It seems like everybody is fighting these days, on FaceBook, Twitter, backyards and front yards, with family, with friends, with strangers and trolls. “How can so-and-so actually believe the garbage that they see on that news station? Don’t they know that’s fake news designed to divide us?” It’s hard not to blame, not to pity, not to give up on these poor misled people who just can’t see the reality that is right in front of their faces. I’m not immune – I feel it, too. But trust me on this: those pitiably misled people think exactly the same about you. How do I know? I have a cousin who, as a teen, was an immigrant himself from Sweden. It took him and his mother sixteen years to be allowed to emigrate legally to make a family here with my American uncle who is his biological dad. A great family love story, actually, but I digress. I have no doubt that he feels as if current asylum-seekers and undocumented residents are cheating and should be held to the same rules and waiting periods that he endured. I wonder if he knows that the rules have changed so that there is no pathway to citizenship for these would-be Americans as there was for him and my aunt.

He and I are FaceBook friends. I read the titles and teasers of the articles he posts just to see what is being presented to the world by Fox News and Breitbart; I never click on ‘read more’ because I don’t want the FB algorithm to see me as ‘that person’ and start filling my feed with their nastiness. Neither of us ever makes a comment on the other’s posts. Neither of us wants to betray our disgust at the other’s philosophy. It’s an unspoken politeness (political correctness, if you will) that says, “You’re wrong but I still care about you.” We don’t make nice, insincerely, but we do let go of the need to needle. It’s good practice for both of us. And then he ‘shared’ a recent post of mine. Really, I thought? Why in the world? So I checked it out and saw that he was ridiculing the person and the quote that I had been celebrating in my posting. Rather than making me angry, it lit a fresh fire under me to continue to do what I have been doing:
• Never call names.
• Encourage others to pull back on their unkind rhetoric and make their points inclusively.
• Conserve my time and energy by resisting the impulse to answer every troll.
• Keep my eyes on the prize of returning to democracy.
• Donate where I can.
• Make noise in a way that counts.
• Keep my feet on the ground by marching and standing up for what’s right.
• Get everyone – all sides – to go to the polls and start acting like the democracy we want to live in.

We’re stuck. We’re frustrated. We’re scared. We’re in a dystopian world and we don’t know how to get out of this track. We feel all alone. We’re not alone. Want to hear and be heard? Come to church. Need a safe space to breathe? Come to church. Need to know that others want the return of democracy, too? Come to church. I’ll see you there.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL Past President
Board of Trustees Final, 2018

Thirty some-odd years ago, I was single-parenting, $20 budgeted a week for food, living in subsidized
housing in downtown Lynn, working full time, learning computer programming at NSCC, being hauled
into family court on a regular basis to change child visitation terms – in other words, a little busy. The
one time I had every week where I knew I would have some peace and time for self-reflection was the
worship service at church. Also I had no money to pledge, so I put my heart into volunteering there,
teaching in the RE program and serving on committees, always with my little one in tow.

One of the things I loved about Sunday mornings at church was catching up with my friends. One of
them might say to me, “So Lyssa, what’s going on with you?” “Well, when did I speak with you last?
Since then, I’ve blah blahblahblahblah.” The only way I could manage to do everything on my plate was
not to think of it as unmanageable. It had to be done; I did it. One day, one of my church friends, after
listening to my latest litany of endeavors and setbacks, said “You know, Lyssa, you don’t have to do it all
by yourself – that’s what friends are for.” Blew my mind. It had simply never occurred to me.
I thought about this long and hard and wondered exactly how one would go about that – asking for help.
As luck would have it, the following day, my trusty Dodge Dart had to be towed from my workplace to
the service station for some work. I set my mind to the task of how I was going to get to the service
station, pay for the work and make it to my son’s daycare before it closed. More blah blahblah. Then a
lightbulb moment! I called my friend. “Do you remember what you told me yesterday?” I asked. I have
no idea how many of her own plans she might have had to postpone to help me out that day, but she
took at least an hour out of her day to pick me up and deliver me to my transportation. We’ve laughed
about it ever since.

We all forget to do self-care now and then, when things get difficult. We also forget to make ourselves
open to seeing the needs of others. I’ve made a little personal study over the years. When we get stuck
in the blah blahblah, it casts a shadow on our spirit. When we ask for help, we raise the spirit of
everyone involved, both the helper and the helped. When we open ourselves to seeing the needs of
others and proactively offer a helping hand or a soft shoulder or a simple good morning, our spirits are
at peace. So please take my friend’s advice and remember, you don’t have to do it all by yourself – that’s
what friends are for.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL PresidentBoard of Trustees
June, 2018

I’m not very nimble with social media – getting better but still not so good. Memes and emoji’s and
posts and pics, not to mention the way some commenters have completely closed themselves off from
the idea that someone else may have made a point that isn’t exactly as they would have said it
themselves. And I’m not just talking about those ‘on the other side’ who disagree with me. It makes me
uncomfortable when someone whom I know to have a good heart, and who values kindness, chops
someone off or disparages them for expressing themselves. I am so put off when my friends try to score
FaceBook points by belittling our current government leaders with unkind playground slurs and body
shaming. By all means, express yourself about the (un)suitability of contemporary or potential leaders
but don’t talk about their neck skin, their children or their height/weight/hairline. It’s not just mean; it
steals your integrity and minimizes your reach.

I’m thinking of three people on my FB friends list. I haven’t kept up my friendship or family ties with
them over the years, but all three requested friending when I first started on FB. One is a nephew from
my first marriage whom I friended and the first post I saw called people like me libtards. Well, I
unfriended him immediately as I had no interest in seeing his disrespect on my FB stream. He emailed
me, saying it wasn’t personal. Well, just no. But the other two, one a cousin and one my first friend at
age five, consume only fake news and memes that are simply propaganda. I keep them as FB friends and
sometimes read their posts. Of course, they think I am the one consuming fake news. These people are
neither unkind nor stupid. They also don’t call me names. If they stay, one day perhaps I can be part of
their return to truth in news instead of truthiness. Meantime, a gentle reminder to check out
snopes.com once in a while is in order.
There is so much going on politically right now, that scrolling down your FaceBook feed can really set
you off. I don’t want to be angry all the time and I don’t want to get in the habit of letting unkindness
into my heart. I’m not saying that we can’t get a chuckle out of a droll cartoon or wickedly funny jab at
the administration in Washington. How would we have made it through this past campaign, election and
‘government’ without the comedic stylings of late-night? But we ourselves can be funny without being
rude and insightful without turning nasty. Pay attention to which of your friends can keep you informed
and entertained without the slurs and lack of empathy for the misled. Take your lessons there. Aspire to
disagree without throwing stones. In time, we will replace all or most of the unsuitable elected officials
and begin to repair our democracy. We need you be ready to proffer a hand to those who are currently
being deceived. Don’t allow your heart to harden; take lessons from the best and take the high road.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL PresidentBoard of Trustees
May, 2018

You know how it is when you sit in church on a Sunday morning and you hear the news that someone in
the church community has died? Maybe it’s someone who moved away to Florida before your time and
the impact is small, but maybe it’s someone you once taught Sunday School with or chatted with over
banana bread and coffee and Celeste’s shrimp cocktail. If you’re lucky, Joe was a regular church
attendee – as much as he was able – during his illness or old age, and you were able to walk his journey
with him. You helped to support him, Sunday by Sunday, as his needs increased, and there was that time
you brought soup when his daughter came home to care for him; and he helped you to see the grace
with which one can move from this realm to the next. Not so lucky with Jane, who, fearing pity or her
own weakness, couldn’t face the community of which she was so dearly a part, and went it alone with
only her small circle to share that guidance.

Then there are the not-quite-deaths that can tear us apart inside. Believe me, I know about this part.
Why aren’t you sitting in the pews on Sunday morning, soaking up the kindness of your community?
Those pews are filled with people who chose Unitarian Universalism because it is not judgmental,
because it supports their wish to promote justice in the world, because it encourages small group
ministry both formal and informal, because love is its doctrine and service its prayer. Your past
experiences have guided you to our pews. You don’t know your future, but you do know that you can
help or be helped by your church community only if you put your butt in the pew and pay attention.
Pastoral care is not about calling the minister in a crisis…well, it is, but not only about that. It’s about
reaching in to help and reaching out for help – sometimes in that order and sometimes the reverse – but
never ever just a one-way street. You want to ease the pain of a thorny world, but it’s too much to even
contemplate sometimes. Okay, take small bites. Make Sundays in church a priority. Join a committee or
ministry team or small group of your choice – it’s not a church requirement; it’s a personal requirement.
Talk to someone you don’t know. Thank the person(s) who served the great snacks at fellowship hour.
Wear your name tag.

