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the Unitarian Church of Staten Island The Rev. Darrell Berger, Minister
312 Fillmore Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
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"Simply Susan"

The Rev. Susan Karlson

The Rev. Susan Karlson


June 2011: Fruits and Leaves of the Spiritual Journey

To read Rev. Susan's sermons at her blog, click here.

At the last "Spirit of Life" class, we shared the fruits of our time together and the leafy new growth that we want to continue to nurture through a creative activity. It was meaningful to share : "stories" and "experiences filled with joys and sorrows from which we grow", "love and openness", "generosity and humbleness", "acceptance", "creative expression and interpretation", the "fruit of learning from others", "care of the soul and body", "the gift of learning who others are as people", "the fruit of spending time spiritually", "support" and "meditation and inner peace". The leaves that we want to nurture include: "living in the moment", "learning more about the world’s religions", "sustenance", "serenity", loving the self which helps nurture the spirit, "respecting all life", "family, friends, and community", learning to "meditate", "listening", "practicing what I teach", "acceptance", "recognition", "shelter and warmth", "caring", and the "need to find more advice/inspiration".

Every time I facilitate an Adult Religious Exploration (ARE) class, I grow as well. I learn more about the people in the church. We all forge deeper connections. We share sides of ourselves that we seldom relate. We grow closer as community members. One of my goals this year was to really cultivate more adult religious exploration classes. I tried a few offerings like the "Spirit of Life" workshops, a meditation class during the holidays and two after church sessions on Unitarian Universalism and this church. We held a Path to Membership class earlier in the year. I sense that there is more we could offer next year and to that end, I ask you to complete a small survey of possible course offerings you would be interested in taking or offering yourself and the best possible times. I will make this survey available at church on Sundays in June but will also e mail it or mail it to those who are interested who cannot make a Sunday service. I ask that you please sign your survey so that I can contact you if I need to clarify something with you.

Over the summer, I have four weeks of study leave in which to plan for the next year’s services and Adult Religious Exploration offerings. Based on your input and feedback, I will devise ten months of spiritual development and adult religious offerings. If you would like to offer a class or have some area of interest you would consider offering, please submit your ideas as well.

Here are a few of the offerings—please rank your interest from one to five, choosing 1 as the class you would be most likely to attend and prioritize and five as an interest but one that is further down on your priority list.

Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Getting Older by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Articulating Your UU Faith by Barbara Wells and Jaco B. ten Hove; five week course on speaking up about what Unitarian Universalism means to you

Building the World We Dream About by Dr. Mark Hicks; Tapestry of Faith curricula on antiracism and multiculturalism, piloted in many UU congregations

Building Your Own Theology by Richard Gilbert, Parts I, II and III

Building Your Spiritual Home by Caitlin Anderson and Mary Macklin, a curricula designed for young adults

Cakes for the Queen of Heaven by Shirley Ranck; a popular feminist theology curricula that explores contemporary issues in women’s lives as well as exploring pre-Jewish and Christian cultures and worship of the Divine as female.

Dream Group, Jungian group dream work, explore your dreams through the projection, "if it were my dream" model by Jeremy Taylor

Emerson as Spiritual Guide by Barry M. Andrews

Ethics Through Films, selected films and dialogue around the issues they portray

Evensong I and II, similar to Small Group Ministry, these groups allow for members to explore various topics of interest for a shorter period of time.

Fairy Tales to Recreate Our Lives by Susan Karlson, five session class that takes participants deeper into their own inner fairy tale. Participants will write their own fairy tale based on their associations and work from the previous sessions.

Individual Couples Enrichment and Couples Enrichment Group, Based on the Prepare/Enrich survey that each couple will take, we will explore various issues such as communication, finance, intimacy, and spirituality.

