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Before yesterdayQuest for Meaning

Quest June 2022

1 June 2022 at 00:10

June 2022

Be faithful to that which exists within yourself. –Andre Gide


Thoughts About Integrity and Our National Character

Integrity is not a trait that can exist on its own. The word is a noun that refers to an entity, quality, state, action, or concept. Whether describing a trait of character or expressing a property of strength, integrity is always related to something else. However it is used, an essential quality of integrity is its role in describing completeness and soundness for what it refers to.

As applied to people, integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong principles. By extension, integrity implies that any organization of persons is more vital when honesty and a striving towards principles promulgated for the good of the whole. These attributes are a source of pride for Americans. We like to believe we define our character as rugged individuals who, by sheer will of force, carve out for ourselves and our families a superior way of life that attracts other such people to form a “more perfect union” governed by fairly applied laws.

James Burke wrote a book in 1985 called The Day the Universe Changed. In the book, Burke describes how seemingly small random events, or isolated moments, can radically change our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

I believe such a moment occurred on July 27, 2016 after the Republican National Convention concluded.

Pro Trump Mobs Storm Capitol sign

My wife and I watched an interview with former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. We were horrified to hear Gingrich explain what we now all understand as “alternative truth.” When confronted with the fact that crime in the United States had decreased, he insisted that facts don’t matter as much as feelings about crime. He said, “The current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics which theoretically may be right, but it’s not where human beings are. People are frightened… As a political candidate, I’ll go with how people feel, and I’ll let you go with the theoreticians.”

I believe that was the instant that heralded the death of truth and the political weaponization of fear in our country. It is when temptation overtook our national ethos. We succumbed to fear and ran willingly into the darkness of disenfranchisement, supremacy, and othering. We have been damaged by the false narrative of “exceptionalism” that denies our actual past and obscures our present. Our nation is imperiled because many of us are willing to sacrifice integrity and the rule of law for authoritarian power.

Democracies operate on fact, science, and objectivity, along with law. When there is no basis for action, save feelings, there is no democracy. We knew that, but we abandoned our highest path because a messy democracy became too complicated for some to bear. Newt Gingrich and his ilk smashed our Achilles heel to herd us into temptation and usher us into an era of darkness.

The events of January 6, 2021, may have sealed our fate.


1 June 2022 at 00:08

What does integrity mean to you?

CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

Integrity, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is, “completeness; unimpaired condition; soundness; honesty, sincerity, etc.” Some of the synonyms in Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus are “honor, uprightness, goodness, principle, probity, purity, righteousness, virtue, simplicity, stability and unity.”

To me, integrity means being true to oneself, with actions of uprightness and goodness towards others. By being true to yourself you remain the same when you’re alone as with others. There is a saying: “who are you when no one is looking?” The “you” that your family, friends, classmates, co-workers see — is it the same “you” as when you are by yourself, or are you a different person altogether in both worlds?

Sun and Mountain


By letting your actions be upright and good towards others, family or friend, stranger or foe, it makes no difference, for those actions show the world who you really are, the character that is built in you and the love that engulfs your heart. “Actions speak louder than words” has always been a true statement.

Some people are born with integrity, others have to work to integrate and cultivate it into their lives. Some have to work harder than others. Nevertheless, it’s a virtue and principle that everybody can have and should want to have. Everybody, I believe, should practice having one percent more integrity with every new dawn and day we wake up to. It could make a difference.

CLF Member, incarcerated in IL

Integrity to me means standing solid and firm in one’s own beliefs. Exhibiting good faith in a certain set of morals, principles, and values.

I hear that the pen is mightier than the sword; the tongue has been known to dismantle empires. The quality of a person’s integrity can only be measured through the weight of that individual’s actions. Though we are all animals at the end of the day, language and our intentions are two of the most fundamental elements in which the value of integrity is allowed to manifest itself within the physical realm.

The ability to connect and communicate with all, in pure harmony, in my opinion represents integrity in its highest form.

CLF member, incarcerated in CA

A building or any such structure having integrity means that it is not only whole but sound. For a person, integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral values. These definitions are closer than they appear. Let me tell you how.

Integrity, to me, is not only recognizing the wholeness of oneness of everything, but realizing that I am in unity with that oneness. And therefore, everyone is unified with that oneness.



This reminds me of one of Buddha’s revelations: that if we have lived many, like hundreds of thousands of incarnations, then it could be very likely that anyone you meet could have been your mother, in a previous incarnation. In addition, Jesus stated that he came to give one commandment: to love the oneness and each other as the oneness.

How are we treating each other? Is it even close to how you would treat your mother? Integrity is like that. When we treat each other with love, respect, and we “do no harm,” we would not be lying, stealing and all the other “thou shalt nots.” Integrity is not being divided or separated from anyone else. Recognizing blood color before skin color, the color of their flag, or the shape of their wholeness. Use unity as the basis of integrity and all the rest will take care of itself.

The Unknown

1 June 2022 at 00:07
By: Vylet

Ultra Vylet
CLF Member, incarcerated in FL

They wouldn’t show me the path in which to walk
Only the roads sidelined, with bodies in chalk
Vague directions and a god that refuses to be known
Look for me in darkness, the heartless child’s foster home

And so I cut my own path
Became my own god
Created my own ceremonies
Ordained my own laws

Instituted my own rituals
And sent my demons to hell
From the darkness I came
Illuminating myself

I created the light
And saw that it was good, you see
For no guru
Would show their wizen face
to me

And so my own master
No generic I’ve become
A unique soul
The esoteric sun

Whatever comes,
I will not be disrupted; the essence
My solar-systems spun
Spins spirit relentless

Energy vampires un-repented
Eternally burn on my contrite cross
For blood is an illusion
A conundrum delusion wrought
So look for my blood, if you
so choose
That which you seek your own you shall lose
Lost in confusion are all my foes
Bound by habit circled in woes

That’s a stick of dynamite
Not a candle they’re holding
But what’s a spiritual truth
To a creation so soulless

Pastors packing pulpit power
In their proverbial pipes
Puff puff; boom, plume!!
Eradication of life

On a nimbus cloud, I span the skys
The earth my love, the rain and I
Does everything natural not love the storm
Water is life, is light, is lore


From Membership to Stewardship

1 June 2022 at 00:06

When Aisha, Michael, and I were called as your Lead Ministry Team in 2020 we were excited to learn all the behind-the-scenes workings of CLF. All of us had been affiliated with CLF in one way or another over the years, be it as members, co-hosts of the VUU, and/or CLF programs.  We were and remain energized about the potential for CLF global ministry. We see the hunger for UU Faith Development offerings, Prison Ministry/Abolition programs, and of course the deep community building that happens during weekly worship service and covenant groups.

One aspect of CLF life which emerged into clearer focus for us were the ways in which CLF operates both as a church and a non-profit:

  • Sunday/Monday Worship – Church
  • Staff Structure – non-profit
  • Pastoral Care – Church
  • Membership Structure – non-profit

As we began interviewing staff, lay leaders, and members it became clear that there is a deep desire to build the CLF as a congregational community. The reasons we gather as a spiritual community are vast but they are always centered on building beloved community.… a spiritual community, a faith, a Unitarian Universalist home.

Chalice Drawing

‘Flaming Chalice’ by Larry. CLF member, incarcerated in NJ.

Michael, Aisha, and I, with the support of the CLF Board, set about realigning the staff and resources to more fully embrace a structure and culture of faith. In 2021 we underwent a wildly successful staff realignment which saw staff embrace those areas of their expertise and creative expression. Today our staff continue to report how excited and fulfilled they are working in this collaborative environment. And it shows because you, our members, are showing up to worship, covenant groups, and faith development offerings in droves. Our incarcerated UUs are finding us and flocking to our prison ministry.

So now we turn our attention to our membership structure. And friends let me tell you, the CLF is in full non-profit mode when it comes to membership! To join the church all one had to do is pay $50 and bam! you were a CLF Unitarian Universalist. Incarcerated UUs joined via membership form and then attended a ‘New UU” correspondence course in order to participate in our Pen Pal program.

But what Aisha, Michael and I asked is this question “who are the stewards of CLF Unitarian Universalism?” because in a faith community we are not just members but stewards. Our incarcerated UUs are stewards of our faith by their frequent contributions to Quest and sharing the good news of Unitarian Universalism within their incarcerated community.  Our free-world members tend towards the non-profit designation of member by paying a yearly membership fee. This isn’t to say that we don’t have self-identified stewards of CLF, we do. It’s to say that the way that we as the institution of CLF has positioned membership leads to a transactional nature rather than one of stewardship.

So we are excited to announce that beginning this summer we will launch a “From Membership to Stewardship” campaign. We will be asking folks to consider their “membership” in CLF from a stewardship perspective. We will be doing this in a variety of channels including mail, email, website, worship announcements, and faith development offerings.

We will be asking for you to think about your time, treasure, and talents as community offerings to stewarding Unitarian Universalism via the Church of the Larger Fellowship. And we will be creating opportunities to talk about stewardship, practice stewardship, and gain deeper understandings of just what being a steward of Unitarian Universalism is all about. We are soooo excited to be on this journey with you and look forward to exploring with you this upcoming season of “From Membership to Stewardship” at the CLF.

YoUUrs in faith,

Christina Rivera
Co-Lead Ministry Team

Quest May 2022

1 May 2022 at 00:10

May 2022

Where there is love there is life. –Mahatma Gandhi


Teaching Love

1 May 2022 at 00:09


Just four letters.

Inspiration for artists and musicians, poets and dancers, an elusive, harkening, echoing, beckoning promise of what is and might be, no multi syllabic synonyms are needed to evoke Love’s deep complexities.  A foundational influence from the time we are born, if we are lucky to have it, binding us to its mysteries and intricacies, some might even think of Love as God.

Minstrels and sonnet writers praise its wonders. “All you need is love,” sang The Beatles. “Love is all you need.”

Some spend an entire lifetime unraveling the enigma — is love a social construct or something that is hardwired into our physiology? Does it belong in the spiritual realm? Whatever form or shape it takes, one can be certain that an examination of love is not likely to make an appearance on a standardized test. Many of us devote decades to exploring Love’s many facets through the prism of our own understanding and experience.

For me, love means commitment and consistency, devotion and dedication. Love is present in the joy that results when understanding and transformation occur. Love is at its best when it gives rise to that other four letter, equally powerful word that makes us or another say: “Free.” And when it does not, we can know that Love is being mis-used.

For me love takes the form of sexuality education; offered freely, offered with commitment and consistency, devotion and dedication. For me sexuality education is offered through Our Whole Lives (OWL), a comprehensive values based sexuality education program developed by two religious groups, the UUA and the UCC (and yet completely secular).

Sexuality education is much more than learning about sexual intercourse and all it’s inherent dangers; it is about body image, self esteem, friendships, intimacy, whom we chose to love, how we see ourselves, within or beyond gender binaries, how we consent to love and  loving; it is an exploration of what makes us who we are, the most fundamental of human questing.

I’ve been an OWL facilitator for almost two decades — and I have to ask, “Am I getting complacent?” What if I were asked to double down on love? What would that look like for me and how I offer sexuality education?

I know that I have work to do in widening the circle to include people beyond those who “find themselves in our group.” I am called to engage the large community, whether through schools, neighborhood programs, adult schools, justice systems, or families. I need to work more intentionally with communities of the global majority whose access to and engagement with sexuality education might be compromised.

What of you, Beloved? What if you were asked to double down on love? What would you do differently?

With blessings for each of your journeys of exploration and discovery, deepening, questing, and questioning,

— Tuli


1 May 2022 at 00:08

What does love look/feel/sound like to you?

