Happy New Year! I am so thankful for everyone who participated in our events in the month of December and all of the community events, faith development activities, collections we sponsored, and other life of this church from the water communion up through the fall. Looking forward, I am so excited about the possibilities, opportunities and plans we have in store. I was happy to see so many faces lit up by candlelight at our Christmas Eve Holiday service. I hope that the new year renews your amazing spirits that I see on SUnday and during the week and brings the many new blessings - both expected and unexpected - throughout the coming year.
Winter is now full upon us. I don’t need to remind myself when I come into the church to look at the old Germanic rune for winter sewn on our banner in the entry; nor wait to see if the snow piled up around rosebush out front that still hasn’t melted away; nor miss seeing the sun who went down long before I got in my car to drive back home. I feel winter in my very being.
Some folks tell me that it is a depressing time of year, but I really don’t find it that way. It reminds me of the darkness of the womb. I am thankful for those who have come before me and all the work we have done in the preceding months to be safe and warm. (Thanks to the congregation for getting the roof secured and to the board for getting the furnace fixed!) And I wait in expectancy for the things that come next. The things that are planned - like the Women’s March and the MLK parade, like the screening of "Herstory: The Visionary Life of Lydia Ruyle and the Banners of the Divine Feminine" with Lydia’s banners decorating our sanctuary this month - and those unplanned or just beginning to be planned -like a special speaker in February and blessings of spring that surely will arise as we use this winter wisely.
Our theme this month is Choice, which is a challenging theme to start the year out with. It recognizes that we are all endowed with freedom of will. Not that we may or may not be entirely without destiny - I know many Unitarian Universalists with varying opinions on that topic - but that part of what makes us special in religious terms is that we have input on what the outcome of our lives and world will be. The future is not written. The future is something of a decision to be made. Depending on how solid we feel in our meaning making enterprise, this can be an empowering notion, a daunting notion, or a scary notion. Choices that we previously made have begun to lay out our reaction to our current circumstance. And yet, freedom of will means that we are not wholly wedded to those past choices either. At a time when people choose to reward or condemn themselves based on past new years resolutions, and to go back to making new new year’s resolutions, we are going to celebrate this month the opportunities we have to make resolutions, evaluate them, discard them and recommit to them.
One of the acts of choice is the affirmation of covenant. In the month of January, the board and I decided that we wanted to publicly affirm and deepen through a public covenant the relationship between the ministry and congregational leadership in a short ceremony during a service this month and that is an event this Winter season I am certainly looking forward to. I hope you will be there.
I am looking forward to this month of January with an open heart and to the months that follow! I hope you are as well!
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Well December is here, that month that has come to herald winter for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. In the agricultural societies, it means that the summer harvest has been collected and put away and now is a time characterized by being indoors, resting from the labors of the year past and resting up for the season of planting to come. A time of cold evenings and warm time around the hearth.
And our world feels a little out of whack too, doesn’t it? Not just the natural seasonal change, with the constant news cycle spinning faster and faster, it’s hard to remember what normal is supposed to be. Especially at times like this I always think about the Unitarian Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I won’t get too deeply into it here (among other things, I’m thinking of it as inspiration for my thoughts on Christmas Eve), but Longfellow found himself overcome with sadness at this time of year in 1863 - he was disillusioned with the state of the world and had suffered personal tragedy because of it. The bells of Christmas seemed to be mocking and yet, the poem does answer with hope even in a difficult time.
Maybe that’s why balance is our theme this month. Why is it that topic tends to be on folks’ minds this time of year? The days grow so short, and the evening seem to begin early and stretch late. When our surroundings seem so tipped one way, how do we balance? Part of it all is perspective. The year itself needs to be balanced, all those long summer days that have already passed need to give way to these evenings if we are to maintain balance. But also, as individuals we are called to bring balance. We fill the dark nights with light from candles and holiday logs on the fire; we balance the cold with warm blankets and coats for our outside and warm beverages and hot food for our insides.
