Hymn to the Community Garden

David Breeden and Christopher D. Sims

This poem is a collaboration and was recited in Providence, Rhode Island in a workshop entitled This Is What Love Looks Like. 

Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

With some compost in a vacant lot,
that’s how our community
garden grows.

With community gardens/
The people won't be starving/
Higher prices, the stores are charging/
What they're putting in the food these days is alarming/
I am arming myself with the knowledge to grow my own/
Healthy food, community, and love in all US time zones/
What else do we need: cleaner water and air to breathe/

Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

With lots of hard work
in a vacant lot
and no empty lots

to mow!

That’s how our community garden grows!

Community gardens bring the people together/
Community gardens helps us eat and do better/
It's a natural, holistic way to cooperate and be/
I open my door, walk outside, and join in unity/

Mary, Mary, quite Unitary-
ian (Universalist), how does your
community garden grow?

With lessons in growing
and nutritious food, that’s how our
community garden

We’re talking tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, and greens/
Planting, nurturing, and growing those nutritious things/
We attend potlucks and farmer’s markets seeing our neighbors/
The food is good whether we eat it now, or save some for later/
The farm to table movement is what we can once again enjoy/
The youth in my city are growing food, becoming employed/
For this way of life, there is no harm or no pressure/
We can use this knowledge and love for the land to end food deserts/

Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

Buy into our CSA

—Community Supported Agriculture!—
that’s how our
community garden

© Rev. Dr.David Breeden and Christopher D. Sims
June 4, 2014

The Detroit Water Crisis

Christopher D. Sims a.k.a UniverSouL

Who would be considered the nicest,
After shutting off people’s water
causing a crisis?

Using the devices of power
Hour after hour
To sour the living conditions
of so many.

Three-thousand households a week
are facing shutoffs. Can you imagine
how much those bills cost?!

Babies need water.

Children need water.

Youth need water.

Adults need water.

But it’s money over people.

This is a Human Rights issue.
This is a Right to Water issue.

And if this continues imagine
how many lives will be affected.
I’ve heard that gentrification is
connected to these shutoffs.

So it’s about money and land.
Resources changing from hand
to hand. An American pastime
That many poor and people of
color can understand.

Water is in demand.

But shutting it off in
Detroit is their plan.

© Christopher D. Sims
July 8, 2014

Earth Day

Madelyn Campbell

Earth Day, a sermon by Madelyn Campbell delivered to the Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church on 27 April, 2014   

