Sharing Stories, Continuing Covenants

 –    The Chance to Love Everything – May 2012    –    

We began this year by telling about a child who was pestering his father with the newspaper, until finally his father tore up a map of the world and asked him to try to put it all back together, believing the child would never know which part went where.  The child figured out this puzzle by looking at the other side of the page where there was a human body, which he knew easily how to reconstruct.  The tale concluded: “Put the person together and the whole world falls into place.” When I look back at all of the sermons, the adult spiritual path classes, the workshops, the meetings we have had together, the visioning process, the pastoral care conversations – I realize that so much of this year has had us wrestling with this truth as our charge as individuals and as a religious community.  Are we wounded, and if so, why? What is our call in healing ourselves? How do we imagine we would do this together in ways we could not on our own? And how does this relate to healing the world?

This is one way to tell the story of our time together – to track the threads of what we have been learning and struggling with.  But, there are other ways.   We can talk about how we have grown, the new faces, the additional Sunday services, the community events.  We can speak about organizational changes, leadership growth, connections to the broader Unitarian Universalist movement.  We can tell about the events of our lives, the illnesses we’ve weathered, the losses, the pending births, the new homes.

At times like this – times of transition and change – we seek to make meaning of who and what we have been, what all this time together has meant, and what it will mean.  We evaluate if it has been “worth it,” and why.  We consider if and how we want to move forward.  As we seek to make meaning, we risk two extremes: that we will find a single story (our own, one that gets repeated enough it gains power, one that appeals to our fears or our hopes, etc. etc.), and call it the whole truth; and/or that we will imagine – for better or worse – that the story of the past is the story of the future.[1]

This congregation has many stories – many truths – present among it.  Many ways of characterizing what has been, what is, and what will be.  As we move through this transition, I invite each person to consider what story or stories they observe at work in this congregation, and in our individual lives – and then to practice curiosity and wonder in learning how these are the same or different than what others observe.  And then I invite us all to work with humility and patience towards weaving together these stories into the narrative of this congregation’s future.

Speaking of this transitional time, I want to let you all know, I am working out the specific plan with the Board, but generally we are imagining that I will extend my contract with TRUU through June so as to ensure a smooth transition with your new minister.  It is standard practice that I will be in conversation with this new minister as much as they believe is helpful.  Anything you may need from me, you can trust I will be fully responsive to your new minister and offer them as much or as little information as they seek.

However, once my contract ends, generally you can trust that my point of contact for the congregation will be your new minister.  It is important for the health of the congregation (which I care deeply about), and it is a part of my collegial covenant with all Unitarian Universalist ministers, that I support the establishing of a full and good relationship between you all and your new minister.  Which means, though I will happily embrace you at regional or national gatherings when we run into each other, and though I will read the TRUU newsletter and website with pride and love, I will not be able to return to the congregation or offer any service after this time concludes.  It does not mean I will not continue to love you all.  Surely I will.  It does not mean I cherish you any less than if we were in regular conversation or consultation.  In fact it should only underscore my love for you – my loyalty to your vibrant future requires my clear boundary as we complete this time together.

Let us spend these last two months walking together with joy and authenticity, weaving together the stories of the past and the present, imagining together the bold, bright future of Unitarian Universalism – the bold, bright possibilities of our world.  With faith, we leap into the unknown, trusting that the story we have yet to create is more beautiful than we even know.

With love and in faith,




[1] Check out this TED Talk on “The Danger of the Single Story” for further reflection: