Quiet Your Mind. Be Here Now.

Sunday, October 23, 2011, 10:30 a.m.

With humor and insights from Zen Buddhism, this service is an invitation to slow down and experience life more fully. Join the Rev. Amy Freedman for music, meditation, and words of wisdom that will help awaken your senses to the present moment. Take a deep breath. Be here now.

First Parish in Kingston, MA

Preaching this Sunday


While my colleague, the Rev. Dan King is taking a well-deserved mini-sabbatical I am pleased to be offering four Sunday services at First Parish in Kingston, MA. Worship is held at 10:30am. Childcare and Religious Education is available. Please join me or help spread the word.  A description of the service follows:

Sunday, October 16, 2011, 10:30 am
What Matters Most, Rev. Amy Freedman

The world’s religions and great moral teachers offer the same life lesson: kindness is what matters most. However, there are many times and places where this spiritual truth is missing. When were you touched by kindness? How can we open our hearts to a Kindness Revolution?

Make a Fresh Start!

In the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are meant to reflect on the past year in order to make the New Year even better. This is not just an intellectual exercise. During the Days of Awe you are expected to “fix” all the times you missed the mark.

Obviously, you do not have to be Jewish to take part in this process of reconciliation. Is there someone a life partner, a friend, a parent, a child, a sibling, a neighbor, a colleague, or someone in your community, who you hurt? It could have been an accident. It certainly was a mistake. We feel ashamed of some things we did last year. Maybe it was a big misunderstanding or only something small but that you still remember and carry around with you. Take time this week to say you are sorry. Not only will your relationship with that person improve, your spirit will lighten. It is a way to make a fresh start!

May this holiday remind us to face our mistakes and take action in making amends. May others forgive us when we say we are sorry and may we forgive others when they tell us that they are sorry. As it is written in the Hebrew Scriptures, “Then shall your light burst through like the dawn and your healing spring up quickly.” (Isaiah 58:8)

First Day of Preschool

As we approached her classroom, my daughter clutched my pants and covered her face in her hands. All summer, we had been looking forward to preschool. Now that the first day had arrived, I wanted to sweep up my two-year old and take her back home.

After juggling full-time ministry and parenting, it was a joy for me to devote my time to motherhood over this past year. We spent a lot of time together pretending, drawing, playing at local parks, and visiting the library. Wherever we go, she is eager to make friends. So, I know that she is ready for school. It is also time for me to reawaken to my professional life.

My husband Peter and I are both former preschool teachers. We searched with care for a place for our daughter. I visited one daycare where the Director said all the right things but the environment was sterile and both the teachers and kids looked bored. The whole family spent one morning at a neighborhood program where everything (including the teachers) looked shabby and tired.

We fell in love with her new school! On a tour our daughter was ready to join the children that day. The classrooms are filled with color and inviting activities. The teachers offer a responsive curriculum shaped by the children’s abilities and interests. As a cooperative, parents also take an active role in the school, helping in the classroom once a month.

Once we crossed the threshold into the Orange Sea Star class, she smiled and pulled us in to “Come, see my school!” We left her happily drawing with colored pencils. I am the one who keeps wiping away tears…

How We Decide

The Greenfield Group, my UU ministers’ study group, is gathering this Spring to explore the future of our religious movement.  This is one of the resources for our “Faith Forward” theme.  Jonah Lehrer has a book of the same title, How We Decide.

Over the last 20 years, neuroscience research has fundamentally changed our understanding of decision making. Lehrer, a critically acclaimed science writer and the popular blogger behind “The Frontal Cortex,” explains what the latest in cutting-edge research can tell us about how our minds work. How do we make decisions? And how can we make decisions better?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

“The Geography of Bliss” offers a fascinating journey!

I just finished reading The Geography of Bliss and loved it!

Where can happiness be found?  This is the question that drove Eric Weiner, a NPR foreign correspondent and self-proclaimed grump to travel to ten countries in search for answers about one of life’s most fundamental questions.