Happy Easter! Yes, last Sunday was Easter Sunday, but in the Christian liturgical calendar, this is still Eastertide. In the Jewish liturgical calendar this is the counting of the Omer - the 50 days between Passover and Shavout - also known in the Christian calendar as Pentecost.  In the northern European pagan liturgical calendar, this is Beltane-tide - the time between Ostara and Beltane, or May Day, in late spring. 
I like liturgical calendars. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with them and it seems natural to me, but I think I like them most because they tie us into the seasons. There is a rhythm.  Maybe it’s the musician and the dancer in me, but I think we need to pay attention to the rhythms - and the earth has a rhythm.
We had a long, tough winter, didn’t we? It was cold. I know some of you are gardeners. I keep hearing rosemary horror stories. This winter wasn’t kind to rosemary. Did anyone here lose rosemary? Or any other plants this winter? I confess that I’m not much of a gardner. I’ve tried, I really have. I grew a $15 tomato a couple of years ago. I accomplished that by getting all the things I needed to grow my one tomato plant. Which then produced…one tomato. It was a good tomato, though. Even though I don’t seem to have much of a green thumb, I do appreciate the gardeners in my life, and the beautiful fruits of their labors.
So it was a rough winter. My gardener friends have been assessing their losses. And yet. Did you see the cherry blossoms? The Yoshindo cherry trees  - the ones with the white blossoms that line the tidal basin - have already had their peak and we’ve been showered with white blossoms, but the Kwanzan cherry trees are in full bloom just about now. Giant pink balls of blooms hanging like party lights in the trees.
For you shall go out in joy,
    and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
It feels like the trees are clapping their hands now. It feels that way to me. I hope you can feel that. Even after the very long winter, the earth is awakening again, and new life is springing forth. The rhythm of the seasons carries us forward.
The earth is resilient.  She weathers many things. Even us.
We’re a part of creation, and we act in it and on it. We sometimes think of ourselves as set apart from creation - as if humans are one thing and the environment something else. I’ve heard some people talk about the seventh principle - “respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part” as the environmental principle, as if that were all it is - as if we, somehow aren’t included in that. But in the Hebrew scriptures, in the language itself, there is no language for the separation of humanity from the rest of creation.
In their book, The Predicament of the Prosperous, Bruce Birch and Larry Rasmussen talk about our relational responsibility to creation. Bruce Birch is a professor and friend of mine and an all around wise and respected academic. They tell us, “God calls us toward the shalom of the whole creation.” Shalom - that doesn’t just mean “peace” it means wholeness. The wholeness of relational responsibility, then. They go on further to tell us about redemption as new creation - redemption as, quote, “the effort to restore the whole network of relationships that have been broken by sin.” I don’t want to get too off the mark here, but perhaps we should define sin so that we’re all speaking one language. Sin literally means to miss the mark. So when we’re doing things that take us away from relationship - with each other, or with the rest of creation, that is sinful. When we’re repairing that, then it’s redemptive.
Birch and Rasmussen point to today’s passage from Isaiah as the place where this new creation theme appears most fully in Hebrew scripture.  They say, “Here the salvation history and creation history are wedded. They are both a part of the work of one God. God’s redemption of Israel and the nations renews nature as well.” 
Think about that. Renewing the people renews nature. How does that happen? Why are the trees clapping their hands? Why are cypresses growing instead of thorns?
We can’t renew nature without renewing our relationships with each other. It’s all intertwined. Well, that makes sense.
When we don’t treat each other as equals - when we  aren’t in right relationship with each other, it’s much easier to dump our waste on those we don’t care about. One of the most dangerous jobs in the world is breaking apart ships. You won’t see this happening in the U.S., though. This work, damaging to the environment, and often deadly to the people who do it, is done in Bangladesh, by “Other” people. People who are poor, and brown. Because they’re desperate for any work. They break the ships, and it breaks the world and our relationships.
But we don’t have to go halfway around the world to find brokenness.  Back in January, a chemical spill from Freedom Industries polluted the drinking water of Charleston, West Virginia. Four months later, residents were still using bottled water. But what would happen if we cared enough about everyone to stop manufacturing and storing dangerous chemicals in poor communities?
I’m not saying this is a simple thing. I’m not saying “all we have to do is” - there are no simple answers. But we can start with considering how we are all linked, and how we all deserve to be surrounded by beauty.
How can we make that happen? What happens if we just sit and wait?
We haven’t been kind to our planet. We’re using up fossil fuels and spewing lots of carbons into the atmosphere. We’re demolishing wetlands and then we act surprised when cities flood. And then some among us cling to the belief that we need do nothing, that God will rescue us. You’ve probably heard about the man who climbed up to the roof of his house during the flood and a boat came by, but he refused to get in, saying “God will save me.” Soon, the water was up to his hips, and another boat came by, but he said, “God will save me.”  By the time the water was at his chest and he was clinging to the chimney, a helicopter came by. He still refused the help, saying, “God will save me.” He drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” and God said, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”
We have to do some of this work ourselves.
I’d said earlier that the earth is resilient. It is. The earth will be here with or without us. Creation will continue. Do we want to take the hand of the Holy and do the work to repair the garden?
There are many ways we can do that work. For some people, it means really getting out there and doing the work in the garden. Have you been in our garden? Whether you’re a gardener or not, I hope you can appreciate the  beauty of the garden.
Of course, we don’t just have a garden. We have 11 beautiful acres of open fields, and woods, and the garden. We have room to run around and fly a kite, or to sit and absorb all the beauty. What a gift! How are we caring for it?
Some of you are stewards of the grounds. You mow the lawn. You pull weeds. You care for the garden. Thank you. You’re doing the repairing work. Working on our own grounds is important, because it keeps us in touch.
We don’t all do that, and we don’t all have to, but there are things we all can do. The Green Sanctuary team has a lot of information they’d like to share with us after the service today.   Information about things you can do around here, and things you can do at home.
And once we’re taking care of each other and our own local garden, well, how hard can it be to move out from there?
When I was little, I lived in Manhattan. If you’re not a city person, you might not think of cities as green spaces, but my parents took me often to Central Park and to Ft. Tryon Park - my favorite. My father took me to Ft. Tryon Park nearly every Sunday, and we’d walk through the formal gardens and then run around and play in the open spaces. Sometimes I’d run around in bare feet and feel the grass beneath my feet. I want all of my brothers and sisters in creation to have that experience. Do you?
Go out. Enjoy the grounds today. See the trees clapping their hands. Look at the Bradford pear trees just outside here. And imagine. Imagine how it can be - how we will go out in joy and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
    for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Let us make this garden here. Now. Let us join with all that is Holy in repairing creation.

