A Different Time: March 22, 2020

Rev. Maddie Sifantus with Atul Ranchod and church musician, Vincent Sorisio

Erik Halseth, technology and candle lighter

Promise this world your love–

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

~ Lynn Ungar


PRELUDE                                                      JS Bach

RINGING OF THE BELL                             Atul Ranchod, bell ringer

CALL TO WORSHIP                                                John O’Donahue

“This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.”

(an excerpt from “A Blessing for the Breakup of a Relationship”, from “To Bless the Space Between Us” p. 166)



Rejoice in love we know and share.

In law and beauty everywhere;

Rejoice in truth that makes us free,

And in the good that yet shall be.


Love is the spirit of this church

And service is its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek truth in freedom,

To tell the truth with responsibility,

And to help one another,

This is our covenant.

LIGHTING THE CHALICE  “Perennial”                              Atul Ranchod

There is too much beauty.
There is too much to overflow.
We have to exercise a little common sense.

Did not Spring eternal come to this interval?
How blessed indeed!
No thief or situation can steal what lies within.

Even a thousand years from now
When our displays here will have been erased
The perennial spring will be in these hills.

What can be the highest honor
Than to receive in complete gratitude
The immortal pulsing within our clay pots.

What will disintegrate will.
What can never be affected
By whatever virus or madness can’t.

The choice has been the most
Powerful weapon.
To choose the light which is our birthright!


WELCOME                                                    Rev. Maddie Sifantus

Welcome to our worship this Sunday, those of you who normally gather in our historic building in Santa Paula and those of you who may be visiting us for the first time online. We are glad you are with us in this moment. I am here in the Sanctuary with great social distancing between myself and our church musician, Vincent Sorisio. Joining me today at another distance is our friend, poet Atul Ranchod who has written three pieces for this day, one of which he just read for our Chalice Lighting. Also joining us is our sponsored seminarian and Candidate for UU Ministry, Erik Halseth.  I am so thankful for their participation this day.

Please note that the church is closed. We hope to go to Zoom technology next Sunday, if all goes as planned, which means that those for whom we have an email address, you will get an email about how to access the service through your computer or smart phone. If you have neither, you will still be able to hear the service by calling in. This would be a good week for you to download Zoom on your computer. If you can’t do that, we hope to upload the videos from Zoom to Facebook after the fact.

I will be livestreaming our Meditation Practice Group, the Silent Pause, from my home this Wednesday, as I did last Wednesday, most likely through our Facebook page again.

We are nearly finished creating a Phone Chain for our members.

You should have gotten our April newsletter. If you didn’t and you want one, please let me or the office know. You can contact us through our website which is www.uucsp.org. Of course, we have no idea if the things listed in the newsletter will happen or not. It really is day by day. But we will go on, finding new ways to communicate. We will celebrate Easter online if we have to and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day as well. And as soon as we are able, we will joyfully gather back together in our beautiful, historic Sanctuary.

Obviously this is not going to be the usual service this morning. Most of you should have received the Order of Service as an attachment to an email. The words to the hymns are in that document. You are welcome to sing along with me at home. And you are welcome to rise in body or in spirit as you are willing and able. Our first hymn is #1 in our grey hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition:

HYMN   #1                May Nothing Evil Cross This Door

May nothing evil cross this door,
and may ill fortune never pry about
these windows; may the roar
and rain go by.

By faith made strong, the rafters will
withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
touching our lips with holy wine,
till every casual corner blooms
into a shrine.

With laughter drown the raucous shout,
and, though these sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out
and hold love in.

Words: Louis Untermeyer; Music: Robert N. Quale

Hymnal: Singing the Living Tradition, UUA, #1


TIME FOR ALL AGES                                 Allison Palm

Today I have adopted a story from my colleague Allison Palm who I think may have adopted it from someone else.

I have a story today called “Sophie and the Red Marker.” It’s a little like “Harold and the Purple Crayon”…except with a kid named Sophie, instead of Harold, and a red marker, instead of a purple crayon.

Once there was a kid named Sophie who loved going to her local Universalist Unitarian church every Sunday with her family. The people there were all super fun, she loved singing along to the hymns, and she was always excited to hear the Time for All Ages.

Then one day, her dad told her that they couldn’t go to church anymore for a while. There was a nasty sickness going around that was like the flu but worse, and everyone needed to stay home for a few weeks to keep each other safe. That meant no school, no playground, and worst of all, no church.

Luckily, her dad told her, they could go to church on the computer, sing along to the hymns, and hear what the Time for All Ages was going to be this week.

Sophie was sad. Church online was okay, but it just wasn’t the same as going to the building, giving hugs, and gather on the steps to hear the story. Sophie told her dad that she was feeling sad about not going to church. “I miss actually being there,” said Sophie.

“Maybe you could draw a picture of the church,” her dad suggested. “Then, you could put it up somewhere in the house and whenever you miss church, you can go visit your picture.”

Sophie liked that idea, so she pulled out her special red marker and a sheet of paper and started to draw.

