From The Shooting Star. Copyright 2010, Ellen Rowse Spero. All rights reserved.

My sermons do not come to me fully formed. I learn as I think, I write, I talk out loud, I read through sources, until I get to Sunday morning. And even then, I learn as I go—sometimes right in the middle. What I learned in preparing the sermon for this past Sunday is how essential joy is to our Unitarian Universalist tradition. It is at the heart of our Universalist heritage: the very heresy they preached in response to the Calvinist doctrine of sinners in the hand of an angry God, with only a select few chosen for salvation, by God’s grace. Instead, Universalists preached the universality and depth of God’s love for each and every human being and how the joy of that experience moved them to respond to God’s love by working with God to make the world a better place for all human beings.

At a Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association meeting last week, we were asked by the leader to articulate our vision of Unitarian Universalist theology: what is our good news? I realized that is grounded in joy. Joy is our good news: we are all beloved of God, it is a blessing that each of us was born, we each have an inherent worth and dignity, we each, in our own unique and imperfect way, are created in the divine image, and what an amazingly diverse and beautiful image it is.

I take great joy in being your minister, in walking with you in that "brave and reckless act" of being joyful in the universe (to quote Molly Fumia).

From The Shooting Star. Copyright 2010, Ellen Rowse Spero. All rights reserved.

On Wednesday, a high school freshman from Lowell, Ide Eboigbe, drowned at a class party. This young man attended Innovations Academy Charter  School, and was well-known to many of our high school youth and their  parents. After talking with some of our youth, I suggested that we send a prayer shawl to Ide's family with prayers pinned to it from  them. One of youth suggested that we also send a prayer shawl to the family that was hosting the party where the drowning accident took place.

I was deeply touched by this. One question I get asked a lot is how do we, as a creedless faith, help people deal with tragedy, loss, and death? We don't talk about God's will or that he is in a better place or that God does not give us more than we can bear. After all, who can bear the loss of a child, a friend, a young life? Niamh's suggestion made me feel that our Unitarian Universalist faith has helped nurture  a wider, thoughtful compassion in our young people. I have seen it other places as well, including in New Orleans and in the COA program.  I speak of hospitality and gratitude as being the two basic religious of our faith. I know that sounds funny as a response to death, a tragic death in particular. But what I see from Niamh and the other youth struggling with the loss of their friend is that hospitality:  reaching out to the families involved, reaching out to peers and each other. I see gratitude expressed in their memories and conversations.  I know that these things do not address all the questions and all pain. But in the midst of it, I see our young people laying a path grounded in the Spirit of Love, above all else. And I say to all of Ide's friends, youth and parents, that I will be around over the summer, if you would like to talk with me further.

June 27th starts our summer services at 9 a.m. in the chapel (a much cooler location!). Most of these will be lay led and it is a wonderful opportunity to hear your fellow congregants. I will lead two during the summer: July 11 and August 29. I am thinking of a "blessing of the animals" service for August 29th and will keep you posted.

I will be on vacation August 1-15 and August 21-28. Again, I will leave pastoral emergency contact information on my answering machine. During the month of July, I keep summer office hours, being in as needed and have my study time to prepare for sermons for next year. I am around for meetings and pastoral care and counseling. I will be taking a couple of trips out to Western Massachusetts to see family but can always return for pastoral emergencies and will be available by phone.

Lynne Cole and I will be facilitating an adult RE class entitled "Spirit of Life" which explores Unitarian Universalist spirituality through that hymn. It will be Wednesday evenings beginning June 30 from 7 to 9 pm and is scheduled for nine weeks. With summer, we don’t expect everyone to attend every session but request a commitment to be able to attend six. We need a minimum of six people to hold the course.

--- Rev. Ellen