Our Soul Matters Worship and Reflection Theme for the month of October is “Deep Listening.” And if there ever was a time for this practice, it is now. As we enter the last month before the election, there are a lot of loud and competing voices predicting all kinds of terrible things if one side or the other wins. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues, with over 205,000 Americans dead from COVID 19, with very little attention or voice given to those struggling to recover, the families of those who have lost loved ones or the people on the frontlines who are trying to treat those who are sick or prevent others from getting the disease. I understand the desire to get back to normal, to the way things were before. That is not possible right now and may never be. We are betwixt and between the reality we knew and a new way of being that has not yet made itself fully known. We are in a liminal season.
We are entering a third stage of sorts. We went through the crisis of spring. We had a pause over the summer—with no school, warmer weather and a receding of the virus, people could get outside and reclaim a little bit of normalcy. Now we have entered fall—a return to school with everything different, the impending reality of colder weather and shorter days, and the possibility of a second wave of COVID 19. Plus the stress of everything happening in our country with the reckoning for racial justice, a divided electorate and a national election where the soul of our nation feels at stake. I sense a growing weariness as people feel the strain of sustaining the extra effort and vigilance often required to negotiate these anxious times. I don’t blame anyone who wants to just crawl into bed, pull the covers over their head and stay there until spring. Or at least until the election is well past.
I took a course this summer called “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You are Going” with Susan Beaumont, a congregational consultant whose work I know and trust. It was excellent and healing. Susan pointed out again and again the work of this liminal season is one of deep listening—stilling ourselves so as to get below the noise and anxiety to reflect on what have we lost, what really matters, and what wants to emerge. I have shared these questions with the Standing Committee, our governing board, and the Committee on Ministry, the team that supports me in discerning what is needed in the ministry to the congregation. One very helpful idea that emerged from these conversations was to ask how we are living and can live into our covenant during this time. How do we and can we welcome all souls? How do we and can we be present to one another? How do we and can we bear witness? How do we and can we be good stewards? Things have changed and we have to do things very differently. But our covenant still calls us to sustain and nurture our beloved community. We are still here.
I know this to be true because I am witness to all the ways that people are connecting via Zoom or outdoors in small groups, or on the phone. I see the efforts and adaptations that our lay leaders and staff are putting in behind the scenes to keep our congregation up and running. I see how generous everyone continues to be with their time, talent and treasure. I see how people are finding ways to be present to one another in our joys and sorrows and to bear witness to justice and peace in our larger communities. Thank you. You are a creative, generous, compassionate and resilient congregation. We will get through this.
Two last things. First, the ramp up to a new church year is always busy. This year has been even more so, with the extra efforts required to connect. I am remembering back in the spring when we rebuilt our congregational life brick by brick—not trying to do too many new things at once. It is a wise practice. We will be adding things back slowly into worship and into our other activities as energy and capacity allow. We will be trying out new things, like our monthly Soul Matters Sharing Circles, and seeing how they work. And I promise that I will resume the Zoom Cafés, for example, once all the extra meetings needed for the new church year have slowed. So keep reaching out to one another in the ways that feel meaningful and safe for you and finding ways to connect.
Second, reasons for celebration and joy still abound. We will be celebrating the ordination of Jennifer Johnson, our intern minister from last year, on Sunday, October 11th by joining with her home congregation in Franklin for our worship service. We will be sending out the link for that particular Sunday closer to the date.
Take care, each and everyone of you. I send my love and gratitude.