In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

Thank you for the honor of serving this historic congregation. Thank you for your loving work to sustain it. Thank you for daring to try and sometimes fail along with me. Thank you for seeking to find what really needs to be done and trying to do it.

Here’s what I know:
●     We have a dedicated core of members and friends who can and do pull off amazing feats: Rummage - Comedy Night, Carnival - on a scale beyond the imagination of much larger congregations.
●     We have committed leaders on the standing committee yes, but also in every nook and cranny of need - rentals, Sunday morning team leaders, fund raising, adult education, Camp Starfish, campus maintenance, and even into the corners of the kitchen on rotted tiles.
●     We have a talented staff - a remarkable music director who makes the organ thrill, the choirs swell and the minister look good; an engaging administrator who knows your name, helps you succeed and loves us toward wholeness; a willing sexton who battles snow, irons wax from carpets and does what needs to be done with a smile.

Here’s what I think:
●     We need more people to sustain us into the future.
●     We need to attract young families to have a critical mass for children and youth programming.
●     We need to continue innovative worship to make Sunday services more attractive.
●     We need to get the good word out more broadly about why we love this congregation.
●     We need to be more sticky with our visitors (find more ways to help them stick around).

Here’s what we’ve done:
●     Managed a significant staff reduction (loss of a full time religious professional).
●     Improved staff morale.
●     Increased Sunday staff support by have the administrator and Sexton present and supporting our Sunday programming.
●     Increased giving and reversed a downward trend in financial commitment.
●     Expanded social media outreach exponentially (doubled Facebook likes and reached 50,000+ people in a 3 mile radius of UUSWH).
●     Created a complete video archive of all Sunday Services for the church year (http://uuwellesley.org/sermons/).
●     Installed high speed wifi internet access throughout the campus.
●     Launched an acclaimed Ministerial Search Committee.
●     Embraced theme oriented worship that celebrates our unique community.
●     And so much more.

Here is a partial “To Do” List for Church Year 2017-2018:
●     Establish a data base
●     Call a new minister
●     Launch a new half time religious educator
●     And more!

Here are some interesting factoids about 2016-2017
●     Attendance has been relatively constant.


●     The demographics of our zip code are weighted toward our target audience.

 

Thematic Worship:

The Worship Concept for UUSWH in 2016-2017: has been: “A community of…”

UU religious community is a precious gift. Within it, we find values and questions that are rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. Values and issues that push us, ground us and remind us who we most deeply are. Together we have asked: What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world?

Our monthly themes have been:

A community of…
September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In our next church year we explore the question, “What does it mean to be a people of ...” Together we will ask what values and issues push us, ground us and remind us who we most deeply are?

2017-2018 Themes:

What does it mean to be a people of…
• September: Welcome
• October: Courage
• November: Abundance
• December: Hope
• January: Intention
• February: Perseverance
• March: Balance
• April: Emergence
• May: Creativity
• June: Blessing

September: Welcome
Relevant Dates: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Fall Equinox, Homecoming Sunday, Water Communion, Labor Day, 9/11 Anniversary, National Hispanic Heritage Month, start of school for many
Lectionary Highlights: Binding of Isaac, creation, jacob’s dream
Related Themes to weave in: diversity, belonging (welcome)

October: Courage
Relevant Dates: LGBT History Month, National Coming Out Day, Indigenous People's Day, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Halloween, Samhain, United Nations Day, AIDS Awareness Month, Autumn Equinox, Michael Servetus’ birthday.
Lectionary Highlights: Samuel, God’s manna, “I am” and the courage to hear God’s voice, Related Themes to weave in: sanctuary, calling, strength (dare)

November: Abundance
Relevant Dates: All Saints/Souls Day, Election Day (US), Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, World Kindness Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Adoption Awareness Month , Native American Heritage month, Alzheimer's Awareness Month
Lectionary Highlights: God speaks into the silence, Amos-”let justice roll”,
Related Themes to weave in: gratitude, sight, perception (feast)

