|From the Executive Director|
It’s hard to believe but twenty years ago this week I started seminary. I had been a Unitarian Universalist for less than two years when I walked into Starr King that Monday morning. My family was living at my mother-in-law’s since we hadn’t found a place to live, my kids were grumbling about this new life they didn’t chose and my wife, while being supportive, made it clear she hadn’t signed up to be a minister’s wife. In the afternoon, as I began to get to know some of the people who would share the seminary and ministry journey with me, the realities of my new life really started to set in. I turned to one of my classmates who had a similar ‘deer in the headlights’ look I imagined I had, and said, “What the #@“?## are we doing here?”
Most days now I know what I am doing here. I have been part of this tribe of people who have chosen to give their lives in service to something larger than ourselves for more than a third of my life. When I sit back and reflect on the last twenty years and realize that I’m lucky enough to be able to lead the organization that serves, supports and, hopefully, occasionally inspires those who sometimes wonder how they got here too, I am extremely grateful and humbled.
I have had many experiences of gratitude and humbleness these last twenty years. (Okay, probably much more gratitude than humbleness.) One of the best came last month when I made my first trip to Transylvania with a group of colleagues and lay people. Meeting with our Transylvanian colleagues thousands of miles away, visiting the places where our history and martyrs were made and staying with villagers who opened their hearts and homes to strangers created memories I’ll never forget.
As we neared the end of our trip we stopped in Deva the place where Francis David was imprisoned and eventually died in November of 1579. After touring the Citadel we gathered with another group of Unitarian Universalist pilgrims in a room on the mountain. After a brief prayer we joined hands and sang Gathered Here. I have sung that hymn probably thousands of times over the last twenty years. But never like this. As I sung, “gathered here in the struggle and the power, spirit draw near” tears filled my eyes and I felt those words deep in my soul like never before.
Maybe it was because we were on ground made sacred by David’s death. Maybe it was because I had been away for almost four weeks and the craziness of the world and my country is taking a toll on my spirit. Maybe it was because I was looking around a circle at people I love and didn’t know realizing that we are bounded by a commitment, a struggle, a power that transcends thousands of miles and our differences.
Gathered here in the struggle and the power, spirit draw near. As those in parishes begin the chaos that the new congregational year promises, as seminarians eagerly prepare for learning about themselves and those martyrs we come from, and as community ministers prepare for a fall that probably looks a lot like their summer, may we remember the power of those words and the strength and promise they offer us. The struggles that are life and ministry - especially these days - are best faced by invoking the power that comes from each other and the spirit that comes from too many places and people to count. Thank you for letting me be part of you and that spirit for twenty years.