Recent updates from your Transition Leadership Team

On Belonging…

By Leigh Symonds, for the Transition Leadership Team

person in red sweater holding babys hand

What are you longing for?

This question was asked last Sunday by Rev. Beckett Coppola of Kingston Unitarian Fellowship. She noted that the word ‘belong’ is really an intensification of longing, the ‘be’ in English serving to deepen, to intensify the meaning of the root ‘to long for.’ Some of our most precious words contain this prefix ‘be’: beyond, between, becoming, beloved…

Our theme this month is Belonging. In this time of transition — in our Fellowship as well as our wider community and the world — it is well worth asking: what are you longing for? What completes you? What do you need to feel or to do or to be in order to belong?

In this time of transition — in our Fellowship as well as our wider community and the world — it is well worth asking: what are you longing for?

Belonging is one of the most important feelings to nourish in our lives. It is what nurtures us. It is what heals us. It is what holds us in our darknesses and what allows us to leap further or dare more greatly because we know there are hands to catch us when we fall.

It is a complex emotion, encompassing our need for both stability and constancy. It allows us to come home at the end of the day and feel welcome, and it assures us of love, as well as the ecstasy of standing on a cliff edge with our arms outstretched to the wind knowing that we belong and are a part of all creation.

It is an emotion that is not only defined by what we need or want but also, and most importantly, what we give to others. To belong is to be connected with, a part of something other than ourselves: a family, a religious community, a workplace, a sports team, a reading group or a forest. In that community, the self becomes a part of a larger chorus of singers whose voices together create magic beyond that which is singularly beautiful.

What makes you resonate? What makes you want to sing in your heart and your soul? What harmony are you wanting to bring to our Beloved Community? In this lifelong endeavour of becoming something other than we were, belonging is the essential chalice where growth can be kindled and nourished and fed.

Belonging is a chalice where growth can be kindled and nourished and fed.

This week, we are offering the first of a series of Community Conversations to explore who we are, what we need and where we want to grow. Join us on Sunday afternoon in person (Sept 11, 4pm-6pm), or online Tuesday evening (Sept 13, 6:30pm-8:30pm) to explore what we are longing for, what we have lost and, most especially, what we are grateful for. The Tuesday Zoom link is: https://tinyurl.com/CommConversationsUFP

Our Chrysalis Year

Dear wonderful friends,

This year will be a big year of transition for the Fellowship. Perhaps we could call it our chrysalis year? I’m sure there are other ways to think of it but in this season of monarchs, that’s where my mind goes.

I always find courage in the monarch, with its biological willingness to migrate thousands of kilometres each year to a known place and to make it’s generational migration back to our neck of the woods. I know I’m not the only one to feel hope when I think of the caterpillar’s body deforming and becoming molecular goo that knows how to reform into something that flutters and flies and travels farther than I do most years! If the caterpillar can do that, then so can I! I also feel grief: I miss the single-minded hungry little caterpillars, the awe-inspiring chrysalis and the beautiful butterfly every time I watch it transform and become something new and eventually fly away.

This idea of transition, of chrysalis, of simultaneously being and becoming is something the Transition Leadership Team has been discussing that in great depth. We recently reached out to Keith Kron (UUA Transitions Director and author of What Really Matters and co-author of In the Interim). This was an incredibly grounding conversation and we wanted to share the highlights with you.

Firstly, we are in good health! While we have had to watch our beloved Julie fly to new shores, we are full of strong, vibrant and creative leaders who are all actively working to bring a year of ‘spirited’ conversation, meaningful activities and profound journeys for our Fellowship. While there are certainly challenges ahead, we are well prepared for our ‘transition’, exploring our needs and wants as a congregation that will lead us into a meaningful relationship with a new minister. We have been extremely fortunate to have had such strong and long-term relationships with our last number of ministers and Keith recognized how unusual that is and how it speaks to our own inner strength and beauty as a congregation. We need to celebrate us!

Keith also reminded us that the world is still in transition from a pre-COVID to … well, perhaps not a ‘post’ COVID world but rather whatever comes next. He reiterated the need to give ourselves ‘grace’, to take deep breaths and know that we do not need to be in a hurry for anything and that, especially in our global pandemic, things take their own time. He suggested two books for us to read: Four Thousand Weeks (Oliver Burkeman) and How Religion Evolved (Robin Dunbar).

He encouraged us to take this very special time to consider what is important to our community and challenged us to also consider what it is that we need to let go of! He grounded the conversation by always coming back to our strength in community, in co-creating our next steps.

He also told us to take the time to grieve. We all miss Julie greatly! And now that she is gone, perhaps we are also beginning to better appreciate more that she did…. because we are now absorbing the many things she did and how she held the pulse of our community. Mourning is an important and essential part of this process. Grief is something that is healed through community, through creative expression and through the simple act of breathing deeply.

In order to facilitate our transition, the Transition Leadership Team and the Board are in the midst of organizing some community conversations. The first one will be early in September! Everyone will have an opportunity to hear and be heard. We want everyone to share our current needs, our hopes for the future and our sadness for losing a good friend, mentor, advisor and beautiful minister. Hopefully, we will celebrate Julie’s strength in allowing herself her own transformation and migration. In this, she’s paved the way for our own transition. A wonderful gift if we let it be, one that I am, personally, very grateful for.

We are all in this state of transition, of realignment, of both getting back to our roots and trying out new wings. This is all the way it should be: growth demands change. At least, that’s the lesson I get from the monarchs.

We, the Transition Leadership Team, are very grateful for each and every one of you. We hope you’ll join in these conversations that are so important for our community. And if you can’t make them, please send in your thoughts, concerns and hopes to our email transitionleadershipteam@ufp.com.

In the meantime, celebrate the beauty of you and this world. Take the time to see the monarchs and marvel at their biological ability to inspire humans.

In gratitude,

— Leigh Symonds, for the Transition Leadership Team
(Aukje Byker, Ben Taylor, Donna Harris, Kate Jarrett and Stephanie Wildheart)

Past Transition Leadership Team Notes