Does anyone else remember, back in the early weeks and months of the pandemic, when we seemed to collectively realize that, despite the incredible stress and fear and challenges of that time, there was something to be learned in the slowing down? Time stretched out before us, which was sometimes terrible and frightening, but also sometimes allowed for a kind of life that many of us had lost sight of – time to bake bread and take neighborhood walks, time for conversation and reading and creating art, time to be together (in person if we were lucky, often virtually instead) without a purpose or productivity goal.
I don’t at all want to minimize the incredible difficulty of those months – the losses, the sadness and anxiety, the terrible unknowns, the loneliness. It was awful. But as all our activities and many of our connections were pared away, we seemed to discover some truths about ourselves and what we value; we found gifts in the slowing down, and we promised ourselves and each other that we would hold on to those learnings when things “got back to normal.”
As Rev. David Miller has been reminding us, we will never “go back to normal.” Instead we continue to move forward, always forward, as in the Rumi poem he shared in worship on Sep. 11, “Nobody can go back. To go back is impossible in existence.” And so, the question becomes not if we will move forward, but how.”
Though we won’t ever go back to normal, whatever that might mean, there is no doubt that my calendar, and I suspect many of yours as well, is looking as full as it ever did before the pandemic. Maybe even more so. Sometimes, our involvement at UUCF can feel like just a part of that overwhelming busyness. Just another thing to fit into our schedule in between all the other things. If that’s the way we think about it, it’s all too easy to have a half-hearted or surface-level connection to the community, and to fall away when we are overwhelmed.
I believe it is essential, as UUCF starts this new congregational year, and as we think about what it means to be welcomed forward into this new period of the life of the community, to reflect on what makes UUCF different from many of the other commitments and activities in our lives. It is in that difference that the importance of our connections to this community and to one another become clear.
For me, UUCF is the place and the people that remind me of what I value most deeply, and challenge me to live those values in all that I do. It is here, with all of you, that the truths we learned over these past 3 years remain clear and serve as a guide.
As UUCF moves forward, we are striving to live out those values and those lessons in all the congregation does. Though of course we have tasks to accomplish, events to plan, a building to maintain and finances to manage, our goal is to intentionally and visibly hold on to the mission at the heart of our community – to transform ourselves, our community and the world through acts of love and justice.
Everything we do – from committee meetings, to teaching RE, to sharing food together, to making music, to welcoming newcomers – needs to have at its heart the goals we share: deepening our connections to each other, finding and creating meaning in our lives, working toward a more just and loving world. How busy many of us have become again makes this intentional focus all that much more important.
This means we are examining how we use our space and particularly our Sanctuary so that our hope to be a truly welcoming and inclusive community is evident from the moment someone comes into our space. This means that the newly restarted Voices of Hope Youth Choir is not only about making music but also about creating meaningful relationships among those involved, all while bringing a spirit of love and justice beyond our walls. This means that we hope committees in the congregation will do not only the business with which they are tasked, but also become places of connection and caring and will attend to how the work they do is a path toward spiritual development for those involved. This means we will be looking to use the time we have created between the end of the worship service and the end of Religious Exploration classes for opportunities not only for social interaction, but also for spiritual exploration and meaning making (stay tuned for more info!).
UUCF is not just another activity on our calendars; it is the place where we can find the tools and the companions we need to work toward becoming the people we long to be and creating the world we wish to live in. I hope you will be a part of what we are building as we move forward, always forward.