Changing Spirit

by Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Congregational Life Consultant and CERG Lead

With the start of a new year, it may be a good time to talk a bit more about change. (See “Changing Diapers” blog Nov. 11)

There seems to be a basic human reaction to change – all change – large or small, good or bad, desired or undesired. That reaction is grief.

We grieve about what we have lost – whether we liked what we had or not. It may be a short period of grief. Or a long period. It may be mixed with relief or happiness or confusion or some other emotion. But there is always some grief over the passing of what is familiar and known. As well as some fear about the unknown the future will bring.

Harrison Owen describes how this process of grief and change works in groups in his book: The Power of Spirit: How change wordleOrganizations Transform.  “When chaos strikes, transformation begins. The Spirit of a people enters a critical process with possible end results ranging from dissolution to the emergence of a radically new, more complex, adaptive organization. The process itself is that of grief working, enabling us to let go of what was in preparation for what is yet to be.”

1. The first stage, he notes, is shock and anger – How dare the universe change on me?

2. The next is denial – A way of catching our breaths when we are surprised.

3. Then memories – We begin to recount again and again – and again the history leading up to the change. We humans have a need to acknowledge the past before we can let it go.

4. The next is the stage that Owen calls “despair.” We come to the realization that the change is real. It has happened. We have no place else to go but forward.
This is the time of crossing from one way of being to another. And we have to embrace that despair in order to get through it.

5. Then we experience of time of stillness, a time of silence.
This is the space for Holy and Creative work to take place in us at a very deep level. It’s a time when we search our own hearts and decide if we are going to stay and work with the new situation, or if we need to take a time-out or leave.

6. If we decide to stay, then comes a Questioning stage.
We begin to ask each other “What if” questions – What if we change the way we do some things? Questioning invites people to imagine a new future that includes the best possible outcome for the changes they face.
The task of leaders at this point is to help ask the Questions. Not to provide ready-made answers – because there are none. Owen says that people will find their own answers, if we leave the space open for them.

7. Finally, if all has been going well with the process, we come to a time of New Vision.
It is not a vision statement. Not a bunch of words.
Rather, it is a commitment to living life in a new way.

There is a new vision born each time we successfully go through a process of deep change.
This is the work of the Spirit.
When the new vision is there, then people and groups can begin to plan and organize and implement to create a new and positive reality.

May the New Year bring all of us a time of questioning and new vision and Spirit.

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Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due


Photo from UU Media Works. (Image by Tim Atkins, heart graphic from stock.xchng. Non-profit use only.)
Photo from UU Media Works. (Image by Tim Atkins, heart graphic from stock.xchng. Non-profit use only.)

We all do it – we are checking our news feed on facebook and someone shares an image with us and we love it, so we then share it to our friends. Well that’s ok, because when you share an image on facebook it links back to the original giving credit to the original posters. But what if we download that picture and then post it to our website? Blog? Or even back on our facebook page? That’s a no-no unless two criteria are met.

  1. The item is copyrighted  as creative commons – meaning anyone can use it. For example, photos posted by the UU Media Works are creative commons, so anyone can use them but only if…
  2. You attribute the originator of the photo or image if you know who it is. That means you add a caption stating “photo from UU Media Works” or similar.

I’ve heard folks say “but if it is on the internet I can use it”. No, you can’t. Websites and blogs in particular and social media to some extent must follow the same copyright laws.

This doesn’t just apply to images on facebook. If you find an image you like on the internet, you can’t just copy it and use it, especially if it is copyrighted. When searching for images on Google, make sure you set the advanced settings usage rights to “labeled for reuse or share” to ensure you have something you can legally repost on your website or social media site. Don’t do this and you may find yourself on the wrong end of a copyright lawsuit for using an image you don’t have permission to use.

And as far as credit goes – well no one likes to see their work posted without being properly credited. Want to repost a blog? Most bloggers would be thrilled, but make sure you link back to the original site and credit the original author (you should also contact the author or blog host for permission). Use a unrestricted image? Make sure the caption credits the original location.

It’s a bit extra work, but it’s important to give credit where credit is due. And it’s part of our principles.

Beth Casebolt
OMD District Administrator and CERG Communications Consultant

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The Season of Generosity


The holiday season is in full swing with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah already behind us.  Black Friday has corrected the market, and everyone sighs some relief as Cyber Monday seals the deal.  Everyone, that is, except many Unitarian Universalists who interpret our principles in a way that clashes with the commodification of our values in a consumerist society.  We shun the early morning black Friday deals in exchange for shopping at small businesses.   But at the end of the day,  we still feel empty because those purchases still feed the consumeristic nature of giving rather than the generous giving from our hearts.  We may make this turning to some extent in our family, but still have to face the relatives who feel the need for a gift exchange, even if they know it burdens family members who may not be able to afford this.  And we are often caught in the middle of unrealistic expectations, high demands and competing needs.  We gather with friends and families to eat and drink too much, and by January, we are exhausted and purge the holiday memories through a new strict diet and exercise regimen.

We work hard in our church communities to resist this trend, and I’ve seen some real success. Southwest UU in North Royalton, OH, formed a simplicity circle a few years back where people exchanged concrete ideas on how to handle the holidays.  One of these ideas still stand out to me:  instead of exchanging gifts, they give the gift of “experiences.”  Now it may involve some cost, but they may have bought tickets to a movie that they could see together, or a concert, or art museum- some interest that was shared that they could talk about after the event.

Children at First Unitarian Rochester display collected gifts

Other successes involve people- First Unitarian Rochester involves the children in generous giving.  The Youth was selling soup to support one group, while another table was staffed to fund microloans to the community and food to the area food shelf.  What is their secret to success?  As Rev. Tina Simpson says, “There are two parts to giving. There is the generous heart that gives and also the generous heart that receives. Both are equally important.”

Knowing the needs of the receiver can make a huge difference.  The best gift I ever gave?  Cleaning my grandmothers house from stem to stern when her mobility limited her from cleaning the way that she would like.  She didn’t want presents, she wanted to make the food, but she sure did appreciate a clean house when company came for Christmas.  Somewhere deep inside us, is a holiday spirit that matches a need that we can meet, and makes us feel good and generous.  That is the spirit in the season of generosity.

Rev. Chris Neilson
Congregational Life Consultant, St. Lawrence District

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