December: Hope

Relevant Dates: Advent, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, World AIDS Day, Human Rights Day,
Lectionary Highlights: dry bones, fiery furnace, Xmas
Related Themes to weave in: renewal, possibility, anticipation (hope)

January: Intention
Relevant Dates: New Year's, Martin Luther King Day, Epiphany, Rowe v. Wade Anniversary, 30 Days of Love campaign of Standing on the Side of Love,
Lectionary Highlights: Nicodemus, Jesus cleanses the temple, water to wine, baptism of Jesus
Related Themes to weave in: attention, awareness, discernment, preparation, renewal, resolve, witness, (plan, prepare, commit)

February: Perseverance
Relevant Dates : Black History Month, Valentine's Day, 30 Days of Love campaign of Standing on the Side of Love , Ash Wednesday, Lent, Random Acts of Kindness Week, Groundhog Day, Lectionary Highlights: lazarus rising from the dead, man born blind, women at the well, transfiguration, foot washing
Related Themes to weave in: (keep going, persist)

March: Balance
Relevant Dates: Women's History Month, Lent, Spring Equinox, Purim, Passover
Lectionary Highlights: Pilate, Maundy Thursday, Peter’s denial
Related Themes to weave in: wholeness, humility (balance)

April : Emergence
Relevant Dates: Easter, Passover, Earth Day, Arab American Heritage Month, Siblings Day, Stress Awareness Month
Lectionary Highlights: easter, empty tomb, Paul’s conversion
Related Themes to weave in: (arise, bloom)

May: Creativity
Relevant Dates: Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Ramadan begins, Beltane, May Day, Cinco de Mayo, Jewish American Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, high school and college graduations
Lectionary Highlights: pentecost, ascension, paul in prison,
Related Themes to weave in: (create)

June: Blessing
Relevant Dates: Father's Day, Summer Solstice, Flower Communion, Ramadan ends, LGBT Pride Month, month of weddings and camps
Lectionary Highlights:
Related Themes to weave in: (bless)

See you in church!

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

“Where is our holy church? We are standing on the side of love.” - Rev. Fred Small

This church year we look at our Unitarian Universalist community in Wellesley Hills through the lens of love. Have we always been loving? No. But we have been steadfast in looking for love and possibility in every situation. Speaking for myself, I admit to having some unloving thoughts and have found occasion to vent them! Yet, unpredictably but reliably there has been one of you to call me back to my better self, to finding enough love to do what needs to be done.

At it’s core Unitarian Universalism is about love. I believe my friend Fred Small has it right when he says, “Many Unitarian Universalists suffer from a chronic identity crisis. People ask us, what do Unitarian Universalists believe? And—we freeze! We don’t know what to say, because UUs believe so many things, so many different things. We are priests of paradox, apostles of ambiguity, nattering nabobs of nuance.

And so the Unitarian Universalist Association produces seven principles and six sources and countless pamphlets and little wallet cards all to remind us what we kinda sorta believe. We are exhorted to compose elevator speeches, summations of Unitarian Universalism so pithy they might be recited on an elevator in its fleeting passage between floors.

Do we believe in God? Question—simple. Answer—impossible.

Define “God.”

Define “believe.”

Define “we.”

Define “in.”

Whatever God is or is not, I don’t think God cares what we believe. I don’t think Jesus cares what we believe. And I know the Buddha doesn’t care what we believe.

The important question is not what we believe, it’s where we stand.

I want to be standing on the side of love.

Of course when I say “standing” I’m not talking about a physical posture. Rosa Parks stood on the side of love by remaining seated.

I’m talking about a moral stance not just assumed privately in our hearts but witnessed boldly in our families and schools and workplaces and communities, at the State House, in the halls of Congress. I’m talking about faith in action.

I’m not talking about sanctimony. I’m talking about intentionality. Understanding that our practice will be imperfect as each of us is imperfect, what is our purpose? What is our aspiration? What is our commitment?

Standing on the side of love.”

This month as our theme turns to embodiment, we look for ways to embody love, audaciously, purposefully, and yes, imperfectly. Our Sunday celebrations are focused on what it take to stand on the side of love.

