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Pastor’s Perspective

November

As I write this, I am preparing myself for the fact that my team, the Philadelphia Phillies, are getting ready to play in the World Series for the 6th time in my lifetime. My dad, who was a huge Phillies fan and who passed that fandom on to me and my brothers, would have loved this. So, in a way, it is bittersweet. Sitting through these postseason games has really put me through the wringer – they are so tense and nerve-wracking to watch! I know that my blood pressure has been through the roof (OK, maybe I’m taking the games too seriously!). But I think, in many ways, all of us are feeling rather tense and fearful these days, especially as we near another election. Recently, I was sent a devotional by Rev. Tara Humphries, a UUA pastor in Portland, about what to do with fear. I share portions of it with you now: Be not afraid. Do not fear. What’s that all about? How would we NOT be afraid in this world? Well, as a character in the biblical stories, God would say - have faith in ME! I got your back! But it’s a bit more complicated than that. We as Unitarian Universalists have many different understandings of faith, of scripture, and of God. So what, then, do we do with fear? When I was training as a hospital chaplain at a level 1 trauma center, I spent long days and nights with people facing serious illness, dealing with crises, and preparing for death. Many of them were not religious. Yet I still offered to say a prayer or share a reading when I sensed they were looking for comfort. I was shocked by the number of patients who asked me to read the 23rd Psalm. So many that I had it memorized by the end of my time there. Even though I was weary of biblical language at the time (the number of people telling my patients that everything happens for a reason left a bitter taste in my mouth...), I did fall in love with Psalm 23. And the funny thing is, the reason I find it comforting is that although the psalmis writes “I will fear no evil”, I actually find that it invites me to accept my fear. Not get rid of it. Perhaps what our Unitarian Universalist faith offers us is not a God who takes our fear away, but a community where we can bring our fear and still be accepted. Still be cherished. Still belong. Perhaps it is not God’s rod and staff that comfort, but those metaphorical ones in the hands of those we see on Sunday mornings. Those who send us cards and drop off soup. Who offer us a moment to check in before the meeting starts. What she writes about her UUA tradition and church is so very true for us as well. “No matter who you are and where you are on life’s journey...you are welcome here.” And we truly live that out in so many ways. As we continue to navigate our way through these complex and often fearful times, we are being called to look again at the question of “who are we as a church and what are we being called to do?” We’ve spent time on those questions in a spring retreat, a “What if?” exercise in church, and many conversations in groups and committees. Now, we will have a chance to really delve into these questions at an all-church retreat on Saturday, November 12th, from 1-4 PM at the church. Our retreat leader will be Karen Kilty, a spiritual director, retreat and yoga leader and faith formation educator who is a graduate of the Soul of Leadership program, through Executive Soul and the Shalem Institute. I hope that as many of you as possible will be able to join us for this important retreat as we listen for how God is calling us in this new time! May God be with you and may you know God’s hope and peace in new ways in this and every season. Tim

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