Sep. 10, 2018.

By Intern Minister Pippin Whitaker.

As a child of the 80s, the movie “Back to the Future” was … formative. For those who haven’t seen it, in the movie Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, goes back in time by accident, gets to know his parents and finds he can change his future by changing small things in the past. Super. The twist is that by changing the past so he can be rich and powerful, he almost erases himself from existence (a minor drawback of time travel). He must learn to be careful if he wants to have a future. In the end, he develops a wiser vision of his future that is informed by errors of the past.

Well, rest assured, I did not spend this summer almost erasing myself! But I did move out of the “present” of this congregation while, as is tradition, I was off internship duties in the summer. While away, I wrapped my head around the fact that I will complete my internship in May and, as required by Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) guidelines, I will leave this wonderful congregation that has taught me so much. I spent time envisioning the core of my future ministry. I still do not know where I will end up. Yet I am at ease in this uncertainty because I have a sense of what I need to do for my ministry to flourish.

And now, I return from summer with a question on my heart about the future. Not about my ministry, but about the future of who we are as UUs. What are we changing for our future?

I spent the last week of August in Chicago with past and present leaders of our faith at Meadville Lombard Theological School. Conversations with former UUA presidents the Rev. Drs. Bill Sinkford and Bill Schulz lent a long perspective on our faith, a perspective that feels both historical and urgent. Urgent because the future of our faith, our democracy, and indeed of humans, is uncertain. The way we imagine our future has often rested on a narrative that the world is slowly progressing on history’s long arc toward justice. The narrative says that we are inching it along. But it feels like the destination of that arc is fading from vision.

Looking back at the Black Empowerment Controversy of the late 1960s and 70s, struggles to place gay and lesbian ministers in the 1980s, ongoing challenges supporting youth leadership and more, we can learn a great deal from the hopes and visions of our past. How shall we envision a wiser future as Marty McFly did in “Back to the Future”? How must we change our vision so that the future of Beloved Community is not erased?

As I review the programs and initiatives coming up this congregational year, I am encouraged that UUCF is offering so many ways to answer these questions. I see ways to develop one’s spiritual self and vision through a wide range of spirituality enrichment programs we will be highlighting through UUCF’s Heart of Our Promise initiative. I see opportunities to widen perspectives on history like “The Wilderness Journey” documentary viewing and discussion on Dec. 1. I see ways to share visions among people that don’t often get to talk, though intergenerational worship services beginning Oct. 7. In these uncertain times, I hope you will join in these and other opportunities to help answer the question “What are we changing about our future?”

Life is uncertainty; we just aren’t always aware of its presence. Yet, uncertainty is a powerful partner in changing our future if we collaborate with it intentionally: imagining our visions together, and letting a collective vision be our guide.

So I am back, with my heart set on the future in so many ways – the year ahead with you, my ministry after May, the future of our faith and our world. Let us widen our visions to journey together, let us look back to move forward with intention, let us partner with uncertainty on our journey. Let us get back to our future.