Some people are your relatives, but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of [their] values.
— Ralph Ellison
October is my favorite month of the year! The cool breeze, the changing leaves, the angle of the autumnal light, and the growing darkness–each day has about one minute less of daylight–fill my soul with delight. Memories of playing in piles of colorful leaves, decorating our home with ghouls, goblins, jack-o-lanterns, and dried corn stalks, and drinking apple cider remind me of many happy seasons of my life. This is a time when the the transitions in the natural world remind us of our own mortality and of those who have gone before us. In religious calendars, this is the season of Allhallowtide which culminates in the celebrations of holidays of Samhain in Neopaganism (and its secular derivative Halloween), All Souls’ and All Saints’ Days in Christianity, and Dia de los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”) in Indigenous and Mexican traditions. It is when we begin the journey into the dark half of the year and it is a time when it is claimed the veil that separates the world of living from the world of the dead is at its thinnest. My heart is tuned to the whispers of the ancestors in this period and the autumnal splendor invites us all to remember the mighty cloud of witnesses that surrounds our lives.
The Gift of Heritage is our monthly congregational theme for October. Heritage is defined as “tradition” or “something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor.” In our context, it is the legacy of our ancestors, personal and communal, which we receive and have the responsibility to care for and pass on or not. Our families, communities, cultures, and religious institutions all have unique heritages which shape and inform our lives. The Chickasaw poet and novelist Linda Hogan muses, “Walking. I am listening in a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” When we reflect, we remember the deeper interdependent web of all existence that binds each to all and that stretches not only across vast distances but also through time. We truly are the result of the lives, labors, and love of countless predecessors in every aspect of our lives. This is the very substance from which we create our own lives. That recognition should fill us with awe and gratitude for this complex and beautiful gift!
Soul Matters–our theme-based ministry partners–have conjured the following questions to aid us in our spiritual exploration this month in committee meetings and small group activities:
- If you could talk to one of your ancestors, who would you choose? And what would you ask them?
- What story told by (or about) your ancestors has shaped you the most?
- What story do you want to be remembered by?
- What is your favorite family memento? And why does it have such a hold on you?
- If you could change one thing about your family heritage, what would it be?
- If you could change one thing about our culture’s political heritage/history, what would it be?
- What’s the legacy of your first embarrassment?
- What’s the legacy of your first award/triumph?
- It’s been said that we are remembered for the rules we break. What broken rule might you be remembered by?
If you have good news, have reached a milestone, or are holding a sorrow, and you would like to share it with the congregation in our time for Joys and Sorrows on a Sunday morning, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will follow up.
Spiritual care is available from our Pastoral Care Team. They may accompany you through a difficult period, provide a non-judgmental and loving ministry of presence, or even help you to identify and access needed resources. You can contact the Co-Chairs of the Team at email@example.com or by calling the church office.
Yours in love and ministry,
Rev. Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae