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