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Rev. Vicky's Celebrating Fathers and Fathering

Father's Day Sunday’s Lesson – Celebrating Fathers and Fathering with a special sharing about our beloved Rev Rory

(I’m sorry our internet connection failed to capture this Sunday’s lesson on-line. It was a

pretty emotional sharing that may not be fully captured with just the script - but here it is for

those of you interested in reading it. Blessings, Rev. Vicky)

I’m happy to see some Father’s here. Traditionally church attendance expands

on Mother’s Day and declines on Fathers’ Day - I’m glad we’re defying that

trend! (Also - we give out flowers on Mother’s Day… so as not to discriminate… we’re giving

out homemade cookies today.)

And, just as we acknowledged that we can experience a myriad of feelings

around Mother’s Day, we know the same is true for Father’s Day – we can feel

love and joy; grief and regrets; anger, sadness and/or confusion; gratitude and

admiration; and even more feelings…

Because we each have our own stories around having and/or being fathers;

and our own experiences around being fathered, whether by our biological

parent or a diversity of others who helped fulfil that role in our lives

What makes it somewhat more different however, is that on Mothers’ Day, we

seem to more easily rise above our variety of experiences and feelings to

embrace the “divine mother” attributes of love, nurturing, caring and warmth…

Whereas some of us, unfortunately, have a more troublesome relationship with

the “divine father” idea – due to early-formed images from Bible stories &

teachings that present God as authoritarian, aloof, judgmental, angry,

punishing, even bullying.

Fortunately, we now have a more scholarly and progressive understanding of

the Bible, beginning with the realization that the Bible is a collection of writings

(not a single comprehensive book) reflecting often conflicting works and views of

many human authors within diverse historical contexts (vs. the inerrant word of


Meaning the Bible actually reveals less about God – and more about how the

various authors experienced and described God over time. So we find stern

and vengeful images, especially in the earlier part of the Hebrew Scriptures.

And, later, we see images of a God who cares for the people. E.g., the God of

Psalm 23 or Psalm 139. “Lord, you have searched me out and known me. You know my

sitting down and rising up. You understand my thoughts from afar…”

And by the same token, what we see in the Bible can also be like holding up a

mirror to the sacred text, finding that it reflects ourselves…and the meaning

WE (you and I) as individual readers, both bring to, and find within the texts


For example, I approach the Bible from a solid framework of God = LOVE…

more specifically, a non-binary expression/power/force of the highest form of

unconditional love, truth, healing, support, guidance, and compassion…

“Infinite God beyond us, Intimate God beside us, Inner God being us…divine

love in action.”

And I seek & find an abundance of evidence supporting this foundational

faith…as well as historical contexts that help explain or dismiss scriptures that

seemingly miss this mark.

For example, regarding the very difficult story of God telling Abraham to

sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac – to prove his faith…and Abraham agreeing.

I vacillate between explaining the story through a more primitive historical

context wherein such behavior was expected (many sacred traditions involved human

sacrifices) AND/OR reading it as a kind of parable. (Fortunately God releases Abraham

from the obligation before he carries it out.)

As Rev. Nigel Bunce of St. George’s Lowville Anglican Church suggests: “Perhaps this

story is a kind of parable. A moral dilemma, not a real event. To disobey God is

a sin, yet to kill the innocent Isaac is clearly immoral. Should Abraham obey

God and lose his child, or preserve his child and disobey God? In our own lives

we often get caught between competing principles. If we only ever had to

choose between a morally good and a morally bad option, there would be no

dilemma in the choice.”

(Admittedly, it is still a story I struggle with…but as I hold the Bible as inspired

by Spirit, but nevertheless the work of human consciousness, I can set this

story aside, or interpret it as a parable as noted above.)

Rev. James Trapp (Spiritual Life Center - Sacramento), in his eblast message this

week, offers another view or interpretation of God the Father, in his exploration

about what Jesus’ statement, “I had to be about my father’s business”

might mean in today’s world.

Trapp shares a personal story of being given an elementary school homework

assignment to write a poem. Having little or no interest in poetry, he felt

incapable of completing the assignment. He was adamant with his father that

he simply could not do it.

At some point his father asked, "Deep down don't you believe, at least a little

bit, that you can do this?" James, after considering the question told his father,

“Absolutely not. I don't believe I can do it."

