From time to time I have used, for closing words, the following poem by the contemporary American poet, Thomas R. Smith:
It’s like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
So you take your car to the new mechanic.
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.
The package left with the disreputable-looking clerk,
the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.
The theft that could have happened doesn’t.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.
And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life is delivered,
though you can’t read the address.
This kind of challenge to our hearts and courage is always before us in our personal lives and in our institutions, but in this period of transition for UUSA, both the challenges and the promises of trust are heightened. Following the huge effort of transforming your building with the addition of the Willie Eaton Social Hall and the retirement of the Rev. Alison Wohler, you trusted your leaders to choose for you a “temporary shepherd” (as interim ministers are sometimes poetically called), to serve you in a time of transition. The two years of the Rev. Cindy Frado’s leadership were a fine beginning of that transition. Unfortunately (as sometimes happens), despite excellent work and due diligence, your search for a new minister was incomplete. Since September you have trusted me, another temporary shepherd, to work with another search committee while providing you with ministerial leadership different in some ways from what you’ve known. You are aware that there are important questions before the Society and you have trusted your leaders and me, but most of all you’ve trusted yourselves, to face those questions and explore the answers.
Soon, you will be invited by your leaders to manifest that trust and faith in the future by responding, as best as each of you will determine and choose, to the challenge of providing the funds needed to conduct the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst into the future, as this parish has done, year by year, since 1887. This, too, is a part of the religious life; it involves not just the dimensions of personal faith and spirit, but the dimension of maintaining the building and keeping the lights on, the dimension of paying the minister and staff who will continue to provide the music, education and inspiration that are the life of congregational worship and fellowship, not only for those who are now here but for all who may enter your doors in the years ahead. As I sometimes say on Sunday in inviting your gifts, “It is for us to keep faith with our children and with the others who will someday speak of those who came before.” I urge your careful and generous consideration of that invitation.