March 2021, Ministerial Miscellany by Rev. Annie Kopko

HAPPY SPRING!

Today is a really exciting day! I am listening to the trill of the redwing blackbirds at my birdfeeder this morning for the first time this year! You can’t miss them because the sound is so distinct. For me, this is the beginning of Spring! It is the time of year I get outside more, and appreciate the natural world to a much greater degree than in the winter. I become much more tuned in to all the changes, and open up to my inner and outer processes. I complain and criticize less about anything and everything.

Let’s talk about trees. I have been watching the trees; there’s not much change lately, but there will be very soon. They all have blossoms of some kind, with as much variety as our favorite blossoms on the ground, mostly without as much color. We recognize trees as a higher life form. They are connected with each other and the growth of the plants of a whole area through their own unique chemical and fungal underground communication. We human beings help to restore the balance in any area by touching the trees, communicating with the trees and listening to the trees. We heal ourselves and the land. We heal our bodies and we heal our souls. We feel physically restored. This is all about our connection with our spirit, our land, and our love for each other. I ask you to listen, pay attention, be aware. Breathe deeply. You will heal.

We see that all of our events at Interfaith are healing too, in so many ways. We will find the links for the ZOOM sessions come to our email, as long as we have signed up to the group messages. If you have not, go to our website at interfaithspirit.org. Every Monday Layla Ananda sends out all the information you need to stay connected. Thank you, Layla!

Sending Love and Blessings to All, Annie

February 2021 Ministerial Miscellany – Rev. Annie Kopko

Ministerial Miscellany February 2021

Relationships?….yes, this is the time of year we pay more attention to our quest to love unconditionally and to whether we think our close relationships are going well or not so well and whether we might give more attention to how we could be doing better. First of all, let’s remember there is nothing to fix. Everything is evolving in divine right order. And we truly have in consciousness everything we have ever needed to become who we were meant to be, that angel of human and divine being. This knowingness is, of course, the carrot hanging over the donkey’s head as we travel our journeys of our lifetimes.

I don’t know about you, but I just “lose it” frequently. I feel as if I overreact way too often. A disagreement may not even last long. But because we live so much in our ego consciousness, we think we are, need to be, and deserve to be in control of our own lives. Well, I think we are in control of how we respond to what is going on. And we are responsible for creating the bigger picture of our lives. However, unless we truly go about understanding everything through the eyes of our Spiritual self, we are just taking a shot in the dark, and whatever peace we find will not last.

We must consider all of our ideas, our intentions, and our decisions from our place of love, wholeness, and joy. My prayer for us is this: May we remember who we are when we stop to take a deep breath several times each day, and breathe that love into the beautiful busy world around us, and bless it all.

Come to our Sunday Services on Zoom each week. Every Monday, Layla Ananda sends out an email with all the links for each of the groups and classes that welcome our participation on Zoom.

Blessings to all for a great month, Annie

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