The 2019 Spring Touchstone
Dwell in Possibility
The Only Constant is Change
Here we are, on the cusp of a new season, watching buds open to leaves, flowers begin poking their hardy heads above ground, and new beginnings before our waiting eyes. No matter how long the winter, spring can help us perk up and look forward to being more active in the world. And boy – this has seemed a very long winter. So much cold, ice, polar vortex and the like! We find ourselves on the threshold of a new season. I wonder what it might bring?
I find myself looking forward to time to work in the yard. Time to catch up on long pushed-aside tasks and to-do lists. There’s the side yard, with detritus from our woefully small woodpile to sweep up. There are a few lingering Christmas lights to take down and wrap up for next year. There’s a huge pile in the garage that needs to be hauled to the resale shop as we did a lot of “Marie Kondo-ing” during the winter but only took our discards as far as the garage. Window washing, gutter cleaning, straightening and organizing all seem more doable when the winds of March have arrived.
Karen and I are gladly taking on these tasks because they are places where we have some control in our lives. Broken down into finite do-able bits, they help us feel a sense of accomplishment; there are things over which we have sway.
Because in our larger lives, we are in the midst of one of those places where we’ve had to surrender. When Karen’s cancer returned in January, it took away a whole lot of agency. We are doing everything in our power to think and act positively: eating a sugar-free diet, resting often, walking as much as possible, ringing bells in every room to clear the air of negativity (it can’t hurt!). On a deeper level, however, we simply have to wait, to see if this stew of chemicals she’s taking into her body will kill off the unwanted cells and allow us to have our lives back again. It’s a vulnerable place of waiting to hear good news.
Each of us faces places in the course of life where we just don’t know what comes next. If we’re lucky, it’s a relatively short period of time. At worst, it can go on for years. Being spiritually grounded means being able to live within chaos and uncertainty while finding some solid place within ourselves. Something which doesn’t shift and change even as everything outside continues to move.
Our place of solidity is the love which has been poured upon us. We’ve had to shift from being self-reliant and independent to opening to the support and love of friends and neighbors. We’ve learned how to say ‘yes’ to folks offering a meal or a ride or some time spent in our home. We’ve come to appreciate on a deeper level, our interconnection with the world around us – how life may be unpredictable but many if not most of our fellow humans are not.
I know I would prefer a world that did what I wanted it to, but I’m also pretty sure that would eventually get dull. Certainty and predictability taken too far lead to leaden lives without the spark of joy or possibility. We are both blessed beyond words for the solid core of love that holds us steady as all around us swirls and pivots. It is available to everyone willing to stretch out a hand – willing to say yes. Amen & blessed be.
Sunday: on site
Tuesday: Available evenings
Wednesday: on site 10 – 6:45 (or last meeting)
Thursday: on site 10 – 5 (or last meeting)
Friday: on site 10 – 12
Available for connection daily from 9 am – 8 pm except for Monday & Tuesday
Cell: text or call 440-570-9812
I will be available to schedule appointments to meet with folks any day except for Monday or Tuesday morning. Friday and Saturday are sermon-writing days. Feel free to email, call, or text with any concerns that come up. I want to stay connected and continue to be available to you during this time. Thanks for your flexibility!
Animal Ministry needs YOU to help make this the best, biggest, tastiest bake sale yet! Our annual bake sale will be Sunday, May 5 following service and we’d love to see everyone volunteer to bake one item! Buyers are always appreciated too, and the price is $7 for a plate or bag of plant based treats! Bakers can email email@example.com to volunteer and we’re happy to help you convert your favorite family recipes. This year’s proceeds go to Free From Harm (freefromharm.org)
A few years before I was called to be your minister, a group of folks had a really unfortunate experience when asked by Rev Ed Searl, the previous minister, to investigate the possibility of new chairs for the sanctuary. I’ve heard different versions and perspectives on the chair controversy; a wide spectrum of experiences, all of them unpleasant. I’ve been aware of the anxiety around the chairs for the five years that I’ve been here but thought it would fade from memory. In recent conversations, that doesn’t seem to be the case. We are now approaching the church’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2020 and it seems past time to figure out what happened so we can heal the emotional wounds inflicted by actions taken and words spoken at that time.
