The day this blog is published is the anniversary of my first Sunday at UUCF as your Assistant Minister for Congregational Life! I preached that morning to a camcorder and a TV screen from the pulpit in the Sanctuary for the very first time. I think … Didn’t I? Gosh, I can hardly remember. I know the message feels just as relevant today as it did a year ago. That feels both strange and comforting. An entire year has gone by and this just feels like a different variant of “The Twilight Zone.” But, do not despair, dear ones.
In line with the both/and of our faith tradition, I am moved by the need to commemorate all the grief and loss we have witnessed and felt in our lives, and the need to ring in a brand new year with no mistakes in it (a la “Anne of Green Gables”). Like they say about the sea, this year has felt like it has both given and taken away.
Many people try to list their gratitudes privately or in community at the end of the year. Others list everything and send them as Christmas letters. (My favorites include pictures of the laughable lows of the year.) I must confess that by this time of year I am often out of steam to compose a quippy letter or review. Instead, I have found that a simple ritual works for me.
At the beginning of each year, I like to choose a word as an intention. In 2020, my word was Alignment. In 2021, my word was Grounding. In 2022, I have decided to live into the word Spacious.
No, I’m not planning to board one of the billionaire rocket ships into our upper sky. This year, I am seeking to breathe into a more Spacious existence for myself and others.
After two recent unexpected deaths in my circle of colleagues and co-conspirators, I read a raw blog post by adrienne maree brown and was moved by the resonance that I felt with her vulnerable sharing:
“what i want to share with you today is that this year nearly took me out. it didn’t, i am still here. but the simplest truth is that i have been struggling. i am tethered by a close circle, and a set of small, repeated practices to keep moving through the days. i want to share, in case it helps. especially to those who follow emergent strategy and pleasure activism and maybe think i have it all together: i don’t. as far as i can see, no one does, nor is that a reasonable goal in this moment.”
I am relieved to read that “having it together” doesn’t seem like a reasonable goal in this moment to someone like adrienne maree brown. She goes on to describe the events that led her to step back and take a needed break. There was no spaciousness. She was drowning in work and had forgotten to nourish herself, until people who loved her called her back to the shore. It’s a powerful story of love and resilience-potential within community.
She then invites us to grieve with her and practice ritual to make it through.
“when the big hits come, all that new and unexpected grief pouring into my overflowing heart, i have a small and sacred ritual i want to share with y’all, in case it helps.
first i sit with the true emotion – shock, tears, denial, anger, absence. (…)
then i let the memories come, and i say them aloud. (…)
i light a candle for the transition, the journey my loved one is on, the path i have not yet traveled. (…)
if there is material support needed for the funeral or family, i make the donation with tears drying on my face, letting the felt sense of impermanence guide my giving.
finally, i gather with other grievers.”
Wow. What a prophetic embodied ritual … to welcome any and all emotion, to speak memory back into existence, to illuminate a candle for new life and to feel the tears dry as we move forward with generosity and into community. I feel a spaciousness within that ritual.
I felt a similar spaciousness at the funeral for one of my dear departed colleagues this past week. There was room for public grief. There was room for the pastor to take a moment and weep before continuing to speak. There was room for laughter. There was room for lifting up and for holding close. There was plenty of room. It was a spacious celebration of life.
adrienne maree brown’s blog post concludes with another spacious reminder that there is always time to breathe:
“if it’s all kind of breathless and messy and you can’t clean it up, or make it more palatable, or put any mask on other than the one marked oxygen – breathe. anything that matters will keep until you catch your breath.”
Beloveds, my humble prayer for you in this new year is this:
May you know that you are enough. May you know that you are loved. May you know that there is spacious room for your sacred life. May you breathe deeply into the intention laid upon your heart this year. Amen. Ase. May it be so.