May Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

I hope and trust this letter finds you well. I hope and trust you are enjoying spring. As I write in mid-April I’m beginning to contemplate our ministry themes for May and June. They go together: Relatedness and Borders. You often hear me speak of our relatedness to the whole of life. (Sometimes I use the word connect­edness.) For me such language is not hyperbole; it is a biological truth, a physical truth. We are related to the whole of life. We are made of the same stuff as stars. All matter emerged out of the same primordial soup.

However, it’s one thing to name our relatedness to the whole of life—to call it “factual.” It’s another thing entirely to know it and feel it deep in our bones. It’s not an easy fact to keep front and center in our con­sciousness. Why? Because our lives are also filled with borders. We are related to the whole of life, but our skin acts as a border between ourselves and “not ourselves.”  We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, but we also know this has never been an easy moral obligation to meet. (Sometimes we can’t stand our neighbors. Sometimes they can’t stand us!) There are many different kinds of borders in our lives (emotional, social, political, geographical, etc.), and thus our relatedness to the whole of life, and sometimes even to our own family members, can seem elusive. Many spiritual practices are designed to help us transcend borders and experience relatedness.

On Tuesday evening, May 15th, from 7:00 to 9:15, at our meeting house, I will participate in a debate/ dialogue with a conservative, evangelical Christian minister, the Rev. John Rankin. Our topic for the evening (which will be taped for a radio show) will be “What are the Politics of Jesus: Inclusive or Exclusive?” This feels to me like an experiment in finding relatedness in the midst of some fairly profound borders that exist between us. Rev. Rankin was raised in the Universalist Church of West Hartford, but left that congregation and converted to a Christian Evangelical identity in his teenage years. He is passionate about the Bible and about what we might call traditional family values. He is a formidable debater. He is a kind and caring soul. He is one who firmly believes it is better to disagree in the presence of relationship rather than its absence. When we disagree within a relationship we may not change each other’s convictions, but our dialogue and de­bate have the potential to spur our own growth and keep our borders open. When we disagree in the absence of relationship, we are more likely to become rigid in our thinking, strengthen our borders, and miss opportunities for growth. I’m nervous about this event on May 15th, but also very excited. I hope you’ll join us.

As we journey together through the next few months, expect to hear much more from me on the inter­play between relatedness and borders.

With Love, Rev. Josh