Environmental Justice Curricula

Our Place in the Web of Life: An Introduction To Environmental Justice, a five-week course from the UU Ministry for Earth

The Right to Water, a five-week covenant group gathering, from the UU Service Committee

This Is Our Earth

Rev. Mark Belletini

This is our earth.
It falls through heaven like a pearl in a glass of plum wine.
There are no other earths that I know of.
There are no other skies that we have mapped.
This is our earth.
The Oneness who gave birth to it
remains nameless.
There was no midwife then
to bring us word of the birth-cry.
We only rejoice that it is.
This is our earth.
Ice caps its head. Glaciers clasp its feet.
Warm wind, like the breath of a lover,
breathes around its breast.
Mountains thrust up to the clouds, brining joy.
Storms blow across its shores, bringing fear.
Silvery fish capture sunlight and haul it down
into the deep, as on shore, valleys spread
with ripening fruit. Cities teem with the
Poor and disenfranchised in the shadow of
golden towers. Children live and also die.
Highways throb. Monks sit in silence. Mothers
work. Crickets chirp. Teachers plan. Engineers
design. Fathers write letters.
People marry
with and without the blessings of law.
People cry.
They laugh, and brood, and worry and wait.
This is our earth.
There are no other earths.
Before its wonder, philosophers fall silent.
Before its mystery,
poets admit their words are shadow, not light.
And all the great names religious teachers
have left to us
Ishtar, Shekinah, Terra Mater, Suchness, Wakan Tanka, Gaia
suddenly refuse to announce themselves.
And so we too fall silent,
entering the time where words end
and reality begins.

Festival of the Ancestors


As the harvest season comes to an end, it is a time of both fruition and death - fruits such as apples lay heavy on the branches and squashes such as pumpkins are at their full weight, but the leaves are turning and falling off baring branches and the vines are whithering.  The days are shorter and there is a chill in the air. It is a time to think of ancestors.  Indeed, several cultures Coming six months after the Festival of the First Fruits, and being its mirror image, let this be a time to celebrate our members of the community who have passed into ancestorhood during the previous year.


 If a loved one has died within the past year, use today to honor them.  If no one close to you has died, you can use today to honor someone who has touched you spititually or honor your ancestors in general.


In addition to the basic communion ritual, ask folks (beforehand) to bring photos/momentos of loved ones who have passed into ancestorhood over the previous year.  (For folks who forget, you might want to have a notepad and pencils on which to write their names so that they can be included.)  Also, for the potluck dishes, ask folks to bring a favorite dish of their departed.  The ancstral icons and food should be placed on the altar as usual, but ask folks to hold on to their icons *of the newly departed* until after the ritual starts.  After the invocation of the ancestors but before the communion blessing, insert the following:

Today we honor those who have joined the ranks of the ancestors this past year.

Invite folks to state the names of the recently departed, and as they do so to add the photo/momento of the recently departed among the icons of the older ancestors.  Ask them also to state their loved one's favorite food, being shared today.  When finished, turn to the altar and say:

You who have passed on into glory,
Your memories still live in our hearts and your spirits still guide us.
Through Love we are never alone.