May 7th we welcome Dr. Ejaz Ali, to get a sense of the Muslim experience in Wellesley and the love it takes to live it.

May 14th two people from our congregation share their experience living on the side of love: Lelia Elliston, the LGBT experience, and Brenda Ross, the African-American experience.

May 21st for the love of beasts! We will stand on the side of love with a blessing for the beasts that love us. Bring your live animal, your photo of a beloved animal or stuffed beast of love and bless them to the world.

May 28th Joe Senecal from our congregation stands on the side of love with the handicapped experience.

“Where is our holy church? We are standing on the side of love.” See you there.

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

 “I am here to see that my singular life is a gateway to countless possibilities. When I change, the world changes.” - Ma Theresa Gustilo Gallardo

After living March on the edge: the edge of our first Comedy Night, our financial Stewardship Drive, our annual RUMMAGE sale, April challenges us with the consequences of our daring. Comedy night was a profitable, joyous success. The Stewardship drive still needs pledges. And Rummage set financial and fantastic records.

Are we changed? We learned we could try new ways: a risky stand-up comedy fundraiser, Video pitches for the Stewardship drive and the running of the rummagers for Rummage!

Are we changing? We are bolder, freer and uncertain. Changing means our congregational life is less predictable and ironically more sustainable in turbulent times.

Welcome to transformation!

For Sunday Worship we use a thematic approach. This year we are focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, are the values and questions we rarely encounter elsewhere in our lives. What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying people and possibilities in this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In April we consider what it means to be a community of Transformation.

Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for an unknown God. -Henri-Frederic Ariel

Make a bit of room. Leave a little space. That may not sound like anything radical or revolutionary. But it turns out that it is one of Life’s favorite ways to make us into something new. Be cautious with those cultural messages about aggressively tilling and turning up your whole soil. Watch out for all the heroic talk about striving and perfecting, struggle and control.

Much of the time, transformation is a much subtler art. It’s about stillness, listening and waiting to be led, not fighting with yourself and others to make sure you are in the lead. In short, when it comes to transformation, the message of spirituality is “Be careful with what you’ve been taught and told because much of it takes us in exactly the wrong direction.”

Our challenge as a community of transformation is to remind each other to take a different tack.

More often than not, it’s about breathing rather than becoming better; patience not perfection; depth not dominance; attention not improvement. That part about attention instead of improvement is especially important. It’s so easy to get transformation mixed up with fixing. And fixing is transformation’s biggest foe.

Trying to purify or prove ourselves is the surest way to stay stuck. The pursuit of purity focuses us on our inadequacy and inferiority, causing us to overlook those unexpected guests that Henri-Frederic speaks of. And, friends, we don’t want to miss those unexpected guests! Those seeds brought by the wind and those passing birds are the partners that make transformation possible. They help us notice new paths. They invite us to walk with a new step. They awaken in us new songs. They remind us that transformation is not something we do alone. They assure us that transformation doesn’t have to be a long and lonely struggle, but instead can be more like learning a new dance with a new friend.

All we have to do is trust, take the hand of that “unknown God” and follow its lead. So, friends, this month, leave some room on that dance floor of yours. Keep your eyes peeled. And when that unexpected guest reaches out its hand, don’t be afraid.

Oh and if you want to try some interesting personal transformation, Patricia Ryan Madson, drama professor and author, suggests this:

 “This is going to sound crazy. Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else's dream. Say: yes”; “right”; “sure”; “I will”; “okay”; “of course”; “YES!” Cultivate all the ways you can imagine to express affirmation. When the answer to all questions is yes, you enter a new world, a world of action, possibility, and adventure… It is undoubtedly an exaggeration to suggest that we can say yes to everything that comes up, but we can all say yes to more than we normally do. Once you become aware that you can, you will see how often we use the technique of blocking in personal relationships simply out of habit. Turning this around can bring positive and unexpected results… Try substituting “yes and” for “yes but” — this will get the ball rolling.” Keep it simple.

See you at worship!

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

“The edge is where I want to be,” writes poet Lisa Martinovic. She continues, “It’s the trailhead to the road not taken.”

Living on the edge is risky and unpredictable. So, March is just right for testing our edgy side. That’s why we dare to go all in this month and why we kick off our annual Stewardship Drive on the weekend of March 12th. Imagine the audacity of having Stewardship Sunday on the morning daylight savings kicks in!

I think it’s time to for our congregation to find it’s edgy ground again. The place where we can love more change into the world. The cliff where we can freefall into standing up, speaking out and doing what needs to be done. It’s time to forsake the mealy middle for hard edge of faith outside the the googleable universe to where we don’t twitter, we THUNDER!

Welcome to exciting times!

For Sunday Worship we use a thematic approach. This year we are focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, are the values and questions we rarely encounter elsewhere in our lives. What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying people and possibilities in this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In March we consider what it means to be a community of RISK.  We ask ourselves what we dare and how we can help each other to commitment, to living in the zone. Risk is about, and this is my message for the month, Risk is about loving enough to jump in, be faithful and do what needs to be done.

To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. ~James Baldwin

Risk is usually associated with the dare devils and thrill seekers. The real danger, we’re told, is a life of boredom. The battle is between the bland and the bold.

Yet, as James Baldwin reminds us, it’s not quite that simple. He places commitment, not thrills, at the center of the game. For him, the ones to be admired are not so much the dare devils as the dedicated ones. And that Holy Grail? Well, he suggests, maybe it’s not “the exciting life’ as we’ve been told. Maybe it’s the faithful life. And that turns everything wonderfully on its head.

From this perspective, the important question about risk (and about life) is not “Are you willing to jump off?” but “Are you willing to jump in?” Not “Are you willing to put yourself in danger?” but “Are you willing to give yourself to something bigger?” Not “Will you be daring?” but “Will you stay true?”

And the message changes too. Suddenly, it’s not “Run to what’s thrilling!” but “Don’t run away!” It’s all about remembering not to let the thrilling trump the faithful. As exciting as roller coasters and jumping out of planes might be, let’s remember to remind each other that the most deeply rewarding risks are the ones that involve jumping into causes and putting our hearts in the hands of others.

As the poet David Whyte puts it: “We are here essentially to risk ourselves in the world. We are meant to hazard ourselves for the right thing, for the right person, for the right work or for a gift given against all the odds.”

Bob Marley’s take is equally compelling. He writes, “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” And here’s the twist: It’s not just Baldwin’s dangers, Whyte’s hazards and Marley’s suffering that come at us when we take the risk of living faithfully. Grace and gifts slip in there too!

As the Scottish writer W.H. Murray explains, “Concerning all acts of creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamt would have come their way.” How thrilling is that?!

See you at worship!

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

Welcome to exciting times! For a few weeks, we have stumbled through political upheaval and spiritual angst. We wonder who we are. As social critic, Courtney Martin points out, “It’s never been more asked of us to show up as only slices of ourselves.” The risk of this, of course, is that if we live too long only in our “slices,” they become all that we are.

That’s why I have been paying more and ever more attention to our singers and their director, Suzie Cartreine.

When I came to our church six months ago, the other newcomer was Suzie. In our initial conversations, she told me about creating a “sound.” I think she meant a unique choral blend of voices.

If you think of a choir as a group of individual voices, slices of tone each looking for a solo, then it must be difficult to create a “sound.” When I first heard our chorus of soloists, I couldn’t imagine how Suzie would create a unified tone, a signature UUSWH Choir.

As the months have passed all of us have heard the transformation of our choir from solo slices to singing sound. How did that happen? I think Suzie has given the time, patience and discipline needed to help the slices become a gourmet sandwich.

To thieve in these exciting times, we could learn a lot from Suzie and the choir.

For Sunday Worship, we use a thematic approach. This year we are focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, are the values and questions we rarely encounter elsewhere in our lives. What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying people and possibilities in this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In February, we consider what it means to be a community of identity.  We ask ourselves who we are and how we can help each other to wholeness. Identity is about, and this is my message for the month, Identity is about loving enough to do what needs doing.