CLF Member, incarcerated in IL

That has always been a difficult question for me. As a kid, when I was being abused, I was told it was for my own good and because my dad loved me. My mother told me she loved me, then ran away to the other side of the country. As a teenager, my stepmother said that she loved me, then cut all contact with me for fear my father would find her after he got out of prison.

The only person who has told me that loved me and not abandoned or abused me is my aunt. Through all of the institutions and all of the trials and pain I have had to deal with, my aunt has supported me. Though she didn’t and doesn’t condone the behaviors that got me institutionalized, she has stood behind me. That, to me, is love.

I have never had a girlfriend and never had a date, so I don’t know what that kind of love is like. I have experienced the love of a pet. I had a dog as a child named Alfred. He made the nightmare of my childhood a little less dark. He could always make me smile and even make me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry.

Once I began to walk the pagan path and began to understand who and what I truly am, I have felt a serene love when communing with nature, and an unconditional love from my brethren in the pagan services here.

Now, as for loving myself: that has also been a difficult road. As a child, I was made to believe that I was nothing, that I was worth nothing, that I would never amount to anything. It has been very difficult for me to overcome that. It has taken years, a number of people helping me, and a lot of self-reflection and growth for me to get to where I can love myself and accept myself. As it  has been said over and over, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

So love to me is supporting someone when they need it most, even if you don’t like what they did. It is making someone feel better, making them smile or laugh when they are hurting. Love is accepting someone for who they are, without judgment or reservations. Love is casting away negative external and internal perceptions and truly figuring out who you are and accepting that person.

What is Love?

CLF Member, incarcerated in FL

L-O-V-E. Probably one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. Mostly due to the fact we only have one word for it. The Greeks however have multiple words to describe different types of love. Here are four of them:

Eros, the easiest, is physical love. This is where we get words like erotic. It’s the love of how things look/feel/smell/taste or any other physical property. This might be an initial feeling towards someone we’re attracted to.

Philia is brotherly love. Think of philanthropy, coming together to raise money for a cause. This describes the love towards friends, co-workers and even humanity as a whole.

Storge is familial love. Not a common root word in the English language, but this is the love one typically feels towards parents, children, siblings or cousins.

The most powerful form of love is agape, or unconditional love that continues despite and perhaps even due to our flaws.

This is sometimes the hardest to achieve because as humans we put conditions on so much, usually unconsciously. This is what we as UUs strive for, especially in our acceptance of the LGBTQ+ and incarcerated members. This is the love to strive for.

What about your love?


CLF member, incarcerated in CO

Love is a simple yet complex emotion for us to truly describe. However, we seem to know it when we feel it. Problems arise when we grasp at, try to control or desire love. Problems also happen when we reject or do not reciprocate love.

Love is at its best when we just allow it to be, and in turn, when we just “be” in it. Love exists outside of us, sometimes with, sometimes without us. We are not necessary for love, but love is a necessity for us.


CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

To put into words that which transcends words is something the greatest poets all throughout time have tried to do (with varying success). Since I consider myself to be a bit of an amateur poet and writer, this is something that I have thought on many times.

An over-simplification is that love is just a basic chemical reaction, impulses that are instinctive. Perhaps you can say that of lust, but not love, for love is not a physical reaction, but a social construct, a characteristic of thinking beyond the self.

When I think on love, an old Greek story comes to mind. There was a creature that walked the Earth that was so powerful, it could overthrow the Gods themselves. It had four arms, four legs, and two heads. Zeus, being fearful of what these creatures could do, rendered them in half; to this day, these now split creatures look for their other half, so that they may once again be as one.

What this story is talking about is humans and the concept of soulmates. I always liked the idea that when you are with your soulmate, that the love you have, is the greatest power in all the world.

Another way of looking at it is a puzzle, composed of two pieces. On their own, you have a slight understanding of the image. Maybe two pieces that are not truly matching can be put together, but the story told is disjointed, and doesn’t make much sense. But when they match up, a story for the ages is told.

Nearly 20 years ago, I found that one, the missing piece, my missing half. With her, I felt at peace. The best way I can describe that feeling is with a smile. It’s a special smile, one that only came across my face when I looked at her. It drove her crazy, because one could consider it a “I have a secret” smile.

In a way, I did, and I’ll let you in on it. Now come close, for not everyone can handle this, so they shouldn’t hear it: my love for my wife is the power that makes the Gods themselves tremble. Forever & Always.


1 May 2022 at 00:07
By: Gary


In the beginning
it was all darkness and fear
I saw no way out
no end to my anguish
a place that conveys death
yet, can offer life?
to become new
I entered into this cocoon,
a target of transformation,
the time out in darkness
becomes a metamorphosis
death and life working together
to bring about a transformation
from the ruins of the old
like a butterfly, to emerge
forever changed
a person I have never been,
but the world, this life
isn’t all rainbows and butterflies,
for you can’t change the mind
if you have not touched the heart

Interminable Affinity

1 May 2022 at 00:06

(an intermission of love’s omissions)

Chase Cole
CLF member, incarcerated in MA

this memory unfolds
spilling over my shoulder
with Hyacinth coolness
shades of hair
spiral downward
rose and sweet a meadow’s breath
tickles my tongue
tingling red wine kisses
little sips of you

pale fingers caress shadows
cinders spear lambent gazes
never wandering eyes
tease my vibe
you are the bee
who robs my hive
unfolding myself beside you
will this last?

you ask
shivering autumnal sun
folded legs tucked under mine
petals of fallen white
holding me
shaping your outline
a nimbus of startling height
passes above us
our love
falls before us

we are a tangle of consciousness
steep and wild
merging rivers crashing together
hidden in veils of light
small wild fruit grows upon your
stop and speak
to me
your silk-blue eyes
purple crescent skies
plum blossoms inhale you
I steal your smiles
cup them inside my heart
trap them inside your warmth
hold me lovely tell me I’m yours

you will come dazzling beside me
risen from jelly shaking your soul
I calm your tremors
kissing you lightly on night’s wind
this world hints of you
your rise and fall
inhaling a life we built together
exhaling empires we destroyed
forever promises eternity
love demands it
—we rise mountains
smooth summits—
sail thermals

Notice of the CLF Annual Meeting

1 April 2022 at 00:07

To all members of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist:

Per Article VII, Sections 1 and 2, of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) Bylaws, the 49th Annual Meeting will be held via video/telephone conference call and screen sharing on Sunday, June 5, 2021 at 7:00PM EDT.

To join the meeting, click here.

We will be distributing materials electronically to all CLF members for whom we have a current email address, and posting the documents to our website (www.clfuu.org/annualmeeting). All incarcerated members will automatically receive paper copies of the materials along with postage-paid ballots to return. Others may request hard copies mailed to you by sending back the form on the final page of this issue of Quest, or calling the CLF office at 617-948-6150.

All those who have access to the Internet or phone are encouraged to join our meeting via Zoom and participate in the discussion. Meeting materials will include absentee ballots for those unable to attend in person.

The purpose of the meeting is to:

  • Report on highlights of CLF activities and finances
  • Vote for the following leadership positions (see nominations from

Nominating Committee in the packet):

  • Elect three members to 3-year terms on the board of directors,
  • Elect one members to 1-year term on the board of directors to fill a term vacated before the term was finished,
  • Elect one member to a 3-year term on the nominating committee,
  • Elect a clerk and treasurer for one year

We will elect a moderator from among members present to preside at the meeting.

Aisha Ansano, Board Chair

The Shape of Memory

1 April 2022 at 00:06

A phrase landed in me during the week that my mother was dying, as I grasped at any words I could find to make sense of the enormous shift in front of me.

The shape of every memory is changing.

I was seeing with painful clarity what anyone who has experienced big loss knows: I would now have two lives. The first life was the previous 26 years in which I was lucky enough to have my beloved mother with me in life, and the second, however much time I have in front of me, in which I would have to hold her close as a beloved ancestor. And every memory from that first life was now changing, shaped by the reality of this sudden ending.

My mother was a constant in all of the life I’d already known. Her steady presence, her love and care, was a backdrop to all things — a backdrop so fundamental to my experience of life that it was hard to see it clearly at times. Her love had always been at the center of my life, but I wouldn’t have named it as such until I realized I would have to live without her living presence reinforcing it. Perhaps that’s just the way of everything that is fundamental. We assume there will always be air to breathe, until there isn’t; we assume the sun will rise every day, until it doesn’t.

Now, the backdrop of my every memory was suddenly shifting into focus. Now, in the constant foreground: the gift of having had my mother for any time at all, my gratitude for any moment we spent together in life. The shape of every memory had changed.

So many other things have come into clearer focus along with that shift. There is painful truth to the cliche that major loss makes you realize what’s most important. I’ve moved through the past year with much more clarity about how I want to use my time and energy, letting go of past insecurities and narratives that no longer serve me. With my mother’s love at the center, I understand the sacredness of my life more fully. The shape of my every memory has changed, and with it, the shape and direction of my life.

Memory is not static, an unchanging account of events and relationships and facts. It is the source of our meaning-making, a collection of threads from which we weave the narrative that holds our life. The shape and texture of our memories change along with us, as we need them to, to make sense of the ever-changing reality we are faced with.

Letting the shape of my memories change to foreground my mother’s love is one of the things that has saved me, that has made surviving this first year without her possible. How we remember matters — and the shape of our memories can shape our lives as we move through them.

May you each find a shape to your memories that allow you to move through loss and change with more ease. May you know, always, that you are loved, and let that holding shape all of your life to come.

Quest April 2022

1 April 2022 at 00:10

April 2022

One lives in the hope
of becoming a memory.
–Antonio Porchia


    What is Memory?

    Rev. Jane Dwinell
    I am terrible at remembering names. I have tried all of the tricks to be able to do that, but nope, not for me. Thank goodness for name tags! Read more »


    Quest for Meaning
    How do you honor memory in your life? Read more »

    Notice of the CLF Annual Meeting

    Quest for Meaning
    Per Article VII, Sections 1 and 2, of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) Bylaws, the 49th Annual Meeting will be held via video/telephone conference call and screen sharing on Sunday, June 5, 2021 at 7:00PM EDT. Read more »

    The Shape of Memory

    Rose Gallogly
    A phrase landed in me during the week that my mother was dying, as I grasped at any words I could find to make sense of the enormous shift in front of me. Read more »

What is Memory?

1 April 2022 at 00:09

I am terrible at remembering names. I have tried all of the tricks to be able to do that, but nope, not for me. Thank goodness for name tags!

But I remember so many details about so many people, even if I have forgotten their names. I could list them all, but one stands out — the nurse’s aide who held my hand in the emergency room after I was in a terrible car accident when I was 19.

Is it necessary for me to remember this? What if I forgot? Would it matter?

Thinking about memory suddenly became important when my

husband, Sky, was diagnosed with dementia in 2016. I had known something wasn’t quite right with him for a few years. He denied anything was wrong, but eventually agreed to be tested: probable early stage Alzheimer’s. We were stunned.

As we processed this devastating news, Sky said he assumed he would eventually forget his family, but he was mostly afraid that he would forget his Self.

So we read books about memory. It turns out that there are several kinds of memory — ranging from memories of how to do things (ride a bike, tie our shoes) to memories of things that happened to us (however incomplete those memories are) to memories of factual information (Where is the bathroom? What is the capitol of Mali?).

Then Sky wrote:

As the attacks on our intellects and memory continue, we feared changing into people neither we nor our loved ones would value spending time with.  What is left for us if the glue of memory no longer holds our selves together?

As time went on, Sky gradually lost the ability— the memory — of how to do many things. What clothes to wear. How to button buttons or zip zippers. How to read. How to get into bed. How to pull up the covers.

