For each of us, the past year has brought with it challenges never anticipated along with a myriad of decisions to make in order to address those challenges. Few of us have been spared the task of having to adjust our lives and how we live them with each other. After closing the church building (but not the congregation!) on March 13th, eight months later, we are now anticipating Thanksgiving rituals done in ways we never imagined. Bob’s and my family will celebrate Thanksgiving this year, entirely on zoom. We will try to cook together beforehand, gather at the appointed time, show off the Thanksgiving decorations, table and food with appropriate “oohs and ahs,” say a prayer with expressions of gratitude, take a break from zoom while we eat, and then return for conversation and perhaps some shared video or travel slides. It will be different, but we will still find a way to be together and, in the process, cling to the rituals that mark the passage of time and help us remember the meaning of our lives. In later years, some of us will say, “Remember what we did during Covid!?!”
As I take my leave from SUUS, I am grateful that our leadership has had the wisdom and foresight to protect us during this time. I am grateful that, to date, we have not lost any SUUS members from this invisible and tenacious disease that has challenged our world so completely. I am also grateful that you called me to this ministry and grateful for each of you for your presence in our shared ministries. We have done so much together over the years. We have celebrated life, with all its joys and sorrows, while supporting each other during the hard times. We have also laughed a lot! And, while we were there for each other and those outside our church walls, we made community. Reminiscent of the old Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we have enriched and nurtured each others’ lives by each of our small contributions.
As I begin my retirement, I am thinking of the new chapters we are each facing. Bob and I will remain in Madison for the foreseeable future, re-learning how to enjoy and take care of each other and family. At the same time, each of you will be starting new chapters as well. This year has proven that. Likewise, SUUS is starting a new chapter as it reinvents itself to spread the saving news of Unitarian Universalism online and on the shoreline. I am ever so grateful to my colleague, Rev. Terry Sweetser, for helping me and helping you, by agreeing to become your minister. He has the experience to help SUUS meet its technical, outreach and financial challenges, as well as supporting you pastorally. With his help, SUUS can support and change the lives of those who are in search of a faith based in reason and hope. I urge you to warmly embrace his ideas as much as you did mine. There is much to learn as SUUS rises to meet the challenges of the new chapters of its life. Be present to each other, you need each other.
On Sunday, 11/22, I will step away as Rev. Terry fully assumes his role as your new minister. I know you will take good care of each other. As for me, I will be stepping back for a while, deliberately giving Rev. Terry and you the space you need to bond closely to each other. Take care of yourselves and each other. This is a precious congregation, full of good people and potential. Nurture it and each other. You deserve all the love you have to give each other.