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Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York

By Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York

Missed service? Don't worry. Starting September 2022, audio of the sermons each week will be archived here. Email office@uucy.org if you would like access to a sermon from before September 2022.

Stay up-to-date with happenings (and not just events) at UUCYork. Each month, Rev. Jen will talk about the state of the congregation, what's on her (and your) minds, and things to think about each month.
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MMM for September 2022: On Grief, a Weight We All Carry

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York

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1/29/2023 - Love is the power that holds us together.
1/29/2023 - Love is the power that holds us together.
This is part 4 of Rev. Jen's 5 part series on Unitarian Universalism. The other parts can be found here: The Joy of Belonging Love Is Our Greatest Purpose Raise Your Hand If You Like Admitting That You're Wrong
15:51
January 31, 2023
January 8, 2023 “Bring It To The Fire” Fire Communion Service
January 8, 2023 “Bring It To The Fire” Fire Communion Service
The invitation of Unitarian Universalism is an invitation to join the gathering by the fire. To bring all that you have, all that you are, all that you aspire to be and all that you wish you weren’t, and to share them in the eternal gathering.   To witness them on the face of others and know that you are witnessed. To lift up that which is of most worth and to let go of that where your energy is wasted. We arrive from different paths to where we have always been: the fire, the circle, and the song. Defiance, truth, and knowledge. Bring it all to the fire.  So may it be.
14:34
January 08, 2023
December 24, 2023: Christmas is a Story of Fear.
December 24, 2023: Christmas is a Story of Fear.
At the story in the heart of Christmas, the story of the birth of Jesus, is a story of fear.  Mary was afraid when she found out what was happening to her.  Joseph was afraid when she told him.  The shepherds were afraid at the sight of the angels. ...but... In the middle of a world, swirling with chaos, something new is born, something that turns us towards each other.  We live in a world where the tendency is to move away from each other, but if we pay close attention and listen in spite of all the noise, we see that we are called to look anew at one another.
12:11
January 03, 2023
December 11 2022 - The Joy of Belonging
December 11 2022 - The Joy of Belonging
What does it mean to feel like you are a part of the “we”?  What does it mean to feel as though you belong? “Two people can keep each other sane, can give support, conviction, love, massage, hope, sex.Three people are a delegation, a committee, a wedge. With four you can play bridge and start an organization.With six you can rent a whole house, eat pie for dinner with no seconds, and hold a fund raising party.A dozen make a demonstration.A hundred fill a hall.A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;ten thousand, power and your own paper; a hundred thousand, your own media;ten million, your own country.” This is not to say belonging is uncomplicated. “It goes on one at a time, it starts when you care to act, it starts when you do it again and they said no, it starts when you sayWe and know who you mean, and each day you mean one more.”At what point does “one more” become unwieldy? At one point does “one more” mean it’s harder to make decisions, to come to consensus, to do the hard work of discussion, deliberation, and compromise that is the hallmark of functional large groups?British anthropologist Robin Dunbar developed a theory based on the size of primate communities in relation to the size of the primate brain. By his calculations, the upper limits for humans should be about 150 - this is now called “the Dunbar number,” and while ongoing research has shown there are many more nuances to the creation of functional social groups, it can be a useful tool to consider how we will manage, how we will survive, how we will thrive in ever-larger groups.If we love our group - whatever it is, our friend group, our bridge club, our gardening collective, our movie discussion group on social media - we want to share it with people, right? Sure...mostly. Have you ever felt protective of a group, though?Here’s my example: I’m part of a book club that has been in existence since January of 2001. Of course, over time some members have dropped away, while others have joined. My friend who founded the book club and myself are the only original members left. And right now, the size and membership feels...just right. Two months ago, a friend brought a friend of his from work, and I will admit - though I am not proud of this! - I will admit one of my first thoughts was, “Oh no, someone who doesn’t already know all our in-jokes and habits.” But do you know what? She’s great, and pretty quickly I became super glad we had added one more to our “we.”But that tension is there and it is real.When we speak in terms of faith communities, I have heard membership growth discussions that cited the “terrible 200s.” Growing from a small congregation to a larger one often gets stymied when the numbers hit the 200s. Is this because of the Dunbar number? Is it because it is hard to maintain consensus as numbers grow? Is it because too much growth can start to feel unwelcome by people who love the community “just as it is”?All of those are true. There’s no judgment in that statement - this is a repeatable phenomenon over and over, in UU congregations and elsewhere.So when you move beyond the congregational level, where it can grow more challenging to make decisions even as your own community grows, what must it be like to propose, consider, and enact sweeping change on a national scale? It would look something like the work that the Article II Study Commission has undertaken in the past two years. It means lots and lots of small conversations, because when you add up enough small groups, you can get a sense of the larger whole. Article II of the Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association is the subject - the place where our principles and sources are defined. So the ongoing work has not only needed to try to gain input from a large number of interested people, but also with the end goal of revising a very beloved part of our faith.
