Advent Week 4: Love

Okay, the timing of these blog posts doesn’t neatly align with the Sundays of Advent, so you’re reading this a few days after Christmas. Christmas has come and gone, and in this last week, we reflect on the theme of Love. Those of us lucky to experience deep love in our lives also know that it comes with equal parts pain and loss. And yet, our inner knowing pushes us to love anyway. Unitarian minister, Forrest Church, writes: “Whenever we give our hearts in love, the burden of our vulnerability grows. We risk being rebuffed or embarrassed or inadequate. Beyond

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Advent Week 3: Joy

Week three is the week of the pink candle! From what I’ve gleaned from searching on the internet, the other candles on the advent wreath are used to symbolize the contemplative nature of this season, and pink is for the irresistible breaking through, bubbling up of joy. Joy is one of those feelings that is easier to stumble into than it is to cultivate. There are times when it takes us by surprise and takes us over. All we have to do is be open to it. There is a moment in my life that I remember as being the

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Advent Week 2: Peace

While violence of many kinds can feel like a normal part of this human existence, these days of war we live in serve as a tragic reminder of the extreme violence humans are capable of. The second advent candle represents Peace, which feels especially needed this year. Advent is a practice that helps us mark this season of waiting, helps us to understand that all we are waiting for is already being cultivated within us. Are we living in a way that cultivates peace? What would it mean to do that? The great prophets of our world say that peace

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Advent Week 1: Hope

As we enter December and approach the darkest nights of the year, let us turn towards each other. In anticipation of my first holiday season with Westside, I look forward to the many opportunities we’ll have to be present with each other in both celebration and the complexity that comes with these days. In conversations with staff, worship leaders, and other community members, I am beginning to understand that this congregation has a lot of diversity in our relationship to this season and what practices are most meaningful for us. As we move through this time, I invite you to

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Where We Are Being Called – Rev. Carter Smith

It has been more than a month now that we citizens of the world have been witness to the unprecedented unfolding of violence in Israel and Gaza. I am sure that each of us has stories to tell about the way these events have impacted us personally. For my part, a friend shared the news of the October 7th attacks she was getting live via text messages from her sister and Israeli brother-in-law who were visiting family in Tel Aviv. We didn’t know much that morning,  but we experienced the fear of not knowing how her family was going to

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October Recap & Introducing the Committee on Ministry

Thanks, everyone for another great month at Westside. In worship, we focused on the theme of “Relationship,” which led to such beautiful and gratifying programs. Many thanks to all who kicked off October at the Community Connections Retreat, both organizers and attendees. I was so impressed by the number of people who dedicated so many hours on a beautiful fall weekend to be together and learn about how to navigate conflict with more care and intention. With Lisa Reitzes’ leadership, Deb Dahrling of PFLAG and Scott Farrell helped us to honor National Coming Out Day with their stories. It is

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On Beginning a New Friendship

Meet Percy! Baptiste and I recently adopted this one and a half year-old bundle of affection, energy, and frankly, chaos. Neither of us has ever had a cat before; we’ve only lived with roommates’ cats. So, this has been quite a new adventure for us, as he gets to know us and we get to know him. You may notice he has an AirTag on his collar. That’s there because two days into living with us, he broke out… by literally breaking the side panel on our window AC unit. After a couple of nights outdoors, we got him back,

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Leaning Into Community Vibrancy

Thanks, all, for offering me such a warm welcome back this past Sunday. I continue to feel cared for by this congregation. Your warmth and enthusiasm give me so much hope for this community, and the possibilities for welcoming in newcomers of all kinds – not just new ministers. Luckily, we’ll get a chance to do just that, quite soon. Our annual Ingathering Service, on September 10, will be a chance to re-gather as a community for the new church year. A celebration of this community, I encourage you to come, even if you haven’t been in a while. Or,

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À Bientôt! (See You Soon!)

Dear Westsiders, This is the week that summer really begins for me. By the time you read this, I will be in France, on a long-awaited trip to get to know my spouse’s family. Here I’ll offer some of the back story because it’s a part of my life that is important to me. I’ve been to France once before. It was over New Year of 2020, after my partner, Baptiste, and I had been dating for about a year. I spoke a small amount of Duolingo French, and while our relationship was serious enough to warrant the trip, it

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Faithfully Becoming: GA Reflections

Last week, I had the immense privilege of gathering with a couple of thousand other UUs in Pittsburgh and online for our 62nd annual General Assembly (GA). This all-in-one conference included professional networking opportunities, celebratory worship, important business meetings, lectures, and workshops. Each year I attend GA, I experience it as a place for Unitarian Universalists to re-center their attention on the wider faith community and connect across the vast diversity within our larger community. This year in particular, with the theme Faithfully Becoming, we asked a lot of questions about our future as a denomination; who we are, where

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