Minister’s Column October 2020

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for October is deep listening. For me, this theme brings many possible questions to mind for personal and collective spiritual exploration. For example, how do we listen deeply to people with whom we disagree radically when it comes to politics and “culture war” issues? We may never agree with them, but can we listen for their deepest fears and anxieties? Their hopes and dreams?

How do we listen deeply to our fellow UUS:E members and friends? Especially in this pandemic time when we must keep our distance, when our regular modes of face-to-face interaction are unavailable, how do we listen to one another? Then there’s the practice of listening to ourselves, to our inner voice, our conscience, our heart, our soul. What conditions are necessary so that we can listen deeply to ourselves?

Somehow I am feeling called right now to listen deeply to the land. This may be because, like so many of us, I love the way the leaves change colors during autumn in New England. (I’m looking forward to singing “Turn Scarlet, Leaves,” – words from the late UU minister, Raymond J. Baughan, set to music by UUS:E Director of Music, Mary Bopp.) Being present to the changing seasons— listening deeply—has always been the source of spiritual experience for me, a way to connect with realities greater than myself.

There’s more to this call than just the changing seasons. Some of us have been talking about conducting an official UUS:E “land acknowledgment” as a way of honoring the indigenous people who originally lived in our region of Connecticut—Podunks, Wangunks, Nipmucs, and others. In light of this, I’ve been spending some time walking around UUS:E’s property, proud of the way we have taken care of it over the years, but also listening for how things might have been in ages past. Wondering. Imagining. Listening. As of writing these words, I don’t know if we’ll be able to conduct an official land acknowledgment this month. But we can certainly begin preparing. We can certainly begin listening.

Finally, I am aware that smoke and ash from the west coast wildfires are now passing through the skies over New England. Even here in Connecticut, some areas are experiencing serious drought conditions and the risk of east coast fires is growing. We know the ever-increasing destructiveness of fires, hurricanes, floods, and other weather-related phenomena is directly related to climate change. Are we listening to the land? Are we listening to the earth? I suppose I am offering a prayer: For the sake of our lives and the lives of all those who are coming after us, may we who live today listen deeply to the land. May we who live today listen deeply and respond well, so that the blessings of the land will not be lost to future generations. May we listen.

Amen and blessed be.

With love, —Rev. Josh