“At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world,
Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening.”
–Annie Dillard (1945 – )
Our congregation is alive with so much activity at the beginning of the new church year. We celebrated our annual Ingathering Water Communion and honored the High Holidays and are preparing ourselves for annual Blessing of the Animals and the autumnal season of remembering our beloved dead. Our Board of Directors is busy attending to the mission and developmental priorities of our congregation. Our worship leaders are creating dynamic online worship services as we continue to learn new technologies and explore how to offer a variety of our cherished services in a virtual environment. Our UU the Vote activities are in full swing as we affirm “the use of the democratic process…in society at large” by helping to ensure the integrity of our elections by countering voter suppression with efforts to encourage voting across the country. We are discerning an Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission to advise our Board as to how best to widen our circle of concern and inclusion throughout the life of our congregation. Our new Chalice Circles small group ministries are preparing to weave a stronger sense of community in this time of physical separation through ministries of listening and presence. Our pastoral caregivers are reaching out to those in our congregation who are in need of support. These are just a few of the many things we’re doing to tend the bright flame of our liberal faith even as we live through a bleak period in our lives.
Our congregational theme for October is “deep listening.” Each month, we explore a different spiritual theme as a community through worship, publications, small group ministries, religious education, and group meetings. Deep listening invites us to dive beneath the noise of pundits and politicians, 24-hour news cycles on television, and doom scrolling on social media, to listen more deeply to the sacred within our lives and in the world. I often lament that our society seems to be designed to keep us distracted and to keep us from being in a deeper relationship with each other and our world. Arundhati Roy writes:
“Another world is not only only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Where would we begin if we were to create another world? I imagine it might begin with a lot of deep listening. Are we willing to listen deeply to all of our BIPOC, Queer, Transgender, and other marginalized siblings to create a world of fairness and justice? Are we willing to listen deeply to each other to witness to life’s struggles and triumphs together? Are we willing to listen deeply to what we hold sacred? Are we willing to listen to spirit or the still small voice within or our cherished humanistic values that give our lives direction and purpose? Are we listening for the ancestors who speak to us in this time of so much loss? Does nature herself call to us through this crisis we are facing together? I hope you will join me this month in practicing listening deeply to each other, to all that we hold to be sacred, and to our badly hurting world.
Let us not try to walk on water in this perilous time when we are confronting so many challenges and adapting to many changes. Walking on the beautiful Earth will do. We do not need miracles right now. Encouraging each other to practice self-care and community-care, fostering sustainability and regenerativity in our lives through adjusting expectations and routines, and creating plenty of time and spaciousness for rest, play, and joy can fuel our spirits for the long haul. Let us encourage hope and resilience and do good in the ways we are able. Let us find comfort in our breathing, in the beating of our hearts, and in the spirit of beloved community. Let us listen, as Arundhati Roy encourages us, for the possibility of another world on her way.
Yours in ministry,
Rev. Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae
Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica
October 2, 2020