I’m going to pull out a virtual drawing paper so that you can see everything that Sophie draws with her red marker.

She drew the big brick and stone building, and the beautiful stained glass windows.

She held up her drawing and thought that she had done a pretty good job of drawing the church. But when she looked at the picture, she didn’t get any of the warm fuzzy feelings that she usually felt at church.

Sophie brought the picture over to her dad. “I did what you said and I drew a picture of the church, but looking at it doesn’t make me feel like church.”

“Hmm…” said her dad, “Well how does church make you feel?”

Sophie thought about that for a moment. “I feel happy when I’m at church, and really hopeful, like anything is possible.”

“What else?” asked her dad.

“I feel strong…like even when I’m sad, if I’m at church I know I will get through it. And I feel lots of love. The people at church really care about me.”

“Maybe you should try drawing all of that instead of the building,” Sophie’s dad suggested.

Sophie liked that idea, and she ran off to get a new sheet of paper and her red marker to start again.

This time, she thought about how she felt at church as she drew.

She started by drawing a chalice, because the chalice made her feel at home at church.

Then she drew some music notes, because singing at church always made her feel so happy. She started humming her favorite hymn while she drew.

Next she drew a flower because flowers made her feel hopeful, like springtime, and they reminded her of the Flower Communion that they did at church each year. That was one of her favorite services.

Then she decided to draw a whole bunch of people, because it was the other people at church who made her feel strong. She knew they were always there for her, even though she couldn’t give them hugs right now.

Finally, she drew a big heart to remind her of all the love that she felt at church, and all the love she had for her church.

Sophie held up the drawing and this time, she felt like she had gotten it right. This made her feel like church. Sophie got some tape and put up her drawing in a corner of her bedroom. Over the next few weeks, whenever she was feeling sad or lonely or missing her friends at church, she went to that corner and sat with her church drawing.  Sometimes she just sat and felt her feelings. Sometimes she sang her favorite hymn while she was there. Sometimes she brought her special red marker and added something new to the drawing.

It wasn’t the same as actually being at church, but it reminded Sophie of how she felt at church. When she went and sat with her drawing, she felt happier, more hopeful, stronger, and held in love. She felt connected to her church community, even when they all were apart.

I wonder where you found yourself in this story…

I wonder how church makes you feel…

I wonder what you might include in your drawing of church…

MUSICAL INTERLUDE                                                      Vincent Sorisio

READING      Let’s Choose Not to Lose Our Bearings         Atul Ranchod

Let’s choose not to lose our bearings.

If millions of years of evolution brought us here,

And this is where we are.

We will find a way to manage.


It is a time to not entertain every single opinion.

It is a time to dig deep into our understanding.

Many calamities and atrocities we’ve seen

And experienced as a species.


But there has always been a light to illuminate

Our way through the great dark night.

Whether this is huge or blows over,

It is the time to hold what is and will always be dear.


Our precious existence cannot ferment in fear.

The quality and precision of life in all its intricacies

Continually reminding, life is a season

Forever ripening. It is worth noting.


We cannot afford to lose sight of our fundamental birthright. We have made it through all that has been.

We are stronger than we give ourselves credit.

We can get through this with poise and grace.


It is time as a human race to work together.

To not give into all the craze.

Rather set our sights on what a privilege

It is to be alive. If a simple bloom can celebrate


In all its earnestness a day to be in harmony,

Regardless of all the noise around,

We can summon up the courage

To feel the pulse of life within, and let the day begin…



Your pledge or donation can be mailed to UUCSP, 740 E Main Street, Santa Paula, CA 93060. Please notate in the memo line if is your pledge or donation.

You can also give from the Donation button on the homepage of www.uucsp.org.

OFFERTORY  #402          “From You I Receive, to You I Give

From you I receive, to you I give

Together we share, and from this we live.

Words: Joseph and Nathan Segal

Hymnal: Singing the Living Tradition, UUA, #402




In song             There is a Love Holding Us   Rebecca Parket, Beth Norton

There is a love holding me (us)       There is a love holding all that I (we) love    There is a love holding all

I (we) rest in that love.

In word                       Prayer for a Pandemic          Cameron Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health

or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

In silence

In music          Improvisation                                                             Vincent Sorisio

READING      The Life Must Go On Atul Ranchod

Flora and fauna
Botany and biology
Sickness and cures

Nature has been through
Much greater than me and you.
What are the clues hidden in the dew?

Ingenuity, adaptability, necessity.
The foundation of who we are.
Calm and patience.

Everything plays out its course.
Whether a virus or something else,
Obstacles will always be.

Hunker within.
Beauty residing.
Human capable of being.

How far we’ve come.
A long ways to go.
But the capturing of today never to forgo.

Nothing was promised.
Everything was given.
What a challenge to find the equilibrium.

I breathe my life in.
While it’s in my safe keeping.
Knowing how fortunate it keeps on going.


