Chalice-Side Chats text from March 19

Chalice-Side Chats

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship
Rev Paul Beckel


Welcome to BUF, I’m Reverend Paul Beckel. Let’s start today by bringing flame to our Chalice.

Lighting the Chalice is a simple ritual practiced all over the world by Unitarian Universalists. Because ours is a creedless, liberal religious tradition, every one of us brings our own meaning to the flaming chalice. More important, the meaning we find in any ritual, whether public or private, ancient or brand new—this meaning has to be relevant to what’s going on in our lives at any given moment. Even simple rituals like lighting a candle can help us stop thinking about worries, wants, or things to do. Ideally simple rituals help us to reflect, even for a moment, on what that moment offers us, and what that moment calls us to be.

When too much is going on at once—and that’s what I feel right now—I know that I need to stop, often, clear my mind, and breathe. Lighting a candle, or stopping to look out the window, or sitting quietly and closing my eyes, these things help me to get grounded so I can go back to whatever I was doing with a little more clarity.

Sometimes while lighting the chalice I’ll stay silent. Call up my gratitude for the many resources that I have for finding joy, and the resources I have to share. Or, I silently allow myself to be filled with wonder. Not that such wonder has to be infused with happiness. Even times of trial and fear contain opportunities for intense, breathtaking wonder—times when we just have to take a deep breath. Maybe instead of wonder, you might call this religious experience. Or you may call it curiosity, or just the buzz of “wow, I am living in this moment and five years ago, or even two months ago, I just couldn’t have imagined this.” I’m suggesting that you choose this kind of response rather than responding with spiraling anxiety.

So it’s a different kind of “wow,” a different kind of “awesome” and “amazing” than we get from pleasure and beauty. “Wow” can simply be a sense of seeing things for what they are. Or, when reality is too confusing to understand, “wow” can be an affirmative way of accepting things as they are. Notice that that’s different from a passive, or resigned way of accepting things as they are. Wow.

I’m not talking about acceptance as in giving up on the possibility, the imperative, even, for us to improve what we can, within our sphere of influence.

The flaming chalice can draw us into a time of quiet mindfulness in which we are deliberately conscious of the phyical sensations of that moment: what we see, what we hear, what we feel—and so on—in that moment.

But the flaming chalice can also draw us out of ourselves. It can put us in touch with the world beyond us, the air and soil, sunshine and rain that we depend upon, the creatures, the great trees, the vegetation that feeds us, and breathes for the planet … and of course the flaming chalice can put us in touch with one another: our families, our congregation and the global community.

In the midst of pandemic I am conscious of my connection with the fears and the uncertainties, and the massive efforts around the world to lead us, and accompany us, to wholeness.

As I prepare to extinguish the flaming chalice … as I invite you to take its light, take its warmth with you into the world (whatever it’s present boundaries for you) I encourage you to consider the possibility that the wholeness we seek is not, cannot be the wholeness of yesterday … which of course was not the wholeness of last year.

The wholeness we seek is evolving. It includes each of us as individuals, growing internally. It includes  that which is beyond us: all who have come and gone, all living things, all physical things, all of our experiences, learnings, forgettings, and aspirations. This is the wholeness that already exists at this moment.

The wholeness we seek is here, and now.

We’ll be streaming live from BUF this coming Sunday at 10:30 am on YouTube. Just go to YouTube and search for Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship.

We’ll also have opportunities before and after the service to interact via Zoom. From 10 to 10:20 we’ll share milestones. This is a time to mark the important transitions in our lives by briefly sharing, lighting a candle or performing some other simple ritual that you may wish to do at home. The reason we do this together is that milestones is not a one-way communication of joys and sorrows. Milestones is the experience we share when we listen, and we hold one another in the midst of our most profound, glorious, or devastating transitions.

That’s Milestones, before the service, at 10. After the service, we’ll  have coffee and conversation, also via Zoom.

And we’ll have an after service discussion. The links to these two concurrent online gatherings are available at B U F dot O R G.

Then at 12:45, Debu Majumdar will be on zoom for one of our book groups which is reading the Hindu scripture Ramayana. This is the first meeting, so you don’t need to have read anything to join in. And Debu left several extra copies of the book at BUF. I can arrange for you to get one, free (using appropriate safety protocols). Just write to me: or

If the Chalice-Side Chats or any of the other programs we offer at BUF are meaningful to you, thank a BUF member, or a pledging friend or contributor or volunteer, or staff member. Or all of the above. Tell them thank you. They make sure we continue to fulfill our mission together.

If you want to be part of that, if you want to support our work, and ensure that liberal religious programs get out to the Whatcom-area community … if you want to support advocacy for social justice  … and care for those in need … and a safe place for all people regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, documentation status, or socio-cultural or economic class … you can be a part of making this happen. Contribute at using the “give” button at the top right corner of the home page.

Thanks for being here today. We’ll be doing this every Tuesday and Thursday on the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship YouTube channel. Be well my friends.