During this time of transition when I have completed ten years serving as the Minister of Channing Memorial Church in Newport, RI, this book was a fascinating journey!  The author begins in the Netherlands, home of the World Database of Happiness.  Through his research there, he discovers the happiest citizens live in some surprising places: Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Thailand, and India.  He also explores an experiment conducted in a depressed village in Great Britain as well as visiting the dreary country of Moldova finally heading home to the United States where for all our wealth, Americans are not the happiest people on the planet.

The Geography of Bliss contains many insights into different cultures and the many paths to a meaningful life.  It was delightful to travel to different countries from the comfort of my armchair and to meet a diversity of people.  Eric’s skills as a journalist and genuine curiosity into what makes people tick captivated my attention.  How do you know if someone is happy?  You ask them!  It turns out most people are pretty accurate in measuring our own contentment.  Although happiness is still elusive to define, a universal truth rose to the surface, foremost happiness is relational.  More than money, profession, age, or climate, those people who had the greatest sense of trust in themselves, others, and their place in the world, knew happiness.

This is not a preachy or overly-idealistic book.  Eric Weiner includes a good dose of sarcasm, irony, and humor to make this a fun and memorable book.  I recommend it highly!

Buy from Amazon (affiliate link)

Visit Eric Weiner’s website

Are you going to have more kids?

Ever since I was pregnant, people have offered me unsolicited advice.  Often it is a pleasure to feel part of a larger family circle as strangers connect with our daughter and share insights with me about parenting.  Many people ask if Liza is our first child and then inquire if we plan to have more children.  My honest response is that given my age (40) and our current job transitions, I am uncertain whether or not to add any more children to our family.

I have been shocked by the number of people who have bluntly told me that it would be WRONG to have an only child!  One woman told me that single children are “unnatural”.  A man said that it would be “unfair” to my daughter not to give her siblings.  Some suggested that she would be lonely and burdened by being the only child in the household.  Others hinted that she would become an odd-ball!

Now, obviously I only want the best for my daughter.  It took longer for me to have a successful pregnancy than I expected just as it took longer for me to find my life partner than I expected.  If the timing had been different, our ideal would have been two children.  However, at this point in my life I am hesitant about becoming pregnant again or adopting.  This decision needs to be made relatively soon. . .

It was a relief to read in the July 19 issue of TIME (The Only Child: Debunking the Myths) that many American families find themselves in similar life circumstances and are opting to have only one child.  I was pleased to have evidence for what I suspected– having no siblings does NOT mean you grow-up to be “selfish, spoiled and lonely”.  That is a myth that in this age when we do not need more children to work the fields should be dispelled!

Ministering in Newport was a blessing I’ll carry

Welcome to Channing Church
Photo courtesy Matthew Cohen Photography

There are certain moments that I will never forget. One of those moments was the day I turned thirty. I happened to be on vacation at the time. In fact, I had left Martha’s Vineyard where I was serving the Unitarian Universalist Society to join my parents vacationing in San Miguel d’Allende, Mexico. Knowing that the Ministerial Search Committee of Channing Memorial Church would soon be making a decision, I called the Chairperson to let her know of my plans. My heart leapt when she called back to ask for a phone number where I could be reached in San Miguel just in case. Perhaps those folks felt the same sense of connection and possibility as I had during my pre-candidating weekend in Newport when the Search Committee and I exchanged our views of church and ministry. Although I was hopeful, I tried to push it from my mind.

My folks and I were preparing to go out for dinner to celebrate my birthday when the phone rang. I had never before and have not since received a better birthday present! I accepted the invitation to be the Ministerial Candidate of Channing Memorial Church. After warm embraces from my parents, we left the house for the cobbled stone streets of San Miguel. The setting sun cast a glow that made the colors of the brightly painted houses and flowering plants even more brilliant. As my spirit soared, bells of a nearby church rang out! My parents and I laughed with joy in the beauty of the moment and the bright promise the future held.

In the Unitarian Universalist movement, the ministerial search process is an intense experience for both the minister and congregation. Both parties need to consider their history, style, strengths, weaknesses, goals, and dreams. Both parties prepare what is known as a packet, a binder filled with information more elaborate than a job description or a resume. After all, a church is not a business, a school, a club, or a service organization. Foremost, a church is a community of people with shared values, needs, and aspirations. Likewise, a minister does not just punch a time-clock and perform certain tasks ministry is a vocation or way of life that calls the minister to offer her thoughts, caring, ideas, and faith in service to the community.