We are going to keep our balance at the church as well, not falling into a hibernative state but one of activity and excitement in the month of December to match some of where we slowed down this summer. Not only are we balancing activity, but we are balancing tradition here at UUCG. Our membership ministry has a brand new even planned by way of craft fair and children’s event during the month - hopefully you’ll find some way of being involved either as a participant or a host (or perhaps both); I‘m sure Hollis Berendt or Kathy Vaughn would love to have your help. By way of more traditional, we will have the second year of our Stone Soup pageant service the Sunday after Thanksgiving. There is an opportunity for all to be able to participate in the play, put on a bit of a costume, or simply sit and enjoy the show after the bustle of holiday preparation earlier in the week.
Our traditions will balance this month as well. The winter solstice falls on Saturday the 21st of this year and on the following day, our pagan group will celebrate our Sunday service with us with a program called “The Longest Night.” Later that week, we’ll have a late afternoon Christmas Eve service with the choir singing (and a special children’s part for those who want to participate), a candle light version of Silent Night, and a blessing for the year.
I hope we get the chance to catch up a little as this busy holiday season starts. As always, my door is open and I’m in the offices at most times on Mondays and Tuesdays if just a brief chat after services won’t be enough.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
I write this note to you now with icicles dripping off the roof of the church outside my window. The little Church Squirrel who has been trying to raise her young ones on the sunflower seeds that have grown in our yard bounced past the door in the early afternoon, but I expect that she and her children are getting ready to bed down for the winter. Fall seems to have late and decided to leave early. Growing up in Colorado, I know that traditionally November is the second heaviest month for snow. If late October is any guide, that will hold true again.
And yet, unlike Church Squirrel, we don’t meet the season with a sudden rush of activity followed by a long nap period. Our work goes the whole year round. Though it too looks different depending on the season. We have some exciting things that are coming up. Early this month, we will celebrate our All Souls/Day of the Dead Service. It will be good to acknowledge the role that our departed continue to play in our lives as we practice our role as the living - a somber day that is filled with bittersweet joy in shared community.
Starting off the month of November with Day of the Dead, I hope prepares us for our theme. In the immediate weeks, our monthly theme is compassion which is a topic related to both the themes of peace and empathy we just passed through. Often we get compassion mixed up with the important ideas of charity and mercy. All those ideas are related, but true compassion is not exactly any of them. Compassion literally means “to suffer alongside.” When we have compassion for someone, we are so much offering someone something out of pity, but being with them out of concern, finding a way to walk or sit with them in a time of need, both theirs and ours. Everything we’ve talked about in both the months of empathy and peace will play a role in our exploration of compassion (on Sundays and during other events during the week).
People often think of November as a time for giving thanks for the bounty in our lives, which will be an interesting facet to explore in our month of compassion. As the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley, I have recently had several things that I am thankful for on behalf of the church.
I was so happy that several of our affinity groups gathered this past month, the pagans for the Samhain celebration and the choir members for their retreat. We have two really great Build Your Own Theology classes that are in the midst of wrestling with some great questions of meaning making. The Buddist group is wrapping up this coming month with a lunch and the Fermenting Theology group has found a home at the taphouse down the street. If the weather cooperates, we’ll have a theological walk later in November. Our church is humming with life.
And yet there is still space for more. How can we help create more space for you to come alive? What ideas do you have that you want to bring to this church and where are your passions? Perhaps you have an itch to become more involved in social justice or helping grow the church. I’d love to get you connected to those ministries. Maybe you have an itch to have more influence on our worship services. Maybe you have some ideas you can’t quite put your finger on. I want to talk to you all about it. There is more room at all the tables.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Our church year is off to a very good start. We are blessed with a great deal of energy and momentum that comes from the year that we just went through together. I am excited to see the board unveil their plan to the congregation this month of what new and innovative things they will guide us to spend the extra money donated
through the donor matching fund and their thoughts on how that will continue the growth and energy in this faith community. It is one of the most remarkable things about a congregational system that the folks in the room, are the beginning of the font of inspiration in our faith.
