Last Sunday we heard from our Coming of Age youth, and I’m glad so many of you were here to receive that blessing, of their words and presence. If I had one wish for our young people, it would be this: that they feel at home: in themselves, in their families, in this church, and in the world. Isn't this what we are all seeking? The way home?
A couple of weeks ago, Josh Goulet preached a wonderful sermon and something he said has stayed with me, about our third UU principle; which affirms “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.” Josh noticed that acceptance of one another comes first; that it’s only after you feel some level of belonging, that you are ready to stretch and grow spiritually. In other words, once you feel at home, once you feel safe and secure enough, then you can go deeper and reach out and take risks and help others.
“The letter fails, the systems fall, and every symbol wanes; the Spirit overseeing all, Eternal Love, remains.” (words by John Greenleaf Whitter, from the hymn “Immortal Love”)
What is the church, if not a community that reminds us and helps us to put Love at the center? We are here to hold open a space where people can gather, where you can ome expecting that there is big Love to be found. Where you can come, hoping, “There’s a place for me here,” and not be disappointed. It’s what Starhawk says we are looking for and longing for: “Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.”
“’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free, ’tis a gift to come down where you ought to be.” I love that hymn from the Shakers. Several weeks ago my study group, a dozen UU ministers who gather twice a year, traveled to Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire so we could experience directly what they had created there. The Shakers are all gone now, but their spirit still pervades that place, in their buildings, and the furniture they made, and the land they farmed.
In their work and in their worship, the Shakers knew how to put themselves in the way of grace. Our trip to Canterbury reminded me of what a sacred place looks like and feels like. How I feel better in such a place; it’s like being in church. It certainly has something to do with beauty, and with the care people have taken in a place over the years, and with an attentiveness to the Spirit. And it can happen anywhere.