Jonalu’s Journal — February 2019

As we approach Valentines Day in this era of #metoo, trust may be a good thing to think about in our personal lives.  We’ve witnessed tremendous violations of trust in the public sphere, and the reports just keep on coming.

For most us, though, trust doesn’t feel like a public issue, or even a theological issue; it feels personal.  In our daily lives, questions of trust are about who we can count on and who we don’t expect to come through for us.  And the answers are sometimes surprising.

Those who have experienced abuse from people close to them–partners, parents, or friends–can develop attitudes of mistrust not only for those who have violated them, but for people in general as well.  Who can blame them?  Trust too often has led to harm.

But what is love without trust?  Risking love may be the greatest risk we take in our lives.  Often, that risk is rewarded.  Sometimes, it isn’t.  The hurt from that experience may never fully heal.  When trust has been broken, relationships fail, families dissolve, friendships falter.  And the people going through that brokenness become broken themselves.  The Irish proverb tells us, “When mistrust comes in, love goes out.”  We can’t really have love without trust.

And trust works best as a two-way street.  We have to trust one another, though often one person has to make the leap to trust first.  Or maybe, we slowly inch towards trusting one another, tiny step by tiny step.  We may not even realize when we came to trust someone, until one day we notice that we do.  Mutuality, consistency, steadfastness–that is the language of trust.

Maybe we’d rather have roses, candy, and candlelight.  They are ephemeral, though.  And studies show that couples who do best in the long-run are not those with the greatest romantic impulses, but the ones who day after day come through in the little ways.  Caring enough to ask one another about their day.  Listening.  Expressing thanks.  Some people talk about it in terms of an emotional bank account, making continual deposits so that the account grows and can stand up to the difficult times that may require withdrawals, testing the love and the trust.  As someone in a relationship for more than thirty years, I can attest to that.

Buddhist neuroscientist Rick Hanson tells us that early humans who were particularly good at cooperation, caring, and understanding–in short, love–out-competed those bands who loved less.  Love, then, has staying power.  Still, it’s nothing with trust.

In this month of trust, focus on those you love and build the trust.  It’s worth the effort, I promise you.     Jonalu

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Jonalu’s Journal — January 2019

Why would we think about doing things differently?

That’s the basic question whenever we begin looking at possibilities in our personal or congregational lives.  You’ll see elsewhere in this newsletter that the Board has set January 20 as a congregational meeting to talk about exploring a possibility, that of whether we could build a new space in cooperation with the Manhattan Mennonite Church.  Many of you have been part of conversations about the idea of moving from our beloved home.  Some of you probably haven’t, so here are the basics:

  • One of the three goals the congregation set for Developmental Ministry is growth. We are experiencing slow growth.
  • This fall our attendance is up. The sanctuary is getting crowded again, and the parking lot even more crowded, at times even full.
  • To expand on our current site would cost more than $3 million because of the hill, septic field, and other factors, and would still leave us with inadequate parking.
  • Land and church buildings are difficult to find in Manhattan.

So, our leadership–lay and professional–has been exploring options, including the possibility of sharing space.  A lot would need to be worked out, of course–service times, governance and rules of the space, design, how two separate organizations would work together.

As minister of a democratically functioning congregation, I defer to the decisions made by the congregation.  I also, though, remind you of the theological principles that might underlie decisions.  First, our commitment to environmental sustainability encourages us to look at our carbon footprint as a congregation.  Currently, only the most intrepid (and our one member who lives on Zeandale Road!) ever bike or walk to our location.  Also, sharing a space would reduce both congregations’ use of natural (and financial) resources.  Second, one aspect of our vision is to be a beacon, which can be hard to do when our location is obscure.  It makes sense to consider where we can best serve our community.  Finally, as a congregation we have responsibility not only to our current members, but also to those who will come after.  We need to consider, at times, not what is best and most convenient for ourselves, but what is best for the organization in the long-term.

There are, of course, legitimate concerns and questions about the possibility of moving, and of cooperating with another group to do so.  Hearing all of those out is mandatory for a covenanted community striving to be its best self.

Possibilities are both exciting and scary, controversial and energizing.  May our discussion be respectful and filled with curiosity.

In faith and freedom,     Jonalu

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Jonalu’s Journal December 2018

As I write, we still don’t know how many people were killed in the California wildfires, though more than a thousand are unaccounted for.  Nor are the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire yet fully contained.  Environmental devastation on this scale is hard to imagine, much less comprehend.

At the same time, on the other coast, wintry weather is bearing down early, leaving a chain of power outages and traffic accidents.

