Tuesday, October 18, 2022

"Preparing to Return" by Reverend Tom Capo preached on August 7, 2022


I took some time off this summer.  I visited one of my sons in New York and took a short trip to the West Coast of Florida, but for the most part I read, relaxed, and reflected on returning to minister to this congregation.  I thought: “how do I need to prepare to return here to be with you?”

            Do you find yourself thinking something like that?  Reflecting on how you will prepare for your children returning to school, prepare for the increased congestion on the roadways as the summer ends, prepare to return to your faith community after taking a little break during the summer.  Some of us are still considering how to prepare to return to a world where COVID exists, and Monkey Pox is spreading.

            Preparing to return to something we are familiar with is one thing, but things feel kind of unfamiliar now, don’t they?  How about returning to this faith community, this building?  For some of us who have not physically been in the building for the past 2 plus years due to COVID, coming back in this space may feel very unfamiliar and maybe a little uncomfortable.  How do you prepare for that?  And in the wider community with new laws restricting abortion, with new laws negatively impacting LGBTQ+ people, particularly young LGBTQ+ people, with increased gun violence and mass shootings, with all the repercussions of climate change and with the increase in hate crimes.  It kind of feels like a very different world out there, or maybe a world we simply see more clearly now.  How do you prepare for that? 

          Martha, my loving wife, and I were watching a commercial on television the other day, which mentioned the “crisis we are facing”, I think the commercial was about financial management services.  As Martha and I reflected on the commercial, we wondered almost simultaneously, what crisis are they talking about.  Martha then commented well with all the crises in the world, they may have intentionally not mentioned a specific crisis, so that each of us could fill in the crisis blank.  And of course, the commercial can be used indefinitely because there will always be some kind of crisis we can put in that blank.

            So, I wonder what are you doing to prepare to return to your late summer/early fall routines whatever they may be.  You can fill in the blank as to what you are returning to, be it your UU Miami family or to your school routine or whatever, this season of being between what has been and what will be.  And this is a challenging place to be, this in between space.  Not here, whatever here is, for much longer, but not quite there yet either.  A state of being “both/and”.

A friend of mine, Unitarian Universalist minister Reverend Karen Hering wrote a book about this that was just published.  It’s titled Trusting Change: Finding Our Way Through Personal and Global Transformation.  Karen started out writing about, well, writing, to be more specific, writing as a spiritual practice.  I have taken a couple of her courses and read a couple of her books.  This summer, I attended her class on Trusting Change at our annual denominational meeting, General Assembly.  She said that so much has been written about change, that she wondered if there was anything else to write.  But here’s the thing, using her own experience and reflection, she developed a list of ten skills for living on the threshold of change,   as well as spiritual practices and inspiration to help us connect with our own inner wisdom.  In other words, she offers a series of reflections and practices to aid us in preparing for whatever the future might bring, living in that liminal space of in between in a way that is constructive, growth oriented, and that builds resilience and wisdom.

Here are some of her foundational premises.  Change happens—it is part of our existence—personally and in the world around us things change, biologically, sociologically, psychologically, ecologically, spiritually things change.  Often these changes are “gooey”/ messy and many times we can experience trembling vibrations/anxiety/insecurity as we move from what was to what is going to be.  Many of us resist certain changes.  When I experienced my call to ministry, I remember thinking “I can’t do this” “I am not smart enough to be a Unitarian Universalist minister” “I don’t have the money to go to Seminary” “I am older now and won’t do well in school”  “I can’t tell anyone about this call because then people will expect me to become a minister” “what if I don’t make it through seminary, through internship, through the Ministerial Fellowship Committee?”  Part of me was adamant that I was not going to do this, and that I would resist in every way possible this change, because I didn’t want to give up my comfortable existence, my successful career, didn’t want my life, relationships, anything to change.  I was, as Karen would call it “balking”.

Karen suggests there are ways to manage this “balking” and instead trust change. I can intellectually understand that trusting change is probably a more positive and productive way of facing change, but tell that to my feelings.  I don’t know how you experience change, but each time I face a major change, it’s very difficult to trust that I will come out intact on the other side, or if I do come through the change, it’s hard for me to let go of the feeling that there will be some kind of negative or even, at least to me, traumatic consequences.  I know this is irrational. I know I have successfully made it through many major changes in my life.  I know that in most cases I will experience personal growth after moving through change.  Yet, my first reaction is often to “balk”.  Perhaps it is the first reaction of many of us.  The “balking” doesn’t stop me.  Well, I guess you can see that because here I stand as a Unitarian Universalist minister.  But I wish my initial response to change wasn’t to “balk”.

So, how do you manage change or prepare for change? Whether we are talking about “normal” change in routines or more “unexpected” or “profound” changes?  How do you deal with a positive change?  A negative one? Or, and these are the most thought-provoking—changes you thought were going to be positive, but weren’t, or at least not entirely, or you thought were going to be negative, but weren’t, or at least not entirely.

Think about how you embody change—how you listen to your body’s wisdom as change happens, if you do?  Where do you feel change in your body?  How do you interpret or make meaning of what you feel?

In dealing with the change, how has engagement with others, friends, family, your congregation been for you?  Have they supported you through the change?  And what’s the ripple effect that change has had through you and your community?  What did your world and your place in it look like, feel like, as the ripple passed through you and your community?  How about when the ripple effect subsided?  Were there aspects of your personal life, your social life, your work, even your faith community that seemed profoundly different?

Karen writes about what we can do during this in-between time, between what was and what will be.  She calls what we need to do -- creating a “Chrysalis Space”.  A space for self-reflection, for embodiment, and for embracing community.  The meditation you participated in today can be used to help you create a “Chrysalis Space”.  Turning your attention in—for reflection--using your breath--embodiment--and connecting with love within and around you, to hold you—embracing and affirming community and self. 

I am wondering if some of you might be willing to join me in exploring this book together.  Doing the exercises, discovering with one another what there is to learn, individually and collectively as we create “Chrysalis Space”.  I am going to do that for myself, but I would welcome, no I would love, to have others join me in this journey of learning how to live in the in between time in a different way.  I believe that this process will prepare me for authentically returning to my deepest self and to you, my beloved community.  Just let me know, maybe send me an email.

I leave you with this meditation called “Beginning to Begin” by psychotherapist and self-help author Gunilla Norris from her book Inviting Silence: Universal Principles of Meditation, as you consider creating your own “Chrysalis Space”.

Can we recognize that now and then there comes

an inner sense, a fleeting thought, a little yearning

to live our lives differently?

We don’t know what this means or what it requires.

We shake these notions off like a dog shakes off water

and go about our business.

But the longing continues…

Could we sense that this longing is not lack

or something worse

—some kind of fundamental flaw in us?

Could we receive it as an invitation instead,

a calling, a small voice inviting us home,

back to our truer self?

This shift in thought can move mountains.

It can let us begin to begin.

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