I really love the metaphors of journey and travel as a way to think about life. We are all on some kind of a journey. For some, in any given moment, it is an adventure. For others, it is a tough slog. And of course, the quality and style of our journey changes from day to day. We never really know if today’s path will be easy or joyful or painful or exciting.
It is always bittersweet for me to come to the end of June. I am very ready to be on the road to some non-Fellowship-related holiday spots, and I’m also sad to be letting go of the patterns and joys in my normal life. Is the same true for you? I will miss you, and I will miss gathering with you in different ways throughout the week.
But there is nothing like a new vista to clear one’s head, and to offer us a bit of perspective. Whatever your summer plans, try going to a new place. It might be a city street that you’ve never been on, or a bike path that veers off in an unexpected direction. It could be a visit to a new friend’s home, or a big trip to places unknown. But do go somewhere new…because it’ll open your eyes a little wider, and make your sight a bit clearer.
My summer will contain a bit of the old and a bit of the new. I’m leaving Peterborough several weeks earlier than usual because of a change in my family’s reunion date. I’m traveling to the UUA General Assembly in Spokane, WA and will hear/see many new things. I’m going to be the chaplain for Camp fYrefly at Trent when I return from this trip. And, later in the summer, some friends are coming to Peterborough and we’re going to Haliburton to take an art class…another new thing.
A big new thing is that Ben Robins will start work as our DRE in mid-July. So I’ll be returning to the office for a week to train/orient him, and will also lead the service on July 21.
Our website calendar will note the ‘in’ times for Elaine, Ben, and me throughout the summer. When I’m not available, there are other ministers on-call for Peterborough. If you have a need, please reach out to Guy Hanchet, our Board chair, or a member of the Committee on Ministry…Chris Campbell, Paula Greenwood, or Jovanna Soligo.
Call on our Circle of Care. The link to the facilitator of the month will be in The Flame, which will come to your inbox each Friday, as usual.
Finally, reach out to one another. Plan some fun get-togethers. Get a group together for a picnic, or 4th Line, or a paddle. Advertise your idea in The Flame. Some family outings are being posted on our RE Facebook page. Join that page, so you see events in your news feed.
This year, we have traveled far together. Now, the summer is a time to roll the windows down, stop for ice cream, and park under the stars. Head for the beach, or just get your hands deep into your garden soil. Linger in a favourite spot, but also go to places never explored before.
But sooner or later, be sure to connect. The summer is no time to go it alone. Check in with one another. Come to Sunday evenings at UFP and hug your friends. Meet some new folks. Think about some new things.
Travel well. May you experience many new things. And after you’ve seen all you needed to see, and had a chance to rest and be restored, come back home. I’ll meet you at UFP.
Past Stone Soup Columns
You are a community of beauty; you are marvelous, and kind, and open-hearted.
And anyone who might have been present for our Annual General Meeting on May 26 would have seen you at your most beautiful; thoughtful, creative, respectful.
Opening our Annual Report, anyone can see the many good and important things that we have going on here at UFP, and can see that this community is one of beauty; committed, collaborative, giving.
When I think of our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, I imagine a beautiful bud, or seed, at the center of each of us. Beautiful potential. Beautiful essence. Beautiful spirit of life. And I believe that this bud, or blossoming, is always available to us. It is that divine spark at our core.
When I think of our seventh principle, the interconnected web of all existence, I imagine a shimmering network of those individual blossoms of light. And I imagine that the strands between us light up with possibility when we intentionally connect to one another, joining and serving together to create a community of beauty. You are that vision.
It’s a beautiful thing…the way we blossom, the way we show up, the way that we connect to one another. Here’s a poem by Dawna Markova:
May I, may you, may we not live unlived lives.
May none of us live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
May we choose to inhabit our days,
to allow our living to open to us,
to make us less afraid,
to loosen our hearts
until they become wings,
May each of us choose to risk our significance;
to live so that which comes to us as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which comes to us as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
You are alive! You are blossoms, and wings, and promises. You do risk your significance in order to create and sustain our Fellowship. You are truly community of beauty!
Shining with you,
“We are the church of the open minds”, says a UU children’s chalice lighting. This claim has often led to a dialogue about how we might be open-minded while also holding strong convictions about what is right…as if those two things were mutually exclusive.