Did he still know his Self?

Sky spent his last year in a memory care facility. He walked the corridors, interacting with other residents and the staff, singing songs, making jokes. Sky was one of those people that had a song lyric for every occasion. Me? I can’t remember song lyrics, never mind who starred in what movie.

When he was dying, he was still singing, and he seemed happy. He told me I was beautiful, and he told me the end was near.

He may not have remembered his Self, but I sure did. It was all there, in its blazing glory.

Is it only memory that is the glue that holds our selves together?

I think there is a fourth kind of memory — emotional memory. We all have negative emotional memories, but we all have positive emotional memories as well.

I was so, so grateful for the nurse’s aide who soothed me, scared and in pain, as I waited in a cold, stark ER. I can still feel her love and care fifty years later.

And when I remember Sky these days, a year after his death, of course I remember all the things we did together.  But mostly I remember the love we shared.

And what could be more important?

What about you? What memories are important for you to remember? Are they factual? Emotional? How would it feel to not remember?


1 April 2022 at 00:09

How do you honor memory in your life?

Post-it notes


CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

I feel like I am going to take this topic in a direction most are not expecting. The way I honor memory in my life is by trying to remember it. I know that may sound strange, but allow me to explain. Due to a past of very heavy drug use, I have done some pretty severe damage to my brain. My thoughts are slow, my ADHD is harder to keep in check (and yes, I actually have ADHD, unlike the massive numbers of people who have been falsely diagnosed). I will lose my train of thought, and if I don’t have a good reminder it stays lost, no matter how much I rack my brain to retrieve it.

When I think of things I need to get done, I either have to do them right then and there, or I have to make a note of it, or it won’t get done until something reminds me to do it. When I pick up a book I’m reading at the time, I have to skim the last page or two to remember what happened before I put it down. When I write a long letter, I periodically have to reread the letter to remember what I have already written (I’ve already done it once with this essay). I used to be quite skilled at mathematical calculations in my head, but that’s impossible now, I have to do it on paper.

I have been sober going on two years now, and unlike all the other times I quit using, I honestly have no desire to use anymore. Yes, on occasion I feel a slight urge, but it’s so fleeting that I have already decided I don’t want to before the thought is even finished. I know from experience that if I indulge in any kind of intoxicant, even slightly, it’s a full on cannonball into the pool. I’m that kind of addict. I know this about myself. Ten years of experience taught me, so I stay away from everything.

Since I’m sober, the ongoing damaging of my brain has stopped. I was told by a highly intelligent friend of mine that my brain can slowly heal the damage that I have done to it, and omega-3 fish oils will help. So I take two 1000mg gel tablets a day. He also told me that exercising my memory by memorizing things helps. I memorize song lyrics. I’m also trying to teach myself to speak Russian and read and write Cyrillic. Tackling a new language at thirty with a brain that drugs have turned into oatmeal is difficult, but I persevere.

I’m doing my best to honor my memory. I really hope that I can bounce back from my poor decisions. But if I can’t accept the consequences of my bad choices, I really have no choice, right?

Mobile phone


CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

Memory can be a fickle thing, especially with me. “You have autism, so you must have a photographic memory!” Well, a) it’s technically called idyllic memory, and b) I don’t have it either way. My memory just functions differently than the norm; some things are just easier for me to recall, and others less so.

Pretty much anything that involves static events and not people, I can recall, even if I can’t recall them that quickly. When people become involved, even in those life-changing, life-affirming events, I struggle to remember. I may know that something happened, the “wide-strokes” if you will, but the nitty-gritty details can escape me.

But not always. Not in the sense that when I was younger I could and that as I got older the ability lessened, but that there was a time for me when I could recall all memories with the same level of clarity.

The time is simple to define: it was when I was able to be with, be near, my one and only, my Forever & Always. When in her presence, I could bring to mind all those things that mattered so much. When I first met her and when our daughter was born, everything, good and bad, felt as if it just happened. (Though mind you, the bad wasn’t really that bad, for it was always a learning experience, and something greater always came out of it.)

Then with the separation, brought about from me being charged and incarcerated, things started to slip. Now it’s a struggle to hold onto any little detail, every smile, every hiccup, fading away to nothing.

What hurts even more is that I know that there’s a hole there, a missing spot within my memory, like an empty folder in a filing cabinet. Something important was there, I just don’t know what it was.

Nowadays, people bemoan social media and living your life online, taking needless pictures, posting irrelevant information that only matters to them. But that’s the thing: all of that matters to them. It’s a digital record, a “backup” of your memories, that allows one to easily go back and relive those memories. I find the expression of the self and the sharing of it to be a wonderful thing. Through that, one can live true to themselves, and remember all they were, are, and can be.

Memory jar


CLF Member, incarcerated in CO

When I reflected on this question I realized I don’t really honor the memories in my life. What I do is long for them, grieve for them, reminisce, and become nostalgic. Memories come all the time, triggered by sights, smells, sounds, and stimuli that I can’t always put my finger on.

When these memories arise now and flood me with emotion, I will pause and rest in whatever it is I am feeling. I give that memory the proper place it deserves, and give myself the extension of that time and place. This will give that memory the honor and respect it deserves — good or bad, there is always a knowledge and understanding to be grasped.

The Aunties Have Always Known

1 March 2022 at 00:10

When I was a teenager, I loved Ralph Waldo Emerson, particularly his essay on self-reliance. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. I repeated these words to myself often. Back then my family was large and everyone knew everyone’s business. This was by design. As somewhat recent immigrants, we had learned how to keep our family safe. My mom and aunties would often prod me on the details of my life, cross-referencing information, verifying. I kept several diaries at that time, some of them in code, because I knew that if my diary was discovered it was getting read. Probably by more than one person.

All of this was done for your own good, they liked to tell me, because they loved me. And I felt loved. I also felt stifled. I planned my escape to a mythical land of self-reliance, where one day I could do for myself alone and not worry what anyone else thought. Think Henry David Thoreau, but Doc Marten boots, drug addiction, and a basement apartment in downtown Seattle.

My journey of rebellious self-reliance indeed led me to some mythical places, but they were scary, too. And self-destructive. It took many years of sobriety for me to finally appreciate my family. During some of the worst days of my addiction, those same aunties helped my mom pull me out of drug dens and bring me home. These are the kind of aunties who will drop everything when called, pick you up from anywhere you ask, and bring along a plate of salami and bread in case you’re hungry. They arrive early to help and stay late to clean up and they never ask for anything in return. They know how to care for you because they know you. They take the time to get up in your business and ask.

The aunties know that Emerson’s idea of self-reliance is a white supremacist lie. And it is always, ultimately, self-destructive. None of us, no matter who we are, relies on ourselves alone. Not even Thoreau, who was famously cared for by his aunties, too. The aunties have always known. We are all inherently interdependent, meaning mutually dependent, dependent on one another to survive. Without community care—without a multitude of generations leaning into that interdependence and making use of it—none of us will make it. The earth and its creatures can live no other way.

Emerson was wrong. It isn’t self-reliance that secures the integrity of my mind, but self-care. And even that doesn’t secure the integrity of my soul. For the integrity of my soul, I look to my community: my family, my ancestors, the earth, all the communities of people who claim me, and my body, as I claim myself. For the integrity of my soul, I build resilience by building relationships. I follow the example of my aunties, asking for help when I need it and showing up for others when they need me. Interdependence means we rely on one another. We depend upon each other. We actively care. It is the very opposite of self-reliance. And in this time of global pandemic and social revolution, it is the only way we will survive.


1 March 2022 at 00:09

What does it mean to live interdependently?

CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

RiverTo be interdependent is to depend on one another. Living in a way that not only allows interaction and participation with others, but encourages and is founded on such principles.

It can be one living within a fully functioning community of like minded individuals, or simply a fellowship of individuals living separately operating as a collective. Either way, it is an active union amongst individuals.

To live interdependently is to give, receive, and share what one has to offer with others. It is to allow yourself to rely on and trust others outside of yourself to meet needs in your life.

In a way, it is an acknowledgment through lifestyle choice that we as humankind are meant to live in connection with life outside ourselves. It is a need that when not fulfilled, we are left with a feeling of incompletion. Can anyone truly make the claim that they have met every need in their life without the assistance of anyone else?

When I have people around me as a part of my life whom I can depend and rely on, my life seems as though it flows more easily and is not as restricted. It opens up more and new possibilities in my life to explore.

CLF Member, incarcerated in VA

Island with palm trees“No man is an island.” This is a quote that most of us heard early in life, along with such aphorisms as, “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and “slow and steady wins the race.” But what does it actually mean, this figure of speech that brings to mind palm trees and coconuts?

I would like to think that the meaning of this saying lies under the fact that each of us, as individuals, as families, as communities even, live in ways that are interdependent with one another. By this I mean that each of us, whether intentionally or not, affect the lives of those around us — and it is up to each of us to decide whether it is for the good of others or not. In the same way that a soft breeze can throw a flurry of oak leaves in the autumn, so can the simple act of a friendly gesture, a smile, or a sharp word affect the outcome of someone else’s day.

In this way, each of us is interdependent with everyone else — we are each free to act as we will, but with the knowledge that our actions affect others, not just ourselves.

CLF Member, incarcerated in WA

I used to believe that the only way to be successful was to be independent, and that meant that I needed nobody’s opinions, teaching, or help. This worked well all the way up until about 4th grade. At that point, I wasn’t getting picked to play on anybody’s team. I was an outcast and alone.

I had to come up with a solution, and my solution was to ask for help. Knowing who to ask and when developed over time, and I created a network of friends, family and spiritual leaders that guide me interdependently.

Please don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. I believe that God intends for us to need each other!

CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

Spider webAs COVID has shown us, we live in an interconnected world. One life affects another, distance no longer isolating each of us. Mind you, to combat this virus, we physically had to distance — which highlighted our need for physical connection, many not realizing until it was too late how much we depended upon each other, needed each other.

For we do need each other. We all have something to contribute. Some may say that those of us in prison don’t do anything to help; I feel the same way about the talking heads that say this. It may be hard, and there are those that feel they don’t owe anything to the greater world, but we do help, in our own way.

Beyond that dichotomy, looking all around, you see new and inventive ways for people to connect and stay connected. That human interaction cannot be stopped, for it is a part of our core, as essential as the air we breathe.

There are those that isolate, not in a medical sense, but a geopolitical one. They feel that they don’t need anyone, that caring for the hurt and downtrodden is not only beneath them, but it is their right to, well, tread on them. It’s sad, for in the end, not even they gain from these actions.

For we all need each other, Everyone has something that they can do, something that is needed by another, not only to live, but to thrive. You can exist without others, but can only prosper with the support of others.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

1 March 2022 at 00:08

In April of 2019, I led a youth and adult delegation from the local congregation I serve on a service-learning trip to Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We engaged in a year-long series of learning sessions about Native American history, with an emphasis on the history, spirituality, teachings, and practices of the Lakota people.

Our time at Pine Ridge began with a tour of important sites on the reservation. I wrote this after returning from Wounded Knee, site of the 1890 massacre of nearly 300 Lakota people by the United States Army. I was reminded then that our interdependence transcends not only place but also time—and that in order to make a better future we must learn about and atone for the sins of the past.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

(Pine Ridge Reservation, 4.14.19)

How do you prepare
to visit the site of genocide?
Where the soil has been stained
with the blood of innocents?

If you’re Jewish, perhaps
you find a small, smooth stone
and carry it reverently
to place on the grave of
Lost Bird, infant survivor,
kidnapped and sold and displayed
like a trophy.
We remember you, you might say.