We are starting up the Build Your Own Theology classes again this fall and I am looking forward to the involvement of both returning and new faces. The second class is set, but there is room for new folks in the Introduction classes. The purpose of Build Your Own Theology is to develop an explicit meaning making process and have the opportunity to discuss it and explore it in a group. Many of us give ourselves labels and shortcuts in our belief system that help us navigate through a normal day, but this is an opportunity to really figure out what you believe. One of the major benefits to working out your own meaning making process is that you aren’t taken off guard and an especially trying time and force to grapple with what you think about your life experience at a moment of crisis, rather than a moment of calm. I’ve saved a couple of seats for anyone interested in the introductory program this fall.
As we begin our month exploring the theme of peace, it seems like not a moment too soon. Reflecting on my own thoughts, I find myself thinking about the announcement last week that we are sending soldiers to Saudi Arabia, though not in numbers that would be in the thousands. The Yemeni war in that region has brought many interests into conflict, I do have concerns about even small increases in our forces there.
Peace is a difficult thing to achieve. The center of gravity often seems to be conflict and the path to war often seems to be downhill. If we want peace, it seems clear that we will have to work for it; to prepare for it.
Even more than that, however, I think it will be important to recognize what peace will actually mean when it is achieved. Often we recognize what a thing is not before we can ever say what a thing is. We seem to think we’ll “know it when we see it.” And as such, we often go down every mistaken path, hit a dead end and have to circle back. Instead, we might ask ourselves where we actually want to go instead of reminding ourselves where we don’t want to be. Just a thought.
So here are some thoughts from me about where peace is. Peace is a place where justice is manifest. No justice, no
peace. This is not a threat, it is a requirement of peace. If we don’t have justice, there cannot be actual peace. Second, peace is lasting. Hence, it must be sustainable. Without sustainability, peace is merely a pause between moments of the status quo. It further means that peace must be part of stability. It cannot rest on one or two very fine points or it will easily tip over. Peace also must be recognized as a choice. Peace can be upset if individuals want to do so. What else is required of peace? What thoughts do you have?
I look forward to this coming month of explorations with you and I how you are looking forward to them as well. May our time together be rewarding and insightful and may we deepen our appreciation of peace.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
I hope that everyone has had a fantastic summer, filled with experiences that brought you both joy and meaning. I hope that your plans went off (mostly) without a hitch and the memories that you created in the warm summer months filled you with excitement and enthusiasm for what is to come.
I am excited about our upcoming year and the chance to celebrate another church year with the Greeley congregation. We had a very fruitful 365 days together and I am excited about the upcoming year. I think we are lucky to be at this moment with our church sails full of spiritual energy, congregational excitement and even a bit of financial windfall due to the generosity of our anonymous donor and the stretching of our congregation in surpassing our previous fundraising efforts.
We will launch our year as with the water communion which will be an all ages affair. I hope those with children will bring them out September 8th for this special ceremony. I always enjoy seeing the adventurous and creative stories that people bring to this ritual. Some of the water from some far flung place on someone’s bucket list vacation - the “this water flowed from the Ganges” water. Some of the water from a traditional location of meaning - the “this water was taken from the irrigation ditch running alongside our family farm” water; and some water from a moment to be remembered but never recaptured again - the “this water came from the drinking fountain on my child’s kindergarten class on the first day of school” water. I hope you make it on that day, or soon thereafter, because it is going to be a really wonderful year.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship, Rev. Aaron
I always end up writing these words a few weeks before they actually get published so they require a bit of skill in both reminiscing and predicting. It is now one of the very hot moments in the year, but by the time you read this, hopefully the “dog days” of summer will be behind us and, speaking for myself, I’ll be looking to that time when the temperatures are a bit more moderate.
