Sunday, March 18, 2018: A Way of Holding Hands


“Spending hopefully so that we can live abundantly…. Congregations courageous enough to invest in their internal and external communities thrive.”

(by Valerie Ackerman)



CALL TO WORSHIP: “On the Brink” (by Leslie Takahashi) ( * )

All that we have ever loved

and all that we have ever been

stands with us on the brink of all that we aspire to create:

a deeper peace,

a larger love,

a more embracing hope,

a greater generosity of spirit,

a deeper joy in this life we share.



At times our own light goes out

and is rekindled by a spark from another person.

Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

(by Albert Schweitzer)

OPENING HYMN: “Enter, Rejoice and Come In” (#361)


Love is the doctrine of this church,

The quest for truth is its sacrament,

And service is its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship,

To the end that all souls

Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.

This is our great covenant,

One with another, and with our God.


From all that dwell below the skies,

Let songs of hope and faith arise,

Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,

Through every land, by every tongue.



Tara was sick. Something was wrong and she went to the emergency room at the hospital on Friday and when they figured it out, they ended up deciding that she needed an operation. So that’s what they did. And now Tara is all fixed. But she has to recover and get better from the surgery.

So I wanted to share two things with you about that.

First, when we all heard about, we didn’t want Tara to have to worry, and we still wanted to have music in our worship service this morning – Tara did too. So, everyone pulled together, shared what they knew and what talents they had so that Tara could relax and heal, and we could have music in our worship service. Paul R. volunteered to play for us. Jeff M. and the choir are to be their own choir leaders as volunteers, drawing on all that they have learned from Tara, and they are going to sing. And as everything fell into place I, too, relaxed because I was experiencing the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church being church, doing what church is, and living out what we say we believe. We believe that the church is people helping each other to live their ideals and be the kind of people they mean to be. And this weekend, folks here did just that, everyone contributing something so that Tara could heal, and we would continue to sing and make music and experience what we love about our church and our faith.

The other thing I wanted to tell you, is that I brought these index cards, in case some of you wanted to write a note or draw a picture for Tara wishing that she heals and gets well soon. You can do that during coffee hour, and then I will take the ones you make – the grown-ups too can participate, and I will put hem all in a big envelope and mail them to Tara, to help her get well. And that is what being church is all about!


Go now in peace, go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,

everywhere, everywhere you may go.




MONEY: “Why It Matters to Me” (“Happy Money” by Cleo D.)

You’ve probably heard and read a lot of advice on how to earn money, save money, and invest money. But if you are like me, you haven’t heard and read a lot on how to SPEND money. This morning I want to share some spending advice that is particularly timely since today is Giving Sunday. I believe that if we can follow even some of this advice, we will be happier as individuals and we will become a happier church.

The advice doesn’t come from me, but from psychology Professor Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia and marketing Professor Michael Norton of Harvard. These colleagues summarized research on the science of spending in their book, “Happy Money.” They set forth five principles of spending to increase happiness, each supported by multiple research studies. I will summarize these five principles for you and try to apply them to our church.

Principle #1: buy experiences

We are happier if we spend our money on experiences, rather than things. The happiness is greatest if the experience makes us feel connected to others, gives us stories to tell later and helps us better define who we are. What does this say for our church lives? This service is an experience. We spend some church funds on other experiences, such as a game night or a pub night. We also organize some wonderful experiences outside the church budget, such as Circle Suppers or member retreats or hikes in the Fells. But I believe that we can be even more creative and devise additional no- and low-cost experiences that will increase our happiness with ourselves and with our church.

Principle #2: make it a treat

If you do something all the time, you appreciate it less. Think about, for example, the music from our director and choir. If you didn’t have these, would you miss them? Would the music sound sweeter if you took a break from it? Research says definitely yes. Don’t worry – I am not recommending Sundays without music, but maybe regular Sundays without a minister are an idea worth pursuing. Our minister is supposed to get one Sunday “off” each month, but this often doesn’t happen. What if we made sure the minister got a break (thus keeping her or him happier) and used some funding to bring in another worship leader once a month? Or have a special music service? For me, the ultimate way in which many UU churches, including ours, make it a treat is to take a summer break, a tradition that began in the early 1800s. As a UU kid I was told this was so the minister could drive an ice cream truck (and maybe make more money…) As an adult, I look at it as making church a treat when I return to it each fall.

Principle #3: buy time

Who here has enough time to do everything you want to do? Not many. Yet we don’t usually ask ourselves how an expenditure will affect our time, only how it will affect our budget. When the church spends money on a custodian or a snow removal service, we are buying ourselves time. One likely benefit of this for the church is that people who think they have more time, volunteer more, and you all know we survive on the efforts of volunteers. One way I think we could expand on this idea is through the auction, which is coming up next Saturday night. If you haven’t yet thought of a donation, think of how you could donate your time to others in the congregation. Can you cook a dinner? rake a lawn? photograph an event? balance a checkbook? We all have talents that we can offer to share, and the time this buys will give us more time for ourselves, our families, and our church home.

Principle #4: pay now, consume later

Our society pushes us to consume now and pay later. That is why so many of us have substantial debt. But research shows that when you pay now and consume later you are happier. Not only will you will not have the burden of debt, you will gain the pleasure of anticipation and the joy of consumption. Here in church our investments in solar panels and new windows are paying now in order to reduce power consumption later. When you pay less for an advance ticket for the auction you are saving as you pay now and consume later. Buy your ticket today and the auction will be “free” next Saturday! Again, I think we can be creative and come up with other ways to apply this principle to our church.

Principle #5: invest in others

When we spend money on others we are happier than when we spend it on ourselves. Many research studies conducted in different developed and developing countries around the world support this. Investing in others yields greatest happiness when it is a choice rather than an obligation, allows the giver to make a connection with the recipient and has a measurable impact. I think we are pretty good at investing in others. The quilt group creates beautiful quilts for children who need covers; we collect food for hungry families. Every week we “Give Beyond Our Walls.” These investments fulfill the first caveat – it is a choice to make a quilt, or bring food or put a bill in the plate – but often do not really connect us with the recipients or allow us to see the impact of what we do. Can we find ways in which we can donate, connect and see change? If we can I believe that our happiness from investing in others will increase.

It’s Giving Sunday – time for all of us to invest in our church home. I hope that investing here will make all of you happier and that we can work together to use our money and church money as “happy money” both inside and outside these walls. Thank you.


ANTIPHONAL READING: “Connections Are Made Slowly” (by Marge Piercy) (# 568)



HYMN: “From You I Receive” (#402)


A Way of Holding Hands

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson (c)

Charlie Brown is leaning against a tree talking to Lucy. She asks “What do you think security is Charlie Brown?”

He says:

“Security is sleeping in the back seat of a car when you’re a little kid and you’ve been somewhere with your Mom and Dad and its night. You don’t have to worry about anything. Your Mom and Dad are in the front seat and they’re doing all the worrying. They take care of everything.”

Lucy smiles and says, “That’s real neat.”

But about that time, Charlie Brown gets a serious look on his face, raises a finger and says,

“But it doesn’t last. Suddenly you’re grown up and it can never be that way again. Suddenly it’s all over and you’ll never get to sleep in the back seat again. Never!”

Lucy gets a frightened look on her face and asks, “Never?”

Charlie Brown, devastated by this terrible knowledge that he has just articulated replies, “Never!”

They stand there, sensing that terrible loneliness that goes with being an adult, and Lucy reaches over and says,

“Hold my hand, Charlie Brown.”[1]

Lucy, the most cynical person in the world, facing the grief and terror of growing up with all its insecurities, reaches out to Charlie Brown, perpetual lost soul. In that moment, of reaching and touching, of holding and being held, Lucy does the one thing that saves her, and him, and ultimately, us.