By the time you read this, we may well be on to other disasters, deaths, and plain inconveniences.

We live in a world where the natural disasters and regular old weather have grown in strength, frequency, and devastating effects.  We know that climate change has multiplied the effects we feel, yet we are doing little to address the change.

This isn’t really new, though.  People have always been slow to react to large shifts.  We get used to how things have been and think–for whatever misguided reason!–that those circumstances and conditions will continue indefinitely.  First, we deny the changes.  Then, we explain them away, as minor blips.  By the time we grudgingly accept their reality, a full new normal has set in and we are scurrying to keep up.

In ancient times, the Hebrew prophets woke people up with their proclamations about change and doom.  Early Christians recast these proclamations to relate to the birth, life, and death of a man named Jesus.  The prophets, though, had the ability to see what others couldn’t because they took a long view–a God’s-eye view, if you will–and refused to accept what everyone else saw as given.

This time of the year, as we face the December holiday rush, may be a good time to consider a longer view, to nurture our prophetic selves.  We might take time to find inspiration in darkness and even gloom.  We might set aside the question, “What do the kids want for Christmas?” to ponder, “What do the kids need to prepare them to live a good life in uncertain times?”  We might ask what really matters to us this season, what really matters to us in life, and what is better to let go of.

We can’t all be prophets.  We can’t guess what might come.  We can’t account for all the forces that affect us.  We can do what we can do, and strive to be a little more grounded as we face the forces.  If we take the time for some reflection and contemplation, we can have a little more perspective and a little better decision-making.

Whatever we can do, we ought to do.


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Navigating Life — and Holidays — with Feelings

As we move into the holiday season, many of us will be visiting with family who we don’t see routinely. And sometimes, there are tensions and even clashes. How do we get through them?

I came across a column by a colleague and friend, The Rev. Joanna Crawford, in Austin, TX, which gives a simple and clear explanation of how to deal with our feelings when we’re in this. You can find it here:

The Most Controversial Thing I’ll Write All Year

As you encounter your family this holiday season, may your time be rich with memories and love. May you balance your needs with theirs and come back refreshed rather than exhausted.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Jonalu’s Journal November 2018

We are Unitarian Universalists.  We are brave, curious, and compassionate thinkers and doers. We are believers in what is good, what is right, and what is just … We are a house without walls, a congregation without spiritual boundaries, and a movement towards a more action-oriented faith in yourself, your god, and your beliefs.

Those words come from the UUA Brand Report, based on interviews with a large number of Unitarian Universalists about what is significant in UUism.  You might put it a little differently, but you probably agree with the gist of it.

Nine of us from UUFM, along with representatives from four other UU congregations learned about UUism, where we fit within the changing religious landscape, and how we might be able to reach out in love, during the Love Reaches Out workshop on October 20.

We also brainstormed ideas for helping people in the community to know who we are and what we represent.

There are already many ways that we show up in the community.  UUFM members have consistently testified before City Commission for LBGTQ rights; supported charitable organizations with money, goods, and volunteer hours; and shown up for rallies against hate and for racial justice.  When we have shown up, though, people haven’t always recognized us as UU’s.  Our individual members are strong supporters of Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice, and our building hosts Little Apple Pride meetings.  Still, the community’s knowledge of us is vague.  We need to make sure the community knows who we are and what we believe in.

Here are some ideas that came out of the workshop:

  • Participate in the holiday parade.
  • Create a publicity campaign for Our Whole Lives.
  • Sell real, healthy food at Purple Power Play (and provide recycling!)
  • Bring our Musicale out into the community by holding it at Peace Memorial Auditorium (or another location outside our building so more people can attend)
  • Use our gardening skills and interests to connect with community needs

These are not necessarily things that will happen.  They are ideas.  If there is interest, we may pursue them.  So, the next step is to see who might be interested in what.  If you want to work on one of these ideas, talk with our Chair Jessica Sievers, Chair-Elect Mark Mayfield, or with me.  It’s better to tackle one or two things well, with enthusiasm and with many people, than to try to do many things and not make as profound an impression.


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Jonalu’s Journal October 2018

How do we care about one another?

As a congregation, it’s one of our central concerns.  We strive to make UUFM a safe haven for ideas, yes, but for people, too.  So we need to take care of one another.

On September 22, fourteen of us gathered to talk about caring in our congregation and how we want to do it.  Since we lost our Caring Committee Chair in December, our care has been on an ad hoc basis, improvised.  We don’t do badly at that.  Our small groups keep us in touch with one another and regularly, members and friends reach out to one another with care and concern when they know that someone needs a boost or when they feel someone has fallen out of touch.

