There is an old tale told of three of the workers building Notre Dame Cathedral. A passerby asks the first one what he was doing. He replied “I am putting in my time laying stones so that I might earn my daily bread”. The passerby walked farther down the wall and asked a second worker what he was doing, “I am laying the stones to build this great wall.” Onward still the passerby went to the last man working near the foundation and asked him what he was doing. He replied “I am building a great cathedral to the glory of God!”
Only the last one truly understood the power of creation. None of us build something great alone. Every great building, every great business, every great community such as ours comes from the combined work of many. Each of us has a part to play but what we must remember is the greater prize we strive for. Only together is beauty created and preserved, never solely alone. Even the greatest painters of old had family who supported them, friends who helped them and clients who admired the work they did. Whether we are making art or providing for a family, we are co-creators of beauty.
Unitarian Universalists are co-creators of a theology which begins as a dream and finds realization in what the theologian Henry Nelson Weiman termed “creative interchange”. Each of us brings our dreams and faith to the crucible of a community wherein a common faith emerges. What is our faith here in Westport? As it is so aptly symbolized in our beloved building, we dream of a world free from strife, embracing the metaphors of nature in balance; each of us part of the whole that makes this community so welcoming and healing. Have we finished our creation? No, not yet, but we are well on our way.
Some see the burning of the roof and spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, as a commentary on all that is wrong with our world; a beautiful icon of the past destroyed by greed and neglect. I see something else. I see a tragedy that calls on all of us to rise up and rebuild the great cathedral just as it was done so majestically before by those ancient hands. In the rebuilding comes a new hope, a new chance to see the aspirations the Cathedral once stood for – glory, peace and a love for God, broadly defined – as once again rising into reality. Far from a tragedy, I see the rebuilding as an opportunity to rise again from the ashes to a renewed sense of common purpose and humanity. Money alone doesn’t build cathedrals, but faith and purpose do.
Our beloved church, this icon to the dreams of our founders, needs the same faith and purpose to achieve its restoration. I hope you will join me in dreaming and renewing our space so that we might boldly inspire those who follow to fulfill those dreams still left to be made real.
Yours Always, John