November 3rd is just under a week away and I imagine many of us are looking to that date with a mix of hope and anxiety. I know I am. I also realize, however, that the election may not resolve anything. In fact, it may lead to more conflict and confusion, if there is no clear winner for president. And even if there is, the incumbent’s threats to challenge a peaceful transition of power, should he be declared the loser, and claiming ahead of time about “fake votes” have infused the whole process with not just an undercurrent but an overcurrent of violence and intimidation. If that were not enough, Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed to the Supreme Court—putting at risk the hard-won rights of women and LGBTQ people and their families as well as access to affordable health care for all Americans. Wildfires are burning in Colorado and California and another hurricane is threatening the Gulf Coast. Then, of course, the COVID 19 virus is surging around the country and the world. The colder weather and shorter days to come I know have many of us worried about the winter and how we will get through such difficult times.
I do not have many concrete answers, as hard as I have looked. I have attended a webinar led by the UUMA on preparing our congregations for the possibility of post-election disruption and violence. I have read through various resources provided by the UUA and shared them with the Standing Committee, the staff and other lay leaders. But the truth is that we are traversing unfamiliar territory here and no one really knows what will happen. It is that liminal time thing I keep talking about: the old way is no longer but the new way has not yet revealed itself and may not for a while. The consistent advice I hear is: stay grounded in our core values and prepare to respond thoughtfully and with agility from there. It is for times like these that we have our First Parish and UUA covenants to hold us and guide us. We put these covenants into practice through worship and spiritual exploration; through mutual care, being present to one another; and through service to the common good, bearing witness to justice and peace and being good stewards of all we have been given. As events unfold in the coming days and weeks, centering ourselves on these essential practices and discerning how they can support us and what they require of us now can guide us to respond out our core values and our faith, rather than just reacting to the anxiety of the moment. Who within and beyond our congregation needs our spiritual support, our care and our bearing witness? What areas of congregational life and in our larger community need attention and stewardship? How do we connect with our source of life and one another so we can renew our spirits and sustain ourselves to get through the liminal times we are in? I know that I am offering questions instead of answers but I hope the questions can shift us to look toward doing what we can do instead of focusing on all the things we can do nothing about. Meanwhile, I will offer a couple of post-election Zoom Cafés if needed next week.
Second, our Soul Matters Worship Theme is Healing, something that our country and our community are in need of. Rebecca Gore shared with me a Guest Column written by Reimi Hicks for the Chelmsford Eagle September 2nd, 2020. It is called: “A Letter to a Lone Black Lives Matter Protester”
Her family attended First Parish (before my time) and have continued to stay connected and support our congregation. Ms. Hicks words are a powerful and eloquent testimony to the reality of racism in our own community and to the hope for healing.
Stay safe and stay connected.
With gratitude for all of you,
Welcome to September! We have traditionally started our new church year with a water communion, the Sunday after Labor Day. And we will this year as we return to our “regular” worship schedule September 13th at 10 am. But we need to do our water communion differently since we cannot gather in person in our sanctuary. We held our first “mini” water communion this past Sunday outside at the labyrinth, with six people joining me. Jim Curley placed a beautiful ceramic birdbath to serve as the common bowl in the middle of the labyrinth. We stood at the edge and took turns pouring in water. I took pictures and some of us had signs to go with our water. I will offer another mini water communion next Sunday September 6th at 1:30 pm. If you and your family wish to come and pour water into our common bowl, PLEASE LET ME KNOW BY 11 AM SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 5 so Dolores and I can plan the logistics. If you do come in person, you must wear a mask, keep socially distanced from anyone else attending and follow the guidance of Dolores and myself. For those of you who wish to participate from home, please feel free to send a picture to me by Tuesday, September 8th to be included in the slide show. Please use landscape as opposed to portrait mode for your pictures. It is easier for the slide show.
And if you wish to come by during the week on your own to pour water into the bowl in the labyrinth, please feel free to do so. Again, whether you want to take a picture to share in the slide show is up to you.
The Worship Committee, Dolores and I decided to re-subscribe to Soul Matters, a UU theme-based monthly journal for worship, small group discussion, and faith formation, as a helpful tool for fostering connections in our congregation between worship and spiritual exploration for all ages. In addition, Soul Matters, adapting to the times, has added specific resources and discussion materials to address racial injustice and anti-racism work related to their monthly themes and provides permission resources for live stream and recorded worship services.
The theme for September will be Renewal. And as our water communion is a time for renewing our commitment and connection to our First Parish and Unitarian Universalist covenants, I offer this prompt for you to consider as you pour your water into the bowl: “Renewing...” Because we can only provide pictures for the service, feel free to make a poster with the word or phrase that describes what renewal you are giving, receiving, seeking...whatever comes to mind. Bring it to the mini water communion or include it in the photo you send from home. A reminder to parents that our regular church services are live streamed and then recorded and archived on our website. I will not include identifying information about our children and youth under the age of 18. However, if you do send us pictures for the water communion slide show that include them, you are giving us permission to share them publicly via live stream and our website.
I do not know what this new church year will bring, only that it will be different than what we have known before. Between the pandemic, the reckoning with the need for racial justice, and the upcoming election, we face many unknowns causing lots of anxiety and fear, grief and loss. But along with these come moments for creativity, unexpected possibilities, and even transformation. As we negotiate this new terrain, I have three goals: to keep us as safe as possible; to keep us connected and accessible, and to keep us grounded in our Unitarian Universalist covenants and faith.
I look forward to “seeing” you on September 13th.