Are you still breathing? Breathe deeply!
These are hardworking, hectic times of change for our congregation. We will need to keep breathing deeply to stay connected to our energy and strength.
In some ways, we are not unlike our forebears who 200 years ago created a Universalist church in Brunswick on January 20, 1812. They were embarking on a whole new journey together – one that is still ongoing. We, who follow in their footsteps, now take the next branch in the trail of that journey.
Before our church burned, I had been planning to spend the summer studying more of our history in anticipation of a gala bicentennial celebration that would have been carried out over many months. So much for making plans!
While our amazing birthday hasn't been forgotten (and indeed the Bicentennial Task Force is still working on plans), the immediate needs of the church changed in the wake of the fire. Now I think one of the best ways we can honor our history is to vow to carry it forward, leaving our church strong, vibrant, and healthy for those who will follow after us. That's what we're doing now.
With the New Year, we turn our eyes forward to rebuilding. A new Building Team now begins to work in earnest to create plans with the architects. A Capital Campaign Committee now partners with a consultant to help us establish the healthiest financial foothold our combined forces can create. What wonderful things to contemplate! We have energetic, creative, and wise people guiding us through this period. Out of our misfortune, amazing things have emerged. I think our forebears would be proud if they could see how resolute, committed, and energized we are in the face of adversity.
On December 20, our old building came down. I think of a building as strong and stable. Seeing ours quickly destroyed and the rubble hauled away was almost more than I could take in. The sounds, smells, and sights of that day provided a harsh, palpable closure for me. For many weeks now, I have known the building was about to come down. Having to wait and wait and wait felt like pulling a band-aid off one hair at a time – painful! I am grateful now for the closure, even as I recognize my swirl of emotions mixed in with it.
As the heavy machinery rolled over our past, I imagined myself back in that space, remembering how it felt to walk through the sanctuary, how the acoustics in the room made us sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I remembered the smell of the church, both before the fire and after. I recounted countless meetings around the big table in the Community Room, and I envisioned kids swinging around on the poles.
The memories comforted me. So too did the knowledge that we are creating new memories while we are homeless, and creating more new memories is in store for us someday in our new sanctuary. For me, all of it is my church – the history, the memories, the present, and the dreams for the future.
We have much to grieve, much to anticipate, and much to be grateful for as the New Year greets us. We have journeyed far, and we still have far to go. May we remember that 200 years ago, our forebears embarked on a journey when they formed a new church, a Universalist church, in Brunswick. They couldn't know the outcome of their decisions then any more than we can know the outcome of our decisions now. They looked ahead and chose as best they could, guided by faith that their decisions were good and true. May we carry forward their legacy of bold dreams and actions and their confidence that our faith is a worthy guide to us now and a beautiful legacy to leave to those who follow us.
Take a deep breath. Happy New Year!