We know, though, that without some organization, we will miss the opportunity to extend kindness and help to people who we care about.  As the George Odell reading tells us, we need one another.  “All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.”  Our caring efforts thicken the connections within our community and remind us of the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

So, I encourage everyone to be part of the informal network of support among us.  If you think someone could use a card to cheer them or a phone call of support, it’s worth making the effort.  Social media makes us feel more con-nected and at the same time, less connected, so the real human touch matters.

We do have some organized efforts going on.  We have people who visit members who do not get to services often because of their health or other concerns.  We have people who will send cards, provide transportation, organize meals, keep track of medical devices that could be loaned, and we have farmers who will provide flowers if you want to give them to someone from the fellowship.  We have one volunteer willing to help organize receptions following memorial services (we could use a second).  We have a small group who is going to organize small dinners in people’s homes to help us know one another better.  And, we have people committed to attending our monthly potluck the first Wednesday of each month.  Though committee meetings are part of that, everyone is welcome to the potluck, and some people come simply to make social connections.

That’s only some of the needs and responses we talked about.  If you know of needs in the congregation–or have them yourself–or if you’d like to help in any way, please let me know.  And don’t forget to ask for help yourself if you need it!   You will be allowing others to serve, which is, in itself, a great gift.

Help us be the safe haven that we long to be.      Jonalu

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When to Call the Minister

“When To Call The Minister” is a piece that has circulated among UU’s — and before that Universalists — since 1957.  Originally written by Universalist minister Peter Lee Scott for the Elm City Universalist Church in New Haven, CT, people have copied and recopied it. Because it has value. Today, we might change it to when to email or Facebook or text me, but many of the concerns remain the same. Ministers serve congregations for a reason, and here are some of the reasons you might want to call the minister (that I stole totally from Peter Scott’s original):

When you haven’t met me yet, but would like to.
When you have problems to discuss—about anything.
When a sympathetic ear might help.
When you’re going in the hospital or know someone else who is.
When someone close to you dies or is critically ill.
When you’re planning to be married, or might need to be.
When you return from vacation.
When your daughter graduates from college.
When you have a child to be dedicated.
When you’re pregnant but wish you weren’t.
When you’ve been arrested, or ought to be.
When you want to learn more about Unitarian Universalism.
When you’re scared.
When you’d like to make a bequest to the church.
When your son gets a big promotion.
When you’re considering joining the congregation.
When you’d like to show us what a good cook you are!
When a friend of your wants to know more about our faith.
When you have suggestions about the programs for the church.
When you have suggestions for a sermon or about the worship services.
When you’d like to help with committee work or congregational activities.
When you want to discuss community issues or would like my involvement.
When you’re mad at me.
When you’d like to talk religion with me.

Give me a call… or text or Facebook message… or drop by one of my Radina’s hours, or even at the office on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. I look forward to visiting with you.

In faith and freedom,


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Jonalu’s Journal September 2018

UUFM wants to be your third place.

If home is the first place and work (or school for some of us!) is the second place, the third place is another place where you spend time and make connections with people, a place “where everyone knows your name,” as they say in the Cheers theme song.  Our Director of Religious Education Sandy Nelson has been talking lately about the concept of a “third place,” and how that relates to building community in our fellowship and helping everyone feel part of us.

Of course, just as a church is not the building, but the people, a third place does not need to be confined to a literal single place or location. Many of our activities, of course, happen at the UUFM building – Sunday mornings, for example! Every month, though, there’s a Family Fun activity sponsored by religious education, often somewhere in the community. The first Friday of the month, some of our folks gather at Annie Mae’s for Beer and Theology. Some of our women gather twice a week on Monday and Thursday mornings for conversation at the West Loop McDonalds. I meet up with our Meadowlark residents (and anyone else interested) at Meadowlark once a month for a program, generally about our month’s theme. The Book Club and some of our Chalice Circles meet in people’s homes. And I regularly hold coffeehouse hours at various Radina’s around town.

Our connections also deepen when we encounter each other out in the community. For example, the Drag Story Hour that Little Apple Pride recently sponsored at the library included several of our families. Not only do we as adults need to recognize the connections we have with one another, but our children and youth may be especially grateful to run into other people they can feel confident share some of their values. That makes for a stronger sense of community and bonding.

As we enter a new school year, re-energized and re-engaged, help us think how UUFM can become more of a third place to more people. Here are a few ideas. It would be great to see the monthly K-State lunch restarted, and/or Game Night resurrected. Maybe people would like to see a movie or show or lecture together and go out for a meal or snack before or after. If there are ways you think of, talk with me and let’s see what we can get started. Often, all it takes is a volunteer to coordinate it.

