11/5/17 Our 50th Anniversary
We are the Builders of Dreams
Rev. Paul D. Daniel
The Rev. Patrick O’Neil said “Here is what I know about communities of faith ( such as UUFP):
these are precious and rare, life-changing institutions, these little churches of ours.
They touch people and they are meaningful in people’s lives in ways that most of us can only guess at —
even those of us who have been active committed leaders ourselves for many years.
A church, finally, is nothing more than its people and what they bring to it:
their faith, their vision, their
collective hopes and dreams,
their memories and their customs,
their history, their prayers,
their good works, and their values.
And what community we are able to create here for ourselves is pieced together always with
painstaking love and unending patience, each one of us — shoemakers, cobblers, candlestick makers —
bringing one more thread to weave the fabric of this gathered community.”
And this my friends is reason enough for us to celebrate our 50th anniversary of bringing people together in faith and hope.
Gini Courter (former Chief Governance Officer of the Unitarian Universalist Association) delivered this 50th anniversary sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green November 4, 2012
which I feel is worth sharing with you for she speaks directly to us through the decades.
She said, “I do not know when it began, but you do.
It began with a discontent, a gnawing in the soul, an out-of-placeness.
It began with heresy.
Or perhaps it began with an expansiveness that drove you to seek, to inquire.
It began with thoughtful inquiry.
And it was a friend, an acquaintance, a colleague who was Christian, Jew, Moslem, a Buddhist stranger at the dentist’s office,
an unchurched but discerning woman on the bus who said “You sound like a Unitarian.”
A member of this congregation or another said “Come visit my church.”
And it wasn’t an intrusion, it was a kindness, a courtesy, and you found your way home.
No – I know you – some of you grew up in the church.
Your parents, or grandparents, or great grandparents trusted this faith with what they held most dear in the world:
the hearts, the minds, the very souls of the next generation.
During all your explorations, Unitarian Universalism was your church home, and
your sense of belonging has deepened throughout your life.
Nope. You searched on the web, you answered a survey on belief.net.
You entered some magic combination of words, clicked the I Feel Lucky button, and Googled your way to this saving faith.
I do not know when it began, but you do.
Remember your beginning and bring hold it within you for our time together this morning. It is time to celebrate.
We gather this morning in celebration of 50 years of religion woven from many strands,
inscribed in the gospel of universal salvation, tradition that proclaims the good news that every single person has inherent worth.
Even me. Even you.
Every individual has worth and every individual can have
a personal and direct relationship with the divine,
not because they learn the “right prayer”
or enact the “right ritual”, or make the “right confession” but
simply because they have a heart that beats, lungs that draw air, eyes that see, ears that hear, lips that can give witness –
each person has worth and dignity simply because they are.
Each human life connects, somehow, with yours and mine.
We know this. Sometimes we doubt, for a moment, or a year, or a decade and a half, but still we know this.
There is an entire world of people outside this sanctuary.
We could not ever hope to meet them all, and yet, we know in our bones that each person in that world has dignity, each person has worth.
For us, it is a matter of faith.
We know that each person gathered inside this sanctuary is also worthy.
I know – somehow, it gets harder to affirm inside the hall:
He took too long getting ready, she didn’t print the directions, he gave me a hard time yesterday, and
I still haven’t forgotten that comment she made at a congregational meeting in 1996.
The folks we know best are sometimes the hardest to love well.
I get up some mornings, and look in the mirror, and if there’s an argument against inherent worth,
I’m sure I’m looking at her.
Do you have days like that? You may not know that you are worthy, and I may not know that I am worthy.
And yet we are.
Every person in this room is a unique and wonderful blessing in the world.
So, let’s go show them. Please take a moment and greet your neighbors as the unique and wonderful blessings that they are.
Friends, we gather to celebrate a free faith that declares that every child, every youth, every woman, every man,
can be saved not just once, but again and again and again.
Salvation is ever present, universal and ubiquitous.
We are all saved. Even me. Even you.
We gather this morning to worship, to open our hearts to wonder – to the feel of your child’s hand in yours,
that look in the eye of the person you just greeted, to
a memory summoned forth by a piece of music, to the feeling in our body as we sing and sway.
We open our hearts so that something precious, something Holy can enter.
We might call this connection, or community, or God, or Holy Spirit, or Love, but that doesn’t matter.
It is here because it is invited, because we dared to create a welcoming space.
We gather to celebrate a lived faith, an embodied faith, a
faith that declares a ministry for each and every one of us, every woman, man, youth, and child.
We are all called, called to wake up, summoned to the religious life and none of us, not one of us,
can afford to walk through life sound asleep. All of us all called to ministry.
