In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

November was quite a month! The election left many of us reeling. As I asked on the Sunday after, “What’s going to happen now? Short answer: We could thrive - if we turn the terrible truths into stories of hope by continuing to co-create a world of love and justice.” Slowly that hard work is beginning in our congregation with renewed commitments to LGBTQ issues, refugees and climate change. I believe we will not only survive, but thrive.

This month we say goodbye to Mick Hirsch. For a year and a half he has worked among us to help, hold and heal. In my short time among you, Mick has been one of my guides to the congregation, an inspirational co-creator of worship and a faithful colleague. Like many of you, I will miss him. Godspeed Mick and thanks for your service.

For Sunday Worship we use a thematic approach. This year we are focusing on the precious gift of our UUSWH community. Within it, we find values and questions rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. What do we find when we gather? And what can we share with the world? Each month we will explore a different aspect of building and fortifying people and possibilities in this beloved community.

September: Covenant
October: Healing
November: Story
December: Presence
January: Prophecy
February: Identity
March: Risk
April: Transformation
May: Embodiment
June: Zest

In December we consider presence and specifically, what does it mean to be a Community of Presence?

Spiritually, presence can be two radically different things. On the one hand, contemplatives talk of “being present.” Presence from this perspective is all about awareness and remembering to “live in the moment.”

On the other hand, theologians tend to come at presence from the perspective of “otherness.” Their concern is not just that we pay attention to the present moment, but that we notice a transcendent Presence that is woven through all moments.

Attentiveness or otherness? Must we choose? Isn’t it true that, more often than not, they dance together more than they compete? Isn’t it true that when we are most present, a powerful presence emerges? Pay attention to the flow of your breathing or the flow of the ocean and something bigger than yourself enters the scene. Look for a long time at a blade of grass and eventually it presents itself to you as a world in and unto itself.

The world is full of unnoticed gifts and grace. It’s a message perfectly fit for this month that so often celebrates presents over presence. In the face of commercials and billboards that tell us our lives will finally be complete if we stuff them with a few more shiny objects or plastic gadgets, our spiritual traditions come along and remind us that our lives are already complete.

As Dr. Seuss says through the Grinch, “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The greatest gift of the holidays is noticing the many gifts that have been sitting there all along. So how will you engage this dance? What powerful and meaningful presence is waiting for you to be present to it? What gift is waiting and wanting to emerge? What will your awareness bring into being this month?

To be a community of presence we must learn again that the world is full of unnoticed gifts and grace. We would thrive if we could notice the gifts and grace that surround us and thereby co-create a world of love and justice.

See you at church!