I am fortunate to have found a good match at Channing Memorial Church. The congregation’s vision of “Ministry Together” a strong partnership between lay leaders and a professional minister suited my collaborative style. It has been a gift for me to work with such talented, intelligent, and committed people. Together we have faced significant challenges, shared precious moments, and accomplished a great deal. I am proud that our church is now not only on the tourist map but known for making a difference in people’s lives.

Now, I am saying farewell to Channing Memorial Church and Newport, Rhode Island. Sunday, June 20th at 10:00am will be my farewell sermon. There are a variety of factors leading to my decision to depart. I will be taking time to consider new directions in my professional life such as ways to incorporate theatre and ministry, and pursuing further education. I also look forward to spending more time with my daughter Liza without the challenge of balancing full-time ministry and motherhood. Our family will be moving to Cambridge, MA.

Since announcing my resignation, Newport Daily News readers have approached me on the street to thank me for my columns. Many people have shared how my words have lifted your spirits or given you new insights. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my perspective with a wider audience. Just as my life has been shaped by the Channing community, living in Newport has been a blessing that I will carry with me always.

As a parting gift, I leave you with my prayer: O Creator, who creates life and to which all life returns, you are as close as our beating heart and the cycle of breath. Where there are unresolved troubles in our minds, may we find clarity of purpose. Where there are heavy burdens in our hearts, may we discover a healing path. Where ever there is pain, whether in our lives, in our circle of loved ones, or in our world, may we become divine messengers through our prayers, our actions and our words. Peace to all. Love to all. Blessed Be.

Nature is a beautiful tool in restoring balance

In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes the ultimate transcendent experience.  He writes that walking through the woods allows him to return to reason and faith.  The beauty of the natural environment restores his sense of well-being.  The burdens of other people’s opinions, personal challenges, and grief fall away.  With his feet flat on the earth, bathed in fresh air and his vision uplifted, “all mean egotism vanishes”.  Becoming a transparent eyeball is how Emerson describes the mystical sensation of being at One with the Universe.

Remember a time when you had a sense of this greater Unity with the world around you.  In some of the most challenging periods of my life, I have walked the beach to remember that the world does not revolve around me.  No matter how heavy my responsibilities or sorrows may seem, in Emerson’s words “the currents of Universal Being circulate through me.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson asserts that most people have a very superficial seeing of the world around us.  Often our minds are so full of future plans or reviewing the past that we are blind to our surroundings.  He writes, “The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child”. 

The first time I took my daughter Liza on the Cliff Walk she was about eight-months old.  While unloading her stroller I imagined that she would enjoy seeing the ocean waves and feeling the sea breeze.  In fact, Liza did enjoy the Cliff Walk.  However, what she enjoyed was not the clear blue water or the sailboats on the horizon.  She leaned forward smiling and connecting with all the people and dogs that crossed our path.  Even more surprising, her little hand reached out from the stroller to feel the hedge as we went by.  For me, hedges are nothing more than a nuisance, reminding me of the hedge that needs trimming at home.  I followed her example and brushed my open hand against the hedge as we past.  The tiny thick leaves were cool and soft; sensuous as velvet. 

Communion with the divine is possible in nature.  Liza reminds me that it is not necessary to travel long distance to exotic locations for this transcendent experience.  Certainly, I have felt awe on the colorful cliffs of Aquinnah and surrounded by the great redwood trees of Muir Woods.  But as Emerson writes, “The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to one another; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.”  Liza recalls me to this sense of wonder and awe when she notices the play of light on a wall, the feel of grass through her fingers, the exhilaration of a rainy day.

In a poem entitled, “Each and All”, Emerson writes of a man who is so enraptured by the beauty of nature that he desires to possess it for his very own.  In hearing a sparrow sing, he captures the bird in a cage.  He collects seashells from the shore.  He picks flowers along a woodland path.   However, in taking these living things from their natural settings, he discovers that each loses their beauty.  The sparrow sings but without the river and the open air, the song is not as sweet.  The seashells are ugly and dry without the bright sunshine, sand, and tumbling waves.  The beauty of the violets is somehow less without the dappled sunlight through the trees.

