Sue Flynn, Ministerial Intern
As the year is coming to a close, I have been reflecting on the cultures of the spiritual communities I have engaged in. I have been in several Unitarian Universalists communities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Indiana and a guest in Quaker tradition at Meetings and schools in Indiana and New Jersey. I’ve been an historic journeyer with the Lutheran background of my father’s side, and been engaged with several healing communities that do not claim a particular faith. Each one carries its own culture, ethos, preferences, habits and quirks.
Since mid-August I have had the privilege as serving as the ministerial intern at UUCWC, as someone dropped into this small town in New Jersey and into this burgeoning congregation for an intensive year of learning, growing and integration. As a newcomer, with “fresh eyes,” I would like to mention some of the beauty I have experienced thus far at UUCWC.
Community. This word was the first word that defined my experience of church, growing up and moving through the Coming of Age program and OWL. I remember how wonderful it was to be a part of something, getting to know my peers and many of the adults who so kindly gave of their time to our many classes and outings. There were many ways my church of origin expressed community, but looking at UUCWC I have been delighted to see all that is happening at this church! There are multiple levels of engagement, small group ministries, spiritual groups, activities, meals, ways to help others, reflect deeply, get stuff done, brainstorm, and dream. All of these opportunities to be a part of something, honoring the “living tradition” of our faith.
I have been going to 10 plus meetings a month, I see a lot of hard-working people around me. By hard-working, I mean the people of UUCWC are not afraid of doing the work of being in community together and finding ways of seeing the inherent dignity and worth of one another over and over again. This is a beautiful thing, community is hard work, it can be awkward, uncomfortable, and stressful. Yet the diligence I have observed in this community to be faithful to walking in kindness, doing the self-work of examining our own bias’s and stuck places, and creating a space of hospitality for one another is inspiring.
At the beginning UUCWC meetings, there is a tradition of the lighting of the chalice and checking in, and people share of their lives. They speak of their joy and heartache, and there is such a great practice of listening and compassion that is always circulated at these moments. Watching different groups grapple with ongoing difficult situations, what encourages me is how people lift each other up. There is often an acknowledgement of the complexity of each situation by the group. I take heart in watching how the community blends humor and levity in when it is most needed, or care and seriousness, sometimes it food or cookies, other moments it might be direct communication . Each day I am at UUCWC I am more convinced that the people of UUCWC have the special recipe for community. I have not identified all the ingredients yet, but I see everyone working around me to continue to make community with kindness, hospitality, listening, intelligence, lightheartedness, that is sustainable and open to evolution.
Reverend Kim has a bumper sticker in her office that says, “The best way to predict the future is to be a part of creating it,” and from my short term here I would conclude that UUCWC is doing just that!