Category Archives: Ministerial Miscellany

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

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

Visioning for Interfaith

By Rev. Annie Kopko

scrabble tiles spelling the word vision, to represent the interfaith center's visioning processThis is Part I of a four-part report on the Visioning process for the future of Interfaith. This process is led by a co-creation team and consists of four events of discovering, dreaming, designing and finally delivering for our beloved community.

We have set a timeline for community visioning for Interfaith this next year 2018, which is our 20th year as an interfaith spiritual community.  We should be very proud of what we have created together, and in order to keep a strong community, every few years we need to revisit our vision for our future.  2017 was a year of profound and exciting change, with the retiring of our senior minister senior Dave Bell and the hiring of our new senior minister Lauren Tatarsky.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in each of these events, held on Saturday mornings in 2018 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Part 1—Discovering and Appreciating the Best of “What is” (already completed)

Part 2—Dreaming and Imagining “What Could Be” Jan. 20, 2018

Part 3—Designing and Determining “What Should Be” April 21, 2018

Part 4—Delivering “What Will Be”  Date: TBA

Part 1 of our Vision took place on Saturday Nov. 18, 2017. Sixteen of us took part in the process. Our task was to find out what we do well, what do we value, what do we want to keep.  The following is a synopsis of what we shared at this gathering.

What we do well is offer a spiritually welcoming and inclusive community that gives each of us opportunity for spiritual growth and awareness. We do this primarily through our Sunday services, which are our profoundly creative opportunity for accepting, supporting, and celebrating one another on our shared journey.  Some of our favorite ways we do this is with the Namaste greeting, our meditations, readings, and especially open mic.

We know that involvement creates empowerment. Showing up happens to be important.  It is a profound act of service both to ourselves and for each other. We have a chance both to listen and to be heard.  We have a chance to love and be loved, support each other, and find a way to accept our own power for healing ourselves and others.  This is the way we heal the world.

What never ceases to amaze me (but of course makes perfect sense) is how showing up on Sunday can help to manifest positive outcomes in our lives and work.  This is how: we find acceptance of all spiritual paths; we see that expressing spirituality here at Interfaith is practice for outside; we are more confident in uncomfortable conversations; we are teaching our children by our example; we teach each other the same way.  We seek and find expanded awareness, entertain unlimited possibility, and truly find a spiritual home through community

 

Celebrations and New Beginnings ~ Welcoming Senior Minister Lauren Tatarsky this Sunday

In a historic passing of the baton, the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth will install Lauren Tatarsky as our new senior minister during this Sunday’s celebration service at 10:45 a.m.  Friends and family, old and new, are invited to meet Lauren and celebrate with us on this joyous occasion! Lauren will receive her ordination as an Interfaith Minister during the installation, and we will carry the festivities into a potluck lunch following the service.

Lauren was very warmly received by our community in March, when she hosted a Saturday workshop entitled, “Sharing Spiritual Experience: Connecting to Divinity Inside and Out,” followed by a Sunday talk, “Waking Up to Life: The Journey Toward Inner Knowing and Our Divine Purpose.” At our March Quarterly Conversation in Community, we announced the overwhelming decision by our membership to select Lauren as our new senior minister. In addition to the community vote, Lauren was the ministerial team’s unanimous preference to succeed Dave. On hearing the vote, founding minister Dave Bell  expressed his joy with tears of gratitude. “I’m very grateful for the hard work of the Search Committee and absolutely delighted with the choice of the congregation. I couldn’t be any happier about turning over the reins to Lauren.”

Lauren, 29, moved to Ann Arbor last summer from Denver and began attending Sunday services at the Center upon her arrival. She holds a Masters degree in Spiritual Guidance from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University (Summa Cum Laude). Her post-graduate education experience focused on interfaith and interspiritual studies, with an emphasis on spiritual psychology and what it means to engage in a life of spiritual growth. She was raised Reform Jewish and spent time living at an ashram where she received training in yoga, meditation, Hinduism, Buddhism and Ayurveda.

Lauren describes herself as a Spiritual Eclectic, engaging in diverse spiritual practices that include contemplative meditation, visualization, nature walks, dream analysis, free form dance, and yoga. As a hatha yoga teacher, she values the mind-body-spirit connection and enjoys helping others experience the emotional and energetic aspects of their humanity as portals to their deeper selves as well as their connection with the Divine, Mother Nature, Spirit, the Universe, God, Goddess, True Self.

Prior to committing herself to spiritual work, Lauren spent many years as an activist in low-income communities working on issues of poverty, race, environmental justice, and healthy food access. She has traveled to 20 countries, mostly in the developing world, with numerous agencies and non-profits working for human rights and environmental justice. Most recently, she worked with inner-city youth in Denver, CO, promoting their empowerment and access to opportunities. Lauren is a lesbian and a LGBTQ advocate.

