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“Toward Emergence”

Hering goes on later to liken us to a tree with its new layers of being as it lives through the years and the conditions that arise. Each year, a concentric circle, wrapped around what came before, embracing it. The tree widens and strengthens while never letting go of or being limited by what it has lived through. The years wrap themselves around and around protecting, supporting, nourishing. Whether growth in any year was slow or even nonexistent, the core remains supported.

So here we are on another threshold, held by all that has come before this moment and all we are living into as the future unfolds before us. If we can be present to it, we will see our wholeness expanding, she says, past and future – roots and crown and seed together – our ever-growing identity reaching toward the light.

When I began here a little over four years ago, I found a congregation in a place of transition in what turned into a time of transition for our whole world. I learned about your beginnings and the joy with which you undertook each challenge that you faced – a new Fellowship – supportive ministries – rapid growth – the promise of what this place on the hill could offer and a way through all the red tape to get to it – a home of your own – all the while exploring meaning making in your own unique way. You faced each of these transitions true to who you are – in true UUMH fashion, and as we navigated pandemic times together it became clear to me that there was one thing above all else that made it possible. You have unflinchingly held one another in deep care through all the ups and downs that this ministry here has experienced. Each of you has your smaller circles of tight relationship here and you are vigilant about maintaining the kinds of connections in them that heal and hold and celebrate. But there is this wider circle also, like the one that Hering talks about, that holds the whole while also expanding ever wider. You stretch that circle wide and then rest in the in between times, the fallow seasons, only to spring forward into newness of life as another circle makes it way around. You do it together and that’s the real gem here. You are in it together, for the long haul. You have a reputation here for resilience and for banding together through tough times – the very root of religion – that which binds us to one another – your values and your hopes and dreams bound up in each heart. A couple of years ago the ‘Cusp of the Future’ folks determined that you wanted to maintain your independence as a faith community. You trusted where you had come from and looked ahead to where Sacred Potential might bring you. And look at you now!

In the Lenten devotional I have been following along with this season, UCC pastor Vicki Kemper, writes about having known from her earliest school age years where she was going and what she wanted to be when she grew up. She followed that path all through college and into a career as a journalist, her mind and heart set on where she was headed. She had forgotten about where she had come from – the long line of fundamentalist preachers whose theology she had run from. But while the theology didn’t suit her, the roots of ministry would not let her go and so she ‘course corrected’ amid personal experiences and world events and lots of Grace bestowed, finding the fortitude to change direction. So, I ask you today to think about where you have come from and to let that be a part of where you are going. What has held you together here? What are the roots of your existence? As you have spread your branches wide, what have you gathered up into your sheltering crown?

This morning’s announcements bring both excitement and apprehension if we are going to be honest. New people in the mix! Folks who have come along in recent years and found in this place a home for their faith and their seeking, who want to see us be all that we can, be that with us. A testament to who we are. A new minister intrigued by all of it and wanting to be available to what is to come. And there is this group of good people working with a consultant, Scott Tayler, on rightsizing, on what makes sense for who you are now, given who you have been and where you are going, a sustainable way into the next circle and the next, holding in care and gratitude the smallest center ring. That’s the exciting part!

But can they handle the responsibility of uncharted territory? Will we like him? What will I need to give up in this ‘reimagining’? Apprehension seeps in. I’ve been preaching change here for four plus years, and all the little changes along the way are coming to fruition in this moment of what feels like big transitions. And they are, but they are grounded in the work you have been doing all along and that makes them both possible and plausible. It can be as amazing as you all want it to be!

Hering calls our attention to trust in the midst of a season in our living that has brought with it a real diminishment of trust in what is new and different from what we have known. We do ourselves no favors when we limit our trust to only what is familiar. We are standing on a shared threshold here on the hill and the key to our healthy emergence lies in the thing that has held us together all along. That which feels like “other” – other than what we have known, other than who has led us, other than who has accompanied us on the journey – calls out to us to be welcomed and trusted as it is melded into the fold, becoming a part of our reality in the now and beyond. Wholeness asks us to accept ourselves as we are while growing into who we can be. If we are to be true to our aspirations as a liberal religious voice here in Chatham, we need to face all of who we have been and who we are, while shaping who we can be with thoughtfulness and rigor and most of all love.

We all have a part to play in this. Each of you has a role in the unfolding. Together we create the conditions for our emerging into this new season. This year as we think about our commitments to UUMH, alongside what we can contribute to the finances necessary to maintain this beautiful building with a well-compensated minister and the kinds of supports that keep the wheels turning, let’s think also about what we each bring with us – our special gifts and talents – the things we love to do that will benefit the whole, the growing edges of our being that we want to invest in this place because we see it’s potential and want to be a part of its becoming.

Our Unitarian Universalism grounds us in this bottom-up approach to community. It invites us each to bring all of who we are – all of our intersecting identities – and to lay them at the altar of our unfolding. Who we are is made up of all your individual sparks of light and life propelling us toward our emergence into a new chapter of existence. Which of your heart’s desires do you bring to the table of transformation that awaits? This is not the time to be shy! We stand at the threshold, glancing back over our shoulders, waving the past to join us as we cross into the future. Some time ago I said we were approaching a threshold and that it wasn’t quite time to cross – we had work to do – thoughts about what we wanted and what we might need to let go of; space to reflect and prepare.

Today I want to say that we have arrived and as we take each other’s hands – go ahead – let’s get up and maybe move into the aisles if you are able to do so – the rest of us will hold you tight – those on Zoom can reach out your hands too – as we take one another’s hands we step boldly through that doorway that has been beckoning us into the brightness of a new day. Go ahead and take a little step if you’d like, as you are able, symbolic of our crossing, of each person’s contribution to that movement. We do so as one people, interdependent and interconnected – each life bound up with the rest - determined and hopeful and ready to pour ourselves into whatever it takes to ensure that the love of this faith community has a place here in the rounds of time encircling us. Come, you longing, thirsty souls, into new realms of living and being and doing – together. We need us. Our world needs us. Let’s take a seat and enjoy a moment to reflect on what will be.

Blessed be.

Rev. Tracy Johnson

UUMH Chatham, March 24, 2024



​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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