If you have any memory of the events at that time, I invite you to write them up and send it in to me or to the office. Please be as succinct as possible; from a paragraph up to a page at most. I will assemble all the input and present it back to the congregation so that we can learn what went wrong and avoid getting into that sort of situation again.
I trust that everyone involved was acting out of their best hopes and dreams for the church and that no one intended to hurt anyone else. But if we want to live out our values of respecting each person and recognizing our interconnection, we have to figure out how to repair harm that has been done – especially when it was done inadvertently and with good intention.
I look forward to hearing all of your stories, but mostly I look forward to strengthening our ability to walk through challenges together. I trust we will emerge a stronger, more trusting, and joyful beloved community. Thanks for doing your part!
Save The Date!
Would you please support our “Under the Big Top” annual fundraiser? I’m Paula Sejut- Dvorak, chair of the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale’s Annual Gala Auction and Raffle. It’s our 20th annual fundraising auction to be held on Saturday, May 11, 2019.
The Gala will feature live music by a local band and food, a cash bar and a huge raffle. It’s an all hands-on deck affair and the biggest event of our church year.
Who are we? The Unitarian Church of Hinsdale is centrally located in downtown Hinsdale, IL since 1887. We are comprised of an incredibly diverse group of 200 people representing Hinsdale and 35 neighboring communities. We are a community of passionate leaders, working professionals, social activists, environmental stewards, educators, and patrons of the arts.
We have three goals for our Gala. (1) Build and strengthen our community so that the Gala generates a connection to our community (2) Raise at least $10,000—significant because it comprises 3 percent of our annual operating budget. (3) All members/friends to secure at least one business donation
Why donate, advertise, or sponsor? In previous years, businesses making donations have seen an increase in visibility, sales, and customers. We expect over 150 people to attend the event. We estimate that your marketing will reach 1,250 people. Please consider donating or advertising in our auction publication, or becoming a sponsor.
Bottom-line, we only need two things to make our event a success: (1) people to attend (mark May 11th on your calendar and plan on attending with friends); and, (2) items to buy. To realize our goals—we need everyone’s help!
Please submit all contributions by Saturday, April 20, 2019.
We look forward to partnering with you. We thank you so much for your generous support and willingness to help.
Paula Sejut-Dvorak, Chair
Our Advocacy Partners are Critical to UCH Social Justice Work
The Social Justice teams and UCH members build relationships and partner with organizations that represent, connect with, or advocate for impacted communities. We follow their lead, supporting efforts they think will make a difference.
While our Social Justice Circle work includes service, education, advocacy, and public witness, this article focuses on our advocacy partners. They are faith-based advocacy groups who work with communities most impacted by injustice. These groups include UUANI, DuPage United, UUPMI, Community Renewal Society and Faith in Place.
Here’s an example of how we are connected to communities most impacted by injustice. We work with the Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Group of Illinois (UUANI), which provides UUs across the state with advocacy and legislative leadership. Through UUANI, you’ve probably promoted legislation when you sent in an Action of the Week or visited your legislators in Springfield.
This legislation is informed by UUANI partners including Faith in Place, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, UU Prison Ministry of Illinois, the Criminal Justice Advocates Coalition, Community Renewal Society, the Responsible Budget Coalition, UUSC, Protected by Faith, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
DuPage United is primarily an interfaith advocacy group working on local and county (DuPage and Will) issues mostly with churches, mosques, synagogues, non-profit agencies, and associations. They, too, have partners who know firsthand about community issues. Another example is UUPMI. Their leadership includes people who were formerly incarcerated, who have that real-life experience, and who help set their agenda.
UCH partners with these organizations because it is important to have people affected by issues shaping the conversation.
Join the social justice work at UCH to be connected and to make a difference beyond our congregation…stop by the Advocacy Table or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracey Olson, Social Justice Circle Coordinator
Our Unitarian Church of Hinsdale is a member of DuPage United, a non-partisan group that is focused on effecting change by working together. This has been a busy and successful few months.
