Rev. Jennifer Brooks

Principles and Promises

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The approach of Independence Day reminds us of the principles that form the idea of America: all are created equal with inherent rights, and the government is created by the people to serve the people. These ideas resonate with our seven UU principles: the inherent worth of every person; the use of democratic process in our congregations and in the world. Shared principles, clearly stated, carry with them an implicit promise that we will act together to make them live vibrantly in our political and religious life. This Sunday, Rev. Jennifer Brooks offers an assessment: how have we lived into the principles and promises on which America was based, and in our life as Unitarian Universalists?

Special music by Quinn Emison Clair

The Blessings of Pride

10 a.m. only
Celebrant: Ben Spick

As the Des Moines community and most cities and states celebrate LGBTQ Pride, this Sunday we appreciate the blessings of Pride through the words and songs of Unitarian Universalist LGBTQ ministers and members. In February, we lifted up the voices of UUs of color. This service will follow a similar format, reminding us of our proud history of support for civil marriage as a civil right—and the challenges that remain. All in all, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the Blessings of Pride. All are invited to join fellow UUs in marching in the Des Moines Pride Parade after the service, beginning at the State Capital at noon.

Please bring a flower from your garden or florist to share in our annual Flower Communion. (Some flowers will also be available for those who forget)

Special music by Megan Irey & Auden Eaton

The Blessings of Community

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One of the blessings of congregational life is the community we create together. In American society today, people often struggle to balance work with family life—the demands of the job and the deep personal need to be in meaningful relationships. The congregational community helps individuals and families find that balance, deepen relationships, and grow personally and spiritually. This Sunday, the day of our Annual Congregational Meeting, we consider and celebrate the way that the First Unitarian community brings meaning and balance to our lives. We will also recognize our graduating high school seniors in a Bridging Ceremony. One service this week at 10 a.m., followed by the Congregational Meeting at 11:15 a.m.

Special music by Julie Murphy & Bruce Martin

Memory and Meaning

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On Memorial Day weekend, our thoughts inevitably turn to the causes and consequences of war. When we think of those who have died in service to our country, is our responsibility simply to remember them? Or do we have a larger responsibility to give their deaths meaning? If a family member died in active military service, you’re invited to wear a black armband in their memory.

Special music by Barb Martin

Life as Jazz

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Jazz has a quality of unpredictability even though it follows a recognizable pattern. What is it about the jazz musician that allows for the artistry of jazz? What attitudes and skills that make for good jazz might also make us better at the improvisation Life sometimes requires? Join Rev. Jennifer and pianist Bruce Martin as they creatively explore this jazzy metaphor.

Special music by Bell Ave. Ringers

Embracing the Millipede

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In our world, the wide diversity of religious tradition and practice too often is the basis for division. Unitarian Universalism encourages us to see religious diversity as an opportunity to be open and curious about other religious traditions. This month’s worship theme, “Emergence,” asks us to consider not only the ways in which our own beliefs define the immanent, but also how we can emerge from the cocoon of our assumptions and open to the full diversity of Life.

Body & Soul

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The emergence of buds and flowers after the cold of winter vividly reminds us of life’s ability to renew itself, body and soul. This Sunday is Easter in the Christian tradition—but the story of resurrection is more nuanced and complex than convention may suggest. The oldest traditions of Judaism and Christianity offer diverse ideas about the relationship between body and soul, ideas that resonate with the questions of today’s spiritual seekers.

Hearing with the Heart

9:15 & 11 am
Celebrant: Martha Shen

In every encounter with another human being, there’s an opportunity to listen — to go deep; to forge, even briefly, an authentic connection. To help illustrate the balance that’s necessary if we’re to hear with the heart, Bruce Martin and a small vocal group will contribute to Rev. Jen’s sermon with culturally distinct versions of the song, “The Sloop John B.“ The blend of prose, poetry, and music is, in itself, emblematic of balance.

A Tale of Tenacity

9:15 & 11 am

In this service for all ages, we share a tale of tenacity: the story of Esther. This true story is the centerpiece of the Jewish celebration of Purim, which this year begins on February 28. In many ways Esther was a true superhero: a seemingly ordinary person who saved many lives through her persistence and courage. Today we consider how our own narratives intersect with this tale of tenacity.

Let My People Go

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What does liberation require? How can we live fully, freely (and responsibly) in a way that brings meaning to our lives—in a way that encourages and supports others who also seek meaning and purpose? How can we persevere in dismantling the barriers that separate us from who we aspire to be? Whatever holds us back (theology? enculturated assumptions? sheer crankiness?) it’s time to let go—and claim our own liberation.

Promise and Practice

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What would it be like if our UU worship service centered entirely around the voices and the experiences of black Unitarian Universalists? What truths might we hear, however difficult? What might we learn? How might these UU leaders of color teach us to be better allies, better companions in our shared faith, and even better citizens in our community? As part of First Unitarian’s commitment to embrace the presence and leadership of people of color, during this Sunday service we speak and sing in the voices of UUs of color. Together we practice; together we live into the promise of a new way of being. Today’s offering will (with the knowledge and support of our regular Faith in Action partner Family Promise) help to fund Black Lives UU. If we meet the threshold of $10 per member, our contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar.

Create the Vision

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A unique opportunity of the interim time is to explore the congregation’s own vision of its values, mission and vision. As we begin this process here at First Unitarian, Rev. Jennifer Brooks shares her insights from companioning other UU congregations through this process. Seeing that vision emerge from the shared light of all members is, she says, ”one of most moving and inspirational experiences of my life.”
Share Your Light, Create Our Vision


Share the Light

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Joining us over the weekend of this service is Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs, our ministerial search transition coach, along with Rev. Jen Crow. After each service, Rev. Janne will hold open meetings to share information about the search process for our new settled senior minister. This purpose intersects beautifully with January’s Soul Matters theme exploring how we are called to be a people of intention. Setting personal intentions is a spiritual act that can shape our living. Setting collective intentions is a spiritual act that can transform a congregation and the wider community. In these services, guest minister, Rev. Jen Crow and Rev. Erin will speak to the power of love and ministry that is unleashed when a congregation re-imagines their shared intention for vision and mission. May we be inspired for the Connections Parties in February, when we will share our individual light to create the vision for our collective future.

The Long Arc

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Today we honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His leadership during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s helped change America for the better. Yet still there‘s work for all people who answer the call of love. “The arc of the universe is long,“ Dr. King said, “but it bends toward justice.” It’s up to those who love to do the bending.

The Story of Hope

5 pm Christmas Eve Service
Celebrants: Kate Allen & Lyra Halsten

This Christmas Eve service invites children, their families, and the young at heart into a celebration of the story of Christmas and its deeper message of hope. Children are encouraged to arrive a few minutes early to choose a costume to be an angel, sheep, or shepherd in our no-rehearsal Christmas pageant. The offering collected during this service will support the Unitarian Universalist commitment to Black lives as a contribution to Black Lives UU. All are invited to bring a plate of cookies to share with others following the service.

There is also a 7 pm Christmas Eve Service: “Light of the World”

Many Voices, One Song

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Nearly 500 years ago, the first Unitarians used the phrase “unity in diversity” to describe their openness to diverse spiritual paths within one faith tradition. In this service of songs and readings, we explore the diversity of world music connected with the Christian tradition and of world religious faiths connected with values of Christmas. In a diversity of music and faiths there lies a unity of hope and love. The UU Singers, directed by Choir Director Karen Kraemer, sing us through this journey of expectation and discovery. UU Singers; Bruce Martin, pianist.

The Second Turkey and Other Stories

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This service features tender, light-hearted stories about family Thanksgivings that didn’t go exactly to plan. The tales invite us to cherish the love that has touched our lives, even if it didn’t arrive in exactly the way we expected. May we be aware of the abundance that sometimes slips in through the crack under the door.