Chalica 2017

Chalica is a week-long celebration of our Unitarian Universalist Principles. The holiday first emerged in 2005 out of a wish to have a holiday organized around Unitarian Universalist values.

Chalica begins on the first Monday in December and lasts seven days. Each day, a chalice is lit and the day is spent reflecting on the meaning of that day’s principle and doing a good deed that honors that principle. Not all Unitarian Universalists celebrate Chalica, but it has a growing following. There is a Chalica Facebook pageblog, and many Chalica-themed videos on YouTube – from the UUA Website. 

This year we will share some activities and meditations everyday to help us all celebrate Chalica. 

Season’s Blessings, 


Devotional for Day 7


Over 500 years ago, European governments adopted something called the Doctrine of Discovery: any lands and resources not already ruled by a European Christian monarch automatically became the property of whatever government whose subjects traveled to and occupied the territory. This Doctrine of Discovery is what legitimized the colonization of the Americas and later other lands, and the genocide and enslavement of millions of indigenous peoples. It was also this doctrine that gave various Christian denominations justification for establishing missions all over colonial territories and forcibly converting millions of indigenous peoples to Christianity.

I tell you this history because I want you to understand how profound it was for me to be among the 500 clergy who gathered with elders from many tribes at Standing Rock (in early November 2016) to publicly beg forgiveness for our traditions’ roles in the decimation of Native peoples and their cultures. And I want you to smell the smoke I smelled from the sacred fire the Standing Rock Sioux have kept burning since they established the Oceti Sakowin camp to try and prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from being routed through their sacred lands, from being laid at all given the horrible risk such a pipeline would pose to the water supply of tens of millions of people down river. I want you feel the catch I felt in my throat as UUA President Rev. Peter Morales participated in burning a copy of the Doctrine of Discovery.

I want you feel the dizzy disbelief I felt at the generosity of these peoples whose entire trajectories my culture has all but annihilated, and my amazement as their grandmothers smudged and blessed me when the purpose of my trip had been to try to support them. I want you feel the rage that burned in the bottom of my stomach as I saw the heaps of personal belongings and sacred objects the police had trashed after they arrested, stripped, numbered on the arm with permanent marker, and left overnight in unheated cells the size of dog kennels several peaceful water protectors. And I want you to feel that rage quadruple as I did when I learned that the pipeline had originally been routed to go through Bismarck, but that it had been rerouted when that city’s mainly white citizenry objected, worried about a leak jeopardizing their water supply, the rage of learning that the governor of North Dakota and his closest friends stand to personally profit from the completed pipeline.

I want you to feel the tension I felt as I walked from camp to the “front line,” where a militarized police force had positioned burned out vehicles and officers in SWAT gear to keep water protectors from even being able to see the destruction the oil company’s construction workers were waging as they dug through sacred lands that include burial and battlegrounds as hallowed to the Lakota and Dakota peoples as Gettysburg or the Alamo are to many of us. I want you feel the sense of unease I felt, the sense of being under a microscope, as a police helicopter and later a small prop plane circled just overhead of us as we clergy confessed and prayed, sang and listened to the stories and urgings of tribal elders.

I want you to feel the great sadness that slowly settled into me, more every hour I was in that place so saturated with over a century of loss and theft and violence, the sadness of knowing that my lifestyle is contributing to the hunger for oil. The sadness I felt as I learned that the police were using that same helicopter and plane along with sound cannons and huge prison yard lights to deprive the water protectors from sleep at night. The sadness that while I got to get back on a plane and fly home to my healthy family and the new home and job that I love, many of these peaceful and strong and admirable people would remain at the camp through the winter, or go back to lives in which simply going grocery shopping can be impossible because racist cashiers routinely refuse to serve Native Americans.

There is so much more of what I saw that I want to share with all of you, but I want to end with what I think is the most important part of my experience at Standing Rock: the sense of the sacred every time I met a water protector. Their grounding in prayer, their profound spiritual maturity left me greatly humbled. Never once did I hear any of them, whether in personal conversation or from a microphone speak with hatred towards the police who have been injuring them, or towards the Americans whose greed for wealth and hunger for oil have forever crippled the natural resources of the continent that they honored for millennia before colonization. Instead, they spoke of their growing concern of this pipeline and a prophecy that foretells great destruction if a “black snake” is allowed to travel from the top to the bottom of north America. And they spoke always of a need for all of us to heal, all of us to repent, all of us to change our ways and live in alignment with the goodness and bounty and beauty of the earth we share.

