April 8, 2018: “Are You Ready to Grow?”

Our Third Unitarian Universalist principle calls us to spiritual growth, what does spiritual growth mean in a religion with as diverse beliefs as ours? During this Spring season, when new life and new growth are emerging from seeds and dormant branches, what within you is waiting to emerge? How can we create fertile ground for new growth in our own lives?

Rev. Matthew McHale
Julie Borden, Worship Associate


April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday Jesus and Martin: The Ever-Emergent Power of Life

The Easter story is about life triumphing over death. This year, Easter falls three days before the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both Jesus and Martin were powerful prophets of justice who were killed for their radical beliefs. And yet their messages of love and justice continue to resonate today.

Rev. Matthew McHale
David Early, Worship Associate



March 25, 2018 “Half Full, Half Empty”

Asking whether the glass is half-empty or half-full is shorthand for a pessimistic or optimistic point of view—whether we appreciate what we have or are always wanting more. While appreciation for what we have will lead to a more fulfilling life, is there something to be said for emptiness?

Rev. Matthew McHale
Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate


March 18 “Moderation in All Things, Including Moderation”

Pursuing moderation can help one find a healthy balance in their life: neither too indulgent nor too abstinent, neither too trusting nor too suspicious, neither too wasteful not too frugal, neither too fearful nor too daring. But how do we find the right balance between two extremes? And when is moderation its own extreme?

Rev. Matthew McHale
Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

March 11, 2018 “I Am Not a Good UU”

Many UUs will tell you they found their way to what is now their church home because of the disappointment they felt with the traditional religious experience of their youths. Some of us, however, continue to find value in the faiths we grew up with. How can we simultaneously find meaning in our UU covenant AND the religious beliefs that gave us so much comfort at other times in our lives?

Michael Hart has been a UU for more than 25 years and is a member of the UU Church of Studio City. He has spent his professional career as a journalist and is now a freelance writer and editor. Michael has survived a Catholic boarding school education, personal betrayal, more than one near – death experience – and lived to find meaning and value in all of it. Michael is currently the vice president of the Pacific Southwest District board of trustees.

Michael Hart, Guest Speaker
Don Ordway, Worship Associate

March 4, 2018 Stewardship Sunday: “Taking Care of Each Other. Taking Care of Our Church. Taking Care of the World”

This Service marks the kickoff of our annual stewardship campaign, which allows us to support the work of this church. But this service is about so much more than money, it’s about what we care about, our values, the ways we support each other, and the world we want to create.

Rev. Matthew McHale; Barbara Calvi, Worship Associate



Meandering river

Rev. Matthew McHale
David Early, Worship Associate

One can see it in the water-carved red rocks of the Grand Canyon and the towering canopy of a giant redwood once born out of fire, as Lao Tzu said, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” What lessons can nature teach us about overcoming, adaptation, acceptance and perseverance?

Special Music:  Robert Morgan Fisher will be playing a “Stand!”/“You Can Get It If You Really Want” mashup, by Sly Stone and Jimmy Cliff, respectively, and “The Mary Ellen Carter” by Stan Rogers.


Eyes on the Prize march


 Rev. Matthew McHale
Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

When thinking about the civil rights movement, most of us think of the period from the mid-50s through the late-60s. But thousands of people had been organizing for civil rights for decades beforehand, laying crucial groundwork for the successes that would come later. What lessons and inspiration can we find from their perseverance, for our modern justice movements.

The Emerson Choir will be singing La Canción del Camino, by Scott Rieker. Words by Antonio Machado.

February 11, 2018: ​“FORWARD THROUGH THE AGES”
Rev. Matthew McHale
Don Ordway, Worship Associate

Emerson has faced significant challenges over its history—devastating earthquakes and attacks because of political beliefs, and losing our building twice—and yet time after time, this congregation has persisted. This Sunday will involve reflections from long time members, the challenges they faced and what it took to get through it all.

Special Music: “Step by Step” by Pete Seeger, arranged by Ysaye M. Barnwell, offered by Elizabeth Altman, Amber Norwood, Jean O’Sullivan and Melissa Marote

February ​4, 2018: “ONE DAY AT A TIME”
Karen Rose, Worship Associate

When life is hard or we want to change, sometimes the best we can do is take it one day at a time. Although we might hope for radical changes overnight, usually change comes through taking small actions each day. This Service will include guest speakers from the 12 step groups that meet each week at Emerson. In sharing their experiences of recovery and transformation, there are lessons for all of us to learn.
The Choir will be singing “The Road Not Taken” by Randall Thompson, based on the poem by Robert Frost




Rev. Matthew McHale
Barbara Calvi, Worship Associate

Being welcoming isn’t simply about laying out a welcome mat, offering a warm smile and a cup of coffee. It means creating space where people feel like they belong, where they feel comfortable bringing all their identities. It means being willing to be changed by each other. On this New Member Sunday, we formally welcome those who have joined Emerson as members, and consider how that changes the congregation, new members and old.

January 21, 2018: “The Right to Thrive”
Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Guest Preacher; David Early, Worship Associate

This Sunday we honor Dr. King’s legacy for Worker Justice, speaking to the moral imperative that our society that provides jobs that allow everyone not just to survive, but to thrive. Rabbi Klein is the executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), which promotes worker justice by engaging congregations and affirming the power of workers voices and stories.
The Emerson Choir will be singing the union song, “From the First Day of This Nation” by Gene Stone

January 14, 2018: “I Never Meant to Hurt You: Intention vs. Impact”
Rev. Matthew McHale; Don Ordway, Worship Associate

How often have we claimed benign intentions, to avoid responsibility for the impact of our words or actions? Conversely, how often do we presume negative intentions where there are none? This Sunday we explore how the gap between intentions and impacts can affect our personal lives and shape the contours of justice in our world. Special music will be provided.

January 7, 2018: “How We Want to Be Together”
Rev. Matthew McHale; Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate

No matter how much some of us may wish it were different, the only thing one can control is how they choose to show up in the world. This Sunday we explore what intentions we would like to bring to our interactions with others—friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, strangers—and what we can do when we don’t live up to our intentions. This service will connect to the development of our covenant of Right Relations for Emerson, and we hope that you will join us for the Covenant of Right
Relations workshop after the service.
The Emerson Choir will be singing “Of Love and Understanding” by Betsy Jo Angebranndt



Sunday,​ ​December​ ​31st:​ ​ ​A​ ​New​ ​Year’s​ ​Eve Service​ ​-​ ​About​ ​Hope
Guest Speaker
w. Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

Special music scheduled for this Service

Sunday,​ ​December​ ​24th:​ ​ ​ ​Two​ ​Services
“The​ ​Christmas​ ​Story​”​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​10:30​ ​a.m.
Rev. Matthew McHale
David Early, Worship Associate

This is the story of Christmas, as told from Mary’s perspective. Special music will be featured at this holiday Service.

“Christmas​ ​Eve​ ​Candlelight​ ​Service​”​ ​ ​ ​8:30 p.m.
Rev. Matthew McHale
Karen Rose, Worship Associate

Please join us for our evening of holiday songs and carols, with the Emerson Choir singing “Throw Open Your Shutters” – Amy Bernon, “Good King Kong” – PDQ Bach.

Sunday,​ ​December​ ​17th:​ ​ ​“About​ ​Hope​ ​and Depression”
Barbara Calvi, Karen Rose and Melissa Marote,

A lay-led Service on the monthly theme of Hope.
The Emerson Choir will be singing “Light, You Will, by Amy Bernon

Sunday,​ ​December​ ​10th:​ ​“Opening​ ​Doors, Opening​ ​Hearts​ ​-​ ​Multigenerational​ ​Pageant”
Rev. Matthew McHale; Emmalinda Maclean, D.R.E.

Join us for an all-ages, theatrical worship service about refugees – historical figures – in a story of welcoming. Follow the journeys of Joseph and Mary, the Wise Men, Anne Frank’s family, the von Trapp family, his Holiness, the Dalai Lama and Warsaw Shire as they seek shelter. A young man, Tariq, stands at a door and turns all away until he too becomes a refugee. Historical words of wisdom are woven into this story of hardship, fear, welcome and redemption.
Special music – Mia (“Hallelujah” by Ma MuseRohnda & Mia)

Sunday,​ ​December​ ​3rd:​ ​”​Finding​ ​Hope​ ​in​ ​a Hopeless​ ​Situation”
Rev. Matthew McHale; Don Ordway, Worship Associate

When it seems like nothing will change… when our suffering is great… when it seems like all hope is lost, how do we find strength and inspiration to carry on?
The Emerson Choir will be singing “Inscription of Hope” by Z. Randall Stroope


November 26, 2017:”A Thanksgiving Communion – Multigenerational Service
Rev. Matthew McHale and Emmalinda MacLean, DRE
Linda Fitzgerald and Bonnie Norwood, Worship Associates

The ritual of communion began as a time set aside to welcome everyone to a communal table to share food and give thanks. Several members of our Emerson community have graciously offered to bake bread that we will share during our service today to celebrate this season of thanksgiving, the gifts of the earth, and the gifts of our own hands and hearts. We will also tell the story of a thanksgiving feast, where abundance is found in unlikely situation.