The poem concludes, “Beauty through my senses stole;/ I yielded myself to the perfect whole”.  As Emerson declares in Nature, “nothing is quite beautiful alone; nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace.” 

If there is something in human nature that causes us attachment and clinging, it is even more essential that we take the time to open our minds and hearts to our wider connection.  Let us make it our practice to spend time in Nature not to capture it or collect it as our own but to remember that the whole “world is a mirror of the soul.”  Then perhaps we can do as Emerson suggests and “Write it on [our] heart[s] that every day is the best day in the year.”

Those dealing with miscarriage should know they’re not alone

My daughter Liza turned one year old in December.  Her birthday party had all the classic traditions like streamers, balloons, doting relatives, and a smiling girl with her face covered in chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.  My husband, Peter and I enjoyed the party even more than Liza did as it was a celebration of the new family member who we had wanted for so long.

At our wedding at Channing Memorial Church in 2004, we exchanged vows in front of the congregation that we had written ourselves.  As our officiant had us repeat after him, Peter added a word that demonstrated his enthusiasm.  Instead of saying, “I look forward to starting a family with you”, Peter blurted out “I SO look forward to starting a family with you!”

As much as we both longed to be parents, it turned out not to be as easy as we had imagined.  After spending years trying not to become pregnant, I discovered that conceiving was not as simple as no longer using birth control and took much longer than we anticipated.  Once I was pregnant, I fully expected to carry the baby full-term.  However, after a very public announcement, I suffered a miscarriage.

I recognize that it may be shocking for a minister to be so candid about this subject.  However, the reason for my disclosure is that after the miscarriage, I discovered how many people experience similar heartache.  The journey to becoming a parent is often not as smooth as it is commonly portrayed.  Despite all the beaming couples on television, quite simply, a positive pregnancy test result does not necessarily mean you will have a baby.  Twenty percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.  For many couples who are having children later in life, the odds are even higher.

Nothing had prepared me for the bereavement associated with a miscarriage.  Even though the Doctor assured us that this was an isolated event most likely due to some sort of chromosomal error, it was hard to shake the feeling that I was somehow to blame.  I was gripped by fear and doubt about our ability to conceive a child.

As I grieved, numerous women and men came forward to share their stories with me.  Even though I knew many of these families intimately, I had no idea that so many of them went through the trials of delayed conception, miscarriage, and infertility.  One couple thought they would never have a child after recurring miscarriages.  However, they have a beautiful daughter who is an active member of our church.  Someone gave me a book explaining natural ways to enhance fertility.  Others described how adoptions made their families complete.

There is a weight of silence around the subject of conception that must be lifted.  It is important for anyone who would like to be a parent to understand that miscarriage and complications are a common occurrence.  There is no need to feel shame or anxiety in isolation.  Chances are many people you know have experienced similar struggles.

Even those who choose to have no children, or are far removed from that stage of life, can relate for we never know exactly how life will unfold.  It is difficult living in a place of cautious optimism.  Each one of us is expecting whether it is a new job, a search for a romantic partner, learning a new skill, trying a new routine, overcoming addiction, healing from a loss, opening ourselves to new people or places or ways of being.  Let us break the silence about the reality of failure and miscarriage.  In so doing, we can support one another in healing and open our hearts to the miracles of living.

Religious Education satisfies curiosities

Children often pose the most astounding questions. Where did I come from? Why is that man sleeping outside? How do I know what is right? Do you believe in God? Why is my brother so mean? If I wish hard enough, will it come true?

Adults have confided in me that they are surprised and challenged by children’s deep questions. So often these simple inquiries touch on complex ethical or theological issues. Children can sense when grown-ups are uncomfortable and can learn to stop asking. Even if we do not have all the
answers, it is important to nurture curiosity and reverence from a young age.

William Ellery Channing, Newport native and father of American Unitarianism for whom our church is dedicated, wrote in 1830, “The great end in religious instruction is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own. Not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own. Not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth. Not to form an outward regularitybut to touch inward springs.”

The Religious Education program at Channing Memorial Church is designed to empower children and youth to engage directly with the beauty and struggles of life. Our classes are designed to foster self-confidence, respect for the inherent worth of every person, reverence for the interdependent web of existence, and encourage a life of compassion and service.

