During the period of MUUF closing, see Reflections here. See below for Reflections starting with March 10.

 Reflection:  March 28, 2020

The Power of Love    by Rumi
Through love bitter things taste sweet.
Through love pains become healing balms
Through love thorns turn into roses
Through love vinegar becomes sweet wine
Through love hard stones turn soft like butter.
Through love soft wax becomes hard iron.
Through love grief has the flavor of joy.
Through love stings are like honey.
Through love lions are as harmless as mice.
Through love sickness is health.
Through love the dead come to life.
Through love the king is humble as a slave.
My mom had been looking forward to going to Epcot back in February. My uncle had promised to take her. The day came and Mom was heading to the doctors instead. She had developed a severe sinus infection that brought her down. She was sorely disappointed that she could not go to Epcot. She had enjoyed it years ago. We thought perhaps once she was better, we would go in March and then Disney closed. One of the first attractions to close due to the Coronavirus. 
The last few weeks have been hard because Mom is in that 1% who would most likely not survive an infection of this virus. In hindsight it was probably best that she had not gone to Epcot. Because what we now know is that this virus was already here infecting people. Epcot is very people dense and had she gone, who knows if she would have been exposed to this virus. 
We try to find the blessing in such disappointments. We try to find meaning in such turn of events. Fred Rogers repeated a story his mother told him as a child, when tragedy strikes look to the helpers. Perhaps Disney closing was due in part to the helpers who saw what they could do to help stop the spread and acted quickly by closing the theme park. Where are the helpers in this current situation? It is in the helpers that we will find grace. It is there that we will find the hope and strength to continue through this journey that is filled with so much uncertainty and worry. The helpers are the ones who are offering love and comfort in their own creative and unique ways. It is in the helpers that journey with us that we find our ability to journey forward in hope. 
What helpers have appeared in your life during this time of pandemic? It might be in a phone call from a friend made at just the right moment letting us know that we are not alone. It might be a letter from a relative sharing what they are experiencing. It might be supporting one another by sharing stories of our lives from yesterday that allow us to carry on to a new day. It is the small things that bring us hope. It is the small things that aid us in our journey. It is the everyday helpers in our lives that bring us comfort. 
Rev. Fred
Please hold these people close in our hearts and in our thoughts:
Randy and Barb McCrea are grieving the loss of their cousin and also of a dear friend. Please offer them condolences and love.
Please hold friends of MUUF Steve Henry and Mary Desmone in our thoughts as they return home to Pennsylvania to care for their daughter who is recovering from surgery. They regret that they will not be able to offer the service on April 26th
Please hold Lisa Janz in our thoughts, who is in physical rehab.  
Please hold close in our hearts, Lois Stilley who is still recovering from recent medical events, and all of our members who live in Westminster facilities as they are essentially on lock down at this time. They are unable to receive visitors. Give them a call. 
Please hold Beverly Von Holt close in our thoughts and prayers. She is receiving loving support in home hospice. She is still welcoming phone calls.
Rosa Whiting asks for good thoughts for her daughter Kelsey Whiting-Jones who has been designated as being presumptive for Covid-19 infection in Boulder, CO.
Barbara Jensen asks for thoughts and prayers for their son, Keith, who serves as a radiology technician. He has been treating some patients who are positive for the virus and does not have enough protection supplies.
 Please hold all medical, paramedical, and other essential workers who are coming into contact with this virus even as they attempt to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Please continue to hold in our thoughts and prayers all of our members and friends whose underlying health concerns place them at risk of a critical infection should they be exposed to Covid-19. We need to continue to follow strict adherence of staying home, of washing our hands thoroughly, of maintaining 6 feet of distance between others, and not making any errands that are not life supporting (Life supporting defined as food, pharmacy, banking, and essential doctor appointments).
Please support one another during this time of isolation from one another, especially these who are facing difficult journeys. Reach out by calling family and friends to check on them. Offer your love and concern.  
During this Coronavirus Pandemic, our Office Administrator, Karen Salzinger, has been working alternately between the MUUF office and her home office. The MUUF office phone has been forwarded to Karen’s cell phone so she will be able to answer your call during regular office hours M-F 8:00-1:00pm.
Additionally, you may always call Rev. Fred at 205-246-6201
Rev. Fred is beginning a Zoom check in on Thursdays from 10 AM to Noon. He has the professional version of Zoom which allows for a longer time frame. EVERYBODY is encouraged to join in this Zoom gathering! Come for as little as 5 minutes or stay as long as you wish. An email was sent last week on how to join Zoom. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Fred or any board member.


