Minister’s Letter – October 2019

Dear UUSA,

Wow, what a first month we have had! Now that our program year has begun, it’s wonderful to see you all in the magic of being together in worship. I am excited for many things beginning and relaunching. This year’s Coming of Age cohort is beginning their own search for truth and meaning. Our membership work is becoming more visible, as we acknowledge and welcome the Society’s new members in worship and make the path to membership clearer.

I would like to thank and acknowledge our members and friends who participated in the Global Climate Strike on September 20th, those who attended the action at UMass and those who participated in the Strike in other locations. Your presence made a difference. I have heard people wonder whether demonstration changes anything–and I have absolute faith that it does. First, it changes us. It brings us together for things we care about, which helps us feel our strength together and our commitment to each other. Being in the moment with other people requires that we use our values instead of simply thinking about them. It also changes the conversation. It disrupts the status quo and invites more people into the conversation. Even when people actively disagree, they are engaging the ideas. The ball is still in play. And if this ball that we live on in all the vastness of space is to continue to harbor us, we will have to keep the issue of climate crisis and climate justice in motion.

I give my thanks also to everyone who has made an appointment to spend time with me or just stopped by. I am grateful for all of these meetings and the chance to know you and what matters to you. I would ordinarily not talk about which person I met with, but there was one meeting I would like to mention to you. I had the wonderful fortune to have lunch this month with our Minister Emerita, Rev. Alison Wohler, while she was on her way to the coast! We sat at Esselon Cafe for nearly two hours getting to know each other. What a treat! She sends along her greetings to all of you.

Hello Dear Congregation! I am so happy for you that you have called Rachael to be your new minister. And I’m equally happy for Rachael that she has found you. You are bound for new adventures together. Rachael and I met for the first time over lunch recently and I have offered her, and you, whatever support and encouragement I can provide as your Minister Emerita. At the very least you will have my good wishes from afar. It was great to spend a couple of hours with Rachael. We shared stories and quite a lot of laughter. I offer congratulations all around! Sincerely, and with love, Alison

I would love to spend some time with you. You are welcome to make an appointment on my calendar automatically at calendly.com/revrachael, to email me at revrachael@uusocietyamherst.com, or call me at 413-253-2848. If you prefer to stop by, your best options are Wednesdays and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons; Monday is my sabbath, and Fridays are generally busy with worship planning!

Rev. Rachael

Changes in Worship

If you’ve been here for a Sunday service since the program year’s begun, you may have noticed that things are changing. Furniture moves. There are beautiful new order of service covers. There are fewer announcements. We spend more time with all ages together. We are singing new songs. And the song for the children is new too, so you’ll need to hang onto those new order of service covers so you can read the words, at least until you memorize them.

The change I have heard the most about, however, is the stones ritual for joys and sorrows. I did not plan to come in and change the ritual for joys and sorrows in a significant way. It simply made sense to me to use our ritual water for joys and sorrows on the first Sunday of the program year. Several people afterwards told me that doing joys and sorrows silently was deeply meaningful for them, and they pointed out that many more people participated with silent stones than would ever talk at the microphone. I heard that a real need in this congregation had been met, and I decided to try to get that need met more often. For our all-ages services, I am going to continue the ritual with silent stones (about once per month). I also hear that there is a need to hear our community’s joys and sorrows out loud. For regular services, we will continue with spoken joys and sorrows and candles (about three times per month).

For all services I lead, there will also be slips of paper for joys and sorrows in the order of service. If you write your joy or sorrow on a paper slip and pass it in, I will include it in the prayer after the ritual, whether we use candles or stones that week. Even on weeks when we do stones instead of candles, I will read these joys and sorrows out loud during the prayer.

If you have something more than a joy or sorrow that you would like to bring into worship–a passion, a talent, a story–let’s talk about how to integrate it into a service. I love planning worship collaboratively. (But fair warning, many of these services are planned a month or more in advance, so last-minute planning is less collaborative.)

What I would most love to do is to find a way to meet more of our spiritual needs every week (in many parts of the service). And I think we can. It will take trying new things to get there, and it will take your honest response. I promise to listen and to respect what all of us has to offer.

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