Seeking Transcendence – Gretchen Haley

September 5, 2011

The Chance to Love Everything   —

In my last note, I gave you an overview of the journey ahead this church year –the moving year ahead, as I called it, and our journey of transcendence, belonging, and significance.  This week, I want to focus in on the first of these three elements – the search for transcendence.

If you’ve ever felt in your being, that sense of being connected to something greater, something beyond the material here and now, you’ve experienced transcendence.  Unitarian Universalist John Crossley Morgan tells this story of his own experience of transcendence:

“I was taking a morning walk down a path outside the Tintern Abbey in Wales when I discovered a rather small but sprawling tree.  I crawled under the branches and sat quietly.  It felt safe and even sacred there, a place you might go to rest and reflect on the mystery of life.  I sensed the presence of others who had sat in that spot before.

“Later over lunch, I spoke with a local resident and told him how I had felt sitting under that tree.  He looked at me and said quietly, ‘It’s called a thin place.’ I had never heard the name before, so he explained that to the Welsh a thin place is a very special place, a sacred spot, where you feel a presence so deep and mysterious that you have to stretch language to describe it.”

On Sunday mornings we gather ourselves, seeking to create and re-create, praise and reflect, honor and love the “thin places” of our world, our lives, our hearts.  In every worship service, we hope to open our hearts, touch our spirits, and feel that connection to the greater mystery of life, that great web of being, of which we are such a small and yet important part.  Through song and readings, silence and prayer; through the message of preaching and the act of storytelling, through thoughtful conversation and through the very act of gathering with others who share in values and in love – we seek transcendence.

This church year, the Worship Committee and I (as well as many others, including my constant collaborator on Sunday mornings, the talented and big-hearted Jimmy Byrne) have been engaged in ongoing conversations about how we can best create worship that ushers in and welcomes these experiences of transcendence.  Here are just a few of the changes you can anticipate this year as a part of our continued quest to know, experience and reflect that love and light which is greater than all, and yet present in each….

  • Theme-based ministry – This year, TRUU’s worship services will be centered around 9 themes.  Each theme plays a part in the development of a well-grounded religious and spiritual life.    They provide us with a set of common stories and ideas that become elements of an ongoing community conversation.  We’ll kick off the month with a story that helps frame the theme, and we’ll choose one hymn that runs throughout the month as a way of explicitly linking our services.  Look for these upcoming themes:  September – Transformation; October – Belonging; November – Ultimacy (God-talk); December – Grace
  • Morning Song – 10 minutes before each service we will gather to practice singing together, to learn new songs, and to open our hearts as we move into the time of worship.
  • Growing Worship Calendar – We are excited to be growing our Worship Calendar for the year.  Through December, we are meeting every Sunday except the last Sunday of the month (except the Sunday of Labor Day, as you might’ve noticed).  Generally I will be with you the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month, except in September when I will be headed to Boston to see the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.  (More on that in an upcoming note!)

I look forward to seeing you next Sunday for our special service – “Bless the World,” remembering the tragedy of 9/11, as well as the hope embodied in the service of the Peace Corps as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary this month.  And as always, I look forward to continuing to walk together on this journey of transcendence, significance and belonging, with laughter, light, patience, and courage.

With love, and in faith,

Gretchen Haley, TRUU Minister

PS:  In the new 3rd Street space, I will have an office! If you are ever in need of a personal conversation, for whatever reason, please feel free to get in touch so that we can schedule a time.