“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