Identity work isn’t a game or a pastime. It’s unquestionably life and death stuff. And here’s the kicker: our faith wants you to stop hiding and live fully, not just for your sake, but for our sakes as well.

We are all struggling to escape our slices and connect to our hidden wholeness. Seeing you be real gives us permission to be let our true selves out of the closet! Your brave honesty about your contradictions, allows us to live boldly in our multitudes! We save each other by being true to ourselves. We save each other by loving enough to do what needs doing.

See you at worship!

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

“The Greatest Show in Church” - what a way to start the new year! We were thrilled by Acrobat Morgan from the Boston Circus Guild who taught and told us about what it takes to overcome the tyranny of fear. Morgan explained that when her dancing career tanked, she upped her game by switching to circus acrobatics and flying. Morgan’s motto is, "Life is a balance of holding on and letting go."-Rumi. To see this inspiring young woman “bring it” in our sanctuary click here https://vimeo.com/197984382.

Thinking about how Morgan moved on from her dancing career made me wonder how we can move on from our disappointments of 2016. Reverend Robbie Walsh has this advice “The meaning of a life is not contained within one act, or one day, or one year. As long as you are alive the story of your life is still being told, and the meaning is still open. As long as there is life in the world, the story of the world is still being told. What is done is done, but nothing is settled.

“And if nothing is settled, then everything matters. Every choice, every act in the new year matters. Every word, every deed is making the meaning of your life and telling the story of the world. Everything matters in the year coming, and, more importantly, everything matters today.”

I love that phrase, “What’s done is done, but nothing is settled.” It’s prophetic in the sense that prophecy should wake us up to the truths that surround us. Morgan’s dancing might be done, but nothing was settled about her future. To move on she had to wake up to the reality that everything matters now. The presidential election is done, but nothing is settled about the future of our democracy. We must wake up to the reality that everything matters now.

For Sunday Worship we use a thematic approach. This year we are focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, we find values and questions rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying people and possibilities in this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In January we consider what it means to be a community of prophecy. Prophecy is a tocsin, a call to attention and awareness. I believe, and this is my message: to live the lives we wish we could in the just world we dream of, we must be AWAKE. On January 1st  we celebrated the tocsin given by acrobatics and wondered about their power for transforming people and possibilities. "Life is a balance of holding on and letting go."-Rumi

As the month goes on we listen to voices of the Prophets and we recall the deeds of our UU forebears. We call them prophets for their vision and truth. Prophets are not soothsayers, but visionaries. Prophets are called—and call others—to justice, community, and action. They call us to new ways of being human.

See you at worship!

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

November was quite a month! The election left many of us reeling. As I asked on the Sunday after, “What’s going to happen now? Short answer: We could thrive - if we turn the terrible truths into stories of hope by continuing to co-create a world of love and justice.” Slowly that hard work is beginning in our congregation with renewed commitments to LGBTQ issues, refugees and climate change. I believe we will not only survive, but thrive.

This month we say goodbye to Mick Hirsch. For a year and a half he has worked among us to help, hold and heal. In my short time among you, Mick has been one of my guides to the congregation, an inspirational co-creator of worship and a faithful colleague. Like many of you, I will miss him. Godspeed Mick and thanks for your service.

For Sunday Worship we use a thematic approach. This year we are focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, we find values and questions rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying people and possibilities in this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In December we consider presence and specifically, what does it mean to be a Community of Presence?

Spiritually, presence can be two radically different things. On the one hand, contemplatives talk of “being present.” Presence from this perspective is all about awareness and remembering to “live in the moment.”

On the other hand, theologians tend to come at presence from the perspective of “otherness.” Their concern is not just that we pay attention to the present moment, but that we notice a transcendent Presence that is woven through all moments.

Attentiveness or otherness? Must we choose? Isn’t it true that, more often than not, they dance together more than they compete? Isn’t it true that when we are most present, a powerful presence emerges? Pay attention to the flow of your breathing or the flow of the ocean and something bigger than yourself enters the scene. Look for a long time at a blade of grass and eventually it presents itself to you as a world in and unto itself.

The world is full of unnoticed gifts and grace. It’s a message perfectly fit for this month that so often celebrates presents over presence. In the face of commercials and billboards that tell us our lives will finally be complete if we stuff them with a few more shiny objects or plastic gadgets, our spiritual traditions come along and remind us that our lives are already complete.

As Dr. Seuss says through the Grinch, “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The greatest gift of the holidays is noticing the many gifts that have been sitting there all along. So how will you engage this dance? What powerful and meaningful presence is waiting for you to be present to it? What gift is waiting and wanting to emerge? What will your awareness bring into being this month?

To be a community of presence we must learn again that the world is full of unnoticed gifts and grace. We would thrive if we could notice the gifts and grace that surround us and thereby co-create a world of love and justice.

See you at church!

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

I was so proud to be part of our congregation on October 5th when we welcomed more than 300 people to the Sharps’ War screening and panel discussion. Seeing us all come together to make this major event not just successful but inspiring was awesome. It shows that when the Unitarian Universalists of Wellesley want to make a difference we can!

But we are not only about serious intent, but we are also about light-hearted celebration. Anyone who attended our Sunday of Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse (October 30th), including TWO terrifying haunted houses, knows what I mean. I’m telling everyone I know UUSWH is the place to be on Sunday, why not do the same? And speaking of Sunday.

Sunday Worship: We use a thematic approach to religion. This year we are focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, we find values and questions rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In November we consider stories and specifically, What Does It Mean to Be a Community of Stories?

Our lives are not just made up of stories; stories also make them. Who of us hasn’t felt controlled by a story, stuck in it? Or hopeless about the way our story will end up? Simply put, stories write us as much as we write them.

For instance, who can’t relate to the friend that tells us that her family “clings to the story about how I’m the clumsy one.” We’ve never seen our friend trip, not once. Or drop a thing, ever. And yet, somehow, when she goes to her parents’ home or back to a family reunion, she spills coffee on at least one outfit, stubs at least one toe and stumbles down at least one step. That's the power of story!

Or think about our current struggles with economic or racial justice. Folks describe the incredible income gap as “natural” or “the result of complex global dynamics over which we have little control.” Similarly, often the same folks tell the story of race in our country with an “entrenched” story arc. Talk about a debilitating way of telling the story.

So let’s tell a new story! Fresh starts and new tales are the core of our faith. We have a choice. Our stories are not predetermined. Remember the old theological dispute our UU ancestors debated with their lives?Some said that God had predestined not just the big story of humanity, but our individual stories too. Some of us go to heaven and others go to hell. God had written the list in ink. Nothing any of us could do about it.

“Well,” said our spiritual ancestors, “that’s a bit harsh, don’t you think!” Forget this final fate driven story, they said. Freedom has a much bigger role than in this. God is not so much the author of the story as she is the magical muse that needles and nags us to put our stamp on the narratives before us. In other words, we come from a long line of spiritual relatives who agreed with Shakespeare that “All the world’s a stage,” but then went on to clarify that it’s an improv show.

So fate and freedom? This month is much more about the tension between these two than one might have thought, leaving us with questions like: Are you an actor conforming to the scripts handed to you? Or have you found your way to becoming a director, a screenwriter, an author? How are you struggling right now to regain control of the storyline of your life? How are you and your friends working to regain ownership of the storyline of our community? Our country?

Or maybe control is not your work. Maybe your spiritual work is about finding a new storyline. Maybe retirement, divorce, illness or the empty-nest has closed the book on one story and is inviting you to leap into a whole new narrative. Does that leave you excited about what’s to come? Scared? A bit of both?

No matter what don’t give the storyline away. That’s the message of our faith. And hopefully the gift of this month.

See you at church!

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

We had a wonderful visitors Sunday on September 25. The Welcoming Committee treated us to an amazing barbecue made even more festive by a talented jazz duo.  People walking down Washington Street paused to enjoy the music and commented on how much fun the people in the church were having. An absolutely splendid event and one I hope we can repeat.

With each passing day I am ever more impressed by what an exciting congregation this is. If I were moving to this area and visited several congregations, this is the one I would pick. I hope you will tell your friends about us.  If you do, please invite them to our website: http:uuwellesley.org. Your friends may want to know what Sunday morning is like.  They can actually experience parts of our service on YouTube: http://uuwellesley.org/sermons/.

Many of you know we are using a thematic approach for worship this year focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, we find values and questions that are rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. What is it we find when we gather? And what is it we are asked to share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In October we consider healing and specifically, What Does It Mean to Be A Community of Healing?

To be a community of healing requires dedication and a willingness to dig in - to fix what’s been broken, to listen away each other’s pain, to battle the bad guys and gals, to ask forgiveness when we are not the good guys and gals we so want to be. It takes work, yes, but it takes perception and sight as well.

I believe healing always begins with perception and sight. If we really deeply perceive and see the people around us:

Would we more easily call to mind those moments when we were able to see our “enemies” in their wholeness? Those moments when our frames of them as all bad and us as all good gave way to the truth that they are as complex, fragile and flawed as us?

Would we more easily tell the story of when we first realized that we were part of propping up the system? The system that subtly and not so subtly gives some a hand while keeping the hands of others so securely tied behind their back?

Would we more easily remember what happened when we confessed our lie or admitted our addiction? How when we stopped trying to hide it from the sight of others, it somehow loosened its hold on us?

There is a magic in all this looking, seeing and being seen. Remember that? In each case, we learned that healing is not entirely up to us. There was an otherness at work. We just got the ball rolling. We weren’t “the healers”; our wider view simply set the stage. Opened the door. Healing then slowly made its way in and joined us as a partner.

And seeing healing as a partner – rather than solely as a product of our will and work - we were able to be more gentle with ourselves. We realized that manageable steps and doing what we can were just fine; heroics didn’t always have to be the way. We were able to put down the weight of the world for a while, knowing and trusting that healing had a life of its own – that it has the ability to grow and take root even while we rest, maybe even because we took the time to rest.

In the end, maybe that is the most important thing to remember this month: besides always beginning with a wider view, healing also means making room for rest. Too often being a community of healing gets reduced to a matter of work, vigilance and never letting up. So we need these reminders that healing is a partner, not simply a product of our work.

Maybe even trying to partner with us right now…

Reverend Terry Sweetser

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

It was wonderful to meet so many of you at the homecoming pot luck, September 9, and our first worship service together on September 11. Your energy and excitement being together inspires me. I have high hopes for our time together.

Those who were at the first Service know we are using a thematic approach this year and I want to tell you more about it.

Worship Concept for UUSWH 2016-2017: “A community of…” UU religious community is a precious gift. Within it, we find values and questions that are rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. Values and questions that push us, ground us and remind us who we most deeply are. So this year our themes honor this gift of community and its role as caretaker of values. Together we will ask: What is it we find when we gather? And what is it we are asked to share with the world?

Our monthly themes related to this concept:

A community of…
September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

More detail about September: Covenant: What Does It Mean to Be A Community of Covenant? Covenant is one of those words that sounds stuffy, academic and out-of-date. But when you unpack its meaning and its practices, covenant holds a whole vision for how to live in this complicated, beautiful and broken world. It is a vision that says we are most human when we bind ourselves in relationship. But not just any relationship – relationships of trust, mutual accountability and continual return.

This is not what our culture teaches us. Our culture teaches us that what it means to be human is to be an individual – self-defined, self-determined, separate even. But our UU covenantal theology affirms that being human comes down to the commitments we make to and with each other – the relationships we keep. We become human through our promises to and with each other.

More than that: covenantal theology doesn’t just say that we become human through our promising, but also when we break those promises, and yet somehow find ways to reconnect and begin again – when we repair the relationship because we know we need each other, even when we think the other isn’t doing enough, even when the other is annoying us, or isn’t listening well, or isn’t doing things the way we want them done – even then.  When we realize right then, that we are still connected, and we can’t give up – and so we return, and begin again. This beginning again, says our faith, is when the holy and the human meet.

