Trying Something New This Year – Soul Matters

by Rev. Aaron Payson & Robin Mitzcavitch, Director of Religious Exploration

For several years now we have delighted in and benefitted greatly from the Themed Ministry Program – Touchstones. Monthly Themes, worship, religious education, small group, and social media sources have helped us plan and guide our programming throughout the year.  A wealth of wisdom and reflection have enhanced our conversations and community dialogue as well as our individual and communal meditations and time in worth-ship.

This year we are going to try something different. After reviewing materials for the coming year we are trying out another Themed Ministry Program, Soul Matters. Combining monthly themes with resources for worship, religious exploration, and small group ministry this program invites congregations to walk with each other more than simply talk about what matters most.  To journey spiritually is to find companions that welcome and challenge us to be and become our best selves and love us just the way we are.  So stay-tuned for opportunities to gather and walk together this year as we begin our own soul matters journey together.

Blessings, Aaron & Robin

On Belonging

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.


The Soul Matters Theme for September 2022 is “Belonging,” which the poet John O’Donahue notes is a word that “holds together the two fundamental aspects of life: Being and Longing, the longing of our Being and the being of our Longing.” I know these words, this word, at the core of my being.  I experienced the “longing of my being” and the “being of my longing” as I traveled this summer to central New York state to attend two family weddings. 

I took the trips alone and found, as I traversed the winding county roads through villages and farmland, that something awoke in me again, something that awakened the excitement from my childhood when my family made this trip in the summer.  Now, the excitement, was tinged with the melancholy of a sojourn that would include visiting my parent’s graves as well as those of my grandparents and aunts and uncles now past. Along with it came the sorrow of families now changed by divorce as well as the exuberance of families just beginning.  All of this, was met with a feeling that somehow this landscape and the smell of field and pine called me home.  Which is interesting since I never lived there year around.  I had spent most of my childhood summers there.  Over the past few years, conversations with cousins had surfaced the query “When are you coming home?” I understand what they meant.  When was I coming back to my origins.

I understand this longing in somewhat of the way that Bel Hooks describes growing up in the hills of Kentucky in her book Belonging.

In the country our class had no importance. In our home we were surrounded by hills. Only the front windows of our house looked out on a solitary road constructed for the men seeking to find oil; all other windows faced hills. In our childhood, the rarely traveled road held no interest. The hills in the back of our house were the place of magic and possibility, a lush green frontier, where nothing manmade could run us down, where we could freely seek adventure.

When we left the hills to settle in town where the schools were supposedly better, where we could attend the big important church, Virginia Street Baptist (all things we were told would make us better, would make it possible for us to be somebody), I experienced my first devastating loss, my first deep grief. I wanted to stay in the solitude of those hills. I longed for freedom. That longing was imprinted on my consciousness in the hills that seemed to declare that all sweetness in life would come when we seek freedom. Folks living in the Kentucky hills prized independence and self-reliance above all traits.

In retrospect I suspect if I had lived there year-long I might have felt differently about central New York.  What wouldn’t have changed I believe is the sense that the very place emanates a sense of belonging to me.  I think I caught a glimpse of this as my beloved and I traveled to visit her brother and his wife in Pennsylvania later this summer.   There is something about finding that place where one can be themselves, find the love of family (both blood and chosen) and be nurtured and healed by the scent, the scenery, and the sense of belonging.

For many here at UUCW, the church carries with it a similar sense.  A place where the freedom to be one’s authentic self, to believe because you intuit, reason, or sense what is true; a place where one is met with a smile, an embrace, and a genuine sense that friendship.  To feel accepted and invited to share one’s passions and sense of purpose. 

We come having experienced the world differently.  We come aware of the hurting nature of many, including ourselves, and of the tremendous challenges we face.  Which is why the experience of sanctuary, both the place and the essence, becomes so very important. It is not that we leave all of this behind when we arrive again.  This isn’t the case for me in central New York or Bel Hooks in Kentucky. What does happen is the chance for one to gain perspective and an appreciation for all that is possible, despite the struggles of our daily living. Here is the hope that is born of belonging. 

So here’s my invitation.  Come. . .come home again.  Let yourself be enlivened and awakened to all that is possible and the joy of all that comes with belonging here.  I hope to see you in the coming days and weeks.  We gather this Sunday, September 11, for a multi-generational ingathering service including our Annual Water Communion.  Remember to bring a bit of water from your summer sojourn.  Let us begin again!