Dear Members and Friends,
It snowed here in Chicago this morning and then the skies cleared up. Sunlight lit up the changing colors of the trees. And now it is becoming overcast again. The weather seems to change with my mood, or perhaps it’s the other way around.
I want to wish you a “Happy Halloween” as children celebrate the holiday where scary things can be encountered safely and they go door to door, interacting with neighbors that they may not see any other day of the year.
But it’s hardly a “happy” day when reflecting on the violence unfolding in Gaza and the growing anti-Semitism in our own country. Becoming aware of needless loss of the lives of children, whether Israeli, Palestinian, or any other ethnicity causes me grief.
And yet I find myself wishing for a lovely Halloween experience for both children and adults. May you enjoy the children in your life and/or in your community on this day. May you find moments of joy and connection, ask about children’s costumes, smile at whoever comes to your door or pass on the street. Take this evening to encounter whomever passes your way and give thanks for being a part of your community. What better way to usher in November?
The beginning of November is a time for many people and families to remember those who have touched their lives. It was an honor to share with you this past Sunday about my late mentor, Rob Eller-Isaacs, and some of the things I learned from him about shared ministry. If you missed it, I encourage you to listen to it online here.
In the very first sermon I gave at UU Westport, I shared with you some of what Rob Eller-Isaacs shared with me upon my ordination 24 years ago. In the Homecoming sermon, I paraphrased him:
The expectations of the liberal ministry have changed with the ages. As recently as 30 (now 55) years ago, our ministry was expected to be basically scholarly, well-read, to be overtly academic. Then social needs took the spotlight, and ministers were expected to be social workers. Then when social work seemed marginalized, ministers were expected to be community organizers. When community organizing seemed less than whole, ministers were supposed to be therapists. And when therapy became too individualistic, ministers were supposed to be facilitators. And now? Now, ministers are supposed to be organizational development consultants! You’ll do all those things, but there will always be people in your congregation who can do each of them better than you. Let them! But don’t let them hold you to expectations that will carry you away from the heart of the work.
Your job at the core is to gather the prayers of your people. To gather the prayers of the people and seek to give them voice and clarity by wrestling with and honing your own faith.
It is a tremendous honor to gather the “prayers” among you who are active with UU Westport. In this challenging time of global violence and local anxiety, may this congregation provide you a spiritual, moral anchor. I imagine that it’s especially challenging given the congregation is in transition. For me, the core work of transitional ministry is the same as regular ministry, but with a different set of tasks to address. Given it’s not clear what is in store for this transitional ministry, it can be anxiety producing.
On November 5, I will share specifically about the nature of transitional ministry and my recommendations on how to go forward. Then on November 12, I want to gather following the service to hear your thoughts on what I have proposed. This will include a report from the Appreciative Inquiry Task Force upon whose work I wish to build.
I recognize that I haven’t met with the wide majority of members who are a part of this congregation, and I am committed to be available in person or online to all those who wish to meet with me.
As you gather in person on Sunday, I look forward to joining you remotely! In the meantime here are a couple of poems that speak to me, shared with me by Linda Lubin. The second poem she shared in the vigil on Saturday.
Summons by Aurora Levins Morales
Last night I dreamed
ten thousand grandmothers
from the twelve hundred corners of the earth
walked out into the gap
one breath deep
between the bullet and the flesh
between the bomb and the family.
They told me we cannot wait for governments.
There are no peacekeepers boarding planes.
There are no leaders who dare to say
every life is precious,
so it will have to be us.
They said we will cup our hands around each heart.
We will sing the earth’s song, the song of water,
a song so beautiful that vengeance will turn to weeping,
the mourners will embrace, and grief replace
every impulse toward harm.
Ten thousand is not enough, they said,
so, we have sent this dream, like a flock of doves
into the sleep of the world. Wake up. Put on your shoes.
You who are reading this, I am bringing bandages
and a bag of scented guavas from my trees. I think
I remember the tune. Meet me at the corner.
Watching My Friend Pretend Her Heart is Not Breaking by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
On Earth, just a teaspoon of neutron star
Would weigh six billion tons. Six billion tons
Equals the collective weight of every animal
On earth. Including the insects. Times three.
Six billion tons sounds impossible
Until I consider how it is to swallow grief –
Just a teaspoon and one might as well have consumed
A neutron star. How dense it is,
How it carries inside it the memory of collapse.
How difficult it is to move then.
How impossible to believe that anything
Could lift that weight.
There are many reasons to treat each other
With great tenderness. One is
The sheer miracle that we are here together
On a planet surrounded by dying stars.
Another is that we cannot see what
anyone else has swallowed.