I am sitting at my dining room table watching the snow fall and thinking about the fast approaching new year. What does it hold for me? For you? For us together? So much of the New Year holiday is unhelpful and unhealthy. We make meaningless resolutions to eat less, exercise more, develop a spiritual practice, etc. Then the parties that really aren’t that much fun. Too much noise, too much forced gaiety.
Crossing the threshold to a new year can be an opportunity for meaningful reflection and action. That is why I offer you the Coffin and Cradle Services on Sunday December 29th. Think about what you would like to leave behind in 2013. Bring with you to the service an object that represents that intention. You will have an opportunity to place it in a small coffin – a ritual way to surrender what you wish to be done with. People have placed cigarettes in the coffin, pieces of paper with scribbled words, once even a wedding ring. (I don’t recommend that one.) Then think about what you would like to give birth to in the new year. Bring with you to the service an object that represents that intention. You will have an opportunity to place it in a small cradle – a ritual way of affirming your aspirations.
Together we will support each other as we move into the new year with purpose and meaning. And then together we will move into the next stage of the developmental work of the interim: coming to terms with history.
The Transition Team and I will begin this process on January 19th when the sermon will focus on what it means to look backward in order to move forward. We will unroll the butcher paper and begin to craft a timeline of this congregation’s history. We will be asking all of you to share your thoughts about the highlights, the critical turning points, the significant events in your shared life in faith. The magical thing about creating the history wall is that everybody gets to see the tangible evidence of the reality that the congregation’s history is not objective or factual at all; it is an accumulation of personal experiences and subjective memories.
Along with the history wall, the transition team is planning some fun events such as a display from the archives, some oral history sessions, and . . . well, I don’t know what else because the meeting to plan these fun events was postponed because of the snow. But the meeting will eventually happen and the fun will eventually follow.
Coming to terms with history also means asking serious questions about what you have learned from your past. Are there habits that have served you well in the past that you would want to recognize and institutionalize? Are there ways of being you would rather let go of and be free of? In some ways the next few months will be one long Coffin and Cradle ritual. Reflect, share, discard, encourage, affirm, embrace. Repeat.
Are there issues that remain unresolved? In addition to learning from each other and enjoying each other’s company on this path from past to present, you will working together in the spirit of good will and reconciliation to resolve some of those old (and not so old) aches and confusions. The Transition Team and I will continue to create safe spaces where honest exchanges of view can happen in an atmosphere of respectful speaking and reflective listening. We have already seen some moving and close-to-amazing scenes of reconciliation in the Grief and Healing workshops. We fully expect more of this to happen in the next phase. We welcome and celebrate opportunities to come together over differences.
So Happy New Year! There is so much to look forward to, so much good work to be done, so many possibilities for growth and transformation. The new year is an opportunity to take stock, to pay attention, to answer the question posed by the poet Mary Oliver. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
In faith and hope,