Water Communion


It's the Atumnal Equinox and fall is in the air.  Daylight is receding, harvests are being brought in, and folks are coming back from summer vacations - it is a time of ingathering.  The UU ritual of Water Communion is preserved here.  While the rituals before and after this, Blessing of the Loaves and Festival of the Ancestors, focus on harvest and other aspectsof fall, the Water Communion is not really seasonal in and of itself.  We will use the autumn equinox as a time to focus on ingathering - that is, a time for community.


The communal aspect of Water Communion obviously cannot be replicated as a personal ritual.  However, since the Water Communion is about interdependency, that aspect addressed.   


Have a large empty basin, near the center of the altar table, but leaving room for the offering plate.  In addition to the basic communion ritual, ask folks (beforehand) to bring a small amount of water from a place that is meaningful to them (which could include their home).  Ask folks to place their potluck dishes of seasonal foods on the communion table as usual, but to hang on to their water.  (You might want to have a bowl of water - perhaps from last year's water communion - and some small containers on hand, in case anyone forgets.)  After lighting the chalice but BEFORE the invocation of the ancestors, insert the Water Communion. (You want to do it before so that the water is consecrated along with the communion food.)

Communion leader (or someone else for this part) lights the chalice and says:

Just as many little streams join into rivers which join into the oceans, their waters intermingling,
So to do we voluntarily join together as one.
Alone we are small; together we are powerful, as wide and as deep as the oceans.

Invite participants to come up and pour their water into the basin.  This can be done silently or with a very few words as they are pouring, whichever works best for your congregation/group.  When all are finished, commence with the rest of the communion ritual.  If desired, you can use some of the water from the water communion bowl as the libation for the ancestors.  Many congregations boil the water communion water afterwards to sterilize it, and then use it in their child dedication ceremonies throughout the year.  In addition, when new congregations are starting up, many congregations will send some of their communion water for the new congregation.  In that way, there is a continuous stream of transimission from established congregations to new ones. 

Some congregations include as part of the ritual a recognition that not everyone has access to water, so essential to life.

Blessing of the Loaves


Remember the Blessing of the Seeds back in the beginning of spring?  This is the mirror image ritual six months later as we begin autumn. the first wave of harvests.  I don't expect many folks to grow their own grains, mill their own flour, and then bake bread, but this again is to remind us of our ties to the land.  However, in many agricultural cultures, this is the time when people start harvesting grain.  And while the grain eaten may vary from culture to culture, the importance of grain itself is pretty ubiquitous, whether wheat, rice, corn, millet or others.  Moreover, the making of bread requires many different steps - planting the grain, tending, harvesting, milling, the making of other ingredients - all go into a loaf of bread.  Thus, the Blessing of the Loaves gives us an opportunity to recognize these things.


Whether you bake or not, this ritual can be performed on a personal level.  You will need some bread.  Light your chalice or candle. Hold the bread, breaking off a piece, and say:

Seeds planted in spring and tended over the summer have come to fruition.
This sustaining food, whether baked or bought, is the tangible result of my efforts.
But even so, I know that I could not accomplish this alone.
I give thanks for the fertile earth, the sun and rain,
I give thanks to those who grew, tended, harvested, milled, and baked.

Eat, thinking both of what you've accomplished and what you owe to the help of others.


In addition to the basic communion ritual, ask folks (beforehand) who do bake to bring "bread."  (Interpret "bread" *loosely.*  This can include tortillas, steamed buns, cornbread, whatever. In fact, there should be something present without gluten in it for those with sensitivities.)  Those who do not bake should being seasonal dishes as usual.  (If no one bakes, you will have to buy some bead.)  Place the food on the altar table as usual.  Make sure that everyone has washed their hands before this ritual because there is going to be touching of food involved.  After the invocation of the ancestors but before the communion blessing, insert the Blessing of the Loaves.

Take a large loaf of bread turn towards the group and break the bread, saying:

Seeds planted in spring and tended over the summer have come to fruitiion.
This sustaining food, whether baked or bought, is the tangible result of our efforts.
But even so, we know that we could not accomplish this alone.
We give thanks for the fertile earth, the sun and rain,
We give thanks to those who grew, tended, harvested, milled, and baked.

