JD Stillwater's full-time mission is to share the awe and wonder of natural reality, and to lift up insights from a science-informed worldview that promise to enrich our lives and repair the world. JD is a past President of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, an active part of the music ministry and a frequent speaker there and at many other UU congregations, both remote and in person. JD is the father of UU minister Rev. Robin Stillwater. JD's work is encouraged and supported by UU living legends Peter Mayer, MIchael Dowd, and Jim Scott. Videos of some sermons are available on YouTube and at JD's website.
Titles of programs/sermons and a brief statement of content on each:
Note: all sermons are also available as workshops, in which participants get a chance to go deeper into the material, to digest and personalize it as well as create community together.
Another Note: Talks/sermons can be delivered as webinars, video-conferencing (Zoom), or in-person.
Third Note: “Multimedia” means the talk includes extensive (and intensive) use of images and video.
Last Note (I promise): JD enjoys collaborating to put together a moving, inspiring, thought-provoking worship experience. Your team will NOT have to figure out all the service elements; JD will work with you.
- Defiant Love: Rejecting Our Inheritance - Multimedia, 20 min. What are we, crazy?! Some aspects of our inherited cultural system are clearly harmful to our planet, our descendants, and our own humanity. How did this happen? In the context of our damaged and dysfunctional culture, acting with honor for our ancestors, respect for ourselves, and love for future generations often looks like rudeness or radical defiance. Sometimes, Love requires us to defy our own heritage.
- Active Love and Anthropocene Angst -MultiMedia, 20 min. That humans are having major impacts on the planet is now quite clear, and some of those impacts may be evident millions of years from now. Are we a cancer on the biosphere, a plague? Would it be better if we had remained blissfully in the stone age? Our angst about such matters may be no more helpful to building sustainable systems than is white guilt in forging racial justice. JD somehow relates all of this to romantic relationships, parenting teenagers, and Joni Mitchell. Guilt about environmental destruction won't help build a sustainable society, but active love might, the kind of love we have for our teenagers when they're especially annoying.
- This is Not My Beautiful House – Spoken, 20 min. One of our culture’s foundational myths is about ownership, security, and permanence. JD offers a bit of science, some personal experiences, and a Talking Heads song as puzzle pieces toward a new, more vulnerable humility.
- Building A New Way: DIY (perfect for Father's Day, but not limited to it) - a few slides, 20 min. JD describes lessons learned from his do-it-yourselfer father and grandfathers, and how those lessons might be applied to building a new way for our increasingly precarious global society. What kind of world do we want for our grandchildren, and for their grandchildren? Are we behaving accordingly? Building is not easy or comfortable—are we willing to do what it takes?
- Combustion Addition: 12 Steps to Climate Recovery - MultiMedia, 20 min. Our dependence on fossil fuels looks an awful lot like addiction. Could the 12 steps of AA offer any helpful guidance as we seek a way out? If climate change is a moral/spiritual crisis, maybe a 12-step-style "spiritual awakening" can help.
- Complementarity: Quantum Physics and the End of Dogma. Spoken, 20 min. Do you despise the question “What do you believe?” JD finally gets real about his own personal beliefs, and discovers a scientific approach towards a New Agnosticism, one that fully embraces the mysteries and ambiguities inherent in natural reality. Along the way we meet a cryptic cat, a famous psychic, a woman with a problem, and a religious organization for atheists. The exclamation “Poppycock!” also makes a cameo appearance.
- Defining Enough - Spoken, 20 min. Failure to define "enough" means never being satisfied. It makes us vulnerable to slick advertising, and fills our lives with tedium and chaos. It deflects our focus from sources of true happiness, like play, family relationships, community. Ultimately, it also leads to the desecration of Earth's living systems. Defining "enough" is a spiritual practice.
- Fiddling While Rome Burns. Spoken, 20 min. When the entire planet is engulfed in flames (climate change, nuclear arms, fascism, extinction, mass migration), isn’t full-time activism the only reasonable activity? Isn’t everything else a kind of indulgence? What if activism just isn’t your thing? What if your talents and passions lie in something like fiddling? JD shares his own wrestlings with this quandary, and where they have led him.
