Over 250 years ago, Thomas Potter, a colonial farmer, found himself on fire with the good news that God loves and saves everyone equally.
Unfortunately for him, however, Universalism had not yet found its way to America, and so Potter was lonely in his passion. Who would help him spread the good news of his heart? He decided he should build a church.
It was a crazy idea. He didn't have any money. He had no idea what would come of it; it would likely be a total disaster. But Potter didn’t care. He was a little bit obsessed. And so he built that church. And what’s even crazier - lo and behold, before too long, a Universalist preacher ship-wrecked on to his shoreline.
Yes! Universalist minister John Murray ship-wrecked on to his property! And together they - and we - fulfill the vision that not too long before had seemed impossible.
250 years later, this story holds the seeds for what Kelly’s ordination asks of all of us. I say all because although First Universalist is doing the ordaining, her ministry has been called and shaped by a web of relationships across many congregations. And so this 4-part charge, built on this story of Thomas Potter, is for all of us.
First. Our charge is to start with ourselves. What are we so on fire for that we must follow it through? Kelly’s ministry asks us to do our own work first, to use the tools of small groups and spiritual practice to break our hearts wide open, and to discern where the Universalist spirit of love is calling us now.
Second. Our charge is to be so in tune with this good news that we do crazy things, like build a church, or fund a hybrid of virtual and actual meeting places to reach out to SBNRs. Without money, or evidence. Without knowing if or how it will benefit us directly. Or other crazy things we don’t yet know. And all these things we will do because what we do know is that we must further the reach of love.
Third. Our charge - in response to Kelly’s ministry - is to get obsessed. But obsessed about the right things. Surely Potter had plenty to keep him from building a church for some unknown and unlikely future. And today, many things vie for our attention. But which really serve our vision, and which are distractions? Kelly’s ordination asks us to stop giving these distractions time, attention, anxiety. Just, stop. Give our obsession over only to the things that serve the visions of our hearts.
And finally, fourth. One individual’s stubborn will and big faith may have been enough to do one big thing, but if we are going to do lots of good things, it requires the kind of weaving together of relationships well-symbolized by Kelly’s cross-congregational formation. We need each other to stay focused, keep ourselves honest, and raise each other up. Our future becomes possible when we all work together.
So this is our charge: Start with ourselves. Do crazy good things. Get obsessed about those things. And do all this together.
So may it be. Amen.