Lunch Bunch with Rev. Susan, daytime group to share films and lunch once a week

Meditation with Rev. Susan

Spirit in Practice by Erik Walker Wikstrom, in depth work on spiritual practices for Unitarian Universalists

The Parent Trilogy by Christopher and Roberta Nelson; three UU programs for parents and others

Thoreau as Spiritual Guide by Barry M. Andrews

Weaving the Fabric of Diversity by Jacqui James and Judith A. Frediani, Engages participants in a variety of activities to examine and challenge ableism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, and classism in the safe, caring, and respectful environment of religious community. Ends with an invitation to action.

Yogic breathing practices, chanting and meditation with Rev. Susan

Please select days and times of the week that work best for you as well as days and times that will not work for you. We’ll meet in the middle.

Our minister has four weeks of vacation and four weeks of study leave (to prepare for the year ahead and immerse herself in continuing education and spiritual growth). Rev. Karlson will leave on Monday, June 20th New York to visit relatives in North Carolina prior to attending the annual Unitarian Universalist General Assembly from June 22-26th. She will be on vacation from June 27th-July 3rd. She will take the first part of her study leave from July 5-18th. She will give her summer schedule to the Board and arrange for coverage when she is out of town. She is always available in the event of an emergency so do not hesitate to call her.


May 2011: Prepare Enrich

To read Rev. Susan's sermons at her blog, click here.

“It takes two to speak the truth…one to speak and another to hear.”

I took a course on pastors working with couples recently called “Prepare Enrich”.  It includes taking a survey about your partner and yourself and then working with the profile that emerges.  I realize over the past ten years how much my personal and spiritual growth has occurred because of my deepening relationship with my life partner, Alan.

I am the one with the Masters in Social Work and the one who has taken an International Intensives on Non Violent Communication and I’ve brought some of these tools home to Alan.  We have developed a mutual ability to lift one another when the other is low and to commit to struggling with life issues that come up—adjustments when we moved, my long absences when I commuted back and forth to Gulfport, Mississippi, our children growing up and creating lives and relationships of their own.  I know what a rare gift it is to have a partner that voluntarily contributes his labor and skill to redo the parsonage bathroom and build cabinets for the new sound equipment in the sanctuary (after the youth construction trip to New Orleans, I appreciate his efforts even more). 

This workshop, our tenth anniversary and his support of my ministry and growth remind me how often we forget to count our blessings, to feel gratitude for one another and our many kinds of relationships.  I am thankful for relationships in this church as well and for the trust people have showered on me by being frank, caring and earnest.  It helps me to admit my challenges and be honest with myself.

So my column  this month is about doing a bit of spring cleaning of the soul — acknowledging what a rare present we give to each other by showing up, working together as a community, bringing our creative ideas, encouraging one another to fix what seems broken, and through everything, inspiring one another to spiritual growth and renewal.  It’s not always easy to see yourself as others see you. It’s not even easy to admit when you fall short of the bar you’ve set for yourself.  Yet, it’s the work of a religious community to help one another through the passages and the stumbling blocks of our personal and collective lives.  This is the work of community building and nurturing each other.  This is soul work.

As the leaves unfurl and the flowers blossom, through all the busyness and warming effects of spring, let us also recommit ourselves to being kind and loving with ourselves and with each other.  Let us feel how truly blessed we are to have this loving community that feeds the love in our hearts, that opens our minds and that cultivates the spirit of a genuine caring, serving community.

With gratitude and love,


Rev. Karlson is now certified to do couples counseling using the Prepare Enrich method.  There is a modest fee for the survey which is scored by Prepare Enrich.  Members may have up to six free sessions  for premarital or couples enrichment and counseling.  Please contact Rev. Karlson at  if you are interested in couples work.



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April 2011: Building A New Way

To read Rev. Susan's sermons at her blog, click here.

I woke up this morning reflecting on this weekend’s “Gather the Spirit” conversation with church leaders able to attend this session facilitated by the Committee on Ministry. Leaders attending shared what they found most meaningful about my ministry with them these past three years and what they wished for most as we move forward.

