In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

It was wonderful to meet so many of you at the homecoming pot luck, September 9, and our first worship service together on September 11. Your energy and excitement being together inspires me. I have high hopes for our time together.

Those who were at the first Service know we are using a thematic approach this year and I want to tell you more about it.

Worship Concept for UUSWH 2016-2017: “A community of…” UU religious community is a precious gift. Within it, we find values and questions that are rarely encountered elsewhere in our lives. Values and questions that push us, ground us and remind us who we most deeply are. So this year our themes honor this gift of community and its role as caretaker of values. Together we will ask: What is it we find when we gather? And what is it we are asked to share with the world?

Our monthly themes related to this concept:

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

More detail about September: Covenant: What Does It Mean to Be A Community of Covenant? Covenant is one of those words that sounds stuffy, academic and out-of-date. But when you unpack its meaning and its practices, covenant holds a whole vision for how to live in this complicated, beautiful and broken world. It is a vision that says we are most human when we bind ourselves in relationship. But not just any relationship – relationships of trust, mutual accountability and continual return.

This is not what our culture teaches us. Our culture teaches us that what it means to be human is to be an individual – self-defined, self-determined, separate even. But our UU covenantal theology affirms that being human comes down to the commitments we make to and with each other – the relationships we keep. We become human through our promises to and with each other.

More than that: covenantal theology doesn’t just say that we become human through our promising, but also when we break those promises, and yet somehow find ways to reconnect and begin again – when we repair the relationship because we know we need each other, even when we think the other isn’t doing enough, even when the other is annoying us, or isn’t listening well, or isn’t doing things the way we want them done – even then.  When we realize right then, that we are still connected, and we can’t give up – and so we return, and begin again. This beginning again, says our faith, is when the holy and the human meet.

Sometime in the next year, maybe in the next few minutes, the people you most believe in and care about are going to disappoint you.  Your church is going to disappoint you.  This world is surely going to disappoint you. Like, all the time. We all are walking wounded and weary from the way this world can – and does – break our hearts.

And what our faith asks of us, what our faith imagines for us, is that somehow, right at that moment when our hearts break, we will find our way to see through that heartbreak.  We will stay put – not close off, not run away, not hurt back – but keep on being in relationship, doing what we can to repair the world and each other, keep on opening our hearts with greater love. And, right then, our covenantal faith says – we will feel not only most human, but also most whole and most at home.

On September 11 we talked about “Promises Worth Keeping,” specifically the covenant, the broad promises that hold the fabric of our society together (you can view that sermon at

September 18 we will focus on the question “Whose are We?” Douglas Steer, a Quaker teacher writes, "The ancient question, “Who am I?” inevitable leads to a deeper one: “Whose am I?” – because there is not identity outside of relationship.  You cannot be a person by yourself. To ask “Whose am I” is to extend the question far beyond the little self-absorbed self, and wonder: Who needs you?  Who loves you?  To whom are you accountable?  To whom do you answer?  Whose life is altered by your choices?  With whose life, whose lives is your own all bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?” These are all questions our former minister, Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha, had to answer before daring to “Defy the NAZIS” in 1939.

Finally, on September 25 our attention turns more toward this congregation and the question, “Can I be Fully Human Here?” James Luther Adams, UU Theologian and Social Ethicist (1901-1994) writes, “Human beings, individually and collectively, become human by making commitment, by making promise. The human being as such … is the promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing creature (” Our congregation can be a crucible of transformation. A beloved community from which we emerge fully human living the lives we wish we could and creating the just world we dream about.

May those of us who are blessed, bless the world!