January 2021 Ministerial Miscellany – Rev. Annie Kopko

Don’t tell me how glad you are that 2020 is over. I already know that! Me too. We already know that 2021 will be better. When I hear you say “Happy New Year” it means a lot more to me this year. On Valentines Day I found out I had breast cancer. Less than 2 weeks later, we were hearing very dismal messages about a new rapidly spreading virus, and 2 weeks after that we were required to shelter at home. This meant a halt on my massage therapy work. I must have needed a vacation, so I took it. I decided to take responsibility for all that was happening to me, reaffirm my decision making power, and not become a victim of anything that was happening for any reason. (And at the same time I decided to do everything the doctors told me to do.) I had an opportunity to slow down and become very quiet, more than I had chosen to be in a very long time.

In this new year it is a very good time to do some deeply healing practice and contemplation, whatever that means for each of us. All the tools we need are within us. Listen carefully and creatively. Due to the depth that I seem to need to go in this lifetime of healing, it makes me think that I have not been aware of healing needs in every lifetime. I have probably been exploring many darker choices.

What have we been learning in this time of healing? Laughter is essential. Life itself is the ultimate gift. We are not assured of much of anything else. How we express it is our choice. Attitude is everything. Every little and big challenge takes courage. Practicing trust is a really good idea. We are never alone, and we are very deeply loved, more than we can know.

I am so delighted to know that you know we are all in this together, and we are here to love and support one another. This has been a year of great love for me. Thank you!

Opportunities to show up for yourself and each other come to you via email every Monday afternoon from Layla Ananda, our Webmaster. She lists all the Zoom links for our classes, study groups, socials, and musical opportunities, including Cafe 704, featuring Madcat Ruth in January. They will also be listed on our website: interfaithspirit.org. See you there.

Many blessings for a great New Year! Annie

December 2020 Ministerial Miscellany ~ Rev. Annie Kopko

As I write these words, snow is falling on the barn and the bare trees and the green grass. It is actually quite beautiful out there. What could be a better reminder of my Peace than that? Usually when I look at snow, I feel cold, I shudder, I envision difficult driving conditions and emotional struggle. Even though I don’t complain verbally very often, I am thinking my complaints without any peace whatsoever. Of course, it was not always like this. I remember when I was a kid, I loved the snow. Where I grew up in New York State we had about 10 times as much as we have now. I did not complain then, why now?

Snow is an especially good reminder of the dual nature and contrast that guides our thinking and our lives. We may struggle, and we may suffer, but we meet every challenge. We have strength that we can hardly imagine. We really do have love for the high and low of it all. We have courage as we open our hearts, because we do not know what may surprise us next. It is so amazing to me to watch myself and others around me open up to the possibilities and to the gifts that every challenge, big or small, holds for all of us. We have proved to ourselves, again and again, that with the help of our spirit within, we have everything we need for a satisfying life.

Dare I say, even in this time of Covid 19! In fact, especially in these times, the gifts are greater, as the challenge is greater. Especially when it seems that we do not have much of a choice. My sense is to open our hearts to even more possibilities than we imagined, and just see what happens…

Every day there is something happening at Interfaith on Zoom. Please join us for classes, study groups, and socials. Every Monday, Layla Ananda sends out the links on our email list. If you are not signed up to receive email announcements the links are on our website: interfaithspirit.org. How easy is that!

November 2020 Ministerial Miscellany – Rev. Annie Kopko

Ministerial Miscellany Nov. 2020 Beyond Gratitude.

This is the time of year when we are remembering to be truly grateful for all that we are blessed to have in our lives, our job, our family, our cozy home, our bills paid. What about being grateful for what and who we are being? What about being grateful for whatever is unconditioned in ourselves and in our lives? I know how important it is to appreciate all that we have and all that we have accomplished, but all those things are conditional, and they will change over time, and pass away. And anything can change instantly and scares us when it does. Remember the last time your car “broke down” or failed you in some way? It felt like a struggle to bring it back to normal.

Are you remembering to be thankful for your courageous heart? Are you thankful for all your capacity for joy, fun, and laughter? Are you remembering all the love around you in the world that feeds your soul? Our attention is drawn to all the difficulties in the world, but can you remember the love and joy that is the underpinning of human consciousness and is experienced by most of us every day? Do you remember to look around you and feel the beauty there, no matter what you see? Like the next baby at the grocery store, and the dog you meet on your walk? When you do remember, it is because you are the beauty, you are the love that you seek. Only because of what is in you, are you able to see it everywhere.

Being in the company of this community of angels playing and exploring and giving all they’ve got to this human experience helps me remember who I really am and what I am becoming.