A water protector I met there named Shoshi reminded me of something I’d forgotten: the word apocalypse literally means “the lifting of the veil” or the time when people begin to see what’s always been in front of them. We know that relying on oil to power our lives is bad for the earth and, as such, bad for us. Our culture has just been working really hard for a really long time to ignore that truth.

May my tiny contribution to supporting indigenous self-determination and supporting the water protectors at Standing Rock, may the contributions of each of us in our own ways, help tip our world into a new age. May the contributions of each of us help tip our world into a new moral revival, where people are valued more than profits, where the health of our planet is valued more than lifestyle convenience, and where love of human diversity is valued more than fear.

Activities for Day 7

The Seventh Principle is Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part or We care for Earth’s lifeboat.

Here are some activities to help you celebrate:

As a family

Identify ways your family can be more green. Start a compost, recycle, bike more? As a family,choose one and commit!

Clean up trash at a park or in your neighborhood.

As an Individual

Advocate that your workplace, or your school, be more eco-friendly. Ask for recycle bins and reuse as much as possible.

Volunteer at a local animal shelter.


Shop your local farmer’s market for local and organic fruits and veggies.

If you aren’t already vegetarian or vegan, plan to make a vegetarian or vegan meal.


As the saying goes, “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.” Today, recycle something from your house that would have been trash, and create a gift with it. Turn it into a work of art, or a handy item.

Devotion for Day 6

To wish for compassion
To pray for courage
To experience doubt
To bear sorrow
To strive for sureness—
All these are qualities
For which each of us
Should be grateful.
But to feel a genuine fellowship
For the whole human family,
To act
So that our empathy
Is evident
Wherever we go—
That’s the object.
That’s the life-long goal.

Activities for Day 6

The sixth principle is The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all or Build a fair and peaceful world.

Here are some activities to help you celebrate:

As a family

Find an organization that allows families to volunteer together, then get involved! Volunteer today, or make a plan to volunteer regularly.

Write letters to refugees from Syria to let them know that they are welcome and loved in our country.

As an Individual

What are you passionate about? Whatever it is, find out how you can help, and get involved! Volunteer today, or make a plan to volunteer regularly.

Get involved with local groups.


Donate food to your local food pantry.

Offer to cook for the local mission.


Who do you want to give a gift to? What is that person passionate about? Donate money on that person’s behalf to an organization they care about

Devotional for Day 5

(written for the Presidential Election, 2016)

I walk in, as on pilgrimage.
The altar cloths are red, white, and blue
the ushers are the women
who have been running these things
who have been running everything
since before I was born.

I’m handed the ballot
like a scroll
because the questions
seem that important—
ancient and modern
of what my God and country
ask of me:

Who—for commissioner, mayor, president—
who—for district 8, ward 7, school board—
who—will do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly?

I make my mark
with at least a shred of hope
that something good will come from this.

And regardless, I remember:
the world won’t be destroyed, entirely, by this;
the world won’t be saved, entirely, by this.

Marking my vote
is like kneeling in prayer
because neither will accomplish
anything right away—
but the purpose of both
is to remind me
of my deepest hope
for the world that I’m trying to help create.

So I rise from prayer,
and turn in my ballot
and remember the who is me,
and us, and we the people—
and again I set to the task that is mine:
justice, mercy, humble service
in my small corner of the world.

Activities for Day 5

The fifth principle is The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large or All people need a voice.

Here are some activities to help you celebrate:

As a family

Could your household be running smoother? Why don’t you call a family meeting and ask the kids for their input. Not only will you be giving your children a voice, but you may learn something you never knew, and gain some insight into your children.

Talk about government and how it runs.

As an Individual

Sometimes, people need us to help them get their voices heard. Get involved with an organization that advocates for a subpopulation, or stand up for someone on the street or on the playground.

Write letters or make phone calls to members of congress.


Plan a special meal with family or friends, hold a vote on what you’ll eat. Majority wins!


Offer your shoulder and your ear to anyone who needs someone to talk to. Try hard to not be defensive, dismissive, or offer up “quick fixes.” Sure, it may be a hard to hear about someone else’s heartache, but you’ll be giving someone comradery and compassion—two gifts that are priceless.