Weekends in my neighborhood are festive, with Latino music and parties and grilling. I could do without the 2AM firecrackers going off right outside my bedroom window, and I need to learn how to say both “firecrackers” and “heart attack” in Spanish and chat with a few of my neighbors.
I happened to go out for Mexican food last night and see a flier — in both Spanish and one in English — advertising a vigil for the Orlando victims – in a park about .3 miles from me. My stomach is a mess and I dare not head out, but I can hear the sounds of a distant song or chant through a megaphone through my open study window that faces the street.
We read the names of the 49 murdered today in church. We lit candles for them. I said this:

Again, hateful violence has exploded out of one angry, deranged individual and shattered the lives of countless people in the murdering of 49 of them, and the wounding by bullets of many others.

In Orlando, at a gay club called Pulse, these men and women died. They were all unique individuals with names and stories and circles of love and relationship that extended far beyond each of them, just as all our lives extend. We name them now, in solidarity and sorrow.

Stanley Almodovar III
Amanda Alvear
Oscar A Aracena-Montero
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
Antonio Davon Brown,
Darryl Roman Burt II
Angel L. Candelario-Padro
Juan Chevez-Martinez
Luis Daniel Conde
Cory James Connell

Tevin Eugene Crosby
Deonka Deidra Drayton
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Paul Terrell Henry
Frank Hernandez
Miguel Angel Honorato

Javier Jorge-Reyes
Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla
Christopher Andrew Leinonen
Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
Kimberly Morris
Akyra Monet Murray

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Joel Rayon Paniagua
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
Enrique L. Rios, Jr.
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan

Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Shane Evan Tomlinson
Martin Benitez Torre
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
Luis S. Vielma
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Jerald Arthur Wright

May we continue to affirm, unequivocally, that sexuality is a gift of pleasure and joy and that no bodies are sinful or created wrong. Consensual sexual attraction between people who are not hurting or exploiting anyone else, whether for the purposes of procreation or just for the expression of the joy in being alive, is a BLESSING.

We affirm the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people of any self-chosen label or no label at all in the life of the church and affirm their equal rights under the law.

Unitarian Universalists are committed to anti-racism, and therefore we respect the significance of the fact that the murderer chose Latino night at the club to target his victims, almost all of whom were people of color.

Unitarian Universalists are committed to inter-faith work and understanding, and do not hold any entire people – in this case the Muslim community – responsible for the acts of one of their members.

Let us pray.
God, grant us strength to endure these outrages and to be present to reality rather than shielded from it.

May we be steadfast in our commitment to challenge all of the factors that make this kind of violence possible.

May we pray peace upon the victims and upon all those who mourn, and for our nation in turmoil, divided by ideologies that create rancor and divide us from each other.

La paz sea con ellos. Peace be upon them.

May our work, our presence, our benevolent rage, be our steadfast prayer.

Concédenos tu paz , la paz que sobrepasa todo entendimiento.
Grant us your peace, the peace that passeth understanding.

- Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein 19 June 2016
Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn


[Please pardon any errors in my Spanish. - VW]

Posted in g/l/b/t and gender queer justice, Mind of the Minister, prayers, Theological Reflection, Unitarian Universalism, Worship and Liturgy | Comments Off

Outliving A Parent

When I turned fifty in January, it was big for one reason: my dad had died at fifty.

Had it not been for that, I wouldn’t have cared much. Age doesn’t bother me but this milestone bothered me a LOT.

Many of you will understand. Over the years I have collected stories from sympathetic people who get it. They too live with ghosts: siblings who died young whose unlived lives occasionally walk into the room on an anniversary and afflict them with love and sorrow and survivor guilt. Veterans who sit in impenetrable silence after the Memorial Day service, barely able to speak of the thick presence of spirit around them of men who died in battle while they went home.  Was it they who died with their comrades or is it that their comrades are living in them, taking up such subtle residence in their own lives that they go unnoticed until bidden forth and openly acknowledged in prayer and ritual?

An entire graduating class of students who will never walk by the diploma on their wall without a pit-in-the-stomach remembrance of a classmate who accidentally strangled on the monkey bars or died when the bus returning from the field hockey tournament overturned on an slick road. Time is not linear, it is series of overlapping and intertwined playground slides.

I don’t want to live an unhaunted life.  I believe it is our duty to the dead to carry them as they carry us within the multiple dimensions where souls and time swirl in some intricate pattern that Einstein never imagined but possibly intuited.

My father died at fifty. He had had heart problems that were exacerbated by his Type A+ personality, his uncontrollable (and now, I see, utterly ridiciulous and narcissistic) rages, his workaholism and his “bum arteries.” It was also the 1970′s and early 80′s when the end of his story unfolded and cardiac care was in its infancy. When he had open heart surgery he had to travel from Connecticut to Ohio, and his recovery was long and serious, endured by the whole family around a rented hospital bed in the living room. He was considered an invalid, and a ticking time bomb.

Nowadays, the Carl Weinsteins of the world go in for a triple bypass and come out a few days later with instructions to return to normal activity as soon as possible. I’ve seen men in their seventies have quadruple bypass surgeries and live happy subsequent decades of golfing and Sunday prime rib dinners.

My father died at fifty and it was a personal tragedy for me. There are greater losses and more serious injustices in the world than a child of 17 losing her father on a Tuesday afternoon in April. But we do not tell our stories to compare suffering. I should know better than to even mention the relative scope of my loss. Pain that crushes, crushes. This loss crushed me. It is my “original wound,” as Henri Nouwen put it.

As the decades wore on, I had time to “heal,” or to put the loss into perspective, and more importantly, to dismantle the private religion of Weinstein worship in which I had grown up and been ordained. My paternal extended family has a gift of  huge charisma, self-mythologizing, warm grandiosity, pride and (thank God) self-directed humor. We are an intense tribe, a sarcastic one, and a loyal one. We are as colorfully dysfunctional as any family. I have come to understand that the devastating persecution suffered by our kin in Europe — and the slaughter by the Nazis of those Weinsteins who did not emigrate to the United States — is the foundation of the American Weinsteins’ zealous commitment to survive, thrive, contribute to society, and tell our stories.

I learned only recently, in fact, that a branch of my Romanian family escaped the pogroms and fled to Paris where they lived well and happily for decades until they were rounded up by the Vichy government and sent to Dachau. On my most recent trip to Paris I had “just happened” upon the very small memorial marker near the Eiffel Tower Metro that identified the place where Jews were rounded up before deportation and “happened” to mention it to a family member. Didn’t we have relatives who escaped Romania for Paris? Yes, and they fled from virulent Romanian anti-Semitism right into Hitler’s gas chambers.

How had I never heard this?

These stories were too traumatic to tell, so we told stories of success: educational, professional, personal. We romanticized ourselves and our domineering papas watched their children with eagle eyes for evidence of the talent, brilliance, poise, beauty and integrity we were damned well expected to have. We were Weinsteins. 

Being a Weinstein is no longer my primary identity. It is one of the many things that I am.

In 1983, Carl Davis Weinstein “succumbed,” as they said in his obituary, at fifty. His second child turned fifty in 2016 and celebrated her birthday and then released a sigh of relief that it was over. Continue reading

Posted in memories, Theological Reflection | 8 Comments

The Demanding Tree (A Re-Telling of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”)

“The Demanding Tree” by the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, revised Earth Day 2016

Once there was a tree.  And she loved a little boy.

And every day the boy would come, and he would gather her leaves

and make them into crowns and play king of the forest.

And the tree loved the little boy, but the tree was a bit irritated.  ”King of the forest, my trunk,” she thought. “Wherever did those human beings get such an attitude problem?”

Time went by, and the boy grew older, and the tree was often alone, which was nice and quiet, but she missed the boy.

Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree called out to him, “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat my apples and play in my shade and be happy.”

“I am too big to climb and play,” said the boy.  I want to buy things and have fun.  I want some money.  Can you give me some money?”

 ”No chance,” said the tree.  “I have only leaves and apples.  Why don’t you go get a job if money’s so important to you? I hear that the Nature Conservancy is looking for clerical staff.  Why don’t you apply?”

And so the boy applied for the job and sent many e-mails and processed many donations to the Nature Conservancy, and the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away for a long time, and the tree was sad.

And then one day the boy came back and the tree shook with joy and she said, “What took you so long? You don’t call, you don’t write, how’s the job? And tell me, who do you think would really be better for the environment, Bernie or Jill?”

“I am too busy to talk politics with you, Tree” said the boy.  “I want a house to keep me warm. I want a wife and I want children, so I need a house.  Can you give me a house?”

“Of course I can’t give you a house,” replied the tree.  “The forest is my house.  But you’re certainly welcome to pitch a tent on the ground here, and we’ll have a great time.”

“Thanks but no thanks, Tree,” said the boy.  “Maybe I’ll start an intentional community with some of my friends.”

“That’s the ticket,” cheered the tree.  “You Americans already have far too many houses. Why build another?”

So the boy went off to start a co-op with a group of spiritually -centered progressive vegans who embraced voluntary simplicity.

And the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away a very long time, and when he came back the tree was so happy she waved her branches excitedly.  “Well would you look what the cat dragged in!! Look at you, Boy! Good Lord, you look awful.  You humans just don’t age as well as we trees do, do you, Boy?”

“You’ve got that right, dear Tree,” replied the boy.  “I wish I could stay and shoot the breeze with you, but I am too old and sad.  I want a boat that will take me far away from here.  Can you give me a boat?”

“Whoa,” said the tree. “I don’t like the way you’re looking at my trunk there, pal.  You want to get far away from here? You’ve got legs.  Walk.   And on the way, why don’t you take some of these seeds and plant some more trees? Make like Johnny Appleseed.  It’ll do us all good.”

So the boy embraced the tree, took the seeds and started on his journey.

And the tree was happy.  Really.

After a long, long time, the boy came back again.

“I’m sorry, Boy,” said the tree.  ”You have no more teeth to sink into my apples.

You’re too fragile to swing in my branches.

Your friends and your intentional community are long gone,

and your old legs can’t take you around as they used to.

We both know that you are at the end of your story, and that I will long outlast you.

I just wish that I could give you something to comfort you. . . .”

“I don’t need very much,” said the boy.  “Just a quiet place to swing and rest.”

“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could. “Well, this old tree is good for swinging and resting!Come, Boy, tie your hammock on this branch over here …and on this branch way over here.  Come, Boy, swing from my arms, and rest.”

And the boy did.

And the tree was very happy.






Posted in Cultural Commentary, Greatest Hits, Mind of the Minister, Worship and Liturgy | Comments Off