And now we are in the ancient season of Yule! That year went by quickly, didn’t it? I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Always an interesting, and in some ways very important, way to kick off the holiday season: ending a harvest of the year, counting the blessings, giving thanks for what we have, and preparing ourselves for a reasonable celebration as we face the longest nights - the Earth (at least here in the northern hemisphere) settling down for her long winter nap. Before she does though, let’s have a few cups of kindness this month, shall we?
Couple of interesting things to think about as the holidays approach: as you probably remember, many of the traditions that we celebrate in this country around this time of year come directly out of the heads of Unitarians, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists, starting with the carols. Next time you’re in a shopping mall and you hear Do You Hear What I Hear? you can thank Unitarian Noel Regney wrote the text as a protest song in 1962 in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. If your visiting family away from Greeley this month and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear comes up, you can point out it was written by the Unitarian minister Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears. Anybody reading or performing Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol might want to remember it sprung up only after his return visit to America where he met both Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Ellery Channing in Boston, and promptly joined a Unitarian Church back in London. The list goes on, but we’ll have more time to talk this month.
Speaking of this month, our Beloved Community is leaving behind the month of Justice in November and exploring a perhaps more intimate theme: Family. Both are themes of love, but as the ancient Greeks explained to us different facets: Agape (Love of Humanity and the World) and Storge (Love of Family and Relations). Our Stone Soup Pageant has been our bridge between themes, from the Stranger to the Family. Over the course of the month, we’ll talk about what families we are born with and what families we make by choice. We’ll examine things we may not have thought of, like why do we have families in the first place and what that says about this one amazing life we have all be graced with? Our explorations will culminate on Christmas Eve this year when we will have a very special service (and I expect one of our gifts will be to see quite a few old and new faces of our church family).
I hope during this busy time, when you are running from event to event, you find some time to share a moment with us this month on Sunday Mornings and at the other times and events. I was especially proud of our congregation coming out to support our neighbors at Beth Israel following the tragedy in Pittsburgh. I heard from Rabbi Sarah how much our time with them meant. Thank you for your efforts. We’ve had really great attendance on Sunday the past few months, even on the snowy days and even on the Sundays that I am not with you. My great gift is to see all your names in the basket on Monday morning as I put your tags back up. Happy Holidays to all of us, every one!
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Rev. Aaron Norris
Friends, Well, fall was late and came in in a hurry, didn’t it? I was glad to see from our attendance tally taken by our wonderful host volunteers that it hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm or attendance. Folks even came out in the snow, which was inspiring. Our commitment to gather each week as a community is a really important aspect of keeping our sense of identity and, quite honestly, it is one of the really wonderful gifts that we bring to one another. Knowing that we are there for each other really gets us through, especially those who are struggling with other aspects of their lives. It is good to be together. We’ve had quite a few visitors over the month and I am glad that they are being warmly welcomed. I have had the pleasure of speaking to some. They come in often from invitation and out of curiosity when they hear about us. Getting people to step in the door is an act of courage on their part; making a space for them at the table is an act of generosity on ours; maintaining the relationship is an act of love on everyone’s part. May our faith community’s life be filled with acts of courage, generosity, and love. Our Living Generously program has already done some great work. Weston Edmunds who came to speak to us from the Weld Food Bank related how the bank is able to provide four meals for every dollar contributed and so, between our two services, our church was able to help with over eight hundred meals for folks this year. If you are interested in deepening your commitment, Weston encouraged me to remind you that he has volunteer opportunities to offer at the food bank. Our impact in the community has been even broader as the second half of the month, we were giving our plate to the Refugee and Asylum program at Lutheran Family Services. At the time of this writing, I can only imagine the impact we might have, but I will say that this is one of the programs that means a great deal to me. As many of you know, I worked on several cases as a law student trying to get asylum status for folks who fled really monstrous situations to a land they new very little about. Helping those individuals to acclimate to their new surroundings, as LFS does (and as our church has helped to do), is part of those amazing acts of courage, generosity, and love.
We’ve also been deepening our spirituality this month. Our first sessions of the Build Your Own Theology classes have begun and they will continue through November and early December. Folks have come with very open minds and hearts and the sharing has been tremendous. One thing that has been affirmed for me once again is the creativity of members of our congregation, which I am really impressed with. We’ll continue to find new ways to deepen and expand our programing. I am going to host a Pub Theology drop-in discussion group; the location is yet to be determined, but it will be on the second Monday nights of the month at 6:30 p.m. I’ll bring some discussion prompts on the monthly themes which will follow our worship themes and send reminders to those who indicate they want them. Finally, I want to acknowledge this month that the elections are here. As a nation we are going to make some decisions about who we want to be as a nation, as a state and as a community. I realize that for many in our congregation that this will be the culmination of years of work and for others it will be simply decisions of the day. I hope that everyone does make it to the polls to vote; it is, literally, the least we can do to make our world a better place (and yet I cannot help but acknowledge the hardships our society chooses to put in the way of this small act for many of the most vulnerable). Whether we are disappointed or elated, let us make sure to temper our feelings with the knowledge that the next day, we will be called again to remake our world as it is, less than it ought to be, but with a promise much greater than we have ever been - a world to come through acts of courage, generosity and love. Yours in Faith and Fellowship, Rev. Aaron Norris