Special Music: “Simple Gifts” 

November 19, 2017: “The Abundant Earth?”
Rev. Matthew McHale; Barbara Calvi, Worship Associate

Harvest time is a great time to remember give thanks for all the abundance the Earth offers us. Yet we know that, as humans, we take more the Earth’s bounty than it can sustain. In recognition of all that we receive from the Earth, we explore how we can take less and how we might even give back.

The Emerson Choir will be singing this day.


November 12, 2017: “We Are Enough”
KC Slack, Guest Speaker; Don Ordway, Worship Associate

youareenoughfloralflatsm 2

Moving beyond scarcity models in our relationships with ourselves, our communities, and our world.

KC is a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry, and an artist, activist, writer, and dreamer.  We are glad to have KC back in the pulpit.

November 5, 2017: Count Your Blessings
Rev. Matthew McHale & David Early Worship Associate

We are regularly bombarded by messages that we don’t have enough, and only through having more will we be satisfied. But abundance isn’t necessarily a measure of material things, but rather a way we view the world. Counting your blessings isn’t simply a trite saying, but a way to recognize the richness in our lives, no matter the circumstances.

The Emerson Choir will be singing this day.



October 29, 2017: “Facing Our Fears”
Rev. Matthew McHale & Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate

No matter what age we are, we all have things that scare us, and we all have different ways we respond to scary situations. Join us for a multigenerational service of story & song, where we explore the different ways we face our fears.

Special Music: “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Battistelli, Jeff Pardo, Molly E. Reed, performed by Sharra Romany and Kevin Mathie

Untitled 3

October 22, 2017 10:30-11:30AM

The Courage to Change the Things I Can
Rev. Matthew McHale; Karen Rose, Worship Associate

This line from the serenity prayer calls us into courageous action; during this time when there is so much instability, brokenness and injustice in the world, it is even more essential that we answer that call. This Sunday we will seek the wisdom to know what we can change and find the courage to do it.

musical notes

The Emerson Choir will sing “(I Can’t Keep) Quiet” by MILCK.

October 15, 2017 10:30-11:30AM
“A Voice of Integrity”

Friedrike Kaufel, Guest Speaker; David Early, Worship Associate

In our constant quest to align ourselves and our own best interests with those of the people around us, society at large, or even the universe, a true attempt at living with integrity can bring us closer to this state of undivided wholeness. At times, living our best and truest self openly requires an act of courage—yet it is at those times that our voice is most needed and powerful.


Born and raised in Berlin, Friedrike works in the Program for Academic English at UC Irvine, and started seminary at Meadville Lombard Theological School this fall.  She engages in Restorative Justice work with CCEJ (California Conference of Equality and Justice), including their Building Bridges Camp, where she works with teenagers from all over the region to teach them about systems of oppression and how to dismantle them. She has a wonderful daughter, Elise.

Special Music:  “The Rose”  by Amanda McBroom (dedicated to Su Forbes)  performed by Mia Forbes, Rhonda Plank-Richard, Briana Bandy, Kevin Mathie

October 8, 2017: “Leading with the Heart”
Gregory C. Carrow-Boyd, Worship Leader; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

The root of courage is the heart (French: coeur). When we lead with the heart in mind, it can move us to acts of compassion and kindness small and large, individual and collective that create the conditions for deeper connection and genuine transformation. Come explore heart-based leadership and community building in this service of compassion, healing and accountability.

Gregory C. Carrow-Boyd is a religious educator and seminarian who serves our wider faith as a trustee on the board of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Raised UU, at our congregation in Harrisburg, PA, he finds the deepest expression of our faith in multicultural multigenerational accountability. Greg recently served as one of the Tri-Moderators for the General Assembly of our UUA in New Orleans, LA.

The Emerson Choir will be singing this day.

October 1, 2017:“The Courage to See Ourselves”

Rev. Matthew McHale; Karen Rose, Worship Associate

No one likes to be told that their behavior was out of line, or that they hurt or offended someone. Yet hard truths like these are often the most important for us to hear: they give us insights into how we show up in the world, and how our actions actually impact others. In this service, on the day after Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, may we find the courage to see ourselves as we are, so that we can learn, atone, forgive, and grow.Special Music: “Make You Better” by The Decemberists performed by Molly Siskin



SEPTEMBER 24, 2017, 10:30-11:30AM

All Are Worthy, All Are Welcome
Rev. Matthew McHale; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

All are worthy, 4 hands of color connecting

All Are Worthy:
Our Universalist forebears believed that everyone is worthy of God’s love, and our first Unitarian Universalist principle calls us to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
All Are Welcome:

Yet many of us struggle with seeing the worth in everyone, or being welcoming to the “other.” This Sunday we will live into that struggle.

The Emerson Choir will be singing “Light You Will Have” by Amy Bernon

For more information on Unitarian Universalist’s Principles and Sources, click on this link:
First Principle: Inherent worth and dignity of every person

SEPTEMBER 17, 2017, 10:30-11:30AM

Kin, Kinship, and Kindness

Rev. Rebecca Benefiel Bijur, CLUE; David Early, Worship Associate

Reverand Rebecca Benefiel Bijur
Rev Rebecca Benefiel Bijur

The medieval scholar Maimonides told us, “One should see the world, and see themself on a scale with an equal balance of good and evil. When they do one good deed the scale is tipped to the good—they and the world are saved. When they do one evil deed the scale is tipped to the bad – they and the world are destroyed.” In these extraordinary times for our UU movement and our country, can we still argue that one act of kindness tips the scales for good?

Rev. Rebecca Benefiel Bijur recently completed her settled ministry at the UU Community Church of Santa Monica, CA, and now works with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) to accompany workers and their families in the struggle for good jobs, dignity, and justice. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband and three children.


SEPTEMBER 10, 2017, 10:30-11:30am

Sharing Water:  Water Communion Service
Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister; Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate

Join us for our annual Water Communion Sunday, which marks the beginning of our church year at Emerson. As part of this annual ritual we will blend together water collected from our travels and experiences this summer, as a way of reconnecting and joining together in community.

Please bring a small sample of water from a place you visited, or and activity you participated in, for our water communion.

The Emerson choir will be singing at this service.

SEPTEMBER 3, Labor Sunday: Working for Whom
Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister, Don Ordway, Worship Associate


As we celebrate Labor Day—a holiday to honor the rights and protections won by the labor movement and the contributions of workers to our country—at a time when wages are stagnant and economic inequality is at historic levels, we ask the questions: “Who are we working for?” and “Is the economic system working for us?”

SPECIAL COLLECTION for Urban Partners LA.  All cash contributions will go to this outreach program of First Unitarian Universalist Church of L.A. …and you are welcome to contribute further via a check with a memo line of “UPLA”.



AUGUST 27, 2017, “Save the World or Savor It?”

Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate


Rev. Matthew McHale

E.B. White said, “Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day.” White’s struggle is one that many of us are familiar with, so can we find a way to do both?

Special Music will be the Wailin’ Jennys song “One Voice,” by Ruth Moody, performed by Rhonda Plank-Richard, Mia Forbes, Hap Palmer

Spike Ward, Guest Speaker; David Early, Worship Associate

Martin Luther King Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Everyday in Trump’s America we’re called upon to bend the arc, sometimes more than once.  As UUs, which arcs do we pick?  Spike Dolomite Ward will talk about how she bends the arc and how Emersonians can bend arcs together through the Justice Advocacy Ministry 

August 13, 2017: “IF NOT CHURCH, WHERE?”
Kathleen McGregor, Guest Speaker; Karen Rose, Worship Associate

The current political climate is rife with abusive words and bullying that are trickling down to schoolyards.  While the exposure, and privileging of abusive behaviour in political discourse is new, the attitudes are not.  What is the cycle and the consequences for our real lives?  Would we recognize the signs?  Let’s start the conversation.

Special Music: “From a Distance” Bette Midler


Michael Eselun, UCLA Oncology Chaplain; Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate

Popular guest speaker and UCLA Oncology Chaplain, Michael Eselun will explore our relationship to strangers. We are often told from a young age, “Don’t talk to strangers,” only to find that sometimes such encounters might be “perfect.”


Michael Eselun

Click on the video below to watch Michael Eselun deliver his sermon, “Perfect Strangers.”

The Special Music for this service will be offered by Molly Siskin, who will be singing “Stranger to the Rain” from Children of Eden by Stephen Schwartz.



Maggie Potthoff, Guest Speaker; Don Ordway, Worship Associate

This week’s service will explore the Unitarian Universalist responsibility to address homelessness in our county. Drawing on her own experiences administering homeless services programs here in LA, and applying a compelling social action framework articulated at the UUA’s most recent General Assembly to that work, Maggie’s message will blend thoughtful analysis of the current landscape with a vision for a way forward.


Click on the video below to watch Maggie Potthoff deliver her sermon, “Our UU Response-Ability.”


 Maggie Potthoff is a candidate for the Unitarian Universalist ministry and is currently serving as a senior policy analyst at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. She earned her dual Master’s degrees in Divinity and Public Policy at the University of Chicago in 2015 and moved to Los Angeles shortly afterward with her husband David. She enjoys working at the intersection of faith and public life, and so has joined the boards of Urban Partners LA and JUUstice-LA. She and David are expecting their first baby in December.

Maggie Potthoff


Barbara Calvi and Brian Nelson, Guest Speakers

What did people in our denomination believe sixty years ago, compared to what we affirm in our congregations today?  Honoring twenty years of their membership at Emerson, Barbara and Brian will look at how we find meaning in our lives within a faith tradition that is defined by growth and change.


Click on the video below to watch Barbara Calvi and Brian Nelson deliver their sermon, “Don’t Be
Afraid of Some Change.”


Rev. Lee Marie Sanchez, Guest Speaker; Don Ordway, Worship Associate

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Recognize these words? They are from a popular television show and they say a lot about our longing for community. Come join us this Sunday!


Click on the video below to watch Rev. Lee Marie Sanchez deliver her sermon, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.”


Angela Mason, Guest Speaker; Terry Hassman-Paulin, Worship Associate

What really happens when our criminal justice system attempts to sentence a defendant convicted of murder? Humane ways to address mental illness and violence in our society that allow all stakeholders to be heard.

Click on the video below to watch guest speaker Angela Mason first prepare the congregation through a guided meditation and then deliver her talk, “Victims, Mental Illness, Murder, and the Death Penalty, An Inside Perspective.”

Angela Mason has 15 years of experience in state and federal capital cases as a mitigation specialist, social historian, or defense victim outreach liaison. Prior to opening her clinical and forensic social work practice in 1999, she served in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Subsequently, she earned dual master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Health and Certification in Forensic Social Work from Tulane University. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Angela brings a therapeutic foundation and perspective to her work with victim family members and clients, especially where trauma and grief are concerned.


The Special Music was “Folsom Prison Blues,” by Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, and performed by Elizabeth Altman, Rhonda Richard, Hap Palmer, David Early, Paul Mahdavi-Bernstein, and Jeff Bandy.


Emmalinda MacLean, Director of Religious Education; Melissa Marote,

Worship Associate

Unitarian Universalists are pioneers in comprehensive sexuality education, offering “Our Whole Lives” classes that flip shame-based messages about “sex ed” upside-down.  Treating reproduction as the only acceptable expression of sexuality—as many conservative religious voices and abstinence-based education programs do—denies the reality of our bodies, erases LGBTQ people, and silences victims of abuse.  Accurate, inclusive, respectful conversations are the antidote to the toxic messages about sex that permeate our culture today, and Emerson’s Director of Religious Education Emmalinda MacLean has been facilitating those conversations with teens for six years.

In addition to teaching the “Our Whole Lives” program at Emerson and Studio City churches, she is the co-founder and lead facilitator for “More Than Sex-Ed”, a non-profit bringing the O.W.L. curriculum into Los Angeles area schools and youth organizations.  Emmalinda believes passionately that knowledge about our own bodies, affirmation of our identities, and support in cultivating healthy relationships are basic human rights.



Scott Rieker, Director, Emerson Choir; David Early, Worship Associate

The words we use every day shape the way we interact with the world. Words frame our understanding, and powerful frames become power vehicles for change. Join us for a morning of music, celebrating the profound union of words and harmony. The Emerson Choir and friends will present inspiring musical selections, while the sermon—based on the insights of Dr. George Lakoff’s groundbreaking work in how language shapes understanding—will be delivered by our very own Scott Rieker. Come experience the beauty of song combined with practical know-how to make the world better, one person at a time.

Click on the video below to watch Scott Rieker, the director of the Emerson Choir, deliver his sermon, “Language, Meaning, and the Song.”



Rev. Matthew McHale, and Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

In honor of Father’s Day, fathers from our congregation will share letters they have written to their children—letters about hopes, dreams, love, worries, and wisdom.

Click on the videos below to watch three fathers read their “Letters to My Children.”









Logan Fisher, Rebecca Hogan, Alejandro Lorenzana, Preston Lucy,

and Sophie Ward

This special service will be planned and led entirely by the 2017 Coming-of-Age youth, as the conclusion to their six-month program of personal growth and exploration.  In lieu of a sermon, each teen will present a personal statement on their beliefs and values—unlike other religions, whose rites of passage require adolescents to memorize and recite proscribed belief statements, Unitarian Universalism encourages and supports our youth in determining and declaring their own truths.  Please join us to affirm and celebrate these five young people on their journey towards adulthood: Logan Fisher, Rebecca Hogan, Alejandro Lorenzana, Preston Lucy, and Sophie Ward.

Members of the Coming-of-Age Class, Their Families,

and Their Teachers

Click on the video below to watch Sophie Ward and Alejandro Lorenzana deliver their “Coming Of Age” statements.


Click on the video below to see the presentation of gifts to the Coming-of-Age students.




The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by Christy Marshall, will sing “Come in from the Firefly Darkness,” by Amy F. Bernon.


Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister; Emmalinda MacLean,

Director of Religious Education; Don Ordway, Worship Associate

Join us as we celebrate the youth who are crossing the bridge from adolescence to young adulthood and leaving their high school years behind.  We will also honor the Religious Education volunteers who have nurtured and supported the children and youth of this congregation over the past year, and reflect on the joys and challenges to be found at every age and stage of life.

Click on the video below to watch Rev. Matthew McHale deliver his sermon, “Finding Joy at Every Age.”


Mia Forbes and Sydney Kysar, who will sing an adaptation of the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away,” will provide Special Music. In addition, you’ll hear “Teach Your Children,” performed by two Emerson musicians.

Click on the video below to watch Mia and Sydney sing “I’ll Fly Away.”




Linda Fitzgerald and Bonnie Norwood, Lay Worship Leaders


 All are invited to bring a photograph or memento of a loved one who has passed away. Those who wish to may also share a memory of the person. Through our stories and keepsakes, we will together build an altar that celebrates life.

May 21, 2017 “BEING THE CHANGE”

Rev. Matthew McHale; Terry Hassman-Paulin, Worship Associate


Click on the video below to watch Rev. Matthew deliver his sermon, “Being the Change.”


Whether it’s a friend, loved one or a political leader, no matter how much we may care or how hard we may try, we can’t control how other people act or think, we only have control over how we live our lives. Embracing that truth will make us more grounded, less irritated, and more powerful. When things are wrong in our lives and the world, the change we wish to see starts with us.

Click on the video below to watch “Let It Be Me,” by Emily Ann Saliers, performed by Elizabeth Altman and Liz Owen.



In the video below, watch Terry Hassman-Paulin deliver a reflection on working at aid center for the homeless.



Rev. Matthew McHale; Karen Rose, Worship Associate

There is a perceived conflict in our world between two worldviews: whether individual autonomy or collective wellbeing is more important. One of the beautiful aspects of the Flower Communion is that it celebrates uniqueness, diversity and community. This Sunday join us as we explore how to honor the individual and the greater whole.

In addition to our annual flower communion, this service will include a child dedication ceremony. Please bring fresh cut flowers for this spring ritual

Flower Communion Ceremony


Dedication of Emerson’s Children

The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker, and accompanied by Christy Marshall, will ing “Roots and Wings” by Sheri Porterfield.



 Megan Dowdell, Guest Preacher;

Rev. Matthew McHale and David Early, Worship Associates

Megan Dowdell

White supremacy* is a set of institutional assumptions and practices, often operating unconsciously, that tend to benefit white people and exclude people of color. As people of faith, we are called to understand the ways in which white supremacy culture operates in society, as well as within communities. Our bodies can become our resource in staying present in learning about white supremacy and caring for ourselves as we resist racism and systemic oppression. Join in song, meditation, and spiritual practice, as we journey together toward justice and embodying resistance.

Click on the video below to watch Megan Dowdell deliver her sermon, “Embodying Resistance: Learning About White Supremacy.”

*If you are interested or curious to learn more before we gather together for worship, please check out this resource on “white supremacy culture,” which has been a key document in educating to dismantle racism for the past 15 years: http://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/White_Supremacy_Culture_Okun.pdf

The Special Music for this Sunday will be “Up To The Mountain,” by Patty Griffon (Kelly Clarkson version), performed by Sharra Romany (vocals), Ramy Romany (guitar), and Christy Marshall (piano).





Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

When we think about the environment, we often think about being in nature, the forests, the mountains, the ocean. Likewise, environmentalism is often narrowly focused on the protection of our natural world. What’s often lost in this perception is humans. We forget our interdependence with the natural world, and overlook the ways that environmental/climate impacts disproportionately burden poor communities and Communities of Color. This Sunday we remember that the struggles for justice and the environment are inextricably connected.

Click on the video below to watch Rev. Matthew McHale deliver his sermon, “It’s All Connected.”

Click on the video below to see Rev. Matthew McHale tell the children “Destiny vs. the Incinerator,” a Story for All Ages.

The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by Christy Marshall, will sing, “All Things Are Connected” by Mary Lynn Lightfoot.


Emmalinda MacLean, Director of Religious Education; 

Don Ordway, Worship Associate

In celebration of Earth Day, join us for a multigenerational, interactive retelling of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, the beloved classic about cherishing the natural beauty of our world.  This is a “partial-planning pageant,” meaning that the main speaking roles have already been cast, but there will also be lots of opportunities for impromptu participation by both children and adults.  We’ll need everyone’s help to bring the world of the Lorax, the Once-ler, the swomee-swans, the bar-ba-loots, and the humming fish to life!

Watch the video below to see the amazing presentation of The Lorax!

The Special Music for this Sunday will be “Down to Earth,” performed by Elizabeth Altman and Paul Mahdavi-Bernstein.

