|In my sermon last week I referenced the book “God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age” by Rev. Galen Guengerich, a UU minister and colleague of mine. One of the ideas I talked about was the importance of gratitude as a building block for interdependent, healthy communities and congregations. Guengerich says that the key to renewing our sense of faith in the future is to understand that we are truly interconnected and interdependent. Each of us is the sum of all of the events and relationships of our past, and each of us contributes to the context of everyone we interact with and even people we don’t realize we are interacting with. What we eat, what we buy, how we speak, what we create, what we throw away…all of these choices come to us from a context; someone made the things we buy, someone receives the money we spend, someone hears the words we use, someone sees the flag we raise. This context is always shifting, and our choices are continually changing the landscape not just for us, but for all of us. Guengerich’s revision of God is like my own–that God is not a supernatural being but rather the co-creation of each of us living into our fullest capacity for the good of each and the good of all; God is an energy that we are creating and tapping into as we make each new leap of faith. We can call that whatever we want–Spirit of Life, or Love, or building the Beloved Community, or whatever you like. Gratitude is a central piece of this shared work because it helps us see that we need each other.
So today I want to tell you how grateful I am to each of you. This congregation is made up of many smaller teams that are working together: from pastoral care to immigrant support, to neighborhood connectors and youth faith formation; to the community garden and environmental action; to the choir and musicians, and volunteers who show up to set up or clean up or learn how run the A/V booth; to book groups, and East Valley UU activities and the Dalai Lama group; to social gatherings and fundraising and OMG! You all are an amazing, dedicated group. And some of you are also showing up to learn about your own capacity to respond to conflict differently and to build healthier systems of negotiating our complex congregational life. This first year together has not been easy. It has required all of us to work harder to listen, to consider different points of view, and to think about change in new ways. Some of you have remarked that it has not been a “normal” year for a new minister. I am not sure such a thing exists, and whatever norms were here before COVID, they’ve most certainly been forever changed. I know some of you are struggling with change and some of you are celebrating change. No matter what, I am grateful for the many contributions made each day–to our shared future and our present needs. What are you grateful for? I hope you find time to celebrate this week and this season the things that bring joy, comfort, connection, meaning and growth for you.