On October 23rd, members of the congregation gathered to choose a builder for the new church and parish hall. By way of opening the meeting, I shared these words:
A year and a half ago, the unthinkable happened. And I have held you as you grieved and have been cheering you on as you make choices about the future of First Universalist.
Today, once again, you come together as one body to make a choice. You have already chosen to rebuild. Now you’re choosing who will do that work – a decision that confirms your belief in the future, that you want to be a church that proclaims our saving message on the North Fork.
Now remember: you have come together in covenant, as one body, to choose between two good things, which means that you have a path forward and you are taking steps toward that path forward.
There will be many more decisions in the coming months ahead, decisions that further breathe life into this congregation. That is wonderful.
Despite all the arguments and all the frustrations, what you were doing is wonderful. Sure, you’ve argued, but that shows me you take this seriously. What is important now is to recognize that there are no enemies here in this room. This isn’t about right or wrong – just forward. That you are making a choice about builders today says you still believe we are needed and necessary and we will do it together.
Also remember: The choice this congregation makes today and the choices the congregation makes in the future may not always be the ones you personally would have chosen, but it is the choice of the majority of this body of fine, smart, considerate people. As the Reverend Sylvia Stocker reminded us, no one person will get the church they want, but we will get the church we need.
May the work of this meeting, and the work of this congregation, be blessed.
I decided to share them here, because while the choice has been made, I know there are still hard feelings, open wounds, and frayed nerves – made all the worse by a fractious national election that is coloring the atmosphere.
We have an opportunity right now to make a new step forward: to not just rebuild a church but to rebuild relationships – to say we are still together, we work together with common purpose, we will hold each other to covenant and in covenant.
It’s not easy – humans and human relationships are messy, made even messier when it’s not just one, or two, but dozens, all trying to do their best for and with and sometimes despite each other. But that’s why we do have a religious community – to practice this and get a little better at it. And that’s why we have classes, discussion groups, potlucks, and other events – to grow relationships and get a little better at being with one another.
I hope you’ll make an effort to reach out to someone you’ve not gotten along well with, to learn more about them, to celebrate the forward motion of this congregation, to grow together.