We Open Together in Love

Join us as we kick-off of the church year. What is your vision for the coming church year? What are you seeking? At this service Rev. Sue Browning will consider how being a regular part of a spiritual community spills over into our lives. The service will include our annual Water Communion, the choir will sing and our Religious Ed classes will begin. Been meaning to check out the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton? This is a great week to do so!

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(Sermon Text) 

Where do you turn to focus on “possibilities” in your life? Simply defined possibility is ‘a thing that can or might happen.’ Whatever you are facing, or whatever a community is facing, there is always a something that is next. What helps you consider see the widest range of what might be next?

For a senior in high school, what is the wide range of what could be? For a just-retired soul, what are the paths in retirement? How about for the parent who just sent their youngest off to school?

As I think of what might be next I think of ranges of possibility in a generally positive direction. Some ‘what’s next’ brings forth worries, or could cause stress. A broad view lets in light, guides us forward, and at the same time lets us gently put aside the realities we don’t control.

What expands your vision of what might be?

While there is a ‘something next,’ I didn’t say ‘next’ is easier. Or that ‘next’ is obvious. What matters is to dig deep to sense what may be possible. If we’re doing our imagining alone, it’s likely we see fewer possibilities than when we turn to one another.

Earlier during our Thoughts for All Ages story we heard about Higgins – the drop in the bucket. (Higgins: A Drop with a Dream, https://www.uua.org/worship/words/reading/higgins)

There are a few lessons about possibility for those of us of all ages.

First, early in the story we hear Higgins identified a serious challenge: the grass, flowers, and trees were dying due to lack of water. He has an idea – a crazy dream (and visions do sometimes come during dreams), and then starts living into his vision –in a bucket – alone.

There is a turning point in the story. Initially his fellow drops don’t help. They don’t get it. And then – somehow –   they too name the challenge – are awake to the problem. They start figuring it out, somehow. Teachable moments come to us each at different times. Our ‘aha’ moments don’t always align with one another’s. Time, and often patience, is needed to get a group on (or close) to the same page. Part of communication is knowing we start in different places. Slowing down enough to find common ground is powerful.

Second, Higgins has an idea, but frankly he doesn’t know where it will lead. Just seems right to collect drops. He can see a ‘next step’ is toward helping wilted flowers. Is his idea bold enough? Likely there were naysayers who raised doubts. It takes courage to offer up a half-baked new idea. It takes more courage to sell the idea, not knowing who will trust enough to give it a try. Sheer determination of one individual only goes so far. Cooperation is needed to facilitate fresh approaches to impact that way it has always been done…to add new links to the chain

The final lesson in the ‘Higgins: A Drop with a Dream’ is that for solutions to last, need an ongoing source of energy. There needs to be a process for others to join in – to pick up an oar, to be invited to not only participate, but to be part of setting the direction. The drops together were a start in that bucket. It was when the wind blew that a stream formed.

As we hear our music on rivers and justice rolling down – justice taking hold – the independent power of a river that we see emerges from what Higgins initiated – change with power, with force.

 Author Margaret Wheatley offers these words,

Turning to One Another

There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
Ask: “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.
Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear. Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.
Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
Rely on human goodness.

Stay together.

Wheatley puts high stakes on the power of relationships. She goes beyond the power of being with those similar to yourself and encourages the skills of working across difference. Inquisitiveness is needed, and reflection.

What expands our vision?

If asked what I see as the purpose of our worship service (and I note worship is elevating worth; spending time on what is worthy) my short answer is, “We gather to open hearts and minds.” In varying ways each week (and the balance does vary) through themes and topics we ask, what might be possible?

And I note, this is a different question than what is probable. What is possible has its roots in a theology of abundance – a promise that there is more somewhere/somehow.  What’s probable does likely find a path – in caution, maybe with a sense of scarcity – of fear of failing?

I recently met the leaders who founded the Eastern Shore Network for Change back in 2012 – Kisha Petticolas and Dion Banks. The group was a part of the Cambridge MD ‘Reflections on Pine’ project in 2017 – 50 years after the civil rights events in Cambridge in 1967. Dion talked of his noted (becoming renowned) work with young adults from challenged backgrounds. He wants them to see a broader picture. To build an ever-expanding narrative he trains them to ask ‘why’  = and to ask ‘why’ not once but to ask five times. He’s helping build the skills of searching for possibility creatively.

Possibility is tied to hope – to seeing in fresh ways. In this congregation, in some way, or in some part of the service every week we are looking to see possibility We see differently in community.

My dream is for us to have strong participation in this congregation; to have good attendance each week. There are of course conflicts that prevent you coming some weeks. Family events far from Easton; competing interests. The goal is not guilt.

The invitation is here. Come, and get a bit deeper into the community. Come and see if you leave changed; have had your lens on the world stretched a bit… your vision widened, your fears heard, your sense of possibilities expanded. We are better together. We are better present and accounted for together.

There is a chance for a pebble to hit the water each week, and for the ripples to carry out into the week. Ripples which loosen stuck spots and encourage living out values. Whether it is in the music, or seeing children, or in receiving of another’s joys or sorrows, or meeting someone new at coffee hour, most weeks your vision will expand and possible stretch.

What are your hopes for our coming year together? What dreams can you imagine working on together?

Wishing us all a year of stretching and lifting hope together.

May It Be So . (Transition to Water Communion)

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