We Are a Prophetic Imperative

by Rev. Aaron Payson

Starhawk writes:

We are all longing to go home to some place
we have never been—a place half-remembered and half-envisioned
we can only catch glimpses of from time to time.
Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands
will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter,
voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength
that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing.
A circle of friends.
Someplace where we can be free.

These words which describe the essence of our community are foremost in my heart and mind as we plan to gather for our Annual Congregational Meeting on Sunday, June 5 following morning worship.  We come to this moment having weathered the tumultuous storm of the pandemic and continue to reflect on its aftermath as cases rise and fall.  Like all congregations, we are a bit smaller in membership than we have been.  And our families are all dealing with the effects of economic recession.  Some have lost jobs and many have moved to more meaningful employment.  We all continue to mourn the loss of loved ones who died during the tumult.  And yet, we have also witnessed the birth of new life in a variety of ways.  New beings who have blessed us with their arrival; new ways of gathering which have allowed us to traverse the distance between home and sanctuary, school, and the office.  We have continued to offer support to those made most vulnerable to the tides of change and dis-ease.  Our congregation has reached out to families whose lives have been forever transformed by war, homelessness, and hunger. 

Through all of this, we have remained and grown in our generosity and capacity to give what we have to make our community and country a better place. We have given what we have to support this congregation, and so many other efforts to help sustain our community.  We have nurtured our teens and children.  We have cared for the infirmed.  So many relationships have been started and strengthened through small groups, and opportunities to socialize and learn more deeply about the ways we can continue to “inspire people to take on the challenges of a changing world.”  

To be sure there is much more work to be done.  We continue to struggle to fund our mission and ministries in ways that do not deplete our invested resources.  Our membership is smaller than it was a few years ago, which is what most faith communities are facing. And yet we have benefited from a generosity that has not been diminished by our numbers. In the coming year, we must begin in earnest a conversation about how we plan to meet these challenges in ways that make for more growth, vitality, resources, and stability.  Throughout our history, as a congregation, there are many times when this kind of work has been necessary.  And in all those moments the congregation rose to the occasion and made decisions that ultimately propelled us into a future that was more expansive and life-giving than anyone imagined at the moment.  

In all of this, I am most mindful of the fact that we are living in a historical era in which the message of our faith tradition is imperative. This month’s Touchstone Ministry theme is the “prophetic imperative” taken from the work of my friend and colleague, Richard Gilbert whose writings have outlined the connection between living in a community of moral discourse that embodies a sense of urgency to live out the ethical implications of religious faith.

Like many of you, I feel a sense of urgency in so much that we are called to do and witness at this moment.  The world needs a community like ours to reflect the values, ideals, and visions of what it means to be a beloved community.  As we emerge from our time in self-imposed pandemic isolation, expanding the reach and widening our circle of members and friends to join us in the many causes and efforts to grow both individually and as a faith community are goals worth achieving and excelling.  My hope is that we take up this effort with fresh energy, vision, and exuberance!