The children in Religious Education class created some of the props for The Lorax, as shown below:


Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate

Click on the video below to see and hear Rev. Matthew McHale deliver his sermon, “Eggs, Rabbits, Chocolate, and Resurrection?!”


Easter—the death and resurrection of Jesus—is Christianity’s most important story, but its observance is deeply infused with pagan elements celebrating Spring and fertility, and it has become increasingly commercialized. So what does Easter mean for us as Unitarian Universalists, anyway?


Rev. Matthew McHale tells the story of “The Ostara Bunny” to youth and adults during the “Story for All Ages.” Click on the video below:



The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by Christy Marshall, will sing, “Alleluia” by Ralph Manuel.


Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; David Early, Worship Associate

There’s a tendency to think about personal growth as a sort of new beginning, and all-around positive experience. In reality, such transformations most often arise out of something old falling apart. In the face of difficult and disorienting changes, positive growth is far from assured, and it can be easy to fall into resentment. How can we orient ourselves towards growth instead?

Click on the video below to hear Emmalinda MacLean, Director or Religious Education, tell “The Bamboo,” a traditional folktale.

Click on the video below to see and hear Sharra Romany, accompanied by Christy Marshall (piano) and Ramy Romany (guitar) perform “The Climb,” by Jessi Alexander and Jon Mabe.


In the video below, Rev. Matthew McHale delivers his sermon, “Growth Doesn’t Always Come Easy.”


Jim Scott, Composer/Guitarist/Singer; Terry Hassman-Paulin, Worship Associate

 Popular Unitarian Universalist composer/guitarist/singer will be joining us this morning, along with the Unitarian Universalist Choir of Studio City.  This music-filled service will send you off with a melody in your heart and on your lips.

Emerson Choir and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City will perform “Hope is Alive,” by Mac Huff; “Here Comes the Sun,” by George Harrison, and “I am Waiting” by Jim Scott.


Composer, guitarist and singer Jim Scott brings a warmth and humor with his jazz and world music influenced songs.  He has a prodigious guitar mastery and clear voice, to touch hearts with his messages of peace, justice and the earth. Formerly a member of the Paul Winter Consort, Jim was co-composer of their celebrated “Missa Gaia/Earth Mass” and sang their anthem song “Common Ground.”  He has toured the world, recorded a number of CDs of original music and published a growing line of choral works.  Jim has played at more than 700 UU churches over 30 years of travels, and his songs are in the UU hymnbooks

Please plan to stay for the potluck lunch after the service, followed by a concert at 1:00, “Gather the Spirit,” presented by Jim Scott.


Click on the video below to see Jim Scott deliver his talk, “Spring Again–and a Transformation.”


Watch the video below to see the combined choir (Emerson Choir and UU Church of Studio City Choir) sing “Here Comes the Sun,” by George Harrison.



March 26, 2017, “RISK BEING WHO YOU ARE”

Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate

Click on the video below to see and hear Rev. Matthew deliver his sermon, “Risk Being Yourself.”

All too often, we hide parts of ourselves, whether due to societal pressure or the fear of conflict, judgment or rejection. We spend so much of our lives living out of alignment with who were really are. Yet, when we take the risk of showing up as our whole self, we may find a sense of relief, like a weight has been lifted, and it can open up the possibility for those around us to be who they are.

Click on the video below to see and hear “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles and Jack Antonoff, performed by Amber Norwood, Elizabeth Altman, Paul Mahdavi-Bernstein, and David Early. Genevieve Mahdavi-Bernstein is the dancer.


Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; David Early, Worship Associate

Click on the video below to see Rev. Matthew McHale deliver his sermon, “Daring to Dream, Daring to Do.”


As Unitarian Universalists, we are dedicated to creating a more just and equitable world. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that in some comfortable, safe and surefire way? Yet creating change requires taking risks—organizing, marching and speaking out, often in the face of daunting odds or strong opposition. This Sunday we’ll find inspiration in the stories of risk-takers and explore spiritual practices to ground and inspire us for this challenging and necessary work.

Click on the video below to see and hear Emmalinda MacLean tell the story “Brave Raven,” by Aaron McEmrys.



Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Karen Rose, Worship Associate

A sense of connection and belonging is an essential component of any religious community. How might radical hospitality help us find the balance between a tight-knit sense of community and making space for new people? And how might it transform us as a community and as individuals?


Rev. Steven Wilson, Minister, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Braintree, MA; Terry Hassman-Paulin, Worship Associate

Have you ever walked into a church service hurting, and found that the optimism that flowed from the choir and pulpit failed to soothe?  If so, this is a service for you.  Need a good cry?  Come!  Come assured that your sadness will not be lonely today.  Today we will be healed by a good honest cry and the peace and even laughter that “can” come from that journey.

The video below shows a snippet of Rev. Wilson delivering his sermon, “Tragedy, Death, Pessimism, and Despair.”


The video below shows just a bit of Rev. Wilson’s telling his story, “Cosmic Dessert” to Emerson’s children.


The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by Christy Marshall, will sing, “Love is the Spirit of this Church” by Paul Ayres. Watch the video below.



Rev. Steve Wilson comes to us as the Settled Minister of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Braintree, Massachusetts, and as the long-time, part-time minister of the Bernardston Unitarian Congregational Society in western Massachusetts.  He is a graduate of Boston University’s School of Theology, where he was an Oxnam Scholar and received a Master in Divinity degree with a concentration in Social Ethics.

February 26, 2017, “SPRINGING INTO ACTION”

Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate

Over the past several months Emerson has been springing into action. We have experienced a surge of energy activity, inspired by the beginning of a new ministry, and in defending our religious values of justice, equity, and inclusion. It has been an exciting time for our church community. What enables our congregation to be vibrant—to stand for justice, to provide healing, comfort and support; to provide opportunities for spiritual reflection and growth—is the generosity of this community. It’s all of you sharing of your time, talents and treasure.

Click on the video below to see Rev. Matthew McHale delivering his sermon, “Springing Into Action.”


Click on the video below to hear Emmalinda MacLean telling the story “Parting the Waters.”

Watch the video below to hear The Black Phoebes perform “Takin’ It to the Streets,” by Michael McDonald.

February 19, 2017, “Love Has No Labels”

Rev. Matthew McHale; Karen Rose, Worship Associate

Our identities—gender, sexual orientation, race, class, age, and ability—are an important part of who we are, helping shape the ways in which we experience and move through the world. Yet, we are often told that we should think of ourselves, not by our individual identities, but as members of the human family. Can we honor each other’s common humanity, while celebrating the diversity among us?

Under the direction of Scott Rieker and with accompaniment by Christy Marshall, the Emerson Choir will sing “Seasons of Love” from Rent by Jonathan Larson.


Please click on the video below to see Rev. Matthew McHale deliver Part 1 of his sermon: “Love Has No Labels.”

Please click on the video below to see Rev. Matthew McHale deliver Part 2 of his sermon: “Loving the Labels.”


Rev. Matthew McHale tells a story he wrote, “You Look Ridiculous” to the children for Story for All Ages on February 19, 2017.


Watch the video below to see the Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by Christy Marshall, sing “Seasons of Love,” from Rent. Words and music by Jonathan Larson.


February 12, 2017,  “The Witness and the Wilderness: The Self in Relief” 

Essy Hart, Guest Speaker; Don Ordway, Worship Associate


Different types of spiritual work require and replenish different resources for our work in the world. We may find that our wild, Pagan joy is restored in the reflective witness of the Buddha.  Our willingness to pray may be unearthed in surrender to a deep desire to dance. Trusting the higher self is a practice. We come into focus when we lean into whatever makes us quake, whatever allows for transformation and awakening.

This morning we will explore the power, mischief, and sacred nature of contradiction. Essy Hart will provide the music for this service.

Click on the video below for a segment of Essy Hart’s sermon, “The Witness and the Wilderness: The Self in Relief.” If you wish to read the entire sermon, click on the PDF file below the video.

The Witness and the Wilderness 021217


Click on the video below to see Emmalinda MacLean, Director of Religious Education, telling the “The Disappearing Boy,” a story written by Essy Hart (seated next to Emmalinda).


Click on the video below to see and hear more of Essy Hart’s sermon and singing on February 12, 2017.




February 5, 2017,  “BUILDING BRIDGES, NOT WALLS”

Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Terry Hassman-Paulin, Worship Associate

One of the most vital tasks of any religious community is welcoming in the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee. During a time when walls are being built between people, how might we be a community that breaks down walls and builds bridges of connection and support?

The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker, will sing “Covenant” by Christy Carew Marshall.


Watch the video below, which shows Rev. Matthew McHale delivering his sermon, “Building Bridges, Not Walls.”




A Buddhist Meditation on the Book of Jonah”

January 29, 2017

Rev. James Ford; David Early, Worship Associate

Rev James Ishmael Ford-5

Reverend James Ishmael Ford

These days we find ourselves called to speak truth to power. This can be a daunting task for a large number of reasons. Our guest speaker, Reverend James Ford, finds the Book of Jonah a strange and wonderful tale with lessons that might be helpful for all of us in these hard times.

The Reverend James Ishmael Ford served as a Unitarian Universalist parish minister for 25 years. He is Minister Emeritus of the First Unitarian Church in Providence, Rhode Island. Today he serves as community minister affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach. He is also the first UU minister to also be ordained a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and currently guides the Blue Cliff Zen Sangha, which meets at the Long Beach church. His most recent book is If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break.