Often couples who have different religious backgrounds or who are searching for a caring community of all ages will join a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Personally, I was raised attending a Unitarian Universalist church. My paternal side is Jewish and my maternal side is Catholic. My family found a religious home in a supportive community that honored our
interfaith heritage and nurtured our ongoing spiritual development. From an early age, I was taught that my thoughts, feelings, and deeds are valuable.

The lessons learned on Sunday mornings helped me to understand that my actions have consequences not only for myself but also positively or negatively affect the interdependent web of life of which I am a part.

Each year we offer classes in the following areas: World Religions, Unitarian Universalist principles, and Social Justice. This year’s curriculum includes earth-based traditions, ethics, spiritual development, and making a difference in the world.

In addition, Our Whole Lives (OWL) will be offered for 4-5 graders and 7-8 graders who enroll in this comprehensive sexuality education class. Although many people are surprised that a church would speak candidly about sex, the predominant misinformation, shame and pressure in our society make it essential. OWL is a curriculum developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association in partnership with United Church of Christ. O, the magazine published by Oprah Winfrey featured this program in a recent issue. We believe that honoring our bodies, having caring relationships and making healthy choices is essential.

On Saturday, September 12, 10:00am-12:00pm, a Community Open House will be held at Channing Memorial Church, 135 Pelham Street in Newport. All are welcome to drop by the Parish Hall to register children or to learn more about our church. Halcyon Westall, our Director of Religious Education and I will be available to answer your questions and provide information about upcoming classes and events.

View Channing Church, Newport, RI in a larger map

Live Knowing Your Actions Matter

            How relevant to modern life are Heaven and Hell?  Many religions hold that there are stages of Heaven and stages of Hell to which people are sent according to their good or bad deeds during life.   

            Egyptian tomb paintings from as early as 2500 BC show the jackal-headed god Anubis as the gatekeeper of the underworld.  Anubis would determine a person’s worthiness by weighing the deceased heart against the feather of truth.  The heart would be weighted down by bad deeds and lightened by good.  When your life comes to an end, how will your heart measure up against the feather of truth?      

            The idea of judgment after death is found in many religious traditions.  In Judaism the Jewish New Year is the time to reconcile your misdeeds so your name will be inscribed into the Book of Life.  In Christianity, St. Peter is sometimes depicted as the keeper of Heaven’s Gate where people will be interviewed in order to be admitted to Heaven, damned to Hell or sent to Purgatory where they might purge or make up for their sins.  In both Hinduism and Buddhism, it is believed that life is a wheel of successive reincarnations.  Between reincarnations, people arrive in the hall of the ruler of the dead where people are judged according to their right or wrong actions.  People are then rewarded or punished in one of many different heavens or hells before being reborn.  Eastern religions emphasize the journey between lifetimes is one of consciousness.

            There are many different visions of Heaven.  Where the earth is chaotic and unpredictable, human beings look upward to the wheel of stars as a realm of immortality, order and harmony.  Paradise is also portrayed as a verdant garden like Eden located somewhere on this earth.  Explorers were driven to discover an idyllic place with a perfect climate and fertile land where people could live in harmony with the world of nature.  Some believed it was an island without aging, disease, work, or private property.

            Heaven is sometimes depicted as a land of endless pleasure with food, drink, frolicking and music.  St. Paul countered that “The kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and the Holy Spirit.”  Rabbi Rav of the third century AD wrote, “There is neither eating nor drinking, nor any begetting of children, no bargaining or jealousy or hatred or strife.  All that the righteous do is sit with their crowns on their heads and enjoy the effulgence of the Presence.”

            Where Heaven is a place of bliss and perfection, Hell is the opposite: a place of torment.  Some theologians proclaim that a perk of Heaven is that you can see justice served by witnessing those who wronged you being punished. 

            I challenge you to consider your own views of Heaven and Hell.  When you say, “Ah, Heaven!” what are you experiencing?  Physical pleasure?  Beauty?  Material Security?  Personal Achievement?  Peace?  Love?  A sense of God’s presence?  Harmony with the natural world?  Here is the really tough question, do you receive satisfaction from the suffering of others especially those who you do not like or may have hurt you in some way?

