I would like to thank all of you who pledged and who increased your pledge to make it possible for us to meet our financial goal for next year’s budget of almost $250,000. Reaching this goal means that we can continue to engage in all the ministries we do, and we can support increases in pay for staff, and in hours for our music director. I would also like to thank Jim Curley and his Canvass Team for their dedication and determination. It is not easy to talk about money, let alone ask for it. That said, to be a free church means that we must sustain ourselves. That does require a lot of time, talent and treasure.
On Sunday, I gave a sermon on the Soul Matters question, “What Does It Mean to be a People of Blessing?”. It was a really, really big topic to address in one sermon. There were so many paths of thought to follow. One of the paths I did not have time to go down in the sermon touched on the idea of “self-blessing.” This was a topic for discussion at my third seasonal retreat with the Center for Courage and Renewal in Sewanee, Tennessee. The theme of this retreat was “Spring: Finding New Life and New Possibilities.” We read poems about doorways, jailbreaks, sprouting plants, hope, Easter, and new beginnings. I liked them, but none really touched me the way that the poems and readings at the previous retreats had. I had spent a lot of time during this retreat on the phone, talking with folks about pastoral concerns, including the impending loss of two beloved parishioners, Mildred and Tracy. It was hard to get excited about spring.
On our last day, though, we read “St. Francis and the Sow” by Galway Kinnell and this one did grab me: “The bud/stands for all things/even for those things that don’t flower/for everything flowers, from within, of selfblessing; though sometimes it is necessary/to reteach a thing its loveliness/to put a hand on its brow/of the flower/and retell it in words and in touch/it is lovely/until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing/as Saint Francis/put his hand on the creased forehead/of the sow, and told her in word and in touch/blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow/began remembering down all her thick length,/from the earthen snout all the way/through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail”. It seems to me that part of living out our first principle, “to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person” has something to do with this teaching each other the power and wonder of knowing our own loveliness, especially when the world seems to tell us otherwise.
This power of self-blessing is not just an individual thing. We can be self-blessing as a community. Choosing to commit to who and what we are as a community of faith is re-teaching ourselves to trust in our loveliness, our capacity to bring joy, beauty, and hope to the world, and to bless ourselves for it. Through your generosity, we do that very thing.