Watch the video below to see Rev. James Ford delivering his sermon: “What Happens When the Prophet is a Jerk: A Buddhist Meditation on the Book of Jonah.”

Here’s another view of Rev. James Ford preaching on January 29, 2017:
Emmalinda MacLean, Director of Religious Education, tells the children “The Stonecutter’s Tale,” January 29, 2017: Watch the video below:
Watch the video below to see and hear “The Emersons” (Mia Forbes, Rhonda Richard, Hap Palmer, Briana Bandy, and Jeff Bandy) perform “Glorious” by MaMuse.


Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate


The liberal understanding of what it means to be prophetic is to decry the injustices in our society, but it often overlooks the critical need to offer alternatives to the dominant paradigm. At the beginning of a new presidency, how can we not only fight against injustice, but also use our imagination to nourish and evoke consciousness and perception different than the dominant culture?

Click on the video below to see and hear Rev. Matthew McHale deliver his sermon, “Prophetic Imagination.”

Copy and paste the link below to see another video of Rev. Matthew delivering his sermon, “Prophetic Imagination.”


“RECLAIMING KING, “January 15, 2017

Rev Matthew, Minister; Don Ordway, Worship Associate


Over time, Martin Luther King has been tamed in our collective consciousness, to be remembered and honored solely as someone who nonviolently struggled for civil rights for Black people, and he has become revered by almost all Americans as a great hero. But that sanitized version of King obscures the reality that he was deeply divisive at the time, particularly as he expanded the scope of his radical love, becoming an outspoken critic, not just of racism, but also poverty, militarism, and materialism. This Sunday, we reclaim the radical King, and explore how King’s message can impact us today.

Click on the video below to see Rev. Matthew McHale deliver his sermon, “Reclaiming King.”

“A PROPHET OF THE PEOPLE,” January 8, 2017

Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate


When we talk of prophets, many of us think of the messengers of God in the Hebrew Bible—larger than life people, who stood up for and spoke out against Kings—and offering visions of a better society. Yet, Rebecca Parker says, “It is a mistake to see [the prophet] as an isolated, heroic individual. It is better to see [them] as the crest of a wave.” How might we individually and collectively be part of the upswell?

Click on the link below to see Rev. Matthew delivering his sermon, “A Prophet of the People.”



“PROMISES, PROMISES,” January 1, 2017

Terry Hassman-Paulin, Worship Associate

Each new year provides another opportunity to begin anew. We can wipe the slate clean and start all over. Join in this interactive service to define the promises you’re going to make to yourself, your family, your church, the wider community, the country, and even the planet. Resolve that 2017 will be the year you keep the promises you make!



Posting of our promises for 2017  (top)                   

One of the small groups discussing their promises (bottom)

For our Special Music, Lynn Prager will sing “Promises, Promises,” by Burt Bacharach.


 HOLIDAY PAGEANT, December 18, 2016

Rev. Matthew McHale, Emmalinda MacLean, Director of Religious Education


This year’s multigenerational winter holiday play will re-enact the biblical Nativity story, but in a very UU sort of way. Children, youth, and adults will be able to participate easily in this “no-rehearsal” pageant: when roles are announced by the narrators, anyone can raise their hand to jump up, receive a costume, and join the performance!   We will need a team of adults to serve as “stage managers” who can help with props and costumes before and during the actual service; please contact Emmalinda (EmmalindaDRE@gmail.com) if you would like to help.  Come and enjoy our always-enjoyable holiday celebration!

Click on the link below to see the pageant!

The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by pianist Christy Marshall will sing, “Pass on the Light” by Cliff Hardin.


Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Rhod Zimmerman, Worship Associate


To live is to experience both great joy and profound heartbreak. This Sunday we open ourselves both the beauty and the brokenness of this world, and in so doing begin to experience the presence of the holy.


Click on the video below to see Rev. Matthew deliver his sermon, “Being Present to All That Is.”

Click on the video below to see and hear the “Old Folkies” singing, “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. They are from left to right, Hap Palmer, Larry Swerdlove, Mia Forbes, and Sindy Swerdlove.


STAYING IN IT, December 4, 2016

KC Slack, Guest Preacher; David Early, Worship Associate


As people concerned with the inherent worth and dignity of every person, who value the interdependent web of all existence, we often find ourselves in awkward, difficult, and uncomfortable situations. We struggle to stay in community together, we struggle to have difficult conversations with friends and family members, we struggle to keep our commitments to justice, and we struggle to keep our commitments to our own well being. Each of these struggles requires presence – requires us to “stay in it” – and remaining present, even through the awkward moments, is a practice.

Note: Toward the end of her sermon, KC Slack mentioned the following websites, which you might want to check out:
wall-of-us.org offers weekly acts of resistance
safetypinbox.com provides several options for subscription boxes and one time boxes with information and actions for white allies, run by Black women (including the founder of the Ferguson Response network, UU Leslie Mac) and the organization will use profits to further fund Black women activists.
http://usecalltoaction.com/ to make phone calls and letters to your representatives easy.


The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by collaborative pianist Christy Marshall, will sing, “I Dream a World” by André Thomas.

K.C. Slack is a candidate for Unitarian Universalist Ministry. She is a student at Starr King School for the Ministry and is doing her chaplain residency at Providence Hospital.

Below is a video of the first 14 minutes of KC Slack’s sermon. (Unfortunately, the camera ran out of memory before she finished her sermon. Still you can derive much by watching this clip.)


GRATITUDE IN HARD TIMES: November 27, 2016

Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Traci Davis and Bonnie Norwood, Co-Worship Associates


The ritual of communion began as a time set aside to welcome everyone to a communal table to share food and give thanks. Several members of our Emerson community have graciously offered to bake bread that we will share during our service today to celebrate this season of thanksgiving, the gifts of the earth, and the gifts of our own hands and hearts.

Click on the video below to hear Rev. Matthew deliver his sermon, “Gratitude in Hard Times.”


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Memories of the Bread Communion


THREE STORIES OF OUR TIME, November 20, 2016

Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister; David Early, Worship Associate


The stories that we tell shape how we understand the reality in which we live. Stories have the power to make us complacent, leave us in despair, or make us hopeful about future possibilities. Are things just fine as they are? As the fabric of our society and our ecological systems unravel, is all hope lost? Or are we on the verge of turning towards a way of life that is more just, peaceful, and sustainable?

Click on the video below to see “The Woodcutter’s Daughter and the Vanishing Forest,” a story by Rev. Matthew McHale and Emmalinda MacLean, Director of Religious Education.



The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by collaborative pianist Christy Marshall, will sing “Of Time and Memory,” words by Edwin Muir, music by Scott Rieker.


Click on the video below to hear Rev. Matthew McHale’s sermon, “Three Stories of Our Time.”

WHAT NOW, AMERICA? November 13, 2016

Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate


After the campaigns have ended, the polls have closed, and votes have been counted, what lessons can we learn from this election? After perhaps the most toxic and divisive election in our country’s history, how can we find reconciliation and healing? After campaigning and voting to get politicians elected, how can we continue to help bring about the changes necessary for a more just and equitable society?


The Special Music for this service will be “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Ungar; offered by Briana Bandy and Hap Palmer. Click on the video below to hear this beautiful piece of music.


Rev. Matthew McHale, Minister; Linda Fitzgerald, Worship Associate




Over the past few decades, the LGBTQ community has made tremendous strides for equality. Yet, there is still much work to be done. One of the most important factors has been LGBTQ folks coming out to friends, family, and the public, which remains a vital tool for social transformation, as well as personal healing. But coming out comes with risks, which is why we need religious communities that are welcoming, safe, and affirming for LGBTQ folks.

The Emerson Choir, under the direction of Scott Rieker and accompanied by collaborative pianist Christy Marshall, will perform “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper.

Click on the video below to hear Rev. Matthew McHale’s sermon, “Coming Out, and Coming Into a Circle of Love:



Jo Green, Guest Speaker;  Don Ordway, Worship Associate

Jo Green
               Jo Green

Healing means to make whole. Our world today seems to be fragmenting into individual silos of thought, opinion, belief and bias. How can we bring together these fragments of our world and create a new whole? Join us this Sunday to see how we can be cogs in the machine that puts our world together again, to make it whole.


Click on the video below to hear “Glory Bound” by Ruth Moody, performed by Emersonians Briana Bandy, Mia Forbes, Hap Palmer, and Rhonda Richard.

WE COVENANT TOGETHER, September 18, 2016

Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister; Melissa Marote, Lay Worship Leader84f1179753128c4197c36785f37c141bThe dominant culture teaches us to think of ourselves in individualistic terms. But that perspective obscures the reality that the human experience is deeply relational. As Unitarian Universalists, we create covenants to articulate how we wish to be with each other. When we covenant together, we are creating relationships of love, trust, and forgiveness. It is in those relationships, like those developed in our Small Group Ministries (which are also known as Covenant Groups) that we can see and be seen by each other, and experience more deeply what it is to be human.Below is a videotape of Rev. Matthew’s sermon, which is divided into two parts.


