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Nathan Ryan is now on paternity leave for the month of July celebrating Lauren and Nathan's new arrival:  Theodore Norbert Ryan, born on Sunday, June 25. Ring the bells, stop the world from spinning, and celebrate!

I'm backfrom educational leave and sabbatical.As you and I get re-acquainted, I'll be saying thanks a lot. I deeply appreciate this time away the congregation gave me for re-tooling, reflection, and renewal. 

Featured in this newsletter are some snapshots from the UUA General Assembly held in New Orleans in late June.  A new president of the UUA was elected, The Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray of Phoenix, Arizona.  She is our first elected woman president of the UUA. Nine of our delegates voted in New Orleans, and one voted online from Baton Rouge. 

Call it poetic justice or meaningful significance, but just as the southern Louisiana UU ministers were leading a worship service for colleagues in a New Orleans hotel ballroom, a service that referenced the thousands that were stranded at the convention center 12 years ago, and the thousands that died from the disasters, Tropical Storm Cindy was whipping umbrellas to shreds and frightening folk who aren't used to tropical storms. All in all, despite the unpredictable nature of our weather, delegates, representing all 50 states, plus international UUs, found meaning in the many workshops focused on social justice at this year's GA.  Never in the history of our congregation have so many of our members experienced some part of General Assembly, a big county fair of sisters, brothers, cousins, and extended family.  

Here are meaningful data points from the spring and early summer of 2017, all of which have given me pause:

On my trip back from Orlando in June, I decided to exit the turnpike and drive instead through the little towns and byways of rural Florida, finding conversations, produce stands, and new mown hay. Such rich experiences I would have missed had I taken strictly the quicker path home.

Three cable-shows have come to their seasonal end -- Better Call Saul, The Genius of Albert Einstein, and Fargo - with poignant meanings for me, plus, sermon fodder. This is another golden TV era of story-telling.

I spoke at the funeral held in our church on 6/25/17 for Mervin Crump, Sr. Mervin was the late brother of Maxine Crump, a friend and frequent guest in our programs here at church. I, of course, said "we are one family," noting that they and I share a name and that humanity did indeed emerge from one continent.  But then it dawned upon me.  Here was "a congregation of Crumps," a bountiful, beloved family who are the living descendants of enslaved people from an 1838 "bill of sale" by Georgetown University, a story that only emerged last year.

In June, I got to explain to my UU colleagues at the General Assembly, our Louisiana word for grace: lagniappe.  It is something extra, something unexpected, something for which we can be grateful.  Lagniappe is what each day of life is: un-purchased, un-guaranteed, and probably under-appreciated.  Our life-long, spiritual discipline ought to be about elevating an appreciation for lagniappe.  Agreed?