You will find the activities of this Interfaith community listed on our website and all the links in your email so you can join the Sunday service, study groups, and classes available to everyone each week. We love it when you join us. And we love it whenever you can make a financial contribution too. There is a spot on our website, and our address is there too, for snail mail.
Many Blessings, Annie

October 2020 Ministerial Miscellany Rev. Annie Kopko

One of my takeaways from going through breast cancer treatment all these months seems to be understanding the need to take care of myself, the need to be kind to myself, the need to think well of and to honor myself. I don’t know that I really know how to do these things very well, but I have definitely been offered ways to explore this. I have noticed that I am less in a hurry and that I give myself more time to get things done. I stop more often to take a deep breath.

It is interesting that one of the ways to take care of myself is to let others help me, especially by bringing me food and giving me rides. You are sending cards with little love notes and calling me to see how I am doing. When you say to me, “How are you?” I know that you really mean it. The outpouring of love from this community has been divinely inspired. This is just what we do and who we are. I have no doubts.

It is so easy to forget that we are magnificent expressions of our one Spiritual Source. No matter what we are going through or thinking about what life may seem to be dumping upon us, we are Divine. And we are powerful and whole enough to know that we have choices, choices that we exercise every day. We know that we deserve the love that we receive from each other. One of the highest expressions of our divine humanity is forgiveness, of course, but of equal importance is gratitude. Give thanks for everything (and I mean everything).

Our Sunday Services are on Zoom each week. Layla Ananda sends out the links for all of our activities on the Yahoo group every Monday.

Enjoy your October and the changes of Fall in the parts of our world preparing to sleep.
Blessings to All! Annie

2020 Interfaith Center Annual Meeting – Bylaw Change

On Sunday, April 26, the Interfaith Center held its Annual Meeting online, due to the current stay-home, stay-safe order.  We voted to make a change to our bylaws to reflect the current leadership team plan, which so beautifully meets our needs for spiritual and administrative leadership!  If you missed the meeting, or would like to look at the details again, here they are:

ICSG Info for Annual Meeting 2020 edited

Here’s a larger-type version of the above.

Here are the Bylaws before 4/26/20 change.

Pandemic Poem

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.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

Blessings – A Poem by E.S. Nowakowski

Good tidings and blessings come forth for this year.
A year, that we hope may move us beyond fear,

Beyond fear into love and creation’s embrace.
Embracing, not running, there is nothing to chase.

In chasing whatever, our attention is drawn
Drawn into a frame, our freedom is gone.

For gone is the past. The present is now.
Now is the moment we experience “Wow!”

This “Wow” is the feeling that springs from the garden.
The garden that is planted with seeds of pardon.

Pardon the sentence you’ve given yourself.
Your Self is the trophy that rests on the shelf.

A selfish desire dissolves upon knowing.
Knowing Love never left, in fact it’s ongoing.

Ongoing through them and through you and through me.
Meeting in us, or though so it seems.

Seams appear in the fabric of time.
Timeless creation is waiting behind.

Behind you is last year, and hour, and minute
Minute, insignificant, they’re no longer in it.

Knit us together in purpose and presence
Cleansing the lens, joining luminescence.

Illuminating rays so bright and so clear.
Clarify our path as we move through this year.

Faith in Mystery

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty,”

Brene Brown

This spring has brought transitions into our community like a whirlwind of air on a spring day.  It ushered in change that will soon bring about flowers of life, songs of spirituality, and community growth.  On April 1st 2018, the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth senior minister unexpectedly departed from our community. Following a grieving and regrouping period of two weeks the ICSG Board hosted a weekend of peace circles at ICSG. Two talented and trained mediators guided community members in attendance to speak earnestly and openly about their human experiences, hopes, and dreams for the ICSG community.

Our community spoke of the trust they invested in creating a space of emotional safety over the previous ten months. They spoke of the painful challenge of the previous three weeks of seeking the opportunity in disguise for ICSG to become more than it had been before.

The idea for the community convening developed on April 3rd. Comfort and clarity became priorities for the board when the pleasant and jovial norms of Sunday Service announcements were broken on the second and third Sundays.

Synchronistically Khristian Speelman and Layla Ananda – professional conflict resolution facilitators – reached out separately to offer their skills of holding safe space for our community to share the experience of participatory healing.

Layla created an altar of rose quartz and a single candle in the center of the circles. Khristian opened the first circle with a prayer for open heartedness, intentional presence allowing healing and moving forward.

Our wireless microphone became our spiritual talking stick. Each person had the mic for three minutes to explain what they were processing, what was most important moving forward, and what they need or want to offer for our community to heal.

Between the forty humans on Saturday and the sixty humans on Sunday exquisite care and respect for the integrity of ICSG became apparent. Two specific themes stood out: our spiritual family and home and spiritual activism.

Spiritual Family and Spiritual Home is a feeling of the power of the collective and the individual. It includes everyone’s point of view where we learn and grow together while sharing spiritual presence. It is a feeling of full hearts no matter how things go in the outside world. It is a mirror of the divinity within each of us. It holds space for studies, celebrations, spiritual experiences, and fellowship.