Click here for March 20, 2020 Reflection

March 20, 2020

Reflection: Lockdown by Brother Richard Hendrick
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Message to Congregations from Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President 
Homily:  Lockdown  Rev. Fred L Hammond March 20 2020 ©
I don’t know if you have had this experience yet. I am very much aware that when I go out of the house alone, whether that is to walk to the mailbox kiosk or drive to the grocery store or some other location that I am taking my mother along with me.  As you know she is 91 years young and is in that small fraction of people who, if infected, could develop critical health issues that could also take her life. 
So, it is important that whenever I go out of the house, that I keep my physical distance from others of at least 6 feet. That I wash my hands thoroughly and frequently. That I don’t touch my face in between hand washing because I could inadvertently become infected. 
What I also have learned is that I don’t need to be showing symptoms to be contagious. So, when I return to the house after doing my essential errands (essential being defined as grocery shopping, gas station, pharmacy, and doctor’s appointments) I am bringing all those people I met into my home to meet my mother. And because I do not know who may have the virus or not, (coughing could also be allergies, asthma, COPD, or some other less severe infection) that becomes a major risk to not only my health, but also my mother’s health. 
So I will not have be having one on one meetings with folks in person. I don’t want to infect my mother. And I would hope that you all do not want to infect your loved ones either. Or place yourself at risk of being infected by your loved ones. This means, not having your grandkids and children over to visit you. This means not going to your neighbors for a coffee chat. It means not seeing your friends in person, even if they seem Oh so very healthy. Because they may not be, and they may only experience the sniffles at the same time that the pine pollen is at its peak. They always get the sniffles during this pollen season, but this time, it might not be sniffles from pollen but sniffles from this coronavirus. Each person experiences the virus differently. Please do not risk it. Stay home.
Documented Cases in the US is now over 19K+ and rapidly approaching 20K— more than doubled from Thursday, two days ago, according to John Hopkins University.
Florida has joined NY in mandating the closing of all restaurants (except take out), bars, gyms, beaches, movies, concerts. Documented cases, as of 11:30 AM on Saturday, in Florida is now 658 and 11 in Manatee county (Manatee had one death) according to Florida Health department. As testing increases this number will rise dramatically.
Because we have lagged in testing – we are still playing catch-up to determine the contagion reach of this virus. This means that staying at home is vital and will remain vital for weeks to come until we have a handle on transmission of this disease.
If we all stay home voluntarily, then perhaps Florida will not follow California, New York, Illinois in implementing a mandatory stay home order. I personally find that preferable than being ordered to stay home.
So, what do we do? How shall we continue? We can do this. Call your friends and relatives. If you both have a smartphone, use FaceTime to see your loved ones. Use social media, Facebook live, to share your lives with one another. Email, snail mail, reach out and stay connected. Having conversations with each other is a coping method. it will help with the isolation and loneliness that is being felt. Stay connected.
Take solitary walks outside and notice the beauty that is around you. Life is still happening all around us. Try to stay focused on this present moment. Use your phone to capture this beauty and share it in emails, on Facebook, Instagram, etc. 
Life continues. In this present moment, life is. Humanity has faced harsh times before and we got through them. A bit worn for the wear, perhaps, but in this moment, we can still love one another. Our lives depend on it. Blessed Be. 
Click here for March 19, 2020 Reflection

