Over the past month, I have spent some time people in our congregation who are going through a very rough time. I try to walk with folks struggling to navigate across scary, painful, and unknown terrain in search of more solid ground. I see this part of ministry, pastoral care, as one of the sacred tasks that I called to, and one I feel honored to be entrusted with. It is one of the reasons the congregation calls a minister: to have someone professionally trained in attending to the spiritual and religious needs people experience in moments of crisis available when needed. The word “religion” shares its root with the words “ligament” and “ligature” and at its heart, refers to re-tying or strengthening the sacred bonds that connect us to one another and to the Spirit of Life, to the sacred and the holy. In times of struggle and pain, we need especially to experience these sacred connections, because we often feel alone, even abandoned. Being present, listening, offering prayer and rituals of healing, or spiritual comfort however I can is one way that I can live out this precious call I have, to bear witness through service and minister to you.
On Saturday evening, I attended another part of our congregational life, the Fellowship Dinner, hosted in a very festive and elegant fashion by the Membership Committee. The Fellowship Dinner is an invitation for new people who have been attending First Parish for a while to learn more seriously about our congregational life and what it means to join our Unitarian Universalist religious community. Peggy Stephens-North, chair of the Membership Committee, asked both our newer folks and the committee members to share what about Unitarian Universalism resonates for them, and why they have kept coming back to First Parish. I heard folks talk about the warmth, the sense of community, and having a place for spiritual nurture and to put their values into action. My laugh came up a lot as a reason as well. It was good for me to hear. And also made me think that our newer congregants have only begun to experience what grace and courage all of you in this community offer each other, me, and our larger communities.
Several of you have asked what you can do to help those who are struggling. I would say to keep doing what you are doing: being a welcoming, warm, thoughtful, justice-hoping, generous, and hospitable congregation, with a good sense of humor and fun. Every day, what each of you does to contribute to the larger life of this church creates a sacred place and space for others of you to come and be held in your times of struggle. Together, we make manifest that larger Spirit of Love that I experience as God, but I see has many other names and understandings. Being present, not just as individuals, but as a religious community, is one of the most important things we do. And you do it with such generosity, intentionality, and character that you give me hope and courage.I thank you.