            When you say, “Oh, Hell!” what are you encountering?  Physical pain?  Ugliness?  Loss?  Failure?  Frustration?  Hatred?  A sense of isolation?

            As people of conscience, it is important to be mindful of what we hold as ideal for that is what motivates our actions.  It is equally important to consider how sometimes our misplaced striving after that ideal leads to suffering and thereby creates our own hell.  The ideal of a Paradise with a perfect climate, trees always bearing fruit, a place without aging, disease or work has not been abandoned.  Consider how many modern conveniences, marketing campaigns, and resorts were born from those longings.  Super-sized meals deficient of nutrients, people purchasing luxury items on credit, and attempts to mask signs of aging can lead to lives out of balance.  Ironically, our desire for vengeance instead of reconciliation weighs on our hearts hurting us more than our enemies.   

            The mystery of death and the afterlife remains.  However, no matter who makes the final judgment whether it is God or karma, our own conscience or our impact on others—there is one conclusion, our actions matter.  Whether or not you believe in life after death or Heaven and Hell among us, all traditions teach the same lesson that our choices have consequences that can give rise to love or pain.  The path to healing and wholeness is through nourishing others.

Hutchinson Helped Build a Bridge to a Better World

One of the names being proposed for the new Sakonnet River Bridge is Anne Hutchinson. Like many early settlers, she moved to Massachusetts Bay Colony seeking to worship freely.  Anne had no formal education but was instructed by her father who was a dissident Puritan clergyman.  Anne and her husband William had eleven children when they arrived in the New World in 1634 and their family eventually grew to fifteen.  Anne invited other women to her home where they studied the Bible, discussed religious issues, and current events.  These gatherings were so engaging that soon men as well as women filled her home to participate in lively discussions.  Her following grew to eighty people, too large a gathering for a house so they moved to a church.


Although the early settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony left England in order to worship freely, they themselves did not believe in the free expression of religion.  The Puritans set up a theocracy where all people were expected to follow the same religious laws.  Anne Hutchinson directly challenged the moral and legal codes of the Puritans as well as advocating for the rights of women and Native Americans.  Like Rogers Williams, she was put on trial for her heretical views and banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony.  In 1638, Anne Hutchinson, her family, and sixty of her followers settled in Pocasset, what we now call Portsmouth, Rhode Island.


At a time when women were told to be quiet and obedient, Anne Hutchinson spoke out and defied the established order.  At a time when it was taught that women were cursed, Anne held a steadfast belief that to be a woman was a blessing.  Certainly, she had plenty of reasons to be complacent including the moral codes of the time and her massive responsibilities as the mother of such a large family.  There was no model for her actions.  However, she was moved by her own conscience, the teachings of her father, and her reading of the Bible which gave her a vision of a more harmonious world. 


She started small, inviting neighboring women to join her for conversation.  Her message and the energy that resulted could not be contained.  In just four years from when she arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony, her following grew enough to be perceived as a threat to the establishment.


In 1639, a year after Hutchinson’s group established Pocasset on the northern end of Aquidneck Island, half of the group led by William Coddington and Nicholas Easton moved south to form our city of Newport.  Following their conscience, many of them became Baptists believing in the separation of church and state.  This was codified into law in the Newport Town Statutes of 1641.  Newport is one of the first secular democracies.


Many times, we become discouraged with the complexity and scale of the problems of our times.  There are so many needs, so much that is broken and needs fixing.  The powers of government seem too entrenched with the interests of big business to really care about our well-being and that of the down-trodden. 


Anne Hutchinson did not complain that she was born into the doomed generation or find excuses for inaction.  She lived out her beliefs.  We must do the same. 


Living in a small state as we do, we have an opportunity to effect legislation and bring about positive change. One of the blessings of our country is that we are free to express our opinions and to advocate for change.  Our state senators and representatives work for us.  Whenever constituents take the time to communicate our message is taken seriously.

Although the outcome may not be clear from where we stand, a few people can build a bridge to a better world.

Public teaching with Khensur Rinpoche – October 30, 2008 in Newport, RI

I’m excited to announce that Venerable Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Wangdak will be offering a public teaching at Channing Church this October. The following is a brief bio provided by the Chenrezig Center.

Lobsang Tenzin Geshe Wangdak, Khensur Rinpoche, was born in 1934 in Tibet. Rinpoche was the senior teacher for 14 years, and Abbot for four years, at Namgyal Monastery, the Dalai Lama’s personal monastery in Dharamsala, India. In 1995, H. H. the Dalai Lama appointed Khensur Rinpoche Abbot and Senior Resident Teacher at Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, NY. He retired from Ithaca in 1998, and now resides at the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center in Middletown, Connecticut. Khensur Rinpoche was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest Tibetan Buddhist doctorate. Rinpoche received initiations and teachings of tantric practices of all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. For a more complete biography of Khensur Rinpoche, visit the Chenrezig Center’s website.

Event details:

Venerable Khensur Rinpoche
Geshe Lobsang Wangdak
October 30, 2008
7:30pm – 9pm

Channing Memorial Church

135 Pelham Street
Newport, RI

Suggested donation of $10, but no one will be turned away

Proceeds will benefit the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Connecticut

This I Believe

“This I Believe” is the inspiration for lay-led Sunday services at Channing Memorial Church while I am on vacation and study leave though August 5th.  As a Unitarian Universalist congregation, we uphold shared ministry, a vibrant partnership between the faith community and ordained minister. 


We believe that each person has unique insights to share about life and the workings of the sacred.  It is a true gift whenever people share their personal experiences and spiritual discoveries.  We learn essential truths of people’s lives.  In listening to this sort of authentic revelation, our own hearts and minds are expanded whether we share the same convictions or we are challenged to consider a new perspective.


“This I Believe” is a weekly series broadcast on National Public Radio in which both famous and every day people share their personal beliefs.  The essays are only three and a half minutes in length but they have incredible depth as people tell not only what they believe, but how they reached that conviction, and what made it grow.


The original program was hosted by Edward R. Murrow from 1951-1955.  Murrow became one of the most well-known and respected American journalists from his radio broadcasts from London during World War II.  When he returned to the States and CBS, he was concerned by what he perceived as an increasingly materialistic and adversarial trend in society.  At lunch with colleagues, as they discussed the issues of their day, Murrow asked, “Where are the values?”  It was from this simple question that “This I Believe” was born.


“This I Believe” was a product of its time.  It brought an important message of hope, faith, and courage in a period fraught with fear, doubt, and insecurity.  The fifties marked the dawn of the Cold War.  The United States was gripped by Anti-communist fears which led to loyalty oaths, blacklisting, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities led by Senator Joseph McCarthy.


Despite the growing climate of fear and insecurity, men and women were living lives of faith and integrity.  The aim of the program was not to be religious in a traditional sense but to offer insight into the core beliefs that guide daily life.  At a time when church attendance was high, this emphasis on personal belief rather than religious dogma became a cultural phenomenon.  The radio show aired across the nation and even abroad.  The essays also became syndicated and appeared weekly in newspapers as well as being compiled into a bestselling book.


A key to the program’s success were the guidelines for sharing.  All contributors were asked to frame their thoughts affirmatively: “This I Believe” instead of a tirade of disbelief or cynicism.  In order to do so, participants were asked to reflect upon their personal experiences and to speak from the first person instead of preaching or editorializing.  When people speak their deepest truths from their own experience, we are offered a precious gift, a window into life from a new perspective that can enrich our own.


In introducing the original series, Murrow said, “Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent”.  “This I Believe” was revived on National Public Radio in 2005.  Now, fifty years later, our nation is at war and there is a climate of fear especially with rising costs, job insecurity, and market volatility.  We are bombarded with messages of hate, conflict, violence, and deceit on a daily basis.  For these reasons, it is more important than ever for us to uphold the positive values of life.


One of the simplest ways to do this is by attending worship.  All are welcome to our Sunday services held at 10:00am in which members of Channing Memorial Church will share their beliefs along with music, meditation, and a time of sharing.  No matter whether you are a member of another faith community, searching for a religious home or looking for a place to center before a busy week, you and your family are welcome.