The next few weeks will be full of ways to honor this transition (including Dave’s retirement party on the 17th!). We hope to see you all in the coming weeks. Here are a few more things to add to your calendar for this time.

An Invitation ~ Letters to Lauren June 4th

In an effort to connect with each of us and get to know us better, Lauren will be collecting personal letters this Sunday (June 4) from anyone who would like to write her. It is not a requirement, only an invitation! Feel free to bring your letter with you on the 4th, or use the paper and pens we provide during the potluck after the service.

These letters are confidential (Lauren will be the only one reading them) and the topic is wide open! What would you like your new minister to know?

Ideas include: What’s going on in your life right now? What do you want Lauren to know about you as a person? Tell her about your spirituality? What does the Center mean to you? What does Lauren need to know about ICSG? What is your vision for our future?

All Aboard for Dave’s Retirement Party, Saturday, June 17th

We’re having a Retirement Gala on Saturday, June 17, from 6-8pm to honor our beloved founder and fearless spiritual leader, Dave Bell. We will celebrate Dave’s nearly 20 years of service to the Center, with light refreshments and a short program at 7pm. As anyone who was at Dave’s last Sunday talk on May 28 knows, we will have some great fun.  If you have not had an opportunity to share your good wishes and gratitude with Dave and Judy, now is the time!

Please note: Dave has let us know that in lieu of gifts, donations to the ICSG building fund in his honor will be happily accepted. For more information contact Sally @734-646-1349.

June 25th “Eat and Greet” with Lauren

Lauren invites everyone to a second June potluck after the June 25th service, to get to know her better in both formal and informal ways. She is planning  for 2 hours, 12:30-2:30. Friends old and new, please be sure to join us for this special opportunity! 

New Challenges, New Beginnings

by Senior Minister David T. Bell

A snapshot of founding minister Dave Bell, who attended the New Seminary in New York and founded the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth in Ann Arbor, MI.
David T. Bell

It is amazing to realize another year is about to unfold. There are quite a number of things that we would change about the year of 2016. Perhaps we should have enlarged the flash paper for the Burning Bowl service. 🙂 But seriously, we know that even as we feel resistance to what is occurring in the world, our true mission is to be the bringers of light. As bringers of light, it does not serve us to grumble and complain, to shake our heads in disbelief, or to express anger and frustration.

Every being, including those whom we might see as misguided or even evil, are expressions of divinity. As such, we cannot spend our time finding fault or criticizing them. The difficult task is to hold them in light, while finding ways to ensure that harm does not befall those who may be the subject of prejudice, if not out right hatred.

This will not be easy. Whatever actions we choose to take, anger should be left behind. As Jeshua said at our Christmas morning service, anger is never justified. He specifically said that his actions in driving the money changers from the Temple were not a result of anger.

There is no way that I or anyone can anticipate what situations will arise in the next year, or the next four years. What can be said, emphatically, is that guidance is available.

When faced with the opportunity to take some action, always pause a moment and ask for guidance.

Jeshua, the Holy Spirit, or your guardian angels will absolutely respond. Pausing a moment before acting is also a wonderful way to allow momentary anger to dissipate. So let us remember that we are the Bringers of Light as we ring in the New Year.

Ministerial Search Observations

The Ministerial Search Committee has been doing yeoman duty in attracting our next spiritual leader. They have established a working protocol that has served them well and they are sticking to it. I am optimistic that we will have a difficult choice to make amongst the excellent candidates. We will see how it unfolds.

Judy and I are heading for Florida toward the end of January. We are leaving a few days early so that we can scout out a new place to hang out. Our beloved Anna Maria Island has become too crowded and way too expensive. We still plan to be snow birds after I retire, but not Florida residents. I will be flying home for the month of March and we will both return to Michigan again in mid-April.

Blessings to all,

Dave

Our Senior Minister Job Announcement Has Taken Flight!

Candles honoring our search for a part-time interfaith minister with interspiritual and New Thought leanings.How does a minister find the perfect community in which to unfold their gifts? How does a spiritual community connect to the right and perfect minister to lead them in their next stage of growth?

These are some of the questions the Search Committee has entertained in recent months. And now, after eight months of self-study, visioning, and refinement, we are posting the Job Announcement inviting applications for the role of part-time Senior Minister, starting when David Bell retires in June of 2017.

Help Us Give Wings to our Announcement

Now, it’s your turn again. We are asking that each of you pause now, close your eyes, and feel exactly how you want to feel when our new minister is among us.  With the right and perfect person leading us in our next stage of collective and individual spiritual growth, how do you feel?

Thrilled?  Grateful?  Relieved?  Excited to support them?  Excited about the support they provide you? What do you most want to feel in the presence of our new minister ? Invoke that feeling now, and let it fill your body for a moment or two. Energize that feeling as a way of helping our Job Announcement fly to the minister who is, at this very moment, seeking us.   Continue reading Our Senior Minister Job Announcement Has Taken Flight!