Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Holidays & Holy Days

At the congregation I serve we have monthly themes that provide a framework for our Faith Development efforts, including our weekly worship.  This month the theme is "Holidays & Holy Days," and one of the questions we've been dancing with is, "what's the difference?  What makes a holiday a holy day?"

On the first Wednesday of the month my creative co-conspirator, Leia Durland-Jones, and I have been facilitating a program around that month's theme.  As part of our Holidays & Holy Days program we each were given the opportunity to journal about what we'd been discussing.  This is what came up for me:
Holidays.  Holy days.
Days of Turning.  Transformation.
Moments -- mountaintops and valleys;
Highs and lows.  Birth and Death. And choices made.
Roads taken.

To mark.  To know I've marked these times.
Interrupt the everyday.  Break the
Step off the path.
Stand.  Dance.  Weep.  Listen.

We are called by something greater than ourselves . . .
called to something greater.
But it's so damned hard to hear,
so damnably hard to hear,
so god-damned hard to hear.

To hear.
That's what this is about.

Pax tecum,


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

What Do We Offer?

I am finding myself almost daily learning something new about Pope Francis, and each new revelation is surprising and inspiring. 

When he carried his own bags and paid his own hotel bill after the Conclave, I took note.  When he eschewed the gaudiest robes and the special shoes and the fancy "bling" that goes with being Pope, I sat up a bit.  When he washed the feet of prisoners (including women), I found myself leaning forward.  And when he agreed to receive Tim Schmalz's controversial -- but to my mind powerfully evocative -- sculpture, "Jesus the Homeless," my smile shone in my eyes.

But when I heard that he has been known to sneak out at night to minister to the homeless?  I wasn't just impressed . . . I was moved.  Could it be, as a friend of mine asked, that we finally have a Christian as Pope?

As I say, I was moved.  I've written before about my encounters with some of the unhoused people I'd met while commuting in and out of Boston during my days at UUHQ.  And Charlottesville, like virtually everywhere else, has a homeless population, a few of whom I have gotten to know a bit.  And the church that I serve is part of the town's PACEM program that provides housing during the coldest months of the year, so working with the homeless and to end homelessness is one of our ministries already.  One to which I'm particularly drawn.

After hearing about Pope Francis I found myself thinking about how I spend my time.  Could I make a practice of going out to the Downtown Mall and spending some time there, getting to know the guys who pass their days there?  Could I make time to volunteer at the Haven?  And I started fantasizing about saying to them as we get to know each other, "You should come by our church some Sunday," and having TJMC become a community where homeless men and women and professors from UVa rub shoulders as members of the same family.

But then I thought, "would what we're doing here matter?"  Would the things we say and do on Sundays matter to people who don't have a roof over their heads and who don't know where their next meal is coming from?  I know that the "salvific message" of Unitarian Universalism would be relevant.  I believe that our core teaching -- which I sum up as "we are one human family, on one fragile planet, in one miraculous universe, bound by love" -- is life giving.  But would our Sunday assemblies?

I don't think so.  And I don't know what it would take for the folks who come for food on the first Friday, or our PACEM guests, to feel welcome and at home.  But I know I like the idea.

And for what it's worth, I think the Pope would like it too.

Pax tecum,