I know those times. Maybe you do too. The times when you get it, when you realize that you are not going to be able to make it on your own, not just to survive, but to thrive on your own, that the world is a large place, and you, you are one small part of it – an important part no doubt, but smaller than you thought you’d be when all grown up. And in those times, those times of challenge and insight, you have learned what Lucy learned – to reach out and hold hands. I think that’s why you are here – because on some level, conscious or not, you have learned what Lucy learned. That we need to reach out, to touch and be touched, to hold and be held by one another, and that it is essential for our well-being and survival.

That’s what we are here for. That’s what church is here for. Holding hands, if not literally, certainly, metaphorically. Holding out what we have – to give and to receive, that we all might find some place of balance and safety that feels good and true and right, that allows us to breathe, breathe deeply and flourish.

You said it yourselves when the Ad Hoc Community Engagement Group asked you “What’s the good word about the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church?” You came up with many, many things, but some of the most prominent were about the way we hold onto each other, hold each other up and encourage each other to be the people and community to which we aspire.

Helpful, is the good word about MUUC, you said. Inspiration, you said. Family, wonder, positivity, you said. Empathy, love, and grateful are the good words about MUUC, you said. Belonging, principles, and acceptance, you said. Strength, you said, and compassion are the good words about MUUC. Also transcendence, and let us not forget, humor. All good things about MUUC that we find here, that we give and that we receive, and that we are.

Sometimes what we savor is the joy of sharing an experience of wonder, or achievement, and we feel affirmed knowing that the experience is supported and enhanced by having a beloved community to hold that awe and wonder with us. Am I right? Has that happened here? A way of holding hands.

Sometimes what church offers is the comfort that comes from sharing an experience that has rattled your confidence, or your sense of self, or place, or identity. That comfort is enhanced by having a beloved community to hold you, and affirm that you are somebody, important and valued no matter the ways in which your self-understanding is changing. Do you know what I mean? A way of holding hands.

Sometimes church offers the exhilaration that comes with being a part of a team working together on something of value, learning together, making something happen. Right? We’ve had a lot of that this year. A way of holding hands.

Sometimes what church offers is an affirmation of values we cherish when the world seems to have gone astray. A moral compass in the storm, a ringing bell buoy in the fog. And through tumult and uncertainty, we listen, we are able to check our bearings, confer to determine necessary course corrections, and hold on to the rudder against the prevailing winds. Am I right? A way of holding hands.

That is pretty important. Being part of this beloved community, and holding hands across the larger UU community that promotes and protects the values we cherish, that holding hands enhances our lives adding value and meaning.

That is an interesting concept – value added. It may be a relatively new term to some of us, but it is one that has guided us nonetheless through our decision making. How do we determine what is a reasonable price for a product? A service? By what do we determine is the value it adds to our life, our experience. Cleo would call it happy money – paying for the experience it could bring, or for which it would create space. How do we determine what is a reasonable investment to make in something that is long term, or lifelong? An education? A home? A family? How much time, and money and tender loving care are we willing to put into those because of the value they add to our lives? Quite a bit. Am I right? Some investments, like family or community are not only about us, but are about the future, the generations yet to come. We give and give gladly because that investment enhances our sense of well-being going forward for ourselves, for those with whom we share our lives, and for those who come after.

MUUC, the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, is an experience that heals, inspires and encourages us through our days, and it is an institution that needs your participation and support. Together we make it what it is. It’s a way of holding hands.

May it be so. Amen. And blessed be.

CLOSING HYMN: “Lean On Me” (#2021)

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE (read by the congregation):

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,

the warmth of community,

or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.



May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.


( * ) = indicates the author/composer is a person of color

[1] as told by Rev. Bruce Southworth who got it from Rev. Gene Lauback, in the March16, 1997 issue of the Community News, newsletter of the Community Church of New York.