism, there is often talk about each person’s journey to the next world, the World of Spirit, where we go after physical death, since we believe that life continues for us as spiritual beings devoid of physical matter. It is in this other world, called the Summerland, that our souls reunite in a more intimate way with God, what we call Infinite Spirit or Infinite Intelligence.
This is not to say that there is little emphasis on the life here on this physical plane. Spiritualists strongly believe in and emphasize personal responsibility. We “make our own happiness or unhappiness,” as stated in our 7th Principle.Life is to be embraced with joy and courage and interconnectness with all beings and with the Earth itself.Understanding those of other faiths and beliefs is an ethical and humanitarian necessity.Spiritual progression and attunement are certainly goals many of us strive for, but physical pleasures are healthy and life-affi…

May Nothing Evil

The first hymn in our Unitarian Universalist hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, is “May Nothing Evil Cross This Door." It is a hymn that easily brings tears to the eyes of those who have found in our sanctuaries a place and a people and a faith we can count on to salve our wounds and salvage the wreck we become, and even save our lives. In that hymn we sing of security, faith, warmth, peace, sacrament and laughter. We ask that these walls, thin as they are, “be strong to keep hate out and hold love in.” 
Would you recognize evil if it “crossed the door” of your church or synagogue or masjid? A man with a gun hidden inside a guitar case and the intent to kill hidden in his heart? That happened in a UU congregation I know. A charismatic member of the congregation with a special gift for welcoming newcomers and connecting lonely people who is arrested and convicted of child pornography? That’s happened in a UU congregation I know. Might a man who beat up his wife last night or th…

Star Words

In my Christian tradition, Epiphany celebrates what we believe to be the manifestation of the divine in the person of Jesus Christ. Coming in the liturgical year on January 6th, we read the story of the wise ones from afar who follow the star to the manger where Jesus was born. As we consider what the revelation of God in our midst means for each of our lives, some congregations distribute “star words” at Epiphany. A variety of words (like abundance, change, courage, delight, exploration, invitation, joy, possibility…) are printed on cut-out paper stars, and people pull a random star out of a basket, selecting a word that is meant to inspire/challenge/guide/provoke them throughout the coming year. This year was the first time I participated in the relatively new spiritual practice of choosing a star word. To be quite honest, I’m not sure what to expect. And the word that came up for me was “process”—not the most inspiring! But I suspect the idea is to stay open to hearing and sensing…

A Heart For Humanity

Last month, one of our young adult parishioners sent me an e-mail update on her current activities in Arizona.In addition to getting adjusted to being away from home for the first time and not being able to get home on short notice, she was adjusting to living with virtual strangers.What helped her transition is her involvement in assisting others in making a better life for themselves.She is doing that through the organization Habitat for Humanity.
If you are not aware, Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical “ministry dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and homelessness worldwide and to making adequate, affordable shelter a matter of conscience and action.Habitat is founded on the conviction that every man, woman, and child should have a simple, decent, affordable place to live in dignity and safety.”Volunteers from all walks of life do their part in actually building homes.
From a Christian perspective, Holy Scriptures entreats us: “Our love must not…

Personal Responsibility by Frank Kotowski

In my faith, Spiritualism, I often go back to our 7th Principle, which concerns personal responsibility:

We affirm the moral responsibility of individuals and that we make our own happiness or unhappiness as we obey or disobey Nature’s physical and spiritual laws.

There is a lot to this Principle.  For Spiritualists, it pertains to both your life here on Earth and your spiritual life beyond in the afterlife. But how far does personal responsibility go?  When is there an ethical imperative to give yourself up for another person?  Does this include others who may have very different views from yourself and may even hate you?  No easy answers.
     My mind swims with a multitude of scenarios of personal responsibility and what the outcomes might be.  If we make our own happiness as we align with Nature's physical and spiritual laws, which are God's law, does this lesson our painful experiences?  Perhaps not.  Can we both happy and also filled with pain?  Perhaps.  If you are in ex…