And then his father said something James would never forget. He said, "Then

believe in my belief that you can do it." That is all it took for James to

believe he could do it. His father then helped him write a poem about his

favorite sport, baseball. And it was good enough to be published in a magazine

for young writers.

Trapp notes how blessed he was to have a father who had that kind of belief in

him – aware that some, perhaps even many folks haven’t experienced that

kind of paternal support (for a variety of reasons).

He then goes on to remind us that our “master teacher, Jesus, gave us another

perspective on fatherhood, when he said, ‘Call no one your father on earth;

you have one father – the one in heaven.’

Trapp explains our Unity understanding that Jesus wasn’t referring to heaven

as a place – but to the Divine Idea of EVER-EXPANDING GOOD in our lives

and world… concluding that to be about our Father's Business is “a

reminder that we have a divine mandate to express heaven (or ever-expanding

good) in our daily life…i.e., to live at our highest and best."

So, as we think about Father's Day (or Mother’s Day for that matter), Trapp

concludes, “not only do we appreciate those earthly fathers or parental figures

that support or have supported us, but we also remember that even if we did

not have that earthly support, there is a presence that can never leave us or

forsake us and is seeking to express in and as us. Most importantly, it

always believes in us even when we don't fully believe in ourselves,

because we are of the same substance.

I’ve shared numerous times that I too have been truly blessed by the fathers

and fathering in my life. My own dad was the epitome of unconditional love, so

much so that he made it easy for me to experience God as absolute good and

pure love…As well as to hear and embrace my calling “to support all people to

know God’s love.”

It was also a blessing to share parenting our 3 children with my late husband,

partner, and soul-mate, Rory. Over the past few months, a number of you have

told me how you wished you had been around to know Rory, and would like to

know more about him.

I decided Father’s Day would be a good time to share about Ro…because

becoming a father was the divine calling of his life…and the path of his greatest healing and growth (building on his life-on-the line transforming journey through cancer).

Without going into a lot of detail, suffice it to say that Rory had a challenging


His mother and father divorced early-on, neither one of them prepared or able

to be effective parents. His maternal grandparents adopted him at the age of 8.

His grandfather (by marriage) never had children of his own. The result was an

overly controlled, rigid & strict environment (what we would call abusive today). And,

to make matters worse, Rory was sent to parochial school where corporal

discipline was generously administered and Rory was a regular recipient.

As he says in LL, “I learned at a very young age to take care of myself, and not to depend on

others because it was too painful to be disappointed over and over again. I rebelled throughout

my teen years – seeing everything and everyone a challenge – constantly trying to prove my

worth – while “doing it MY WAY.”

Rory graduated from St. Mary’s College, and became a juvenile probation

officer in Southern CA. He was skilled at relating to troubled and rebellious

youth, having walked that path himself.

From there he became a Youth Services Officer with the Rohnert Park police

department, establishing trail-blazing relationships between the police and the

schools to address a growing crisis of school violence.

In 1980, he joined the newly formed CA Attorney General’s School Safety

Center that was part of a larger newly formed Crime and Violence Prevention

Center…And that is where we met…

Less than a year later, after a routine physical, the doctor called Rory and

matter-of-factly said, “you have lung cancer; you need to make an appointment as soon as

possible so we can take the necessary course of action.” He was a month shy of 32

years old.

Again in his own words (from Life/Line): “By most standards, being diagnosed with a life-

threatening disease that had semi-successful (30-50%) odds of survival, and that involved

painful test, surgeries and treatment, would be considered anything but a miracle. The journey I

was about to embark on, however, became a powerful, positive and, in retrospect, life

transforming experience.”

In short, cancer had broken through the thick walls of protection Rory had

created… He said, “Fortunately for me, experiencing a total state of breakdown was exactly

where I needed to be for the biggest transformation in my life to occur. There was no time to

intellectualize or rationalize the situation. My self-deception was over and I was in for some

major metaphysical (as well as actual) surgery. I now had the life-on-the-line opportunity to

examine and restructure all of the conversations I had created about myself and the world. I

found myself in the midst of a spiritual emergency."

I share all of this as it is essential to truly knowing Rory His journey of

transformation defined him… turning the “Die-agnosis” of cancer into a “Live-

agnosis” of healing and love…

During his treatment and recovery time, Rory and I became closer friends. We

discovered A Course In Miracles, and then Christ Unity Church in Sacramento.

