Join us for this festive Candlelight Service with members of our congregation and Rev. Larry Peers as we celebrate with story, song and carols and reflect upon the meanings of a Holy Night Bring family or guests. Refreshments will follow the service.
Speaker: Rev. Larry Peers
If we crave certainty and control, then mystery can be discomforting. The writer Anne Lamott expresses the push and pull of mystery in our life. On the one hand, she offers that: “When we are stunned to a place beyond words, when an aspect of … read more.
We tend to imagine that awe is only related to the extraordinary within human experience. Yet, awe is perhaps the most ordinary of human experiences. In many of our religious celebrations this month and this time of year, we remember and evoke awe through story, song, candles and festivity. Scientists studying awe tell us that awe may be the most necessary factor in ensuring our survival as a species. Indeed, Wendell Berry, the American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer, encourages us to “…abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it”
Where do you “get your awe?” How do experiences of awe change you?
Each of us negotiates our own needs for “cocooning” and “connecting.” Spiritual traditions have encouraged the practices of solitude and of connection with one another. Cocooning, according to futurist Faith Popcorn is our desire to shelter ourselves from the harsh realities of the world. It can take extreme and not-so-extreme forms. Our home can become the center of our self-contained and controlled reality as well as a place of comfort. Sociologists have named the growing phenomenon toward self-sufficiency and shying away from joining or belonging as “bowling alone.” Connecting may also be a deep longing in us. John O’Donohue wrote that “To be human is to belong. Belonging is a circle that embraces everything; if we reject it, we damage our nature.” To develop personally and spiritually we need to discover our own relationship to both solitude and belonging.
Meaningful community can be a blessing in each of our lives. It can help us to weather the storms in our life and in our world. It can steady us when so much seems overwhelming and uncertain. Sanctuary can be the place where we acknowledge different milestones in life and come together to celebrate and to comfort one another. We need the “blessing called sanctuary.”
Sanctuary is also an experience. Karina Antonopoulos says, “Where you belong is where you choose to constantly choose to show up.” I would add that how you choose to show up is also what makes a sanctuary a holy place. Being present to one another and creating places of belonging for our whole selves and for others makes a sanctuary, indeed, a sanctuary.
James Baldwin wrote that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Let us face our doubts, pay attention to what they are telling us and teaching us. Our doubts can be doorways to deeper exploration … read more.
We often have a limited understanding of faith. We may need to broaden our attention to the dynamics of faith in our everyday life and not confuse it, as many have, merely with beliefs. Some scholars within Unitarian Universalism and within Christianity have come to understand that our understanding of “faith” was diverted somewhere along the way in the history of Christianity. Many in Christianity came to identify faith with creeds, orthodoxy and “correct doctrine.” This was not the origin of Christianity, and Unitarian and Universalists perspectives have offered an alternative view of what “faith” means in a way that can provide an opening and liberating view for us.
This service marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the “Days of Awe,” the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Whatever our religious orientation, each of us can benefit from times that call us into deeper reflection and reconciliation as part of a personal and interpersonal process of renewal. Rabbi Heschel wrote: “Wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of the religious person’s attitude toward [the world].” Included in the service will be UU minister Rob Eller-Isaac’s musical litany which has the refrain, “We begin again in love.” Following the service, we will have some traditional holiday foods (apples, honey, etc.).
Decluttering is all the rage these days. With the popularity of Japanese author Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and the Netflix series, “Tidying Up” some have been finding new ways of culling and organizing possessions. Henry David Thoreau has recently been called “The first Declutterer.” His “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity” exhortation in Walden is only one indication of how his prophetic witness and his spiritual life were intertwined. In this service, we will draw some personal and practical lessons from Thoreau who wrote: “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake…by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us on even in our soundest sleep.”
When we dare to have our individual and our collective expectations, we also dare to hope and to be changed. In this annual Ingathering Service, we will take individual and collective responsibility for shaping our life together as a congregation in this new congregation year. As part of our service, we will have a Gathering of the Waters Ritual. Please bring a small amount of water from a special place or even your own home to pour into our common bowl.