I’m glad to see that, at least so far, we have not lost in the momentum of the church. Yes, the summers will always be slightly slower, but the energy really has been pretty high
this year. It’s the mark of our commitment to being a relevant community of faith in northern Colorado that we have continued to build on that forward movement, rather than fall back into a sleepy summer nap. Certainly the world around us hasn’t appeared to take a break, the President has doubled down on racist comments emboldening vitriol, the government has accelerated programs designed to take people into custody despite either willfully or negligently failing to attend to the basic needs of those it holds in prison, including children separated from their families, and finally our on-going low level hostility. Even if we had decided to take the summer off, it’s clear that the problems of the world wouldn’t have.
We didn’t pause however. We continued to build community and raise our voices. We showed up for the students of Bella Romero at an interfaith service to publicly witness the 20 plus well-fracking operation next to their playground. I was honored to be invited to give one of the three prayers at the service. My prayer is posted in the newsletter. We also coordinated with our partners to host the PRIDE service in Greeley (Special thanks to our Board President Julie Miller for all her hard work) and the potluck that followed. We joined our sibling church at Namaqua UU in Loveland - and we found out how cool it is when your minister can jam on the guitar (Sorry, Folks!). Most importantly, we continued to build our community within the walls of our sanctuary, bringing and sharing so much time, talent and treasure, on Sundays and many other days.
This month, our theme is labor and it is fitting and proper we think of labor, because a faith community is an expression of a labor of love. Much of the human experience is centered around work, what we chose to do, and so our labor says a great deal about who we are theologically- how we make meaning of our lives and this world.
I especially want to thank the board for their retreat last month. Meeting on a Monday for more than half a day is a real commitment and sacrifice by the leadership of this church. I hope you’ll take the time to thank them personally for the work they’ve done for you and us all. At the retreat, we challenged one another and brainstormed for visions about where we were going with this faith community. I was inspired.
I’ve tried to keep up that brainstorming, and I hope you will too. One project that I have been inspired to try is what I’m going to call “Theological Walks” which are something of a riff off of the Walkabouts that Sharlene Meydell and Jane Wheeler ran this spring, combined with an experience I had attending the Babi Yar Memorial park in Denver in
mid-July. The 60ish minute walks will be a mixture of historical tour, Socratic dialogue, walking meditation, and community building. Depending on how folks feel, we’ll probably get lunch together afterwards. Our first Theological Walk will take place downtown on August 26th at 12:00 and I hope to continue them throughout the year on the fourth Monday of the month.
I know I’m not the only one who has been brainstorming about our work. In our past month of regeneration, the pagan group at church has begun making plans to restart some traditions and make some new ones. I hope you’ll consider joining them for a celebration of Lammas. Lammas - an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “loaf-mass” as the first of three harvest Sabbats. More details are in the Unifax.
As we approach the end of summer and start thinking about the ingathering, I want to remind you to collect a little water to share next month for our water communion. It is always a fun experience to mark the turn of the church year with the waters from far and wide- and near and dear.
Enjoy the rest of the summer my friends. You are all in my thoughts.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship, Rev. Aaron
Who ever said summer was a slow season for a Unitarian Universalist Church? June was a remarkably full month for me and my role at the church. I write to you on the back side of another General Assembly (GA) which was held in Spokane, Washington this year. As always, it was good to connect with fellow Unitarian Universalists from all over the country. Also, as always, there was a great deal of excitement in many of the conversations, some anxiety, a smidge of confusion, and a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of the proceedings were recorded and I would encourage those who could not attend to watch some of the proceedings. I was very proud to be able to carry our banner in the opening ceremonies. From what I could tell by the receipt pinned to the banner, the last time that happened our dear member Judy Meyers represented us. I was so honored to follow her lead. There was an act of public witness that we engaged in, helping the UU congregation in Spokane protest a proposed jail expansion and the larger issues of money bail and mass incarceration. I collected a bunch of material in the vendors booths to bring back to our church -so of which is now on our literature rack and table, so please help yourself. My favorite part however might have been the powerful service of the youth and young adults in the synergy service which is put together by the young people at GA and recognizes their bridging from one stage of life to the other. The message I got loud in clear in that service is that they did not want to find they were abandoned now that they were young adults. As a congregation on the doorstep of a university, I think we are uniquely placed to hear that call and look forward to talking this year with all of you about how we can expand our community more fully to students from UNC.