On March 10, 2019, we held an assembly with newly elected County Sheriff Mendrick and other stakeholders. DuPage United has been working with the sheriff’s and state’s attorney’s offices the last few years to offer crisis intervention training for law enforcement officers in the county. DuPage United members also are working to reduce gun violence through a national gun safety campaign, Do Not Stand Idly By. The initiative aims to pressure manufacturers to require that guns be sold with locks, change their distribution methods and reduce the number of illegally purchased guns that are used for crime. To read more, check out our press coverage in the Daily Herald on March 11: https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20190311/dupage-united-pushing-for-more-mental-health-resources-safer-gun-practices
On March 17th, DuPage United was part of the Peace and Unity Vigil at the Islamic Foundation to stand in solidarity with those who were lost in New Zealand in a tragic Islamophobic act.
March 21st, a Metro IAF ally, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, and State Rep. Ann Moeller of Elgin helped broker a meeting with Governor Pritzker and IL Metro IAF organizations which includes DuPage United and its members. The sole focus was the reimbursement rate in crisis stabilization units.
Governor Pritzker initially said the issue should resolve by July. But, after hearing the urgency from IL Metro IAF team, directed a follow-up to take place immediately with Illinois Metro IAF; States’ Attorney McMahon; Department of Healthcare, and Family Services Director Theresa Eagleson; Deputy Governor Sol Flores; and key healthcare providers to get a resolution of this issue as soon as possible, and we have already heard from the staff person assigned to coordinate this.
DuPage United has several committees, including Mental Health, Affordable Housing, and Crisis Intervention. To plug in and live out our social justice values while making a difference in the Chicago Metra area, please contact Co-Chairs Kathy Salzano, email@example.com and Gary Noll, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cultivating Mental Health: A Ministerial Treatise
by Rev Pam Rumancik
The title may be a bit misleading. This is not an abstract pontification on mental health in general, but rather an attempt to be transparent about the mental health of a particular minister: me. With Mental Health Awareness Month coming up in May, I thought it might be helpful to share a personal struggle of depression, grief, and anxiety.
The past three years have been particularly challenging in maintaining my mental health and well-being. In 2016, my 74-year-old dad succumbed to ALS. After 17 years of living with its challenges, he began a precipitous decline and died June 10th surrounded by loved ones. It was a normal and good death.
Sadly, the years of caring for my dad had taken their toll, and my previously vital mom suffered a massive stroke in July. After 10 months of continued setbacks and complications, mom demanded her feeding tube be removed. She died ten days short of the first anniversary of my dad’s passing.
This event was catastrophic for me. I had expected mom to be around to enjoy life after dad died. With her passing, the lynch pin of my family melted away. There is no longer a central there in Ohio- no place to go home to. The regular gatherings for birthdays or holidays completely disappeared. Losing my mom essentially meant losing much of my family in a very real and heart-wrenching way.
The protective response of our psyches can create a fog which blunts the pain and allows us to keep going in the midst of deep grief. Looking back, 2017 remains a blur. I know that I kept working but also know that I wasn’t meeting my own expectations. I persevered, trusting that if I just kept going, I would emerge eventually on the other side. In the meantime, I did everything I could to nurture my mental and emotional health. I maintained close ties to my siblings and to my kids, relied upon good friends, met with a therapist, and even acquired a ministry coach to keep me on track.
And then life took another unexpected turn. In October, Karen’s mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. In April of 2018, she died, just three days before my wife had a hysterectomy to remove her first diagnosis of uterine cancer. According to her oncologist, Karen’s cancer was supposed to be the best cancer to have. We were assured that the recurrence rate was less than 2%; she didn’t even need chemotherapy. Another period of grief and the backwash of those events followed.
I recognize, in retrospect, that I transitioned from intense grief into depression. I knew that something was amiss and asked our Board of Trustees if I might take an early month of Sabbatical to try to do that self-care I am always advocating for other people. They generously said yes, and I spent the months of June and July allowing the full impact of the previous year and a half to sink in. It helped a lot. Still, as the fall rolled around and it came time to get back to work, I recognized that I was not quite myself. The world felt leaden; I was still wandering in the desert of grief and depression. I continued therapy, read books on grief, went on retreat, and made space for self-care during the week. In trying to figure out how best to serve our congregation, I made a plan to focus the energy I had on creating good worship experiences each week. As the months went on, I could feel my strength returning and began to feel more present – hopeful that I was also wiser, more compassionate and empathetic with folks who were going through their own periods of loss and challenge.