I took a walk with friends
up a steep, snowy hill
to pray,
to see the sun set,
to feel close to the Earth.
Along the muddy path
the meadowlarks trilled and chirped
from their hidden nests
amidst the dry grass
blessing the journey
with their song.

At Wounded Knee, we listened.
First to an oral history of a people who survive, told
with sage burning for purification,
eyes closed in memory of
the inherited trauma of generations.

And then,
after the stories,
to the meadowlarks.
The lost birds singing
through time
across borders
announcing the holiness
of the ground on which we stood.

A Message To The Community: A Letter From Prison

1 March 2022 at 00:06
By: Reggie

CLF Member, incarcerated in PA

Drawing of hands holding sunflowerI offer my condolences to the families who have lost loved ones
And became victims to the violence

I offer my apologies for having been derelict in my duty and responsibility as a man
In not being the guardian, educator, and leader my communities needed
In order to be vital and life-affirming

I want to inform you that it is my goal to counteract
the insanity of the destructive mindset
And I do not embrace those who prey upon any people
But particularly, my people

I want my voice to be heard:
Let the violence, drug dealing, physical, and spiritual
abuse of the communities stop

As a man, I want it to be known that I have come to value and recognize
That the children need and deserve a safe and secure
environment in which to grow and develop,
Be educated, have access to equal opportunities to excel
And become who the Creator intended them to be

I ask that everyone reading or hearing this looks at a child
Whether at home, school, at play, in church, or mosque, and consider these words:

I am the African child

The whole world awaits my coming, all the earth
watches with interest
To see what I shall become
Civilization hangs in the balance; for what I am, the
world of tomorrow will be

I am the African child

You have brought me into this, about which I know
You hold in your hand my destiny
You determine whether I shall succeed or fail
Give me, I beg you, a world where I can walk tall and proud
Train me, as is your duty unto me
To love myself, and my people
And to build and maintain a great nation
It is I who proclaim

I am the African child

The whole world awaits my coming, I shall not delay it
For I too have a dream

General Assembly Delegate Information

1 March 2022 at 00:05

UUA General Assemby


The February 2022 issue of Quest included information about 2021 General Assembly by error.

 Apologies for the mistake! Below is information about becoming a CLF delegate for the 2022 General Assembly.

Would you like to represent the Church of the Larger Fellowship at General Assembly (GA) this summer? The CLF is entitled to 22 delegates at the UUA’s General Assembly, which will be held both online and in-person in Portland, OR from June 22-26, 2022.

You will be able to attend online or in-person workshops, programs, and worship services. Proof of vaccination for COVID-19 is required to attend in person.

As a delegate you will be able to vote during General Sessions. General Sessions will be held from 9:30-12:30pm PT on 6/23-6/25 and 12:30-2:30pm PT on 6/26. Delegates should be able to be online or in person to attend the majority of these General Sessions. CLF delegates vote their conscience on matters related to the denomination of Unitarian Universalism, and are responsible for their own expenses.

If you’d like to participate in GA 2022 in this role, please fill out the online application at clfuu.org/delegate-application. Visit the UUA’s General Assembly website at www.uua.org/ga for details.

Quest March 2022

1 March 2022 at 00:00

March 2022

All are caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality, tied in a single
garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects
all indirectly.
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Whole and Holy

1 February 2022 at 00:10

SpiralI came fractured, I healed, and now I live in a stained glass mosaic of faith. The ME you see is a collection of shards, reconfigured and made into a whole new kind of beautiful.

I am proof that spiritual growth is both possible and worth it, proof that life is such a beautiful, complicated mess.

I grew up in a home where faith was spoken but never personally practiced. I know the words of belief, but not the behaviors. We swore to g*d, but we never visited a house of worship. I learned reverence for faith, but I never adopted a faith ideology.

As a teen, I came out to myself as a bisexual. This knowing was huge and shaped much of my life at the time. In parallel, having always been drawn to topics of faith, I began seeking out a faith community.

The churches I attended told me two things: I was a divine creation of g*d, AND g*d was casting me into hell for being bisexual. I tried to reconcile these two juxtapositions. I lived as a sacred creature of g*d who was also hell-bound. I took on the posture of the unredeemable.

In 2000, I took a job at a local Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, a faith/church/ way of relating to g*d that was new to me. I treated that first community like a hostile suspect. I took on the posture of a disbeliever. Who were these people? Where is the sales pitch? When do we talk about my time in hell? 

My suspicion dissolved when I learned more about the seven principles of UU, communal rituals, and social justice dedication. This faith was not asking me to worship a book or man; the ask was to join a beloved community aspiring to be their best self.

This invitation was the gateway I needed to dive “heart first” into the faith community and bring myself whole/ holy. You can see the evolution of my journey as I have moved from lay leader, paid staff, and now as a minister in training. I have come a long way in 20 years. And over time, I have gained a posture of spiritual maturity and curiosity.

My faith looks like being a community member, volunteering on different committees, and financial stewardship. It includes the hosting of altars for African Ancestors, participating in seasonal rituals, movement as prayer, and by no means is bound to Sunday morning.

I used to say I came to UU whole, but that was not true. I stumbled into this faith with open wounds and deep scars that needed severe tending.

I stayed because the approach to healing was holistic, encompassing, and expansive.

I remain because I believe that access to spiritual healing will be a crucial component in our freedom fight.

Can you imagine what systems we could dismantle if we came to work from a place of healed + honored wholeness?

That is what I am working toward, what I believe is necessary and possible.

A stained glass mosaic of faith, reconfigured and made into a whole new kind of beautiful.

Whole and holy.


1 February 2022 at 00:09

How do you practice and cultivate joy, especially when times are hard?

Double-Edged Joy

CLF Member, incarcerated in CA

“ I slept and dreamt that
    life was joy.
I awoke and saw that
    life was service.
I acted and beheld
    service was joy.”
—Rabindranath Tagore

Joy is one of the few things we humans desire for its own sake. It inspires us to pursue our highest ideals and is the fuel of hope when the fell clutch of circumstance gives us no season to continue. The swell and rush, the soaring of the heart, the urge to smile and laugh and dance: we dream of life being filled with such joy.

There is, however, a dark side to joy. Too much can be an easy lure into complacency or can feel like a veil hiding our problems from ourselves. Depression has its secret joys — the enticing liberation from the duties upon our weary shoulders. Drugs are abused exactly because they throw a euphoric haze over the brain, even as they rob it of chemical self-reliance. Then there is the dogmatic zealot, who condemns, while reveling in the joyous throes of blind faith. Joy can lead away from service to our better angels.

Where does that leave us? Should we moderate our joy? I think we are better off rethinking joy: it is a practice we can cultivate. We can learn to find joy in the small details of life, the everyday gifts we largely take for granted. We do not have to wait for disaster to rob us of our bounty to finally appreciate it — that is the power of a spiritual practice. For me, having a liberal spirituality calls me to love the world as it is right now. It helps me see the beauty everywhere and resist the darker joys that try to pull me away from my own path. I want joy to better serve me so that I might better serve others. That is a joy worth having.


CLF Member, incarcerated in NY

Joy is all too rare behind bars, yet it is here that I experienced its power.

After a year of legal proceedings, I was transferred to a state facility. Arriving well into the evening I was physically stunned at the intimidating walls, razor wire, and unearthly lights from the towers creating a forbidding estate — ghostly and lifeless. If the prison designers intended to conjure Dante (Abandon All Hope All Yet who Enter Here) they succeeded.

Soon I received a letter from my aunt saying she was planning to visit me. I considered writing to wave her off. I longed to see her, but how can I be so selfish as to allow her to experience the visceral injury that is arriving here and being subjected to visitor processing. I did not write.

After a long hug and happy greetings, I told her how I worried for her, entering a totally depressing environment. She held my hand and said, “As I pulled up, all I felt was joy for seeing you.”

What an incredible gift! Circumstance did everything to defeat joy. Ignoring the circumstance, she lovingly created joy for both of us.

CLF Member, incarcerated in NC

How do I cultivate joy, especially when times are hard? Well, the first thing I do is wiggle my toes, move my legs and arms, open and close my eyes, remembering that all things I can physically do with my body should not be taken for granted, and I thank the higher power for those gifts.

I also give thanks for many other things. Even though I am in prison, there are many blessings if I count them. Food, water, shelter, clean clothes, and a clean comfortable bunk to sleep on. Even though many of the people surrounding me have been sentenced for violent offenses, I somehow feel safe and serene.

I have plenty of time to study and plenty of material to fuel my desire for self improvement, as well as knowledge of self. I have a budget that allows me to buy things I want. I have a job that allows me opportunities to serve others, which allows me to take my mind off myself for a change as well. I have a release date, which some people in here do not.

I have developed a meditation practice which has begun to calm the stormy hail-field of my mind, parting the clouds and fog slowly, allowing me to realize many things and gain insight on developing a purpose-driven life.

So anytime things seem to get hard, and I feel down and out, I practice these steps, and I pray to my creator and all is good, and ask forgiveness for any past violation against the order of goodness and love. I ask for the peace that surpasses all understanding to come over me, and that’s when I receive the gift of joy, and how I cultivate it daily. This was not an overnight result, it is a practice, one that I have and will continue to revise and allow to evolve in my life. Even though I am in prison, and still have some time to go, I have significant hope for the future, and I’m filled with joy when I think of how far I’ve been brought out of the pit of despair that I found myself in prior to being incarcerated. I am blessed and look forward to future opportunities to bless others as part of my spiritual quest here on this earth. ′

CLF Member, incarcerated in VA

I practice and cultivate joy by helping others through these times of hardship — and I still take time for myself to connect with our Creator and Savior so that I can remain in a joyous spirit, to continue passing joy to those that come to me, or I find in my walk of the day.

I surround myself, even when the negativity surrounds me, with the light from who created us, and remind myself that this is all part of the “plan.” I believe that all is part of the trials and tribulations that we have to go through until it, the whole plan, is put to rest and made new and everlasting.

So, surround yourself with this knowledge — seek and you shall find, as all you have to do is ask and receive and know that one must have faith. Believe and fight the good fight and it (the Joy) will come in time. Seek friends, company, to help bring you out of the funk you might be in.

Be hopeful, be around others, and activate the energy to create the joy needed for our lives.

CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

I’m a 50-year-old menopausal Black mother of three, who has been living in a non-air conditioned solitary confinement cell the size a parking space for the past five and a half years.

In this environment, which has been designed for human torture and suffering, the holidays are always a time of increased suicides and suicide attempts. I practice and cultivate joy by “mothering” the many 17-19 year old adolescents living with me in here.

It’s fulfilling to offer guidance and life lessons in kindness to other people’s children, as I would my own. I can only pray and hope the Universe will reciprocate for my three children. These acts of love and kindness provide an immense sense of purpose for me.

Lead with Examples

1 February 2022 at 00:08
By: Adrian

CLF Member, incarcerated in FL

What do I think of the Quest Monthly theme?

How joy from within will be as a light beam,
when you live in the present moment,
connecting and uniting with humanity
Start now and make a covenant,
with the I am I am within

Interconnectedness through humility,
We are one so count me in…

Balance, spirit, covenant, and race:
all part of my daily compass
Union, embodiment, creativity, and grace:
What I will express en-mass

But first I must connect
with divine love within and not neglect,
the mission of compassion today,
touching hearts with my words and
leading with examples one way.

Daily Compass

1 February 2022 at 00:06

The Daily Compass is a ministry of the Church of the Larger Fellowship crafted by Rev. Michael Tino of the Lead Ministry Team and other CLF staff members. It offers words and images to inspire spiritual reflection and encourage the creation of a more loving, inclusive and just world. Short reflections and prompts related to monthly themes are posted every day at dailycompass.org. The following are a few selections from February Daily Compass offerings.

