What Do I Actually Need Today?

Find our recorded March 29 service online here.

We find ourselves navigating the spread of a virus and the practical challenges that come with daily limitations. Join our virtual service with Rev. Sue Browning where together we will ask, ‘What do I actually need today?’ The service will include reflections from several of our congregants (to be collected this week) on what they are learning about their own wants and needs during this time of adjustment. Instructions for accessing the service (a simple click) will be on the website.


Script of Virtual Service, including Sermon

For the virtual gathering of the


Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River

and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton

Rev. Sue Browning, Minister

“What Do I Really Need Today?”

Service March 29, 2020

(A recorded version of this service is online.)



Opening Music    ‘Spirit of Life’

Music and lyrics by Carolyn McDade (Source: Singing the Living Tradition #123)

Played and sung by Ellen Barry Grunden

Music Director, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Welcoming and Opening Words

Good morning. I am Reverend Sue Browning. I am the minister serving the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton. Welcome.

And this is our second virtual service. We are learning together on how to best stay connected when we need to adapt. Gratitude to our recently formed ‘Tech Team’ and communications folks who have worked all week to create links and make this possible. Turns out there is set up and recording and a whole set of new fields to explore as you upload files into cyberspace.

To all of our members and friends, congratulations on again finding us online.

To any visitors, or any who have found this service online, welcome. We glad you are joining with us today.

We invite you to explore our websites, and feel free to contact me or others to learn more about our faith and these congregations on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

And the coffee hour part. We are missing this chance for fellowship, and too we are hearing of creative ways members are meeting. We have tried Zoom RE, and a Zoom party for the choir, and a virtual book group is starting.

Please check the newsletters for details or call the offices. We know folks may need some tech help, and we’ve got folks willing to do so.


Chalice Lighting

In Unitarian Universalist tradition, services and meetings often open with a chalice lighting. When we light a chalice we are reminded that this group present to the chalice – from it lighting to its extinguishing – will never be exactly gathered the same way again. In a virtual setting this is true too – click by click as you view this service we are joined in shared witness of this time in our world.  Today, we light the chalice with these words,   “We light this chalice as a symbol of the light within all creation. We light this chalice for truth. May the search for truth be with us always. We light this chalice for love. May the love for others be strong in our hearts.”

Thoughts for All Ages

I think grown-ups can get a little hung up on the meaning of words. Don’t tell them that, but it’s what I think.

Getting the right word does matter. And sometimes it doesn’t.

Some grown-ups and teachers love to focus on the difference between may I have a drink of water and can I have a drink of water.

Two things. Yes, they are different.

And sometimes we mix things up because they are related.

I talked to one member, who is a grandmother and she says her seven-year old grandson gets pretty specific on the difference between ‘needing something’ and ‘wanting something.’

She told me she said to him, “I need to go and work on my puzzle.” He told her, “You don’t need to, you want to.”

And he’s probably right. If to need something means we require something; that it is very important, and when we want something we hope for it and it would be nice but we actually don’t require it than going to do a puzzle is more of a want.

So – need is what we require and want is what we’d like to have or to do, but we’ll be ok without it…here’s my question, is everything either a Need or a Want.

Two sides of room.

Name examples

Needs …food, water, shelter.

Wants…ice cream, bike riding, puzzles.

Ok – let’s see a few other choices…school, libraries, learning, haircuts, …

How about TVs, music, friends? How about connection?

So maybe it’s not always easy to know the difference.

Maybe a better question is about gratitude, and knowing what it is hard to do with – what we miss. Maybe there is more in the middle than we thought.


Time for Centering (

I invite us into a time of reflection, a time of prayer.

Prayer for Compassion

By Elizabeth Tardox

Spirit of Life, I give thanks for the opportunities to love that present themselves in the turmoil of life.

Where the light catches the tears in another’s eyes, where hands are held and there are moments without words, let us be present then, and alive to the possibility of changing. Let us seek to make another’s well-being the object of our concern. Let us seek to be present to another’s pain, to bathe another’s wounds, hear another’s sadness, celebrate another’s success, and allow the other’s story to change our own.