But we are not quite there yet. Karen went to see our doctor on December 31, and we learned she is in that 2% of folks who experience recurrence of uterine cancer. It stopped being the best cancer she could have. Karen had surgery in January, and we are now embarked on a 4-month course of weekly chemo treatments.
We are also now part of a contingent of people, many in UCH, who must live within the shadow of cancer. It is a place where hope, denial, optimism, and despair cycle endlessly, and all you can do is keep moving forward. We are well supported by friends, colleagues, church community, and family. We are taking advantage of resources at Wellness House, and I am continuing my relationship with a therapist and ministry coach.
And yet, some days, I am afraid that is not enough. That’s the point of sharing all of this. Saying ministers are human too seems obvious and trite. Of course, we are. And at the same time, I have an expectation of myself to maintain energy and compassion, clear-sightedness, and care, which simply may not be possible. I may lose my temper. I may not show up. I may deliver some bland or even terrible sermons.
Meanwhile, I am going to do everything in my power to serve this church as best as I can. To that end, I’ve worked with our board of trustees to come up with a new plan. I will continue meeting the obligations of ministry through June but will work from home more often. I will let go of some outside connections and focus my attention within the church. I will attend fewer meetings. I will coordinate worship but not deliver every sermon. My hope is that, on a day-to-day basis, you won’t notice much difference.
And I will again take some of my accrued Sabbatical time, along with vacation, to take June, July, and August off.
With luck, blessing, and prayer, Karen will recover fully, and we can begin a new normal in the fall.
Ministry is an odd vocation. It doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes of employee and employer. But one of its biggest blessings and responsibilities is the opportunity to wrestle with what it means to be human– and then to share that wrestling with you. Not to give you answers, but to offer insights from my struggles, failures, successes, as fodder for your own inevitable grappling. I will be as transparent as possible in my attempt to maintain mental health and well-being – and look forward to hearing your experiences, wisdom, and doubts as we walk together.
2018-19 Church Year Curricula
The Caring Circle continues in our efforts to provide support to our church community in times of need, transition and celebration. Our ability to provide support is made possible not only by the many volunteers who offer their time, but also by the information that is provided to us by our members so that we may reach out to those in need.
The Caring Circle provides support and coordinates assistance such as phone calls, cards, visits, and email. We are able to provide assistance that may include simple errands, rides, meals, and small chores.
CARING CIRCLE COORDINATORS
AREA 1 (Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Burr Ridge, Oakbrook)
Linda Rio — (630) 269-3085
Pam Fodor — (630) 795-0295
AREA 2 (Willowbrook, Darien, Westmont)
Jen Hopkins — (630) 488-9889
Sandy Buboltz — (530) 6137099
Jill Jackson — (312) 231-9870
AREA 3 (Indian Head Park, Western Springs, Willow Springs)
Susan Hebble — (708) 784-1688
Char Cepek — (708-334-9361
AREA 4 (Elmhurst, Villa Park, Des Plaines, Roselle, Schaumburg, Itasca)
Lynn Brackett — (630) 279-5851
Karen Hays — (630) 272-2899
Kathie & Gary Noll (630) 217-2250
AREA 5 (Westchester, Brookfield, River Forest, Riverside, Chicago, Berwyn)
Nancy Keane — (708) 352-0454
AREA 6 (LaGrange Park, LaGrange, Countryside, Hodgkins)
Nancy Weill — (708) 352-9128
AREA 7 (Downers Grove, Lombard, Oakbrook Terrace)
KC Edgin — (773) 294-7773
AREA 8 (Woodridge, Plainfield, Romeoville, Shorewood, St Charles, Glen Ellyn)
Paula Sejut-Dvorak –(815) 210-1909
Janice Sejut — (630) 207-2856
AREA 7 (Downers Grove, Lombard, Oakbrook)
Jill Jackson — (312) 231-9870
KC Edgin — (773) 294-7773
AREA 8 (Woodridge, Plainfield, Romeoville, Shorewood, St Charles, Glen Ellyn)
Paula Sejut-Dvorak –(815) 210-1909
Janice Sejut — (630) 207-2856