As each person spoke, I just listened. It was a profound spiritual experience for me. Just listening, I didn’t think so much about my own thoughts or feelings, or what I wanted to say next. I felt deeply connected to each person who spoke and I learned so much more about them. That feeling stayed with me for hours afterwards.

People spoke about their experience of me as a pastor, as someone who empowers and encourages people to share their gifts. There was a general feeling that I am fully present with them and that they are proud of my actions here on Staten Island and in the larger community. And I heard about their wishes for my ministry and the shared ministry of this church—the wish that I would trust them more and preach from a place of greater spiritual depth. There was a desire that worship be connected to the fire of justice, the struggles and challenges inherent in this church community, and the rich promises of Unitarian Universalism.

I see where I have been timid—concerned about departing too radically from what I perceive as the least common theological denominator among us. That’s not fair to those who want to go deeper, who have come here to find a well to quench their spiritual or human thirst. No one service can connect to the breadth of our diverse theological beliefs or perspectives but taken as a whole, they can.

Last Sunday’s spring equinox worship brought chanting and drumming, a deeper understanding of the origins of a goddess, multiple generations and a movement of the spirit that was energetic and inspiring. In April, I’ll do a worship celebration on the gifts and diverse practices of yoga as union. Our Passover Seder comes from the Jewish tradition but has a widespread message about the struggle for freedom and liberation.

For the first time at this church I’ll hold an Easter Sunrise service, followed by a more traditional Easter message at the usual time. This is a part of the blessings of Unitarian Universalism—that we engage with one another in our common human strivings while delving into perspectives that are not our own.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, “The true preacher can be known by this, that he deals out to the people his life — life passed through the fire of thought." I hope that you will give me feedback about how we can “Build a New Way” with our worship celebrations, events, programs and offerings at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island. I look forward to hearing from you as we move forward together.

Happy Spring!



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March 2011: How to Give Back

To read Rev. Susan's sermons at her blog, click here.

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” -- Jesus from Matthew 6:21

I first saw the movie,"Brother Sun, Sister Moon," in the early 70’s. The film depicts the life of Francis of Assisi, the patron of ecology and animals. In one scene, Francis and his rag‐tag band of friars travel barefoot to meet with the Pope. Surrounded by the finery of the Pontiff and cardinals, Francis begins to recite from the Gospels, ending with the quote from Jesus -- “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

During my youth, when I took something to heart, I often took things a little too literally. So when Francis says to his father who is consumed with material wealth — “do as I do, father, it’s all so simple. Give it all away”, I occasionally did just that. I gave it all away, even a thoughful spiritual present my mother brought me from Mexico.

It took me some time to reinterpret the meaning of this film and that passage from Matthew — “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I learned something about responsibility and stewardship as a student of yoga.

Swami Satchidananda would encourage us to leave a place better than we found it, startng with the public restrooms. I began to wipe out the sink and put paper towels dropped on the sink or floor in the waste can. I still do that today — just a little thing I can do to care for the environment and be mindful of those who come aNer me. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Today I awakened to a treasure I wasn’t expecting when I walked Lilly, our dog, and my eyes fixed on the bold yellow forsythia blossoms and the bright green grass, recently freed from the snow and ice built up these past two months.

Do I recognize tangible and intangible treasures in my life? Am I sufficiently grateful for the gifts that come to me — mostly small things like a smile, a hug, or green grass in the middle of February? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Am I aware the treasure that I have in a spiritual community that calls me to be the best person I can be and that supports me in my life journey? What can I do to be more aware and proactive in my care for this treasured church home? What about countless small spontaneous caring acts I can do— wash a dish left in the sink or food left in the vestry, without being asked, put away the tables and chairs after coffee hour, weed a small corner of the church yard in the spring, rake leaves or take a turn providing child care though I have no children of that age.

This next month, each of us will have a chance to consider that saying from Jesus — “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” as the Unitarian Church of Staten Island begins its annual spring canvass and stewardship drive.

What does this church mean to you?

How can you give back to this community without “giving it all away”?

How can you show where your treasure is even when our lives are encumbered by the chaos of the economy?

It’s all a matter of commitment and love — “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”


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February 2011: Lessons from Ice and Snow and Other Winter Storms

To read Rev. Susan's sermons at her blog, click here.

I thought, “Susan, you’ve really adjusted to New York City winters!  Why do people complain about how cold it is here?” Then the blizzard and subsequent snow flurries and ice hit. New York City winters aren’t nearly as severe as I imagined they would be  When I shared that feeling with one of our members, she responded, “They won’t ever be as bad as you imagine!”

A major piece of theology there!  Our minds can imagine all kinds of worst case scenarios.  The storms of life aren’t only in our imaginations — one winter day in January, a person with a gun went on a shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona.  We can’t really imagine why anyone would do that but it is part of our common experience.  It’s part of our nature to try to explain why bad things happen.  Through our efforts, we hope to lessen the pain, predict the unpredictability, and control the chaos.


Painted wall mural near Agra, India. The text says, "Oh God, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing. Jesus Christ."


These kinds of winter storms are tiring — just when I think the violence has dwindled in Port Richmond and elsewhere, another young man is killed and a number of others are beaten.  I go to the vigils, I attend the meetings, but I feel frustrated and sorrowful.  I long for some place where all our children are safe and only have to deal with the usual aches and joys of growing up.

But then I watch our youth sit through a long film about a young African American girl’s participation in the Civil Rights struggle in Selma.  The children are quiet, attentive and respectful.  A few hours later, they collect food outside the supermarket for a food pantry.  I realize all children encounter something of the pain, sorrow and tragedy inherent in life.  Gautama Buddha was sheltered from these harsh realities, but the suffering ultimately inspired him to get to the root causes.  The children learned something about this too through participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day.

The children raised more than $300 for the Empty Bowls project and the youth have worked diligently all fall and winter for their service trip to New Orleans where they will understand more about racial and economic injustice that undermines recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast. 

I went to the Anti Bias Summit at Port Richmond High School and heard youth share what they’ve learned about hunger, public transportation and poverty through a course sponsored by faculty and students at Wagner College and their high school.  Those youth were astounding and the Eye Openers youth who work with their peers on non-violence, respect and inclusion, always inspire me.

Ice, snow and winter storms create yearnings for spring and prod the imagination.  Yet it is the contrast between the seasons of our lives that broadens and stretches us in ways we couldn’t imagine before the storms hit. May you find sources of inspiration to warm you when the chilly winds blow and sparks of passion and glimpses of beauty to enliven your heart through the winter months ahead!

Be well!



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January 2011: New Beginnings: Embracing Community Partnerships

For Susan's blog, click here.

A new year is around the bend — new beginnings and fresh starts. Here at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island, we’re off to a fresh start too. Our president, Rona Solomon, will hold an informal State of the Unitarian Church meeting in January. We’ll talk about matters both small and great and give people an opportunity to share their perspectives on our mission.

Part of a new start in a congregation is assessing what kind of partnerships and social justice projects call to us. The Social Justice Committee is working on Shining a Light on all that we do as individuals, committees, and as a congregation in the community. The Board voted at its last meeting to be a part of the umbrella grass roots group, I Am Staten Island, initiated this summer in the midst of turmoil on Staten Island. As I said in a sermon a few weeks ago, we do education programs and forums extremely well and we are generous people in offering our time, talent and treasure to those community projects that beckon to us. We are less likely to join with other faith groups that also do good work and with whom we share some common cause.

The Building Bridges Coalition is one of those groups composed of Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. I have watched as this interfaith Coalition has increasingly stood together on tense matters like the hate crimes, the protests of the Mosque and community center at Midland Beach. We may not all agree about every aspect of a project or concern, but we are proactive for the welfare of all people on Staten Island.