The trip out and back was great for me as well. The landscapes of the intermountain west got me thinking a great deal about what stories we tell and what our environment tells us here in this part of the world. It’s a long trip with lots of miles on the car through some very remarkable and varied landscapes. One of the stories of immediate consequence to our congregation that I go to participate in was the quick drop down I made after GA in Spokane to Moscow, Idaho where I got the chance to meet old church alumni Alice Fadner & Tom Woodrum. Tom was the celebrant in services and Alice was playing piano. They were warm and hospitable. Their new home church is lovely (and their planning some amazing expansions). Tom and Alice inquired about many of you and I enjoyed reporting back. If you haven’t reached out in a while, I encourage you to do so. I know they think of you often.
I also want to highlight the experience we had at the Pridefest this year and thank those members of the church who were able to make it down. I was glad to see us represented by clergy, leadership, social justice, and even new friends. It was very exciting and I know that we made quite a statement. I heard people specifically call out “Hey, Greeley!” “That’s a Greeley Church!” “Represent Greeley!” If folks from our community were down in Denver on that day (and I know they were), I’m sure that took notice and pride that we are the kind of faith community in Northern Colorado that will sacrifice to make our voice heard for all people. As well as remind our fellow UU’s that we are kickin’ up here in Northern Colorado.
Finally, I want to say how excited I was to see photos of the service that the congregation did while I was away. I know members of the Vaughn family worked hard on the service and I am glad so many were able to attend and celebrate on Sunday as a community.
I look forward to our month of Regeneration together, building on the successes of our past year and emerging into a bright coming year. The shared service with Namaqua will be great and I think the board will come out of its retreat with some wonderful ideas and news.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
I signed off my musings last month by saying how excited I was about our shared ministry and where we were headed. As we just ended the sixth month of our church year, I find myself continuing to be excited. As a new minister here, I really couldn’t be more impressed with this community and the enthusiasm that has been shown. You are definitely a people of resilience. Things have not always broken your way, and yet you all keep showing up for one another. As we finish our month of Loving, your actions are perhaps the greatest testimony to our community. Not that we are a perfect community, but that we continue to be an engaged one, a loving one and therefore a more perfect one.
Over the last few months, we’ve been lucky enough to be introduced to the Woerner family who travel a great distance to be with us on Sundays. It can’t always be easy getting everybody packed up and ready to go, but this family does it often to be part of our community at services. I’m always impressed when they arrive, being a father myself and knowing what it takes to have that kind of organization in the morning. In February, Angela wrote on one of our social media platforms that the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley was “open, honest, accepting, loving.” I can’t think of a better description for our community to be, to aspire to be and to continue to be. If we remain the kind of community Angela calls us while remaining dedicated to our mission as a congregation to grow spiritually, live meaningfully, and help heal the world, we really can build the kind of transformational community that I charge us to be at the end of every service.
In our church year, we have had two great collections of themes so far: first with Calling, Responsibility, and Justice and then with Family, Community, and Love. This month we will begin a new series with Nature, Environment, and Cycle. In the first month of Nature, I hope to see you all on my two Sundays, but I am also excited to hear our Board President Julie Miller’s kickoff exploration on the theme and more about Kim Womantree’s service on Pagan Spring. At the time of this writing, I also wait with baited breath for our mystery guest at the end of the month.
