In one way or another, all the holidays of December invite us to honor the persistence of light in the midst of dark times. But what is that source of light for us? What will shine on even in our most difficult days? What can we count on, ultimately?
Last month, I invited us to consider these and other related questions, particularly in response to the major upheaval going on in our national political scene. I could have just as readily invoked the changes we anticipate in the next few years within our congregation. And, just as easily, I could've drawn on the stories I hear from many of you about changes you are experiencing within your own families and your lives. We do not live in simple times.
Many of you know that I recently returned from a 5 day intensive learning experience with the Rev. Justin Schroeder, the Senior Minister at First Universalist in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a church with just over 1,000 members, with an average Sunday attendance of about 800. Justin grew up at Foothills and worked as our youth and young adult coordinator for a number of years. And so he has more than a friendly, collegial interest in our congregation; rather, he easily conveys his willing commitment to our health and vitality, especially as we navigate the next few years. The experience in Minneapolis was incredible, a huge opportunity for deep learning and reflection.
Of all the many things I learned, my most important take-away was their answers to this question:
Over the past 15 years, as you've moved through multiple ministerial transitions, and as you've seen the church change and grow in pretty dramatic ways, what would you say is the thing that hasn't changed?
Amazingly, every single one of the lay leaders were able to answer this question, and even more amazingly, they answered it with pretty much the same response. In one way or another, they all said that what they found to be ultimately reliable in their religious community, was their message of the Universalist spirit of love and hope, embodied through a shared vulnerability and authenticity. This is their source of light.
Every church, regardless of its success, has its struggles and questions. If it doesn't, it probably isn't pushing itself to grow and become all it could be. Even in the midst of its inevitable challenges and struggles, First Universalist knows why it is there and what it could count on. They could trust that they were all working on a bigger picture, something that mattered.
For our own community, we might imagine ourselves at the beginning of answering these questions. At these early stages, answering at a communal level can be daunting. To begin, it's helpful to start with your personal answers. I promised last month I'd share some of my responses to get the conversation started. (I also said I'd share about how I came to these answers - that'll have to be next month!)
So - what is ultimately reliable - what grounds me? A great and mysterious connecting spirit of love, with which I attempt to partner and further. What grounds me? A deep trust in the ways this spirit is manifest in this community, in all of you. What brings me comfort? That I don't have to do any of this life alone. That we're all in this together