This church has long housed homeless men from Project Hospitality here. Although this program does not eliminate homelessness, it does provide a warm, safe place for ten men every night of the week (unless the space is needed for church functions). Part of my Masters program in Social Work decades ago was a dual emphasis on both clinical work and community organization. I learned back then that we must build up the community through coalitions and joint endeavors. Why not work strategically on the perpetual dilemma of homelessness and provide a shelter? We are a small church with many commitments in the community and yet we own our own building. That building has harbored many a person over the past decades. Just something to think about as we begin anew another year.

Faithfully yours,



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December 2010: So Many Festivals of Lights

For Susan's blog, click here.

Dear Friends,

We are entering the season of Festival of Lights — plunging into a celebration of light as winter approaches and the waxing darkness envelops us. My daughter, her boyfriend and I were in India for the Hindu Festival of Lights, Deepawali, which lasts for five days and nights. Deepavali marks the beginning of the Hindu calendar and it also signifies truth overcoming evil.

Traveling to Jaipur on the grandest festival day, we passed busloads of people hanging on to the sides of the bus and a number riding on top. Four person families, seated on their family motorcycle, waited at the train tracks for two trains to pass. Villagers bathed by the water pump as throngs of people met at the railroad crossroads. Cows, water buffalo, goats, pigs, camels, parrots, dogs and monkeys joined what felt like a pilgrim throng. Everyone seemed to be going home for the holidays. A note at our hotel invited us to a Diwali celebration and a plate of Indian sweets graced our room. My daughter reminded me that the Diwali lamp painted on the plate looked like a chalice. That night, throngs of parents asked to shake hands with their babies and take photos.


Diwali lamp on a plate of sweets


My Diwali reflection reminds me of the possibilities for growth, spiritual deepening and integration during this turning of the seasons. We often turn inward as the daylight wanes and the darkness shrouds us. Winter is prime time to go into our spiritual building blocks. Because so many religions and cultures have significant holidays and festivals at this time of year, I hope that we can enter into that spirit at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island (UCSI). UCSI president, Rona Solomon, gave an important sermon in November about Unitarian Universalism’s Big Tent — its openness and inclusiveness of different theologies, spiritual practices and how this is ties into our everyday lives and striving for justice, equity and compassion. During the month of December, our worship celebrations will include some of this diversity focusing on Chanukah, Bodhi Day, Winter Solstice and Christmas. Though you feel an affinity for certain holidays and celebrations over others, I invite you to open your mind and heart to all of these celebrations and see what new growth and insight await you. The holiday season can be difficult—bringing up loss, pain or grief. This church can be a refuge, prompting you to go deeper internally and externally and supporting your growth in myriad ways.

May the Darkness take you inward and the Light carry you out into the world with renewed vision, grace and energy!



Diwali at night



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November 2010: An Attitude of Gratitude

For Susan's blog, click here.

I’m doing lots of odds and ends to be able to go on my trip to India about the time this newsletter comes out. Knowing that it will be time for the Thanksgiving Celebration when I return, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I am grateful for in connection with this church.

I would love to hear what’s on your Gratitude List concerning church, family, community and whatever calls to you. Here’s my list beginning with all active present tense verbs:

I am grateful that the Unitarian Church of Staten Island:

1. Nurtures a vibrant, caring and engaged religious community

2. Evolves a Small Group Ministry program offering opportunities for deepening relationships and spiritual growth

3. Maintains Board of Trustees members, staff, officers and leaders willing to tackle tough problems with heart, courage and understanding

4. Rebuilds a Social Justice Committee and a widespread commitment to stand on the side of love with others in the community

5. Works actively to decide on community partnerships that address the violence, bias and painful life experiences that affect us all on Staten Island and beyond

6. Participates in the Building Bridges Interfaith Coalition that fosters enhanced understanding and peace between various faiths on Staten Island

7. Provides a safe and warm Shelter to ten homeless men every night

8. Sustains a blossoming and fruitful Religious Exploration (RE) program for our children and youth with committed RE Committee members, teachers, and parents

9. Supports and encourages its youth to go to New Orleans for a service project

10. Celebrates meaningful and momentous occasions and Knows how to have fun!

11. Values active participation in District events and workshops

12. Demonstrates their generosity over and over when their help is needed financially, physically or emotionally

13. Commits their time and energy to fulfill this church’s many ministries through countless volunteer hours. I’ve never seen such a small group of Unitarian Universalists work harder and more enthusiastically!

