"Why do you care so much?"
I'd just completed an impassioned affirmation of the need to keep our momentum as a congregation going, to invite more people to be a part of what we are trying to build here, to expand our capacity to serve the folks already with us and those yet to find us. My friend wanted to know the source of my interest in growing who and how we are. Why is it, she wanted to know, that I cannot settle for the status quo when it comes to this congregation and my ministry with it?
The question caught me off guard a bit. I'm not typically asked why it is that I care. I suppose the assumption is that I have to care, or else I wouldn't be a minister. But, you know, sometimes I question why I care, too. Sometimes I question when I'm struggling with a sermon, striving to put into words the possibilities of this life, even despite its challenges and heartaches. Sometimes I question when I see a visitor to our congregation standing alone, maroon cup in hand, while everyone around is so busy visiting with each other to notice. Sometimes I question when I see our devoted, yet-still-human staff and lay leaders navigating the challenges of recruiting volunteers, or grappling with someone's disappointment, or doing their best to find a way to bring our congregational mission and vision to life. Sometimes I question when I look at this world, this world of religious difference and deprivation and despair, and I wonder what good our little efforts could possibly bring.
It's true: Sometimes I question why I care. But in those questioning times, I always bring myself back to a Sunday morning in 1996 when I first entered a Unitarian Universalist church, and I knew that I had come home. Here before me, that spring morning, in word and song and in the faces of those who had also gathered there, was the affirmation that life is here to celebrate, that love is here to share, and that the choice to participate is mine to make. I didn't have to buy into any particular dogma. I didn't have to believe in the supernatural. I didn't have to be anything other than who I am. And in that being who I am in the company of others doing the same thing, I realized I could discover who it is I am becoming. I could open myself to others, learning to be vulnerable and humble. I could face life's realities and still find joy and meaning. I could nurture my ever-developing understanding of the need to "be the change" I want to see. Or, as my first UU minister liked to say (quoting A. Powell Davies), I could "grow a soul."
The choice was mine, just as it always had been. A choice not linked to superstition or to the expectations of my family or to anything other than my willingness to live my life to the fullest and to have my heart opened again and again. It was in a Unitarian Universalist church that I accepted that the choice was mine, and that I would say yes, even though I wasn't altogether sure what that yes would mean. And, at times, I'm still not sure.
But I keep saying yes anyway, and it is that yes that keeps me wanting our congregation to be the place where others can come to hear their own unique yes, where they can grow their souls, where they can choose to participate in this life with all their faculties engaged and their hearts opened.
That's why I care and why I want us to keep growing in number and spirit and influence and possibility. Why do you care? It's a question worth asking... and answering.
January 8 Is Association Sunday!
Since 2007, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has asked congregations to participate in annual Association Sundays to recognize and support, both spiritually and materially, the national work of the Association. Association Sunday is a special opportunity for thousands of UUs across the nation to simultaneously celebrate our shared commitment to Unitarian Universalism.
Our congregation will celebrate Association Sunday on January 8. As part of our service, we will devote our entire offering to affirm our common bonds and purposes as Unitarian Universalists.
The theme of this year's Association Sunday is Celebrating Excellence in Ministries, and funds raised from our collection and other participating congregations will support the UUA, Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network (UUMN), Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA), and other professional organizations. Grants to these organizations will support a range of projects, including scholarships, continuing education, an assessment of our ministries, and other projects that help religious professionals get the ongoing training they need to support thriving congregations.
The UUA asks that each of us consider a donation of $20 or more. Susan and I have already made our donation online. If you'd like to do the same, visit http://uua.kintera.org/assoc_sunday2011.
Best of this new year to you all!
See you in church!
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