MUSICAL INTERLUDE                                                                              Vincent Sorisio

REFLECTION            “A Different Time”

It sure is a different time, isn’t it? We don’t know what is going to happen minute to minute. There is so much news, some mixed up with misinformation, some outright lies, and some so scary that we don’t know where to turn. A different time. And just like Sophie in our story, for a time we can’t come to our church, can’t even sit in our Sanctuary—our Sanctuary—which we hold so dear…even though this morning it has been blasted with antiviral sprays and no one has been in here all week except Vincent at the piano. This past week I was here alone in my office with no one dropping in, no yoga or T’ai Chi Chih sounds drifting in or I have been alone in my house, not going to my daughter-in-law’s birthday party or any of the normally scheduled appointments. You know the drill; you’ve been doing the same thing. Milestone birthday celebrations missed. Trips to see family. Visits from family members—my cousin Susan was to visit me for the first time this past Friday when she and her husband were to come west for a wedding in Santa Barbara. Weddings cancelled, graduations in jeopardy. The house full of kids. Or the house empty. And a level of fear and anxiety that we don’t know what to do with.

My few words this morning are not going to solve anything in the short term. We are counting on the scientists, our medical experts, doctors, nurses, technicians and other leaders to do that. But what want you to know is that you are not alone. As one of my meditation teachers, Lama Surya Das, said this week, “We are all along, together.” And we can do our part by staying at home, being alone, together

We are blessed with our spiritual community here at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Santa Paula. Even if we know we can’t be together physically in person, we know we are there. And we also know that we are there with our community partners, the other faith communities in Santa Paula and across the country and the globe.

So what can we do during this time? “This is a time to be slow, to lay low to the wall”, as it said in our Call to Worship, written by the late Irish poet and theologian in a piece. It is a time to start a meditation or other spiritual practice even if it is only counting your breaths, in and out. This is a time to sit outside your home and look at nature or people walking their dogs. This is a time to feed the birds outside your window and watch their comings and goings. This is a time to listen to music, really listen to it instead of having it as sort of elevator music in your life. This is the time to take out that instrument in your closet gathering dust and remember how to play…or learn. This is a time to take books down off your shelves…books you have been MEANING to read. And this is a time to clean those shelves. This is a time to get to those taxes, now that we have a reprieve until July 15th and perhaps now is the time to think about what we have been spending our money on, whether it is on what we truly value.

In times like this, no one should be alone. But many of us are, including myself. How can we bridge that gap? How can we know that the people we love are out there still and how can we be there for those who need us? I know that many of you have loved ones you are worried about across town, across the country, across the world. My friend Mary Louise’s daughter and family were on vacation in Hawaii when this broke and are now trying to get home to San Francisco. We worry about our older members as a congregation and our older family members. We worry about our families stuck in perhaps too much togetherness in close quarters. We worry about those who had been waiting for routine surgery and other procedures which are now postponed. Let us reach out to each so that all of feel less alone. We especially need to reach out to those who have no technology to go on Facebook livestream or participate in Zoom or even read an email. Call them on their old fashioned phones. Tell them you care. Listen to their worries and fears

Most especially at this time, I ask you to tend to your own heart, whatever that means to you. If you pray, this is a good time to spend some time doing just that. During my recovery from a nearly fatal car accident, I found that the 23rd psalm had meaning to me and it cycled through my mind as a centering prayer. Try to embrace this slowing down as an odd sort of gift. Try to catch yourself when you may be swirling in fear. For me that has meant limiting how much television I watch—just enough to keep up on what I need to know. Binge watch your favorite television show or movies yu have always meant to see. Dust off that Ukelele. Find your way—our way—bit by bit. And reach out to one another. Life calls us on.

Here in reverence now we gather

For the blessings we have known,

With a pledge to one another

That we journey not alone.

Joy and sorrows make us wise,

Kin to all that lives and dies;

Love calls us on, love calls us on.



CLOSING HYMN  “ Life Calls Us On”                               Kendyl Gibbons, Jason Shelton

Here in reverence now we gather

For the blessings we have known,

With a pledge to one another

That we journey not alone.

Joy and sorrows make us wise,

Kin to all that lives and dies;

Love calls us on, love calls us on.


Words and deeds of those before us,

Waken here to keep us strong;

Blend our voices in the chorus

Of creation’s living song.

Courage bids us lift our eyes

Upward to the shining skies;

Hope calls us on, hope calls us on.


Loyal guides in love and duty

Lead us with a trusted light;

Blest are they whose inward beauty

Shows the path of truth and right.

Honor is their earthly prize;

By their work they realize,

Faith calls us on, faith calls us on.


We have shared a radiant hour

When the truth has made us free,

And the spirits gracious power

Dreamed of good that yet shall be.

Bright the path before us lies,

Joyful pilgrims now we rise!

Life calls us on! Life calls us on!

~ Words: Kendyl Gibbons; Music: Jason Shelton

Used by permission


EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE                                                 Eizabeth Selle Jones

We extinguish this flame

but not the light of truth,
the warmth of community,

or the fire of commitment.
These we carry in our hearts

until we are together again.

BENEDICTION         Pandemic                                            Lynn Ungar

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

POSTLUDE   Nobody Know the Trouble I’ve Seen                                     Traditional