14. Creates and Connects people through the gifts of the Arts

15. Remembers the people who have left their imprint through the Memorial Garden

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!



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October 2010: A Year of Renewal

For Susan's blog, click here.

I wanted to share part of my message from Sunday, September 19, with all of you. It refers to this year’s theme, “Building a New Way” and an interpretation of the Song, "Where Do We Come From, What Are We, Where Are We Going."

Last year, one of our members told me how life resembles the tides. She needs the low ebb tides to follow the fast moving currents of the full. Sometimes, she said, she found that church life felt like only fast-moving currents and that there wasn’t time to slow down and enjoy the slack tide.

Our theme this year is Building A New Way. The way of building is to not burn ourselves out in the fast moving currents of everyday life—and even more so in the pace of New York City life. I learn this lesson over and over again. I have many good teachers—a whole bunch of them are people in this church.

Sometimes, ministers have a hard time with balance—news to you, I’m sure. We have a vision, we see what we think needs to be done and we charge out in that direction, not looking behind us—just full speed ahead. People around us have ways of slowing that change down, questioning, pointing out the flaw in moving too fast. It’s the natural way of a culture—it’s the way institutions work.

For the past two years the leadership of this church and I have worked hard on a Mission and Vision, on reinvigorating the Small Group Ministries, reviving a Social Justice program, revising the Bylaws and a host of other changes. We now have a new website design—it’s so beautiful—and a newsletter editor who has totally redesigned the newsletters. We are still working hard and we are certainly building a new way.

Yet, while I want this to be the year that we move ahead with the growing projects and visions we must also take time to just cherish what we are and who we have become. I want to get to know more of you and relish knowing you as people—the substance of your lives, the passions you have, the dreams and visions that occupy center stage in your life. And that is where my focus will be this year—a year of renewal, a year of appreciating one another, a year of simply being, and a year of growing in love together.”

May the turning of the leaves and the cooling change in the weather bring you into closer company with yourself and with the great mystery etched in community and the cycles of nature.

Be well! Susan


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September 2010: Building a New Way

This year’s theme at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island is “Building a New Way”. I understand that some people thought that theme sounded like a critique- that we’re doing something wrong at the church or we haven’t been quite good enough. Far from it!

“Building a New Way” is recognizing that life on Staten Island and our country is changing - radically. The stereotypes about Staten Island just don’t fit anymore with diverse ethnic, racial and religious groups here. Look what has happened on Staten Island this summer.

About 10 alleged hate crimes are still being investigated. Violence hit our streets and ratcheted up this community’s response.

Our city councilwoman, Debi Rose, initiated a community campaign (I am Staten Island - in collaboration with other elected officials, business groups, clergy roundtables, educational response teams, anti-violence task forces, youth engagement, police and law enforcement and public relations committees.

There is a planned Interfaith Weekend Against Hate and we will be participating in that the weekend of September 24-26th. Educational public service announcements are being launched. The curriculum, Respect for All will return to our public schools. Increased monitoring and security cameras will appear in Port Richmond, the scene of much of the violence against those perceived to be Mexican.

“Safe zones” are being created in different businesses and neighborhoods. Social service organizations will get special training on dealing with bias crimes and how to help people who have been victims. College will offer diversity and and tolerance training. Public parks and recreation centers will be assessed for safety.

Where Do We Fit In?

