Two Recent Events

Two recent events, seemingly independent, deeply connected.

Last Saturday I spoke about “Who’s in charge here?” at the Membership Orientation that led to our welcoming of new members to our congregation on Sunday.  I had thirty minutes to talk about our way of being together—governance—a topic, though important, that does not always leave people on the edge of their seats.  My approach to the talk has been to say a bit about myself, then a bit about the history of our congregation, and then take a tour of governance-related documents on our congregation’s website.  This seems to work.

What I have found most meaningful in giving these presentations is reviewing some of the things I’ve accumulated from participating in our congregation since 1983.  Here are three things I found this year.  One, the list of the 11 people who joined UUCA on November 13, 1983; Mary Alm joined that day, as did my wife of 47 years Jean Larson.  Second, a sermon delivered by Mel Hetland, he of the scholarship featured in this month’s Community Plate, in 1997; this sermon is now in the hands of Rev. Ward.  And third, I recaptured the name of Rev. Clarke Dewey Wells who served as our sabbatical minister in 1998 as best I can recall.

This Tuesday our Board of Trustees met for its monthly meeting.  I always ask a question that allows us to get to know one another better.  This month, in light of our sanctuary experience over the last year, I asked about what the experience might mean for our congregation.  Answers varied—what has our experience meant for you?—but I recalled my uncertainty going in.  And I expressed my gratitude that our congregation, working with many other congregations, reached out and worked together to make a difference in the life of one person, one family, ultimately many congregations.

Connecting these events in my mind is a sense of possibility, an openness to something new.  Someone on the brink of joining our congregation has questions and perhaps some uncertainty about the path being embarked upon.  A congregation on the brink of providing sanctuary has questions and perhaps some uncertainty about the path being embarked upon.  And someone on the brink of taking sanctuary has questions and perhaps some uncertainty about the path being embarked upon.  But each of us, individually and collectively, chose to explore possibility rather than rest in certainty.  One definition of courage is “being afraid and doing it anyway.”  We may not always be afraid when we act, but when we are afraid, may we be courageous when the moment comes.

Bruce Larson, Board of Trustees

 

Learning UU History

For six weeks, 14 UUCA members, with 8 to 10 average weekly attendance, learned amazing stories about our own Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist history.  Our origins go back to the earliest days of Christianity but would eventually find Christianity only one of many important religions.  Our religious ancestors played significant roles–and many lost their lives–in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.  We learned of how much of our history is intertwined with the history of our nation.  We were astonished at how forward thinking our faith leaders were in social justice moments in our nation.  And we watched with some concern the events of the walkout at our own General Assembly in 1969 by our Black Affairs Council. We then read with some heightened interest and even greater concern the Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed’s article “The Black Hole in the White UU Psyche.”  Our history is one we can be proud of AND learn from!!!

Would you like to learn a little UU history?  Come to The Wednesday Thing program on January 30, at 7:00 as we play The Storyline, the UU History Card Game!

In photo:  Clara Barton, Rev. Olympia Brown, Viola Liuzza, Francis David, Rev. Hosea Ballou, Rev. William Ellery Channing

Step Into the Center

“Step into the center,” writes my colleague Rev. Marta Valentin. “Come in from the margins. I will hold you there.”

We enter the New Year together with much on our hearts and minds. Our busy lives hold many challenges and adventures in 2019. That’s work enough, but we also can’t escape the daily news of a government that seems to be decompensating before our very eyes, and so many people suffering from injustice. In the midst of this, how do we sustain some sense of peace and hope?

Our natural response is protective: to hold back, to pull in, to let fall the fragile threads that connect us and hunker down. Part of what we exist for as a congregation is to persuade each other to stay in the game, to set our gaze higher than the muck of the news cycle, and to reaffirm our life-giving deepest values.

A couple of years ago we concluded a congregational process by centering our understanding of what this congregation is for on four central values: Connection, Inspiration, Compassion, and Justice. Each of these values works to call us from those protective impulses, which are understandable, but in the end only make ourselves shallow, reactive, isolated and alone.

We gather in this place to remind each other that it is in each other’s company that spiritual awakening occurs; that hope comes from opening ourselves to sources of inspiration that open us to new views of our lives, of the world; that each of us and all people deserve love, respect and care; and that it’s not enough to sit on our laurels, rest on our privilege, enjoy our cozy community without making ourselves agents of the change that the world needs to see.

All this can be challenging, of course, which is why I like the way Marta frames it: she’s not writing a prescription or demanding terms. In the center where everything happens, it can be confusing, uncertain, uncomfortable. I think of our eight months as a sanctuary site for our friend Maria. A number of us had significant reservations about whether this even made sense, but in the end, we decided to follow our values. There was a bit of chaos along the way and some gnarly issues to work through, but with the assistance of dozens of people in faith communities surrounding us, we made it happen, and we all were transformed.

I’m not yet sure what awaits us in the coming year, but one way or another we will be at work in the community and also looking for ways to deepen our faith journeys to be better prepared for those challenges. But you have my pledge, and I hope you will join me, that when you enter the center, as Marta writes, “I will hold you here.”

“Don’t look back or around,” she adds, “feel my arms. The water is rising. I will hold you as you tremble. I will warm you. Don’t look out or away life is here between you and me. In this tiny space where I end and you begin hope lives.”

We can create such a space. Let us bring the intention to do so.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister