Candle in the Window
By Marie Doty
This edition: Joy Morgen - Social Justice Ministry, Usher and Board of Trustees
Many of us, as we age, have doubts that we’ve lived our life to the fullest of our abilities. Joy Morgen should have none.
Her main challenge, she says, is consistency. Even her birthday is a challenge. “My birthdate on paper is June 20, 1949. However, many of my town folk believe I was born on June 28th. When my parents adopted me, they wanted my birthday between theirs – so they changed it.
“I was in my late 20s before I realized the truth and twenty plus years of Gemini conditioning was in place.” It has led, she believes, to polarities. “All or nothing. A day in pajamas or a day at one hundred percent. Finding balance and equanimity is an ongoing challenge – and, in retirement, more than ever.”
In 1995, while on a visit back to the United States, three of Joy’s friends stationed at Fort Meyers, VA took her to the Unity Church in Fairfax. “It was the most relaxing, peaceful service I’ve ever attended. The music was nontraditional, the lights were lowered during meditation and the message was led by a GS 15 or 16. That’s the civilian equivalent,” Joy explains, “of a one- or two-star general. Her message was concrete and spiritual, dosed with practical humor and candor. It was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had. I visited the bookstore and found it embraced every major world religion – it was like ‘the buffet is open!’ The only other spiritual practice that I’ve encountered was an Eckankar group in Germany – friendly, open and totally my choice as to whether it would benefit me or not.”
Joy says the only part of the Unity service she missed was the hymn-singing. “As a child, growing up in rural Wisconsin, I was taken to the Methodist Church in Wild Rose which had a rich, traditional Welsh background of singing from the ‘toes up.’"
When she found Unity of Madison in 2014, Joy recalls the church was in transition. “And that was interesting because I was also in transition.” She had returned to the United States after living 33 years in Europe – three years in England and 30 years on Germany. She worked for the DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependent Schools) as a music teacher.
And the struggle to maintain balance in her life continues. “During my working years, it was pretty much one hundred percent of the time. There was school and all it entailed as a music teacher.”
Besides teaching four and five days a week, Joy sang in cabaret groups and community choruses as well as performing for 17 years in the extra chorus for opera in Pfatztheater Kaiserslautern.
“It wasn’t until I hit my 50s that I started to covet downtime and quiet evenings,” she says. “Now the challenge of consistency is ever present. Structure has always been the norm – and now an open canvas exists. Making lists has always been a great help. Giving myself permission to take it easy is the key. Set a goal but without agony or guilt if it’s not met. Reverend Judy’s talk about going from transactional to transformational was very helpful.”
As much as she loves Unity of Madison, Joy confesses it was not the first church she attended upon returning to Madison. In succession she tried the large impressive churches, a New Age church and a Methodist church. “Looking through the Yellow Pages, I discovered Unity of Madison, tried it out and have been here ever since. ”It felt like home! And the music couldn’t be better. There’s an amazing pool of musical talented coordinated by Pete Calgaro.”
And, finally, what does she live by?
“The seat of my pants!”
There’s laughter and, more seriously, she says, “Gratitude! My greatest strengths are a ready smile, encouraging words tempered with honesty applied as gently as possible. That being said, there’s a spirit within me that seeks social justice on many fronts.
“Unity has a Social Justice Ministry that drew me in immediately. Through SJM I’ve made many contacts in the community in which to channel that energy.”
A spiritual goal for Joy is to ”be grateful for all things – whether it’s recalling every item on the grocery list I left at home or finding a prime parking spot.”
She adds, “ My quest is objectivity - resisting the urge to judge. Finding a peaceful heart. Unity helps me address all these elements on a daily basis. Gratitude for the chance to become a more complete person.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you God!”