18:28
December 12, 2022
December 4 - The Greening of the Season
December 4 - The Greening of the Season
“The Greening of the Season” Delivered 4 December 2022 Rev. Jen Raffensperger  When I was little, my family had a Yule Log tradition. We had needed to cut down a very large weeping willow tree in our backyard, and the logs we made from it would burn and burn for many hours - though not for 12 days. On Christmas Eve, we would decorate the log - merrily stapling on ribbons and bows and wrapping paper to make it festive - and on Christmas morning my father would put it on the fire and keep the fire going all day and much of the night. One main reason I remember this is all the photos in the family album, which my mother would write captions for when she had the time. One year in particular I remember there was a picture of the decorated log immediately after it was placed on the fire, and under it she wrote “I got dressed up for this?!”  I thought about this story when I first read this morning’s chalice lighting: “I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring or if the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so.  “Perhaps that is the reason for our births -- to be the memory for creation. “Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected. Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer: ‘What can you tell me about December?’”  What can you tell me about December? What can you tell me about the tall and proud evergreens, or the smaller more humble ones that many in our culture and time choose to cut down and display in our homes at this time of year?  Where are our traditions? What about them comforts us, and what about them challenges us?  Being the memory for creation sounds like a very big task to me.   Fortunately, there are a lot of us to do it! This is why we tell the same stories year after year, no matter what our family or cultural traditions are in this season.
15:05
December 12, 2022
November 27 - The "New" Poor People's Campaign
November 27 - The "New" Poor People's Campaign
Rev. Carla Christopher is a York resident and activist and talks to us about how to make peaceful, yet powerful, change.  The New Poor People's Campaign mobilizes and organizes poor people to make change in their community: anti-racism, calling for a demilitarization of our government and police, and recognition that climate justice and ecological devastation to the oppression of poor people.
17:45
November 28, 2022
November 20 - “How We Are Fed: A Bread Communion Service”
November 20 - “How We Are Fed: A Bread Communion Service”
At the Thanksgiving dinners of my childhood, it was my grandmother who always said grace before the meal. This was my mother’s mother, born and raised in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. She was a deeply faithful person her entire life, and when it was time for grace on Thanksgiving she shared that with us. A lot. For, like, a really long time. My grandmother prayed with great sincerity, without artifice, with nothing but real joy and love pouring from her heart and her lips, praising the God of her understanding for the gracious gifts of our table, giving thanks for all we had. But, like, A LOT. My grandmother’s graces were legendary. She would begin softly, get into a rhythm, picking up pace and volume, naming the gratitudes, and never hesitating to add a new one as she spoke - “Oh, Lord, one more thing!” My brother and I would often share strained facial expressions across the table. “Grandma really knocked it out of the park this time!” we’d joke later. Until the first year she wasn’t with us to say that grace. Until the first year we looked at each other around the table to say, “Well, who does this now?” For many years, that role fell to my father. And since his death, it now falls to me. It’s a sacred trust, being the gratitude-counter of the family. And it is a responsibility. Around our annual Thanksgiving table we have people with varying different spiritual outlooks, coming from different life circumstances, representing many stages of life - and my family is small! How do we speak the truth that lives within our own hearts? The truth of gratitude mixed with sorrow for those who do not share the abundance that we do. The truth of wanting to uplift a holiday of thankfulness while also holding the complicated and ugly truth of the genocide of Native American peoples that is too often glossed over with the myth of the “First Thanksgiving” story. How do we hold it all at the same time? Every family, every community that comes together in praise and gratitude, must come to their own terms with this balance. The words of our Bread Communion blessing today suggest one way: “As this bread was once scattered across the field, and thence, through the effort of work, gathered and brought forth to this table as nourishment, so may the people of our common earth, scattered across the fields, be gathered through the marvelous effort of mercy into a world where neither nourishment, nor justice, nor love is rare.” A world where neither nourishment nor justice nor love is rare. What an amazing shared world to consider! And every time I read this blessing, every time I read this language about the work that brings about the food we share, the symbolic meal we took together today brings me back to the faith of my own childhood. In Christian churches, communion with bread (and often wine or grape juice) is a more common practice. It is often the centerpiece of Christian