Both of us (for different reasons) were seeking a spiritual path, and we both

found it in Unity.

Over the next few years, Rory beat the cancer odds and our friendship evolved

into a soul-ship as, for separate and related issues, we both got divorced, and

fully embraced the spiritual journey of Unity.

I don’t want to imply that it was a smooth ride to health and wholeness. In Ro’s

words, “Opening up my vulnerability and getting really close to Vicky, and then her daughter

Bri, was a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process. Vicky remained undaunted by my retreats

and supportively invited me to carefront my fears, my pain, and my conversations. As I healed

each layer within me, I would begin the process again, going even deeper. We worked at

rewriting our old relationship conversations for two-plus years before we decided we were ready

to make a deeper commitment to one another and get married. (Which also involved

creating a family with my 7-year old daughter, Bri, who I shared custody of with

my ex)…

Ro wrote, “As I healed my adult self––physically, emotionally, and spiritually–– it became time

to begin healing my inner child, whom I had locked deep within me. Buried with my inner child

was my spontaneity, freedom and innocence, replaced by control and protection.”

“As divine order would have it, Vicky had a seven-year-old daughter, Brianna, who became part

of my life when Vicky and I came together. Bri was the first child I had ever interacted with on an

ongoing basis. At first it was difficult for me to relate… but eventually she opened the door to

my own lost childhood and help me rediscover my inner child that was just aching to get out.

“With the emergence of my inner child came all the joys of being a child, as well as the pain of

my childhood. Thus I began site began yet a new level of carefrontation and pealing back more

layers––revealing and healing my childhood traumas and learning how to be child-like

vulnerable again.

We were married in 1987 (with Bri as my bridesmaid) while expecting Travis in

early 1988. (And Kyle came soon after in 1989.)

In Life on the Line, Ro speaks to “Children – the Divine Teachers,” saying: “Parenting

has proven to be the most demanding, most rewarding, and most challenging process I have

ever elected to experience. Author E. B. White summed up the experience aptly when he wrote

to a friend, after the birth of his first child, “I feel the mixed pride and oppression of fatherhood in

the very base of my spine.”

“Becoming a “new age” father, determined to nurture and father my children in ways that I had

not experienced, constitutes an ongoing growth curriculum that facilitates the continuous

process of peeling away my layers of mask-ulinity. I am creating a new identity – separate from

jobs, titles, and doing… grounded instead in beingness and love.

“I had experienced other marker-events in my life, but none that so radically had me come to

terms with the development of my complete self: healing the past, shifting gears and

reassessing my life. Daily, I am opening up to new boundaries, experiencing new role–reversals,

as well as physical, emotional, career and financial adjustments.

“Holding Travis and Kyle as infants, feeding them, carrying them, feeling their hugging and

grasping and the safety and warmth of our embraces made me feel life-giving in a new way.

Layers of my hardness began melting, and I began healing my childhood wounds by locating

and actualizing the feminine/nurture/healer within me.

“As I learn to parent my children with love, I am reparenting myself as well – breaking the

patterns of my dysfunctional past. Vicky’s childhood experience of unconditional love and family

support provide a stark contrast to my experiences of abandonment, abuse, and independence.

Her family has provided me with a new, functional model of unconditional love.

“Moreover, releasing my child-within has allowed me to play and explore and adventure more;

giving up self-consciousness and the constant need for structure, order and answers––for

being spontaneous and in the moment. I continue to practice and integrate these traits into my

new identity.

AGAIN - it wasn’t always a smooth or easy journey… Rory continues…

“This time of fatherhood continues to be one of integration – of taking all my parts and creating a

new whole – without comparing to, or seeking the approval of others. I am learning to discover

what is truly important to me, and having the courage to take a stand for it. Often, the greatest

challenges are my own conversations and scripts about what it means to be a “success.”

“While I know––and act on––the fact that creating healthy, loving and whole children is the

greatest measure of success any man or woman can claim, I still struggle with some of the

choices I have to make in the process. Having spent most of my life with my career as a single

focal point, and my standard of achievement demanding that I be the best at all costs, I have

found balancing more than one major priority to be quite difficult. And I have come to appreciate

what women have been experiencing in their struggle to “have it all.”