Spiritual Activism at ICSG needs continued support and acknowledgment. Activism takes many forms and looks different for each person. We are called to activism. We are challenged to surrender unto Love by all of our exchanges with one another. Being present in this community is a tremendously profound amount of work. The world needs more love and at ICSG we are able to expand our ability to be more loving. Internal activism is healing our own inner pollution by asking ourselves such questions as what is my opportunity for change today? We hope to inspire and draw many more people with energy to do what it takes to heal this world. To walk in the mystery, extending Love to All That Is, and having faith that we are not alone in this world.  

Thank you Khristian Speelman and Layla Ananda for creating the peace circles with intention of engaging our spiritual community.

“And while I stood there, I saw more than I can tell and I understand more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being”

Black Elk, Wichasha Wakan Oglala Lakota.

 

-Mary Alice Truitt

ICSG Board Chair

Heart & Soul

Heart & Soul

Rev. Annie Kopko

 

We begin with an excerpt from The Butterfly Effect by Andy An- drews.

There are generations yet unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take today. And to- morrow. And the next day. And the next.

Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. On the planet Earth, there has never been one like you …and there will never be again. Your spirit, your thoughts and feelings, your ability to reason and act all exist in no one else. The rarities that make you special are no mere accident or quirk of fate. You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world. Know that your actions cannot be hoarded, saved for later, or used selectively. By your hand, millions—billions—of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day. The very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose. Your actions have value far greater than silver or gold. Your life… And what you do with it today …matters forever.

So how do we live, knowing this is true? We live consciously, gently, respectfully, purposefully, grateful and considerate of all things, per- ceived and not perceived. I call this leadership. And if you do not think you are a leader, think again. Everything you do, say, feel, and think matters and has consequences. We are in relationship with all living beings. Each of us pays attention to another.

So how do we live knowing we will die?  We live lovingly, knowing that what we do, think, and say fulfills a destiny we planned long before this lifetime.

We live consciously, knowing that what we think matters. We know we have the power to create change all around us.

We live deliberately, knowing that what moves us affects everyone. The love we give is the love we live.

We live with purpose, choosing what we love, and following that star.

When we love ourselves enough to choose happiness, we lift up our- selves and everyone who comes in contact with us. Happiness is not a goal, it is the way to live.

We may as well do this for ourselves and others, to honor our spirit. No one else can do it for us. That is why I write, it makes me happy and moves my life in positive ways that I don’t even know.

We are not our pain, but painful opportunities will present themselves to us, because we are spirits that have bodies. There are negative experi- ences in abundance in the world around us. When we sit up straight and take some deep breaths, we feel better physically and mentally. We might even choose to resist getting involved in our own opportunities for drama, and we automatically create the will and courage that it takes to face and embrace anything and everything.

It takes a lot of love, beginning with loving ourselves. There are a few things I recommend:

  • There is no need to judge everything you do or do not do. You are perfect in your imperfection. Let go expectations and open to unexpected inspiration.
  • Forgive yourself and others. We are all doing our best. Connect with your inner light. You have deep within unrec- ognized resources. Acknowledge the presence of your soul power and possibility. You can use this power, but first you must recognize, and accept it, then use it to heal your past.
  • Respect all people and their choices. What is most yours is your choice of your attitude. Do not let your own negative attitude or the attitude of another be your prison. Nourish your soul with beauty around you. We try to keep flowers in our house all the time.
  • Eventually everything must be given up. Letting go releases us to the self organizing power of the universe.

Don’t you want to see what is possible? I love the last part of this poem.

 

 The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down,

Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With you one wild and precious life?

 

Snapshot of Associate Minister Annie Kopko of the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor.

 

 

 

 

by Rev. Annie Kopko 

Gender Jam Begins at ICSG!

Contributed by Robert Fagerlund
What is Gender Jam, you ask? It is a regular meeting group to provide a nonjudgmental, supportive, not scary forum to discuss and share on gender issues, social sexual roles and expectations, women’s issues, men’s issues, LGBTQ issues, straight issues, and any other related topics. There will be no agenda, no predetermined topic or issue. Conversation will arise from whatever attendees wish to talk about. This will be open to everyone in the community. Attendees participation in sharing or commenting is not required. No one will ever be “put on the spot” or made to feel uncomfortable about speaking or about not speaking.
The first Gender Jam will be on Tuesday, March 13 from 7:00–9:00p. Come on and check it out! Gender Jam is free. Donations to the Interfaith Center will be accepted. 
To get the conversation started, here is a message from Rob Fagerlund, the creator of the group:
Feminism is the best thing that ever happened to men.
Why do I say that? One thing feminism set in motion (and I mean long ago, at least as far back Susan B. Anthony and the other nineteenth century feminists who fought for women’s rights) is a challenge to destructive and oppressive gender roles and expectations for everyone.
And no, the feminist struggle is far from over. But that’s not really my focus here. I would like to make a few observations about feminism and men.

Continue reading Gender Jam Begins at ICSG!