worship, echoing back to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper - take this bread, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life. Fruit of the earth, work of human hands. Isn’t all bread the bread of life? How separate are the spirit and the body, after all? This is an extremely ancient theological question. Do we long for spiritual experiences outside our bodies? Or do we celebrate our bodies as temples, the grand vessels of our spirits? Or is even that too separate, ignoring the miraculous alchemy of that which animates us, that living spirit we can neither measure nor understand, that is as reliant on our nourished bodies as are our hearts and lungs? When my grandmother spoke to the God of her understanding, when the well of gratitude overflowed from her at the Thanksgiving table, I thought about this. I was having a spiritual experience at an abundant table, but what about the people who are going hungry right now? What about our neighbors who do not gather
15:14
November 21, 2022
November 13 - “Love Is Our Greatest Purpose”
November 13 - “Love Is Our Greatest Purpose”
It was in one of my seminary classes, I couldn’t tell you which one, when a friend of mine spoke up and said, “We’re not just collaborators, we are co-liberators!”  Everyone in the room, including our professor, got so excited by the idea that we derailed whatever discussion we were having to explore it.  What did we mean by collaboration? What did we mean by liberation? In 1971, Fannie Lou Hamer gave a speech at the founding of the National Women’s Political Congress, and it was in that speech that she uttered the words that are most often associated with her name: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Hamer wanted to call attention to the new energy in the women’s movement coming from the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, and student movements in opposition to the war in Vietnam and other social issues. Hamer wanted to challenge and invite white feminists: how do we truly do this together? How do we use our power to seek justice against not just one kind of oppression but all kinds of oppression? If my freedom comes at the expense of yours, how free am I?   “Co-liberation” is a phrase that sums up many of my own values as a Unitarian Universalist minister, in partnership with other ministers, religious professionals, and lay leaders in our faith tradition. In a just world, where the rights of all are truly equal, where all people truly have access to a life of joy and gladness, sorrow and struggle, abundance and self-determination and autonomy - only then are we all free.  When our class stopped to ask big questions about our work - training to be ministers, where are our obligations? Where are our responsibilities? To each other as colleagues? To the congregations we serve? To the faith tradition as a whole? To ourselves? How do we prioritize when the needs of everyone change day to day, moment to moment? When we asked all those questions, we were taking time to clarify our own values, and the way those values would impact the decisions that we made and the actions we took.  Who are our beloveds, the ones who will boldly lead us to explore a future tomorrow that we dream of today, a future boldly centered in Love?   Look to your left, look to your right, look at those other little squares on Zoom.  We are your dreaming partners, we are your siblings in faith, we are your co-liberators. So may we be, and so may we build. Blessed be.
17:32
November 21, 2022
November 6 - Election Day: Make your voice heard.
November 6 - Election Day: Make your voice heard.
Today, the Sunday before election day we show our affirming flame.  We start with the book, "What Do You Do With a Chance?" and continue with a very real and very honest story from Rev. Jen's own experience.
21:56
November 14, 2022
October 30 - On Samhain, We Welcome Our New Ancestors
October 30 - On Samhain, We Welcome Our New Ancestors
We know that you have power to sustain life and bring death, and we respect and celebrate that cycle.  Today we welcome our ancestors, those that we have long missed and those who loss is new.  There are people watching this video in every stage of grief, and today we honor that grief.  It is our right and our sacred duty to mourn our death.  Those that have died are not under the ground; they are with us. Come worship with us.
26:03
November 14, 2022
October 23 - Are we allowed to talk about voting at church? YES!!!
October 23 - Are we allowed to talk about voting at church? YES!!!
The act of Voting is a sacred act.  We must Vote for Democracy and the Right to Be Free.  Voting is a family activity.  In democracies around the world, we have to teach our children to support and defend it.  "You are who I love, changing policies, standing in line for water, stocking the food pantries, making a meal  "You are who I love, writing letters, calling the senators, you who, with the seconds of your body (with your time here), arrive on buses, on trains, in cars, by foot to stand in the January streets against the cool and brutal offices, saying: YOUR CRUELTY DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME"  For the full text of "You Are Who I Love" by Aracelis Girmay go to https://poets.org/poem/you-are-who-i-love
24:16
November 07, 2022
Minister’s Monthly Message November 2022
Minister’s Monthly Message November 2022
Recently Rev. Jen had the chance to meet one of her heroes, Ross Gay, one of her favorite poets and essayists.
04:34
November 03, 2022
October 9 - All The Stories: Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Sukkoth, and More
October 9 - All The Stories: Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Sukkoth, and More
One definition of a "collection" is a group of items having an organizational method and/or a method of display.  Think about the things that you "collect" and consider whether your stuff is actually a "collection", or if your collection is actually "stuff".  Either way is okay, but it's good to know which you have.  Tomorrow marks the federal holiday of Columbus Day and also Indigenous Peoples Day (a non-federal but federally recognized holiday).  It's complicated, because an event can have more than one narrative is possible.   At sundown a celebration of a third narrative begins, Sukkoth.  And another...and another...and another... Tomorrow will be someone's birthday.  Tomorrow will be someone's death-day.  Tomorrow will be someone's anniversary.  Tomorrow will be someone's reunion.  Tomorrow will be someone's wedding.  Tomorrow will be someone's funeral.  Tomorrow will be someone's first-day-sober.   None of us have heard all of the stories.  Approach each story with curiosity and not certainty.
18:12
October 24, 2022
October 2 - We Celebrate the Web of Life
October 2 - We Celebrate the Web of Life
Come bird, reptile, and mammal born.  We gather to honor creatures large and small.
20:06
October 24, 2022
Raise Your Hand If You Like Admitting That You're Wrong
Raise Your Hand If You Like Admitting That You're Wrong
Come explore who you are and where you are on your spiritual journey.  Letting go of someone who has the answers is hard, because it's giving up on control.  It's admitting that you're wrong, and it's admirable.  When you admit you're wrong, you usually feel better after.  Ours is a living tradition.  Traditions need to be able to change to be able to survive.  If the tradition doesn't stay relevant, it will be quickly forgotten.
19:12
October 17, 2022
September 18 - What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
September 18 - What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
Rev. Jen gives her thoughts on the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  It begins with imagining what you want to be when you grow up.  Imagination is a skill and can be improved with practice.  It is a tool and a skill used by all of civilization and can be used for good and for ill.  Let's rethink how we approach imagination and how we think about what we want to be.  
15:30
October 17, 2022
October 16 - National Coming Out Day and the Transformative Power of Love
October 16 - National Coming Out Day and the Transformative Power of Love
Rev. Kathy Helms was our guest in the pulpit this Sunday!  She talks about the experience of her adult child coming out as trans and the love lessons that that experience taught her.  Love is a necessary, transformative power that makes hate into a shadow with no power of their own.  Love is not fixed; it is purposefully disruptive.  Love calls you to show up and be present.  Love will change your heart.  The more you love, the more you change.  Love is transformative, it changes you, and change is scary.
18:20
October 16, 2022
MMM for October: On Stephen King, and a Unique Kind of Magic.
MMM for October: On Stephen King, and a Unique Kind of Magic.
If you didn't know, Rev. Jen is a big Stephen King fan; she has stories about all of his stories.  What are the unique magical things in your life?  What are the things that stay with you no matter how much you change?
03:06
October 06, 2022
MMM for September 2022: On Grief, a Weight We All Carry
MMM for September 2022: On Grief, a Weight We All Carry
It's a new congregational year.  It is a time of celebration, of course, but also a time to reflect on loss.  Others cannot know exactly what we are carrying, nor can we know what others are carrying.  Please make space for each other with kindness.
05:22
September 15, 2022
Ingathering Sermon: Water Gathering
Ingathering Sermon: Water Gathering
Water is complicated.  We've learned that from the news lately.  In fact, its complication is what makes it such a good symbol.  It can be playful, like making rainbows on the lawn with a garden hose.  Water can be terrifying, like hurricanes flattening buildings of entire communities.
10:30
September 11, 2022
MMM for August 2022: Rev. Jen is back!
MMM for August 2022: Rev. Jen is back!
We hope that the summer is treating you well, we all need time to refill our cups so that we can do a deeper kind of work.   Rev. Jen shares a book of poetry and prose and folktales called "Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough".
07:05
August 04, 2022
MMM for July 2022: Rev. Jen offers a poem of gratitude as she begins study leave.
MMM for July 2022: Rev. Jen offers a poem of gratitude as she begins study leave.
This is a classic called "Everything Is Waiting for You" by David White.
03:25
July 07, 2022
MMM for June 2022: We hold the pain and the grief over all of these losses.
MMM for June 2022: We hold the pain and the grief over all of these losses.
Here we are, rocked and reeling from the news that feels so hard.  Rev. Jen reflects on holding space for pain and grief.  We hold the pain and the grief over all of these losses.  When will we ever learn that this is enough?  
07:08
June 03, 2022
MMM for April 2022: None of us are perfect, and I wish that we would stop trying to be.
MMM for April 2022: None of us are perfect, and I wish that we would stop trying to be.