March 19, 2020

I want to remind folks to check in with one another by phone or email.Especially those in Westminster, where they are on a basic lock down and not letting in visitors and not encouraging in home group gatherings. We need to support each other in this time, be gentle with one another as there is a lot of stress and anxiety on many fronts with this pandemic.  We are all affected by it in one form or another. Please, Please, be gentle with one another and your self.  
I was hoping to have a video to embed but that has not yet come together yet. We think we know how to do that now. I am looking into other ways for us to gather via online formats. The board recently met via Zoom and that worked okay.  
The building is closed. That means there is no reason for any member, with few exceptions, to enter the building at this time. 
Please hold Bernie Salzinger, Beverly Von Holt, Lois Stilley, Charles McLeod, and Lisa Janz in your thoughts and prayers. They each have had medical issues (not related to the virus) that requires our most loving and kindest care. Lois and Charles are both in facilities that have essentially locked down, so a card or a phone call would be helpful.  
I thought I would share a letter that AJ Wolff sent out to some folks. It sets a tone that is comforting and I hope that it helps ease your spirits as well.  
Be well, 
Good Morning,
I hope you are doing well on this beautiful Florida day. I missed seeing everyone yesterday. I’m soon off to the beach with my 94 year old dad to enjoy the morning watching the waves, birds and breathing the delightful fresh air. There will be a others about a kind of distant community that will feel welcoming but safe as we are not in each others personal space. I heard that in Italy people are singing out windows and chatting to feel community.
 I came across this poem this morning that was sent to me sometime back and it felt right to send out on this day. For we need to still be in this world today and everyone breathing and living our best life.
 In Joy,
One of my favorite poets for all occasions in William Stafford, who wrote a poem every single day including the day he died. And it’s one of his I offer you today, called, “You Reading This, Be Ready”
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
This week some folks received a SCAM email from Rev. Fred This email was asking for a favor of gift cards to be sent. This email also closed with the words “God bless” and Fred’s name was misspelled. Rev. Fred wants everyone to know that he would NEVER ask for a favor from anyone through an email, and would NEVER use the words “God Bless” and of course, would NEVER misspell his own name. Please, please be wise when reading your emails. Look for errors which would lead you to think this was a scam. Please always verify anything that you might question. An ounce of prevention…
Click here for March 12, 2020 Reflection

March 12, 2020

Reading: Pandemic
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–     Rev. Lynn Ungar 3/11/20, Unitarian Universalist Minister
No Time for a Casual Faith Rev Fred L Hammond ©
The events of 2020 have been moving so fast it is making my head spin. Every day there is some outrageous development in Tallahassee, Washington, DC and then the Coronavirus begins showing up in the Northwest, then in southwest, then Florida—Manatee County. We wanted to stay calm, downplay the potential impact and as long as we did not know anyone with the virus then we had an invisible bubble around us. Then Italy happened. Two weeks ago, they had 15 cases as of this writing the country is on lockdown with over 18,000 cases and a tripling of deaths. Two weeks ago, Florida had 8 cases, and as of this writing 50+ cases. We are still not testing with the aggressiveness that other countries are testing, so we have no accurate measure of how many people are infected unaware of the risk they pose to others with suppressed immune systems. As tests come online, we can expect an exponential growth in numbers. This is not an indication of the spread, only finally recording what has happened in the past few weeks.
Our board decided to suspend services and meetings as an extreme act of trying to curtail opportunities to spread the disease within our membership. What is being termed as social distancing seems to be the only way to remove the oxygen from this fire that is Coronavirus. It does however turn upside down everything we have grown accustomed to in our routines. We enjoyed gathering on Sundays to sing, to pray and meditate, to hear the choir singing, to hear inspiring sermons. We enjoyed each other’s conversations. We celebrated being fully present with one another.
All that has been suspended because of a virus that potentially could endanger our members lives. It begs the question; how do we do this faith now? Across this country, Unitarian Universalist congregations are suspending their services this weekend. This is no time for business as usual. We cannot. Our in-person gatherings at this time are not safe because this virus is so contagious and virulent for our health compromised members. We may feel fine but still have the virus and transmit to an immune suppressed member.
So, for now, we are staying apart. It feels unnatural. It feels surreal like some science fiction movie. The CDC is calling for social distancing. We are urged to not attend large group functions and maintain 6-foot distancing. The precise language the government is really advocating for is NOT SOCIAL Distancing but PHYSICAL Distancing. We are a social species. It is how we evolved into being human. We need to be social, even the most introverted among us still needs human interaction. With no real fore knowledge of this pandemic, I have been preaching from the pulpit the need for us to reach out to one another, to call, to email, to write letters/cards to our members. It is time we live THAT faith in supporting one another. This is no time for a casual faith, we need to practice the best of our faith now. We need to stay in touch with one another in supportive ways.
So, when our leaders in the fellowship make their weekly phone call and/or email check in, respond. Have that phone conversation. Share what you are thinking about. Share what you are feeling. Let our leaders know what you want shared with others. Live the faith that is supportive and receives support from one another. We will be a stronger faith community because of this weekly contact with one another. And please contact one another to check in. Don’t just rely on the board members to be your only connection. Call on others. Support one another. Lean on one another during this time, even if from a physical distance. We still need to be social with one another to get through this crazy and surreal time. May we live our best supportive faith with one another. May it be so. Blessed Be.
Meditation by Lee Allison Paczulla
Blessed are the elderly, and the immunosuppressed
Blessed are the fearful, the anxious and irritable
Blessed are the ones who use humor to get by
The ones who could use a vacation anyway
The ones who fear for their life
Blessed are the ones who are sick of it;
All the flawed logic, the security theater
Blessed are the ones who cry out
“this is why we need a safety net! A kinder society! A new world!”
Blessed are the health care workers,
the administrators catching heat for every decision,
the messengers with no power over the message
Blessed are the sad, and the lonely
Blessed are the healthy and the sick, the well and the unwell
Blessed are all of us just trying to do our best
Blessed are those who stay kind and clear,
who keep our eyes open to each other
Blessed is our neighbor
Blessed are we all
Blessed are we all
Blessed are we all
Click Here for March 10, 2020 Message