Let us stand in the morning on damp grass, hear the syllables of bird song, and fill up on sweet air that rolls over oceans and continents. Let us look up at the stars and the planets that fill the night sky with majesty. Let us witness the first fresh buds of spring amid the brown sticks of winter. And for all this, let us be grateful.

Let us not defend ourselves against the discomfort of unruly emotion, nor seek to close down our hearts for fear a new love will come to shake our foundations. Let us instead be open to discovering a new way of seeing an old problem, or appreciating the perfection of a seashell, or the possibility of friendship. For in giving ourselves to what we do not understand, we receive life’s blessings, and in taking care of another, we are cared for.


This morning our compassion extends to the medical professionals and first responders who are being stretched; may we hold their fears with our own; hold their courage with our own and may we express gratitude for the risks they are taking.

Pause together here – sense your experience; sense your worries; and sense your hopes.

May we know that we’ll be on this journey with one another.


Joys and Sorrows

We build our communities each week by sharing our joys and sorrows with one another each week. That is hard to do virtually, but today we will try.

On process, please share Joys and Sorrows by Friday at 2 pm. By email to Sue or the offices.

First candle

This morning our compassion extends to the medical professionals and first responders who are being stretched; may we hold their fears with our own; hold their courage with our own and may we express gratitude for the risks they are taking.

Death of Alice…love to family

Death of Ann…gratitude for her presence

Dwayne shared that his grandmother died last Thursday. Her name Georgia xxx was 97 and they did have a very small graveside service for her. Difficult.

Randy shared that he Jayne are doing well. They are thinking of all of us here. This Fellowship is still special to them.



“What Do I Really Need Today?”

When I selected this sermon title early this week to be honest I was less focused on the word ‘Need’ and more on the word Today.

It was Monday and I wanted to look just at Monday. What would it be good for me  for my family, for my dog, for my house, and for my congregations on Monday.

Not a look back at the ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’s’ of our first virtual service (I know we’re learning!) or not too far ahead.

‘What Do I Need Today?’ is a question that invites us to pace ourselves.

After Monday I figured out the basics for Tuesday.

On Wednesday I wondered how others could help co-create this service and gave out a homework question.

In your experience, what is the difference between a ‘want’ and a ‘need’?

How your answer is being shaped during the Covid-19 virus.

Several responded and my hope is you’ve been considering the question.

Your responses helped me consider dimensions of wants and needs, and what shifts and bends; a chance to learn together.

One member considered our children, noting.

“Four months ago, learning how to have a virtual meeting with our RE kids would have been a mediocre WANT for me. Two weeks ago it became a very urgent NEED.  … children, with routines and norms had their suddenly turned upside down.  Children NEED routines and norms….  children NEED  structure and predictability.”


Her reflection reminds us of how the dimension of time factors into needs and wants.  My ‘needs’ over the next hour or day may be pretty minimal yet over a month, or several months, or a year, what I ‘need’ includes more, or at least shifts.  Are haircuts, dentist appt, car maintenance appts, wants or needs?

Another member shared

“I’m not especially comfortable with touching or being touched, but there are times when I need a hug. Unfortunately, this past week, and for the next who knows how many weeks, when we need a hug most, hugs are inherently unsafe. It’s not a want, I manage quite well with not getting what I want. It’s a need.”


What of our needs for socialization – shared meals, and touch, etc. What is it about our ‘wants’ that gives depth and meaning to life? How does a ‘want’ deferred in the context of being homebound for a blizzard disruption (a few days) take on a new sense when its deferred/inaccessible for longer times? Where are hugs in our life? A yearning for a reassuring touch?