Mystery: Koans of Science. MultiMedia, 20 min. Today's culture war pushes us to perceive spirituality and science as enemies, and holds up a false dichotomy between reason and mystery. The universe, as science reveals it, speaks only of transcendent unity, and holds up Mystery as both muse and ground of reason.
One Song: the Science of Unity. Multimedia, 20 min. For millennia mystics and prophets have told us that “All is one” and yet we feel ourselves surrounded by separation, antagonism, and isolation! There are plenty of reasons to conclude instead that “All is horribly splintered.” Were all the mystics naive, or just wrong? Recent advances from mainstream science reveal an underlying integrity, connectedness, and wholism in everything from human bodies to ecosystems to the very fabric of space-time. Even the noble humble dung beetle, star of our service today. In short, science agrees: “All is one."
Earth's Easter: Resurrecting the Future. Spoken, 20 min. Even as we crucify the air and water upon which we depend, a glimmer of possible resurrection shines here in Golgotha, inside each discouraged but faithful heart. To what will we direct our attention and our energy– the death and collapse looming ahead, the tomb-like darkness we fear will follow, or the fairer, simpler world calling us from the far side? Two kinds of optimism, two more of pessimism, some outrageously tenuous metaphors, a story or two, and a bit of unpolished poetry will carry this service from despair to commitment, without a lick of rosy-eyed feel-good hopefulness.
Nature's Scripture 1: We are Earth - MultiMedia, 20 in. (Best if your group is committing to the entire NS series. Otherwise One Song is better. NS1 and One Song are partially redundant.) Ancient religious scriptures offer guidance for followers’ lives, from highly specific moral codes to big-picture world-views. Scriptural guidance differs from tradition to tradition, leaving scant guidance that is shared among all humanity. Does the one context we all have in common, natural reality, offer similar lessons? (Why yes! Yes it does.) Could those lessons help us resolve our current predicaments, and repair a ravaged world? (Yes again!) The first in a series of services, this time we will focus on the interdependent web that is Earth.
- Seven Candles: Science for a Deeper Spirituality - MultiMedia Workshop, 2.5 hours.
Seven Candles is one of JD’s flagship presentations, along with its stand-alone sequel Seven Candles: Repairing Ourselves & the World. Seven Candles is a multimedia exploration of the spirituality inherent in modern mainstream science. Seven Candles employs science in the service of awe, reverence, wonder, mystery, and oneness.
We live at a time when discoveries by the scientific community are challenging our perceptions of reality as we knew it. As in Galileo's time, we can choose to experience these new-found truths as obstacles in our spiritual paths, or we can embrace them, striding towards a deeper, more connected life.
The "Seven Candles" are direct expressions of well-established scientific and cosmological phenomena. They are also seven deeply spiritual truths. Seven Candles is not "proof of God," or "proof there's no God," although both have been said to me by participants! Seven Candles is just science, described in a way that deliberately uncovers, emphasizes, and embraces the spiritual implications of these scientific revelations.
- Seven Candles: Repairing Ourselves & the World - Multimedia Workshop, 2.5 hours.
This interactive experience applies Seven Candles insights to what the world needs in this time of crumbling systems. We watch in dismay as ecosystems, political systems, economic expectations, civil society and the climate fall apart all around us. How can we each contribute to a world better aligned with how reality actually works? How can our behavior be more life-affirming, more sustainable, more satisfying?
This flagship workshop applies science concepts from the original Seven Candles presentation to a world in crisis, asking and answering the question “What does the world need now?”
- The Great Turning: Stories and Music to Inspire Cultural Shift – Multimedia + Live Music Performance, 2 hours.
Science educator JD Stillwater teams up with award-winning songwriter Darryl Purpose for an evening of live music, science, revolutionary love, and inspiration to re-imagine and repair our world. Bring your joy, your exhaustion, your love for this world, your laughter, your hope, your dismay, your voice, and your friends. (Requires minimum $2000 fee and at least four weeks advance notice.)
Availability: Easy - Remote (anywhere) or in-person within 3 hours of Harrisburg, PA. Possible - Anywhere east of the MIssissippi with enough notice.
Fee arrangements: Home Hospitality for Saturday evening may be requested based on distance. Payment is whatever your congregation's standard fee for presenters is.
Contact: Email JD Stillwater at firstname.lastname@example.org.