This coming Sunday will be the first time that I won’t be at the Fellowship for the Sunday morning service. While the congregation gathers in Mount Pleasant, I will be at a different sacred gathering–at a campground in Fayette, Ohio. My gathering will consist of about 100 men: 80 of us staffing an intense weekend-long initiation ceremony for 20 new men. The weekend is an initiation into sacred manhood.
Along with the Unitarian Universalist religion, this men’s movement (called ManKind Project) is the other place that I feel spiritually at home, deeply understood, free to be truly myself, and part of a movement that is transforming the world. In the case of the ManKind Project, we are aiming to heal the planet by healing men and awakening them into emotionally mature, compassionate, authentic and powerful versions of themselves. This organization has changed my life. If you can imagine a circle of 80 men communicating with deep emotion, intense honesty, and fierce love for one another, then you will have a glimpse of what I’ll be experiencing.
Everyone deserves to have a place where they can be truly and fully themselves, a group where people support and accept one another and encourage one another to be their best.
Some people find this in a family, some with friends, some with organizations, and some with religious congregations. I hope that the UU Fellowship of Central Michigan can be exactly that for its members: radically welcoming and affirming, while calling us to be our best. The third principle of our denomination speaks to this: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
I look forward to returning to the Fellowship next week, recharged by my connection with my men’s group brothers, and ready to continue the sacred work of creating a safe place that people can call their spiritual home.
May all people find their spiritual home, be it a support group, social group, family group, working group, religious group, or identity group.
May we all know the place where we can shed our masks and speak our truth.
May we know the love in the bright eyes of the ones who receive us there, the embrace of kindness and acceptance.
From this place of belonging, may each of us grow stronger in love and use our power to create a more loving, joyful, harmonious world.
October 22, 2019
As I was browsing on Facebook last week I saw a post from a dear friend about National Coming Out Day. Embarrassingly, I didn’t even know that was a thing until I saw her post. This is part of my privilege as a straight person, the luxury to be aware or unaware of the struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. For those who identify as LGBTQ, the struggle is personal, real, every day, and has life-or-death consequences. Here is the Facebook post from my friend Nancy Boutilier:
Because I am, because of those who came bravely before me, because I found support from family and friends, because of those who will follow me, because silence still equals death, because love is love, because there are still so many others to fight with and for, because queer & trans rights are civil rights are human rights, because I want them to know, I celebrate coming out whenever I can.
Nancy is a role model for me of activism, bravery, authenticity—a willingness to fiercely be herself. Maybe you can glimpse that in her few words here.
Now that I realized that October 11 is National Coming Out Day, I looked it up on Wikipedia, where it says this about the origin of the holiday:
The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Coming_Out_Day)
The idea of “coming out” is deeply human. All of us need to find the courage to be truly who we are, or we will live lives that are incomplete and unfulfilling. As a straight man, I don’t want to usurp the power of the LGBTQ community, but “coming out” has meaning for me too. In a world dominated by traditional toxic expressions of masculinity, I have struggled to claim my alternate form of masculinity: I’m a man whose primary characteristics are gentleness, love, and compassion. It is a risk for me to “come out” and proclaim these things about myself—but it is a greater risk to hide my authentic self.
Mother-father god, divine spirit of life and love within each one of us, hear this prayer:
May I be diligent and fearless in creating a world where it is safe for everyone to come out. To come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual; to come out as butch, femme, masculine, feminine, non-binary.
May we work together to create this world of safety. May each of us be courageous and authentic enough to come out in all of our beauty and power and individuality, affirming to one another that each of us is precious and good and whole just as we are.
May our communities of love, acceptance, and safety be stronger than the voices of hate and shame, and may the strength of our love and healing flow outward in every direction.
October 16, 2019
Today is Yom Kippur, the high holy day of the Jewish faith, the day of atonement. On this day Jews fast and pray, looking for ways to be more like the angels. As we pray, we repent of the ways we have fallen and seek to brush ourselves off to continue the journey.
God of Israel and of America, God of Africa and Asia and of every place named and un-named, hear my prayer. There have been times I failed in love for others and for myself. May I grow stronger in love; may I forgive myself and others as I seek to be forgiven.
I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts with a lot of Jewish families. My childhood friends Craig, Peter, Rob, Debbie, Kim, and Heidi were all Jewish, and many more. I went to bar-mitzvah ceremonies for my friends when we were in junior high; in college I went to a Friday evening seder at a friend’s apartment in Manhattan. Later I lived in a different part of the state, where very few Jews lived, and I was surprised to encounter ignorance and negative stereotypes of Jews there.