We are all in pain and we are all able to seek help and offer help, so do it. Sit your butt in the pew and
do it.Yes, reach out when others need, but don’t forget to reach in when the need is yours.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL PresidentBoard of Trustees
April, 2018

This year, I’m a church leader. I say that with great pride. I remember the first time (20 years ago?) that I
was asked to join the Board of Trustees. I thought Wow I’ve arrived! I’ve proved worthy to be of service
to the church that I love. I served a year during which we said good-bye to Rev. Anita, then stepped
down to serve on the ministerial search committee that brought us Rev. Vann. Very interesting times,
and I felt honored to have been a part of forward movement for my congregation. I went on to work
regionally and nationally for the UUA as a teacher trainer for our comprehensive sexuality curriculum, as
a peer congregational counselor-in-training for the Mass Bay District, and for one year as the manager of
the Eastern Mass UU Ministers and Employees Group health insurance plan. Whew! So, a leader.

This did not happen overnight, of course, and my experience has not been without its bobbles. I’m very
individualistic in my thinking about good leadership qualities and that doesn’t always jive with others’
expectations, but for the most part my leadership duties have given me a great deal of satisfaction. In
1980 when I joined the church, nobody thought of me as a leader. I had enough to think about just
navigating my life and keeping food on the family table. Nevertheless, someone – maybe a few
someones – saw a spark in me; encouraged me; walked with me; mentored me.

So the next time you’re sitting in church, look to your left, look to your right, and consider. One may be a
church leader already. Seek them out at Fellowship Hour and ask them what they do in the church and
see if their cherished involvement is something you could learn about. Open yourself to the idea of
trying something new to help the church thrive. The other might be someone with enough to think
about just navigating their life and keeping food on the table. Seek them out and do a little discernment.
What floats their boat? What would be an interesting way for them to dip a toe into the business of
doing church? Talk less, listen more. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s important to them.
Many folks come to church for the first time because their boat is leaky and storm-tossed. I don’t know
anybody who can right that boat by sheer will. We all need help. You can be that help.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL PresidentBoard of Trustees
March, 2018

“It takes a village,” shorthand for it takes a village to raise a child…but let’s take the abridgement on its own merit. A decade ago, I wrote a piece for the church newsletter about the way our church’s partner village of Homoródkeményfalva in Transylvania welcomed me and Dean McKennon with full-time English-speaking companionship. It was doable only because the entire village stepped up to provide child care for my interpreter Ági so that she and I could sit and talk and wander through the village snapping pictures. There were families that housed and fed and entertained us and helped us navigate on unfamiliar turf. Their care inspired me to set up a picnic table in my back yard and invite the neighbors in. I’ve been having Friday night picnics all summer for ten years now and my neighborhood is a more welcoming place because of it. It takes a village.

Our church is a village. When you first walked into our building, you were offered childcare, fed and entertained and helped to navigate on unfamiliar turf. And something else – you received companionship for your spiritual journey, in the worship service, and outside the sanctuary, as well. You received an opportunity to address your social justice concerns among other forward-thinking folks. You found friends. You found a way to be of use in your community. So that’s our village. The thing about a village, though, is that you have to pass it along to the new arrivals. You understand about passing the torch, making safe spaces, providing guidance for justice work. Our church has more than its share of teachers, medical professionals, civil rights lawyers, social workers. You know how to pay it forward. It’s time to invite the neighbors in.

We as a congregation are on the cusp of something quite remarkable, something that was passed down to us – UU values and a monetary endowment that has kept the lights on even as our numbers have failed to increase – by benefactors long gone. We are now in a new process of expanding our village, drawing the circle wider, spreading our benefaction outward with the offer of spirit and care and justice, just as our original benefactors did for us. Yes, it takes a village, but not unless we own up to being that village. So enlarge the circle with your heart, your invitation to care, to spirit, to justice, to friendship. Be that village.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL PresidentBoard of Trustees
February, 2018

What a year we’ve had, and instead of looking forward to better things in the new year, we stare in horror at the historically most draconian (so-called middle class tax cut) budget buster ever in the US. We have all made an effort – well, this year we’ve made multiple efforts – and still our democracy is being eviscerated in Washington by those who would have it serve them instead of their constituents. With a collective heart, we have made enough noise to thwart much of the retroactive game-playing legislation that has come before Congress and state legislatures. Then comes this self-serving and dangerous tax legislation. Congress passes it; the President signs it. “We are working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas. We are giving them a big beautiful Christmas present in the form of a tremendous tax cut,” he says. OMG it’s disheartening. Church isn’t for politics – it’s for people. So join with some people and make some more noise…lots more noise. Sing a new song, jump up and down, put on a righteous skit on the Statehouse steps, collect signatures, carry signs, write, call, sit in (you can’t afford to sit out!), picket, march, make lots and lots of noise!