As the ‘church of the open minds’, our faith would have us ask questions and listen well, which is a hallmark of curiosity. So, now I find myself wondering about the interplay between curiosity and having convictions.
I’ve recently read an article that was shared on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Facebook page. You can read it using this link. It speaks to the need for more intellectual humility in our world, and less need for ‘confidence and bluster.’ As for conviction, author Brian Resnick, writes:
“To be intellectually humble doesn’t mean giving up on the ideas we love and believe in. It just means that we need to be thoughtful in choosing our convictions, be open to adjusting them, seek out their flaws, and never stop being curious about why we believe what we believe.”
In other words, we don’t need to be unsure of our beliefs in order to be sincerely curious about those of others. And by practicing intellectual humility… and by being willing to be changed…our curiosity may indeed lead us to new and transformative understandings.
With you on the journey,
Early in my time in Peterborough, I said something that got some pushback. While I can’t remember verbatim details, I certainly remember the gist of it. My words implied that we need to improve/to get better. Those who pushed back felt I was implying that they weren’t good enough just as they are. They wanted to be seen as whole, just as they are.
So what does it mean to be whole? Wholeness, in the midst of life’s changes and transitions, cannot be seen as a process of returning to some original perfect state. Rather, we are always working with the whole of what we are to make something new. Our pieces do not need to be put perfectly together, but are more like building blocks to be molded into a yet-to-be-imagined form. To be made whole is to be all of what we are…in whatever assemblage is true at the moment.
But when we do feel broken, and wholeness seems illusive, remember that cracks make room for creativity. That’s not to minimize the pain, or to scorn our wish for improvement. Rather, seeing what’s broken calls for us to perceive our lives as filled with possibility. “Look closer,” says our faith, “that ash, if worked with, can give birth to a Phoenix.” “Your broken pieces are more than rubble” is something our faith tells us about wholeness, urging us to “Crack wider!” As odd as it sounds, we become more when we are broken open.
To be honest, I fear that I DO sometimes lean too heavily on ‘improvement’ over ‘acceptance.’ It’s in my DNA. But we do well to remember the word AND. We are broken AND we are whole. In fact, our brokenness, along with our ability to improve, repair and restore ourselves, is what makes us perfectly whole just as we are.
Wholeness is not about perfect health or right behaviour. It’s not about never making mistakes, or always feeling confident. Wholeness as human beings is about embracing the whole of what it means to be human…which is to be constantly learning, constantly slipping up, constantly dreaming, constantly opening ourselves to the new. It’s experiencing the full range of what it means to be alive…wholly human.
You are whole and you are holy…just as you are.
Unitarians love to tell journey stories. And hear each other’s journey stories.
It’s a curious thing when you think about it. We welcome people to our community not by asking them to commit to thinking exactly as the group does, but by having them speak to how their journey is unique. We connect to each other not by sharing the same journey, but by offering each person the space to discover the unique journey that best fits them. It’s about making room for people to write their own stories. Or maybe it’s about making room for people to re-write their stories.
It’s become popular in our society to talk about spiritual journeys as a process of living into your full or true self. That’s a helpful frame. And yet our spiritual journeys do not begin with a blank slate; they often begin with a need to untangle ourselves from the identities we were given but which don’t fit, and to begin anew.
So we have this important awareness that spiritual journeys are not simply about finding our true selves, but are also about untangling from our old selves. As Albert Schweitzer once wrote: “The path of awakening is not about becoming who you are. Rather it is about unbecoming who you are not.”
So then, most spiritual journeys begin with a leaving, a separation, or a decision to walk away, the first steps are often laced with mourning and isolation. “Unbecoming” is not easy work.
And, this isn’t just a one-time thing. We find ourselves routinely tangled up in all kinds of identities and journeys that aren’t truly ours. “Unbecoming who you are not” is a journey we walk nearly every day.
So, being a community of journey involves tenderness. Making room for each other’s unique stories includes making room for each other’s pain. Remember that “unbecoming who you are not” can involve isolation and mourning. Perhaps pit-stops of kindness and tenderness along our way will be just what we need to boldly continue our journeys of becoming.
So what does all this mean for us this month? Well, first, it’s an important reminder that along with being here to help each other hold steady and persevere on our paths, whether it’s a path of becoming or unbecoming. One thing is for sure; we are blessed to have each other’s company as we travel this journey of life.
Feeling privilege to be walking with you,