I loved the tie of wants and needs to the Rolling Stones (two came in)

“My first thought was the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” That refrain is followed by “If you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need,” making this, arguably, the most philosophically pertinent rock song ever. In my life in 1969 “wants” and “needs” were conflated, usually in a quest to impress some young lady. It wasn’t until becoming a father in my late 30s that I learned my wants play a distant second fiddle to the needs of my family. In the COVID-19 crisis, our needs are starkly apparent—food, a home in which to hunker down and, medicine. But some of our wants, if not needs, go unmet. We long to see our children, both living in the New York hotspot. Yet we can’t visit them without risking exposure and having to quarantine upon our return. In that way, wants and needs are again conflated: We all want and need for this to pass.”


A blurring of wants and needs, and the power of wants in our lives.

Another member went to the same song (noting he does so as a Beatles fan) and yet praising, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

He shares, “In many ways, that song’s refrain is the anthem of my life: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might just find you get what you need.” Many times in my life I didn’t get what I thought I wanted. A job. A relationship. Some imagined future. In dealing with the painful disappointment of watching these hopes falling apart, however, I learned to keep trying. … Quite often, these were things I didn’t even know I needed because I was too busy chasing after what I thought I wanted.

With this virus, a lot of things I wanted for myself and my family are falling apart, …. I don’t know. And that hurts. But I have faith that if we keep trying, we’re still going to get what we need.”


Having go to mantra – a place to reach to a favorite song, or hymn to remind us that what we are facing is daunting, and what we are facing will emerge as a story different that we anticipate. And yes, “Let It Be” holds value.

During Thoughts for All Ages we considered where gratitude fits in.

Someone else shared,

“As a school community this year we have been focusing on the value of gratitude, and we have spent the year asking teachers and students to keep a gratitude journal… Now that we are home and socially distancing, I do not think that this exercise could have been any better timed. …as we are told of a new cancellation, or asked to restrict another activity, the sense of loss is real. …each day, I remind myself that I have what I need and that what I have is good. I am grateful for the health of my friends and family, the 26 rolls of toilet paper in my pantry, the refrigerator stocked with food. We are blessed to have access to friends and family online, school work that can keep us growing, art supplies and books to keep us occupied.”


Such power in gratitude, and I have been reflecting on technology – the online needs. Is technology a want or a need? Right now technology  connection feels just above food, water and shelter in the hierarchy. For those w/o technology, due to skills, $$, or availability, how is need met? We’ve (as society) for some declared smart phones a luxury…

A member shared,

“Until this recent pandemic, I thought there were only a few things I absolutely needed to do in order to live. …to breathe, …to feed my body, and …to protect myself and my family from danger. I thought everything else I did was because I wanted to do it.

In the middle of this pandemic I want to do some things because I need to feel like I’m doing something for the good of the world. I WANT to volunteer at our local homeless shelter because I NEED to feel like I’m helping those struggling with independence. …Now I WANT to make my best contribution possible by staying at home and practicing social distancing. I NEED to feel like I’m doing everything I can do to help protect our future.”


What a reminder that we need to have a sense of purpose in life; to find our way of contributing and offering love and compassion.

Gratitude for the responses. Gratitude for the learning from one another.

One of the shortest responses I received was a reminder of Buddhist teachings.

“Gautama taught that everything which we view as a ‘need’ is actually a ‘want’.  Except for the one true need – to experience life in this moment, here and now.”

So for today, a sermon title that is the message: ‘What Do I Need Today?

Take care my friends, and as needs and wants blur and we remind one another to turn to gratitude.

May It Be So


Closing Words

We close today with words from Rev. Sara Campbell.

We receive fragments of holiness, glimpses of eternity. Brief moments of insight.

Let us gather them up for the precious gifts that they are and, renewed by their grace, move boldly into the unknown.

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


Extinguishing Our Chalice

We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,the warmth of community or the fire of commitment.These we carry in our hearts until we meet again.


Final Music  ‘Go Lifted Up

Music and lyrics by Mortimer B. Barron (Source: Singing the Journey #1057)

Played and sung by Philip Dutton

Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River


Go lifted up, love bless your way, moonlight, starlight

guide your journey into peace and the brightness of day.

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