No longer does it surprise me when I see anti-semitic vandalism or even violence on the news. Today’s report of a shooting at a synagogue in Germany feels like more of the same—and yet it can never be normal. We must all pay attention, again, to the rise of hate crimes in America and abroad. We must all denounce violence and hatred, and voice our support for the victims. And we are all victims. A world where Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques are targets of violence is a world where I am less safe, and where my values are under attack.
On this day of Yom Kippur may we celebrate our connection to our Jewish brothers and sisters and siblings. May we seek to be more like the angels: forgiving and forgiven; loving; and working for a world of peace and justice.
Andrew (Drew) Frantz
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Michigan
The rainbow flag that hangs in our vestibule during the week, and flies outside our University Street entrance on Sunday mornings, is an important symbol for our congregation. Displayed beneath the Black Lives Matter banner, together these two symbols make a bold statement to everyone who passes by. I have heard more than one person say that noticing the Black Lives Matter banner or the rainbow flag on our building is what first drew them to come inside and check us out.
I identify as heterosexual, and I am honored and proud and humbled to carry the rainbow flag from its safe place in the church vestibule to its more bold and prominent place outside. This is something that we do every Sunday morning before church, and lately I’ve started doing it at other times when I’m working at the Fellowship. There are hours during the week when I’m the only one in the building, but flying the rainbow flag is like proclaiming that the Fellowship is open for business—the business of radical inclusion, the business of welcoming everyone with love and fighting for justice.
I’m keenly aware of the irony in my carrying the flag: as a member of the privileged group (heterosexuals), I’m making a statement for the rights and dignity of those who are oppressed (anyone who identifies as homosexual, bisexual, pansexual or asexual). When I’m in the privileged group, I can’t pretend that I know what the experience of the oppressed group is. Nor should I presume to know how to fight for their rights—if I want to be an ally in someone else’s struggle, I need to follow their lead and listen more than I speak.
I happen to be a person with many privileged identities, and my intention is always to be aware of my privilege and to use my power and my voice to dismantle oppressive systems and create loving community. As a straight person, I strive for gay rights; as a cisgender person, I promote transgender equality; as a man, I call for women’s rights; as a person who has been socialized into an identity of whiteness, I denounce white supremacy; as an able-bodied person, I advocate for people with disabilities; as a person with money, I say we need to fix a broken economic system that punishes people without money; and as a highly educated person, I believe we need to address our prejudice against people with less formal education.
Believe it or not, I think about all of these things when I carry the rainbow flag from the vestibule, down the sidewalk, to the Fellowship’s front steps. I’m fiercely glad to be part of religion that believes in justice for all. Proclaiming our beliefs through these symbolic banners makes us a magnet for like-minded people and a target for people who disagree. May we always be ready to declare ourselves on the side of loving multi-cultural community, and against oppression in any form.
May I always see myself in other people, seeing beyond difference to the common humanity within. May I know that our destiny is linked: your freedom is my freedom; your oppression is my oppression; your suffering is my suffering. And may love remove the barriers between us, so that together we can build the beloved community we seek.
Yours in faith and service,
Andrew (Drew) Frantz
September 25, 2019
A highlight of my week was participating in the peace rally “Let Peace Reign” sponsored by the Isabella County Human Rights Committee last Saturday. As a newcomer to Mount Pleasant, I’m eager to find out who is active in the social justice arena of the city. As your minister, I was honored to show up and to represent the Fellowship at this event. I was the only religious leader there, and when one of the other participants asked me what I church I represented, and I told him, “Unitarian Universalist,” he said: “Oh, of course.”
Of course UU’s show up for rallies and marches and vigils and pride parades. This is what we believe in and this is who we are.
The event was small, but included police officers, the mayor of the city, two administrators from Central Michigan University, and the chief of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. It made me think about who we are as the UU Fellowship of this city and how we fit in. How are we seen and known in this community? What other groups do we have natural affiliations with, and what groups should we be working harder to communicate with and cooperate with?
A lot of my work in the first three weeks of my time here has been getting to know the people inside our walls—the members and friends, the ones who are reading this letter. Part of my job is also to be involved in the community—and I’m aware that many people in the congregation don’t live in Mount Pleasant, so the “community” is more than the city and includes the region. As I continue this work I look forward to growing into this role and hearing from you what people and organizations you’re connected with in the area, and where you think the Fellowship should be getting more connected.
Two of the speakers at the rally, musing on the theme of “peace,” spoke not about international conflict but about parenting: being a father and raising children in an atmosphere of peace; working for a world of peace for their children to grow up in. I appreciate this connection to the service we celebrated on Sunday, the blessing of children and teachers. Everything we do in the realm of social justice, like the good work of the Isabella County Human Rights Committee, is for our children and their children.
