On Gathering Again

This is an edited excerpt from Rev. Kim’s July 24th sermon on reopening and regathering.  You can hear the whole sermon here: https://www.uucwc.org/services/small-circles/

For over a century, UUCWC has been building something beautiful, intricate, vibrant and communal.  It has taken the patience and vision of monks creating the gorgeousness of a sand mandala. And, just as often, it has taken the bravery, faithfulness, and trust of monks to let go, to release what was, so that more, new, and different beauty can come to be.

Speaking plainly: For those of us believing that when we open our doors again, we will return to what was, we will not.  We will not return to what was, certainly not all at once and, likely, not at all.

Because “we” is no longer the gathered congregation.  It is now the Gathered Congregation, the Online Congregation, the families who do not yet have access to the building – to sanctuary – like all others, and the “we” is also that Pre-pandemic Congregation who may or may not return. It is also those folks who couldn’t take the virtual journey, who may enter again some familiar place not knowing how we have traveled, changed, or what course we set our sights on because of these sixteen months.

We cannot return to what was because the people in the boat have changed. Our needs and agreements and assumptions have changed.  Heck, it’s not even a boat anymore; the vessel has changed. And the seas are still uncertain.

That sounds ominous, perhaps.  But I want to assure you, it doesn’t to me.  This is, and will continue to be, a time of creativity; a time of creation.  Not one out of nothingness, but out from one hundred and five years of purposeful, generative, heart, human and soul growing ministry.

Do some of you remember, years and years ago, I told a story about a colleague who had just been ordained? I asked them, “so what’s the plan?” And they said, “Oh, I don’t want anything to do with a congregation that exists.  All that history to navigate. All the politics that aren’t of my making.  I’m going to go plant a church.”

I smiled.  Planting a church could be cool, I guess.  You get to focus, to be really clear about who you are, and why.  It’s what the north star of the ministry is – how to set the tone.

But then, I thought of the history of this place, of this people, and how I – how you and I get to be a part of the timeline of its richness.

That colleague, I’ll have you know, hasn’t planted a church. That’s not a dig; it’s just the truth.  It’s hard to create something out of nothing. It’s hard to gather your people before having people. It’s hard to be a leader without followers, to weather the work it takes to create if you don’t have a village knowing the worth of the work, the worship.

You know what I’m going to say now, right?  That this is what we’re about to do together.  Plant a church.  We – the gathered, the online, the families, the ones who may return, and those of you who, maybe today is your very first day, but somehow even by way of the computer screen it feels like home – WE get to appreciate the beauty of what was, stay present to what is now, and faithfully prepare for the creation of what will be.

We will not be returning.  We will be creating, experimenting, incrementally opening to something familiar, and something new.  And we will do this with the health – the “wholistic” physical, mental, and spiritual health – of all of us.