Collecting Our Stories

Over the last decade some of us have become genealogists, combing the Internet for records and stories of the past. In what ways might the experiences of our ancestors influence us today? On this Memorial Day weekend join Rev. Sue for this virtual service where we will consider the legacies of our ancestors. This service will include our annual ritual of remembrance to honor losses in our congregations this past year.

Find all our recorded services online here.



Service details.

Service May 24, 2020

“Collecting Our Stories”


Opening Slide – UUCR

Spirit of Life (background)


Call to Service / Welcome


Good morning. Welcome.

I am Reverend Sue Browning. I serve the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River in Chestertown Maryland and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton.

It is good to be together today.

I invite you to breathe deep and center as we enter this time together. Bring into this space all of what you are experiencing. Bring your hopes; your frustrations; your concerns. Bring your sense of humor. And bring here all of who you are – your full identity, your full story.

As we walk through uncertain times it is good to ask, how is my faith supporting me? What values help to guide my choices? Unitarian Universalism includes living into the values of respect, gratitude and kindness – values especially present on this holiday weekend.

If you have questions about the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition or about our congregations or our faith tradition, please check our website, or check with me or reach out to our offices. We would like to get to know you better.

Come, let us worship.



Chalice Lighting – Nancy Holland

Opening Words


Thoughts for All Ages 

‘Concepts of Honor and Respect’

Doug Jurrius re: flags in park for Memorial Day

Candles of Respect, Kindness and Gratitude



“Battle Hymn of Republic”



I invite us now into a time of meditation; of shared reflection.

Today is a special meditation; an embracing meditation.

If we were in our physical sanctuaries I would invite everyone present to come forward and light a candle. We’d process forward and each light a candle as music played.

For this virtual service imagine that you have each just lit one candle; a candle representing your life, and particularly the losses.

It is different with a virtual services. It’s a time when we especially would benefit from being together – to feel the shared holding. I encourage you to light a candle at home now, or later today.

My hope is you’ll feel the warmth of those gathered. And yes, it’s a time to call one another after the service; to share in the Zoom coffee hours; to reach out to me or the pastoral and caring teams.

I light this candle in that spirit now – a collective holding.

Spirit of Life and Love be with us now. Be with us as we are reminded of the uncertainties in life; as we are reminded that life is fragile, and as we are reminded that too life is robust.

First this week’s joys and sorrows,

May this candle be for the lives lost to the virus, for those in treatment, and those recovered, and for the many essential workers in our midst.

May this candle be for joy shared by Mary Lou, “My daughter-in-law, Sherri, after suffering through many problems and surgeries for breast cancer since last October had her final and last surgery 12 days ago and is doing great.:

May this candle too hold Emily and Linda who have an extended family member who is hospitalized for covid. We hold their family in love in this timing of waiting for more news.

In the light of this candle we hold the memory of those from the our congregations who have died since last Memorial Day. We hear their names and remember…




Jack Scott, Jr.

Ralph Young

Ken Court

Dian Post

Joanne Baynard

Lyn Lansdale

Harry Shaw


Richard Hawkins

Alice Lindsay

Anne Morrison


They are each missed by this community.

In the light of this candle we hold our many personal losses. Losses of parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, in-laws, other family members, close friends or colleagues. We hold their memories; we hold you.

In the light of this candle we hold those who serve in the military, and for those who have lost their lives in service. We hold their families in care; we extend gratitude for the ways we are supported by those who commit to serving.


A reading…

We Remember Them  by Ronald Gittelsohn


In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.

In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.

In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.



As we end our meditation, remember to please do reach out to one another…we are all connected; we need one another.



“What a Wonderful World”

Emma Hoey on Trumpet


Sermon  “Collecting Our Stories”


Big breath.

As we reflect on the candles and the many stories upon which our lives rest, we are humbled.

Many have come before us – not come perfectly, but in their imperfect humanity with their stories, and their learning during their time.

Over these last 10 weeks, frequently I’ve wondered, “How would my Dad, a born salesman, have heard these messages of social distancing?” … “What would Bill’s Dad have advised us as he risked delivering bread?”

Our prayer reminds us..

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

From my Dad, I can picture a grumpy, yet compliant, skepticism. From Bill’s dad common sense view. And my conversations with them go on, Where would they have gotten information? Who they would vet as trustworthy? Likely these two different men would have come to a shared conclusion: ‘Better safe than sorry’ narrative.

They knew of World War 2 and the Korean War. Both served. And they had their stories of job challenges and health challenges. And embedded in their processing of today they would inherently bring forth stories of parents and grandparents immigrating.

It is how the collective story, and our responses move forward.

How much of the Covid-19 experience is unique? How much is similar to challenges past?

Many before us have been abruptly thrown into new situations and immediately had to adapt and survive. I grew up hearing stories of Wareham, Massachusetts and the hurricane of 1938. Stories still told on the town’s historic pages.

In my memory and my children’s memory was the earthquake and massive tsunami in Indonesia in 2004. We were safe in our home, yet vivid images of human vulnerability in our memory banks when life for some changed abruptly.

We also have stories of sacrifice in our shared history. There are those who volunteered and were drafted into combat, and the realities of violence. Beyond combat, there were limitations established by government on the ‘war effort’ – and too a sense of moral duty on how to support those on front lines.

