As we conclude our church year and move toward a new church year, I believe that we have so much to acknowledge and celebrate as a congregation.
Throughout this church year, we have navigated the challenges of yet another year of the pandemic. Nevertheless, as a congregation, through the efforts of many we have also:
- Maintained an active worshipping community in our sanctuary and online.
- Met in small groups and Soul Matters groups.
- Provided care to one another during loss, illness, and uncertainty.
- Remembered the losses among us and among our friends and our families.
- Improved our facilities and turned to solar power for some of our energy needs.
- Offered programs for children and youth and online resources to families.
- Provided music to add to our worship services through our choir, musicians, and video recordings.
Launched a series of LifeStream @ First Unitarian workshops online and in the building for our congregation and the wider community.
- Served in some vital volunteer positions that have allowed us to oversee the governance and management of our congregation and provide ongoing programs.
- Incorporated new Pastoral Care Associates and Worship Associates to serve our congregation.
- Welcomed some new attendees and members.
- Supported our congregation's mission through our volunteer efforts and financial contributions to the congregation and several community organizations that are aligned with our UU Principles
...and much more.
I would add that I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to serve as your minister over this past year and to be serving alongside a great staff and a number of lay leaders.
The World is Calling Us
I realize many of the values that we espouse as Unitarian Universalists are currently being challenged and refuted:
- Tragically, we continue to face tragic gun violence, including last night in Uvalde, Texas at Robb Elementary School
- Recently there was another brutal racially motivated shooting in Buffalo
- Each day we learn about some school boards that are banning books and limiting discussions on particular topics.
- Each day we are learning about state legislatures, governors, and possibly the Supreme Court restricting the rights of some.
- Sadly, places in our world are being terrorized and destroyed for desiring to exercise more democratic freedoms.
- Many are searching for a religious home, a House for Hope, where they can feel supported in their values and strengthened in their resolve to “be the change” they hope to see.
I believe that the world is calling us.
As Unitarian Universalists, we cannot afford during this time to relinquish our prophetic role in the face of contemporary authoritarian, racist, and theocratic forces within religion, society, and the world.
We cannot afford to be a faith of convenience--when so much more is needed.
We need to actually be fortified–by one another's presence in order to be strong advocates for human dignity, democratic process, peaceful methods, racial justice and eco-justice,
We cannot merely espouse exemplary ideals unless we are also willing to support each other in embodying those ideals.
We cannot affirm the ongoing search for truth and meaning, if we are not also making time for the personal and spiritual growth across the lifespan.
This is a Time
I must also admit what is on the minds and hearts of many church leaders right now.
Having settled into certain and necessary patterns during the pandemic, we will continue to find familiar or new practices if we are to boldly face the tasks before us.
Whether we choose to attend online or in the building, we still need to show up for one another, for current generations of children and youth, and for those who are hurting and hoping in our world.
This is a time for us to bring forth the best of what we have been, even as we venture toward new ways of being church with one another and for the wider community.
We need to ask ourselves new questions and make new demands of ourselves, if we are to build upon our legacy and truly offer the gifts that we have to offer.
Among those questions are:
- How can we each build up this congregation's spiritual and collective power to face the world that we are in?
- How can we continue to demonstrate to ourselves and to the wider community that this is a place dedicated to ongoing personal, spiritual growth, and social transformation?
- How do we connect with those who desperately need a House for Hope and make it possible for them to even find our walkway or our web address?
- How do we balance what is convenient for us with what may also be needed for our congregation as a community?
As I said in a recent sermon, the underlying question really is: "Who do we choose to be?"
- Who do we choose to be for one another?
- Who do we choose to be for this larger community of Wilmington?
- Who do we choose to be for coming generations?
- Who do we choose to be for the sake of the most neglected in our society?
- Who do we choose to be for the sake of this earth during a time of climate crisis?
These are among the questions, I invite us all to reflect on this summer and as we transition into a new church year. I will be reflecting upon these questions as well.
I look forward to the ways that we will respond to these questions in the new church year in a way that allows us to show up for each other and for our surrounding community--and responds to the challenges of our time.
I continue to cultivate a sacred resolve that propels us to be firm in our capacity to be harbingers of hope and a steady courageous presence to one another and to what is Holy, what is true, and what is just.