Finally, as we slide into the second half of the year, we will have more opportunities to recommit ourselves to our vision in a couple of concrete ways. Showing up is always a big one; your presence on Sundays is the single best thing that you can do to show support for the church community, but also take advantage of the learning opportunities and community events at other times as well. Also, if you haven’t already done so, consider becoming a member. The Unitarian Universalist Association recently changed their rules so that congregational dues are no longer pegged on a per member formula but rather as a percentage of the congregation’s budget. As a community, there is no longer any downside to having more members join the church. Talk to me or one of the board about membership if you are even thinking you might want to join. Lastly, as a community we have the opportunity to contribute financially. We are lucky and thankful to have some extremely generous members and friends in this church. Already this year, we have crossed the threshold of pledges collected from last year’s mark. This means that any further pledge money collected this year, including additions to the current pledges, are being doubled at the end of the year by the anonymous donor. That’s really great news for our church.
I spoke last month about how Love spreads between the imperfect reality of the beloved and the perfectible aspiration of the beloved. We started the church year in September with a great deal of hope that we would have something of an awakening. That hope first budded and now has really begun to come into fruition. Our hope is not yet completely ripened, but if we continue to strive, stay committed and excited about what is possible, the kind of love I described last month -- that love we feel for this community -- will help us continue to realize that hope. As I end most Sundays with you all, may we make it so, with the loving work of our hearts and our hands. Have a fantastic March and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Rev. Aaron Norris
What an interesting time of the year! So many calendars coming together and bringing so many perspectives. Are we running behind? Didn’t the year just start? Or are we only in the middle of things? Are we talking school year, or tax year, church year, or calendar year? Is this the end of the winter season? Shouldn’t we talk about springtime yet? It’s all crazy enough to make one start talking weather patterns with hibernating rodents.
The really good news is, even in this confusing mixed up time, with lots of questions than answers, there is some real movement. Our congregation has begun to wake into an early spring. More folks are coming to services; we are participating in more varied events and with sincere participation; new faces are appearing and old friends are showing up. We have been growing in our generosity too. We have what the physicists describe as momentum: that universal physical principle— an object in motion tends to stay in motion — which I am happy to say describes our church well right now.
Traditionally, February has been a high-water mark for us in terms of attendance at church. Historically speaking, we have shown up in the greatest numbers in February and I am expecting that trend to continue. What I hope we buck a bit this year, is the habit we then have during the year of falling off a bit as the spring pushes away the winter and then relents to summer, not fully picking up again until the Fall. I understand fully those times are busier than other times, and I wouldn’t ask anyone to give up travel or some other tradition, but I am hoping we can remain an engaged community longer during the year.
And even if you do find yourself traveling, I hope you’ll take time to attend services at another UU church or fellowship. Deepening you appreciation for our sibling communities and wider faith movement is a service to this community. As they used to say when one was departing in my African village: “Go and Greet the People!” If your going out in the New England area, let me know, so I can hook you up with some of the folks at the UUA headquarters in Boston and see if I can get somebody to sit and talk with you a bit. And if your headed out west, you might enjoy attending something put on by the UUA’s Pacific Western Region (not as the purpose of your trip, but a tag on). Finally, if you’re interested, the yearly gathering of UU’s, General Assembly (GA), is occurring in Spokane, WA this year on June 19-23. If your thinking of going, let me know: you can potentially carry our banner and represent our voice at the gathering. All this to say that there are more ways to deepen your Unitarian Universalist identity even away.
I also want to point out another way that momentum is building. Our Living Generously program has been extremely successful. Through the three months of 2018 we had it in place we were able to raise over twelve hundred dollars for causes that were recognized by members of our congregation as worthy of our support. We were able to do this without harming our own needs when payments of pledges and other funds kicked in. As a consequence, we generated a lot of good will, but we also did a lot of good in this world (and I think we can be proud of ourselves for that).
Continuing on the theme of momentum. As I mentioned, some pledges now are being paid faster and this is a good thing for a couple of reasons. One is that we have a anonymous donor who has agreed to match the funds that come in over the amount collected in 2017-2018. As we draw closer to that number now in 2019, the excess funds that we collect will be doubled and that fundraising will accelerate. I am looking forward in the next few months to us approaching that point when we really begin to take off. Ask me if you have questions.
In the meantime, I want to thank everyone for the personal time and commitment they have made. We have some exciting interest expressed in the Social Justice ministry. By the time you read this, I am sure we will have had a great women’s march and MLK parade. I hope you have contacted our co-chairs Ana and Hollis and expressed your interest in participation. We also have had great turn out at the Fermenting Spirituality discussion group. I expect a wonderful service from the Build Your Own Theology Class - a new one of those starts up this month that I hope you’ll consider joining. I also want to thank Ruth Zachary for taking the initiative to start a writer’s group, adding her passion to our programing is really wonderful.
I am excited about our shared ministry and where we are headed. I hope you are too.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Rev. Aaron Norris
We are about to begin a new year. As a church, our year ended on a difficult moment with the sad and shocking death of our music director, Sam Henline who brought such wonderful talent and joy into our lives and sanctuary on Sundays. At the time of this writing, there are two planned memorials for Sam. There will be services both in his home town of South Platte, Nebraska on December 28th and here locally later in the year that his family would like to attend if possible. We will of course keep people aware of the dates. I am confident that both services will be well attended and celebrate a truly remarkable life that has had a profound impact on our church.
I want to take a moment as well to talk about the service we learned of Sam’s passing to say how astonished I was at the depth of your commitment to one another and the compassion that I felt in the sanctuary that day. As a congregation, from leadership to worship to choir to folks simply in the pews, you said some profound and loving things and comforted one another in ways revealing the loving community I always knew you to be. I just wanted to repeat how proud I am to lead this congregation.
I know that starting a new year in this manner can be incredibly difficult. Tragedy can crowd out all of the wonderful things that we have been blessed with the whole year through and also diminish the hope that remains. Even in our time of sorrow however, we have also had good fortune. Folks are seeing one another at Sunday services after some breaks and new folks are coming to see what Unitarian Universalism has to offer many communities in Weld County. For myself, I have been quite surprised to see the number of folks coming from Brush. You are quite the hardy people!
As I said in the past year, in the New Year, stepping in our door (again or for the first time) will require acts of courage on their part; inviting people to come and continuing to make space for them at the table will be acts of generosity on ours; maintaining these relationships will be acts of love on everyone’s part. May our faith community’s life be filled with acts of courage, generosity, and love.
The winter solstice is an interesting and difficult time every year and always has been in the human experience. When the days have grown short and the nights are cold, it is important to remember the wisdom that ancient ancestors have come to recognize most characterizes the season: Hope. Hope is there, I promise. You won’t find it among the temptations of nostalgia. Although hope may be rooted in the past, it has well outgrown that place. Hope is somewhere out in front of us in our future. Each day this time of year lengthens a moment at a time. It may be slow, but it is also comfortably steady. No day is shorter than last and if this day was not long enough, tomorrow will be longer. That is why hope most characterizes this season. That is Nature’s lesson for humanity at this time of year.
Emily Dickson once wrote a poem, which, like all her poetry, she kept privately, but we've been blessed to have:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
Let’s not keep our "Hope" this time of year private. In the New Year, let us share our hope with one another: our hope for ourselves, our lives and our families, our faith community, and our world. Not reaching back into an idyllic past but forward into a hopeful future. Come to Sunday services to share. Come to ministry meetings to bring your ideas. Come to classes and events to learn more.
I wish you a New Year that grows into your hopes, that deepens you relationships with our church. May our community and our world begin to reflect our hopes and dreams and, as I remind us on most Sundays, through the work of our hearts and hands, in acts of courage, generosity and love.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Rev. Aaron Norris
From the minister