Jumping for joyJoy

Amidst the harshness of our world, it is an important spiritual practice to claim (or reclaim) joy. To wrap it around us like a blanket against the coldness of our world. Joy keeps the ember of our soul burning when forces outside of us would conspire to snuff it out.

Find something today that makes you rejoice. Find something that makes you feel warm and alive.


Black, smiling womanResistance

In recent years, I have come to embrace joy as an act of resistance. There is so much evil and sadness out there and it was through reading and following Black activists that I realized that we can’t get lost in the idea of finding joy wherever we can.

How do you resist the evil and sadness of our world?


Mayhem bannerMayhem

We must find places to restore “our deep knowing that we have to take care of ourselves and each other with love and joy if we are to soulfully survive the world’s mayhem.”
—Heather Rion Starr

What is your place of refuge amidst mayhem? How is your joy restored?


Smiling, black womanWholeness

“I have learned to trust those who are witnesses rather than gurus, those who express their confusion as well as their knowledge, and those who share their suffering along with their joy.”
—David Rankin

Practice being a whole, authentic person with someone you trust.

Representing the CLF at GA 2022

1 February 2022 at 00:05


Would you like to represent the Church of the Larger Fellowship at General Assembly (GA) this summer?

The CLF is entitled to 22 delegates at the UUA’s General Assembly, which will be held both online and in-person in Portland, OR from June 22-26, 2022.

You will be able to attend online or in-person workshops, programs, and worship services. Proof of vaccination for COVID-19 is required to attend in person.

As a delegate you will be able to vote during General Sessions. General Sessions will be held from 9:30-12:30pm PT on 6/23-6/25 and 12:30-2:30pm PT on 6/26. Delegates should be able to be online or in person to attend the majority of these General Sessions. CLF delegates vote their conscience on matters related to the denomination of Unitarian Universalism, and are responsible for their own expenses.

If you’d like to participate in GA 2022 in this role, please fill out the online application at clfuu.org/delegate-application. Visit the UUA’s General Assembly website at www.uua.org/ga for details.

Inviting You into Community

1 January 2022 at 00:10

As we enter the third year of the global pandemic, there has been a general malaise and exhaustion. We wonder when it will be over and we long for socializing in person, we long for gathering carefree. We long for the time when we receive an invitation to meet in person and we gratefully accept the opportunity to be with those we love.

Some of our most sacred moments in life start with an invitation. We are invited to witness weddings, celebrations of birth, memorials of loved ones just to name a fraction of the ways we gather. These times remind us of our connections to each other and to the community.

In community, we are invited to learn and grow. In community, we are invited to listen to the experiences of others and to share your experiences with them. In community, we are invited to be a part of a constant process of change that pulls us all towards liberation.

Choosing to be a part of a Unitarian Universalist religious community comes with a host of invitations.

It is in the religious community that we are invited to a way of being with one another. Through bringing our skills and gifts to bear in service to others, we find and express our calling. We invest in the institution of our congregation in real and meaningful ways. We are invited to be faithful stewards of a common mission.

Often, when we think about the invitation to stewardship, we understand that to be a request to financially support our congregation. And certainly, it is that, but it is so much more. We are also invited to participate. Members of the CLF serve our church as facilitators and moderators of online community groups, as members of committees that write grants and monitor our finances, leaders in our governance, and authors for our publications (like this one). Our congregants serve each other as pen pals, witnesses to the joys and sorrows in each others’ lives, and members of our circles and groups. Our congregants serve the world by working to make everyone free and building beloved community one small piece at a time.

You are invited. You are invited to the stewardship of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. To support one another and our common mission of liberation and justice. Over the years, the CLF has invited Unitarian Universalists to engage with our faith in myriad ways. We began as a monthly snail mail packet to soldiers in WWII and we have evolved to provide worship each week through a weekly live stream. We provide a ministry to incarcerated UUs who find sustenance in a liberatory faith. We are finding new and creative ways to invite all those who seek a liberal, loving community to engage with this expansive and inclusive faith.

As you flip through the pages of this month’s Quest, let it be an invitation into deeper reflection and contemplation.

In Faith from the Lead Ministry Team,

Christina Rivera
Aisha Hauser, MSW CRE-ML
Rev. Dr. Michael Tino


1 January 2022 at 00:09

When have you felt invited and welcomed as your full self?

CLF Member, incarcerated in SC

Growing up gay in the South, especially in the turbulent 1960s, was a childhood of secrecy and shame. The established mainstream churches preached intolerance and damnation on being “queer,” just as 11am on Sunday is still one of the most segregated hours of the week. I attended Sunday School, worship services, youth fellowship and never once did I truly feel part of all that was going on. I knew I was “different.” Sneaking into my father’s den, I scoured books, trying to decipher this mystery of who I was and where I fit in.

As the confusion of childhood became the certainty of adulthood, I was active in political campaigns on a local, state, and national level, and even sought local office myself. Still, the “full” person of me, who I am, could not be admitted, accepted, or even acknowledged. A gay politician in the South doesn’t go far. So I closeted myself and denied myself the freedom I observed others enjoy.

Strangely, as I’ve said before, incarceration has been a liberating experience. Having lost virtually everything (home, bank account, reputation), I had nothing to lose by emerging from the shadows of shame, and being me.


Still, my spiritual life lay vacant. I maintained a belief in the Divine and sought books on being gay and Christian, but could find no house of worship accepting. I gravitated to Buddhism, Wiccan, and explored Humanism, but my ingrained belief in “God,” and yes, in Jesus, would not let me enjoy any other faith fully. I tried the Metropolitan Community Church, which a friend had told me about, but could not find a willingness to admit a prisoner by those I contacted.

Then I discovered Unitarian Universalism and the CLF, and it was as if (waxing poetically), the clouds of gloom parted and a shaft of light finally appeared to my battered soul. Here was what I had sought! A church home. I can not only be me, but the CLF wanted me.  I felt the warmth, the love, the genuine desire to welcome me and show me the love of the Divine that I had been so long denied. I am still on a spiritual journey as I evolved in my relationship with God. The CLF allows me the freedom to explore, to reach for beyond the limits of church dogma, to finally enjoy my road to religious liberation. For I can be Wiccan, Christian, Buddhist, or none of the above, but most importantly, I can at long last be me — fully invited and welcomed just as I am.

CLF member, incarcerated in VA

I have found my home in music. Music is forgiving and it resonates not only physically, but also spiritually.

In singing with my congregation, the very attempt to harmonize with each other brings a sense of inclusion and belonging. Each note I contribute lends itself to the melody of the community’s worship. There is no past, no regrets — only a collaborative effort to unite our efforts into making something beautiful. There is a selfless giving of our individual talents, great and small alike, to convey the melody of a given piece of music.

In music, I feel valued and at home.

CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

What is to be truly invited in? Being yourself, letting who you truly are shine through, not be covered up, hidden. Not only that, but when you felt welcomed to be that person.

Growing up, there was always that expectation to fit in, to be like the rest of my family, so I was never able to relax, ultimately for my entire childhood. Being myself was frowned upon, because otherwise I was just too odd.


The side-effect of that was my happiness. I was typically a bit too serious, a bit dour, if you will. I existed but never really lived. It took major changes in my life, where and how I lived, to not only feel welcomed, but comfortable in my own skin.

Like many things in my life, the turning point, the linchpin, occurred once I became a husband and became a father. The first time I felt like I belonged was when our daughter was Dedicated.

My wife and I, by the Church’s altar, having our little one blessed. Her whole life was in front of her, and my life was now just truly starting. The two most important people in my life, the ones that I would lay down my life for, were there: one in my arms, one right next to me.

At the party afterwards, the celebration of introducing her to the world, was when it was acknowledged by my aforementioned family. My uncle came up to me and let me know that seeing me up there, with my wife and daughter, was the first time in 25 years that he had ever seen me happy.

Periodically. I think back on that, both the Dedication, and what my uncle said afterwards. That sense of belonging is hard to put into words, for it transcends description. It’s a feeling of perfection, a pinnacle obtained, a sense that everything is right in the world.

I miss that feeling. I miss them. In here, I don’t have that access; you’re not allowed to be your true self, to show that vulnerability. There’s a need to always have a front, a “tough guy” persona, which I am not. To be able to relax, welcomed to be yourself, is a treasure, and not noticed until it is lost.

To Whom It May Concern

1 January 2022 at 00:08
By: Gary

Dedicated to the CLF

CLF Member, incarcerated in SC

To Whom It May Concern
Last picked for softball
first to be blamed
taunted and jeered at
hiding in shame

To Whom It May Concern
Last born child of eight
awkward and confused
never feeling love
knowing only feeling abused

To Whom It May Concern
Told there’s no place for me
I would never fit in
God’s love is not for you!
no way to win


To Whom It May Concern
Rejected and ashamed
life as dark as night
love finally parted the clouds
at last I saw the light

To Whom It May Concern
I found a place at Christ’s table
there really is room for me
I have emerged from the abyss of despair
and at long last I am free

The Eclipse of Our Lives

1 January 2022 at 00:06
By: Jack

CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

I’m a volunteer Suicide Companion, assigned to watch over and talk to other prisoners who are in crisis, severely depressed, who hear voices telling them to harm themselves, those who have found prison life beyond their ability to endure.

My schedule had me leaving my unit at 3am recently, only to find a gaggle of officers outside staring up at the moon, as it was nearing a total eclipse, something no other inmate was blessed to be outside to see.

As a Druid and practicing UU, we are taught that there are three facets we must honor—the Earth Path of nature awareness and natural living, the Sun Path of seasonal celebrations honoring the Sun’s cycles and the yearly cycle of growth and harvest, and the Moon Path. To live the Moon Path is to touch the divine energy that creates the universe and lives in all things. We do this through meditation and prayer, opening a wider awareness of the universe, ourselves, and our place in it.



Locked up, I seldom see the moon, since prison yards are islands of light at night, making the moon and stars invisible, and seldom are we even allowed out at night. So to see the full moon at 3am is true soul food. To see the moon nearly covered by the Earth’s shadow put my mind to thinking, meditating for days after.

The moon’s white color comes from the Sun’s rays. The blue tint is a reflection of the blue marble that is the Earth during the eclipse, the white and blue had become a dusky red-brown disk. I began to wonder if it was a reflection of my soul, my daily life. Prison has a way of tainting our lives with negativity and endless drama. It taints our Moon Path meditations and prayers.

Seeing the moon fainted by Earth’s shadow rather than the pure blue made me take stock of the red-brown reflection of my current life and the place I’ve allowed negativity to grow in it. The only way I’ve been able to do nearly 20 years behind bars has been to be positive, to reflect the pure blue, the pure white light of positivity, to not be drawn into the prison dramas and voices of negativity. Yet like the Moon’s eclipse, I’ve been eclipsed by those who live negative lives, those whose lives are drama, those who stare vacantly at nothing while the drug courses through their veins, and whose every waking minute is focused on finding something to alter their minds. I’ve allowed those who live negative lives, who live for drama, who live for conflict, and who live to escape reality to affect me.

My meditations since that 3am shocking visage have shown me the way out of my frustrating and negative prison games. The first way is to say: “No! I’m not going to play your games. I’ll be here to talk, if you need me to be a sounding board, to counsel you as a friend, but don’t bring your drama, your negativity to me. If you are going to do drugs, take it somewhere else, but I’ll gladly support you if you want to quit.”

At 76 with seven years to go on my sentence, I’m considered one of the trusted people by some, but to become a part of the problem negates my status as “old school,” and I begin to reflect the dull red-brown of the Moon’s eclipse and I begin to wallow in the my pity pot of negativity.