Rev. Matthew McHale, Settled Minister; Terry Hassman-Paulin, Lay Worship Leader


Our annual Water Communion marks the beginning of our church year. This will be Rev. Matthew McHale’s first time preaching as Emerson’s settled minister! It also marks the end of a summer punctuated by a string of shootings, natural disasters, and a vitriolic election season. How can we navigate these troubled waters together? Come welcome Rev. Matthew and bring a small sample of water from your summer vacation for our water communion.

Below is a videotape of Rev. Matthew’s sermon, “Troubled Waters,” on September 11, 2016.

RIDING ALONG WITH KRISHNA, by Dr. Mehrdad Haghi, August 14, 2016

Dr. Mehrdad Haghi delivered a sermon, “Riding Along with Krishna,” on August 14, 2016, at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, Canoga Park, CA. You can read his sermon in its entirety below, following the description of the service.


August 14, 2016


Dr. Mehrdad Haghi, guest speaker; Traci Davis, Lay Worship Leader


Dr. Mehrdad Haghi

The Bhagavad Gita is widely considered to be the heart of Hinduism, and Mahatma Gandhi considered it his spiritual reference book. What can the Gita teach UUs about facing fear, living a worthy life, and finding purpose in what can sometimes feel like a cruel and meaningless world?

A former member who served Emerson as Worship Trustee and Choir Director, Mehrdad Haghi now lives in Orange County and is Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Safety Officer for the College of Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona.  He still considers Emerson to be his spiritual home.



Riding Along With Krishna

© Mehrdad Haghi 2016

Arjuna, greatest of archers and prince of the Pandavas, looked on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and despaired. Life had brought him to a choice between two terrible paths, each one intolerable. He could wage war against his own family and teacher, or he could forsake honor and duty and abandon his homeland to injustice. So he stopped in the middle of field and sat down in his chariot not knowing what to do, there to be advised by his charioteer.

Arjuna’s story is something we can all relate to. Not the first part: I bet we have no more than three or four warrior princes at Emerson. But nearly all of us will at some point in our lives come to a hard place, usually because some aspect of our life has gone horribly wrong. It could be the death of loved one, a health problem, or maybe financial troubles. But we find ourselves sitting on the floor of our chariot, asking some pretty fundamental questions. Not just “How on earth do I get through this,” but maybe “What’s the point of even trying to get through this?” This is where Arjuna’s story can help.

His story is told in the Mahabharata, the longest epic poem in all of literature. In the Mahabharata you will find a prince who builds a castle out of butter and lacquer for his relatives, then tries to burn them down in it. You’ll find a princess who is won as the prize of an archery contest, and then gets married to five princes simultaneously. In short, you’ll find all the wild adventure, intrigue, heroes and gods of the Iliad and Odyssey or the Thousand and One Nights. If you haven’t read either of those, think “Game of Thrones” set to Sanskrit poetry. But among the stories of the Mahabharata, you’ll also find a little philosophical pearl called the Bhagavad Gita, or “Song of The Lord”. It’s a record of the conversation that day between Arjuna and his charioteer, who just happened to be the Lord Krishna. Now for those of you whose Hindu theology is a bit rusty, Krishna is not some minor godling from a backwater of the pantheon. No, Krishna is a full incarnation of Vishnu, the second person of the Hindu trinity. In the Gita, Arjuna is being counseled by God with a capital G.

So if Netflix made the miniseries “American Gita,” its pilot might go something like this: A.J. is all steamed up because his rotten uncle and cousins from Oklahoma have taken over his ranch and won’t give it back. He can’t grab an AR- 15 because in 2016 the United States regained its sanity and outlawed private ownership of assault weapons. (It’s a TV show: you have to suspend disbelief.) So he’s got his celestial bow Gandiva in the pickup, and he’s getting ready to self-defense the no-good claim jumpers clear to kingdom-come, or at least back to Tulsa. But he’s worried because he doesn’t really want to fight his family, and then there’s the karmic backlash to consider. Fortunately, Jesus is riding with him, operating the GPS and giving A.J. some life coaching.

Anyway that’s where the Bhagavad Gita begins, with Krishna advising Arjuna. So what does Krishna tell him? What’s the message of the Gita? Hindu scholars have been debating that for millennia. Mahatma Gandhi found it worthwhile to study the Gita his whole life. And Yale University has a 15 week semester-long course dedicated exclusively to trying to understand the Gita [1]. But Yale students can be a little slow, so I think we can do this in 15 minutes. Arjuna’s problem is that if he does what he thinks he should do, he will be fighting and killing members of his own family, and he believes that this will increase his karmic burden. Now I don’t know if you believe in the Law of Karma, which says that we incur karmic debt for the actions in this life, which we then have to work off in a future incarnation. I personally don’t believe in it, although I absolutely do believe in the Law of Karma’s younger, secular sibling, the Law of What Goes Around Comes Around. But even for those of us who don’t believe in reincarnation there’s a deep truth there, which is that the more we act for purely self-focused reasons, the more narrowly we limit our perspective and the scope of our lives, and that paucity, more often than not, increases suffering. In any event Arjuna’s dilemma goes beyond a single difficult decision. He really needs a way to approach whatever the world throws at him so as to live a good and worthy life, and Krishna’s advice to him is wide-reaching.

Krishna tells Arjuna of three practices that lead to Moksha, or liberation from the cycle of suffering: Karma Yoga, or the practice of selfless service, Bhakti Yoga, or the practice of loving devotion, and Jnana Yoga, or the practice of knowledge and insight. They are considered separate paths, and we’ll discuss them separately, but as you’ll soon see they are all intimately connected: there are two components to Karma Yoga, and it turns out that Bhakti Yoga facilitates the first, and Jnana Yoga facilitates the second.

The first component of Karma Yoga, or selfless service, is acting not out of our own desires, but out of dedication to something greater than ourselves. For the theists among us, a natural choice for that “something greater” is God, and Krishna says as much. The non-theists among us have a little work to do to figure out what that greater thing is. It could be an abstract concept like justice, or liberty. It could be a group of people like your family, or your country, or all life on Earth. Whatever that greater thing is it has to meet two basic criteria. It has to be something you feel a deep personal devotion to, and it has to be something great and enduring. Those two requirements can sometimes be in mild conflict with each other. It’s very easy to feel devoted to your family, but your family isn’t much greater or more enduring than you are. All life on Earth is much closer to eternity, but it can also be harder to have a personal connection with. Which is probably one major reason so many religions have deities that take on human form: to make the eternal accessible.

Of course selfless service is not an alien notion for us: a commitment to service is a component of most world religions in general, and a central pillar of Unitarian Universalism in particular. In part it comes from a recognition that even wonderful things, when done only for one’s self, are ultimately not totally satisfying. At the end of it, you’re left with a bit of a sense of “Is that all?” King Solomon had the definitive word on this feeling in the Book of Ecclesiastes. To paraphrase, he said: “I gained more wisdom than anyone; I became fantastically rich and powerful; I built buildings and monuments and gardens; I sampled the best food and wine; I had wives and concubines. I did everything that people view as valuable and pleasurable, and in the end, it all rings hollow and futile.” There is within us a yearning to be part of something more than ourselves. If you tend to view semi-mystical statements like that with suspicion and scorn, consider this peculiar truth about human nature: for the great majority of us, one of the most effective and reliable ways to feel better is to help someone else. That simple fact, that most of us derive joy from helping others, has been something of a touchstone for me during this last summer. When I get depressed because the morning news is full of fresh acts of intolerance and cruelty, it’s good to remember that somewhere through the collective spirit of humankind there runs a vein of something golden and beautiful.


The second component of Karma Yoga is to let go of all expectations for the results of our service. This one is a familiar part of Eastern religions: Taoists and Buddhists will feel very much at home with doing good work for the sake of doing good work, without becoming attached to the results. I personally struggled with this concept for a long time. I used to think: “How can you care about what you’re working towards, and then not care about how it turns out? Are they advocating apathy?” But it isn’t apathy; it’s more a matter of perspective and acceptance in the spirit of the Serenity Prayer[2]. Of course you should try to change the things you can change, but trying to control things you can’t control is a recipe for unnecessary heartache. Let’s say you decide to swim the English Channel[3]. You wouldn’t just show up on Shakespeare Beach in Dover one day and say, “What the heck, I think I’ll swim to France today. If I make it, great, if I don’t, oh well, whatever.” No: you’d train, you’d look at the weather predictions, you’d hire an experienced pilot to escort you. But having done all of that, you’d still have to go into the water knowing that the outcome depended on the wind, the waves, the currents, and the jellyfish, none of which are under your control.


The second practice Krishna talks about is Bhakti Yoga, or loving devotion. The key notion here is that whatever actions we take in service our something greater should be motivated not by duty, not by obligation, not by the need to keep up appearances, but by gratitude and love. Bhakti Yoga seeks to nurture that love by keeping it fresh and current in our lives and thoughts through ritual, worship, acts of devotion, and meditation. You can find Bhakti Yoga in many world religions. When a Muslim prays five times a day to Allah, that’s not quite Bhakti Yoga: there is remembrance and worship, but the motivation is a complex mixture of love, awe, fear, and duty. When a Sufi prays five times a day to Allah with the overriding motivation of dissolution in loving communion with God, that’s Bhakti Yoga. There are also many examples of Bhakti Yoga in the Bible. In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians Paul says[4]:


Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


And you can read about Paul’s missionary journey to Macedonia in the Book of Acts. One day, for example, Paul and Silas are walking around in Philippi, and as usual they get arrested, beaten to a pulp and thrown into the dungeon. And how do they respond? They’re up at midnight, singing songs of praise to the Lord so joyously and loudly that they cause an earthquake![5] That’s Bhakti Yoga with an exclamation mark and with special effects thrown in for good measure.


