Future Time

Contributed by board member, The Rev. Sarah Persons

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”  L.R. Knost

It is June and the end of the school year.  Many teens are moving on – to work, to college, to service – out of adolescence and into adulthood.  Some are held back by circumstances, or their own choices.    Most are somewhere on that threshold of one stage of life to the next.  For all of them we worry and grieve and hope. It’s a dangerous time; full of challenges and opportunities that are worlds apart from those their parents faced.  And yet the same hard-won truths apply generation to generation, truths like:

  • we will never be totally prepared for what tomorrow may bring, but we can do our best;
  • the right thing to do will not always make us feel better;
  • the world doesn’t love us, but we find a way to love anyway.

Unitarian Universalists have the tradition of the “Bridging Ceremony”, a ritual intended to honor all our youth have been, all they are now, and all they dream to be.  It is a blessing for coming and going, for endings and beginnings, for those who go forth and those who stay.  It is a promise that we will make room for their possibilities and lend our support through the pitfalls.

“Today I cross this bridge and join in fellowship,” our youths say, “Let me grow but don’t let me go.”

As one who was kicked out of the nest or jumped out – I’m never sure which happened first – I find this tradition especially meaningful.  Our future is in the hands of the next generation and the generation after that.  What do we do to strengthen those hands, to nourish them and lend them the integrity and fortitude and resilience to take up responsibility not just for themselves but for all our lives?

We may never make the world entirely safe for our kids, but we can do all we can to raise kids who will make the world a better place.

An Answer

Interfaith Banner

Submitted by Board Member, The Rev. Sarah Person

“Prayer cannot bring water to parched land, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city, but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.”   Abraham J. Heschel

Five years ago, on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I gathered with fellow clergy and laypeople to wager our hopes on an indifferent city.  We called ourselves the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding.  We were Catholic, Protestant, Baha’i, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Jew, Pagan, Unitarian Universalist, and Hindu.  We had issued an invitation to the people of Hartford to join with us at the Cathedral of St. Joseph for an evening service “United in Prayer, Healing with Hope.”

We arrived early, proceeding to the robing rooms downstairs – our shoes echoing in the cavernous space.  I was told it seated over a thousand.  Why this place, I thought.  It is massive, massively Christian, massively empty.  How can we possibly bring people together here?  Are people ready to reach out to one another across a gulf of painful memories, and be among strangers on this day of all days?

It wasn’t until it was time, and we had moved down the aisle and up the chancel steps and turned around to face the sanctuary that I had my answer.  The Cathedral was filled to overflowing.  Wall to wall, a sea of faces looked back at me – all ages, all colors, wearing all colors, Sunday best and work clothes and vestments.  And on their faces was courage.  When my turn came to speak, I put down my papers and reached out to them, saying:

“Before I begin, take a look around you.  Go ahead, take a good look! This place is full, full of people of different faiths, different walks of life.  How amazing it was to process down this aisle and turn around and see all of you.  This is truly the real answer to fear and hate.  All of you, here, right now.  It’s you.”

We cannot undo evil, but we can undo its effect on us with enough care and enough time and enough hope.  Together.

Welcoming the New Year: The Water Communion Tradition

WaterCommunion

Contributed by The Rev. Sarah Person

“Can we be like drops of water/Falling on the stone/Splashing, breaking, dispersing in air/
Weaker than stone by far but be aware that/As time goes by, the rock will wear away.”
-Holly Near, “The Rock Will Wear Away”

Every tradition and every ritual starts somewhere. They start with people who want to express something deep; something that connects the real with the sacred. We light altar candles. We ring chimes or beat drums or burn incense. We sing songs that come from the heart to praise, to bless, to cry out our joy and our fear and, most of all, our hope. Many of these rituals are hundreds if not thousands of years old.

Although Unitarians and Universalists have been around for centuries, one of their most popular rituals around the world, the Water Communion, is less than forty years old. At a conference in Michigan, the women who attended felt that what they did in worship did not mean much to them spiritually, or make them feel connected to one another. They asked Carolyn McDade and Lucile Longview to create a ritual for the conference that spoke to women and nature and the environment and the power to do justice. (Eliza Blanchard, The History of the Water Service)

So McDade and Longview had all the women sit in a circle and each of them poured water that they had brought with them into a bowl. For each woman, the water symbolized aspects of life; birth, the cycles of the sun and moon and seasons, the water that surrounds us and makes life possible. The first Sunday service of every Autumn, in congregations all around the world, women, men and children bring vials of water that represent a place where something important and memorable happened. By mingling our water, we combine our stories – remembering that each one of us is precious and unique, yet, by virtue of the life we share, connected and dependent on one another. We praise the gift of life, and affirm our commitment to alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters for whom water, like other basic necessities, is a precious commodity too often denied. At the conclusion of the service, some congregations conserve the water to be purified and used for rites of passage. Others, like our church in Middleborough, invite the children in the congregation to pour the water out over our Memorial Garden. In this way, we link our past, our present and our future together as a Beloved Community.

 

Choose Life

 

candlelight-vigil

 

Submitted by board member, The Rev. Sarah Person

“Let us refuse to divide our own hearts, according some people ‘us’ status and labeling others as ‘them.’  Let us peer deep within this mess of terror and healing and choose life, and choose love, over and over.”  Rev. Meg Riley

Three weeks ago, four churches in Middleborough held a joint candlelit vigil on the Town Hall Green.  Together we stood for the dead, and held a light against the coming dark.  Together we held on to our faith, our hope, our courage and our truth.  We had refused to divide our hearts and had let go of who on that expansive twilight lawn was “us” and who was “them.”  I was struck by one of my own truths then – seeing all those faces, young and old, all shapes, all varieties of being human – how we are made infinitely diverse, infinitely unique.  Why do we ignore this aspect of being alive?  Why do we make it something to fear?

We understand now that all living things have the same chemical building blocks of life.  And we understand as well that all complicated natural life has a unique code that directs our elements to grow this way and not that, to express themselves one way and not another.  Sure, humans have more in common with each other than with apple trees.  But it is also true that all humans are unique just as all apple trees are unique.  With enough time and money we could tell which apple came from which tree just as we can tell the parent of the child. To choose life means to accept the nature of living.  It is never “us” and “them,” it is always “I” and “thou.”  What does it mean to you to choose life?

Shared Spring Celebrations

YellowFlowers

Contributed by Board Member, the Rev. Sarah Person

It is spring: deliverance from the quiet darkness of winter and the return of green and the reaching toward the sun.  In our northern climes, spring time is crowded with meaning and rich with symbols and rituals that have been passed down to us like a spiritual DNA.   This season is a true inter-religious, inter-cultural feast!

From time immemorial we have marked the last full moon before the equinox and spring itself and regaled ourselves with bright colors, eggs, hares, particular flowers, bonfires, and dances.

The same lilies and hyacinths that decorate Christian altars on Easter Sunday, are assembled for Ba Hai celebrations of No Ruz.   Eggs appear on the Jewish Seder plate, and in Easter egg hunts.

The Hindu Festival Holi at this time of year is the festival of love, or the festival of colors.  People don’t decorate eggs; they decorate each other with bright powdered colors as they dance in the streets.  It is a time to play, and forgive and to heal.

We all share traditions based on fertility and new growth, renewal and redemption.  We remind one another of our deliverance from evil, from slavery, from death itself.   We embrace the second chance at life and the effervescent joy of living even the short spans allotted to us.

Happy Spring, friends, Happy Spring