Special Message from Rev. Fred L Hammond


 Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Board of Directors has decided to take a dramatic response to the very fast-moving Coronavirus pandemic landscape by suspending all programs at MUUF until further notice.  The board will be re-evaluating this suspension on April 7 th .  Until then, all programs, all worship services, all gatherings occurring at the building have been suspended. All in the hope that our doing this will help protect our members, friends, and neighbors from being exposed to this virus.

Karen will continue to be in the office generally Monday through Friday until 1 PM.  I will remain available for conversations and pastoral care through a variety of venues, including phone calls, FB messenger, FB Live, Zoom and emails. 

The CDC has recommended that people over the age of 60 restrain from attending events where social distance between people is difficult to maintain.  This includes attending concerts, sporting events, and yes, church services.  We are a congregation where 91% of us are over the age of 70 and many of us have additional health challenges which places our health at greater risk of the challenges of flu and Coronavirus.

This decision did not come lightly.  Our board and staff have been closely watching and listening to reports from the CDC and WHO about this new virus strain. We watched how Italy in two-weeks’ time went from 15 cases to over 10K. We watched as one person resulted in a city being placed in containment in New York within a week’s time. And since our nation has been slow to act, this scenario could happen here.  Unless we act with courage and do the thing that may seem extreme today, we will be repeating the scenario. Here is what we know to protect ourselves:

1.     Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds minimum.  Wash your hands after every use of tissues, after touching your face, after using the restrooms, before meal prep and before eating a snack or meal.
2.     Cough and sneeze into the elbow not into your hands.
3.     Stay home if feeling ill.  Can’t stress this enough.
4.     Greet others using non-physical contact—hands together as in prayer and a slight bow, hand across heart.  – Fist bumps, elbow taps are not safer—remember why you are being asked to wash your hands frequently and where you are coughing and sneezing.
5.     Maintain 6 feet social distance from others.  This is perhaps the most important. And why avoiding crowds is vital in slowing the spread of the virus. 

We grieve our inability to come together at this time.  We know this decision will be hard to accept by some folks.  It was hard for the board to make this decision. We need to find a way to stay connected during this difficult and scary time.  We have a plan to help us stay connected
during this current pandemic. 

You will receive an email, and/or phone call every week from one of our board members and leaders of the congregation.  This will be a check-in conversation requesting how you are doing, what are your concerns, what are your needs, what would you like others to know.  Each leader of the group will give me a weekly summary.  This way we can all stay in touch and support one another during this time.  We chose this method because many of us do not have access to Facebook or computer programs that would allow for live streaming of Sunday messages.  So please, when we email or call, please let us know how you are doing, what supports do you need, what is happening in your life that you might like to share. 

Our weekly two-minute update will include a reflection by me, one that hopefully will feed your spirit. This will be a venue for us to share what is happening with one another.

Blessings, Rev. Fred