Give half a loaf each to pre-designated people on each side.  Invite folks to form lines to come up and tear off a piece of bread from the halves, but ask them not to eat it yet.  Depending on how many people are involved and/or there are people with gluten sensitivities, you might have to take a second, different type of loaf, and break that in half as well, giving each half to two more pre-diesignated people.  Make sure that someone is still holding bread for you.  When everyone has a piece of bread, finish the communion blessing by breaking off some bread from the person still holding it and placing it on the plate.  Pour the libation, etc.  Break off a piece of bread for yourself from the person still holding bread.  Then invite everyone to eat, thinking both of what they've accomplished and what they owe to the help of others. If there is a variety of different kinds of "bread," invite folks to try something they don't normally eat during the potluck communion meal.

Day of Reflections


Summer solstice is the longest day/shortest night of the year.  It is the sun at its greatest strength but also the mark of its decline.  From this day forth until the winter solstice, light wanes into darkness.  There is still a lot of growing yet to do but now in the heat of summer things start to slow down a bit compared to frenetic spring.  Now is a good time to take stock of how the year is going and make any necessary adjustments.  The word "reflection" can refer both to light, as in reflections in a mirror, and to thought, as in self-reflection.  So this ritual plays on the double meaning of reflection as we celebrate the peak of light. Also, as the winter solstice ritual represented light expanding outwards, this summer solstice ritual represents light contracting inwards.  (Note: I'm not against bon fires, either today or for any of the other holidays.  They just don't work well indoors.)


For this ritual, you will need a hand mirror.  Light your chalice or candle.  And say:

Once more around the sun.
Even though the days are bright, from this point on the light dims.
May I be mindful of the time I am given.

Tun away from the chalice and hold up your mirror.  You can either look at your own reflection or the chalice light, whichever makes more sense to you. Enter a moment of reflection.  How is the year going?  Are you where/who you want to be?  Are there changes that need to be made?  When you finish your reflections, turn back around, facing the chalice.


In addition to the basic communion ritual, ask folks to bring a small hand mirror or anything reflective, one for each participant.  (You might want to have some extra mirrors on hand,to be loaned, so that those who forget are not left out.)  After the invocation of the ancestors but before the communion blessing, insert the following:

Once more around the sun.
Even though the days are bright, from this day on the light dims.
May we be mindful of the time we are given.

Invite participants to turn around, facing away from the altar and the lit chalice, and hold up their mirrors.  They can either look at their own reflections or the chalice light, whichever makes more sense to them or is more feasible.  (Some people may not be able to see the chalice from where they are.)  Invite them into a moment of reflection.  How is the year going?  Are you where/who you want to be?  Are there changes that need to be made?  As they finish their reflections, they are to turn back around, facing the altar table and chalice.  When everyone has turned back around, say:

Festival of the First Fruits


This ritual gets its name from the Jewish festival of Shavuot, the Feast of the First Fruits. This is traditionally the time when the first harvests occur and are celebrated.  While spring is a hopeful time of new life and new begnnings, it is also a more tempestuous time when late and/or unseasonal frosts still happen.  By the time we get to late spring/early summer there is more certainty that what has grown is firmly established and even beginning to bear fruit.  Coming six months before the Festival of the Ancestors, and being its mirror image, let this be a time to celebrate new members who have been born into the community during the previous year.


 If a loved one has been born/adopted within the past year, use today to celebrate them.  If no one close to you has had a birth, you can use today to honor the children in your life in general.


In addition to the basic communion ritual, ask participants to being their babies!  Hopefully people have been bringing their children all along, as these rituals are meant to be intergenerational.  But on this day in particular, bring your infants who have been born during the previous year, and other children who have joined the community within the past year.  If for some reason that can't be done, then encourage folks to bring a photo or momento.  After the invocation of the ancestors but before the communion blessing, insert the following:

Today we celebrate those who have joined our community this past year.

Invite folks with infants to name their babes.  Let participants be free to show their appreciation, as they feel comfortable, as each name is called.  When finished, turn out towards the people and say:



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