As I mentioned before, Bhakti Yoga is its own independent path to enlightenment, but it’s also a big help if your main thing is Karma Yoga and you’re trying to commit yourself to selfless service. That’s because we human beings, as any biological being must, have a powerful instinct for self preservation. Acting against our own interests for any extended period of time feels unnatural and makes us grouchy. The major exception is if you really love something. If I were to walk up to you on the street and tell you to burn your arm, you’d probably have a few choice things to say to me about where I could go and what I could do to myself when I got there. But a parent will run into a burning building without a second thought to save their child. When you really love someone or something, somehow the borders of your instinct for self preservation grow to include them. Love expands us. And in that expansion, there is a hint of Jnana Yoga as well.


The third practice that Krishna speaks of, Jnana Yoga, is both the hardest to explain and also considered the most difficult to follow. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna explains it as understanding the difference between the field of activity and the knower of that field. The field of activity is the physical manifestation, the transient body we live in. The knower of the field is the atman, or soul, which in truth is inseparable from the supreme, all-pervading and eternal consciousness which is Krishna Himself. In understanding the difference between the two, one’s sense of separation from the great All dissolves. People often speak of this as an extinction of the self, but really it’s an infinite expansion of the self.


This is, of course, a hopeless oversimplification of a complex doctrine. But even from everyday considerations it’s clear that the boundaries most people visualize for themselves are much too narrow. It’s worth taking a moment to really think about this. What do you consider to be the boundaries of your self? Is your self your physical body? Is it your thoughts and feelings? Your soul? Let’s start with the collection of chemicals bound in your current body. The atoms in your body were created inside stars and have been a part of countless other objects and creatures before they became part of you. And your skin, respiratory tract and digestive tract are porous. With every single breath you exchange hundreds of quintillions of atoms with the environment[6]. Just from having breathed the air in the sanctuary for the last hour, the body you had when you walked in has been inseparably intermingled with that of every other person here. Radioisotope studies on tissue replacement indicate that outside of a few long lasting items like tooth enamel, cerebral neurons, and the lenses in your eyes, almost every other atom in your body today wasn’t part of you ten years ago[7]. So the separation between your physical body and the world is entirely illusory.


Or maybe your self is not your physical body, but the collection of your thoughts and how you influence the world. But if that’s true, how do you find the edge of a thought? Have you had a friend, a mentor, a teacher, or the cashier in the grocery store say something to you that changed your life? Have you read a book that influenced how you think? If what really defines your self is your thoughts, then your self is spread across the world like a sparkling, ephemeral cloth, touching everyone you ever made an impact on, and everyone they made an impact on, and everyone they made an impact on.


For the discussion of the self as soul you should read the Bhagavad Gita directly. Krishna talks about the soul at length, and he does it using a vocabulary and set of concepts that require serious study to understand. But just based on what we’ve talked about today, if someone were to say “Your skin doesn’t delimit you in space;” if someone were to say “The dates of your birth and death don’t delimit you in time;” if someone were to say “The lines of causation that resulted in you stretch back to the beginning of time, and what you do with your life will echo until time’s end;” if someone were to say “You are a full and integral participant in the evolution of the glorious universe around you,” well you might be inclined to view those statements not as strange and esoteric, but as straightforward declarations of fact.


So there in a nutshell is the basic message of the Bhagavad Gita as adapted for Unitarian Universalists. Find something greater than yourself: something towards which you feel great personal commitment and devotion. Keep that devotion alive and vibrant with daily reminders and expressions of love. Give to it of your time, your energy, your self, openly, unstintingly, joyously. And know deep down that you are not a passing bubble of foam on an uncaring cosmic sea: you are an intrinsic and inseparable part of something vast, beautiful and eternal.


Of course none of this will stop bad things from happening to you. And none of it will stop you from getting hurt when bad things do happen. It’s just that of all that is less important when you walk in the constant awareness that your purpose and your being transcend the mere sum of your daily circumstances.

I can tell you that reading the Bhagavad Gita has been very helpful to me personally in dealing with the latest stage of my daughters’ lives. It’s hard to believe that it was 16 years ago that Sarah was hiding under the Emerson coffee table so she could eat her cookies in peace. I remember rocking them to sleep when they were babies as if it were yesterday, and if I close my eyes, I can almost feel their tiny bodies cuddled up against me, their absence a tingle on my arms and an ache in my chest. I remember looking at those sweet little faces and fervently wishing for them every good thing in life: loyal friends, teachers who would see and bring out the best in them, satisfying work, partners who would be kind and true, strawberry lemonade on sun-splashed beaches and hot chocolate next to the fireplace in winter, health, happiness, love. And now they are 19 and 21 and moving in the world far beyond the tiny sphere over which I have any influence. They are swimming the English Channel, and that means their lives will be long or short, their journeys will be calm or turbulent, they will suffer little or they will suffer greatly. That’s their birthright as finite human beings in an all too imperfect world, and that is a hard pill to swallow. But the Gita reminds me to look again with different eyes and see two strong young women: warm-hearted, thoughtful, committed champions of the Earth determined to leave this planet in better shape than they found it. To worry about them too much would be to commit an error of perspective and miss the main point, which is that, apparently, Lord Krishna has been spending some time riding along with my girls, helping to navigate the Honda Fit.

[1] RLST 183/SAST 366, The Bhagavad Gita, Hugh Flick

[2] One common version of the Serenity Prayer is: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” There are many other versions. The prayer originated with American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

[3] If you actually are thinking of doing this, you’ll want to visit www.channelswimmingassociation.com

[4] 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV version)

[5] Acts 16:20 – 26

[6] To estimate the number of atoms exchanged between your body and the environment with every breath you can start with the volume of air displaced by your lungs. Most of what goes in also comes back out, but your body absorbs some atoms and expels other atoms, making the chemical composition of the exhaled breath different from the inhaled breath. From that change in the proportions of the gasses, you can calculate the volume of the exchanged gas, and from there it’s a straightforward matter to find the number of atoms exchanged. The result will vary depending on size of the person, the temperature, the elevation, whether the person is at rest or exercising, etc. But a ball-park estimate puts the number of oxygen atoms exchanged per breath at something on the order of 5 x 1020, or 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms. And that doesn’t count CO2 or water vapor.

[7] See for example “Measuring atomic bomb-derived 14C levels in human remains to determine Year of Birth and/or Year of Death,” by Gregory W. L. Hodgins, the final report in August 2009 of a study funded by the US Department of Justice, Document 227839, Award number 2005-IJ-CX-K013, https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/227839.pdf, or the older work by Oak Ridge Lab atomic scientist Paul C. Aebersold in 1950s.


The quotation below was the centering thought for the meditation before the sermon.

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

Mahatma Ghandi


July 17, 2016: “Are You Made at the Right People?”

Talk delivered at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church

Sunday, July 17, 2016

By Rhod Zimmerman

RhodZ copy

We are witnessing dangerous times where the wealth of nations, especially the United States, is being gobbled up by a few individuals at the expense of everyone else. According to Robert Reich, Former Labor Secretary, the top 1% of Americans now take home over 20% of the total American income. They now have 40% of the nation’s wealth. The lower 80% own a mere 7% of the nations wealth. Because of their political power, the top tax rate for the rich, which was 70%, now is 35%. Total tax revenues are now lower than 15% of the total national income, the lowest in 60 years, causing school closures, delays in programs to maintain critical infrastructure, and underfunding of other critical public services. The American middle class has shrunk from 61% of the population in 1971 to 50% in 2015. Countries without a robust middle class do not tend to do well. Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. middle class ranks 27th in individual wealth.

In the decade from 1992 to 2002 (mostly during the time while George W Bush was president), the U.S. 400 highest incomes more than doubled while the rest showed small increases at best. But since the cost of living in that period rose over 28%, most Americans had to find ways to cut expenses.

There seems to be no limit to some people’s hunger for more wealth, more power. To support their goals, those same individuals have bought up much of the media (TV, radio, newspapers, also known as “The Fourth Estate”) that was supposed to be the watchdog of the common man and woman. It can be argued that armed with control of the media, the powerful have successfully compartmentalized and branded segments of the population and managed to make divisiveness the new world order, thereby deflecting attention from themselves. They also can control what news stories to air and what stories to bury.

In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned us about powerful people and corporations this way: “They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by (an) organized mob.” *


One important measure of a country’s financial health is the ratio of Chief Executive Officers, CEO’s, to worker salaries. At this writing, both Disney and J. C. Penney’s CEO’s are paid over $53 million annually (that is $26,500 an hour based on a standard 40 hour workweek). Verizon, whose CEO is paid a comfortable $20 million a year is trying to outsource jobs, reduce wages, and cut health benefits of Verizon employees.


American CEO’s as a group were making 30 times what one of their typical workers were making in 1978. American CEO’s in 2013 were making 296 times what their typical workers were paid.****


Far too many corporations are ruthless in their treatment of employees, like Walmart refusing employees time for bathroom breaks and paying them so little, many cannot afford lunch. Walmart workers cost taxpayers $6.2 billion according to a Forbes report that details how Walmart Workers have to and are urged by company executives to use food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing to augment their low pay.***** McDonald’s and Walmart workers have been forced to be “welfare queens” while their executives earn millions and the company buys expensive aircraft and similar “benefits”.


Other countries have addressed the CEO vs average worker salary by putting caps on the ratio. Switzerland is trying for a ratio of 12 which sounds a bit too low and may be negotiated, while Japan has had a ratio of 30/1 for some time. Israel has set a limit to CEO of their financial Institutions to 35 times the lowest earner.** The current average ratio is 171. Companies who pay over the cap can no longer claim the excess as an expense. Our congress is being urged to pass a CEO cap at 50 times the average worker. Stay tuned.


It seems natural most of the very wealthy and corporate executives are opposed to raising the minimum wage. They have been preaching how businesses would suffer and how the areas that raise the minimum wage would suffer. If we are going to deal in facts, let’s look at areas who have already raised the minimum wage – Seattle for example. Between January and December of 2014, while Seatac’s business owners (and their customers) were absorbing the effect of giving raises to minimum wage employees, unemployment and prices did not increase as feared. It turns out that you CAN increase the minimum wage and increase overall employment at the same time. In general, states that have raised the minimum wage are outperforming states that have not.******


Another myth that wealthy Americans try to sell is that they pay their fair share of income tax. While that may have been true at one time, the concept of “trickle-down” economics introduced by President Reagan has not worked as promised. The idea is that with a lower tax burden and increased investment, business can produce (or supply) more, increasing employment and worker pay. In practice, the program has radically reduced the tax rate for the wealthy and introduced so many loopholes that the tax program has shifted most of the tax burden onto middle and low-income Americans. Leading up to the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney repeatedly stated that 48% of Americans pay no income tax. That statement deliberately ignores the significant other taxes the 48% does pay – like payroll taxes. Apparently in Mitt’s world payroll taxes do not count as income taxes. So who are the Americans who pay no income tax? The bottom fifth of American households paid an average of 12.3% in Federal and State taxes for 2011. When all Federal, State and local taxes are included, the lowest one-fifth of American households paid about 16% of their income in taxes according to the non-profit, non-partisan Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy***.


Now, lets examine Mitt Romney’s taxes. By deliberately holding back a large valid deduction on his income taxes in 2012, the year Mitt Romney ran for president, he was able to demonstrate he paid a whopping 14% of his income in income taxes. The estimate is that when he lumped in those missing deductions later on, that 14% would be closer to 12%. But if the lowest one-fifth of American households paid about 16% of their income in taxes, who is it who’s is not paying their fair share of taxes? The media didn’t question Romney’s assertion, and if they corrected Mr. Romney, I missed it. What do you think Donald Trump pays in taxes? You probably don’t want to know, and doubtfully will ever know.


Another myth the powerful try to sell is aimed to convince voters that Social Security is a government giveaway, despite the fact that the program was developed simply to serve retiring Americans. Given a choice, most Americans would rather have control over their own retirement rather than have the government take control, but at least Social Security forces us all to save for retirement. There is a growing dissatisfaction with the program because the cost to workers has increased dramatically, partly due to poor investment decisions for the fund, partly because of inflation, partly due to the impact of “baby boomers” and partly due to the expansion of Social Security to fund programs having no direct connection to retirement of the people contributing to the program. So, if there is a giveaway attached to Social Security as some charge, it has little to do with its intended purpose. That purpose for contributors to draw from the program to help fund their retirement. Eliminating the cap on Social Security contributions would insure the program would be well funded for the foreseeable future. You probably won’t hear that explanation from the media either.


The well-publicized Aliso Canyon natural gas leak is now California’s single largest source of planet-warming pollution and it was no isolated accident. It was the result of too little regulatory oversight of Southern California Gas and other oil and gas excavators. That falls squarely on California governor Jerry Brown, whose administration is responsible for well safety. In 2011, Brown fired two of his top regulators who raised grave concerns about the oil and gas industry’s underground injection activities. The state has also known for years that aging natural gas infrastructure was a disaster waiting to happen. But the governor’s administration failed even to require safety plans and other measures that would have helped prevent the Aliso disaster.


Most of us who voted for Brown (including me) felt that he would be the best choice to insure California would always put public safety ahead of corporate profits. This faith has clearly and sadly been brought into question. The Governor has helped make California an outstanding state, but Brown’s antipathy to regulation of all kinds, including health and safety, is now well documented.  The public first started paying attention in February of 2015 when it learned that Brown’s oil and gas regulator turned a blind eye to frackers injecting toxic wastewater into federally protected drinking water aquifers in Kern Country. The resulting contamination, like the Aliso leak, was a direct result of a Brown Administration culture of penalizing regulators who crack down on health and safety in the oil and gas industry. Brown has quietly approved a great deal of fracking in California. And Brown is not alone. The Democratic party platform does not include a ban on fracking, despite a growing opposition to the practice.


Fracking has been demonstrated to cause earthquakes. Since Oklahoma has started to allow massive fracking, earthquakes in Oklahoma over a magnitude of 3.0 rose from 2 in 2008 to 20 in 2009, according to the United States Geological Survey. Last year (2015), there were 890 earthquakes in Oklahoma over magnitude 3.0. In 2009, no quake of the 20 recorded that year measured 4.0 or greater. Last year, 30 did. In 2011, an earthquake of 5.7 was recorded. The Oklahoma republican governor and several republican state senators are urging a moratorium on fracking effective immediately.


So those Californians feeling their state government is watching out for their best interest (in a state with the well documented San Andreas fault) might want to question why our governor seems so much in the hands of energy companies. According to scientists, the land around the San Andreas fault near Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange Counties is moving and they fear a significant jolt will trigger a massive earthquake. There is also the fear that water tainted from fracking has found its way into fruits and vegetables grown in California. Fracking companies have refused to reveal the chemicals used in the process, but it is known that arsenic is one ingredient. France, Wales, Scotland, United Kingdom and several U.S. states including New York and Hawaii have banned Fracking. Check the internet, folks – I seriously doubt the media has done enough to expose the facts relating earthquakes and fracking.


On a positive note – on July 15, 2015, Representative Elijah Cummings and Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced H.R. 3065, “The Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act” which is commonsense legislation to stop the “revolving door” between Wall Street and Washington. The act would also ban “golden parachute” bonuses for executives taking government positions, and make it harder to switch between working for a big bank and regulating Wall Street. The bill has the support of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but sadly is opposed by Hillary Clinton.


Concerns about changes in the Fourth Estate have given rise to “The Fifth Estate,” which is mostly associated with bloggers, independent journalists, and non-mainstream media outlets. And the rise of the internet has given said Fifth Estate the ability for mainstream Americans to communicate with each other over the Internet without the bias of a controlled media. Maybe there is cause for hope after all.


Okay, we have a right to be mad, but what can we do to reverse the trend of the wealthy becoming wealthier while the middle class is being destroyed and more and more people are falling below the poverty line? Clearly we need to pass a tax code that is not dictated by the wealthy. We also need to stop the ability for wealthy folks and corporations to buy members of Congress by funding their election and re-election campaigns or by promising high paying jobs when they retire from their government jobs. That whole system is the definition of “a conflict of interest”.


Violence and hatred have never improved the lives of people. It is alarming to many that people on news programs are able to openly advocate killing people in government they do not agree with – even the president of the United States – without penalty. We all saw the terrible events that occurred in Dallas last week. Too many view killing as a solution to our problems. The real danger is the drift toward a mob mentality. We have witnessed much progress toward mob mentality with the 2016 presidential campaign and too much media support of radical viewpoints. Maybe all of us should wean ourselves off network TV news and take more advantage of PBS, BBC and internet news, still questioning the accuracy of what they give us.


Bottom line? If we are ever going to change things, we cannot simply sit on the sidelines and hope others do the job. As Unitarian Universalists we need to work toward ending the divisiveness that separates us and find common grounds we share even when we have differences in other areas. We need to organize, discuss, set objectives, and work together to make changes happen.


We need to ask ourselves: who are you mad at, are you mad at the right people, and just how mad are you?


So may it be among us.


* Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1936 speech.


** http://www.timesofisrael.com/knesset-ups-tax-penalties-for-extravagant-bank-ceo-pay/


*** The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that works on federal, state, and local tax policy issues. ITEP’s mission is to ensure that elected officials, the media, and the general public have access to accurate, timely, and straightforward information that allows them to understand the effects of current and proposed tax policies. ITEP’s work focuses particularly on issues of tax fairness and sustainability. ITEP works directly with lawmakers, non-governmental organizations, the public, and the media to achieve these goals.


**** Economic Policy Institute, November 2015


***** http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance/#7e0bc0c67cd8


****** https://mic.com/articles/92983/here-s-what-is-happening-to-the-states-that-increased-minimum-wage-this-year#.UPSu6JlxC


“How the other half lives” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/opinion/campaign-stops/how-the-other-fifth-lives.html?WT.mc_id=2016-KWP-MOBILE-AUD_DEV&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=MOBILEFULLPAGE&kwp_0=147384&_r=1


Other Recommended Reading:

The Jackals at Jekyll, Richard Sizemore

The Creature from Jekyll Island, G. Edward Griffin