For some, answering that call means a life poured out in service in our Unitarian Universalist ministry.
In our 50 years, you have often been lay led, and also lead by a variety of ministries of various terms.
I am deeply grateful for our professional clergy, fine women and men, called to minister to us in times of joy and times of sorrow,
comfort us when comfort is called for, to help us make sense of the unevenness, the tragedies of life,
to never fail to be touched by human frailty and loss,
to work very personally but always on behalf of what we all hold holy, to bend our world toward justice.
But ordained or lay ministry is so much more, for if ministers only comfort, then we become a comfortable people.
If ministers only reassure, then we are so easily rocked, so easily gentled into complacent sleep.
We all need to wake up, for if ministers could do all the work needed to build the better world we proclaim,
why, then, do you and I even have hearts and hands?
There is a ministry for each of us.
You know this is true, because you have shared and practiced lay ministry here for 50 years.
In so doing this congregation has made the Pottstown, PA. area more accepting, more tolerant, more compassionate, a more caring community.
Here we are, in yet another difficult time to be socially progressive, to be religiously liberal.
I don’t need to tell you this. I think religious liberals were caught like a deer in the headlights when
we first came up against an organized effort to repeal the entire 20th century,
to return us to a time when environmental destruction is acceptable again, merely a cost of doing business,
when women’s rights were an afterthought,
when children routinely lived in poverty, when racial difference was used to divide and punish,
when we wage war without end.
Since the election, it has been a time of political arrogance and divisiveness not seen in this country since the Civil War.
Nazis march in our streets screaming “Jews will not replace us” and
white supremacist’s march with torches and hate filled speech murdering people who are peacefully counter protesting.
All the while, human rights and civil liberties are degraded even more,
our environment hovers on the edge of environmental disaster.
But when times are hard, remember – you are not alone.
And now, feel a thousand other UU congregations reaching out to you this morning.
Feel their thousands, the thousands of thousands.
They are here with you this morning, and every morning.
Think about the hymn we just sang, “For All That Is Our Life”.
It is a quintessential Unitarian Universalist hymn.
Is there suffering in the world, in our lives?
Is there fear and trepidation?
You bet there is.
We encountered those fearful hours in the middle of verse three.
And yet, unlike some other religions, we do not believe that fear and suffering are noble in and of themselves,
that we will be or have been saved through suffering – ours, or someone else’s.
We suffer, but we know we were not created to suffer.
We’re afraid, but we know we were not created to live in fear.
You and I were created to make creation itself a less fearful place, to ease suffering wherever we encounter it.
We are here to work, to reconstitute the broken pieces of creation into
a more just, more compassionate, less scary and more inclusive world.
So, I like the message, the theology of this third verse, too.
But it is the simple first verse repeated again at the end of the hymn that catches my heart.
For all that is our life we sing our thanks and praise
For all life is a gift that we are called to use
To build the common good and make our own days glad.
We can choose to build the common good, to
serve justice, to show mercy, to live epic lives of service, exemplary lives of compassion.
And if our own days are brightened as a result, well, that’s not an accident.
The gladness keeps us in the game, keeps us coming back for more day after day, year after year.
That’s how it’s worked for fifty years: with gladness.
You know that because you have been here.
Each of us has a ministry, our own piece of the world to make whole.
All our ministries are worthy.
The world is in desperate needs of every ministry that embodies our values, every ministry that
adds love and compassion to an apathetic, dispassionate world.
Perhaps you worry that you are not sufficient to the ministry you are being called to.
Do not worry – you will be. You and I do not need to be extraordinary people – just ordinary people with an extraordinary faith.
This is what Unitarian Universalists can create together: a Religious community bound together not with common belief,
with a promise – a promise – to create and with our faithful presence maintain the holy space in which we can
ask the questions that burn in each of our hearts:
How do I embrace the holy?
How am I called to serve?
What am I ready to commit in the service of a better world?
What do I value more than I value my own comfort?
Where am I willing to take a stand?
This is how ministries, and the courage to say Yes, are found.
Let us listen to each other so deeply, love each other so boldly, that
all of us can learn to listen to our hearts and find our courage.
May we see each other completely, hear each other fully
May we make choices that are bold, choices of meaning
May we learn to be both brave and humble warriors for our faith
May we be true companions to each other, full of patience and care and compassion,
willing to speak and hear each other to courage for the next fifty years, and the next, and the next.
Help us know that we can find in each other the strength to add to our strength so we may do the work that needs to be done.”
And now, after 50 years we are still fully awake,
may we find that the world we call ourselves to create together these next 50 years, is
so much more than anything any of us ever dared to dream.