Or maybe, it’s a matter of considering how you could connect with already existing groups – the Wednesday Men’s Lunch, the Women’s Coffee Group, the Book Club, Beer and Theology or one of the Chalice Circles. Whatever you’re interested in, we can help you make a deeper connection.

So, see you at UUFM … Or someplace else in the community!

In faith and freedom,   Jonalu

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Jonalu’s Journal August 2018

Why are you a Unitarian Universalist?  (assuming you are!)  Maybe you came for religious education for your children.  Maybe the social activism drew you in.  Maybe you were looking for a community of support after a difficult time in your life.

I stumbled onto Unitarian Universalism forty years ago when the  Southern Baptist theology I grew up with no longer worked for me, but I still loved church.  I continue to love the idea that people can come together to support one another and make a difference in the world.  That’s one story, but only one.  Everyone has their own particular story.  Together, we are writing a new story that includes us all.

“We are co-creating the faith we long for,” says Rev Meg Riley, Senior Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a UU church without walls, primarily on the web (  Most religions say, “Here is our tradition, and here’s how you can fit it.”  We say something different.  We invite each person to start from where they are. It’s not that we don’t have a tradition–we do.  Our rich history extends back hundreds of years. But we are not tied to that tradition in a rigid way.  We look more towards the future than towards the past. Yes, we are co-creating something.

Specifically, we UU’s here in Manhattan are co-creating the UU Fellowship of Manhattan.  Yes, people before us established it, bought a building, hired staff and looked toward a future.  We are forever grateful to them, and to everyone who has shaped UUFM through the last sixty-one years.  There’s no way they could know who would be here now, or what their needs might be.  Much less who will be here in another sixty years and what their needs might be.  The only way we can make sure that needs keep being met is to continue the co-creation.  UUFM doesn’t look like what it did fifty years ago, and will not look the same as it does now in another fifty years.  If it did, then we would be failing at the continuing co-creation.

During August, when newcomers tend to arrive in Manhattan, we’ll be talking about our UUism and what it means.  We’ll have testimonials from some of our members, along with sharing our core values through our history, religious education, and activism.  If you know someone who you think ought to be a Unitarian Universalist, this is a perfect time for them to visit with us on a Sunday morning.  Pick up a postcard from the Visitors’ Table in the narthex to share with them.

In the meantime, think about why you are a Unitarian Universalist.  I hope that it brings something rich to your life.

In faith and freedom, Jonalu

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Jonalu’s Journal – July 2018

Perhaps you’ve noticed we’ve tried some different things during Sunday morning services.  We had some testimonials about how and why people are active in the world.  We had a band do special music one week.  We had a flower ceremony where we created a piece of art with our flowers.  We had an activity as part of the reflection on blessing, where we wrote to someone who had blessed us.  We had a call and response song that was sprinkled through the service, instead of doing all verses at once.  And, outside of services, we have added sharing some joys and sorrows (with permission) on the list serve.  Soon, we will be using a new audio-visual system in the sanctuary.

Our Sunday Services Committee has been dipping our toe into multi-sensory worship, finding ways to make Sunday services more diverse, welcoming people with different styles of learning and ways of connecting.

In May, I shared with you some of the feedback that came from our feedback circle.  Since then, we have more information from the survey the Two Services Task Force did.  Overall, those who responded to the survey are pretty content with our current format, though hymns, the story and readings did not receive strong support.  Performed music is really popular!  There is some sentiment that a shorter, one-hour service would be enough.  The Sunday Services Committee will be looking at all of this, as we move forward learning more about how to be more effective for more people.

As part of that effort, we are putting together–and invite anyone interested to–a workshop on July 28 at the UU Fellowship of Topeka.  Both Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, their minister, and I attended an intensive workshop by worship designer Marcia McFee.  We want to share some of what we learned about how to better integrate music, video, story, drama, and art into our Sunday morning experience.  And we’ll do it experientially.  Talk to me or Katie Kingery-Page if you want to know more.

In the meantime, let me share what I think our Sunday mornings together are about.  I know the word “worship” is controversial.  Rather than adoring some deity, I believe worship is considering what is worthy of our attention, and maybe even our devotion.  My hope for each service you attend is that in some way it helps you consider what you feel is worthwhile in your life, that it helps you in some way to live a life that is better, deeper, and more meaningful.

That, to me, is the measure of success on Sunday mornings.

In faith and freedom,


P.S.  I will be on vacation July 17-25.  In case of emergency, our Office Administrator Sue Turner and Chair Jessica Sievers will know how to reach me.  Have a great summer!

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