In 1983 I traveled to Central America to see for myself what was happening in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. Our government was involved militarily in those countries, and I heard a sermon about the good things the Sandinistas were doing, and the terrible things our government was doing. I was disturbed. The trip was important.
I searched around and finally found a group of Lutheran seminarians going to Central America and happened to have an opening at the last minute, since one person from their group had dropped out. I was glad to fill the vacancy. The seminary teacher who led the group introduced me and said, “As a Unitarian, Mr. Hall will be our resident corrective.”
I appreciated the sentiment, but I was a little uncomfortable. After all, I was a guest in their midst and had no intention of pointing out errors. He had used the term corrective in a positive sense, however, so I took it to mean that I would provide some balance to the group.
I was reminded of the need for such balance when I got a note from a member of the church I served in Attleboro. Don was chair of the search committee that called me. During my twelve years, Don served as a corrective to the ultra liberals in the congregation. It was not a happy role for him to play, but he wasn’t easily intimidated. He and I had some serious battles, but he hung in there with me, and for that I will be eternally grateful. In his note today he told me about someone who left that church, complaining it had become ultra-liberal. He didn’t want to serve as a necessary corrective. Disagreement is a test of true companionship.
Last week, at our annual meeting, Rob Zuckerman, offered some very moving reflections on his term as Board Chairman, which was to end that day. He told us about going to a bar mitzvah the previous week and putting on a yarmulke, and for the first time he felt no discomfort, no conflict. He said, “I felt that I had come to terms with my Jewish roots, without even being conscious of it. This place has provided me with the opportunity to develop my own personal faith system. I feel at home here, and for that I’m very grateful.”
The bar mitzvah is the ceremony suggesting a boy has matured into a man. In truth, however, that process takes a lifetime. Rob’s story revealed his internal development.
I don’t know if it was because Rob set the tone for the meeting, but others who gave reports made similar statements-testimonials about the deeper meanings and purposes this congregation has served for them. The meeting was an affirmation of faith development more than about buildings and budgets. It was a unique annual meeting, in my experience.
Nothing could be more gratifying to me. I was very moved, and deeply grateful. I appreciate those who serve as correctives in our congregation–those who don’t always agree with things I say, but are willing to speak to me so we can keep working together. I won’t be deterred from speaking the truth, as I see it. But I need those who are willing to be the corrective more than I need cheerleaders. I appreciate the encouragement, but I also need the support of correctives.
We’re here for spiritual-moral growth, first and foremost. As Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit about becoming Real: “It doesn’t happen to those who break easily, have sharp edges or have to be carefully kept.” I hope it’s happening for you. Take care.