Ministers Column December 2011

Dear Ones:

We arrive at the holiday season once again—the dark season which is also the time for festivals of light. Welcome to the season!

Those of you who attended the memorial service for Bob Richardson on November 6th might still have the sounds of the Citadel Band of the Manchester Salvation Army ringing in your ears. It’s rare that we have 25 brass instruments playing in our meeting house! As many of you know, Bob was born and raised in the Sal­vation Army. Though he became a Unitarian Universalist as an adult, he never lost his fondness for the Salva­tion Army’s music. He had the opportunity to reconnect with this part of his past before he died. It was impor­tant to him to have the Citadel Band—the band he once directed—at his memorial service.

Bob’s memorial service (like many of our memorial services) was an affirmation and a celebration of wholeness. We mourned and celebrated his whole life and the many aspects of his identity—his Salvation Army heritage, his military and academic backgrounds, his Unitarian Universalism. It reminded me of the ser­mon I gave years ago when I was the candidate for the minister position at UUS:E. It was very simply titled, “Wholeness.” In it I spoke about the pride I took (and still take) in the modern, science-oriented Humanistic faith of my UU upbringing; and I also spoke about the pride I took (and still take) in my grandmother’s Penn­sylvania Dutch brand of pre-modern, pietistic, rural Christianity. I spoke about being an agnostic with atheistic leanings, yet still having access to my grandmother’s God (who was never quite as angry as she sometimes let on). I said I had struggled as a child and a young adult to figure out which way to go, which spiritual identity to choose. But in the end, I think we can have it all. I think we get to be our whole selves—not partial selves— if that’s what we want. As Rachel Naomi Remen says, “anything good you’ve ever been given is yours for­ever.”

I suppose this lesson is embedded in Christmas. At the core of our American celebration are the ancient pagan symbols and practices—the fir tree and wreathes, the yule log, the traditions of gift-giving, the celebra­tion of light at the darkest time of the year. Then there is the Christian celebration—the story of the birth of Jesus, an angel speaking to shepherds in the fields by night, a message of peace on earth and good will to all. Then there is Santa Claus. Then there is our modern secular celebration, shopping and gift-giving, more lights, Rudolph, Charlie Brown Christmas, and so much more. Layers upon layers, each full of meaning. Just like us.

In this dark season, as we approach the winter solstice and the Christmas holiday, I invite you to con­sider your whole self. What silent pieces of you may be longing for expression? In this dark season, may you find wholeness.

With love,

Rev. Josh