These are exciting times at Heritage Church. On Sunday mornings, the church is bustling with activity (and with more than a hundred happy, smiling folks ranging in age from a few months to 90 years!). Participation in activities like Spirit in Life groups and dialogues about race and racism is so high that events are often filled within days of being announced. Potluck meals and Halloween parties; sexuality education for our youth and Unitarian Universalism for our adults; mid-week vesper services and weekend retreats—these are part of a veritable cornucopia of things going on at HUUC, seven days a week. And it’s more than simply church events that we offer. Our doors are open to the community. We serve as a polling place on Election Day, a safe place for those who may not be welcome at other houses of worship to hold weddings or memorial services, and a community center for those who seek the services of AARP.
Yes, the robust spirit and level of engagement in our congregation this fall is remarkable (and it defies conventional wisdom). Most church consultants will tell you that, following an extended ministerial sabbatical, a church community may settle into a period of relative inactivity, even inertia. The opposite seems to be true at Heritage! I regularly find myself feeding off your renewed energy, and it feels as if you are feeding off mine as well.
The two primary focuses of my sabbatical study are now beginning to bear fruit in our congregational life, and I couldn’t be happier to see the transformation. I was blown away when two dozen people signed up, in the span of a few hours, for spots in our new Spirit in Life spiritual direction groups. I was again blown away when two dozen people (and no, it wasn’t just the same two dozen people!) stayed after church one recent Sunday to learn more about natural burial. Not only did those folks stay after church – they asked questions and were deeply engaged for almost an hour and a half.
On that Sunday, I had the opportunity to share my vision of a Heritage that truly “celebrates life, creates community and seeks justice” from the cradle to the grave. We know that my colleague, Rev. Leslie Woodward, is working with parents and church leaders to broaden our ministry to our young people, and to their parents. “Family ministry” is a term we are hearing more and more this year—and it represents a profound commitment our Board of Trustees has made to our church community. And now I have introduced the idea of a shared “end-of-life ministry” at Heritage as well—a ministry that will be made available to those among us who seek caring, compassionate support for themselves, or their loved ones, who are dying. I envision us providing a loving presence as those who are dear to us transition out of this life; offering a safe and sacred space as they are remembered, memorialized, and prepared for burial or cremation; and ultimately, providing sacred ground where those who choose may be buried naturally with a simple, meaningful “green burial.”
We are “on the path” together. As we walk this path—as we share this journey of the spirit—may the energy that we are feeling and experiencing this fall remain with us, and sustain us, through the winter, into the spring, and well into the coming years. It is a blessing and an honor to walk with you.