Explaining to our kids that I was sharing about Rory this morning, for the folks

who never got to meet him, I asked them if they would tell me about how they

experienced their dad… (so you can hear the results of all Ro’s efforts at

healing and growth). Bear with me as I try to share these without crying…

I’ll start with Bri – since she was in on the earlier years. (Note: 6-yr old Bri decided she

would call Rory – RY early-on in their relationship, when I insisted she choose a name for him

besides “weirdo”.)

She shared: “Some thoughts on Ry as a dad;”

“RY had the greatest laugh…He was the go-to dad to teach driving, calm and patient, even

when I almost ran into a mailbox, and even with Shana’s wild driving! (Shana was Bri’s best

friend who he also taught to drive, along with both of my nieces, and eventually T & K)

He was curious and interested in young people’s thoughts and perspectives; He was a good

listener; He worked hard to reject the abusive model he grew up with; He wasn’t attached to

being a perfect parent, and he was able to acknowledge and talk about his shortcomings.

Trav & Kyle responded to my text-request with this:

Patience––he could hear/experience something and not have the gut-reaction that most would.

(I’m sure he had his moments of immediate reaction, but I remember the patience more.) That

was a good thing for a parent to have, but an even better thing to impart to a child. It extended

to times of us being in trouble/learning moments and not flying off the handle; to helping us with

our own emotions when something didn’t go our way; to things like teaching us how to drive and

play golf.

Everyone who met him specifically as our dad––teachers, coaches, friends,

parents––immediately gravitated to him. People, to this day, who maybe met/talked to him a few

times, still talk to me about how nice and approachable he was.

Unconditional love––to us sure, we always felt that and it was very special. But he felt that way

about complete strangers a lot of the time too. I remember you guys taking us to an

underground like soup kitchen or something in downtown Kansas City and him interacting with

people who were in real bad ways. He interacted with them, made them laugh, humanized them.

This is just an example, but he did that with most everyone. “Look at them with love first before

you form any judgements or options, if that becomes your default approach you’ll see the world

in a different way.” And he did. And he passed that on to us.

And then I found the sharing Trav offered at Rory’s Celebration of Life:

“As I stand here today and look out at this crowd, I see so many different faces from so many

places all around the country, and the world. And it does not surprise me. That was who my dad

was. His aura was so big that he left his mark everywhere he went.

He was the most dynamic person I’ve ever known. How many people do you know that can lift

probation officer and minister on the same résumé? Whatever the situation called for, my dad

could handle it. He had endured more physical and emotional pain and anyone I’ll ever know,

but you never know it behind that gigantic smile. His presence was big and powerful, but always

gentle and caring. If you wanted to feel better, you need not do anything else but stand by him

and his ambience would lift your spirit.

I learned everything I know from him. He taught me how to form my baseball glove, and the

shade, and how to tie a tie. He taught me the difference between a good joke and a bad joke,

but how to make people laugh regardless. He taught me to be proud of who I am, my heritage,

and where I came from. He taught me charm and wit, presence and charisma. He showed me

the importance of respect, generosity, compassion and forgiveness.

He was the perfect father, husband, son, brother, cousin, minister, fan. Every question I’ll ever

need answered, all I have to do is think about what he would’ve done. He showed me how to

love, and make sure everyone always knew it. I’ll get married someday, and have a family of my

own, and know exactly what to do because I’ve already seen it done right.

I will make sure my children know of their grandfather and how I am the person I am today

because of him. I only hope I can be half the person he was.

I stand here today, on the doorstep of the rest of my life, and sure of what the future holds. But I

am not scared. I know he is forever with me, because I can still feel him in my heart. I know I’ll

never be alone, because even in the darkness, his soul stands next to mine, protecting and

guiding me. My dad told me I can be anything I want to be as long as I reach for the stars and

never give up.

So I promise, I swear on my life I won’t stop until all my dreams are fulfilled and I have done

everything I ever wanted, because as long as you’re by my side nothing is impossible. You’re in

a better place now, where there is no pain, no sadness, no anger, where you can rest in peace

and await the day we’ll see each other again. I know you and grandpa will be teeing off every

morning on the greens golf course you’ve ever seen, and I know one day I’ll join you, but not

yet. Dad you are my best friend, and my hero, and I love you so much.

So…I hope this has helped those of you who never me Rory to know him a

little more…and celebrate with me the legacy of love his has left through our

family and through UMB…where he also touched so many.


Rev Vicky


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