Even if you weren’t alive during these times, something travels forward with us – a wave – with the specifics of the stories, and in a deeper way the wave holds a sense of risk; a reminder to prepare and stay vigilant. We know trauma passes forward; we know love and trust pass forward

I love historical fiction. In the stories we learn with some accuracy and detail the patterns of routine life which happen even in deep struggle and risk. “Gone With the Wind” comes to mind, or “The Winds of War.” I recently read ‘The Giver of Life’ about the women who delivered library books during the Depression.

We hear in these stories pockets of joy and normalcy, against a backdrop of abrupt change and sacrifice. Stories of romance, new birth and celebration don’t eliminate the deeper issues, but remind us life unfolds layers. In the stories there is the relief when dangerous situations turn toward safety and rebalance.

We are drawn to moments when resilience takes a center stage. I am not thinking of heroic, epic resilience moments, but stories of hard-learned lessons helping characters find a path and their courage to help others do the same.

Resilience is in part adaptability, but it is something more.

In resilience there is an honest framing of hard questions. Resilient folks tend to trust themselves and have confidence that perseverance will matter. With resilience there is a willingness to take in new ideas and information – and to sift the useful from the, well the, from crap.

In resilience there is a sense of owning what we can make next decisions about, and a pragmatic limit on not trying to control a tsunami.

We are not the first to have lives disrupted, nor to be asked to sacrifice. We are not the first to live in uncertainty, nor the first to have mixed information and a muddled mess of roles.

One challenge of loving historical fiction is remembering to sink deep enough in to know D-Day, and V-Day, and older and newer conflicts came with prolonged uncertainty. And with loss.

The war outcome, or a natural disaster outcome or a recovery path isn’t clear in the middle of the mess.

What stories have you found useful these past 10 weeks? Are you chatting with some or your ancestors more than others? Are you finding other stories you connect with? What will be a source of strength for you in the months to come?

I want to share that there is a story which is finding a place in my heart, and which I hope is told by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton, and the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River in the years and generations to come…

It goes something like this, “I want to tell you about something way back March 2020. Each congregation was going Sunday to Sunday – with speakers planned, orders of service printed, and collections taken…oh, and we’d have music and coffee every week. We had regular services March 8, 2020.

Word was some ‘corona virus’ was starting to circle the globe. Some were sick, some dying. In early March it was just a few in the US. Four days after March 8 we canceled the March 15 service. We’ll take it week by week our voice message at the church said.

Unheard of, but at least for March 22 lets figure out a virtual service. A small band who hardly from each congregation started the plans and asked friends how to do this. We Googled the heck out of our naïve questions. We went into a rapid assess and decide mode.

We ‘opened’ new YouTube channels – one for each congregation and we opted to have shared UUFE/UUCR services, which we had never done. I picked a topic and learned to record. Ellen and Philip recorded. We learned about uploads, downloads. We swore a lot.

We released one service. A week later we decided no services, maybe for up to 8 weeks.Then two. More orders from the governor. We adapted. We figured how others could help with services.

We managed not only services, but the governance of our congregations. Leaders began virtual RE in each congregation, and started Zoom coffee hours and small groups. We made contributions to those in need.”

Please learn to tell this story. In 10 weeks we have adapted to what was at first a crisis and now is an ongoing situation. We didn’t do this in a vacuum. We did this as we leaned into a human sense of resilience and trust in one another.

We come out at this milestone as stronger communities, with a deeper trust in our shared skills. We come out with a deep sense of our strengths. It is a short story. We recall stories we’re told by those that have come before – the stories matter. It’s how we learn, and find the nuance underlying the challenge.

Last Saturday evening President Obama gave the graduation speech to the high school seniors. Hopefully you have seen it.

He ended his message with three pieces of advice: 1-Don’t be afraid, we’ve been through worse and because of a new generation figured out how to make things better; 2-Do what you think is right, not what feels good and is convenient, 3-And finally build a community. No one does big things by themselves.

A speech I needed to hear; a speech worth playing over and over.

Like our ancestors we are finding a path through Covid-19, and too we are still in its midst.  We’ve both ‘got this’ as we prop one another up to find joy and normalcy in a time of struggle and sacrifice, and too we’ll need to live with uncertainty for a while.

No magic advice, but a confidence that our path will be guided by those who have come before, by living into values of respect, gratitude and kindness, and by always staying connected to one another.

Amen and Blessed Be


Hymn  “Immortal Love” (SLT #10) –


Next Sunday we are honored to have guest minister Lora Powell-Haney leading our service. It will be a service available on the YouTube channels.

We are finalizing our June worship plans, so please staytuned through the newsletter and website, or as always call the office with questions.


Special Thanks

Our postlude today includes gratitude to those who participated in today’s service, and a 10-week summary of the many who have sustained Sunday and other church activities these last months.

Undoubtedly, we missed some of you. It seemed worth a try, and we can expand our lists!


Closing Words/Benediction

In the words of Sydney Wilde

In this community we give and we receive.
May we go forth, now,
to share the bounty of our love.

May we leave in spirit of respect and gratitude.

Go in peace. Go in love. Go, knowing love surrounds you wherever you may go


Extinguishing the Chalice (standard words) – Nancy

Sung Benediction

Postlude to go with Gratitude Slides


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