It was fated for me to see the total eclipse while over 1200 other inmates slept behind locked doors. It was fated for me to see the Moon’s Path when I had been sinking into the pit of negativity and feeling helpless to escape it. Once again the Moon’s path of reflective meditation allowed me to see the road to freedom from the negatives of prison life. It allowed me to be a touchstone for some who need me to listen and reflect, to help them overcome the ever-present negativity of prison life, the trap that we all face.

Buddha, the Goddess, Allah, or God of three persons — whichever — we are led when we open our lives to the creation of the universe, and we open our lives and our hearts to hear them speak to our souls.

Liberation and Salvation

10 January 2022 at 16:09

Rev. Dr. Michael Tino preached this Sermon on December 5, 2021 in the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s Online Sanctuary

Our Universalist ancestors believed that a powerful, radical love awaited them at death, a love so powerful as to be able to cleanse them of even their most vile sins, a love so radical as to be freely available to all. In the days when John Murray ran aground on a sandbar on the coast of New Jersey, it was a wild and heretical theology, this stuff of Universal salvation.

Over the ensuing two hundred and fifty-one years, a theology that holds that all people will ultimately be saved, a theology that rejects the eternal damnation of hell in favor of a reconciliation with a greater love, that theology is not so wild anymore. It is barely even heretical in some corners.

And yet, since Thomas Potter convinced John Murray to preach Universalism  in his little chapel, our faith has struggled with the question of what Universalism calls us to in this life, before we die, right here. After all, if we’re all going to be saved anyway, why bother doing anything in this life? Why even bother being good?

Through the generations, our Universalist ancestors came up with decent responses to these questions. And today I want to call us to an answer that Clarence Skinner gave us some 80 years ago.

I don’t always agree with Clarence Skinner, 20th century Universalist theologian. For starters, his history of embracing eugenics is more than a little problematic. 

But in particular, I think he led us astray by claiming that big-U Universalism was little-u universal—that we uniquely had a religion for all people and should strive to make it so. That’s modernist, colonizer talk right there, that little-u universal religion stuff. It asks us to point to the existence of a truth that is equally valid for all people, and to claim as that truth a theology of white Europeans and Americans. I don’t believe such a truth exists, much less that white folks would hold it, so I don’t do little-u universal religion.

But when Skinner asked the question “What does Universalism demand of us in this life?” he got to some things I find worthy of holding up. 

Universalism, he insisted, call on us to fight the perpetuation of racism. In his 1945 work “A Religion for Greatness,” he wrote that racism is based in selfishness, superstition, and distortion. “If we ‘see life steadily and see it whole,’” he wrote, “we can appreciate all the parts. the part becomes misunderstood only when we see it without relationships, as an end in itself.” Each race, each culture, each difference in humanity, he wrote “has its own genius and each may contribute to a life that is ‘rounded, divine, [and] complete.’”

I believe it is our call to once again make our faith a radical, prophetic, challenge to the way things are. It is time to reclaim our place as the wild heretics pushing society forward, pushing theology forward, pushing humanity forward. It is time to re-think the powerful love our ancestors believed awaited them when they died as a powerful love available to us in the present, while we live.

I believe it’s time to re-think our theology of Universal salvation as a theology of universal liberation, right here.

I believe it’s time for Universalists to claim the radical, powerful love that our ancestors once attributed to God as a possibility of humanity.

Not as an automatic of humanity—we all know that real evil exists in our world, and that systems created by humans perpetuate evil daily—but as a possibility. Which makes our call, as Universalists, making it happen.

In 1915, ten years into his ministry and two decades before he became a professor at Tufts, Clarence Skinner published “The Social Implications of Universalism.” Here’s some of the non-problematic part of what he wrote:

“Universalism was born out of the new humanity; it is the gospel of the new heaven and the new earth. It throbs with hope. It was part of the great world movement to reinterpret life in terms of a regenerated, buoyant, self assertive human nature. Universalism believes in the world and in its potential goodness. It repudiates the gloomy and disastrous outlook of the old anti-social theology. It is not frantically searching for an escape from life.”

He continues, “Only those theologies which frankly and persistently align themselves with the world, and openly champion its potential goodness, can logically enter the great reformation of the twentieth century. They alone believe that salvation comes in, by and through a saved world. This is social salvation. All others believe that salvation comes by escaping from a world which is inherently unsavable. That is the individualistic, anti-social, mediæval faith. Goethe once said that the ideal is not an escape from reality but a completion of it. The Universalist conception of religion is not that of an escape from reality, but that of the harmonious and spiritual development of all the elements of real life.”

How do we persistently align ourselves with the world? How do we openly champion the potential goodness in our midst? What is our call? It is the collective liberation of all of humanity.

And not just the spiritual liberation of all of humanity, but the physical and emotional liberation of humanity as well. These things cannot be separated.

As long as we are not naming the white supremacy culture in our midst and openly, explicitly, constantly working to dismantle it, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity.

As long as listening to the voices of those who have experienced marginalization and naming the ways in which racism is systematized in our society are somehow controversial things to do, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity.

As long as violent, extractive capitalist systems are allowed to make policy—to block action on climate change, to enact colonial foreign policies, to abrogate the bodily autonomy of people with uteruses, to let this deadly virus run rampant in communities of color and schools because we insist that certain adult bodies are needed to show up for work, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity. These evils exist because someone is making money off them, and their money is power in a society that falls short of the radical love that is possible in this world.

And as long as our siblings are locked behind bars, as long as their bodies are fuel for the fire of our prison-industrial system, as long as we insist that punishment by dehumanization is a necessary response to breaking laws, as long as our nation’s constitution allows a loophole in our abolition of slavery for incarcerated people, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity.

And let’s make no mistake—the systems of injustice that I’m talking about today, these systems are using the very beings—the bodies and the spirits—of black people, indigenous people, people of color, of poor people, of disabled people, of queer people, of women and transgender people, as fuel for the creation of wealth for a very small number of folks.  

Let me repeat that—the very bodies of those who are marginalized in so many ways around the world are being used as fuel. Our systems dehumanize people and then turn them into commodities to be used.

As surely as the fires of hell that John Murray rejected burned, human systems of evil burn. 

And so it is our call as Universalists to reject that fire consuming our siblings.

It is our call as Universalists to amplify the radical, powerful love that we know humanity is capable of.

It is our call as Universalists to work for the liberation of all of humanity—for the spiritual emancipation that Clarence Skinner wrote of in 1915 as well as the physical emancipation so desperately needed in 2021.

“Light the fuse,” Skinner wrote, “and the fire will reach the bomb.” It is time to set off a love bomb on our world. It is time to act like we are worthy of the God of John Murray and Hosea Ballou, the God of Olympia Brown and Joseph Jordan, the God of Gloster Dalton and Amy Scott. Like we are worthy to call ourselves inheritors of a faith in which all are saved, in which all are free, in which all are loved.

It is time for us to practice radical, powerful, life-saving love. Liberation and salvation. Right here. Right now. Over and over again.


1 December 2021 at 00:09

What role does wonder and mystery play in your life?

Dark Forest



CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

Mystery is defined in the Webster’s Dictionary as “something unexplained, unknown, or kept secret…” It is, essentially, the void of knowledge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As I’ve pointed out to many students in my tradition, sometimes the fact that there isn’t an answer is the most beautiful thing about the question. The purpose is to seek, not to know. Mystery gives us something to strive for, and even if we don’t really need the answer, the journey we take shapes us and helps us grow.

Imagine a world where all information is readily accessible. Sound familiar? Today, finding wonder and mystery is truly a gift, and one that, in my opinion, shouldn’t be overlooked. Take joy in the mysteries you come across, whether it be something as simple as whether or not it will rain today (without the assistance of the local news), or something as deep as who and what

Divinity is. Remember that even if the answer isn’t one you wanted or expected, you went on a journey for this wisdom, and you are forever altered by it.

What will tomorrow bring? I truly don’t know, but I do know that I will face the day with courage, honor and joy. I challenge all who read this to do the same. May the Gods and Goddesses of the Northern Traditions watch over you all on your journeys.


CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. Whoever does not know it can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead” — Albert Einstein

“Oh mystery! Oh mystery! It’s you…” — Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The first prayer I ever actually “felt” was labeled a Native American prayer, and a friend had brought it back in her stuff from rehab. She showed it to me and I insisted that we hit our knees at the edge of the bed to say it… My own spirituality was still operating within the Western Christian paradigm (or prayer-adigm, rather) at the time.

I remember that the prayer started, “Oh Great Mystery, we pray to the North, South, East, and West” (maybe not those exact words but that’s basically how it started).

What I “felt” then is that if any prayer I’ve ever prayed could fly, it’d be that one. Oh Great Mystery.

Today, I see mystery as what hides the seams between the world and dimensions of the life I live in. Mystery keeps my ego in check when universal synchronicity lines up exactly as I wanted, when I wanted it, how I want it. Mystery delivers humbling failures during the most seemingly simple operations or endeavors, just to let me know I can’t ever know Her, let alone master Her. Harsh yet beautiful. Baffling and elegant.

Mystery is also a place. The place where waves become particles that function as waves. It’s the space between our consciousness and the moon when we look up at the night sky. Mystery is that island we reach when we just know this ocean called life is about to drown us.

The Mystery that I find essential to my emotional and intellectual survival everyday, especially the days we call today, is the mystery of why and how the lost are often the first to try to give you directions; the haters are often the ones to tell you how and who to love; the spiritually dead tell you how to live. This mystery removes all the mystery from why I am, who I am, and why I’m a UU.

Starry Night Sky



CLF Member, incarcerated in FL

​​The Holy Bible is full of mystery. I am fond of the men and women of God (prophets and apostles), who explained the mystery of God and his wonderful traits that produce light and life in all created things. Furthermore, by studying what role wonder and mystery played in their lives through wonderful miracles and fantastic, mysterious assertions, I have been able to understand how it plays out in my life.

Wonder is the wisdom gained through hard work and studying, and mystery is how I’m going to use these great gifts; on what platform will I be able to explain my mysterious revelations to share with all living humanity. Moreover, the role of mystery and wonder will play out in my life through mentorship and counseling to whoever will listen or is in need. I desire to lift our collective conscience, that I see as the literal consciousness of God. I rebuke all doubt, fear, guilt and all evil thoughts. I acknowledge that the devil is only a manifestation of evil thoughts like doubt, anything less than truth, and fear that can only materialize as death and hell.

So, today try to think only the thoughts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). Keep your conscience clear and do not let guilt have any place in your mind, and do not let the adversary of doubt, lies, guilt, and fear possess you, leading down the road of death and hell. Instead, choose the road of wonder and unpredictably keeping only good thoughts and shunning evil as you walk down the road of light and life. Although, I may stumble and it may hurt my perseverance and endurance will help me get back up to that mysterious, wonderful place with you!


CLF Member, incarcerated in SC

The old television show, “The Wonderful World of Disney,” would begin with a song “the world is a carousel of color.” Truly, if one stops and looks, the divine is present in our everyday life. Even in prison, amidst the drab colors and harsh contours, the beauty of a snowfall drapes the ugliness with a mantle of beauty. The glint of barbed wire can be ignored when one beholds the swath of red, purple, and pink as the sun rises in a burst of magical colors that no artist but the Creator could possibly exact. Have you ever watched a hummingbird hover? Or a bee gather nectar? Or the changing colors of Autumn, like a quilt of patchwork as nature puts on a show every year? The world is filled with the intricate mysteries of nature and the marvelous wonders that we are often too busy and rushed to consider.

