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"Blessings Occur"





Blessings occur. This poem has been magneted up on my refrigerator since I received it in a note from a colleague early in the pandemic. Who knew it was being saved for such a purpose as this! Blessings occur!


A brief meeting with some UUMH leadership revealed a relative lack of plan going forward several years back, a gap that I could fill temporarily. A pastoral presence with a few thoughts on her mind and heart that could be shared. And it wasn’t too much later in the year that a much bigger liminal space would appear on the horizon – a time of huge unknowns - so many more questions than answers – no certainty about it at all. And so, I stayed. I like to think that the stars had aligned – that the Universe had shone down upon us – opportunities for each of us in the offing. Blessings occur.


You needed care and tending, leadership unafraid of diving into crisis and trying new things. And as for me, a chance to broaden my skills and try them out in a new setting. We navigated that time well – took to zoom like candy for the soul. I remember one of our elders commenting, “Look at all of us octogenarians getting ourselves signed on to zoom!” When people ask me what kind of ministry this is – interim – contract – developmental – settled – I always respond that this was an extraordinary ministry for an extraordinary time – a pandemic ministry.


We used that liminal space to the fullest – weekly worship, coffee time, book studies on aging and racism and oppression and covenant – our history as a faith tradition and its roots – inclusivity, thinking about and creating a mission statement – all of it before we even reentered the building! And slowly we returned, getting back to normal, but never quite the same for what we had endured as a people and a nation and the world. And we dove into what might be next for the Meeting House, what changes might we need to make for a sustainable future. All the while tending one another, tending the flame of our faith.


Hannah Fries, in her poem “Insects with Long Childhoods” writes in part,


 “. . . only a few weeks in the light – sharp as blades of consciousness, incessant – buzz, cosmic background of loss – threaded through summer’s throbbing – days, lush nights, a brevity so full – it must feel like the eternity they came from.”


A brevity so full – speaks to me of our time together. So, so full of life and loss and creativity and energy. If it had been ten years in another time we might not have come so far as we have. This journey together has been brimming with possibility – potential – sacred opportunity, you know by now that this is what I call it. A holy time by virtue of all it held, all the energy swirling about in our midst, guiding us, asking us hard questions, holding us, catching us when we fall and placing us back on the path.


I want to leave you with some thoughts, some ‘noticings’ that may be of use as you venture on. They are things you likely know about yourselves, about church, about life – so much wisdom here amongst us. But we forget and need sometimes to be told again or to be affirmed in what we know that gets buried beneath the busyness of things.


When people ask me about UUMH my first response is almost always, “They are a people who care deeply for one another and our world.” Because it is one of the first things I learned about you all! Being small has its advantages. You know each other so intimately and there is time to know everyone this way. It is so lovely to see you tending to the personal needs that arise – just life happening – but that can be so hard when we have to go it alone. No one here has to do that!


“There is a love” we sang at the opening, because there is a love that permeates this place. And it extends outward beyond our walls. You are a generous people who never hesitates to contribute to the needs of your community which are so many even as we might not think so. But we live here, and we know that there are “two Cape Cods” as Dan Wolfe so eloquently said some years back. And you do your best to raise awareness about more global concerns and to make a difference. Your voices matter! Don’t forget that. And so, you are a beacon here perched on the hill, of progressive thought, a sanctuary for those seeking after a safe place to make justice a living reality in our world. Keep speaking up and keep those doors open wide. Welcome all comers and be willing to learn from them – to be changed – you and them in the give and take – the ‘creative interchange’ as Henry Nelson Wieman put it. This is what inclusion is all about.


And, if you haven’t noticed, or don’t want to admit so readily, you are getting older! And the people you attract are younger than some of you who have been around for a long time now, but not exactly youngsters! You have the hearts of youngsters, though, and I know you get disappointed when you can’t live up to expectations you still hold for yourselves. I talked about this recently, but it is okay to slow down a bit, even as the times we live in create a real burning within your hearts and minds and spirits to be the activists you have often been. Your wisdom and experience are so valuable to these times. Your willingness to share it all is a real gift to the community and the wider world. It will make a difference. Trust it. Pace yourselves. Keep learning and growing and sharing and know how powerful that can be.


We have called this a shared ministry, which was perhaps a new concept for some of you. I am a collaborative leader, a servant leader some would say. This endeavor of Unitarian Universalism that calls each of us in some way to make an impression on the world, to be of service to humankind, is a ministry, whether you like the word or not! It just means simply that serving is the priority in how you go about your business – one another, the community, the causes that speak to your values. When we share in that ministry with our fellow congregants, the wider UU association and its members, with our ministers and teachers and administrators – all the folks that hold the container together, it becomes for us a means to build upon our hopes – all contributions equally important, every hand and heart a piece of the whole. Less hierarchy. We want it in our lives and if we are smart, we can see a place for it also in our churches. Because it takes all of us to keep this dream alive.


So, don’t be afraid to include one another in your plans – this committee or task group – this project or new idea. Talk to each other! Frequently! Pick up the phone. Meet for coffee. Come on out of your silos and do the work of church together – truly together. I will admit to having been a bit of the glue that holds this all together over the past four plus years – present in each silo and translating for you – sharing details otherwise missed – oiling the gears maybe but suffice it to say that I have created a space in which you didn’t need to do this so much for yourselves. I can care too much and then I am not really of service! So, in a couple of weeks that presence will be on to other things and the leadership you are moving into will be much more ‘half time’ in nature, with less of a routine presence perhaps, although I know, always available for consult. It will be fine, but you will need to pick up the slack. You will figure it out, I am certain, but it is a skill I wish I had planted more deeply in my time with you.


There were some things we didn’t do that we might have, and you may still, in time, come to a comfort level with these – learning about conflict resolution so that when things get tough you have tools for how to be with one another in healthy ways that honor all involved. Taking a look at your history – the whole of it – the good, the bad and the ugly and looking for patterns in your ways of being that may not any longer serve you so that you can get beyond them in moments when similar situations arise. All of it, holy work that builds on the powerful relationships you already have. My hope is that you tend to yourselves in these ways. It can only make you stronger.

 

There is a will to survive here – so strong and so deep. You ventured out from the start – scrappy and full of spunk – into this endeavor of liberal religious faith in Chatham. And you are not ready to let it go! This I can see clearly. You have chosen leaders for this time who have been here before in other settings. Trust their guidance. Lean into change. Joe said to me of change one day after a service that maybe if I keep repeating it you will someday do it! It wasn’t that long ago, and I said that I was running out of time! It might be my most preached upon topic! But church in general is changing in our world and in order to sustain ourselves we need to able to move with it. Remember that day we made a circle around the sanctuary, and I said it was finally time to step over the threshold? And you joined hands and looked across at one another and took that step? I wish you could have seen it from my view, up here, because it was priceless. Joy and anticipation and hopefulness and courage on all of your faces. Keep that moment alive in your hearts and all will be well! Blessings occur.


So, Dear Ones, I have gone on enough for today! Each of you here has a little mesh bag with a seed filled heart in it. Together we have planted seeds of blessing in this space for the past four and a half years and I know you will continue to bless this place, this community and the world with the seeds you plant. May these be symbolic for you of all that is yet to come. May you plant with love and care, courage and passion. May blessings continue to occur in your midst.


So may it be and Amen.

Rev. Tracy Johnson

UUMH Chatham, June 16, 2024

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​Unitarian Universalist

Meeting House of Chatham
Sunday Services  10:30 AM

819 Main Street
All MAIL To: PO Box 18​​
Chatham, MA 02633
(508) 945-2075

Serving our Cape Cod Community in Chatham since 1986

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