November 11, 2022

Dear UUSA,
In November, my thoughts turn to how we tell the story of who we are. We begin the month in remembrance of our beloved dead. We hold elections for our representatives in government and vote on ballot questions about what kind of a society we want to be. We honor our veterans. We remember those who have died by anti-trans violence. We gather with loved ones to give thanks. We hold the Thanksgiving story critically and try to hear the true story of European colonization on this continent. We try to do better.
Who are we and who do we want to be together? A lot of my work as your minister has to do with this question. Who belongs in our congregation, and who’s left on the outside?
Those who attended our congregation before the pandemic began likely remember how we used to sing the closing song in a circle. I saw how happy it made you to look into each other’s faces as you sang. I also saw newcomers put on the spot to participate in a very vulnerable ritual. Some of them were happy to join, some went along to get along, and some did not or could not move into place. This moment served as a litmus test of belonging: approximately 55 minutes into knowing us, newcomers had to decide and perform whether they were in or out. Some people never came back based on this ritual. When we returned to singing the song, I encouraged you to hold hands with those next to you (or put your hands over your heart) where you were. This way we still sing as one but do not put pressure on newcomers to demonstrate that they belong.
I hear that some of you are missing this moment in the service, and I invite you to help me think of a way to meet that need to behold and be held in the love of our congregation without any sense of compulsion. If you would like to tell me your experiences of this moment or other times when you had a deep sense of who our congregation is, I would love to hear them. Send me an email, or call me up and leave me a voicemail.
We have the opportunity to build a community that truly welcomes the newcomer. Our rituals are one of the ways we create a culture together. What kind of culture do we want to create? Who do we want to be?
In faith,
Rev. Rachael

October 23, 2022

A Message from the Minister
Dear UUSA,

The leaves are falling, the colors are changing around us, and we’re trying new things in worship.

We’re launching a new program called the Worship Collaborative, a team of folks including myself, Alyson Bull and our DRE Andrew Coate. We will share the planning of all services throughout the year. We are starting small and gaining momentum organically, but it feels like a positive and thoughtful beginning.

Another new role you will begin to see on our chancel is Worship Associates, members who co-lead services by doing readings and reflections.

I will also teach an adult RE class called The Shared Pulpit in the new year to build and practice worship-leading skills together. We’ll talk about what’s in a service, why, and how to do it in a way that gives the congregation tools to help them get through the week.

I believe that planning and leading services is a spiritual practice, not just a job, and that it is our birthright as human beings to make meaning together. If this idea intrigues you, maybe you would like to join us. Please reach out to me if you are excited about joining us in planning and/or co-leading services. Let me know if you are thinking about participating in the class–I will try to schedule it in a way that works for everyone who is excited about it.

I would like to thank the Sunday Services Committee for planning and leading services for many years. You built the house where we now try these new things. Thank you.

I hope you can join Andrew, Alyson, Brenda, choir members, and many other people in our congregation who are taking the first steps into this new journey this weekend. I think it’s going to be lovely.

In faith,
Rev Rachael

October 7, 2022

Dear UUSA,
Our year is under way. Our building is getting a spruce-up (or a cedar-up, since the new shingles will be cedar). Our children are getting to know our new DRE, and he them. In our services we are talking about a mix of very old and ever-evolving things: the sources of Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism claims many sources, and so do our members. Our ingathering service represented all six sources, and since then we have focused on the power of wonder and direct experience, prophetic people who call us to do better, and the story of Sarah and Hagar from the book of Genesis during the Jewish High Holidays. We’ll also hear from Earth-based traditions, World Religions (but aren’t all religions world religions?), Christianity, and Humanism as we make our way through the year.
Each of us will encounter these sources differently, based on our own history and what inspires us now. Some services may be challenging, but religious community is not a retail experience. If something you experience during a service is not what you expect in our congregation, I invite you to look around (in the sanctuary or by clicking over to gallery view) to take in the congregation. If you feel like an outsider, there may be someone who is feeling at home for the first time.
We’re not all the same here. Though we have a lot in common, we have a lot more diversity of belief than we give ourselves credit for. We love one another enough to meet each other as we are instead of defaulting to a lowest common denominator of belief. So when something is not for you, please know that it’s just what someone else needed; when something fills your spirit, let others know!
My approach through these sources is to offer them by invitation. I won’t ask you to believe anything that contradicts your experience, but I will invite you to try on some stories and sing some songs to listen for what truth you can find in them. Maybe you find new wisdom, and maybe you find comfort in the fact that you made a place for someone else to find the wisdom they needed.
If you would like to be part of planning or leading services in our congregation, let’s talk about it! I’m working through the member interest forms, but you’re very welcome to reach out to me directly to get involved. As the year goes on, expect to see more member leadership in services, and in the spring there will even be an adult Religious Education class to give anyone who wants them the chops to lead services well.
Sundays after services during the fall will have lots of opportunity for members to discuss the business of the congregation as well as the covenant and topics introduced by the services. Watch your emails and listen to service announcements for more information.
It is a pleasure and an honor to begin another year with you.
In faith,
Rev. Rachael