Finally, I will pass on an invitation that I got at the peace rally for an all-day peace symposium in East Lansing this Saturday, September 21, from 10:00-3:30. The title is “Building a Peace Economy” and the information is at www.PeaceEdCenter.org.
May we be aware of our place in the world, like branches in a tree. Each person is a tiny branch, connected and rooted to others; our religious community is a larger branch growing next to others: other churches, other organizations. We all are blown by the same wind, fed by the same rain, dependent on the same sunshine. May all beings grow and thrive and be at peace.
Yours in faith and service,
Andrew (Drew) Frantz
September 18, 2019
Since starting my ministry here ten days ago, I’ve met many of the members and friends of this congregation at Sunday worship, at the Friday night potluck, and at the dinners graciously hosted by Carol Rard and by Jim and Liz Dealing.
When I ask people what they love about this Fellowship, I usually hear the same thing: community. New people are drawn to the feeling of welcome and support that they perceive here, and long-time members describe being part of a network of friendship and caring. On Sunday we celebrated our annual Water Ceremony, which to me represented the way that this congregation comes together with our individual selves and blends into a unified whole. As I get settled into living in this city, I am reminded again and again of the connection to nature here. In my walks in Chipp-A-Waters park I see this: the people of Mount Pleasant on the trails, in the woods, by the river. I am aware, too, of the presence of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe here: part of the fabric and identity of this community.
All of these things came together for me in gathering the water for the Water Ceremony. I stood in the flowing Chippewa River at Chipp-A-Waters park. As I submerged the plastic jugs in the current of rushing water, they gurgled and glugged with a musical sound. I thanked the spirit of the river for the gift of the water. In doing so, I imagined some kinship with the Indian ancestors who made their home here, and who had reverence for the earth and the water that sustains us. And I felt kinship with the current residents of Mount Pleasant, young and old; black, white and brown, whom I see on the trails of this city park, enjoying the autumn woods and river.
The water from the ceremony on Sunday—combination of Chippewa River water and all the water that people brought to the sanctuary—has been filtered and it is back in the jar labelled “Ceremony Water–D0 Not Consume” in the Fellowship’s fridge. This is our holy water, the inside version. The outside version is the living water of the river that flows through this city. Finally, as we celebrate our congregation through the metaphor of water, I invite everyone to think about ways to protect and conserve this precious natural resource. Personal actions might include using less water for baths and showers; reducing or eliminating use of bottled water; and re-using gray water in the garden. For those interested in political action, I can put you in touch with the People’s Water Board and their Faith Outreach Committee. They are working on a water affordability plan to present to the governor.
May this Fellowship be blessed in its diversity and in the values which unite us. May we be strengthened in community. May we be grateful for the water which sustains life, and may we find ways to protect and preserve this precious resource.
Yours in faith and service,
Andrew (Drew) Frantz
September 11, 2019
To the Members and Friends of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Michigan (UUFCM),
I am humbled and honored, grateful and joyful to be named as contract minister for UUFCM beginning September 1. This is the fulfillment of a call to ministry that I have been pursuing for several years, and yours will be the first congregation that I will serve full-time. I finished my Master of Divinity degree at Meadville Lombard Theological School in May and completed a two-year internship in June at the UU Fellowship of Wayne County in Wooster, Ohio. If you want to know more about my background, please visit my website.
Many thanks to the transition team of Norma Bailey, Guy Newland, Laura McBride, Jim Dealing, and Katie Zapoluch for their hard work in searching for a contract minister and for their confidence and faith in me to serve that role. My meetings with the transition team leave me impressed with how much this Fellowship is doing in the community and how well-organized you are. I perceive great passion, energy, love, and commitment in this congregation.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I love creating uplifting worship that makes people feel connected to one another and ready to engage in positive change in the world. I believe that we encourage each other to explore our spirituality in a UU congregation and embolden each other to speak and act for love and justice in the world. I am eager to be part of the UUFCM community as your minister for the coming year. I look forward to meeting you, worshipping with you, getting to know you, and working with you.
Andrew (Drew) Frantz
Monday 10:00-12:00, Tuesday 4:00-6:00,
and by appointment.
Day off: Friday.
Pastoral Care Concerns
For support with life's challenges, please contact Drew during his office hours or make an appointment with him.
For specific needs such as rides to medical appointments or meals for people recovering from illness or surgery, please contact the Arms Around team via Gisela Moffit at email@example.com or 989-772-1602. Every effort will be made to lessen the burden on the individual or family who is dealing with a difficult circumstance.