John Bates: In Community – The Longtime Sun

JohnBates

Through the construction and short relocation this summer, our community has continued to flourish. Attendance at the services has remained high and the topics as challenging and thought-provoking as ever. At the end of August, guest ministers, the Revs. Kerry Mueller and Dave Hunter, took on the issue of “spiritual but not religious.” In this wonderful sermon our guests discussed why we need to come together in community and what we gain by having a vessel (our congregation and UU religion) to host our tea (our individual spirituality). I’m sure each of you have an answer for why you show up and contribute so much to make UUCA work. For me, it boils down to something really simple; it makes me a better person.

Earlier in August, Rev. Mark Ward took on the topic of “remembering,” how we deal with the loss of a loved one. He concluded his sermon, “How we grieve, how we remember clears the way to compassion that opens and soothes our hearts, that reanimates our tired souls, that shows a way when it seems there is none to be found.” I didn’t know when he said this that I would so soon face grieving.

My father has been ill for the last year, so it wasn’t a particular surprise when I got the call from my brother that my dad was going into hospice care. Yet the emotions came, as they should. I flew up to Chicago to be with Dad and help transition him to hospice care in his condo. The memories of growing up and all the fun times with family played back in my head as I drove the familiar old neighborhoods. He lives close to the magnificent Lake Michigan which has always been a source of solitude anchoring the city. As I walked the shore before going back for one last visit with my dad, I thought of our closing hymn, “Longtime Sun,” and how we hold hands in community at the end of each service. As I was saying goodbye to Dad, I told him he could join me as I would sing it twice. We joined hands and I sang softly and, as I neared the end of the second round, he closed his eyes and joined in, ‘…may the pure light within you, guide your way home.’

Being in the UUCA community has made me a better person, able to deal with life’s challenges in a more meaningful way.