Happy Halloween! It has been a remarkably beautiful October, with the leaves keeping their color through the end of the month. Soon, we will be in the midst of Thanksgiving, and then...Christmas!
Our worship theme for the month of November is “Ancestors.” I have been thinking about my own quite a bit, as I have started to write down some of the family stories I have inherited over the years. They are good reminders for me in these anxious times about the resilience of the human spirit and that generations have survived much worse than this. They also remind me that we won’t know how it will all turn out, so to keep choosing as compassionately and hopefully as we can out of our core values. This is how we stay grounded.
Unitarian Universalism is not a faith that consistently honors its ancestors, especially outside of New England. In fact, it is often focused on the next new thing and dismissive of the past. I think this is in part because we are made up mostly of converts who have left something behind and who have been promised the opportunity to bring their own beliefs and ideas to their new faith. This is partly true. Revelation is not sealed. We do learn every generation from new ideas and new voices and new perspectives, as we are challenged and invited to consider them. At the same time, Unitarian Universalism is a religion—not just a movement—and it has ties that bind us one generation to the next.
The two core practices of our Unitarian Universalist tradition, passed down from our ancestors, are covenant and congregational polity. Both are flexible enough to adapt and change over the generations while still serving as touchstones. Last May, a team from First Parish attended a workshop on covenant led by the New England Regional UUA staff. Out of that workshop, we were invited to join five other of our area congregations in a year long “deeper dive” learning group with the New England staff to explore the meaning, power and purpose of covenant—not just within our own congregation but with our neighboring congregations. Our First Parish team consists of me, Dolores, Diana Keohane, Brenda Rogers, Carlene Merrill, Caroline Snow, and Ruth Whalen. It has been fun to work together on this and to talk more deeply about covenant, not just with one another but with other UUs, and to get to know them.
Our First Parish covenant helped us articulate why making our building accessible and welcoming was so important and provided a touchstone for the renovation project and capital campaign. I have experienced a deepening in the spiritual life and maturity of this congregation as we have come to understand in a tangible and real way what it means to walk together in covenant. This “deeper dive” into covenant comes at a good time, as we are standing in between what we have just accomplished and what is next. In the New Year, our First Parish team will be offering opportunities for “Deeper than Coffee” conversations about covenant and how we might grow even more into its practice.
Meanwhile, we will take this month to consider our ancestors—where we come from. We will also celebrate gratitude: welcoming into covenant our new members and renewing our covenant with our ten year, twenty-five year, forty year and fifty years members on November 17 and gathering food and donations for the Open Pantry at our intergenerational Thanksgiving service on November 24.