This month I'm going to talk about imperfections.  For example, you probably don't know this, but our internal schedule has us dropping these on the first Thursday of the month...which was last week.  Also, and you definitely don't know this unless you've watched this on YouTube, but I'm wearing a Kiki's Delivery Service teeshirt rather than more professional garb...and that's okay.  Perhaps we should stop trying to be perfect because if we are scared of being imperfect, we will be afraid to act, try new things, and experiment.  We need to learn to accept imperfections, our own and others, to have a healthy community. This Month's Poem: BRIONNE JANAE's "AGAINST MASTERY" give me no seat at the table let no trembling hands lay food on my plate let me lord over no one and nothing not the dog curled up in my bed not the land nor children who wander through my care         let me learn from the babies and be always laughing at my ignorance only humble discovery       give me and keep my eyes on the pattern of birds’ wings breaking the blue overhead           let me face the ones I harm with open palms and let love be the method and measure of my worth keep my heart with my people and the coal glowing beneath my feet let me run and run and run and run and let the flame of my torch never go out I am here with you to burn the house down keep me to this          cut me down before you let me lose my way
07:44
May 11, 2022
MMM for April 2022: What you can do as just one person. Well, what if you stopped being one person?
MMM for April 2022: What you can do as just one person. Well, what if you stopped being one person?
We are turning our attention this month to our home, the earth.  This month at UUCYork will we consider what kind of revolution it would take to protect our home.  Sometimes it can feel frustrating in the face of independent and interconnected crises, and we wonder what we can do as just one person.  What if you stopped being one person?  We can call each other forth to live in such a way to respect the earth.  April is also "National Poetry Month", so Rev Jen shares "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" by Wendell Berry  
08:32
April 07, 2022
MMM for March 2022_ Renewing Faith, We Are Here For You, and Kindness
MMM for March 2022_ Renewing Faith, We Are Here For You, and Kindness
March is a big month.  It's the month of the Spring Equinox, Ostara, Lent, Purim, and Holi.  We have a lot to celebrate.  Our Soul Matters theme for this month is "renewing faith".     Let's remember to renew our kindness as we renew our fellowship.  I am tired, as I am sure that many of you are.  This winter has been more tiring for all of us and that brings up big, complicated emotions ranging from gratitude to sorrow to betrayal, perhaps even feeling as though your faith is flagging.  Because of that Jen's message for you this month is "We are here for you" and her poem for you is "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye:  Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.  Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.  Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.
09:36
March 03, 2022
MMM for February 2022: Home, Change, and Widening the Circle
MMM for February 2022: Home, Change, and Widening the Circle
Our minister is glad and grateful for the chance to explore her new community in York, PA.  She's had the great good fortune to travel around the country and the world, but "home" has always been that strange bubble that is the suburbs of Washington DC.  Traveling is one way to "widen the circle".   In 2017, the UUA was commissioned to deeply listen to members, employees, and ministers of color.  In February we are going to be exploring the UU's complex history.  We will be exploring how to actively "widen the circle" of UU.  Who, how, and why do we welcome into our community?
05:54
February 03, 2022
Minister's Monthly Message: Reflecting and Looking Forward
Minister's Monthly Message: Reflecting and Looking Forward
This message comes out on January 6, one year exactly after the insurrection at the capitol.  We are still in a divided nation where facts are called into question without any evidence, and we need to figure out how to navigate our way through the chaos.  Our minister has lived her whole life in the suburbs of Washington DC and shares her experience on that day.   Our wish for you this year is a quote from Neil Gaiman: "I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.  Because if you make mistakes, it means you are trying new things [...] You are doing things you've never done before, but more importantly, you are doing something. [...] Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it.  Make your mistakes...next year...and forever."   Make mistakes with laughter and realize that we are learning.  At the moment we realize that we should have taken the other path, don't lose sight of the incredible potential within ourselves and this nation.   So may it be.
07:20
January 06, 2022
Minister's Monthly Message for Christmas 2021
Minister's Monthly Message for Christmas 2021
Rev. Jen brings us a bonus message for the liminal week between Christmas and New Year's: her favorite Christmas story, "Christmas Every Day" by William Dean Howells.  The story is available online in its entirety here:  https://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/wdh/xmaseday.html
12:40
December 29, 2021
November is for thanks, and December is for Joy.
November is for thanks, and December is for Joy.
Rev. Jen breaks this convention of "Be grateful! Share joy!" down.  These things cannot be forced, but they can be practiced.  How hard it is to practice joy...real joy...deep joy when it is so ubiquitous and commercialized in this time of year.
06:48
December 02, 2021