What does all this have to do with “We’re Building a New Way?” The fact is that this congregation has always been deeply committed to Staten Island and helping make this borough a more open and respectful community. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called clergy together recently at our church to discuss the crisis and next month’s meeting will be held here as well. Members of various clergy groups united to work together across racial ethnic and religious lines.

This summer was the busiest ever for me -- clergy, lay leaders, civil rights and human rights groups like the local chapter of the NAACP, Peace Action, El Centro del Immigrante, Make the Road New York, The LGBT Center, Community Health Action SI, SI Clergy Leadership, Building Bridges, Ministerial Alliance, the Immigration Council, Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Communities United for Respect and Trust and many more all united to make plans, to support the victims, and to rally for civility in the controversy about the Muslim American Society buying the mosque.

I can say absolutely now that I am proud to be a Staten Islander after seeing how we all come together as a rainbow coalition.

I believe that this church has a huge role to play in making plans, serving on committees, creating safe places for those living in fear, and working together with youth to find solutions to counter the hatred and violence.

This is not a problem “out there” - it’s a problem across the whole Island. And I welcome your feedback about what kind of part we can play in this community.

You will see this theme reflected in our September worship services. I hope you will talk to me about your thoughts on “Building a New Way” and what it means to you.

I am looking forward to seeing you all again soon as we begin our year together! Here’s hoping the end of your summer is fun and restorative.

Be well! Susan


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Summer 2010

This week marks the beginning of the summer season.  Here at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island, we hold the Arthur Foise Summer Forums but we don’t have weekly worship services or Religious Exploration. 

It is a quieter time of year as church life slows down. Some people (and I count myself among them) have been going full steam ahead and so we wind down during the summer, reflect on what is needed for the coming year and regroup again in the fall.

This summer, I hope to really take some time to reflect on the last two years at this church. Our theme for the coming year is “Building A New Way,” based on the song by the same name. We began singing this song at my installation in April of 2009.  That song caught on this year and we have sung it often and with passion. Since the children learned it for the Installation, they too know it.

When you build a new way, you don’t let go of everything and start from scratch. You honor the past and the legacy that comes from those people who were ahead of their time, who had their own ideas of what was right, just and loving.  The founders and generations that came after them are still very much with us. In cleaning out the boiler area, many archives and historical elements were found, evidence of what previous generations prized and bequeathed to us.

So with the legacy from others, we build on that solid foundation but our awareness deepens about what matters most now.  The times are changing. New people enter through the doors of the church and have their own concepts of what a progressive church can be.  Inclusivity means embracing the opinions and views of our existing members and making room for those who are new and have gifts and talents of their own.

My plans this summer are to come up with some Adult Religious Exploration offerings to begin this fall and continue throughout the year. I want to plan services given our theme of “Building a new way.” 

I plan to go to the Unitarian Universalist Leadership Training Institute (UULTI) with other leaders of the congregation the end of August, and I hope to go to the Migrant Resource Center and Shelter in Mexico and become acquainted first hand with the conditions and the needs of those deported and trying to cross the borders.  I also have a week of spiritual renewal built into my summer in late July. 

What will you do with your precious summer?  I hope that it brings you peace, renewal and a deeper understanding of what is most important to you among all your commitments and passions.

Wishing you all a good summer!

Be Well, Susan

*Note on minister's summer plans: The minister at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island has four weeks of study leave and four weeks of vacation, most of which are taken in the summer when the church has lay forums instead of worship services.  I will begin my study leave, a time for planning, studying and spiritual renewal for the year ahead, the week of Monday, June 28th through Sunday, July 25th.  I will be on vacation the first week of August and perhaps some long weekends. 

I will take the rest of my vacation this year in November to go to India with my daughter and her boyfriend. I hope to visit some of our sister congregations while we're there. I will certainly provide pastoral coverage while I am away on vacation and will let you know as my plans develop and as I work them out with the Board of Trustees and the Worship Arts Committee.

May you all have a summer that is edifying, delightful and that buoys and renews your spirits.

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