How in Hell will I find the energy and the will to do what is necessary? How will I energize all the people in all the progressive organizations that have been working straight-out for years already? Not by yourself; not on the political battlefields; not with a hopeless attitude. In church. Church gives you a choice of a dozen ways to make noise for a better world. Be renewed and bring your friends. Listen to our youth. Rehearten yourself with sermons and coffee hour, with aspirational singing and meaningful conversation. Take in the quiet so you can go out and make the noise. Recharge and reconnect. You have to do it but you don’t have to do it alone. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, hold hands and take it to the next level.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL President Board of Trustees
January 2018

Christmas is coming. Christmas is coming to church. We will be going to church on Christmas, you and I, and not just the Christmas Eve Candlelight service where we’ll see our church friends all dressed up and maybe some of our young adults at home from college – what a lovely thought. No, maybe we’ll splurge by practicing up for the candlelight by showing up on the second Sunday of December for the Scandinavian Coffee Hour (spritz cookies, coffeebread, meatballs, gingerbread and Jim’s famous baked beans), getting a head start on our annual favorite couple of church services. Delightful!

Delightful and also unsustainable. Think about Obamacare.

The ACA was designed to make preventive health care available on a once-a-year or thereabout basis with protection against catastrophic illness or accident and its associated costs. Its policies are most potent toward the medical protection of children, teens and young adults. This is all made financially possible by the individual mandate. Without the mandate, many healthy adults will play roulette with their healthcare and not purchase the premiums that subsidize the healthcare for those of us who are chronically or catastrophically in need of care. So a regular donation of insurance premiums by all stabilizes the health economy making universal care possible. Those who wish to see the ACA fail know that repealing the individual mandate will make the program unsustainable.

There is no individual mandate for church attendance. Gone are the days – good riddance – when folks believed church attendance was crucial for salvation. That’s what the Universalists were all about, after all! Everyone gets saved! Are you a member of our church community who doesn’t make a regular deposit of your attendance? Unsustainable. Do you pledge and donate your treasure but not your talents and efforts? Unsustainable. Attend and volunteer, and not just for the kids. Have you faded from view as your kids have grown and left the nest? Unsustainable. Come and help. You choose: beautify, feed, organize, clean and repair, lead, protect, understand, archive, make sense, make justice, make music, make sacred space, breathe – together in community. Sustain us. Come and help.

Lyssa Andersson,
UUCGL President Board of Trustees December 2017

At Ferry Beach last spring, the hymn was sung, “Love Will Guide Us” by Sally Rogers. You know, it’s in the gray hymnal and it goes, “If you cannot speak like angels,If you cannot speak before thousands,You can give from deep within you.You can change the world with your love.” Children and adults, worshipping outside under the tall pine trees, listening, letting the aspirational words wash over. Five-year-old Richard, sitting with me, had been listening very carefully to the words. “I can change the world?” he asks. The answer, “Yes.” “How?” “With your love.” Pause…”But how do I DO that?”

Make no mistake; we do that every day. You do. I do. We all do. Every word, every phrase, every sentence and paragraph, every look, every shrug, every hug and hand-hold, every envious glance and caring smile. That smile can be for your child or partner, for the teenager checking out your groceries, for the neighbor who is limping – “Gosh what happened?” – and your friend who can tell you’re smiling right through your phone. I should be doing more, you think, than this. Is love winning in my life? How many uplifting gestures does it take to make up for the unkind word to the careless teen on the sidewalk who almost made you trip, the growl instead of greeting at the gas station, the pout over an unrealistic expectation that your partner knows what kind of tea you like.

It can be exhausting! To really make change in the world with your love, you need to feel the love of others and rock to the knowledge that you are one of a force of love to be reckoned with. Be in community; bask in its warmth; it’s waiting for you. Feed yourself at church and change the world with your love.

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL President Board of Trustees
November 2017

Some people don’t get it – spirit, spirituality, that spark – but I’m betting you do. Lonely, or looking for a way to belong? Any group will do…Zumba class or senior yoga or Raise the Minimum Wage Task Force. But feeding your spirit, rediscovering your spiritual spark? That takes a special kind of community, a spiritual community. And if your religion of origin didn’t feed that spark? Enter Unitarian Universalism, and this UU community in particular.

So you found us. We see you and we embrace you and your spark, burning brighter.

Don’t stop there! Where does your spark lead you? Make a difference, yes. Share your skills, okay. Be the difference you want to see, of course. Enter into deeper conversation (Covenant or Dialogue Group), keep us financially healthy (Investment or Finance Committees), be a welcoming presence to new spiritual seekers (Membership and Hospitality Ministry Team), fix things (Properties Committee), care for your community (Caring Ministry Team or Grants Committee) and more, more, more. You’re here in this place of your spirit, so let that spark lead you. Make a difference, share your skills, and be the difference you want to see, of course.

 

Lyssa Andersson
UUCGL President Board of Trustees
October 2017