Sometime in the next year, maybe in the next few minutes, the people you most believe in and care about are going to disappoint you.  Your church is going to disappoint you.  This world is surely going to disappoint you. Like, all the time. We all are walking wounded and weary from the way this world can – and does – break our hearts.

And what our faith asks of us, what our faith imagines for us, is that somehow, right at that moment when our hearts break, we will find our way to see through that heartbreak.  We will stay put – not close off, not run away, not hurt back – but keep on being in relationship, doing what we can to repair the world and each other, keep on opening our hearts with greater love. And, right then, our covenantal faith says – we will feel not only most human, but also most whole and most at home.

On September 11 we talked about “Promises Worth Keeping,” specifically the covenant, the broad promises that hold the fabric of our society together (you can view that sermon at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeUG-172JIE)

September 18 we will focus on the question “Whose are We?” Douglas Steer, a Quaker teacher writes, "The ancient question, “Who am I?” inevitable leads to a deeper one: “Whose am I?” – because there is not identity outside of relationship.  You cannot be a person by yourself. To ask “Whose am I” is to extend the question far beyond the little self-absorbed self, and wonder: Who needs you?  Who loves you?  To whom are you accountable?  To whom do you answer?  Whose life is altered by your choices?  With whose life, whose lives is your own all bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?” These are all questions our former minister, Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha, had to answer before daring to “Defy the NAZIS” in 1939.

Finally, on September 25 our attention turns more toward this congregation and the question, “Can I be Fully Human Here?” James Luther Adams, UU Theologian and Social Ethicist (1901-1994) writes, “Human beings, individually and collectively, become human by making commitment, by making promise. The human being as such … is the promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing creature (http://tinyurl.com/jzdx9db).” Our congregation can be a crucible of transformation. A beloved community from which we emerge fully human living the lives we wish we could and creating the just world we dream about.

May those of us who are blessed, bless the world!

 

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

Thank you for so graciously welcoming me to your wonderful congregation! I’ve been struck by the many successes you have to celebrate: integrating Mick into congregational life; completing an ambitious capital campaign; making the vision of that campaign a reality; giving a heartfelt farewell to Sara; finding an Interim Minister and Music Director; and above all maintaining this precious community.

Still, it amounts to a lot of change and change is stressful. It stresses us out because we aren’t sure what to expect anymore, because we grieve the loss of people and programs we cherished and because we don’t know what the future holds. It’s hard to come in the door, see things are different and wonder why you didn’t get the memo.

We will have some ups and downs. Mistakes will be made and many of them will be made by me. No matter how hard we try to be transparent, there will be surprises and as we all know surprised folks can get a bit annoyed. But through it all if we can maintain our basic faith in humanity, cultivate our senses of humor and laugh together, this congregation will thrive into the future.

Please come to services. Remember we will be trying some new elements and switching some around. It will be amazing (and sometimes annoying)! Oh, and for future reference this is the memo.

May those of us who are blessed, bless the world.

 

In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

As I begin my time as your Interim Minister, I’m struck by the many ways all of us are drawn together. We are attracted to this supportive congregation in Wellesley Hills, Ma. We are inspired by our free, optimistic faith. We need each other.

As George Odell put it:

We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted… when we are in trouble and afraid… when we despair, in temptation, and need to be recalled to our best selves again.

We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose, and cannot do it alone… in the hour of our successes, when we look for someone to share our triumphs [and] in the hour of our defeat when with encouragement we might endure and stand again.

We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey. All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.

During this church year I hope we can go deeper into how all our lives we are in need and others are in need of us. We will explore the possibilities of being in community.

UU religious community is a precious gift. Within it, we find values and questions that are rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. Values and questions that push us, ground us and remind us who we most deeply are. So this year we honor this gift of community and its role as caretaker of values. Together we will ask: What is it we find when we gather? And what is it we are asked to share with the world?

In September we will consider the promises we make to be in community and wonder about the ancient concept of covenant.