This spectacular daily display fills me with a humble reverence for our world. We are stewards of this celestial orb and caretakers of its treasures. With this role comes responsibility for its care, just as parents care for their children. But earth is not our child; in many spiritual traditions, the earth is understood as our mother.

We have no other home. No place else to go. Alone here in our “Cinderella belt” of the solar system, the very hand of the divine is present and available to us, if we only (as the old saying goes) stop and smell the roses. Yes, Disney was right. The world is a carousel of color.

Collective Lights of the Holidays

1 December 2021 at 00:08

The theme of this issue is mystery, which is defined as something difficult to figure out. It conjures up images of unclear paths, murky environments with the way forward vague, narrow, and tricky to follow. If the idea of mystery feels fitting for the darkest time of year, perhaps the traditions and celebrations of this month offer us a way forward.

On the first Sunday of December, I was amazed and somewhat relieved to find the altar at my brick and mortar church’s worship service filled with many lit candles creating a brilliant light. As always, we began this service by lighting our flaming chalice, the symbol of our faith. Every time the chalice is lit, we recommit to building Beloved Community, creating a safe harbor for all. It restates our commitment to love, acceptance and working on social justice. The light from the flame serves as an anchor for the service. It helps to light our way.



Also on the altar was a Hanukkah menorah, with seven candles lit on that day. Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights. By the end of the festival, the Hanukkah menorah will have nine candles lit, producing a glorious light which is traditionally placed in a window to amplify the glow. This is the time of the year that, through this holiday, Jews celebrate, dedicate and re-dedicate themselves to justice and freedom.

Sitting next to the Menorah were Advent lights, with four candles signifying the four weeks of Advent. Some Christians light them with the idea of hope, love, joy and peace. Two candles were lit on the first Sunday of December, the second Sunday of the Advent season. This is the season of preparation for the mystery of Jesus’ birth. It is the time of year when we are reminded of the importance of creating heaven here on earth; when we hold both the divine and human inside of us, and when, true to Jesus’ life, we must feed the poor, heal the sick, and redistribute wealth.

Although not represented yet, Kwanzaa will be added at the end of the month. Seven candles will be placed inside the Kinara. Each candle represents one of the seven principles Umoja (unity), Kujichaglia (self determination), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Kuumba (creativity), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Nia (purpose) and Imani (faith). For African Americans, Kwanzaa is a celebration of our culture, our history, and each other.

The entire month of December will have all of these lights coming from our shared altar. They will be extra beacons showing the way, acting as anchors, reminding us that we belong to a group that cares about creating a Beloved Community. A chalice flame will continue to be lit at the center, to remind us that love is a principle that we embrace.

This is often a difficult time of the year. In this culture, there can be so much pressure to smile, pressure to be merry. Adding to regular difficulties, this year has been particularly hard; in addition to the toll of the pandemic, there has been increased violence against trans people, Black people being targeted for more violence, gun violence escalating, homelessness on the rise, opioid drug abuse increasing, more and more Black and brown people being incarcerated, and increasing demonstration of white fragility.

I want to hold on to hope, love and peace — but if I’m honest, I am really tired of 2021. I would like to be done with it and try anew. Here’s hoping and praying that 2022 is less violent, includes fewer deaths caused by guns, and that it begins a dismantling of the prison industrial complex and a redistribution of wealth. Is that too much to ask? Maybe. But I think the holidays of this season call us to dream big. With the bright lights of many traditions sharing space on our collective altar, let us rededicate ourselves making the promises of those traditions come true in the world around us.

For Your Reflection

1 December 2021 at 00:07

In this section, we offer questions for reflection based on ideas explored in this issue. 

You may wish to explore it individually or as part of a group discussion. To submit your reflection for possible inclusion in a future issue of Quest, tear off your answer and mail it back to us using the envelope included in the middle of this issue, or mail a longer reflection separately.

Do you love mystery, or do you often look for a way out of it? In what ways do you feel the presence of mystery and/or answers to it around this time of year?

If you would like us to be able to publish or share your writing in the future, remember to include “You have permission to edit and publish my words” somewhere on your submission.

Quest December 2021

1 December 2021 at 22:37

December 2021

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. –Anaïs Nin


Mysterious Ways

1 December 2021 at 00:10

About a decade ago, my husband and I traded in our old cell phones for iPhones, a move that heralded a subtle but profound change in our lives.

You see, wherever we go, we have instant access to the internet in our pockets. With Google, Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Database and other sites at our fingertips at all times, most questions that come up in conversation can be answered in a matter of minutes. Our shorthand for this phenomenon is “no mysteries.”

There are many fewer mysteries in our lives since this technology attached itself to our hips. And that’s not always a good thing.

You see, I love mystery.

I love being surrounded by the unknown and the unknowable.

I love living in a universe whose known parts are dwarfed by the immensity and vastness of those parts yet to be discovered.

I love being a human whose knowledge is just deep enough to reveal all of the things I do not know and never will.

As a child, I devoured mystery books by the dozens, graduating quickly from The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie and beyond. I was invariably upset at the end when everything was tied together neatly.

What makes a good novel, I guess, isn’t the stuff of real life, in which the right answers are, more often than not, never known. I’m pretty sure there’s not a single book in which Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple gathered people together at the end and pronounced “I haven’t the foggiest idea who did it.”

Now that would be a mystery. And I’d love it.

I knew I had found the right college for me when the essay I was asked to write was to ponder “a question with no provable answer.” I should have re-examined my intended major, though, when I wrote my es say on belief in God—it would have saved me lots of time wandering in the desert of cell biology.

I became a scientist not because I thought it would be a way to find answers, but because it was a field based on questions.

I loved asking questions, probing their depths, removing successive layers of ignorance to reveal deeper and more numerous questions at every turn.


I loved the mysteries of science. I loved making guesses at the unprovable, amassing evidence for the unseeable, moving deeper into the unthinkable, and asking more questions than I ever answered.

I loved contributing to the mystery of the universe.

Ultimately, the mysteries of science weren’t enough for me, though. I moved on to being part of a greater mystery, a greater question: What is the purpose of our existence?

I know that there will never be an answer to that question that satisfies me. Rather than turning me off from the pursuit, though, it ignites my love, my passion, and my drive.  I am energized and fed by the pursuit of unprovable knowledge—I am inspired to pay closer attention to all that I experience, lest I miss a clue, a path to the ultimate or an experience of the true.

I love mystery, and I love thinking that there is an unknowable love that surrounds us all—a love that can be sensed, but whose source remains beyond our comprehension.

It is this mysterious love that drives my ministry and asks me to seek connections with all the beings with whom I share this universe.

In their 1991 song “Mysterious Ways,” the group U2 sang of love that came from an unknown and unknowable source. Their song has the added bonus for me of mysterious meaning: people have debated for almost 30 years whether the song is about love between two humans or the love of God, referred to in the feminine. The band members aren’t saying. Good for them.

In that song, they sing:

One day you’ll look back,
and you’ll see
Where you were held now by
this love.
While you could stand there,
You could move on this moment
Follow this feeling.

That mysterious love holds us now—and yet we have no idea where it comes from. One day, it might be clear, but for now, just go with it. Just feel it, just kneel before it and make yourself humble in its presence. Wherever it comes from, whatever it means, whoever or whatever is its ultimate source—just let the love surround you.

It’s all right, they conclude, she moves in mysterious ways.

“When all else fails…”

1 November 2021 at 00:10

WTF?!?! Those three letters and what they mean seem to come to mind and sometimes roll off my tongue with more regularity these days. Honestly, there was a time in my life when I would never have admitted that, especially as a clergy person. There’s a spoken and unspoken expectation that those of us who are ministers will be more put together, more pious than others. We definitely shouldn’t use four-letter words that aren’t “love.”

I get it. People want and expect their spiritual leaders to have a certain level of control. The work we do is sacred, and I am by no means trying to evade the responsibility of what it means to journey with others through the highs and lows of life. However, sometimes all you’ve got in you, no matter who you are, is, “WTF?!” COVID-19 has been one of the greatest WTFs as of late, but so is the presence of ableism, racism, sexism, and so many other isms present in our world today.  W…T…F…? It’s 2021! When will we get beyond where we have been and where it feels we still are in so many instances?

Some may choose not to use certain words or language to express their frustrations or dismay. But, again, I get it. Eloquent articulations come easier to some than others. In any case, I want to convey more than anything the collective need for lament. We lament the loss of loved ones and friends, the loss of work and provision, the loss of community, the loss of *a sense of* balance. Loss. The weight of it all is tough to bear. And so, I am; we are all seemingly screaming, “WTF?!”

I said earlier that the only four-letter word ministers should use is love. But, unfortunately, the English language (my native tongue) and its conventions make this an impossibility. To adequately convey a thought using English, one would need to string together a collection of words that are maybe four letters or more, and perhaps even less. For example, the words that comprise the fullness of WTF are 4, 3, and 4.

Now, some might critique my message as being crass or irreverent. I’m not trying to be. What if we experienced WTF as an invitation to create and hold space for our collective lament at this moment? Space to cry, space to yell, space to pause and ponder. A space that is absent the policing of language and the angst of respectability? One open to the lament of our hearts? Over the last eighteen or so months, WTF has become my most honest prayer. It is a lament and a statement that seeks to make meaning out of what has been confounding.

May we all experience the kind of liberation that frees us to lament those things that weigh heavy on us, with whatever words we choose. May we be reminded that we are held together by a word that is just four letters long yet is so much bigger than that, LOVE.


1 November 2021 at 00:08
By: Tyson

What does it feel like to have your experience centered?  How do you find your own center?



CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

When I think of “centered,” several concepts pop into my mind. Spatial reckoning. Centricity. Centrifugal forces. Center punch, meaning the tool I used to mark metals and plastics for precision drilling — and the center punch that I used to use to swiftly break car windows when I was a “bad kid.”

What makes me feel most centered is the sky at dawn. Looking at the sky, I often think, “wow, all of this for me right this moment. Thank you for allowing me to share it with everything else.” I get pretty emotional these days, seeing the sky at dusk, and at midnight… the sky and me seem to have a thing going lately.

My experience feels centered when the sky tells me that I am precisely as insignificant as I am suppose to be. The sky tells me to stop belittling myself even more; I have the entire world between my ears and the universe is in my mind and the sky is in my eyes. So what else could matter?

How do I find my own center? When I can’t find it, I go outside and look up. Maybe it finds me?

I Am Now Whole

1 November 2021 at 00:07
By: Ethan

CLF Member, incarcerated in AZ

To find a gathering of like minded souls
Makes me feel at home, I am now whole
Acceptance of every person no matter the faith
Has opened my eyes to a new loving embrace

My spirituality has grown in so many ways
I look forward to your publication as I count my days
Being forced to sit here and do time, I mean literally wait
Has shown me how I can strengthen my traits

Patience takes on a whole new truth
Hope that I can make up for lost youth
Understanding that the world must move on
Acceptance that an old love is gone

How I reminisce the good ol’days
Except I know I must change my ways
At least I do not fight this fight alone
I try to learn and make lessons known

Maybe I can help another like you helped me
Behind bars your mind can still be free
I joined a Church of Larger Fellowship
In a past life I was anti-religion, what a trip

So I want to thank the people who opened up my mind
I received a gift that is rare to find
That is acceptance of my lost soul
You make me feel at home, I am now whole

Daily Compass

1 November 2021 at 00:07

The Daily Compass is a ministry of the Church of the Larger Fellowship crafted by Rev. Michael Tino of the Lead Ministry Team.It offers words and images to inspire spiritual reflection and encourage the creation of a more loving, inclusive and just world. Short reflections and prompts related to monthly themes are posted every day at dailycompass.org. The following is a selection Daily Compass offerings from recent months.


KeystoneVital to the balance of a stone arch is the keystone, the wedge-shaped stone against which the two sides of the arch push in equal measure. In architecture, this is a vital and important role; in life, this is not a healthy situation in which to find ourselves.

When have you experienced balance brought about by things pushing you in opposite directions? How did you interrupt this?


Spirit of LifeCarolyn McDade described the night she wrote the hymn Spirit of Life to Kimberly French of UU World: “When I got to Pat’s house, I told her, ‘I feel like a piece of dried cardboard that has lain in the attic for years. Just open wide the door, and I’ll be dust.’ I was tired, not with my community but with the world. She just sat with me, and I loved her for sitting with me.” Writing the song was the prayer that refilled her spirit.

What words or prayers refill your spirit when you feel like you’re about to fall apart?


ConsentThe power of covenant derives in part from the fact that all parties to it must agree, and that agreement must be renewed and renegotiated constantly. Healthy relationships require mutual consent; that includes spiritual relationships as well as intimate ones.

How do you seek consent from others in meaningful ways?


PersistenceSometimes grace comes through sheer will, through persisting despite the odds against us. Sometimes grace comes from hanging on, from inching ourselves forward until we are somewhere better.

What do you need the strength to persist through today?


NegotiationThe union of two people or two entities requires negotiation. The best negotiations don’t get mired in positions, but instead focus on needs and values. Each party must be able to articulate their values and state their needs; each party must be able to say how they will help meet the needs of the other. Sometimes, sacrifices are made. Sometimes, synergy is developed.

How can you make your needs and values known to others today in generative ways?


DNAYou share 55% of the DNA in your genes with a banana tree, 80% with a cow,  98.5% with a chimpanzee, and 99.99% with every other human being on the planet. One ten-thousandth of the DNA in our genes is responsible for all of the differences we see in humanity. For the hundreds of rainbow shades that skin, eyes and hair come in. For the differences that make it so hard to find organs to transplant. For every shape and size that humans come in.

Notice your connection to other living beings today. Feel your relation to them. They are your kin.


PersistenceWhere will you pause to touch the Earth? Where will you marvel at the hints that lie scattered around you in the grass? Where will you discard what you previously thought was true, and try on a new belief for size? Where will you stop for directions, for advice, for a conversation with another, for a relationship, for a moment of grace brought to you by the mind of a child?

What does it mean to you to persist through difficult times on your journey?

Centering: A Little Bit At A Time

1 November 2021 at 00:05

Lead Ministry Team, Church of the Larger Fellowship

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

—Taoist philosopher, Lao-Tse, sixth  century BCE



Philosophers and theologians throughout the ages have pondered the roots of peace, and have come to the conclusion that peace between and among people is not possible without smaller bits of peace, especially peace within oneself. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me,” the popular song goes.

Peace within oneself is the challenge of centering: How do we center ourselves? How do we go within and cultivate peace?

Many people turn to spiritual practices to do this. Spiritual practices are regular things that we do that connect us with something greater than ourselves, and there is not one right way for everyone to engage in them. We each need to figure out what it is that gives us that feeling of inner peace, of centering.

But the trick to spiritual practice is doing it regularly, and if we’re already overwhelmed by the world or our circumstances, one more thing to add to our day is just one more thing to knock us off of our center, one more thing to cause anxiety instead of cultivating peace.

I have begun to think about this differently.

Instead of carving out twenty minutes to sit in meditation, or an hour to walk a labyrinth every day, I find moments of spiritual centering throughout the day.

In giving advice to people in caring professions about cultivating peace and centering themselves, psychologist Ashley Davis Bush writes about “micro-practices,” one-moment-long glimpses of peace and mindfulness. Bush encourages people to fit them in throughout the day—in the pauses and cracks around other things, with no pressure or timeline or necessary outcome.

Take a breath. Notice how the air moves in and out of your body. Just one long, slow, deliberate breath.

Drink a glass of water. Feel it fill your body and think about how you will absorb that water.

Take just a moment and visualize in your mind something that makes you feel happy, or calm, or connected, or grounded. Choose an image and come back to it­—just for a few seconds—throughout the day.

Choose a few words to guide you, and repeat them in your mind every now and then, whenever you’re feeling unmoored. “I am grounded,” perhaps, or “I am loved.”

Spend a moment acknowledging the difficulties in your life right now. They are real. You are real. Your pain is real, too, but it does not own you.

Find a way—a small way—every day to connect to another person. Write a letter to your pen pal. Smile at a friend, or if it’s safe to do so, a stranger. Help someone out. Cultivate the knowledge that you are not alone in this world.

Think of something you’re thankful for. Take just a moment to feel gratitude.

Say something kind to yourself.

These practices don’t need to be long—ideally they’re just a minute, a moment, a breath. And they are all ways to connect to our center, to cultivate peace within our hearts, and to connect to something beyond our individual being.

Let peace begin with you. Let peace begin in your heart. Find your center, a little bit at a time.

Praying With Our Everything

1 October 2021 at 00:10

I love the phrase “praying with our feet.” It often comes to mind for me in protests at the Texas Capitol, when I wait in line to vote, and perhaps most especially every Friday, when I lead my Zumba class, where we pray with our arms, our hips, our everything.

“What is your intention for this hour?” I ask folks Zooming in from around the world. “What are you dancing for today?”

On a recent morning, the answers included, “my 18-year wedding anniversary!” “another job interview,” and “seeing my grandkids again for the first time in COVID.” A woman in College Station, Texas, showed us her wrapped wrist and asked for healing prayers after surgery. A dancer in Canada requested the song “Best Friend” by Saweetie and shared sadness about a friend in hospice care.

We took deep breaths and held each other across the miles. Then we danced — for joy, hope, and grief. For the chance to move together as one, even in a time of isolation.

Happiness ain’t something you sit back and you wait for
Feels so good to dance again”
—Selena Gomez, “Dance Again

Since finding dance nine years ago, it has become my joy practice and a form of embodied prayer. I choose music and choreography to reflect Unitarian Universalist principles like interconnectedness, equity, and acceptance. Moving to the music of Lizzo, Kesha, and Gente de Zona, I am praying to the Spirit of Life — to summon the energy for another day of pandemic parenting, to feel in my hips and heart that I am enough. We are all enough.

Uruguayan journalist and novelist Eduardo Galeano wrote, “The church says: The body is a sin. Science says: The body is a machine. Advertising says: The body is a business. The body says: I am a fiesta.”

As UUs, I hope we can bring church and science into the body’s celebration (and do our best to ignore advertising altogether).

Lately, my own body and spirit have been telling me to slow down. I am feeling the impact of pandemic trauma, plus the natural effects of aging (and a decade of jumping up and down to Pitbull songs).

Thankfully, Zumba can be medium-impact or low, on your feet or in a chair or swimming pool. Sometimes just listening to the playlist is enough. When I forego a high-impact jump in favor of a grounded shimmy to protect my back, I am not failing my class — whose members range in age from elementary school to their 80s — but honoring the sacredness of all bodies.



Similarly, when my brain is tired and I forget a move, I try not to apologize (as I have been conditioned to do for the most human of mistakes). Even though I feel embarrassed on the inside, I throw my head back and laugh, improvising through the moments Richard Simmons used to call “accidental solos.” I remember that we are called to let go of perfectionism — a piece of dismantling white supremacy culture in ourselves and our institutions. I remind myself that we need these moments, to dance through discomfort and even embrace mistakes, having faith we will learn from them.

I remember the wise words of Cynthia Winton-Henry in her book, Dance – The Sacred Art: “As much as you might want a ‘perfect’ spot in which to dance, it is really the other way around: You make the space around you holy when you dance.”


1 October 2021 at 00:09

What does prayer look/feel/sound like to you?

CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

Little things, big things, anything; people pray for them. From the mundane, like to perhaps hit the lottery, to the serious, like for someone’s life. (Though perhaps, for some, winning the lottery isn’t mundane at all, but a serious need.)

It all cycles around to prayer. A want, a need, a desire, leading to hoping, wishing, possibly even begging, some greater power to hear you, to help you.

Do I pray? Probably not enough. I attend services, I meditate, I take part in my faith, and take it seriously. But praying? In here, it can be hard to do.

Holding hands


There’s a mentality that pervades all here: avoid weakness, lest you be preyed upon. To pray, is, in a way, a surrendering yourself to another, to ask for help to do something.

Is that weakness? No, but in here, it can be viewed as such. So that energy hangs in the air, sapping you, putting you on edge.

But when I pray, it, in its way, helps and hurts. That surrendering lifts a weight off of you, it can be an emotional release, a reset of one’s self, an acknowledgment that you can’t do it all on your own, and that everything will, in its time, be okay.

So pray. Not for me (though admittedly I wouldn’t mind), but for you. For your world, big, little, whatever size it is. May it help you.

That is my prayer.

CLF member, incarcerated in VA

We all should know that though the look of prayer could be one on their knees with hands held upright, fingers straight up, palms together, prayer can look many different ways. For me it is often sitting down anywhere — on the ground, in a chair, at a desk or table, with my hands held together. Of course it might be alone, or it could be with someone who needs a prayer more than me, as I say a prayer for them. I pray anywhere, anytime, needed or not, as a way to think about what the situation needs.

If I see a death happened in the news,  I say a prayer for the family for strength, a prayer for the deceased. A flood — I say a prayer for support, goods, rescue. A fire — the same and more, to have shelter along with healing. A nice day with no huge troubles — a prayer of thanks and gratitude, with a prayer for more of these days.

The sound of prayer: it could be noisy, mildly busy with the hum of every day life all around, or it could be complete silence, a prayer said or thought.

The feel: if nervous, anxious, or feeling the weight of the world on one’s shoulders, then a prayer feels like relief. A great feeling of no burdens.

I’ll end with a prayer of thanks and acknowledgment, for the gift of all that prayer is for me.

7 Centers 1

1 October 2021 at 00:08
By: Vylet

CLF member, incarcerated in FL

Quiet as kept, be slow to speak
The tongue of death is death indeed
Let temperance and virtue be thy speech
Consider silence and still thy feet

Be thou fearless, feel not dismay
For thou art spirit to what is pain
Deep meditation shall make things clear
The weapons of war that thou should fear

Speak no lies, be not the fool
Boomerangs of deception bareth dark rile
If a word be uttered, let freedom reign
Sever the yoke and break every chain

If I be bound, may they be free
If I face danger, let them have peace
If I must die, let them live
Return I shall and with them sing

Divine decrees establish the link
Of things unseen, oh what of faith
This body clad of clay and dust
But I am greater, the creator’s touch

Infused in soil, the morning star
A living soul, the lawful heart
Ponder the path thy foot is upon
Consider the workings thy hands have wrought

Be thou calm in every endeavor
And radiant as the sun
Forever-ever, forever and ever
I and my father are one

Phoenix Rising

1 October 2021 at 00:07
By: Dale

CLF members, incarcerated in TX

Milky Way


Looking at the night sky,
Staring at the galaxy,
Watching the Milky Way swirl.

Pondering things like,
“What is my purpose in life?”
While I’m watching the stars
Coalesces into a ball of fire
Brighter than the sun.

As I watch it forms
the face of God.

Burning white hot,
Igniting my world,
causing my fears and doubts
to flee, clearing my mind
and chasing away the shadows.

Searing through me from the ashes
A phoenix arises,
stronger than before.

And as I look at the face of God,
I see me.

October Walk

1 October 2021 at 00:06
By: Gary

CLF member, incarcerated in NC 

Farlow, Gary 2020-10-16 Artwork - October Walk.

Farlow, Gary 2020-10-16 Artwork – October Walk.